Archives for November 2011

Creative Expressions Returns to Lexington!

Carmen Lombardo with Laurel and Michelle.

It was 1974 when Carmen Lombardo began working as a stylist at John Dellaria. He was young, talented and ambitious. Only four years later he had his own salon on Bedford Street with a group of dynamic men that would dominate the salon scene in this area together and separately from seventies until the present.

I am so fortunate to have started at Dellaria working with Philip Ciampa, Lombardo says freely.  I love the man. He was a great mentor.  Carmen called his then-new salon Creative Expressions and the name is a neat summary of his vision for the business to business that expresses the artistry of the stylist through the innate beauty of every woman.  It’s a name that still resonates today.

Lombardo bought the building next door and stayed there for the next twenty years until he grew the business to the point where he needed to expand; he moved to a more central location in Arlington, but he held on to the property in Lexington.

In the intervening years, many of his former employee opened their own salons something that he considers a tribute to their early success together. Everyone should aspire to that to be an owner, he says frankly. Last month Creative Expressions returned home to Lexington with a fully refurbished salon in this original Bedford Street Location. I love our Arlington Salon, but I was ready for a new challenge, Lombardo says.  Arlington remains in the capable hands of his wife Annette.

Now he is proud and happy to back in Lexington. Lexington is loaded with quality, he says, and he is anxious to bring his own special brand of quality and service back to the community that gave him his start. I was a kid when I opened up my first salon, he says. One of the best things about being twenty-one is you are so stupid that you are not able to be afraid! Being afraid is still not in Carmen’s DNA. I have always been confident of my technical ability, he says, and I knew I could be successful with lots of hard work.  He’s anxious to get down to work in Lexington in his new-old location!

Looking at him, it’s hard to believe that this handsome and charismatic man has been in the business for over thirty years he still has the energy of a 21 year old!  He and his wife Annette have lived in Lexington for all of these years and raised a family. Lexington is a fantastic community, he says with pride.

Although Carmen thinks it is a bit grandiose to refer to cutting hair as an art form, he clearly has an artist’s passion for his work and for the discipline and technique that goes into it.  It is on this foundation of  “technical perfection” that he has built a stellar reputation for expertise in his field and a thriving business.  How does he do it and why take on a second location at this stage in his career?  I just keep on driving to make it better, he says. “I needed something new to get me excited; a challenge. I get itchy,” he says with a laugh.   “I’m working really hard; I’m leading by example the same way I’ve always done,” he says with assurance.

Carmen derives real joy from training his young stylists.  He has worked closely with Minuteman high school Director of Cosmetology Cynthia DeMaio over the years and has hired a number of graduates from their program. Both Laurel and Michelle in Lexington salon came through the program. “I started with Carmen while I was a senior at Minuteman,” Laurel says. “Carmen has given me lots of opportunity to learn and grow as a stylist. We’re always going to classes and shows; always trying to learn and grow.”  Michelle also went to Minuteman in the post-graduate program. “I did one full year at Minuteman and was able to become licensed,” she says. “Minuteman provides a fantastic opportunity for kids,” Lombardo says. “It’s one of the great things about being in Lexington.”

The new salon is beautiful.

He also recommends the post-graduate program to people who may want to change careers.   “Minuteman is a great resource for this town,” he says. “Once you train them they become success stories on their own!  We’re always learning here,” he says. “You build the business with the young ones. They have such energy!”

I visited the salon on a Tuesday night which is “teaching night” at Creative Expressions.  He encourages each of his stylists to work on their technique, present new ideas and explore new products.  But most importantly Lombardo teaches his stylists to listen. “It’s so important that a stylist really listens to the client. I always want to make absolutely sure that whatever we do is working for the client; not just looking good when they leave the salon, but really working for their lifestyle, or we haven’t done our job.”  That means a haircut and color needs to look good between services, not just when the client leaves the salon. “It’s easy to make someone beautiful when they are here, but a technically perfect haircut that works for your face shape will also work for you at home. That’s our goal.”

It’s a goal he takes very seriously. “I am more critical of myself and my staff than anyone else,” he says. “This is a professional relationship, and we need to deliver a professional product. My life here is surrounded by my master hair stylists; I know they are a capable group.”

Staying on top in a very competitive business speaks to his professional success, but he knows that the salon relationship can be challenging because it is both very creative and very personal. “A hairdresser needs to be open to criticism; the ego cannot get in the way,” he says.  Lombardo is proud of the long-lasting relationships he has been able to maintain with his clients.  “My clients represent me and my philosophy; it happens naturally and they keep coming back!  I want clients to feel free to express themselves’ to demand the best from us,” he says. “They should never be afraid to be honest.”

According to Lombardo, it’s all about communication.  “We talk. What do you want for your hair?   What do I see?   It’s important that a hairdresser be honest, to take the initiative to propose new ideas,” he asserts.  He acknowledges that it takes a certain confidence to take clients in a new direction. “That comes with success.  I see so many transformations; dramatic changes; that’s what makes hairdressing so much fun.” And it really is fun for him. “Most people come to a new salon looking for a change,” he says. “For me, it is an artistic process; something catches your eye; the face shape, the tonality of the skin; it’s an opportunity to create.”  And he tries to keep it fresh with every client. “Once we know your hair we’re going to work with it to make it work for you,” he states. “Because your hair should always be working for you; you shouldn’t be working for your hair!”  Lombardo says anytime you spend more than twenty minutes blow drying your hair something is not working with your haircut! “Who has time for that?”

The salon itself looks beautiful.  Everything is new and the aesthetic is warm and inviting. “We wanted to create a comfortable environment,” Lombardo says. “From the moment you walk in the door of Creative Expressions we want the experience to be welcoming and memorable; like no other.  We want you to leave thinking: “This place is amazing and I look amazing!”. “

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Rick Beyer-Bringing History to Life!

Filmmaker Rick Beyer filming on location in Luxembourg for The Ghost Army

As a boy of seven or eight, Rick Beyer crouched on Lexington Common with a pretend musket, shooting at the phantom British. His father, a physics professor at Brown University, had brought his son and daughter from East Providence to see where the opening shots were fired in the American Revolution: one of many family trips taken to historic sites. Through his dad’s influence Rick grew up loving history and “inundating long-suffering family and friends with [fascinating] tales from history.”

Now a Lexington resident, Rick credits that visit to the Green for being the start of his “study of Lexington.”

Carried into his adult life, this love of history has influenced his career as a documentary film maker (with work in progress titled “The Ghost Army,” about a deception unit in World War II) and an author of a newly released book of quirky historical facts. He’s also to be found in colonial garb as a tour guide at the Munroe or Buckman tavern, along with his costumed wife Marilyn Rea Beyer, the well-known WUMB radio talk show host.

For the past 15 years they have been involved in Lexington history projects with the Lexington Historical Society. “Marilyn and I are both real history enthusiasts,” says Rick of the couple who years ago responded to a mailing from the Historical Society inviting people to take part. Soon enough, they found themselves as costumed guides greeting visitors at the Buckman Tavern.

Filming at Munroe Tavern

Around six years ago they started a new aspect of their relationship with Susan Bennett, executive director of the Lexington Historical Society, who wanted a film depicting what led to the 1775 battle. Titled First Shot! The Day the Revolution Began, a seventeen-minute film directed and produced by Rick Beyer captured extensive re-enactments around Lexington, using actual locations whenever possible. Members of the Lexington Minutemen, re-enactors from three Redcoat regiments, guides and staff from the Historical Society, and many more volunteers filled the cast, including The Reverend Peter Meek, portraying Rev. Jonas Clarke, and actor Timothy John Smith as John Adams. One part of the documentary film recounts the little-known event  of Lexington’s own Tea Party where residents tossed tea onto a bonfire and pledged their lives and fortunes to opposing the Crown. Contributing voice-overs, Marilyn Rea Beyer links the re-enactment scenes.

This first of Rick Beyer’s collaborative projects showing how Lexingtonians became revolutionaries is shown at the Hancock-Clarke House. You can also watch the trailer on YouTube.

In 2010 the film won a Leadership in History Award from the American Association for State and Local History and was a finalist in the New York Festivals’ Film and Television Awards. Beyer has won multiple gold medals from the New York Festivals, several Telly Awards given for “excellence in local, regional, cable, TV commercials, non-broadcast video or TV program,”and four Emmy® awards.

Rick with Lincoln Clark and Carla Fortmann performing In Their Own Words.

Beyer has been able to “work history storytelling into [his] job description.” Creating history films and videos for almost a decade, he has worked with A&E, The History Channel, National Geographic, and the Smithsonian Institution, among others, making films on everything from the Emancipation Proclamation to the Wright Brothers. Actor Sam Waterston narrated “Timelab 200,” an acclaimed collection of 200 history minutes, produced by Beyer for The History Channel.  This “Timelab” collection led to his well-received series of books telling little-known historical stories; see sidebar for more information.

Back at the Lexington Historical Society, Rick wrote FirstSHOT: The Lexington Revolutionary Experience, a new guidebook to Lexington’s history, released this past April, with photographs by Paul Doherty.

Rick credits “others” for help with the book’s text, but he is the chief writer of this new publication which the Lexington Historical Society says “serves as a most complete and clearly presented guide to all the relevant revolution sites within the town of Lexington.”

From the monuments on Lexington Green to the Old Belfry, Lexington’s role in “the first events of the American Revolution” are documented and pictured. Rick uses first person accounts, feeling it is important to never make up things, as in docu-dramas. He prefers “to be wired to the historic record.”

This same line of reasoning carried to his next project with Sue Bennett for the Lexington Historical Society. Beyer created audio pieces played in the rooms of the Munroe Tavern telling the stories of the battle from the British point of view. The British infantry used the local, family-owned Munroe Tavern as a field hospital; and the day after the battle, the town doctor, Joseph Fiske, treated six or more British soldiers there. Audio pieces in each of the four rooms of the Tavern are told from either the British or the Monroe family viewpoints, using quotes written by the actual people of the time.

Beyer points out that “1700 British soldiers came through town that morning and most went back [to Boston] in the afternoon.” In an effort to “interpret the battle from the British experience, Sue Bennett wanted to tell their side; include their stories,” explained Beyer. The question to be answered might be “Who are the patriots? Those rising up or those defending the norm?” Rick has found that “everything looks different, depending on where you set up the camera. If you put the camera at a slightly different angle, you give a different point of view.”

The Lexington school system brought Rick and Marilyn Beyer to town in 1999. Their two children Andy and Bobbie first attended the Bridge Elementary and the Clarke Middle schools, before graduating from Lexington High School.  Bobbie went on to Tulane University in New Orleans and now works at the Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, where her mother also works. Andy is a struggling musician in Seattle. Lexington’s history continues to fascinate Rick and Marilyn and their local history projects help them share stories with history enthusiasts; both visitors and residents.


The Series: The Greatest Stories Never Told

Music lovers:   Listen up!

The Greatest Music Stories Never Told: 100 Untold Stories About Classical, Rock, and Jazz Music (Harper Collins, 2011) is Rick Beyer’s latest book. It’s the fifth in a series of books recording short, entertaining stories organized by title themes. Beyer’s “TimeLab History Minutes” for the History Channel led to the first book in the series, focusing, obviously, on history. Approaching Beyer during the TV production, a book agent suggested that they pitch the history minute materials with the History Channel’s support to book publishers.

The Greatest Music Stories Never Told

From sixteen proposals came four offers, with Harper Collins chosen as the series publisher for The Greatest Stories Never Told: 100 Tales from History to Astonish, Bewilder, and Stupefy in 2003. The series of little-known but fascinating tales developed from that simple start.

Next came The Greatest War Stories Never Told: 100 Tales from Military History to Astonish, Bewilder, and Stupefy (History Channel) in 2005, then The Greatest Presidential Stories Never Told: 100 Tales from History to Astonish, Bewilder, and Stupefy in 2007, followed by The Greatest Science Stories Never Told: 100 Tales of Invention and Discovery to Astonish, Bewilder, and Stupefy in 2009. You get the drift. The books “all are tightly formatted. They look the same of the shelf except for different color spines,” explains Rick.  Each collection is “accompanied by an array of stunning and diverse photographs from around the globe,” reports the publisher.  The Chicago Tribune praised the series as “full of tasty morsels; A delightful book to arm one for the next dull cocktail party.”

When it comes to music history, the range slides from jazz to country and from classical to hip hop, as the book includes stories about composers, lyrics, and instruments. Arranged in chronological order, the stories begin with the “Hymn to Nikkal,” the oldest surviving song in the world, chiseled on a stone tablet in the Mediterranean 3,400 years ago up to the explanation of how Dr. Brian May is the only astrophysicist to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; as the guitarist for the band Queen.

Rick reading from his latest book.

One 1908 tidbit tells how Jack Norworth, a 29 year-old vaudeville actor with the Ziegfeld Follies, dashed off a song about Katie Casey loving baseball. The song is not remembered today, but the chorus is known and sung by Red Sox Nation and all baseball lovers: “Take me out to the ball game.”

Reading cover to cover or skimming for topics of interest, readers will later smile as they recall terrific trivia when a familiar song comes on the iPod or radio. Whether it’s the story of the monk who taught his choir to sing Do-Re-Mi or the aviation pioneer who came up with Muzak, the book will be a favorite with music lovers of all ages; or, even with the history buffs of Lexington. Any of the five books in the series will be appreciated as gifts in the season ahead.

Videos and song clips related to stories in the music book are available at www.greateststoriesnevertold.com/musiclinks.

Contact Judy Buswick, another history and music enthusiast, at jt.buswick@verizon.net

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Harry’s Vision

Harry Forsdick

By Heather Aveson  |  Do you subscribe to the Lexington List? That’s Harry. How about ordering on Video on Demand from LexMedia. Harry, again. The new First Shot homepage and website for The Lexington Historical Society. You got it, Harry.

Harry Forsdick has offered his enthusiasm and vast technical expertise to organizations in town for most of the thirty-four years he and his family have lived in Lexington. He’s really stepped up his involvement recently. “Since I’ve retired I’ve focused on doing things for friends and neighbors,” he says. “The response is so much more immediate when you do something as a volunteer. I’d rather get a thank you than a paycheck with strings attached.”

It’s hard to imagine that Harry considers himself retired. He chats excitedly about all the ideas he’s already brought to fruition and really ramps it up when he gets talking about projects that lay ahead. He knows his strengths and is figuring out how to use them to help the community.

This month Harry will step down as Chairman of the Board of LexMedia after being a moving force behind the growth and expansion of the once struggling community access station. “Harry got us from the tiny, little Kite’s End studio to here. Harry really saved LexMedia,” credits Executive Director Florence DelSanto, “There was a period of turmoil before I arrived. Harry and the Board kept the place running on their own for about 6 months.”

Even through that rough patch Harry had a bigger vision for Lexmedia. “When I came in Harry showed me this debris filled cavern in a basement at Avalon. I thought, ‘what have I gotten myself into?’ But, four months later we moved into this incredible new studio space without being off the air for more than an hour,” Ms. DelSanto remembers. “He was able to take the vision and produce it technically. He was warm and supportive. He walked us through those early days.”

Harry also created a website for LexMedia that has become a model for other community access groups. He came up with a strategy to incorporate Video On Demand into the Lexmedia site in 2007. It was way ahead of what other groups were capable of at the time. Then at the 2010 Annual Meeting Harry unveiled a completely re-tooled LexMedia website. “We introduced a lot of on-line innovations in 2007 but I was spending too much time on the website. I discovered a system that anyone on the staff could use. I haven’t touched it since. That’s an example of how I step away,” says Harry.

He admits to being an early stage guy who prefers to get things up and running, then ‘step away.’ He likes the upfront planning, imagining the finished product and then seeing it come to fruition. Beyond that, “I’m not a good repeat guy.”

Harry with his wife Marsha Baker

As quickly as Harry gets one project up and running, new projects are in the pipeline. Harry’s wife Marsha Baker is a Guide and board member for the Lexington Historical Society. The society’s website just called out to Harry for reinvention. “People usually get involved with a group through their website. The society’s site was non-functional. So I upgraded it using the First Shot theme.” But again, Harry wanted others to be able to take over. “About a year ago I discovered a new platform that’s very simple to use so I reworked the site. I trained the administrators and Guides and now they’re doing it themselves. I consider that a victory.” Executive Director Susan Bennnet acknowledges his help, “Harry’s technical skills have been really important to the success of the Historical Society’s website. He was also responsible for bringing up all the Civil Rights materials for our program recently. We’re just very grateful to Harry for all that he does.”

Town Clerk Donna Hooper has worked with Harry on several town projects in the last few years. “I originally knew him as Marsha Baker’s husband. They’re each known in their own circles and they let each other shine.” Donna and Harry are now working away on the 300th Anniversary website. She sees something else behind his desire to ‘step away’. “Harry has the keen ability to use his technology knowledge and apply it to local organizations and government without overcomplicating it. He wants to empower other people to use it.”

The Lexington list is a great example of successfully making technology work for the community. Harry started it about 10 years. Members share opinions, news, and form a community on the list. Former selectwoman Jeanne Kreiger is a big fan. “At first people were a little suspicious. How was this going to work? But Harry made it clear that people needed to be respectful and responsible in their postings. And it’s grown from there.”

Harry at LexMedia Board Meeting

Kreiger says the extent of Harry’s impact on the town has really hit her in the last few weeks. “I was sponsoring a talk at the library and LexMedia showed up to cover it, that couldn’t have happened without Harry. Then when the storm hit I had no electricity. Without the Lexington List I wouldn’t had have any way of knowing what was going on in town. He backs up his ideas  and he does it in a way that has the community’s best interests at heart.”

As if all his community projects weren’t enough, Harry keeps coming up with new personal pursuits. He and his son have built a successful photo scanning business. “There are a lot of baby boomers like me who had kids before the digital age. I thought, – why don’t we offer a local photo scanning service where you can drop off your pictures and know they’re safe.” It’s really taken off.” True in the community, true at home, he’s letting his son take the lead – only offering advice and support when needed. By the way all you baby boomers, gather your boxes of old photos and visit www.lexingtonphotoscan.com.

Like a kid with a new toy, Harry practically jumps out of his chair with excitement explaining his latest project. Stick with me here as I attempt a clear explanation. It’s a book of paper cut outs of Lexington’s historic houses. The designs are based on 3D computer models that Harry is creating. They can be cut out and put together as 3D paper models. The project combines his interests in history, computers, modeling and architecture. He plans to offer the book to gift shops in Lexington and the surrounding area. With Harry’s record on follow through, I’d plan on giving his book as Christmas gifts by next year!

With so many interests it would be easy for Harry to step away from LexMedia completely, but he’ll remain on the board after giving up the Chair. “I’m thrilled at what LexMedia has accomplished in the last three years. It’s now a force in Lexington. I’m happy to be associated with the organization, that’s why I’m staying.”

And Florence Delsanto is happy he’ll be around too. “Harry taught me which things to worry about. If we hit black – he’d say, ‘don’t worry about it. But don’t mess up the Trivia Bee.’ ” She adds, “He’s just this big fuzzy guy who says, ‘We’re going to take care of this.’ “

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Lexington Chefs Share Holiday Recipes

Todd Heberlein

Todd Heberlein will prepare more than 400 gallons of gravy, all hand whisked and over a 1,000 lbs. of Butternut squash, all mashed by hand, as well as stuffing, Brussel sprouts and other sides this Thanksgiving. And that’s before he even heads home from the kitchen at Wilson Farm to prepare dinner for his own family. So it’s a good thing he loves what he does.

Making Todd's Stuffing

His Wild Mushroom Stuffing recipe incorporates a lot of his favorites. “I love mushrooms. The mushrooms we’re using now may not be the same mushrooms I’d use in a couple of weeks, you want to use whatever mushrooms are best at the time your making it.  That’s part of the excitement for me – seeing what mushrooms will be available for the next batch and how it will alter the flavor. It never comes out the same twice when you use different mushrooms,” Todd says, “I also wanted to incorporate something still fresh off the our fields. Kale is perfect for Thanksgiving because it’s a late crop and it can stand up to be being baked”.

And then there’s the truffle butter. Todd has a particular love of truffle butter, so it finds its way into this recipe. “Puts it over the top,” he says with a twinkle in his eye, “you don’t have to include it, it’s a luxury, but come on Thanksgiving is only once a year. If not now, when?”

Todd also likes this recipe because it’s substantial enough to satisfy the vegetarians at the table. Combining egg, mascarpone, asiago cheese, and mushrooms creates something like a savory bread pudding. Baked in a casserole it can double as an entree.

“Usually at Thanksgiving I really only like to eat, turkey, stuffing, and gravy. That’s why I put so much love into my stuffing. It comprises about half of my plate,” he says. But for the other seventeen or so family members at his Thanksgiving table this year Todd will prepare a full feast. His wife Jennifer is a pastry chef, so while he takes care of dinner Jennifer will whip up the tasty desserts.

“I love Thanksgiving. So it’s no problem for me to go home and cook after being here. No difference between here and home, I take same care here that I do cooking for my family”.

 

Marian Morash is the daughter of a professional chef, but she didn’t catch the bug until her husband Russ began a TV show with a relatively unknown cookbook author, named Julia Child. “The show was live and so they would have a raw chicken, a chicken ready to cook and a cooked chicken on the set. Russ would bring home a half cooked chicken with all the directions. I’d call friends and say, ‘we’re having this or that tonight. Come on over’ “, Marian recalls. All she had to do was add vegetables to complete the meal.

Again her husband helped out. Russ Morash began the classic gardening show, The Victory Garden, in the mid seventies. The success of the show got Marian in the kitchen coming up with recipes to share with the growing number of viewers – and gardeners. “The first few years they didn’t have recipes, the viewers would write in and say, ‘I grew all these leeks, now what do I do with them?’, so I’d come up with recipes for them to use on the show,” says Marian.

Marian Morash

One of her family’s favorite recipes came from that period. Marian developed the recipe using her favorite squash, Waltham Butternut, developed right around the corner at the University of Massachusetts Waltham Field Station and a nod to her mother and a family tradition. “You can make this soup without the chestnuts but I use them for both enrichment and nostalgia,” she says, “They add a rich earthy flavor and remind me of past holidays. My mother always made brussel sprouts with chestnuts for Thanksgiving and roasted chestnuts on Christmas when they’re readily available. They are a seasonal treat.”

Although the Morash family usually gathers on Nantucket for the holiday, they’ll be spending it closer to home this year. The turkey will be roasted in the oven unlike on Nantucket where “Russ fries one outside. You know it’s the men go out and kick the tires and fry the turkey and the women stay inside cooking the vegetables,” laughs Marian.

She hasn’t done the soup in a while but it’s back on the menu this year to the raves of the whole family.

Marian’s Tip of the Day:

Make your gravy ahead of time. Buy necks, wings, legs, whatever is available. Make a turkey stock and prepare your gravy. You can freeze it until the holiday. On Thanksgiving just add drippings from the turkey and you’re ready to serve.

 

Helen Chen with Ben Huang of LexMedia

Helen Chen comes alive as she cooks. She is animated and laughs easily. Watching her is like enjoying a ballet. Her movements are fluid; she is at home behind the wok. But she doesn’t consider herself a chef. “I’m more of a home cook,” she says, “That’s what I do in my classes, I teach people to cook at home.”

This year Helen will be cooking dinner at the home of her goddaughter who is expecting a baby the week before the holiday. “My husband, Keith, is an expert with the weber grill and he’s been in charge of the turkey for years. He smokes it so it has a fabulous taste and comes out with this wonderfully dark golden skin. I handle all the sides.”

Helen's Fried Rice Stuffing

One of the sides she’ll make comes from her mother, the renowned Chinese Chef Joyce Chen. Oyster Sauce Fried Rice started out as a stuffing, but now that the turkey has moved to the grill and the family clamors for leftovers, Helen prepares it as a side dish.

“My mother developed this fried rice to use as a stuffing for our Thanksgiving turkey.  The giblets and oyster sauce give a wonderful savory flavor to the big bird. It’s tasty enough to stand-alone and is even better the next day when the flavors have mellowed and blended. It warms up beautifully in the microwave.”

Helen says her goddaughter is partial to brussel sprouts. “I’ll par boil them and then add an asian flair by stir frying them with bacon. I prefer to stir fry, rather than boil. It maintains a lot more of the flavor,â”Helen says.

If you’d like to find out more about cooking with a wok, how to find a great wok or Chinese home cooking, visit www.helensasiankitchen.com.

Helen’s Tip on cooking Brussel Sprouts:

Cut a crosshatch in the stem end of the sprout before cooking. The brussel sprout will cook more evenly.

 

Lynne Wilson

Lynne Wilson began creating recipes out of necessity. In a season heavy on eggplant her husband, Alan Wilson, came to her for help. She came up with some creative eggplant recipes that had people who had never tried eggplant cooking it up. “It worked so well that it wasn’t long before I was asked to do the same for carrots and spinach,” Lynne notes in The Wilson Farm Country Cookbook, “Soon I had a new job – creating and supplying recipes for our customers.”

Wilson Farm customers and employees were Lynne’s best critics. New recipes were taste tested by the employees and Lynne was found on the farm every week sampling her new creations to customers

That’s how her Squash Cake became a favorite. “One time a little girl about eight years old came back for seconds and then brought her mother over to get the recipe because it was the ‘best cake’ she had ever had,” Lynne remembers, “I don’t know if it’s the best cake I’ve ever made but everybody makes pumpkin pie or squash pie for Thanksgiving. I like this because it’s something different.”

I made this cake myself the other day. I’m not sure I could wait until dessert on Thanksgiving to enjoy it. Just the smell when you take it out of the oven is hypnotic. I’m thinking I’ll enjoy as a late morning treat with that second cup of coffee while preparing the meal for later in the afternoon. If anyone else wants to wait until after dinner, I admire their will power.

 

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MLK Day in Lexington!

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Ana Hebra Flaster~Under Pressure with Abuela

Ana Hebra Flaster

Maybe a lot of people have a secret irrational fear of pressure cookers. Maybe I’m not alone.

I grew up in a large extended Cuban-American family, with multiple generations of relatives, and dogs, and cousins, and assorted friends milling around our tiny kitchen every day. My grandmother was always in the middle of the maelstrom, guarding our ever-hissing pressure cooker while it bobbled and shimmied on the stovetop. Abuela would shuffle between the sink and the stove, trying not to trip over us—or our enormous German shepherd—as we all chased after each other, searching for snacks in the cupboards, or begging her to make us more café con leche. Like we needed caffeine. “¡Cuidado con la olla de presión! Abuela would warn. Be careful of the pressure cooker! ¡Va a explotar! It’ll explode!

A few years ago my mother gave my sister and me pressure cookers for Christmas. “I’m afraid of those things,” my sister told me later when we were alone. “They’re a lot safer now,” my mother called to us from the living room. Her hearing was always excellent.

I planned to avoid the cooker as long as possible, but within a few weeks my mother asked me to bring one of our family’s favorite dishes to our next dinner together. Ropa Vieja, old clothes, is best prepared using a pressure cooker, so I knew my time was up. I’d only savored this dish, a wonderful mix of garlic, green pepper, tomato and shredded beef so tender it melts in your mouth in a swirl of flavor. Now I’d have to follow my mother’s famously incomplete cooking directions and survive the maiden voyage with my new pressure cooker.

I read the owner’s manual. I prepared the ingredients. Placed them in the pot. Consulted the manual one last time. Reassured, I lowered the heavy, long-handled lid over the cooker and rotated the lid counter clockwise to lock it into place. What was that? Something caught too early in the turn. Was it the rubber ring inside the lid? That little yellow thingy on top? I couldn’t move the handle—forward or backward. The lid was stuck, wedged at a peculiar angle unlike any of the cute drawings in the manual.

Now what? I had about $25 worth of meat and other ingredients in the pot and a family dinner to go to. At least it couldn’t explode… Right?

Maybe there was a tech support number for this thing. I checked the manual. No. On the box? No. Online? Nothing, only business numbers. I rifled through the manual again and at the end, in the tiniest script, I saw something: a phone number for an office in Texas somewhere.

The nice woman on the other end listened and said, “Hold on, honey. I can’t help you but I think someone else can.”

After a few minutes, the line rang at anther extension. A new woman’s voice came on the line.

“Um, do you have a rubber mallet?” she whispered.

“No.” I whispered back.

“I’m not really supposed to be telling people what to do with their cookers…”

I pleaded with her. “Look, I’ve got all this meat in there, and I’m supposed to bring this to a dinner tonight. I swear I won’t tell a soul you helped me. Can’t you just—”

“Okay, okay… Go get a thick towel, wrap it around a hammer, you know, with an elastic?” Whisper Lady was back.

 “Don’t hang up, okay?”

 “Uh uh.”

I ran around kitchen gathering equipment. Hammer. Check. Elastic. Check. Dishtowels. Check! “I’m back,” I whispered.

“Now, hold the cooker with one hand, and bang the handle gently but not too gently up and back, like you’re pushing it back to where you started. That should do it.” Whisper Lady’s voice was soft but intense.

“I’m putting you on speaker. Don’t hang up,” I told her and put the receiver on the counter.

“I won’t.”

I banged my “mallet” at the handle. I pried at the lid. Nothing. I banged on the lid again. Nothing. Wh– what was that whistling sound?

“Yoohoo!”

“Was that you?” I asked the receiver.

“Honey, you’re not hitting it hard enough. I can hear it from here. Really get in there.”

“Okay.” I aimed my weapon and banged on the lid again, hard.

“Harder!” Whisper Lady’s voice rushed out of the receiver. “Hard!”

I picked up the mallet, squinted at the lid’s handle, and swung hard at it, up at an angle. Pop! Something let go, and, with the lightest push, the lid sprung apart.

The intrepid woman in accounting, or purchasing, or wherever, and I celebrated for a minute or two—quietly, of course—and then she guided me through the proper way to close the lid. She sent me on my way with encouraging words.

The rest of the cooking went flawlessly that afternoon, and the Ropa Vieja was a hit. But the next time I used a little more vino seco, dry white wine, one of Abuela’s go-to ingredients, and got even better results.

I still look at my pressure cooker with a mixture of fear and respect. It yields the tastiest foods, in mysterious ways, and reminds me of the kind woman in Texas, and of the women in my family, especially the one whose voice I can hear sometimes when the cooker begins to hiss, !Cuidado! Be careful! I will, I tell my Abuela. I will.

 

Ana Hebra Flaster is a freelance writer and Lexington resident. Ana’s work has been featured on NPR and the Boston Globe.

 

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LexFUN! 1st Annual Holiday Marketplace

LexFUN! 1st Annual Holiday Marketplace

Thursday, Nov. 10 –  4 – 7pm –  St. Brigid’s Parish

With over 30 vendors confirmed, this is sure to be the start of something great.  As an organization dedicated to young families, LexFUN! has created an event where Mom and Dad entrepreneurs will have a place to showcase their arts and goods.  Keeping families in mind, LexFUN! has also created a Kid’s Entertainment and Craft Zone, sponsored by Gymboree Play & Music and Yamaha Music School of Boston.  Parents will be able to shop, while the little ones are entertained with play and holiday themed crafts.  Food and beverages will be available, including pizza.  This is a free event and open to the public.  10% of each vendors sales will be donated to LexFUND, LexFUN’s preschool and community fund providing assistance to families in financial need and to organizations supporting young families.

Join us for an afternoon of fun or for a quick shopping trip to meet and support the many unique entrepreneurs within our local community!  For more information, please go to www.lexfun.org or email fiveandundernetwork@gmail.com.

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Bowman PTA Crafts Fair

Bowman Creates – 8th annual PTA Craft Fair

Wednesday, December 7;  5:30 – 8:30pm  –  Bowman School  –  FREE

Choose unique holiday gifts among the amazing creations of the multi-talented teachers, staff, parents, students and friends of the Bowman School.

Jewelry, glassware, pottery, belts, bags, knitware, scarves, homemade chocolate treats, festive fleece hats, recycled arts, & other treasures!

There will be kids’ crafts, so bring the kids!  Small fee for gingerbread cookie decorating. 

Enjoy dinner of fresh, hot pizza and fruit, and join us for this community event!

For more information contact Lynne McGraw and Stella Park at craftfair@bowmanpta.org

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LEF Multicultural Bazaar

Lexington Education Foundation Multicultural Bazaar

Thursday, December 8: 2:30 – 7:30pm  –  Lexington Depot

This event will celebrate Lexington’s diverse student population and promote awareness of Lexington Education Foundation’s work supporting teacher initiatives in our schools.

Global Treasures will feature global gifts created by talented local artisans and designers. It will also include live music and dance performances highlighting a variety of world traditions. Families will enjoy art and history demonstrations by LEF grant recipients who were awarded study programs in Africa, China, and India.

“The global theme of this event is inspired by the wonderful diversity in our town’s student population that benefits directly from LEF’s support for innovative instruction and new classroom technology,” said Sylvia Han, an LEF board member and event organizer. “We are excited to present an event where visitors can enjoy a colorful bazaar, select a unique holiday gift, and learn more about LEF’s mission.”

The vendor and performance list grows daily. Shubrah Design, MITTI pottery studio, and Mei Mei Jewelry are examples of the kinds of vendor who will be present. Live performances will include The Lexington Chamber Music Center’s Chamber Music Youth Ensemble, The Society for Chinese Instrumental Music, and the American Chinese Art Society and O’Shea/Chaplin Academy of Irish Dance will provide dance presentations. Lexington’s Clarke Middle School Visual Arts Teacher, Althea Roy, will provide an arts demonstration based on her participation in the Primary Source study tour, Historic China: East and West. A full list of vendors and schedule of performances will be available on the LEF website, www.lexedfoundation.org.

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Hancock Holiday Fair

Hancock Holiday Fair – Gifts that Help Others

Sunday, Dec. 4 – 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.  Hancock United Church

Looking for gift ideas for the person who has everything?  To shop for gifts that make a difference by helping others – look no further than the popular annual Hancock Holiday Fair.

For the eleventh year, Hancock Church is offering a different way to share the holiday spirit with gifts that benefit local, national and international charities.  For example, when giving to Heifer International and Guiding Eyes for the Blind, the recipient will receive a colorful holiday card explaining the contribution made on their behalf as a pledge to help buy meals, buy livestock for needy people or train service dogs.  Distinctive handcrafts from Aruna Designs, Kinara and Bead for Life, special Cambodian gifts from Sharing Foundation, unique scarves, shawls and jackets hand-crafted by Mayan women through A Thread of Hope, and beautiful woven items from Weavers of Varanasi will also inspire thoughtful and unique giving.

Some of the other many charitable organizations participating with unique gifts available are:  Lexington Food Pantry and MinuteMan Senior Services , Empower Dalit Women of Nepal, Bead for Life, Women’s Gold Shea Butter Project, Sustainable Harvest, Tales from Togo, BasicNeeds US, The Cotting School, Apabil Patchwork, Children’s Books for Africa and City Mission Society. Local dentist Dan Palant will offer his novelty clocks with proceeds benefitting the Lexington Food Pantry. Fine woodworks by Chris Groves will benefit Rosie’s Place, and the Hancock Youth Group will sell baked goods, other delicious food items and refreshments, with earnings going toward their mission trip working with HOMES in rural Kentucky.  Special music will be performed by Hancock’s Early Music Consort, The Joyful Noyse, and the Hearts and Noses Hospital Clown troupe will entertain.

For more information visit:  www.hancockchurch.org/events/hancockholidayfair

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