A Tiger In The Yard Coffee Share

Good morning, Everyone. It is a summer-y June morning here in Sayville Long Island. The birds are having a conference chirp session this early morning. Although they sound like a substantial chatty flock, they don’t frequent the backyard feeder nearly as much as expected. Hershey, the cat, stalks the yard in his tiger persona. I saved a little sparrow he brought into the house during the week. The frightened bird fluttered into a corner while I scolded Hershey. I caught the poor thing and brought it outside. It was a little shaken but undamaged. It flew away to my sister-in-law’s yard (behind my house) where it is safe from the tiger-want-to be, and there is an abundant menu of seeds in feeders. 

 If we were having coffee together, I would tell you I have been cooking and planning for next week. Matt and I are going on an adventure. My sister and brother-in-law bought a boat—a big boat. They found a floating home where they can travel and fish. It is like living in an RV where the waterways are the roads and the marinas and sheltered coves are the campgrounds. The maiden voyage will be from the eastern shore of Maryland to Sayville Long Island—a five or six-day exploratory trip. I’m very excited to get on the water. Matt and I had never done a trip like this, nor my sister and brother-in-law. It will be an adventure! I have meals prepped and frozen, dramamine tucked in my bag, and a supply of sunscreen, pens, and hand sanitizer packed. Just getting out of town for a while is exciting. 

 If we were having coffee together, I would report that I participated in my town’s peaceful protest in supporting the Black Lives Matter campaign. About 1,500 people, donning masks, marched from Gillette Park to the bay and back again. Young High School alumni organized it. I am proud to say that my bubble of a community showed solidarity and peace for all peoples. Hope was palatable. 

 If we were having coffee together, I would say that my Journal On! Thoughts Gleaned While Quarantined workbook is now in booklet form. I plan to offer them as giveaways for teachers. If I get a good response, I plan to produce the Journal On! A-Z prompts as a workbook. I posted, Working for the Dream– a brief history about child labor and attempted reforms during the early 20th century. This issue played out in Daily Bread, my middle-grade historical fiction novel.  Presently, Daily Bread is in the hands of beta readers. My parents are taking part and have provided valuable input concerning Sicilian slang, spelling, and clarity of detailed information. In the meantime, agent rejection form letters appear in my email box at a steady rate. I engaged in a few Zoom writer’s workshops this week. They were informative and confirmed I am on the right path. I just haven’t found the right fit yet. The pandemic has created a downsizing shift in the publishing industry. It looks like publishing houses will be making policy and acquiring changes for the long term. I will just have to keep trying. 

That’s it! Have a good week, Everyone. Make it great.

Big thank yous go out to Ecelic Ali for keeping the Weekend Coffee Share up and running.

Be well. Be safe.

Register to vote.  

 


Antoinette Truglio Martin is the author of Hug Everyone You Know: A Year of Community, Courage, and Cancer. The memoir is a wimpy patient’s journey through her first year of breast cancer treatment.

Working for the Dream

Daily Bread takes place in the Lower East Side of Manhattan Island, 1911. Tenement neighborhoods burst with immigrants. Hand and horse-drawn carts and the new-fangled assembly lined motor cars rumbled in the streets harmonizing with the lilts of different languages. Factories sprung up, spitting out goods such as food, clothing, home products, accessories, and so forth. 

The operations of these factories did not place safety as a top priority. The machines’ belchings clogged the air, and the noise muffled orders and instructions. Immigrant men were cheap laborers, women cheaper, but the children were a bargain.

photo by Lewis Hines National Archives

In 1910 the United States had two million children under the age of 14 working 12 to 18 hours a day, six days a week. Many of the urban children were immigrants or children of immigrants living on the edge. Uneducated, underfed, and poorly nurtured, the youngsters put in long hours keeping pistons cranking, spools spinning, and cogs whirring. Small children could fit into tight spots to operate or quickly repair. Bloody accidents happened every day.

Reformists of the Progressive Movement recognized that a generation of uneducated, hungry, and sick children dimmed America’s progress into the new century. Education, health, and labor movements quaked through the establishment. The National Child Labor Committee had proposed legislation for minimum age requirements, limit hours for working children, and mandated that kids stay in school until age fourteen.

Although laws passed, enforcement was sporadic at best. It was easy to hide small child workers during cursory inspections. Truant offices could not be bothered hauling in the street schleppers or young newsies when petty thieves and troublemakers who skip school took their attention. Bribery probably kept the illegal exploitations under the radar. It was easy to not miss the 12-year-old girls who suddenly did not show up in crowded classrooms. They simply disappeared into the factories.

photo by History.com

I incorporated child labor as a subplot in my story, Daily Bread. Work played an important role for immigrant families to survive their arrivals and move out of the tenement slums into their American dream. In the story, Papa shaped-up as a longshoreman each morning and took extra shifts, but work was dangerous and never steady. Mama stretched the earnings to house and feed a growing family and took in piecework to save for a home of their own with air to breathe and a plot to grow a garden. The dream darkened when work was scarce. Able-bodied Margaret, the oldest sister, could work in a factory for a wage like her friend. But Margaret had a different dream.

I based the scenario on my grandmother’s history. She had to quit school at age 13. It did not matter that she liked school, admired her teachers, and was very good at math. The family’s attitude did not value educating girls. It was not practical. A young girl’s youth was more useful in earning a wage rather than learning in a classroom. 

As a young girl, Grandma worked in a loud garment factory ten to fifteen hours a day for a paltry pay—a regret she echoed throughout her lifetime. Her sisters, except the youngest, followed her lead. Grandma told of her sadness the first day she took her favorite sister, Lily, by the hand into the dress factory. Lily, tall and pretty, just turned thirteen and would not finish the eighth grade.

“I felt like someone punched me in the stomach when I brought the kid into that life.”

As much as my grandmother hated the job, she and her sisters worked during important labor reforms that shaped the American working force. They held offices in the International Ladies Garment Workers’ Union, demanded fair pay, safe working conditions, and benefits, and added their voices to vote. Grandma worked most of her life. She was widowed too early and had to return to the garment factories to support her family.  She was not a happy person—she let her wounds fester into anger. Although her life was not what she had dreamed of, my grandmother’s work and tenacity paved a life with more choices for her children and proved herself as a self-sufficient woman. She lived a true American story. 

Daily Bread is my middle-grade historical novel set in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, 1911. The story follows eight-year-old Lily, an American-born child of Sicilian immigrants, who loves to sing out her artist heart and prove she is not a little kid. She learns that it is not easy to be a big kid in the crowded tenement neighborhood, skirting old-world traditions, tackling bigotry, disasters, and screwy bakers, and learning to cross the street by herself.

Daily Bread was inspired by one of my grandmother’s stories. As I bring Daily Bread to publication, I will share the story’s character and plot developments, the fun research adventures, and my writing process. Get comfortable and join me on the journey. You may need to get something to eat. Share your impressions and your stories. 

Antoinette Truglio Martin is the author of Hug Everyone You Know: A Year of Community, Courage, and Cancer. The memoir is a wimpy patient’s journey through her first year of breast cancer treatment.

June 2020 Coffee Share

Good morning, Everyone. Happy June. How is your world faring? The Phase Two Action Plan from the lockdown officially happens next week in my neck of the woods. Fingers crossed. My yard does not seem to be affected by the virus. Color explodes with the foxgloves and Japanese Iris blooms. Hydrangeas are not far behind. Do you have your coffee? Mine just dripped down. Let’s take a break and catch up.

If we were having coffee together, I would report that my parents finally flew into the local airport non-stop from Orlando, Florida. They wore the N95 masks my daughter sent them and came armed with hand sanitizer. Everyone is so happy and relieved to have them home. They are well—we are all well.  

 If we were having coffee together, I would add that the yard and garden are planted, fed, reseeded, and fussed over. Matt and I still have more items to cross off the Bella Vela’s, our catboat, list. Matt sports a fine layer of sanded paint these past few days while tackling the centerboard. Maybe next week, we can schedule a launch. 

If we were having coffee together, I would announce that I am putting together my Journal On! A Writer’s Daily Workbook from this past A to Z Challenge. I am moving forward in offering writers’ workshops in the schools via Zoom or in person. I prefer teaching in person, but in today’s world, flexibility is key. I just may have to get used to greeting and teaching kids over remote platforms for awhile.

If we were having coffee together, I would report that I have been blogging posts related to my middle-grade historical fiction novel, Daily Bread. It is good practice to put out essays about an upcoming book to stir some excitement and broaden the audience. The posts will continue to feature my writing process, research methods, family stories, and recipes. You can check them out here. I am also cleaning up pages on my website and Instagram. This takes so much time and careful planning. As it is, I changed my Instagram name too many times while playing around with different features, and now I can’t change anything for two weeks! Instead of it being a cooling-off period, I will probably forget I had to do something.   

If we were having coffee together, I would be remiss not to mention the heartache I’ve been feeling. The pandemic has been bad enough, but the latest show of inequality, ignorance, and the violent atrocities that fill our newsfeeds bare down. There is no way to spin any of it in a “good” light. What happened to kindness and respect, common sense, and common decency? Where is the unity that made our country great? Was it an illusion all this time? I don’t want to believe we are really this awful. 

There are no clear answers, friends. I remind myself to listen, be kind, and hold out a helping hand when I can. 

Be well. Be safe.

Register to vote.  

Have a good week, Everyone. Make it great.

 


Antoinette Truglio Martin is the author of Hug Everyone You Know: A Year of Community, Courage, and Cancer. The memoir is a wimpy patient’s journey through her first year of breast cancer treatment.

A New Beginning in a New World

A New Beginning in a New World

photo by History.com

Between 1880-1920, 34 million immigrants huddled on the decks of ships, watching the Statue of Liberty usher them into New York harbor. They had carried their few possessions, traveled across the ocean, and began a new chapter in the New World. The Lower East Side of Manhattan Island was the first homestead on American soil for most of these people. Their goal was to forge a hopeful life. 

My family’s paternal and maternal sides arrived in America between 1904 and 1910-ish, from Sicily and the shores of Naples. Italy had unified their regions and kingdoms some 40 years before. The reorganization of power had exasperated the disparities between peoples. Southern Italians and Sicilians were considered less desirable. Crippling laws, an antiquated feudal system, and oppression stifled their prospects. The lack of education and landownership, and blatant inequalities offered bleak futures.

America held out a hand, promising freedom, liberty, and hope. Many Sicilians did not leave home all at once. They were not driven from their villages or violently persecuted as the Jews were in pogrom campaigns. Instead, the men went first. They contacted relations or acquaintances claiming to be a relative to secure their place in the American dream. Most of my family were farmers and fishermen along the seaside coasts. They adapted their strength and drive to succeed by working the docks loading and unloading goods. The men bordered in crowded tenements, slept in shifts, and worked where they could. They scrambled to make a living in a claustrophobic industrial city, sent money to their families, and saved money to bring them all to America. It was a hard life, but the opportunities were better in America than in their homeland. They learned to speak English, read newspapers, and cultivated friendships.

 My maternal great-grandfather, Stefano Di Aguanno, had kept his mother’s name (there’s a fantastic story to that) but had stepbrothers who loved him and sponsored his passage. Stefano married my great-grandmother, Francesca, two days after meeting her (from an arrangement—not passionate love). Within a year,  he left his wife and baby girl, my grandmother, to lay the foundation for life in America. Stefano was a vineyard farmer, but several years of blight and famine threatened sustainability. He had to leave.

Francesca was never keen on leaving, even though she had to live with her mother-in-law (another great story). She was deeply devoted to her mama and sister and held a passion for the earth, coming from a tenant farm family. Stefano sent money home and wrote letters longing for his family to join him. The family would be better off in the bowels of the city, working towards a brighter life. Francesca never learned to read (are you imagining the stories piling up?), so her mother-in-law read the letters and finally advised her to go to America with the baby before he found another woman. Stefano was a handsome catch—tall (over 6 feet), auburn hair, sea-blue eyes, powerful hands and back, and a playful heart. Francesca, dark, plain, and sour, had no other prospects for support. Her father would not take her back. She packed her few possessions, carried her two-year-old child aboard a ship, and staked out her space in steerage. She brought her bread, intending to eat nothing else on the two-week voyage. The sea was relentlessly rough, as it usually is in late February. Just about everyone was sick from the motions, rancid food, and contaminated water, except Francesca, who nibbled on her bread, sipped the rainwater she collected and nursed her daughter. When she arrived and settled in a Mott Street tenement in the Little Italy section of Lower East Side, she made sure her husband understood that someday she would return home. 

Back then, I think men held a realistic view and looked for solutions to their dire situations. Pioneering across an ocean to America was their answer. It took incredible grit to make it happen. The women had to have just as much courage to follow—like it or not and make it work. My great grandmother made the new world fit by forcing old world traditions into her adopted homes. She kept to people with familiar tongues, cooked to her palate, and fashioned apartments and houses to resemble her version of home. During those first years in America, she kept boxes of soil to grow herbs in front of a sunny tenement window, so the food tasted right, and the flat smelled like home. 

I knew my great-grandmother when she lived in Brooklyn. She had a small garden plot outside her back door. A prolific fig tree and stakes of tomatoes and peppers crammed into that tiny space. I think the smell of the earth, the taste of the harvest, and the feel of the dirt on her hands and knees brought her home. She lived in America for almost 75 years but never returned to her mama and sister. 

Daily Bread, extrapolates my great-grandmother’s core and experiences as the mama in the story. I took the stories my grandmother and her sisters told and my mother’s memories of Stefano to fashion the papa character. Although fictionalized, I think I captured their courage and essence in becoming part of the American story. 

Daily Bread is my middle-grade historical novel set in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, 1911. The story follows eight-year-old Lily, an American-born child of Sicilian immigrants, who loves to sing out her artist heart and prove she is not a little kid. She learns that it is not easy to be a big kid in the crowded tenement neighborhood, skirting old-world traditions, tackling bigotry, disasters, and screwy bakers, and learning to cross the street by herself.

Daily Bread was inspired by one of my grandmother’s stories. As I bring Daily Bread to publication, I will share the story’s character and plot developments, the fun research adventures, and my writing process. Get comfortable and join me on the journey. You may need to get something to eat. Share your impressions and your stories. 

Antoinette Truglio Martin is the author of Hug Everyone You Know: A Year of Community, Courage, and Cancer. The memoir is a wimpy patient’s journey through her first year of breast cancer treatment.

The Tenement Museum: A Bounty Of Stories

Daily Bread is my middle-grade historical novel set in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, 1911. The story follows eight-year-old Lily, an American-born child of Sicilian immigrants, who loves to sing out her artist heart and prove she is not a little kid. She learns that it is not easy to be a big kid in the crowded tenement neighborhood, skirting old-world traditions, tackling bigotry, disasters, and screwy bakers, and learning to cross the street by herself.

Daily Bread was inspired by one of my grandmother’s stories. As I bring Daily Bread to publication, I will share the story’s character and plot developments, the fun research adventures, and my writing process. Get comfortable and join me on the journey. You may need to get something to eat. Share your impressions and your stories. 

The Tenement Museum: A Bounty Of Stories

photo by Wikipedia

The Tenement Museum is a living time capsule chronicling the values and roles of immigration in the American story. The backs and passions of many peoples from the entire world built our country. No other nation can claim such a rich, diverse heritage. 

I am lucky to live not too far from the Tenement Museum on 97 Orchard Street, New York City. It is located on the Lower East Side of Manhattan Island, where the beginning chapters of so many American stories originated. I had visited this gem several times for pleasure and while researching for my book, Daily Bread. The books and short shows on display and for sale offered the visualizations I needed to write Daily Bread. Murals of street scenes, people working, and children’s living and play conditions line the walls. But the best part of the museum is the tours. 

The owners of 97 Orchard Street boarded up the building since it was less costly than investing in mandated upgrades. The building stood lifeless for over fifty years until historian Ruth Abram and social activist Anita Jacobsen discovered it. They founded the Tenement Museum in 1988 to preserve the American stories of immigrants, migrants, and refugees in the ongoing creation of our nation.

 Daily Bread takes place in 1911, a time of explosive population growth, education reform, and worker unrest. I needed to experience a sense of place for my protagonist. The Tenement Museum tours offer a glimpse of life that was not so long ago. It was the next best thing to time travel.

One of the best tours I took was The Sweatshop Workers. I went with my mom, sisters, and cousins. The guide took us to 97 Orchard Street and first explained the installed safety accommodations for the tours. Once I looked beyond electric lights, sprinklers on the ceilings, and stair treads, the reality that this place was home to multitudes of hopeful pioneers came into view. 

Each of the five floors housed four three-room apartments. The residents on each floor shared one toilet closet. And that was a modern convenience! Before in-house plumbing, the outhouses and a water pump were in the ground floor courtyard. Sanitation was a full-time job. The apartments were tight, with the only natural light coming from one set of windows in the living room. A TB (tuberculous) window between the living room and kitchen improved the lighting and purported to help circulate the air. Artifacts—a tea kettle, sewing machine, boxing gloves, report cards, told the stories of perseverance, tragedy, and hope. Fascinating! 

During the tour, Mom’s recollections of her mother’s and aunt’s childhood memories emerged. My grandmother, the eldest of the five sisters, immigrated with her mother from Sicily. As the family grew, they lived in Mott Street and Mulberry Street flats for almost 18 years. The sisters slept in the living room on a bedroll that was kept behind the couch during the day. The parents slept in a small bedroom, and a cot for a sick child remained tucked beside the coal stove. Water constantly boiled on the stovetop for washing, cleaning, and cooking purposes. 

Many of the 325-square-foot apartments crowded with large families, newly arrived family members searching for their American dream, and borders sleeping on crates and in shifts. Home sweatshops with sewers, pressers, and fasteners buzzed all day until there was no light. Young schleppers ran piecework and dresses to and from the garment factories.

My grandmother’s tenement home was not a sweatshop, but they took in piecework. Grandma called it homework.  Finishing for collars and cuffs filled baskets and kept money, as little as it was, flowing for the family. 

I marveled at how sound vibrated through the apartments and hallways. The streets, voices, and footsteps must have been deafening. Smells—food, body, vermin, must have wafted through the walls and halls constantly. I imagined children racing down the staircase and out into the streets. It must have been a dangerous place to play, considering the traffic and congestion of the street vendors, horse-drawn carts, and motor cars rumbling down the street. Mom said her mother and aunts were not allowed out of each other’s sight. They could play on the stoop in view of the upstairs front window. 

The Tenement Museum Sweatshop Workers tour provided the scenes, information, and sensory experiences to extrapolate my characters’ home life, giving Daily Bread depth and credibility. It was better than any book or internet search could provide. The rooms and artifacts also jarred my mom’s memory of her mother’s and aunt’s snippets of their childhood.

I was also fortunate to meet the director of education services, Julia Mushalko, who helped guide me to information about school conditions and requirements, the politics of law enforcement, unionization, and the rise of women’s suffrage. I had planned on joining other tours, but since the pandemic closed the city, I have discovered the Tenement Museum’s podcast, How To Be An American and other resources that filled in the details for Daily Bread.

Throughout my research, I am struck by how so many of the stories and background histories reweave into today’s complicated American landscape. Hope for the future is rooted by learning, retelling, and appreciating the struggles and courage of our past. The Tenement Museum embodies this motto. Stay tuned for more adventures.

Antoinette Truglio Martin is the author of Hug Everyone You Know: A Year of Community, Courage, and Cancer. The memoir is a wimpy patient’s journey through her first year of breast cancer treatment.

A Walk Through The Yard Coffee Share

Good morning, Everyone.
I had posted the Stories Served Newsletter yesterday, thinking it would cover both the coffee share and my email audience. But I happen to remember that Maria, the Sagittarius Viking—a fellow coffee blogger, asked me to snap a few pictures of my gardens last week.

Most of the veggies are in the raised beds—tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, peas, broccoli rabe, and collards. Matt is waiting for the okra seedlings to get a little bigger before planting them. We are not big okra fans, but Matt likes to pickle them for southern-style Bloody Marys.

The herb bed needs basil, rosemary, and thyme—next week’s garden center visit.
The patio trim

Poof! The front yard shade bed

In a few weeks, color will pop against the green backdrop, and, maybe, Bella Vela will launch and the Sunfish will be on the beach.
Thanks for indulging me.
Big Thank Yous go out to Eclectic Ali for keeping the Weekend Coffee Share up and running. Be safe. Be smart.

Have a good week, Everyone. Make it great.

 


Antoinette Truglio Martin is the author of Hug Everyone You Know: A Year of Community, Courage, and Cancer. The memoir is a wimpy patient’s journey through her first year of breast cancer treatment.

Stories Served Pandemic Update

Welcome to the Stories Served Around The Table Notes and News Letter. It has been a while since I brought a newsletter to you. I hope all of you are well staying in a safe place and keeping socially distant yet connected.

It has been a tough few months. March started with shelter-in-place restrictions and frightening numbers of COVID-19 diagnosis and death. Main Street, Sayville has an abandoned feel with only restaurants’ curbside takeout, and essential pharmacy and grocery stores opened. Just like your world, schools and churches have closed their doors. Suddenly, teachers teach remotely and  parents tackle Common Core, juggle screen time and keep their kids from friends.

In an effort to be helpful during this unprecedented time, I put together quick journaling video lessons for kids on YouTube and quickly realized-YIKES- selfie videoing is hard and incredibly time-consuming to produce, and-YIKES again- teaching to a camera is a very steep learning curve. I posted six lessons but went back  to the written narrative.

Blogging A to Z April Challenge came up. I developed Journal On! Daily Writers Workshop for kids of all ages in alphabetical order. You can browse the daily posts here. The following are links to a few of my favorites.
E is for Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy
G is for Games
J is For Jam and Jam
N is for Nature
T is for Tongue Twisters

I had such heartening feedback! I decided to continue with the concept and fashioned themed workbooks. The current results are Journal On! Fun and Games and Journal On! Thoughts and Ideas While Quarantined.

       

I decided to make them available free through the end of the school year (June 26th). That meant, Stories Served had to sport a webstore. While I was at it, my copies of Hug Everyone You Know could be sold through the webstore as well. This meant I had to redo the whole website theme since my current theme did not support the criterion. Once I completed one little task, another seemingly hidden detail reared into view. It took a good chunk of a week, a few YouTube tutorials, and chat-help sessions, but I finally got the wrinkles ironed out and the widget cooperating 🤞.  I even got a friendlier URL as an alternative to my very long name. You can now access Stories Served Around the Table with www.storiesserved.com. So much easier, right? And then, while I was on a roll, I made a logo. Thoughts?

For now, the Journal On! workbooks can be ordered FREE by email request until June 26th. I am offering personally signed Hug Everyone You Know books for $12—shipping included! Hug Everyone You Know is a memoir for your summer reading list. It would make a terrific gift. Drama and humor occur as the first year tackling breast cancer unfolds. If you live in the continental United States, click here or on the website’s book cover sidebar and order your very own copy. Be sure to let me know to whom you want the book inscribed to at check out.

My middle-grade historical fiction novel, Daily Bread,  just came back from editing as did the query and synopsis. I fashioned a spreadsheet of agents and publishers to submit to and started the campaign toward publication 🤞🤞. While I wait for a green light, I decided to share the story’s character and plot developments, the fun research adventures, and my writing process. The following are the first two posts.
Daily Bread: An Introduction
Mrs. Goldberg’s Knot Surprises 

I continue to post the weekly Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Eclectic Ali. Well, almost every week. I find that the regular deadlines and the practice to be very good for my writing process and head. You can browse the Weekend Coffee Share page here. The following are a few favorites.
Regrouping, Rewriting, and Disinfecting Coffee Share
Easter 2020 Coffee Share
Hurray for May Coffee Share
Mother’s Day 2020 Coffee Share

Whew! That was a lot of catching up.
I will continue to look forward and strive to be well in mind and spirit, especially during these pandemic days. Writing is my go-to in times of uncertainty and stress. What is yours?

Be well, My Everyone.
Be safe. Be smart

 


Antoinette Truglio Martin is the author of Hug Everyone You Know: A Year of Community, Courage, and Cancer. The memoir is a wimpy patient’s journey through her first year of breast cancer treatment.

Mrs. Goldberg’s Knot Surprises

Daily Bread is my middle-grade historical novel set in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, 1911. The story follows eight-year-old Lily, an American-born child of Sicilian immigrants, who loves to sing out her artist heart and prove she is not a little kid. She learns that it is not easy to be a big kid in the crowded tenement neighborhood, skirting old-world traditions, tackling bigotry, disasters, and screwy bakers, and learning to cross the street by herself.

Daily Bread was inspired by one of my grandmother’s stories. As I bring Daily Bread to publication, I will share the story’s character and plot developments, the fun research adventures, and my writing process. Get comfortable and join me on the journey. You may need to get something to eat. Share your impressions and your stories. 

Mrs. Goldberg’s Knot Surprises

photo by art.com

Mrs. Goldberg, the baker’s wife, is a fictional character in my middle-grade historical novel, Daily Bread. To 8-year-old Lily, the protagonist, Mrs. Goldberg, is a magical ballerina with glittering cheeks and an artist’s heart. Although Mrs. Goldberg and her loving baker husband struggle to make ends meet in Manhattan’s crowded Lower East Side neighborhood, simple acts of kindness eventually save the bakery and save Lily’s family. Mrs. Goldberg insists children need sweet treats to satisfy their hunger and brighten their day. She bakes Knot Surprises using bread dough, a little sugar, and bartered cinnamon and jams. The children who bake their families’ Daily Bread each day are treated to a Knot Surprise each morning and at midday. Mrs. Goldberg also manages to give away her sweet treats to other children for birthday celebrations and just to see them smile. 

Mrs. Goldberg inspires impressionable Lily. The pretty baker’s wife flits and twirls about the bakery basement where bread baking takes place. She is always happy to see Lily, a girl who loves to sing and play despite the oppressive life on the Lower East Side. But there is a dark side to Mrs. Goldberg. She is prone to sadness and paralyzing depression. Her life before America holds unspeakable tragedy and pain. Mr. Goldberg, her hero, may have committed crimes to make their way to America and the bakery. Secrets weigh heavy on fragile Mrs. Goldberg making the sweet part of her day- dance, children’s happy smiles, and Knot Surprises, her means to survive. 

I will admit that my grandmother did not have a recipe for Knot Surprises. She baked pies and beautiful bread and rolls but never wrote down her baking secretes. Instead, I experimented in adapting bread recipes my mother had to create my version of Mrs. Goldberg’s Knot Surprises. Be mindful that I am not an accomplished baker. Like a chemistry lab exercise, one must measure, follow directions, and pay attention. I barely passed required chemistry classes—saved only by my smart choices in lab partners. While making up the Knot Surprise recipe, I had a few baking mishaps( my finger burns are healing nicely), but this version worked out best.  

If you bake Knot Surprises, please let me know if you like them and if the recipe was a success. Could you share your tweaks?

Mrs. Goldberg’s Knot Surprises    

Ingredients

1 package of active dry yeast                                        

1Tsp sugar plus a little extra for sprinkling

1 cup of warm water

 ½ Tsp salt   

3-5 cups of flour

oil

             Optional: melted butter, jam, 1:1 mixture of cinnamon and sugar.  

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350° 
  2. Stir the flour and salt together. 
  3. Use a measuring cup to mix the warm water, yeast, and sugar. Gently stir until the sugar and yeast dissolve. 
  4. In a separate bowl, mix the sweet yeasty water with 2 cups of flour. Stir until the flour is smooth. Add flour until the mixture is well incorporated, and the dough pulls away from the sides. 
  5. On a board dusted with flour, knead the dough, adding sprinkles of flour until your hands come clean.  
  6. Place the dough back into the bowl. Brush with oil and cover the top of the bowl with a clean towel. Let the dough rest and rise in a warm spot. 
  7. When the dough is almost twice its original size, knead out the air. Cut and roll palm-size balls.
  8. Shape the balls in a long oval. Spread a dollop of jam in the middle or spread a bit of butter and sprinkle a 1:1 mixture of cinnamon and sugar. 
  9. Roll the oval longwise, twist and knot. Place the knot on a parchment-lined pan.
  10. When all of the knots are on the pan, brush them with oil or melted butter and sprinkle with sugar. Let stand for 30-45 minutes. Bake for 15 minutes (about-keep an eye on them).  

 


Antoinette Truglio Martin is the author of Hug Everyone You Know: A Year of Community, Courage, and Cancer. The memoir is a wimpy patient’s journey through her first year of breast cancer treatment.

Sunday Morning Coffee Share

Good morning, Everyone. It is a beautiful Sunday morning here on the south shore of Long Island despite the pandemic not easing as smoothly (is that the right word?) as all had hoped.

If we were having coffee together, I would report that my bike rides and travels through town spied so many graduation signs on the front lawn and birthday parades (I invited myself to join a few parades). It is a nice feeling to wave hello to neighbors I now recognize more readily. It is also so nice to see families, teens included, walking together, keeping a safe distance from others.

If we were having coffee together, I would tell you the yard is beginning to pop with color. Forget-Me-Nots bloomed their pretty blue, trimming the perennial garden. The veggies, broccoli rabe, snap peas, and collard greens (Matt’s favorite if I cook them with too much bacon), have sprouted. Window cleaning has commenced, and we are stripping varnish from the boat (thank God it is a small boat) so we can sand and revarnish the trim. The little engine needs some attention, but the sailboat now sports a fresh coat of blue bottom paint, and the rudder is hung. Getting close.

If we were having coffee together, I would report on the writing front. Daily Bread’s manuscript came back from editing this week with not too many errors and drastic changes needed. I sent out copies to agents and two publishing houses that did not require agents this week and crafted a spreadsheet. I decided to start weekly postings on how Daily Bread came to be. I will be presenting character backgrounds, back in the day stories, research and writing processes, and recipes. This weekend I have been trying to recreate the story’s sweet treat, Knot Surprises. The first two attempts were a bust, but this morning’s dough looks so much better. The problem with family recipes is that not much was written down. You can check out the first Daily Bread post from last week here.

I had some very encouraging feedback from the Blogging A to Z challenge. Journal On! Daily Writers’ Workshop targeted kids of all ages. I put together too short workbooks for teachers and parents to encourage journaling and creative writing. Journal On! Fun and Games and Journal On! Thoughts and Ideas Gleaned While Quarantined are available for free until the end of the (home)school term—June 23rd. If you or anyone you know would like a copy, please email me at storiesserved@gmail.com. I will send you a PDF document and the Powerpoint in exchange for honest feedback.

That’s it, folks. Have a good week. Make it great. Be safe. Be smart. Be well.

Big thank yous go out to Ecelic Ali for keeping the Weekend Coffee Share up and running.

 

 

Antoinette Truglio Martin is the author of Hug Everyone You Know: A Year of Community, Courage, and Cancer. The memoir is a wimpy patient’s journey through her first year of breast cancer treatment.

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Daily Bread an Introduction

photo by Sergio Arez at Unsplash

Daily Bread is my middle-grade historical novel set in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, 1911. The story follows eight-year-old Lily, an American-born child of Sicilian immigrants, who loves to sing out her artist heart and prove she is not a little kid. She learns that it is not easy to be a big kid in the crowded tenement neighborhood, skirting old-world traditions, tackling bigotry, disasters, and screwy bakers, and learning to cross the street by herself.

 As I bring Daily Bread to publication, I will share the story’s character and plot developments, the fun research adventures, and my writing process. Get comfortable and join me on the journey. You may need to get something to eat. Share your impressions and your stories. 

The heart of Daily Bread came from my grandmother and her sisters telling and retelling their stories at the dinner table or in the kitchen. Stories grew from each teller, and time shifted perspective and facts. My grandmother, the eldest, was born in Sicily and immigrated with her mother across the ocean in steerage. She was perhaps two years old when she arrived and met her father for the first time in 1905. The family lived in the Lower East Side tenements on Manhattan Island. Four American daughters were soon born to the family. My grandma spent her crowded childhood in three-room flats on Mott Street and Mulberry Street.

My grandmother and her sisters had many heated argu—er—reminiscent sessions around the table, hashing out the family history. Their mama, my Great Grandma, was at the center, happily stirring pots adding to the commotions in bursts of Sicilian. Many of Grandma’s stories revolved around the wrongs and trespasses acted against her. The sisters had their own spin and burdens. Forgiveness may have been possible, but no one ever forgot. I hated the high-pitched hollering and the hand-slapping on the table. But the stories were so fantastic. I quietly stuck around, listened (never daring to say a word even as an adult) and remembered.  

Great Grandma and four of her daughters from back lt to rt Frances, Lily, Bea, Margaret(front rt)

 

There were few artifacts to verify the stories of their life in the tenements. Photographs during those early American years were scarce. There were no diaries or stacks of letters to browse through. Except for a few pieces of jewelry, sentimental items that were once cherished disappeared from bureau drawers. That side of the family did not like clutter. 

Daily Bread is not a factual account of immigrant children baking bread in the basement of a Jewish bakery. I am not sure if the baker’s wife gave the children morning and midday treats or if any of the children were in danger. What is true is that immigrant children of the early 20th century, like my grandmother and grand-aunts, had incredible responsibilities in caring for each other and journeying through indifference, bigotry, and disasters as they grew up (some things have not improved for today’s children of immigrants). Despite and because of their circumstances, they spun their American life stories to pass on better circumstances for their children and generations to come. They made America. Another truth is that, throughout her life, my grandma baked beautiful bread.

As I bring Daily Bread into the world, I will share Back In the Day Stories and my writing process. I am so fortunate to have my parents, several of their cousins, and our matriarch, Aunt Tosca, around to interview and gain clarification. Get comfortable and join me on the journey. Share your impressions and stories. You may need to eat something.


Antoinette Truglio Martin is the author of Hug Everyone You Know: A Year of Community, Courage, and Cancer. The memoir is a wimpy patient’s journey through her first year of breast cancer treatment.

Amazon Barnes & Noble IndieBound

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