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Daisy takes a bath.

Winter is full upon us, and so is my winter skin.  I get so spoiled in the hot, humid summers here, rarely needing moisturizer, glistening like a frog in a bog.  Then winter creeps the cold and dry into all the cracks and my skin dries out until it looks and feels like paper.  Mmmm sexy.

I love to warm up on a chilly winter day with a hot bath, but soaking in a tub of hot water is murder on my skin – I dry up faster than Lindsay Lohan in rehab.  I used to douse myself with bottles and bottles of lotion afterwards, but my skin always seemed to soak it right up and be just as tight and dry as ever. 

But wait Gentle Reader!  Despair not!  I have discovered the secret to baby smooth winter skin, and because I love you all so much, I shall reveal it to you.  Drumroll please (you have to imagine the drumroll yourself)….    

Twice weekly oil massage/salt scrub/hot bath! 

It sounds decadent, which it is.  And it’s also easy and cheap, and don’t the Herban Cowgirls just LOVE easy and cheap?  So here’s how you do it.

Warm up the bathroom and gather your usual towel, washcloth and soap.  Go to the kitchen and get a dish of regular table salt.  Get some oil, a few tablespoons to a quarter cup.  Any kind of oil will do.  I use whatever’s cheapest or whatever’s going rancid (hey, can’t eat it, might as well use it!), usually olive oil.

DISCLAIMER:  I am about to suggest pouring oil on your naked body while sitting in a slippery tub!  This is clearly an idea fraught with peril!  If you have never done this before, BE CAREFUL!!  Rubber mats and extra towels can save you some bruises (or worse!), but use your judgment and BE SAFE.  Again:  DANGER!  SLIPPERY OIL!

Okay, now take your clothes off and rub the oil all over your body while you sit in the slippery tub.  Really massage it in there.  I like to go from the extremities towards the heart.  I usually do this part standing, since the tub is COLD under my butt, but you may feel safer sitting.  Again, the slippery oil.  Danger and all.

Once you’ve oiled yourself slippery, it’s time to salt scrub those hamhocks.  Get some salt on those hands and polish that skin, working in circles from the extremities towards the heart.  I hope I don’t have to tell everyone to avoid your face with this treatment.  Please do not scrub handfuls of salt into your face.  You will not feel spa fresh doing that.

When you’re covered shoulders to feet in oil and salt, it’s time for your hot bath.  Yay!  I like to add a few drops of lavender essential oil and swish it around.  Rinse off all the salt, letting it dissolve into the hot water.  Massage the oil into your skin, using the washcloth to remove excess oil from all your cracks and crevices.  After a good soaking, if I still feel overly oily, I rinse off a few minutes more in a hot shower.

HERE IS ANOTHER DISCLAIMER:  I am about to tell you to hoist your oiled body out of a ceramic tub!  Danger!!  Use a towel to dry your hands off, or put a hand towel on top of your rubber bathmat, or call someone in to help you – whatever you have to do to get out of the tub safely.  Also make sure you remove all excess oil with your washcloth and/or towel.  Oil will stain your clothing and sheets!  Use caution please!!

Okay now hoist your oiled body out of your tub.  Rub yourself dry with your towel.  Congratulations.  Your skin is now softer than it’s been since the day you were born.  Now put on your jammies and snuggle under the covers with a book and some hot chocolate. 

You’re welcome.

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fern rambles on

well, dear readers, i must say i hope you haven’t missed me.  i hope you have been doing what i’ve been doing- spending time with the ones you love the most.

last month i decided to cut my “social networking” time online down to nil until after the baby boy arrives.  i fully intended to blog regularly despite my virtual diet, but, honestly, it was just so darn peaceful without the glare of the computer screen in my peepers, and with all of the holiday to-do’s, well, i just couldn’t seem to find the motivation to sit down and type.  i do hope you’ll be forgiving.

there has been, of course, a lot going on.  but, when is there not, really?  now in my 8th month of pregnancy, i am slower and yet somehow more motivated than ever.  push a baby out of me?  are you kidding?!  anything else seems like a piece of cake by comparison.

so, i’ve been kicking ass at yoga.  it makes me feel human again, and my body, having been scrunched up around my belly and limited to side-sleeping each night, welcomes the up and down dogs with wide open hips.  warrior poses make me feel ready to face birth with calm and strength, and squeeze this child right on out and into the world.  and any variation of goddess pose, a.k.a. squats, puts me deeply in touch with the eternal mother.  yeah.  i feel powerful.  hear me roar!

of course, there’s also the practical, day-to-day stuff that’s been happening.  i finally got myself on a cleaning schedule.  i know that this is not terribly exciting, but it is liberating to have a clear chart in front of me outlining daily what needs to be done.  i have the daily chores, five in the morning and five at night.  they take me less than an hour to complete.  i have 3 tasks each day to focus on, and they typically take me anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour and a half.  so i end up only spending 3-4 hours a day on housework, and i get to enjoy a tidy and welcoming home.  and even if i have a down day and end up sleeping rather than bathing dogs, the chores still seem pretty manageable when i know there’s just another wednesday around the corner to do it.  not to mention, it takes a load off of my mind knowing that the honeyman can easily check in on what needs to be done during those first weeks of sleepless baby delirium.  which is coming really, really soon.

there have been other wonderful developments.  the honeyman and i have had an outpouring of support and help from some of the most wonderful humans we have ever met.  daisy and the herban cowboy donated their lovingly cared-for carseat to us.  daisy has also gifted me with freezable soup and chili, baby toys, and two crucial books that are going to help me in a big, big way once this mothering gig is in full swing.  not to mention being enthusiastic and available (along with the lovely M) as my labor and birth support mama.  she may be an athiest, but she’s an angel to me!

my prenatal yoga teacher, another blessedly giving soul, is loaning us her co-sleeper (which, by the way, doubles as a pack-n-play!), as well as a baby wrap.  my sweet baby sister, a mother of 4 herself, passed along a gently used baby swing, a walker, bouncy jumper, 2 playmats, a baby chair, and a moses basket.  wow.  and there’ll be boy clothes galore once the baby is out of onesies.  we bought a barely used, bad-ass jogging stroller from my oldest friend at nearly 1/3 of it’s retail cost(which will totally come in handy if these skinny running dreams i keep having ever manifest!).  so far we’ve saved more than we’ve spent!

we opted not to buy a crib, or a changing table.  we found some blogs about the montessori bed method, where the entire room is baby-proofed, and once the kid is toddling around and ready to move out of the family room/bed, he sleeps right on the floor on a futon mattress.  if he rolls off, he won’t have far to fall.  many parents report a calmer, more independent babe.  and i like the idea of spending our hard-to-come-by dollars on something that our son will be able to use for a good, long time.

and if i get half as much post-partum help as i am being offered, i just may be able to get a nap AND a shower!  score!!!

and the piece de resistance?  my wonderful mother, for what may be the very first time in my life, got me the one thing i really wanted for christmas.  oh, trust me, she always meant well…  but being a dirt-loving tomboy, and a messy and creative child, the collectible gifts she gave me every year for as long as i can remember have all been broken.  i gleefully ripped the glued-on wigs of many a porcelain doll(each one valued at $50-$100) to see what dolls hair went best with which painted-on shoes.  fine lace and velvet frocks were lost.  many of the girls didn’t make it out of their trysts and adventures with their hands and feet intact- i think one young lady even lost a nose.  and those were just in the first 14 years of my life.  the bi-monthly moves i made between the years of 2007-2009 sent many of the remaining fractured pretties crashing into the garbage bin(sorry, mom…i tried to tell you i wanted art supplies!).  the few salvageable items i managed to mercy, i eventually gave to my sister- she shares my mom’s affection for lovely, collectible things one can put on a shelf or in a glass case and marvel at how much it might be worth one fine day.

so, i have kept you in suspense, long enough, dear reader.  my sweet mother, after years of exasperation never knowing what to get me, simply asked me what i wanted this year.  my answer?  a juicer.

and let me tell you folks, in these final days of pregnancy, when i barely leave the house (there’s still so much to do!), you can find me polishing up my juicer like some men polish their ferraris.  seriously.  i love the damn thing.  honeyman and i began our juicing adventure on new years eve, and we haven’t felt better.  we now have more veggies in our bellies than ever before, and i worry less about getting good nutrition in those first weeks postpartum (in all of his beautiful ability, the honeyman is not a cook!).  and i get super excited when i see all of that luscious, soft pulp going into the compost to become nutrient-rich soil come the spring.  oh, sure, i could bake with it- and someday i plan to- but for now, the idea of building fertile earth right from my kitchen into my backyard makes me giddier than a soccer mom on black friday.  our garbage, and even our recycling, is drastically reduced.  we make half a press of coffee rather than a full one.  nothing smells in our fridge, and no produce gets left behind- even the things we don’t normally like taste great when juiced with apples and oranges!  the honeyman and i get 3-4 servings of vegetables before we’ve even fried our morning eggs.  and i look ahead to the spring, when the eggs we eat will be from our own backyard, and with a baby on my back, i will sow the seeds of sustainability, right here in my own home.

namaste, ya’ll!

my morning kitchen

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Daisy butchers a Dickens classic.

I am not getting you a Christmas present.  There, there; dry your tears.  It’s not as bad as it sounds.  Really.  If you think I’m a Scrooge, join me for a Christmas Carol, Herban Cowgirl style.  First, let’s follow the Ghost of Christmas Past to an amalgam of Little Daisy’s childhood Christmases….

By Thanksgiving, my mother would always announce (quite emphatically and sadly) that This Year We Were Not Going To Have A Big Christmas.  She would explain to my younger sister and I that we were very fortunate to have all that we did, and Christmas isn’t about getting presents anyway.  Then, over the next few weeks, my sister and I would watch as the drifts of brightly wrapped packages got bigger and bigger under the tree, eventually spreading across the living room floor like an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  Then of course, Christmas morning would arrive, and with it, all the rest of the toys and goodies that Santa had left for us in the night.  It was a toy orgy beyond most children’s wildest dreams.

I was always excited for Christmas, and eagerly anticipated its arrival, but so much about the holiday confused me, even at a young age.  Why do people put up decorations and do Christmas stuff for weeks before the actual day?  Nobody does that with any other holiday.  Why do we get/give so many presents?  In the stories, Santa only brings one, and what do presents have to do with Jesus being born anyway (my mom always said it was because of the Magi, but they only brought one present each as well)?

I was too young to be able to articulate it, but I always wished for a truly simple Christmas.  There was something about opening ALL those presents that made me feel uncomfortable.  I also spent a lot of time thinking about the Jewish kids, and wondering why Santa never left them any presents.  On a side note that the Herban Cowboy thinks is hilarious (he grew up Jewish), I always assumed that any undecorated houses at Christmastime were where the Jewish people lived.

Enough idyllic Christmas scenes from Daisy’s childhood; the Ghost of Christmas Present will take it from here.  First of all, I do love getting gifts for people.  I love finding something that makes me think of someone I love, knowing that they will love it.  I love the look on people’s faces when they receive a gift that truly touches them.  What’s so difficult about it?  Make a list, check it twice, shop, wrap, give.

Of course what works in theory often falls apart in practice.  Making the list, even when I check it twice, I invariably forget at least one very important person.  I really hate shopping, but when the stores are twice as crowded as normal and everyone seems to be rude and pushy and angry for some reason, it’s even worse.  I also hate wrapping presents.  I don’t know why, but I always have.  I’d rather be waterboarded for an entire minute than wrap any kind of gift. 

So the actual giving part is the only part of this entire process that doesn’t irritate me.  And don’t even get me started on the boring, awful Christmas music.  I know some of you love that stuff and that’s fine, but imagine the most annoying music you can think of being played everywhere you go for an entire month.  Gah!

Sometimes I make homemade gifts for people, but I do that year round anyway.  And some people think handmade gifts are cheap.  I’ve even had someone say to me, referencing the bath salts I just handed her, “It’s hard to be able to afford gifts for everyone.”  I just let it go, but I always want to explain to people that I have enough money to buy them a gift but I chose instead to… Uch.  You know what?  Nevermind.

I do feel pangs of guilt when I hear my mother or sister talk about how many gifts they’ve gotten for people and how much shopping they still have to do, because I know that all they’re getting from me are secondhand books and homemade soup mix (hastily wrapped in brown paper).  It’s hard not to judge myself because I’m not putting as much thought or effort into their Christmases as they do mine.

Perfect. The house is now decorated. Pass the eggnog.

So where do I go from here?  How do I celebrate the holiday in a personal and meaningful way without succumbing to the pressures of the perceived expectations of others?  This is where the Ghost of Christmas Future gently takes our hands and leads us to a vision of the Christmases to come.

Daisy’s utopian Christmas?  One present for Little Boy from mom and dad, and one present from Santa.  One small Christmas tree covered with two strings of lights and a bunch of old ornaments.  Homemade food and drink, freely shared with friends and family.  We’ll spend a weekend making presents for our extended family, each year a different project; salt dough ornaments or handmade cards or whatever crafty idea suits our fancy that year. 

In my imaginary future Christmases, I feel no guilt for not celebrating the way others do.  I give what I can, when I can.  I accept gifts with grace, without feeling the pressure to reciprocate. 

I’ve already started making these changes towards my ideal future Christmas.  This year I Freecycled all the decorations except the tree, two strands of lights, a box of ornaments and our stockings.  No garlands, no wreaths, no extra Christmas tchotchkes.  I got my nieces one book to share.  My mom is getting some homemade lentil soup mix in a jar.  The Herban Cowboy is getting some sexy flannel PJ pants (I’m going to burn his nasty sweatpants so help me).  A few of my Cowgirl friends will be the lucky recipients of some books I no longer want in my collection. 

And that’s it kids.  No guilt, no shame, no pressure, no excess.  This may sound crazy coming from a non-believer, but I’m pretty sure it’s what Jesus would have wanted.

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fern gets by with a little help from her (girl)friends

it’s been a trying week for the cowgirls.  we’ve had sick boys, sick dreams, and sick hearts.  so we hope you’ll forgive us for taking so long to find our way back here to the virtual homestead.

healing comes just when you think it won’t.

we three, with the help of the wise and wonderful M., held a dream burning ritual.  but not before cookies (gluten-free magic cookies at that!).  and not before laughing our butts off around a kitchen table, with doggies cuddling and wrestling at our feet, tails a-waggin’.  it seems nothing gets the ritual embers burning like a belly full of laughter.

after about an hour of giggling ourselves to tears, we sat.  we sat by the glow of the moon, which was dim in comparison to the light of the street lamps, which was dim in comparison to the fire in our bellies.  we sat in an empty room full with promise, surrounding an old cast iron pot.  we sat and we shared our deepest fears, our most terrifying nightmares, and the images and voices that haunt us even in the daylight.  we faced our saddest and scariest moments, and we each wrote something on a scrap of paper that meant something only to us in our own ghost stories.  we shared until there was no more to share.  and then, we watched as our fears burned, as each fear ignited another until they all were consumed with fire.  we watched as the flame grew too high for comfort, and i’m sure mine wasn’t the only pulse to quicken as potential danger flashed through our shared awareness.  we watched as it dimmed, leaving behind only the shadows of our nightmares.

and with no further ceremony, we began to share our hopes.  we shared our dreams, those we have manifested of our own free will, for ourselves, for our children, and for the wise women with whom we will always be connected.  i think we all healed a little that night.

and of course, we hugged. because ritual is all about sharing, about giving, to each other, to our earth, and to ourselves.

but you know what the funny thing is?  it is that none of my fears actually left me.  and i’ll bet the other cowgirls experienced the same thing.  our fears, and for many, our sad and terrifying past, never actually leave us.  they remain, ever willing to test our mettle.  what we achieved that night as cowgirls, as women, had nothing to do with elimination.  we achieved a greater strength, as individuals and as a sisterhood, one that we could only connect to by meeting the eyes and hearts of other women like ourselves.  we achieved the ability to share our sacred spaces with our nightmares, without allowing them to conquer us, and we grew wiser by sharing the experience with each other.

i’ll look forward to my next nightmare, if only for the satisfaction of setting it on fire.  i do so enjoy the sights and scents of transformation.

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Daisy gets busy.

I fancy myself a writer.  I don’t exactly enjoy it, but sometimes writing out my thoughts and feelings are the only ways to make sense of them.  To see the words on paper helps me get a grasp on what’s happening in my brain.  The writing comes in fits and starts, with words and phrases floating through my mind like ghosts that need exorcising.  I’ve never been one to do it regularly.  It’s more like a switch that vents pressure inside me.       

I’ve tried to keep regular journals and morning pages, but the last third always remains empty as my momentum peters out.  I’ve started several novels, but get bogged down after the first chapter.  Short stories and essays seem to be my best form (hence the blog).  I can stay on track for one or two pages, organize my thoughts, and finish with something to show for it.  It’s satisfying.

Over the years I’ve collected several files full of partially finished material.  Notes on a screenplay that will never see the light of day.  The bones of two different plays.  An outline of a novel.  Even an entire first draft of a children’s book.

So what’s the matter with me?  I signed up for National Novel Writing Month.  I have committed to writing the first draft of a novel, at least 50,000 words by the end of November.  I seem to have momentarily forgotten that I’m an incredibly lazy person who looks for any excuse to get out of hard work.

But here I am.  I made the commitment AND I told people about it.  I decided to dust that novel outline off and do it.  I’ve been sitting on the idea for a year or two now.  I kept thinking, “Ya know, if I buckle down and do it, I could bang out a rough draft in a month or so.”

Well it’s put up or shut up time.  And, I’m proud to say, I’ve been putting up.  I’m only a few hundred words shy of where I need to be at this point, and I’ll catch up tomorrow.  The story is boring, the characters need developing, there are continuity mistakes everywhere, but I’m doing it.  For once, I’m just putting it down and agreeing to edit later.  Very scary for me.  I rarely put anything in writing without any editing.  Even a Facebook status.

The big difficulty has been finding time.  Little Boy keeps my brain busy most of the day.  I can’t concentrate on forming sentences while listening to Wow Wow Wubbzy.  And if I turn the DVD player off, he begs me to play with him.  I feel like such a crappy mom for blowing him off for an hour at a time, but I tell myself there are plenty of parents who work at home and have kids underfoot.  Being bored and learning to entertain himself are valuable experiences.

So I’m left with mostly naptime and after bedtime to write.  Of course, those are the times I’m usually napping, farting around online, or watching movies with the Herban Cowboy (my life is so hard).  Obviously, something has to give.  It’s been quite an adjustment, but I’m discovering that I don’t have to obsessively check my Facebook notifications, nor do I have to waste hours of my day watching crappy B movies and YouTube videos.  Who knew?

As frustrating as it’s been adjusting to more writing hours in the day, this is what I said I wanted.  I’ve always sort of assumed that my life would involve writing.  Articles, novels, plays, internet comedy – but I haven’t really been doing it.  I’ve just been telling myself that someday I will.

This month is a test period, if you will.  As overwhelming as it seems, it’s just a month long commitment.  At the end of the month, I’ll know if I want to keep doing this, or if I want to throw down my toys and find something else to play.

In the meantime, if you’re doing NaNoWriMo as well, look me up.  I’m greengoddess0123.

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Daisy comes clean.

When I was a teenager, I spent years honing my skin care regimen.  The magazines were clear that the only beautiful face was one free of unsightly blemishes.  A girl’s skin must appear smooth and hairless, with invisible pores (god help the poor girl with large pores).  The only way to achieve such pristine beauty was to adhere to a strict skin care regimen.  Which always involved products.  Lots of products.  A different one for every skin type (god help the poor girl who doesn’t know her skin type).

First you must cleanse your face.  There are dozens of different creams and lotions to choose from.  Most of them, you just apply and rinse off.  Then you need a toner, to remove any remaining traces of filthy, dirty oil and grimy makeup.  Once or twice a week you use a mask that either firms or tones or moisturizes.  Rinse with warm water and then splash with cold water to close those pesky, ugly pores.  Finish with a cream to moisturize – and make sure you are using a separate cream for nighttime (don’t want ugly to sneak up on you while you sleep!).

Of course all of that is complete crap. 

Gradually I parted ways with the magazine’s ideal of an array of products.  Over the years I have discovered lots of skin care “secrets,” most of which cost just pennies to make or use.  I’ve experimented with honey, avocados, oatmeal, yogurt and eggs to clean my face and used herbs to steam those dreaded pores open.  I have made toners from vinegar, rosewater and witch hazel (and also discovered that you don’t really need toner).  I’ve moisturized with everything from plain olive oil to homemade creams and lotions and body butters. 

I’m sure I could go on for pages and pages, but let’s keep focused today, shall we?  A few weeks ago, I made some facial cleanser, and Fern had come over to help me.  It’s my current favorite cleanser, so I thought I’d share the recipe and process.  The original recipe comes from Rosemary Gladstar’s book “Herbs for Natural Beauty.”

You’ll need:

2 cups of white clay (bentonite)

1 cup of rolled oats, finely ground

¼ cup almonds, finely ground

1/4 cup lavender, finely ground

1/8 cup cornmeal

From L to R: Honey, Cleansing Grains, Wonder Woman notebook, almonds, mortar and pestle, rolled oats, Gladstar book, white clay, lavender flowers, measuring cup

You may have to go to a Whole Foods or your local natural grocery store for the bentonite clay and the lavender flowers.  These will also be your most expensive of the ingredients, so it might pay to shop around a bit or buy by the pound.  If you’re in a very rural area and don’t have access to a store, you can order online.  Frontier Herbs is a good brand to try.

Make sure the oats, almonds and lavender flowers are very finely ground.  Use an herb/spice grinder, a blender or a mortar and pestle.  The mortar and pestle take the longest and use the most personal energy, but it’s a very satisfying way to do it.  You’ll get the smoothest results, though, from a coffee or spice grinder.  If the grinder is also used for coffee, your cleanser will probably smell like coffee, but that may not be a bad thing.  Depends on your taste.

After everything has been pulverized into a powder, you’re done.  Put it in a container and use a teaspoon or so at a time.  Wet the powder and massage it into your face in little circles.  Rinse.  Enjoy your baby smooth skin.

The cleansing grains can be used all over your body as a gentle exfoliant and skin softener.  Add honey to the powder to make a paste that is an excellent face mask.  Leave on for 20 minutes and rinse off.  I keep mine in a little shaker jar I got at the dollar store.  It goes on the bathroom windowsill right by the shower.  

It takes very little time to make, and is much less expensive than cleanser you buy in the store.  It’s also better for your skin than plain soap.  And with the holidays coming up, it makes an impressive homemade gift. 

Tomorrow I’m making face cream.  The weather is getting colder and drier, and so is my face.  Hopefully I can round up a small posse of Herban Cowgirls to join me in my potion making.  I’ll take pics, of course.

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Fern tries on her big (Cow)girl panties.

Today marks my first day as an Herban Cowgirl.  Well, a bona fide Herban Cowgirl.  I guess I’ve always been a little bit of one at heart.

The lush, green Fern.

To be honest, I am still a little flabbergasted, and certainly quite flattered, to be asked to be a part of something I’ve so much love and respect for.  I mean, sure, I’m certainly a wannabe witch.  But now I’m expected to act like an actualwitch.  I must admit, I’m a little nervous.

Luckily, these cowgirl witches don’t demand or even attempt perfection.  It’s all about the practice.

Seems to be me that being an Herban Cowgirl is all about trying out new things.  The yuppies call this “thinking outside the box.”  I like to use boxes to pack and carry away things I’m not using anymore, so this sounds about right to me.  The cowgirls are always looking for new and creative ways to simplify and streamline our lives, so that we can spend our precious time doing more rewarding  and fun things, and increasing our pleasure to cost ratio.

This cowgirl has a little cowpoke in her belly, and is looking forward to learning new things right along with her baby boy.  She and her loving honeyman are planning to un-school this boy, by working hard at creating an artful and abundant homestead for us all.  Among the many projects lined up for us here at the homestead are to complete a calm, barrier-free sanctuary for our little one, put up a privacy fence, build a raised bed and plant some vegetables, put up a clothesline, create an outdoor workspace for the hard-working honeyman, build a small fence around the front yard, plant fragrant wildflowers in back, butterfly-attracting lantana in front, dig a firepit, grow some culinary herbs in pots, and spruce up our little corner of the neighborhood.

But that’s certainly not all.  With what little time I have left as an independent wild woman, I am hoping to learn more than a few things, including but not limited to the following:  playing a lullaby on my guitar, sewing, making a quilt for my boy, reducing the amount of trash we create, finding uses for the trash that we do create, paint more paintings, grow my hair to my butt, and begin work on the many stories sprouting in my head.

I’m not going to make any promises, but I am eager to see what I can do and what I decide isn’t worth the trouble.  I hope you’ll enjoy this blunderful journey as much as I will.

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