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Features (Good Living)

Eight activities to keep you busy this summer … and that you can bring indoors when it rains

      Hosts of Memorial Day gatherings pray that the rain gods will stay away. Maybe their prayers will be answered. Or maybe not. So it’s a good idea to have activities that can be moved inside if need be. Best not to use a room with a crystal chandelier or a fish tank. These games can quickly be moved back outside when the sun returns.
 
Cornhole
     Everyone knows this game, though some know it as Bean Bag Toss. Invented in 1883 as a way to bring horseshoes indoors, it uses a gentler missile, bean bags, tossed by players at a slanted board 24 inches away for fun and 27 inches for tournaments. The object is to get your bags onto the board (one point) or in the hole (three points) without spilling your beverage. All ages. https://americancornhole.com
 
Ladder Ball 
     This game turns cornhole on a vertical axis and adds a cowboy lasso! Cowboy Cornhole? You toss a bola — two balls connected by string — at a three-rung ladder. The goal is to wrap your rope around the rungs. The top rung scores one point, the middle scores two points and the bottom three points. All ages; no horses required. https://ladderball.com
 
 
 
Beer Pong
     With or without alcohol, the goal is to toss a ping pong ball into a mug. The Paul Bunyan-style outdoor version uses volleyballs and trashcans. You don’t have to get drunk to play, but it helps in understanding the staggeringly convoluted and regionally diverse rules. https://bpong.com/wsobp
 
Spike Ball
     If volleyball and four-square had a child, it would be named Spike Ball. Slap a lightweight but bouncy plastic ball, a little bigger than a softball, onto a tiny trampoline and wait for the other team to slap it back. Most active of all games mentioned with acrobatic diving for balls. Indoor rules — no diving, play off walls, ceiling out, definitely cover the windows. You can also get Spike Buoy for the pool. https://spikeball.com
 
Kubb
     Pronounced coob — not cub or cube — Kubb is an ancient Scandinavian game nicknamed Viking Chess. First, you take a sword and slice your way through … no wait, that’s not it at all. Actually, you toss wooden batons to knock down an opponent’s wooden army (blocks) and ultimately wooden king. After the Vikings chopped down all the trees, they had to play the game by throwing femur bones at their enemy’s decapitated heads. Talk about a sudden-death playoff. Hugely popular in the Midwest. www.usakubb.org
 
KanJam
     KanJam is Corn Hole for the athletic, combining Frisbee-type tossing with taking out the trash. Throw the disc and hit the can for two points. If your partner deflects the disc and it hits the can, you still get two points. If your partner deflects the disc into the can, you get three points. A smaller version is available for indoor use.  www.kanjam.com
 
Flicken Chicken
     Flicken Chicken is one of the newer old games to come around, chicken tossing being one of the oldest professional sports next to Mongolian dead-goat chucking. You and a partner take turns trying to toss the rubber chicken into the pot. It is harder if the chicken is alive. All ages; no clucking or plucking required.
 
Mini-Foot Golf
     Foot Golf, played outdoors by kicking a soccer ball into a hole, is the second fastest growing game in the nation behind Pickleball. Both games are a little large for indoor play, but mini-foot golf, like putt-putt, will work with a smaller ball that doesn’t leave the ground. Despite the name, you don’t need small feet to play. www.footgolf.us

Can Marie Kondo’s KonMari Method work for you?

      Do you dream of getting organized? Do you own a stack of books on organizing? Have you made attempts to declutter, only to be frustrated? Did you jump for joy when Netflix announced the Tidying Up with Marie Kondo series?
Marie Kondo has made a huge contribution to home organizing, and her concepts can be helpful to people trying to declutter.
 
Everyone needs to be responsible for their own space and things
       This principle doesn’t need adapting. It’s just what the doctor ordered for many households and for the women of the house who take on so much responsibility that planning, purchasing, storing, maintaining cleaning and disposal of all things belongs to her — whether or not she works outside the home. This Kondo rule means everyone learns how to do tasks like folding clothes and putting them away. Ideally, everyone in the household will be happier, having new life skills and an uncluttered house.
 
Keep only items that spark joy
      This one often causes eye rolling and jokes, such as what about my husband?
     Kondo recommends actually holding or touching each item, be it a pair of jeans or a book, and noticing if you have a zing of positive energy. If you have trouble applying this concept, find a few items that you recognize as joyful. Maybe it’s the rocking horse your father made you when you were a tiny child. The tail might be knotted and your teething marks on the ears, but you’ll never part with this.
      Remember: No judgment and no guilt. If the item you are conserving is high on joy, hooray! You have a keeper. If it feels like the opposite of joy, put it in one of these piles: donate, gift, recycle, trash and maybe sell.
 
Organize by category, not by area
      There is much merit to this concept. You can see all that you have in that category at once, and you are making progress toward storing like things in one place where you can find them (as opposed to all over the house).
     Take on areas that cause you the most angst. Does it take hours to get ready for work? Take on your dressing area. Are your kitchen counters so cluttered you are forced to clear a space to chop veggies? Take on the food prep area. Think of areas as the place where you do something, whether it’s office work or relaxing. Make the space work for that purpose.
 
About clothing
     Kondo directs all household members to make a pile of their clothing — all of it. Empty every closet, dresser and storage bin. Kondo wants each of you to be “shocked” at how much clothing you have. Then sort each item of clothing into piles, keepers first, then the other options.
     The goal is to have clothes together by type. All your shirts are hung together. All your socks are in the same drawer. Do you really need all 18 pairs of black slacks?
      I agree, by the way, with focusing more on the keepers and less on the things you are getting rid of. I like to use the word editing instead of purging. Purging feels like a loss; editing feels like enjoying your favorite things more.
     You say you don’t have a day or two (or more) to focus entirely on clothing? Instead, try taking on one storage place at a time, such as the coat closet or the kid’s closet. If you’ve only an hour or so, take a smaller storage area, such as one dresser drawer, and sort it.
 
Fold clothes in drawers so you can see them
      The beauty of this method is that when you open a drawer, you can see everything, and you can remove one item without messing up the others.
      Fold items in thirds lengthwise, then fold the bottom end up about one-third, then roll it up. Place in the appropriate drawer standing on end.
 
Place small boxes inside drawers
      Sorry, Marie, but for dividing up the space in drawers, dividers are the way to go. They leave no unused space and don’t slide around. On shelves, clear plastic bins that you can see into work better.
 
Thank discards for their service
     This one also gets eye rolling and jokes, like, Okay, I’m thanking these old, dirty socks with holes in them.
      Yet there is logic to it. It can help people with emotional attachment to let go of items. It also helps to teach respect for things.
      Kondo, who is Japanese, believes things have life energy, just as plants and animals do. You don’t need to believe this to understand that we all have a responsibility to only purchase things that we really like, need and use. Once we have them in our homes, we should care for them, storing them properly. Once the item is no longer useful or wanted, we should let it go. It does no good to purchase clothing that hangs in the closet, unworn, tags still on, year after year.
 
Thank your home
     To me, the message is to have gratitude, be mindful of what your home does for you and have a vision what your home could be. Work with your home so it supports you in what you want to become and so you are not held back or weighted down by things from your past.
 
 
 
Professional organizer Beth Dumesco has no choice but to live by these principles. She lives aboard her boat, M.Y. Compass Rose, in Tracy’s Landing.

Allison Colden tweaked oyster reef balls to help break up dead zones

      A fiction writer imagining a character destined to become a key figure in Bay oyster restoration could save much time by basing the depiction on real-life Allison Colden, a fisheries scientist with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. 
     From an early age, Colden seemed destined for a role in Bay restoration. Growing up in Virginia Beach, she gravitated to the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center, learning about the Bay and the problems it is facing. She did her undergraduate work at the University of Virginia, majoring in biology while doing field work on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. For her PhD at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (part of William and Mary), she researched how to construct oyster reefs for maximum production. Next, foreshadowing the political aspect of Bay restoration, she spent a year on Capitol Hill as a NOAA fellow for a California congressman, advising on fisheries and natural resources policy. Then, in January of 2017, after a year with a Virginia nonprofit estuary restoration group, she joined the Chesapeake Bay Foundation as a Maryland fisheries scientist specializing in oysters.
     She does some work on other fisheries — notably crabs and striped bass — but most of her time goes to our favorite bivalve.
     “I’ve been fixated on oysters for a long time,” she told me as the 60-foot Foundation workboat Patricia Campbell, moved up the Severn River to begin an oyster restoration experiment.
     “Every research paper I worked on in college turned out to be about oysters. By the time I entered grad school I knew I wanted to work on bringing this important species back.”
     Joining Chesapeake Bay Foundation gave her opportunity for hands-on science. “As much as I respect and admire my academic colleagues, I realized it took more than publishing papers to effect change,” she said. 
      Now an Annapolitan, she’s never far from the Bay.
      “Every day my husband and I take our Australian terrier Bismarck on a walk along Back Creek,” she said. “Being able to work for positive change is important to me as a citizen of the Chesapeake Bay watershed.” 
 
Hands-on in the Field
      In April 2018, the Patricia Campbell was underway to drop concrete reef balls into the Severn River to test one of Colden’s oyster-directed hypotheses: Could “man-made oyster reefs with vertical structure agitate currents and break up dead zones?”
     It’s long been known that weather can affect dead zones; turbulent weather stirs up the water column, distributing oxygen-rich waters throughout. Could added structures do the stirring?
      The hope was this stirring would mix the oxygen-rich water on the surface with the oxygen-depleted water on the bottom, thus lessening the dreaded dead zones that plague our waterways every summer.
     These vertical structures were concrete half-balls about two feet across. The ship’s crane easily lifted the 240-pound balls and precisely placed them about a mile up from the Route 50 bridge in an area known as the Winchester Lump.
     This experiment was about water stirring, but reef balls make good oyster habitat, too. So why not try to grow more oysters at the same time? The balls were preloaded at the Foundation Oyster Restoration Center in Shady Side with almost a million oyster spat. An instrument pod to measure certain key water parameters, like stirring, was also lowered to the bottom. The pod was to be retrieved in a few weeks. In the fall, Colden and the team of scientists would return to the new reef to check on the progress of the oyster spat.
 
Murphy’s Law
      Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. Who hasn’t experienced it?
      In the biological and environmental sciences, Murphy’s Law can call on the forces of nature to humble up even the best-planned experiment. In this case, it was the record-breaking rain. All that fresh water pouring down lowers the salt content of Bay water. Fish can swim to areas of higher salinity. Oysters don’t have that luxury; they can be stunted or die if the water isn’t salty enough.
      The deluges also had other effects. Freshwater sitting on top of saltier water creates a boundary that discourages mixing of the water column, exacerbating dead zones. There was also a significant algae bloom, a mahogany tide, in the river this summer. Such blooms cause dead zones.
       The reef ball instruments recorded a four percent increase in mixing of the water column due to the reef balls. Still, the effect on the biology of the river was less clear; Colden suspected the algae and the fresh water would greatly affect the ecosystem of the river.
      To get the final word on that, she would have to wait for the return trip to the reef balls.
 
Return to Winchester Lump
      The April trip to place the reef balls had been a pleasant day on the water; the trip in late November to check the progress of the oysters was anything but. After several delays due to gale warnings and rain, the day of the trip was cold and cloudy. The only person who seemed properly dressed for the weather was the dry-suit-clad diver who would attach lines and floats to the submerged reef balls so they could be hauled up and examined.
       The balls emerged from their seven-month soak yielding expected but still disappointing news. There was plenty of life on the balls, but no oysters; rain and algae had done them in.
       All was not lost, however. The concrete was covered with false mussels. These are also filter feeders, which contribute to water quality, but they tend to be transient. Also present were worms and hydroids, a colonial animal like coral. We even found a naked goby fish.
      “We showed the reef balls can increase water column mixing and can decrease dead zones,” Colden explained in our followup interview. “We also learned that water depth matters, and in the future we might want to try the technique with a shallower bottom. We also learned that even with a low-oxygen, low-salinity environment, we can have life. It’s just different life.”

Clear your calendar for these holiday traditions

What: The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
       Cool Factor: Feeling apprehensive about dragging your entire family out to a holiday theatre performance? Take our advice and bring them all to see the seasonal antics of the Herdman family in this production of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, based on the book by Barbara Robinson. These delinquent children somehow end up center stage at the local church Christmas pageant and teach their community a little something about the magic of the holiday. Even better for your family, it’s free.
       See It: Dec. 6-9, 7pm, Woods Memorial Presbyterian Church, Severna Park, free: 410-647-2550.
 
What: Colonial Players’ A Christmas Carol
      Cool Factor: The spirit of Christmas is the wonder in a child’s eyes when Scrooge talks to her waiting in line with parents for a ticket to Colonial Players’ Annapolis holiday tradition, A Christmas Carol. It’s another child’s giddy excitement when Ebenezer pulls him from the audience to dance as he joyfully transforms from cold-hearted humbug to warm, genial benefactor.
         In 1981, local actor/director Rick Wade tinkered with a musical adaptation of Charles Dickens’s classic. When Colonial Players offered to stage it, according to Wade, “More than a few people thought it would quietly fizzle out as a one-year experiment. Annapolitans, bless ’em, took the play to their hearts.”
      Speaking of tradition, Wade’s daughter Sarah directs this year’s production, after growing up with the show in several roles over the years. She leads a cast of more than 20: Scrooge, Bob Cratchit, Tiny Tim, Fezziwig, the townsfolk, the ghosts.
      The gifts don’t stop with the final performance. A large portion of the proceeds goes to local charities so the spirit of the season can reach beyond December.
       See It: Dec. 6-16; tickets are sold out, but standby tickets are offered first-come-first-served 30 minutes prior to each show: www.thecolonialplayers.org.
 
What: Muddy Creek Gifts From the Arts
        Cool Factor: See the creative wonders artists in Southern Anne Arundel County — including art teachers and their elementary school students — have imagined and made. Then use their inspiration to create your own art in the Studio Intrepid. The holiday show and sale features original paintings, photography, jewelry, pottery, glass, woodwork, wearables and raffles for arty baskets and student masterpieces.
       See It: F 11am-6pm, Sa 10am-6pm, Su 11am-5pm thru Dec. 9, 161 Mitchells Chance, South River Colony, Edgewater, free: www.muddycreekartistsguild.org.
 
What: Living Christmas Tree
       Cool Factor: For more than 30 years, Riverdale Baptist Church has celebrated the season with a 30-foot-tall living Christmas tree decorated with thousands of synchronized lights plus 70-some human ornaments: choir, orchestra and a heart-warming play, all rising 10 levels on a wooden platform to spread the good news. Come early to see the live nativity. 
       See It: Dec. 8 & 9: Sa 1:30pm & 6:30pm, Su 1:30pm, Riverdale Baptist Church, Upper Marlboro, $12 w/discounts, rsvp: www.livingtreetickets.com.
 
 
What: Lighted Boat Parades
       Cool Factor: Chesapeake Country loves showing off its boats, and decorating them for the holidays is a good excuse to get back on the water, even on a chilly night. See boats of all sizes and shapes in Eastport, Deale and Solomons. The Eastport parade has been nominated for the third time as one of the USA Today 10 Best Readers Choice Holiday Parades in America.
       See It: Saturday, December 8, Eastport Yacht Club Lights Parade: Lighting the Annapolis harbor for 36 years, this glittering parade features nearly 40 illuminated boats in two fleets: one circles in front of Eastport, City Dock and the Naval Academy seawall; the other cruises the length of Spa Creek. Arrive early for a spot along the Annapolis waterfront. 6-8pm, from Eastport Yacht Club to Naval Academy seawall: www.eyclightsparade.org.
        Saturday, December 8, Solomons Boat Parade: This lighted boat parade, part of the weekend’s Christmas Walk activities, starts at 6:15pm, visible from Back Creek to the Patuxent River walk: www.solomonsmaryland.com.
       Wednesday, December 19, Deale Parade of Lights: Decorated boats cruise Rockhold Creek. 6-10pm, staging at Hidden Harbor Marina, Happy Harbor and Shipwright Harbor ­Marina, rsvp to enter boats: 410-867-3129.
 
What: Shells & Bells
       Cool Factor: Sleigh bells and oyster shells: Christmas has come to Annapolis.
      Celebrate the season at Shells and Bells a party with front-row seats to the Eastport Yacht Club’s Parade of Lights. You’ll watch the twinkling procession from the comfort of a heated tent on the top tier of the Annapolis Charles Carroll House.
      “There’s so much to look forward to,” said Kaitlin Davis from Shells and Bells. “But the best part is, it’s for a great cause.” 
       Proceeds from ticket sales, live auction and raffle benefit the Chesapeake BaySavers, an Annapolis environmental nonprofit working toward a healthier Chesapeake Bay.
      The Shells and Bells reception begins with cocktail hour 5-6pm for donors and VIPs. After that, the doors open to all ticket holders.
       All drinks and food are included in the price of your ticket. 
      See It: Dec. 8, 6-10pm, Charles Carroll House & Gardens, Annapolis, $125, rsvp: www.shellsandbells.org.
 
What: Family Train & Toy Show
      Cool Factor: See networks of trains and tracks, old and new sets and accessories in standard O and S gauges, repair and replacement parts and test tracks, all laid out by The National Capital Division Toy Train Operating Society.
      See It: Dec. 9, 9am-3pm, Earleigh Heights VFD, Severna Park, $5 w/discounts: 301-621-9728.
 
What: Holiday Cheer 2018
       Cool Factor: Kids and teens steal the show with musical numbers and special guests in The Talent Machine’s annual holiday production, featuring special guests Santa, elves, Rudolph and Frosty.
      “After 25 years, we are excited to be showcasing a brand new set,” says The Talent Machine’s Kim O’Brien.
      “Expect something close to a Broadway-level show,” says Tami Howie, lawyer by day and parent of three Talent Machine performers. “The older kids mentor the younger ones and take them from being timid to becoming a huge personality.”
       See It: Dec. 14-16 & Dec. 20-23: F 7:30pm, Sa 2pm & 7:30pm, Su 2pm & 6:30pm, Key Auditorium, St. John’s College, Annapolis, $15 w/discounts, rsvp: www.talentmachine.com.
 
What: Santa Speedo Run 
       Cool Factor: Baby, it’s cold outside, and Chesapeake Country is trading coats for Speedos.
      The 12th annual Santa Speedo Run is a chilly Main Street tradition to spread holiday cheer to local children in need. Since 2006, hundreds of Santas in speedos have donated more than 5,000 toys and books to make kids smile during the holidays.
      Along with your unwrapped toys, bring your sneakers, swimsuit, a bag to put your clothes in while running, a copy of your registration email and other Santa Claus gear.
      Doors open at 10am at O’Briens on Main Street. Run or watch from the sidelines. After the mile run, the after party begins at O’Briens. Enjoy live music, crazy costumes, and maybe even the fellow in red himself …
      Pro tip: wear your Speedo under your street clothes for a quick strip down when it’s time to run. Register early to be guaranteed a spot.
      See It: Saturday, December 15, toy donation box sets up at 10am, check-in 10-11am, race 12:15pm, Annapolis, rsvp: www.santaspeedorunannapolis.com.
 
 
What: Christmas Cantata at Grace Brethren
      Cool Factor: Looking to rekindle your feelings of hope this holiday season? Find it at this musical celebration that combines choir, orchestra, soloists, praise band and video to create a musical journey of the miracle of Christmas.
      “We chose this upbeat, contemporary musical to lift our spirits as we consider the wonders of the Christmas season and the joy that fills our hearts as we reflect on God’s provision for us,” says John Bury, worship director. “During the 10:45am service we will also offer a special time for our children grades 1-4, as they also seek to experience the joy of this special season.”
      See It: Dec. 16, 8:15am & 10:45am, Grace Brethren Church, Owings, free: www.calvertgrace.org.
 
What: Annapolis Arts Alliance Holiday Shop
      Cool Factor: Visit a pop-up shop in downtown Annapolis, where 20 artists of the Annapolis Arts Alliance bring their wares to you for your holiday browsing (and buying). Jewelry and accessories, ceramics, herbalistics, paintings, homeware, wearables.
      See It: Tu, W, F noon-7pm (till midnight during Midnight Madness events), Sa 10am-7pm, Su noon-7pm, thru Dec. 23, 232 Main St., Annapolis: www.annapolis-arts-alliance.com.
 
What: Lights on the Bay
      Cool Factor: An annual Chesapeake favorite, Lights on the Bay is now under the helm of the Anne Arundel County SPCA. “This event is a tradition for generations of families. Children who once went with their grandparents, now go with their own kids,” says Anne Arundel County SPCA president Kelly Brown. See Sandy Point State Park transformed into a drive-thru holiday experience. New displays are added every year, and many marriage proposals happen here. Check the website for special discount nights, such as Military and First Responder Night, Ugly Sweater Night and more.
      See It: Nightly 5-10pm rain or shine, thru Jan. 1: Sandy Point State Park, $15/car, $30/van or mini-bus, $50/bus (check online for various discounts): www.lightsonthebay.org.
 
 
–Kathy Knotts, Shelby Conrad, Krista Pfunder Boughey and Jim Reiter
The Anne Arundel Food Bank’s new face looks to get the ­non-profit new space
      No one has ever become poor by giving.
–Anne Frank
 
        Susan Thomas is breaking in some new shoes, walking a path blazed by Food Bank founder Bruce Michalec. 
       Thirteen years ago, Thomas volunteered at the Anne Arundel County Food Bank. Two months into her new position, Michalec ran into health problems. He needed help.
      Eager to give back to the community, Thomas stepped up to learn the ropes from the creator himself. 
      Thomas, though, is no stranger to charitable work.
      She started as a teenager, volunteering as a candy striper at North Arundel Hospital. She also volunteered with Happy Helpers for the Homeless around the holidays. 
      She took notice of the Food Bank and volunteered to answer the phones. One month later, she was offered a job.
       “At the time, the staff consisted of four employees: a driver, bookkeeper, administrative assistant and executive director,” Thomas reminisces. “It was a very close group, and I really liked being part of a team that made a difference in someone’s life.”
       Thomas’s involvement steadily grew, as she added grant writing and bookkeeping to her responsibilities.
      “This is a unique job,” Thomas says. “I knew the harder I worked, the more people we would be able to assist and the more services we would be able to offer.”
       When Michalec retired in January after 30 years of service, he passed the baton to Thomas.
       Her first few months were fraught with troubles. For 14 years, the Anne Arundel County Food Bank worked out of the old Crownsville Hospital kitchen. The sprawling building had plenty of storage and massive freezers to keep perishable food — perfect for a growing pantry. However, their tenancy was uncertain. Then, the roof caved in.
      “We’ve had volunteers come out to patch the roof from time to time,” Thomas says. “But these buildings are very old. We don’t want to spend $100,000 for a new roof.”
       Thomas now has another reason to hold off on the roof repairs: The hospital grounds are for sale. 
      The Chesapeake Bayhawks have their sights set on that property. The Annapolis-based, semi-professional men’s lacrosse team is making moves to turn the grounds into a new stadium with parking and practice fields. Thomas says the Bayhawks are still willing to grandfather the Food Bank into its design plans. But that will take too long.
      “There’s no reason to wait,” Thomas says. “Our goal is to remain on the hospital grounds — but build a whole new space.” 
      They’ll need the room. Last year, the Food Bank handed out more than 260,000 pounds of food. 
      To get the building they need, Thomas is working with the state for a mix of grants and capital bonds. In combination with fundraising, they’ll need government help.
      Thomas hopes that the state will give a 100-year lease on the Crownsville hospital property. She’ll need a senator and delegate to back the plan; who depends on the November elections. Once she’s got backing, she’ll need to meet with Gov. Larry Hogan.
       Of the old building, Stuart Cohen, three-year volunteer truck driver for the Food Bank, says, “we are definitely lucky to have it. But it’s a huge undertaking to maintain. It’s not built for constant truck traffic, either.” 
      Christine Pokorny, a long-time volunteer at the Food Bank, looks forward to keeping up with “growing need in Anne Arundel County. A new space will make us much more effective,” she says.
       Part of growing with the times, Pokorny says, is Thomas herself. “I was really happy when Susan took over,” the volunteer says. “She has a terrific vision for the future, and she wants to try to reach new people in new ways.”
       With a brand new building, Thomas and her team would finally be able to focus on their programs and community — rather than struggling to keep a roof over their heads. 
 
A Remarkable Time
      “This is a really remarkable time,” says Anne Arundel Food Bank Chairman J.J. Fegan. 
       In the nine years Fegan, a local realtor, has led the board, he’s seen demand surge through the Food Bank’s sliding doors.
       “We live in one of the richest counties in one of the wealthiest states in America,” Fegan says. “Too many kids are going to school hungry, and I want to help give back.”
      Michalec felt the same. 
      A champion of charity, Michalec spent more than 30 years building what is now the Anne Arundel County Food Bank and a community around it. 
       The operation began inside a church with Michalec distributing a small federal surplus of food to families in need. Over time, he expanded the Food Bank into a countywide program that gives away more than $1.25 million in food annually. 
       As well as food, people needed resources. Ever responsive, Michalec rose to the need. 
      “Every time I gave away a bed or a wheelchair,” Michalec told Bay Weekly in 2014, “it was like giving people food because they would have been using food money to buy it otherwise.”
      The expanded Anne Arundel County Food and Resource Bank remains the only free place to go for food and other resources like appliances, furniture, medical equipment, nutritional supplements, personal hygiene products and even vehicles.
        Expansion has meant more programs. So far this year, Thomas has given out 150 bicycles to underprivileged kids. 
       Thomas’ team has broadened its Backpack Buddies program. They used to help almost 1,500 students by sending home backpacks full of food for the weekend. Now they assist more than 5,000 kids. 
       Individual donations, mostly through food drives, account for about 20 percent of the quarter-million pounds of food distributed by the bank to individuals, families and food pantries throughout the county. “The remainder,” Thomas says, “we receive through partnerships with local stores and Feeding America vendors.”
       With greater need and the prospect for a new space, more volunteers will be needed. The Food Bank already gets some help from correctional center work programs. Thomas has three to five inmates who help with daily packing and moving. She gets helpers from the Anne Arundel County Volunteer Center and United Way of Central Maryland. But with growing need comes greater responsibility. 
      More volunteers are needed right now, Thomas says, because the Food Bank is “headed into our busy season.” The back-to-school rush begins this hectic period, which grows into Thanksgiving food drives, then holiday gift donations.
      “We’re growing and we’re adapting. We’ve got this new power at our disposal, and we can use it to give more to our community than ever before,” Thomas says of the future.
      Drop off donations Monday to Friday from 9am to 3pm at the Food Bank. For large donations or to become a volunteer, call the office: 410-923-4255, 120 Marbury Dr., Crownsville, www.aafoodbank.org.

Unique charity helps locals adopt a child and support a widow

      Kadee Corley waits for her phone to ring. The call she expects will change her life, and the lives of her husband Bryan and their seven-year-old son Bryce. Forever.
       They are waiting to hear if the next member of their family is ready to come home. To Odenton. From Bulgaria.
      “We struggled trying to get pregnant with our first child, and after three miscarriages we finally had our beautiful son,” says Kadee.
      Two years later, they discovered Kadee had premature ovarian failure.
       The Corleys began the arduous process of adoption over a year ago.
“We decided to adopt from ­Bulgaria since the process is pretty quick compared to domestic adoptions,” Kadee explained. “Once a match is made, it is just a month or two later that we get to bring a child home.”
       Still, piles of paperwork stand between the Corleys and their new child.
“We have done the home study, filled out all the papers, but now we are dealing with lots of tiny technicalities in the records,” Kadee says.
       On top of the waiting, the Corleys are also feeling adoption’s financial pinch.       They have spent nearly $40,000, refinanced their house, then turned to their community for help.
      “This is our journey as a family,” Kadee says. “It felt really strange to be asking people for money to bring our child home to us.”
       The family wanted to raise money by doing something with a purpose. Online, they found a nonprofit organization called The Both Hands Project. 
      “It was a perfect fit,” Kadee says. 
      Both Hands helps adoptive families raise funds to cover expenses; the familes, in turn, agree to help a widow in need. A family gathers a team of volunteers and Both Hands coaches them to coordinate a service project fixing up a widow’s home. The family and their team also send letters out to raise sponsorship for their day of service. Those funds support the adoption.
       Once the Corleys had their how, they had to find a who.
       “A lot of people thought it was a scam. They couldn’t believe that someone was volunteering to do all this hard work for them for nothing in return,” Kadee says.
       Eventually they found Mary ­Hellman of Deale. 
      “She was under our nose the whole time,” Kadee says. “We initially asked her daughter, who is also a widow, if we could help her, and she sent us straight to her mother instead.”
      The Corleys gathered a group of 25 volunteers, donated supplies and all the elbow grease they could muster to spend 12 hours on an April Saturday working on Hellman’s house and yard.
       Kadee enumerates a long list of projects:
      “We repainted her living room, foyer and dining room; put new shingles on the roof, which was damaged from a recent wind storm; built a ramp and added electricity to her shed; built a new front porch, replaced deck railing and painted the entire back porch; repainted the exterior trim of the house and shed; weeded, mulched and planted an entire garden in front of the house, cleaned out planter boxes and filled them with donated flowers and plants.
      “We filled an entire dumpster of debris,” she says. “We even repurposed some of her late waterman husband’s belongings into décor so she could keep those memories of him.”
       Hellman has, in turn, grown close to the Corley family.
      The Corleys still need to raise $12,000 to completely cover the adoption costs, so their project is still seeking donations: www.bothhands.org/corley-403.

Like their owners, wooden boats don’t live forever. But the 1948 Trumpy yacht Counterpoint survives piece by salvaged piece

      The Trumpy yacht Counterpoint waited dry-docked at Herrington Harbor North for the right person to come along and shine her up, clean her decks and splash her into the water again. That person would have to match the dedication and vision of her former owner, William Watkins, who passed away in 2015.
      As wooden boat enthusiasts know, caring for a ship like this is equal parts passion, grueling work and money. They agree, nonetheless, that wooden boats deserve a second chance at life. Not all can be returned to their original state, but all deserve to be repurposed and reimagined to earn a new kind of glory.
       Wooden boats seem to have a soul, a passion of their own that infects their keepers. Maybe it’s the way the hull groans and hums when it races through changing waters. Maybe it’s the satisfaction of seeing the clouds reflected in a perfectly varnished piece of teak. Whatever it is, wooden boats embody nostalgia.
      With their unmistakable flared bows that gently pull the water away from the boat as they glide along the Bay, Trumpy yachts are remarkable examples of desire for another time. Or, in the case of the Watkins family and Counterpoint, more time. 
 
Another Time
     John J. Trumpy & Sons moved from Gloucester City, N.J., to Annapolis in 1947. The Trumpy yacht yard sat where Charthouse Restaurant now serves its fare on Second Street in the Eastport neighborhood of Annapolis.
       Originally built for Francis V. DuPont in 1948, Counterpoint featured the flared bow of Trumpy yachts that allowed for a smoother ride through choppy waters. Its double-hull construction promised both longevity and durability. Teak decking and mahogany planking combined with brass hardware and chrome instruments made this stylish boat fit for the family that commissioned it and a worthy dream for a lover of the Bay. 
      Eventually the 58-foot yacht was purchased by William Watkins, a Marylander whose life always seemed to lead him back to the water. As a young boy, Watkins would head down to the Colchester section of Baltimore and watch the ships. 
      At 17, Watkins convinced his parents to let him join the Navy. In World War II’s Pacific theater, he served on the destroyer escort Abercrombie, which provided support during attacks on the Philippines and Okinawa.
      Returning from the war, Watkins went on to be a mariner for Standard Oil. Later he owned the Forest Inn in Reisterstown, a restaurant renowned for its crab cakes. Patrons could charter the restaurant’s boat, Freedom II. This 46-foot fishing boat with central air soon became a favorite of industry leaders in East Baltimore and reinvigorated Watkins’ passion for being on the water. 
 
Soul Mate
      Counterpoint joined Watkins’s small fleet in 1974. Berthing her at the Trumpy yacht house in Annapolis, he managed to keep the purchase a secret from his wife for nearly two years, before Charlie Satchell, who ran the boathouse, let the truth slip during a phone call. When Watkins’ wife Barbara answered and denied that the boat was theirs, the jig was up.
      “Counterpoint was his mistress,” explained son Scott Watkins in a phone interview. “She was representative of a time when things were done with style and beauty and had a story. Boats have a soul, and she was my father’s soulmate.”
      Diagnosed with leukemia, Barbara died when she was 43. Her passing left Watkins responsible for the restaurant and raising the kids. Counterpoint became a refuge. 
      As the years passed, time took its toll on boat and owner. Watkins continued to work on the boat for as long as he was able, but when the maintenance grew too difficult and costly, Watkins decided to haul the boat out, still holding on to the hope that he — or someone — might restore her. 
       Counterpoint was towed from her berth with her 83-year-old master on a misty, bitter March morning in 2012. “It was like seeing two old institutions,” Scott said, “sailing for the last time together.” It took nearly 24 hours to deliver the boat to its new home at Herrington Harbour North Marina. 
       Watkins died in 2015 at the age of 85. Counterpoint decayed in place.
       “Over the years, the Watkins family and Herrington Harbour North pursued virtually every avenue to find someone who wanted to restore Counterpoint,” said Herrington’s Hamilton Chaney. 
 
One More Time
      Salvage became the best and, Chaney says, “the only option to save a part of this important piece of maritime history.”
      Piece by piece, Watkins’ Counterpoint has been dismantled. Thus far, nearly all of the mahogany planking from the hull’s stern and starboard has been salvaged as well as 25 pounds of screws, two five-blade propellers, both rudders and a companionway in need of a little cleaning. 
     “It’s a good compromise,” said Scott Watkins of the fate of his father’s beloved Counterpoint. “Boats like her are a representation of the soul and history of the region. It’s so necessary that they aren’t forgotten.”

Our heritage, our legacy

      Anne Arundel County’s celebration of Maryland Day, officially March 25, shifts to a hopefully sunnier, warmer weekend this year.
      April 6 thru 8, we celebrate our shared stake in the territory and body politic planted 384 years ago on March 25, 1634, when Lord Baltimore’s colonists made land on a tiny island in a big river in an unknown world: Maryland Day.
      Friday thru Sunday, honor the anniversary of our state by visiting historical and cultural sites in the Four Rivers Heritage Area and across Anne Arundel County. Many activities are free or only $1. 
 
Annapolis Drum and Bugle Corps 
at Susan Campbell Park
Start off Maryland Day with a spirit-lifting flag raising ceremony by the award-winning USNA League Cadets of the Training Ship Mercedes, with music by the Annapolis Drum and Bugle Corps.
Saturday, April 7, 10am, City Dock, Annapolis
 
Annapolis in 100 Memorials
Celebrate Maryland Day with a 2.1-mile walk thru the Historic District with lifelong Annapolitan and experienced Watermark guide Squire Richard. Today’s journey, highlighting 11 local monuments, was inspired by a 1997 conference that brought conservators of outdoor monuments to Annapolis. Tour follows flag ceremony.
Saturday, April 7, 10:30am, Susan Campbell Park, City Dock
 
Annapolis Maritime Museum
Many of the oysters we eat are Made in Maryland. Learn how oysters go from creek to plate with hands-on activities, crafts for kids and Chesapeake critters. 
April 6-8, 11am-3pm, 723 Second St.
 
Anne Arundel County Farmers Market
Anne Arundel County’s oldest farmers market is year round. Browse and buy products that local farmers and producers grow, make or produce: fruit, veggies, meats, cheese, eggs, plants, soap, honey, flowers, baked goods, jams, jelly, herbs, furniture, milk, yogurt, butter, ready-made food and more — all Made in Maryland. 
April 7-8, Sa 7am-noon, Su 10am-1pm, 275 Truman Pkwy., Annapolis
 
Banneker Douglass Museum
Learn how African Americans throughout Maryland from 1633 to the present made lasting changes for all in the exhibit Deep Roots, Rising Waters. Also new at the museum: artist Ulysses Marshall’s exhibit Bent But Not Broken: An Artistic Celebration of the Spirit and Legacy of Frederick Douglass.
April 6-8, 10am-4pm, 84 Franklin St., Annapolis
 
Brewer Hill Cemetery
Take guided tours and learn more about the people interred here, including city and county founders, casualties of the Revolutionary and Civil wars and members of the African-American community. Learn about research and preservation efforts. Descendants please bring photos, Bible records and oral histories for a memorial website.
Saturday, April 7, tours on the hour 11am-4pm, 802 West St., Annapolis
 
Charles Carroll House 
Explore this grand old home, an essentially intact 18th-century property in the historic district. Charles Carroll of Carrollton was the most famous of the many generations of Carrolls who resided here. The family played a major role in the framing of the governance of Maryland and the emerging United States. Charles was one of four Marylanders to sign the Declaration of Independence and was the only Roman Catholic signer. He and wife Mary ‘Molly’ Darnall were given ownership of the house as a wedding present. Charles lived to be 96, leaving the house to his daughter Mary Caton and four Caton granddaughters.
April 7-8, noon-4pm, 107 Duke of Gloucester St., Annapolis
 
Chesapeake Bay Foundation
Tour the Phillip Merrill Environmental Center, the world’s first LEED Platinum building and home to state offices, an educational center and a popular event venue. 
Saturday, April 7, 11am, 6 Herndon Ave., Annapolis
 
Chesapeake Children’s Museum
Play all day in the museum and meet live animals, travel the seven seas on a 10-foot boat, dress up and perform on stage, shop at a Columbian street market or take a stroll on the creekside nature trail (10am-4pm). Saturday, hear the Fantasy Players, a group of young touring musicians playing covers of rock classics as well as original music (2-4pm). Sunday, bring a picnic for the outdoor setting of a retelling of the traditional west African tale of Leopard’s Drum (6pm); make a drum or shaker or bring your own to join the rhythm circle with the Performing Arts Center of African Cultures.
April 7-8, 10am-4pm, 25 Silopanna Rd., Annapolis, $1
 
Deale Area Historical Society
Get a glimpse into rural life in the late 1800s to early 1900s by visiting a two-room home, one-room schoolhouse, an African-American beneficial society building, an outhouse, a tobacco barn, a Russian Orthodox chapel and other smaller buildings essential to life in the country. Docents on hand to answer questions about the time period. 
Sunday, April 8, 1-4pm, 389 Deale Dr., Tracy’s Landing
 
Galesville Heritage Society
Over 350 years of history of colonists, slaves, mariners and merchants enrich this seaside village. John Murray Colhoun — a direct descendent of the village’s Puritan founders, 12th generation farmer and owner of Ivy Neck Farm — presents the Freeing of the Ivy Neck and Tulip Hill Slaves at Memorial Hall (2pm, 952 Main St). Learn about the court battle that followed Colhoun’s great-great-great-grandfather James Cheston Sr.’s will, in 1843,which freed 77 slaves upon his death. Light refreshments served at the Galesville Heritage Museum follow the presentation.
Sunday, April 8, 1-4pm, 988 Main St., Galesville
 
Greenstreet Gardens
Join a seminar on planting and growing Maryland Native Plants with special guest Tony Dove. Special discounts on native plants. 
Saturday, April 7, 11am, 391 Bay Front Rd., Lothian
 
Hammond-Harwood House
The 1774 house is a fine example of Anglo-Palladian architecture. The museum collection features paintings, furniture and decorative arts from the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Social history of the time covers family life, the enslaved people who worked at the house and Annapolis traditions. 30-minute guided Mansion tours, 1pm, 2pm & 3pm, limited to 20 guests (first come, first served); gardens open for free.
Saturday, April 7, noon-4pm, 19 Maryland Ave., ­Annapolis, $1 tours
 
Historic Annapolis Museum
Explore the exhibit Freedom Bound: Runaways of the Chesapeake, an exhibit of videos, audios, historic artifacts, runaway advertisements from 1728 to 1864 and hands-on activities to convey the defeats and triumphs nine real men and women experienced in their struggle for freedom.
April 7-8, Sa 10am-4pm, Su noon-4pm, 999 Main St.
 
Historic Annapolis Hogshead 
Consider the working class life of 18th century Annapolis with historic interpreters and hands-on activities.
April 7-8, noon-4pm, 43 Pinkney St., Annapolis
 
Historic Annapolis William Paca House & Garden
Saturday, make and take Made in Maryland crafts. Sunday, celebrate the marriage of Julianna Jennings and James Brice in 1781 and meet living history interpreters.
April 7-8, Sa 10am-4pm, Su noon-4pm, 186 Prince George St., Annapolis, $1
 
Historic London Town & Gardens
Friday, enjoy a special Hard Cider talk and tasting with Faulkner Branch Cidery & Distilling Co. (7pm, $45 w/discounts). Saturday and Sunday, try your hand at chopping wood and making rope and talk old times with costumed interpreters, smell fresh hearth colonial-style cooking, buy handmade furniture from a master carpenter and explore the gardens; kids dress up in colonial-style clothes. 
April 6-8, 10ama-4:30pm, Edgewater, $1
 
Homestead Gardens
Learn the ins and outs of raising backyard chickens in Maryland, from space and time requirements to the needed supplies. Take a coop tour and watch the Me & My Chicken Photo contest prize presentation with the Anne Arundel County Poultry Princess Olivia Velthuis; kids play in the open corral.
Saturday, April 7, 10am-3pm, Davidsonville & Severna Park
 
Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts
The 9th annual ArtFest Open House brings creative fun to all ages with performances, art demonstrations, hands-on projects, community art and gallery events. Events include children’s drama and theater showcase, monoprinting, digital photo booth, pottery wheel demo, glass fusing demo, printmaking demos, drawing and painting demos, Ballet Theater of Maryland showcase, belly dancing showcase and workshops, woodturning demo, yoga and tai chi demos, hip hop/tap and ballroom dancing demos, food trucks and free ice cream, cow tails, caramel creams and popcorn.
Sunday, April 8, 1-4pm, 801 Chase St., Annapolis
 
Maryland State House
Tour the oldest state capitol in continuous legislative use, explore the history made here and see exhibits, including historical portraits and paintings by Charles Willson Peale. Maryland is the only statehouse ever to have served as the nation’s capitol. The General Assembly is in session Saturday; view the proceedings, space permitting.
April 6-8, 9am-5pm, 100 State Circle, Annapolis, (bring photo ID)
 
Scenic Rivers Land Trust
Take a 2.5- to 4-mile hike through the history-rich setting of the Bacon Ridge Natural Area to discover how humans and nature have interacted to create this landscape, while enjoying the beauty of a 900+ acre protected forest; unpaved wooded trail, leashed dogs welcome. 
Saturday, April 7, 12:30pm (rsvp: www.srlt.org), Hawkins Rd. trailhead (south of I-97 overpass), Crownsville
 
Visit Annapolis and Anne Arundel Co.
Get expert help and maps for your Maryland Day adventures.
April 6-8, 9am-5pm, 26 West St. and City Dock 
Information Booth, Annapolis
 
Shuttle ’round Annapolis, Free
April 6-8: The Annapolis Circulator bus runs every 20 minutes, making a loop on West St., Duke of Gloucester St., Compromise St., Main St. and Church Circle. Flag down the bus or look for designated stops along the route. This service stops at all city parking garages. 
Saturday April 7: Ride site to site on Towne Transport’s shuttle. From 10am to 5pm, the trolley makes an hour-long loop from Visit Annapolis at 26 West St. to the Maryland State House Lawyer’s Mall at College Ave., and back, stopping at nine sites along the way. 
https://marylandday.org/free-transportation-schedules

Pysanky, the jewel-like Ukrainian eggs, keep the world in balance

     As an American of Ukrainian heritage, Coreen Weilminster cherishes the Easter traditions with which she was raised. Especially when it comes to the ancient art of pysanky, eggs decorated using a wax-resist method similar to batik. In design, in legend and in Christian tradition, these eggs have kept alive a gentle folk art reflecting the Ukrainian nation.
     “I grew up in the anthracite region of northeastern Pennsylvania, in a one-horse town called Nesquehoning,” explains Weilminster, 47, of her legacy. “Immigrants flocked to the area just before World War I to work the mines, among them my grandmother’s family.” With them came pysanky.
       The term pysanka (in its plural form, pysanky) is derived from the Ukrainian words pysaty, meaning to write, and kraska, meaning color. The process is delicate, the product dazzling. A special tool called a kitska — basically, a funnel attached to a stick — is first heated over a candle flame and then filled with beeswax, which quickly melts. Using the molten wax as ink, one writes (as Ukrainians say) a design on a raw egg, then dips the egg in dye. The dying can be repeated in darker colors, each round of wax sealing a different color on the shell. In the final stage, the wax is removed to reveal the finished pysanka.
      Weilminster’s grandmother came from a family of 13 children. During the Lenten weeks prior to Easter, three of her sisters (Weilminster’s great-aunts) spent evenings in the kitchen crafting jewel-like pysanky. It was a magical time. From watching these women, Weilminster learned the process. At the age of 16, she was ready. She picked up a kitska and created her first egg. 
      A pysanky artist was born.
 
The Power of the Egg
       Since pagan times, the tradition of decorating eggs with beeswax and dyes was widespread in Europe, especially among Slavic peoples. Archaeologists have unearthed ceramic decorated eggs in Ukraine dating back to 1,300bce. Many pysanky made today feature motifs adapted from the pottery designs of an ancient tribe of people, the Trypillians, who lived in Eastern Europe from roughly 5,200 to 3,500bce. References to pysanky abound in their art, poetry, music and folklore.
      Trypillians led peaceful lives as farmers and artisans. Like most early humans, they worshipped the sun as the source of all life. In the land that is now Ukraine, eggs decorated with symbols from nature became central to spring rituals and sun-worship ceremonies. The logic was simple. The yolk of an egg symbolized the sun and its white the moon. In winter, the landscape appears lifeless, as does an egg. As an egg hatches a living thing, so the sun awakens dormant fields in spring. Thus the egg was considered a benevolent talisman with magical powers, able to protect and bring good fortune. 
      Legend says the first pysanky came from the sky. A bitter winter had swept across the land before migrating birds were able to fly southward. They began to fall to the ground and were in danger of freezing. The peasants gathered the birds, brought them into their homes and nurtured them throughout the winter. Come spring, the peasants set the birds free. The birds returned bearing pysanky as gifts for the humans who saved their lives.
     In early Ukraine, a veil of superstition enshrouded pysanky. They protected from fire, lightning, illness and the evil eye. To ensure a good crop, a farmer coated an egg in green oats and buried it in his field. For a good harvest of honey, he placed eggs beneath his beehives. For a plentiful fruit harvest, he hung blown eggs in his orchards and in trees surrounding his home. When building a new home, he marked its corners with eggs, then buried them in the ground as a form of protection. 
     “An early legend said the fate of the world hinged upon pysanky,” Weilminster says. “Evil, in the guise of a monster was kept chained to a cliff. Each year in the spring, the foul creature sent his minions to encircle the globe and tally up the number of pysanky made. If the count was low, the creature’s bonds would be loosened, unleashing all manner of evils.”
 
Writing in Symbols
       At the root of all pysanky is symbolism. Every color, every symbol has meaning, many echoing pagan respect for nature and life. Late in the 10th century ce, however, their interpretation changed as Christianity gained acceptance in Ukraine. Ancient pagan motifs and Christian elements blended. Pysanky lost their connection to sun worship. Once tied to the sun god Dazhboh, motifs featuring the sun, star, cross and horse came to represent the Christian God. Grapes, a harvest motif, came to represent the growing Church and the wine of communion. The fish, formerly a mystical action figure, came to symbolize Christ. Triangles that signified the trinities of air, fire and water or the heavens, earth and air now honor the Holy Trinity. 
        Still, lurking behind the Christian symbolism are traces of magical thinking. Take, as an example, the 19th and 20th century burial customs observed in Christian families when a child died during the Easter season. For food to eat and a toy to play with, the child was buried with pysanky. Even today, lines written on pysanky should remain unbroken so as to not break the thread of life. 
 
Keeping the Tradition Alive
       As the most important religious holiday in Ukraine is Easter, pysanky has become linked with its observance. With the arrival of the Lenten season, the women in traditional Russian Orthodox families often get down to waxing. 
      As a wife, mother, professional and pysanky artist, Coreen Weilminster has come a distance from her Pennsylvania roots. Living in Arnold, she enjoys the Chesapeake life with husband Eric and their two teenage daughters, Brooke and Braelyn. On weekdays, she works in Annapolis, coordinating educational programs for the Chesapeake Bay National Research Reserve in Maryland. Somehow, though, on evenings and weekends, she finds time for pysanky. Now with 31 years of pysanky experience, she happily shares her love of the craft with others, teaching workshops in her home and at the Jug Bay Center Wetlands Sanctuary in Lothian.
       At this year’s Jug Bay workshop in late February, Weilminster spoke with nostalgia about her family’s mystical late-night egg decorating sessions.
     “In the weeks before Easter, my great-aunts Helen, Irene and Elizabeth began making pysanky by the dozen,” she said. 
     Attention was paid to color, rhythm, symbolism, harmony and the unwritten rules of technique. 
     By Ukrainian tradition, making pysanky is a holy ritual for the women of the family. No one else is supposed to peek. After the children are put to bed in the evening, the fun begins. 
     “In pagan days, the pysanka was considered a vessel. It held life,” said Weilminster. “Even today, the purpose of making pysanky is to transfer goodness from one’s household into the designs. You’re to put an intention into your eggs and then give them away as gifts. We gave them to celebrate births, weddings, funerals and religious holidays. Especially on Easter Sunday.” 
      As members of a Russian Orthodox congregation, Weilminster’s family observed all the old Easter traditions. 
      “On Easter morning, we brought the food for our Easter feast to the church for the Blessing of the Baskets,” Weilminster recalls. “We’d line a basket with hand-stitched towels. In went pysanky, ham, horseradish, butter molded into the shape of a lamb and a loaf of Paska bread, a yeast bread enriched with eggs and melted butter. Pussy willows might be tossed in for effect.” 
      Back stood the parishioners as the priest and altar boys made a joyous procession. The priest sprinkled holy water and blessed the baskets.
     “It was impressive. But all I wanted was the ham in that basket,” sighs Weilminster.
 
The Moment of Truth
     When the class got down to business, Weilminster instructed on waxing and using the aniline dyes she had mixed — all while reminding her students to be forgiving of themselves. 
      “Keep in mind that this takes time and practice. Your egg will look like it’s your first egg,” she said. “It is. Still, when the wax is removed, I promise you, you’ll love it.”
     At first, students worked in silent focus. Gradually, confidence grew. At the end of the waxing and dyeing process, Weilminster helped each student blow the egg out of its shell. Then came wax removal.
     “Traditionally, wax was removed by holding the egg over a candle flame,” Weilminster said. “Me, I believe in modern hacks. I use the microwave.”
     Loud squeals emanated from the kitchen as one anxious student after another wiped the softened wax off their pysanky. All he or she wanted to do was make one more, and another after that. 
     That’s the way it’s supposed to be.

Dr. Joan Gaither’s quilts document lives and history

      Mention quilts, and people often share memories of grandmothers or great aunts working with needle and thread, joining pieces of fabric with precise stitching.
      Dr. Joan Gaither, who documents history with cloth and thread, describes herself as “a quilter who breaks all the rules.” Her quilts are covered with images, words and objects: buttons, ribbons, pieces of jewelry, shells — anything that can be sewn to fabric and symbolizes an aspect of the story she tells.
       She stitched her first quilt after the death of an aunt whose story and family history she wanted to memorialize. As she added text and photos to represent the lives and careers of seven generations of her family, the quilt grew to an impressive 10-by-12 feet. It includes the colorful and imaginative embellishments that now characterize her work and features brilliant Maryland state flag colors representing her family’s ties to Baltimore.
       That experience 18 years ago launched the Maryland Institute College of Art professor into fiber arts and three-dimensional collage. Gaither has since made over 200 quilts, telling her stories and those of black Americans. Many have themes of identity, racism and social justice. Others honor the lives of individuals who have influenced national politics, education and the arts.
       Through this month, you can see her quilts in Baltimore in the exhibit Freedom: Emancipation Quilted & Stitched at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum, which celebrates the contributions and legacies of people of color in Maryland.
       Each image, object, fabric and color, she explains, has symbolism. Most quilts are edged in African mud cloth. A strip of blue stands for the ocean passage. Red, white and blue fabric represents America. Pieces with railroad tracks are the Underground Railway and the flight to freedom. 
      “The strips are often held together by safety pins, some still open,” she explains, “to symbolize the pain of slavery, oppression and injustice.”
       The topics of the quilts on exhibit range from Gaither’s personal history to broad topics of national interest. Laid out in a pattern like the Maryland flag, her Sesquicentennial 1864 Slave Emancipation Quilt has blocks that represent all of the counties in the state, plus Baltimore City. Each block focuses on events and people associated with emancipation. More than 400 people across the state helped in creating this quilt, which will continue its travels throughout Maryland when the exhibit closes at month’s end.
        Collaboration is a hallmark of Gaither’s work. She brings together local communities, school children and church groups to create and construct quilts. One of her largest quilts (10 by 14 feet) depicts the entire Chesapeake Bay and celebrates the lives of its black watermen. That inspiration was, she says, “my discovery that there was very little record of the contributions of African Americans to Bay-oriented industries.” Individuals from towns all around the Bay contributed information, family photographs and objects to make the history come alive.
       No experience required is the message at Gaither’s quilt-making workshops. People come with words, photographs and mementos. She brings ink jet printers, scissors, markers, boxes of embellishments and inspires her quilters to capture memories and stories on fabric. Sewing is done with large needles and simple stitches.
        A group of young children who swarmed into her exhibit the day she and I visited were drawn to details on the quilts, calling out to one another as they noticed yet another fascinating or unusual embellishment: strings of beads, a political button, a plastic crab. She answered some questions, then encouraged the kids to talk with their families and elders: “Ask them questions about their lives,” she said, “about what they remember from when they were young.” 
        “Memory aids, instruction manuals and moral compasses” are our stories, author and journalist Aleks Krotoski says. Gaither’s quilts are just that, capturing history, documenting and honoring lives, describing their lessons about the past and their calls for justice and equality.
       Follow Gaither on Facebook: www.facebook.com/JoanMEGaither.