I Call It My Arts & Crafts?

This is just too neat to keep to myself.  After having researched into IKEA’s Glimma tea lights and finding the little cups to be aluminum (e.g. recyclable with the soda cans), I restocked.  €3.50 for 100?  Yes, please.  But I was short on interesting holders.

Glass jars!  Yes, fine, I tend to hoard them because they must still be good for something.  So, I lined up a few Japanese Rice Shake jars, one small Nutella jar-to-drinking-glass-jar, a glass yogurt container, and one real candle.  The real candle’s glass was frosted, like the bathroom window; the rest looked naked and exposed with their tea-light cups all hanging out for the whole world to see.  

Then I read somewhere that good old Elmer’s Glue makes a beautiful frosted finish for surfaces that won’t be washed.  Smear it on evenly, let it dry, touch up any shiny places you missed.  I tested a couple.  They looked good!  Fast and cheap, not exactly the reputation I strive for, but there is a certain truth in that advertising.

Washi TapeThen I came to posses several rolls of the wildly popular (Why can I not keep Kristin Chenoweth out of my head whenever I hear that word anymore? Get. Out.) washi tape.  It’s fun!  Also fast and cheap.  I am painfully frugal, have the attention span of a gnat, and very little storage space.  That means I refuse to spend much on decor items, but won’t commit to huge projects, and must be able to let them go without too much angst when the time comes.






“I’m going out.  To do something.  With someone.  It’s a surprise.”  was my text to the Man yesterday.  His reply, “Any one of those things would be a surprise.”  He’s not wrong.  I’m a proto-hermit.  For the most part, I’m good with that.  I won’t go into all the ways Italy reinforces it.  But yeah, my days are mostly full of Go to the Gym, do the shopping, lunch & laundry, put some effort into dinner, do a little cleaning around the house, occasionally Make Good Art (beyond Dinner, which qualifies as art in trying to live a creative life).  Every day starts with a quiet devotional time where I thank God for the day before and hand over the one in front of me.

So, yesterday, not a Go to the Gym day, just after the devotion time but before the cat had completed her quiet time on my lap, I got a text inviting me to go wild asparagus hunting up in the hills.  It was one of the first beautiful days of what just might be Spring in these parts.  I said I’d love to, but I don’t know how to catch them.  She said they’re very slow but hide well.  I made an asparagus trap out of a tall skinny box with a plastic sleeve inside.  We met later and drove up past the Buddhist Monastery, nearly pasting two maroon monks talking on their cell phones walking along the side of the road, to a big park she knows.  Italy is veined with frequently well-marked trails ~red/white/red flags painted on trees and rocks, often with the designated trail number on them as well~ one may follow over hill, dale, and private property.

Thrilled by the hunt, I forgot to take pictures of the asparagus plants.  So here is a stock photo: Wild-asparagus

Not at all what I expected.  But peculiar enough in the region to stand out.  They are prickly themselves and keep truly ferocious neighbors, most notably blackberry bushes.  I was picking thorns out of my hair at the end of the day.  The canvas barn coat was a good call.  Even heavier trousers wouldn’t have gone amiss.  The asparagus plants are rangy and tend to sprawl.  The branches must be followed back to the base, where the new delicious sprouts spring up.  It was an odd and exciting sensation to be eyeing along a horizontal trail then suddenly being looking up a vertical shoot, the quarry! sometimes with great disappointment to see the tender top had already been taken by another.  Each plant shoots only one or two stalks at a time, so every reach into the briars which yielded nothing was a let down.

But it was an amazingly successful day!  Wild asparagus are very very skinny compared to commercial varieties.  But still, the box was full, enough for 4 small side portions at dinner.  Which I also forgot to document in my haste to snarf them down while hot, after a quick sauté in olive oil.

I went out.  And did something.  With someone.  And shared the spoils.  It was a very good day, about 3 1/2 hrs of hiking and hunting.  Phew.  I think I’ll stay in this weekend and run a good CatCamp.


Asparagus a meter long? Ridiculous. (Not looking my best at the end of the day, but happy, really) Note thorn repellant barn coat.

Battle of Wills

It’s no fun, standing on principle, sticking to your guns, enforcing an established policy… with the cat.  You may remember when I lost … big… in the effort to teach Kiwi to use the toilet.  Clay cat litter is an ecological disaster, from its strip-mined beginning to its land-filling end.  Here in the slightly-less-than-1st-World, I didn’t have many options.  We settled on pelletized sawdust litter with a fabulous sifting sandbox arrangement (Feline Pine until I found the same thing for rodents and rabbits much cheaper).  Puddles turned to dust and fell through to the lower level, solids were scooped out, and the litter box remained fresh and pristine.  I loved it.  Kiwi did not.  But she abided it.  There continued the Marching & Shouting drama production on a daily basis.  The cat has about two jobs.  Every day it’s as though she has never done either before.  Without pointing fingers at any particular culture, it’s a familiar scenario.  She comes by it honestly.  But I’d won!  We were using an ecologically sustainable, acceptably hygienic, reasonably aesthetic  system.  She wasn’t as unhappy with it as she had been with the toilet ~there were no protests of frustration beyond the shouting~ but she wasn’t happy.

Then some friends told me about a litter they’d found: made from barley scraps, super clumping, and locally available.  Hmm, that’s nice.  I really like my pellets.

What kind of horrible mother am I?  Here I was presented with an alternative which satisfied all my original constraints, but I’d already become attached to something I liked better.  Sound familiar in any of your relationships?  You’ve won the battle, but then it comes into your power to be gracious and make a better compromise.  We don’t like to back off of a Win.  I was right and it was working, even though I knew my sweet little cat, who has no real power in this world, was struggling.  It was starting to feel like pride, the kind that goeth before a fall.  I had given up my first, best intention, conceded to having a sandbox in the house.  That should be enough.  The still small voice was speaking to me.  “When we know better, we do better.*”  I knew better.  We could try this something new.  It might be almost as good for me and almost certainly better for Kiwi.


I’ve said before that God uses children to teach us many things.  For those who are not called to reproduction, nay, even warned against it, He uses the wee ones we do care for.  Making good decisions makes us better people, one battle of wills at a time.

*Maya Angelou ~ not that she is any still small voice, but rather her quote was a road sign as I was beginning to know better.

Put It Where Your Heart Is

One of my favorite animal sanctuaries is the Gentle Barn in California.  They rescue and provide lives of health, comfort, and dignity to creatures who would, on any other day, be eaten.  By people.  For the most part, they do take in animals who have been in horrible, suffering situations; abused dairy cows, sick veal-crated calves, neglected captives of backyard butchers:  all victims of someone’s demand for cheap meat.  For every individual, it is salvation from torture and torment.  But as has been pointed out to me, they are plain old domestic animals, nothing endangered or more exotic than an escaped peacock who saw a good thing.  In the USA, it is their fate to be slaughtered and enter the food chain.  Couldn’t all that money which goes for veterinary care, feed, and housing be better put to use for a grander cause?  Saving habitats, fighting for clean air and water, prosecution of the Big Baddies out there?

Maybe.  But it takes passion and drive to do those things, too.  We don’t get to choose what breaks our hearts, what lights that fire to make a difference.  Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “To know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived, that is to have succeeded.”  Perhaps Emerson sets the bar too low.  There is so much suffering in the world that it is sadly easy to find a life to whom one may provide comfort.  How many of us do?  Daily?  Weekly?  When was the last time you gave something of yourself to a suffering soul?

The people at Gentle Barn do it every day for about one hundred and seventy creatures who otherwise would have suffered and died long ago.*  Stopping another ton of steaks and burgers from reaching American plates won’t save the world or a species or, really, anyone but that steer.  But their hearts broke for a miserable, sick, and dying calf, so they gave him … and so many other plain old animals… a life worth living.  Humans aren’t endangered by any means; 7,000,000,000 and rising.  We are plain old animals, too.  But we have all the power.

We can salvage devastated habitats.  We can stop pouring filth into the air and water we all need to survive.  We can fight the evil and greed in the system.  But center stage isn’t everybody’s calling.  We are only effective where we are driven to be, where our personal passions take us.  Yet, the cynic in me says it’s only going to get worse.  There is no turning around for the human race.  But it is still in my power to give comfort to some.  Thank you, Mr. Emerson, for believing in a success that I can achieve.

As I write this, I mourn the passing of a little old lady cat today.  She was at the end of a long life, well lived and well loved.  She was here at CatCamp just two weeks ago.  It wasn’t an easy session for any of us.  Her kidney failure made her poor frail body rank.  Every time she fell asleep, I feared she wouldn’t wake.  I might even have seen the Rainbow Bridge over her shoulder.  In the middle of a night, dimly by the streetlight that shines rudely through the bedroom window, I saw in her face the kitten she must have been so many years ago.  It was my honor to care for her, a plain old calico cat, to do those mundane things that let her breathe easier.  I am called to small things and small things do matter.


*Gentle Barn also has programs for underprivileged and at-risk youth.  They visit the sanctuary, learn about the animals’ stories, and make compassionate connections to other beings who were dealt lousy hands, too, but have learned to trust and become themselves after all.

My Word for 2014: Content

Which one did you see?

content 1 |kənˈtent|


in a state of peaceful happiness : he seemed more content, less bitter.

• satisfied with a certain level of achievement, good fortune, etc., and not wishing for more …


content 2 |ˈkänˌtent|


1 (usu. contents) the things that are held or included in something…

• information made available by a Web site or other electronic medium : online content providers.

Yes.  I’m going to be more mindful of what I put, and allow, into my life and work.  Then I’m going to be happy with it.

“Content driven” is everywhere, in relation to web sites, marketing, design, commerce.  There seem to be two schools of thought on where to begin any of these activities: content-driven vs. design-driven, what you are selling vs. how you are going to sell it.  Maybe it is the latest incarnation of Form vs. Function, which has always puzzled me.  It should not matter how beautiful it is if it doesn’t perform.  Seven years in Italy have only substantiated this conviction.  So, yes, it does my spirit good to see “content-driven” become a thing, as obvious as it is to me that one should be clear on what is to be done before beginning to do it.

“Content, driven” is more what I need to be, to shed the frustration about things over which I have no control and to put real energy into those which I do.  Check in here one year from now and see if I’m ready to declare Driven for 2015.

You, dear readers, deserve uplifting, enlightening, finely-crafted content here where you give me precious time out of your day.  Thank you for your support and encouragement.  I write because I must.  Nothing makes sense until I’ve sorted it into words.  So you get a smörgåsbord of my life.  That is not at all how the “blogging experts” say to do it.  But I’m not trying to make money or be popular.  Knowing my thoughts touch your mind or your heart is gravy.  Good, good gravy.  Yes, Amy, I remember you were going to claim “gravy” for your Word of the Year.  It makes the hard & dry good and the good even better.  I wish all of you all the gravy you need to be content with whatever 2014 puts on your plate.

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