Op-Ed: President Trump‘s Budget Does Not Support Clean Water by Tom Zolper

President Trump ‘s budget does not support clean water. How else to interpret his budget proposal for next year which cuts 90 percent of the funding for the Chesapeake Bay Program, and funding for other clean-water programs around the country?

Thankfully, the President has found little support for his extreme cuts, even in his own party, and particularly locally where elected officials have a first-hand understanding of the effectiveness of this funding. But why should we have to fight the White House for clean water?

This is the second year in a row the President has sought to dramatically scale back the Chesapeake Bay Program, the federal-state partnership responsible for cleaning up the Bay.

Note: The Chesapeake Bay Program is sometimes confused with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. The Program is an arm of the federal government. CBF, where I work, is a non-profit organization funded by private donations.

Restoring the Bay is non-partisan. Republican and Democratic governors in the six Bay states have supported efforts to clean up the Chesapeake for decades. The current clean-up plan was jointly crafted by the states and the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). As recently as last week, Governor Hogan publicly supported full federal funding for the Bay Program. Hogan is the current chairman of the Chesapeake Executive Council. All six current governors and the mayor of the District of Columbia sit on the Council.

Congress also has pushed back again the President’s attack on Chesapeake Bay restoration. The House of Representatives last year voted to restore much of the funding the President wanted to cut, and the Senate Appropriations Committee voted to restore the entire $73 million budget. The final federal budget for fiscal year 2018 still is being negotiated.

So, it’s reasonable to expect the President’s latest proposal to reduce the Bay Program budget to $7.3 million for fiscal year 2019 will be softened or rejected by Congress.

But it’s frustrating to have to spend so much time and effort defending a program so many support. Governor Hogan called the program “cooperative federalism,” states and the federal government cooperating just as the Founding Fathers envisioned when they crafted the Constitution. Even Scott Pruitt, secretary of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) appointed by Trump, has called the Program a model to be emulated.

And why not? Where else in the country are we seeing such a success story of a badly polluted body of water being restored.

The Bay Barometer report issued this past month noted a “continued improvement in the health of the Chesapeake Bay: a positive sign that restoration efforts are working.” The blue crab population is trending upward, underwater grasses are returning, and pollution is falling. Forty percent of the Bay and its tidal tributaries met water quality standards between 2014 and 2016, the highest amount ever recorded, according to the Barometer report.

One reason the Bay Program succeeds: it passes on most of its funding to local governments, colleges, and non-profits working in the Chesapeake clean-up effort. But it requires beneficiaries to contribute, too. A great example is the Healthy Waters Round Table on the Eastern Shore. Queen Anne’s and Talbot counties, along with the municipalities of Cambridge, Easton, Oxford and Salisbury, recently received a $316,000 grant through EPA and the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation to help the local jurisdictions hire and share a pollution reduction expert. But local governments had to kick in as well. The Eastern Shore counties and municipalities contributed $197,000 and the Maryland Department of the Environment contributed $150,000.

The Bay Program distributes similar matching grants for various Bay-improvement strategies.

Bipartisan support. Shared financial responsibility. Proven success. This is the Chesapeake Bay Program.

Yet here we are—again—having to defend the program from attack from the White House.

Tom Zolper is the assistant media director at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

Photos of Suspended Sediment in the Chester River – February 2018 by Marc Castelli

 

Md. Juvenile Agency says Later School Hours could Curb Crime

 

A significant spike in juvenile crime from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. on school days has led to a push by the state’s juvenile justice agency to shift school start and finish times.

The department is advocating for a later opening and release to limit the amount of time kids spend unsupervised in the evening. The thinking goes, the more time teenagers are congregated in one spot, the greater chance of delinquency.

“If you think about it, especially in environments that are urban, you usually have a large number of teenagers getting released from school at the same time,” said Jay Cleary, chief of staff to Sam Abed, the secretary of the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services. “Everybody is in one place, at one time. It just tends to be sort of a natural result.”

The proposal got some positive responses among members of a House committee last month.

Delegate Curt Anderson, D-Baltimore, told the University of Maryland’s Capital News Service that he is enthusiastic about the start-time idea. He said he had previously supported longer days on an academic basis, though the department’s proposal is to simply shift hours, ideally 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., not to extend the day.

“If (later or longer hours is) also talked about in relationship to public safety, I think that gives it another push,” Anderson said. “Mr. Abed talking about it in terms of the juvenile system, I think, was very timely.” Abed presented his findings to the House Judiciary Committee on Jan 17.

According to 2014 data from the U.S. Justice Department, roughly 19 percent of juvenile violent crime – which includes murder, sexual assault, simple assault, robbery and aggravated assault – happens during the hours of 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Fifteen percent occurs during the standard juvenile curfew hours of 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. But because “curfew” times are 8 hours long, every day of the year, the rate of crime during the four after-school hours is much higher, the report found.

And even though the number of school days and non-school days in a year are essentially the same, 63 percent of violent crimes committed by juveniles occur on school days, the Justice Department reported.

In Baltimore City, the vast majority of middle and high schools release at 3:30 p.m. or later. City Neighbors High lets out the latest, at 4 p.m. and starts at 9 a.m.

Amy Krulak, a special educator at City Neighbors High School, said the later hours have benefited students from an academic standpoint – they are more alert at 9 a.m. – but isn’t convinced that a later release would affect public safety.

It’s a nice idea, she said, but students would still, at some point, be together at a bus stop.

“If they’re getting out (together) at the same time, just later, I don’t know if that solves anything,” Krulak said.

Krulak also said it wouldn’t be ideal for students to walk home in the dark. The key to improving conduct in her view is for the school to “create a healthy environment” during regular hours.

The department of Juvenile Justice Services doesn’t see a downside.

“There’s nothing that’s going to completely eliminate young people getting into trouble at those times,” Cleary said. “But the spike is fairly large as it is right now (at the) 3 or 4 o’clock timeframe. If you’re able to push that out a little further, it can only help.”

The Baltimore City School Board said in an email to Capital News Service in January that it doesn’t have any thoughts or ideas regarding the secretary’s recommendation.

The bulk of Abed’s presentation was aimed to show the department’s progress in providing services and refining its methods, from addressing racial inequity to connecting released youth to community service.

Delegate David Moon, D-Montgomery, said he came away from the briefing particularly interested in the school-start time idea.

“That’s a new concept, but it’s fascinating,” Moon said. “If you believe the data (from Secretary Abed’s presentation), basically this is an issue about after-school supervision, to the extent that kids are getting out at 3 o’clock and then committing violent crimes until dinner time.”

Moon noted, however, that it’s precisely these types of specifics that show that more information is necessary in all facets of juvenile services to form legislation and pass effective solutions.

“The more data you have – and you can tease out little items like that – it might give you pause, to say ‘Okay, maybe the solution isn’t so simple as let’s add 10 years to someone’s jail sentence,’” Moon said. “If there are other factors in play, I’d like to see us take a more evidence-based approach.”

By Zach Shapiro

Food Friday: Game Plan

I love my job. I have had to spend hours and hours in the venerable Spy Test Kitchen working on and trying out various deelish snackum recipes to serve at a football event that is coming up this weekend. (The owners of this event are quite litigious, so it must remain nameless. But you know what I mean. New England. Philadelphia. The big one.)

As the football teams gather in Minneapolis, we will assemble ourselves in the living room. Mr. Friday will watch the game from the sofa, and I will curl up in an adjacent chair, binge-watching a few episodes of ER on my Kindle. (I love technology!)

Originally I thought that I would make Philadelphia cheesesteak sandwiches and New England lobster rolls as clear representations of the two teams. But both sandwiches require a lot of prep work, and really are more delicious in their native settings. And that is not mentioning how crucial good crispy hot French fries are. I do not have enough arms to juggle all three.

https://www.boston.com/culture/food/2018/01/30/history-of-new-england-lobster-roll-philly-cheesesteak

Instead, I propose these delicious nachos garnered from Food52, which is the spot for all your food questions. I added some taco meat to the batch I made batch earlier this week, but you might be entertaining some vegetarians, so this recipe is just perfect. https://food52.com/recipes/60524-salad-nachos

Two helpful take aways I got from this recipe were just mind-blowing! 1. Open your chip bags from the bottom! Then all the little broken mingey bits are the first out of the bag, and you can cover them easily with the unbroken, easily more delicious chips that float on top. 2. 500 degrees F. I usually bake our nachos at 350°, and the cheese melts slowly, and doesn’t get good and gooey. 500 degrees lightly scorches the edges of the chips and the refried beans, and I am transported back to the first Mexican food I ever enjoyed at Mama Vicky’s El Acapulco in South Norwalk, Connecticut.

Here is a list of possible toppings for your Game Plan:
taco meat
pulled pork
shredded chicken (think leftover rotisserie chicken!)
sliced grilled steak
diced sausage
leftover chili (I just found a bowl from Monday in the fridge!)
shrimp
crab
crumbled bacon
black beans
pinto beans
refried beans
sliced pitted black olives
shredded Cheddar cheese
shredded mozzarella cheese
shredded pepper jack cheese
shredded Muenster cheese
crumbled feta cheese
sour cream
chopped onions
caramelized onions
chopped jalapeños (fresh – not out of a jar!)
chopped green/red/yellow peppers
sautéed green/red/yellow peppers
chopped tomatoes
radish slices
chopped scallions
diced avocado
guacamole
shredded lettuce
fresh cilantro
roasted corn
zucchini (if you still have some left from your neighbor’s summer’s harvest)
salsa

From J. Kenji Lopez-Alt – the perfect cheese sauce: http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2010/09/cheese-sauce-for-cheese-fries-and-nachos.html

Ostensibly, you can make a Philadelphia Cheesesteak batch of nachos: top the chips with sliced roast beef or steak, smother in Kenji’s sauce and carmelized onions. Yumsters.

Or, you can make some New England lobster nachos, which are fancier. I guess it depends on your crowd: chips, lobster tail meat (about 3 ounces), roasted corn, chopped tomato and shredded cheddar or Kenji’s deliciousness to even the playing field.

For the few of you who will ruin a party by not wanting to consume mass quantities of corn chips, we do offer a kale alternative: https://minimalistbaker.com/kale-chip-nachos-30-minutes/

“…So please, be tolerant of those who describe a sporting moment as their best ever. We do not lack imagination, nor have we had sad and barren lives; it is just that real life is paler, duller, and contains less potential for unexpected delirium.”
― Nick Hornby

Bay Ecosystem: Ocean Deoxygenation Changes Pose Real Threat to Marine Ecosystems by Amy Pelsinsky

An international team of scientists warns that the ocean may run out of breath unless action is taken to rein in climate change and nutrient pollution. In the first sweeping look at the causes, consequences and solutions to low oxygen worldwide, published in Science, researchers reveal that the amount of oxygen in the world’s oceans and coastal waters is steadily decreasing.

The oxygen content of the open ocean and coastal waters has been declining for at least the past half century as a result of human activities that have increased global temperatures and nutrients discharged to coastal waters.

“Oxygen is fundamental to life in the oceans,” said Denise Breitburg, lead author and marine ecologist with the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center. “The decline in ocean oxygen ranks among the most serious effects of human activities on the Earth’s environment.”

In the past 50 years, the amount of water in the open ocean with zero oxygen has gone up more than fourfold. In coastal water bodies, including estuaries and seas, low-oxygen sites have increased more than 10-fold since 1950. For the upper ocean, oxygen and heat content are highly correlated for the period of 1958-2015 with sharp increases in both deoxygenation and ocean heat content beginning in the mid 1980s.

Many areas around the globe are looking at how we used sound science to make wise environmental management decisions to improve the water quality of Chesapeake Bay.

The study came from a team of scientists from GO2NE (Global Ocean Oxygen Network), a new working group created in 2016 by the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission that includes Mike Roman and Kenny Rose from the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s Horn Point Laboratory.

The review paper is the first to take such a sweeping look at the causes, consequences and solutions to low oxygen worldwide, in both the open ocean and coastal waters. The article highlights the biggest dangers to the ocean and society, and what it will take to keep Earth’s waters healthy and productive.

The Stakes

In areas traditionally called “dead zones,” like those in Chesapeake Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, oxygen plummets to levels so low many animals suffocate and die. As fish avoid these zones, their habitats shrink and they become more vulnerable to predators or fishing. But the problem goes far beyond “dead zones,” the authors point out.

Even smaller oxygen declines can stunt growth in animals, hinder reproduction and lead to disease or even death. It also can trigger the release of dangerous chemicals such as nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas up to 300 times more powerful than carbon dioxide, and toxic hydrogen sulfide. While some animals can thrive in dead zones, overall biodiversity falls.

The ongoing recovery of Chesapeake Bay, where nitrogen pollution has dropped 24 percent since its peak thanks to better sewage treatment, better farming practices and successful laws like the Clean Air Act, is an example of what’s possible to reverse this trend. While some low-oxygen zones persist, the area of the Chesapeake with zero oxygen has almost disappeared.

“Many areas around the globe are looking at how we used sound science to make wise environmental management decisions to improve the water quality of Chesapeake Bay,” said Roman, co-author of the report and director of the UMCES’ Horn Point Laboratory in Cambridge, Maryland.

Climate change is the key culprit in the open ocean. Warming surface waters make it harder for oxygen to reach the ocean interior. Furthermore, as the ocean as a whole gets warmer, it holds less oxygen. In coastal waters, excess nutrient pollution from land creates algal blooms, which drain oxygen as they die and decompose. In an unfortunate twist, animals also need more oxygen in warmer waters, even as it is disappearing.

People’s livelihoods are also on the line, the scientists reported, especially in developing nations. Smaller, artisanal fisheries may be unable to relocate when low oxygen destroys their harvests or forces fish to move elsewhere. In the Philippines, fish kills in a single town’s aquaculture pens cost more than $10 million. Coral reefs, a key tourism attraction in many countries, also can waste away without enough oxygen.

Some popular fisheries could benefit, at least in the short term. Nutrient pollution can stimulate production of food for fish. In addition, when fish are forced to crowd to escape low oxygen, they can become easier to catch. But in the long run, this could result in overfishing and damage to the economy.

“Getting the effects of low oxygen on fish populations and supporting food webs correct, especially as it worsens, will enable more effective analyses and decisions on how to sustainably manage many fisheries, from artisanal that support local communities to large-scale industrial fisheries,” said Rose, a co-author of the report and a professor at Horn Point Laboratory.

Winning the War: A Three-Pronged Approach

To keep low oxygen in check, the scientists said the world needs to take on the issue from three angles:

Address the causes: nutrient pollution and climate change. While neither issue is simple or easy, the steps needed to win can benefit people as well as the environment. Better septic systems and sanitation can protect human health and keep pollution out of the water. Cutting fossil fuel emissions not only cuts greenhouse gases and fights climate change, but also slashes dangerous air pollutants like mercury.

Protect vulnerable marine life. With some low oxygen unavoidable, it is crucial to protect at-risk fisheries from further stress. According to the GO2NE team, this could mean creating marine protected areas or no-catch zones in areas animals use to escape low oxygen, or switching to fish that are not as threatened by falling oxygen levels.

Improve low-oxygen tracking worldwide. Scientists have a decent grasp of how much oxygen the ocean could lose in the future, but they do not know exactly where those low-oxygen zones will be. Enhanced monitoring, especially in developing countries, and numerical models will help pinpoint which places are most at risk and determine the most effective solutions.

The Global Ocean Oxygen Network (GO2NE) is a scientific working group organized by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, part of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Established in 2016, its scientists from around the world are committed to providing a global and multidisciplinary view of deoxygenation, advising policymakers on countering low oxygen and preserving marine resources.

Amy Pelsinsky is Director of Communications at  the University Of Maryland’s Center For Environmental Science. For more information please go here

 

Publisher Notes: The Spy in 2018

Waiting for the Stage William Caton Woodville (National Gallery of Art). Forwarded by Spy Agent Glass

For almost nine years now, I have made it a practice to insulate the Chestertown Spy and Talbot Spy from any comparison to other print or online publications. In simple terms, this has meant that I have never participated in any professional association nor have I been a subscriber to the Star Democrat and Kent County News.

Like any act of innovation, it is not in the creator’s best interest to compare one’s new enterprise to models that are not direct competition. From its earliest beginning in the spring of 2009, The Spy was developing an entirely different news source targeted at community education first and foremost. It also began as a “no-profit” turned non-profit business that aimed at successful sustainability rather than return on investment.

All of that has worked in our favor as we recently completed eight years of operation. Unlike countless other start-ups, particularly in small communities throughout the country, the Spy has been able to grow in its reach (one million plus hits a year) while maintaining the trust of our readers and the confidence of our sponsors.

But like every other curious person in the world, I couldn’t help but wonder about the “other guys.” And last November I broke these vows of separation in two ways: 1) I attended a conference devoted to independent local online newspapers and 2) took out subscriptions for Chesapeake Publishing’s local papers.

In Chicago, over 150 publications and their representatives gathered for four days to discuss best practices and new trends in this growing field. And it was heartening to hear in some ways that not one these other online ventures had found on a sustainable business concept like the Spy model.

The other trend was that very few of these newspapers moved beyond their primary focus of covering local government issues.  In most cases, there was no attempt to include local arts and culture, or there were only token steps to publish press releases related to these subjects. And few, if any, had taken advantage of multimedia like original content video, which has been the Spy’s primary tool since we began with now close to 2,000 videos online.

In the case of both the Star Democrat and the Kent County News, my response is only one of respect for these “newspapers of record.” Unlike the Spy, these printed news sources must take on the responsibility, and the expense, of covering such local topics as crime, sports, weather, legal notices, and obituaries, all of which is not in the Spy portfolio.  It was a relief to note the unique difference between the Spy and these legacy papers, and the complementary nature the Spy plays to their hard work.

And so the Spy starts the new year with a renewed confidence but also profound gratitude to its writers, columnists, poets, and the kind and thoughtful support from the Spy’s fiscal agent, the Mid-Shore Community Foundation, as well as the Spy’s talented and generous board of advisors for making it the success it has become.

Beyond our investment in technology, the Spy has been particularly proud of the extraordinary trust our 100,000 readers a year have in these two online news sources. In the midst of what might be one of the most challenging times for public discourse and the public’s trust in news in our country’s history, every week the Spy has become a safe harbor for serious and thought-provoking perspectives. I am indebted to our remarkably distinguished columnists and friends Howard Freedlander, Craig Fuller, Jimmie Galbreath, Jamie Kirkpatrick, Mary McCoy, George Merrill, David Montgomery, Nancy Mugele, Al Sikes, and Amy Steward for sharing their very different points of view with the community. Likewise, we are grateful to our readers willing to engage in civilized debate in response to those opinions by offering up their comments.

As publisher, it would have been impossible to fulfill our mission last year without the generous contributions of our writers and volunteer editors. Those include Jane Jewell and Peter Heck in their coverage of Kent County, Jenn Martella for Talbot County, Jean Sanders for maintaining our high quality of design and our Facebook presence, the marketing strategic support of Bill Rolle and Mary Kramer, and Neoma Rohman and Derek Beck for website support. We are also indebted to our content partners, the Delmarva Review, Capital News Service, the Bay Journal, Maryland Reporter and Talbot Historical Society for their invaluable service to our region.

One of the reasons that the Spy has maintained its existence for eight years is to keep the organization financially nimble and free of debt. One way we accomplish this is that neither the Spies nor our parent, the Community Newspaper Project Fund, have any full-time employees, including this publisher. Instead, we offer modest stipends for our writers and greatly benefit from the volunteer support of others.

We will continue that tradition in 2018 with a few changes in editorial priorities and staffing.

To emphasize our commitment to public affairs, we have renamed our Occurrences section just that to reflect the Spy’s coverage of local issues facing the community rather than the need to produce daily headlines. While we suspect that most of our readers understand this subtle but significant difference, it helps to reinforce our mission to educate the community through “long-form” coverage of timely issues.

This year Jenn Martella will take on a managing editor role for the Spy. Jenn created the Spy’s popular Habitat section for Chestertown and Talbot County, and we have asked her to extend that coverage to include our culture and arts as well as direct the Spy’s ongoing sponsorship/ad program from Mary who is leaving the Spy after six years of very committed service to our mission.

2018 will also be the first year that the Spy will have an annual giving campaign to encourage our readers to donate what they might to keep the Spy solvent. While we are committed to maintaining the newspapers free to every member of the community, like every nonprofit organization, we must also find an easy way for those who appreciate our role on the Eastern Shore to support the Spy on a monthly or yearly basis.

Lastly, pundits are predicting 2018 to be a gruelling time in American politics as the country faces a Congressional election in November. It is unlikely the Mid-Shore will avoid this environment as challengers continue to sign up to oppose Congressman Andy Harris for the 1st Congressional District race from both parties. Once again, the Spy is determined to be a safe harbor for debate and will be making this race a public affairs priority over the next eleven months. We look forward to working with all political parties to ensure constructive dialogue in what might be one of the most critical elections in our country’s history.

Dave Wheelan
Publisher and Executive Editor

 

 

Grants in Action: The Ladies of Nia and Women & Girls Fund Prepare Young Girls for Real World

While the accomplishments of the BAAM program in Talbot County has become well known for its mentoring programs for young boys, it was comforting for the Spy to learn the other day that there was a Mid-Shore equivalent just for girls, thanks in part due to the sponsorship of the Women & Girls Fund.

Nine years ago, six young women took a “girls trip” to reunite with childhood friendships from Lockerman Middle School in Denton many years after they had graduated from college and had started professional careers. As Malica Dunnock, one of the ringleaders of the group recounted in her interview with Spy, every woman on that trip had an extraordinary sense of being blessed to find a way to higher education and all the promises that it brings to young people. And like many who have had good future like this, the ladies quickly moved on to talk about ways to help a new generation of girls have that same experience

That was when this special friendship circle formed of The Ladies of Nia, which borrows the African term for “purpose” in the organization’s title, which has been working with dozens of girls growing up in and around Denton to find a path forward to the same opportunities as the founders.

The Spy talked to both Malica and Alice Ryan, the founder of the Women & Girls Fund, about The Ladies of Nia, their young students, and their special partnership.

This video is approximately four minutes in length. For more information about the Women & Girls Fund or to help support its work please go here 

Food Friday: ‘Tis the Season!

These are busy days in the world famous Spy Test Kitchen. We have been super busy baking and stirring and slow-cooking. If you had stopped by on Tuesday you would have been impressed by our relentless good cheer, and our frenetic demeanor. ’Tis the season to be very busy and multitask!

Our first task was preparing some slow-cooker beef short ribs that Mr. Friday was going to prepare over the weekend. His best laid plans went awry, and the dinner fell to me. The first thing I had to do was excavate for the slow-cooker, which I eventually found on the floor of the pantry, behind the dog food storage container, next to the stash of Diet Dr. Pepper.

Here is Mr. Friday’s recipe for Slow-Cooker Beef Short Ribs:

Ingredients:
1/3 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 1/2 pounds boneless beef short ribs (Mr. Friday bought bone-in, sigh)
1/4 cup butter
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup beef broth
3/4 cup red wine vinegar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons catsup
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon chili powder

Directions:
Put flour, salt and pepper in a bag. Add the ribs and shake to coat.
Brown the ribs in butter in a large frying pan.
Put the ribs in the slow cooker.
Add onions and garlic to the frying pan, stirring until fragrant and translucent. Then add the rest of the ingredients, and bring to a boil. Pour the liquid over the ribs. Cover and cook for 9 hours.

I got a little nervous about leaving the meat for 9 hours, so after 7 hours, at 4:00, in the middle of cookie frenzy, I turned the slow cooker off for a couple of hours. When Mr. Friday strolled in at 6:30 he was greeted by a large quantity of steaming, fragrant ribs. My work was done.

Our little family is a bit scattered this Christmas. So I am facing unexpected control issues, and have felt the need to send nostalgic boxes of home-baked cookies to folks. I have mentioned that we moved this year – what I haven’t confessed is that we still have boxes of books in a storage unit. And in one of those Citizen Kane boxes is my batter-splattered, grease-flecked, rolled-in-flour copy of The Joy of Cooking, stuffed with a handful of index cards scrawled with ancestral recipes. To my great relief, I did unearth a little Christmas cookie recipe book I put together for a Christmas gift many years ago. In it was the family recipe for gingersnaps. This was my grandmother’s recipe:

Grandmama’s Gingersnaps
Makes approximately 3 dozen cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon ginger
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt

Pre-heat the oven to 375°F.
Sift together the dry ingredients above. This is crucial – follow the steps here.
Add the dry ingredients to:
3/4 cup softened butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses

Mix thoroughly. Roll mixture into small balls and then roll the balls in a bowl of granulated sugar.
Flatten the balls onto parchment paper-lined cookie sheets with a small glass.
Bake for 12-15 minutes. Cool on racks, although they are quite delicious with a nice cold glass of milk.

These immediately transported me to Connecticut in the 1960s.

And then there was the Chex Mix, which should make the Tall One and the Pouting Princess think of the Florida kitchen in the 1990s and the aughts. We never really followed the recipe on the package, except as a guideline for the amount of butter and the oven temperature. We tended to toss in a lot of different ingredients over the years, doubling the amount of pretzels, and sometimes using Slap Yo’ Mama instead of Lawry’s Seasoning Salt. We like goldfish, and honey nut Cheerios, and adding M&Ms after the mixture has cooled. You can have fun with it, too.

The Original Chex ™ Party Mix

3 cups each Corn Chex, Rice Chex, Wheat Chex
1 cup mixed nuts
1 cup bite-size pretzels
1 cup garlic-flavor bite-size bagel chips or regular-size chip, broken into 1-inch pieces (I doubt that this is a historically accurate recipe – for surely there were no bagel chips when I was little)
6 tablespoons butter or margarine (oh, puhlease, margarine?)
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons seasoned salt (here is my plug for Lawry’s Seasoning Salt)
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder

(Don’t even think about using the microwave.)

Pre-heat oven to 250° F. Put cereal and seasoning mixture into ungreased roasting pan and bake for 1 hour stirring every 15 minutes. Spread on paper towels to cool, about 15 minutes.

(What we do, and I type with years of experience, is first melt the butter in the turkey roasting pan [so it gets used more than twice a year], and then add the Worcestershire sauce, the Lawry’s seasoning salt, and the onion and the garlic powders. Then we stir in the cereals, goldfish, pretzels, nuts, Cheerios, bacon bits, taco seasoning, marshmallows, Cheese-its, dried fruit, coconut, chocolate chips, cinnamon, sprinkles, wasabi peas, chow mein noodles, Cocoa Puffs, Cheetos, pecans, popcorn, animal crackers. You name it. (Obviously, things that melt get added last.)

Tuesday was a busy day. And today I am baking more cookies to get the boxes off the kitchen table and down to the post office. ’Tis the season indeed.

“In my South, the most treasured things passed down from generation to generation are the family recipes.”
― Robert St. John

Local Author Sophie Moss’ ‘Wind Chime Summer” Becomes Third Novel

Local author, Sophie Moss, recently released a new book in her series of love stories set on the Chesapeake Bay. Wind Chime Summer, the third book of the Wind Chime Novels, is a heartwarming story about a female veteran struggling with PTSD, who reclaims her passion for cooking—and life—on a Chesapeake Bay oyster farm.

Each of the Wind Chime Novels features a military hero or heroine and explores economic, social, and cultural issues that are particularly relevant to the Eastern Shore. The first book, Wind Chime Café, deals with the impacts of an impending development on a pristine island community. The second book, Wind Chime Wedding, is about saving an island elementary school. And the third book, Wind Chime Summer, is about saving the Bay through oyster restoration.

Three years ago, Moss moved back to the Eastern Shore to research and write the series, which is set on a fictional island loosely based on Tilghman Island. “One of my favorite things about writing a new story is getting to know the place where my characters live,” Moss said. “I’ve always been drawn to island settings, both in reading and in writing. There’s something so soothing about being surrounded by all that water. The pace of life is slower. Neighbors look out for each other. Everyone knows everything about everyone. Having grown up on the Chesapeake Bay, I have a deep love and respect for the area. I feel so fortunate to be able to share the rich culture and traditions of this place through my stories.”

The Wind Chime Novels are a series of standalone love stories, each featuring a wounded soul who returns to the island to heal and ultimately finds true love. “The Wind Chime Novels are stories about coming home,” Moss continued. “They are stories about rediscovering your roots, reconnecting with childhood friends, and realizing that sometimes the one place you turned your back on is the only place that can make you feel whole again.”

Moss will be signing copies of Wind Chime Summer at the News Center on Saturday, December 16th from 1-3PM. Her books are available for purchase locally at the News Center in Easton, Chesapeake Trading Company in St. Michaels, and Crawfords Nautical Books on Tilghman Island. Wind Chime Summer is Moss’ sixth published novel. She is a USA Today bestselling and multi-award winning author.

To learn more about the author and her books, visit her website at www.sophiemossauthor.com.

Food Friday: It’s Fruitcake Weather!

“Cherries and citron, ginger and vanilla and canned Hawaiian pineapple, rinds and raisins and walnuts and whiskey and on, so much flour, butter, so many eggs, spices, flavorings.”
-Truman Capote, A Christmas Memory

Fruitcake weather! It is an ineffable moment when the air cools, the leaves are falling and the light changes from summer golds and yellows to winter whites and grays. The slant of the light is different; more oblique. Truman Capote’s cousin Sook could tell us for sure. Sunsets speed across the back yard. Their dark flat shadows race over the fallen leaves and the sad pumpkin I have tossed out near the birdbath, hoping to lure squirrels into Luke the wonder dog’s line of sight. Dark falls abruptly.

Earlier this year we moved into a little house that has 5 towering pecan trees in the back yard. Luke and I wander around, picking up windfall pecans. We toss the ones tested and deemed unworthy by the squirrels into the yard of the vacant house next door. And now we have collected a big old bucket o’pecans. And what exactly are we going to do with them?

It is time for the great fruitcake experiment. Though we have never been a fruitcake family. When I was small my mother kept a fruitcake on the dining room sideboard with the ancestral tea set, just in case someone came calling and asked for fruitcake. She might have been ahead of her time, and it might have been the same fruitcake, wrapped up with the Christmas ornaments, and hauled up to the attic every January, and brought down again the following December. I don’t know. It is a great mystery, lost to the ages.

We were a family who glommed onto other families’ traditions. Cinematic families, that is. I feel sure we didn’t decorate our Christmas tree until Christmas Eve, because that was what the Bailey family did in It’s a Wonderful Life. Also, the Brougham family in The Bishop’s Wife. We did not have a business-suited angel who helped decorate, however. Instead, my mother employed child labor. Merrily I strung garlands and tinsel up the banisters, over the mantels and on windowsills waiting for a miraculous transformation of silvered ornaments and a Hollywood designer’s vision of domestic perfection to appear.

My introduction to Truman Capote’s family Christmas traditions came when we watched and (my mother wept through) A Christmas Memory, a filmed version of Truman Capote’s short story. And even though my mother had bravely attempted fancy cooking because of Julia Child’s benevolent television presence, she was not moved to try baking fruitcake. Instead we continued to bake sugar cookies and gingersnaps at Christmas.

This year I need to find some justification for the time that Luke and I spend out in the back yard, kicking up leaves and hunting for pecans, while we are really bird watching and taking a break from the drawing board. And maybe we will find a field for some kite flying.

Fruitcake Inspired by Truman Capote’s Cousin Sook

Ingredients
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup chopped candied orange peel
½ cup chopped candied ginger
½ cup dark raisins
½ cup golden raisins
1 cup pecans that have been lightly roasted and coarsely chopped
1 cup walnuts that have been lightly roasted and coarsely chopped
1½ cups white sugar
½ cup light brown sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon orange extract

Directions
Preheat oven to 325° F. Butter and flour a 10-inch tube pan.
2. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Add orange peel, ginger, raisins, pecans and walnuts and toss to coat.
3. In electric mixer beat sugars and butter until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add extracts.
4. Add dry ingredients and fold until just combined. The batter will resemble chocolate chip cookie dough.
5. Spoon batter into pan. Smooth the top. Bake until cake is golden and tester  —  I use a long, very thin wooden skewer  —  comes out clean. Start testing after 1½ hours. Cool cake on rack for 10 minutes, then turn out of pan and cool completely.

http://zesterdaily.com/cooking/capote-inspires-a-fresh-take-on-christmas-fruitcake/

“If you please, Mr. Haha, we’d like a quart of your finest whiskey.”
His eyes tilt more. Would you believe it? Haha is smiling! Laughing, too.
“Which one of you is a drinkin’ man?”
“It’s for making fruitcakes, Mr. Haha. Cooking.”
This sobers him. He frowns. “That’s no way to waste good whiskey.”
― Truman Capote, A Christmas Memory

A Christmas Memory: http://www.sailthouforth.com/2009/12/christmas-memory.html

The Bishop’s Wife: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0039190/

It’s a Wonderful Life:
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0038650/?ref_=nv_sr_2