Today my beautiful and beautifully-spirited mother turns 70 years young. She is an inspiration for me for so many things:  how to be a caring human being, a strong and resilient woman, a steadfast and fun parent, a loyal friend, a contributing member of the community. She is a light.


My mother floats on her back in the ocean,
arms outstretched, embracing the wide sky.
She has a knack for being fully present.
I watch her and wonder what genes

have I inherited from her, what values?
Hopefully bits of her deep capacity for joy,
flexibility amidst change, gratitude for the little
and big things, childlike enthusiasm, 
a bountiful heart, that enviable 
attitude. She has a rare ability to laugh 
at herself and patience honed from thirty years
teaching plus raising four kids. She values thrift
with a creative spin, recycling gifts for others,
offering to eat the left-over fruit garnish off
someone else’s drink to waste nothing
beautiful. She holds no bitterness.

She is the grandparent who gets
down on the floor to play, the one
who rides a bike all over town,
tries paddleboarding because, why not?
she’s never done it, laughing as she falls
into the water. She’ll kick off her shoes
and lie down in a patch of grass
to luxuriate in sunbeams. She sings in her
church choir, enjoys helping others,
plays a spirited game of cribbage.
All this surely the definition
of an enlightened being.

Nearby my fifteen–month-old daughter,
another bodhisattva, naps after a busy morning
tottering, chasing dogs and her brother,
digging in the sand, splashing in the sea.
For now, she too has a gift for living
fully in the present. I look at her, wonderingly.
What will she learn from her grandmother?
What will she learn from me?


Dawn Light Just Coming In

Happy Winter Solstice!

A poem to share from Patricia Fargnoli, former poet laureate of New Hampshire, from her book Winter. My gift to you.

Should the Fox Come Again to My Cabin in the Snow

Then, the winter will have fallen all in white
and the hill will be rising to the north,
the night also rising and leaving,
dawn light just coming in, the fire out.

Down the hill running will come that flame
among the dancing skeletons of the ash trees.
I will leave the door open for him.

~ Patricia Fargnoli


A Winter Portrait of 1122 S. 2nd Ave.

Being in tropical Mexico this holiday season, I'm dreaming of all the white Christmases we had in my childhood home in the Midwest.

My parents bought the house at 1122 S. 2nd Ave. in Sioux Falls, South Dakota the year I was born. They bought it from my father's parents, who had lived there for 15 years. My parents had just had me, their second child, and they were ready to settle down. They raised their four kids here and sold it 20 years later. They put a clause in the sale that my older brother should have first dibs if and when the buyers should sell it. None of us live in Sioux Falls anymore, but I think we all dream of living in that house.

I loved growing up in that house. I loved our fort in the garage, the attic playroom, the white picket fence around the back yard, the tree swing, the alley where we played kick-the-can. My parents planted trees for all four of us kids in the yard. Best of all, I loved the two sun porches; we used to sleep in the upstairs one during the summer.

And oh how I loved celebrating Christmas in that house. Our stockings hung over the blazing fireplace, my sister and I would play dolls with the nativity scene, my mother made oyster stew on Christmas Eve and later that night, meat fondue. My dad read us O. Henry's "The Gift of the Magi." Candy cane cookies, clove-studded oranges, a felt candy cane advent calendar, the heavy red goblets filled with sparkling apple juice. We'd devour Grandma LaVerne's fudge and caramels, Grandma Dolores's Pecan Sandie cookies, my mother's Chex mix and cheese balls with Triscuit crackers. The tree crowned with the delicate heirloom angel and the memories associated with each tree ornament.

One year, Santa brought a kitten. One year, when there were just two of us, my brother and I unwrapped a bib and a rattle for gifts - we were to have a new baby. One year I was suspicious Santa wasn't really real, so I insisted on sleeping in front of the fireplace and when I woke up, the room was transformed and a big Victorian dollhouse was waiting for me; my faith in Santa fully restored.

The year after my parents sold this house, my father's law partner gave them this portrait in winter. I'm glad we have it in the family. I have so many happy memories in that home.


Salsa de Piña

When one is cooking in Mexico (or anywhere) it is very handy to have a brother who happens to be a salsa master. While living in Brooklyn, Matthew was making batches of salsa regularly and one of his friends said, "you should seriously bottle this." And they did. The result was The Brooklyn Salsa Company, aka BK Salsa which over the next several years became a foodie favorite and eventually hit the shelves at Whole Foods. Christian and I gave jars of it to our wedding guests.

Despite accolades and a devout following, the company ended up being a labor of love as the margins never paid off to make the enterprise sustainable. Matthew moved on to other projects, got married, left Brooklyn for Los Angeles and continues his work as an actor, something he did all the while serving as CTO (Creative Taste Officer) and Co-Founder at BK Salsa. Looking back again at the write-ups like this one on Forbes.com about BK Salsa and all the photos I'm reminded of how proud I am of him for this and for all his creative endeavors. He's a cool cat.

Matthew texted me this recipe off the top of his head:

"10 tomatillos, raw
half a pineapple
juice of three limes
1 or 2 jalapenos,
half an onion
avocado optional

Blend it up or chop fine."

And I did.

Not knowing my peppers very well, I grabbed a serrano, which gave this batch the best tingly-tongue action ever. 

Some mistakes end up being just right.

Matt added this:

"Replace pineapple with 2 or 3 pomegranates if you can find them for my favorite salsa ever."

It is granadas season. This batch is up next...


Las Tortugas de Sayulita

The kids and I kissed Christian goodbye in the Queretaro airport as he boarded his flight back to Vancouver and we boarded ours to Puerta Vallarta - he will be joining us in a few days after meetings. After driving up the coast and a not-so-quick shop at Mega for provisions, we arrived at our Casa Rubi in Sayulita after dark, tired but happy to hear the waves crashing. We awoke this morning to meet our neighbor, 6-year-old Macy from Bend, who gave us her recommendations for town, including the best paletas (popsicles) at Wa Kiki and the do-not-miss Campemento Tortuguero Sayulita - the Sea Turtle Sanctuary. She proudly told us she herself was a volunteer at the sanctuary and that we should definitely go check to see if any Olive Ridley Sea Turtle hatchlings were being released at sunset just down the beach.

I told Xavier and Georgia about the time Christian and I released turtles near Puerto Escondido a few years before they were even born and showed them pictures here on my first travel blog. (The D.H. Lawrence poem about baby turtles is worth reposting - see below). That was one of the best moments in a life of many good moments. 

And here - que milagro! - I got to experience it again with my kids. Xavier was a little nervous after hearing about poachers (part of the reason there is a sanctuary for this threatened species) and Georgia was extremely upset she couldn't hold a baby turtle in her hand (I had told her she might). Regardless, we cheered the tiny turtles on their way with about 30 other people and it was a magical experience, once again.

Xavier wanted to know how the baby turtles knew how to swim and I wasn't sure how to explain about instinct and the marvels of nature other than, well, they just learn by doing it, like we learn to do a lot of things just by trying to do it. This very morning, both of my kids had shouted, "I'm swimming!" in their orange water wings. But to think of them walking directly into the intimidating waves for the first time, all alone, just going for it and not turning back, made me feel awe-struck over these one-day-old turtle hatchlings.

Baby Tortoise

You know what it is to be born alone,
Baby tortoise!
The first day to heave your feet little by little from the shell,
Not yet awake,
And remain lapsed on earth,
Not quite alive.

A tiny, fragile, half-animate bean.

To open your tiny beak-mouth, that looks as if it would never open,

Like some iron door;
To lift the upper hawk-beak from the lower base
And reach your skinny little neck
And take your first bite at some dim bit of herbage,
Alone, small insect,
Tiny bright-eye,
Slow one.

To take your first solitary bite
And move on your slow, solitary hunt.
Your bright, dark little eye,
Your eye of a dark disturbed night,
Under its slow lid, tiny baby tortoise,
So indomitable.
No one ever heard you complain.

You draw your head forward, slowly, from your little wimple

And set forward, slow-dragging, on your four-pinned toes, Rowing slowly forward.
Whither away, small bird?
Rather like a baby working its limbs,
Except that you make slow, ageless progress
And a baby makes none.

The touch of sun excites you,
And the long ages, and the lingering chill
Make you pause to yawn,
Opening your impervious mouth,
Suddenly beak-shaped, and very wide, like some suddenly gaping pincers;
Soft red tongue, and hard thin gums,
Then close the wedge of your little mountain front,
Your face, baby tortoise.

Do you wonder at the world, as slowly you turn your head in its wimple
And look with laconic, black eyes?
Or is sleep coming over you again,
The non-life?

You are so hard to wake.

Are you able to wonder?
Or is it just your indomitable will and pride of the first life
Looking round
And slowly pitching itself against the inertia
Which had seemed invincible?

The vast inanimate,
And the fine brilliance of your so tiny eye,

Nay, tiny shell-bird,
What a huge vast inanimate it is, that you must row against,
What an incalculable inertia.

Little Ulysses, fore-runner,
No bigger than my thumb-nail,
Buon viaggio.

All animate creation on your shoulder,
Set forth, little Titan, under your battle-shield.

The ponderous, preponderate,
Inanimate universe;
And you are slowly moving, pioneer, you alone.

How vivid your travelling seems now, in the troubled sunshine,
Stoic, Ulyssean atom;
Suddenly hasty, reckless, on high toes.

Voiceless little bird,
Resting your head half out of your wimple
In the slow dignity of your eternal pause.
Alone, with no sense of being alone,
And hence six times more solitary;
Fulfilled of the slow passion of pitching through immemorial ages
Your little round house in the midst of chaos.

Over the garden earth,
Small bird,
Over the edge of all things.

With your tail tucked a little on one side
Like a gentleman in a long-skirted coat.

All life carried on your shoulder,
Invincible fore-runner.

~ D.H. Lawrence



One of the best things about traveling is finding out about new places to travel. Guanajuato wasn't even on my radar and yet it gained UNESCO World Heritage Status in 1988, has a pedestrian-only city center, a funicular, one of the best universities in all of Mexico and happens to be an hour bus-ride from San Miguel. We fell in love with all the little plazuelas during our three-day stay. Georgia has taken up pigeon-chasing and Xavier played footbal in the streets. I just wanted to stroll, people-watch, drink jugo verde in the cafes and pretend to be a student again.