Fenwick, Food and Family

Sunset on Fenwick Island, DE
Sunset at Fenwick Island the evening before I arrived–my brother Ron took this splendid photo

Stepping out onto the screened porch very early this morning, I gasped as my lungs sucked in the cloying atmosphere. Nevertheless, I closed the door to the air-conditioned house behind me and continued toward a chair. The moist carpet stuck to my bare feet when I crossed it and the freshly-applied lotion on my hands transformed to the tackiness of barely dried glue in the humid, sea air. I was a little surprised by the latter and kept pressing my fingers together and pulling them apart to make sure the sensation wasn’t a product of imagination.

 

View Outside the Beach house

For a full half hour, I sat listening to the gulls cackle like gentle lunatics while they swept across the sky above the rooftops in search of breakfast. A constant, soft breeze blew through the screens and into my hair in a way that made the heat seem non-existent, compelling me to linger. I watched white egrets take flight over the steel-gray water and the shifting sunlight turn shadowed marsh grass to gold. A fisherman’s small motor boat left a trail of white froth through the ripples in the water, but I heard no noise of his motor. Even traffic on the main road did nothing to disturb the peace, a kind of underscore to the hush, the muted sound resembling a distant river’s flow.

This was my morning as the sun rose over Fenwick Island in Delaware.

Fenwick Island Lighthouse
Fenwick Island Lighthouse which is only open from 9-noon, so if you want to see it, get up early (hint-hint)

I had already packed in preparation of returning home after a visit with both my brothers and sisters-in-law. In fact, we were all going home this day and the knowledge of that was bittersweet. The visit had been a short one, but family is family and when you’re together it often seems as if no time has passed since last you were in each other’s company. That means no barriers, no little courtesies, but an immediate dive right into the dynamics of the relationships that have always existed, representing at this time twenty-four boisterous, chest-beating, loving, tender, comical, occasionally frustrating but ever joyful hours. Oh, and there was a bit of sleep in there, too.

And food. We mustn’t forget that part of the gathering. Our half-baked plan of dinner out turned out to be an amazing experience. After discovering no place in the entirety of Fenwick Island existed at dinner time that was not packed to the gills, we ventured down the highway to Ocean City, Maryland, to a place that graciously accepted reservations. When we pulled up, the building resembled perhaps a family-style bar. The parking lot held some empty spaces. I thought: I’m starving, they probably serve passable dinners of some sort, and it’s already 8:00 p.m. I think we all had that idea.

Boy, were we wrong.Shark on the Harbor info from menu

The Shark on the Harbor’s menu changes daily, we were told. They print it up each day because their food is procured fresh from local suppliers. The farms from which they get their vegetables and fruit, their fish, their beef and pork, are named in the menu. That’s only the start. They had three chefs on duty and every dish is prepared with an eclectic mix of ingredients and sauces that, in a sane world, one might never think would go well together. But once you enter Shark on the Harbor, you are not in a sane world—you’ve moved beyond the world to epicurean heaven.

Vegan Entree.Shark on the Harbor
Vegan Entrée – Portobello mushrooms, summer squash, arugula, tomatoes, butternut squash puree and blueberry sauce – superb!

We lingered over our meals and our equally delicious desserts with each one of us having a completely different item and all of them fabulous. Glutted and happy we made our way back to the house afterward and to our beds, forgetting in our sweet food-torpor that tomorrow we would rise and go home. But every day you wake is one to be grateful for, every day spent with family is a blessing (sometimes in disguise, but not this time), and a good meal with people you love is without equal.

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Ah, that Dickens…

 

 

Charles DickensAh, that Dickens…

 

Charles Dickens has always been one of my favorite authors and certainly a man ahead of his time. In Victorian England, Dickens funded a periodical in which literature of the day appeared in serial installments, including Dickens’ own with the debut serial release of A Tale of Two Cities. Self-publishing at its earliest and finest!

All the Year Round

 

This realization that a man as talented as Dickens decided to break from his publisher and circulate his own works gives me some hope in a changing publishing world. I’m not comparing myself to Dickens by any means, but in the entrepreneurial sense I would like to think I am in good company.

 

I consider myself a hybrid author. I have heretofore and still am being published by one of the Big Six (or is it Five now?) and the former Warner Books, with the rights to one of my historical novels purchased by the foreign market and translated into five languages. But I also self-publish, which earns me the “hybrid” designation.

 

In the present publishing environment, the fact one has the freedom to publish one’s own works greatly expands a writer’s opportunity for creativity, penning (or should I say keyboarding) stories that might not interest editors at the moment due to the company’s money constraints, editorial wish lists, or a variety of other factors. As an author, you are still able to offers those stories to your tried and true readers as well to a whole new batch. It can be the best of both worlds, although it is, quite honestly, a heck of a lot of work, a true labor of love with profits—and losses—your own to claim.

Charles Dickens Museum
Charles Dickens Museum

As I progress in my endeavors, I plan to write more about the process. In the meantime, I am shamelessly announcing the release of my own serial: Emerald Twilight, a fantasy/soft sci-fi romance which I hope will become the start of the Warrior Women Serials, stories of strong, independent women in assorted genres.

 

Years ago, Emerald Twilight was released in just such a serial fashion, but the small and wonderful publisher did not outlast the downturn in the market. I have now rewritten and released once more this story of hope and survival, redemption and, well, yes, love in a distant world inhabited by a variety of characters and frightening creatures.

EmeraldTwilightSerialSeasonOneEmeraldTwilightSerialSeasonTwo_2-153x250EmeraldTwilightSerialSeasonThree_2-153x250.jpgEmeraldTwilightSerialSeasonFour-153x250EmeraldTwilightSerialSeasonFive-153x250

 

We watch episodic television, so why not read in the same manner? And for those of us EmeraldTwilightSerialCompleteEdition-153x250who binge-watch their favorites on streaming services such as Netflix or Hulu, you can buy the bundled episodes through Amazon in one digital book and read the entire story at once. For the next few days, the first episode is free, so you can get a feel for whether you want to go forward with the tale before purchasing either each episode or the bundled version.

At any rate, if you choose to take the chance on this new-old form of entertainment, kindly drop me a line, comment on this blog, or write a review to let me know what you think of it.

 

Happy reading everyone!

Robin Maderich (aka Celia Ashley)

Saturday’s Adventure or Apparently, All Roads Lead to Hell

Well, not hell, exactly. Unless hell is lush and green and sparsely populated…

Hell, in this instance, was not a location, but the Twilight Zone experience of my ride this morning to the Lehighton area. My fault, it was pointed out, for trusting the GPS. But the purpose of a GPS is navigation and so I permitted the instrument to dictate my travels. I paid good money for it. I ought to have a little trust in the system.

Yes. My fault.

I freely admit that now, although in the course of my travails—er, I mean my travels—I cursed that GPS with every name imaginable. But I should start at the beginning and proceed in proper order, the ways the roads would in a perfect world.

My writer’s group met at the home of one of its members today. I had a basic idea how to get there. The route was, in fact, rather direct, but I drove in the opposite direction to the grocery store to obtain a fruit platter and opted to use my GPS to find the way from that point. I took the “no toll” option. Made sense. The road I needed to travel didn’t have tolls. I figured this choice would put me on the right path.

Mistake. I recognized straight away that my car and I were not on the right path. However, I also knew generally where I was and with roads bordered by lovely scenery and in excellent shape, I saw no reason not to follow the whim of the female voice coming from the box on my dashboard.

Though meandering, I trusted (there’s that word again) I would get to my destination and enjoyed the ride. The little clock at the corner of the screen showed a thirty-nine minute ride. Right on schedule.

I passed through Alburtis, a perfectly picturesque little town not far from where I live, but which I’ve never had the opportunity to visit. I want to go back. I suppose this means trusting my GPS again. We’ll see. I won’t bore you with a blow-by-blow, but suffice it to say I eventually reached Route 309. Hoorah! All I needed to do was take a left and head north until I came to the next turn and then, seven or eight miles later, to my friend and fellow writer’s driveway.

My GPS had other ideas. Okay, I thought. A little exploration could be fun. Right?

Yeah. Loads.

It started out that way. I turned left and right on tree-lined lanes with charming names like Blue Mountain and Bake Oven. Then there was sudden misdirection which should have been an indication. I was told to bear left on a certain road which turned out to be a left hand turn so sharp it almost went backward. The second indication there could be a problem was the big yellow sign that read: Road Under Construction – Travel at Your Own Risk. Being addled by the lovely scenery, I assumed that to mean the road was being repaired and carried on. I drove slowly over a fifty-foot stretch of rough paving back onto smooth surface. Huh? Was that it? What a silly sign.

Suddenly, the condescending witch in my GPS told me to make another left. There wasn’t another left. There was a right and a straight. I chose the straight, and soon realized when the sign said the road was under construction that was exactly what it meant.

I backed up and promptly dropped the rear tire off the side of the road into a rain-washed gully. With a bit of earnest prayer I managed to get back on the road, turn around and head back out to the main highway. There had to be another road over the mountain, right? Not so fast, toots. Next was a dead end. I turned around and went back to the highway once more, foregoing the road under construction, as well as the next one which I knew (being smarter, I told myself, than a GPS) led to the same road under construction. I drove another mile to the prettily named Ashfield Road. Aha! Success. Clear sailing. Smooth pavement. I’d be over the mountain in no time.

No. It came out on the ravaged road as well. This time, though, the GPS was calling it Ashfield rather than Reservoir Road. Oddly, though, the sign said Frank. I knew I was in the same place, however, because I had come upon an antique car parked catty-cornered to the meeting place of these two roads. The vehicle looked to be from the 1920’s, pristine condition, with a few yellow helium balloons affixed to it bobbing gently in the drops of rain. Did I not mention seeing that before? I certainly should have, because as soon as I saw it again—a beautiful piece of antique machinery a couple of miles from the nearest habitation—I began cursing so profusely and imaginatively at the #$%*&#* GPS that I forget the photo op altogether and decided, in my fury, to travel the Unconstructed Road. How bad could it be?

As I’ve said above, Apparently All Roads Lead to Hell. At least in this section of Lehighton.

It wasn’t, though. Not hell. Not really. Just an unpaved, sparsely graveled, pitted, gullied, collapsing stretch of trail awaiting blacktop at some distant future date. My GPS was telling me I had to stick with this mess for another four miles. Four miles that took me thirty minutes to traverse. Oops. Behind schedule now. Two huge SUV’s passed me coming the other direction. I had to stand my ground or drop off the side. They were better outfitted to ease around my own, smaller, ill-equipped-for-such-stupidity motor vehicle.  I took their presence as a good sign. That was, until I saw the hiker with his walking stick and backpack. This was followed by a particularly huge rock in the road. I crawled past it with one thought: How did that get there? I looked up, then, and saw two spindly trees hold back a huge fall of boulders—and did I tell you torrential rain was coming? I began to swear again, but quickly took to laughing. (Can you say hysteria?) And all this time, I was driving up, up, up at a ridiculously steep angle.

Finally, the road leveled off. See picture at right—one of the only ones I took, daring to Road to Lehightonremove my hands from the steering wheel long enough to pull out my phone while stopped for a much needed respite from white knuckles and hyperventilation. Beautiful, yes? Green and lush and, well, you get it—anywhere else I would have broken out a picnic lunch.

The road was more evenly graveled here, almost wide enough for two cars. Piece of cake. Until I saw the fog ahead, and remembered I now had to descend. I won’t give you all the details of the gullies, the positioning of my wheelbase in such a fashion that I could pass over the ruts, the hint of sunlight through the fog and trees to my right indicating a steep drop off… When I reached the bottom I breathed a sigh of relief. The dog chasing my car from a junkyard I could view as comical, the post office a sign of civilization—except for the lack of a town’s name across its brick front. Still, the road had become potholed blacktop. I had made it!

In short order, I reached another main road and took the left hand turn directed by my female non-companion and found myself a quarter mile from my destination. The GPS hadn’t misdirected me after all. She’d only displayed a really nasty sense of humor.

 

Visiting old friends

I grew up in Dover, Delaware, a town that has expanded to the point of confusion for someone like me, who no longer lives there and upon her return is easily confused by the spread of a once small community. Thank goodness I had Kim directing me.

Today, Kim and I had lunch at Grotto’s Pizza in Dover. Many years ago my first job beyond babysitting was at the Grotto’s in Rehoboth. The pizza is still the best and brings back its own memories. Once we had eaten, a drive around Dover was in order, visiting the site of our old high school, since torn down for the construction of the new (which we also stopped to see). Next was a pause at Dairy Queen for cones, followed by a trip to the middle school we both attended, and thence a ride along State Street to the Green, where people in period costumes had just finished some presentation we had missed. We watched from the car, though, as a group of dancers performed to an amazing drumbeat, whirling and chanting, and applauded them from the open windows when they had finished. The next stop was Old Christ Church.

Old Christ Church Dover DE
Old Christ Church, Dover DE

 

Old Christ Church in Dover is on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. The church was originally built in 1734 and remodeled in the mid and late 1800’s. The center of Dover retains the constant of its 18th century heart. It’s like Williamsburg (another place I love) Church yardin miniature, but the buildings stand where they were originally erected, and have not been placed in historic illustration of the past, as a place of learning for tourists and students. But, like the design of Williamsburg, there is much to be discovered in and around Dover of our country’s beginnings. On the Green, I can sense history going back through the centuries and my connection is as strong as it ever was, first appreciated as long ago as the day Kim and I met, when I was in the second grade and she in the third.

Today it seemed I was not just visiting with my oldest friend, but that we were spending time with another. I have been experiencing a certain absence of roots in my life, but when I am in Dover I realize they still exist, quietly, stretching back through the years of my existence and beyond.

 

 

Strange, wonderful Spring

Weather-wise, this has been a strange and wonderful spring. Warm when it should have been cold, cold when it should have been warm. A threat of frost on May 15th. Some of my plants appear to love the topsy-turvy weather. closed peonies2My peonies have been delayed in opening, which is just as well. I would have hated seeing all their lovely blooms battered to the earth by the rain. Instead, they are still tightly embedded in green spheres in preparation of a bountiful unfurling (or am I just being hopeful?).

Right now, though, my garden seems to be full of blues and purples and greens.Img_9585

Full, I suppose, is an ambitious term. Let Img_9591me say only that the few flowers blooming right now fall into that category of color in some form or another. I have inserted a handful of photos in this blog which would certainly give the impression of the lovely blossoming of a well-kept Img_9581garden.

Img_9583What I’m keeping to myself is the abundance of weeds I still need to yank from the soil, the stones piled by the shop for extending the garden wall, the terrible state of the ongoing waterfall project. Img_9594

 

Sometimes I am overwhelmed by everything needing to be accomplished and by the idea that next year it will likely need to be accomplished again.

Yet when I walked outside in the moment prior to another onslaught of wind, rain and plummeting temperatures, I found delight in my delusion that all is progressing as it should be.

Sometimes my gardening follows very closely the course of my life…

Circle of Life

wreathpageWreaths prepared from evergreen branches in winter have long been used to symbolize the circle of life. A fun project with family is to make your own wreath for the front door at Christmastime to welcome visitors to your home.  Your parents can buy a blank wreath or prepare one from scratch using a metal wreath ring, evergreen branches and wire.

Once you have your wreath, you can then add all sorts of elements from nature to it. Go outside and look around in the fall. You may find acorns and leaves and pine cones. Perhaps you have a flower garden from which you can take and dry flower heads. Queen Anne’s lace (a wildflower) is particularly pretty for use on wreaths.  If you have a food drier, you can dry flowers that way, as well as slices of fruit for your wreath.

There are also other evergreen plants from which you can take small clippings. Use your imagination and decorate your wreath in your own celebration of life. Some of the items you use may invite small birds to feast in winter—a wonderful way to share your bounty with nature!

C is for Christmas cover 2015Merry Christmas and a peaceful, joyous New Year!

 

The above is an excerpt from my little e-book, C is for Christmas, a compilation of the ABC’s of Christmas, folklore and crafts for the young and the young-at-heart. Available at Amazon.com

Words – Interview with Ron Probst of IHR Studios

INTERVIEW WITH RON PROBST – IHR STUDIOS

Robin: Happy Halloween! Today I am interviewing Ron Probst (who, by the way, Ron Probstis my brother, which makes this an extra-special interview). Ron, hi! I’m excited to be speaking with you about something you love so much.

Ron: Hi.

Robin: Ron is the owner/engineer/do-it-all guy for IHR Studios, his own recording studio. Tell me a little bit about how you started.

Ron: I am a self taught sound engineer. I interned for two years with a studio and a live sound company locally. In time, I started buying equipment for my own home studio. Up until the middle 1980’s the only way to learn audio engineering was on the job as an apprentice. Nowadays there are many four-year BS/BA Degrees in Audio Engineering.  Although many audio engineers do usually have a four-year undergraduate degree, I personally do not have one.

StudioRobin: Not having a degree hasn’t stopped you though. In many fields, especially artistic ones, it is not a degree that necessarily qualifies you, but an innate ability and a strong willingness to learn, hands-on.

Ron: That’s true. For example, in order to be an audio engineer, it is important to possess excellent hearing as well as first-rate ear training. A sound knowledge of music history is a must, and not necessarily something you would learn in school. Understanding style, structure, the changes over the years in both the manner of recording as well as the techniques is imperative. You must have the ability to work long hours and pay absolute attention to even the smallest details. It helps greatly to be a musician of sorts, preferably a musician that knows musical structure and notes. Not theory necessarily, but a grounded understanding of the basics.

Robin: You also need to be personable and a good communicator. As your sister, I may be biased, but I have noticed you possess both qualities. I think that is why musicians enjoy working with you so much. You relate to them and are able to get to the core of what they’re looking for out of your services and what is needed in order to produce the best sound based on the artist’s particular strengths.

Ron: Well, thanks. I have recorded a variety of music, and because of the wide-ranging styles I have had to adapt my approach. I have done both field recording and studio recording. Field recording is more challenging because of the lack of control of acoustics. Some projects become challenging because of talent level and some because of setting. Over the years, I’ve also had to become skilled at the ability to plan detailed events.

Robin: What is the most challenging project you have been involved in?

Ron:  That is difficult to answer. Each project has its own particular challenges. Old St. PaulHowever, I guess the most challenging from a recording standpoint was that of an Americana Group who performed in a two-hundred year old church that didn’t have electricity. We had to run our own in order to make the recording. The performance consisted not only of vocals, guitars, dobro, violin, an upright bass, and a one-hundred-year-old organ, but had a live audience of one hundred and fifteen people.

Robin: Wow. Daunting, but rewarding, I expect?

Ron: Very rewarding and I am truly grateful to have learned to work well under pressure.

Robin: Is there a particular project of which you are most proud?

Ron: Oh, I don’t think I can pick just one. I would say the projects I am most proud of are: Tony Lucca—Rendezvous With The Angels; Rebecca Grayson—Trouble The Water; Sally Jaye and Brian Wright—Old St. Paul’s Church; Ernie Halter—90’s Acoustic Throwback (Mastering); The Halstead Clan—both EP’s; Rick Cline—Must Be This Tall To Ride; and probably the various recordings I have done with a dear friend, Mike Harrington. Certain of these projects had many other involved parties who helped bring them to fruition, and I plan to tell more about these in detail during a future interview.

albumcovers

Robin: Fabulous plan. For now, though, how best would you describe yourself professionally and what you do?

Ron: I am a freelance sound/mastering engineer who works with artists locally or abroad.

Robin: How do you go about doing that?

Ron: I work many times from files sent over the Internet. I also record musicians at my house and at area studios. Due to time-constraints, most recording activities these days take place on the weekends or planned vacations (large project or scheduling conflicts). I charge by the hour or by the song, but I have also done projects solely for the enrichment of the art or as charity.

Robin:  Walk me through a day of recording. I know it depends on the project, but give me a ‘for instance’.

Studio.5Ron: First, I would set up the computer for the type of project I am undertaking. I use Pro Tools HD recording software and have the ability to record 16 tracks simultaneously. Within the program are many different types of “plug-ins” that simulate expensive pieces of equipment. I use these to help create the sound of the recordings during mixing or mastering. I use analog pre amps because they sound much better than digital. The tones are warmer.

If recording a group, I will set up all the microphones and pre amps, running microphone cables, securing them and setting up mic stands with microphones for each particular instrument. In addition, I run lines and lay out headphones, tap test microphones and check that the signal is coming through the headphones. From there when the group arrives I would get all the instruments set up and sound checked. Get the headphone mixes blended for each musician’s taste (what they want to hear in their headphones-priorities). Then title the song – set up Studio.6tempo (click track) and blend that into headphones. Make sure everyone can hear the talkback (that’s me communicating with the artists in their headphones). And start recording! An average day of recording is ten to fourteen hours.

Robin: What about mastering?

studio.4Ron: If mastering, I only work inside the computer. Mastering is taking finished mixes and turning them up to commercial standards and contouring the sound of each song (matching for continuity in volume and texture). The average day for mastering is about eight hours.

Robin: If you had to do over, related to career or education, would you do anything different?

Ron: Everything I have done in life has brought me to here, and I am truly blessed. I suppose I might have pursued an education, for sure, even if it had been a Mass Communications Degree (at the time) or Audio Engineering (post 1983). I would have loved to work in film. I also love theater. Being part of a Broadway production team would be awesome!

Robin: Don’t count yourself out of that yet! It’s matter of putting yourself in the right place at the right time. What advice would you give to someone interested in pursuing a career path in audio engineering?

Ron: Learn as much about the field you are entering as you can and understand the earning potential. Be willing to live with the financial reward of that particular job, as the music industry has changed greatly with the advent of digital technology. Intellectual property has taken a huge financial hit. The movie and gaming industries are following closely on its heels. The double-edged sword of the Digital Age and the internet has yet to be sorted out. My advice would be to pick a facet of audio engineering that has a guaranteed income stream along with a fulfilling job environment. You might want to record music for the art of it or take a chance on something as drastic as reinventing the electro acoustic transducer. J

Robin: Sound advice from a sound engineer.

Ron: I want to finish up by saying I am very thankful for all of those who haveRon Probst2 helped me along the way, most particularly:

James Little, who I interned with for “live” sound and studio recording. We have become the best of friends and I will always be grateful for his mentoring.

Rick Cline, for volunteering to be my very first project. His jazz recording “Must Be This Tall To Ride” is still one of my most treasured recordings.

Marc McManeus, who helped me greatly with the live Americana Church project featuring Sally Jaye and Brian Wright at Old St Paul’s Church in Conover, North Carolina. Without Marc that project would have never been possible.

And of course I would like to thank my adorable wife Linda. Without her devotion, love and support, none of this would have ever been possible.

Robin: And don’t forget her chocolate chip cookies! They’ve opened the door to many an opportunity. Thanks, Ron, for letting me interview you!

To find out more about IHR Studios and Ron’s work, visit below:

https://www.reverbnation.com/ihrstudios