The Tuna of My Youth

As a child, I had no idea that tuna could be white and packed in water. I grew up eating yellow fin tuna that was packed in olive oil. See the can below.

I first discovered The Other Kind of tuna when I ordered a sandwich at a cafeteria at the University of Connecticut. Mayo, not oil, oozed from this sandwich. The tuna looked as if it had been run through a blender; tiny white particles smashed together, instead of dark robust chunks. Moreover, the flavor of this white tuna paled in comparison to the zippity doo dah power punch that the tuna of my youth delivered. I felt depressed and homesick.

Several weeks ago, as I wandered aimlessly through the aisles of COSTCO, I spotted six-can packs of THE TUNA OF MY YOUTH—exactly the Genoa brand! I felt a shiver of delight. I bought six cans then drove home and prepared the meal below.



Tuna (at least two cans)

Salt and Pepper

Olive Oil

Balsamic Vinegar/Red Wine Vinegar

Flat Leaf Italian Parsley

Carrots (3 or 4)

Celery (3 or 4 with leaves)

Red Onion

Kalamata Olives

Small Potatoes (quartered or halved)

Cannelini Beans (2 cans) (Northern beans okay or anything else you’d like that doesn’t need to be cooked.)


As our tax accountant can attest, I am not so good with numbers, so I am not going to bother telling you quantities. Use your judgment. You’ll be fine.

First, get a pot of salted water boiling, big enough to contain those potatoes and just enough water to cover them. Boil them until they are tender enough to poke with a fork. Do not overcook. Err on the firmer side. Drain them and let them cool.

Open and drain two cans of tuna. Empty them into a nice, big pretty bowl. Chop up parsley, celery and carrots. Throw in. Drain beans and toss in. Cut pitted kalamata olives in half and throw in. Add a few highly visible chunks of red onion (just for flavor). Add salt and pepper to taste. When potatoes have cooled, cut into bite-sized pieces and gently mix in. Right before you are ready to eat, add olive oil and some combination of balsamic and red wine vinegar to taste.


That’s it, Schmidt. Bon appetit!






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How to Hook a Reader on the First Page


Moseley Writers will present the panel Off to a Good Start: How to Hook a Reader on the First Page at Virginia Festival of the Book 2017.


When: Saturday, March 25, 2017 from 2:00 pm-3:00 pm


Where: Ballroom A at the Omni Hotel, Charlottesville.



Submit the first page of a manuscript for a speed critique by the Moseley Writers. The first page must be original, unpublished and no longer than 100 words. No nonfiction, poetry, horror and erotica. PASTE the entry in an email to by Friday, March 17, 2017. A few entries will also be accepted at the door. The Moseley Writers will read (as many as time permits) anonymous first pages aloud and discuss what is working and how what can be improved.


Who: Panel members are Meredith Cole, Jennifer Elvgren, Deborah Prum and Andy Straka.


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Appropriate for Our Current Times–FATTY IN THE BACK SEAT


Please check out FATTY IN THE BACK SEAT,  a book which seems especially appropriate for our times. The novel is about Latino immigrant family in Florida who take in Cuss, the learning-disabled teenager whose middle class parents are too self-absorbed to recognize that Cuss is challenged by dyslexia and not just badly behaved. Available as a paperback, as an e-Book, and as an audiobook. Five stars on Amazon. Check it out here: Fatty in the Back Seat

Here are two of many reviews:

Five out of Five Stars

By Kathy Grimes The key to what makes Deborah Prum’s books such a good read, for teen and adult alike, is given on the last page of the book: “`Fatty in the Backseat’ does not give pat answers to hard questions, instead offers a glimmer of hope . . .” I thought the book offered more than a glimmer of hope and did so with a poignancy that never was maudlin and always had both a fresh description and perspective and a good deal of very good humor to give. Quite a gift–in the author’s writing and in what she gives the reader.


Five out of Five Stars

By Aquinasfan

I love Deborah Prum’s writing. The pace is quick, the images are colorful and clear, and the characters come alive (I think I know some of these people!). She handles issues which are painful and sad, in ways that are humorous and hopeful, without passing over their seriousness. She draws the reader into the settings and the situations, and it’s hard to put the book down! A good young adult/preteen read, with stuff to talk about afterwards, or to just think on.



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The Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu, said, “A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.” An interesting thought….

A few months ago, I planned to leave Charlottesville mid-afternoon and arrive in time for an early dinner with my daughter-in-law in Alexandria.

Coming from New Orleans, the train moseyed into the Charlottesville station well over an hour late. I boarded one car, but it seemed full, so I headed to the next in line where I found a seat in the middle of a group of Amish people.

About an hour into the trip, the sky darkened and rain pelted the train so hard that I could barely see through the window. A few minutes later, the train stopped in the middle of nowhere—never a good sign. Next, a train official announced that five trees had fallen on the tracks. He said it would take a while to clear each one of them.

Immediately, my neighbors started speaking to each other in Pennsylvania Dutch. No one seemed interested in talking to me, so I became profoundly lonely. I’d thought the trip would last about two hours and hadn’t bothered to bring a book. So, in addition to becoming lonely, I also became profoundly bored.

After a while, a train attendant announced that they had opened the restaurant car, which meant people could buy alcoholic beverages. People streamed forward through our car to the refreshment area beyond. I saw a young woman with a baby swaddled on her chest. She carried a glass of wine in each hand. “Yes, these are BOTH for me,” she said to someone next to her.

Soon after, a train attendant began handing out a snack pack that included Cheddar Cheese Guppies, not Pepperidge Farm Goldfish, but its off brand twin. Possibly these were the snack fish that had been caught in the tuna nets. I am not a snack snob, so I gobbled them down, off brand or not. Unfortunately, the man right behind me started eating, too, which seemed to set off burping/hiccoughing reaction. At first, I felt sympathetic, but after a couple of hours, not so much.

Finally, a train attendant announced the trees had been cleared. We cheered.

Our elation was short lived. We stopped at the very next station, Burke, I think, but doors did not open and no announcement came from the PA system. Instead, a man rushed through our car followed by three train attendants. The man looked distraught. I heard only a little of what he said, “…should be thrown off of the train.”

Then, we sat and sat. No Wi-Fi, no phone service, no explanatory announcements from the PA system, only the incessant sound of gastronomical distress from the man behind me. Oh, I experienced additional sensory input, too. I neglected to mention my location: only two rows from the overflowing restrooms. Yes, the perfect storm of train hell. At one point, I knew we had to be in desperate straights because an official began distributing REAL Oreo cookies, not a knock off brand.

At around eleven, I grabbed an attendant as she rushed past and asked, “What’s happening?”

Well, in that car behind us, the car I initially passed through, apparently a fight had broken out involving a drunken person or drunken people. She was fuzzy on the details. Regardless, all the train officials seemed to be in that car, trying to keep the peace as we all waited for the police and EMTs to arrive.

Ultimately, the police arrived and we were on our way. I reached the utterly empty Alexandria train station well after one in the morning; too late for dinner and too early for breakfast.

The moral of this story? When it comes to traveling, I have the luck of Jonah. You know Jonah, he is that guy in the Old Testament who thought he was making a simple journey to Tarshish Much to his surprise, Jonah spent a three-day detour, stewing in the digestive juices in the belly of a whale. As for my trip, I wound up spending seven hours stewing in the smelly belly of a train.

So even though Lao Tzu is most assuredly smarter than I am, I disagree with him. This particular traveler enjoys life far more deeply when her fixed plans come to pass and she arrives on time.









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Hidden Figures

Hidden Figures is a movie based on a true story about three African-American women who worked for NASA in the early days of the space program. These overlooked and under- recognized women provided essential mathematical data needed to launch the program’s first successful space missions. Faced with the racism and sexism rampant in the early sixties, they surmounted incredible obstacles, ultimately establishing themselves as highly respected professionals in their field.

I loved this movie. The two hours moved quickly. Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae and the supporting cast delivered excellent performances. Peppered with humor, the film explored race/racism/sexism in America in the 1960’s. The movie also provided information about U.S. and Russian relations and why establishing an American presence in space felt so crucial at the time.

And the sound track? Terrific! I’m going to find out if I can purchase a copy.

I’ve noticed that people are raising money to make sure girls get to see this movie. I can see why. Bring your daughters and your sons.

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How do you live out the rest of your life after your negligence causes the unthinkable to happen?

Even though I saw Manchester by the Sea a couple of weeks ago, certain scenes still keep running through my mind. The movie is about forgiveness and the extension of grace, but is also about what happens when there is no forgiveness and no extension of grace.

I want to avoid giving away the plot, so I’ll just say the story centers around a man who unexpectedly and unwillingly becomes the guardian of his teenage nephew. Given just that plot point, you might imagine a heartwarming story about a curmudgeonly uncle whose heart melts as his falls for his flawed, but cute, nephew. That would be a Disney movie, but not so much a Kenneth Lonergan film. The story is gritty, grim and difficult to watch, but beautifully redemptive in its own painful way. Across the board, the acting is solid and is especially wonderful when Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams are on the screen. Lonergan’s meticulous direction is evidenced in every scene.

As a native New Englander, I can say that Ruth De Jong (production design) did an excellent job. The kitchens, living rooms, basements, school—all perfectly rendered.

And the accents? Spot on. In fact, the speech is so authentic and so peppered with funny idioms, I wondered if non-New England viewers might need subtitles to follow the dialogue.

Viewing the film helped me think differently about a few situations in my life. I highly recommend it.



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All I want for Christmas is a different president-elect.

Perhaps this is a lost cause, but I am no stranger to lost causes. Growing up, I never received the two presents for which I stridently lobbied.

Instead, every Christmas morning, my sister and I would wake up to the same gift:  a pair of my father’s tube socks stuffed with onions and potatoes. Loose change filled the toes of each sock. Yes, Daddy possessed a strange sense of humor, but that’s another story.

To be fair, we did receive other gifts, mostly underwear related. I never did get what I wanted, a live horse and a real handgun. Each Christmas morning, I’d peer out my bedroom window, hoping to see a stallion tethered to the front fender of our Oldsmobile. A devout believer in magical realism, I did not wither in the face of my real reality. That is, we lived in a tiny tenement apartment. We possessed no grass on which the theoretical horse could graze, no barn in which he could live. Moreover, my father worked at three jobs to keep us afloat, leaving no funds for the purchase or upkeep of said horse.

And the real gun? Let’s just say the tenement was located in a semi-exciting neighborhood, made a bit more exciting by my active imagination. As a small-statured child, I felt that a real gun would offer me gravitas. In truth, two gangs did plague our community–the Earls and the Lords. (Incredibly, I am not making up these names.) But, my parents were not crazy. For all the obvious reasons, receiving a handgun for Christmas was never a real option.

No matter, until age ten, hope sprung eternal. That year, my heart leapt when, I spied a rectangular package with my name on it. The firmness of this gift led me to believe that—O Happy Day—it did not contain underwear.  It also did not contain a gun. Instead, I found a Rainbow Children’s Bible. Pictured on the cover: a Nordic-looking Jesus calmly discussing eternal matters with a group of happy Nordic-looking children. The irony was not lost on me.

Back to the future. Or, the present. I mean, back to right now. Forget the horse. Forget the gun. I’ve changed my request. It’s simple this year:


Dear Santa,





Please share, re-tweet and/or send to your favorite Elector. Thank you.




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No Mayo Potato Salad


My Italian grandmother, Santa, hated mayonnaise. I believe she thought it contained poison. She’d scowl, then point at the most unlikely food, like an apple or carrot or a slice of roast beef and say, “Is got mayonnaise? I no like mayonnaise!”

So, I grew up eating a no mayo potato salad, served warm or at room temperature. It’s simple to make, easy to transport, tastes good and might possibly be a excellent choice to bring to your next holiday potluck, especially since you wouldn’t be risking poisoning anybody.



Some small multi-colored potatoes

Many stalks of celery

A few slices of red onion

Lots of fresh flat Italian parsley, chopped but not minced

Fresh chives, minced, not too many

Fresh dill, just a little. Don’t bother with dried dill.

Olive oil, the cheap stuff with a kick is just fine

Balsamic vinegar, the aged kind with a sweeter flavor is nice

Salt and pepper


Add salt to a big pot of water. After it starts to boil, put in some potatoes.

How many? How big do you want your potato salad to be? That’s how many.

Test the potatoes periodically. Boil them until you can just poke them relatively easily with a fork. You want some resistance. DO NOT OVERCOOK. Err on the side of them being undercooked. Remember, they will continue to cook a little on their own even when out of the water. If you overcook the potatoes, they will turn into a sticky, starchy mass and you will feel like crying.

Drain the potatoes into a colander. If you think they are on the verge of overcooking, spray them with cold water. If not, don’t bother because this dish tastes good served on the warm side.

Chop up a bunch of stalks of celery, leaves and all. Chop lots of parsley. Mince some fresh chives and some fresh dill, if you have these. Don’t add too much of either herb. Slice (large slices) a little red onion.

By now, the potatoes should be cool enough to handle. With a sharp knife, cut them into large bite-sized pieces. Try not to over handle them or they will mush together. Throw potatoes into a big bowl. Toss in celery, red onion, parsley, chives, and dill. Add olive oil and balsamic vinegar (ratio: 2 parts oil to 1 part vinegar). Toss. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Congratulations! You’ve avoided mayonnaise poisoning and have made a delicious salad to boot. Bon appetit!



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Want to Learn More About Russia?


Russia is much in the news these days. Want to learn more about the country that may have contributed to the predicament we now find ourselves in? Check out: Czars and Czarinas.

What is this?

            Czars and Czarinas is an interactive book, also known as an iBook, which can be downloaded onto a Mac computer, an iPad or an iPhone. (Cost: $7.99) The iBook uses cutting-edge technology to present a funny and educational look at Russian history.

What is it about?

            Available on iTunes, the eighty- page iBook focuses on Ivan III, Ivan IV, Peter the Great and Catherine the Great. It includes: slide shows, charts, a theme song, sound effects, (bells ringing, horses whinnying, thunder). Wisecracking self-tests appear at the end of every chapter. The humor is Monty Python-like in style. Portraits express opinions of their own. When you click the sound button, Peter’s wife Eudoxia, declares their troubled marriage was “All Peter’s fault.” In a section of the book about Ivan the Terrible’s search for a wife, you read his Personal Ad: “Lonely Czar seeks wife. Loves long walks on the tundra, sipping borscht by a hot fire, pillaging a village or two…”

Charlottesville Friends:

            On the first page, you will hear our own Kristin Baltes and John Flannery singing and playing the theme song of the book, Not Just A lot of Guys Named Ivan.



            Great for ages 9 through adult. Teachers: you can download it onto one device at your school then any student can use that device to read the iBook . Each chapter ends with a self-test.

Purchase Information?

            Click HERE to purchase for $7.99.

****When you get to the page, select “View in iTunes.” Or, you can go straight to iTunes and purchase it via your account. You can download a sample chapter on Peter the Great for free.


Review by Phi Beta Kappa’s The Key Journal:


“Although it is categorized under children’s nonfiction, I found myself completely engrossed by Czars and Czarinas, a new iBook by Deborah Prum (ΦBK, University of Connecticut, 1973) released earlier this year. Prum is an award-winning author and founder of Still Mountain Bookworks. Czars and Czarinas is a captivating read for children and adults alike. It is funny, it is fresh, and Prum has spun decades of Russian history into an entertaining (and inconspicuously educational) tale.

Czars and Czarinias is downloadable and readable through Apple devices, both computers and tablets. iBooks, perhaps a newer descendent of the ebook, differ from the latter in that they envelop many interactive components. Czars and Czarinas is a lighthearted and amusing account spanning the first nine centuries of Russian history. Notable czars and czarinas showcased include Ivan III, Ivan IV, Peter the Great, and Catherine the Great. Prum uses a variety of interactive features throughout the iBook, including speech, sound effects, and animations—making the book a feast for the senses. The periodic interactive quizzes are a valuable asset for adopting the book for educational use as well.”



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For Advent-Excerpt from Sylvia Plath Poem


An excerpt from Sylvia Plath’s poem,

Black Rook in Rainy Weather:

With luck,

Trekking stubborn through this season

Of fatigue, I shall

Patch together a content

Of sorts. Miracles occur,

If you care to call those spasmodic

Tricks of radiance miracles.

The wait’s begun again,

The long wait for the angel.

For that rare, random descent.

(Taken from the All Souls Bulletin)

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