Food Friday: Sangria!


This is a column from the Spy Way Back Machine. I am out of town for a week. Happy Friday!

I used to listen to a sporadically produced podcast called “Crimes Against Food”. It was a hilarious and irreverent take of making, growing, buying and eating food with two whack jobs named Gloria Lindh and Mia Steele. They podcast from Leeds, in Western Yorkshire, England, and are the polar opposite of some of the toffee-nosed podcasts I usually listen to on the BBC. They are young, and sometimes hung over. Their unscripted chats are peppered with words that we would not use in front of our mothers, but these occasional gaffs make for their cheeky charm. (I am certain I have heard one of them smoking once). I always imagine them sitting in the front room of a small urban flat, with window boxes of herbs, discussing the greater food issues of the day. Periodically there is a siren in the background. They advocate buying local, eating healthily and foraging for fallen crabapples, yet they have also gone on at great length about the mystical properties of bar snacks. Clearly, they are my kind of women.

Beside the subject of eating disorders they also discussed a universal topic: the weather. They nattered on about how miserable a summer it has been in England this year; nothing but cold and rain since June began. But looking on the brighter side they opined that winter should be there soon, so then they will have had 18 months of winter. Poor Gloria. Poor Mia. I would send them some of our heat if I could. Instead, I will channel them, and what they might like to drink if they came stateside this week: Crimes Against Food

Sangria is generous and forgiving and easy peasy. You don’t have red wine? Use that stash of cheap white wine, which is our personal fave. No lemons? Those peaches are going to work very nicely. You can use what is on hand, and what is in season. Raspberries, strawberries, blueberries. Just be sure you have plenty of wine and an abundance of ice. Everything is more delicious in Sangria.

Basic Sangria (from Spain)

3 1/4 cups ( 26 ounces) dry red wine
1 tablespoon sugar
Juice of 1 large orange
Juice of 1 large lemon
1 large orange, sliced thin crosswise
1 large lemon, sliced thin crosswise
2 medium peaches, peeled, pitted and cut into chunks
1 cup (8 ounces) club soda

Combine all the ingredients except for the club soda in a large punch bowl or serving pitcher, mixing well. Refrigerate overnight. Immediately before serving, mix in the club soda for added fizz. Ladle into cups with ice cubes.

Emeril Lagasse’s Sangria

1 (750-ml) bottle red wine
1/4 cup brandy
1/4 cup orange flavored liqueur (recommended: Triple Sec or Grand Marnier)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 orange, thinly sliced
1/2 lemon, thinly sliced
1 unwaxed apple, cored, and cut into thin wedges
1 (750-ml) bottle sparkling water, chilled
Combine everything but the sparkling water in a large plastic container or glass pitchers. Cover and chill completely, 1 to 2 hours. When ready to serve, add the sparkling water.

In this baking heat I cannot think properly about cooking. Tonight we are going to have Panzanella Salad. Doesn’t that sound appropriately exotic and labor intensive? “Ha!” I say. A trip to the Farmers’ Market for cukes, tomatoes, sweet onion, bread and mozzarella. I usually toast the bread or fry it up into croutons, but I am avoiding the stove this week. So I will just cut the bread into chunks and let them get a little stale in the nice, hot summer air. Peel and chunk the cucumbers, quarter up the tomatoes, cut the onion up into generous wedges, and deal with the mozzarella (or Feta, if you prefer) any way you like. Add a little oil and vinegar, toss in the newly stale bread cubes and pour out the Sangria. Find a shady spot in your back yard and wait for the evening breezes to roll in off the water.

“Summer bachelors, like summer breezes, are never as cool as they pretend to be.”
– Nora Ephron

Learn to Build Fine Furniture with Robert Ortiz


Robert Ortiz has established himself as one of Chestertown’s most admired entrepreneurs, creating fine furniture that blends Japanese and Shaker traditions into something contemporary and distinctive. His two lines of furniture — named for his children, Daniel and Sofia — combine simple shapes and combinations of different woods.

A furniture maker for 30 years, Ortiz has had his studio in at 207 C S. Cross Street in Chestertown for the past 20 years. In addition to its primary function as a woodworking shop, it occasionally hosts concerts by the Pam Ortiz band, in which he accompanies his wife on percussion, guitar, and vocals. It has also doubled as “Olivander’s Wand Shop” during Chestertown’s Harry Potter Festivals.

Recently, Ortiz has launched onto a new aspect of his craft – passing along his knowledge and methods to others. Here’s what he told the Chestertown Spy about his new project in a recent interview.

Bob Ortiz with a table like those he shows his students how to build

“Since 2008 when the financial crisis happened, most people who have small businesses — if they’re not still recovering — are trying to figure out how to move into the future. . I spent about eight years trying to figure out how to survive in the furniture business, because like many small industries it’s completely different than it was prior to 2008.

I think of 30 years of making furniture as two generations.

“The first generation of people I made furniture for, they’re retiring, downsizing, moving into assisted living, in some cases passing on. I asked those folks, what are they doing with their artwork and their furniture, with their silver, china, and most of them tell me they’re taking it to second-hand stores. Their children don’t want it, their grandchildren don’t want it. The generation that’s replacing that older cohort are in a very different place than my parents or my grandparents were. They’re starting families much later; they’re moving through different careers, different jobs every year, so that stability isn’t there. They’re living with a lot more debt.

“So over the years, I’ve been asking myself, what’s the strategy here? Who wants furniture; who needs furniture? And the more I listened to people and read articles, I realized that there are two things going on. One thing is, that the generation that is just about starting to retire or recently retired they no longer want to buy art or craft: they want to make it. The other interesting thing is that their children and grandchildren are not buying hand-crafted furniture. So about a year and a half ago I came up with this idea that I call the Chestertown vacation workshops.

“Basically, it’s this: come and spend a week with me. It’s one on one, it’s not a group thing. Immerse yourself in the making of a beautiful object that’s useful. I’ve been making this line of furniture now for 20 years, and so my comfort with it, my ability to pass along what I’ve learned in those 20 years, is part of what the workshop’s about.

“I try to be real clear; this is not about starting a woodworking school. If you’re coming to one of my workshops, it’s about come, spend a week, we’ll go from soup to nuts. Picking out the wood, making the pieces, designing them, putting them together, and at the end of the week you get to take it home.”

Part of the Robert Ortiz Studio

Who are the workshops aimed at? Ortiz said, “I’ve had people with a little bit of woodworking experience, people with no woodworking experience. I’ve had men and women who spent their career behind a desk, who finally want to get out from behind that desk and make something. I’ve had several women who weren’t allowed to take shop in high school who finally said, you know, I’m going to make myself something.”

The Spy asked, “What kinds of skills are they going to need for the workshop?”

Workshop participant and project.

Ortiz said, “To a certain extent, when you come here, I don’t care if you’ve been a CEO, I don’t care if you’ve been a lowly worker – everybody is a private here, except for myself. The most important thing is for people to be willing and able to concentrate and to follow directions. The one skill that is really helpful is that you’re a problem solver. If you’re a good problem solver, it goes quickly. If not, we have to spend a little more time making sure that when it’s time to make a cut or put something together, that you’re able to do it right.

“Somebody who doesn’t have a lot of experience, or who has no experience, may wind up saying to themselves, well, gee, how am I going to take that workshop? Well, what I tell people is, you know all those people who are climbing up Mount Everest with a guide?  Most of those people – they’re not mountain climbers. They’re people who pay a lot of money to have somebody shepherd them up the mountain, hopefully they make it, hopefully they come back down the mountain and have a wonderful experience to talk about. Well, in my case, I’m shepherding you through the process of making a piece of furniture. My job actually ends up being to make all the test pieces to give the student the confidence that they’ll be able to make the cut.”

Ortiz takes a good bit of pride in the quality of work his students are able to produce. He said, “Back in October I had an alumni weekend. I invited everyone who had taken a workshop to come and bring their piece of furniture and have it out on the floor. It was during the studio tour that happens in Kent County, because I wanted other people to see what participants had made, and the quality of what people were able to achieve. On my website, I have lots of photos of things that people have made, and you’d be pretty amazed. And I had a CEO last week who told me his doctor told him he needed to find something to do as a hobby. So he hadn’t taken wood shop since high school. I was pretty amazed. He didn’t answer his phone once during the course of the week. So I think the most important thing is to leave your daily routine behind you and be able to immerse yourself in the craft and in all the nuances and all the focus that it takes in order to make something with your hands and make it beautiful.

Alec Dick of Chestertown making a table in an Ortiz workshop

“The process – most of these pieces take about five days. And in those five days, my hope is that people are willing to come into my world, see how I spend my day. And my day involves focusing on the work that I’m doing, focusing on the details, and trying to get my students, the folks who are taking my workshops, to focus on those details just as much as myself, so that at the end of the week they take home this piece that’s as good as, or nearly as good as, something that I’ve made.

“I mentioned earlier that older people are giving their furniture, their silver, their china to second-hand and thrift stores. The kids don’t want the furniture that their grandparents or parents bought. What he said took me by surprise and it opened up a door that I just wasn’t thinking was there. He told me he brought home the first piece of furniture that he made from the workshop, and in the course of a couple of weeks, his three sons came to visit. And each of them said to him, “I want that when you die.” So it became clear to him, ‘Well, OK, I need to make three pieces of furniture, one for each.’

“But what’s interesting to me is, now we’re talking about a heirloom that’s going to stay in the family, hopefully for several generations.”

Workshop participants and project.

Ortiz knows what that means. Among all the fine pieces in his shop, he showed the table his computer sits on. “That’s a table that my father made when we lived in a little apartment in Greenwich Village when I was a kid. My father had no workshop – he was a factory worker, he was a metal worker.  But that was a formica and metal table that he made. It’s always something that I’ve kept close by. And I guess to a certain extent the workshops are just a continuation of that. So – that’s what the workshops are about. The workshops are about legacy; the workshops are about coming and having fun; the workshops are about something, take it home, get to say every day, ‘I made that.’

The other thing that folks should know, I’m also willing to entertain other people’s designs. It sometimes costs a little more because I’ve got to figure out how we’re going to make them within the time frame.”

For more information about the workshops, and about Ortiz’s furniture, visit his website.

Furniture from the Daniel and Sophia furniture lines, made by Bob Ortiz in his Chestertown Studio:















Celebrating History in Chestertown


Chestertown’s Civil War monument

Chestertown is known for its history, and at the June 19 meeting of the town council, residents outlined plans for three observances of that rich history.

Coming up this weekend is an observance of the 100th anniversary of the installation of the Civil War monument in the town’s Monument Park. Ceremonies featuring re-enactors and two bands will include a wreath-laying at the monument at 10:15 Saturday, Thomas Hayman told the council.

Monument Park — the Civil War monument is at the far end.

The Fort Delaware Cornet Band will play music of the Civil War era at around 2 p.m., and re-enactors will perform drills and show how Union and Confederate soldiers lived in camp and on campaign. Hayman said there will be no firing of weapons, and the demonstrations will be confined to the park area. Except for a brief period for the participants to march in, from lower on High Street, there will be no interruption of traffic, he said.

The monument itself bears the names of Kent County troops from the Union army on its north side and those of Confederate troops on its south side. It was donated in 1917 by Judge James Alfred Pearce, who both designed and paid for the granite monument.

Nearby is a more recent monument commemorating the more than 400 Kent County residents who served with the U.S. Colored Troops during the Civil War.

Airlee Johnson of the Historical Society

At the same meeting, Airlee Johnson of the Kent County Historical Society requested permits for street closures for Legacy Day, August 19. The event, which includes a parade, a concert in Fountain Park, and a genealogy workshop at Kent County Public Library, recognizes the history of the whole community, Johnson said. In its fourth year, the festival has drawn a large and diverse crowd to town.

This year’s festival honors the teachers in Kent County’s black schools during the segregation era. The teachers will be recognized at a reception at Sumner Hall Friday, August 18, and will ride in the parade. The Legacy Day has contacted as many teachers as its researchers could locate, and many of them will be returning from out of town to take part in the ceremonies.

The concert, Saturday night, featuring danceable music of the Motown era, is in cooperation with Chestertown’s Music in the Park program. For the concert, High Street between Cross and Spring streets will be closed off, and parking will be closed on all four sides of the park. There will be food vendors and several nonprofits will also have booths open to distribute information.

Tess Hogans shows photos from the Stories in Service program. Her daughter Marian watches

Also at the council meeting, Tess Hogans of the Garfield Center asked the council for a letter of support for an event at the theater Friday, Nov. 10, a continuation of the “Stories in Service” program the theater launched along with its production of “Mister Roberts.” The program consisted of interviews and photos of local service men and women displayed in the theater lobby and on the Chestertown Spy. The program got a much greater response than expected, Hogans said, so to accommodate those who couldn’t be included the first time, the theater will post all the pictures in the lobby in November in time for Veterans Day.

Hogans said she was working to get a Marine Corps color guard and a military band – possibly from the U.S. Navy to add to the recognition of the local veterans. She said one of the questions she needed to answer in the application for a military band was whether the program had the support of the local government. The council voted to send a letter of support.

A Glimmer of Hope by George Merrill


In a book I’ve been reading about Christianity and its “struggle for new beginnings,” I saw a passing reference to God as the creator of humanity. It quoted a fourteenth century English mystic, Julian of Norwich, who stated that we are made, not “by God,” but “of God.” I found the switching of the usual preposition “by” with “of,” striking. That God might have made us – the typical religious teaching – suggests an important connection but a discrete difference like the sculptor who fashions his sculpture from marble while he remains a creature of flesh and blood.

Being made of God offers a different thought; that we are fashioned from the same substance as the creator, one manifestation of the very stuff from which God is composed. To be human then, and being made of God – and not to be impious – I’d say is simply affirming that we’re all chips off the old block.

The way things are going today you’d hardly ever guess it. But then there are those transformational moments that offer us glimmers of hope…

Religion today, like politics, gets the public interest not when it acts sublimely, but when it behaves badly. Ears go right to the ground when the muck is being raked. But every so often something of essential goodness transpires and I, for one, find myself moved to tears. In those moments, circumstances conspire such that I become more conscious of my “of-ness,” and our “of-ness.”

One such moment occurred recently on June 14th following the shooting at the congressional baseball practice in D.C. At this writing, Republican Congressman Steve Scalise is in critical condition. Four others were wounded. The shooter was killed. His motives were vague political discontents.

Given the kind of political posturing that usually follows these tragic moments, things took a very different turn and in my judgment, a hopeful one. The spirit of the moment became one of claiming our national as well as our human solidarity rather than vilifying the perpetrator and swearing he will be caught and punished. In one sense our “of-ness” was the issue not someone’s “other-ness,”

Paul Ryan addressed the House shortly following the incident. He said: “An attack on one of us, is an attack on all of us.” He went further to state passionately that, “…there is one image that this house should keep. And it is a photo (as shown above) I saw of our Democratic colleagues gathered in prayer this morning after the news.”

He added that “We are a family…these are our brothers and sisters.” Finally he pleaded with the House: “I ask each of you to join me in resolving to come together…to lift each other up…and show the country – show the world – that we are one House.”

I felt moved. I didn’t see this kind of response coming.

The next evening on PBS, Judy Woodruff interviewed House Representatives Joe Barton, R-Texas and Mike Doyle, D-Pa. The interview took a remarkable turn. They had been long-term friends in the Congress. During the incident Doyle was at the field with his Republican colleagues while Barton practiced with the Democrats. In reiterating the frightening experience of the shooting and also speaking of his friendship with Barton, Doyle was clearly on the verge of tears. At that point, Barton placed his hand on Doyle’s arm in a spontaneous gesture of affection. There was no mistaking its authenticity. The gesture was the kind of human softness that exhibits our greatest strengths, that is, our capacity to care for others.

As I watched the interview, Isaiah’s visionary statement of a world reconciled to God came to mind: “The wolf and the lamb will graze together, and the lion will eat straw with the ox – they will do no evil or harm in all My Holy Mountain.”

Imagine, if one day the elephant and the donkey might have drinks and dinner together after work, and would dwell and graze together and do no evil in “all My Holy Mountain.” If that isn’t the slam dunk formula for making America Great, and I don’t mean great again, but greater than ever, then I can’t imagine what is.

In the interview on PBS, Doyle made what I would call a visionary statement – not a policy statement, but a visionary one, the kind that we rarely see or hear today.

Speaking of Congress he says, ”We may have differences politically, but they’re our friends, and we care about them very much. And I think all of us are reflecting on how each one of us individually can set an example for the country, too, because when people see their leaders being uncivil towards one another then you start to see the public being uncivil towards one another and towards their leaders.”

He also speaks to that prurient part of all of us that delights in hearing sleaze and scandal. In referring to congressional mud slinging he notes, “Oftentimes the media’s interested in interviewing the two that are throwing the swords at each other…the news media, too, can reflect a little bit on that and show some of the positive things that take place down there.”

Religion struggles today, as politics does, for “new beginnings,” relevance, and integrity in a world in which we see little of either over the din of the sectarian and party claims. In power struggles, the common denominator of our “of-ness,” our mutual humanity gets easily excised, in the way soldiers trained for combat learn to dehumanize their adversaries in order to destroy them.

A columnist for CNN seemed to see in the recent event, glimmers of hope. He put it this way in his column, “There’s a lot of awfulness in Washington today…but out of the awfulness (almost) always comes some good.”

Columnist George Merrill is an Episcopal Church priest and pastoral psychotherapist.  A writer and photographer, he’s authored two books on spirituality: Reflections: Psychological and Spiritual Images of the Heart and The Bay of the Mother of God: A Yankee Discovers the Chesapeake Bay. He is a native New Yorker, previously directing counseling services in Hartford, Connecticut, and in Baltimore. George’s essays, some award winning, have appeared in regional magazines and are broadcast twice monthly on Delmarva Public Radio.

Food Friday: Grilling for Dad


It has been so warm this spring that I can barely think about eating, let alone cooking. I am daydreaming about nice cool, summertime foods that do not require a lick of cooking: watermelon, strawberries, icy bowls of bobbing crimson radishes, Good Humor Bars, freshly shelled peas. I am not musing about meat loaf, spaghetti, beef stew or roasted chicken.

What I do need to do is organize is a Father’s Day Sunday Dinner, one which does not involve any of my time spent in the kitchen. I will have to see if Mr. Friday is amenable to tossing some kebobs on the grill. There is nothing quite so delightful as the charred, crispy edges of  chunks of pepper and onions combined with chicken or steak.

We will gather on the back porch, where we have a few Adirondack chairs (which are never as comfortable as they are picturesque). I love the al fresco nights, when we can elude the mosquitoes and enjoy candles and strings of white lights. We can watch the last of the sun’s rays gilding the tops of the pecan trees and listen to the cardinals squabbling in the hedge. It will be time to slow down and the enjoy the lengthening purple shadows. There is no television news in the background. It is a pleasantly warm, humid summer evening.

Kebob skewers dress up anything and everything. Mr. Friday loves to cook on the weekend, thank heavens, and he says he enjoys it on Father’s Day, too. I suspect that is because he can control the menu selection. Everything he touches becomes a carefully designed and choreographed production number. On the weekends The Girl from Ipanema typically streams tunefully as Mr. Friday rummages through the fridge, taking out jars and bottles and containers of wine, mustard, horseradish, capers, lemon juice and olive oil. From the spice cabinet he selects honey, allspice and cilantro. He snatches up a hefty wedge of garlic, too. He pours everything into a glass bowl, testing the wine first, of course, and adding the chunks of chicken. (He has another elixir for steak that involves lots and lots of garlic.) That’s it – no recipe. Just instinct. (Disclaimer: once I had to stop him from using olive oil for cooking pancakes, so sometimes these impromptu food experiments do go awry.) This freedom from recipe structure leaves us time to wander into the back yard and toss the ball for the dog, testing more of the Chardonnay. Excellent planning.

Drifting back into the kitchen, Mr. Friday threads the chicken chunks onto metal skewers. (We used to try to use wooden skewers, but never remembered to soak them, so a lot went up in black puffy smoke.) He also skewered mushrooms, red peppers, green peppers, yellow pepper and red onions, separately. (Although we like slightly charred vegetables, it makes sense to cook the vegetables and the meat separately otherwise the vegetables can incinerate while the meat cooks.) And then he tosses the meat, and then the vegetables, onto the hot grill. Another moment of cooking deflection triumph.

Mark Bittman (who is about to start writing for New York Magazine! had a great graphic in the New York Times a couple of years ago – all the myriad possibilities for kebabs: You don’t have to be boring and suburban sedate like us.

Our house might be different. Happy families and all, the father you fête on Father’s Day might like a little fuss. Think of the tofu, mango, okra, eggplant skewers you can present to your dad on Sunday night. Yumsters!

“Ah, summer – what power you have to make us suffer and like it.”
– Russell Baker

Church Hill Theatre: “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown”


Charlie Brown (Matt Folker) seeks help from “Doctor” Lucy (Becca Van Aken)

Church Hill Theatre’s summer musical this year is “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” directed by Sylvia Maloney. “Charlie Brown” is, of course, based on the popular comic strip, “Peanuts,” by Charles M. Shultz, which in its heyday may have been the most widely read newspaper strip of all time. (One of its rivals for that distinction, “Li’l Abner,” was also the inspiration for a Broadway musical.)

The show was created by song writer Clark Gesner in 1966, near the height of the strip’s popularity. Gesner originally wrote a series of songs based on the “Peanuts” strip, but after Shultz gave his permission, he released a concept album with Orson Bean singing the title role. Eventually, “Charlie Brown” was developed into a full-fledged musical that appeared off-Broadway in 1967 and ran for 1,597 performances. It opened on Broadway in 1971, and had a short run, but the off-Broadway performances had already established it as a hit, A 1998 revival added new dialogue and songs, but the CHT production uses the original script.

The cast of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” performs a musical number

“Charlie Brown” has been one of the most popular shows for school and community theater – I know of at least two previous productions in the local area, one at Kent County High School (also directed by Maloney) and one at Centreville High School (directed by Shelagh Grasso). The premise of the comic strip – children performing their normal activities while expressing deeper, more adult thoughts – nicely translates to the stage, with adults cast in the role of the Peanuts characters. This is part of the fun – that traditionally all the roles are played by actors “remembering” what it was like to act and think like an elementary school or pre-school child. The youngest actor here is in junior high, while the oldest ones are over 50.

Like the newspaper strip, the play is largely episodic – there is no long-range plot, and the characters remained essentially unchanged over the course of the original comic strip. It is, in effect, a series of brief gags strung together – some developed at a bit more length, and of course there are repeated themes, but if you go to the theater expecting a “story,” you won’t get one. Instead, it depicts typical activities of a child’s day.

Linus (Elliott Morotti) & Lucy (Becca Van Aken)

That said, almost all the famous bits “Peanuts” readers would expect are here. Snoopy takes on the Red Baron in a World War I dogfight; Schroeder plays Beethoven on his toy piano; Lucy steals Linus’s security blanket; Charlie Brown pines for the little red-haired girl but never gets up the courage to go talk to her; and the gang manages to extend what must be the longest losing streak in baseball history. About the only iconic gag from the strip that doesn’t get portrayed onstage is Lucy holding the football for Charlie Brown to kick – and that really depended on its repetition over several years, with Charlie Brown falling for the same trick again and again.  That repetition would be hard to stage as well as time-consuming, so the decision by the playwright to leave out the football scene is probably a good one.  Besides, it’s such a mean trick.  Audience members won’t miss it in what is overall a delightful story of childhood and a little boy with a big heart.

Despite having been originally conceived as a song cycle, “Charlie Brown” does not have a particularly memorable musical score, with the song “Happiness Is” as a possible exception which many people may recognize. Although the tunes may not be instantly recognized, the lyrics are undeniably witty – given the source, how could they be anything else? — and the CHT cast performs them with plenty of spirit. The ensemble numbers, including “Beethoven Day,” “The Book Report,” “The Baseball Game” and “The Glee Club Rehearsal” are probably the strongest. In the performance I saw, there were a few spots where the lyrics of solo songs got covered up by the orchestra – that’s too bad, because they really are the whole point of the songs, which are basically sung dialogue.  The choreography was well done with the dance scenes adding significantly to the overall fun while remaining believable as the actions of little kids.

Schroder (David Ryan) plays Beethoven for Lucy (Becca Van Aken)

Matt Folker takes the role of Charlie Brown, and he does a great job with the character, making very effective use of facial expressions and body language. It’s a tribute to his acting that, in spite of being the tallest person on stage, he clearly projects Charlie’s vulnerability and insecurity. Another strong performance by one of Church Hill’s most reliable leading men.

Becca Van Aken plays Charlie’s nemesis, Lucy. She is superb in conveying the character’s bossy and crabby nature – an almost perfect bit of casting. And then, after the other kids responses to a survey convince her they think she really is crabby, Van Aken nicely conveys her crushed ego and sense of remorse – a surprising switch that many actors would have trouble portraying.

The role of Linus, Lucy’s younger brother, is taken by Elliott Morotti, a freshman in Archbishop Spalding High School in Severn. Despite his youth, he is already a veteran of musical theater, with appearances in several CHT performances and the Chesapeake Children’s Theater. His does a good job capturing the character’s combination of immaturity and philosophical depth.

David Ryan, who is pastor of First and Christ Methodist Churches in Chestertown, is making his CHT debut as Schroder after several roles at the Garfield. He portrays the character enthusiastically, really getting into playing Beethoven on the toy piano.

Sally, Charlie Brown’s younger sister, is played by Maya McGrory, a CHT veteran despite her young age. She gives a charming performance as the young girl who’s still struggling with challenges from jumping rope to school assignments.

Schroeder (David Ryan) & Sally (Maya McGrory)

Julie Lawrence takes the role of Snoopy, Charlie Brown’s super-talented beagle, and she turns in one of the best performances in the show. It’s a great comic role, with lots of physical schtick and mugging, and Lawrence takes it all easily in stride. As a bonus, she  has one of the best singing voices in the cast. I especially enjoyed her dance routine, Snoopy’s version of the old soft shoe, complete with top hat and a bone for a cane.

Snoopy (Julie Lawrence) does the old soft shoe

Another half dozen characters make up an ensemble, though they each get a few scenes where they can establish themselves. In the CHT production, Morgan Armstrong plays Frieda, Jarrett Plante plays Pig Pen, Samantha Smith is Peppermint Patty, Amy Gillilland is Violet, Faith McCarthy is Marcie and Katie Sardo is Woodstock, Snoopy’s birdie friend. They did a good job of portraying the moods and activities of young school children — skipping, agonizing over homework, licking lollipops, and playing games.

Violet (Amy Gilliland) & Marcie (Faith McCarthy)

The orchestra for this performance includes Ellen Barry Grunden as pianist and conductor; Tom Anthony on bass; Ron Demby on clarinet and flute; Frank Gerber on percussion; and Jane Godfrey on violin. There were a few tuning problems early at the performance I saw, but the group came together and delivered a good performance overall.

Michael Whitehill and Brian Draper designed and built the set for the show, and it captures the spirit of childhood. Oversize items – a bench, Snoopy’s doghouse, building blocks – emphasize the fact that the characters are all supposed to be small children. So when Folker has to pull himself up on the bench, it makes it easier to forget that he’s six-foot-something instead of a typical first-grader.

The audience had a good time at the production I saw – Saturday night of opening week. A lot of them were clearly long-time “Peanuts” fans, and they empathized with poor Charlie and laughed at the antics of Snoopy and Woodstock. This is really a show that delivers a lot of laughs and sends the audience home with a warm feeling – just what the doctor ordered as an antidote to the evening news. It’s a good show for children, too.

“You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” continues through June 25, with performances Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for CHT members and $10 for students. For reservations or more information, call the theater office at 410-556-9003 or visit the theater website

Photos by Steve Atkinson

Heron Point: The 2017 OlympiActs!


The Olympics, we know, come every four years.  But at Heron Point, the Olympics come every year!  On Thursday morning, June 8, buses began arriving early with the senior athletes from five other communities. Heron Point was the host for the 2017 OlympiActs, sponsored this year by BB&T.

The five traveling teams were from Lima Estates, Granite Farms Estates, Cokesbury Village, Country House, and Manor House.  With Heron Point, that made six teams competing for the gold!  There were eight sports plus one “brain game” for a total of nine events.

Wearing their “crab hats” with their clackers at the ready, Heron Point residents wait for the results at the closing ceremonies.

Spirits were high!  Many people carried clackers or pom poms.  Every athlete wore an OlympiActs t-shirt in their team colors. Heron Point’s shirts were blue while staff wore black t-shirts.  Lima Estates even had a lion mascot to cheer for its team!

The sports  (with Heron Point competitors) :

Walking Relay Race (John Henderson & Nancy Henderson),

Wii bowling              (Cole Taylor)

Bocce                          (Jack Stenger & Tom Blum)

Billiards                      (Tom Fisher)

Anything Goes in the Pool (swimming)        (Kent Kerbel & Bill Mohan)

Trivia                            (Mary Jane Mitchell & Sandy Durfee)

Corn Hole                    (Ed Tinucci  & Wendy Johnson)

Table Shuffleboard     (Pam Fisher)

Golf Putting                  (Bill Trakat)

The Walking Relay had a beautiful setting. Participants race-walked out and back Heron Point’s long dock.  It’s a wonder that the contestants didn’t get distracted by the beautiful views of the Chester River. There’s even a shady gazebo with benches to further tempt them.  But the relay teams were focused.

Each community could send two participants per sport, although in some of the events, some communities fielded only one athlete.  The chosen athletes had already gone though various competitions and try-outs in their home communities.

The spirit of fun was obvious throughout the day.  Everyone commented on how much this event brought back happy memories of Field Day from their school days.  This was the second year that Heron Point has participated and Executive Director Garret Falcone said that it was already one of his favorite days. The participants, he said, were laughing and joking but became very serious when it was their turn to compete.  They take it seriously, he said, then laughed and added,  “It’s cut-throat out there!”

Heron Point has a new 6-hole course for golf putting.  The course was installed just a few weeks before the OlympiActs.  They already had a pool, Bocce field, and a billiards room.

OlumpiAct medals await the winning competitors.

The day began with opening ceremonies where the Olympic “flame” was lit.  (It was a clever mini-fan concealed in a base that blew wind onto the gold paper “flame”, making it flutter.  The day ended with a traditional awards presentations.  Medals on blue ribbons – just like the Olympics! – were hung around each winner’s neck.  Falcone was pleased that every community had a winner in at least one of the nine events.

Brian Donathan Communications Manager), Garret Falcone Executive Director of Heron Point), Kim

Heron Point opened in 1991 and, since 2010, has been an affiliate of Acts Retirement-Life Communities, headquartered in Philadelphia. Acts-Retirement-Life communities  is the world’s largest not-for-profit organization of residential continuing care organizations.  It runs 22 senior communities in eight states with over 9000 residents.

More pictures of participants, teams and medal winners below.

With old-fashioned courtesy and good sportsmanship, contestants shake hands after a round of corn hole.

Corn Hole Competitors







Competing on the New Putting Green

Wii Bowling



Local photographers were on hand to capture the action.

Medal Winners of the 2017 OlympiActs!

Winners in the Bocce event. Heron Point residents, Jack Stenger and Tom Blum (in blue on right) took first place.






















At the Still Point by George Merrill


From my studio window I enjoy a limited view of Broad Creek. Locals call it Saddler’s Cove. It’s a preferred landing site for birds – ducks and geese occasionally, but mostly herons. The shallow water in the cove provides them easy access to minnows and an occasional water snake. Of course, the cove is also home to aquatic creatures like fish, crabs and oysters. At first glance you think it’s a still and sleepy place, vintage tidewater ambience. However, there are times when nature gets busier than traffic does on Rt. 50 on a summer weekend. It’s a still spot, but at the same time there can be all kinds of goings on.

My mobility of late has been temporarily limited due to an injured knee. Now I spend more time in the studio just sitting and gazing out the window. The studio has become the center of my world, the still point of my universe. Too bad it takes a bum knee to settle down and be still long enough to be aware of what’s going on around me.

Looking out the window one day, not focused on anything in particular, my view was dimmed by a large shadow cast by something flying high above. At first I saw only the shadow. Then a Great Blue Heron came into full view. He was circling and preparing to land in the cove. He made a lazy pass over the site as if he were waiting for clearance from flight control. Getting the go ahead, he began his final approach. Near touchdown he arched backward, throwing his legs forward the way a broad jumper does before he hits the dirt. The heron landed effortlessly in about two inches of water.

I watched the Heron with awe. Just before touchdown, the Heron flapped his wings strategically, allowing him to substantially break the velocity of his descent. He practically parachuted to earth, legs bent forward to absorb any shock he might make upon contact.

I winced when I thought of my own knees bending backwards like that. One knee of mine feels as though it had.

What with physical therapy, two visits to an orthopedist and finally owning that I had done a number on my knee, I’ve become conscious of life’s appetite for movement in general, and my own mobility in particular.

Life is always on the move. All God’s creatures want to get up and go. They like to fly, soar, jump, swing, roll, dig, flip, or dive for the sheer joy of it. Some divide themselves into halves like amoebas or regrow a lost limb like starfish, but I suspect that’s out of functional necessity. They’re not doing it just for fun.

Recently I saw a little girl busy at the end of dock – checking crab traps I guess. When she completed her task, she began skipping along the dock and back to the land. I was mesmerized watching her. Her movements seemed inspired, a moment of pure abandon and playful lightheartedness that seizes all of us at one time or another. We just can’t resist it. Jumping for joy is a popular way of putting it. I could not remember for the life of me how I once skipped. I remember the joy I felt, though.

Amusement parks capitalize on the thrill that various forms of mobility can excite. As a boy, I remember riding the parachute jump at Coney Island.

Standing on the boardwalk, my view of the world was narrowly circumscribed by a limited horizon, the usual view for anyone who is earthbound. The world grows larger on the parachute jump.
Secured safely we began the ascent. Gradually my world opened up and I gained a bird’s eye view of New York City, Long Island, Staten Island and parts of New Jersey. The ascension is titillating, but the high point of the adventure is when we drop.

I’m secured in a canvas seat with another boy. Suddenly I feel as if it’s falling out from under us – I scream – everyone screams – some for terror, some in delight, most screaming for both. We plummet downward, delivered at the last minute by the restraining jolt of the tether attached to the tower’s crown.

Movement is the essence of cosmic energy. What about creatures that have no means for their own locomotion? Nature lands a helping hand. Consider the milkweed seed. It takes nothing more than a breath of fresh air to set these diaphanous threads aloft and soaring. Milkweed seeds need do nothing except to lie back and enjoy the friendly skies until the threads are flown to their final destination. Safely delivered with their tiny package intact, like the legendary stork, they bring to wherever they light a brand new life.

Years ago in Manhattan I entered the subway to catch the train uptown. I boarded and got seated. Across the platform, I saw another train. It, too, was stopped waiting for passengers going downtown.

In a few minutes, looking out the window I felt distinctly we were moving. But, I was unsure. Was my train moving or the other? I was disoriented. Just who was on the move. Entering a tunnel I could see then that my train was moving. I recognized the motion as mine only when I had reference to a still point.

We live in both a material and spiritual world. In the material world, motion and busyness easily become addictive. We’re on the move all the time, hurrying here and there, and fidgeting with this and that. But until we gain some access to the still point deep within us around which everything spins, it can be for us like it was for me that day in the subway, when I couldn’t be sure at all just who was moving and who was at rest.

Columnist George Merrill is an Episcopal Church priest and pastoral psychotherapist. A writer and photographer, he’s authored two books on spirituality: Reflections: Psychological and Spiritual Images of the Heart and The Bay of the Mother of God: A Yankee Discovers the Chesapeake Bay. He is a native New Yorker, previously directing counseling services in Hartford, Connecticut, and in Baltimore. George’s essays, some award winning, have appeared in regional magazines and are broadcast twice monthly on Delmarva Public Radio.

Food Friday: Summer Slaws


After the cool and rainy days earlier this week, you will be happy to know that summer is indeed upon us. It is supposed to be pretty warm this weekend, so we should start relying on the fridge to provide some of our meals. It is my favorite time of the year when I get to walk away from the stove. It’s strictly counter time for me – I will endlessly and cheerfully slice and dice fruits and veg. Except for Sunday biscuits and bacon, I am range-free. It is time to let Mr. Friday take over the cooking tasks – out on the grill and out on the back porch. But more about grilling when we tackle Father’s Day grilling in next week’s column. Today we explore the summer slaw.

My mother was not an enthusiastic or adventurous cook. Everything she cooked was simple, by-the-book, and bland. Things livened up a bit when she started to watch Julia Child on PBS. We were reluctant test subjects for her Boeuf Bourguignon,, French Onion Soup, and Mousse au Chocolat. Instead of being grateful, we were childish wretches and secretly yearned for the old days, of beef stew, Campbell’s tomato soup and My-T-Fine chocolate pudding.

Not used to having fancy French meals, instead we cut out teeth on boring, dull and reliable middle-of-the-road, middle-American, mid-century meals. Everything we ate was unadventurous, devoid of spices, nothing ethnic except pizza, which was always bought at one Italian restaurant in town, until my brother was in high school, and started experimenting with homemade pizza. The Age of Aquarius introduced us to oregano and red pepper flakes, with a soupçon of olive oil.

In the summer, since the kitchen would get blazing hot with the gas stove chugging away, we ate cool, simple meals prepared in the kitchen, or scorched chicken and hamburgers reduced to hockey pucks as incinerated by my father out on the hibachi grill. Lots of tuna salad. Macaroni salads. Bowls of iced radishes. Corn on the cob. Child-churned vanilla ice cream. Cole slaw. The coleslaw that was prepared as the antidote to chargrilled meats was the same slaw we would have with pork roasts in the winter. The acidic cabbage was the perfect accompaniment to the heavy meats.

My mother’s coleslaw was made of four ingredients: shredded cabbage, Hellmann’s mayonnaise, Heinz apple cider vinegar, and McCormick’s celery seed. And note the required branding – no Miracle Whip or Duke’s Mayonnaise in her kitchen! She did not taint her mixture with frou-frou shredded carrots, mustard, sour cream or cumin. I have my doubts that our little corner market carried such exotic ingredients, but I do wonder why Mom never tried Julia Child’s Coleslaw:

The other much dog-eared cookbook in my mother’s kitchen arsenal was Irma Rombauer’s Joy of Cooking, originally self-published in 1931. Obviously, my mother never ventured into the coleslaw section of the book, which calls for homemade mayonnaise.

Slaw can be any manner of sliced or shredded vegetables. Coleslaw adds the mayonnaise.

And imagine what my mother would say about our friends at Food52 and their take on summer slaw: No-Mayo Coleslaw: No-Mayo Coleslaw: No-Mayo Coleslaw: Heresay!

Even the folks at Bon Appétit have a gussied up coleslaw recipe. Two kinds of cabbage? This is an affront to my mother’s no-nonsense New England approach to life in general, and in the kitchen more specifically:

The Splendid Table team could make slaw from the contents of a sock drawer, so it is no wonder that they have four slaw recipes that are exotic and definitely not made with Hellmann’s:

Alice Waters has a recipe that will be very tasty when you pull that three-pound cabbage out of your garden this weekend. Or perhaps you should stop by one of the many fine local farm stands and bring one home.

Enjoy the beginning of summer, and walking away from your stove. And maybe you should just try to remember how your mother made coleslaw. It will be delicious next to the hockey puck of a burger that comes off the back yard grill this weekend.

“My greatest strength is common sense. I’m really a standard brand – like Campbell’s tomato soup or Baker’s chocolate.”
– Katharine Hepburn