Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Gluten Free Wha-at?



Though I could hardly boil an egg when I said I do all those decades ago, time and practice have made me a competent cook. I especially love to bake bread and try new desserts. Last year I discovered Mark Bittman's no knead bread recipe. Even the OC, a man not given to superlatives, declared it the best we'd ever made.


It's difficult to impress someone raised in NY city, surrounded by all kinds of ethnic, old world bakeries, so it's possible I became a bit arrogant. The baking gods were onto me though and decided, last week, to instill in me a little humility.

Some friends were coming for lunch, one of whom was having a birthday. The OC (tactical error) asked what she'd like us to make for dessert. She'd love apple strudel, she replied, especially if we could make it gluten free. Oh for pity's sake, I muttered to myself, my name is neither Julia nor Martha. Ask me for a cheesecake, a lemon meringue pie, a rustic berry torte, chocolate mousse, but gluten free anything?? In my limited experience, gluten free means something that tastes like cardboard.

No turning back now though. I needed my game face, a recipe and a trial run.

The OC dug deep on the internet and found Dagmar. Dagmar explained how she had toiled long and hard to fine-tune a gluten free strudel recipe for her finicky Austrian children who liked their strudel light and crispy. After many failed attempts, her children finally gave their sticky thumbs up to this recipe which she was now generously sharing with the world.

 In addition to apples, raisins and nuts we would need GF bread crumbs, Dagmar told us, psyllium seed husk powder, apple cider vinegar and teff flour. 


 WTH? I was beginning to lose my enthusiasm. Teff flour? Never heard of it.  Neither had the grocery store. Even the health food store looked at us askance. "Teff?" they intoned, "how do spell that?" Obviously not in their inventory. Psyllium seed husk powder, by some miracle, we already had.

Say what you like about Amazon, no matter what outlandish thing you're looking for, cross their palms with enough pieces of silver and they'll have it on your doorstep tomorrow. And so it came to pass. A 16 oz bag of teff flour and a box of GF breadcrumbs to boot.

Yoohoo! On with the show. Maybe we could make this work.

 Recipe at hand, I took my first tentative step towards what Dagmar assured us would be light, crispy and delicious apple strudel.

 I mixed 1 cup of teff flour (so little? red flags started gently waving in my head) with 1/2 tablespoon of psyllium powder and a pinch of salt. To this I added 3/4 cup water and 1 tablespoon each of oil and apple cider vinegar. I was instructed now to 'take' the mixture out of the bowl and place it on a surface sprinkled with teff flour. The red flags were flapping noisily now. Ahh, excuse me Dagmar, I don't think this is going to work. In the bowl before me was a greyish, sloppy, messy, mostly liquid and thoroughly unappetizing looking substance. I was sure that 'pour' was the only applicable verb.

I consulted the OC. He thoughtfully stroked his beard. We agreed that our 'substance' needed to be substantially thicker, so we added a little more teff flour. Still it remained stubbornly liquid so we added a little more, and still more, until finally, it began to hold together.

Telling myself to trust her but with my confidence in tatters, I soaked the raisins in rum, melted butter and roasted the breadcrumbs, following Dagmar's instructions to a T.  The OC optimistically peeled and sliced the required Granny Smiths and chopped the walnuts.

We placed the dough (if it could be called such) on a sheet of parchment paper liberally sprinkled with teff flour, placed another sheet on top and rolled it out. When it was paper thin and we'd already mended a few tears, we gingerly peeled back the top layer of paper, gently spread the breadcrumbs, apples mixed with sugar and cinnamon, rummy raisins and chopped walnuts over it and basted the edges with butter. As carefully as if we were handling the Dead Sea Scrolls, we rolled it up, brushed more butter on top, eased it onto the baking sheet, slid it into the oven, crossed our fingers and set the timer.

Forty five minutes later the timer dinged. We held our breath and opened the oven door.

But alas! First glance did not inspire optimism.

The color was shoe-leather brown, the texture that of a rock. Tapping it with a knife produced a dull thud.
It was not light.
It was not crispy.

 I would like to have invited Dagmar and her persnickety children for tea and dared them to risk their teeth on it while I beat their mum around the head and neck with my rolling pin. That being the stuff of venomous fantasy, we took an axe to it, not wanting to damage our good knives, and broke it open.  The filling inside was quite tasty, but the overall experiment was, as the OC succinctly put it, "Not ready for prime time."



Lunch went well. There was no gluten free apple strudel but everything else was good and, though it was not gluten free, nobody, not even the birthday girl, suffered from dessert deprivation.










Saturday, February 02, 2019

How to Stay Warm in Florida




It's not that we've never experienced cold, it's just that, since moving to Florida we now shiver uncontrollably if the temps drop below 60 F. I should say that, since the OC is not bothered much by cold weather, 'we' means me and the mouse in my pocket.

I remember great flakes of snow wafting down in Montana, silencing birds, beasts and humans alike, joining sky and prairie under one enormous wooly blanket, every sound muffled but the quiet breath of the universe and the occasional snapping of a twig.

I remember how I met Twila, our elderly neighbor. I dinged her car while parking in the icy ruts and  shuffled, mortified, through the snow to her door to apologize, my pregnant belly leading the way. Twila had lived all her life on a Montana ranch and, widowed now, lived alone. We became fast friends and when the baby came, it was she who minded his big sister.

I remember bundling the children up in mittens, hats and snowsuits like miniature Michelin men and hiking into the woods to cut down our Christmas tree. How red their cheeks were and how much fun we had.

I remember how it snowed on Halloween in North Dakota and how the school bus stopped at each kid's house so they wouldn't get frostbite waiting outside in the Arctic air.

I remember how the OC darted out hatless, to shovel just one more small patch of driveway and almost froze his ears off.

I remember guzzling gluhwein at Weihnachtsmarkt in Stuttgart, generating heat from the inside against the numbing cold on the outside.

I remember lakes in Minnesota freezing over, fishing cabins popping up on the ice like mushrooms, and fishermen driving their trucks out to sit with a line dangling through a hole in the ice, and thinking what a wondrous thing it was to be so entertained.

I remember our springers dancing into the kitchen as the children spilled in from the school bus, backpacks unceremoniously dumped as dogs and children joyously reunited, Hershey and Blazer tap-dancing like Fred and Ginger as the snow and ice from their exuberant paws melted into puddles on the kitchen floor.

I remember oldest daughter making snow angels in Belgium when she came 'home' from college for Christmas.

And everywhere, shoveling snow and scraping ice off windshields as normal as sweeping the kitchen.


We've lived in cold country, even enjoyed it. But now we live here, and Florida thins the blood. We can spot visitors at forty paces....they'll be wearing tee shirts, shorts and sandals in our cold spells while we're muffled up in winter woolies. It makes us laugh and remember (me and that mouse.)

We all survived the North and lost no toes or noses to the cold. When the OC retired
 we sold our house, cheerfully donated snow shovels and ice scrapers, and came , with just one child still at home, to live in the sunshine, still sporting ten fingers and toes apiece.

But this year the North came to join us. A brief visit, surely, twenty four hours at most we thought,
then back to balmy, but we were wrong. The temperature kept dropping. We needed a survival plan.
Climbing to the highest closet shelves, we retrieved blankets, sweaters and warm winter coats. Things we had kept for rare return sorties to the frozen wastes, hardly used at all but kept as a hedge against climate chaos, which it appears, is upon us.



 I do not go to bed alone. Heat radiates from the OC, supplemented by hot water bottles, thick socks, heating pads, long johns and cuddly llamas on a long forgotten, recently resurrected woolen blanket the OC brought from Chile. But eventually morning comes, time to emerge from the cocoon to face another cold day and struggle into woolen leggings and more thick socks and whichever sweaters and scarves the moths have yet to eat, and head to the kitchen to bake bread and dip it in thick, warming soup and dream of fireplaces and blazing logs...……

~~~

And of course my tongue is deep in my cheek. It's actually a treat when we get a cold spell here in God's Waiting Room. It gives us a chance to dress in real clothes instead of skimping down to the bare minimum so's not to melt. It gives us a semblance of seasons and a rhythm we'll be dreaming of dancing to, come August.  

But after a few days we're over it. And this time, it's been more than a few days.

I could stamp my feet. I could jump up and down, but I'd probably injure myself. If I had a cat I'd follow him to the sunniest window and curl up beside him....

But wait! Here comes the OC announcing that it's seventy degrees outside and he's off to cut the grass! 

Oh well. In the immortal words of Emily Latella - "Never mind!"




Note: I know that the freezing temperatures in the northern and mid western states and parts of Europe are no laughing matter and the people there have my sincerest sympathy. I wish them warm fires, thick soups and an early Spring.






Friday, January 04, 2019

What? New Year Already?




Happy New Year everyone! 

Yes, I know, it's old hat by now. But, you've been stopping by here for a few years so must know that three days late is my default setting. If you're feeling grateful that there's something to read here today you can thank American College Football. It was a few days ago, maybe the first, and Ohio State was playing Washington. The OC was comfortably planted in his chair, with his book and his crossword, keeping a weather eye on the action.

 I've lived in this country going on fifty years and I still don't understand American football. Partly because I haven't made the effort. It's way down at the bottom of my list of things to learn more about before I die. I don't understand why people get so excited about a bunch of grown, or usually overgrown, and grotesquely padded men, running at a hundred miles an hour, up and down a field wearing tights, helmets, metal face protection and carrying a ball that doesn't look like a ball, while the other team does everything in their power to stop them, and both sides blithely ignore the danger of serious brain injury.





In spite of my puzzlement here are some of my favorite Ohio State football fans.


And the crowd roars! What just happened? A score? A touchdown? A penalty? Don't look to me. All I can think of by way of explanation is that it's a carryover from Roman times, brought here along with that first pizza delivery.

'Nuff said. There was shouting and roaring. The intense and earnest commentators wagged their heads and tongues, debating every move as though world peace hung in the balance. The OC, an otherwise highly intelligent man, sat in his armchair, reading, letting it all wash over him like so much lovely classical music. And he had command of the controls. Not that I'd know how to use them or even care to learn, if he ever surrendered them.

~~~

 So. Back to my lair where I'm surrounded by things I can make sense of - fabric, books, more fabric, paints, photographs and, drumroll please..... Blogger.




It would be easy, and self deceptive, to say that I blog for myself only, because I enjoy writing, especially the serendipitous bits that appear on the page when I'm on a roll, without me ever having planned them. The truth is that, without the feedback from your comments, I'd just scribble away in more and more notebooks, as I've been doing for most of my life, leaving a tangled, mixed up mess for my children to unravel. Or burn. After I'm gone.

Life's a journey. Making connections and sharing with fellow travelers intensifies the joys and makes bearable the sorrows. I believe we are all more alike than different, and stirring a memory, a smile or a deja vu moment in my friends, both here and in real life, makes me happy.
And who doesn't want to be happy?

 I had a look at my blogging record for last year and was unimpressed. At first glance I saw thirteen posts for 2018. Not so bad, I thought. Except that on closer inspection I discovered seven were drafts. Seriously unimpressive.

My experience with new years' resolutions has been that I ride the wave of enthusiasm for a few weeks, then crash. I'm not making a list for this year though I've read some inspiring ones and taken notes. I know what I have to do. I need to just do it. Which is not to say that lists aren't helpful. They are. 
"Know thyself."
And I do know this about myself:
sometimes my list becomes the project when I'd be better employed getting one thing on the list a little farther down the road.
Action not procrastination.

In that spirit, here, live from my lair, is my first blog post of 2019. And, if you've enjoyed reading it, don't forget that little thank you note to the American College Football Association.


 ***In case you're interested - Ohio State won, which made those fans up there  over the moon happy, while I was still scratching my head.

















Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Christmas Day in the Morning




A friend who lurks here complained recently that Jack was still the Greeter, so I thought I'd better mollify her by getting a bit more (currently) seasonal. As I've mentioned before, I'm never happier than when I'm making something, sewing a quilt, writing a letter, baking some bread or, as this past week, cookies....or, a Christmas wreath. Every year the OC prunes back a row of grape vines planted by Youngest Son when he was still living with us. 




A few years ago, I gathered up the clippings and wound them into some wreaths, hung them on a hook in my sewing room - these things need time to age, mellow, at least that's my story. I had also, many moons ago, collected pine cones from among the trees out back, put them in a bag, on a hook in my sewing room and forgot about them.

 They hung, and hung, and soon I didn't even see them anymore. But last week, in a flurry of inspiration, I saw them all again and actually made a wreath. It doesn't have the bling and the sparkle of those from the store but neither does it have a sticker on the back saying 'Made in China.' As wreaths go, I guess you could call this one a grey, country mouse, but I'm pretty happy with it.
And it's here to wish you all a merry Christmas!

It's Christmas morning here in God's waiting room. The sun is shining. The birds are singing. We have no snow to shovel, no horse stalls to muck out, no low IQ chickens to tend to, no high maintenance cats demanding laps to snuggle in and ear scratches, though we wish those who do could be here with us. You know who you are. We love you and we hope to talk/skype with you later!

We're glad that a year that brought us some scary challenges is ending on a healthy and positive note. Glad too for friendships that have lasted through the years though there are many miles between us. 

I wish all who read here love, peace, and a little bit of the magic those shepherds must have felt on that first Christmas long ago.




Sunday, November 04, 2018

Life's a Beach





 They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. I'm always intending to blog more often. I start something then let it sit because there's nothing like a good night's sleep to help edit out stupidity when you revisit what you've written. Which is not to say that I catch all of it....Unfortunately it sometimes sits for a week, or two or three, or this time for four months!

And now it's the first of November.

Sat outside carving our Jack - O - Lantern yesterday, happy that summer's heat is gone, and our favorite part of the year is here. Jack sat by the front door glowing orangely, grinning his welcome to all the trick or treaters....

who never came. Not one solitary Ghost, Red Riding Hood, Mummy, Ogre, Harry Potter, Princess or Scarecrow. Sigh. I guess our long driveway is too daunting a trek for little legs. 



And now you're puzzled and wondering "What is she blathering on about and how has it anything to do with a beach?"
 The above was indeed just blathering. Here's the post I started back in September, that languished, unloved, in drafts while the OC, the purple suitcase and I gallivanted from sea to shining sea. But that's a tale for another post, which, I solemnly promise, will not take four months to materialize.  Fall weather notwithstanding, here's a post about my love of beaches.

~~~~~~~



 The class was over. I was ready for savasana.
Given a choice, I prefer silent savasana. Just let me lie there, melting into the mat, assuring myself that no, I'm not going to die today. With luck all these stretches, twists, balances and contortions will  help me live longer than sitting in my rocking chair, bemoaning the passage of time, listening to my chair and my joints creaking. I love yoga. But sometimes it's literally a stretch.
 Just breathe, I tell myself, and it works.


But today there's a guided meditation.

When everyone is settled - bolster anyone? blanket? eye pillow? Linda, our instructor, begins....

"Take a deep breath in.....sigh it out. When your mind wanders simply bring your attention back to the steady stream of your breath." 

Okay. Got it. Can we get back to quiet savasana now? But there was more.....

"Imagine yourself walking along your favorite seashore. The sand glistens in the sunshine, the waves lick at your toes...."

And that was all it took.
 My impatience evaporated and I was there, on the beach, any beach, breathing the salty air, feet sinking into the sand as the waves licked my toes.

***

When we went to the seaside as children, it was to the Atlantic. All agog, we'd strain our necks from the back seat of the Morris Minor, each of us eager to see the sea first.

We couldn't just gallop off down to the beach though. Mum and Dad had only two hands each, Mum reminded us. There were blankets to carry, towels, buckets and spades and the all-important picnic basket. Our patience was sorely tested while she rejected the first eight depressions in the dunes before, finally, declaring the ninth one perfect. We wriggled out of our clothes and into our swim togs  holding a towel around us lest we scandalize the seagulls.  

Then flew to the water,

like birds uncaged.


Me, a friend and the Little Blister at Ballybunion, circa 1958


The enormous waves, the rocky tide pools, the huge dome of the sky, the sweeping arcs of golden sand stretching off to infinity - freedom!

Pity the child never taken to the seaside.


Mother arranged blankets and towels in our dune nest while Dad set up our little stove to make tea. But we were off already, leaping over rocks like mountain goats, racing along the sand, splashing into the waves. We'd dare each other to go out further, then turn and race the waves back to shore, often toppled half way, then thrown up on the sand like so much seaweed, spluttering and shivering, eyes stinging, teeth chattering, squealing with terrified delight. 

Bracing, our mother called it. No matter how warm the sheltered dunes, the water was always icy.
But Dad's tea took care of that. We'd sit huddled in our blankets and the shelter of the dunes, nursing our goosebumps, eating our sandwiches and slurping that comforting, hot, sweet tea. And in no time at all we'd go racing to the water again.



When the sun started to sink we'd pile once more into the Morris Minor.
And start singing, every popular song we could think of. We belted out Itsy, Bitsy, Teeny, Weeny, Yellow Polka Dot Bikini, along with anything by Elvis Presley or Cliff Richard, and old favorites like My Grandfather's Clock, The Hole in the Bucket, Que Sera Sera, Row, Row, Row your Boat, How Much is that Doggie in the Window?

We never lasted all the way home. I'm sure our parents sighed with relief when the singing died down and the only sound from the back seat was gentle snoring from happy, salty, sand-encrusted children.


~~~


 This September we spent a few days at the beach with friends, by the Atlantic.
 We didn't leap over rocks or race to the water. No, we've become more sedate with the years, but we did swim every day, and walked on the beach and sat reading in the shade.




Every evening, marvelous food.  We usually go to the beaches on the Gulf which is warm as bathwater, shallow and calm. The best part of this trip was the Atlantic, not so shallow, not so calm.

Real waves.

Out beyond where the waves break, swimming, floating, rolling with dips and swells, touching bottom only at the fullest stretch of my toes, the rhythm of the universe pounding in my ears. So peaceful, so humbling. The things that keep me awake at night, which loom large in my little life, shrink before the vastness of the sea. Things will work out, I tell myself, gazing east to where a little piece of me will always be. A mere ocean away.


***

A muffled sound, as from the far side of a cloud, a voice, Linda's, floats into my daydream -

"See the shining color of the water, how the light sparkles on it,"

and the Little Blister's smiling face comes into focus in my dream.


The Little Blister and me a few years ago at Bishop's Quarter


Is she walking along the beach at Bishop's Quarter I wonder, even as I'm lying here on my mat thinking of her? And suddenly my eyes are leaking down into my ears and I give silent thanks for the eye pillow. Why am I weeping when I have so much to be grateful for? Trouble is, the world, for all its recent shrinkage, is still too big and people I love too far away. Birthdays with zeros get you thinking that way. Recent events in Tallhassee too. What I said back there about dying from exertion? A joke.
No one goes to yoga class expecting to die there.
No one lies down in savasana (corpse pose) expecting it to be permanent.
 If those who died in Tallahassee love beaches, I hope heaven is the most beautiful beach ever.

~~~

Linda often ends her classes with this quote -
May you be well,
May you be happy and peaceful,
May you be free from all suffering, 
May you be filled with loving kindness. 

And while you live, may you be lucky enough to spend part of each year on the beach.

 Namaste


















Friday, June 29, 2018

The Color Purple



Purple.
 What comes to mind? 
A hillside covered in heather?
A famous book?
A poem by Jenny Joseph?
Purple cloths enshrouding statues at church during Lent? The good lord, his holy mother and all the saints hidden from view 'til Easter morning?
Royal robes?
African violets?
Bruises?
A certain notorious cartoon dinosaur?

When we lived in Belgium I had a good friend, from Bulgaria. Julia and I communicated in a mixture of her excellent, and my very bad, French, my good and her very bad English, lots of sign language and helpless laughter. We got together about once a month and went exploring in Brussels. One day we happened into a district where many of the store fronts had scantily clad ladies in the windows, not mannequins but the real thing, bathed in lurid blue light. Prostitutes, in a word. Prostitution is legal in Belgium. The conversation wandered down this path and Julia told me that, in her country, purple was the color of prostitution. On subsequent trips to town with Julia I was careful not to wear purple.

It's almost twenty years since we returned from Belgium. I have, unfortunately, lost touch with Julia, but I've never forgotten that little tidbit. Whenever I'm thinking of wearing anything purple I align it with this information in my head and wonder if wearing it means I'll be giving off wanton hussy vibes. My tastes in no other way run to wanton hussy. In my limited experience and understanding, wanton hussies would be the ladies teetering around in the six inch stilettoes and purple sequined gowns with high rise slits up the side and plunging necklines, revealing generous (or artificially enhanced) endowments and heavy cleavage; brassy blonde, bouffant hairdos, heavily mascared eyes, rouged cheeks, fire-engine red (or even purple) lipstick on their botoxed lips. 
Yeah. 
I think I'm safe.
Besides,  I'm not living in Bulgaria, and why should I not wear purple since it is one of the colors that goes best with white hair?

Not that I'd ever wear real purple. I'd prefer one of its more muted relatives, lavender, for instance. Remember the movie "Ladies in Lavender?" Maggie Smith and Judi Dench, two of my favorite actresses, hardly harlots.



So this week I went shopping for a new suitcase, having donated my old, shabby black one with the wonky wheels to a charity shop after our last trip anywhere, just to force myself to buy a new one for the next trip which is next week. There were too many choices. Many I eliminated on sight as being too big, too small, too garish, too dull. I got it down to two but could not decide.  I asked the OC to come into the store and help me choose. He has a low to zero level of tolerance for wandering around stores. His preferred method of shopping involves sitting at his computer and clicking on 'submit.' Mission accomplished.
 As for me - I have to feel and touch. So it was at great personal sacrifice that he came in to assist me.

 I introduced him to the finalists. On the one hand a Samsonite, greyish, the right size, sturdy; on the other a Sharper Image, black, light-weight (a plus - who wants to lug a dead weight around an airport?) expandable (very attractive given my packing skills, or lack thereof) and black with unfortunate orange trim (I dislike orange.) The OC circled them, checked the wheels and pointed to the black-with-awful-orange-trim as it had 360 degree turning wheels. His work was done. His eyes had already started to glaze over as he wandered off, leaving me still dithering. With a distinct lack of enthusiasm, I choose the Sharper Image, black with awful orange trim, but easy maneuverability.
Glumly proceeding to check-out, I suddenly saw it! The one I instantly knew had my name on it, and - are you ready? It was purple! Well, maybe not exactly, more of an eggplant-y color, perfect size, similar wheels.
"What do you think of this one?" I asked the OC as he re-joined me.

"Why would you want that one?"

"It's a much nicer color, " I said wistfully, knowing full well my argument was weak.

" But you always put something colorful on the handle anyway". He was not as enchanted as I. 

Maybe it's a male thing. Dithering is frowned upon. Make a decision and stick with it.
 I should have dug in my heels. Instead,
I brought the wrong suitcase home. I put it on the floor by the bed where I could begin to gradually pack. It's only a suitcase, I thought. The world won't end. But still I didn't like it. I glared at it. I put nothing in it.

 You should've got the purple one, I told myself. How many more suitcases are you going to buy in this lifetime (especially after a recent birthday with multiple zeroes - one for each decade). It glared brazenly back, the ugly trim glowing orangely  - you're stuck with me now!

On the other hand 'it's a woman's prerogative to change her mind!' I don't know who said it but I like them already. This morning I exchanged black and orange for purple. Well, eggplant. It's sitting by the bed, smiling. Fill me up, it seems to be saying. Nothing harlotty about it.
 I think we're going to travel well together -
into the sunset.




Friday, June 08, 2018

Into the Brambles

*Dear patient reader, I have no idea how to fix the inconsistencies in the print in this post. Can only suggest you read it in bright light.







"Maybe you could pick the blackberries while I mow the grass?" the OC suggested.

 "You should wear the wellies though so's not to tear up your legs."

"The wellies" are an ancient leftover from a former life (Montana, I think). They have been languishing for years, undisturbed, in a quiet corner of the garage. Having assured myself that no spiders had set up housekeeping therein, I donned the wellies which are a faded shade of olive green, not to mention three sizes too large, and one of the OC's most battered garden hats, in a matching, equally faded green. One can't be too careful - those style police can jump out from the most unexpected places. Best to give them nothing to write me up about. Grabbing gloves and a bowl I was ready to go where no husband is foolish enough to go.....

Into the brambles.






Our blackberry patch is a small operation, planted and tended mostly by Mother Nature, harvested by us, the birds and a variety of bramble-immune critters. Including, but not limited to, those that live in here - above left.



Winter lingered long this year. Pineapple plants withered; the moringa tree brownly expired; banana plants died (we thought). The blueberries loved having a cold spell. They flowered and set abundant fruit, but life goes on. Birds have to eat, and they did - every last berry. Then came the rain, lots of it and, as the temperatures rose, everything went into hyper-growth and re-birth. Brand new pineapple babies rose from their parents' ashes. New leaves, tightly furled, pushed skyward like pencils from the presumed-dead banana plants. Sunshine came on the heels of the rain and the moringa's roots sent up shoots that are now taller than me. And I'm no midget.






Mother Nature laughs when we try to grow tomatoes in our sandy soil. When I first saw tiny tomato plants popping up on the compost I was eager to dig them up, pot them and lavish them with TLC. Not so fast, said MN in my ear, they like it there. All those kitchen scraps, potato peels and coffee grounds, all that stuff the OC amended the compost with - can't you see they're perfectly happy right where I put them?
And since it's not nice to fool with mother nature I left them there and now we have these little beauties, right there on the compost pile.




I've heard that bears like berries. Venturing further into the thicket I saw depressions there where bears might well have rested after a nice tummy-full of our (well, Mother Nature's) berries. True, I've never seen bears in or near our garden, but, less than a mile from here there's a sign warning motorists to watch for bears! So, it's not such a stretch. That said, you'll be the first to know if I ever do see a bear wandering through our brambles.

But, back to berry-picking. I found myself putting all that yoga to practical use. The easy pickings were around the edges, but back among the thorns where the fattest and juiciest berries glistened, just out of reach, all those forward folds, half moons, dancers' and warrior poses suddenly became extremely useful. "Relax into the pose," we constantly hear at yoga. All very well in the studio which is thorn-free, not such a great idea precariously balanced on top of the compost heap, reaching for a tantalizing blackberry jewel. Unless you want to land face down in the brambles and lose a hard-won bowl of berries. In which case relax away.

That was not what I wanted. What I wanted was the greatest number of berries for the least amount of blood.




 Finished at last. Soaked through and bristling with tiny thorns in spite of my best efforts to avoid them, me and the outsized wellies plodded towards the house. Out of the wellies, into the  blissful cool, out of thorn-riddled clothing, into dry. Eventually I'll have to wash my haul and add them to the growing stash in the freezer.

 And figure out how to make blackberry jam.

But first - down on the bedroom floor for savasana, my favourite yoga pose. And this time, you'd better believe, I'll have no trouble relaxing into it.