The Story of Food

When I am home I love hanging out with two couples who are major foodies. We love going to dinner at current hot spots and discussing each thing ordered. These dinners can stretch to almost 3-3.5 hours. The stories flow and the laughter is headier than the best wine. I adore these times.

Recently we started discussing our favorite childhood dishes. I immediately thought of my mom’s Chicken Plantation.  When she made that dish she could ask my dad for anything…and get it.

I loved watching her make it. 

With a flick of her wrist she would fan flour onto the counter, then roll out the dough into a large square, sprinkle it with fresh parsley and onion, then roll it up and slice the dough into big fat biscuits. The she'd carefully place them, pinwheel side up, in a deep square dish baptizing them in rich, made from scratch gravy and fresh picked chicken. Into the oven it went. In minutes the whole house smelled heavenly. 

We would gather around the table and mom would present the food with love and pride. I'd scoop out a steaming biscuit and I swear, as a little girl, those biscuits where the closest thing to spring clouds that I could imagine. It is still one of my favorite dishes.

Another dish I loved as a kid was Shoo Fly Pie, a local dish that was a tradition especially in the spring. I grew up in Amish Country near Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Talk about good food. The south thinks they own comfort food but oh my, Dutch cooking and Amish
cooking in Pennsylvania cannot be beat for comfort.  
Yummm. Just made and already half gone

Shoo Fly Pie is basically just a molasses pie. I like mine wet bottomed, which mean super gooey.  It’s called Shoo Fly Pie because it is such a sugary treat that at potlucks you have to constantly shoo away the flies (that's a yummy picture).  

The best thing about these recipes, actually all recipes that bring us comfort, are the stories that go with them. Dinner table stories, helping mom in the kitchen stories, cooking with the kids stories; all things that are becoming a rarity.
I hope you enjoy these childhood dishes and I hope many stories are spoken over each bite, around your dinner table, with those you love.

(I am giving you my version of Chicken Plantation which I have switched up to be easier than my moms but just as delicious.  Please feel free, in the comment section, to share your favorite storied dish).

Chicken Plantation (Kim’s way)
4 cups fully cooked chicken.  Shredded or cubed.
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons butter
2 cans condensed cream of chicken soup, undiluted
1 cup 2% milk (or, if you are in a party mood go with whole milk - we grew up on goats milk from the farm)
2 cups fresh peas (frozen thawed is fine. You can add cooked carrots too)
2 cups biscuit/baking mix
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley

1. In a large skillet sauté chicken (or boil a whole chicken, pick it clean then add to skillet) and onion in butter until onion is tender. Combine soup and milk, stir into chicken mixture. Add veggies; heat through. Pour into an ungreased shallow 2.5 quart baking dish.
2. Combine biscuit mix and water until a soft dough forms. On a lightly floured surface knead dough 10 times. Roll out into a 12 inch square. Sprinkle with parsley (and fresh onion if you prefer).
3. Roll up jelly roll style. Cut jelly roll into 12 pieces, place over chicken mixture, pinwheel side up. Bake, uncovered at 425 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until biscuits are golden and chicken mixture is heated through and bubbly. 
Serve with warm, homemade, chunky applesauce and strawberry short cake for desert and you have one of my childhood meals on your own table.

Wet Bottom Shoo Fly Pie
1 cup flour
2/3 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 tablespoon vegetable shortening (or unsalted butter)
1 egg
8 ounces molasses (good and dark)
6 ounces boiling water
1 tspn baking soda
1 9 inch unbaked pastry shell (make your own or store bought if in hurry)
Use a deep pie plate, those little aluminum things from the store will not suffice.

Mix together the flour, brown sugar and shortening
Set aside 1/2 cup of the mixture for the topping
Add remaining flour mixture with the egg, molasses, baking soda, and boiling water.
Gently mix
Pour into pie shell
Sprinkle the crumb topping over pie
Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes, then reduce temp to 350 and bake for 30 more minutes.

This pie is good warm, but it gets better if it sits for a day...but I guarantee it won't last that long. 

Apollo 8 and Genealogy? Yes.

On December 21, 1968 Apollo 8 was launched into space.

This would be the first manned spacecraft to leave Earth’s orbit.  The astronauts were able to see the far side of the moon, orbiting it 10 times. Finally, mankind’s longing to reach space and see the moon up close and personal had come to fruition. But an amazing
thing happened along the way. Once the astronauts entered space, they could not stop looking back, gazing at planet Earth.  Their desire to look upon where they had come from became more powerful than looking ahead to where they had not yet been.  It became such an overwhelming desire that they named it Earth Gazing.

I think life is a lot like that.   

In our youth and in our quest for new and exciting things, we propel forward with great passion and excitement, hoping to discover new worlds but then, we hit a certain place where we realize that where we've come from is just as amazing and awe inspiring as where we are going.

I am always searching for new experiences, creating new things and trying to discover new worlds but a year and a half ago I realized that my personal history is just as fascinating as the unknown that lies ahead.

I guess I have reached a place where, as I float among the years of my life, I have decided to turn and look back. It is addictive. I cannot stop gazing into the history of me. This is not narcissistic; it’s a natural human desire, to feel a part of something bigger.

I have always told personal/family stories, it’s how I make my living, but a year and a half ago I decided to start digging into my family history. Using online resources, Family Search and, I started to uncover information, documents, and pictures that helped me see the whole picture of where I come from.

One hour turned into two hours turned into 8 hours turned into a yearlong project and now, an ongoing expedition. I can’t stop. I've uncovered pictures of my great, great grandfather. I've found documentation of my grandmothers addresses, which gave me a map of her life.  I've found my great grandfathers marriage certificate, my grandmothers marriage certificate and...her divorce records. I learned about aunts and uncles and I learned things about my mom and dad.  Slowly, my whole world is coming into focus.

Doing this family research led to some deep and meaningful conversations with my parents.  They are at the time of life when all they do is look back.  When I started sharing with them what I found, they sounded young again…thirsty for information. No matter how many times I called and told them about the latest family puzzle piece I had found, they wanted more.

How sad it is that I was in my late 40’s and my parents in their late 70’s when we began this journey.  I wish we had started when I was younger.

Recently Parade Magazine had an article titled, The Secrets to a Happy Family.

Get this.

When a team of psychologists measured children’s resilience, they found that the kids who knew the most about their family history were best able to handle stress.  The more children know about their family’s history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives and the higher their self-esteem. The reason: These children have a strong sense of “ inter-generational self”—they understand that they belong to something bigger than themselves, and that families naturally experience both highs and lows.

I wonder if that is what the astronauts were feeling.  We all know we are a part of something bigger, but they actually got to gaze on it.

Your family knows they belong to something bigger, but knowing it and actually hearing about it…seeing it, are two very different things.

Whether you share your family history by doing genealogy/family research or by sharing family stories at the dinner table…who cares?  Just do it. Better yet, do both. Here is the best part; your family isn't looking for fairy tale endings. Share with them the good, the bad and the ugly. It will help them through their own good, bad and ugly times. Let them gaze upon where they came from.

The main word in history is story. Share your stories. You were designed to. 

Recently I had the honor of presenting and keynoting at Story@Home/Rootstech, a beautiful melding of story, genealogy  and technology. It was a fabulous experience. I highly recommend that you either attend next years event or at least sign up for their live streaming. 

Tell Your Kids A Story

I was recently interviewed for an article for the Murfreesboro Magazine. It is well written and carries a great message. (If you need it to be a little larger, just increase the size from your 'view' tab).

The Tribe Has Spoken

For almost 70  years television has been telling us which stories to watch and which stories are relevant. Television networks built a consumer oriented identity, and like plump little babies we have wagged our tongues and let them spoon-feed us the expertly packaged goods. Without so much as a whimper, we went on autopilot and let them do the thinking for us.

But things are changing.

With the revolution of social media, people are now telling their stories, posting their stories, blogging their stories, and sharing their stories. This tsunami of social media has brought back the ancient ritual of gathering around the glow of the campfire to share the stories of the day...except now, it is by the glow of an LCD screen. A bit more isolated than the days of tribal gatherings...but no less impacting.

As we ride the steady hum of the electronic highway,  we decide what rises to the top of our tribal chatter, not the Networks. We decide which stories go viral and which are shared the most...and these tend not to match what the Networks are throwing up on our TV screens each night.

Stray dogs dragging injured companions off of busy streets, inspirational poems and sayings about strength, life and happiness, a person dancing in every country, groups of strangers breaking into song at train stations and malls, a man bringing light into darkness by using Pepsi bottles, an old married couple playing the piano and a baby laughing. Not your prime time TV...but the tribe has spoken, and we like this stuff.

Now I know what your are thinking that there is a lot of garbage online and that it is no better then television. Yes, there is a lot of garbage online. But there is also a lot of awesomeness online. Yes,  I said awesomeness.  And the beauty is that WE choose what goes viral. WE submit the stories. WE supply the content...not just a couple companies, but all of us.

Blogging, social media, and family search engines are powerful vehicles in spreading story. Our stories...not someone else's. Do not misunderstand, I realize that nothing compares to sharing and communicating face to face. But we would be foolish to ignore the impact that technology is having on story and human connection.

Next year, in March, there will be a coming together of three different tribes...each one chanting the same thing. OUR stories are important.

story@home is scheduled for March of 2012. I am thrilled to be a part of this inaugural event. story@homeis a conference that will, for the first time that I know of, bring together nationally known storytellers, genealogy giants, and blogging superheros. Three very different tribes whose lines intersect at numerous points. I hope to see you there.
story@home website

I'm Still A Beginner

I just sent off the final proofs and the master CD for my new album. I haven't even held the final product in my hands yet and I'm already thinking about what is next. I have six projects I want to do. I'm never happy. I always think I could be doing better and I know, in a very real way, that there is so much I have left to learn. As freely as the creativity flows, so does the unrest. I am constantly hot and wanting to birth something new.

I love Ira Glass, I'm a huge fan. The following is from him and reading it about once a month helps me realize that I'm not alone in this process. I think I'm on the right path.

“What nobody tells people who are beginners — and I really wish someone had told this to me . . . is that all of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, and it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase. They quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

The Lap

When I was a little girl, I was stick thin. My daddy used to say that if I stood sideways and stuck out my tongue that I would look like a zipper.  Well, that all changed after the birth of my last daughter. My body began to change and then when I hit 45, I began to spread like unbaked cake batter. I still do some yoga and circuit training each week, but I cannot lose weight.

One evening when my oldest grandson was visiting, I pulled him onto my lap. He is 4. I cradled him and he said, “Nana, I am not a baby.”  I told him that I knew he was not a baby, but that I wanted to cradle him in my lap because soon, he would be too big.  He looked up at me with his deep brown eyes and said, “Nana, your lap is perfect.” And he settled in. 

I began to think about all of the laps that had spooned me over the years. My mother is a small, thin woman. I loved sitting on her lap…not because it was comfortable but because it was comforting. I can still close my eyes and feel her arms around me, the smell of Avon hand cream making the air thick with scent.  

My Aunt Louise was a different story.  She was a broad woman with heavy, sagging arms. Her lap was very, very comfortable. When I was pulled into it, it meant that a treat was coming; a cookie, a cheap piece of costume jewelry, or a joke! It was a good lap. 

My fathers lap was a place of conflicting feelings. It was used for two extremes. I can still hear his voice singing to me, “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy….,” as he rocked me in his lap. But I can also remember being asked to bend over that lap so that a firm (and usually well deserved) swat could be administered. I preferred the first use. 

Laps are amazingly engineered pieces of living furniture. Man has tried for centuries to replicate the perfection of the lap through chairs, couches, benches and settees. They have failed. Even the most well crafted piece of furniture, no matter how deeply comfortable, cannot compete with the lap. 

In these man made attempts there is no soft childbearing pouch, no sweet low humming, no stroking of the hair, no stories whispered, no warmth from the arms, no perfectly placed pillows of rest that echo the heartbeat and never, from any chair, will you receive a kiss on the crown. The lap is perfection.

The first throne of a king is on his mothers lap. The first seat of a congressman or president is on his mothers lap. The greatest inventors, artists, and leaders were formed while sitting in someone’s lap. 

I looked down at my grandson and smiled, “That is the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me.” And I began to sing, “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy…”

The Fate of Festivals...

On a carpet of wildflowers, revival style tents were raised in salute to the ancient art of storytelling.  As tales flowed from the stage you could, with one turn of the head, gaze out onto the mighty Mississippi. The deep drone of barges and the turn of steel tires on the track provided a memorable underscore to this annual event.

The Cape Girardeau Storytelling Festival never disappoints. This is my second time being allowed to play a part in this well organized, well attended festival.  Considering it is only in its fourth year, the Cape Girardeau storytelling festival has experienced success that some festivals only dream about. It helps that the staff and volunteers put their heart into it.  Plus, they always offer a diverse and stellar teller lineup. It also helps that it takes place in a quaint town that offers an abundance of history, great shops, and quirky eateries.  But there are many other festivals that can tout the same qualities…without reaping the same attendance.

So what makes Cape Girardeau different?

I think it is the fact that they treat their festival as a business.  They care enough about the art of storytelling to handle it with professional gloves. They reach out to their main demographic using well thought out, professionally crafted marketing tools. They continually strive to pull in new people  by way of print, news, web site, emails, social networking  and radio. Their commitment to good marketing is proven in that they brought in a teller this year just to do PR in local universities and retirement communities. They think outside of the box and are always looking for new ways to reach possible audiences. They work closely with local business’ and merchants – helping them recognize the beauty of storytelling AND what it can do for the local area. They are realistic and patient, knowing it takes time to grow good stuff.
This serves as a good model for other festivals.

In these tough economic times, people have only so much ‘entertainment’ money in their pocket.  When they pull that $20 out and look at it, they have to decide where they will spend it. With this general mindset, festivals are up against a lot of competition to get a seat filled.

As a storyteller and story lover, I try very hard to help festivals and story events not just survive, but thrive. I feel it is my duty as an artist to not just take, take, take but to also give, especially in this economic climate.  If you make a living (part time or full time) as a teller, it is easy to fall into the mode of, I want paid. Where is the pay? How much is the pay? I want paid! mentality. There is nothing wrong with that, we need to survive as well, but we also need to realize that we get back what we put into our business and all festivals, events, and shows are our business. It would be terrible to wake up one day and find out the tank has run dry.

I want to encourage you, as a teller, to try some of the following:
  • Donate 10% or more of your earnings back to the place that hired you.
  • Offer a free workshop while you are there. Just an hour, to the business people in town. Have the event director set it up, they can go through the Chamber or the town. Using story in business is a hot topic and it can be a gift from the festival to the local merchants and non-profits.
  • Offer to come a day early to the event, at no charge, to do PR work. Tell stories for the Lions Club, retirement communities, to educators, etc. Ask that only your expenses are covered…but help them get the word out by telling. It works and in the end we all benefit.
  • Do your part to market the event. It is just as much our responsibility, as it is theirs, to fill the seats. Use your email marketing list and send out an e-blast, put it in your quarterly newsletter, do a Facebook filtered search and send an invite to folks who live in that area, post in your status where you are going and what is happening…believe me, people will come because of this. I had a guy and his wife come all the way from Pittsburgh to a Virginia festival because of a status update. Tickets, lodging, food, and gas helped the local commerce and seats where filled.
  • Mingle. Yes, mingle.  I know that at an event you are tired, nervous, road weary, whatever…but you must mingle. Shake hands, hug the cute old ladies, joke about the weather, whatever. If people feel welcomed by the talent they feel special. When they feel special they come back (with friends) and the event survives which means work for my friends (and hopefully me) in the future.
  • Fuel the grassroots organizations. Become a member of story organizations, donate to local guilds, give them product for giveaway at their events.  I can’t attend the functions of these groups, but I can pay the membership. Most events and festivals are held together by folks at the grassroots level. They are my hero’s. They usually cart my butt around, feed me, set up chairs, take tickets, and make sure I feel like I am at home. $25 bucks a year gives them a new member and helps their cause.

Listen, I’m not some story martyr. I have failed miserably in all of these areas at one time or another. But, no matter your belief system, we reap what we sow. By scattering a few seeds as we travel this lovely road, we leave it better then we found it. Now that’s something I can live with.

Welcome to the Year 2011 (insert space sounds here)

When I was a little girl the year 2011 seemed space ages away.  Instant food, hovering cars, and robot maids were things I thought I would never live to see. Well, here we are, 2011. Maybe things are not as advanced as they were for good old Judy Jetson, but they have definitely moved along.

Microwaves pop food out in 30 seconds, a Roomba can do your cleaning while you're at work, we can plug our cars into outlets, and video phone calls are not only a reality but they can be done  anywhere, anytime using a small hand held device called a smart phone. I pay my bills while standing in line at the pharmacy, I send pictures of my grandson to my mother (who lives 6 hours away) in 5 seconds, we move standing still on conveyors in airports, and I can transport myself anywhere on the planet just by typing www.

Amazing. And yet, in the midst of all this change and advancement several things remain constant, one being the use of and the need for story. Avatar, a groundbreaking movie in the area of special effects, would be nothing without the story. Web sites are just electronic billboards of a companies story. Facebook is just millions of people shouting, "Look at my me!".

In a recent edition of Scientific American Mind, there was an article stating that today's children are so advanced, in the use of video game hardware, that game designers are realizing they cannot create anything new that will challenge them. So, they are going back to the story of the game and making the story deeper, more complex, more meaningful, and more textured.

There is a buzz about technological advancement hurting the art of storytelling. I somewhat disagree. Yes, it's a bit harder to grab attention of the wired child/adult, but they are reachable. Watch any kid/adult sit down in front of a good storyteller and in 30 seconds they are hooked.

Humans can decorate themselves with all types of electronic gear, surround themselves with all types of cool toys, gadgets, and robots...but they are still human. And other than love, story is one of the basic elements of human survival.

Even the most extreme gamers recognize that.

Oprah does it, why can't I?

12 Days of Kim's Favorite Things!

Its been a great year. No, wait...a fantastic year.

I would list all of the wonderful things that have happened, but then I would come dangerously close to sounding like one of those Christmas newsletters that proclaim how grossly perfect someones life is.  So we'll skip that part.

Bottom line: It has been a good year because of you! My friends, fans, and family. Thank you for your support, for buying tickets, coming to the show, purchasing CD's, sending encouraging emails and  for just being there.  Because of this I want to spread some cheer, ring the bells, deck the halls, fly the sleigh, dress like an elf

Wait, maybe not.

Seriously. It all comes down to giving back to the people who have given me so much! 
It's what Christmas is all about. Giving. (warm, soft music inserted here)

12 Days of Kim's Favorite Things! 

Here is how it works :

1. You have to have a Facebook account. If you don't have one, I'm sorry, you can't participate. I know, I know...some people  refuse to conform to the Facebook phenom, but I have one foot in GenX and can't help myself. Plus, it is the biggest social network tool in the universe. Even Captain Kirk has a facebook fanpage!

2. If you are not already a friend on my personal page or a fan on my public site, shame on you. You are on the naughty list.  :o)  But you can redeem yourself AND be qualified for the giveaway by going to   and clicking the  'like' button. You will automatically be transferred from naughty to nice. 

3. Then stop by each day to see the daily video. Each video will showcase one of my favorite things. Some I have found while traveling on the road this year, others are just good ole standbys. 

4. Watch the video ALL the way through. Listen for the secret word.  Leave a comment using the secret word and you will be entered into a drawing for the item! Easy.

Merry Christmas to you and a peaceful, productive new year to all, and to all a good night.

UPDATE!!! Thanks to all of you who viewed the videos.  We had over 2500 people watch the videos and participate in the fun. Best of all, NBC did a three day story on this little project and Feeding America got some great coverage and $$.  Merry Christmas everyone!

Giving Kids A Headstart

I can't be home for long until I start roaming the streets looking for places to tell stories. So, I did some free shows for the local Headstart. I was grateful to get some story relief.

When I finished telling my stories and singing a couple of songs, I asked the kids if they had a story to tell. They went ballistic, throwing their hands in the air and sharing their stories.  The teachers were thrilled. 

Headstart is a non-profit community pre-school who's mission is to maximize the strengths of families, their health and well being and the social skills of children. I believe that story plays a large part in strengthening families plus it is the perfect tool to educate children  about health, social skills, and many other important life skills. And I'm not even going to start on my tangent about story exercising right brain thinking which helps grow ethical kids. I clear a room when I get going on that one.

Most of the children in the Headstart program come from low income homes. When I worked for the police department one of the things we noticed was that when we entered low income homes we never saw books.

If you are a storyteller...look up your local Headstart. Give them a call. And go share a story. If you have books or tapes...donate them to the class. Help give a kid a headstart.