It all started with a head cold. And nine inches of new snow. And the desire to make a birthday present for my favorite one-year-old friend Maddie.
I found this adorable dog online.
Rummaged through my fabric scraps.
Cut out rectangle pattern pieces on tracing paper, cut out all the fabric bits, and started sewing things together.
Thank heavens my resident college student on spring break knew how to zigzag for the facial features! No button eyes for a one year old. This face had to stand up to the toddler test.
I must say the aqua colored thread adds personality to Nutmeg's blue eye patch.
I sewed the little arm and leg tubes, turned them inside out with no swearing whatsoever, and stuffed them with a little fiberfill batting. The blunt end of a pencil and the pokey end of a pen helped convince the batting to enter such small spaces.
Then I sewed the ears and arms and legs on the back of Nutmeg's body, and folded them all inward for the final big sew.
Put front and back body pieces together, right sides in, stitching carefully to leave the ears and appendages free of my seaming.
Turned the whole thing inside out, stuffed Nutmeg's box-shaped body with fiberfill, and hand stitched the opening at the bottom.
Since my head cold prevented me from delivering Nutmeg on Maddie's birthday, my crew and I
made a video for her.
Maddie watches it often! Like her own Sesame Street routine. And when I delivered Nutmeg to Maddie, she was watching the video right then. In a doctor's office, with a bad case of stomach flu. She finished the happy birthday song, took the real Nutmeg in her hands and pressed her new pal into her face in sad greeting. Maddie held on tight to Nutmeg through the ear and eye exams, the throat exam. She even watched the video again when the doc tested for strep throat. Then Maddie slept with Nutmeg guarding her from the overhead florescent lights.
I hope they are pals forever. The "M" is for Maddie, superstar.
Thanks to Jeff and Michele and Kristy and Dan and Maddie and Pinterest for this post.
Here's another great set of animal friends I almost made. But really, Nutmeg was meant to be.
I made two lifelong friends on a journey of a thousand miles, Jana Richman
and Erica Olsen
. I also discovered the deep beauty at the heart of the state of Colorado. The quiet strength of writers. And the profound curiosity and kindness of strangers.
Barb, Jana and Erica at Maria's Bookshop in Durango, before we meet and greet and read.
Erica hosted us at her place in Dolores, a little arty town in the southwest corner of Colorado. We felt gloriously spoiled, ate well, stayed up late, talked favorite authors, and shared the book readings with her the first two nights. Erica's new full-time job kept her in meetings after that. Wonder who had the better time?!
We drove ridiculous snowy distances to read at outstanding indie bookstores, during International Women's Week. And we actually felt pretty phenomenal.
Between the Covers in Telluride hosted our reading. It's a sparkling ski town with one ferocious mahjong contingent.
We took turns quelling fears and triggering laughter. That wasn't hard, because our hosts for the first two nights were the outlandishly high-spirited Great Old Broads for Wilderness
. You won't find a stronger, more dedicated crew of outdoorsy women anywhere. And they "do it in the wild."
With Libby, our Maria's Bookshop host, and Shelley, the great new executive director for the Great Old Broads.
The tour turned three introverted writers into extroverts, who spoke on air and fluffed our hair and kept our readings to eight minutes each to keep our listeners riveted.
We signed and sold our beautiful books, too.
The trip held surprises. Rowdy old-time Texans danced in the bar in Durango. Wine flowed at the reading in Telluride. Crested Butte runs on a laid back friendly energy that soothed us on day three. Thanks, Townie Books
, for giving us a most pleasant intimate reading experience. And then at last, Jana and I drove the long and winding road to Paonia, where we were welcomed by our own marquee!
Intrigued, one Paonia man said to his wife, "We're going to that Grateful Dead tribute band!" They showed up at the reading and stayed to listen, asked questions and bought two books. The mountain-clad rural town of Paonia pulled out all the stops for us: lunch out with High Country News editors, two farm goats trundling down the dirt road that led to our cabin—shy as we felt most nights before our readings, a home-cooked dinner with our host librarian, a hefty library crowd and over an hour of questions about the writing life. (It is amazing what a person will admit to when the question is asked just right.) Then, at our small off-the-grid cabin, heavenly quiet under a multitude of stars.
Pit stop at Ouray, so beautiful all our cares melted into naught.
A book is not finished when the printer binds it or the publisher ships it. The little nipper still needs attention. Sometimes that attention cries out ROAD TRIP! So women pack their bags, check their tire pressure, consult MapQuest, put on sunglasses and go.
Three women launched a book tour to meet audiences and sell books. We fell in love with strangers' questions, writers' minds and the state of grace called Colorado. Deepest thanks to Between the Covers, Maria's Bookshop, Townie Books, Delta County Library in Paonia, Torrey House Press, High Country News, The North Fork Times/Delta County Independent, KDUR and KSJD, KVNF, Tom Yoder, Nancy Stoffer, The Durango Herald, The Durango Telegraph, The Cortez Journal, Shelley Silbert, Libbey, Danica, Daiva and Laura Lee! And to those two adorable goats who shared the road with us.
Yes, that's Jana and me with Cookie Monster and radio host Tom Yoder, at the beautifully restored offices of KSJD in downtown Cortez. And inside the bank vault? A recording studio built for two. I love America.
I avoided it for years, the gluten issue. How many allergies can a gal dial into? How could I give up wheat when at times the only things I dared to eat were plain bagels and Saltine crackers? It's so very difficult knowing what keeps a digestive system steady when it's topsy turvy much of the time.
But here's the scoop. Having just spent six days gluten-free, I'm beginning to listen to the gluten free call. I feel so steady. I don't crave sweets. My digestion is quiet and calm. I rounded up every item with gluten in it—crackers, breads, pastas, soups, soy sauce, cereals, tortellini, ravioli—and gave them to our neighbors. I didn't give them the six packs of Stella Artois. But I did banish our beer to the garage.
Courage comes in handy-pack sizes. I'll offload the beer when I'm sure about this new way of eating. And being.
Ringing in freedom meant a fairly thorough kitchen cleaning. Along with glutinous items, I tossed out high-sugar fruits, too. Bye-bye beloved bananas and mangos. Now, it's berries only, and unsweetened applesauce. These two fairly simple changes—eating a no gluten, and low-sugar fruit diet—seem to mean freedom. From pesky exhaustion, from energy swings, and from my formerly tender digestion.
That does not mean I'm eating poorly. On the contrary, it's an adventure finding delicious new eats.
First stop: Great Harvest Bread Company,
who make outrageously tasty gluten free bread on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It's called Gluten Gone Buckwheat. The loaf is so dense Jeff cuts it with an electric carving knife, and so delicious we're glad we switched.
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We also found these crunchy corn crackers that make sturdy bookends for smaller sandwiches. Spread with avocado, they just don't break.
Bored at breakfast? Try Bob's Mighty Tasty GF Cereal, which truly and mysteriously tastes buttery good.
Purists will say if the label does not say GLUTEN FREE, it's not. Sometimes corn and oats have gluten, so the GF label ensures they're 100% gluten free. But if you don't live in a town high on gluten free eating (Boulder, Colorado is the capital of no-glue food), just eat other grains instead of wheat for awhile, and see if it makes a difference.
Why claim gluten freedom? Joint pain and digestive woes decrease. Alertness and steadiness increase. Naps have almost vanished. The money I save on dark chocolate alone could almost pay the rent!
If you need more enticement, it is called gluten BECAUSE IT'S GLUE. Or it functions like glue. That's why breads stick together. Think elastic pizza dough.
Did you ever make paste out of white flour and water as a kid? GLUE.
And human digestive systems don't know what to make of it. They either let it pass harmlessly out of the body, if you're lucky, or get all funkified when gluten visits. Fermentation and distress. The list of physical woes includes gas, indigestion, diarrhea, achy joints...
Are you eating glue, Andy? I remember a kid in my first grade class who ate glue paste straight from the jar. Like, forget the lunch sack, just pass the glue paste. (The lids had those cool stick/paddles with a brush on the end for swiping too much glue onto construction paper. Which got all over your hands. And yes, I did a bit of licking to see what Andy was grooving on. Yetch.)
So when you sit down to a plate of linguini, you are opening the paste jar.
On to tastier pastures! Because you needn't sacrifice flavor in this new gluten free world. Cutting out breads and pastas means you make more room for other great foods.
Here is an outlandishly tasty recipe that no one would ever guess is lacking in anything! Adapted from Emeril Lagasse's Smoked Salmon Quiche with Crispy Potato Crust
, I lowered the fat content and went with fresh potatoes and acorn squash, and ditched nearly all the dairy. Yum.
3 1/4 cups coarsely mashed potatoes & acorn squash (partway peel, chop and boil till tender)
1 T butter
2 T olive oil
1/4 c finely grated Parmesan cheese
2 medium leeks or one small onion, halved and thinly sliced (1/2-2/3 c)
1/2 t minced garlic
4-6 oz fake sour cream, at room temperature (soy/Tofu sour cream)
2 t fresh lemon juice
3 eggs (eggwhites from a carton are fine; I used one whole egg and the rest eggwhites)
1/3 c rice milk
1/4 c shredded fake mozzarella (almond cheese)
4-6 oz smoked salmon, diced (4 seems like plenty to me)
2 T chopped fresh dill (I used 2 t dried dill)
1/2 t freshly ground black pepperCreole Essence Ingredients:
1 t paprika sprinkle of cayenne
1/2 t salt 1/2 t dried oregano
1 t garlic powder 1/2 t dried thyme
1/2 t black pepper 1/2 t onion powder (I didn't have onion or garlic, still great!) Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Oil a 9" glass pie plate.
In a bowl, toss and combine the potatoes and squash with butter and the Creole Essence (recipe below). Add Parmesan and combine. Press the potato mixture into the pie plate, spreading evenly to cover the bottom and up the sides. Bake until golden, 25-30 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.
Reduce the oven to 350 degrees.
Saute the leeks/onions in olive oil over medium heat. When they're soft, about four minutes, add the garlic and cook for one minute. Remove from the heat.
Put "sour cream" and leeks/onions and lemon juice in a large bowl and stir everything together. Add the eggs, one at a time, stirring just until combined. Add the rice milk, salmon, dill and pepper. Mix well.
Pour the salmon mixture into the cooled potato crust and bake for 40-45 minutes, until golden and the batter is set. Cool quiche awhile before serving. Fight over the spatula. Only serves four. It's that great.Go to Gluten Free Goddess for a great sampling of recipes and advice.
My dear friend Ed Kanze, naturalist and writer extraordinaire
, just wrote a column so informative I have to share it.
We think we are such hotshots. Without bats, where would we be? Lunch as we know it would be greatly diminished. Tequila would vanish. And domestic ease would shortly follow it, if I had to live without chocolate.Here is Ed's latest All Things Natural article: BANANAS FOR BATS
Sink your teeth into a banana. Savor the sweet, soft flesh. Now is a good time to think about bats. Together, bats and tall leafy plants worked in concert over a vast stretch of time to invent the long yellow fruits we enjoy.
Yes, we'd have no bananas without bats, or at least banana plants. Bats pollinated the original wild ones, but commercially grown bananas require no such services. Without bats, other food plants might not exist, too, or exist in such diminished quantity that market forces would push up their costs. We are all beholden to bats, whose wings are really their hands.
There would be no Tequila Sunrises in a world without bats. Bats are chief pollinators of the agave plants whose fermented floral parts give rise to the alcoholic drink.
In the original draft of this story, I explained that bats have much to do with the production of mangoes, avocados, dates, coconuts, peppercorns, cloves, vanilla, and chocolate. I gleaned my information from internet sources one would be inclined to trust: websites maintained by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Bat Conservation International, for example, and ones not quite so reliable but still often excellent, such as Wikipedia. Yet a tropical biologist friend who read the early draft passed it along to Neotropical bat biologist friends, and egad! They tell me that nearly all the claims I relayed from my sources were wrong.
While the bats in our part of North America specialize in catching bugs, it's those bats of warmers parts of the world that serve plants as pollinators and seed-dispersers. In addition, their droppings, or guano, are sometimes used to enrich soil, and more remarkably, to produce saltpeter, an essential ingredient of gunpowder.
Some of the bats of the tropics and subtropics that contribute to our cuisine are known as flying foxes and fruit bats. Some are as large as red-tailed hawks. The best-looking, which are exceedingly handsome indeed, look like well-bred, well-groomed Chihuahuas in black capes, perhaps out for a night at the opera.
If you're a plant and you want to attract flying animals as big as miniature dogs to pollinate your flowers and to carry away your fruit, it's in your best interests to be sturdy and large. A great many plants that have such relationships with bats are trees or tree-like, and their flowers tend to be big, too. Flowers pollinated by hummingbirds are brightly colored and trumpet-shaped, at least for the most part. Flowers pollinated by flying foxes are often white or blandly colored and shaped like bells or dinner plates. They tend to radiate a strong sweet or musky smell suggestive of overripe fruit.
Not all bat-pollinated plants provide humans with food. South American balsa trees, the source of the buoyant trunks explorer Thor Heyerdahl used to build his raft Kon Tiki, are pollinated at least partly by bats. Bats also play Cupid to the flowers of kapok trees, whose fruits yield fibers used to stuff bedding, pillows, and life jackets. Africa's baobab trees, which bear great aggregations of stamens likely adapted for dusting bats with pollen, are also bat pollinated. So are saguaro and organpipe cactuses.
Bats are widely credited on bat-related websites with the pollination or distribution of the seeds of chocolate, almonds, cashews, figs, and allspice. But the bat scientists who wrote me say this isn't true. This serves as a reminder that that facts can be slippery, and we must be careful where we get them. It also goes to show that while scientists are doing an extraordinary job of learning about bats, they're keeping most of the information to themselves and not sharing it effectively with we who pay their salaries.
Remember when Ronald Reagan cried, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" I say, Tear down the barriers of arcane and thorny language that separate science from the rest of us, and let's have a free and democratic exchange of learning and ideas.
Ed has so many talents they're hard to list. His wildlife photography rivals and sometimes accompanies the books he has published on the Adirondacks, Australia and New Zealand. I deeply love his photo-biography The World of John Burroughs. Burroughs, not John Muir, was THE naturalist writer of his time. Makes me want to build my own log house and chronicle its wildlife and seasons.P.S. I am both glad and sad to report that Ed's richly illustrated hardcover The World of John Burroughs, while out of print, can be purchased for .33 cents on Amazon.
To quote Ed regarding Nobel Prize winner Patrick White's forgotten books—"the fate of great literature these days."
Kent Nerburn's Neither Wolf nor Dog
is a great read with checkered origins.
I enjoyed the book immensely. Nerburn's writing can be both simple as dirt and poetic as hell when it needs to be. His description of a massive storm in the Badlands towards the end of the book — gorgeous.
I started out loving this book. It was exactly what I'd been hoping to find since reading Lisa Jones' Broken: A Love Story
, an exploration of Native American spirituality that was gritty and real. Nerburn can certainly write. But reading his last pages, I felt a slight suspicion and did a bit of research. The book is not non-fiction; Nerburn carefully chose and constructed this tale, populating it with people and events to suit his aim: to inspire in Anglo hearts a real understanding of Native points of view. He could have written this story of Dan and Grover, the Lakota road warriors, and their seemingly humble white amanuensis as a novel. It could have been a smashing novel. Apparently, it's being made into a movie soon. I have no comment on that.
Nerburn has defended the authenticity of the book
as a work of art, a carrier of spiritual truths. But his defense showed no humility. And his fabrications have undercut the trust of this reader.
All authors are liars. Novelists lie blatantly, it's our trade. We lie to get at truth. Writers of non-fiction... well, I hope they still have standards of truthfulness. Neither Wolf nor Dog
is a hybrid, it's spiritual road fiction, certainly not the first of its kind. But because the long haul tale was told and sold as truth, I stopped hitching. I'm actually kind of angry, the book was that good. I don't know which parts to trust.
Is Neither Wolf nor Dog
worth reading? I think so. Fools gold shines like gold, just don't bite it.
On a lighter note, a great way to pass a winter's day--
Make baby bibs.
I took one to my dear pal Maddie last week, and her mom said, "I want a dozen more!" Her dad said, "We need a million of 'em." Maddie is one enthusiastic eater.
The monkeys started the whole project. I couldn't leave them all alone at JoAnn's among their flannel buddies.
I chose a handsome houndstooth check for the ties. You can use Velcro or ties at the neck, but Maddie is so strong Velcro is no match for her.
I could not resist the yellow rick rack, which actually catches spills!
I think the designer knocked it out of the park with her great fabric choices, including a soft chenille back. I just used good old flannel front and back. And muslin instead of interfacing.
When the literary world seems like a jungle, there's no better business than makin' monkey bibs.
I am not particularly proud to say that my most popular blog of 2012 had nothing to do with literature, trees, writing, the environment or spirituality.The most popular blog by a landslide regarded dog flatulence.
To be absolutely honest, I first wrote about my dear dog Sal's deadly gas in November of 2011, so Dog Farts may be the most popular blog of the last two years.That means America has trouble with a capital F.
In the year since our first trials with taming Sal's tummy, I learned that HOW MUCH YOU FEED YOUR DOG IS EVEN MORE IMPORTANT THAN WHAT YOU FEED YOUR DOG, in controlling noxious gaseous emissions.
So I have added new information and am posting the blog once again.
Here's one more look at Dog Farts. May your furry sharpshooter
put down its gun.
Favorites have to stir the heart, and the following really stirred me up this year. Blessed to have enjoyed them, & happy to pass them on!
My favorite carol of the year, perhaps of the decade:
My favorite new TV drama series is old. And completely engrossing. Make sure to watch The Guardian through Episode Eight. Yes, Simon Baker brings a young Paul Newman to mind, but it is the content here that is so winning. Tough shark lawyer meets vulnerable kids as a reluctant public defender. Netflix has the series on Instant Download. My admiration grows with every episode.
Cat Stephens was looking for a hard-headed woman. Truth features four. Ranchers all, with a past that has them snared like barbed wire and
a 300-mile-long pipeline that's about to suck their arid Nevada ranch dry.
Who gets the water—Las Vegas or the Jorgensens?
Be ready to eat dust and ride the rangelands to find out. Richman can really write desert.
And the pipeline is not fiction. See my favorite cause below.
My favorite new pastime--napping.
My favorite trees, and this is one tough category for me:
My apple tree, which produced five blossoms. I was so excited I couldn't hold still!
| |For a few years now, my favorite TV comedy series has been Modern Family.
With this year's Phils'osophy
, the writers reached new heights. I would buy multiple copies of this book to give away, if only someone had published it! Phil for the holidays!
The writing in Kissed is easily as beautiful as the cover. Stuckey explores our basic connection with nature which we've largely forgotten but which has not forgotten us.
Philosophers, biologists, mystics and economists all join voices with Stuckey to pinpoint and resurrect our profound state of being not just one with nature but being nature itself.
Let the fox kiss you. Let an eagle catch your eye. Let Stuckey's restoration of a creek in Oakland sing along with her recovery from severe sorrow and isolation.
Kissed celebrates the up close and personal power of connection.
Favorite new chocolate: Whole Foods Dark Chocolate PEAR & ALMOND.
My favorite cause of 2012: Utah's Goshute Indians claiming their water rights against a proposed Las Vegas pipeline
that will decimate their arid homeland. The Goshutes ARE Spring Valley. And Spring Valley needs to keep its water under its own very beautiful dry feet.If you have any gift-giving ahead in your holiday, the Goshute Legal Fund deserves to hear from you.
Favorite quote: almost anything Rumi says, but here's the current zinger.
God's joy moves from unmarked box to unmarked box,
from cell to cell. As rainwater, down into flowerbed.
As roses, up from ground.
Now it looks like a plate of rice and fish,
now a cliff covered with vines,
now a horse being saddled.
It hides within these,
till one day it cracks them open.
Favorite recipe: take one moment, pay attention, repeat and stir, bake until you are tender.
and a dashing New Year filled with new and old favorites!
"I have made no money. I am as poor now as ever I was in my life — except in hope, which is by no means bankable."
Let me be honest. Poe and I both know firsthand hope is not bankable. Another year almost over, another book published, and earnings as a writer I have none. I haven’t yet succumbed to insanity with a black raven perched above me, dimming the bust of the Goddess of Wisdom, calling “Nevermore!” And yet, this December, this darkest time of year, when the cries of the citizens of the world—animal and leafed and wind- and wave-filled—shock me with their waning health, and I recognize the futility of willpower, and tremble at the ferocity of the world’s polarities, I realize my mortality and ask, as Poe did, “Is there--is there a balm in Gilead?—tell me—tell me, I implore!”
And here things decidedly brighten. Because no raven but a Sufi teacher flies in the open window. He’s cawing about the end of the world, December 21, 2012. Will we succumb to catastrophe this time, or start a geo-spiritual renewal, or wake up the morning after the newest apocalypse and find things are exactly the same?
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Elias Amidon asks, “What if this time is different, not because of celestial influences but because of something closer to home, something that could shift in us from the inside out? What would that be? What would need to 'end' in me for the world to resurrect itself? It’s an honest question."
Nothing says winter is a-comin' in like a few snowstorms, a new knitting project, and three great essays on the benefits of slowing down. Thanks, New York Times, Jana Richman and Pam Stone. Bears are not the only creatures who thrive on slow rhythms and deep relaxation!
Meanwhile, Jana Richman—devoted writer and lover of trees—contracted a head cold last week that effectively shut down her entire life and demanded she do nothing but contemplate.
And make like her black walnut tree.
We all drop our leaves now and then. Now's a better time than then, she tells us.
Be still and embrace that restoration.
Strivers take note! This New York Times article says long life is achieved through sleeping in late, eating food from the dirt nearby, gardening all day, napping, and passing the evenings with friends. The small town lack of privacy might drive me wild on this Greek island. "It's not a 'me' place, it's a 'we' place." And that contributes to happiness and low crime rates.
Unemployment is at 40%, but all are cared for. All are fed. All fit in. No rushing anywhere. "We simply don't care about clocks here."
An eye-opening study of the absolute value of local foods and daily rest!
And Pam Stone shows us how.
If you've toyed with meditation and mindful slowing down, but always jumped right back into busy, give the techniques in her blog a try.
So many of my friends have reached the "I'm not invincible" phase. Where do you turn to refresh and recharge? How do you learn new skills when your whole life has been directed at achievement?!
Pam says find time each day to rest in acceptance. Napitation. Anyone can do that!
I used to be a tireless worker.
Is it any wonder, then, that now I am just tired?
Here’s the good news:
my body has been telling me this for years,
and now that I literally pace myself like a
majestic elephant, all things stay in balance.
The majestic elephant took over about two months ago when I started seeing an acupuncturist. She simply refused to let my yang energy run amok.
Running amok creates suffering and personal havoc. While I thought I was busy moving mountains, I was actually driving my body wild. Shrieking monkey wild. Breakdown in the desert without water wild. Again and again and again. I am now 56, and I've laid down my arms.
I want to be that woman.
If I can only get this majestic elephant to learn yoga!
It is good to have a breakdown when it leads you to deep water.
With thanks to Karen Levine.