Musical Inspiration, Musings of A Writer

The Beatles, Still Inspiring Me After All These Years

The Long And Winding Road That Always Leads Me Back To The Beatles

The long and winding road of writing always leads me back to the Beatles.

I am not much for writing fan letters, but as someone who loves music, and loves the Beatles even more, I wrote a letter to Rick Rubin about the documentary McCartney 321. It made my HULU subscription worth it. I found it to be an innovative approach to discussing the genius of John, Paul, George, and Ringo, as members of The Beatles and as solo artists. More importantly, it showcased the love they had for one another and the respect they had for other artists and genres of music. I  found the aspect of delving into tracks from a producer’s point of view to be fascinating. The way he pulled apart different aspects of tracks from the songwriting and instrumental perspective, made me appreciate the layering of sounds and the genius of the producer Sir George Martin.
For me, one of the things that make the Beatles as influential as they’ve been was their youthful sense of adventure and fun. They weren’t afraid to learn and try new things. There’s a sense of fun and brotherhood on every track. Whether it’s a ballad or soaring rock, it feels like we are there in the studio with them.  As artists, they understood the contribution producers made to each song. It was far more than just sitting behind glass. A producer serves as another member of the band, and they are just as important to the collaboration.  I’m a Gen-Xer and I will admit that I don’t understand how the music industry works now in a streaming Pandora and Spotify world, but I understand how much a good producer means to an artist or group.
I can’t remember when I fell in love with The Beatles. I’ve adored them for as long as I can remember. I had a super crush on Paul, who was and still is, the cute Beatle. He’s also the same age as my dad, who I believe is the coolest man in the world. Sir Paul is in my top five.  There may be some people who don’t know who Rick Rubin is, but he has produced everyone including Beastie Boys, RUN DMC, LL Cool J, Adele, Public Enemy, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Joan Jett, Tom Petty, and the Heartbreakers, Rage Against The Machine, Johnny Cash, Mick Jagger, Dixie Chicks. Shakira, Linkin Park, Kanye West, Eminem, and the Wu-Tang Clan, just to name a few. I believed his eclectic taste and love for music, made him the right person to sit down with Sir Paul to discuss the Beatles and his solo work.
Ostensibly, writing and songwriting are different and the same. A songwriter is concerned with the way lyrics flow as its set to music. The words and the beat illicit different things to different people while everyone enjoys it.  Writing articles or books is another aspect of art in which words are used to transport readers into the pages, or inform their minds about different subjects.  I’ve always found that music helps me set a mood when I’m writing and I play everything from the Beatles catalog as a group and solo artists. One of my favorite ways to enjoy their music is in the car listening to the Beatles station on Sirius-XM.  it’s essentially all of The Beatles’ music, but they play the artists and records that inspired John, Paul, George, and Ringo.
There are plenty of arguments about songwriters and who is considered the best. While taste is subjective, for my money, The Beatles will always be at the top. They helped pave the way for the innovation that so many take for granted these days. Listening to their genius fuels my literary journey. I am sure other writers have artists that inspire paragraphs and pages. I hope you continue to enjoy whoever puts a smile on your face while you put pen to paper.
As a fan, this documentary was enough to keep me going until Peter Jackson’s Get Back hits the theaters or streaming services. I am looking forward to it.  If you’re a fan or someone who appreciates music, McCartney 321, is a documentary you should check out.
Happy Writing Everyone.
Living Your Best Life North of Forty and Fifty Plus

I was a teenage man snatcher and Martha Stewart is partially to blame

It’s a heck of a thing to call yourself a teenage man snatcher, and to point to Martha Stewart as the reason it happened. Well, I have to be honest, she was just one factor that contributed to my delinquency, and she is in good company. Jane Austen, Edith Wharton, Charlotte Bronte, and Emily Bronte also contributed to my rep as a modern Victorian seductress.

I loved all things baking from a very early age. My dad gave me an Easy Bake oven when I was four, and once I saw a wedding cake, it was all downhill from there. I was hooked on stacking and frosting cakes. Eventually, my baking repertoire grew over time to include cookies, pastries, bread, muffins, and naturally more cakes. At eleven, I had a subscription to the cooking magazine, Cuisine, which eventually became Gourmet. I loved trying new recipes to challenge myself and improve my skills.

I was a teenager in the eighties. It was a time of big hair, shoulder pads, Dallas, and Dynasty. General Hospital’s Luke and Laura were the onscreen soap couple. Cooking shows were limited to PBS on Sundays and for a few precious hours on Monday evenings. I wasn’t allowed to date at the time. So, while other girls were getting ready to go out to a movie on Friday and Saturday night, I was at home or spending the night over my best friend Melissa’s house listening to the Beatles, Adam Ant, Michael Jackson, and Prince. Madonna got some airplay from us too. After all, she was a Leo like Melissa and me. Not to mention, Madonna and I have the same birthday.

I had friends, but my girl circle was fairly small, but I had a lot of guy friends. Who were really friends and not the euphemisms used to define friendship now. Melissa liked being in the kitchen as much as I did. As a result, we were able to monopolize (as other girls and some of their mother’s thought) all of the guys time with scones, chocolate cookies, muffins, and the like. By no means was it a den of ill-repute, we’d either be at Melissa’s house under her parent’s watchful eyes, or at my house with her mothership (my mother) and my younger sister.

In the beginning, learned how to set a table for company from my mother. She worked in my junior high school cafeteria as a lunch lady, but she also worked on and off for Stone catering company. That helped me get a grip on the basics, but I wanted to do it will a little more style. I was fifteen when I went on a mission to find a cookbook that combined both recipes with entertaining. I checked the shelves of my local libraries and bookstores regularly to no avail.

Then one Sunday afternoon PBS had a special on entertaining with a caterer out of Connecticut, Martha Stewart. I’d never heard of her previously, but her name and style made a lasting impression on me. I was fascinated by her attention to detail, her home décor and the way she presented food on a holiday table. Martha was my parents age and everything about her seemed smooth, elegant, and just plain regal. I scoured TV Guide to see when she was going to be on television again. I couldn’t get enough. Then one day at Waldenbooks, I saw it. Entertaining by Martha Stewart. There she was on the cover in a Victorian style white dress presiding over a perfectly decorated table. I was there with my friend Joel, who I begged to buy the book for me. Lucky for me, he bought it with the catch that I’d have him over whenever i made something from the book. That was one of the easiest deals I ever made. There was no way I wasn’t going to cook my way through the book, or die trying.

It felt like my own little storyline was happening in real life. I wasn’t going on dates but I was in the kitchen with Martha and my friend Melissa. I was in my Victorian phase. I loved Gunne Sax dresses and old lace. We made scones, muffins, bread, pies, cakes, and more kinds of biscotti than anyone could shake a stick at. Although I predate Kelis, her Milkshake song is appropriate here, except it wasn’t my milkshake that brought the boys to my yard, it was my pepperoni loaf.

Martha Stewart’s first book was my gateway drug to Cuisinart food processors, Kitchen Aid stand mixers, mini-herb choppers, wedding cake pans, Madeline molds, and more. My entertaining game was on the rise and my guy friends could reap the benefits from my properly set table.

Entertaining worked perfectly, and I had all the eligible guys were at my house and around the kitchen. The funny thing was I didn’t want anything more than friendship. Although I had to admit there was one guy I liked, and my mother was okay with him. My sister didn’t like him that much, but that was neither here nor there at the time. I wasn’t allowed to date, and he was already in college. All the man snatching hullabaloo happened because he was the object of someone else’s affection, and that affection wasn’t returned. I can’t say that I didn’t understand why she and her mother needed a heavy. Who wants to believe a guy rejected them straight out of hand. So, naturally, I was deemed a little Entertaining hussy, tempting men with baked goods and cooked meals. Still, I didn’t let it faze me in the least.


At the height of our entertaining jag, Melissa and I held a formal dinner for all the guys at her house. There was Melissa’s Greek Moussaka, my pepperoni loaf, rolls, roasted vegetables and cake for desert made by me. It was a success and enjoyed thoroughly judging by the number of second helpings and empty plates. It was the only dinner party we ever had as teenagers, but that was okay with us. I had the opportunity to show off my Martha skills long before her name became a verb and before Snoop ever heard of the lady who used to rule over an estate and property in Turkey Hill, Connecticut (at the time). I have come a long way from the wide-eyed sixteen-year-old girl when the first edition of Entertaining was released. My skills have gotten better and while I still prefer to make things from scratch, I am a little more relaxed about it courtesy of another lifestyle/tv-chef maven, Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa. I’ve integrated Martha’s penchant for good things, with Ina’s how easy is that philosophy, and the amalgamation works.

I’m no longer a man snatcher and my milkshake is a little thicker, but I still bring all the boys to the table, only this time, the boys are mine and the loves of my life. My twin sons Sean and Scott, who are my ultimate good thing.

I am including one of the first recipes I ever made from Entertaining by Martha Stewart Copyright 1982.

Banana Bread recipe by Martha Stewart adapted for vegan, vegetarian, gluten-sensitivities, low sugar, and no-sugar dietary needs by Chamein Canton

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for pan (vegan butter, margarine)
  • 1 cup sugar (Swerve sweetener, Splenda granulated, coconut, raw cane, or turbinado sugar, pulsed finely)
  • 2 large eggs (4 tablespoons Aquafaba, 1//2 cup silken tofu, pureed with 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, 2 flaxseed or chia seed eggs, or egg replacer)
  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (gluten-free all-purpose flour, 1 to 1 gluten-free all-purpose flour, sorghum, millet, sweet rice, or brown rice flour)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup mashed very ripe bananas
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (dairy; light sour cream, plain yogurt) (non-dairy; soy milk, or almond milk yogurt) (vegan sour cream)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Directions

  1. Step 1 Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan; set aside. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and beat to incorporate.
  2. Step 2 In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. Add to the butter mixture and mix until just combined. Add bananas, sour cream, and vanilla; mix to combine. Stir in nuts and pour into prepared pan.
  3. Step 3 Bake until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 1 hour 10 minutes. Let rest in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool.

Additional Notes

  1. To make a flax or chia seed egg, mix one tablespoon ground flaxseed/chia seed meal with three tablespoons of water. Mix together, and let sit in your fridge for 15 minutes to set up and thicken.
Flaxseed Egg photo from Chocolate Covered Katie