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Monday, December 12, 2022

Let Memory Keep Us All: a songbook, a video, a remembrance. Available as a digital download (pdf file).

UPDATE: Reposting to add the video I just made of this song, which is on our "Under the Drawbridge" cd available at Bandcamp: Let Memory Keep Us All. Here's the video:
The Solstice Assembly Songbook: 66 songs to sing in harmony
Choral arrangements for folksong lovers

This is a picture of Mitzi, Mona, and Sandy at the Medieval Fair at the Castle McCullough in Jamestown, NC, back in the 1990s, wearing nice outfits we sewed out of cloth we dyed ourselves.

There were usually about sixteen people in the Solstice Assembly, a mainly a cappella ensemble. Everybody had a busy professional life elsewhere but we made three recordings and performed at Piccolo Spoleto and an annual "Solstice Extravaganza," which was a little like the Christmas Revels except it included Hannukah and Winter Solstice music too.

I disbanded the group in the mid 1990s but I still miss it... so I put together a songbook of our best music. I hope some of you will enjoy this sheet music, suitable for small groups or a chorus or chorale.


Let Memory Keep Us All: full size and spiral bound at ($15.80)...

Somewhat smaller, somewhat cheaper, and perfect-bound, at ($13.05)

Or buy the pdf format digital download book directly from me for $7 via PayPal:

This picture (left) is of Carol Boren Owens: the woman Let Memory Keep Us All was written for. Carol was one of the original sopranos with the Solstice Assembly, a beautiful, kind, funny, sassy Southern girl with deep roots in the Chapel Hill area.

Everybody loved her and she had a wonderful voice.

She was only 33 years old when she died instantaneously. We had finished taping and mixing our first recording, "Three Log Night," but she died before she had a chance to hear it. When we met to listen to the mixes we were stunned into silence listening to her beautiful solos. We have never forgotten her.

That's my daughter Hannah, in a homemade hennin, holding her hand. The picture was taken at the Renaissance Fair at Castle McCullough in Jamestown, NC.

Below, brief descriptions of the songs in the book. If we recorded the song, you can click to hear (or purchase) the mp3.

The Agincourt Carol: I heard this from the singing of Graeme and Eileen Pratt on their album Regal Slip (it's great). It was written in the early 15th century and tells of the 1415 Battle of Agincourt, in which the English army led by Henry V of England defeated the French.

An Equal Song: I combined the Sacred Harp song "Poor Mourning Souls" with lyrics from another Sacred Harp song, both slightly, uh, reorganized.

Away with these self-loving lads: By lutenist John Dowland, from his 1597 First Booke of Songs or Ayres, arranged by me and Doug Holmgren (who played the sprightly harpsichord setting). "My songs they be of Cynthia's praise, I wear her rings on holidays, On every tree I write her name, and ev'ry day I read the same ... If Cynthia crave her ring of me, I'll blot her name out of the tree!" Somethings never change. The track is from Courting Disaster, a cd I did with Beth Holmgren in 1991. (In this case, click on the title of the song to hear it.)

Ayo visto lo mappamundi: I heard this on the Waverly Consort's 1492: Music From The Age Of Discovery and was enchanted. "I have seen the map of the world... I've been everywhere ... but there's nobody as cute as my girlfriend Cecily." I arranged it for the Solstice Assembly and later did it with my world music band, and that's where we got our name!

Barrett's Privateers: I arranged this one, written by Stan Rogers and brought to me by Mark Biggers, for the kids chorus at the Emerson Waldorf School and later did it with the teen traveling camp at Village Harmony.

Brave Wolfe: This one is in many songbooks because it is historically significant: General James Wolfe triumphed at the battle of the Plains of Abraham outside Quebec and it turned the course of the war.

Brightly Dawns our Wedding Day: Four of us from the Solstice Assembly sang this song (from the Mikado) for Ed Norman's wedding and I taught it at the Village Harmony Adult Camp a few years ago. I've always wanted to do it at another wedding but the words are a little strong for present-day brides: "All must sip the cup of sorrow, I to-day and thou to-morrow, this the close of every song. What, though solemn shadows fall - sooner, later - over all? Sing a merry madrigal!..."

The Bundling Song: This was an invention. When I was researching music of Colonial America for the Pratie Heads North Carolina Arts Council Touring Program performances, I ran across the text in an old book. Now you can read the whole thing on line: A New Bundling Song, or, A Reproof To Those Young Country Women, Who Follow That Reproachful Practice, And To Their Mothers For Upholding Them Therein! I made up a tune and a harmony for it and pared it down mercilessly (the parson who wrote it had a bit of an obsession) and we sang it to the great amusement of all. My favorite couplet: "Bundlers' clothes are no defense - unruly horses push the fence!"

Cadgwith Anthem: We learned this from Mark Biggers, who loved Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span, and a quartet of us recorded it on "Under the Drawbridge"

Ce mois de mai: Mitzi Quint brought us this one, a madrigal by Clement Janequin.

Claudy Banks: Ken Bloom gets us to sing this at his Revolutionary War reenactments. A soldier comes back from war and, meeting up with his old girlfriend (but unrecognized by her) says "Your boyfriend is dead" -- just to see her get upset. Then he says "Just Kidding!" If I were her I'd conk him over the head.

The Solstice Assembly at the Piccolo Spoleto Festival, 1992: Alice Kaplan, Ben Bingham, Candace Carraway, Doug Holmgren, Ed Norman, Jane Peppler, Joe Sickles, Jon Newlin, Laurie Fox, Lisa Pickel, Mark Biggers, Mitzi Quint, Paula, Randy Kloko, Rivka Gordon, Rob Rich, Stacey Anderegg. We used this photo on our third recording: Some Assembly Required: Centuries of great vocal music.

Come Here, Fellow Servant: Incredibly, Mappamundi got a gig at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles! Well, truth to tell, we were not actually IN the bowl, we were in a little theater NEXT to the bowl, doing a week-long show for families on American History through music. The lady who hired us, Marnie, found this song and I tweaked it and re-arranged it quite a bit. The idea is, even the rich masters for whom the servants work are slaves to somebody or something. "The fat shining glutton looks up to his shelf, the wrinkled lean miser bows down to his pelf, and the churl-pated beau is a slave to himself" Vocabulary word I learned from this song, pelf: "Wealth or riches, especially when dishonestly acquired."

Come, Lasses and Lads: This was a bringing-together of the 1670 Playford English Country Dance tune, Epping Forest, with the text of a John Roberts and Tony Barrand song. I recorded it with genius pianist Jacqueline Schwab and bassist Robbie Link.

Con el viento: Somebody in the Solstice Assembly heard Libana sing this song and I transcribed it as best I could. We recorded it on "Some Assembly Required" and you can also hear Libana sing it at YouTube

Daniel Prayed: A Red Clay Ramblers favorite which I also did with the Triangle Jewish Chorale. Here's a similar (but all-men) arrangement sung by Joe Newberry, Jim Watson, Bill Hicks & Mike Craver at YouTube

Devotion: A Sacred Harp song.

Down with the Rosemary and Bays: Mark Biggers brought us this song. First I made a three part version and then a four-part version. Words by Robert Herrick, song is from William Henry Husk's 1868 Songs of the Nativity.

Drive Dull Care Away (traditional version): Mid-1970s, a folksinging circle in Cambridge sponsored by the Folksong Society of Greater Boston (ah, why don't we have one of those down here in North Carolina?). I heard this song and was riveted. That being pre-internet, I ended up having to make several phone calls (which I hate) and then drive 35 miles to grab this song from the guy who sang it. Now it's probably just a mouse-click away. I love the lyrics so much that I wrote another setting and recorded it on Some Assembly Required.

Durme, durme: This gorgeous Sephardic song, sung in Laduvane, has been recorded many times, I first heard it on Judy Frankel's cd Stairway of Gold: Songs of the Sephardim. The Solstice Assembly sang my a cappella version for many years and the Triangle Jewish Chorale loved the song too.

Fine Knacks for Ladies: This is from John Dowland, too, and I wrote this arrangement when we were asked to do an Elizabethan gig - some of the songs we scrabbled together were a bit, uh, spurious, but this one was the real thing.

Fortune, My Foe: Supposedly Henry V wrote this, but I bet he just stole credit for it. Still happens all the time.

CD Review magazine said about the Solstice Assembly's Under the Drawbridge:
An all-seasons follow-up to Three Log Night, a regional Christmas favorite, Under the Drawbridge is an impressive introduction to the elegant, elastic vocal stylings of North Carolina's Solstice Assembly, an inventive 18- voice choral group that specializes in updating folk songs that span the last 800 years. These modern minstrels, favorites on the East Coast Renaissance festival circuit ... whether singing a cappella or accompanied by guitars, fiddles, percussion and recorders, showcase forceful harmonies with reverent relish and a youthful spirit. The alternately festive, romantic, and haunting arrangements mirror a variety of familiar vocal settings, including madrigal choruses, barbershop quartets, even such peers as the Bobs and the Roches... The most lasting pleasures ... are the older songs, all performed with an earnest affection that accents their beauty rather than their age.

Furry Day Carol: learned from Dave DiGiuseppe, friend of the Nee Ningy band, former member of the Band of Ages, the Banished Fools, the Big Zucchini Washboard Bandits, and a Mayday organizer. We did a Mayday concert with him and sang this song.

Gaude Mater Polonia: Ed Norman learned this one in high school. Wikipedia says: "It was probably the most popular medieval Polish hymn, written in the 13th-14th century in memory of saint Stanislaw Szczepanowski, bishop of Kraków." Polish knights used to sing it after victory in battle. Since Ed is from Alabama, not Krakow, the words may be a bit folk-processed.

Give Me the Roses: learned from Mike Craver of the Red Clay Ramblers. I wrote this arrangement for us to perform at a musical lecture Jack Bernhard gave at the Ulster-American Park when a bunch of us went over to Northern Ireland to sing Sacred Harp at their bluegrass festival.

Golly: I ordinarily fear rounds - I always wonder, what if it never stops? - but this one, by P.D.Q. Bach I think, is cute.

Good in Living: It was Stacey Anderegg, now leader of the Stella ensemble, who brought us this song.

Hard Times, Come Again No More: Somebody asked us to learn this Stephen Foster song. The Red Clay Ramblers used to do a wonderful version of it but their arrangement wouldn't work for mixed mens and womens voices so I wrote one for us.

Haymaking: Mark Biggers and Randy Kloko sang this song, which we learned from John Roberts and Tony Barrand.

The Hock Cart: I sort of wrassled this melody together out of a fragment of a medieval melody which I pushed and prodded until it wasn't really recognizable, then added an Elizabethan text.

How Stands the Glass Around?: Learned for Early American gigs. I arranged it for four-part choral singing. The song was collected from the notebook of Thomas Fanning, 1780. It was General Wolfe's favorite song. Recording by the Pratie Heads.

Imi Nahtna Leviva-Li: One of the first Hannukah songs we learned for the Solstice Extravaganza.

In Sherwood Lived Stout Robin Hood: Another one learned for a Renaissance Fair. By Robert Jones, 1609. I love this tune so much I made it the ringtone for my phone.

Cue Magazine wrote:
The Solstice Assembly then took the stage, and I mean TOOK IT, with an earthy vocal/choral style that reaches far back into folk traditions. Their singing tone is a full-throated delivery that commands attention and delivers great excitement and driving energy."

It Was a Lover and his Lass: This is one of several songs I concocted for an Elizabethan evening. The text, of course, is by Shakespeare. The tune was kludged together out of a Welsh folksong I'd mostly forgotten.

Let Memory Keep Us All: The song that inspired this lens. The tune was learned from Peter Bellamy's The Death of Admiral Nelson and I wrote the words with some input from my then-husband.

Let Us Drink and be Merry: A round I learned from the singing of Suzy Liebert, a long-ago roommate.

Love Is Come Again: From the Oxford Book of Carols. One verse was written by our tenor Ben Bingham.

Margot Labourez les Vignes: Alice Kaplan, Professor of French Literature at Duke and one of our sopranos, helped with the words of this song, which I'd known since highschool. It was originally a folksong but was turned into a madrigal by Jacob Arcadelt (or was it Orlando di Lasso?)

Northfield: One of everybody's favorite Sacred Harp songs. Words: Isaac Watts, 1701; music: Jeremiah Ingalls, 1800

Northill May: Perhaps I heard the Watersons do this on a long-ago LP, or maybe it was the Young Tradition?

O My Hart: Henry VIII claimed the authorship of this one. Yeah, right. See Henry V, above.

Ode to the Fourth of July: Written in 1803 by Walter Townsend, arranged by me for some Revolutionary War reenactment.

Once I Had a Sweetheart: Mona Shibers brought us this song. I first heard her sing it when about twelve of us were packed into a Motel 6 room in Greensboro. In the morning we stumbled out of our couple of rooms, dressed in jerkins and bodkins and henins and tights for the Medieval Fair, to the astonishment of the truckers who are the usual inhabitants.

Pace-egging Song: Learned from Dave DiGiuseppe for a Maying sort of event. What wonderful Mayday celebrations they used to have out at the farm, with a really really TALL Maypole and beautifully hand-died ribbons and sometimes I'd play with the little band and watch people weave in and out...

Parting Glass: Bob Vasile of the Pratie Heads and I learned this for our dear mentor and friend Carl Wittman when he was dying. Recently I spruced it up and presented it at a Village Harmony camp.

The Charleston Post & Courier wrote:
The harmonious and high-spirited Solstice Assembly belted out a cappella renditions with enough talent to raise the roof ... Sixteen voices full of musical gusto sang the reverent to the irreverent as a class act in the Piccolo Spoleto Traditional Folk Music Series ... the audience wanted more as they showed their appreciation with applause and shouts of encore."

Peculiar Cheer: I can't at all remember where I heard this. I think it's a twelfth-night song. Did I invent it? Did it come from a dream? If you've heard it before, please put me out of my misery and tell me where it came from!

Peddler's Song: This is an Elizabethan text and a tune I think I invented. We recorded it on Some Assembly Required.

Pretty Maid Come Along: Jon Newlin brought us this song, short and sweet.

Rainbow: A classic but rarely heard shape-note hymn.

Resonet in laudibus: I learned this from Pat Peterson and the singing of her group Fortuna, which used to perform in our annual Solstice Extravaganzas.

Rich Man: I just love this song, which I found in an Ingalls songbook.

Ripe and Bearded Barley: I learned this mysterious English folksong from Larry Gordon.

Rolling Ages: Here you have it: the entire destruction of the world as we know it in four short verses. An old shape-note type hymn, written before the four shapes were invented.

Roulez!: I loved William Pint & Felicia Dale's version of this and gussied it up for the Solstice Assembly to sing with the Band of Ages. We recorded it on Some Assembly Required.

Shnirele Perele: First heard at KlezKamp in the early 1980s.

Sigh No More, Ladies: Shakespeare's words, my tune and arrangement, last verse by Randy Kloko.

Silent Bird: I found this Irish song in a book and harmonized it. Judy Stafford wrote the third verse.

So Will We Yet: Learned from the singing of the brilliant and sorely missed Tony Cuffe.

Solis Praevia: Learned from a cd of Bohemian or Moravian early music.

Sweet Kate: Learned from John Newlin for our Elizabethan gigs. By Robert Jones c. 1600

There is a Lady Sweet and Kind: From Thomas Ford's Music of Sundry Kinds of 1607.

This Old World: I heard this from the singing of Graeme and Eileen Pratt and friends sang this on their wonderful album Regal Slip.

To Portsmouth!: A nice round for the pub.

Touch But My Lips: Of the songs I've written, this is my favorite. Words from Shakespeare's Venus and Adonis.

Turtledove Done Drooped His Wings: A Georgia Sea Island song. I think I first heard Larry Gordon and the Word of Mouth chorus do it.

Vegan Fight Song: We had been performing "This Aye Nicht," a medieval song, using something close to the Young Tradition arrangement, for a while when Lisa Pickel showed up with these alternate words.

Whitsuntide is Come: I think I learned this from John Roberts and Tony Barrand, except there are three parts and there are only two of them, so maybe not.

OK, so now that you've heard all these great songs, don't you want to be able to sing them yourselves with your friends? The songbook has chords and choral arrangements, mostly SATB but some are three or two-part and some are just for soloists.


Let Memory Keep Us All: full size and spiral bound at ($15.80)...

Somewhat smaller, somewhat cheaper, and perfect-bound, at ($13.05)

Or buy the pdf format digital download book directly from me for $7 via PayPal:

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Blueberry buckle

 Make in an 8x8 or 9x9 greased baking pan. Preheat oven to 375.

 Blueberry buckle

3/4 cup white sugar

1/4 cup butter (softened)

1 egg

1/2 cup milk

2 cups all-purpose flour

1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2-1/2 cups fresh blueberries


1/2 cup white sugar

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/3 cup oatmeal

1/4 cup melted butter


Cream sugar, butter, and egg.

In a separate bowl mix flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir into sugar mixture, alternating with milk.

This is a sticky dough. You could mix it with the blueberries but I made a base of half the dough, then poured in the blueberries, then put blobs of dough on top. 

Topping: Combine sugar, flour, oatmeal, and butter. Sprinkle over cake batter.

Bake for 25-30 minutes.

Wednesday, December 01, 2021

Genevieve's tamales

Genevieve's tamales

2 chickens: breasts, thighs, and legs, boiled. Save the water. Shred (takes a long time to shred)

3 pounds tomatillos
3 plum tomatoes or any red
5 jalapeno peppers
1 big clove of garlic
blend the 4 ingredients above, then boil down, finally, saute with some oil. Put the chicken in.

Maseca - she used a whole bag and it made a tremendous number of tamales
blended with oil, salt, and water

3 bags of husks - get the big ones

She used the hot cooking water to mix with the maseca and oil and salt

Lay out one or two husks, give two good smears of dough, filling, wrap.

Steam for a half hour with layer of foil on top.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Swedish Raspberry Almond Bars

This is a favorite recipe for dazzling people. Hard to stop eating

3/4 c. soft salted butter
3/4 c. confectioner's sugar (regular sugar will work too)
1-1/2 c. flour
3/4 c. raspberry jam
3 large egg whites
6 tablespoons sugar
1/2 c shredded sweetened coconut (just the regular kind at the grocery store)
1 c sliced almonds (it's better if you toast them but don't burn them)

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees

Cream butter & sugar, add flour. Press into a 9 x 13 pan and cook 18-20 minutes (until light brown). Cool a little bit at least.

Spread raspberry jam as evenly as possible.

Beat the eggs, add the sugar to the stiff-peaks point

Add coconut and 1/2 cup of the almonds. Spread on top of the base layer. Sprinkle with the rest of the almonds.

Bake for 18-22 more minutes, until golden brown.

Saturday, May 02, 2020

Tex-Mex chicken cheese turnovers (empanadas)

I'm "sheltering in place" with my son, daughter, son-in-law, grandkids, and two kids and a dog. We take turns cooking and this is what I made tonight, with my favorite pie crust recipe. It made twelve big empanadas.

Pre-heat to 400 degrees

Pie crust dough

1 stick (1/2 cup) salted butter
2+ cups of flour
1 egg yolk (save the white for glaze)
1/2 ts salt
2/3 c sour cream (I ran a little short of sour cream and substituted cream cheese)

Mix it in the food processor into a ball and chill while you make the filling


2+ cups of chopped or shredded boiled chicken breast (I pulsed it in the food processor)
2+ cups shredded cheddar cheese
5 oz cream cheese
2 T milk
2 cups chopped scallions and parsley mixed (I pulsed them in the food processor with a few walnuts)
3 cloves minced garlic
salt and pepper

if you wanted it spicy you'd add chopped green chiles but since I'm feeding kids I didn't

I rolled out the dough in batches, VERY thin, and used a 6-1/2" bowl to cut circles. Moistened the edges with water, put in a blob of the thick filling, tried to close the edges very well, glazed with egg white, cooked for half an hour.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Ozark pudding

I saw this mentioned on twitter and tried it yesterday. It is not a beautiful dish but it's very tasty and best of all, it's incredibly easy and fast to make and you usually have a couple apples around the house. If you need a last-minute potluck dish, this could be it.

Ozark pudding

2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1-1/2 ts baking powder
3/8 ts salt
1-2 apples, diced (no need to peel them) (you could probably use any fruit)
1 cup chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans) (optional to toast them first)
1 ts vanilla or lemon juice

Grease a 9" square baking tin. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Beat the eggs and sugar together until foamy. Add everything else. Dump in the baking pan and cook 40-45 minutes.

It's good with whipped cream.


Friday, September 06, 2019

Caribbean bean and rice salad

This is one of the most precious things left behind by a boyfriend I lost long ago. A delicious recipe and you can make it the day before you want to serve it.

1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon minced garlic

2-1/2 cups cooked long-grain rice
1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed & drained
3/4 cup chopped red bell pepper
3/4 cup chopped yellow bell pepper
3/4 cup chopped green onions

whisk the dressing together, season with salt & pepper
combine all ingredients, season with salt and pepper, cover and refrigerate

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

Albanian spinach pie (Byrek me spinaq)

I took a break from politics to make this.

2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
1 medium finely chopped onion
1 pound chopped feta cheese
30 ounces frozen chopped spinach defrosted
1 egg

salt, 1 egg, 4 cups flour, about 1-1/2 cups water
6 tablespoons butter (to spread between layers)

Saute the onion (I added some of the spinach juice and sauteed it dry). Add the other ingredients.

Mix salt, flour, egg, water, knead, roll into a roll, cut in half, then each half into five pieces. Roll each into a ball. Roll one ball to size of small plate, put it on a square of wax paper, brush it with butter. Repeat with the next four balls so you have a stack of 5 on your wax paper. Butter the top. Put in the refrigerator and do the other five. Chill for at least ten minutes.

Preheat oven to 360 degrees.

Take one of the dough stacks out of the fridge and roll it out thin, put it on your baking pan, I used a pizza pan about 15" in diameter. Spread the filling on it. Roll out the other dough stack, put it on top of the filling, crimp the edges. Press a 5" bowl with straight sides down in the center of the pie and cut around it. Cut a cross through the circle. Then use a pizza cutter to pre-cut serving size pieces radiating from the circular center. Glaze with an egg beaten with the remaining butter. Bake for at least 45 minutes

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Voting by mail (Absentee Ballot) in North Carolina for the Nov 6 2018 general election

I've spent most of this past year canvassing. I meet a lot of people who are going to have trouble getting to the polls in November: the NC GOP has reduced the number of early voting sites and throttled the weekend hours many working class people use to vote. It was intentional, of course.

I also meet a lot of people who don't have cars, or who are ill, or who are the only caretaker for children or disabled family members or the elderly. If they can't get anybody to come spell them, they can't get to the polls.

Middle class people have trouble understanding that this can be an actual problem. For instance, in all of Nash County (which is very big) there are only TWO early voting sites.

So I've been telling people to vote by mail - in NC you don't need an excuse, anybody can get an absentee ballot. Another reason might be: if there is last-minute election hacking, your vote will already be safe.

I made a not-very-good video about it:

Please note that the NC Board of Elections REALLY wants to refer you to downloading stuff yourself. But a lot of people don't have the internet. So if you call the number, be sure to get a real human being and you can ask that human being to mail you a form.

I decided to request an absentee ballot for myself this year - for one thing, I want to see if it works, and for another, I'm probably going to be working for the election and not want to take the time to vote in those last important weeks.

You request a NC absentee ballot here: North Carolina Absentee Ballot Request Form
And by the way, if you also need to register to vote you can send in both forms at the same time. Here's where to download a NC Voter Registration Form to fill out.

It's sometimes hard to find the mailing address for the local county Board of Elections offices. I put them all here: I've just filled mine out and am sending it to the Orange County Board of Elections. Will keep you posted.

PS: After you've sent in this request form, they'll process it and at some point before the election you will receive your ballot in the mail. You'll have to have two witnesses sign it. Here is a video from the NC BOE itself about successfully filling out and mailing your absentee ballot: Civilian Absentee Voting in NC (turn down the terrible music).

Saturday, July 01, 2017

My two donkeys free to a good home.

Hector and Jethro are calm, smart, and gentle. I've loved being a donkey owner but it's time to find them a new owner to enjoy them and feed them treats (they like banana peels, for instance). If you have a good place for them (gelded males) and can come get them, they are yours. Write me at


Saturday, May 27, 2017

Aunt Mary Taylor Mason of Germantown of Germantown, Pennsyvlania (1971-1957)

I was named after my grandmother's aunt Jane Mason, who lived her entire life with her sister in Germantown, Philadelphia. They were always cited thus: "Aunt Jane and Aunt Mary."

It must have been a slow news week when Life Magazine decided to do a story on their 75th anniversary 'At Home' party at Cerne, the house which family legend has it was brought over from France on a boat and reassembled stone by stone on Schoolhouse Lane.

Here's what Life Magazine wrote:

Life Goes to a 75th Anniversary "At Home"

In 1878 Mary and Jane Mason moved into a new house which their father, a wealthy shoe-blacking manufacturer, had bought in Germantown outside Philadelphia. The Misses Mason have lived there ever since -- Jane is now 84 and Mary 82 - and this fall they decided to give a big "At Home" to celebrate three quarters of a century at Cerne.

The years between have been busy for the sisters. Miss Mary was graduated from Bryn Mawr in 1892 and won a medical degree though she never practiced. Almost every other year the sisters traveled abroad and when she was over 50 Miss Mary climbed the Matterhorn. When someone asked if there would be personal friends or just family at the anniversary "At Home" Miss Mary said briskly, "All our personal friends are in the cemetery."

Here's a picture from the story:

All I know about them is that Aunt Jane was the sweet one and Aunt Mary was an old battleaxe, suspicious and frugal and unkind. Their father, Richard Servetus Mason, had inherited a flourishing business from his father James Servetus Mason, and had built it up. He had been a harsh man - the story is that he died of apoplexy when his servant laid out the wrong time for a board meeting. My great-grandfather Charles Thomas Mason fled to California and raised his family there, as far away as possible from his father and his two at least slightly nutty sisters.

I wonder what kind of life "Miss Mary" had, with her medical degree she never used, spending virtually her every waking moment with her sister. Nothing is left of their house on 21 School House Lane in Germantown.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Recipe: cranberry muffins

I developed this recipe from a blueberry muffin recipe. I dealt with the problem that cranberries take so long to cook - and also, that they're a little gross when they pop in your mouth - by chopping them up.

Cranberry muffins (makes a dozen)

1-1/2 cups cranberries chopped in a food processor or blender with 3 tablespoons of sugar. Don't pulverize them, just get them in littler pieces.
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 cup milk
6 tablespoons oil or unsalted melted butter
3 more tablespoons of sugar

Stir dry ingredients and the chopped cranberries together. In another bowl beat the egg, add the milk and butter. Stir all together and drop into the muffin tins. Cook at 425 degrees about 12 minutes.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

A nerdy problem (only Yiddish enthusiasts should take note)

I have a lot of paperback books for sale at Amazon's Createspace, and in general it's a great resource for authors and readers alike.

But what a problem I have with my Yiddish titles! They don't allow Hebrew characters in the titles or descriptions (if I try, it comes out gobbledygook)

That makes the books hard for people to search for.

For instance, take one of my favorite Yiddish books, by Mendele Moykher Sforim (whose name is spelled at wikipedia Mendele Mocher Sforim and as says:
Mendele Moykher Sforim, Moykher also spelled Mokher or Mocher, Sforim also spelled Seforim or Sefarim, pseudonym of Sholem Yankev Abramovitsh

So when you can't even figure out how to spell the author's name, that's a problem.

The name of this beloved book, which I put out as a paperback with larger print than you can otherwise get it, is in Yiddish (or rather, Hebrew)

מסועת בנימין השלישי

It means The Travels of Benjamin III but it's often translated The Brief Travels of Benjamin the Third

And that is variously transliterated as Masoes Binyamin Hashlishi or Masoes Benyomen Hashlishi or even Masoes Benyumen Hashlishi

If you don't guess right, you don't find the book.

Anyway, since blogger at least will allow me to use Hebrew letters, I'm leaving this post here to help people who're looking for a new, well-bound copy of this book. You can get it by clicking here:


Masoes Benyomen Hashlishi by Mendele Mocher Sforim

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Thoughts on Election 2016

The human race does not deserve this planet. The squirrels, rats, and cockroaches will inherit it and do a better job than we do.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

"What's Not to Like?" - a Yiddish songfest in Durham NC November 6 2016

Many years ago Gary Berman decided to throw a benefit concert for Urban Ministries of Durham: he worked for months preparing a fabulous selection of Yiddish songs arranged for quite a few local singers plus piano and string trio (including viola da gamba).

Gary and Beth Berman have now been doing this concert annually for a long time. World renowned Yiddishist Sheva Zucker is Master of Ceremonies. It's a great cause and if you're local I hope you'll attend. Advance tickets are $15 and now you can buy them in advance via paypal, click here:

(You can also get them in advance by contacting Gary and Beth at

This year the theme is "Work." I'll be singing three songs. Everybody's song lyrics, translated, will be up on the wall so you'll be able to enjoy them all even if you've never heard of Yiddish before!

Concert is 3 pm on Sunday, November 6, 2016, at Beth El Synagogue (1004 Watts Street, Durham NC 27701). Contact the Bermans at 919-682-7468 for more information.