Love (and art) will save the world.

A handful of rustic, folk-y clay figures form the center of our Christmas decorations every year.

You know the players. Mary and Joseph. The baby Jesus, also known in our family as the Beeji-weeji.

A cow. Some shepherds and kings. An angel. And, in this particular collection of witnesses, a Puli dog from an artist with a sense of humor, somewhere in a village called Szentendre, in Hungary.

Sure signs of Love for my heart.

Love will save the world. Ultimately, if not by tomorrow.

Art will help save the world. It’s ancient wisdom that feels true to me.

Art as a way of carrying Love through the ages.

Today, we’re not talking about modern artists in Hungary or Gothic and Renaissance masters. At least not primarily. Today we’re talking about a story of Love and a 10-year-old kid with a big heart and some colored pencils.

Today, we’re talking a really big dog named Otis and all the things he learned at his first Christmas.

And a chance for you to be part of the Love.

It’s easy! Just click on the pretty book title and get your copy of the Kindle book called Otis and the Great Christmas Adventure! 

I learned this story from a friend who loves Newfoundland dogs too, and wants them all to be loved.

Then, as is the way with stories, I told it to Kenzie, my older granddaughter.

Kenzie made some amazing pictures.

Leisa pushed some buttons.

A whole lot of other people added their help and encouragement.

And, today, there is a book! An electronic book, to be specific.

And a great story for helping kids learn about making and being friends. About being kind and helpful. About having a whole lot of fun along the way.

Sarah and Phoebe and Luther are hoping you’ll want one of the fancy electronic books today. It costs just $2.99 and a little more than half of that goes to help Newfies in need, just like they once were. (And your dog can’t chew it up!)

There are a lot of amazing dogs who need this kind of help.

There are also a lot of kids who need help learning to be kind and confident. Learning what it means to have empathy.

Newfies are really good at teaching about that!

And, it’s easy to give one of these books as a gift. Just click the title link, above, and then click the link on Amazon that says “give as a gift.”

When I was a kid, my family had this unwritten rule about stocking presents for Christmas. They should cost less than $5.00.

Just think! You can almost get two whole books for $5.00 and help more huge, hairy, kind dogs!

And, since we know each other pretty well, may I say that it would be a big help if you clinked that link today and got your book…books? It would!

It’s a complicated thing which winds up meaning that the more books that find homes today, the more people there will be who know about Otis and his story. And more dogs will be helped.

Then, while we’re helping people, go get some art supplies for the kids you love. Encourage them to be who they are and, when they’ve practiced a bit, encourage them to make pictures of Love.

It may take a while, but it’s bound to save the world!

Thanks for being here!

Oh! Please share this post far and wide. If you don’t have your own process, just scroll up and click the little blocks to the left. They’ll make it easier!

And Kenzie will be pretty excited, too!

Much Love, sue

p.s. New to e-books? No Kindle reader? No problem! Just ask the nice folks at Amazon to send yours to your laptop. Or your grandkids!

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Blanket of Peace

A bit of a southern snow storm and, perhaps, the fact that my latest book project is done – well, not entirely but we’ll get to that later – seem to have calmed my busy goddesses last night. We slept.

And woke to the silent falling of more snow.

Not enough to be a real problem, but enough to allow for my filters to shift just a bit. For my eyes to remind me that change is both inevitable and possible.

And so I have spent a couple of hours staring out at the garden, watching the snow flakes drift hypnotically toward the ground as a weighted blanket of white transforms the landscape around me.

At least most of a couple of hours.

I can’t help noticing that, in the midst of these quiet moments, I keep reaching for my phone, searching, I suspect, for assurance that my usual world goes on.

Watching for an email about my Amazon order that did not, in fact, arrive by 9:00 last night. (Which wouldn’t be such a big deal if it didn’t include the canvas for the painting class that starts today and gifts for my girls which need to go with me when Christmas starts early in our lives…next week!)

And a message from the awesome guy who delivered most of the dog food on Thursday and is supposed to arrive with the rest in the next hour or so. (Can’t send the beasties to Camp without groceries!)

And a couple of book reviews I’m hoping for.

With all that noticing going on, like the narrative sort of therapist I am, there must be a bit of wondering as well.

Am I electronically addicted? No.

Am I a bit anxious about the number of metaphorical plates I’m trying to keep spinning in the air just now? So it would seem.

Am I tending space for change, knowing that even the most longed-for of changes are inherently stressful? Yep!

Now, here’s where things get tricky!

For what changes, specifically, am I tending space? Who knows???

Or, as the old Quaker saying goes:

In order to learn, we must be willing to be changed.

We must open ourselves to the advent of newness. It’s a good time of year for that.

So, I keep setting the phone back down and reaching, instead, for my mug, comforting with hot water and lemon, while I huddle under my own magic weighted blanket and take deep breaths, watching the snow flakes drift hypnotically toward the ground.

And mentally orchestrating a book release for next week!

Stay tuned…

Should your goddesses, like mine, have a tendency to keep you awake, click here to check out the Mosaic weighted blanket thing.

And, lest you be worried, the dog food has appeared!

Peace!

 

 

 

A veritable goddess convention!

Yesterday, a well-meaning, though somewhat naive, soul asked me what I’d gotten done for the day.

Several responses flashed through my head. Not all of them helpful!

Then I started a list.

Before I share that list, let me say first that it feels like lots of things are changing. And, predictably, I don’t sleep too well in phases like this. At least not at night.

The former O.R. nurse in me remembers rule one. Sleep when you can. You may never get another chance! So, the first thing on my list was the note that I’d actually gotten in a nap.

Then there was all the usual family member, dog mom, homeowner kind of stuff. Feel free to fill in the blanks.

Then there were hours worth of the tedious parts of modern book publishing. Finding ISBN’s. Writing book descriptions. Filling out forms. And more forms.

(Did I mention there’s going to be a new book?)

A bit of a sewing project.

About four quarts of really good soup. Dinner. Lunch. Freezer.

Some meditation time.

And the realization that I hadn’t really gotten all that much done  in the sense of completed.

Next, a sudden mental ski jump.

My goddesses had been quite busy!

And with it, a whole basket full of memories.

In 2003, when I was deep in all the difficult decisions that go along with the need to undergo a hysterectomy, I happened across Dr. Jean Shinoda Bolen’s amazing book, Goddesses in Older Women.

There was much to learn.

Using mythological figures and Jungian archetypes, Bolen explores the different energies women might find active in their lives as they experience some of the transitions associated with aging.

It was kind of a new perspective for me! And, it’s been a while. Long enough that it is not too surprising that I can’t  put my hand on my copy of this amazing book, which I’m sure is around here somewhere. Let’s agree, in this moment, that I’m sharing the meaning I found in those pages rather than actual passages from the book. (Just click the link in the title above and get yourself a copy!)

It made sense to me that, in the impending transitions I faced, my focus might shift. From warrior goddess, perhaps, to a greater focus on hearth and home. From mother goddess to partner. From before to now to later.

One of the things I really appreciate about Bolen’s work is that it doesn’t feel prescriptive in the sense of how things ought to be, but more descriptive with options for understanding unfolding experience. It’s a really good book!

So what brought that all up again yesterday?

Well, somehow when I first read these thoughts years ago, I imagined that the goddesses in my world would all take turns, rather like polite house guests, and we’d bond over a stockpot or a quilt before the next guest came to visit.

I never imagined juggling writing and publishing, stockpots, three enormous dogs, new things to learn, the need for a bathing suit, and major life questions about callings.

In fact, I think I assumed I’d be through being called.

Now I know that we’re never really through.

Whether by the Creator of our understanding, or the Universe, or the voices of our own spirits, if we listen, we are being called.

A word of warning…opening ourselves to that kind of listening is likely to keep us up nights.

And it just might start quite a party of goddesses in our lives.

In need of a harbor…

It was a gray-ish, kind of dreary day in Atlanta. We seem to be stuck in the space between what we southerners think of as fall and winter. I’m still trying to adjust to the early sunsets. And the news.

Oddly enough, I’m also humming Jimmy Buffett tunes in my head and dreaming of Key Lime Pie!

I suspect it has to do with our preparations for a voyage to the Conch Republic.

We are, perhaps, a bit behind in terms of shore excursions and ground logistics, but we’re excited.

An actual chance to put my toes on Key West (without dealing with the infamous bridge) and a whole week with my favorite people.

So, in honor of that…my go-to recipe for Authentic Key Lime Pie, complete with my fabulous gluten-free oatmeal pie shell, just in case you might be feeling the need for a harbor like I am just now!

Authentic Key Lime Pie

MAKES: ONE 9 INCH PIE, ABOUT 8 SERVINGS

The real deal Key Lime Pie, right here. Better yet, with the Oatmeal Pie Crust shell, it’s gluten-free! This is the recipe right off the Nellie & Joe’s bottle of Key West Lime juice. You can order it from Amazon or try Whole Foods or Publix depending on where you are. Did you know that the pie has sweetened condensed milk in it because the recipe was developed before Key West had dependable milk delivery or refrigeration? Really! Would I eat this once a week? No, but it’s a holiday favorite in my family. Remember, if it’s green, it’s not real Key Lime Pie!

Equipment Note: You can use a food processor, hand or stand mixer for this, but a wire whisk will do it. A mixing advantage is handy if you opt for homemade whipped cream. I often use an Eco-foil disposable pie tin with the domed plastic crust when I make this pie.

Arrange oven racks so pie will bake in center of oven.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a suitable mixing bowl, combine and mix well:

One 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk.

3 good quality egg yolks. (Reserve whites for another use.)

Add and blend until smooth:

½ c. Nellie & Joe’s Key West Lime Juice.

Pour filling into:

One miraculous 9-inch Oatmeal Pie Crust (see below) or a prepared graham cracker pie shell.

Bake for 15 min. Remove from oven and place on cooling rack. Allow to sit 10 min. before refrigerating.

Chill several hours or overnight.

Optional: Add to sparkling clean mixing bowl, preferably metal,

1 pint organic, heavy whipping cream

1 Tbsp. 10x powdered sugar, if desired. (I like mine unsweetened.)

Whip cream rapidly by hand or with mixer, until soft peaks form.

If not using immediately, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Just before serving, top pie with whipped cream.

Oatmeal Pie Crust

I found this on an old, yellowed index card, in my mom’s handwriting, when I went through her recipes. I don’t remember her ever making it. What a gift for Bill, who’s gluten-free! See how many ways you can find to use this like you would use a graham cracker crust, but better!

Equipment Note: A food processor or Vitamix-type blender is used for this recipe.

Depending on how high your pie will get when finished, allowing for whipped cream or meringue, you may want to purchase an Eco-foil pie pan with a plastic cover.

Into the bowl of your food processor or carafe of your blender, place:

1 c. gluten-free rolled oats.

½ c. brown sugar.

½ c. flaked or shredded coconut.

Pulse until ingredients resemble a fairly fine meal. Add:

⅓ c. melted butter OR – 1/3 c. melted coconut oil

Continue to pulse until all ingredients are evenly mixed.

Press into bottom and sides of a 9 inch pie plate. Cover with plastic wrap or lid to the pan. Chill.

And a special hint for you, friends…this pie is great for breakfast, with a cup of dark roast coffee and some of your delicious whipped cream. An actual beach is optional, but quite nice!

 

 

Breathing Deeply!

Just between you and me, I’m not feeling especially jolly at the moment.

I made a Cyber-Monday vow to purchase only things we really needed that were actually on sale, despite all the glittering temptation to the contrary.

One of those things was some halibut broth and sablefish from one of my favorite west coast purveyors. I was excited about the 15% off sale. This is my idea of fast food and the freezer was running low.

I even upped for the extra-super-duper UPS shipping, even though it’s chilly here and the regular shipping would probably have done it.

All my little miracles of modern science informed me that my package would arrive between 3 and 8 pm on Tuesday.

THEN I got a special update. My prized package would arrive between 11 am and 3pm on Tuesday.

Awesome! Except for my lunch meeting with a dear friend.

Signs on every door. “OK to leave package.”

More miracles of modern science. Spent way too many moments watching a wee UPS truck wander around the screen on my phone, near my neighborhood, supposedly with my package on board until, early Tuesday evening, it wandered back off to the place where UPS trucks go to sleep.

No package at my house.

Later, a message. Package Wednesday.

Did I mention this was frozen fish???

Despite my efforts to reach them, UPS politely announced that they weren’t home and I was welcome to track another package.

I’m frustrated. There’s a lot going on here right now and this is a distraction I didn’t need.

I did/do need my fish!

I’m also pretty clear that this is not an earth-shattering event.

I have choices about where to get good, clean food, unlike many of my American and global sisters and brothers.

For the moment, I’m stuck between seriously annoyed and breathing deeply.

Both are true.

I made good choices for my family when I ordered the fish and broth.

UPS seems to think I should not have made those choices between Thanksgiving and Christmas as they are inconveniently busy just now.

While I, who have spent the last week trashing untold emails trying to convince me to buy things I don’t need, can’t help but wonder if we might not have expected there would be a few more packages in these days.

Somehow it seems that our mechanical advantages may also be our emotional challenges.

I have other things on my list for tomorrow.

Now it seems I will watch for a big brown truck while waiting for the west coast to wake up and trying to find somebody who cares that my fish has gone astray.

Then, in all probability, I’ll spend another day or two next week trying to make it all right.

The world will go on. I will not be hungry.

Millions of people are not so blessed.

So, a box gathers food pantry donations in our kitchen.

Another batch of homemade bone broth is on my list for this weekend.

And I am busy urging my senators to oppose the GOP “tax bill” which will make it harder and harder for a huge number of Americans to put food on their tables.

It’s ironic, somehow, after our annual, national food fest last week.

Food is supposed to be health and family and community. Not power.

I will, eventually, win the UPS battle, despite the aggravation.

Many are not so fortunate.

How can we help?

Breathing deeply is a start.

Action is the next step.

p.s. – My box actually arrived, still frozen! Proving, once again, that many of the things we worry about don’t actually happen, leaving more time, perhaps, for action.

 

What brunch looks like when all the turkey bones are in the stock pot!

There ain’t a body – be it a mouse or a man – that ain’t made better by a little soup.                                          

                                                                  – Kate DiCamillo                                                                   

Turkey Broth…the actual magic, right here!

Makes: 6 – 8 quarts in a 10 – 12 quart stockpot.

Notes: Consider making a big pot of turkey broth as part of a holiday tradition. It’s a great way to teach the next generations and it smells heavenly. 

I like a very clear turkey broth with a lot of depth that can be used in any number of recipes, so this is what I do. If you have a specific flavor profile in mind, feel free to adjust the herbs and veg as you like. Please resist the temptation to toss all the wilted stuff in your fridge into the pot!

Ingredients: The best stock contains a mixture of roasted and raw bones. Choose yours from the list below.

  • Carcass from ½ a roasted turkey, including some ribs and a wing, with some meat still attached. A leg is also useful if you have one left. Smoked turkey bones will work, too! If you just roasted a turkey breast, use those bones and add bones from a couple of roasted chickens.
  • Any necks, hearts, or gizzards you’ve saved. (Freeze livers separately for dirty rice, etc.)
  • Additional raw bones, about 1-2 lb. necks, backs, wings, etc. (You can use chicken bones, too, if you like.) I particularly like necks for this because they have lots of healing cartilage. Check your local farmer or an international market near you.
  • 3 Tbsp. acidic liquid. I use Braggs Organic Apple Cider Vinegar “with the mother.” White wine or fresh lemon juice will work, too.
  • 3-4 med or large yellow onions, halved, with skins on. (Really!)
  • 3-4 whole garlic bulbs, halved, with paper on.
  • 3-4 fresh bay leaves or 2-3 dried ones.
  • Fresh thyme sprigs. The more the merrier! I use a bundle about the diameter of a quarter, tied with white cotton kitchen string. Add a 4-6 inch sprig of fresh rosemary if you like.
  • Fresh parsley stems, if you happen to have some around. Tie them with the thyme sprigs. 

Place raw bones with any gizzards or hearts into stockpot. Add cold water to cover by 2-3 inches. Add cider vinegar, white wine, or lemon juice. Cover and allow to sit, off the heat, for about 45 min. This helps pull the minerals and other goodies out of the bones and into the stock.

After you’ve soaked the raw bones, add the roasted bones to the stockpot.

Add additional cold water, leaving room at the top to add your veg and herbs. Place pot over med. high heat and bring to a very gentle boil.

After pot begins to boil gently, adjust temp to keep it from reaching a full, rolling boil. Skim whatever foam or bits of grey-ish stuff float to the surface and discard. You’ll need to skim every few minutes until it quits creating stuff to skim! (About 10-15 min. total.) This step is important! Skimming helps create a beautiful clear broth and prevents the development of any bitter taste.

While you’re skimming every few minutes, prep your veg and herbs as described above. Leaving the skin/paper on onions and garlic adds to the flavor and color of the broth. (Wipe any dirt from onion skins.) This is one reason I like organic! Try not to do this too far ahead. Onions are best used when they’ve just been cut!

Add your prepped veg and herbs gently so as not to splash yourself.

Turn the heat down to med-low. You want your broth to just simmer gently. No more boiling. It will take some practice with your particular stove to find out what works. Fiddle with it and check frequently. You want itty bitty bubbles just breaking the surface.

Cook for at least 6 hours, and not more than 16, for a clean flavor with all the nutrients pulled out into the broth. Try not to stir while it cooks. (That can cloud your broth.) You can put on a lid, partially covering the pot, for part of the cooking time to lessen the amount of water that cooks off, making the broth somewhat less concentrated, or leave the lid off and allow it to reduce more, concentrating the flavors. If you put the lid on, you’ll need the turn the heat down to keep it from coming to a boil. Turn the heat up a bit if you take the lid off. We’re still after those itty bitty bubbles!

If you wish to add additional water during cooking to increase the amount of broth, you must use very hot water, about 180-190 F.

Now is the time when you get to inhale the magic while you throw in a load of laundry and go back to your writing, pick up a paint brush, or teach your kids to play Cribbage…

When you’re happy with the color and flavor of the broth, remove from the heat and allow your marvelous creation to cool an hour or two. Scoop all bones and aromatics from the broth and discard them. (They’ve given all they had!) Remember that you’re going to use this broth to add flavor and nutrients to other recipes. Please resist the urge to add salt or adjust seasonings now.

After scooping out bones and so forth from the pot, strain into another container through a fine mesh sieve, being sure to get all the bones. You may use some of the broth immediately, if you care to. Otherwise, chill broth overnight in the fridge. You’ll know you’ve got a great batch if it gets jiggly, like soft Jell-O! (If not, it’s still a miracle! Just keep practicing.)

Transfer chilled broth to quart- and pint-sized plastic containers, (or the sizes that work for you) preferably BPA free. Leave 1 inch headroom, as broth will expand when frozen. Label, including date, and freeze until needed, up to 6 months. I try to thaw frozen broth overnight in the fridge before using. When that isn’t possible, thaw on counter and monitor so that it doesn’t start to warm.

Let the magic begin again!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A dog’s perspective on Thanksgiving!

Today it’s my turn to blog…I’m Phoebe!

I’ve been here just about a year now and, even though I’m all settled in, things keep surprising me.

Like Thanksgiving, which is, apparently, one of the days called “holidays”.

Last year Sarah and I went to Camp for Thanksgiving while Mom and Dad went to hang out with our girls.

We had lots of fun at Camp. Then we came home and slept for a couple of days like we always do. That much fun makes us tired!

This year, though, we’re all home together. Luther, too, of course.

Mom and Dad believe in being flexible about when holidays happen. Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

Sarah and Luther and I had our Thanksgiving on Tuesday. The big dogs had turkey wings which seem to be a Thanksgiving thing. I had duck wings which are really yummy and easier for me to chew. We had kale stems and salmon oil, too. It was really good. I think I like Thanksgiving!

Mom and Dad had Thanksgiving today, which is Wednesday. (I think most people do that on Thursday.) Dad is home this week and he wanted more days to eat turkey so they just decided to do things differently. It smelled really good!

Mom says it doesn’t matter when you have Thanksgiving. It just matters that you’re together and say “Thank you” and remember that there are people — and dogs — who don’t have as much as you do.

I understand that!

Before I lived here I was chained to a fence in the sun with no food and no water. I tried to chew through the chain and kind of messed up my teeth, which I think is why sometimes I get different bones than the big dogs do.

Luther and Sarah didn’t have what they needed before they lived here, either. Mom says we can help local businesses and our farmer friends have what they need when we choose our food. I like our food friends!

I don’t really understand why, but Mom says there are also people who don’t have enough to eat. And lots who don’t have clean water. And something called healthcare, which I think is like when our Auntie Karen comes to visit.

That makes Mom sad. Sometimes it makes her mad, too. She types really hard some days. And calls people on the phone. Yesterday I heard her say that we’ll all be safer if everyone has enough.

I’m just a dog, but I agree with that. It’s hard not to get mad, or mean, when you don’t have enough and others have too much.

Here are some more things I learned about Thanksgiving this year…

There were lots and lots of things that smelled green in our fridge. You know, like leaves. Mom says that’s a new/old Thanksgiving tradition.

The turkey came from our friend, Greg.

And Mom says we’re giving away half the soup that comes from the bones.

I think, maybe, other families do Thanksgiving differently. Mom says different is ok. It sounds to me, though, like the point of the whole thing is to remember the good things and try to share them with others.

Mom has a friend we haven’t met whose name is Rumi. A long time ago, even before Pilgrims, I think, he said:

There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

Maybe Thanksgiving is about each of us finding our own way.

From all of us to all of you, Happy Thanksgiving! And thank you for listening. I like blogging! Love, Phoebe

PS – Mom’s going to share her recipe for turkey broth on Sunday. Save those bones! (And, please, please, please don’t give cooked bones to your dogs!!!)