A belated Hanukkah celebration with recipes

Since I was at Esalen at Big Sur California during most of Hanukkah, I promised my son and daughter-in-law we'd have a belated Hanukkah celebration after I got home, complete with my home-made potato pancakes - Latkes - a recipe I've been making for years. So to get into the Hanukkah spirit I'm going to share tomorrow's menu with recipes for the chicken dish and the pancakes. I plan to serve cheese and crackers and an olive tapenade as appetizers, a spinach salad, and a broccolini side dish to go along with the chicken and Latkes. I don't yet know about dessert since my husband is in charge of that. Since I'm both lactose intolerant and gluten-free I can't eat the dessert anyway, so he'll choose something he likes. The following recipe for potato pancakes comes from a year's old issue of the now defunct Gourmet Magazine. Lacy Potato Pancakes 2 large eggs 1/3 cup beer ½ cup flour 1 teaspoon salt Fresh pepper to taste 1 onion halved lengthwise and sliced thin 2 large … [Read more...]

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After a two-year hiatus, I’m returning to Esalen

I'm kicking off the holiday season by going back to Esalen in Big Sur California tomorrow to take a five-day poetry workshop with Joseph Millar. But I've made up my mind already. Just being back at Esalen after a two-plus-year break is all that matters. Of course I love being there to write. But what I really I love is just being there - period. I've worked with Joseph many times before, usually when he leads poetry workshops with Ellen Bass and his wife Dorianne Laux - a fantastic trio of poetry brilliance. He also helped edit a lot of the poems that appear in my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On. He has a wonderful gift for honing in on the good and what can be improved about the poems he hears and reads. Here's a little information about Joseph that I lifted from his website: Joseph Millar's first collection, Overtime, was a finalist for the 2001 Oregon Book Award. His second collection, Fortune, appeared in 2007, followed by a third, Blue Rust, in 2012. Millar grew up in Pen … [Read more...]

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The gratitude challenge

My Facebook friend, Dorothy Sander, invited me to take the five-day gratitude challenge and I accepted. That means for each of five days I need to post three things I'm grateful for and invite three people to join the challenge. This was a real challenge for me because I don't normally think about my life in terms of gratitude - especially in a list. I've thought of benefits and gifts that have come my way. I also very much appreciate my family and friends who have stuck with me through some extremely tough times. So it's not as though I'm ungrateful. I just found it hard to put the words down. Even so, I have completed my list of fifteen. Three went up on my Facebook timeline yesterday, three went up today, and I will post the rest in the next three days. My Grateful List  For being with my godson Hugo and his brother Oscar and their mum and grandmum this morning. We got to show 4-year old Oscar the paleontology exhibit at the Page Museum and the La Brea Tar Pits. What a … [Read more...]

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How my memoir came to be

I wrote the following piece a little over a year ago for the Women's Writing Circle. I'd like to share it with you now. When I Knew I Had A Memoir I returned to writing regularly when our son Paul was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in March 1993. He had just turned 21 and was a senior at the New School in New York City. Early on during his illness I read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron (Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, 1992), and her suggestion to write morning pages resonated with me. Because I was employed full-time then, I didn’t always write in the morning, but I always finished my three pages before the end of the day. So writing about my son’s bipolar disorder and later about his 1999 suicide death became my therapy. Writing during the most stressful time of my life became an obsession and a balm. It gave me a way to organize my fears, pain, and thoughts. Besides journaling I began to take writing workshops at the UCLA Extension Writers Program and Esalen Institute in … [Read more...]

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My six-year old website has a new look

In case you’ve wondered where I’ve been, I’m happy to say I’m back to blogging with a whole new look and a new blog host site. I’ve moved, thanks to a wonderful web master and domain host, from Blogspot to WordPress. I felt after six years it was time for a change. Plus I’ve heard from my many blogging friends that WordPress will much better serve my needs. Come back in a few months and I’ll let you know if I find that to be true. Right now I’m knee-deep in questions and problems. First of all I have no idea how to even post this. It’s like going back to Square One. But I’ve found, via my trusty friend Google, a WordPress support document called: First Steps with WordPress. If it successfully helps me post this, you’ll know I learned something. If not, well, what can I say? Then I have to learn how to edit. When my archives from Blogspot got transferred over, most of my careful formatting went by the wayside. Line spacing is all over the place and the text is no longer wrapped ar … [Read more...]

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The talking rock

My five days of writing at Esalen at Big Sur, California were some of the most wonderful days of my life.  I wrote five poems and heard some valuable new writing information, of which I plan to share with you over the next couple of weeks. Esalen is getting more and more into the twenty-first century. They've added Internet service in the dining room; this is where everyone congregates whether there is a meal or not.  We were lucky to have the same Internet service in our meeting room as well. However, there is no cell phone access anywhere on the property. I usually take a walk first thing, as I do at home. Last year I saw a young man, probably an Esalen staff person, standing on top of a large rock by the side of the highway talking on his cell phone. So I decided to investigate and, sure enough, I got cell phone reception.  It was not the best, with  only three little bars, but it was definitely enough to make a call. Also, it helped that the young man told me which directio … [Read more...]

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Taking an Esalen break

I'll be taking a few days' break from here while I attend my yearly poetry workshop at Esalen Institute in Big Sur California. In about an hour, I will be leaving for the six-hour drive from our home in southern California to go to central California. I love this workshop as it's a time for reflection, relaxation, and some heavy-duty poetry writing. We have a craft talk every morning and then go off to write until we get together again to share our work mid afternoons. I'll take good notes on the craft talks and share them with you when I get back. In the meantime, here are a couple of my favorite photos from the Esalen grounds. And reflections from one of my favorite times at Esalen when my husband and I went there to celebrate my sixtieth birthday.   Turning 60 As 60th birthdays go it wasn't too bad. But how would I know any difference? This was the first and last time I'll ever turn 60. Bob kept toasting me with a "here's to another 60 years." Ha! Now, … [Read more...]

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Please welcome Eleanor Vincent, author of Swimming with Maya

I first met Eleanor Vincent, memoirist, essayist, and award winning author, in a writing workshop at Esalen in Big Sur California. It was in December 1999, four months after my son Paul took his life. While I was just getting my writing fingers moving again. Eleanor was already writing the first parts of her wonderful memoir, Swimming with Maya: A Mother’s Story. We have been friends ever since. And I am so pleased that Swimming with Maya was just re-released in paperback and eBook by my publisher, Dream of Things, this past February. Join me in welcoming Eleanor Vincent to Choices as she discusses her life since Maya died, the writing of Swimming with Maya, her writing work now, and some of her favorite books, authors, and things to do on a Sunday afternoon. MS: You have experienced one of life’s greatest tragedies. How can people who have experienced a personal tragedy find peace and meaning in daily life? EV: I think it’s different for everyone, but in general the thi … [Read more...]

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A rant about junk food

I was definitely heartened to read this story today. It is a great positive step to curbing the childhood obesity epidemic. CHICAGO (AP) — Laws strictly curbing school sales of junk food and sweetened drinks may play a role in slowing childhood obesity, according to a study that seems to offer the first evidence such efforts could pay off. Please click the link to read the whole story. http://news.yahoo.com/study-junk-food-laws-may-help-curb-kids-041613114.html In fact while I was at my poetry workshop at Esalen in Big Sur, CA last month I wrote a rant about junk food – triggered by the word junk, one of a list of ten given in a daily prompt. (See the Scary Seven at the bottom of this post, courtesy of Naturally Savvy.) A picture prettier than the rant (the Big Sur coast) Here’s the rant: Junk food is a business. Junk food is an addiction Eating junk food is an epidemic Can you imagine that recent studies show that obesity in children is not related to their … [Read more...]

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A new poem from Esalen

Looking down from the road I spent five days last week writing poems at Esalen, a beautiful site high on a cliff in Big Sur CA. I go to this particular workshop almost every summer. Led by poets Ellen Bass, Dorianne Laux, and Joseph Millar, I always learn some lessons about writing poems, I hear excellent poems read by my fellow poets taking the workshop with me, and I never lack for something to write my poems about. This year I wrote six poems using prompts given at the end of each day’s craft talks on: 1) a coming into consciousness poem, 2) a poem with sentiment and no sentimentality, and 3) a poem using various line break and syntax techniques. We also beg our leaders to give us a list of ten words and an assigned phrase with which to create a poem. Once in a while we’re asked to include our pick of a body part, season of the year, or time of day. Writing to a list of words is like solving a puzzle. But sometimes the poems turn out just plain silly. This year I wrote a co … [Read more...]

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Esalen Big Sur CA photos

Esalen is one of my favorite places. Its beauty, serenity, and healing powers cannot be surpassed. Here's a few shots from my cell phone camera. My favorite view from the hot sulfur baths The rocks below The back garden Resident blue jays Last look … [Read more...]

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What’s happening this week

Whew! It’s been a long and hard three months – actually two weeks short of three months – but well worth the effort. After Lucky Press went out of business on April 30, I was fortunate to find a new and most wonderful new publisher Dream of Things in record time. Since then – about the early part of June – we have been working at getting the book and all the ancillary products ready to go. I think when this Friday comes along, when I’ll have a new paperback edition and updated bookmarks in hand, I’ll breathe a big sign of relief. They will be ready just in time for my book selling opportunities over the weekend and next week at the Greater Los Angeles Writers Conference where I’m participating on two panels and during my annual poetry workshop and retreat at Esalen, Big Sur California. What great timing for a stay at Esalen! It’s a perfect place to unwind. Because I know how tired you must be at hearing all of this stuff since April 30, I’m bringing a real breath of fresh air to C … [Read more...]

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My writer’s life – lots of action these days

Here’s a little run-down of what’s been happening in my life as a writer in the last few weeks. My second piece for Naturally Savvy went live this week, http://www.naturallysavvy.com/inspiration-and-motivation/fitness-over-60-and-counting, an interview about a woman I’ve known for lots of years, Becky Neumann. I wanted to profile her because as an over sixty personal trainer and fitness instructor, she’s so fit and so inspiring to people over sixty and way beyond. Becky - Sixty-three and Counting I was asked and so I wrote another column for Huffington Post’s subvertical, Aging Gracefully, but I haven’t heard back yet from my contact there. My last piece for Huffington Post was for the That’s Fit subvertical – that turned out to be quite well received. So even though I’m a little nervous about not hearing I’ll be positive based on the response I got about the That’s Fit piece I did for them. I’d very much like to keep up my relationship with Huff Post. And as a result of my W … [Read more...]

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Back from Esalen Institute (Big Sur, CA)

After almost a seven-hour drive, I arrived home Friday evening after a wonderful five days of writing poems, chatting with old friends, hearing some brilliant poems by very talented poets, soaking in the hot sulfur baths, walking Highway 1 north to the South Coast Center, and eating healthy Esalen garden food. Unfortunately the long drive home in sometimes very heavy traffic almost erased all that Esalen wonderfulness. I did take a few photos so I'll have reminders. This time, rather than take the usual Big Sur ocean and cliff scenes, I gravitated to the many succulent garden areas on the property - some in pots and some in the ground. These gardens were new to me. Like the rest of us water-challenged gardeners, now Esalen is also doing its part to conserve. Of course I couldn't resist the little white Buddha or the tree masks I passed everyday on my way back and forth to my workshop room. … [Read more...]

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Esalen (Big Sur, California) here I come!

I’m looking forward to going to Esalen at Big Sur, California on Sunday. I’ll be there for five days to attend a poetry workshop led by Ellen Bass, Dorianne Laux, and Joseph Millar. I’ve taken this workshop several times before so I know what to expect – lots of poetry writing, sharing what we write late each day, and always very gentle, encouraging feedback. I’ll also know several of the people there. Like me, they are Esalen and poetry junkies. Although I usually like to go to Esalen at least once a year, this will be my first time in almost two years. Perhaps the work of my book got in the way last year – definitely a poor excuse. Because my mantra is always: “Take care of myself,” I never should have let myself skip a year. But I’ll make up for it very soon. Usually I go to Esalen without my husband, Bob. The last time he went was to celebrate my sixtieth birthday there. Here’s the piece I wrote about that time over a decade ago. Turning Sixty As sixtieth birthdays go … [Read more...]

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