In the last month, I’ve read or listened to the following:
Big Magic: This Elizabeth Gilbert memoir on creativity was very entertaining. I listened to this while sewing Christmas presents and can’t tell you how many times I had to stop to find a piece of paper to jot down something she’d just said. I am a big Gilbert fan, so it isn’t surprising I found this charming. Perhaps the most important notion I took away from this is never ask your art to take care of you. As a creative person, you are given a gift by being handed the desire to make. If it happens to come about that your work can eventually take care of you financially, lucky you. But your job is to nurture the process and result and treat it like a dear lover.
I really dig this. Four out of five bananas, absoloodle.
The Thornbirds: I read this epic because my best friend Meghann was named after one of the characters. I’d had this giant dusty book on my shelf for years. It was a delight to read it. I got sucked into the family drama nearly immediately and spent most of my Christmas break with my nose in this one. It is a good story and was satisfying like a piece of warm cheese pizza. Not fancy, but just what you may be craving. 2.5 bananas.
Wool: Okay, this book shook me up. I received Wool as a Christmas gift with a note from a girlfriend who is a bookworm. It was her favorite read of 2015. That got my attention because Rachele reads a ton. So, I dug in, not knowing what to expect. I was taken to a post-apocalyptic America, where a community of people are living in a silo. I’m not a big science fiction reader, but this story is excellent and grabbed me from the beginning. Come to find out, Hugh Howley the author started this as a blog-based story. He’d publish and take votes and suggestions from readers. He then self-published and eventually it got picked up by a big publisher. It is now the first book of a trilogy! I am going to get to the other two this year.
Loved this story and have already sent it twice to others as gifts. 4.5 bananas.
A Good Year: Quick, romantic read about a man who inherits a vineyard in France. It is fluff reading, but what I needed. I enjoyed this.
The Sound of Gravel is a memoir of a woman who escaped a fundamentalist polygamist community in northern Mexico. She was one of a handful of children; her father had something like 39 kids. It is an alarming story considering these communities continue to thrive in Arizona and elsewhere. Ruth’s powerful story of survival and courage is one that will stick with you.
Not a Fan: I read this book as part of a study at my church. The author, Kyle Idleman, came to speak last Sunday after we’d spent four weeks studying his work. He is an excellent speaker and the book did make me question how I am living my life, and how I can be closer to God.
I’m currently listening to The Goldfinch.
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I’ve been in a hot yoga phase lately. There is a great studio in my new neighborhood with classes at the right time for the right price. The people who attend, for the most part, are just there to work out their own mental junk.
This isn’t the studio that looks like an Athleta catalog. There are women and men of just about every size and shape, and when the room hits 104, we are all sweating and huffing in just about the exact same way.
I try to get on the mat 4-5 times per week. I could write extensively about how good hot yoga is for my head — my attitude, self-esteem and general happiness. I like seeing triceps forming and the sheer amount of water I have to drink to keep up before and after a class.
Last week, I was running into class to beat the bell. I usually get there a few minutes early for time to adjust to the heat of the room. But as it happens, time got away from me and I was lucky to make it in the studio before the door was locked. I raced into the room to find one space open and left in the upper right corner of the room. Mercifully, I spread out my mat and got into child pose as the class began, feeling my hip flexors ache and moan with the stretch.
It wasn’t until pose three or so that I noted the woman next to me. More specifically, I wondered why she was out of synch with the class. This studio has several classes, but the most popular are a 60 or 80 minute version of Sutra yoga. That means that every class will have the same series of poses. It is yoga etiquette to listen to the teacher’s cues as you transition from pose to pose. (I find this helpful because my challenge with vinyasa yoga is keeping my breath in the appropriate rhythm. If you listen to the teacher, you’ll hear when you are supposed to be breathing in versus exhaling for your life.)
The woman next to me was already in the next pose when we were still in downward dog. Then, she rushed through the next pose to do stairclimbers… while we were in downward dog. It didn’t take long to realize why the spot next to her was open. This was particularly rude behavior considering everyone faces a giant mirror and we cue our movements from each other. Imagine trying to get into dancer when the person next to you is doing this. She was trying to show off to 40 people who had intentionally entered a dark, hot room in stretchy clothing — quite possibly the most vulnerable exercise environment behind a Brazilian beach. It made me angry in a flash. There was a back row of new yogis, the resolution crowd. The studio has lots of these folks this time of year and anyone with compassion realizes how recently you were the new person in the back row, praying for a water break. I wanted to reach over and grab the woman next to me mid-nonsense and scream, “KNOCK IT OFF, JERK.”
So, pretty much the exact opposite of what yoga is about.
It was a long 80 minutes of trying to focus on my balance and ability to listen to the teacher through the circus next to me. At some point, likely in a state of dehydration, I realized how this class was a metaphor for life. There is always going to be the attention seeking person who wants to disrupt your flow, those who go against the grain because they find others’ discomfort entertaining. I dislike these people, but not enough to ruin my day — or coveted weekend yoga class. Instead, I kept repeating to myself: IGNORE.
I got out of the class without saying anything, but I did realize a few days later why that spot was once again open. Instead, I started a middle (third) row and made sure she was out of my sight.
Fool me once…
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We have broccoli, peppers and onions going strong in the garden. We’re soon adding an addition to the garden bed — a separate bed solely for tomatoes. I’m thrilled. We’ll fill it two-thirds with organic compost and soil, and then work in epsom salts, crushed egg shells and top it with straw. Apparently straw helps prevent moldy growth on tomatoes and will reduce the amount of water needed. The egg shells prevent the soggy bottom disease (a calcium deficiency) I had a few years ago.
The tomato starts are on windowsills and fill the bathtub upstairs. (You’ve got to get your sunlight and humidity where you can, man!)
I also bought a bag of bat guano at Native Seed when visiting Tucson last week. I am trying it with these tomato seeds (from Finny!) and will see what type of production it helps produce. This is one of my favorite parts of gardening: the experimentation.
Come May, I’m hoping for a wild harvest and salsa party. Andale!
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- Arizona, Flora and Fauna, Happy Hippie
January in central Arizona is citrus season. You’ll see citrus trees with arms bowing, full of fruit. And there are trees nearly everywhere — medians along major streets, parks, and plenty in backyards. Our trees didn’t do great this year; it’s normal for citrus to have an off season, even though they received ample water and fertilizer.
Thankfully, when we were out running errands this weekend, we noticed a small farm stand with bags of lemons for $1. (Considering we too have to pay about $1 a lemon at the market come July, I grabbed a bunch.)
With a bit of time, the oranges from our navel tree became the season’s first batch of marmalade. I like to add a full jar, with a diced onion and some garlic, to the crockpot when slow cooking pork roast.
The lemons were juiced and saved. We use these cubes in ice tea, cooking and baking. It makes the January bounty last well into the year.
(And bone broth. Do you do this? It is so easy, and I swear it’s upped my cooking game. We keep our rotisserie chicken bones and slow cook them with vegetables and spices. After several hours, I strain the liquid into mason jars, which go into the freezer. We use these to cook rice, beans, for the base of sauces, etc.)
An update from the Heirloom Hacienda. Tomorrow: what’s happening in the garden (including the addition of another bed!)
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- Arizona, Domestic Art, Happy Hippie, Heirloom Hacienda
My mom had told me the McNay Museum in San Antonio was worth visiting, but I had no idea they would have such an incredible collection. I saw my first (and second) Diego Rivera! If you ever get the chance, spend an afternoon at this collection. The mansion alone is spectacular.
The art did not disappoint either:
(Yes. That is entirely of cheese doodles. What was even stranger was two of the mannequins moved.)
Diego Rivera — self-portrait
The next three are all another favorite of mine, Georgia O’Keeffe
And an odd Picasso for good measure.
If you get the chance, GO!
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- Journal, Media
This holiday season was a blur. Like many, we ran from one event to another — wrapping gifts and mailing letters as we could. It was wonderful and I wish we could do it again. The time included a quick trip to Texas to see my folks, wearing antlers, of course.
The same antlers made it on more than one hike with friends too. I was happy to see so many friends come home to Arizona for Christmas, many who wanted to hit the trails and enjoy the weather while they could. We hiked a LOT in the last two weeks.
My Christmas wish this year was for us all to wake up in Christmas jammies and enjoy breakfast together. Everyone participated happily. I even caught Z wearing his snowmen pants later in the week. Willingly. !
I read this beast of a novel during the last couple of weeks too. What a great story! I loved this, and am looking for her other books too. 4/5 bananas, absoloodle.
And there was a bit of sewing and handmade gifts this year. This is for my niece Alexis, who very well may play women’s soccer professionally one day. She is such a sweet kid too.
I hope your holidays were full of happiness and time with the ones you love!
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I walked through A’s room this weekend, picking up errant candy wrappers and tidying her bed. There were a few water bottles and I took out her trash. We’d just gone to the store to pick out linens for her new bed; it was frustrating she hadn’t bothered to make the bed after such an effort to get the new furniture and details in place.
After a sleepover, she returned and we had dinner. She looked at me with wide eyes, playfully. “Why did you clean my room?”
I hadn’t cleaned, really. But it was enough of a change that she noticed and was bothered.
I stumbled in response, my mind flooded with my own 13 year old memories of just wanting my space. A space where I could lock the door. A space where I didn’t have to make the bed. (And truthfully, a space where I could stay up all night reading, if I wanted to.) I hadn’t had any of this in mind when I’d “picked up” her room earlier.
“Because it needed it? Because you shouldn’t have food in your room! Because MAKE YOUR DAMN BED ALREADY.”
I said none of these. I just shrugged my shoulders and continued to shovel my dinner, running a list of justified responses over and over in my head. Why is it so important to have the children in my home make their beds? I’m rarely in their rooms. Is it because I want to feel in control? That I need them to listen to me? That I must feel respected?
Whatever it is, it is about my ego and not their cleanliness. They are not slovenly and they will not likely ever meet my ridiculous expectations for tidiness. I have a sick feeling that this is all about me feeling like I am the boss — which is gross and highly unnecessary for the circumstance. I am yet one more adult in their lives, not a parent, but an example. And I can chose to continue this battle of wills where I show them how to be up tight and grouchy, or I can do as Princess Elsa consoles: let it go, already.
This holiday season, I had a chance to spend good time with this kid. We baked — one of her favorite hobbies, and worked on Christmas cards together. My sails could be full if I let them be.
2016: I welcome you with both arms. And with a mouth that will no longer nag these children into doing chores that stroke my ego. I’m going to hug them more and enjoy these days. (I will also happily close their bedroom doors.)
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- Heirloom Hacienda