Thursday, April 20, 2017

Removing a Weaving from the Loom

I've taken my latest weaving projects off the loom.  Here I am explaining the process.
I'm already picking out yarn for the next project.
Stay Tuned,
(I do love starting projects!!)

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Like Jazz for Yarn

Hey there!  Welcome to my first Vlog where I'm happy to show you my studio
and what I'm working on currently.  And stick around, there is much more to show!
Weaving really is something I enjoy a great deal!
Stay Tuned,

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Our Short History

I bought this book because Ann Garvin read it and loved it.  She's an amazing author, and I'd just come from a writing class where she passed along a whole stack of helpful information, so when she said this book was amazing, I figured she would know.  It's not a book I would have purchased because the cover doesn't include any of the colors I always gravitate to, and there's no food to override the color issue.  I would have passed it by in the store, but here it was on the way to my mailbox, because Ann said so.  And Ann knows.

I hadn't explored what the book was about, didn't really know what I was in for.  By the end of the first page I started to catch on.  A few more pages in and I realized what this book was about.  I picked up "Our Short History: A Novel" by Lauren Grodstein without realizing that the premise is an author speaking directly to the reader, and there is a specific reader in mind, her adult son, Jake, who happens to currently be six years old.  Oh, and by the way, she's two years into the estimated four years of life expectancy given to her by her medical team.  She has ovarian cancer and she is officially no longer in remission.  She's explaining her life to her young son for him to read when he's reached the appropriate age. She tells the story of meeting his father and the complex (complex!!) relationship they share.  And yes, it packs every bit of the wallop you immediately expect, and some extra I didn't see coming.

Here's the thing.  You're going to want to take this with you on your vacation to the Dismal Swamp that you're planning for yourself and your little melon collie named Lennie.  You're going to want this and a book on quicksand.  Kidding.  You'd think this would be the most depressing thing ever, a young boy is so close to losing his Mum.  However.  The quality of the storytelling made this book nearly impossible to put down.  There is much more than the sheer weight of mortality that made the book incredibly engaging.  One expects the heartbreak in a story like this.  What one doesn't expect is the sly wit of the author.  Cancel your reservations for the Dismal Swamp, this book will be a pleasure to read.

Laura is enjoying the company of her gentlemen friend and he's explaining that he doesn't want children.  She looks around at his vast collection of Star Wars Toys.  "'But Dave,' I said quietly, 'You have so many toys.'" at which point I laughed and surprised my sleeping beagle-blend dog who gave me a reproachful look and went to find a more peaceful spot to sleep.  The text is garnished with this sort of unexpected humor that takes the overwhelming weight of the story and makes it real, delightfully snarky, and infinitely palatable. 

I remember discovering the work of Tig Notaro while taking a creative writing class at Stanford University.  I remember being so blown away by her work that I spent three whole days reading and watching everything I could find by her or about her.  The voice of Lauren Grodstein is very different than Notaro, but there is also a quality that these women have in common.  The ability to share the travails of life and to do so with humor is pretty incredible.  In fact, the class I took was called "I Laughed so Hard I Cried: Writing Tragedy and Comedy with Rachel Smith" and let me tell you, the class was awesome.  Of everything I've read since, this is probably the best example of the things we were learning in that class.  The humor comes in observations and the absurdity of life and sometimes in delightful snark.

Laura suspects that a $2,000 wig that gives her Hollywood hair is so vibrant and full of life that she looks deathly in comparison.  I can see how the too-vibrant dead thing would be vexing to a living woman, can't you?

"The convenient woman winning a trip to France for thirty-two hours of fromage and fucking."  Ah, there's that delightful snark again, plus the politician who is far less than the ideal client.

She thinks some delightfully snarky thoughts about a reptile named "Friendly" and wondered if he might finally rid the world of one troublesome hamster.

And this one line that (even out of context) will still show the delicious snark that this author dishes at every turn, "Better than a pool house full of snakes."  

I loved it that she's managing a campaign for a man she doesn't like against a candidate she does like.  The twists and turns in the story bring her face to face with her mortality, as if they weren't already on speaking terms.

I loved the wonderful, complex, and snarky details.  The idea of young Jake growing up without his Mum was heartbreaking, but in the end it wasn't so much about that.  The book is about faith, and letting go.  No, not some Disney princess kind of letting go, and there is no pixie dust.  This book is about the sacrificial sort of letting go that gives up control, that puts another person's needs and desires before your own.  The last handkerchief sopping pages of this book involve an honest-to-goodness heroic act of undeserved grace that goes against every last fiber of Karen's heart.  Without offering any spoilers, Karen makes a decision in physical weakness, but with all her mental and emotional power.  In the end this book is about the raging inferno and gentle caress of loving someone handsomely. 
(BTW, I realize I've now used the work "snark" umpteen million times.  I consulted a Thesaurus for some alternatives and there don't seem to be any.  So there you have it.)

I picked up this book and read late into the night.  Then suddenly it was Easter.  We got home after a lovely morning and afternoon of celebration and I dove directly back into this book.  I cried and cried.  I cried so much our tiny house on wheels floated away and now we live one county over, next to a pond.  

Of course I checked out the photograph of the author in the back sleeve just to make sure she didn't look like she was wearing a Hollywood wig.  Thankfully she looks vibrant and healthy, so I'm going to assume she has a vivid imagination rather than a death sentence of a medical condition.  I hope I hope.  Lauren Grodstein?  You ok?  Seriously though, how does anyone write so convincingly of cancer?!  This book is an impressive work from beginning to end.  It reminds me of the power of craft and vibrant vulnerability.  I cried and cried and cried, and then I laughed some more.

Go buy this book.  While you're at it, stock up on handkerchiefs (save the planet ya know).  I read this book because Ann said so.  Ann knows.  Anybody who reads this book and then shoves it at you with wordless emphatic urgency is right in doing so.  It's so much "...better than a pool house full of snakes." 

Leave me a comment and Stay Tuned,

Miss Coconut Cake

I recently read The Coincidence of Coconut Cake: A Novel by Amy E. Reichert which I purchased because of the photograph of the spectacular coconut cake on the cover.  I'm not ashamed to say that I judge books by the cover all the time, and this one was pure and simple a case of YUM!  Doesn't it look amazing?!  Especially since I've recently gone grain and dairy free - gah!  But I digress.

Just hanging out on a stack of newsprint. 
The book begins with the dismissive man and a woman in ridiculous heels that are causing her all the familiar pain.  It's a symbol of a life that she's taught to desire, but doesn't fit her, doesn't suit her style, and actually causes her pain, but hey - pretty shoes!  He is the sort of man who walks a few paces ahead of her and makes her rush along in those impossible shoes to keep up.  So naturally I hated him from the first page.  As she struggles to keep up with his self absorbed indifference, she's comparing the way she feels in her sleek black dress to her favorite protein in sausage casing.   (That's how you know someone is *really* a Foodie, lol!)  Finally their mismatched relationship ends on page 25, and not a moment too soon.  (Sadly, the coconut cake ends there also.)  Though for the sake of the story, Mr. Sublime Arrogance is still a presence until the end, because there are a few very specific details that need to be neatly tied up. 

The real story here is a cake that is baked with love by a woman who loves food so much that she will explore the restaurants of a city on her one day off, and will create lavish feasts at home after the long grueling hours of restaurant ownership.  This sort of passion and boundless energy may tend toward magical realism, but it's OK to suspend disbelief where coconut cake is concerned.  It's that cake... or rather, the fragrance, the coconut and vanilla, along with a hint of bacon, that attract the attention of another foodie.  He's immediately smitten and in his mind she becomes "Miss Coconut Cake" which would have been a great title for the book.  A tentative and awkward (but delicious) romance is born.

The story is suitably complex.  Lou (Miss Coconut Cake) and Al meet at a news stand.  He writes as a food critic under the name A. W. Wodyski.  He's a real Mr. Grumpy Pants about his temporary new home in Milwaukee.  He sees the city as nothing more than a spring board to a job in a larger market.  However, her love of food, and of Milwaukee food in particular draws him in and she takes him on a tour of the culinary highlights of their fair city on a succession of Mondays, her one day off.  Their connection to each other and Milwaukee strengthens as they share the bliss of beautiful food.  However, his misery increases as he realizes he really cares about her.  Something he wrote about her restaurant has come back to haunt them both and the story grows ever more complex.  The author builds the story as a chef builds the flavors in a dish, skillfully bringing each note together at just the right moment.  It's sweet and spicy, soft and crunchy, smart and sensuous, and the bliss and bale of the story kept me in it's grip to the very last page.

My coconut cupcakes from the days when I was also a chef and restaurant owner.
How any serious foodie can remove his shirt to reveal sculpted abs is beyond me, those two things don't usually occur in the same person.  And why Lou has scars from kitchen accidents all along her arms is intriguing.  I don't have any such scars, and I've never noticed kitchen scars on my colleagues, but after thinking about it, I understand it more as a device to show the contrasts between men.  One would seek to cover those scars with long gloves, the other would kiss those scars and get back to work making more ganache.  lol!

There is a misused German phrase, but perhaps it's on purpose since it's spoken by Lou rather than the native German speakers. 

There is a recipe for "Grandma Luella's Coconut Cake" included at the end of the book and I may create a Paleo version of the recipe because seriously... this book has made me so hungry for coconut cake.  Speaking of hunger, in my opinion this book has one of the most pleasing and humorous sex scenes I've ever read!  Speaking of Grandma Luella, I had a Mennonite Aunt whose name was Luella.  Did I really just mention my Mennonite Aunt and an excellent sex scene in the same paragraph?  Yes, yes I did. 

Finally, I'm going to leave you with my very favorite morsel of this book.  It's a conversation between an elderly pair of foodies who bring depth and richness to the story, and one of several spots where I started leaking profusely from the eyes as if I were a bad radiator.
"Yes, Fred and Ginger.  Otto and I are like Fred and Ginger.  Alone, we were good.  But together -- perfection."  This is precisely how I feel about my Austrian, and about second chances in general.  Sometimes we need to spend a little time with Mr. Wrong so we really know it when Mr. Right comes along.  

Thank you Amy E. Reichert.  I look forward to reading more of your delicious work!  Next on my list is Luck, Love, & Lemon Pie, and in May we will also finally be able to get our hands on The Simplicity of Cider.  Here is a great blurb about this one:  "THE SIMPLICITY OF CIDER is the perfect blend of sweet, smart and immensely satisfying. If foodie fiction is a thing, Amy Reichert is the grand master."  — Colleen Oakley, author of BEFORE I GO and CLOSE ENOUGH TO TOUCH.

I'm so pleased to come across this blurb because it reminds me of a point I had forgotten to make.  For a number of months I've been exploring the use of food in fiction.  I've read a whole stack of books with food on their covers and in their pages.  I have seen everything from magical realism to mystery to memoir... all with food as a central part of the story.  And I agree completely with Colleen Oakley - Amy E. Reichert is the best of all of them.  Count me as a fan of "Foodie Fiction" in general, and Amy E. Reichert in particular.  Keep on cooking up great books, Ms Reichert.  Keep on keeping on.

Have you read anything by Amy E. Reichert yet?  What are your thoughts?  Leave me a comment below, I love hearing from the readers who drop by.

Stay Tuned,

Friday, April 14, 2017

A Dark Friday Poem

Jesus was tortured on Friday
On Friday a purple robe was ripped from his bloodied shoulders.
He died on Friday at noon.
God turned away.

Saturday was nothing but silence,
No answered prayers, no hope.
Just pure.

Whole Psalms were written on Fridays and Saturdays.
Jacob on the back of the river, wrestling with God in the darkest hour.
Isaiah mourned the loss of his friend, King Uzziah.
Moses fled to the wilderness when the conflict 
between his blood 
and his privilege 
overwhelmed him.
David was hunted by Saul.
He cried out, "My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?"
His words echo through Jesus and through the ages.
Job said through gritted teeth, "Though He slay me, I will trust in Him."

The crown of thorns that King Jesus wore
Shows that his subjects are the pierced
The broken,
The strung up and strung out.
The tempest tossed are His tribe.
His tears mingle with our own
in the wilderness.

On Sunday, from death comes life.
Jesus lives!
He walks right out of that tomb.
On Sunday we believe in miracles.
On Sunday - our hope is restored.

One doesn't go straight from Friday at noon 
to Sunday morning.
No, it is the nature of the seasons of life and faith 
that there is,
a time to weep
and a time to laugh.
A time to mourn
and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones,
And a time to gather them together.

The Friday of sheer horrifying pain.
The Saturday of silence.
Our Sunday of glorious vibrant LIFE.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Coincidence of Coconut Cake

Don't you just love the cover of this book?  I do.  Yes Ma'am, I do.  Pst - that's my pillow and my plate and even my cake-laden silver fork!
I bought The Coincidence of Coconut Cake for one reason.  Ok, maybe two reasons, neither of which have anything to do with the contents of the book.

Hello.  I bought it for the COCONUT CAKE on the cover!!  That coconut cake sitting on a stack of newspapers because that's precisely where I want my coconut cake.  I know you're with me on this.  What's worse?  She's written another one with a LEMON PIE on the cover.  I figure I'll eat the cake... then go for the pie.  It was a tough call though.
I took a class with the amazing Ms Anne Garvin (dark hair beauty in the middle) and LOVED it!!  That's me with the glasses on my head.
Secondly, I bought it because I saw it on Bloom (a Facebook group) and Ms Reichert is a member of Ann Garvin's Tall Poppy Writers, which means the book is going to be good.  It's not just a pretty face/cake/cover.  Or maybe I should say that it's MORE than a pretty cake/face/cover. 
I love all things black and white and CAKE.
Once it was here and I read the blurbs on the cover and the words on the back cover (did you know you can find out about the contents of the book before you buy it by reading this schnitzel?!  Who knew?!)  I knew I was going to enjoy the story.  So I've put it in my basket.  When I get back to my tiny house on the farm Friday evening, this baby and I are going to spend some quality time together.  (And then I'll be hungry for coconut cake...)  Plus, there is a Shindig on Sunday that is just begging for coconut cuppy cakes.  I may have to create a coconutty cake recipe (maybe even a Paleo recipe!) just for this occasion.  You know the drill. 

Stay Tuned,

The Big Adventures of Tiny House

 LOOK WHAT THE MAIL MAN BROUGHT!!!  (I'm excited, can you tell?)
My new favorite Tiny House book!
I "met" Susan Schaefer Bernardo through the Facebook group "Tiny House People", recommended by Macy Miller, and through NaNoWriMo, and then I discovered her children's books and they are spectacular!  If you've got kids, you are going to need every single one!  This dynamic duo of Ms Bernardo and illustrator Courtenay Fletcher is fantastic.  Seriously, I'm not a buyer of children's books because I don't have children, but I have fallen head over toes for this one.
"On the road again... just can't wait to get on the road again..."
I was excited about this book specifically because of the connection to the tiny house community, and it was so cool that I got to see video of how the book was made right here in the USA.  I pre-ordered my copy through the Indie Bookseller Once Upon a Time and it even arrived gift wrapped which I think is totally above and beyond!  Isn't it great to find retailers who actually *care* these days?  I love that detail!
Back Cover - See?  I told you the artwork is just so stinkin cute!
I've read the book and the text and images are so full of personality and insight, the illustrations are ridiculously charming.  Manfriend and I have also met "Missy Mansion" (or is it McMansion?) and "Shiney".  I had the Airstream bug long before I knew about tiny houses, so it's cool to see one of those iconic "land yachts" turn up in this story.  I often tell my  that "Home" is wherever he is, and I won't give away the ending but I think kids and big kids everywhere will resonate with the truth of it.  You're going to want this one.  I just know it.  For that matter, you're going to want each book these two dynamic women have created!  So go on then... run along and...
Look at the DAWGINS!!!  Is that Macy Miller's Great Dane?! 
(I don't do affiliate links, but I do offer links for your convenience.)

Stay Tuned,