The Detective’s Daughter: Spring Forward

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It’s a different kind of spring than we have ever experienced before, at least different from any I can recall. We are all feeling overly anxious, sad, bored, really too many emotions to understand or control. Let’s all take a deep breath and just for the next few minutes think of  the memories of springs from our past.

FullSizeRender (44)Spring has always given me a sense of hope, new beginnings, being on the cusp of freedom. Summer meant freedom, freedom from school and, in later years, work. Spring smelled fresh. The beautiful flowers in my grandmother’s garden bloomed and the weather now permitted laundry to hang outside where it soaked in the warmth of the day and the fragrance of sunshine. The house was given a good airing out and all the heavy drapes and carpets of winter were stored away and replaced with lighter materials.

The most prominent symbol that spring had arrived was the return of St. Mary to the garden. Pop-Pop would crawl into the shed and unwrap her from a nest of newspapers and Hefty bags and sit her in a place of honor on the birdbath.FullSizeRender (43)

As the days grew warmer my family and I would begin to gather in the side yard instead of the living room. The television set was replaced by our books or knitting or cards. We’d sit in companionable silence as Mom read, Nana crocheted and I played card games with Pop-Pop. Dad’s attention was usually fixed on Rikki our dog. Rikki, a Boxer, had been bought with Dad’s first paycheck from the Baltimore City Police Department. He was a good dog and would sit for hours while Dad brushed and groomed him.

When I think of spring, theses are the days I remember. The scent of Hyacinth sends me to that yard and once again I’m on the side steps next to my Pop-Pop.  These last few weeks have been challenging and it seems a few more are in our future.  Keep your good memories close at hand and pull them out as needed. Close your eyes and roll out your private home movies. Spring still means hope. IMG_2483

 

The Book Club: Girl, Woman, Other

 

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Last night we met at Kim’s. Not me, the other Kim. She once lived across the street from me. We soon learned we had a lot in common. Both of us are mother’s to two children, one daughter and one son with the girls being the oldest. Not only are our first names the same, we are both married to men named Eric, and our last names are similar.  Needless to say, we are now friends for life.

This month our selection was Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo. It was a thick book, about 450 pages, which none of us had completed by the time we met. In fact, Kathleen was still waiting for her copy from the library. I was finally able to finish the last few pages this morning.0310201905

I enjoyed the book immensely. Each chapter is about a woman beginning with Amma and ending with Grace. It covers twelve characters over several decades and each woman’s struggle to survive and live the life she’s envisioned for herself.  It covers many current day topics, including feminism and race. There were sections that I could barely make it through without crying.

Next month we will be reading Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. Please read along with us and tell us what yo think about the book in the comments. Do you have any suggestions of books you’d like our group to read? Please let us know!

Brunch at Marie Louise Bistro

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I can’t think of a better way to start a Sunday than with brunch. Yesterday morning my husband and I ventured into the Mt. Vernon district of Baltimore City. Our main purpose was to go to The Walters Art Museum to see the prayer book of Saint Francis of Assisi, but couldn’t be in the neighborhood without stopping in one of our favorite restaurants.

Marie Louise Bistro has been in operation for ten or so years now. I discovered it one day as I was searching for a place to have lunch while on break from jury duty. I returned many a morning to have a cafe au lait at one of the sweet little bistro tables that sit out front went the weather is nice.

My daughter is also a fan of the bistro and chose Marie Louise as the restaurant where she wanted to celebrate her 16th birthday. It was quite a dinner! We arrived in a limousine and the host greeted us outside. The food and service was amazing and the entire staff sang Happy Birthday to her.

0308201303aYesterday’s brunch was much more laid back. We came without a reservation, but that wasn’t a problem. The back of the bistro was full, but we were given my favorite table near the window in front. I ordered a cocktail [I wasn’t driving] and we chose the steamed mussels in white wine for our appetizer.   My drink arrived first. It was called a  Twinkle Pink and was a mix of gin and grapefruit juice served in a chilled glass. It was definitely a good start. 0308201303

For the main course I enjoyed Salad Nicoise. It was a large portion filled with fresh greens, hard boiled eggs, grilled Ahi tuna, saffron potatoes, green beans and, of course, Nicoise olives all dressed in a French vinaigrette. 0308201331

Though there were many customers, it was a quiet and relaxed atmosphere with friendly and timely service. If you’ve not yet visited this charming bistro, please make plans to do so in the near future. Marie Louise Bistro is open seven days a week and is located at 904 N. Charles St. you can also find them on Facebook and at marielouisebistrocatering.com

I’d love to hear about your favorite restaurants and please give me some recommendations of places to visit.

 

The Book Club

 

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I love books. There’s no doubt about that in anyone’s mind. Just ask my husband, he’ll tell you we have too many books. Too many? You can never have too many books! It’s only natural then that I should belong to a book club.

We meet once a month on a Tuesday night at someone’s house. There are around twenty-eight women in our group, but only about seven ever show up to our meetings. Kathleen, Sylvia and I have been there from the start and along the way we have picked up new members – Kim, Katie, Margarita, Carrie and Angela.

It’s been at least five or six years ago since Pam invited me to join the group. “Come on, now,” she said, “I’ve started this book club for residents of Northeast Baltimore. It’s mostly young moms. Please come. You love books, and, well, I don’t want to be the only older woman there.” So, how could I refuse with an invitation like that?

Pam was right. That first meeting we were the oldest women there. A group of young moms gathered in a girl named Meghan’s house and we discussed the book A Dog’s Purpose. It was, and still is, my least favorite selection. We have now read close to seventy books.

0207191853These book club has read really wonderful books, and really, really forgettable ones as well.There have even been a couple of occasions where no one has read the book, but that didn’t stop us from meeting. We learned the kind of wine we liked best and what foods to serve. More importantly, we’ve learned about each other and some very strong friendships have developed.

This month we are reading Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo. Below I’ve listed a selection of books we have read over the years. Many of these books I would never have selected on my own, but I’m glad to have read them. I think it’s important to not only read, but to read outside your comfort zone.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstein

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Outlander by Dana Gabaldon

The Kitchen God’s Wife by Amy Tan

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

Salt Houses by Hala Alyan

Faithful by Alice Hoffman

The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman

The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman [we must really like her!]

Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo

As Long As We Both Shall Live by Joann Chaney

Left Neglected by Lisa Genova

Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albon

On Being Human by Jennifer Pastiloff

The House of Spirits by Isabelle Allende

Back When We Were Grownups by Anne Tyler

 

Happy reading!!!

The First Valentine: A Detective’s Daughter Memory

It’s Valentine’s Day again. Not quite as exciting as it once was when I could have all the gluten I wanted and received a box of Rheb’s chocolates. I discovered a very sad thing this morning, Rheb’s chocolates are not gluten free. It’s a depressing day here in Northeast Baltimore for me!

FullSizeRender (32)But long ago in a kingdom called South Baltimore I was given a small heart of chocolates every year on Valentine’s Day. Dad would go to the Rheb’s stand in Lexington Market, where he did all his shopping, and buy hearts for his favorite girls. Mom would receive the largest heart, the top of the satin box covered in ruffles and bows. To his own mother, my Nana, he would give a more conservative box, deep red and no frills. My box was small and held four pieces of chocolate. The heart box was red trimmed in gold and the words Be Mine or Valentine was usually printed across the top.

Though Daddy always brought me a heart shaped box with sweets, I must admit my heart belonged to another man. My grandfather, Pop-Pop, was truly my first love. Daddy had interesting stories, but it was Pop-Pop who was my pal. FullSizeRender (34)

He walked me home from school nearly everyday and was always up for a game of cards or checkers. Once a week we’d ride the transit bus over to Pop-Pop’s sister’s, my Aunt Tootsie, where you never knew what you might find. She took in every stray injured animal in Southwest Baltimore. There was always pigeons {“Dang boys shootin’ them poor creatures.”}, kittens and dogs about to deliver puppies, which was my favorite. Sometimes even turtles or squirrels and once she had a opossum.

Saturday mornings after I went to the market with Mom and Nana I’d go to see Mr. Joe the barber with Pop-Pop. Afterwards we’d walk over to Mr. Palmer’s Bar and Pop-Pop would have a glass of beer while I had a Coke and a box of Mr. Salty pretzel sticks and spun around on the stool until Mr. Palmer yelled, “Hey! Ain’t got no seat belt for that, hon.”

It was Pop-Pop who taught me to sing and to love music. I knew all the words to Won’t You Come Home, Bill Bailey before I could recite the alphabet. He bought me Tiger Beat magazine and never minded watching soap operas with me. He even watched them and took notes – on paper –  the days I was in school!

Pop-Pop passed away on February 12th, three months before my thirteenth birthday. He had served in the military and had fought during WWII and was the recipient of the Purple Heart. I still have the flag that was draped over his casket.

Today remember all the loves that have graced your life. I’ve been fortunate to have an abundance of love and kindness in mine. I hope you each have had a Pop-Pop in your life. His sweetness will be remembered long after my memory of chocolate fades away.

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New Day, New Project

 

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I decided it was time for a Facebook author’s page. It wasn’t an easy decision and one that took over two years for me to finalize. After sending in my manuscript to my agent for an historical mystery [more on that another day] and having my fourth short story accepted in an anthology, I thought the time was right.0605190911

I’m always writing new stories and most of them come to me while I’m sitting right here at my kitchen table. That’s why I always say the best stories happen in the kitchen and it’s the reason I came up with this blog title.

If you’d like to read more from me and are on Facebook, you can follow me at Kimberly Kurth Gray – Author, or look for me by searching @Kimgraywomensmysteries.

 

Is there something you’ve been longing to do, but keep putting off? Please share your stories with me in the comments below.

Coffee With a Friend.

It’s a rare day I don’t get out to have a cup of coffee at one of my favorite shops. Though I have plenty at my house, I love the ritual of ordering a warm cup of happiness from a friendly face who knows exactly what I want.

1117180901_hdrMy go-to place is Zeke’s [https://www.zekescoffee.com].  I order a large, dark roast coffee with peppermint and white chocolate, one shot each. Mindy knows this. She’s worked at Zeke’s forever and recently won Baltimore’s Best Server in The Baltimore Sun’s Best of 2019. I look forward to seeing her as much as I do having my coffee.

When I walk into Zeke’s or Red Canoe 0206191250[https://www.redcanoecafeandchildrensbookstore.com] I feel a bit like Norm on the show Cheers; everyone knows my name. It’s an experience of all the senses. Mostly  it’s the warmth and comfort of the familiar and being with people who have become friends.

This past week I had the opportunity to share some of my beloved coffee spots with my work-mate and friend, Robert Hoffman [http://www.rahthebird.com]. We met at the gallery where we work, MAXgallery [https://www.maxgallery.us] in Butchers Hill. Our mission was to deliver flyers for the upcoming May show, Diverse Fibers.

0425191326_HDRRobert and I had a great day … and yes, it actually took all day to deliver four hundred flyers to local shops and galleries … so we treated ourselves and had a coffee in nearly every coffeehouse we visited. Can you say caffeine high?

It’s wonderful to share coffee with a friend, and, in my opinion, it’s just as important as meditation. We all need to get out of our routine, find a friend, and choose a special spot. Whether it’s a bookstore, coffeehouse or the park, it’s so important to connect with friends, relax, and just enjoy the moment in which you are living. And coffee, it’s always important to enjoy your coffee! 0425191326

Common Ground

Here’s something we could all use more of these days…coffee! Coffee and Common Ground.  If you’re looking for both, you can find them in Hampden.

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In a row house among the cool little shops, restaurants and galleries sits a great coffee spot.  Common Ground Cafe &Coffee is an unassuming spot. The casual atmosphere and friendly servers makes this an ideal place to relax or to get a few pages written. Their iced vanilla latte is delicious and my go-to drink when I visit. They even sell Zeke’s coffee. It’s like heaven!

 

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The cafe is open every day from 7AM until 5PM.  In addition to coffee drinks, they also serve sandwiches, muffins and smoothies. There is seating outside which is a great place to people-watch and decide what shop to visit next.

For more information go to http://www.commongroundhampden.com or follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

Ground & Griddled

 

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If you have not yet found your way to R House in Remington, do so this week. Several food venues can be found here, but none as wonderful as Ground & Griddled. My first visit certainly won’t be my last.  I ordered a macchiato that was perfect. The place has a nice vibe and I found a comfy spot on a couch where I could enjoy my drink and people watch.0130191224_hdr

Ground & Griddled has a selection of sammies including one called What The Kitchen Eats which I’ll need to sample on my next visit. They also serve brunch on the weekends.  The service was quick and the staff was extremely friendly and helpful. This is a great spot to stop in with friends, but I wouldn’t recommend trying to do any work here. Though there are places where you could use your laptop, it’s busy and not ideal if you need quiet to concentrate.

The Ground &Griddled is located at R. House 301 W. 29th St. http://www.gandgbmore.com

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Next Monday we’ll visit a coffee shop in Sparks.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to My Coffee Blog.

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In February, amidst the cold and snow, I began a month-long blog about the thing I love most…coffee. I was having a blast visiting both new places and old favorite spots. Everything was going well until I got sick, and I mean really sick, the kind that involves hospitals and testing. Could I be allergic to coffee? Was it too much caffeine?

After weeks of sickness and doctors and all sorts of scans, I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease.  Thank goodness this doesn’t interfere with my coffee habit, but it does interfere with just about everything else…even what shampoo I use!

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that involves your small intestine. It’s different from being allergic to wheat in your diet. Now I must only use products that are gluten-free including  make-up and tooth paste in addition to eating gluten-free. It’s changed how I do almost everything, but  for the better. I feel and look healthier than I have in years. 0411191408

I still intend to tell you about all the wonderful coffee shops in Baltimore and the surrounding counties. Check in here on Monday morning to start your week off right. The first cup of coffee is the most important!