Giving During the Holiday Season

This month’s editor’s letter in Chesapeake Taste magazine.

I had an aunt by marriage, Aunt Kay, who was one of those people who likes to keep busy. By her own description she was a terrible cook, although she loved to eat. She only knew how to cook two things well: chicken soup (which was more like chicken stew), and a unique cracker stuffing for the Thanksgiving turkey.

She was, however, good at delivering food. Aunt Kay wasn’t much of a driver, but in a small town with little traffic, folks recognized her car and knew to stay out of her way. Faithfully each week she delivered Meals on Wheels. I think she was older than a lot of the hot lunch recipients. But she was spry into her eighties and really enjoyed delivering those meals and making the visits. Which made me wonder: Who was really doing the giving, and who was doing the receiving?

A retired schoolteacher and assistant principal, it was important for her to stay involved. Meals on Wheels gave her a job. She felt needed.

Many of us have family traditions that involve giving to others. As children we watch older family members put together packages for charity, cook meals for the homeless, volunteer their time to teach a skill, or write checks. And as we grow older we start creating “giving” traditions of our own.  It feels good.

Not everyone who gives is as visible as my Aunt Kay. An old folk tale, one of my favorites, tells the story of a cranky, much despised man who dies in a village where no one cares to dig his grave because they have so much contempt for the way he lived his life. He never had a kind word to say to anyone and was never observed sharing any of his wealth. But as the day unfolds, the villagers realize that the supposed miser had anonymously been giving the poor townspeople food and money each week, because the expected gifts cease arriving upon his death. He wanted to give, but also wanted to remain humble to the extreme. He wanted no thanks.

Sometimes giving anonymously feels even better than just giving. If we truly want to be givers, do we need to receive thanks?

As we start of the holiday season, and share time with friends and family, we often want to share some of our prosperity with our community. The theme of this month’s issue is Giving. We’ve packed our pages with stories about people who share their time and talents. Please let is know about people you think we should include in future issues. We always love hearing from our readers. And if you want that Thanksgiving stuffing recipe,  it’s posted it on my blog, “Annapolis Taste”.Image

September Has Come and Gone – Excerpts from Editor’s Letter

There was a family, the Greens, that lived in our neighborhood, when I was a child, who had a daughter my age named Rachel. I liked to go to their house because it was very different from my own.  Mrs. Green was a stay-at-home mom, unlike my own mother who was often preoccupied with her work.   She baked her own bread and cookies, sometimes allowing us to assist. I remember sitting around their dining room table with Rachel and her younger brother Michael, and some other children who lived nearby, cutting out scraps of colored paper and magazines to make collages.  Mrs. Green always had a new craft project to keep us busy and an unending supply of paste, scissors, and colored paper.

No one could visit their house if they had the slightest sign of a sniffle. I remember being turned away at the door more than once because I coughed or had a runny nose and feeling very disappointed.  But then I didn’t know that Michael had been born with a birth defect to his heart, which at that time could not be surgically repaired until he reached the age of 12.  His parents lived in fear that if he were to get a cold that developed into influenza or pneumonia, he might not recover. No wonder I never saw him playing outside in the snow.

How many people do we know, or meet each day of our lives, that have chronic illnesses or are fighting a deadly disease?  How fearful Rachel’s mother must have been, worrying all those years about her son. No wonder she thought up all those projects to keep her children busy, she wanted to keep them in the house and to enter the outside world as little as possible.

Unless our neighbors, friends, and colleagues tell us about their struggles and challenges, we assume they are fine.  There isn’t always an ultra short haircut, crutches, or an oxygen tank to provide us with clues that everything is not okay.  While many people seem to relish sharing the details of their doctor’s visits and various surgeries, others prefer keeping that information private. Talking about painful experiences often reopens old emotional wounds.

It doesn’t hurt to remind ourselves that good health is a gift, something to be honored and treasured. So it’s important to enjoy each and every day as it arrives. Years later I learned my childhood neighbor did have his long awaited surgery, it was successful and today he lives a full and productive life.

The September print issue of Chesapeake Taste Magazine had the theme, “Here’s to your health” and  we packed it full of stories about people living life to the fullest—from legendary  saxophone player Del Pushert still going strong performing at age 78 to our contributing writer Vicki Meade learning how to pole dance. While the print copies are pretty much gone, you can still read it all online by visiting http://www.Chesapeaketaste.com.  You can also stay in touch with all things Annapolis by reading my blog Annapolis Taste. Thanks for reading.

Giant Crab Cake Anyone?

Where to find retro atmosphere and huge portions

Friends, family, good food all make for great times. I really enjoy cooking and playing the role of hostess, however sometimes it’s nice to be waited on and Mother’s Day is one of those days coming up.

All the restaurants will be busy this weekend, so the other option is to go out tonight before they get so busy. A favorite place, for retro atmosphere and huge portions is the Edgewater Restaurant.

Mother and Daughter Bond Through Poems

Editors Letter from May issue of Chesapeake Taste magazine

A thick, shabby blue book with transparent thin pages sits on my bookshelf. Titled, Combined Louis Untermeyer edition of Modern British and Modern American poetry, it belonged to my mother. It was one of her college textbooks from one of her favorite classes, and her notes are scribbled in the margins.  Sometimes during my adolescent years, in the afternoon, on a day when no immediate responsibilities were pressing, we’d sit in the living room and read poetry to one another.  My mother would be stretched out on the deep green Duncan Phyfe style couch, where she liked to curl up for her cat naps before getting dinner ready, and I’d be sitting across from her in one of the old rocking chairs my father was so fond of, thumbing through that heavy book looking for a favorite verse I remembered.

I’m not sure how our tradition of reading poetry to one another started. Maybe I was looking for a poem to memorize for school and I asked her advice.  But when we read poems together, I saw another side of my mother. I saw the schoolgirl, eager to soak up wisdom and understand the complexities of language.  Her professional work, housekeeping duties, social calendar all were forgotten as she focused on the words on the page in front of her. Words. We use words every day to speak, to give instructions, to record what happened, but when words are used to create a poem they are used sparingly and that is when the artistry of how they are grouped and selected becomes apparent.  Poetry convinced me, I wanted to focus my life’s work on communication.

My mother was partial to T.S. Eliot.  She never tired of reading me “The Hollow Men.” This is the way the world ends.  This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang with a whimper. I marveled at the insight of Edwin Arlington Robinson’s poem, “Richard Corey” and his description of a town’s envy of a successful gentlemen who “glittered when he walked” until “one calm summer night be went home and put a bullet through his head.” I was lulled by the rhythm of Edna Vincent Millay’s poem “Recuerdo” with the repeated line We were very tired, we were very merry, We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry. We both read back and forth to each other the poems of Robert Frost, imagining the stony hillsides, valleys, trees, and ponds of New England in the landscapes of his imagery.  But her all time favorite was “Lucinda Matlock,” a poem by Edgar Lee Masters published in Spoon River Anthology.

She admired the strong woman described by Masters, who raised eight out of twelve children to adulthood, and who at age 60 was still going strong rambling over the fields where sang the larks, gardening and shouting to the wooded hills, singing to the green valleys. The poem ends with a reprimand to anyone who complains they’ve got it tough with the sentence, Degenerate sons and daughters, Life is too strong for you—It takes life to love Life.

My mother died three years ago.  At the tribute to her life, her favorite poem was read and many stories were told about her famous Portuguese soup, her perceptive advice, her humorous and thoughtful gifts, her devotion to my father, love of cats, and zest for living.  I couldn’t read the poem, her poem, aloud without tearing up but now I can and I read it aloud often when I’m feeling overwhelmed. It puts everything into perspective. Happy Mother’s Day this week.

Oldest House in Annapolis?

Inspired by her family home, writer Ann Jensen creates new ways to share history

It’s easy to walk right past the Sands House, with its pale-yellow clapboard siding, gambrel roof, and red trim, and not notice the special green plaque identifying it as one of the oldest houses in Annapolis. Read More

Truro a Place for Long Walks and Reflection

It was chilly last weekend on Cape Cod but the sky was a brilliant blue, and being a magazine editor I’ve grown to appreciate skies. The photograph above shows a portion of the wetlands adjacent to the Pamet River at low tide.

What I really enjoy about visiting the Lower Cape in the off-season is the quiet. Taking a walk along a trail that threads the edge of the wetlands, all I could hear were the sounds of birds calling back and forth to one another. Combined with the clean air (so different from our region of Maryland where pollution becomes trapped in an extended valley of sorts) I felt relaxed and invigorated. It was a welcome respite after the mad dashes with deadlines.

Not much is open in Provincetown, Truro, or Wellfleet in March but we did find a few places. Ciro and Sals in Provincetown, where I hostessed the summer between high school and college is open on the weekends year-round and still serves wonderful Italian cuisine. And there is a new chef (well actually he has been there two years) at the Bookstore Restaurant in Wellfleet and we had a fine dinner there.

Meanwhile, back here in Annapolis it is planting season as I try to work on the garden this Easter/Passover weekend and celebrate my 20th wedding anniversary. Yes, Peter and I have been married 20 years come the 17th of the month but were married on Good Friday and the first night of Passover so I consider today to be our anniversary.

Now I have an additional blog going, related to Chesapeake Taste magazine with other news, musing and postings. So please, if you subscribe to this blog, check the other one out.

Have a good weekend. And enjoy another photo….

Chespeake TASTE editor and her labradoodle

It was a soggy Saturday for my birthday yesterday, but I’ve had an okay weekend so far if I include Friday.  Friday morning we launched Maryland’s newest magazine, Chesapeake TASTE, and had a lively breakfast gathering on the roof of Metropolitan Kitchen and Lounge. From the phone calls I’ve been receiving, the response on content is good and we’re only just beginning. For those blog readers who live outside our delivery area, I’m including my first editor’s letter below. If you’d like to purchase a subscription. We’re offering a special introductory rate.

Editor’s Letter

Recently I adopted a puppy. Born November 12th, the color of apricot cream, soft and fluffy with dark shiny eyes that look like chocolate covered raisins, I named her Chloe. She looked like a toy stuffed animal, when we first brought her home, but she is growing quickly. In her first three weeks at our house she gained close to four pounds. Navigating her new surroundings, she stumbles and trips when walking on uneven ground, as she grows into those large paws.  A Labradoodle, half Labrador retriever and half poodle, she is going to be a big dog– weighing approximately 55 pounds.

I also have a new job, editor of a new magazine—Chesapeake Taste. Like my puppy, it is starting out small, but I expect it to grow quickly. We have a large geographic area to cover, packed with history, spectacular scenery, and a diverse economy.

The care of Chloe has required me to focus strongly into the present, hour by hour, as I take her outside and praise her good behavior.  Frequently we go on long walks.  While we are walking, I stop to talk to neighbors and make new friends who just can’t resist petting a puppy.  I think about Chesapeake Taste, and the unusual and interesting stories we can publish about people, places, activities, and food in our region.

The wonderful thing about being a writer and living in Annapolis is that it gives you a great excuse to meet new people (even when not walking a very cute puppy) and ask a lot of questions. Focusing into the present moment, as I’ve been practicing as I raise Chloe, has reminded me to keep my mind open to all possibilities and fully appreciate the richness of each experience. As editor, I’ve learned that you can never run out of ideas because even old stories can be told from multiple points of view that provide fresh insight.

With the launch of Chesapeake Taste, this being our inaugural issue, I am fortunate to have the privilege to work with a talented team of editors and writers under the direction of visionary publisher–Donna Jefferson, the same publisher of the prize-winning Chesapeake Family magazine founded 23 years ago. It is our mission to print the real life stories of culture, community and flavor that make the Bay an inviting place to live and play.

In addition to our pages in print, there is plenty more to read. We’ve put all the resource listings, calendar events, and breaking news online at ChesapeakeTaste.com. Visit our facebook page to find out what everyone’s talking about and to point us towards more people, places, restaurants, and activities you’d like to read about in future issues of Chesapeake Taste. We’re published 12 months a year.  We’re interested in telling your stories, so please email me at: Nadja@jecoannapolis.com with your thoughts and ideas.  I look forward to hearing from you, as together we create an exciting new publication you’ll look forward to reading each month.