Green Mantis

Watering the potted cactus on the front porch and I run into my buddy!

I dash for my camera- the mantis my captive subject. It always freaks me out how their pupils follow me. I have respect for this little creature but I also do NOT want to get landed on! Photo session complete, I decide to let my buddy alone.

I peek out on the porch a couple minutes later and the mantis is POOF- nowhere to be found. I run into him enough, that I know we’ll be seeing each other again soon.

Cicadas eyes are watching you. They see your every move!

Story Medicine

It is so tempting to use our energy worrying about others. It’s easy to redirect our attention to those around us, rather than confront an uncomfortable truth of our own.

1. Master Your Self

2. Honor the Free Choice of Others

I adopted these practices at the beginning of the year. I’m focusing on my personal growth and healing. I am learning to set boundaries that support my wellbeing.

I go to craniosacral therapy weekly. It makes me stop and “do nothing,” which I always need help with. It relaxes my muscles, calms my nerves and slows down my mind, making space for me to BE in my body!

I am healing myself from an injury in 1999 where I fell 6′ onto my head from the high jump. I have a chronic twist from the torque applied to my torso in that fall. I believe my psoas, diaphragm, stomach, nervous system, shoulder, neck and spine were affected.

Part of me is afraid to unwind all that is twisted up in my body from a twenty year old trauma. I am surrendering that idea and giving over to trusting myself.

On the table I breathe in through my nose and out through my mouth. I try to let thoughts drift by. I face the fact that my mind can not unlock this puzzle and doesn’t need to think in this moment. My body will show the way.

In the spring I embraced the metaphor of blossoming as part of my healing story. I had a couple sessions where I could visualize the energy through my torso like a yin yang of dark shadowy space and white light space. A wavy line separating light and dark as if it were an energetic fault in my body.

I have the sensation of a gong moving through me- vibrating, releasing and rebalancing.

I’m hearing my body speak. I’m experiencing it in new ways. I’m moving back in to renewed awareness of parts of me. Being fully present and connected to it feels like coming home. My fingers and toes tingle.

Stuck energy is evaporating away, layer by layer. I’m unwinding. I’m learning to relax fully and deeply. I’m realizing it takes practice to relieve stress but that I alone can empower myself to heal.

Autumn awaits and with it the harvest. I have set boundaries with people in my life as a form of self care. I ask permission and want to be asked permission. I speak my needs from a loving place. I look for positive ways to connect where everyone is comfortable. It can feel uncomfortable to have the conversation, but it’s important to be truthful up front so that everyone can be happy.

Two weeks ago on the table, I had a sense of all the people that I care about circled around me. I saw and felt the energetic connection to each person as pure love. I put aside worry, discord and any need to fix anything between us. I trust others’ choices for their life and love them no matter what! I honor them.

I am here, at the center of this beautiful circle.

My awareness moves into the bubble that I inhabit. Here. I am safe. I trust myself. I find myself, loving myself, sending love to others and surrounded by people that I love no matter the circumstance. All of my friends and family surround me in a harmonious and balanced way.

I am prompted to speak my truth and tell my story. I am meeting my higher self- a melting inward.

Lemon Leaf Tea

Since I learned to feed my lemon tree three times a year, it gives me fruit! Right now the fruit is still green and camouflaged in the leafy canopy. I checked in with my tree yesterday and noticed that some of the “branches” were not woody or thorny; they were suckers that need to be pruned. Without the suckers, more energy can flow to the fruit-bearing branches.

I cut and bundled the suckers in my hands and as I did, a soft hint neroli tickled my nose! The tree is not flowering yet, but looks AND smells like it’s getting ready.

As I enjoyed the sensory experience of these prickly branches, I remembered being in the kitchen of a client and his wife. We were sitting at the island and she was heating up dinner for him and the contractors who were working out back. She had beautiful citrus trees and grape vines covering her yard. As I admired them, she told me that both lemon and grape leaves make a nutritive tea. She served me a cup with honey.

I’m going to make lemon leaf tea!

It was quite the epiphany. I removed leaves from the stems, then washed and dried them. I weighed 2 ounces of leaf into a 1/4 gallon mason jar, poured boiling water to the brim and sealed with a lid for 4-12 hours. When I popped the seal and strained the tea it was an amazing almost neon yellow color! And the flavor was just as inspiring- a harmony of light, lemon and leafiness. Next time I’m going to crush the leaves a bit before brewing.

It’s hard to find any information about lemon leaf and it’s preparations or beneficial qualities. If you have any stories or recipes, I’d be happy to hear them.

Yoga Space

Well, we rearranged the entire house this week and deep, DEEP cleaned the thing as we went!

It all started when I had to move the dining room table to make space to pin a quilt. But before I got to pinning, it turned into a yoga space. So then I had to find a new yoga spot with room for the trampoline. Then the sauna got shifted, and the couch too.

Elvis the cat was nervous with all the upheaval, but once it all settled, he approved of the changes. Can you tell that he’s the boss? Now we are happy campers with a yoga space, a basted quilt that’s ready for quilting and a quilt fort for Elvis!

Clafouti Comeback

Clafouti makes a comeback cause it’s cherry season!

This delightfully simple little custard is so yummy when served cold with my iced coffee for breakfast.

I pitted a bag of cherries, but didn’t have any milk. My neighbor saved the day by delivering me a Mason jar of “borrowed” milk, so I doubled the recipe and gave her a dish. It’s fun to share!

Then we went to practice for our Rock Painting Band and enjoyed clafouti for dessert- after the ham and cheese Hawaiian rolls marinated in butter, Dijon, Worcestershire and onion.

Don’t worry, I served it with a salad that featured sprouted lentils and pepita. Now that’s a good day!

Mantis Returns

We were blessed by a beautiful green preying mantis this afternoon. I was pulling some marigolds that were crowding the dusty miller and disturbed this dude. He climbed up into the jasmine and watched me as he went.

This mantis is only a couple inches long, but dude is huge compared to my micro mantis friend from a few months ago. I’m flattered that he is hanging out at our house. He can stay as long as he likes!

The monsoon rains are in full swing. High temperatures are below 90 for a couple days and it stormed all through the night and today- not just 30 minutes of getting dumped on!

Compostables

I am debating what kind of compost pile I want to build. Cold compost is chill (and can be wormy.) But I think hot compost offers more of a thrill. Let me break it down for you. Add browns (paper stuff) and greens (plant stuff) like any pile. If the ratio is just right and holds moisture, the compost will cook itself! How delectable. So I plant and water a fresh pile of browns and greens. I tuck it in under a couple pieces of cardboard. When I have scraps, I dig a hole and bury them. And my fingers are crossed..

Who knew it was such a science to brew fresh dirt! Maybe I’ll take it’s temperature later… For now I’m letting it break itself down for me!

Death and decay fuel new life, whether it’s from your fresh compost, a mushroom or what’s for dinner. Life and death compete and cooperate. Life and death breed both chaos and order across the food web. Life and death build upon each other. Life and death create growth that spurs us onward, naturally.

Years ago our cat preyed upon a bunny that I tried unsuccessfully to save. It’s one of those uncomfortable things that happen. I buried it in a tin with a big golden beet. My fascination with death has led to creating images. I captured this moment of the end. It’s confronting yet peaceful. We can no longer avoid the conversation. Death needs to be embraced so that it can be understood with reverence. Look at it. Be curious about it. Toss the taboo. Get familiar with this natural process. I call it Bunnykins.

My grandmother always recited the poem, The Spider and the Fly. The opening lines are, “come into my parler, said the spider to the fly.” In a flower garden there are many spiders and many more flies.

My preying mantis friend got eaten. I wonder how many flies the little guy caught while it stood still on it’s leaf all week. I visited every day, tried to be quiet and made an image of it. I know it’s natural, but I was still sad when it got consumed. The preying mantis got preyed upon itself. On and on up the web it goes.

The predator kills it’s prey. We eat; we process the meat. I take a photo. I honor the animal. I appreciate the beauty of it’s sacrifice as it is transmuted into new life. This is the first animal I helped butcher. The photo shows reverence as we kneel to skin the deer.

Finding strength and inspiration in the natural cycles of death and decay is the reason regenerative agriculture appeals to me. It can save our planet, which is dying from the way we abuse our natural resources and wild lands. Our plants and animals and soil suffers from the way we practice industrial agriculture. Regenerative farming can literally bring back life and carbon and water to the soil and in turn the animals, plants and us who all depend upon it. It can resuscitate our ailing earth!

And so we make compost.

We also grew a cover crop (aka lawn) this year here in Phoenix, Arizona. Yes, we do irrigate, but as the root system grows deeper and deeper with the help of beneficial bacteria and mycorrhizal fungi and microorganisms, it also holds more water and let me tell you, we need to sequester as much water as possible! We can also sequester carbon. This can positively affect climate change and our regional water cycle. We over-seed with clover and let the dandelions and purslane live to encourage biodiversity. Pollinators appreciate the variety. So does my cat.

Cat/wasp misunderstanding

Elvis the cat gets a rude Awakening as he swats at a golden wasp! I tell him to stop it. Sixty seconds later, he jumps, runs and bites vigorously at his front paw. Almost immediately it shows inflammation, but Elvis is stoic.

When he comes to bed and kneads my belly, it looks normal. But momma knows he is only applying pressure to the uninjured paw. My poor fur baby!

He is a tough cookie; I am cookie dough.

I learn from a Pollinator Group, that golden paper wasps hunt caterpillars. I notice them in one corner of the yard and on the fig tree. They love my neighbors squash and watermelon flowers.

I also see solitary mud dauber wasps visiting the fig tree. They are hunting spiders. The wasps are helping to keep pests off of the plants.

And from now on, I imagine, the wasps will keep Elvis the cat from pestering them too! These wasps are serious about controlling pests AND pesterers! Be nice around the wasp and they will be nice to you.

Here’s a photo from the next day- still a little puffy.

Dragonfly in the sky

What a magical day. We go to help a friend with the power in her house. As we are leaving I remember to add avocado to our grocery list. Our friend gives us two ripe avocados! So we invite her for dinner.

We realize at dinner time that we don’t have any tortillas. Jason opens the door to go get some at the store and our neighbor is there with tortillas! I had texted her asking.

She comes inside with her daughter to pop corn in our microwave; it is movie night next door. We visit while the popcorn pops. The neighbor’s daughter points in the backyard and announces, “Cats!”

Our friend arrives for dinner. We are all chatting when the sprinklers turn on! The cats go running! I open the door and they run past all of us to hide under the bed.

We have dinner: tacos with smoked ground beef and chuck. The mockingbird hunts in the yard while we eat. After dinner, I let the cats outside again.

All of a sudden Biggie Smalls goes running and jumping across the yard and in the air! Is it a bird? We ask, but soon realize it is a dragonfly! It continues zooming in circles over the lawn. Elvis takes a run at it and it zips over the wall to another yard.

We say goodnight to our guest and I go to sit on the porch and enjoy dusk. The cats are settled in a spot and the dragonfly returns. It spins around the yard again and again as we quietly watch.

Biggie Smalls
Echinachea cat camouflage

Towhee Energy

This morning on the porch, the same Aberts towhee, looking plump and healthy, came chirping on the fence once again.

Well hello. I guess you’re my new friend. Might as well embrace the new lead character of our backyard, as we move up the food chain from the precious mantis to the predator who transmuted it into her bird energy.

Towhee IS the mantis! It’s a small change with a huge impact.

She chirped to the ground for a drink from the saucer, chirping as she went. The cats just watched from across the yard. She chirp-hopped back up on the fence and was gone the same way she came.

There were two woodpeckers on the palm tree, two mockingbirds scuffling in the ocotillo, two quail digging in the dirt.

Tertiary mantis theory: it went to the lemon tree for some lacewings and in doing so, perhaps, our original hero made it yonder down the food chain and not hither into the mouth of a bird.

Or both!?

Nan Nan’s Letters

My Nan Nan wrote many letters to many people in her life. She used the typewriter and would copy photos onto the page and send one letter to multiple people.

In my travels WWOOFing, I learned a lot. One little trick I picked up from Miss Leah Lynn at Wildforest Sanctuary was how to fold your own envelopes. Of course I made an envelope and sent Nan Nan a letter in it! She loved the inspiration and became a prolific envelope maker.

Nan Nan’s Envelopes

Nan passed away Feb 21, 2018. She would have turned 101 last week if she was still here. I came across a collection of envelopes that she made and sent to me, complete with address label and forever stamp.

Bird Housing

Mockingbird in the palm

There are lots of birds on our block: curve billed thrashers galore, mockingbird, hummingbirds and a handful of starlings. Mostly they nest in the palm and saguaro next door.

When mockingbird is singing atop the palm tree, we hear it all through our house.

Hummingbird perches on the ocotillo and visits our aloe blossoms daily. Their nest is below the crown of the palm tree and they land on the dried seed shoots that hang from it.

Today the landscapers came and skinned the palm tree. I am so sad to think of the birds being homeless now!

Skinning the palm tree

I went to a friend’s house to play tennis. There were mockingbirds singing in the trees and a hummingbird perched atop the tree behind me. It gave me a new perspective on my local bird cohabitants. Instead of the individual, I connect with the universal mockingbird energy. I know they are all over the valley, busy with the task of surviving and thriving.

My neighbor birds are rebuilding a new, secure and cozy nest nearby. They are rebalancing with ease because they are resilient! I took all the clumps of my hair from the shower and placed them in the backyard. My offering of building supplies for their new endeavors. Sending them my love!

Today there are finches in the palm tree bark and a woodpecker on the crown. I see mockingbird go whooshing between houses. Hummingbird is on another bush a little ways off. They are adjusting to change beautifully. I hope I can do the same.

Springtime Home Snaps

Cat-shade
Biggie smalls in the shade

It’s spring time! We are cleaning out and improving the house. We let the cats outside with us to enjoy the good weather. 💠🌷🍀

Dusty-miller
Bookshelf
Fence-cat-fix
Marigolds-spineless-cactus

Winds blew the fence down again. Termites had eaten the base. Jason repaired it along with the leak in the irrigation system.

I burned old paperwork, worked on three landscape and planted new Dusty Miller, passionvine and Jasmine.

Jason refinished a bookshelf we found on a dump day last year. He installed a plug for the sauna and kickboards for the kitchen cabinets.

I fed the cats, cleaned the kitchen, organized the office, answered some phone calls and wrote a letter.

Cut Corners

It’s been a long time since I’ve been out here blogging! This year, I am called to curate some magical multi-media here on the internet diaries. I got an actual 21 megapixel camera to complement the new adventure. My own page and my own photos shared on my own terms. No need for social or their awkward algorithms. Of course, I am serving this blog up with a smattering of inspirational materials from other sources that I digest on the daily. You’re welcome. 😉

When I graduated college in 2006, I started “such is, the case” on Blogspot to serve as my personal online gallery. My parents gave me an 8 megapixel camera as a graduation present. I was living at 420 Laporte Ave in Fort Collins, Colorado. Here we are 14 years later in Phoenix, Arizona dusting off the old blog and camera. Cheers to carving out a space to breathe, chase our passions and be back in the blogger-sphere.


My friend gave me some green HoJi Cha and black Winter Chai tea. It resonated with my craving for a daily ritual that relaxes and soothes. Tea pervades across the entire globe, preceded by ceremony and circumstance. So I purchased several herbal teas while we were visiting Jerome, AZ. The packages listed ingredients but no brand name or instructions. So when we got home, I went looking to learn the best time, temperature and ratios to use when brewing.

What I found is that there are many traditions of tea, but it is all the same leaf- one plant around the world called camellia sinensis. Depending on the processing, tea becomes white, green, black or even Pur’eh! I also read about herbal infusions like rooibos, hibiscus, mate, mint, nettles, mullein, osha- deliciously endless possibilities. From the webpage I was browsing, I popped over to the shop and started recognizing the blends: turmeric and nettles? rooibos and hibiscus? These are the very teas that I just purchased! Funny coincidence.

Most herbal and black teas are brewed at 212 degrees for 5-7 minutes; for green tea, let the water cool to 175 degrees and only brew for 2-3 minutes.

vegemite toast
Vegemite Toast

With a little practice, I brewed the HoJi Cha well today. Along with the tea, I’ve been eating vegemite toast for breakfast since my friend went back to Colorado.

You see, my friend also brought me a jar of vegemite! She had me sniff it a dozen times before I even tried it. In Australia it is spread thin on toast with butter. My cousin tells me it’s called Marmite in England. It is quite yummy, but definitely an acquired taste.

It’s the cut that counts

Each day, a ritual goes

Thanks for toast and tea

Vege you will and vege you won’t;

Vege ya do and vege ya don’t;

Vege ye maybe and vege-ye-mite!

Burger Steak Special

Burger Steak Special

Submitted by Casey Kemp on Jan. 24, 2014
Lifestyle
Food & Beverage
Go Local
I’ve got a great recipe today that features a couple of local products and is super simple; I’m talking about a Slug Slime Chicken Fried Grass-Fed Cube Steak!
I recommend that you put on some water for macaroni and start steaming green beans before executing this beefy main course nice and quick-like. My breading consists of Los Bagels famous slug slime, grated parmesan, panko breadcrumbs and flour, all adhering to an Eel River Organic grass-fed and grass-finished cut of beef with the power of an egg. Once you begin to bread and fry the meat, you are essentially done.
When we start eating, my boyfriend asks, “Is this a hamburger or a steak?” Good question. Good question, indeed. My answer? Well, it’s a burger steak!
Tenderizing meat is an absolutely fabulous process by which you take one tough piece of meat (like a London broil) and send it between two rollers with spikes on them- pretty medieval. By running the piece through several times at different angles, then folding it back onto itself, you get something that looks like hamburger, but sticks together in one meaty piece like a steak. Mmmh-eat Magic.

Humboldt Stylin’ the Hot Sauce

Submitted on Jan. 15, 2014

Food & Beverage
Go Local

Humboldt Hot Sauce is something for us locals to be proud of and excited about. Not because it\’s the new Cholula or bound to replace that bottle of Siracha you carry around in your car. Not even because it is the most super hot spicy sauce around that makes your brain boil (although their red sauce is quite a kicker). Rather, Humboldt Hot Sauce is spectacular because it is well rounded and that presents a lot of possibilities when it comes to the kitchen.
Cal and Dan make three varieties: Habanero-Mango (hot red), Island Style (medium yellow) and Emerald Sauce (mild green). Each has it\’s own unique appeal but all of them have a depth of flavor that you don\’t normally find in a hot sauce. These condiments are way more substantial than your typical Tapatio: think thick, not runny.
Cooking with Humboldt Hot Sauce is where the product shines; it is so versatile! I tend to choose the Island Style because I like my heat with a little sweet. Still, this is a savory sauce and not overly sugary. Its first ingredient is onion, so that tells me they have their priorities in the right place. (So many meals start with an onion because it creates a flavorful foundation for the meal; it seems like these guys are wise to that concept.) Then they bring the heat with spicy habanero peppers and the party really gets started! But don\’t worry, sweet pineapple, bell peppers and mango cool this mix down and finally round it off with vinegar, garlic, ginger and lemon juice- what a ride.
 On its own, the Habanero-Mango sauce pushes my limits on heat. However, I do tolerate it and still appreciate its rich flavor. This red sauce really kicks it up a notch. Last week I added it to my fried halibut cakes and they turned out just wonderful and packed with flavor!
I have not had as much time to experiment with the newest addition to the lineup, but the Emerald sauce does do my nachos justice. It is milder than the rest with lime and cilantro notes. Any of the varieties can be added to a Bloody Mary, it just depends on your preferences.
As a condiment Humboldt Hot Sauce improves the taste of just about anything: eggs, salsa, burgers, oysters. Just the thought of using it to spice up red beans and rice leaves my mouth watering. No matter what you\’re making, Humboldt Hot sauces provide the perfect punch to make it a scrumptious lunch.

I Got Beef

I GOT BEEF: nice to MEAT you!

Submitted by Casey Kemp on Feb. 6, 2014
Lifestyle
Food & Beverage

 This is a quick tutorial tackling a massive topic: cows. In this town they are all over, so you know they\’re big! Most are also grass-fed and finished, like Clint Victorine\’s Pacific Pastures and Eel River Organic Beef (a topic I covered in a previous post). Let’s look out on the pasture to see what the cows are bringing home.
Now you might think that it is too hard to learn all the parts of a thousand pound creature. In fact, you might be tempted to GRAZE right over it, but trust me: this is going to be simple! You can learn some key concepts to kitchen preparation by studying a bit of anatomy. When you visit the meat counter just find out what general region each piece of meat comes from. Ask the butcher; Google it; and start to understand what cut is used for which purpose.
 The shoulders, rump and legs do all the cows’ heavy lifting, so they become tougher as they are used frequently. The closer a cut of beef is to the extremities of the animal (i.e. horns or hooves) the tougher it is going to be.
 Tender pieces hang out in the middle; those are prime cuts like Filet Mignon, New York, Ribeye and Sirloin steaks.
 Equipped as you are, with a rough anatomy lesson, let’s begin to apply cooking techniques. I\’m going to match up two basic heat applications with the two types of meat we just covered (tough v. tender) to keep things simple.
 Tough cuts want to be cooked \”low and slow,\” that means a long time at a low temperature. This process renders out fat so that the lean meat is juicy and falling apart. Oftentimes, this is achieved with an all-day barbeque or smoker that takes a lot of time but renders out the fat entirely so lean meat is literally falling off the bone. This technique is best applied to tough cuts like a shank (i.e. leg), ribs or rump.
 My favorite tough cut is the chuck, which comes from the shoulder. It is well marbled, which means a lot of those healthy grass-fed fats. As the fat is rendered into liquid stock it imparts flavor and moisture, while the lean meat pulls apart into a lovely shredded or “pulled” beef texture. It’s easy and foolproof. You can’t overcook a chuck and all the while you are developing afeel for how meat responds to heat. You can use a crock pot, the oven or even cover it on the stovetop.
 First the meat tightens up and contracts. After some time though, the piece starts to relax again. (Now things are getting good.) Keep on cooking and you will find that pieces get easier and easier to pull apart. Before long they are falling off the bone and melting in your mouth! When finished, the fat has disappeared entirely and the only thing left is succulent strings of beef with a wonderful au jus. You can make stew, tacos/fajitas or just a big BBQ sandwich! (Don’t forget the coleslaw.)
 On the flip side, tender steaks like a “hot/quick” treatment. They can be seared with a short, blistering dose of heat from the grill and served rare on the inside. It is always best to let the meat you are about to cook sit on the counter for a while and come to room temp. I also take this opportunity to apply a littleTed and Barneys (another local product), which is a seasoning that I use on every piece of meat that I cook (because it’s genius). Heat the pan and sear steaks for a minute or two on each side. Now, you can finish them in the broiler at four minutes a side.
 Once you’ve learned the concepts inherent in each method, you can mix and match those processes to effectively “freestyle” food preparation with wonderful results! Searing a steak seals in its’ juices. Finishing that steak in a 200 degree oven for ten-twenty minutes (instead of a broiler for four) transitions you to a gentler “low and slow” approach. I especially recommend this option for pork chops, since they tend to dry out faster than beef.