Saturday, August 18, 2012

I started the 137 Project with the most fabulous Patti Digh.  At first, it spoke to me because it is a daily prompt, a community, little pieces of writing or reflection or whatever-I-choose-to-make-it. It is about living like you're dying. I'm a fan of living in that manner. Both like you're dying (which we all are) and like you'll live forever. Patti encourages us to make the most of every day and at the start of the project there were 137 days left to the end of the year. 137 days to make a difference. 137 days of perfectly messy living.

I signed up for many reasons, not the least of which is to support Patti's family as they face medical bills due to lack of insurance and a battle with Renal Cell Carcinoma that her husband was just diagnosed with.  I wish our method of providing health care weren't so jacked up. But it is. And that leaves a lot of us vulnerable, without insurance. We need to take care of each other in such times.

The first assignment was to simply find 137 objects to help count down the days. 137 of what? I don't like assignments. I balk at prompts. I could think of nothing meaningful to use as a touchstone. I didn't want to do it. So I stayed with the feelings and decided I might just read and be a wallflower in the 137 Project community. Patti finds some really cool people. The kind of people I might want to have tea with or discuss this living and dying business with or learn from. Yeah, that's what I'll do. No assignments for me.

I sat with that thought. I sat and read about marbles and beads and buttons and beans and beautiful stones and collected items and thought how cool and artistic these people were. They posted pictures. They told about the significance of the items. My friend Gail even put up a pegboard that belonged to her Dad, who had died some time before. They were so much more organized and thoughtful than myself.  Why does it always come to comparisons? Years of comparison and grades can't be undone easily.

Behind me sat a basket with garden seeds. Seeds for a garden that is being neglected right now. Seeds that are waiting for their turn to die and grow something new and die again and become something new again....and on and on and on. Just like we all do.

And that's when it hit me. I don't like more "stuff". I don't want little objects cluttering me up more than I already am. I am trying to eliminate more stuff. Seeds die to allow for the growth of the plant it becomes. The plant grows and in death nourishes more life. From microbial to tree, all of that cycle is such a great way to watch what all life on this planet becomes. Cells being used up, dying, being reborn as other things with the same molecules and ingredients that have been here for millions of years...eons.

Life, death and rebirth. Not in some mythical sense, but actual rebirth. The rebirth that happens with my compost pile and the letting go of my mothers hand or kissing her cheek for the last time. The letting go that we must learn if we are to live well.

Seeds. Seeds I can do. I can allow these to be my symbol, because they are the perfect analogy for living well. They won't clutter my home except for a short time. They will be planted at various times throughout the next 137 days and they will die and be turned under to nurture my soil for future crops. I can do this 137 Project...maybe not on time, maybe not in an organized fashion  but if nothing else, I will face more of myself and in doing so face more living and dying.

Pea and Oat seeds beware. Your time has come.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Chocolate Covered Strawberry shot glasses

  How perfect is this recipe for a summer soiree? Strawberries are just about out of season here so we need to hurry!  Thanks to "A room with a view" for posting this at Facebook. Just the inspiration I need for this beautiful, sunny day.

A Room With A View
Chocolate Covered Strawberry Shot Glasses:
2 pounds Large Fresh Strawberries
16 ounces, weight Melting Chocolate
Vanilla Vodka
Godiva Liqour
Chocolate Syrup
- Try to choose strawberries as big as you can find, unless of course you want to make baby shots
- Cut the point of the strawberry off so they can stand on their own, the melted chocolate helps form a little base too which makes them even more stable
- We recommend hulling out the strawberries using a paring knife and grapefruit spoon, you have to be careful not to make them too thin or they'll break (nothing a little melted chocolate can't help mend!). Don't forget to pat strawberries dry before dipping in chocolate.
- Freeze the dipped strawberry cups for maximum sturdiness, and to keep your drink cold. Let them thaw for a few minutes before serving so no one breaks any teeth
Melt chocolate in a small bowl and dip the bottoms of each strawberry in the chocolate. Set on a tinfoil-lined baking sheet and freeze.

Combine vanilla vodka, Godiva liquor, and chocolate syrup in equal parts and fill each strawberry when you’re ready to serve. Allow strawberries to thaw for a few minutes before serving.
- Top with whipped cream and sprinkles for an extra special touch (we thought of the idea after already doing the grocery shopping, oh welll)

Friday, June 01, 2012


My life consists of tea, art, children, garden, makeup and photography for the most part these days. Which is cool, but sometimes even I, laugh at the seeming dichotomies that exist.  Currently, my hands are still embedded with evidence of dirt digging and weeding from yesterday.  There are no signs of the snakes I held. Yes, snakes.

I started to pull back some black plastic in the garden area used for killing weeds. Something moved underneath and I recognized the tell-tale snake movement. Having encountered a small garter snake a couple days earlier, I assumed it was this little garden friend. I called Keith's attention over so he could see it as well. I dramatically pulled the black plastic back quickly to discover not one, but at least SIX various snakes who went diving for the remaining edge of the plastic to hide from us. It was like something out of an Indiana Jones movie!!

Of course he goes running for the camera. I left the snakes hiding happily under the remaining plastic until he returned and then we removed the last vestiges of plastic. After carefully identifying them as non-venomous, I dived in and picked a few up, one at a time to let Keith get closer with the lens. It was pretty darned amazing!  Some of them were brightly colored and some dull as they were getting ready to shed again. All were garter snakes of varying age from what I can tell.

The picture above shows most of them, but Keith missed one on the left side of the pic! They do blend in well.

We put some stacks of rock and wood around several of the snake holes they dove into, as to encourage them to continue frequenting the garden.

Later, we let the chickens (neighbor's chickens we are caring for) out of their coop to forage through our yard. We fed and watered as usual and collected several eggs as well.

Tomorrow these same hands will apply makeup to faces of brides and that does make me laugh a little bit. From eggs, dirt and snakes to primers, foundation and eye life is never dull. One foot in the homesteading world, one foot in the fashion world. I love it but find it hard to meet people who really  understand that dichotomous pull. Fortunately, Keith walks that path with me and is desirous of both worlds as well. What a strange and beautiful gift that is.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

I realized I'm not blogging much. First it was all the emotional upheaval of a divorce, then it was the working all the time thing and finally I just blame Facebook. Which is easy to do but the truth is I have a litany of excuses about why I'm not writing or blogging lately. A blog post isn't very interesting without pictures right? The list goes on, but the simple fact is that it's just another choice in a myriad of choices about how to use time.

I compose words and pictures in my head almost constantly. Falling asleep I will actually see body paint designs and sometimes the garden plants calling to me. I'm hard wired to create it seems. So with or without photos, with or without my lovely litany of excuses, with or without any ounce of creativity I am determined to get back to it.

Some of the things I want to remember this week...that will surely slip away from me;
     ~Found a garter snake under the black plastic I was using as weed kill in the garden. He let me pick him up and stayed close when I put him down. I finally found one of his little holes in the dirt and set him loose near it so he could go hide...which he promptly did. We made a stack of rocks around his home to encourage him to hang out. Snakes are welcome in my garden.

    ~Flew high on a trapeze! Yes I did. It was terrifying and exhilarating all at once and I still can't believe I completed a mid-air transfer. Terrifying I tell you. Stepping off that platform was a lot like leaving my job. "I can do this. I can do this. I can do this" I keep telling myself. Then; "oh my god, what am I thinking?" and then just trying to remember to breath.

    ~More body paint for our book step closer with every stroke of the brush. Another step off the seemingly safe platform of comfort. Which doesn't really exist at all except in my mind.

    ~Met the instigator behind the revival of storytelling here in Jonesborough and the spark that set into motion what would become the National Storytelling Festival (if I believed in ghosts, I would think my Mum had something to do with this one) Jimmy Neil Smith while shooting photos of the very-wise and funny author Patti Digh.

    ~ Being the caretaker for Suma, our orange tabby who managed to sneak out of the house and get into a cat fight (far as we can tell anyway) whose wound abscessed then tore open before I could even get him to a vet. Which is good because I'm actively keeping it drained, cleansed and medicated each day and he is doing really well. We've got a good understanding of each other or my face would have been torn off by now. I swear he knows exactly what I'm saying to him. He's cried a couple of times but not acted aggressive one time, even when I am pressing on it to help drainage. I love that cat!

We started cleaning out the neglected garden today and I have this feeling of complete and utter satisfaction even though things are still messy. Keith is the best partner for this kind of thing (yes honey, I forgave the tearing out of basil and watercress this time) because he actually cares about the results, cares about learning what each plant needs and is in total awe every time something does well (which tends to happen out there a lot) and grows quickly!

I feel a sense of being in the right place, at the right time and all is well.  Even with the normal bumps and fits that life brings... All. Is. Well.  We are looking to the future but building in the here and now. This little acre, this little garden, the basil and rosemary, the weeds and mess, our cute downtown studio in an old is ours as much as anything can belong to a mortal.

Tonight we rest, tomorrow we plant. I'm not sure if there will be pictures to share....we may be too busy doing.


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Full circle

In the garden...
life, death, re-birth.
pulling apart life
creating death
roots curling into bones
to bring

Peeling black plastic away
sighing at the remembering
of potato leaves pushing
against the dark and cold
refusing to be forgotten

I tear at the old
the past
the dead
and forgotten
I tear at the web of memories
chocolate mint
reminds me that nothing
is gone.
Form may be illusory
but structure remains

Stand of beehive
awaiting new form, new lives
awaiting usefulness
the very cells that often
holds us together
through the dark
to emerge
as more than mere usefulness
bringing back the spiritual
the garden....
life, death, re-birth.

Friday, March 02, 2012

On this day....

A day off from any makeup or photography work, plus beautiful weather equals a day in the garden. This day, I had the company of our neighbor's free ranging chickens. Their clucks and sounds I'm beginning to learn. From the high-pitched questioning to the lower-pitched "I'm happy to be in the sunshine digging up your worms and eating your lovely compost" voice.

I dug. They dug. Dirt got scooped. Dirt got flung. Almost onto the camera lens a few times....those girls have serious talons.

I planted spinach, they followed me.

We have known these chickens since they were one day old. We chicken-sat when our neighbors left town and now we're eating their eggs. Green Aracauna, brown Orpington, gorgeous, thick-yolked, free range eggs.

On the deck, plant starts seek sun and with wind and temperature changes, prepare for the garden life. A jug of Sumac tea might be found steeping.

Ok, in actuality this is my first time making Sumac tea. It looks amazing in the sunlight...those red, punctuated berries. That pink-golden, wild edible, free-for-the-taking drink. There is something most empowering about learning to forage from the wild foods right under our noses. When the zombie apocalypse comes, we will have our berry tea!

On this day, I foraged from last year's planted crops. Amazingly, the winter has been mild enough to leave several plants either intact or re-emerging early.

I gathered new spears of mint, rosemary, chives, parsley, oregeno and swiss chard. Here is what happened to them.....

Please understand, that when I tell people how to cook most anything, I expect you to have a basic understanding of cooking and adjust the amounts to fit your own crew. So no measurements here.

Chop the swiss chard, oregeno, chives and parsley and mix into some already-cooked macaroni.

Make a cheese sauce, leaving several sprigs of rosemary in the sauce the entire time it's cooking (lightly crush the leaves to extract more flavor before dropping into the milk), always adding more cheese than any cheese sauce recipe ever calls for. Probably a bit more salt too.

Pour cheese sauce over the pan of veggie/herb/pasta mix.

Sprinkle more cheese on top (hey, I never said I was into low-fat ANYthing people!) and bake until bubbly and lightly browned.

Serve to household of hungry people and a boyfriend that bakes bread. Ok, those aren't required but the bread making thing just made the entire feast even better.

Serve with the steeped mint leaves (cold water steep for several hours) or the aforementioned Sumac tea. Because you're that cool. Yes, you are.