Monthly Archives: March 2014

Walking

Photo from AndraWatkins.tumbler.com  This is Andra, Tori and Lisa on the Trace in Tennessee

Photo from AndraWatkins.tumbler.com This is Andra, Tori and Lisa on the Trace in Tennessee

My blogging buddies are walking.  Tori at The Ramblings and Lisa from Woman Wielding Words are joining Andra Watkins (The Accidental Cootchie Mama)  on the Natchez Trace.   Andra has spent the month walking the 444 mile Trace to promote her book: To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis.

Yes, that’s the Lewis from Lewis and Clark.  He died, under questionable circumstances, along the Natchez Trace.  Andra’s book is an engaging character study in a genre that defies description.  In some ways it’s a historical novel, given the main character of Meriwether Lewis and a few guest appearances from people who could be his contemporaries.  In flashbacks we learn about the parts of Lewis’ story that don’t get as much attention in grade school.

Much of the motivation of the story comes from what happened to Lewis after the expedition that put him in our history books.  He was made governor of the Louisiana Territory, replacing a career politician who wasn’t happy about losing his post.  A desk job didn’t suit him as well as leading an adventure into the wilderness.

In some ways this book is a ghost story.  It is set in 1977 and Meriwether Lewis is sent back to “make things right.”  The afterlife mythos is curious and complicated.  Meriwether truly believes that because his death was deemed suicide he is forgotten by history. He was traveling the Trace in part to take his journals from the expedition to a publisher, but he never made it.  But there is also a mission, something he is sent back to do.  It seems he is destined to intervene in the life of a little girl.

Check out Andra's book!

Check out Andra’s book!

Em is a plucky and precocious young girl.  A native of New Orleans, her parents were recently divorced and her father forbidden to contact her.  He’s a musician and Em’s hero.  Her mother is not a nice person.  She’s running a brothel and has essentially sold Em off for her divorce.  When Em learns her mother’s plans for her future she becomes determined to find her father who has moved to Nashville.  Running away she literally runs into Lewis and the partnership is formed.

The Natchez Trace runs from the Mississippi river in Natchez to Nashville.  It was an important trade route, It aided the western expansion, it was a supply line during the 1812 war and it was a road familiar to Meriwether Lewis.  Em and Lewis making their way along the Trace is the setting for the bulk of the story.  It’s a road trip adventure novel.

I really enjoyed the book and I don’t care that it doesn’t fit neatly into a single genre.  Andra’s writing style is clear and witty and well crafted.  Her research into Meriwether Lewis and the history of the Trace is apparent but not intrusive.  The pencil sketch illustrations by Helen Rice are beautiful and very reminiscent of the kind of sketches Lewis made in his own journals.  I highly recommend it.

Oh, and if you get a chance get out and take a walk.  I’ve threatened to take a walk in solidarity.  Andra is going 15 miles a day and has been for a month.  Tori and Lisa are going to do what they can, but don’t really expect to make it half way.  I’ll be lucky to make it to the mailbox, but we do what we can.   Have a great week!

 

#toliveforever

 

 

Happy Spring!

The only way I could see daffodils springing up out of the snow.

The only way I could see daffodils springing up out of the snow.

Last week was the vernal equinox, the official start of spring.  Dare I mention that we had snow flurries this morning?

.

.

.

.

.

.

A friend dyed these for Orion and me.

A friend dyed these for Orion and me.

Dying eggs is a big deal this time of year.  Whether you dye them for Easter or Ostara or just because it’s fun I have to wonder if part of the reason for dying eggs is just to put some color into the landscape.

 .

.

.

.

.

Running water in Minnehaha Creek

Running water in Minnehaha Creek

In warmer climates there are native breeds of chickens that lay eggs of different colors.  If you think about the climates in places  like the Ukraine, famous for their egg dying techniques, winters are longer and springs can be pretty grey.

.

.

.

.

Ice lace tunnel

Ice lace tunnel

There are signs that spring may indeed show up after this very hard winter.

.

.

.

.

.

We have had quite a lot of melt (honest).  There was running water in the creek and I even saw a minnow swim by in the icy water.

Melting sheets of ice in the river give new meaning to "ice dams".

Melting sheets of ice in the river give new meaning to “ice dams”.

.

.

.

.

This year we blessed our eggs for the strength to hold on through the thaw.  It may still be awhile, but it’s coming.

Grateful

paganiconLast week was an uphill week.  The time change kicked me in the ass.  Monday I missed yoga because the clock I was looking at was the one I hadn’t remembered to change over.  Tuesday  I was so tired I could barely get Orion out the door.  I slept through my Dr. appointment. (Literally, I went back to bed.) Wednesday the alarm didn’t go off.  I woke up spontaneously at 730 am, which would have been great the week before when it would have been right on time at 630!  By Thursday I realized the week was almost gone and I hadn’t done anything to prepare for Paganicon.  Friday started the convention, which of course threw what was left of my sleep schedule entirely out the window.

In the course of my sleep deprived daze I heard someone say, “What if instead of being angry at the weather I was grateful instead.”  I actually think they said it to me weeks before when it was so cold but it finally sunk in.   My women’s group is working with Hanuman this month.  He helps us with our lessons by sending both good and bad energy.  Then I saw Peg-o-leg’s blog about her struggle with her own pity party.  When the universe sends the same message three times I start to pay attention.

I spent the weekend working at being grateful for everything that came across my path, good and bad.  I’m trying to be grateful for all the time I’m spending in health care hell.  I’m considering gratitude towards my physical limitations.  Instead of grumbling about how many extra things I have to do making arrangements for Orion this week, I’m grateful his Dad is taking him so I can go to Paganicon unaccompanied.

The attitude adjustment made all the difference in the world.  I still hurt, couldn’t do as much as I wanted, and didn’t get anywhere near enough sleep but it didn’t matter the same way.    I got to spend time with my publisher Taylor Ellwood and his wife.   When we were told there was a 40 minute wait for a table at dinner we took the opportunity to sneak over to the hotel and get them checked in.  When we got back we were at the top of the list.  My workshop was scheduled first thing Saturday morning.  That meant only the people who really wanted to be there showed up, and it was a good-sized group.  For a first time presentation it went really well and much of the feedback I got was that even after 90 min. at 9am they could have stayed and talked another hour or two.

Thrilled with the cover of the new book!

Thrilled with the cover of the new book!

I had a book signing with Taylor scheduled in the afternoon.  My new book When Gods Come Knocking: An Exploration of Mysticism from a Deity-Based Perspective was released in time for the event!  Because I was with Taylor I was introduced to a few other Immanion Press authors.   The friend who came to help me was miserable with allergies, but her presence also brought folks over to say hi who may not have noticed us otherwise.  I was debating going home for dinner when my friends hosting the Standing Stones hospitality suite realized they didn’t have trays to put cheese and crackers on.  I volunteered to dash home for trays (this con is VERY close to my house) and came back just in time to get an invitation to dinner with my students.

I had a great time at Paganicon and felt really good about the marketing and presentation that I did.  I was grateful to have the time with friends, old and new, to really sit and talk.  I always enjoy the opportunity to learn new things and was delighted by the art featured in the Sacred Gallery space.  I really do understand that sometimes the bad things really are a lot better than they look.

Signing books at Paganicon

Signing books at Paganicon

All that “understanding” doesn’t make it easy or automatic.  I find pushing at gratitude an exercise in futility.  Gratitude is something that requires opening up and accepting unconditionally.  It is making room for the bounty of life to fill that open space.  When facing frustration, practicing gratitude is a step back, taking time to breathe, letting go and allowing.  When I achieve gratitude I know that anything is possible and that I will have all the support I need for whatever dreams may come.

So I continue to remind myself to be grateful, for everything.  I remind myself to be grateful for the irritants, the frustrations, the stumbling blocks.  I remind myself to be grateful for the pain and the heartache.  I remind myself to be open to the possibility that it’s all for the best.

Maybe with enough practice I’ll be better at gratitude.

Entertainment

Sunshine and tulip on a backdrop of huge snowdrifts.

Sunshine and tulip on a backdrop of huge snowdrifts.

At the end of winter the season gets boring.  I have my conveniently placed birthday to provide a little relief, but there is still the whole of March.  While much of the country is keeping an eye out for actual signs of spring we might see snowdrops before April in a really early year.   So how do we “keep the faith” that spring will come again?

Living in an age of hot houses and shipping there’s a lot to be said for fresh flowers brightening up the house.  Come May I’ll be outside with my clippers looking at lilacs and apple blossoms.  Now I have to go to the store for tulips.  I’ve tried to force bulbs myself.  Apparently I have a talent for mold.

Wild turkeys have so much color especially against the white.

Wild turkeys have so much color especially against the white.

We’re having a little bit of a thaw this week.  It’s encouraging and there is more activity from the wildlife in the area.  The turkeys are actually up at my folks house.  The deer, turkeys, coyote, skunk, groundhog, and an occasional bear are the neighbors who occasionally stop by to visit.

IMG_0545

The rest of the flock is down below waiting for the spill over.

In a long harsh winter the wildlife can become very creative in their hunt for food.  They are aware the people in the area have abundance.  Many of the animals have learned my parents routine.  In the summer the hummingbirds are clearly irritated when someone is late putting out the feeders.  The turkey has learned that the dining room is vacant at 11am every day.  My Mom is watching her soap opera.

The chickadees don't seem to run short

The chickadees don’t seem to run short

He takes advantage of that little window to hop up on the porch and steal from the chickadees.  The squirrels do it too.  I don’t have photo’s but it was a days worth of laughter to watch a squirrel jump onto the turkey’s back to chase him away from the feeder.   The chickadees put up with all this nonsense and feed to their hearts content while Mom and Dad putter in the kitchen.

While the wildlife may be entertaining, sometimes I want to totally escape the winter.  That when I sit in the sunlight with a good book.   To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis is the fictional work of a blogging buddy Andra Watkins.  She’s currently walking the Natchez Trace, where much of the book takes place.  I’m following her journey on her blog, but the internet isn’t as satisfying as disappearing into an actual book.

Just because I haven't been writing reviews doesn't mean I've not been reading

Just because I haven’t been writing reviews doesn’t mean I’ve not been reading

My new book, When Gods Come Knocking: An Exploration of Mysticism From a Deity-Based Perspective, is out as well.  I’m not curled up with that one.  I am busy preparing for its “official launch” this weekend at Paganicon in Minneapolis.  My publisher (Taylor Ellwood at Immanion Press) is coming out and we’re doing a book signing along with our respective workshop presentations.  Having something to look forward too always makes the days a little brighter.

In the meantime we’re enjoying the break in the weather.  It’s an unseasonably warm 50 degrees Fahrenheit today!  Maybe a walk is a possibility!

Happy Birthday

Not quite a birthday cake from Campiello

Not quite a birthday cake from Campiello

My birthday was February 28th.  I’ve always maintained that the older you are, the longer you get to celebrate.  So, even though I started early and am past the actual date I’m not quite done yet.  Birthday dinners were a big thing in my family.  Regular readers will hardly be surprised by this statement.  The deal was that although we couldn’t afford fancy dinners out, Mom and Dad were willing to cook whatever we wanted.

Being blessed with a birthday timed to hit all the post Valentines Day seafood sales I was indulged.   I developed a fondness for crustaceans early and never let up. I also happen to have a birthday perfectly timed for Restaurant Week.  It’s slow this time of year so Monday-Friday participating restaurants offer a pre-set menu of typical fare at significantly reduced prices.   It’s a great way to try out new restaurants, and a good excuse to get folks to take me out.

Orion and Karina at Fogo de Chao.

Orion and Karina at Fogo de Chao.

On my actual birthday I stayed in and cooked.  I was thinking about ordering pizza, but Orion wanted steak so I went for it.  But in another “good timing” gig, our celebration for the Goddess Lucina happens to fall on the first Sunday of March and that’s also a food rich event.

I have eaten out A LOT celebrating my birthday.  So far I’ve had:

Picking up Orion at my folks they made me birthday dinner of sea scallops in wine sauce with pesto linguine.  The recipes aren’t as full of butter as they used to be, but still very tasty.

The gauchos slice meat off the skewers.

The gauchos slice meat off the skewers.

Dinner at Fogo de Chao  with Karina and courtesy of Orion: including smoked salmon, cheeses, and asparagus from the salad bar and about 17 different preparations of chicken, sausage, lamb and beef.  The best cut of meat hands down was the special Brazillian cut.  Desserts were a definitive Brazillian flan, a molten chocolate cake, and a turtle cheesecake.  Orion sang me Happy Birthday in Portuguese.

Lunch with Judy: produced homemade rye bread fresh out of the oven along with roasted cauliflower and a lovely mushroom and sausage quiche.

Dinner at Campiello with my 50+ women’s meet-up group:  I had meatballs in the house marinara with fried basil leaves, fresh butternut squash ravioli in browned butter and a baked chocolate mouse cake with salted carmel gelato and caramelized peanuts.  The food was excellent, the company a lot of fun and the service exquisite.  They handled a bunch of rowdy women like pros.  The staff answered all our questions (even the ones about other restaurants) and accommodated our dietary quirks.  A really fun evening (and how I really spent my birthday money).

meatballs and prosecco at Campiello

meatballs and prosecco at Campiello

Dining in with Orion: I made fillet minion, which I cut off the tenderloin and wrapped in nitrate free hand sliced bacon from the coop.  I paired it with roasted asparagus sprinkled with parmesan and a baked potato.  Not too difficult and very satisfying.

Dinner at Piccolo with Karina:  Karina and I have established a history of fine dining and conversation about the details of the food we eat.  We’ve dished dinners all over town, in New York City, in Washington D.C., in Florida, on cruise ships and anywhere else we’ve traveled.  I started her early (she was maybe 5 on that cruise).  When we talk about our separate vacations the conversation usually revolves around the food we tried.  It’s hereditary.  My Mom’s travel logs all detail our vacation dining as well.

We had the tasting menu, starting out with a lengthy debate about who was going to get what.  Clearly we needed to avoid duplication and taste everything!  Our waiter stepped in and answered questions about how the food was prepared.  Karina stuck her head into the kitchen a few times to watch them prep and ask questions there as well.  Piccolos focuses on locally sourced food, lots of small bites and beautiful presentation.  We were in foodie heaven.

Piccolo's menu the day we went.  Karina ordered K's I ordered L's and we shared.

Piccolo’s menu the day we went. Karina ordered K’s I ordered L’s and we shared.

Piccolos is actually a small little neighborhood kind of venue.  The decor features stacks of books about food.  I noted the coffee table book on Olives in the bathroom and the Oxford Guides to Food and Wine.  The cookbook that we snuck to the table was an Italian cookbook by a local author, The Italian Country Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper with post-it notes stuck all through it commenting on the recipes.  The waiter thought she’d probably left it visiting the owners previous restaurant.  Clearly it remains a favorite.  It kept us entertained between courses and now I have to go find a copy!  (Karina wants one too.)

first bites at Piccolo

first bites at Piccolo

At Piccolo Karina caught me setting up a taste for her.

At Piccolo Karina caught me setting up a taste for her.

Lucina's Day ritual and "snacks"

Lucina’s Day ritual and “snacks”

Lucina’s Day brunch is set up as a pile of finger food and conversation among the women followed by dinner with the families.  The ladies I celebrate with cook so it’s always a treat.  I brought wine and pesto stuffed mushrooms.  We also had olives, pita, dried oranges, lots of cheeses, dolmades, figs, chocolate and orange cakes, nuts.   Perfect food to chat over.  Dinner added beef ribs and chicken and brie stuffed mushrooms.  Stuffed was the word of the day.

Maybe this week I’ll get around to making myself a cake.

%d bloggers like this: