Monday, April 21, 2014

after the cooking, the nap...

I am taking a day off after cooking up a feast yesterday, and Thistle and I are retiring early. Goodnight!

Later:  it took some time to get Thistle to sleep. I am taking care of her more and more these days, as CG is getting back to his work and his life. I hope that the long time of debilitation is behind me.  He has been very good to me these last few months. I have been around individuals who fear and resent this kind of thing (seeing a prolonged illness like mine) and being treated well by someone means a great deal to me.  CG is a truly good person. I am really grateful for not having to be alone in this time.

Good night!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Bread Alone

My Italian family had a saying: "The bread alone!"  This meant that a particularly delicious loaf of bread was so good, they thought it could make a meal unto itself.  The following photos are of Thistle and me making a traditional Italian bread for Easter.  The bread (a slightly sweet dough with cinnamon and sugar) is braided, and colored Easter eggs are pressed into the braided dough for the second rising, prior to baking.  I used both red and multicolored eggs in separate loaves;  red is more traditional.

First the dough.  Thistle had the job of punching it down.

The Blob!  Ready to braid, then have a second rising.

Thistle decided to make her own little bread nest for one egg.

Braided bread with red eggs, ready for a second rising.

Braided bread, multicolored eggs, already about a quarter of the way into the second rising.

Ella's bread nest with a rather precarious egg.

The bread alone!

....And the other bread alone!

Thistle loved her bread....and it was very, VERY good! :)

Easter, Redux

I am in the kitchen, having dyed 12 extra eggs for the braided Easter bread tomorrow (2 loaves...this is a mildly sweet bread, braided before its second rising, with dyed hard-boiled eggs placed at intervals in the braid; this is all left to rise, and then is baked...the bread itself is delicious and was a huge part of my very early childhood).  It is a very, very old type of thing to bake for Easter, not just in Italian traditions.  The hard-boiled eggs are typically deep red, though I am making one of the loaves with multicolored eggs in the usual Easter-egg-dye colors, just for fun.

The other loaf will have deep red eggs, a symbol of fertility that goes back to the Roman era.  I had only brown eggs left after Thistle and I dyed eggs, so I had to use brown eggs in a deep red dye.  They came out an amazing color of very deep rose; the underlying brown made it an even richer color.  I realized that red was probably the only color that would really "take" back in the distant past because I surmise that most eggs were probably brown then.  If all this turns out okay, I will photograph the bread.  It feels appropriate to make bread on Easter.  There is a touch of hope in this holiday for me, after all--a very deep connection with the women in my family, who taught me many of these cooking traditions.

Anyways, it is time for bed, but not before I show off Thistle's Easter basket.  Thistle, by the way, had an amazing time with egg dyeing and tomorrow we will have a grand Easter egg hunt in the meadow below the house.  I gave Thistle a very small amount of candy (a white chocolate lamb and a chocolate bunny), a cute Minnie Mouse stuffed toy (in a pink glitter outfit) which she has been admiring for weeks in the local Rite-Aid, and a very special book that is a companion volume to a book which was her mother's when she was small (the one Thistle is getting for Easter is called My Good Morning Book and the one she has now is called My Good Night Book.  Both are rare books now; I was lucky to find the "good morning" book for a reasonable price).  I always had a cellophane-wrapped basket with bows, and so I keep the tradition up.  I suspect my mother really loved Easter because we had the most gorgeous dinners and Easter baskets.  It is a huge holiday in Italian culture and is very close to my heart as a connection with my family past and present.

Anyways, Happy Easter to all my faithful readers who celebrate this holida!  I appreciate all of you and your visits to my little pocket of the universe.  And yes, I feel a little happier about Easter tonight.  Dyeing eggs with a four-year-old can do that to a person. :)

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Easter and Bread

First off, I had a wonderful Haitian dance class today, with a woman from Haiti (subbing for my regular teacher). It was interesting to see a more feminine side of this dance (we did a choreography of market women sifting rice, which was really fun). My regular teacher, S., shows a more masculine side of this dance. This is the class which is going to make my body strong again. I walked out feeling hopeful even that I would work again at my teaching job. I just got my leave approved through the end of December.

 My heart is very sad about all this still, though things are getting better bit by bit. This was one of the hardest times of my life, to come to a realization that the love I thought I had turned out to be nothing but a total deception, where my health tanked, when I was diagnosed as bipolar 2, had to leave my job because my health was gone, and had to face my greatest fear with lupus, being put on chemotherapy like my sister, who died within a few years of doing so: all of this happening in a matter of perhaps three weeks was enough to kill me, and I am bloody glad and lucky it didn't.  And still, how small all these things are in the context of the world, of people who have lost loved ones, such as in the terrible Malaysian airliner tragedy--people who do not even know what happened to their loved ones--and recently, in the ferry disaster.  I can only hope that what I have been through makes me more compassionate with the world.  It is a hard climb, yet I am climbing, a step more every day.

I am getting ready for Easter, as much as I celebrate it...even though the two churches I might like to attend here in Santa Cruz are no longer safe for me to go to (sadly enough...I really would have liked to attend The Center for Spiritual Living this year with Thistle), we are going to do our best with it.  Tomorrow is egg-dying and something very special to me:  making a recipe that comes straight from my Italian great-grandmother, braided Easter bread with red-dyed eggs baked into it.  The red is such an amazing, fertile color against the pale brown crust and looks very pretty in the braid.  Even if Thistle and I don't make this perfectly, we are going to have a lot of fun.  At the left is a picture of what I hope to accomplish (though this has pastel eggs...the eggs I will dye tomorrow for the bread will be an intense pomegranate red).

Wish me luck!  If it works, I will post a picture tomorrow.

Friday, April 18, 2014


By the way, I do not mean to be cruel about Christianity..perhaps one day I will find my way back to it, but I have become estranged from it gradually in the last few years...hypocrisy and deception really are the serpents in every religion and people need to be protected from these things. At least CG is an agnostic and actually encourages me to follow my heart in my spiritual life...which right now is Zen...a good place for me.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

performance Saturday

Just a short note...my troupe,Dancers of the Crescent Moon,is performing on Saturday at 1:30, at the Crepe Place, Santa Cruz...just in case you are in Santa cruz and want to check it out!


I have had a long and tiring morning, beginning with a dental appointment at nine, 40 minutes from my house (I like the office, though, and am finally going to get a crown on a front tooth that has been discolored from a root canal). I need some work on my teeth, but not much, though what I am getting (two replacement crowns an an implant to replace a missing molar, removed through substandard dentistry years ago). Still, my copays are a bit high; as CG says, there is really no good dental insurance. At least they are finally re-establishing dental care for adults through MediCal, our state program that is now Obamacare for low income people. It affects me very little, but I am glad for the people who have not been able to get dental care for years. Proper dental care is extremely important for health, especially cardiac health.

I have been reconsidering CG's generous offer to support me and pay my health insurance premiums if I do not go back to work. Unfortunately, I have been considering that this is the wrong way to go. If something happens to him and I become the sole support of Thistle, she can probably still attend the school for gifted kids that she has been accepted to, but our lives may be very hard if I am just on disability. It will all be easier and better, no matter what my life circumstances, if I am able to work and have good benefits for myself. I also do not like being financially dependent on someone, unless that person is my spouse, and that is not on the horizon. My chronic illness has prevented me from working full-time since my diagnosis in 1993 (I was very ill with lupus when I was diagnosed and had to give up full-time teaching). I don't think any woman especially should be dependent on a partner who is not married to them: generally my history has been that they send up with pretty much everything for whatever reason and I am left back at square one: this past time, I ended up without my job partially due to severe stress in my circumstances, and here I am with just a disability income and my insurance ending in a few months. The fault is mostly mine, but had I not had immense stress, I think I might have avoided having to go on disability. But here I am, and I will, of course, make the best (and better) of my life.

Btw my Easter will be small...I am really tired of Christers who talk about how they are "in the light" or whatever and treat vulnerable people badly. I would rather consider this season as one of hope and the renewal of life, and how I can be an increasingly better person to myself and others....nothing more, nothing less.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


 I had a wonderful time sitting in the woods, watching the total lunar eclipse. When the shadow finally engulfed the moon, the bullfrogs down at the creek went wild, calling in chorus.  The owls starts hooting, too. I watched the whole thing...perhaps the most amazing part was watching the silver moonlight fill the woods as the moon emerged from eclipse. I also heard the local cougar, twice.

If you missed it, here is a link:


There are three more this year!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Dragon Eclipse

The old dragon who sleeps unseen in the sky will wake tonight, to devour the pearl of the full moon, shy in her veils of white dust. For some time, the moon will sleep in the dragon's red belly, making it a crimson lantern.

In other words, there will be a full lunar eclipse tonight, visible on the West Coast! I have a sizable meadow in the back yard and will be there. I might try photographing it, but mostly want to experience it in a centeredness Zen spirit.

Here is a link to some information:

Total lunar eclipse 2014

Enjoy it if you are able to see it!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Documentary on Coalinga State Hospital

I did promise to post resources about protecting one's self from sexual predators from time to time...I did not think it would be so soon, but I was alerted to this film about a place I did not even know existed.

 I think this is an important documentary by the BBC on Coalinga State Mental Hospital, which houses sexually violent predators (mainly pedophiles).  It is chilling in that the denial of these individuals is so extreme, so entrenched, that one wonders if they have any idea what basic human decency is, or if they understand anything about the harm they do. These men blame others, minimize and do not seem to understand fully and honestly the egregious impact of their deeds..which I have come to believe are wilfully and consciously chosen with the hopes that they would get away with it. Even the ones in treatment still seem like this.

What drives an individual to this could be a propensity they are born with, a glitch in the brain. Surely there must be a few with this propensity who understand that they have zero right to act on their urges, that the harm they do destroys, that it is a line on the graph of the great continuum of horrors we have enacted upon one another as a species since time began...and that a supposedly narrow minded society is not to blame. There is a reason why adult-child marriages and relationships are outlawed for similar reasons that murder is outlawed: no one has the right to help themselves to the life of another person and snuff out even the slightest bit of their faith in life and the upward trajectory of their human potential, at any age, but even more so for the most vulnerable members of society, our children and young adults.

I have said before that I often wonder what my life might have been had I not spent 90 percent of my energy dealing with the collateral damage of being abused. To put great energy into this and re establish my life's upward trajectory is the way I reject being victimized.  Still, that child I was, that 21 year old woman, that woman in her early fifties, still feels the wounds of violation. They never heal. They never will heal. I can cover the psychic wounds with scar tissue, but they will always be present.  They are the shrapnel I will carry to my grave. And what I say here is not unique in the least, which is the most horrible part of it for me.

This is a highly triggering documentary. I can say that its worth is very real: one sees that too many of these men are gaming the system; they simply do not or will not be able to really understand the great harm they have done.  One guy out of all the ones interviewed might have the ghost of a chance to live in society, and by the end I wondered even about him.

Here is the link to the documentary. Again, it is difficult to hear these interviews and can be highly triggering, so please do care for yourself and do not watch if you think it will make you feel in any way unsafe:

BBC Documentary, Coalinga State Hospital

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Bellydance tomorrow, Redwood City.

I am going to make a decision to have fun tomorrow at my gig with my bellydance troupe, Dancers of the Crescent Moon.  I remember how nice it was to have a friendly beloved face in the audience before, but I will find people to smile at in the audience....maybe someone who looks as if she might like to dance but is hesitant.

Crying after my new writing group today...the camaraderie lovely, such wise and mature young people, but when I go home, memories wander in and I let myself grieve tonight as I get tomorrow's costume ready.

CG asks why I still cry over someone whose actions so badly compromised my physical and emotional health and every good thing about myself that I believed in.  I think I had to push the grief, shock, and anger aside very hard to survive my first month of chemo and now am working on the grief, intense as a sudden death. CG, who has known me for twelve years, said that he knew I was closest to dying in early December.  He is also right about another thing: my body is strong and will come back. Last night my dancing self remembered the way to jump into an airborne spin time after time. I will come back from all this, better and stronger.

Here, by the way, are the jewelry pieces I wear.  I say a silent prayer of gratitude when I put these on; many are authentic pieces, more precious to me because of the women in Afghanistan and Morocco to whom these belonged.  I will wear these tomorrow in thanks and in unity:

Friday, April 11, 2014

Strength of Refusal

I wished last night that I could do some jumping and turning, as I miss that from all my other African dance classes. One day  I will just go again to those and the devil can take the hindmost. No one has the right to limit my steps in this world.  If someone decides to treat me wrongly, THEY will be asked to leave, not me.  I am not a victim nor will I act like one. I am also not a second class citizen and no one has the right to take anything like this from me, even if they think they do.  All I care about is being able to dance.

Anyway..wishing for jumping, S. The instructor in Haitian dance taught doubts today, a dance mimicking work, but full turns, jumps, and spins. Be careful what you ask for!!
I think I love djouba best...it is a balance of hard work and a playful ending.

Here is a group playing djouba almost exactly as it was played tonight:

and so it goes

Good song...thanks to my troupe leader who was playing this before class...not a big Billy Joel fan, but I like this song.