May 27, 2010

Inspiration - Code Pink

Following a wonderful weekend spiritual memoir retreat at a monastery outside New Paltz, one of the younger women wrote:

PS--when Gail (our facilitator/mentor) said "go home, rest, relax, sit in the journey of the weekend" Rae and I thought that meant "go to Houston and protest BP oil spill in our birthday suits...

She is Dana Balicki
National Campaign Manager for CODEPINK, Women for Peace

Ahhh, admiring and impressed with them and their energy and questioning where that passion for activism that I felt so fervently has gone and what shape it may take in my crone-years?!


May 23, 2010

A Few Spain Photos

A few miscellaneous photos:
Early in the trip (I think day 4), during the cold, rainy, mountainous part

A really really old road and bridge (around 2,000 years old)

In La Rioja, a wine region

A Brief Spain Update

Internet access hasn´t been very plentiful as my trip has progressed, but I was able to upload a few photos from one location. In this photo I am filling my cup from a wine fountain. There are many fountains along the Camino de Santiago, the trail I am walking, but this is the only one that offers free vino - the rest dispense only agua. A little disappointing, but better for keeping pilgrims hydrated.

My journey so far has been wonderful - I started in the Pyrenees and have walked through many different landscapes, including mountains, forests, farmland, cities, the meseta (a sort of high mostly flat plain), and now scrubland. I have walked in rain and cold and fog and sun and heat. I have walked alone and with friends, old and new.

Today the path was ugly in many ways - much of it through city suburbs and industrial zone and along roads - but as usual there was much of beauty and interest too, including bodegas, a sort of in-ground cold storage space most often used for wine, and lots of birds and wildflowers.

I will share more soon, as I have the chance.

May 21, 2010

What I/YOU Can't Do Without?

The article below got me thinking...but I have not come to any conclusions yet. I'd like to have the discussion with all of you though. Below are two lists of supposed "must-haves." I definitely take for granted modern day conveniences -- like electricity and indoor plumbing but electric-garage door openers? -- we don't even have a garage -- hot pockets? -- that's a joke right? -- but the man does have a point about how many of us depend on convenience food.
I'll be working on my list of top 10 essentials; what are yours?

U.S. News and World Report recently listed 10 things that Americans just can't do without, ranging from laptops to lattes. This caused me to think about what I would be loathe to give up. While I can't quibble with most of the magazine's selections (below), there are at least 10 other strong candidates for 21st century essentials, in my opinion.

My candidates for the top 10 must-haves are:
1. Electric garage door opener: When I was a boy, my dad had an early version of the garage door opener; me. He'd lay on the horn until I came out and lifted the door. Now is better.
2. The automobile: Yes, this is Bike to Work Week, but that's only because having it in February would only reinforce how much we cherish our precious four-wheeled transportation.
3. Hot Pockets: Imagine living back in the dark ages where juices could escape from between the bread slices of a sandwich.
4. Electricity: Last year, power in our neighborhood went out for three days. Three days without NCIS, without cold beer, without Facebook, without an electric garage door opener, telephone many Americans would be down with that?
5. Credit: Look at the original 10 items below. How many would you be able to enjoy if you weren't extended credit, if only the credit of being permitted to pay monthly and after the fact?
6. Remote controls: for my TV, DVD, Blu-Ray, stereo, lights, car ignition, fans and more, these remote controls move me even closer to my goal of total entropy.
7. Air-conditioning: America smells a great deal fresher than it did in 1960, and we can thank air-conditioners (although Febreze would like to take the credit.) You can take mine when you pry my cold, dead fingers from the A/C knob.
8. Baseball: For those who feel that life is passing by all too quickly, a baseball game will demonstrate that even a mere two hours can be made to seem like an eternity.
9. Plumbing: Truthfully, now: which would you give up first, a smart phone or a flushing toilet? If the former, I hope we don't live in the same neighborhood.
10. Go-cups: If only one American crotch is saved from a hot-coffee shower, the go-cup will have earned its place in grab-and-go heaven.

Compare those with the original U.S. News and World Report ten things we couldn't do without (and Walletpop's comments):

1. Portable computers: If we didn't have these, we'd have to TALK to other people at Starbucks.
2. High-speed Internet access: Because nothing sucks like waiting for porn to load.
3. Smart phones: Don't you feel at least a little uneasy carrying a phone that's smarter than you are?
4. Education: Without which, you might have trouble finding a job. Oh, you have a degree and still, no job? Just debt?
5. Movies: Because with comic books you have to go through the labor of turning pages.
6. TV: Without TV, who would tell the Fox nation who to despise?
7. Music downloads: Paying for tunes is SO 20th century.
8. Pets: With a declining birthrate, the U.S. needs another dependable source for cute. I searched "Kitty" on YouTube; 104,000 videos available.
9. Booze: To make 2, 3, 5, and 6 more amusing, and 4 more tolerable.
10. Coffee: Because crack is so declassé.

See full article from WalletPop

May 14, 2010

Inspiration - Where Women Create

This review was written for and posted at Story Circle Book Reviews website where I am a guest reviewer. Check them out -- they have extensive reviews. Want to read my reviews? Click on reviewers and then guest reviewers. Four of my reviews are posted and I INTEND to write at least 6 more this year.

Where Women Create: Book of Inspiration: In the Studio and Behind the Scenes with Extraordinary WomenWhere Women Create – Book of Inspiration: In the Studio & Behind the Scenes with Extraordinary Women
By Jo Packham and Jenny Doh
Lark Books, 2010

Meet a Mexican dollmaker who is inspired by nature and designs with a palette of greens, reds, and blues. View the studio where an Irish woman and her auntie create vintage-style capelets and other amazing garments and accessories. Check out the antique sideboard, a family heirloom, where one artist, who makes and sells “mixed media mosaics” stores her rubber stamp collection. And see if you recognize the Texan with a TV show. The Knitty Gritty show host, Vicki Howell, displays her vibrant fabrics, yarns, paints and buttons to full advantage in a large room with open-shelving conducive to all kinds of crafting.

These are just a few of the 23 women artists featured in Where Women Create – Book of Inspiration: In the Studio & Behind the Scenes with Extraordinary Women. The book showcases various arts and crafts genres including jewelry, photography, quilting, bookmaking, and multi-media creations and the artists hail from many different geographical regions.

Most of the women artists are honored with a six- page spread consisting of multiple photographs and extensive text. The narratives describe the artist, her work and her studio space. There are direct quotes by the women and sidebars with quotes the women find inspirational. The individual stories show how these women deal with creative ruts, describe their early memories of family reactions to their artistic interests, depict their preferred color choices, and share tips on organizing craft studios.

Although I was inspired by the visuals – the numerous artsy photos dedicated to each artist and her space -- sometimes I found it difficult to figure out what the individual artist created and sold. I was able to clarify that by checking out the listed website (Almost all the artists listed their websites and/or blog info).

Looking for inspiration? Whether you are an aspiring artist, a seasoned craftswoman, or just curious about other women’s creative lives, I recommend this book to you.


Jo Packham, authored Where Women Create (Sterling 2005) before she partnered with Stampington & Co. where she now edits a magazine version and co-authored Where Women Create – Book of Inspiration: In the Studio & Behind the Scenes with Extraordinary Women. She has authored over 40 how-to craft and wedding titles and is the President of Chapelle Ltd. Visit her website at

Jenny Doh is Editor-in-Chief and Director of Publishing for Stampington & Company (, overseeing a large roster of high-quality arts and crafts magazines. To learn more about her personal creations, visit her blog at

May 8, 2010

Lilacs...Ahhh, Spring!

Not surprising, that along with lavender, that lilac is one of my favorite flowers. Great aroma and perfect color. Our bushes may be sparse but we can still bring in beautiful bouquets.


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Yoga was a road not taken....

Returning to yoga at 60 is -- humbling. I think that the day after yoga class, I shouldn't be feeling all these aches from gentle stretching. I know, I know...just goes to reinforce that I NEED to continue.

Yoga is one of the roads I’ve not taken.
I was first introduced to yoga over 40 years ago. My then boyfriend (who later became my first husband, Charlie, when we were young...) was a student of Swami Satchidananda aka Swami Satch
Charlie learned the ways prior to both the Swami’s introductory comments at the Woodstock Festival and his sold-out Carnegie Hall event as well as the later sex-scandals.
Anyway, at the time I saw no benefit to the sun salutation routines that Charlie did each morning.
I preferred other means of relaxation and when I wasn’t partaking, I was politicking. Anti-war and feminist activities took precedence over stretching and naval gazing, or so I naively thought.
But I did admire Charlie’s fit and flexible body and his quirky yoga practice enhanced his “art-eest” personality.

Another what-if moment for me...I wonder about how I would be different in mind, body, and spirit if I just choose yoga then and continued with it.
Instead I rejected the so many invitations I had throughout the decades. I took occasional classes, went to wonderful weekend retreats, performed to the instructions on the various video tapes. And then stopped. Again and again.

So now at 60, I begin again. I am so aware of my limitations, of competing with my younger self (ohh, I used to be able to do that pose; I have less balance, less strength), of being hesitant. Yet the instructor is a natural, helpful and enthusiastic, and the yoga studio is an incredibly beautiful space. And I’ve reconnected with a former acquaintance – who, ironically, I met years ago in a one-time yoga session I attended. She is a regular – to the class I now attend and to the practice. And she is older than me...perhaps wiser...certainly inspiring. I tell myself...keep with it. Maybe this time I will.

May 5, 2010

Meditation/Walking Inspiration: Thich Naht Hanh

A quick note from on the trail... the weather has been cold, rainy, and windy, with even a little bit of snow over the last four days of walking. But I am still walking through some incredible scenery -  steep green hills, old stone buildings, small quaint villages, local bakeries and meat shops, cafes, wildflowers everywhere, and lots of livestock. As long as I remember to look around and remember where I am, I feel so joyful and excited to be here. But there are also moments of feeling cold and wet and tired and not so happy. As soon as I remind myself to bring my attention back to the present, I feel great, but the weather has made it more challenging for me to remain in each moment.

One small tool that has been a help to me is the following mantra/poem:

Breathing in, I calm my body
Breathing out, I smile
Dwelling in the present moment
I know that it is a wonderful moment

It is from Peace is Every Step by Thich Naht Hanh.

Sometimes I just abbreviate it to:
present moment
wonderful moment

Do you have any tools or tricks that remind you to be present and joyful?

May 4, 2010

Craigslist or the Pennysaver?

When I want to purchase SOMETHING, used or vintage, do I read the local Pennysaver or sign-on to Craigslist? Does it really have to be an either – or? I’ve heard similar sentiments about ebook readers and print books. Set up like a competition and as a reader and consumer I’m supposed to choose a winner. Can’t someone love both, read both – ebooks or print books, e-commerce sites or old-fashioned advertising circulars – and appreciate their differences? I do.

If you want to buy used stuff, are looking for a dining room table OR a place to live, a car, a companion, a carpenter, a job, or a yard sale, chances are you can find the item on Craigslist or in the Pennysaver.

Craigslist is online, easy, updated daily, listed chronologically by topic, and their best item postings have a photo. When perusing used furniture “a picture is worth a thousand words” definitely sums it up. I don’t want to take time to drive to your house and not be interested in the dining table you have for sale – but a quick look at your Craigslist photo lets me know whether it is worth the drive.

The local Pennysaver is a gem, not anemically thin like I’ve seen in some neighborhoods. The newsprint weekly doesn’t include photos of items. Except in the real estate section (and those are enticing thumbnails). Although the item listings are supposedly alphabetized, there is often an amusing chaos to the whole thing. You might think that one would look under “W” for “water cooler” but last week’s entry for the item was in the “D” section for ‘Doctors Office Style Refrigerated water cooler.”

Craigslist postings are free; Pennysaver sellers are charged for listings of items over $99. Makes me wonder what the deal is when a seller keeps listing the same overpriced item for weeks or months. Maybe the sellers of a $500 dollhouse, a $200 violin or the $900 composting toilet (actual recent recurring listings) would do better off listing on Craigslist.

Sometimes Craigslist readers even offer – unsolicited – advice to sellers. The Beatles lunchbox – pictured below – was offered at Craigslist for $675. A couple of days later a comment appeared basically saying – hey what’s up dude? Same thing is going over at ebay for between $200 and $300.
I've never seen such expensive collectibles in the Pennysaver (and it wouldn't be as good if they did -- the lunchbox listing just doesn’t elicit the same memories without the visual).

So if I want to be efficient I quickly navigate online -- I go to my bookmark for Craigslist:Binghamton, click on the For Sale-Furniture and click on any item of interest that includes a “pic.”

But if I want to be truly entertained, I sit down with my Pennysaver.
Last week I could have scored a tourist spoon collection, or “approx. 45 clowns, many sizes, $25.” I learned that “Due to health issues, the Evans’s have discontinued their farming operation and will be selling farm machinery and tools at public auction.” I read menus and hours of local eateries – a new one recently opened nearby but most of us locals know the chef, so they mentioned him by name and his former place of employment and I noted that what I call Sunday brunch is still not the phrase used here in upstate NY. Like in a “Chicken and biscuit dinner at the church will be held from 11:30 to 2 PM”

Both Craigslist and the Pennysaver feature ads for jobs. Though if you have perused the section lately online you’ll notice that it takes a few extra clicks to read the
postings – they only come after the page warning the reader of various scams. But in the Pennysaver I had to read an ad twice. Thinking the display ad was for baseball players, I soon saw my mistake , “Pitchers wanted” was for a horseshow club.

Do you read/use either a Pennysaver or Craigslist? What do you think?