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That may sound like a contradiction in terms, but actually, it’s two different subjects.

Coming home? That would be coming home to cooking and trying something new.

VeganPancakes2

Here you find my first effort at scratch vegan pancakes. They look pretty yummy, but in fact, were only okay. Granted, that is because the ingredients are quite different than what I’m used to. There are no eggs, instead Ener-G Egg Replacer; almond milk instead of real milk, and the least problematic, Earth Balance instead of real butter. We are very used to our fats and dairy, and eggs and butter do make a difference in taste. For a first effort, I’m okay with them, because I know what I have to do is learn how to adjust the recipe, as I always have, to make something taste better. Maybe soy milk instead of almond, maybe a touch of vanilla. I’m not giving up yet. And the texture was perfect.

I only regret I don’t have more time to cook and noodle around with things, but sooner or later, I’ll find it.

(Re)finding my path? That would be getting back on track in children’s books – setting new goals and timelines for illustrating, dummying and re-working specific stories; finding publishing houses and agents who are a good match for my work. It’s a lot of work, but it’s good work. Being on our path is always a good thing.

Jazzy-WorkDesk2

So after a stimulating breakfast with one of my children’s book buddies, I returned home and cleared off and cleaned both my work/art desks, sorted out where I’d left off on my projects, and yup, made a new plan, Stan! I wasn’t the only one who had plans for my studio chair … one kitty named Jazzy wanted in on the action. OK by me. Well, OK until Mama needs the chair and then there’s that lovely patch of sun by the window.

 

SpringBlooming2

“You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope.”

- Thomas Merton

No one would argue – at least not up this neck of the woods – that this has been a long, long winter. So when I went walking on a recent sunshiny day, I went searching for signs of life – Spring life! And here’s a small sampling of what I found.

Spring-WildCrocus2

One of two brave little wild crocus poking its head up
among the dead grass and leaves.

Spring-DaffodilsWaiting2

 Bunches of daffodils were just waiting for a little more sunlight, a little more warmth. While I didn’t find any in bloom yet, there were truly “crowds of daffodils” everywhere, in people’s yards, by the river, in the midst of wilder areas I passed, ready to grace us with their golden trumpets.

Spring-Snowdrops2

Hiding and shy within the shade of an old abandoned garage, these snowdrops just pushed aside the dead leaves — I may be small, but I am mighty!

Spring-Crocus2

Here and there in yards that would soon have busy people raking and clearing and mulching were occasional small bunches of crocus in bloom.

Spring-LoneCrocus2

“Never stop pedaling to power your dreams.”  ~Terri Guillemets

You pedal, little crocus. You pedal!

StrayDog2There is never a shortage of amazing things one can find on the web, and the site I recently came across is no exception.

As both an animal and movie lover, I am particularly sensitive to animal suffering and death on film. I have a very hard time watching cruel or violent  treatment of any animal even if I know it’s an animatronic sit-in for the real animal. It’s still inordinately painful. I also much prefer to know that the animal lives happily in the end, but I know, realistically, that may not be the case. I also know, despite the oversight by a humane organization, that unacceptable behavior towards animals in film has been known to occur.

So if I’ll be upset by animal suffering, what about children? How much and at what age can they accept and understand animal suffering or the dog/cat/horse/whatever dying at the end, even though it may be a logical plot ending?

Well, here’s the site that will guide you to whatever you or your kids can tolerate – Does the Dog Die?  Does the Dog Die has currently reviewed 680 films and indicates by a happy, neutral or crying dog icon if animals live, recover or die in the end. Click on any of the film names and you’ll get details about how every animal in that film is treated and what happens to it.

There’s an awful lot of violence and death in films (and TV) today, both human and animal. Sometimes we just don’t need to watch it. So check out Does the Dog Die? and decide for yourself how much you want to take in.

 

Aside from the general appeal of a great list or two, who doesn’t love a good list for books?

BooksToBeRead-2Here’s one for all you book lovers – Amazon’s 100 book bucket list, chosen by their own book editors as the 100 books everyone should read in their lifetime. Although mostly adult books, they aren’t all for grown-ups, but a bunch for children and the child in all of us. Among their choices are Beloved by Toni Morrison, The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein, Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White, and yes … Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling.  The list is packed with classics and more recently published books.

thebookthiefAnd here’s the variation on a theme – Goodreads readers have chosen their own top 100 books they feel everyone should read. There is a great deal of overlap in the two lists, but I loved seeing some wonderful books here and on Amazon that are so worthwhile. I was very happy to see the highly deserving The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak as well as The Help by Kathryn Stockett, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini,  Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden, Watership Down by Richard Adams, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine Engle, and many, many more.

I was also quietly happy to see how many of these books I have already read, those in the past thanks to a good education along the way, and how many I have already read or have right here waiting to be read. But best of all, I see some new titles that I look forward to getting and reading. And the good news about that? Next month is the Friends of the Hunterdon County Library’s huge annual book sale!! Woo hoo! That’s April 26th and 27th, details here.

KiteRunner-KHosseiniIf you are in driving distance of southern Hunterdon County, make the trip, fellow readers. This year it’s at the South County Park Fairgrounds on Rte. 179 in Lambertville, and on Saturday it’s hardcover $2, softcover $1, and in Sunday it’s all half that! I have books on my list for friends, some for the silent auction of the equine rescue I work with, and some just for me. I seem to be the only person left on the planet who has not read To Kill a Mockingbird, so that’s on my list as well as some others on these top 100 lists that intrigue me.

Feel like curling up with a good book? These lists may point you in the right direction. Me? Watching my list go off the paper. It’s easy to go overboard at this sale, but I’ll only bring 2 canvas bags, promise. Okay, mayyyybe 3.

 

Lucky stars above you,
Sunshine on your way,
Many friends to love you,
Joy in work and play-
Laughter to outweigh each care,
In your heart a song-
And gladness waiting everywhere
All your whole life long!

~ St. Patrick’s Day Blessing

LivingInTheLight-SGawain2Those of you why stop by regularly know that there are always two books to the right – most likely a novel of some sort and below that a metaphysical, spiritual or self-help book. You may also notice that the top book changes fairly regularly and the lower one may stay there for quite some time. Although it may look like I’m an inordinately slow reader, it hovers there because I usually am “working” the book, i.e., taking my time and attending to the lessons the author has to offer.

I am really savoring Living in the Light by Shakti Gawain. In the broadest terms it is about becoming more aware of and living by your own inner guidance, learning to recognize and trust our own innate intuition, thereby creating a new life and world. The book focuses on getting to know the many aspects of ourselves and at the end of each chapter, Gawain has included exercises and meditations. The chapter I have just completed is titled Authoritarian and Rebel, two aspects that are often alive and well in each of us. To the degree that we are unconscious of these qualities, we may experience related difficulties in our lives, not the least of which is interference in hearing and trusting our own intuition.

Gawain’s exercise at the end asks, after you have read the chapter, that you identify and write down some of your rules and behaviors that feel demanding and controlling, (overly authoritarian), to you. She lists the categories of work, money, relationships and sex, encouraging you to add your own if you wish. (I did.) Gawain then asks you to do the same with rebellious behaviors, and finally to drop down into a deeper place and look at what you really want, to find what is true for you.

Buddha2There can be quite a difference in what we’ve written and what we really want … surprisingly so. A brief, but related digression – on my desktop at the moment is an image of Buddha, and the following quote by him: “All that we are is the result of all we have thought.” Comparing that list to what I really want is quite an eye opener, and tells me in what way my work is cut out for me and reveals afresh how my thoughts are creating my life, as Buddha said. I want to make more changes.

There is always so much to know, so much to learn, and while a book such as Living in the Light may guide us, the work is always our own. We take many journeys in our lives and perhaps the greatest journey is the one within, for it is there we find the answers we need to know, which when brought to light, transform not just ourselves, but the world around us.

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