Category Archives: localism

Holiday Concert in a Small Town in Maine

holiday concert

Left to right: Tom Osborne, Kyle Osborn, Michael Saulnier, Brian Saulnier

A Christmas tea featuring live musical performances by a talented pair of brothers was held at the Jeremiah Mason House Bed & Breakfast in Limerick on Saturday, Dec. 13. Hosts of the tea and concert were Tom and Kyle Osborne who have owned and run the bed & breakfast establishment for the past 14 years. For the fourth year in a row, they invited brothers Michael and Brian Saulnier to perform on guitar and piano, a tradition that hosts, guests, and the musicians look forward to as each Christmas season rolls around.

This year, the Osbornes also invited members of the Limerick Historical Society to attend the concert. “We used to hold it during the Limerick Village Christmas,” Kyle said following the hour-long concert. “But that was just too much so we decided to do it this way.”

The music room, adjoining dining room, and the hallway were filled to standing-room only for the afternoon event. Tom welcomed the guests to the historic home and introduced Brian Saulnier as the opening performer. Brian read a brief but touching essay on life in a small town at Christmas and then sang a set of Christmas songs, accompanying himself on his bright blue acoustic guitar.

Brian then introduced his brother, Michael, who had driven up to town from Massachusetts. “My brother Mike is here to play the piano, and I could listen to him all day long,” Brian said.

Michael, who has been seriously studying piano for six years, treated everyone to a variety of folk piano and jazz arrangements by such luminaries as George Winston  and Vince Guaraldi. Two songs, however, were composed by Michael himself. One, entitled “Lavender Falls” and the other a variation on the theme called, “Epicycles” were very much in the George Winston style with a lovely interplay of both right-hand and left-hand notes.

Following the concert, Tom thanked both musicians for sharing their gift. “Music has big healing power,” he said. “I want to thank Brian for sharing his voice and for introducing me to his brother, Mike.” Michael’s recorded cd was offered for sale, the proceeds of which were to go to the York County Shelter. Tom then invited the guests to partake of a variety of cookies and sweets baked on  and tea sandwiches which were provided by the Clipper Merchant Tea House.

When asked about his performance schedule, Mike said that he plays mostly for personal enjoyment and occasionally for the public when asked. Brian has also been busy this year, billing himself as The Musical Medic and playing at Maine Medical Center, nursing homes, and community events like the Research Club’s cookies and hot cocoa gathering following the tree lighting at the town’s A Village Christmas Festival. “There are infinite choices about what to do with limited time,” Brian said. “This is what I chose to do with mine.”

Percolating As An Artist

Local artist, Sandra Waugh, with the book cover she designed for author Elizabeth Hamilton-Guarino and Hay House Publishing.

Local artist, Sandra Waugh, with the book cover she designed for author Elizabeth Hamilton-Guarino and Hay House Publishing.

As part of my job as a contributing writer for my local newspaper, I have the great fun of interviewing many talented, local people and highlighting their work. One of these people is artist Sandra Waugh of Limerick, Maine.

Like writers, artists often struggle to find paying gigs (hence the terms starving artist/starving writer) and usually supplement the creative work with more prosaic jobs like retail, dish-washing, and serving food in restaurants. Nothing wrong with it. It’s a noble tradition of sacrifice for the sake of art. In addition to the supplemental jobs, artists and writers often do well to find niche markets for their work, freelance jobs that bring in a little extra cash–and cachet!

A self-taught artist, Sandra has been perfecting her watercolor art over the years in many niche markets. For example, Waugh recently designed and illustrated the cover of a new self-help book put out by traditional publishing house, Hay House Publishing.

The book, PERCOLATE, was written by Maine author Elizabeth Hamilton-Guarino, founder and CEO of the Best Ever You Network which includes workshops, a magazine, a radio program, and other networking opportunities for entrepreneurs, authors, and everyday people in all walks of life. PERCOLATE has a tag line of “Let Your Best Self Filter Through” and is a guide for creating positive change in a person’s life.

Waugh worked with Hamilton-Guarino previously on a children’s picture book that was self-published. When PERCOLATE was being written, Elizabeth asked Sandra if she’d be interested in creating artwork for and designing the cover of her new book. “She was very specific about what she wanted,” Waugh said. “She made many changes, and we kept fine-tuning the design until we got what she wanted.” The cover’s painting of a white coffee cup with colorful words steaming out of it over a brown background was done in watercolor paint. Inside the book, sketches of coffee cups and three little creatures–an aardvark, a platypus, and an armadillo–were done in graphite. Waugh also designed the layout for the book cover.

“I used to be a graphic designer and worked in pre-press work for ten years, so designing the cover was going back to my graphic arts roots,” said Waugh.

Not sure if Hay House would chose to use the design or would go in-house, Waugh was excited when the publishing company decided to pick up the cover and use her artwork. Hay House is a traditional publishing company, not a self-publishing enterprise, though it has a self-publishing line called Balboa Press. Hay House offers books on the subjects of self-help, inspirational, and “transformational books and products,” according to the company website. It publishes work by such well-known authors as Dr. Wayne Dyer, Dr. Christiane Northrup, and Jerry Hicks.

PERCOLATE is available in local bookstores and online.

Now that the PERCOLATE cover project is finished, Waugh says she is working on a new book illustration project for a children’s book by another local author.

Waugh also recently opened her own store on Etsy.com where she sells her fine art. “Etsy is an online artisan community where artists sell their products, everything from knitting to jewelry to pottery to fine art. The list goes on and on,” Waugh said. Her original watercolor paintings can be viewed on the site at www.etsy.com/shop/waughtercolors. She also paints people and pet portraits on commission. Her website is found at www.waughtercolors.com.

As always, I encourage you, my dear readers, to look around in your own towns and cities to find local artists, writers, and creators of all sorts of wild and wonderful things and support them with your good wishes and your dollars. Keep the cash circulating locally, build good-will connections within your community or neighborhood, and enjoy a Localista lifestyle that is anything but bland. Create an environment that is unique rather than cookie-cutter!

And thank you once again, dear readers, for stopping in to Localista.

(This post was published in another form in The Reporter newspaper. Support your local newspapers, too, with your advertising. Advertising pays for the articles you enjoy reading!)

Fashion and Fiction at Goodwill

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Take me to the flower show!

Dear Reader:

As Polyvore.com automatically posts my new sets to Localista, you may be wondering if I’ve forgotten my original mission: to shop local sources rather than big box retailers.

I haven’t. I’ve just been very busy and captivated by my new fiction project, 52 Flash, where I create a fashion look on Polyvore and then write a story inspired by the graphic. However, a trip into the nearby city of Biddeford gave me a chance to drop into my fave Goodwill store, and while I was there I decided to search for some pieces to recreate one of my recent fashion sets: the Flower Show look, which is an easy, casual but classic look I imagined a youngish woman donning for a meandering walk around the Portland Flower Show scheduled for later on this spring (click that link to learn more!).

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The pink J.Jill blouse jumped right out at me. I wanted something over-sized, so I went right to the rack of clothes one size up from my norm. All shirts (and sweaters and pants) are grouped on the racks first by size and then by color, making shopping for particular items pretty straight-forward. I liked the pleating on the front and the swingy cut that I believe would make this a “smock” shirt. (Check out this guide I just found on internet world called Fashion Terms and Styles for Women’s Garments from the Oregon State library! If I’m going to ever get serious writing about fashion, guess I should read up on my terminology!)

The J.Jill blouse was more than reasonably priced at $4.99 and had not one mark or stain on it. Then it was on to pants. I found only a few grey jeans and none that were skinny. I tried on the most promising pair for the photo above but decided they were too big for me. Still, I’ve found ALL my recent pairs of jeans at Goodwill–at prices much too amazing to believe–so I wasn’t too disappointed. The search for the perfect grey skinny will continue.

I was actually very excited to accidentally grab my slimmest pair of jeans this morning–the ones I couldn’t zip up right after Christmas–and had them on and zipped before I realized they weren’t my big-girl jeans. Guess the French Women Don’t Get Fat philosophy is working. More about that in a later post. I’m obsessed with all things French right now, and if I can ever carve out a workable schedule for myself, I will spend some time learning la langue Francaise. I already have the champagne at dinner thing down pat.

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Colorful Rain Boots

But I digress. I already had rain boots at home, thanks to an earlier trip to Goodwill a couple years back. All that was left was a grey puffy vest with a fake-fur collar. Now, I really had no hope of finding that exact item, and I didn’t. What I did find was possibly even better! An olive green puffy vest with a brown, pink-spattered velvet collar originally from Old Navy. Parfait!

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Look at this pretty detail on the vest.

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I did not find a floral bag, at least not one big enough for a tote. For me, it is nice to have something out there still, awaiting discovery. What I DID find, though, were…

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. . . Books! Janet Fitch’s Paint It Black, Jane Green’s Jemima, and Elizabeth Buchan’s Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman. See, fashion and fiction DO go together (at least in my world.)

And I snapped a photo of this amazing prom dress. Only 14.99, but not the right size for my dear daughter. (Plus, I’ve brought home so many fancy dresses from this store over the past couple of years there is no way she will be able to wear them all.)

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Oh, Goodwill, how I do love you.

So what about you, Dear Reader? Have any luck with the local shopping lately? Drop me a line, a link, or both. I love to hear from other Localistas out there.

And check out some short stories–flash fashion fictions–at Localista’s sister blog, 52 Flash.

A Very Cranberry Christmas

Chutney in Bowl

Chutney in Bowl

(This article also appeared in the Waterboro Reporter newspaper, soon to be found online, but for now check out their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/TheWaterboroReporter)

Here we are, smack-dab in the middle of another holiday season, singing along with the carols playing non-stop on 94.9 WHOM (if you live in Maine), finishing up our shopping and wrapping of presents, and turning thoughts toward special holiday foods.

Yes, this is the season of Christmas cookies, nut bread, fruit cake, and eggnog. Peanut brittle, peppermint bark, snickerdoodles, and hot cocoa with whipped cream. Depending on our family traditions, we may enjoy turkey, ham, lasagna, baklava, corn-bread stuffing, sweet potato casserole, or those glorious Franco-American pork tourtieres.

And anything cranberry.

In my family, a traditional treat is cranberry bread. My mother serves it on a silver tray at her Christmas Eve dinner of fish chowder and crackers, jello fruit salad, and homemade sour pickles. Cranberries are fun to string together and hang as a garland on the fir tree. Frozen into an ice-ring, cranberries add a splash of color to a holiday punch bowl. Added to champagne cocktails, frozen cranberries not only keep the beverage chilled, but look very pretty rolling around in the glass. (A mint leaf provides good contrast, too!) There are cranberry sauces and jellies, cranberry pancakes, and don’t forget cranberry nut muffins with a little spread of butter to warm up chilly winter mornings.

There is something just so festive about those bright red berries that contrasts with the uber-whiteness of the snowy winter world outside!

As more and more people are coming to realize that eating locally with the seasons makes sense from a health and environmental perspective, here in New England we can feel confident about choosing cranberries in late fall and early winter. According to the Cape Cod Cranberry Growers Association, cranberries–along with blueberries and Concord grapes–are a native North American fruit. Native Americans used the cranberry in a sort of protein bar called pemmican which was made of crushed berries, deer meat, and melted fat. They also used the berry as a dye and as a medicine. Later, American sailors took cranberries with them on sea voyages to stave off scurvy as the cranberry has a high vitamin C content.

Cranberries are also grown commercially right here in Maine. According to the Maine Cooperative Extension, cranberry production is a new “old” industry since cranberries were grown here in the past, disappeared in the first half of the 1900’s, and then experienced a rebirth in the 1990’s when new commercial production began. Last year, I bought a ten-pound box of the ruby-red berries from a local food co-op organized by Ossipee Towns for Sustainability (check out their Facebook page). The group orders from Crown o’ Maine Organic Cooperative which markets products from Maine growers.

I had good intentions when I bought those berries, but somehow after sticking that box in my freezer I forgot about it…until last week. All of a sudden, as we rounded the corner to Christmas, it hit me. Cranberries! I decided I wanted to try making chutney to include in my Christmas dinner menu and also to give as handmade gifts. It doesn’t get much more local than your own kitchen, right?

I searched the internet for a recipe, found one I liked on the Ocean Spray website, gathered my ingredients, and set the pot to boiling. The first batch came out a little more runny than I wanted, but the flavor was tangy-sweet and spicy. Making a few modifications the following evening, I ended up with a firm, spreadable chutney with a glorious dark garnet-red color and just the right blend of spices. I can’t wait to serve this with my Christmas turkey, not to mention all the leftover turkey sandwiches!

If you would like to try it yourself, here is the recipe.

Shelley’s Second-Batch Christmas Cranberry Chutney

1 ½ cup water
1 ½ cup sugar
2 cups frozen Maine cranberries
1 cup vinegar
1 cup raisins
½ cup small dice apple
½ tsp each allspice, ginger, cinnamon
¼ tsp ground cloves

Put sugar and water together in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Add remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring often to avoid sticking. Pour into glass bowls and cool to room temperature. Refrigerate. Stir before serving to show off all that chunky deliciousness.

If you like your chutney more saucy, reduce cooking time. The longer you cook, the more “set” your chutney will become. Happy holidays!

My Evil Pellet Stove

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Dear Reader:

I live in Maine, and in Maine the winters are cold. Correction, the late autumns, winters, and the biggest part of springs are cold. In order to survive, humans who live in Maine need a source of warmth in order to thrive. So it has been, I believe, ever since the first people took up residence in our fair state.

Over the past five years, I have explored various issues pertaining to sustainability, localism, and culture. I was inspired, first of all, by the notion of “Peak Oil” which is really “Peak Energy” or–to be more colloquial–“When the Juice Runs Out.” I read about the End of Suburbia and the Geography of Nowhere and about how we need to Powerdown.

Throughout the book reading and eco-film watching, I heard much about weaning off oil and using, instead, renewable energy. Things like wood, geothermal, and solar were touted as better options. I was cool with that.

I grew up with a wood stove. I am fond of that dry, heatier-somehow kind of warmth that is thrown out by a wood stove compared to a forced hot-air furnace. Plus, you know, it is traditional, and I like traditional.

It took a few years to make the switch, but eventually hubby and I decided on a pellet stove. We bought one last fall, used it all winter, and were pleased. We rarely filled the oil tank (for the hot water heater; replacing that is a future consideration), and I was warmer than I’d been in many years since I had taken to reducing the thermostat down to 60 degrees–way too cold for me to be comfortable, even with a sweater and knit hat. I was thrilled that the pellets were made out of a local resource–wood from Maine or neighboring Canada–and would burn more efficiently and cleanly than a traditional wood stove. Yay! We were doing our part for the environment!

Or so I thought.

Today I learned of an article expressing shock and dismay that some major corporations are–gasp!–producing pellets, shipping them overseas, and making a profit! I went in search of the article and think this might be it. OUTRAGEOUS: U.S. Forests Logged, Pelletized, Shipped Overseas in the Name of Renewable Energy. (from EcoWatch.com)

It does seem rather appalling.

Sigh.

I get it. Trees are beautiful. They are a wonderful resource, and we should manage them with care. Burning them throws carbon into the air. But wasn’t the whole idea of switching to “renewables” dependent on, um, actually USING the renewables? And what other choices do we have? Solar? What about those solar panels? What are they made of? What kind of energy is used to manufacture and transport them? What about batteries and storage of energy for when you need it? And if we all switch, will we then be told by the likes of EcoWatch that we are evil for supporting a corporation that is profiting from the production and sale of the technology?

I’m not saying “going solar” is wrong or in any way a poor choice. I would love, love, love to see our communities transition to using solar, but please don’t act as if 1)sustainability advocates are blameless in this burgeoning market for wood pellets and 2)there is no environmental cost to ramping up solar energy solutions.

Human beings use resources and make an impact on the environment. Period. Perhaps the only way we can TRULY reduce our impact is to stop making more humans to warm, feed, clothe, inoculate, and hydrate.

In other words, don’t throw out your pellet stoves. Instead, buy some birth control. Or just say NO to sex. (WARNING: CRUDENESS ALERT! 31 Ways to Say No To Sex)

Whatever works best for you.

ps: Just watching the national news and learned that China is lifting their “one child only” rule. And so it goes and goes and goes…

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More like Autumn Browns…

More like Autumn Browns...

So, I whirled through the local Goodwill for about twenty minutes and came up with a pretty decent recreation of my Autumn Gold Fall 2013 outfit. The bag is Worthington. The boots are Franco Sarto (never heard of ’em). The dress had the label pulled out of it, leaving a tiny hole near the neck which I can easily stitch together. All that remains is for me to knit a red and orange scarf. Or a poncho. Which is lucky because I just ordered a kit from that microbusiness here in Maine I was telling you about last week, Darn Good Yarn. Click here to see the poncho kit details: http://store.darngoodyarn.com/products/knit-cowl-neck-poncho-kit

Darn Good Yarn: A Growing Micro-Business

Dear Reader:

In discussing things like individual freedom and sustainability, sometimes there seems to be a disconnect in people’s minds, as if using the word “sustainable” is a sort of code word for “socialism.” Frankly, that confuses me.

Handmade socks

Handmade socks

In fact, why can’t a business be both sustainable–eco-friendly even–and still be a capitalist enterprise? Is Individualist Sustainability Entrepreneur necessarily an oxymoron?

Because this has been at the forefront of my mind, I was thrilled to come across an article about a Maine company called Darn Good Yarn. The owner, Nicole Snowe, had an idea to create a micro-business out of her home, a company that uses recycled waste silk from India and Nepal to create one-of-a-kind yarns. Darn Good Yarn was born. And it is thriving.

According to the company website, the workers Darn Good Yarn employs receive a wage that “not only allows them to survive, but to thrive.” At the same time, the company is growing. This is not a charitable enterprise but a micro-business with a profit-earning motive. I say BRAVO!

Ms. Snowe exemplifies for me that ideal Individualist Sustainability Entrepreneur I imagined–someone with ethical business practices, entrepreneurial spirit and drive for success, and awareness of sustainability issues I believe will weigh more and more heavily in our hearts and in our marketplace. Darn Good Yarn is a darn good example of how things can be done.

Read the Bangor Daily News Disruptive Growth Blog article “Through the Eyes of the Entrepreneur: Nicole Snowe, CEO of Darn Good Yarn” here. http://disruptivegrowth.bangordailynews.com/2013/09/08/through-the-eyes-of-the-entrepreneur-nicole-snow-ceo-of-darn-good-yarn/

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Harvest Minestrone Soup

Harvest Minestrone Soup

A good pot of soup, thrown together from a harvest of fall vegetables and herbs. In my last post, I promised a recipe. Here is how I created my tomato, veggie, and herb minestrone soup yesterday.

Mix together the following:

1 quart of quartered fresh tomatoes and juice or stewed tomatoes
1 cup of diced onion
cloves of one garlic, minced
3/4 cup chopped celery
3/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
1/2 medium radicchio chopped
1/2 cup chopped mixed garden herbs: oregano, thyme, sage, marjoram, savory, etc.
1 medium zucchini, sliced
2 tsp salt
1 can of light or dark red kidney beans, not drained
optional: pepper to taste
optional: throw in one chili pepper whole

Add water to almost cover if the tomato juice isn’t quite there. Heat to boiling over medium-high heat, reduce heat and simmer, covered until veggies are tender.

I was quite impressed by the flavor of this soup without having to add any vegetable bouillon, but save any leaves or onion tops, etc. for a future soup stock. This soup was delish sprinkled with a little bit of feta cheese.

We Are All Blemished: Lessons from Canning Tomatoes

Big Pot of Tomatoes

Big Pot of Tomatoes

A First Thought

Dear Reader:

‘Tis the season for harvesting and preparing for the long months ahead when fresh produce in our gardens is only a sweet memory. Since my tomato plants do not produce much more than garnishes for a few late-summer salads, I trucked on over to nearby Porter, Maine for a bushel of canning ‘matoes f0r $15. Honestly, I’m not sure I could ever grow that many tomatoes for that price, so I consider this a great bargain. A couple days later–up to my elbows in skins and seeds and juice and pulp, listening to Windham Hill Christmas c.d.’s (yes, a guilty pleasure of mine come fall before the craziness of the real holiday zaps all the fun out of it), and putting up stewed tomatoes–a realization struck:

We are all blemished, and that doesn’t mean there isn’t goodness in us.

Blemished

Blemished

See, I was cutting out the bad, dark spots on the canning tomatoes which are, by their very nature, second-best. Flinging skins and blemished fruit into my compost container (an old, blue metal pot that belonged to my grandmother and reminds me of her every single day), I couldn’t help but think about how tempting it would be to throw out the entire fruit because it wasn’t perfect. We like perfect. Somehow, nowadays, we expect perfect. What a waste it would be, I thought, if we missed out on all that goodness beneath the surface just because one of the fruits had a spot or two on the outside!

People, too, are not perfect. Friends have character flaws. Community members drive us crazy sometimes with their idiosyncrasies. Some of us talk too much. Some of us are nosy. Some of us are controlling or passive aggressive or maybe annoyingly passive. Like the tomatoes, though, we have goodness inside us if others are willing to dig beneath the surface and take a look at our sweet, juicy centers…

A bushel of tomatoes and herbs from the garden.

A bushel of tomatoes and herbs from the garden.

Well, you know what I mean.

I like people. I also like to criticize people. Taking a lesson from today’s processing, I am going to try to stop focusing on the flaws and concentrate, instead, on finding the goodness.

Of course, once in awhile you just gotta toss the whole rotten tomato into the compost bucket. Even then, however, there is usefulness. A little time in the elements, a little rain and a little sun, a bit of time to rearrange the old molecules and voila! Up pops a new tomato plant from the pile of refuse. It’s probably not pleasant to be rejected, tossed away, and forgotten; however, there is always hope for change and renewed vitality and goodness. If this happens to you, don’t give up. Use your time alone to let your thoughts and attitudes compost. Let the goodness in you spring up from those tiny seeds.

Of course, if the thought of this doesn’t appeal to you, I have advice: Don’t be a rotten tomato!

All Jarred Up

All Jarred Up

A Second Thought

Canning tomatoes is a fairly easy, but long process. So is developing your character. And remember, we can’t all be tomatoes. Some of us are bitter mustard greens. Others are spicy hot chili peppers. Some are tart lemons, cool cucumbers, sweet blueberries, humble potatoes. Throw a bunch of us into a pot, and something happens–something like this tomato, veggie, and herb soup.

Soup

Soup

Tomato Canning Tip

To easily peel tomatoes for processing, wash them thoroughly, remove any major blemishes, and put them into boiling water for three or four minutes. Remove them and put them in cold water in your sink for a few minutes. The skin will crack or loosen, and when you take them out of the water, the skin easily slips off the fruit. You are then able to get to your canning.

Or soup making. I will post a recipe for the tomato, veggie & herb soup next time on Localista.

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Deviled Egg Serving Dish

Deviled Egg Serving Dish

Dear Reader: Thought I’d share this local find which combines many loves: chickens, deviled eggs, local shopping, and pretty dishware. I picked up this serving dish at a yard sale at my CSA farm when I went to get my weekly bag of veggie-goodness. The pretty edges and the hen on top (it covers a little bowl for additional appetizers or condiments) appealed to me, and since I serve deviled eggs quite often, I had to snap this up for the reasonable $10 price.

Below is a recipe for basic deviled eggs.

Basic Deviled Eggs:

Hard boil a dozen local eggs
Peel shells from eggs
Cut eggs in half lengthwise
Plop the yolks into a medium size bowl
Mix with mayonnaise (preferably homemade but otherwise “real” mayo–not salad dressing)
Add salt, pepper, chopped herbs to taste–I like chives or french tarragon or oregano.
Stuff egg white with the yolk mixture
You can sprinkle the top with paprika if you like a little more color.

Served up in a pretty, country dish like this one, your deviled egg appetizers will look attractive as well as delicious.