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Three copies of A Very Marienstadt Christmas will be awarded on Christmas Day. Just enter to win!!!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

A Very Marienstadt Christmas (Secrets of Marienstadt) by Kathleen Valentine

A Very Marienstadt Christmas (Secrets of Marienstadt)

by Kathleen Valentine

Giveaway ends December 25, 2014.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win
If you haven't read about it before, here is the Description:

It's Christmas time in the Pennsylvania Dutch town of Marienstadt and everything is sparkling. You are invited to come spend the holidays in a community of people where tradition is strong and love is all around. 
  •  When The Reluctant Belsnickel of Opelt's Wood was released in 2011 it quickly climbed Amazon's charts to #1 in Folklore. This novella tells the story of a sad, lonely man who finds joy and love when he is persuaded to play the folkloric role of Belsnickel for the children of Marienstadt. 
  • Published in 2013 The Christmas Daughter: A Marienstadt Story, is a novel about Boone Wilde, a former biker and heartthrob, who discovers he has a 12 year old daughter who needs him--a daughter that he comes to need even more. 
  • New for 2014 is the story, Treeing, in which a solitary antiques dealer is on a quest to find a holiday punch bowl for a traditional Marienstadt Treeing party and who finds much more in the process. 
  • In addition, Lola Eckert, the founder of Lola's Strudel Shop, a Marienstadt institution, shares with readers a collection of her most requested holiday recipes. Included are instructions for making strudel, including five strudels mentioned in the stories, plus keuchels, apple and peach dumplings, rhubarb tarts and more. 
This is a Limited Edition Gift Book for Christmas 2014.
A Very Marienstadt Christmas is now available at the lowest price Amazon would let me make it! This is a Limited Edition paperback for Christmas 2014.


Welcome to Marienstadt, my fictional hometown in The Pennsylvania Wilds, where herds of elk roam freely, down-home Pennsylvania Dutch cooking is delicious, and people are neighborly even if a little bit crazy! The stories in this collection are based on legends and customs I grew up with. December 6th is the Feast of St. Nicholas and we had visits from the ferocious, folkloric Belsnickel every year. Treeing is a custom that was practiced all over town but that I have never encountered anywhere else. The Christmas Daughter is just a sweet, tender story about a big, bad, tough guy whose heart is softened by a sweet, little girl who needs him. I hope you will enjoy these stories and come back to visit in my other Marienstadt tales.

It's Christmas time in the Pennsylvania Dutch town of Marienstadt and everything is sparkling. You are invited to come spend the holidays in a community of people where tradition is strong and love is all around. 
  •  When The Reluctant Belsnickel of Opelt's Wood was released in 2011 it quickly climbed Amazon's charts to #1 in Folklore. This novella tells the story of a sad, lonely man who finds joy and love when he is persuaded to play the folkloric role of Belsnickel for the children of Marienstadt. 
  • Published in 2013 The Christmas Daughter: A Marienstadt Story, is a novel about Boone Wilde, a former biker and heartthrob, who discovers he has a 12 year old daughter who needs him--a daughter that he comes to need even more. 
  • New for 2014 is the story, Treeing, in which a solitary antiques dealer is on a quest to find a holiday punch bowl for a traditional Marienstadt Treeing party and who finds much more in the process. 
  • In addition, Lola Eckert, the founder of Lola's Strudel Shop, a Marienstadt institution, shares with readers a collection of her most requested holiday recipes. Included are instructions for making strudel, including five strudels mentioned in the stories, plus keuchels, apple and peach dumplings, rhubarb tarts and more. 
From 1982 until 2002 I was an assistant coach for the Manchester/Essex Hornets. For 20 years of my life I worked the sidelines loosing my voice mostly on muddy fields and having a blast most of the time. The Thanksgiving game is for the seniors for all their hard work and dedication to the team,school and a culmination of all of their hard work. This year snow had fallen the night before and
From 1982 until 2002 I was an assistant coach for the Manchester/Essex Hornets. For 20 years of my life I worked the sidelines loosing my voice mostly on muddy fields and having a blast most of the time. The Thanksgiving game is for the seniors for all their hard work and dedication to the team,school and a culmination of all of their hard work. This year snow had fallen the night before and
Now available: A Very Marienstadt Christmas, a limited edition paperback that is the perfect stocking stuffer. In honor of Belsnickel next Saturday I am reposting this blog post from December 2010. I'm on a mission to spread the Belsnickel Love so today I'm asking people to do something nice for someone in secret, don't let them know who their Belsnickel is! Since I wrote the original article I have also published a story about Belsnickel, The Reluctant Belsnickel of Opelt's Wood, a novella about which Book Lover's Alert says: Brew yourself a pot of hot chocolate and curl up with this story. Based in Pennsylvania Dutch folklore, it will renew your faith in Christmas, in love, and in basic human decency.

Dec. 6, 2010: Since today is the Feast of St.Nicholas, or Belsnickel as it was known during my childhood, I am reprinting one of the stories in my cookbook/memoir, Fry Bacon, Add Onions. Enjoy. And if you hear a jingling sound outside your door tonight, you better be good and say your prayers!

No book about a Pennsylvania Dutch childhood would be complete without a few words about Belsnickel. Every year on the Eve of St. Nicholas’s Feast Day, December 6th, we looked forward to a visit from Belsnickel. It is a tradition that began among Pennsylvania Dutch people in the early 19th century and was quite popular when I was a kid. My sisters Lisa and Anne have carried on the tradition for their children which I am happy to know.

The name “Belsnickle” is believed to be a derivation of “Pelz Nicholas” or “St. Nicholas in furs”. Pictures of St. Nicholas always show him wearing a long, fur-trimmed cloak and carrying a huge sack as he walks through the forest accompanied by deer, rabbits and other woodland creatures.

Gram Werner told me that when she was a child Belsnickel was quite fearsome. She said when they heard the sleigh bells ringing, that signaled his approach, through the cold and snowy night, her brothers would run outside in the snow and hide in the outhouse. Legend was that Belsnickel knew who had misbehaved and was likely to carry off very naughty children and give them a good thrashing.

By the time I was a kid Belsnickel had mellowed somewhat. He would arrive and we had to be ready, freshly bathed and in our pajamas (though I suspect that was my mother’s contribution to the tradition). He would ask if we had been good and then we would kneel at his feet and say our prayers. After that he would open his huge sack and give us tangerines, nuts, popcorn balls and other treats.

When I was quite young we had real actual Belsnickels in fur-trimmed red outfits that came to the house. I know now that it was usually Sonny Seelye who undertook that job. Sonny and his sweet wife Mary were two of the nicest people in our neighborhood. They had no children of their own but sure were good to the neighborhood kids. Mary was my first 4-H leader and is the person who taught me how to sew, something I’ve never been able to thank her enough for. Sonny had this marvelous train set that all the kids in the neighborhood remember with fondness.

One year it was my Aunt Rosie who played Belsnickel for us. That was the year Belsnickel had laryngitis and couldn’t talk, no doubt because we would have recognized her voice immediately. Actually, I only found this out when she told me a couple weeks ago.

Later, when there were no available Belsnickels, we would leave our shoes outside the door. When we heard the sleigh bells ringing we had to wait and then go outside to find our shoes full of treats. This is the tradition that Lisa and Anne have continued for their children.

Thanks for reading.

Because my Marienstadt stories have been so well-received, especially for the holidays, I decided to put together a collection that is only be available in paperback, and only for a limited time. It is called A Very Marienstadt Christmas and this is what is inside:

It’s Christmas time in the Pennsylvania Dutch town of Marienstadt and everything is sparkling. You are invited to come spend the holidays in a community of people where tradition is strong and love is all around. 

When The Reluctant Belsnickel of Opelt’s Wood was released in 2011 it quickly climbed Amazon’s charts to #1 in Folklore. This novella tells the story of a sad, lonely man who finds joy and love when he is persuaded to play the folkloric role of 
Belsnickel for the children of Marienstadt.

Published in 2013 The Christmas Daughter: A Marienstadt Story, is a novel about Boone Wilde, a former biker and heartthrob, who discovers he has a 12 year old daughter who needs him--a daughter that he comes to need even more.

New for 2014 is the story, Treeing, in which a solitary antiques dealer is on a quest to find a holiday punch bowl for a traditional Marienstadt Treeing party and who finds much more in the process.

In addition, Lola Eckert, the founder of Lola’s Strudel Shop, a Marienstadt institution, shares with readers a collection of her most requested holiday recipes. Included are instructions for making strudel, including five strudels mentioned in the stories, plus keuchels, apple and peach dumplings, rhubarb tarts and more.


This is a Limited Edition Gift Book for Christmas 2014.

I am going to try to make this as affordable as possible and am working with CreateSpace to keep the price below $10 so it makes a great stocking stuffer. If you have enjoyed holidays in Marienstadt and want to share them with others, this is a great way to do it. It is now available.

Merry Christmas from Marienstadt and Thanks for reading!!!

Still Lives & Thanks

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Still Life, oil on canvas, 30 x 34

 

With everyone’s pies baked, I’m stepping briefly out of the kitchen and into an art gallery.  Janet Rickus’s meticulous still lives offer just the right elements of stillness, fecundity, and grace that many of us will be considering today.

Represented by The Clark Gallery in Lincoln, MA, Rickus will be part of the Clark Gallery December Salon Show from November 25 – December 30th, with a celebratory reception at the gallery Saturday, December 6th. For more information go to: www.clarkgallery.com

Thanks to my friends and blog readers – and both! – for your support, humor, and recipes throughout the year; I wish for you all a joyful Thanksgiving, full of winter squash and pie.

 

 

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One Year Old Pumpkin, oil on canvas, 16 x 16

Houle Family Meat Pie

Pork Pie

 

Karen Houle Hunter is the dental hygienist at Rockport Family Dental. In between the “open wides,” we talk about food. Karen is from Rhode Island, and knows the best places there for clam fritters and clam chowder, not the Rhode Island brothy version but a Manhattan-style clam chowder with honest briny freshness. Beneath the glare of the hygienist’s lamp we talk about family recipes, what she’s making for dinner, or bringing to a school potluck. (A good potluck recipe is as valuable as a good pair of black pants.)

Karen’s first question on my last visit was “how’s the cookbook coming?” I gave her the update, including my regret that, although the manuscript is turned in, I never was able to find a Fall River meat pie, or an authentic recipe for it. Authentic meat pies apparently know no state lines; Karen’s Rhode Island family, living a crow’s flight across the Taunton River from Massachusetts, also call meat pie a family tradition.

In Fall River the meat pie is said to have arrived over a hundred years with French and English mill workers, a lunch that both nourishes a hungry cotton spinner, and is easy to carry.

Karen, bless her Rhode Island heart, brought me not only her family’s recipe, but, on a busy Saturday morning, she baked me an authentic Houle Family Pork Pie, which fed a bunch of hungry kids and their parents in my own home that Saturday night.

Everyone declared the pie delicious, and me incredibly lucky to have a friend who made such things. Thanks, Karen!

 

 

serving pork pie

 

 

Houle Family Pork Pie

Ingredients 1 pound lean lamb

1/2 pound ground pork

2 medium onions, chopped

5 celery stalks, chopped

salt and pepper

1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning

dash of clove

1 large baking potato, cooked and mashed

1 recipe double pie crust

Instructions

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2.  In a large skillet saute the meat, adding water if the mixture gets too dry.  Simmer for a half hour, or until the meat is cooked through.  Drain off the fat carefully.

3.  In a separate skillet sauté the celery and onion with the salt and pepper to taste, the poultry seasoning and the clove.  Add to the meat mixture.

4.  Add the mashed potato to the mixture and stir carefully.

5.  Roll out half the pie dough, and line a 11” pie pan. Turn meat mixture into the dish. Roll out the second dough, and cover the pie. Crimp edges and cut vents in the top. Bake for 1 hour or until golden brown. Karen says this is especially good served with gravy.

 

 

slice of karen's pork pie

photo by Jemima Grow

With a chance find in my computer files, I stumbled across the Gloucester Schooner Festival of 2007 among others. Also mixed in are a few recent shots. "American Eagle"   "Spirit of Massachusetts" approaches Stacy Boulevard.                                   Lot of lines!                                  USCG    An Egret sees me and asks: "Are you looking at me"?
With a chance find in my computer files, I stumbled across the Gloucester Schooner Festival of 2007 among others. Also mixed in are a few recent shots. "American Eagle"   "Spirit of Massachusetts" approaches Stacy Boulevard.                                   Lot of lines!                                  USCG    An Egret sees me and asks: "Are you looking at me"?
Where does this go?” Joe asked as he followed Trent into the tunnel.
I’m not sure. The problem is when you’re underground you have no idea which direction you’re going in. When I was a kid my brother and I used to sneak into these tunnels when we were supposed to be helping Pop work.” Trent laughed. “I don’t want to go too far because it’s way too easy to get good and lost down here. Look.” He illuminated an archway with a door set into it. “I don’t know where that goes but I’ll bet it’s to a different house. There’s a lot of places where the tunnels caved in or somebody blocked them off.”
Are there any entrances that aren’t through someone’s basement?”
Yeah. A few. There’s a stone wall that runs along an alley off Myrtle Street that has an entrance. You’d never see it if you didn’t know to look for it because it’s covered in vines. Look at that.” Trent ducked his head and went down three steps into a somewhat larger area. Joe followed and found he could stand up straight. Three brick arches opened in different directions. One had been sealed shut with cement, but the others led off into darkness.
I had no idea.” Joe pointed. “Shine your light in there for a minute.”
Trent did so, but the light only penetrated a few yards into blackness. “Pop told me there’s a tunnel in the North End that runs under the Old North Church all the way down to the wharf. He said there was a guy called Captain Gruchy who was a privateer, licensed by the King of England to capture French ships during the war with France. He said that one time this pirate took a ship headed for a convent in Quebec and he commandeered a bunch of religious statues. He brought four angels through the tunnel from his ship to the Old North Church. They’re still there.”
Joe turned to look at him. “Is that true?”
I dunno but I know a whole hell of a lot of hooch was carried through these tunnels by the old rum-runners and then again during Prohibition.”

In The Crazy Old Lady's Secret: Beacon Hill Chronicles, Volume 4 I wove a lot of legends, history, and other curiosities in the story. In the scene above, gardener Trent Doyle takes his long-time friend and writer, Joe Quinn, into the tunnels that connect the lavish townhouses on Beacon Hill. As they explore the tunnels, Trent tells Joe about the legend of Captain Gruchy and the angels that decorate the organ in the Old North Church--before they find the dead body, of course.

From Stolen Treasures In The Old North Church: The four angels standing on columns just in front of the church’s organ on the second floor gallery were never intended to be inside the Old North Church. They were hand carved in what is now known as Belgium in the early 1600s. In 1746, the angels were on board a French ship bound for Quebec where they were supposed to be given as a present to a new Catholic convent. But the angels never made it!

Just off the coast of Nova Scotia, a British privateer, Captain Thomas Gruchy captured the French ship. At the time, France and England were at war. The King of England, King George II, had given ship captains permission to capture foreign vessels during wartime, thus turning the captains into privateers. Privateers were allowed to commandeer ships, impress sailors, and plunder cargo goods- much like pirates. Unlike a pirate however, privateers had permission from their government to do so.

Once the French ship was in his possession, Captain Gruchy took all of the goods back to his homeport of Boston where he then sold them for a pretty nice profit. However, when he found the four angels, he decided his best option would be to donate them to his church. Lucky for Old North, Captain Gruchy was a member of the congregation! The angels have graced the second floor gallery ever since, which means the Old North Church has been displaying stolen treasure for over 260 years.

Is this story true? Who knows. But it is a great story that needs to be preserved.
THE CRAZY OLD LADY'S SECRET
Thanks for reading.


I think most writers will relate to this. Sometimes when we are writing we become aware of a coincidence of some sort that sends a chill up your spine and makes you wonder if there is something unseen going on. I have had this happen quite a few times but the latest one was exceptional because it was shared with someone else.

To back up a bit: A couple years ago I started writing my Marienstadt stories which, while fiction, are deeply rooted in the history, customs, and folklore of my hometown, St. Marys, Pennsylvania. I made use of the kinds of popular stories that are told on front porches and in barrooms to concoct my own stories, weaving in bits of folklore and as much history as I could sneak in. I was aided in this by my long-time friend Ray Beimel who was the President of the local historical society for years and is still the town's most learned historian. Ray read every story many times, made corrections, as well as suggestions. The first collection of stories is called The Whiskey Bottle in the Wall: Secrets ofMarienstadt and it is dedicated to Ray because I couldn't have done it without him.

The collection was very popular and I decided to start a second which will be called The Bucktail Hat in the Trunk: Secrets of Marienstadt. I already have 6 stories completed and 4 more in various stages of development. One of the stories in the first book is called The Confession of Genny Franck and one of the characters in that story is a Hexe-woman named Sybillia Windfelder. She lives in a cottage in the woods and is reputed to have both healing and magical powers.

I chose the name Windfelder because it is an old St. Marys name that one doesn't hear much any more. I don't know where I got the name Sybillia—I just saw it somewhere and thought it was pretty so Sybillia Windfelder was born.

She proved to be a popular character and a number of people commented on her and on Hexe-Women in general. So for the second collection I decided to write more about her. In the story I am working on, Mulligan Wolfe has purchased the land she once lived on, including her little woodland cottage and, as he is cleaning it up, he discovers a handwritten book hidden behind stones in her fireplace. As he tries to learn more about it, the story develops. And, as I built the story, I began weaving in some history—particularly of our convent which was started by three German nuns from Eichstätt, Bavaria in 1847. The leader of the group was Mother Benedicta Riepp, O.S.B. who was only 27 years old. Mother Benedicta is something of a heroic figure. She died of tuberculosis 10 years later but in those 10 years she founded 7 convents and fought a powerful Abbott who was appropriating money meant for the Sisters for his own use. Not a lot of people know about Mother Benedicta and I decided to weave her into the story. I love the way she fits in and Ray was also pleased with it. The story still needs work but I am happy with its progress.
St. Joseph's Convent and St. Marys Catholic Church in St. Marys, Pennsylvania

Last night I was sitting here working on it when the phone rang. It was Ray. He sounded a little excited. He told me that he is giving a lecture for a historical group on the Benedictine convent in town and was doing research and he said, “You are not going to believe this. I looked up Mother Benedicta's information and do you know what her birth name was before she became a nun?” I said I did not. “It was Sybillia,” he said. Wow.

He asked if I knew that and I said I had no idea. But what an amazing coincidence. When things of that sort happen it really makes me wonder if somebody else has a hand in this. Gives me chills.

Thanks for reading. 

 

Bisq Sprouts

 

Keith Pooler may be the chef/owner of Bergamot, the eminent Somerville restaurant, but his heart still beats unequivocally for Gloucester, where he grew up. In fact, when Pooler began scheming a dinner previewing his new restaurant (named “Bisq,” which means something like “Bergamot in Inman Square”), he imagined a long table set on Gloucester granite, Folly Cove waves breaking over the conversations of the Boston food press.

Well, that didn’t happen. If you think it’s hard for Cape Ann residents to drive over the A. Piatt Andrew bridge, it’s even harder to get the Boston food press to cross the Tobin.

But, Pooler did have a “we can’t wait for Bisq to open!” dinner for a few scribblers of cuisine – this time at Bergamot – framing the new restaurant’s alchemical wine menu and small plate versions of the parent restaurant’s “progressive American” cuisine. Dan Bazzinotti, currently sous-chef at Bergamot, will be retitled “chef de cuisine” at Bisq.

For the writers’ dinner Bazzinotti showed off his flare with house-created charcuterie – from sanquinaccio to homemade kielbasa to a deconstructed pig’s head. We also tasted house-smoked mussels in a yam and pear potage.and roasted skate wing with sunchokes, and pearl onion rissole.

This was dining to wow, lush combinations of local surprises like apple mostarda draping the sanginaccio and chicken liver-filled flatbread, but I also left with a recipe to recreate at home: Bazzinotti’s Brussels sprouts tossed with quince, pancetta, and almonds, just warm enough to soften the small cubes of manchego cheese tucked within.

I’ve adapted Bazzinotti’s recipe only because, while I adore quince, I know that I’m the only person on Cape Ann (along with the owners of my former house) who has access to them. I made the dish with Bosc pears, and nothing suffers.

This “peared” down version of Bisq Brussels sprouts would be a noble addition to the Thanksgiving table. But don’t stop the Bisq story there.  Watch the website to find out when Bisq officially opens. Be stronger than the Boston food press, and drive over the bridge. Visit native son Keith Pooler there or at Bergamot; Keith loves to talk Gloucester, particularly the best swimming spots. You will have an amazing meal, and Keith will feel a little closer to home.

 

Bisq Brussels Sprouts

 

 

Bisq Brussel Sprouts, adapted 

serves 6, easily doubled

Ingredients

2 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed of stems and halved

3 bosc pears, unpeeled, cut into 1/2” pieces

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

generous grinding of fresh pepper

1 tablespoon butter

3 shallots, diced

1/4 pound pancetta or bacon, diced

1/3 pound Manchego cheese, diced

1/2 cup almonds, roughly chopped and toasted

1/2 cup light cream

Instructions

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2.  In a large bowl toss together the Brussels sprouts, chopped pears, olive oil, salt and pepper. Pour into an oven proof dish or roasting pan, and roast for 25 minutes, or until sprouts are browned and just cooked through, but not soft.

3.  Heat a large skillet to medium high, and add pancetta or bacon, and cook until crisp, about 15 minutes.

4.  In a separate pan, cook shallots in butter until softened.

5.  When the parts are cooked, in a large bowl toss all – Brussels sprouts, pears, pancetta, shallots, manchego, almonds and cream – together lightly. Pour into a ceramic baking dish, and bake just to warm and melt the cheese, about 10-15 minutes.  Serve warm.

Angry Side of Nature!

All these photos appear closer than they actually are. Using a zoom lens and editing allows me to stay at a safe distance yet capture the power of nature. When you think you are safe, nature can trick you! Calm before the storm. A bridge too short!  Walking among the breakers.  "The House" at Good Harbor Beach.  A different view.  Rough!  Brace Cove  Brace Rock  Wave

Angry Side of Nature!

All these photos appear closer than they actually are. Using a zoom lens and editing allows me to stay at a safe distance yet capture the power of nature. When you think you are safe, nature can trick you! Calm before the storm. A bridge too short!  Walking among the breakers.  "The House" at Good Harbor Beach.  A different view.  Rough!  Brace Cove  Brace Rock  Wave

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