3 Minute Fiction

NPR Weekends hosts a writing contest every so often called, “Three Minute Fiction.”  The rules are simple: a theme is provided and participants can submit up to 600 words.

The latest round’s theme was: A character finds something he or she has no intention of returning.

Sadly, I did not win. My entry:

Cake in process

Dear God:

We need to talk. Although, I do not feel one bit bad. Yes, I know it is a sin to ask for forgiveness when you aren’t contrite. Father Al says I have to confess, no matter. So, here it goes:

Grace Kelly, my older sister, wanted nothing more than a slice of Auntie May’s lemon chiffon cake on her wedding day. She told anyone who would listen: the cake would be lemon chiffon, three tiers, and it would be the very best anyone this side of the Smoky Mountains had ever tasted. Of course, Grace Kelly would not touch a slice herself, other than to be polite. But she knew all those junior leaguers in the pews were impressed by the recipe – one handed down for generations, and a blue ribbon winner at the Tennessee State Fair for five years to boot.

Imagine my delight when in all the preparations for Gracie’s wedding, the recipe for said cake could not be found. Auntie May, dead of the diabetes in April, would not live to see Grace Kelly wed Johnny Parks in June.

Lord, You must have a sense of humor. You gave me a sister named Grace Kelly, with long shiny hair and a line of suitors wrapped around the block waiting for her attention. And a mama named Mary Pearl, who was the state beauty queen until marriage at a young age rendered her disqualified from competition.

And me, with my daddy’s overbite and love of Shakespeare.

So when I found that sticky, handwritten recipe card tucked between pages of Auntie’s Bible, in the middle of the book of Ruth, I knew Lord you were sending a sign. Evening things up a bit.

I never expected the divine discovery, but when I found it, Heavenly Father, I knew you were holding Your sides, you were laughing so hard.

So if I am a horrible person because I didn’t hand over that recipe card, forgive me. It felt nothing short of glorious to ruin the one thing I could on Grace Kelly’s “precious, holy day.” Lord, You know there wasn’t anything holy about Grace Kelly when she walked down that aisle, a baby at least 7 weeks swimming inside of her.

I’ll leave the judging to You, Lord. But I will say this: I wish I was sorry for hiding those scrawled directions and measurements. Or for instructing the photographer to take plenty of pictures of Johnny Parks stuffing Grace Kelly’s pucker with that sorry chocolate cake no one ate.

Well, except for Stevie Harris. But he’s 300 pounds. Jesus and I both know Stevie Harris doesn’t count.

So, God, I confess: my heart is impure. And my stomach is full. I just ate the best slice of homemade lemon chiffon cake this side of the Smoky Mountains. Tell my Auntie May hello! I will not likely be seeing her again.


Couch Potato

Someone really likes his new couch:
New Jersey Living

Especially when the air conditioning comes on.

New Jersey Living

{That photo makes me laugh so hard. I love his little black button of a nose poking over the edge.}


Sisters in Spirit: Forgiveness

Sisters in Spirit is a series of essays by a group of women who felt a spiritual perspective lacking from the steady stream of daily news.  They each agreed to carve space monthly on their blogs for a spiritual conversation.  The topic this month is: forgiveness.

New Jersey Living

In January I joined a Bible study created to read the entire book in one year. Each day, we read a bit of the Old Testament, New Testament, a proverb and a psalm. The group discusses what we’ve read in an online forum. It has been a great challenge to keep up with the readings, and to be an active participant in the conversation.

We recently read the story of David. You know – the boy who killed the giant Goliath with a sling shot and a few stones? That same David would go on to become a great King of Israel, and the bloodline of Jesus.

But he was also deeply flawed. He slept with his friend’s wife, and then sent his friend into the front lines of battle to be killed. Then, of course, he married the grieving widow.

Each time I read David’s story, I am surprised by God’s ability to forgive. Here was a man who had everything, including conversations and guidance from God. And he somehow thought he could get away with being an adulterer and murderer. That God wouldn’t notice. Of course, God knew. And thankfully, God was willing to forgive when David recognized the great sin in his behavior. He pled for forgiveness and God granted it, allowing David to go on to be one of the land’s best leaders.

New Jersey Living

Last year, a close friend of mine dropped our friendship unexpectedly. I had supported her through several great losses in life, and nurtured her when it seemed no one else was. It was very hurtful when in the rare moment I needed her shoulder, she walked away.

I’m certain she would tell the story otherwise, with the truth falling somewhere in between. I think of her often. Thankfully, with space and time – I’m working through the anger. I’ve forgiven her and myself. Friendships have seasons, and ours was not of the forever variety.

Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself. It unburdens you from the weight of wrong doings – whether they were your own, or someone else’s. Daily, I ask for forgiveness in my prayers. To be a better version of me. I am so thankful God is an all powerful, forgiving and loving Lord, one who appreciates when His children — whether a King of Israel, or a simple girl from Arizona — repent.
I hope you continue this conversation by reading and commenting other perspectives on Christianity with my other Sisters in Spirit. Become part of the conversation:

Sarah is municipal attorney, mom to a toddler boy, and United Methodist’s pastor’s wife.  (She does not play the organ.)  She is a life-long Missouri girl with a heart for hospitality and social justice.  Sarah enjoys cooking, running, knitting and embroidery, reading, and playing in the sprinkler.  Sarah blogs at www.beautyschooldropout.net 

Bianca is a Navy wife from the great state of Texas (where she coincidentally currently resides), and she and her husband welcomed their first child in the fall of 2012. She has a passion for serving others, asking hard questions and sharing The Gospel with both her words and actions. Bianca loves Jesus, her hubs & her son, authentic friendships, traveling, making lists of all kinds, and trying new recipes which she blogs about on BecomingBianca.com

Rhonda is an attorney and native of Missouri.  She is known for being overly-emotionally invested in her three, elderly dogs and dabbling in a ridiculous amount of hobbies, including sewing, music, and writing, while mastering none.  She was baptized in her late twenties and is amazed and grateful that Jesus continues to put up with her.  She blogs at bigsnafu.com.



In Bloom

A walk to the mailbox this week:

New Jersey Living

New Jersey Living

New Jersey Living

New Jersey Living

New Jersey Living

New Jersey Living

Have you heard of the app Leafsnap? It is pretty neat. You take a photo of a leaf of a tree or plant you don’t recognize, and their system will name the plant.  I have been using it, and this little handy guide to learn plants and flowers of New Jersey.

New Jersey Living

Now, if there was an app to get used to the humidity. Those “dry heat” jokes of my Arizona days make a LOT more sense now.



Today is Mr. Willie Nelson Mandela’s 4th birthday. Two years ago, we became a little family — and oh, how he has made my life happier.



First bath

Yeah, I'm smiling

New hat for Duda

He is the best hiking partner, and nothing makes me laugh like scratching his tummy and seeing him pull back his tiny black lips to smile wide. Skunks, fleas, ticks be damned — WNM is the best dog ever. I am forever thankful to the Denver Dumb Friends League. 

We will celebrate as we do — with a cupcake toy from Target, a new collar, long walk and Kong full of peanut butter.

Nelson: year 1

Happy 4th birthday, Nels!


Tall Girl

Curiouser and Curiouser

I’ve been bugging Finny lately with more and more gardening questions. (You know, she’s a super star garden student now, right? Running her own gardening business, going to vegetable school. I’m fairly certain she even has some “hydro basil expert” business cards or something.)

Lately, these have been questions on seed saving. I have been reading more and more about Monsanto’s reach and power, and I find it very bothersome. I come from farming stock, and I am certain my great grandparents would be horrified by the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in the company’s favor. In turn, I want to grow a garden — and live a life — as Monsanto/GMO-free as possible.

I know. This is a huge rabbit hole. Hang in here with me, and I promise we won’t spend too long staring into the hippie looking glass.

Seed saving

When I am curious about a new hobby, may it be gardening, knitting or cooking, I learn in dribs and drabs. Mostly, I learn from trying, failing and trying again. As such, I’ve been gardening for the better part of a decade without saving seeds, or considering soil amelioration. These both seemed a bit too difficult when I started, and I haven’t returned to the subjects until this recent Monsanto news. And let’s be honest — I’ve been using crap Monsanto seed that wouldn’t have been worth saving anyway. These seeds have been genetically modified so they are infertile, meaning gardeners (or farmers) have to buy them annually.

Brilliant, business-wise. Ridiculous nature-wise.

In my mind, seed saving is like knitting cables, or baking bread from scratch.

First you have to learn how to plant a garden for where you live, nurture it, harvest it and want to do it all over again before you have the energy to figure out how to tinker with what is already working. How can I get better seeds? How can I plant heirloom vegetables that carry on a family’s story? How can I avoid messing up the entire food chain by planting seeds that don’t allow proper pollination?

With knitting, I needed a decade to master simply keeping the stitches on my needles before I learned how to intentionally let a few fly free, twist them around, and cable them to glory.


And baking bread — well, let’s just say I had to learn how to not burn toast. (While I boldly showcase a lot of meals gone right around here, let me reassure you there are still gobs of failures too. Last night, we cut into bloody, undercooked chicken. Gag.)  I love to bake bread, especially in a warm kitchen where the natural yeast makes it an easy process. This recipe has made the entire process far easier.

Great Harvest Bread Company Baking Class

As such, I’m saving seeds, and reading this book. I’m plotting the next garden more carefully, with heirloom seeds from well trusted sources. I’m going through lists of Monsanto products online and bit by bit riding our home of this nonsense. I’m looking into seed-swapping organizations.

The next jump in education in each of these categories: soil amelioration, intarsia, baking challah.

“For, you see, so many out-of-the-way things had happened lately, that Alice had begun to think that very few things indeed were really impossible.”
― Lewis CarrollAlice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass



Going cave people

D and I are going paleo. This is the first week, and I would lick this computer screen if I thought it would give me the tiniest hit of sugar. Or a bump of booze. Or just a tiny crunch of foods I’ve never even craved before — like salt and vinegar potato chips.

So, yeah. It’s going swimmingly. We are both sleeping and feeling better already, but boy, am I in a mood. And oh! Is there anything more self-indulgent and douchey than writing about what you aren’t letting yourself eat, while perched in the land of plenty? No. No, my dear, there is not. As such, how about a few tips and recipes for those also going the way of the cave folk:

Paleo breakfast

The first week is expensive. You’ve got a lot of weird purchases to manage that will only be occasional, like coconut oil, aminos, etc. Suck it up and buy the best quality you can muster. It will make the first bit a lot easier if your food tastes great. And it should. There is no reason why great meat and vegetables shouldn’t make your mouth water.

If you are looking for a creative paleo cookbook, I’m a fan of this one. We are eating a lot of meals from Melissa’s book during the next two weeks. Also, get a large cup that you like to drink out of and take it with you everywhere. It may be a Nalgene, or a glass goblet if that suits your fancy. The point is: it is a lot easier to get through sugar cravings and faux happy hour when you have had plenty of water. The headaches will suck less. Naps are a plus too, if you can sneak them in.

Paleo breakfast


First paleo recipe I’m willing to share: Cupcake Eggs.  Either use coconut oil or spray to cover the cups before inserting several pieces of nitrate-free sliced deli meat, forming a cup. I used 8 eggs, whipped, and distributed them over the cups evenly. Then I added a hefty spoonful of salsa to each and topped them with scallions and a dash of pepper. In the oven at 350 for 20 minutes. They are delicious, and hit the spot after a hard run first thing in the morning — you don’t even miss the cheese. Or the delicious tortilla in which this could be wrapped. Or the refried beans.

Good grief.

Next week will be easier. Off to find more water and that nap.


With a bow



Recycling in New Jersey is a pain. I can only imagine the book of rules, no joke, was created as a deterrent. That said, I have yet to find a job and I’ve will happily jump through the necessary hoops to see that these items are sent to the right facility, instead of just carried away with our trash can. This involves tying like items together, marking the junk mail in one bag and the newspapers in another, etc. It doesn’t take long, but I can imagine is a huge hurdle for anyone with little time.

I’ve been laughing lately at the news out of NYC. The mayor controversially wants to enforce a “food scraps recycling program.” AKA: composting. Can you imagine how much compost could be created from NYC in one day? Also: for the international readers — can you believe that this isn’t something we Americans inherently know we are supposed to do?

I’ve seen, and previously owned and broken, the Rachel Ray trash bowl that sits on your counter for compost. Rather that spend the $20 to replace this, I spent $1 on a larger plastic bowl that sits beneath our kitchen sink. In our area, you are not allowed to have a garbage disposal. As such, all food waste that doesn’t contain animal products goes in the green bowl:

Prosecco + pasta

The perks of composting this way:

1. If you live in a humid environment, like New Jersey, this stuff will compost quickly outside.

2. You have to take out a lot less trash, using fewer trash bags.

3. If you are a gardener, this stuff will be gold, especially if you have patience. Add some worms from your local fishing store and watch out. You’ll have amazing humus. No, not pita humus. This kinda hummus. 

4. You’ll get more exercise, especially if you place your composting area wisely a good distance from your house.

5. You will likely think twice about buying sub-par, out of season fruits and vegetables from a big box store that your family won’t finish, leaving you to later compost. The process can’t help but bring you closer to nature — you’ll be begging for the snow to melt so you aren’t digging and dumping your full bowl. And if you are like me, it will give you a deep sense of environmental smugness that is entirely undeserved as a global over-consumer.

The cons:

1. If you have a dog and haven’t spent the time enclosing your compost area, chances are you will have a dog who finds a way to eat whatever he can out of this area. Yuck.

2. You may attract other animals into your compost area. Shoo!

3. More trash. More trash bags. More hauling the dumb trash can back and forth. Urg!

Morals to this story:

New Jersey — I see your recycling laws and I will meet them. Also, I am composting. So there!

The end,




Books: Love Medicine

I bought this copy of Love Medicine on a whim while picking up groceries recently. I remembered loving Louise Erdrich from a Native American lit class I took in undergrad, but didn’t remember that I’d already read this novel. Come to find out, I hadn’t read this exact story. This is the 25th anniversary edition of the book. (It doesn’t say that on the cover. Well done, crafty book publishers.) Erdrich explains in the afterword that she removed one chapter from the original, and moved another to the very end. There is also a hilariously dry Q+A section with the author at the end of this edition.

My O'Keeffe

Of course, it’s been more than a decade since I read this book the first time. I didn’t notice the changes. What I did notice was the lyrical writing and how beyond belief, I fell in love with a crazy mish mash of Native Americans living somewhere near the Canadian border. My geography in this book isn’t great — and it isn’t important to the story.

What is important is the family tree kindly provided by the author at the beginning of the book. Like Garcia Marquez’ 100 Years of Solitude, you’ll need it to understand the story until just about the last page unless you have a photographic memory.

Sedona red rocks3

Although these Native Americans are not Arizonan, the story brought me home. To the large reservation I passed each day driving to work in north Scottsdale. To the mesas east of Flagstaff. To the crimson earth of northern New Mexico, where you can drive for hours and see only rusting trailers, a colorful line of wash flapping in the wind the only sign of life, other than the occasional herd of wild paints and pintos running in the distance.

Driving through the desert

Erdrich writes in a way that makes the reader feel like you are there — in a drunken fight. Watching your son cut open a Lysol container in hunt of a quick high. In a canoe, headed toward an island full of feral cats and a lone, Indian in much need of a human visitor. Sitting with aging nuns in a convent where you were tortured just for being a child — especially an Indian one.

Page 248:

“Grandma got back into the room and I saw her stumble. And then she went down too. It was like a house you can’t hardly believe has stood so long, through the years of record weather, suddenly goes down in the worst yet. It makes sense, is what I’m saying, but you still can’t hardly believe it. You think a person you know has got through death and illness and being broke and living on commodity rice and will get through anything. Then they fold and you see how fragile were the stones that underpinned them. You see how instantly the ground can shift what you thought was solid. You see the stop signs and the yellow dividing markers of roads you traveled and all the instructions you had played according to vanish. You see how all the everyday things you counted on was just a dream you had been having by which you run your whole life. She had been over me, like a sheer overhang of rock dividing Lipsha Morrissey from outer space. And now she went underneath. It was as though the banks gave way on the shores of Matchimanito, and where Grandpa’s passing was just the bobber swallowed under by his biggest thought, her fall was the house and the rock under it sliding after, sending half the lake splashing up into the clouds.” 

Like half the lake splashing up into the clouds. Yes. This is what I wish I could have said at my grandmother’s funeral. My life couldn’t be more different from the characters of this book, but Erdrich has the magic touch any novelist works for: the ability to make the reader connect, against all odds.

My review is simple and unnecessary — this book is fantastic and has been lauded for ages. I enjoyed it as much today as I did a decade ago.

Driving through the desert

I haven’t fallen in love with an author quite like this since reading Kingsolver, of whom Erdrich’s writing often reminds me. If you haven’t read her stuff, I give it my highest recommendation: five out of five bananas.


{I’ve just ordered four more of her books. Have I mentioned how much I miss school? The tests. The cramming. All the books? It has also been nearly a decade since I graduated and oh, I still love learning. So I am financing — just barely — my own made up graduate level course in Louise Erdrich’s writing. Let me know if you’d like a copy of the syllabus. I grade on a curve.}

Prosecco + Pasta

Prosecco, melon + prosciutto, turkey + artichoke stuffed shells, summer berry cobbler — a summer dinner shared with friends:

Prosecco + pasta

Prosecco + pasta

Prosecco + pasta

Prosecco + pasta

Prosecco + pasta

Prosecco + pasta

Prosecco + pasta

Prosecco + pasta

Prosecco + pasta

Prosecco + pasta

Prosecco + pasta

Prosecco + pasta

Prosecco + pasta