07 December 2006

The Universe Provides?

I received an interesting e-mail the other morning. Here are excerpts from the letter, and the full text of my response. I welcome additional ideas!

The Letter:
I have a question, and hope that you will answer it for me. Several times in your book, you refer to the concept that "the universe provides" and encourage a positive outlook based on clinging to that hopeful assumption.

You are correct, usually we do have "what we need in the moment."

But, all my life I have been troubled and disturbed by the fact that for many people, in many situations, that is literally not the case… I have read a tiny bit of Buddhist literature, etc, but I am really curious how literally people can believe in the "universe providing," when only a portion of the people on earth have much provided… and, some of them have lives that are so very marginal… NO abundance!

I have done some world travel, and I know that people can be quite happy in very humble circumstances, so that is part of the answer, but when I see the effects of situations like the tsnuami, the earthquake in Pakistan, AIDS in Africa (especially) war-torn regions where survival is not certain and daily life is hell, regions of extreme poverty where daily life is trudging to haul water and gather fuel… or, existing with putrid filthy river water as one's only source... *sigh*

How can we trust that the universe "provides" what we need? At any moment, such peace and safety as we enjoy could disappear.

Now, I know that is very unlikely for US. And, I have had 55 years of not one day seriously hungry or without water, clothing, friends and shelter. But, isn't that just my incredible luck in this life?

… I still can't reconcile the notion that "the universe" can be trusted to provide what we NEED. … [S]ometimes nature just does a whammy on us.

I am really, really curious about how you frame the belief that "the universe provides" and what that literally might mean. I just can't gloss it over as "positive thinking" although maybe that is all it is? Just a choice to look forward with hope, rather than fear, despite everything? Acceptance of fate, after all… what choice do we have & what good does complaining do? I am wondering if there is more to it than that, and how you know.

[M]aybe "the universe provides" is some kind of code for "things are as they are meant to be, whether or not you perceive it right now!"


My Response:

Dear S. --

You ask a hard question.

Truth is, S., I DON'T know for absolute certain that the universe provides for my/our needs. Spiritual seekers and masters have always struggled with the apparent contradiction of a loving god and earthly suffering, of good vs. evil, of have and have not. I don't have a hard and fast answer for the pain and suffering in the world, and I have no certainty in my beliefs.

Here's what I do have: I figure none of us will know what lies beyond life until we get there. Until we die and see what's beyond death (if anything), we can only believe. I choose to believe in goodness. Frankly, choosing a positive attitude makes life a heck of a lot more enjoyable. So, as long as there's no way to know for sure what's true, I may as well pick a belief system that I like. It's like you said: a choice to look forward with hope, rather than fear, despite everything.

When I look at my life (and the lives of everyone I know), I see that my basic needs have always been met. I also acknowledge that I live in a privileged time and place, and that many people in the world do not have their basic needs met. (They also probably aren't worried about clearing their clutter!) Two thoughts here. First is that my book is written for those of us who are trying to emerge from the influence of materialism, who are struggling for meaning in a consumer culture. My second thought drifts into Buddhist teachings: pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional. Shit happens. How we deal with it is what matters.

Yes, there is ugliness in the world. I don't know why, and I don't know that anyone else really knows why, either. Like I said, great spiritual masters have tried to answer this question. There are different theories as to why tragedy exists. I guess we all settle on the explanation that works best for us.

And there are no guarantees. You are right, at any moment, the peace and safety that we enjoy could disappear. (As you said, sometimes nature just does a whammy on us.) But it might not, too. So why spend one's life anticipating disaster, meanwhile missing out on beauty and joy?

So, what do I literally mean by "the universe provides"? I mean that, when I look at my life, I find that I have everything I need, and then some. And that there is something bigger than just me — something I call "the universe" because I am uncomfortable with the biblical concept of God, something the nature of which I'm unsure, but sense is there, probably more as a connectedness between all beings, an amorphous unnamed (and unnamable) something — that I (and everyone) am a part of. Something along the lines of Carl Jung's synchronicity.

I do not believe there is a master puppeteer manipulating our lives, giving us "what we need." I do believe that it is up to us to take responsibility for our lives, to "do the footwork and turn over the results." I have no idea to whom or what I am turning over the results. I only believe that, when I do, what is meant to happen, happens. What or who determines what is meant to happen? I dunno. I like to think that we are all souls, on this earth to evolve into better souls, and that we have lessons along the way and that we have agreements with other souls to help us learn those lessons. But this may be total b.s. -- I won't know until I die, if then.

No one's ever asked me to articulate my beliefs before. I hope that this has been helpful. Although I think you wanted something definite to hold on to, and I can't give that to you.



27 November 2006

Turkey of a Week

What a week!

Last Monday I got a nasty cat bite. I was holding Ochosi while Dr. Sarah examined her. Sarah found Ocho's "ouch" spot, and Ocho bit my hand -- hard and deep -- in instinctive protest. An early morning drive to Arcata in torrential rain to see the doctor, a round of antibiotics, and a few days of pain (and hot water hand soaks) and my hand is much better. Still a bit of infection (it got ugly there at first) and some pain when I type or chop firewood, but it's healing. It's healing.

And then Saturday, the day after Anthony's 30th birthday, we were in a car accident. On our way to breakfast when a woman runs a stop sign and drives right into us. Yes, she has insurance. And no one was injured; just shook. Ant's truck is smashed up pretty good and is in the shop for a couple of weeks. The police officer gave us a courtesy ride to the car rental. I rode in back, having never had the pleasure (Ant had more adventurous teenage years, so the back of a cop car was familiar to him.) As the officer was radioing in his location, etc., I heard him say he was giving a courtesy ride to "Mom and Son." Ahem. (That's it. I'm getting my hair colored.)

Somewhere between the cat bite and the car wreck was Thanksgiving. Lots of cooking (with much help from Anthony and my neighbor/tenant, Greg, both of whom were my hands when my own hand was incapacitated). I made pumpkin pie and an apple/cranberry/date tart (all from scratch), cranberry sauce, rolls, turkey, stuffing, gravy, salad. Greg brought candied yams. Bob and Noor brought the nummy baked winter squash dish that they bring every year. The Duprees brought their tofurkey and vegan gravy, and drinks for all. Bill and Helen brought a marinated green bean dish. Anthony made pecan pie and whipped cream. A good time was had by all.

Usually I make Turkey Soup on the Friday after Thanksgiving, feeling a kinship with cooks across the country. This year, though, I gave the carcass to Anthony so that he could make soup. Instead, I'm making turkey enchiladas, a variation of my chicken enchilada recipe.

Enchilada Sauce
Simmer until flavorings have blended:
1 12-oz can of chopped tomatoes
4 decent-size cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cayenne (more if you like spicy, which I don't)
1/4 teaspoon cumin
(Adjust all seasonings to your preference!)

Enchilada Filling
Diced left-over turkey (or cooked chicken)
1/2 pound (or more) grated jack (or pepper jack) cheese
1 chopped onion
1 can of black olives, chopped (or use sliced olives)
1 small bunch cilantro, chopped

Have a 9 x 13 Pyrex dish ready (with a bit of sauce on the bottom of it to keep the enchiladas from sticking), along with the ingredients.

Dip a corn tortilla in the sauce to soften the tortilla, then fill it with a small handful of filling. Roll the tortilla into an enchilada and place it in the Pyrex. Repeat until you've filled the pan (I usually make 12 enchiladas, placing 8 along the length of the pan, and four to the side of those 8. The layout looks kind of like this:

____ ____
____ ____

Pour the remaining sauce over the enchiladas. Cover with grated cheese and any remaining filling. Bake at 350 until heated through and cheese is melted.

Confession: I rarely roll the tortillas into enchiladas these days, partly because the dang things fall apart on me before I can get them rolled. Instead, I make an enchilada casserole -- put some sauce on the bottom of the Pyrex, lay out the tortillas, cover them with the filling, cover that with another round of tortillas, pour the sauce over everything, then cover with grated cheese. Bake at 350 until cheese is melted and everything's heated through.

Serve with sour cream (and beer)(if you're not taking antibiotics for a cat bite, that is!).

17 November 2006

Seeing Red/Cranberry Sauce

You know what pisses me off more than just about anything?


It makes my blood boil. I am completely unsuccessful at detaching with love when I see that, yet again, some inconsiderate lazy bastard has just dumped their refuse along the side of the road, uglifying the landscape and expecting someone else to pick up after them.

I'm big on personal responsibility. As a nation, we cling (too much) to personal freedom, but where is our commitment to the responsibility that comes with freedom? Yes, we have the freedom to buy (and our government would like us to believe that buying is our patriotic duty), but we seem to forget the price of our purchase: proper disposal. Contrary to some folks, country roads are not free public dumps for unwanted mattresses, couches, and television sets. Nor is there a maid to pick up the booze bottles, beer cans, and cigarette butts tossed out of your car before you drive (drunkenly) back to your sorry-ass life.

And what's with the McDonald's burger wrappers and super-sized soda cups? The candy wrappers and empty cigarette packages? Why is it that (except for the furniture and electronics), the source of litter is addictive substances? Alcohol, tobacco, sugar, fast food…

There's a saying: "Liberty is not license to do whatever you want to do. It is the freedom to do what you ought to do."

Okay, enough ranting. (Although believe me, I could go on about people not taking responsibility for their actions and lives, whether it's the teenage daughter who leaves a wake of unfinished projects everywhere she alights, trashing her mom's house, or the young man who refuses to take action -- any action -- to counteract his ADD and depression so that he can get to work and support himself instead of falling deeper into debt and self-deprecation.)


Thanksgiving is coming in less than a week. I'll get around to gratitude in a few minutes, once I come down from the adrenaline generated atop my self-righteous soap box. In the meantime, I am remiss on remitting recipes. So here's the recipe for my favorite cranberry sauce -- simple and yummy.

Mom's Cranberry Sauce
Boil one cup of water.
Add 2/3 cup of sugar and stir until it dissolves.
Add one 12-ounce bag of cranberries and
One orange, sliced into thin rounds.
Season with whole cloves (about 1/2 teaspoon) and cinnamon (again, about 1/2 teaspoon).
Simmer uncovered until the berries have popped and the sauce has begun to thicken.
Remove from heat, cool, then refrigerate.

Note: I actually double this recipe -- I usually have about 12 folks over for Thanksgiving -- and have leftovers for the week. Also, I make it ahead on Wednesday (along with the pies).

11 November 2006

Following Fates' Lead

People ask me how I came to be a professional organizer. I actually gave a talk on this once for a women's business group. Here's the talk I gave.

My favorite quote, from Joseph Campbell, goes: "He who will, Fates lead. He who won’t, they drag." I believe our experiences build upon each other, step by step, to create the winding path of our life’s direction; getting us to where we are today, and leading us into our future. We can choose to follow our path gracefully, or we can go kicking and screaming, being dragged along by the Fates.

Looking back from the great vantage point of my 48 years, I can see how each career has provided a stepping stone to where I am today. I also see how many, if not all, of my career choices have been guided – serendipitously? divinely? – through my friendships.

This is who I am today:

I consider myself to be a successful business woman. I brought professional organizing to Humboldt County in 1998, and for many years I was the only professional organizer within about a 200-mile radius. As Humboldt County’s premier professional organizer, I’ve been featured in a dozen newspaper articles, appeared on local television and radio, presented 60-some classes and lectures, written a monthly advise column, produced a quarterly newsletter, published a tips booklet, and written, published, and marketed The Spiritual Art of Being Organized. I have served on the Ask the Experts panel at the national NAPO conference, written book reviews for the national NAPO newsletter, taught workshops at both national and regional NAPO conferences, spoken to standing-room-only crowds at bookstores, and appeared on radio stations across the U.S. I am completing my 10th year as a professional organizer, and my business continues to grow.

However, this is not what I thought I would be when I grew up. I had no idea what I’d be! In fact, I’ve been through three major careers.

My first career was in publishing. My senior year in college, my housemate, Steve Harbor, was serving as editor of the college newspaper. We’d been in a couple of English classes together the semester before, and he knew I was a better student than he was. So he begged me to be on the newspaper staff. I agreed, on the condition that he make me his right-hand man. It was a deal, and I found my first love – publishing – graduating with the degree in English that I’d tried so hard to avoid (because that’s what my mother had). After college – I was at Sonoma State -- I moved to the Bay Area and worked in publishing: editing, proofreading, helping self-publishers through the publishing process, and completing most of the Publishing Certificate Program at UC Berkeley.

Mind you, it was Annie, a friend of my second-cousin Matthew, who got me my first job as an editor at a publishing house in Berkeley.

Eventually I left editing. That much reading was giving me splitting headaches. Needing work, I did what I’d always done – worked as a bookkeeper/office manager, my "I’m between careers" career.

One day, my friend Evelyn said she was gonna go get her teaching credential. We’d talked for years about teaching. We’d both attended alternative schools in our teens, had read extensively about alternative education, and were excited about it. Unhappy at my bookkeeping job, I decided to join her in pursuing a credential. Unfortunately for her, Evy flunked the entrance exam. However, I passed it, and earned my teaching credential from San Francisco State with a straight 4.0.

Four years later, I admitted that teaching kids in Oakland was not what I wanted to be doing, so I picked up an office job – again. By now, I’d cleaned up the offices after I don’t know how many gals – organizing the files, the supply closet, the operating systems. I could run an office with my eyes closed. I was bored silly and feeling like a prisoner behind barred windows, stuck inside all day while the sun shone outside, away from the phone and desk I felt tied to.

Here it was, 1993. Ten years had passed since I moved to the Bay Area to work in publishing. This time, it was my partner Harold who brought a new direction. I had moved to San Rafael to live with him, taking a part-time job with some mutual friends. He was self-employed as a handyman. (That guy could fix or build anything!) So I got to watch the patterns of self-employment – especially the financial roller coaster and the deep faith that one needs to ride out the low points. Meanwhile, I was going through my (early) midlife crisis. I’d been through two careers, and I still didn’t know what I wanted to do when I grew up. I was trying to stay open, trying to have faith, to know that I was on the path and more would be revealed, etc., etc., etc. But I am not a patient woman, and I hated waiting.

More time passed. Harold and I were visiting some old friends of his down in Santa Cruz. We were talking about my search for direction when Michelle said hey, I have a friend who’s a professional organizer and I think you’d be really good at it, here’s her name and number, give her a call. So I called, and it turned out there’s an organization called NAPO that had monthly meetings down by San Francisco Airport. I started going to meetings and talking to organizers, reading everything I could get my hands on. In February 1997, I landed my first paying client as a professional organizer.

Fast-forward to June of 1998. Harold and I had split up. I knew what I wanted to be doing – working as a professional organizer – but I had no idea where. So I hit the road looking for what I called capital-H Home. (The story of this trip is the subject of an e-book I'm planning to publish soon.) Three and a half months later, I settled into a little in-law unit in Arcata, having been encouraged – this time by Mike and Jenni – to move to Humboldt County. The moment I arrived, my life started clicking into place – click, click, click. (I think Humboldt County actually either embraces you or spits you out pretty quickly, and I count my lucky stars that it embraced me. Humboldt is definitely capital-H Home.)

So here I was, living in my little in-law in someone’s back yard in Arcata, getting ready to go to sleep, when the command sounded in my head: Teach a class on organizing. Okay. After 3-1/2 months on the road, I’d gotten pretty good at listening to my intuition and doing as I’m told – yes ma’am! Searching around for a cutesy name, I came up with Zen and the Art of Being Organized. I brought in Buddhist and inspirational quotes, things like "Your work is to discover you work and then with all your heart to give yourself to it." I talked about the importance of joy in our life as a guiding force. I talked about the importance of awareness, consciousness, and how that’s crucial to being organized. My premise was that it’s not enough to set up organizational systems – we need to modify our beliefs and behaviors, how we move through the world, in order to use those systems effectively and become truly organized.

Eventually, these classes gelled into the 12 Basic Principles of Being Organized©. Meanwhile, people were starting to nag me to write a book. I did not want to write a book. I knew how much work it is, and I didn’t consider myself a writer. I can write—people have told me for years what a good writer I am – but I didn’t want to write.

And then I ran into Dan Levinson, whom I knew from the Writer’s Center. (How I got involved with the Writer’s Center is another one of those serendipitous, divine, friendship-guided connections. The ex-husband of my friend Krisli, whom I've known since I was 14, tracked me down in the Co-op parking lot one day, telling me the Writer's Center needed me and suggesting I call them.) I asked Dan if he wanted to ghost-write a book for me, and he said he’d think about it. By the time he came over for our first meeting, though, I’d realized that the book needed to be in my voice, and that I could structure it around the 12 principles I’d been teaching for several years. But I needed a coach to help me with the project. So Dan signed on as my coach, keeping me accountable, helping me when I was stuck, editing my rough drafts, and encouraging me. A year later, the manuscript was done – on Chinese New Years, which I thought was auspicious – and I was dancing a merry little jig around my office.

Which brings us to the present. Here I am, having gone from teaching kids in Oakland, to teaching adults in Humboldt County. From feeling shackled to a desk as an office worker, to the freedom of working for myself, part-time, as a decently-paid expert consultant. From right-hand man on the college newspaper in 1981, to writing, publishing, and marketing a book in 2004. With more books on the way.

Oh, more connections. My book’s designer is the man I worked with – back in 1983 – at that first publishing house in Berkeley. Brian was the graphic designer and I was the editor, and I was totally, unremittedly in love with him for two years. Now he’s married with kids in Tennessee, still designing books, so I hired him to design mine. Another old flame, from when I was about 30, is a recording engineer. Alex recorded me reading the book, with the intent of turning it into a book on CD.

How did I become an organizer and publish a book on spiritual organizing? This is how. By following the stepping stones in my life, one after another, following the divine guidance provided by friendships. After all, a successful business depends upon successful relationships. We never know where one step will lead us, but lead us it certainly will.

23 October 2006

Cats, Comfort, and Cream

In my last entry (Apples), I mentioned that Paquito was missing.

Paquito is gone.

The first time I laid eyes on Paquito, over 10 years ago, I exclaimed, "He was supposed to come back to me!" I had recently lost a deeply loved cat, a long-haired version of Paco’s cream-with-flame-point coloring and amazing blue eyes. But Paco was Mom’s cat, except when I’d visit her; then he was on my lap and in my arms.

Everybody loved Paquito. Gorgeous, affectionate, demanding, fearless…he was my big dumb blond lover-boy. Because eventually he did come to me. When mom died of lung cancer in March of 2000, I adopted Paquito. We lived together for six and a half years.

But now he’s gone. I last saw him in the morning on Tuesday, October 10 – two weeks ago. He was a neutered male and not given to wandering; he liked his food, so disappearing was not in character. I looked high and low – literally – scrambling through the riparian willows and brambles around the house, shining a spotlight into the corners beneath the buildings on the property, going door to door to speak with my neighbors. I called all the vets, the shelters. I posted a lost cat notice on Craig’s List. I even consulted with two animal communicators (psychics).

Paco’s gone, and there’s a huge hole where his insistent energy used to be. No one’s snagging at my pants leg as I type, meowing until I stop writing and fill his cat bowl. No one’s around to scoop up in my arms like a babe and bury my face into his fur. No one’s around to be patient with Ant’s antics: standing Paco into a pair of waders so that he can be Puss N Boots, or wrapping Paquito around the back of his neck, two paws grasped in each hand to hold him in place as a neck warmer. Yes, I still share my life with four wonderful cats, but none of them is Paquito.

Today’s recipe is creamy like Paquito’s coloring, and a comfort food to soothe my grief. It’s Cauliflower-Potato-Leek Soup, and it’s delicious.

In a soup pot, heat some olive oil, then sauté over medium heat
1 Leek, sliced.

When it’s soft and somewhat translucent, add
1 Cauliflower, about 5 inches in diameter, broken into florets
1 Potato (preferably White Rose), about 5 or 6 inches long and 2 inches thick, cubed.

Add enough water to just cover the veggies.
Add one heaping teaspoon of Better Than Bouillon (chicken).
Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and cook until the veggies are tender.
Remove from heat.
Run the veggies through a blender to puree them, then add them back to the stock.
Add cream to taste – between 1/4 and 1/2 cup (or more, if you want).
Season with 1 scant teaspoon of nutmeg.
Serve. (If you’re really decadent, you can melt a pad of butter on top of each serving.)


Yesterday we went to a cider-pressing party.

You’ve heard of barn raisers, right? Well, my neighbor two doors up, Marianne, has a small organic apple orchard and every year she gathers up friends to help her press her harvest into cider. Although I’ve been invited in the past, this was the first year I was able to join. Anthony’s been hankering to make his own hard cider. Now he has four gallons of fresh-pressed juice to play with.

I’m actually not that fond of cider, and the work left me with aching muscles by the time we ended (after dark, working by lanterns). But the cider wasn’t my motivation. (I didn’t even bring any home.) What I like is being part of a community, working together to feed each other and help each other out.

I like knowing my neighbors, being there for each other. Marianne knows that, if she needs, she can call me and I’ll take care of her dog. The up-the-hill neighbors ask me to take care of their chickens when they are gone. When one of Farmer John’s cows get loose, I call him up, then go out to the cow, helping to keep her out of the road and to herd her home. When Larry called to say his wife had been seeing a white cat in their field, I went over to investigate. (My white Paquito Cat was missing.) Realizing that the cat was quite domestic, and that it probably had come across the creek from the houses behind Larry’s field, I called Pam. Indeed, it was her cat.

Lest I sound like the only one who helps out, let me state quite clearly that I am blessed with generous neighbors, as well. The neighbors one property south give me fresh salmon fillets and fresh cooked (and cleaned) crab from their first catch every season. The first time I went over to Larry’s to buy eggs, he loaded me up with veggies from his garden. Marianne invites me every year to Christmas dinner. The up-the-hill neighbors insist that I am not to buy any tools, but should borrow theirs if a need arises. Wayne, local king of the heavy equipment, brought over a load of broken concrete so that I could build a little patio in my garden. Greg, my tenant/neighbor (I own a detached duplex) and I swap cat care.

We all wave at each other when passing in our cars. And we stop to talk over the fences, in the middle of the road… .

I remember, years ago, my ex and I were discussing our ideal home. He wanted remote rural. While I love the quiet and the connection with nature that remote rural offers, I was adamant – I wanted neighbors. Not adjoining walls. Not in-my-face city living. But neighbors. Community. And I have that. What a blessing.

So, in honor of apples and community, here’s my favorite recipe for Apple Pie. Note that it is sugar free! I’m assuming you know how to make a pie, so this is just a list of ingredients.
2 cups unbleached white flour
2/3 cup butter
6 to 7 Tablespoons milk

In a small saucepan, bring 3/4 cup raisins and 3/4 cup water to a boil. Remove from heat and allow to stand, covered, for 10 minutes. Drain off the excess water and combine raisins with:
7 or 8 cooking apples (I like Gravensteins best for pies)
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 Tablespoons unbleached white flour
1 generous teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon each of ground ginger and cloves

Assemble as you normally would, then bake at 350 for 40 minutes or until the crust is browned and the fruit is tender.

Serve with vanilla ice cream or homemade whipped cream. (Anthony takes a pint of heavy cream, puts it in a jar with a bit of vanilla and maple syrup, then shakes it up until it thickens into whipped cream. This is pretty dang nice in your morning coffee, too… maybe with a slice of pie?)

05 October 2006

Country Living

And I don’t mean the picture-perfect everything-matches life portrayed in the magazine of the same name.

We’re getting the garden ready for winter, in our haphazard, don’t-really-know-what-we’re-doing way. Saturday we took Ant’s Toyota pickup over to Rabbi Les’ place and loaded up on composted llama manure. (The Rabbi has two llamas.) I’ve been spending an hour or two in the garden most days since then, weeding the beds, adding the manure, then mulching with rice straw. Today Ant spent some time in the garden with me, weeding his kohlrabi and radishes and dead-heading the dahlias. He also cut the heads off a few of the larger sunflowers, which I’ve brought inside to dry. I hope the seeds will be edible.

I’m also hoping that our favorite growers – Rita and Laurie of Flying Blue Dog Nursery – will have starts of various cole crops at market this weekend so that we can have a winter garden: broccoli, brussell sprouts, chard, and so on. We’re not very good at planning; if we were, we’d have started seeds ourselves a month ago. And we have yet to plant enough of any crop to have anything more than a handful at each harvest, enough for a meal here and there, never enough to preserve or sell. I’d like to change that. My sister and her husband have an organic farm in Scotland, and they’re doing well at selling weekly baskets of produce, eggs, and flowers. I would love to be doing the same thing here, but don’t feel like I have the know-how or the help to pull it off.

Well, I may not try to have chickens again. My neighbors up two doors up the road sell eggs fresh from their hens. Anytime I need more eggs, I walk to their barn, pick up what I need, and drop money into the box – eggs on the honor system.

My dad admits to shaking his head in amazement, wondering aloud to his wife how he, an utterly urban man, wound up with two country girls for daughters. Seeing the way he delights over the beauty of something as mundane as a thistle, though, I understand where Jessica (my sister) and I got our love of nature. I’ve lived in the city, loved being able to hop a bus or walk to whatever I needed. But I also love looking out my kitchen window to see the pasture full of Farmer John’s "girls": doe-eyed Jerseys grazing 10 feet from my window. I love watching the birds come and go with their seasons – the flickers and stellar jays and Oregon junkos and robins – love listening to the osprey’s high cry and the distinctive sound that a raven’s wings make as they displace air.

I even love the excitement of chasing my neighbor’s "pet" raccoon out of the garden, where it was planning to dumpster-dive my compost bin in broad daylight. (My neighbor’s been feeding it because she can’t refuse a cute face. I know, I know – give her the lecture, not me!) Actually, I only started to chase the raccoon; Ant did the real running it off. Right down the private road, toward the buck who was there, eyeing the abandoned apple trees. Raccoons and bucks in the middle of the day…

Soon our apples will be ready to harvest, then I’ll need to either dry them for winter snacks, or freeze them for apple pies. Remind me when we get closer to Thanksgiving and I’ll give y’all my recipe for sugar-free apple pie and for pumpkin pie (from scratch – we’ve 2 pie pumpkins in the garden, both of which were volunteers). I think my pumpkin pie is the best around, and the sugar-free apple pie is delicious (sweetened with raisins).

Oh my, Thanksgiving. Autumn really is here, isn’t it?

Okay, here’s my favorite way to eat Brussell Sprouts – with Horseradish & Cheese Sauce

Sautee 8 sliced mushrooms in either olive oil or butter
Add about 1 pound of brussells, washed, stemmed, and sliced lengthwise in half
Cook, covered, over medium-low heat until tender (to taste).

While the sprouts are cooking, grate about 1 cup of sharp cheddar cheese.
Once the sprouts are cooked, push them to one side of the skillet.
Add in 2 Tablespoons of butter
Mix into the butter 1 heaping Tablespoon of flour
Add one cup of milk, and mix so that the flour/butter is fully dissolved into the milk.
Add the grated cheese, 1 heaping Tablespoon of horseradish, and 1 Tablespoon of dried tarragon.
Continue stirring until everything is well blended and the sauce has thickened. (It’s okay to be mixing the brussells and shrooms in with the sauce.)

Serve over pasta.

27 September 2006

Good deeds

Today I helped rescue a Green-winged Teal.

When I was taking out the garbage, this being garbage day, I noticed Ochosi, Sam, and Jules strategically surrounding something out by the garden. What could my pride of pussies be stalking? I walked out toward them, realized it was a duck, and quickly scattered the cats away. (I confess, if it were a gopher, I would have applauded their hunting skills. Selective slaughter…)

My tenant/neighbor kept the cats back while I retrieved a cat carrier in which to carry the duck to safety. The bird had limited mobility (I saw an open wound beneath one wing, and it was scuttling with difficulty), and so wasn’t hard to catch. I maneuvered it into the carrier, then put it on a deep pull-out shelf in my bathroom, where I could close the door on it and keep it safe. Then I called Humboldt Wildlife Care Center.

HWCC is great; I wish every community had an organization like this! They are a group of volunteers who are trained to care for injured wildlife. Any time I find an injured animal, I call them and a volunteer comes out to get the critter, take it home, and nurse it back to health (if possible).

To the best of my knowledge, HWCC is funded by grants and donations. When I die, the proceeds from my estate will go into a fund at Humboldt Area Foundation with the instruction to distribute it to three different causes: the preservation and restoration of rivers and creeks; animal shelters and rescue organizations that do not euthanize; and the county library. However, god willing, it’ll be many years before my estate is ready to issue proceeds, so I make it a policy to give a donation to HWCC every time they come fetch another animal from me.

Cindy at HWCC said that today’s been a rough day for wildlife; they already had 11 calls this morning. She also told me it’s rare for a cat to catch a wild duck, so I feel somewhat relieved. I think that, in the case of this Green-winged Teal, my cats saw a (literally) lame duck and prepared to pounce; I stopped them before they made their move.

Pray that the little guy makes it!

25 September 2006

Coming Out of the Non-Consumer Closet/Kugel

1981. I’m sitting in the local coffee shop in Cotati one evening when Lisa, a woman I’ve known since 8th grade, pops in and expresses delight to find me. "Just the person I was looking for!" she says. "I’m writing a paper on Existentialism for my class, and I knew you could help me with it."

Ah, come on, Lisa. Just because I spent my teen years wandering around barefoot and exclaiming that "life is absurd." (I think I was often found muttering "chauvinist pig," too, but it was the mid-70’s and I was being raised by a left-wing feminist.)

I no longer believe life is absurd (although I’ve no doubt that god has a bizarre sense of humor and we’re best off learning to laugh with her), but I often feel as though I am living in a surreal time and place, something out of a sci-fi novel – you know, those novels where The Corporation rules every part of our existence? Of course, the writers are probably only slightly elaborating on what already exists; nonetheless, I frequently experience flashes of "this is so scary-weird."

A minor case in point. I was recently reading the letters in Costco Connection (I’m a compulsive reader; what can I say?) and came across one from a Costco fan entitled "Ubiquitous Brand." The woman writes about how, as she "went about my… daily chores I kept noticing the Kirkland Signature brand throughout my house. It was on everything from clothing and laundry supplies to items in the pantry." I realize she’s expressing pleasure with the quality of Costco’s brand, but all I could think was: "Does anyone else think this is scary?" Ubiquitous, indeed. Try, insidious. Sends shivers through my spine.

It’s a mixed blessing, this being out of step with mass consumer culture. I’m very happy with my life. But I am timid about "coming out" as different. Another example: There’s a discussion currently ensuing on the chat group for one of the professional organizations to which I belong. The participants have been discussing what they carry with them as part of their "bag of tricks." The lists are impressively long, and – to me – bafflingly complex. I take my calendar, business cards, and a pen – all of which live in my purse – and that’s it. I’ve been chicken about going public on the group with this information. However, A. spoke up, which gave me the courage to post my perspective. The nice part is, I received an e-mail thanking A. and me. The gal said that, as she’d "been furiously taking notes on things that I might want to add to my case, I stopped myself and considered how well I've been doing with the few items that I do take with me. Much of it stays in my car and, as you, I enter my client's door with a pad, pen, (maybe a tape measure) and a smile."

And there’s the key: Choice, driven by mindfulness and a willingness to not do what everyone else is doing (or buy what everyone else is buying).


You know what? Here it is, September 25, 2006, and I’m still running around barefoot, albeit only around the house. (And I’m more likely to exclaim that "life is good.") Here it is, Monday, an unusually warm day (Indian Summer arrived on the first day of Autumn), and I’m puttering around in a full-length gauzy sleeveless dress (not suitable for public) and a pair of shorts. I’ve washed and hung the laundry to dry, baked a loaf of bread for Anthony, and picked some tomatoes, strawberries, apples, and kohlrabi from the garden (all of which I’ll take over to Ant’s house tonight so that he has some food when he gets home from 3 weeks in Maine). The Corporation may steal other people’s souls, but it ain’t got mine. I like Mondays!


Recipe time. Rosh Hashana arrived along with Autumn this year. Traditionally, one eats apples dipped in honey in hopes for a sweet year. My version of this tradition is to make a Lokshen Kugel, which I’ll be doing later this week. Here’s the recipe. (None of the ingredients came from Costco.)

Boil 8 ounces of wide egg noodles until just tender. Drain, butter, and set aside.

2 eggs
1 cup cottage cheese
4 ounces cream cheese
1/4 cup honey
1 Tablespoon lemon juice (fresh)
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg

Add in
1/2 cup raisins
2 to 3 peeled, cored, and chopped apples

Mix noodles in with the cheese/fruit.

Add the whole kit and caboodle to a well-buttered 9 x 13 pyrex.

Crumble about 1 cup’s worth of (organic!) Corn Flakes over the top.

Bake at 375 for 35 to 45 minutes.

15 September 2006

Bisque and Bruschetta

I’m excited. In my last entry, I mentioned that blogging has my writing juices flowing, and that I’ve just finished writing a book I’ve meant to write for 8 years now. I’m excited to have the draft done and in the hands of my readers. I’m also excited about the material; there’s some amazingly lovely writing there-in.

The book, for which I am still trying to find a title, is a compilation of my journal entries and e-mailed travelogues from a life-changing road trip that I took in 1998. One reader says it is a book "for everyone who’s had the courage to step into uncertainty, looking for where they fit best in this world." She thinks my journey can serve as inspiration to others who are searching, letting them know that stepping off the cliff (like the Fool from the Tarot – smile on his face, hobo bag over his shoulder, trusting) can result in safe landing.

Besides exciting me, the book reminded me of a soup I used to make, but haven’t for a long while. It’s my variation on a soup from Fields of Greens cookbook (the one cookbook I took with me on my trip). Fixed it for myself this week, and decided it was definitely yummy enough to be worth sharing with you. For fun, and because it’s what I ate with the soup for dinner that night, I’ve included a recipe for my interpretation of bruschetta.


Corn, Pepper, and Basil Bisque

In a 2-quart pot:
Sautee one sliced leek in olive oil until translucent.

Add in and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes over medium heat:
Kernels shaved from 5 ears of corn
One red bell pepper, diced.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Pour in 1/4 cup cooking sherry and enough water to just cover the vegetables.

Bring to a boil, cover, then turn down to low. Simmer for 20 minutes or so.

Remove from heat, and set aside about 1/2 cup of the cooked vegetables (but no broth).

Puree the remaining vegetables and broth in a blender. Pour back into pot and add:
1/2 cup of cream
the vegetables you had set aside
1/4 cup (or so) of freshly chopped basil.

Taste, adjust flavors as desired, then serve.

Claire’s Bruschetta

Prepare the topping by chopping the daylights out of the following ingredients and then combining them in a bowl with salt, pepper, and olive oil. (Start with 1/4 cup of oil, then add more if you so desire.)

Topping Ingredients:
One small onion, preferably sweet – Walla Wallas are good
LOTS of garlic – 6 to 8 decent-sized cloves
One tomato (diced, don’t chop this one as finely as the other ingredients)
Basil – somewhere between 1/2 cup and 1 cup’s worth of leaves

Slice a sourdough baguette (seeded is tasty, if it’s available) in half, lengthwise. Place the slices, crust-side down, on a cookie sheet. Generously spoon the topping onto the two halves of baguette. On top of this, place grated cheese – my favorites are fontina or parrano (spelling?) – as thickly or thinly as you like.

Put the whole shebang in a pre-heated 350-degree oven and bake until the cheese is melted and golden brown.

Devour (but not too quickly – food doesn’t taste as good when you’ve burnt your tongue!)

14 September 2006

Simple Living, Conscious Consumption, and Chocolate

I retract my disappointment in Judith Levine’s "Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping."

It took a (long) while for me to warm up to the book. I found myself more often irritated with Levine than inspired by her – her ultra-New York lifestyle, worrying about fashion and culture, alienated me. Also, I felt as though she just didn’t"get it" – that she was so focused on deprivation, she was missing the deeper value of excusing oneself from Consumer Culture: living a life of meaning and connection by stepping out of the Buy-Buy-Buy world.

Maybe it just took Levine seven months to get into the swing of things. By early August (the book is laid out in monthly chapters), her entries start showing more depth, and I began to change my mind about the book. I’ve read reviews on Amazon that rail against Levine for bringing in her left-liberal politics,but it is exactly the addition of politics – of discussing the larger picture – that I find interesting. I appreciate the way she links development (in this case, the building of a cell tower in rural Hardwick, VT) with destruction, an example of how growth (the foundation of our consumer economy) is not necessarily a good thing.

Talking about one local woman who is pro cell-tower, Levine writes:
"Sandy has announced that as part of the effort to Take Back Hardwick, she will run… for the Select Board… Her campaign will be ‘pro-business’ and anti-zoning, changes that she believes will entice people to spend money in Hardwick. This in turn will raise property values and improve the quality of life in town. Her ideal commercial residents … would be Wal-Mart and a prison." Levine then points out how increased property values make it difficult for people to continue living in the community, because the locals can no longer afford to buy homes in their own town. (I’ve personally watched this happen in my county and know it to be true.) She concludes with: "Sandy … wants economic development and a better quality of life for Hardwick. She believes the only way to get these is to rescue the town from marauding Luddites and erect an aluminum monument to modern consumption on Bridgman Hill. But the irony is, if she manages to Take Back Hardwick, she may lose the Hardwick she wants to save." Amen! I am reminded of one of my favorite quotes, by Edward Abbey: "Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of a cancer cell."

Finally, in December, while contemplating a return to buying, Levine hits the button on the nose. Actually, someone else identifies her intended approach to spending once the year is over: with Mindfulness.

This is what I think not buying is really about. Levine and her partner spend a year wrangling over what is "necessary." Truth be told, very little is "necessary," even less than Levine chose to define as such. But Necessary is no way to live life. Conscious, is. The question is not: Do I need this? The question is: Is this in keeping with my goals and values – am I consciously (mindfully) choosing to bring this into my life? Beauty and joy, as far as I’m concerned, are necessary. But do I need to own each beautiful painting I see? No, of course not. Nor do I WANT to own each painting – I have nowhere to put them, and no desire to take care of them.

Which leads into another discussion I was having with some colleagues – actually, about having started this blog. A couple of fellow bloggers exclaimed that blogging will not make my life simpler; indeed, it will complicate it. I responded with a challenge to re-define "simple" as it applies to simple living.

If we define simple as being less complicated, as meaning less work, then true: blogging will not simplify my life. But then, very little of the things I love make my life simpler. Cats require feeding, cleaning up after, and medical attention (as well as lots of petting). Cut flower arrangements need to be kept fresh. Cooking from scratch takes much more time and energy than throwing a frozen dinner into the microwave (which I don’t have, by the way). Giving my organic garden even a fraction of the attention it deserves – weeding, mulching, feeding – would be a full-time job. Friendships require maintenance – reaching out by phone or e-mail, spending time together, being there for each other. And then there’s the energy involved in maintaining relationship with one’s significant other.

None of the things most important to me make my life simpler in that none of them reduce the amount of energy I expend. Does this mean I should eliminate those things I love most in the name of simplicity? No. Instead, I choose to redefine a simple life as a life that consciously supports my values. By this definition, an argument could be made where blogging does simplify my life, or at least where blogging is suitable to a life of simplicity. Here's my reasoning: I am a writer as well as an organizer. Blogging gives me an outlet to write about those ideas that churn through my brain, allows me to have the (albeit one-sided) conversations I long to have, to share my ideas with others. As a result, it also keeps my writing juices flowing, which helps me move forward on my actual projects.(For example, last weekend I finally sat down and wrote the book I've been wanting to write for eight years!) And corresponding with people who write back keeps me connected to community. These are all high values for me.

Here’s a final tasty note on Simplicity – a simple recipe for one of my favorite foods: chocolate. In typical Claire fashion, the measurements are imprecise. I usually just throw the ingredients together and adjust as needed. Have fun playing with this!

Mmmmm… Chocolate…

Over medium heat, melt a chunk of organic cocoa butter. (I get mine from www.chocolatealchemy.com) I think a chunk winds up being about 1/4 to 1/3 cup when it’s melted.

When the cocoa butter’s almost all-the-way melted, add in a plop (a heaping Tablespoon?) of organic coconut oil. (This melts much more quickly than the cocoa butter, hence it’s added later.) The coconut oil isn’t necessary, but it adds a wonderful silky mouth-feel to the chocolate.

Remove from heat when the oils have melted. Mix in about 3 glops (glug, glug, glug – what is that, about 1/4 cup?) EACH of organic agave nectar and maple syrup. (You can use honey, too, but I prefer the mellower sweet of agave and maple. Play with sweeteners. Everyone’s palate has its own preference.)

Stir the sweetener into the melted oils (still off the heat). Now mix in unsweetened cocoa powder. Organic is preferable. You can also get decaf! When I don’t have either organic or decaf in the house, I use Ghiradelli. How much cocoa powder to mix in? Ummm… somewhere between half a cup and a cup. Start with half a cup, mix it in, then taste. Is it too sweet? Not chocolate-y enough? Then add more powder. This is a seat-of-the-pants process; just keep adjusting until it’s to your liking.

At this point, you can call it good, or you can gussy it up. I like to add dried fruit and nuts. A couple of good combinations are:

Chopped dried apricots and chopped pecans

Dried cranberries, raisins, and chopped almonds

Other additions might include chocolate nibs, vanilla, orange flavoring (or zest)… Really,the possibilities are limited only by your imagination (and making sure not to add too much more liquid).

Again, play with it.

If you’ve added fruit and/or nuts, the next thing to do is make what are fondly called Cow Pies. Put a sheet of wax paper or parchment on a plate/cookiesheet/cuttingboard – any flat surface. Next, plop spoonfuls of the chocolate onto the paper – however large or small you want your Cow Pies to be. (I usually make them about one-inch round). Then put them into the fridge and allow them to solidify. Store them in the fridge.

If you decide not to gussy them up, you can pour them into molds (I haven’t tried this yet) or onto a parchment-lined plate and stick them in the fridge to harden.

Or, you can dip strawberries into them, put those on the parchment and into the fridge.

Or, you can use the chocolate as frosting and pour it over a cake. (If you decide to decorate the cake with flowers, wait until the chocolate has cooled. I’ve wilted the flowers by not waiting, and they just don’t have the same pizzazz. Kindof puts a crimp in the presentation.)

08 September 2006

Cooking Caveat/Stuffed Zucchini

Back in 1983 (or was it 1984?), when I was working in Oakland as the editor for a sports publishing company (and no, I’m not a sports fan), a guy named Greg had a little flower stand outside our office building. I used to hand him ten bucks, a smile, and my vase, and ask him to put together a flower arrangement for me to take home. One day he suggested I arrange the flowers myself. "But I don’t know anything about flower arranging!" I protested. "You can do it," he replied. "Just play with them until they look right."

What do you know, Greg was right. I could arrange flowers to my pleasing, relying on my intuitive sense of aesthetics. (Years later I took a class or two on floral arranging, and learned the rules that defined what I already knew.)

It may seem odd that a Virgo professional organizer relies so consistently on intuition, but that’s the way I am: an eternal balance of apparent opposites. (I joke that I am the perfect blend of both my parents: my father the math professor, my mother the English teacher. Leo and Virgo, Pitta and Kapha, extrovert and introvert, linear and intuitive, I’m always both.)

Anyway, my reason for telling you all this is to give you a head’s up about my recipes. I’m afraid I’m something of an intuitive cook, too. Except with baking (and even that’s not precise), I just throw things together until they seem right. And so I apologize to those of you who want clear direction and exact measurements. I’ll do my best to give rough estimates of quantities, but ultimately I encourage you to "play with it until is seems right." I know you can do it!

Claire’s Stuffed Zucchini
Quarter two large (NOT gargantuan monsters, just decent sized) zukes. Place them face down in a 9 x 13 Pyrex with a bit of water covering the bottom. Cover the top with foil and bake until the zucchini "meat" is tender. Remove and allow to cool enough to be handled without scalding your fingers.

While the zukes are baking, sautee
1 diced onion (medium, yellow or white)

When the onions are translucent, add
8 to 10 sliced mushrooms
3 to 4 chopped garlic cloves (good sized; if the cloves are puny, use 8 to 10 of them)

Once the mushrooms have cooked, remove from heat and stir in
1 teaspoon to 1 Tablespoon of yellow curry powder (to taste)
1 to 2 teaspoons of dry thyme
2 to 3 Tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce

Use a spoon to remove the zucchini "meat" from it’s shell, and add the "meat" into the onions/mushrooms/garlic. (Leave the shells, face up like little empty row boats, in the Pyrex and remove the extra water.) Use the spoon to mash the zucchini so that it doesn’t have any lumps and is blended in with the onions, etc.

You will have extra liquid in the mixture at this point, thanks to the zukes. (Note: this is not the liquid you removed from the Pyrex. That was to be discarded, or reserved for a veggie broth, or something.) Add enough bread crumbs to sop up the liquid, making the veggies a solid – but not dry – consistency.

Mix in about 1 cup of grated sharp cheddar cheese.

Spoon the mixture back into the zucchini shells (they’ll be heaping once filled).

Bake, uncovered, at 350 until nicely browned, about 20 to 30 minutes.

07 September 2006

Simple Abundance (with apologies to Sarah Ban Breathnach)

By middle-class American standards, I’m poor. Compared to real poverty, of course, I’m amazingly wealthy. It’s all relative. Truth is, I don’t have a whole lot,but what I have is in my life by choice.

My house is smaller than some of the "bonus" rooms I’ve seen at clients’ houses (who the hell needs a "bonus"room?), but it’s big enough for me and my five cats.(My sweetheart of seven years, Anthony, lives with his four cats in his house,about 15 miles away.) My house is 24 x 28 feet – a bedroom, office, bathroom,and open kitchen/dining/living room. (Okay, if you count the laundry/utility room, add another 60 square feet or so.) The only door in the house is to the bathroom (the bedroom and office have arches), so the house feels open and airy.

My income is smaller than most of my clients’, too. For unknown reasons, business has slowed down considerably this summer. This has been an interesting exercise in faith for me: trusting that I will be okay, that this is just one of those (stomach-lurching) dips on the rollercoaster of self-employment. Some days are emotionally easier than others, but I find myself too vulnerable to sudden shifts; while generally cheerful(especially if I’m involved in a creative project), I plummet into depression when a client cancels. My cash flow is so tight that every cancellation requires re-juggling of resources to barely squeak by.

Which brings me to the Simple Abundance part of this post – a day of richness and blessings, without needing to spend a penny.

Morning began with cat cuddles. Jules snuggled against my left side, Sam on my stomach,Paquito on my right side. (Zachary’s still learning to be affectionate, and so was by my left foot at the end of the bed.) Ochosi, my calico princess,jumped up for loving at one point, too. What a lovely way to start the day– waking up on my own, no alarm clock, and lounging with the cats, purring and petting for a good half hour or more.

Fed the cats, made the bed,swept the floors, checked email – my usual morning routine. Heated up left-over Southwest Corn Tart (from Fields of Greens) and baked a batch of zucchini muffins (recipe at the end of this post), enjoying both for breakfast. Then I watered the deck plants, dead-headed the oregano and dahlias, and put together bouquets for the house – a vase of sterling silver roses, another of sunflowers and huge yellow dahlias, a third of larkspur, snapdragons, scabiosa, geum, calendula, dahlias, and lavender. All from the garden. For years I’ve wanted to have enough flowers growing that I wouldn’t feel guilty picking them; finally,I have my wish! (The oregano I’m drying for my spice rack.)

I read for most of the afternoon. Am reading both Judith Levine’s Not Buying It:My Year Without Shopping (a disappointment, I’m sorry to say) and Affluenza. Both are borrowed from the library. (I’ve also been reading the daily posts from The Compact’s yahoo group. I’m encouraged to see people living consciously and simply. Especially as a professional organizer, I’m delighted to see folks scaling down, de-cluttering, not buying so much useless crap, healing from their addiction to retail therapy.)

At one point, I walked over to Marianne’s house to return her serving dish (she’d left it here after my birthday party) and to bring her a jar of sunflowers. Then I made dinner. Picked the last of the peas from the garden and steamed them up with a delicious carrot(from the carrot lady at Farmers’ Market) and some rice, and baked a fresh salmon steak (with a ground almond and horseradish crust) that my neighbor gave me. (I have the best neighbors! At least twice a year, Dave and Teresa give me crab or salmon that Dave’s caught that day.)

Also whipped up a batch of pesto (basil, lots of garlic, olive oil, toasted pinon nuts, and grated parmesan, with some lemon zest thrown in for fun) before the basil wimped out on me. (The pesto’s now in the freezer, as are most of the zucchini muffins.)

And I harvested a cup of strawberries for tomorrow’s breakfast (with plain, nonfat yogurt, a bit of maple syrup and vanilla stirred in).

Dessert was a peach and blackberry crisp (blackberries picked from my back yard): I sliced 3 peaches into a square Pyrex, added a quart of blackberries, and covered them with a crumble made of steel-cut oats, butter, and brown sugar. Baked at 350 until it smelled ready and was nicely browned.

(The left-over salmon will be turned into salmon patties: mix cooked salmon, an egg, grated onion, horseradish, lemon, dill,and chopped parsely, add enough bread crumbs or panko to hold it all together, form into patties, then sautee until golden brown.)

So that’s my day– filled with fresh-cut flowers, delicious organic food, books, a beautiful home, and kitty love. All for free. I didn’t spend a cent, nor did I have to drive anywhere.

Oh, and I started this blog (which I’ve been thinking about doing for months).

And,perhaps in answer to my prayers, over the past 24 hours I’ve been asked to speak at two separate upcoming gigs. The talks aren’t paying much, but they’re an opportunity to help others, to make new contacts, and maybe even to sell some books. Who knows, maybe they’ll even generate new clients.



Zucchini Muffins (courtesy of my friend Pam)
1 cup white flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp cloves
2/3 cups coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans

In mixing bowl beat:
2 eggs
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup oil
Beat 3 minutes or until very smooth.

Add :
2 cups grated zucchini (about two medium)
Optional: 1/2 cup raisins

Mix in the dry ingredients.

Fill muffin cups and bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes.