Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Adventures in Bread Making

Many years ago, when I was newly married, without a job and before kids, I got a bread machine to go with our country life. I bought a recipe book called Bread Machine Magic and worked my way through it, experimenting, changing up, making notes. I ordered all my flour by mail from a company called King Arthur Flour. Our house smelled deliciously of yeast.

And then along came the children. Grocery stores began to sell fresh whole grain breads. I put the bread machine away. When we moved from our forty acres to our not-quite-an-acre subdivision lot, I stashed the bread machine in the back of the pantry where it sat and sat and sat, until ---

last month, when I pulled it out, dusted it off, plugged it up. I found the Bread Machine Magic recipe book, too, and off I went, re-discovering my former self and recreating my current self as I again used King Arthur Flour, now available at Walmart, thank you very much, and began working my way again through the recipes.
honey wheat loaf, fresh from the machine

This morning our house smells deliciously of yeast.

There's a quote I like: It's never too late to become what you might of been. - oft attributed to George Eliot. My return to bread making makes me want to revise it: It's never to late to return to who you are.

My favorite recipe of late: Parmesan pine nut bread. In the margins of the recipe, I wrote, "light and fluffy. great all by itself." (One of the most fun things about this whole thing has been reading all my little notes in the margins of the recipes!)

And finally, a regret: while I kept the bread machine all those years, I got rid of this really cool bread board cutter contraption. I can't slice bread in uniform sizes to save my life! Guess I'm going to have to get me another one... or maybe just enjoy the variety? Maybe both!

Meanwhile, I've got to go feed my sourdough starter. xo

Monday, August 29, 2016

Movie Monday: PETE'S DRAGON & KUBO

I've got two movies for you this Movie Monday, both of them marketed as family films. The first, PETE'S DRAGON is a remake of the 1977 film by the same name.

I remember watching the movie as a child, and loving it. However, I couldn't tell you the plot to save my life! When Paul, who didn't see it as a child, asked me, "was it like the original?" I said yes, because I loved the new movie, too. BUT. I have since found out it is NOT like the original at all. Maybe you have a better memory than me, but, if not, here is a post that talks about the disturbing original plot.

The new movie isn't disturbing at all. It's about believing in magic and things you can't see and family and belongingness with a little environmentalism thrown in. I liked how they kept it set in the 1970s - old cars, old phones, etc... but with some added diversity. And I liked the music, too.

The second movie, KUBO & THE TWO STRINGS is really special. So special, my 16 year old son has seen it twice in the past week. It's a classic hero's journey -- Kubo must find a sword, breastplate and helmet in order to shake a curse. There's a touching relationship between mother and son, lots of cultural interest, a funny monkey, an even funnier Japanese beetle (voiced by Matthew McConaughey), and some nice plot twists. Oh, and there's a deceased warrior father... which might explain my biggest attraction to the movie. It's got some beautiful messages about love and life and our stories. Here are a few I've been able to find... still not THE ONE I sort-of remember... so I guess I gotta see the movie again!

“Down here there are always days worth fighting for.” –Monkey

“When we die, like Kubo’s paper, we shift. The end of one story is merely the beginning of another.” –Beetle

“Your story will never end. It will be told by him and the people he shares it with and the people they share it with and..” –Beetle

Friday, August 26, 2016

Poems to Keep You Going

an invitation to begin....
Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Please visit Heidi at my juicy little universe for Roundup.

I am on a 1,000 word a day writing diet right now, as I attempt yet another draft of a middle grade novel I started in 2010! I set these 6 week writing diets for myself by carefully checking my calendar and marking off the days I know I will be traveling or otherwise occupied -- and then I get started! It helps to be realistic, and it helps me to know it will only last 6 weeks... and by the end I'll have around 35, 000 words, which is a great start for a middle grade (or any!) novel.

As of this moment I have 11,085 words in my document. Some days the words come within 45 minutes. Other days I struggle. It was on such a day that I received a Poem Swap package from Mary Lee. Among other wonderful things, it included this poem:

Don't Go There
by Mary Lee Hahn

Don't bother to fight back
when your brain says,
"You can't."

You've heard those words before.
You know that success lives
in their backyard.

Get up from your desk,
pet the sleeping cat,
stand at the open door,
watch the rain sheet down,
breath the warm wet air.

Then get back to work again.

Yes, yes, and YES! Just the words I needed then, and today, and most days, actually. Mary Lee also sent me the link to this comic that is certainly on the theme! Thank you, Mary Lee! And here are a couple more poems to keep you going:

Mother to Son
by Langston Hughes

Well, son, I'll tell you:
Life for me ain't been no crystal stair.
It's had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor --
But all the time
I'se been a-climbin' on,
And reachin' landin's,
And turnin' corners,
And sometimes goin' in the dark
Where there ain't been no light.
So boy, don't you turn back.
Don't you set down on the steps
'Cause you finds it's kinder hard.
Don't you fall now --
For I'se still goin', honey,
I'se still climbin',
And life for me ain't been no crystal stair.


Speaking of Langston Hughes, have you heard about the efforts to turn his Harlem home into an arts collective? Read the latest here.

Don't Quit 
By Edgar A. Guest (maybe!)

When Things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you're trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and debts are high,
And you want to Smile but have to sigh.
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest, if you must, but don't you quit.

Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As everyone of us sometimes learns,
And many a failure turns about,
When he might have won if he'd stuck it out,
Don't give up though the pace seems slow,
You might succeed with another blow.

Often the struggler has given up,
When he might captured the victor's cup.
And he learned too late, when the night slipped down,
How close he was to the golden crown,

Success is failure turned inside out,
The silver tint of clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems afar,
So stick to the fight when you're hardest hit,
It's when things seem worst that you mustn't quit.

Whichever way this arrow is pointing
is the "right" way.
The above poem appears in my father's file of his favorite quotes. We had a conversation about a month before he died, just after he fell and broke his hip. He was saying how sad it was that he fell, because he had been having such a good day! But he wasn't giving up. He wasn't ready to go yet. And I was telling him how much I have always loved and admired his Florida "cracker" spirit... but that I also respected those who have reached the end of their enthusiasm. We agreed on this, that it wasn't for either of us to say whether to fight or give up for anyone else. And then, just a few short weeks later, he was tired of fighting. I miss him so much, but I do respect that so, so much. Sometimes quitting is the best thing to do, the ONLY thing to do. And sometimes not!

In other words: whatever you do -- quit or don't quit -- will be just fine. You are exactly where you are meant to be. xo

Monday, August 22, 2016

Mississippi Magic

Wow, what fun did we have at Mississippi Book Festival! I'm so grateful.

Here is a collage that includes a picture of the Children's Illustrated Book Panel:

Sarah Frances Hardy, Louise Borden, William Joyce,
Irene Latham, Barry Moser, Carole Boston Weatherford

I'm thrilled that I got to meet in person Keri Collins! Sad that we didn't get a picture. :( But I DID get a picture with Margaret Simon:

me & sweet Margaret

AND I had a surprise visitor from my distant-past! Our family friend who's known me since I was a preschooler, traveled with us to Saudi Arabia and back again, and who was also my father's former secretary... I cried when I saw her, and again when she shared with me some things about my father.

An aside (nothing to do with Mississippi!): What a blessing it is each time someone comes along to remind me that my father is still here in so many ways, by the lives he touched, and the way he lived. What's amazing is how my relationship with him continues to grow and change...

me & Brenda

If ever in Jackson, MS, I have a restaurant to recommend, that was recommended to me by a dear friend: Walker's Drive-In. It's in the arts little Fondren district, and no, despite its name, it is not fast food. So many seafood dishes to choose from! Paul and I started with the fried lobster skewers and later feasted on some flounder... with this lovely plate of truffle fries:

Afterwards we drove around in the dying light and discovered Boyd House, also known as "The Oaks," which survived the Civil War.

On Saturday morning, before the book festival, we stopped in at the Mississippi Farmers' Market. It's a pretty big market with all the usual fun of tomatoes and honey and okra, etc., and also bread and crafts and live music and.... fresh-caught SHRIMP.

Shrimp! My kind of farmers' market!

I love Mississippi. I love Mississippi readers. Great way to spend a weekend!

Friday, August 19, 2016

You Can the Mississippi Book Festival!

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit lovely Doraine at Dori Reads for Roundup. (I adore Doraine. For a pic of us together earlier this summer, keep reading!) I'm excited to be traveling today to Jackson, MS, for the Mississippi Book Festival! I will be on the Children's Illustrated Books panel along with

Sarah Frances Hardy, Dress Me, MODERATOR
Louise Borden, The Journey That Saved Curious George
William Joyce, Ollie’s Odyssey
Barry Moser, Appalachia: The Voices of Sleeping Birds
Carole Boston Weatherford, You Can Fly: The Tuskegee Airmen, Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer

In an effort to get to know my fellow panelists, I've have in recent weeks read all of the above titles. Good stuff! And today I want to share with you a poem from YOU CAN FLY: The TUSKEGEE AIRMEN by Carole Boston Weatherford.

The Odds

As you stand at attention, your commander
tells you cadets to look left and right.
The men beside you may not make it.
You glance at your comrades,
hoping you all beat the odds.
You pray every night to make the cut.

Your God-fearing mama writes
that folks back home are on their knees
sending up timber for you --
their favorite son.
you vow not to wash out.

Tuskegee is a laboratory,
and you are under a microscope.
But the distance to your goal
is longer than any airstrip.

The burden of past and future,
heavier than any aircraft.
The eyes of your country are on you;
the hopes of your people
rest on your shoulders.

Some days, you look heavenward --
sensing that it might be easier
to defy gravity than Jim Crow.

-Carole Boston Weatherford
About the book: The story is told in 33 (if I counted correctly!) poems, all using 2nd person (the "you" voice!), which really creates a sense of immediacy. The reader really feels like he, too, is a Tuskegee airman. And the illustrations are by Carole's son, Jeffery Boston Weatherford. I love it when family members collaborate! As Tuskegee is just a couple of hours from my house, I have a special attachment to this bit of history. I'm so grateful to these brave young men who moved us one step closer to equality. Give this book a fly! ;)

And now, me and Doraine, last month in a sweet little town called Pine Mountain, GA:
Bonus: pretty sure I was with Doraine
in a different sweet GA town when she
bought that great birdcage t-shirt! Or maybe
 it was an owl t-shirt? Hmm...

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

On the Olympics & Athleticism & Creativity

My first memory of the Olympics is of watching Mary Lou Retton score perfect 10s when it mattered most.

She didn't make me want to BE a gymnast - it was already too late for that. (I was 13.) But she certainly was the biggest female sports hero I can recall from my youth. (Later there was the whole Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan spectacle which was memorable in a whole other way. And then Greg Louganis. That I can remember these names at all really says something about the celebrity of Olympic athletes, as I watch very little sports. But those are posts for another time!)

I've never much enjoyed sports. In elementary school I did whatever I could NOT to participate in PE. I remember the horror of standing at bat -- and missing. I was much more comfortable indoors banging the erasers and wiping down the chalk boards. In high school I made a deal with my coach: I would help him with his bus schedules if he would let me sit out of PE. (Now said coach would probably be fired for this behavior, but boy, did it work out for me in 11th grade!) I realize now that what I lacked wasn't necessarily prowess, but experience. I had no self-confidence when it came to sports. Even though I spent lots of time outdoors exploring, I was never on a soccer team or softball team or any kind of sports team. Girls these days are so so lucky to have all the options available to them. Talk about progress!

As an adult I've enjoyed aerobics and Jazzercise, and currently, yoga. Being an introvert, I still enjoy solitary sports best of all -- like walking. Walking the El Camino Santiago is a dream of mine. Which brings me to a conversation recently that forced me to reframe my image of myself.

Paul and I were at supper with another couple. The husband works for Nike, and when I made my claim about not being athletic, he said, "You have a body, right? You like to do SOMETHING, don't you?"

And I was like, yes, actually, I do. I like to walk. And we discussed how my self-limiting thought was just like the one that frustrates ME so much -- when people claim they aren't creative.


And now I have something new to say: EVERYONE IS ATHLETIC.

I'm learning...

Monday, August 15, 2016


I usually reserve this space for movies I've really enjoyed and want you to enjoy as well. But today I want to share with you my disappointment in a movie, and how this relates to the writing/reading life.

I loved the trailers for FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS. I was interested in this woman who sang, in public, even though she wasn't any good at singing. I love that idea: doing something for the joy of it, not for any other reason.

But that's not what this movie is about.

This movie is about money. Money, and our relationship to people who have money. How that money might benefit US. And if we want to continue receiving the bounty from a person with money, we should be insincere.

People were constantly asking Florence for money. And she generously gave it, underwriting many music events for many many years. Perhaps people were charmed by her -- it's hard to tell. But in order to protect their own interests, and any future funds that might come their way, they sat through Florence's concerts. They wrote glowing reviews. They cheered. When what they wanted to do was snicker and cover their ears.

What does all this have to do with writing/reading? Well. Don't we go into books with a set of expectations, as I did with this movie? Don't we generally crave a certain reading experience? And then, even if the book is well-crafted (as this movie is well-crafted), do not come away with a favorable opinion?

It's not the movie's fault it wasn't what I wanted. It's not any book's fault either. But it IS an important reminder that message matters. For me, that means a message that is somehow affirming of the life experience.

Where is the art/beauty/love/hope in a movie that celebrates superficiality and insincerity?

Give me depth and authenticity, please!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

GRAYLING'S SONG by Karen Cushman

One of my favorite middle grade novels this year (so far) is GRAYLING'S SONG by Karen Cushman. In a nutshell: a hero's journey set in medieval England -- with magic.

I was immediately engaged in this world where the cunning folk are turning into trees... and my heart was with Grayling as she set out (reluctantly) to save her mother. There's also a shape-shifting mouse (among other witches, enchantresses, etc) which adds a certain charm to the story.

My favorite quote:

"Like simmering soup, stories cannot be hurried."

Isn't that a great reminder to those of us who tend to rush along? 

Read this book. It's a magical experience.

Monday, August 8, 2016

2016 Sister Outdoor Quilt Show

We brought home this gorgeous
signed poster!
Anyone who knows me knows I love quilts. I love them as an art form, as a household necessity, as a piece of history. I love how every stitch tells a story, and every stitch is an act of love.

Which is why the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show has been on my must-do list for many years.

And now I've done it! Paul and I scheduled our Oregon trip around the show, and wow, was it wonderful! If you are a quilt lover, you simply MUST do this. Beautiful scenery, sweet town, amazing quilts. And it happens every year, on the 2nd Saturday in July.

I'd heard it was big, and might be overwhelming. No lie: quilts are EVERYWHERE. So we just took it slow and steady. It helped that we had local friend-librarian-awesome person Paige Bentley-Flannery to share the experience with.

Here is sampling of some of the quilts:

Our middle son wanted us to buy this one!
(We didn't.)

When I saw this one, I immediately thought

I wasn't the only one taking pictures. :)

.... and since I've been home, I've been working on a quilting project of my own: a Blue Christmas quilt, made entirely of triangles. Here are some pics from from craft room:
My craft room - sewing machine
in front of the window, of course!

the cutting table

some squares I've already cut for mass producing
the half square triangles required for this quilt!

Yes, I am having fun. :) What fun things are YOU doing this summer...that are inspiring other fun things? Please share!

Friday, August 5, 2016

Summer Poem Swap: Where There Be Inspiration & Dragons!

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Tara at A Teaching Life for Roundup.

It's been a busy week here, on this, the last week before the baby goes back to school. I've been writing, yes, and reading! Some picture books and middle grade novels and best of all, HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD. I'll keep my comments general for those of you who still have the book to look forward to!

I have to tell you: I loved it. Loved seeing Harry (and Draco) struggle with parenthood and loved all the time travel that allowed us to see/hear again from Snape and Dumbledore... it was a wonderful blend of nostalgia for the world we've come to love but also pushing the story forward. A couple of surprises: Ron turned out to be a bit more of a jokester as an adult than I would have anticipated... Ron and Hermione are so sweet as a married couple! I would have liked (and expected) more of a role for young Rose... this is really the two boys' (Albus and Scorpius) friendship, not the Harry-Ron-Hermione trio we loved so dearly. I cried -- more than once. Someday I MUST see the play!

Meanwhile, I'm excited to share with you today swaps o' beauty from Michelle and Buffy.

First, from Michelle:

Recipe for Inspiration
by Michelle Heidenrich Barnes

Start with the sky --
     broad strokes from Nature's canvas.
Open the window --
     let in a breeze and the early morning light,
     dappled with the scent of orange blossoms.
Open the door --
     offer Imagination a paintbrush
     and a seat beside Courage and Compassion.
Open your ears --
     heed the whisper of the masters,
     teachers, students, wanderers, friends.
Open your mind --
     dream and discover
     a world within a world within a world.
Open your heart --
     you are safe, you are welcome.
     Inhale, exhale, and start with the sky.
Isn't that lovely? I love those Emily-esque capped Imagination and Courage and Compassion... and the "dappled scent of orange blossoms" - I can smell it, can't you? And of course the sky! Sky was one of my most favorite One Little Words ever... and this poem brings to mind THE KNOWING BOOK by Rebecca Kai Dotlich, illustrations by Matthew Cordell, which also urges us to begin and end with sky! What an invitation. Thank you, Michelle!

And now for Buffy's poem, which, if you've ever visited Buffy's blog, you *might* have anticipated! Who can resist dragons like these? Not me!

Consider the Dragon

With wings like, lace, elegant and fine
that shimmer and glisten, sparkle and shine
you might believe this dragon's benign...

No fiery breath, no spike-laden spine,
she lounges on lilies until skeeter whines --
then Dragon launches.

- Buffy Silverman, 2016
I love how this dragon is a "she" and how she "lounges on lilies" and how Buffy places those final words on individual lines. And the photos! "Elegant and fine!" Thank you, Buffy!

Happy August, everyone! xo

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Welcome to My Studio!

For many years I called a corner of my dining room my "office."

But now, thanks to the gradual emptying of the Nest, I have a Room of My Own:

~The Purple Horse Poetry Studio & Music Room~

view (today!) from the hallway

my writing corner (I guess I still like corners!)

original art by Anna Wadham

original art by Mique Moriuchi (I collect at least one
original piece from each book... someday I hope these walls
are FILLED with art!)

Why "Purple Horse"? 

Because of this piece of art by Tamara Garvey, which I acquired a couple of years ago at a South Street Seaport art shop in New York City.

Why "Studio"?

Because "office" is too stark, and "study" is too pretentious and "library" is too quiet. Artists have studios... musicians do, too... and isn't poetry both art and music?

Why "Poetry," when I write other things as well?

Because Poetry is the love of my life.

Why "Music Room," too?

Because it's in this room that I play my cello. :)

**Today I also posted at Smack Dab in the Middle about what made my childhood summers MAGIC... pop on over and share YOUR magic childhood memories!

Monday, August 1, 2016

Go Away I'm Reading

(I have this sign in my writing/music studio!)

... what am I reading?


I'll be back soon to share my thoughts. And I hope you will share yours, too!