Afternoon in the Garden

Saturday, February 28, 2009

I spent the late afternoon in the garden, wandering, imagining and scheming. I am dreaming of new beds and new varieties of tomatoes to grow. I have been watching the sun to see where it shines the most, or find the spots where it misses, leaving the plants to coolness and shade. The compost needs tending and I think we need another bin. The garden must be ready to grow.

The mint bed needs to be refreshed and the weather is perfect for a few hours under the gentle February sun. The earth is damp from all the rain, primed for digging and moving and filling with new life. 

The Garden Gnome

Friday, February 27, 2009

He watches over the seedlings

With a gloomy, sober stare,
His hat a deep, apple red.

Under his old and watchful eye
The seedlings make their way,
Seeking the sun, bursting.

Awaiting inside the seed, the gnome protects
Our summer bounty.
Thank you, Garden Gnome.
You will always have a place
In our humble garden abode.

How Happy Is The Little Stone

How happy is the little stone
That rambles in the road alone,
And doesn’t care about careers,
And exigencies never fears;
Whose coat of elemental brown 
A passing universe put on;
And independent as the sun,
Associates or glows alone,
Fulfilling absolute decree
In casual simplicity.

-Emily Dickinson (1830–86)

Hanging Photographs

 I tend to procrastinate if I feel the finished product won't be exactly as I desire. I would rather live with apple boxes to store my clothes in, than spend money on an a chest of drawers that I do not love. I  work on the same painting for weeks and then leave it if I feel it is going in the wrong direction. Procrastinating perfectionism. 

A couple of years ago, I purchased a photo session at a school auction. I tend to shy away from this type of portrait photography, preferring to fill our home with photos from daily life. However, this photographer had a bit of an edge. I like that. The price was right and I figured it was time to have a couple of good photos of my children. The photo shoot was fun, he had us bring in lots of props from our life. My son brought along a tattoo sleeve. No, those are not real tattoos. 

 The gist of the story was that I was afraid to buy the giant frames for the matting and photos. I thought the size would overpower our small living room. So, the photos sat in a box. For two years. 

I had recently thrifted some vintage pant hangers in dark wood. The handles boasted that they were 24 carat gold. I only paid $2 for the lot of them. I had this idea in mind and I thought these hangers would be perfect.  I think I saw it in a magazine, with just photos hanging from the hangers. I pulled the photos, with matting, out of their dusty box and hooked them into the hangers. My sweetheart hung hooks so the photos would be easily interchangeable and a bit away from the wall.

The finished product is beginning to grow on me. I am nervous that the photos are not protected from dust by glass. But, what I do know, is the alternative is to be tucked in their box, free from dust, but out of sight. I am beginning to like it... 

A Light Exists in Spring

Thursday, February 26, 2009

A Light exists in Spring
Not present on the Year
At any other period —
When March is scarcely here

A Color stands abroad
On Solitary Fields
That Science cannot overtake
But Human Nature feels.

It waits upon the Lawn,
It shows the furthest Tree
Upon the furthest Slope you know
It almost speaks to you.

Then as Horizons step
Or Noons report away
Without the Formula of sound
It passes and we stay —

A quality of loss
Affecting our Content
As Trade had suddenly encroached
Upon a Sacrament.

-Emily Dickinson

Look What The Rains Have Brought

Flowers, fruit, fresh linens and new buds. I know spring has not officially sprung, but in Southern California, the oranges are ripe, the avocados are dropping from the trees and the flowers are blooming in celebration of the last few weeks of rain! 

There are bright, fresh linens are on the beds and lavender pillows to soothe our sleep. I hate that the weather is so connected to my mood. It has been easier to rise, even in the gray, cloudy morning. There are seedlings to tend to and garden beds to plan. New life is bursting forth throughout the neighborhood, pink blossoms popping out of winter's stark branches, tender green leaves, quietly peeking out of the dormant, brown arms. I smile as I go about my errands and daily activities. The earth is awakening from her slumber. I am stunned by the energy that must be put in motion to create the world anew.  It is as if the earth trembles from all the pushing and budding and flowering. If we could sit in silence, I wonder if we could hear the buds popping, the leaves pushing through the wood?

What is new in us in the spring? What buds and new green shoots are emerging from our stiff and stark branches? What has wintered inside our hearts? Let us find our spring heart  blossoms, let us be still and listen to our budding and blossoming.  

Cupcake Love

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

I offered to help a friend make cupcakes for her son's birthday. I had all sorts of grown-up ideas of beautiful cupcakes I could make. I asked her what flavor he decided on. He replied, " I want white cupcakes with white frosting. And sprinkles, because it isn't a cupcake without sprinkles." Oh, yeah. Cupcakes with sprinkles, that is all we need.

Oh, dictionary, I love thee.

Ode to the Dictionary

Back like an ox, beast of
burden, orderly
thick book:
as a youth
I ignored you,
wrapped in my smugness,
I thought I knew it all,
and as puffed up as a
melancholy toad
I proclaimed: "I receive
my words
in a loud, clear voice
directly from Mt. Sinai.
I shall convert
forms to alchemy.
I am the Magus"

The Great Magus said nothing.

The Dictionary,
old and heavy in its scruffy
leather jacket
sat in silence,
its resources unrevealed

But one day,
after I'd used it
and abused it,
I'd called it
useless, an anachronistic camel,
when for months, without protest
it had served me as a chair
and a pillow,
it rebelled and planting its feet
firmly in my doorway,
expanded, shook its leaves
and nests,
and spread its foliage:
it was
a tree,
a natural,
apple blossom, apple orchard, apple tree,
and words
glittered in its infinite branches,
opaque or sonorous,
fertile in the fronds of language,
charged with truth and sound.

what a marvel
to pronounce these explosive
and further on,
unfilled, awaiting ambrosia or oil
and others,
capsicum, caption, capture,
comparison, capricorn,
as slippery as smooth grapes,
words exploding in the light
like dormant seeds waiting
in the vaults of vocabulary,
alive again, and giving life:
once again the heart distills them.

Dictionary, you are not a
tomb, sepulcher, grave,
tumulus, mausoleum,
but guard and keeper,
hidden fire,
groves of rubies,
living eternity
of essence,
depository of language.
How wonderful
to read in your columns
the severe and 
daughter of Spain,
as a plow blade,
as limited in use
as an antiquated tool,
but preserved
in the precise beauty and
immutability of a medallion.
Or another
we find hiding
between the lines
that suddenly seems
as delicious and smooth on the tongue
as an almond
or tender as a fig.

Dictionary, let one hand
of your thousand hands, one
of your thousand emeralds,
of your virginal springs,
one grain
magnanimous granaries,
at the perfect moment
upon my lips,
onto the tip of my pen,
into my inkwell.
From the depths of your
dense and reverberating jungle
grant me,
at the moment it is needed,
a single birdsong, the luxury
of one bee,
one splinter
of your ancient wood perfumed
by an eternity of jasmine,
one tremor, one sound,
one seed:
I am of the earth and with words I sing.

-Pablo Neruda


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

My daughter has had a high fever for three days. You know the kind of fever I am talking about. When all you can do is lie there, you can't read or eat or watch your favorite movie. You can't even sit up to drink water. Someone has to hold the glass for you. Hooray for bendy straws!

When she was an infant, she suffered from febrile seizures. As a young mother, each one stopped my heart. Also, because this child is a bit on the sober and quiet side, I never knew when she was ill until the fever came. I was comforting a fellow blogger whose child had their first febrile seizure and realized that since those episodes ended, my daughter rarely has fevers. It was as if she burned up much of the karma childhood fevers dispel. Until Friday. She has been in bed, fever rising and sometimes falling, but not for long. Her eyes are glazed and I can tell she is suffering.

In our house, we try to let the fever have it's way. My feeling is that a fever is good, it helps fight the infection. So instead of handing her a pill to relieve the fever, we just monitor it closely. One trick, which the children HATED when they were young, was to put a pair of wet cotton socks over their feet and cover the wet socks with wool socks. The cool feet help to pull the heat away from the head. You can do it with a t-shirt too, but my children would NEVER tolerate that, so the wet socks are our go to fever remedy.

I always look for a great transformation after a fever. I truly believe a fever helps us to release baggage we would otherwise hold on tightly to. The fire of a fever allows us to make a few steps further in our development. In the case of my daughter, she has been having intense feelings regarding going away to university in the fall. I know she wants to go, and I want her to go. But, you see, we have lived in this wee cottage many a year. Much of this time, we have shared a room. She shares many features of my face and my personality. I know she is frightened to be leaving, I am too. I just believe this is right for her. She has lived tucked tightly under my wing for so long. I think this fever is trying to free us both. I have been able to nurse her and sit with her, comb her hair and gently place a cool towel over her brow. I feel as though we are being given a gift of time together. A time for me to sit on the edge of her bed, rub her forehead and keep her blankets tucked safely around her. Our days together are going to shift very soon, I revel in this time together. I pray for her quick recovery, but I long for a reminder of these quiet days together...Be well, my darling.

Songs About Rainbows

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Profundity in Simplicity

Biscuits and Gravy

I woke before the sun, but it was blanketed by thick blue-grey clouds. As I peered out the window, I noticed the first daffodil blooming in the garden bed. The cool February air streamed through the open window. It was a perfect morning for warm biscuits.

The kitchen seemed to hum with contentment as I sifted flour and warmed the oven. Like a dance, I  moved through the kitchen; my family still sleeping under their down comforters. They awoke to the bubbling smell of warm butter melting atop the biscuits, homemade gravy with veggie sausage and tarragon eggs.

Gathered around the table, the room still warm from the oven, we ate and chatted of  the small and significant things that make a life. A sweet life. With the clouds still hugging the horizon, the dishes were placed on the counter as everyone made their way back to their abandoned beds, still warm from the night.

I was happy to make my way back to my own bed where this book was waiting for me. Eagerly I tucked myself under the covers and made my way back to nineteenth-century China, wandering with Snow Flower and Lily. I love Sunday morning. It is as if the weekend will never end... Enjoy the eternity of Sunday. 

The Truth

Saturday, February 21, 2009

I have been very cryptic over the last few months about the state of my affairs. I have left it at the spiritual struggles I have been experiencing as a result of a serious injury. I must admit, this is the real issue, the spiritual issue. In the end, it is who we are deep inside and not what others say or think about us.

On this journey, I have had to learn to remove myself from the chaos this injury has created in it's wake. I knew as soon as this happened, as soon as I found myself unable to walk or move without pain, that there were big lessons ahead of me. I was right. The last year has proven extraordinary in the way of personal growth. I have been forced to look deeply into myself and see what is true for me. Really true. The true that follows us from lifetime to lifetime, that influences future relationships. It is also the truth that our children see and adopt as habit, and thus the line continues throughout the generations of our family. When I left an abusive relationship many years ago, I remember telling my daughter we left because I did not want her to grow up believing this is how a man who loves you treats you. I told my son we left because I did not want him to think this is how you treat a woman you love.

I have been faced with the question of truth again. Honing the lesson of truth, I guess. As I watched former friends and colleagues spin their tales and tell their truths, I realized that truth is a private matter. Truth is between you and your angels. You and your God. You and the example you set for your children. It is not even about the children really, because they have free will and can chose to be different. It really is simply the truth. It is between you and God and no one else need be involved. Does it hurt when someone lies? Yes. Yet somehow, in the moment, I was able remove myself. I found myself praying to their angels, "Please let them tell the truth." Yet, it was not selfish. I just had this image of these souls as they laid their heads to rest that night. I was worried that they would have to battle these questions in the dark of the night, one on one with their God and the angels that help to guide them. I did not want them to suffer. Even after all of this, the injury, the isolation, the depression, the deep soul searching...I still found myself hoping they could escape some suffering. 

The other side of the coin is that everyone's truth is true. It is true for them. And, because it is private, it is real, true. The only thing we control is our own truth. It is OUR head that meets the pillow each night. It is OUR truth that must remain neutral and refrain from knowingly hurting others.  Truth is a private matter. When we are truthful with ourselves, the blessings can  spread and we can walk with love and confidence. The shifts that truth provides begins alone, but reaches far into our lives, touching each person we encounter...

The Reprieve

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

In the long days, my one reprieve is cooking for my family.  As much as I love this cottage, you do not want to turn on the oven if it is remotely warm outside. On the other hand, a cold, rainy day is the perfect time to crank the oven up for some homemade bread or biscuits.  On Friday evening, the rain was pouring down in massive sheets. Instead of driving in the inclement weather, I used what we had on hand. 

I was able to clean the vegetable bins and use up bits of this and that. There was celery, tomatoes, potatoes, one carrot and tons of cilantro.  After I carmelized one onion, I added brown lentils and barley, and a pot of steaming soup was born. I even ducked out in the rain to fetch fresh sage and rosemary from the garden to season the pot.

I was not up for baking a bread that needed to rise, so I whipped up a batch of dill biscuits. All of the tools for making the biscuits were thrifted for their charm, but I have found them all very useful. One tool is a metal butter cutter. You simply place it over the stick of cold butter and you get equally sliced pats of butter. This works perfectly for pie crusts and other pastries! Who knew? I never even knew something like this existed. 

When my love arrived home from the soggy Los Angeles freeway, a bowl of hot soup and warm biscuits and butter met him at the door. We ate together in the glow of candlelight. Our bellies full and our souls nourished in each other's company.


I have been quiet of late, using other poet's words to distract you from the silence. I have tried to write a post several times, yet nothing appears of substance. The rain continues to fall here in Southern California. I love to lie very still in my bed and listen to the rain falling on our wee cottage. Sleep escapes me most nights, the falling rain provides a distraction from the dark, sleepless nights. 

I am constantly looking outside to check the garden and watch the earth soak up the holy water. I miss the birdsong during all of this water, but in the lulls of the downpour, they sneak out of their shelters and pounce along the ground with quick and short tweets, very little song.

I guess, I am feeling out of song these days. I have found myself refer to my old life in the past tense, my heart is breaking for what used to be. I am having a difficult time embracing what is. My other life seems erased, like it never was. I feel like the last seven years have been an illusion of a life I thought I loved. I have awoke in the dark night, to find my memories like the fleeting threads of a sweet dream. By mid-morning, we find ourselves asking, "What was the dream again?" But it is gone. Dreamily gone. An illusion.

It is difficult to grab onto the moment. My options seem limitless, but I am in mourning, experiencing the five stages of grief. I do not even know which one I am on now. Is it like a list we go down systematically, or can one vacillate from one stage to another? I feel like I keep backsliding into denial. Is it over?  My community is gone, the isolation grows and I am losing confidence in my ability to teach, to paint, to offer anything of substance. What happened? Did I chose this? 

I am forced to be strong, but not for my children this time, they are growing and well cared for, I feel I am fighting a fight for me. I am being forced to face myself, to summon strength for who I will be for the rest of my days. I am on a precipice and must decide, do I stand tall? Or do I walk away, with my shoulders tall and my heart and mind firm? Or, do I stay in bed? Bed seems nice, especially with the rain beating at my door, on my roof...


Saturday, February 14, 2009

"It's so easy, To think about Love, To Talk about Love, To wish for Love, But it's not always easy, To recognize Love, Even when we hold it.... In our hands."

It's All I Have To Bring Today

Friday, February 13, 2009

It's all I have to bring today--
This, and my heart beside--
This, and my heart, and all the fields--
And all the meadows wide--
Be sure you count--should I forget
Some one the sum could tell--
This, and my heart, and all the Bees
Which in the Clover dwell.

Emily Dickinson

Time and Again

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Time and Again 

TIme and again, however well we know the landscape of love, 
and the little church-yard with lamenting names, 
and the frightfully silent ravine wherein all the others 
end: time and again we go out two together, 
under the old trees, lie down again and again 
between the flowers, face to face with the sky. 

Rainer Maria Rilke 

I Can See Clearly Now

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The rains are gone for now. The air is crisp and clear and there is a light dusting of snow atop Mount Wilson and even more to the northeast. I couldn't get warm today. I know, I know, I am spoiled, but the petite château is not insulated very well. The heater only really heats the area just in front of the heater. In summer, the perspiration drips from our bodies. You guessed it, the air conditioner only works when one is standing directly in front of it. I know I am lucky. I am grateful for so many things in my life. A roof over our heads, warm beds, jobs, love, excess, yes, excess. Likely not the excess of some, but there is always enough food, heat, cool air, clean water, clean clothes and fortune beyond my wildest dreams.

I have lived in India and have seen poverty. I live in Los Angeles and even in this land of excess, there are so many that live on the street, in doorways, on sidewalks. I am not talking about Skid Row, but here, in my little town. In the park, four blocks away, in my tree-lined neighborhood, with green lawns and new cars, there are people living under the bridge. A cold night, not too long ago, we were in a drive-thru restaurant to pick up something quick for my son. As we approached the window, there was a young man sitting in front of the restaurant with a dog. "Order an extra meal for him," I told my boyfriend. "No way, he might stab us." We proceeded to get into a bit of an argument. He reluctantly ordered the meal and by this time I was furious with him. " I will get out and give it to him!" I commanded. We had to leave the parking lot and go back into the entrance to get back to him. I was seething at my boyfriend's insensitivity. As we approached the young man, my boyfriend rolled down the window. "Are you hungry?"  The young man's face lit up like a candle in the darkest of nights. "Yes," he stammered. "Would you like some food?" my boyfriend asked. "Yes, yes, please." He handed the young man the bag, as my boyfriend turned to drive away, I saw the glint of tears in his eyes. "You never know when we are in the presence of an Angel." I said as we drove home to our wee cottage. 

Handing a lone person a simple meal is not the answer, I know. I think it is just an opportunity to open our eyes, to open our hearts. It is a time to know, really know, how fortunate we are to live in excess, to walk into a store and purchase not just what we need, but what we want. I am so lucky. So very lucky. Here is a link to a very interesting picture of how lucky we are... The Places We Live.

Sonnet 116

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

- William Shakespeare

Just a little Saint Valentine's Day love...

it is only love...

Monday, February 9, 2009

Touched by An Angel

 by Maya Angelou

We, unaccustomed to courage
exiles from delight
live coiled in shells of loneliness
until love leaves its high holy temple
and comes into our sight
to liberate us into life.

Love arrives
and in its train come ecstasies
old memories of pleasure
ancient histories of pain.
Yet if we are bold,
love strikes away the chains of fear
from our souls.

We are weaned from our timidity
In the flush of love's light
we dare be brave
And suddenly we see
that love costs all we are
and will ever be.
Yet it is only love
which sets us free.


Saturday, February 7, 2009

After The Rain: Canon Rebel XT

After the rain, the sky seems to celebrate. The clouds shine metallic hues and reach their arms across the great expanse. I want to eat up the ice cream clouds and fill my belly with the light rays from it's great reach. These are fleeting moments, like the last few moments of a sunset, or sunrise. I remember hearing a story in which Maxfield Parrish was criticized for using unrealistic colors in his paintings. I never understood that story. For all one need do, is take a walk outside and glance heavenward during the great transitions of the day to see his reality. Indeed, they are fleeting, but always visible to the naked eye.

The gray clouds are overtaking the stunning morning sky, and we are readying for another downpour. I am glad it is the weekend and my loved ones have little to do and limited driving. I feel better when they are safe at home.


I opened my eyes
And looked up at the rain,
And it dripped in my head
And flowed into my brain,
And all that I hear as I lie in my bed
Is the slishity-slosh of the rain in my head.

I step very softly,
I walk very slow,
I can't do a handstand--
I might overflow,
So pardon the wild crazy thing I just said--
I'm just not the same since there's rain in my head.

Shel Silverstein


Friday, February 6, 2009

Puddles In Asphalt: Canon Rebel XT

Through The Looking Glass: Canon Rebel XT

The rain has come and washed the dust off of our fair town. The trees are sparkling a myriad of velvety greens, the blue sky has peeked out behind the clouds here and there. The sun, taking full advantage of it's limited time is lighting up the silver linings of the full rain clouds. A pink tint is shooting across the yard and the garden is brimming over with life and liquid. A few birds are pecking at the grass in earnest. I knew they were anticipating a feast, they bounce quickly from place to place, small eyes watching for the neighborhood cats. Even my long camera lens is too slow for their spry feet.

I spent the day indoors, despite my love of walking in the rain. My spirit remains damp and cold. I have never wanted so much to be inside, away from nature. A part of my heart longs to walk the damp streets with my camera, but I prefer the comfort of our petite château. The windows are wide open and I can feel the cold wind as I type. The rain is not finished. We will be lulled to sleep by another storm after dark, and most likely wake to a gray, wet morning. For now, I am content to watch the boughs of the tree outside my window bend to the disappearing day, pink and violet clouds teasing the looming blackened rain clouds with their gaiety and mirth. I breathe deep, my nostrils, lungs and body fill with freshly washed air. I exhale.

The Rains Are Coming

Thursday, February 5, 2009

I can smell it in the air. It is damp and sweet and still. The birds are active, like they are busy chatting about shelters and food. There may even be rejoicing for the after the rain feast of displaced insects and worms. Although the sun rose in a pink haze this morning, bright white clouds with silver linings litter the expanse of sky.

I feel like sitting still, in one place, waiting for the first droplets. Once, on the rugged shore of Ono Beach in Oregon, I watched the rain arrive. I stood at the shore as a large dark cloud hovered over the ocean. I could smell the rain then, too. I stood rooted in the sand and watched as the blackened rain cloud approached. It announced it's arrival with cold winds whipping at my cheeks and through my clothes. As the first droplets kissed my cheeks, I thought I should go back to the shelter of our camp. I was curious though, to see what it would be like to stay and let the storm wash over me. And, so I rooted my feet deep into the crunchy sand and held my arms up to the black sky and welcomed the full and heavy raindrops. I opened my mouth and heart and let it rain down on me. The wind roared and the drops pelted me, soaking my clothes and hair, but igniting my spirit. Small orbs of hail began to fall. I lowered my head in surrender and for protection, but I stood tall. I did not flee. The cloud eventually passed over me, the droplets lightened in weight and intensity. The wind settled into a steady hum. Just as the cloud passed beyond me, I looked out over the Pacific Ocean to see the sun, hazy and pink and orange, shaking off the black and gray of the disappearing cloud. I stood at the shore as the sun began to gain strength and warm my cheeks, dry my hair and warm my soul. I only looked back once at the passing cloud, and then, turned my heart and head toward the sun.


Wednesday, February 4, 2009

I was talking with my yoga instructor a few  weeks back. She was trying to adopt the Ayurvedic diet. I had told her I had lived in India for a time and spent much of my twenties in an ashram. My main service was to cook the meals for the Deities and other members of the ashram. I have rolled out many chapatis and fried many samosas in my time. It is a very opulent way of cooking and we rarely eat this way at home these days. I save these time consuming tasks for special occasions, birthdays, parties, feast days, etc. 

She asked if I could teach her to cook this way. I am not an expert in Indian cooking, nor am I skilled in cooking for the Ayurvedic doshas. However, I can cook Indian food and I love to show people how easy it is. It really is something you have to see. So we made a plan for her to come over and I would show her a few tricks and some of the basics.

The first day we made a fancy basmati rice, cauliflower and potato subji, a chick pea and green pepper subji and chapatis. This week, I asked her to do much of the preparation so that she could really learn how to do it. She asked if we could make samosas. These are my family's favorite, but they take a lot of time and are fried, so it is not something you would want to eat every day! We also made a coconut/coriander chutney to eat with the samosas.



Two -three potatoes
1 cup cauliflower broken into small florets
1 cup peas

Steam potatoes and cauliflower. Drain. In a large pot heat three tablespoons ghee or other oil.
Add whole cumin seeds, some fresh ginger, ground coriander, salt, pepper, teaspoon turmeric.
Fry spices until they are a well toasted. Add peas and cauliflower and potatoes and coat with the spices. Mash it a little bit and let cool.

2-3 cups whole wheat flour
teaspoon ghee
teaspoon salt
1/4 cup yogurt

Mix ingredients together and slowly add warm water until you have a firm, but not dry, dough. I like to let the dough rest under the bowl I mixed it in for a bit. It kind of sweats the dough a little and makes it nice to work with.


I make a long snake out of the dough, I do it with my hands in a rough manner, not perfect. I cut small pieces of dough to work with-a little bigger than a quarter, but fat.

I put a small amount of ghee on the work surface and on the rolling pin. Roll out the dough until it is the size of a small pancake. With a deep tablespoon, add a dollop of filling and close all the edges. It will be a crescent shape. I like to make a fancy edge, like a pie edge. You can also just seal it with a plain edge. Just make sure it is sealed and there are no tears in the dough.  You can repair tears with bits of dough. I place finished samosas on a greased cookie sheet for easy removal.


As ghee is expensive to buy pre-made and I no longer make my own, I use Grapeseed Oil. It has a high flash point, so it is good for frying.
Once the oil is good and hot, gently place the samosas in the oil. I use a big wok and put five or six in at a time. I watch them carefully and turn them over one or twice, until both sides are a golden brown.
I place them in a large pan with paper towels to drain the excess oil.

Serve with coconut chutney. This recipe made a lot of samosas. So adjust as needed. You can always refrigerate extra dough or eat the left over filling as a vegetable dish with rice.

Coconut Chutney

So Easy!
In a food processor or blender add two serrano chilis, teaspoon whole cumin, tablespoon ground coriander, teaspoon fresh ginger, salt, pepper, 1/4 cup raw sugar, a bunch of cilantro and enough shredded coconut or dried coconut powder to thicken. I also add a bit of water to help everything blend together well. If it is too wet, add more coconut. I prefer coconut powder from the Indian spice store, but I have successfully used shredded, sweetened coconut from the grocery store with good results. You can make the chutney as thick or watery as you like. When we were traveling from northern India to South India, the coconut chutney changed in consistency with every stop. For using with pakoras or samosas, I like it a bit thick, so you can grab it up with the samosa.

Vintage Dresses

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

I have always been attracted to vintage clothing. In my teens and early twenties, I dressed almost exclusively in vintage clothing. I love the thrill of coming across a true find at the thrift store or flea market. I love the idea that I may have come across something very special, a beloved item that has been hanging around all of this time, just so I could stumble upon it. 

My home is filled with one of a kind items that I treasure. I like having lovely things about our home, especially if they only set me back 80 cents! So, a few years ago my daughter and I found the most precious tea length gown from the 1950's. It looked a bit like a ballerina dress. It was a dusty rose color with silver tulle over the full skirt and bodice. The bodice was embellished with silver and white beads. My daughter looked stunning in it, it was her sixteenth birthday present. That winter, she wore it to the winter formal dance. Nobody else had the same dress.

Last year for the prom, she wore a gold halter dress that we purchased at the 99 Cent Only Store. Yes, the 99 Cent Only Store. It was $1.07 with tax. We bought it as a fluke because, well it was kind of funny that it was there and that it fit and it was 99 Cents. It went into the closet with a few other formal dresses that had been thrifted or given to her over the years. As the prom approached, she was busy trying on all of the dresses she was considering. Sheepishly, she came into our room and said, "Mom, I think I am going to wear the dress from the 99 Cent Only Store." And so she did. My sister gave her some fancy silver shoes that she was going to throw out because she had never worn them. We hit the thrift store and found a bit of silver lame. I sewed the fabric into a wrap and she carried a purse she thrifted a few years ago for $1. All in all, I believe the total for the entire outfit was $6. We paid more for her date's boutonniere.

Last Sunday she and I hit the Pasadena City College Flea Market. There was a vintage formal dress I thought she might like. The dress was on the first rack as we approached the stall. It was cute and she liked it, but after she tried it on, it really was apparent that it did not suit her. That was just the beginning though. As she is one of a very slim population that can actually fit into vintage dresses, she had her pick. She decided then and there she would dress in vintage clothing every day for the rest of her life. So cute.

We left the stall with a sweet new formal for the Winter Formal or the Prom, and a couple of handmade sun dresses from the 1950's. You might be wondering why this qualifies as a blog post. Well, it is because I am so happy she is her mother's daughter. I am so happy that she is content with the simple things in life. It makes me happy that she doesn't have to have a dress or outfit that impresses other people. It is enough that it makes her happy. It makes me happy that she has no problem going to the prom in a dress we bought from the 99 Cent Only Store!

The above photos are from one of her finds. It was $5. When she got home she asked me, " Is it possible to love a piece of clothing, I mean really love it?" Yes, my dear, it is.


Monday, February 2, 2009


February 2 is one of the great cross-quarter days which make up the wheel of the year. It falls midway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox and in many traditions is considered the beginning of spring.

Awakening the Ground

In Western Europe, this was the time for preparing the fields for the first planting. Even in Seattle, you can begin turning over and enriching the soil in anticipation of the first sowing in March. Pamela Berger has written a book, The Goodess Obscured: Transformation of the Grain Protectress from Goddess to Saint, about the rituals celebrated at this time of year, when the ground is first awakened and the seed placed in the belly of the earth. This is a significant moment in a community which depends on the earth for sustenance. The fields were purified and offerings were made to the goddess.

This medieval Anglo-Saxon plowing charm, recorded by Berger, was said by the farmer while cutting the first furrow.

Whole be thou Earth
Mother of men.
In the lap of God,
Be thous as-growing.
Be filled with fodder
For fare-need of men.

The farmer then took a loaf of bread, kneaded it with milk and holy water and laid it under the first furrow, saying:

Acre full fed,
Bring forth fodder for men!
Blossoming brightly,
Blessed become;
And the God who wrought the ground,
Grant us the gifts of growing,
That the corn, all the corn,
may come unto our need.

The promises of the return of the light and the renewal of life which were made at the winter solstice are now becoming manifest. It's the dawn of the year. It's the time when a woman who is pregnant begins showing. It's time to creep out of the hibernation of winter, cautiously, like the Ground Hog who supposedly emerges on this day to check his shadow. It's the time of germination. This is a traditional time for new beginnings. Covens of witches usually initiate new members at this time.

There is also a story i remember reading in an old book. If you had not finished cleaning all remnants of your Christmas decorations by Candlemas, the Candlemas goblin would come into your home and start breaking things. So remember, make sure all of your holiday trimmings are tucked safely away, lest the Candlemas goblin come inside and break your valued treasures.

Candles and Christmas Greens

The main element of your decorating scheme for Candlemas is fairly obvious: candles. You can gather all the candles in your home in one room and light them from one central candle. Or place a candle in each window (but watch them carefully).

Candlemas is one of the traditional times for taking down Christmas decorations (Twelfth Night, on January 6th, is the other). If you are very careful (because they are tinder dry), you can burn them. Or, better yet, return them to the earth mother by using them for compost or mulch.

Certain foods are traditional for Candlemas, including crepes, pancakes and cakes, all grain-based foods. Pancakes and crepes are considered symbols of the sun because of their round shape and golden color.

If you have a fireplace, clean out your hearth and then light a new fire. Sit around the fire and reflect on your hopes for the coming year. What do you hope to accomplish? What are you passionate about? What seeds do you wish to plant? Discuss these ideas with others or write them down in a journal but make them concrete in some way so that on Lammas (August 2nd, the festival of the first harvest), you can look back to see what progress you’ve made.

Brigid is the goddess of creative inspiration as well as reproductive fertility. This is a good time for sharing creative work, or, if you don't think of yourself as especially creative, an idea that worked or a plan that materialized. Thank the Goddess for her inspiration, perhaps by dedicating a future work to her.

Making Pledges and Commitments

Since Candlemas is a time of new beginnings, this is a good day to ritually celebrate all things new. Plan a ceremony to name a new baby, officially welcome a new person into a family or plight your troth to your beloved. Make a commitment to a goal (like a New Years resolution): this would be an especially powerful thing to do in a group.

In San Francisco, the Reclaiming Collective sponsors a big public ritual called Brigid, which focuses on political commitment. After acknowledging despair over the events of the past year, the participants reflect on the source of their own power and then make a pledge in front of the community about the work they intend to do during the coming year. During this ritual, the flames in a cauldron represent Brigid's Sacred Flame, the fire of inspiration and passion, while a punch bowl filled with waters gathered from all over the world represents Brigid's Holy Well, the source of healing and purification.

If you plan your own ceremony, use these two powerful symbols: fire and water. For instance, wash your hands and bathe your face in salt water, which is especially good for purification. Light a candle as you make your pledge. Incorporate the third symbol of the holiday — seeds — by planting a seed or bulb in a pot to symbolize your commitment, or by blessing a bowl or packet of seeds that you will plant later.

Purification and Renewal

Have you ever given anything up for Lent? If not, you might consider it. You don’t have to be Catholic to gain spiritual benefits from the voluntary surrender of something you cherish. You can give up something frivolous or something serious, but it should be something you will notice. Folk wisdom says it takes six weeks (or approximately the 40 days of Lent) to establish a new habit, so you may end up with a lifestyle change.

The kids in our neighborhood have eagerly embraced the idea of giving up something for Lent. We know one little girl who gave up TV for Lent and another who gave up catsup, her favorite food. In the last two years, I've given up alcohol and coffee for Lent. Forty days is enough time to notice the difference in the way you feel without a favorite substance or distraction.

Since Candlemas is often considered the beginning of spring, you can perform another ritual act of purification: spring cleaning. This would be a good time to do a thorough house cleaning, sweeping the floors with salt water, banishing the gloom of winter and creating a sparkling, shiny new setting for spring.

This post is also reprinted from School of the Seasons

Saint Brigid's Day

Sunday, February 1, 2009

St. Brigid, the Grain Goddess

In Ireland, this holy day is called Imbolc and begins at sunset on February 1 continuing through sunset February 2nd. There are several different derivations offered for the name Imbolc: from Ol-melc (ewe's milk) because the ewes are lactating at this time, from Im-bolg (around the belly) in honor of the swelling belly of the earth goddess, and from folcaim (I wash) because of the rites of purification which took place at this time. All of these explanations capture the themes of this festival.

February 1st is the feast day of St. Brigid, who began her life as a pagan goddess and ended up a Christian saint. She was a fire and fertility goddess. In her temple at Kildare, vestal virgins tended an eternal fire. On her feast day, her statue was washed in the sea (purification) and then carried in a cart through the fields surrounded by candles.

The legends about the goddess, Brigid, gradually became associated with (the somewhat spurious) Saint Brigid who founded the first convent in Ireland (where else?) at Kildare.

To celebrate St. Brigid's day, people put out a loaf of bread on the windowsill for the Saint and an ear of corn for her white cow, offerings for the grain goddess like the loaf buried in the first furrow. A small quantity of special seeds are mixed with those to be sown. Wheat stalks are woven into X-shaped crosses to serve as charms to protect home from fire and lightning.

In the Highlands, women dress the corn doll or last sheaf (from Lammas or the autumn equinox) in a bridal gown and put her in a basket, which is called the Bride's bed. A wand, candle or other phallic object is laid across her and Bride is invited to come, for her bed is ready.

This is reprinted from School of the Seasons. Check it out.