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4 posts from February 2013

Garden of StonesFebruary 26, 2013

THIS IS MY FAVORITE BOOK IN THE LAST YEAR, and it comes out TODAY! (And I'm giving away a couple, so read on!) 

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Garden of Stones, Sophie Littlefield


Disclaimer: Sophie Littlefield is a very dear friend of mine. This, however, has nothing to do with the way I feel about her writing. In fact, I'd say that the only problem I do have with our friendship is that sometimes I think, Why does a writer like HER like ME? She's so good. She writes emotion so that you feel it knife your gut, and then you turn the page and you read a sentence that makes you sigh with happiness. 

So I'm very proud to host her on the blog today. This newest book is about mother-daughter relationships so real I predict they won't let you go when you turn the last page. I love the book, and I know you will, too.

Rachael's Unconventional Sleep-Deprived Interview 

1. What fact that you learned while doing the research for Garden of Stones that was the most resonant for you? 

At the start of WWII, there were three orphanages in San Francisco and Los Angeles for Japanese-American children. Often, those of mixed race had been abandoned by their parents and were considered unadoptable. At the outset of the war, all three of the orphanages were closed, the children sent to Manzanar, where they lived in a building called the Children's Village. After the war, Japanese-American families adopted some of the children, but the rest were returned to social services in whatever city they'd lived in before the war.

I think this struck me with such force because some of the children were *infants* - and others had as little as 1/16th Japanese blood. And yet, they were considered a threat to national security.

2. omg I'm so sleepy. How are you today?

Aw, sweetheart, I'm doing great - but I've definitely got all of those book-launch symptoms: eating everything in sight (just polished off the last few Triscuits and the salty crumbs in the bottom of the box), and finding anything at all to do so I don't have to work. Moments ago I was lying on the floor talking to the dog, who is much more sanguine about the process of books coming to life than I am. 

3. I love reading about mother/daughter relationships, and the one in this book is so weighted and fraught with emotion. Um, thanks for that. [Insert your answer to my non-asked question here.]

Yeah, right? You and I have talked about our moms a lot. And how many times have you talked me off one mom ledge or another, reminding me that the kids will be fine? The mother-child (and in particular the mother-daughter) relationship is one of those subjects you can puzzle over forever, and never come up with any definitive conclusions. In fact...I believe that the more I ponder, the less I know. Fiction is a good place to work out my feelings, though. Long ago, I planned to be a *perfect* mom. Now, I'll settle for good enough. 

Yesterday, I took my 17-year-old daughter to see Jimmy Carter speak. On the way there, my attempts at conversation were met with a full measure of disdain and eye-rolling, which makes a BART ride so much more enjoyable.  (Picture the crowded car, and me yelling, so as to be heard over the train, "I remember when Amy Carter was your age! She had the most adorable freckles!" and her trying desperately to pretend she wasn't with me.) We were barely speaking when we got to the theater. About forty-five minutes into his remarks, for no reason, Sally laid her head on my shoulder and held my hand. I'll tell you what - moments like that make all the rest way more than worth it.

4. Please take a picture of your current pair of favorite shoes and tell us why you love them. 

Wow! You're the best interviewer. Okay, here you go.

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I cannot wear these; for some reason they pinch everwhere. But I've held onto them for years. Why? - because my kids once gave them to me for mother's day. (Yes, they are covered with sequins. Which reminds me of the best gift I ever gave my own mom, who wore no makeup: a compact with bright blue and green eye shadow. Because I was six, and it was pretty and so was she.)

Can I have another favorite?  

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I also love these. I'm going to wear them to my launch party. To me, they are a reminder that I can have, do, and be anything I want, no matter how many wrong turns I take. Because I sure as hell never expected that when I was 49 years old, I would have a reason to get dressed up to go do a job I love.

5. Tacos soon? Where and why? (that's such a gimme!)

Ha! Here, and here's why: 
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(Rachael and Nicole Peeler at Mi Rancho!)
GIVEAWAY
I'll be giving away two copies (in your choice of format, paper or e-version) of Garden of Stones, one to a lucky commenter here on the blog, and one to someone subscribed to my mailing list. I'll draw on Friday, so good luck! 

Delightful Surprises! February 23, 2013

I'm better, and thank you for all the well-wishes! I had all the -itis's in slow, painful succession-- bronchitis, laryngitis, tonsillitis...

I'm just gonna let you reread that last word again.

TONSILS. I HAZ THEM.

AGAIN.

I had them out when I was thirty. And again when I was thirty-five. Five years later, guess what? They're back!

I went to the doctor last week. Now, I normally wouldn't go to the doctor with the flu.I know you just have to get over it. But do you know how quickly I dialed the phone for an appointment when I saw the white spots that looked exactly like strep on something that looked tonsils in the back of my throat? People dial 911 slower than I dialed the appointment line.

I said to the doc, "It looks like strep."

Doc, to whom people say this all day, said, "Mmmm. Open wide." Pause. Impressed, "That does look like strep." [It wasn't, actually, just a nasty case of tonsillitis which mimics it well.]

"Those look like tonsils, am I right?" I said. "Please tell me I'm overreacting."

She got a brighter light and shook her head as if to clear it. She peered in. Then she said in the smallest voice a doctor can possibly have, "They...do...look like tonsils."

"Could they be anything else?"

"Given their location, probably not."

So that's exciting! I'm a regrower of things that are really quite useless! I expect to grow parsley next. That or those painted wooden ducks whose wings spin when you stick them in a flower box.

In other news: I spilled this much ---->   .       water on my MacBook Air and it stopped working. Just fitzzlettz and nothing comes on but the fan. Yes, I'm drying it out. Yes, I'll leave it for a week to dry before trying to turn it on again (I did try again after two days and no dice). I'm kind of feeling like my tiny little friend might never wheeze back into life.

And dude, I was panicked over this. I spent nine days (!) in bed with the Itis's and never opened my laptop once. Then I spilled the water the day I went back to the desk and felt as if I couldn't live another hour without my computer. Lala very rationally pointed out that I could work on any of the other computers we are so lucky to have littered about the house (her iPad, her laptop, the Mac Mini in the living room (which I kind of forgot was a computer because I only watch TV on it)). So I did work, but I tell you what, it's weird writing fiction on a big flat-screen television. THE DIALOGUE WAS SO BIG. IT FELT VERY LOUD.

So I bought an iPad Mini to fill in the gap while I'm waiting to see what will happen with the computer. I'm writing this blog on it now, and I really like it. I'd forgotten how nicely the iPad does just one thing at a time. Sure, I can check Twitter, but it takes actively moving away from this writing screen, and it slows me down. I'll probably return it when I get the computer fixed or if it turns back on.

Probably.

Oh! I'm so chatty  today I almost forgot to tell you (but I told Twitter): I finished a sweater! I love it.

Lady Marple, details at Ravelry.

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Aside - Did I ever tell you about the surgeon I mortally offended when I joked that I could cut off a finger, no problem, because I'd just grow it back? He held up the four (total) fingers of his right hand and said, "It's not funny. I almost lost my profession when I lost this." (I hadn't noticed his missing finger, and I probably never would have. I did feel awful and apologized profusely.)

SickeeFebruary 16, 2013

Hooo. What with all that clean living and healthy eating, I've gone and fallen really sick (bronchitis, knocking at pneumonia's door, says the doc). I've been sick 8 days now and still can't walk across a room without breaking into a coughing fit that scares the neighbor's dogs. I'm mightily over this, but it's over me yet, so I'm just dropping in to say a couple of things: 

1. I'm knitting legwarmers. I would have bet all the quarters in my change jar (there are a LOT of them) that I would never say this, but I'd have lost the bet. I want a sock-like thing to tuck into the tops of my boots and go up over my knees on top of my tights, so it looks like thigh-high knitted socks, without the work. Legwarmers, scooted up, right? Is there a term for this? Thigh-warmers just doesn't sound right. (You should search on Ravelry for legwarmers, I'm just saying. There are some doozies. And before anyone gets prickled by my mocking poor, misunderstood, useful legwarmers, please understand that in California we do not wear such things unless we are in Southern California and Making a Fashion Point. And everyone has to be allowed to mock something. Crocheters are a protected group now, so what else do we have?)

*falls over in a coughing fit that looks suspiciously like laughter

Please forgive. I'm a crocheter, too. And being sick makes me an asshole. Ask Lala. 

2. Finished Lady Marple. This is seriously exactly the sweater I've been wanting, and it was a joy to knit. She just needs buttons and for me to feel well enough to model it. 

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3. On Wednesday, I felt better for approximately forty seconds, during which I made soup. This was bottom of the barrel, kids, and it turned out SO WELL I have to share it with you. We had no stock. We had no nothing, and this still worked. You probably have every ingredient to make this right now, and it's easy and fast. The roasting is the secret here--if you throw squash into a soup, it cooks, all right, but it remains rather flavorless. Roast the veggies and chicken first? Magical soup. The total is WAY more than the sum of its parts. (Also, if I call for something you don't have, don't worry! Use a different spice! Time to play!) 

Magic Soup

Heat oven to 425. Peel and cube that butternut squash that's been languishing on the table since Thanksgiving. Rough-chop one onion (or shallot, or garlic, or all three!). Place these on a foil-lined cookie sheet along with the kinda freezer-burned chicken breast (or thigh, bone-in, bone-out, whatever) or two that you just defrosted in the microwave. Roast at 425 for about 30-45 minutes, till you like the way it looks. Bring about 8 cups water to a boil. Remove the chicken to a plate, add the veggies in to the boiling water. Lower to a nice happy simmer, and use a potato masher, big fork, or immersion blender to mash some of the squash/onion up. Add a tsp of cumin, a tsp of ground coriander, some powdered garlic if you didn't feel like adding fresh, a little rosemary perhaps, another chili powder that you like, whatever you love. SALT is necessary--perhaps a Tbs? Also necessary: an acid of some sort. I used the juice of a lemon, but vinegar would work, too. That makes it happy and bright. Shred or cube the chicken, add it to the pot, simmer till you get so hungry you can't stand it and EAT. 

Now. I can't stop coughing, so I'm going to push the computer aside and lie back down and pretend I feel well and that I'm having a glorious lie-in (which won't work--it never works--why can't we ENJOY being in bed when we have to be there? Grrr). I hope you're well. xo

ConverStationsFebruary 6, 2013

I found myself very inspired and moved by this short TED talk by Karen Walrond on seeing the beauty and finding connection in other people. (I totally have a crush on her now. She's crush-worthy.) 

Her 1000 Faces project, showing the uncommon beauty of regular people, is worth some time, too.

I was on BART the other day, coming back from San Francisco at 6pm, right at rush hour. I followed a woman onto the packed train, and a flower dropped from her hair. I picked it up and gave it back to her, and we had that moment. You know that one? Where you talk to someone, just for a few minutes, and you get them, and they get you too. I'm pretty convinced we could all find more of these, if we looked. In the fifteen minutes we spent speeding under the bay, we talked gardening and shoes. We compared her kids to my cats (her kids buy her more birthday presents than Digit buys me, I tell you what). We bonded over tuberoses and gardenias, burying our noses in the flowers she was carrying. She gave me a sprig of jasmine from her hair and wished that her plant was in bloom already, as ours is. She touched me on the arm at least five times, that You know? Right? touch, and it was so lovely, as she was. 

Of course, people on the train (the ones not wearing earbuds) stared. We were obviously strangers, but we were laughing out loud at each other's jokes, grinning at each other in delight. Those who weren't staring at us kept their eyes on the devices they were holding. 

I'm usually a device-holder, too. I hate being that guy, but I like to read a book on my phone on the train. I like to check Twitter. I like to send texts. I really like to not have to eavesdrop on annoying half-conversations people have on their phones (I'd rather eavesdrop on both sides if possible). But how many flower ladies do I not chat up? How much light am I not seeing? How many conversations between stations (converstations?) am I missing? 

Food for thought. Tell me your most recent nice random encounter? 

[Book recommendation: I'm reading Jerusalem Gap, and the voice is amazing. I can't stand for it to end, and I'm only half-way through. Dog lovers, this one's for you.]