Back on stage

Country singer Nicole Knox Murphy playing out again

After 10 weeks of playing weekly sets from her home in Candia for Facebook fans, on May 29 Nicole Murphy was elated to finally be back at Auburn Pitts Bar & Grill, the place where she returned to being a country singer after raising a family for 15 years. Guitar in hand and a backing track machine at her side, strumming and singing beneath an outdoor tent, Murphy gave her first performance in front of a live audience since Covid-19 shut down the local music scene in mid-March.

The multiple New Hampshire Country Music Awards winner called the experience “awesome” in a recent phone interview.

“All my regulars came out that weren’t too nervous,” Murphy said, noting that fans gleaned from her Friday night livestreams added a few new faces to the crowd. “It was just a fantastic night; the weather was perfect, and everybody did what they were supposed to do.”

With that return done, Murphy’s calendar is filling up again, even at a few places that are trying live music for the first time. She’s booked a Thursday residency for the rest of June at an events center in Windham that isn’t booking weddings and private parties.

“They’ve decided because of the coronavirus to do a bar and restaurant,” she said. “They have everything set out on their back patio.”

She’s also set to play at a country club in her hometown.

The pandemic hit Murphy’s bottom line hard — to the tune of $6,500 in lost gigs — but the virtual tip jar she set up for online shows helped more than a bit.

“That’s my grocery money,” she said.

When WMUR interviewed her and fellow performer Chad Lamarsh for a story on the state of live music, there was an immediate bump in Facebook Live love.

“The night after, I got like double and triple the money for my tips,” she said. “That was really nice.”

Murphy has at least one more online show on her calendar. Taste of New Hampshire is an annual event that will be virtual for this, its 15th year. A fundraiser for Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Concord and Central New Hampshire, it features a silent auction and live music over five days.

“I’ll record myself for 30 minutes [and] send it to them,” she said. “Then they’ll play it between June 15 and June 19.”

Everything else will be happening at places where she was busy before Covid-19, including Granite Tapas in Hooksett, Main Street Grill in Pittsfield and The Bar in Hudson. Both excitement and trepidation mark her return to live performing.

“I’m looking to be cautious,” she said, concerned that the virus will resurge. “I’m nervous; I’m thinking I’ll book up my calendar again, and then all of a sudden they’ll say, ‘Oh no, we’re back in lockdown and nobody can go out.’”

She spent a lot of her time in quarantine working on new songs, and polishing up a couple. “I’m So Done” was released at the end of May. “The 802,” an ode to her Vermont roots (she was a working musician and a beauty show contestant in her teenage years), will hopefully hit streaming sites in a few weeks.

Developing new material was more relaxing for Murphy than in the past.

“The last couple of projects. … I haven’t had the quietness that I needed to focus on music writing,” she said. “This whole lockdown shut my weekends down, so I just started going up to my music room with a pad of paper and working.”

The extra time at home with her husband was both encouraging and productive.

“Just me and him, doing things that we’ve been wanting to do that we’ve put off because we’ve all been so busy,” she said. “Now that I had all these weekends free, we could work on projects.”

She’s happy it was temporary, however.

“It’s been good that way, but … I really miss singing.”

Nicole Knox Murphy. Photo by Tyke Frost.

Nicole Knox Murphy
Castleton Banquet & Conference Center, 58 Enterprise Dr., Windham
When: Thursday, June 11, June 18 and June 25, 5:30 p.m.
Saturday, June 13, 7 p.m., The Bar, 2B Burnham Road, Hudson
Sunday, June 14, 4 p.m., Cheers, 17 Depot St., Concord
Saturday, June 20, 5:30 p.m., Candia Woods Golf Links, 313 South Road, Candia

Spelling the Dream (TV-G)

Competitors and their families hoping to reach the Scripps National Spelling Bee discuss competitive spelling and why Indian-American kids have had such success in the Bee in recent years in the Netflix documentary Spelling the Dream.

In the first minute or so of this upbeat, inspirational movie about kids and their dreams of spelling victory, I got a little verklempt over the scene of eight spellers being named co-champions of the 2019 Scripps National Spelling Bee. The kids’ joy, their parents’ joy — it’s an infectious shot of happiness at the beginning of the documentary, which actually follows kids preparing for the 2017 Scripps Bee.

We meet Akash (who, at 7, has many Bee years ahead of him), Shourav (who at 14 is at the end of his Bee career), Ashrita (who is 10) and Tejas (also 14). In interviews with them and their families we learn how they got interested in spelling, how they study and a bit about their family backgrounds. The documentary explains that Indian-American kids have won the Bee 12 years in a row. Families and commentators speculate about the many reasons why, one of which is that growing up in a household where kids are fluent in many different languages might prime kids to more actively think about words and language derivation. (You can see the kids doing the mental math when they ask spelling bee officials for the language of origin of a word: if it’s from this language, this sound is likely spelled with this mix of letters. It’s a fun element of the movie and one that helps to underline the literary, geographic and even artistic, sides of spelling, which I think often gets treated more like rote mechanics.)

The movie also demonstrates the importance of representation and talks to Balu Natarajan, a doctor who in 1985 was the first kid from an Indian-American family to win the Bee. Adults like CNN’s Sanjay Gupta and Fareed Zakaria, ESPN’s Kevin Negandhi (doing excellent sports commentary as the documentary focuses on the final competition) and comedian Hari Kondabolu discuss the wider cultural impact of Indian-American kids’ competition and victories in the Bee.

This movie is very G-rated, perfectly acceptable for a reading-and-writing-level elementary schooler, if you can get them interested (which, any academic-ish port in a learning-free quarantine-era storm). “Hey, come watch this movie about kids having fun, being on ESPN and winning trophies! mumble mumble spelling” is how I plan to sell it to my kids. B+

Rated TV-G by Netflix, where it is streaming, Spelling the Dream is an hour and 22 minutes long and directed by Sam Rega.

Musical-ish edition
Military Wives (PG-13)
Kristin Scott Thomas, Sharon Horgan.
The wives on a military base in the U.K. form a choir mostly as a form of getting their minds off their spouses’ deployments in this feel-good film. Horgan plays the wife of a master sergeant who is responsible for leading the wives’ social events; Thomas plays a colonel’s wife who sort of horns in on those duties to keep from dwelling on the recent death of her son as well as the absence of her husband. Though Thomas isn’t impressed with Horgan’s song choices and Horgan doesn’t really want to do the choir at all, they slowly come together and are able to lead the women to some success (measured both in “having fun” and in recognition for actual music-making skill). The movie has a light touch — maybe too light. While we get a fair amount about the camaraderie between the various women — highlighting the stories of the two leads as well as Amy James-Kelly, who plays a young wife, and Gaby French, a shy woman with a standout voice — the movie doesn’t get too deep into anybody’s story except maybe Thomas’. Military Wives is low-pressure comfort food. B- Released in May via video on demand, it’s available for rent or purchase and on Hulu.

*Wild Rose (R, 2019)
Jessie Buckley, Julie Walters.
A woman continues to chase her dreams of country stardom despite the hurdles of living in Scotland, being recently released from prison and trying to reconnect with (and financially support) her two kids in this 2019 movie which had a song — “Glasgow” — on the Oscar shortlist (which you can find at, and features the sort of semi-finalist round of Oscar hopefuls in nine categories; it’s worth checking out if you’re looking for 2019 movies you may have missed). Buckley plays Rose-Lynn, who leaves prison with fellow inmates cheering her on about being the next Dolly Parton. The twentysomething Rose-Lynn has a standout voice and has been singing with her band at Glasgow’s only country bar since she was 14. But she doesn’t have a clear sense of how to follow her musical dreams. What she does have is an apartment, bills to pay, an ankle monitor that requires her to be home by 7 p.m. and a difficult relationship with her mother, played by Julie Walters, who was raising her children when Rose-Lynn was in prison. She starts work as a housecleaner for a woman played by Sophie Okonedo who helps push her to get noticed, though Rose-Lynn isn’t completely honest about all aspects of her life. Buckley makes Rose-Lynn imperfect and frequently self-defeating but also charming and surprisingly optimistic and there is a believable approach to the character and her growth. (Buckley was nominated for a BAFTA for the role.) The movie makes good use of the music and conveying why country, specifically, matters so much to Rose-Lynn. A Available for rent or purchase and on Hulu.

*Sing Street (PG-13, 2016)
Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Jack Reynor.
Fans of writer/director John Carney and his films Once (2007) and Begin Again (2013) need to check out this 2016 tale of teenage boy Conor (Walsh-Peelo), in 1985 Dublin, Ireland, who forms a band because he has told a girl he likes, Lucy Boynton as Raphina, that he has a band. As with those other movies, Sing Street (which Carney directs and co-writes) has a real love of music and its creation. Not only is Conor smitten with Raphina, he quickly becomes smitten with the act of songwriting, which he does with the help of his somewhat directionless older brother (Reynor) and his new school buddies (including Eamon, played by Mark McKenna, who loves music and his pet rabbits unselfconsciously). There is a real joy in how these goofy teens come together to form a band with music that skillfully riffs on variations of mid-1980s music. The movie has strong supporting performances, including Aiden Gillen and Maria Doyle Kennedy as Conor’s parents. A- Available for rent or purchase. Fun fact: a musical based on the movie was set to open on Broadway a few months ago. Wikipedia says it is now slated to open in the fall, at the earliest. Both a film soundtrack and an original cast recording are available for sale now.

Book Review 6/11/2020

Breath, The New Science of a Lost Art, by James Nestor (Riverhead, 304 pages)

The pandemic has forced publishers to delay the release of dozens of books that didn’t seem appropriate to bring to market as a potentially deadly respiratory disease was spreading.

No such problem for Breath, journalist James Nestor’s examination of how generations of us became mouth-breathers, and how the practice is ruining our looks and our health. You with the sleep apnea. Me with the perpetually clogged sinuses. Nestor bids us to breathe only through our nose, “the gatekeeper of our bodies, pharmacist to our minds and weather vanes to our emotions,” and to adopt a pace of inhaling and exhaling that comprises what he calls “the perfect breath.”

There’s a formula that seems to show God likes math: Inhale 5.5 seconds, exhale 5.5 seconds equals 5.5 breaths a minute, for a total consumption of about 5.5 liters of air.

Some years ago, Nestor became interested in a subset of extreme athletes called freedivers, people who can hold their breath for more than five minutes and dive deep in the ocean without breathing equipment. His exploration of that culture led to 2014’s Deep, Freediving, Renegade Science, and What the Ocean Tells Us About Ourselves. He also took a class in mindful breathing that, while boring at the time, resulted in more focus and calm the next day.

So he began studying super-breathers, people who believe that how we breathe is intimately connected to how healthy we are, and noticing the differences between them and ordinary people who can hold their breath for maybe 20 seconds without thinking they’re going to explode.

And he concluded that most of us don’t really know how to breathe, even though we do it 50,000 times a day. We breathe sloppily, through whatever orifice happens to be open at the time. We take short, shallow breaths, many more times a minute than necessary. We can breathe like this, but we’re not meant to, Nestor argues. And the combination of a soft, modern diet that doesn’t require energetic chewing, and poor breathing habits, is rearranging our skulls, not for the better, he says.

This is not a new idea. In 1862, an artist named George Catlin traveled through reservations of native Americans and documented their remarkable good health and straight teeth, which in his book The Breath of Life he attributed to breathing only through the nose. The native Americans, like other civilizations 1,000 years before Christ, were convinced that mouth breathing led to ill health. Mothers would watch their sleeping babies and gently pinch their mouths closed if they opened, so children would grow into adults who only breathed through their noses.

If this seems weird, you should know that there live among us modern humans who put a piece of tape on their mouths before going to bed at night, to achieve the same goal. For a while, Nestor was among them.

As part of his research, he became half of a two-subject study to monitor the effects of spending 10 days breathing only through his mouth, and then 10 days breathing only through his nose.

Nestor emerged from his experiment convinced that the ancients were right, that we sacrifice much of our health and vitality by ignoring the quiet, constant intake of air, which we take for granted until our capacity becomes diminished. Research has shown that we absorb 18 percent more oxygen when we breathe through our nose than through our mouth. Air taken in through the nostrils is substantively different from air processed through the mouth.

Believers include a Silicon Valley dentist who tells his patients that chronic mouth breathing causes periodontal disease, cavities and bad breath and suggests that they use “sleep tape” on their mouth at night to break the habit, and a woman convinced that breathing therapy can heal scoliosis, among other conditions.

The modern tendency to breathe with both the nose and the mouth has effects beyond our perpetually clogged noses. Our nasal cavity atrophies when it’s not robustly used, and even our lungs suffer when we’re not using them to their potential; they further deteriorate with age. But, according to Nestor, and the Tibetians, “The internal organs are malleable, and we can change them at nearly any time.” Exercise helps, and so does proper breathing, which can also decrease anxiety and improve sleep, among myriad other improvements, Nestor promises. It did for him, although he warns that there is no breathing exercise that can dissolve an embolism or heal cancer. In short, better breathing can improve your life, but not save it.

“The glories of nasal breathing” is not the sexiest topic, but Nestor is persuasive and his narrative sings, at least for the first hundred or so pages. Later, he drills down into techniques he calls Breathing+, which he admits is a sort of “respiratory gauntlet” and not nearly as appealing as shutting your mouth and counting to 5½.

But in a culture where some of us are so perpetually stressed and distracted that we forget to breathe for a half-minute — a phenomenon known as “email apnea” — we could use a breathing coach. Breath suggests that we should all shut our mouth, but for eating and brushing our teeth. B+

For a couple of pleasant hours during the last week of May, it looked like the nation was going to turn its eyes to … birdwatching.
Before rage over the death of George Floyd exploded nationwide, rage over Amy Cooper’s tirade against birdwatcher Christian Cooper in Central Park had spun off a delightful Twitter diversion, #Blackbirdersweek.
The virtual celebration was begun by a Georgia grad student, Corina Newsome, who studies seaside sparrows. It was quickly eclipsed by other, more momentous events, but in times of trauma there seems something healing in putting down the phone and picking up the binoculars. And there are a couple of new books out to assist.
Celebrated nature writer Jennifer Ackerman’s The Bird Way is an examination of how birds “talk, work, play, parent and think” (Penguin, 368 pages). And Massachusetts naturalist David Allen Sibley has a new guide called What It’s Like to Be a Bird (Knopf, 240 pages). And Todd Telander has written a new Falcon Pocket Guide called Birds of New England (Falcon Guides, 192 pages).
Useful as they are, none of these are selling as well as the new Hunger Games prequel, Suzanne Collins’ The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.
Meanwhile, it’s not as useful as a $1,200 stimulus check, but Publishers Weekly, the venerable trade magazine about books and publishing, recently made its digital edition available for free to anyone who signs up on its website. It’s not clear how long this will last; the website says “free during the Covid-19 crisis.” But there’s an extraordinary amount of content that is usually behind a paywall, including current and past bestseller lists and a database of reviews going back to 1895. Not bad in exchange for an email address.
Another pandemic freebie is available from Audible, which has made a collection of children’s stories free “as long as school is on pause.” Go to

Album Reviews 6/11/2020

Bird Friend, I Am the Hand (self-produced)

Desolate but hopeful hipster-chill direct from Manchester, New Hampshire, here, mainly an unplugged-guitar solo project for chef-cook-bottle-washer Geoff Himsel with some help from his girlfriend, Carson Kennedy. The entry point here would be Sufjan Stevens, but it’s of course more raw and quirky than that; throw a little Eels in the crockpot and that oughta do it. Himsel is a fan of fingerpick-style guitarists like Neil Young and John Fahey, which explains the rather full sound of this mildly quirky bareness; this sort of thing is a snapshot of an artist getting things off his chest, redolent of movie opening-credit scenes depicting world-weariness, animations drawn in crayon. You get it, I’m sure, but don’t be scared of this just because the guy’s a local; there’s some nice creativity here, as heard in such things as a segue consisting of recorded rain and train station sounds; some not-cheap-sounding handclaps (“Ohio”); a reed line played on a clarinet or somesuch (“Cuando Era Caballero”) and so on. All told then, Pitchfork wouldn’t necessarily throw this out of bed unless the writer broke his vape pen. There’s a psychedelic angle to this that needs to be mentioned, like a twee version of Wooden Shjips or whatnot. He knows what he’s doing, is what I’m saying. A

The Brazilian Gentleman, L & L (Internet & Weed Records)

Meanwhile on the dwarf planet Pluto, we have this New Yawk City collective of underground scene veterans with weird record collections, banded together to make what amounts to a Throbbing Gristle-ized version of Battles. To translate that depthlessly annoying music-wonk-ese, there’s a lot of gently rendered industrial noise here woven into the very listenable melodies, and that will surely lead a good number of critics to tag it as an EDM project and bag it just to get away from it. I wouldn’t be wildly surprised to hear something like this from The Orb, but it does get disconcerting, evoking the feeling of having boarded the wrong galactic battle cruiser (“Star Stuck in It”). But it’s not supposed to be an easy ride, as becomes plain in the hooted and dentist-drilled “Metals,” which is a pure let’s-ride-the-subway-and-disorient-the-straights earbud trip. “All Natural” is chill drone pocked with world-music-ish loops; “You’re Boring” explores some Frank Ocean-ish fever-dream bliss. A-

Retro Playlist

On the quarantine goes, and for that, the only remedy is focusing on good stuff, like criminally underrated British art-rock bands.

After so many years, I’m convinced I’m the only “bloke” in New Hampshire who’s a huge fan of Wire, a four-piece that’s been around since the 1970s. They were more noise-punk back in the day, but then college rock happened in the late ’80s and their comparatively mellow album A Bell is a Cup Until It is Struck was suddenly rising in something resembling an actual Top 20 chart. I babbled about their 2013 album Change Becomes Us in this space, and I still absolutely love it, from the skronky, nonsensical “Eels Sang” to the soul-healing “Reinvent Your Second Wheel,” both sung by their permanently weird bassist Graham Lewis. I’ve met and hung out with rock stars before, but he’s the only one who’d reduce me to a puddle of uncool if I ever got a chance to meet him.

Another band I always try to sell to anyone who can’t escape my presence is Elbow, from the town of Bury in Manchester, U.K. In 2011, I told you guys about their then-new Build a Rocket Boys! LP, which, as usual for the band, was shortlisted for a Mercury Prize, this time on the strength of tunes like “Lippy Kids,” a hauntingly gorgeous rock ballad that made you rethink all those scary kids in hoodies, who are, I assure you, just as scared as you. Try it, you’ll like it.

If you’re in a local band, now’s a great time to let me know about your EP, your single, whatever’s on your mind. Let me know how you’re holding yourself together without being able to play shows or jam with your homies. Send a recipe for keema matar. Email for fastest response.

A seriously abridged compendium of recent and future CD releases
• The next general-release date for CDs is Friday, June 12, when you can buy To Love is to Live, the debut album from Jehnny Beth, the lead singer from Savages! No, not the DJ, you know, Savages! No, come on, not Screaming Lord Sutch’s old backup band; we’re talking about the way-cool Savages, the one made up of girls, and they’re pretty cool, like this Jehnny Beth lady sounds a lot like Siouxsie Sioux, and their music is all post-punk, noisy, deconstructionist and awesome. That leaves only one question: Is there any earthly reason for Jehnny Beth to make a solo album when she’s in such an awesome band? Well, by cracky, I’m going to toddle off to YouTube to see if this is worth anything. Ah, here we are, a single called “Heroine.” It’s got an understated jazzy 1970s drum track with grooving bass, some spooky sampling, and Jehnny Beth’s Siouxsie karaoke going full force. It’s not something I’d picture Siouxsie singing, but come on already, this isn’t a Siouxsie song, just an OK tune that Siouxsie probably wouldn’t sing, because it’s largely uneventful until the literal last five seconds. I don’t know, am I being too picky here? Be honest.
• Wait, this should be a good one, the new album from Norah Jones, Pick Me Up Off the Floor! This will be her eighth full-length, and she is officially a folk-jazz goddess, because she is awesome, and at least she’s not trying to become a media conglomerate like everybody else who lucks into a hit record, like, the only real acting she’s done was on the 2010 indie film Wah Do Dem, which only got made because the director won cruise ship tickets (back then, the Village Voice called it nothing more than “a glorified vacation video”). Sounds good to me, because hopefully now we won’t have to worry about Norah Jones doing anything more than playing herself on Sesame Street and 30 Rock and spending most of her time singing, which she does on the title track of this new album, a torchy, feathery, very slow, Maria Muldaur-like piano-crooner.
• Paul Weller was the frontman for the mod-punk band The Jam during the 1970s and early 1980s, but only people in England cared, but then they had an annoying ska-punk hit in the U.S. called “Start,” which was created simply by recycling the Beatles’ “Tax Man,” and then it was basically over, everyone recite the Funeral Prayer, and then the Beastie Boys sampled the tune for the song “Alive.” But wait, here is Paul Weller again, with a solo album, called “Sunset,” which means you’re probably wondering if there’s a song on there that sounds like that Beastie Boys song or whatever. I sure am, so I shall endeavor to stomach the new single, “Village.” Wow, it’s wicked ’70s-chill-funk, and he sounds like Peabo Bryson somewhat. There’s wicked mellow electric piano in there, like your grandparents could probably “get reacquainted” with this song playing in the background, nudge-wink. Talk about sassy!
• To end this week with our sanity hopefully intact, let’s go investigate the new Built to Spill album, titled Built to Spill Plays the Songs of Daniel Johnston! I can’t imagine what this will sound like, probably fluffy, despicable, hipster versions of equally aggravating Daniel Johnston songs. Yes, here’s one, “Bloody Rainbow.” Sounds like a twee version of a Roy Orbison B-side. I do not like this, Sam I Am.

Tropical Fruit Stack

Try this at home

The weather finally is turning to the warmth of summer. Although we, as New Hampshirites, are excited for the increased temperature, we also will be complaining about how hot and humid it is in the very near future. With that in mind, I have created a dish that welcomes the arrival of summer while keeping one cool.

Allow me to introduce to you the tropical fruit stack. While its name may make you think that it’s a sweet dish, it actually has a nice balance between sweet, savory, salty and even a little bit of spice. Yes, it’s all of the taste categories in one dish. Additionally, it has a nice balance between tender and crunchy, so what’s not to like?

This is a simple dish to make, but because of its simplicity you also need to be mindful when purchasing your ingredients. All of the produce needs to be fully ripened, as it won’t spend any time cooking or macerating to highlight its flavors. If you can only find under-ripe produce, that’s fine. The mango and avocado can be ripened by placing them in a paper bag on the counter for a day or two. The same is supposed to work with pineapples, although I’ve never tried that.

You may hesitate to try this recipe because you need a ring mold. However, there are many substitutes for a ring mold. You can make one out of aluminum foil. If you buy your pineapple whole but with the skin removed, that container can work, if you cut off the bottom. You also could cut the bottom off a large disposable plastic cup and use it with the widest part as the bottom of your mold.

With fresh ingredients and your tool acquired, you’re ready to make a dish that’s sure to wow. It’s pretty easy to make, elegant to view and refreshing to eat. Summer dining doesn’t get much better than that.

Tropical fruit stack. Photo by Michele Pesula Kuegler.

Tropical Fruit Stack
Serves 2

1 1/3 cup diced pineapple
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 avocado
1 teaspoon lime juice
1 cup diced mango
2 tablespoons finely chopped salted macadamia nuts

In a small bowl combine pineapple, chili powder, and salt.
Stir until pineapple is fully coated.
Remove skin and pit from avocado.
Place avocado and lime juice in a small bowl.
Using a fork, mash until avocado is creamy.
Place a 4-inch ring mold on a small plate.
Spoon half of the pineapple mixture evenly as the bottom layer.
Spread half of the mashed avocado on top of the pineapple.
Spoon half of the diced mango over the avocado.
Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of macadamia nuts over the mango.
Carefully remove mold, and repeat for second serving.
Serve immediately.

Weekly Dish 20/6/11

Taste of New Hampshire goes virtual: Join the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central New Hampshire for the annual Taste of New Hampshire, which, for the first time in its 15-year history, will be going virtual. Normally a one-night event held in the fall at the Grappone Conference Center in Concord, Taste of New Hampshire this year will take place online over the course of a week. At 6 p.m. every day from Monday, June 15, through Friday, June 19, you can tune in to a free livestream through the event website, where discounted gift cards to several local restaurants will be sold. Local musicians are also expected to host livestreamed performances each evening. Visit or search “Taste of New Hampshire” on Facebook for more details.

• “Window” service: A new eatery offering made-from-scratch comfort foods and home-cooked meals is now open in downtown Manchester for online ordering and window pickup. Diz’s Cafe officially opened on May 29 in the former space of Lorena’s Cantina at 860 Elm Street, according to Judi Window, whose husband, Gary “Diz” Window, is the head chef. Due to Covid-19, windows directly adjacent to the front door of the restaurant are currently being used for walk-up orders and pickups. The menu is available for viewing in the window too; there’s a customizable “build-your-own” menu featuring a protein and three sides, plus other offerings like sandwiches and flatbreads, soups and salads, and specialty entrees, like chicken Parmesan, grilled steak skewers, buttermilk chicken macaroni and cheese, meatloaf and honey ginger shrimp stir-fry. Menu items, Judi Window said, will change all the time. For now, Diz’s Cafe is open Monday through Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., but the plan, she said, is to open for breakfast on Sundays once restaurants in the Granite State are allowed to resume indoor dining. Visit

Pie season: The Live Free or Pie Stand (455 East Road, Hampstead), a seasonal business offering home-baked pies with local ingredients, will reopen for the season on Saturday, June 13, at 10 a.m., according to a May 27 post on its Facebook page. Owner Crystal MacDonald launched the stand in June 2018 at the end of her driveway. Throughout the summer and early fall she’ll restock the stand twice a week with full-sized and mini fruit pies for sale. Flavors include strawberry rhubarb, blueberry, triple berry, peach, peach raspberry, peach blueberry and apple, all of which are baked in her home kitchen with hand-picked fruits from farms, orchards or farmers markets in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. The stand will be open Thursdays at 4 p.m. and Saturdays at 10 a.m., and masks are required for all visitors. Visit

Market news: Both the Milford Farmers Market and the Bedford Farmers Market are scheduled to hold their outdoor season openings this week. The Milford market will begin on Saturday, June 13, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 300 Elm St. in Milford, continuing every Saturday through Oct. 10. Bedford’s market will kick off on Tuesday, June 16, from 3 to 6 p.m. in a new location, the parking lot of the old Harvest Market (209 Route 101, Bedford). That one will continue every Tuesday through Sept. 29. In other local market news, the Derry Homegrown Farm & Artisan Market will not be taking place this year. Its board had announced in a May 11 press release that the scheduled June 3 start date would at least be delayed, but in a June 2 update the market was cancelled for the season. “We hope that people will understand that this decision was not made lightly and was a very difficult one to make,” the statement read. “At the end of the day, weighing the health and safety issues along with the impact of existing restrictions, the board did not feel we could offer the kind of market experience that patrons and vendors … have come to expect.”

Burgers and brews: Join The Barley House Restaurant & Tavern (132 Main St., Concord) for its 15th annual Burgerfest, a gourmet burger fundraiser for Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock (CHaD). All kinds of unique burger creations with beef, pork, turkey, vegetables and seafood will be available at the restaurant from noon to 10 p.m., Monday, June 15, through Saturday, June 20, alongside a lineup of local craft brews. Since its inaugural event in 2005 Burgerfest has raised more than $10,000 in annual donations to CHaD, according to a press release. Visit

In the Kitchen with Carmel Shea

Carmel Shea of Londonderry is the owner of O’Shea’s Caife & Tae (44 Nashua Road, Londonderry, 540-2971,, a health-focused eatery and coffee shop that opened in 2018. O’Shea’s offers fair trade coffees, teas and espresso drinks, pastries and breakfast sandwiches, and bagels with homemade butters and whipped cream cheeses. The lunch menu features sandwiches, salads, smoothies and mroe. Shea co-owned The Grind Rail Trail Cafe in Derry before opening O’Shea’s. The cafe is currently open for takeout.

What is your must-have kitchen item?

The mixer. We do a lot of whipped creams and cream cheeses with it. We just started doing a whipped coffee.

What would you have for your last meal?

Filet mignon, mashed potatoes, green beans and a nice cabernet.

What is your favorite local restaurant?

I am a huge fan of the Copper Door [in Bedford and Salem].

What celebrity would you like to see ordering from O’Shea’s?

Ellen DeGeneres. I just love her and I can totally imagine her coming in here.

What is your favorite thing on your menu?

The oatmeal latte. It’s espresso with oat milk, brown sugar and cinnamon. It just has this really warm, comforting flavor.

What is the biggest food trend in New Hampshire right now?

People supporting local. … I think it’s been amped up even more now.

What is your favorite thing to make at home?

You can’t beat a nice batch of warm chocolate chip cookies right out of the oven.

O’Shea’s homemade peanut butter
Courtesy of Carmel Shea of O’Shea’s Caife & Tae in Londonderry
3 cups dry roasted unsalted peanuts
3 ounces vegetable oil
2 ounces simple syrup
Place all ingredients in a food processor on high for two minutes or until smooth.

Whisked away

New food truck debuts in Loudon

A new food truck rolled into Loudon last week, and as its name and the whisks on its logo suggest, the Whisked Away Cafe wants to “whisk” you away to a different part of the world — or to Grandma’s house — each week with an ever-changing menu of specials that includes creative takes on wraps, sandwiches, burgers, salads, kid-friendly eats and more.

Sisters Korrie Garland and Crystal Hopkins run the truck with their mother, Louise Cloutier. They began offering lunch service on June 2 at a dirt turnaround road on Route 106 in Loudon, steps away from Cascade Campground. You can now find them there every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., where a few dining tables are set up out front.

Fifteen years ago the three women also operated the Bonne Femmes restaurant in downtown Pembroke, a spot that was known in town for its breakfasts, sandwiches and soups. Years after she and Hopkins both had kids of their own, Garland said, they became interested in the freedom a food truck would give them to create different recipes. They ended up finding and purchasing the truck last November.

Prior to starting a regular lunch service last week, the Whisked Away Cafe sold homemade holiday pies late last year and dinners for local delivery in the Pembroke area in March.

“We were doing the deliveries … just to kind of help out the people that didn’t want to or couldn’t leave their homes, so that picked up some steam,” Garland said.

Now, Whisked Away Cafe’s menu features a variety of sandwiches, chicken or steak fajita sandwiches, chicken or seafood salad, and grilled cheese sandwiches called “toasties,” with flavors like jalapeno chicken popper, chicken cordon bleu and Buffalo chicken. There are also breaded chicken fingers, steak fingers, hand-cut french fries and beef, pork or veggie empanadas.

Hopkins said she, her sister and her mother wanted to create a section of the menu that was fun and accessible for kids too. The children’s menu features options like homemade macaroni and cheese and a grilled peanut butter and Fluff sandwich, plus an “octodog” and a “redneck sushi,” both of which come with chips.

“[An octodog] is a hot dog that we slice up so when it cooks it curls up and it looks like a little octopus with legs,” she said. “The redneck sushi is just a slice of ham with cream cheese and a pickle in the middle, so when you roll it up and slice it, it looks like little rolls of sushi.”

Garland said they’ve had several pages of ideas for what will be on their specials menu. They began their first week by featuring a special of pulled pork with homemade barbecue sauce and coleslaw on grilled ciabatta, with either fries or pasta salad as a side.

“Our idea was that we’re ‘whisking’ you away to Mexico, or to your grandma’s house, or to college with a ramen noodle dish,” she said.

For now, Garland said, the trio is sticking with the Tuesday through Thursday schedule. But eventually, she said, they may appear on additional days on the weekends, as well as at events at C-R Helicopters in Nashua, which Cloutier owns with her husband.

Whisked Away Cafe food truck
485 Route 106 South, Loudon
When: Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
More info: Find them on Facebook @whiskedawayfoodtruck

Treasure Hunt 6/11/2020

Dear Donna,
Can you possibly tell me what this is and what it was for? It is solid wood and 3.5 inches. I recently found this in a barn and thought it was interesting.

Dear Ellen,
What you found is called a bung. I have seen many in the tops of old milk cans. I think, though, that they were used also in barrels such as whiskey, bourbon, etc., tapered like yours to be pounded in to fit tight and secure and prevent leaking. You can almost make out the ring around it.

Not all bungs are wood; they can be rubber, wax, cork or, I am sure these days, a lot of other materials as well. Yours is most likely an older one and looks to be in great condition. The value is in the $10 range, as they are not that easy to find in good condition. This is not a huge financial treasure for you, but it sure will make a fun story to share.

Kiddie Pool 6/11/2020

Animal adventure

Sneak in a little learning during your walks through nature. The New Hampshire Fish and Game department have Wildlife of New Hampshire cards available on their website at The two-page color pdfs are on subjects such as “Wildlife of Young Forests,” “Backyard Wildlife of New Hampshire” and “Wildlife of Rivers and Streams” as well as cards for hawks, wild bees, frogs, dragonflies, different kinds of birds and more.

Join a circus

The Flying Gravity Circus based in Wilton will be offering an at-home program called “Circus in a Box” this summer. With two programs (one for ages 6 to 8 and one for 9 to 14) and three weeklong sessions, “Circus in a Box” delivers circus-related materials (such as a puppet stage for the younger group, juggling balls for the older group and clown noses to everybody) in a box and then offers five days of programming for kids to follow at home, according to the website. The cost is $100 and camps run the weeks of June 29, July 6 and July 13. See

Circus Smirkus, the Vermont-based youth circus that has traveled to New Hampshire in past summers, won’t be touring this summer but Smirkus fans can still get in some clowning. Circus Smirkus will present Smirk-O-Vision, an online presentation of six events. A season pass costs $90 or individual events (six are scheduled) cost $15 to $18, according to the website, which lists the shows including “Inside the Circus: Backstage at the HQ” (on Aug. 6 at 7 p.m.), which looks at how they put on the shows each year, and “Inside the Circus: Directors’ Commentary” (July 2 at 7 p.m.). The group is also offering Smirkus@Home programming on subjects including juggling, magic, clowning, contortion and more, with classes for kids as young as 5 and schedules that include one-day classes, weeklong classes or sessions with weekly classes. See

Bee prep

Netflix’s new documentary Spelling the Dream (see page 24 for a review) is all about kids (and their families) competing in the Scripps National Spelling Bee. The movie is rated G and might be a good way to inspire kids who are “meh” about spelling but like competition, trophies and the idea of going on ESPN. And, if they catch the Bee bug (or if you are just looking for ways to get kids spelling practice), you can check out the official Scripps app Word Club. It has a paid component, of course, but it offers some free word lists that users can be quizzed on in a variety of ways. The app presents the phonetic spelling, audio of someone saying the word, definition, part of speech and other information similar to what you’d get in a bee.

Photo courtesy of

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