Cheers for Aliah: Denton Girl Now Ranked 6th in Country in Gymnastics Tumbling

USA Gymnastics has announced the U.S. Trampoline and Tumbling Team for the 2017 World Age Group Competition, Nov. 13-20, in Sofia, Bulgaria. The World Age Group Competition will determine champions in trampoline, double mini-trampoline and tumbling for boys and girls in age-groups 11-12, 13-14, 15-16 and 17-21.  

Twelve year old Aliah Raga of Denton, a gymnast at Chesapeake Gymnastics in Easton, has been named as a U.S. Trampoline and Tumbling Team member in the competition’s double mini-trampoline event.  The U.S. Team for the World Age Group Competition was named by the Selection Committee based on scores from USA Gymnastic National Championships as well as bonus points earned at Winter Classic, Elite Challenge and USA Gymnastic National Championships.

Raga has trained in gymnastics since she was five.  “After climbing baby gates in her infancy and the tallest slides when she was a toddler, I realized that a recreational class at Easton’s Chesapeake Gymnastics was what she needed,” proclaimed Adrienne Raga, Aliah’s mother.  After only a few months, Raga advanced to Chesapeake’s artistic gymnastics team, which claimed multiple first place team trophies her first year, and where Aliah received a gold medal on balance beam at the State competition.  By the time Raga was eight, Coach Joan Dyott moved her to the Chesapeake Gymnastics’ Trampoline and Tumbling program. “With her power and determination, she was destined to succeed there,” noted Dyott.

Although Raga was ranked 6th in the nation for power tumbling level 9 in the 11-12 year old age group at the 2016 USAG Trampoline and Tumbling Championships, she was unable to compete in that event during 2017, due to an injury. Aliah was, however, able to compete at the 2017 Fairland T&T Invitational in both trampoline, where her five double somersaults earned her a bronze medal, and in double mini-trampoline, where two double somersaults earned her the gold.  She was mobilized to youth elite status in both of these events, and went on to compete at the 2017 USAG T&T Nationals, taking third place in double mini-trampoline as a youth elite.  

When asked how she felt about representing the United States in an international meet, Raga stated, “Whatever happens will happen, I am just happy that I will be there.”  

Champions Booster Club, a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to supporting and encouraging Chesapeake Gymnastics team members to reach such heights, is accepting donations to assist with the expenses involved in travel to Sofia, Bulgaria for the World Age Group Competition.  If you would like make a donation, please send checks to Champions Booster Club, c/o Chesapeake Gymnastics, 8610 Commerce Drive, Easton, MD 21601.  For further information, contact Deborah Davis at (443) 239-1194.


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Food Friday: Zucchini Fest

Have you started sneaking zucchini onto your neighbors’ front porches under the cover of night yet? If you have a garden, you have been harvesting tomatoes with an greedy heart, thinking about jars of spaghetti sauce you will enjoy this winter. But what about that ever-expanding green mountain of zucchini? If your neighbors are hiding behind their lace curtains when you come tippy-toeing up their front walks, then you need to put on your thinking cap, and find some creative culinary solutions. Zucchini fest!

Nobody is fooled by zucchini bread. Least of all small children into whom you are trying to stuff healthy vegetables. You might fool them once, but never twice. Here is one recipe for you to try, you shameless exploiter of small children. Lemon Zucchini Bread:

One of the best ways to reduce your zucchini surplus is to invite unsuspecting houseguests. Breakfast is usually a good time for a surprise zucchini onslaught. The white wine from last night isn’t out of their systems yet, and the coffee hasn’t kicked in. They will need food. A hot and cheesy frittata, please. If they were raised to have minimally good manners, they will eat whatever is placed in front of them, and then they will ask for seconds, and also a copy of your recipe. Print the recipe in advance, so you look gracious and artfully prepared. And send a thank you bread and butter note to the New York Times. Frittata with Zucchini, Goat Cheese and Dill.

Labor Day is over, and hurricane season is upon us, but it is still warm in the evenings, so it is still seasonally appropriate to serve salad as a main course. Luckily this recipe takes care of a pound and a half of those pesky zucchini. Plus it uses up those four ears of perfect corn that you couldn’t resist at the last minute on your prowl through the farmers’ market. Efficiency! Seasonal vegetables! Pretty zucchini blossoms! Martha will envy you.

You might be running low on friends and dinner invitations by now. But just in case your iPhone vibrates with a sudden text to come next door for an impromptu drink, consider having a quart (or two) of Sichuan Pickles on hand to bring along. Your friends won’t suspect anything, since you won’t be clutching a large brown paper bag while edging furtively into their house. This is a glorious host-y gift, particularly if you package it nicely. Think green garden twine, and Mason jars, and vintage labels. Lovely.

I have been sweater shopping. It’s ridiculous, I know. It’s going to be in the high 70s and low 80s next week. And I have also been thinking about socks, and long pants. I guess I am really ready for a change in the weather, and the first day of autumn. Thursday can’t get here quickly enough for me. So this weekend I am going to pull out the stock pot, and make a vat o’soup, and use up another couple of pounds of zucchini. Please join us. I have some very special pickles to share with you, too. And don’t forget to take a loaf of zucchini bread home with you. There’s one over on the table by the front door, tucked in a big brown paper bag of homegrown zucchini. It was so nice to have you over!

Zucchini Soup à la The River Café

Serves 4
• 2 1/4 pounds zucchini
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 2 garlic cloves
• 2 cups chicken (or vegetable) stock
• 1/2 cup heavy cream
• 1 small bunch basil, chopped
• 1 small bunch parsley, chopped
• 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
• salt and pepper

6 slices Ciabatta bread, cut at an angle
2 garlic cloves
Olive oil

1. Cut the zucchini lengthwise into quarters, then into 1 inch pieces. Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed sauce pan and cook the garlic and
zucchini very slowly over low heat until the zucchini is brown and quite soft (around 25 minutes).
2. Add salt, pepper, and stock, and simmer for a few minutes. Remove from the heat.
3. Put three-quarters of the zucchini into a food processor and puree. Return the puree to the pan and add the cream, basil, parsley and

To make crouton, toast the bread on both sides. Rub garlic on the toasted bread, and drizzle with olive oil. Tear into massive chunks, and drop artfully onto soup, in individual bowls. Enjoy!

Zucchini Soup, adapted from The River Café Cook Book, by Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers

“The trouble is, you cannot grow just one zucchini. Minutes after you plant a single seed, hundreds of zucchini will barge out of the ground and sprawl around the garden, menacing the other vegetables. At night, you will be able to hear the ground quake as more and more zucchinis erupt.”
-Dave Barry

The Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra Turns Twenty with Julien Benichou and Jeffrey Parker

One way to appreciate how remarkable it is that the Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra will be twenty years old this season is to translate that achievement into dog years. For every year a large, well financed, metropolitan orchestra thrives in places like Washington and Baltimore, one might add seven years to any small regional symphony orchestra who survives without the large audiences and donors that major cities provide their cultural institutions.

That 1:7 factor is useful in bringing into focus the stunning accomplishment the MSO will be celebrating the year. Despite its relatively small market niche in communities like Easton, Ocean Pines, or Annapolis, the Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra has consistently beaten the odds. Year after year, the MSO has not only finished every season successfully paying their musicians, the first test of sustainability, but gained more and more grateful patrons at the same time.

The secrets to the remarkable outcome can be found in the exceptional quality of programming offered by its brilliant music director, Julien Benichou, now completing ten years at the helm, and the passion and dedication of its board members, like the Symphony’s  current president, Jeffrey Parker. But this remarkable track record can also be attributed to the dedication of literally hundreds season subscribers on the Shore.

The Spy sat down with Julien and Jeffrey last week at Bullitt House to talk about the MSO’s anniversary plans and a sneak preview of what the season’s opening concert will include as the Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra takes to the stage at the Todd Performing Arts Center at Chesapeake College on September 28th.

This video is approximately four minutes in length. For more information about the The Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra’s 2oth season please go here


Easton Sidewalks: A Little Bit of France on Hanson

While it is pretty clear that the homeowner’s primary intention for the exterior of their charming cottage on Hanson Street was to pay homage to famed 82nd Airborne Division of the United States Army, it doesn’t go unnoticed that there is also an effort to provide a French country theme to the house that was built in 1725.

In fact, this effort, as seen from certain vantage points from Hanson Street, is rather successful in replicating a small French village home complete with French signage, lighting, and candles in the window that make it a cozy landmark as one walks to Easton’s downtown.

Vive la Hanson only on Easton’s Sidewalks.



Washington College Among Top Liberal Arts Colleges in America!


Statue of George Washington on Washington College campus in front of Middle Hall.

Washington College continues its upward progress in U.S. News and World Report’s Best Colleges rankings, with today’s announcement that the College is 96th among liberal arts colleges across the nation in the 2018 report. This is showing a continuing positive trend, from 99th last year, 100th in 2016, and 105th in 2015.

On an overall score out of 100, Washington College bumped up from 54 to 56, reflecting factors including the College’s three-year average for retention, which went from 83 percent to 84 percent, increasing selectivity of applicants with an acceptance rate change of 54 to 49 percent, and a peer assessment score—based on surveys sent to peer institutions—that improved by a tenth of a point. Alumni giving also increased from 17 to 19 percent over a three-year average.

As previously, the College continued to be well represented in the “A+ Schools for B Students” category—“where spirit and hard work could make all the difference to the admissions office,” as the listing says.

“I am very proud that we are on this list, and that we continue to improve our U.S. News Best Colleges rankings,” says College President Kurt Landgraf. “It shows how hard we as a College have worked across the board to provide our students with terrific opportunities and a liberal arts education among the best in the nation.”

The CAC – Casey Academic Center on Washington College campus

In the U.S. News and World Report Best Colleges rankings, 77.5 percent of a school’s ranking in “is based on a formula that uses objective measures of academic quality, such as graduation rates, faculty information, and admissions data,” the report says. “The remaining 22.5 percent is based on academic reputation, determined by a peer assessment from top academics at colleges; in the National Universities and National Liberal Arts Colleges categories, ratings from high school counselors are also factored in.”

For more information on Washington College, visit their website.

The Women & Girls Fund’s Impact at Horizons

When the Women & Girls Fund of the Mid-Shore was founded in 2002, their primary goal was to seek out and support the best local programs that help women and girls succeed. After much vetting and due diligence on the Board’s part, the Fund early on saw the benefits of Horizons of Kent and Queen Anne’s as one of the best ways to accomplish their mission and give young girls (and boys) the kind of leg up during the summer months they critically need to maintain their learning growth.

The results of those early investments have paid off.  The six-week summer learning program is now serving 170 Mid-Shore students, and have proved to strengthened the students’ academic performance, builds their self-confidence, and nurture citizenship skills.

The Spy sat down with Women & Girls Fund board member Susie Dillon, along with Horizons’ director Bob Parks, co-founder and academic director Connie Schroth, and site director Bibi Schelberg to highlight the problem of lower income students losing critically important educational and social experiences during the summer months as well as Horizons successful approach to filling this important gap through the use of the campuses of the Radcliffe Creek School in Chestertown and Gunston School in Centreville.

This video is approximately four minutes in length. For more information about Horizons of Kent and Queen Anne’s please go here

Editor’s Note:  This is the first in a series of stories focused on the work of the Women & Girls Fund of the Mid-Shore. Since 2002, the Fund has channeled its pooled resources to organizations that serve the needs and quality of life for women and girls in Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s and Talbot Counties. The Spy, in partnership with the Women & Girls Fund, are working collaboratively to put the spotlight on twelve of these remarkable agencies to promote their success and inspire other women and men to support the Fund’s critical role in the future.

Talbot Hospice Celebrates La Dolce Vita October 21

Talbot Hospice will celebrate la dolce vita with a black tie benefit on October 21st at 6 pm at The Talbot Country Club.  Guests will be transported to “An Evening in Italy,” thanks to the creative vision of co-chairs Hynda Dalton and Sheila Monahan.

A Night in Italy co-chairs (l-r) Sheila Monahan, Hynda Dalton with Talbot Hospice Executive Director Vivian Dodge.

The benefit will feature a seated gourmet dinner, Italian wines and desserts, open bar, and dancing to the show-stopping band, Nightlife.  The chairwomen will transform the Talbot County Club into a visual extravaganza that echoes the sparkling sophistication of Milan.   Tickets are $200/person, $100 tax deductible.  Proceeds will benefit Talbot Hospice patients and families.

“At Talbot Hospice we are all about ‘celebrating life’ and making the most of every day,” said Sheila Monahan who is chair of the Development Committee and co-chair of the fundraiser. “We thought it was only fitting to bring that element into our event as well.”

NightLife Band is a super high-energy performance dance band that specializes in current music, as well as the best music from the 40s to present. This lively, choreographed show band is just as much fun to watch as it is to dance to.  Be prepared for their “wow” factor! The seated dinner will include an heirloom tomato and burrata tart, filet of beef, polenta cake with tomato and caper relish and glazed broccolini with salsa verde.  Dessert will include Italian cheeses, fruit, assorted Italian pastries, Grappa and Limoncello.  Seating is limited.

To inquire about ticket availability, please visit, or contact Kate Cox, Director of Development, at 410-822-6681 x15 or 

Food Friday: End of the Summer Corn

Here we are, on the precipice of the end of summer. I’ve been teetering back and forth between wishing for change, and wishing that if it cooled down just a few degrees we could live in this weather all year round. Well, if we wanted that we could move to Florida, and that is just too problematic. Who really wants hot days and all those thunderstorms? I am ready for a little change, though.

If I eat one more ear of corn-on-the-cob I am sure my head will explode. I feel similarly tired of grilled hamburgers and hot dogs. It might mean that I am almost ready to head back into the kitchen, and relieve Mr. Friday of his summer cooking duties. Or I can make some side dishes to go with the last picnic of the summer season. Labor Day is a significant cookout opportunity, and we need to make the summer go out in style.

There is still so much fresh produce to enjoy at the farmers’ markets! I found a great app the other day: Seasonal Food Guide. It has a state-by-state produce guide to “Find What is in Season Near You.” There is a handy dandy Learn & Cook button, too, which always helps when you are in the middle of dinner despair. And it is free. Hooray. Here is a link to their helpful webpage: I found the app in the iTunes app store.

This is a sweet and easy way to enjoy corn and cilantro all year long, but notably in these waning days of summer vacation. The jalapeno gives it a nice little kick.

Food52 has explored corn variations extensively. I love the concept of charred corn. Now I have a new term for corn that we have unintentionally scorched on the grill. Mr. Friday is a big fan of wrapping the ears of corn in aluminum foil and tossing them on the grill. And sometimes we get distracted by bright shiny objects and do not return to the grill in a timely fashion. Voila! Charred corn as an ingredient. And sometimes we are amazed at our own cleverness!

One of our friends has decamped for New England for butter-drenched lobster-y Labor Day weekend. She is already taunting us with Instagram-ready photos of her deelightful meals. I hope she is having a very good time, and here is a recipe for her leftover lobster bits which also includes charred corn:

If it happens to be raining this weekend (and with Tropical Storm Harvey wandering around out there, it probably will) and you can’t get outside to the grill – never fear. You can make charred corn in a good sturdy cast iron frying pan, or under the broiler. And then you can make a charred corn pizza:

Here are a zillion ideas from Epicurious:

As summer wafts away we will be thinking more about cozy meals and roasted seasonal vegetables. In the meantime, go celebrate your Labor Day weekend with drawn butter, hot, charred corn, a couple of hot dogs, a crab feast (or two) and don’t forget to sneak a little reading time in the hammock. Next weekend it will be time to put away all our toys of summer. Enjoy!

“We know that in September, we will wander through the warm winds of summer’s wreckage. We will welcome summer’s ghost.”
― Heny Rollins

Consumer Advocacy Group Protests CareFirst Rate Hikes

Many Marylanders face sharp rate increases for health insurance after the Maryland Insurance Agency (MIA) approved requests by CareFirst, the state’s largest insurer.

The MIA on Aug. 29 approved increases averaging 34.5 percent for CareFirst’s HMO plans and 49.9 percent for its Preferred Provider plans for the individual market for 2018. The increases granted were pared back from CareFirst’s original request for more than 50 percent increases in its rates.

Other insurance companies also requested increases. Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, which accounts for nearly a third of the statewide market, requested increases averaging 25.1 percent across its plans. Uncertainty over what Congress may do to reform or possibly repeal the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) was largely to blame for the requested rate increases, according to a July report in the Baltimore Sun.

Leaders of Consumer Health First, the statewide consumer policy and advocacy organization, expressed deep concern about the effects of such a high rate increase on Marylanders and the stability of the state’s insurance marketplace.

The state’s decision will have devastating consequences for consumers and the long-term sustainability of the individual market,” said Leni Preston, president of Consumer Health First. “These rate increases are inconsistent with CareFirst’s statutorily mandated mission to provide affordable and accessible health insurance to its members.”

The premium hikes will especially harm Marylanders who do not qualify for a federal subsidy and could further destabilize the marketplace as healthier CareFirst customers either find a different carrier or drop coverage completely, Consumer Health First said in a news release Tuesday.

Beth Sammis, former acting commissioner of the MIA and a Consumer Health First board member, said, “It is time to hold CareFirst accountable for its performance in the individual market. CareFirst needs to demonstrate it is doing all it can to build a partnership with health care providers and consumers in the individual market to improve health and lower costs.”

Sammis called on the president and Congress “to take the steps necessary to guarantee the federal government will pay insurers the amount due for subsidies.” She said, “Failure to make these payments will result in even higher rate increases.” 

We also urge Governor Hogan and our elected officials to move forward with state programs to stabilize the individual market, such as a state reinsurance program, and to require the Commissioner to consider CareFirst’s statutory mission when reviewing rate filings in the future,” added Sammis.  

A previous analysis by Consumer Health First raised a number of concerns about CareFirst’s justification for its proposed hikes to premiums. It said that CareFirst remains on solid financial footing, with a surplus far exceeding what is required by law for a health insurer, despite its losses on the individual market since 2014.

Spy House of the Week: Morning Glory Cottage in Bozman

I admit it – I am besotted with bungalows. Two of the five houses I have called home were bungalows. I can’t resist their usual story and a half massing, low pitched gabled roofs with wide eave overhangs, shed dormers for cozy attic spaces and deep porches for gathering with family and friends.

What attracted me to this house was the weathered wood siding and crisp contrasting trim I first admired on childhood trips to visit family on Long Island. The fenced rear yard with a deck and patio for relaxing, the interior stained woodwork, exposed beams and hardwood floors also contribute to this house’s charm.

The house has been renovated from the foundation to the roof so it would be a perfect weekend retreat.

Location: 8204 Bozman, MD
List Price: $399,000

For details about this property please contact Elizabeth Foulds Long and Foster Real Estate at  410-924-1959 or

Jennifer Martella has pursued her dual careers in architecture and real estate since she moved to the Eastern Shore in 2004. Her award winning work has ranged from HUD neighborhood revitalization projects to a collaboration with the Maya Lin Studio to renovate an abandoned barn into a library for the Children’s Defense Fund’s corporate retreat in her home state of Tennessee. Her passion for Italian food, wine and culture led her to Piazza Italian Market where she is the Director of Special Events, including weekly wine tastings and quarterly wine dinners.