Saturday, September 22, 2012

September 2012 Newsletter: A Long-Expected Update

My dear Bagginses and Boffins, Tooks and Brandybucks, friends, family, and very patient fans...

I know it's been an awfully long while since I first posted on this blog, but I've now decided to make a point of updating it on a regular basis, hopefully once a week, even if it's just to share a thought or a photo. Newsletters will be posted monthly.

First order of business: I'm thrilled to announce that Tim Maurice and I have released a new, digital download-only single as part of the festivities surrounding Hobbit Day (Sept. 22nd) and the 75th anniversary of the publication of J.R.R. Tolkien's classic novel, The Hobbit. The piece, an original composition of Tim's entitled "Misty Mountain," was previously only offered to a select few supporters of our Celtic Chamber Music Kickstarter campaign, but is now available for all to purchase on CDBaby and iTunes.  It will also be up on Amazon MP3 in the next week or two.

You can listen to a teaser clip here:

What better way to celebrate Hobbit Day than with a bit of (hairy)toe-tapping music? :)

Speaking of which, don't forget to also check out my friend Marc Gunn's 2011 release, Don't Go Drinking With Hobbits. You can hear me on fiddle on several songs, as well as a couple original instrumental dance tunes, "Prancing Pony" and "The Shire Polkas."

Cover art by Nikki O'Shea

Another way to celebrate Hobbit Day is to gather with good friends to share a delicious meal (or two or three). In that spirit, I would like to share with you a fantastically simple and yummy recipe for Elven lembas bread, which I learned from kitchen wizardess Phyllis Brown over at Food, Flowers Herbs, & Life. Phyllis taught this recipe in a cooking class at A Long-Expected Party 2 last year (more on that later).

Lembas Bread 
2 cups all-purpose flour 
1/2 cup sugar 
2 teaspoons baking powder 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
1/4 teaspoon baking soda 
1/3 cup cold butter, cut into small pieces 
1/2 cup milk 1 egg 1/8 cup milk, for brushing on top 

"In a large bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Cut butter in until mixture is crumbly. In a small bowl, beat milk and egg until combined. Stir into crumb mixture just until blended. Using your hands gently mix well. Turn dough onto a floured surface. Gently form into a rectangle – about 1/2 inch thick. Cut into small squares with a sharp knife – you may rub a little flour on the knife if it gets too sticky. Make an X on each piece with your knife. Carefully using a turner, move the lembas to a cookie sheet. Lightly brush a small amount of milk on the bread. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown."

I especially love eating these Lembas cakes with a smidge of apple butter and a cup of Hobbit Tea's "Bilbo's Breakfast Blend."
Mmmm yummeh. :d

Photo by Phyllis Brown

And to round off this post, allow me to share with you some memories of a very special party indeed:

Last September, I had the amazing privilege of performing at "A Long-Expected Party 2," a four-day convention in Harrodsburg, KY centered around the works and worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien. But an ordinary con this was not: ALEP2 (and its 2008 predecessor, ALEP) was an intimate gathering of like-minded souls— not much more than 150 of us— held on the grounds of the Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill, a beautifully pastoral site reminiscent of the Shire. Drawn together by our love of Middle-earth, we attended fascinating lectures by prominent Tolkien scholars, learned the art of archery and swordplay, sang in Hobbit and Elf choirs, cruised down the River Brandywine, and hiked across the countryside (all while in costume!). At night, we gathered in a great feasting hall (a converted barn decorated with pillars and banners) to partake of some of the most delicious meals I have ever eaten, catered by the Shaker Village staff.  Evening performances included musical numbers by Marc Gunn, Jamie Haeuser, and I, as well as songs, poems, ghost stories, and theatrical skits presented by talented ALEP attendees. The creativity (and some select beverages) flowed on far into the nights as we gathered in the Dancing Pony— the cellar level of one of the village's dwellings— for some after-hours merriment.  There, we sang, danced, laughed, and reveled in the warmth of our fellowship.

Now that autumn is upon us and there's a chill in the air, I find myself growing homesick for our little plot of Middle-earth. Luckily, plans for ALEP3: The Road Goes Ever On are already underway. 2014 cannot come soon enough!

In the meantime, I wish you all a very merry Hobbit Day, and "may the hair on your toes never fall out!"

"The West Farthing" by Jef Murray
Jef and his wife Lorraine are members of the ALEP family.
His beautiful "Middle-earth Calendar 2013" is now available for purchase.