A Secret Grave, an online serial murder mystery

I have a friend, Nicole Schindler-Jeffords, who is fabulously talented and creative. She is an artist who paints portraits in oil. She is also a published novelist and a born storyteller. She has many circles of friends. I’ve known her for at least a decade through the Austin ecstatic dance community.

Here’s are two of Nicky’s self-portraits:

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Self, by Nicole Jeffords

Continue reading

New video of Tom Best

I found an audio file on my iPhone this morning from April 17, 2011, that I didn’t know I had. What a sweet and unexpected joy it was to hear the voice of Tom Best leading a group of evolutionary NLPers on a hucha-clearing breath work journey, so much sweeter since Tom died the following April. (At least I think it’s been a little over two years since he passed.)

Enjoy this journey of lightening up the heavy events in your life!

Letters to the Future

Have you ever wished your ancestors could talk to you and tell you what their times were like? Not what the history books say, but what their own lives were like and what they were aware of in the world. Continue reading

Welcome, reader from Sao Tome and Principe

I just checked on my blog stats and noticed that someone in Sao Tome and Principe had looked at my blog yesterday. I had heard of it before and knew of it as a very tiny nation, but I wasn’t sure where it was.

I marvel at the reach of the Internet. Chances are I will never go there or meet someone in person from there, but there is now a connection between me, in Austin, Texas, USA, and some unknown person hailing from Sao Tome and Principe. Who could ever have guessed?

By hovering over the name, the map on the blog stats page showed that it’s a tiny island off the west coast of Africa. So of course I had to look up this exotic, enchanting place (where someone has read at least one of my blog posts!) in Wikipedia…

saotomemapIt’s actually a group of islands. Sao Tome and Principe are the two main islands formed from an extinct volcanic mountain range. (I bet the geology is fascinating. I love tropical volcanic islands.) This is the second-smallest African nation, after Seychelles.

The largest island was discovered by Portuguese explorers on the feast day of St. Thomas in 1471, hence the name (Sao Tome is St. Thomas in Portuguese.) The islands were uninhabited, and the Portuguese explorers decided they would make a good base for trade with the mainland.

The volcanic soil was good for growing sugar. Sadly, they imported slaves to work on the sugar plantations (not enchanting), but it became Africa’s largest exporter of sugar…until the Caribbean islands began outproducing it.

In the 19th century, coffee and cocoa were introduced. At one time it was the world’s largest producer of cocoa, still its most important crop. The landowners employed slaves, both legally and later illegally, and its history was marked by labor unrest and riots.

The islands became independent of Portugal in 1975 and is now a democracy.

saotomepeakAnyway, these islands have mountains as high as 6,000 feet! Here’s a photo of one. Yes, it is exotic with fascinating geology! Also tropical, with the average temperature of 80 degrees F. and a rainy season.

About 164,000 people live there, including someone who read a blog post here! (Hello there!)

Demographically it is also fascinating. Populated by mixed blood descendants of the Portuguese colonists and African slaves, there is also a group said to descend from African slaves shipwrecked in 1540 (!) who earn their living from fishing, as well as descendants of freed slaves, contract laborers from the African mainland, Portuguese and Sephardic Jews, and Chinese.

Cesaria Evora’s lovely song Sodade is about longing to return home to Sao Tome.

Letting the light in

Christmas morning, 2012. I’m house- and pet-sitting Mango. It’s going to be a quiet day of solitude — I accidentally left my phone at my trailer last night. So be it. Today it can wait.

My family is gathering on the 27th, when more of us are able to gather. Hospitals are open every day of the year and someone has to care for those sick people, and children of divorced parents usually split their holidays, and sometimes people move over the holidays. I am grateful to have a family to connect with at all.

Last night I attended a warm, lovely Christmas Eve potluck and jam session in a friend’s magical backyard. Sitting outside watching the waxing, near-full moon behind a big, ever-changing, cloud-studded sky, a few stars playing peekaboo, was quite enjoyable.

So much of this season is about darkness and light. It must have been a mystery to our ancestors, especially in the far northern latitudes of Europe where mine lived for so long, to observe the days growing shorter and shorter, the life-giving light and heat of the sun retreating while the cold and dark established themselves firmly. Would the sun return? Was this the end? The warmth of family and community gathering in spite of the backdrop of long, cold nights must have been especially meaningful in the face of this big cold mystery. It was to me, last night.

This must have been mysterious enough that ancient investigators began to measure changes in day length and discovered a pattern that included the winter solstice, the turning point in which the days begin to grow long again, that happened year after year. The predictability must have lent considerable order to chaos and thus been worthy of great celebrations, once they figured it out.

No wonder this time of year is celebrated by so many cultures, that the birth of God’s son was moved to this powerful time of year.

I had an urge this Christmas morning to open all the blinds at the house where I’m staying, to let as much light in as possible.

Today the skies are partly cloudy, here in Austin, TX, where winter exists but only in spurts. Today the sunshine comes and goes. The bare branches of the deciduous trees appear silhouetted against that sky.

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I’ve always appreciated winter for the way it strips away the leaves, exposing the bone structure of trees. Perhaps that’s a reason I’m drawn to giving massage — to feel through the soft tissues to the solid bone within — or to investigating and appreciating the power of the season.

The wind is blowing. The branches are waving, the remaining leaves fluttering and quivering. Hello.

I’m having a breakfast of cooked quinoa with currants, a little ghee, and honey, along with a new favorite, a delicious three-ginger tea (ginger, galangal, and turmeric from Pukka, a British purveyor of organic and Ayurvedic herbal products), a clementine and grapefruit juice. I forgot to buy special food for Christmas morning, and I’m not missing it. Oh, I’ll indulge in tamales and eggnog and sweets for a few more days and then gladly clean up my diet again. January is good for that.

Mango has been offered a bit of sockeye salmon roasted in butter, which he turned down in favor of cat treats. Go figure. Maybe we’ll sit in the sun or snuggle in a Christmas nap together later. And later I will go out, to offer chair massage to the staff at the hospital where my daughter is working, then off to another potluck and jam session with friends.

I enjoy the connections and celebrations of the season, but the most special part of this holiday to me is waking up knowing it’s Christmas, knowing it’s a holy day, a special day unlike any other, and feeling the joy of that.

Even without a gift given or received, without the feasting, without the camaraderie of my beloved family and friends, without church, music, lights, and all the traditions of the season, it’s truly just a day to be awake and to marvel in this big mystery, to be filled with gratitude and wonder for this amazing life.

As is every day!

I’m pedaling on a FitDesk as I write this!

The FitDesk that I wrote about previously arrived last week in a big box — and today was the first day I had time to devote to assembling it, testing it, and inviting friends to come over later and try it out.

I am pedaling as I write this blog post! After hopping on for seat adjustment (none needed for my 5’1″ height on the lowest setting), I decided to cycle for an hour while I read email, caught up on FB and Twitter, read some articles, and wrote this post. I set the tension control midway.

The FitDesk came with its own assembly tools! I didn’t even need a screwdriver or wrench, just a sharp knife for opening the box and unpacking the parts. Assembly was very easy and took about 15 minutes. There are 12 bolts already in place, and the desktop just slides onto the handlebars. The laptop is held in place with giant rubber bands.

FitDesk assembly tools

I did discover that the cloth covering the desktop did not have any Velcro (TM) in place for attaching the electronic monitor (which measures time, speed, distance, and calories), so I used it without the monitor. Since the purpose is to be active while getting computer work done, the monitor seemed like it would be a distraction.

I imagine the company would rectify this quickly if asked.

And now I’ve finished one hour! I did get off it a couple of times to make hard-boiled eggs and drain them.

I got a little sweaty using the midway tension control setting, which was comparable to going up a very low incline. I’m wearing exercise clothes, so no problem.

I will try it later at a lower setting dressed in business casual clothing because I’d like to find out if an office worker could use it at work and look fresh afterwards.

I can feel my sit bones! There’s no pain, but it’s been awhile since I’ve ridden a bike. The seat is wide and cushy. I imagine it just takes time to adjust to riding, no matter what kind of seat. The company suggests standing frequently, using a gel cover for the first few weeks, wearing padded cycling shorts, and, lastly, trying a different saddle (they have an accessory that allows universal saddle mounting) if it bothers you too much.


FitDesk bike seat


This is my initial report. Please let me know if you have any questions. I will write more later.


New toy: Yoga Teacher Barbie

She Exists: ‘I can be…’ A Yoga Teacher Barbie Doll.

Still with the feet. Bet she can’t do tree pose, and her triangle probably looks really weird.

Plus a chihuahua. Huh?

Get yours today, at Target.

Courtesy of Yogadork.

Ruth Reichl’s delicious deviled eggs recipe

My favorite food writer is Ruth Reichl, former food critic of the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, editor of Gourmet magazine, book author (Tender at the Bone, Comfort Me with Apples, Garlic and Sapphires, Not Becoming My Mother, and more) and a wonderful tweeter to follow on Twitter.

Her tweets are poetry, jewels of sensual delight. Here’s a recent one:

Late spring. Damp green grass beneath my feet. A flock of tiny yellow birds. Local strawberries, so sweet, drenched in thick Jersey cream.

Doesn’t that make you want to hang out with Ruth, wherever she is? She’s so present, so alive, so appreciative.

She wrote about how to make deviled eggs, and I learned several things:

  • Fresh eggs do not peel well. Get farm or backyard organic eggs from free-range chickens and let them sit in the fridge for a week before hard-boiling.
  • The term “deviled” was used starting in the 18th century to refer to spicy foods, such as deviled eggs and deviled ham. They are also called “stuffed eggs” and “mimosa eggs”.
  • If you want perfectly centered egg yolks, store the eggs on their sides.
  • Bring cold water with eggs in it to a boil, then cover and turn off the heat for exactly 12 minutes.
  • After cooking, immediately chill the eggs in a bowl of ice water to prevent the greenish tinge on the outside of the cooked yolk.

I made deviled eggs yesterday, before I read this article. They are so easy and yummy in summer! I use store-bought mayo (made with olive oil—Ruth provides the recipe for homemade—click the link above) and topped each filled egg with paprika and exactly three capers.

Below, two eggs are store-bought organic, and two are from Hal’s backyard chickens. Guess which is which? Also notice the greenish tinge on one of the yolks. That egg must not have cooled quickly enough!

My granddaughter, who turns 12 today, has a shortcut to get deviled egg flavor without the work: She peels a hard-boiled egg, cuts it in half, and smears a little yellow prepared mustard on it. Pop it in your mouth, and voila! Quick and easy!

Photos from Tom Best memorial

Scroll all the way down to the bottom of the right column and click the More Photos link (or just click this link) to view the photos I posted from Tom’s memorial service yesterday.

If you didn’t know him, maybe you can tell from the pictures how special he was.

I am happy I got to have him for a teacher and a model.

Many, many people helped make this happen, especially Katie Raver and Linaka Hana. Kudos, you two!


Best gluten-free burger in Austin at Hopdoddy’s!

I’m not sure I’ve mentioned this, but my body does not digest wheat well at all. I learned this five or six years ago, and after going without it for a couple of months while on a strict diet to clear excess candida, I noticed a very unfamiliar feeling — I felt, well, well, and I had hardly any fatigue, digestive issues, or feeling like my mood and energy level were on a roller coaster ride. For the first time in, like, forever.

I changed my diet drastically, although it took time for me to really accept that if I ate that piece of pizza, I’d feel bad and “pay for it” later for a few days. I did learn, though. Over time, I learned that I can handle maybe a quarter teaspoon of wheat (such as dusted on blackened fish) without problems.

So being an all-American girl raised in Texas, I missed eating burgers. Not that they were ever a mainstay of my diet, but when you can’t have wheat, you find out what you miss. (Burgers and pizza.)

A couple of times I craved one so badly, I went out and ate one, gluten bun and all, and paid the price for satisfying my craving, which was several days of digestive upset and not feeling too well.

Then I’d make them at home with ground bison patty and toasted Ezekiel bread made from sprouted grains, which my body tolerates. (Toasting it is the only way to make it palatable, in my opinion.) It was good, but I still missed being able to just go out to a burger joint and eat a burger.

Well, today was bliss. I ate lunch with my daughter at Hopdoddy’s, a fairly new and very popular Austin restaurant on South Congress that offers a variety of burgers on a variety of buns — including gluten-free. I’d read reviews about how good their burgers were and that they offered gluten-free buns. I looked forward to tasting for myself.

This is what I had:

That, my friends, is a gluten-free bun, and it was light and kind of crispy on the outside. Toasted! And it actually had some flavor, too.

The Buffalo Bill burger (using bison from Thunderheart Bison, South Texas) came with blue cheese, apple-smoked bacon, “Frank’s hot sauce,” and “sassy sauce.”

All I can say is that it was delicious, and it feels so great to know I won’t feel ill. I’m not a big meat or burger eater, but it’s great to know I can indulge occasionally.

I’ll be back!


Postscript, 11/17/13: For a down-home, less expensive alternative to Hopdoddy’s, I’d also like to give kudos to Wholly Cow (downtown and South Lamar) for making grass-fed burgers (request Udi’s gluten-free buns) and for their awesome Fit Cross Paleo Burger, served with portabello mushroom caps in place of buns! Both made with local, grass-fed beef.