A blog of art, photography, food and writings.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


I wouldn't say that I'm an "animal lover," though I do care about my furry brethren and even have a few roaming around my house. These animals are family members, not because I purposely went out looking for them at an animal shelter or pet store, but because they continue to weasel their way into my life.

For umpteen years my husband and I have had cats. First, it was "Tessa," the hand-me-down feline passed along from a high school friend who could no longer care for her. I loved that cat dearly though I sneezed my way through years of cuddling. Unfortunately, she died of feline leukemia back in 1993.

Then came "Yuki," the parking lot find. We literally found her roaming around, meowing for help in a dark parking lot as we exited a store. My husband said, "No way! Not another cat!" I said, "How can you say 'no' when she's already jumped inside the car and is sitting on your lap?" Need I say more? Yuki is now 16 (she's the one schnoozing on the pillows) and simply adores my husband--the one who adamantly said, "No more cats."

Then "Callie"-the cast-away purred her way into my heart. One day while I was in a pet store buying cat food, I "happened" to walk by her cage during this store's pet-adoption-day. My goal was to go in, buy what I needed and leave quickly. But when I walked by (pretending not to look at her), this striped feline stood up, stared me down and begged me to adopt her. When I left PetCo, I had a bag of food in one arm and a stray cat in the other. My husband glared at me from the driver's seat as I timidly approached the car...

Poor little Callie died of some unknown disease back in 1998, which left Yuki alone, ready to claim her domain as 'Queen' and sole survivor.

That, of course, was only until the next cat appeared on the scene, ready to disturb Yuki's peace.

It seems to be my fate that animals are a part of my life--and yet, like I said, I wouldn't categorize myself as an animal lover.

A few years ago I stopped by my neighbor's house to say goodbye because she was moving to Sacramento. As I wished her well in her move, she shoved a kitten into my jacket and said, "Here. Take this little kitten home and see how you like her." Like her? Is it possible to NOT like a kitten? I brought the pipsqueak home, placed her on the couch and waited to see if my husband would notice her when he got home from work. Sure enough, when he was ready to plunk himself down, she let out a little squeal, and bingo, the shock immediately turned to love at first sight. This keeper became known as "Cricket," or more humorously as "Fatty," because my 94-year old neighbor feeds her constantly, making her look like a hairy version of a walrus.

There isn't a day that goes by that I don't complain and whine about the needs of these animals. They're hungry. They need to go out. They need to be let in. It just doesn't seem to end. Really.

And the menagerie continues to grow...

While on a trip out to the desert last spring--in the middle of nowhere (think Mojave)--a puppy appeared. Yes, a puppy. Black, cute, submissive, tired, thankful to be found. Did we need a dog? Did we want a dog? NO. NO. NO. Did we bring that dog home? YES. YES. YES. My daughter was in heaven. My husband and I were in a state of canine shock; and frankly still are. We love, "Lunah," but man are dogs a different kettle of fish. They bark, whimper, growl, and pant. They trot, run, jump and dig. And they're devoted to their owners in an almost pathological way. We humans don't do anything special to make them so bonded to us, but they continue to be faithful.

I feel absolutely inundated with these animals. Everywhere I turn, there they are stealing spots and filling the air with their cacophony of sounds. The cats curl up on places where I'd like to sit, and the dog follows me from room to room like a little toddler. Am I THAT lovable and nice? I don't think so. But I have learned that companionship during a quiet time at home is actually nice. When I think I'm alone, all I need to do is to look around and see the two sleeping beauties--Yuki and Cricket--and their canine sister, Lunah, somewhere near my feet, and I'm reminded that having furry friends is not such a bad thing after all. In fact, it's kind of growing on me.

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Friday, December 15, 2006



Photo by Bruce I. Lissak

Taken at Sherman Library and Gardens, Corona del Mar, California

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Thursday, December 14, 2006


Though I am not a vegetarian, many of the dishes I make are based on meat-free ingredients. For example, as I write this blog, I have a crockpot going with lentils, vegetable broth, sliced leeks and diced carrots. This will be part of my menu for the evening meal.

The other day when I was scouring the fridge for a lunch, I found a collection of ingredients that I thought would make a good "wrap." The beauty of wraps is that you can literally throw anything inside a tortilla, chapati, or other flatbread--and in no time you've got a simple meal.

Here's a recipe that's a snap:

serves 2

2 vegetarian burgers, such as Gardenburgers or Dr. Praeger's
oil for frying
2 Ezekial, sprouted-grain tortillas
2 cups mixed salad greens, rinsed well, patted dry
1/4 cup roasted nuts, coarsely chopped (walnuts taste great)
2 T. dried cranberries
your favorite salad dressing

In a medium frying pan, add a little oil and warm. Fry burgers until golden on both sides. Remove from pan and dice into large pieces. Over an open flame on the stove burner, or on a dry skillet--such as an iron one--warm the tortillas. Lay them out on a chopping board and fill with ingredients, divided in half for each wrap.

Pour dressing over filling, then fold like a burrito.

These make a wonderful lunch or a satisfying dinner along with a vegetable or nicely seasoned black beans.

Try these other fillings as well:
whole pintos
steamed corn kernels
diced avocado
chopped onions--white, green or red
sliced black olives
grated cheese

A Lavosh wrap:
warmed falafel balls/patties
chopped romaine lettuce
chopped tomatoes
cubed cucumber
crumbled feta or goat cheese
yogurt sauce, thinned with water and seasoned with salt, crushed garlic and chopped parsley

*Lavosh is a thin, whole-wheat Armenian flatbread. Perfect for a wrap.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


5 X 7"

Rena Williams, watercolor artist
Auburn, Alabama

Rena Williams' Blog

Rattling Gourd Gallery website

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Monday, December 11, 2006


After I posted my previous entry, an awareness bubbled up in me regarding some alarming patterns. As I moved about the house I realized that I had stacks of books in every room--dare I admit--a pattern that teeters on the edge of clutter, which for me, is a form of the plague.

There they were: stacks in the office. Stacks in the living room next to my favorite chair (this particular pile reaches nearly two feet tall). Stacks in the family room and bedroom.

The more I looked, the more I found--and not just books. I found stacks of magazines. Afterall, I write articles for magazines and am constantly scoping out ideas, so I NEED lots of "pubs" on hand to glean from. A writing teacher once said that this was a must for being a magazine writer. The problem is...when do you actually recycle the old ones? Isn't there always a golden nugget somewhere between the pages that may pop out at me? One that I might have missed before???

Then there were more stacks: writing books, cookbooks, a stack from my 50th birthday party--a "literary tea."

I hate clutter, so my problem with stacks is a dilemma to me. I either have to read these books and give them away, or resign myself to being a book/magazine/cookbook hoarder.

I think I'll work on the latter because there's comfort in being surrounded by the words of others, whether these words come in the form of inspiration, writing technique or a fabulous recipe.

So here's to books!

Below are some titles from one of my stacks: These were hand-picked by my beloved girlfriends, and I'm slowly but surely plucking from the pile:

The Good Earth, by Pearl Buck
Kitchen Table Wisdom, by Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D.
The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand
Open House, by Elizabeth Berg
Message in a Bottle, by Nicholas Sparks
Pigs in Heaven, by Barbara Kingsolver
The Joy Luck Club, by Amy Tan
Range of Motion, by Elizabeth Berg
Walking the Bible, by Bruce Feiler
House of Sand and Fog, by Andre Dubus III
Brick Lane, by Monica Ali

Friday, December 08, 2006


One of the things that keeps me deeply bonded to my girlfriends--besides humor, food, meaty conversations and good times--is a love of reading. Though our genres may differ, we enjoy sharing titles, passing on books and discussing stories that have moved us.

This week, my friend Simi sent me some books that she had recently finished, and I now possess a stack of new reads. Unfortunately, I am a poky sort, turning pages at a snail's pace and this makes looking at a stack quite daunting. Unlike Simi, who finishes a book before her eyelids close, I slowly savor each word--quite like the way I savor food: one bite at a time. I wish I could devour a book in one to two days, but I have accepted the fact that I'm obsessed with metaphor, dialogue, brilliant sentence structure and riveting characters. They snag me, then keep me hostage, almost like those spikes in the asphalt that prevent a driver from entering a parking lot the wrong way.

When I opened the box yesterday, I "oohed and aahed," perused the titles, then realized I had a big task ahead of me. Where will I begin? Which book shall I start first? Simi and I both love foreign cultures and we are inevitably drawn to titles with an international mystique--or ones which might hint of adventure. She has traveled extensively, so I can always depend on her selections to be worthy of my time.

She also has quite a collection of her own tales to tell (hint...hint...) and perhaps someday will put pen to paper. I'd love to read one of her page-turners...

In the meantime, she continues to pick up great books at local sales, and when she's finished reading them, I'm often the lucky recipient ready to "fly" to far-away lands or be enlightened on a subject related to parenting. The difficult part for me now, is to choose just one book and get on with my pokiness.

I'd like to pass along the titles--perhaps you've read a few of them already. If not, take a look and see if any pique your interest. You may want to do some arm-chair traveling or step into the world of an autistic child and a mother's struggles trying to cope, in the fiction piece titled, "Daniel Isn't Talking."

Desert Places, by Robyn Davidson, 1996 Penguin Books
The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, by Anne Fadiman, 1997, The Noonday Press
Daniel Isn't Talking, by Marti Leimbach, 2006, Nan. A. Talese
Moonlight on the Avenue of Faith, by Gina B. Nahai, 1999, Washington Square Press
Anil's Ghost, by Michael Ondaatje, 2000, Vintage Books
Travelers' Tales: A Woman's World, 1995, 1997, Travelers' Tales

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