Don’t be afraid. Just pay attention.

Don’t be afraid. Just pay attention. When we pay attention, we make better decisions.  

I say this to my kids sometimes, when we’re outdoors camping or hiking.

But the truth is: I’m skeered of all manner of creatures. Slithery snakes, freaky frogs, the list is long. I have courage, and I keep learning. Nature frightens me, but I keep going back for more anyway. That’s because breaks from suburbia go a long way for me. They help keep me going.

Last summer, I read an article in Texas Monthly about worthwhile swimming holes. One of them—Boykin Springs—lingered in my mind. The author wrote of cool springs so hidden in the tall pines of the Angelina National Forest he almost hesitated to say much more. A few days ago, we loaded up the RV and the family and drove six hours to scratch that particular one off our list.

As we checked into our campsite at Martin Dies State Park, the ranger made sure we knew the important stuff. While she and Brian chatted, I picked up a slip of yellow paper informing that there are, indeed, alligators in the area. It offered tips, such as: don’t feed them, keep your distance, and what a nest looks like.

All I could think of: my scrumptious children and my own vulnerable flesh at that swimming hole.

I mention to the ranger, we’re headed to Boykin Springs later. Did she think alligators would be there, too? She didn’t say it, but the look on her face said bless your heart all the same

I don’t know too much about Boykin Springs, she said, but anywhere in this part of the state near water, alligators are a possibility. They generally aren’t aggressive; they mostly shy away from human contact. Just be aware, and follow the guidelines. 

In other words: Don’t be afraid. Be informed. But do pay attention.


Boykin Springs is off the beaten path, for sure. I see why that article called it a time capsule. In the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps constructed a rock spillway, campgrounds and a picnic pavilion. A hiking trail leads past waterfalls towards an old sawmill.

At the trailhead, Sofia observes, “Mom, look! There’s a shed snakeskin over there.”

She is paying attention.

This is not at all how I want to kick off this excursion, but we continue on. We go up and down hills, passing our toddler back and forth on the slippery parts. Eventually we stroll up the middle of a pleasantly cool, shallow stream towards a series of natural pools, where we will stop to swim.

The park could use some upkeep, it seems to me, but it is interesting and I like it immediately. The girls—including our toddler—are rapt. My senses are heightened as I put one foot in front of the other. I hear trickling water, birds chirping, the laughter of nearby tent campers, crackling twigs. Boulder after boulder is covered in initials, chiseled in by previous visitors to this place through the decades. I imagine them: a motley crew of lovers, Baptists, and hooligans. Maybe some families, like us.

We arrive at the first pool and everyone but me cautiously climbs in. The water is fresh and cool, but not clear. It’s khaki-colored, taking on the color of the sandy bottom and the surrounding rock. I hang back to snap a picture before I climb in myself. (Who else is going to do that?) My people look a little stiff. I advise them to loosen up a little, try to look like they’re enjoying themselves. I don’t mean to be bossy, but once once I’m sopping wet, I’m not taking any more pictures.

It takes a few minutes to relax. But once we do, it’s so good.

I’m not the most playful mom, admittedly, but I’m aware I’m not likely to be here again. My girls splash me; I splash them back. We look up at blue sky peeking through pines twice as tall as trees at home. It’s not the first time we swim in natural waters, but I love that my girls are expanding their suburban definition of swimming.

I’m feeling rather pleased with ourselves when something tickles my inner thigh, and I freak out. But then—nothing. Probably just my imagination. I settle down from that episode, only to freak out anew when I feel the same damn thing again. The culprit, it turns out, is the slender root of a plant. The kids howl in laughter. They are braver than I, and they know it. What can I say? I love that they are braver than I.

We hit our very nice neighborhood pool a couple times per week all summer long. The heat and humidity in Texas are intense, and I’m grateful we have a convenient place to cool off. But a few hours at these springs are more memorable than all the trips to the neighborhood pool combined. “Memorable” happens when we’re paying attention. When our senses are heightened. When we’re moved, sometimes literally, from where we routinely are.

We didn’t see a single alligator on the trip, and that’s so fine with me.  But I’m convinced just knowing they were around contributed to this lovely day. Isn’t it funny, how things work?


I turn 43 years old today, friends! My life is far from perfect. In fact, it has some rather large holes in it. But it is so beautiful, too. I’m grateful to be here. I’m grateful to have the love and devotion of a good man by my side, and three healthy daughters whom I love so much. I’m trying to let go of what I can’t control, and to lean in to who God made me to be. God made me with healthy doses of both wanderlust and a love for the comforts of home. He gave me a love of learning, and a heart that cherishes authentic connection. I have to remind myself of these gifts, to remember who put these things in my heart. My prayer is that this next year will be filled with less fear, and more paying attention. Are you with me? It’s a little scary sometimes, but it’s worth it.



corn tortillas and conquistadores

Chakoh squatted beside the meager fire and laid a package on the dirt floor.

“Ay, yi! Food!” But Esteban’s expectant grin faded as Chakoh unwrapped the dirty matting. “Fish bones.”

“Hush!” Chakoh glanced fearfully at the hut door. “We’re lucky to have them. I buried them long ago to keep them from being stolen.”

“To be sure. We’ve already found it safer to eat meat raw. Try to cook it and someone steals it from the spit before your nose has filed with the smell.”

Meat…Chakoh sighed at the thought of that rare food. Of any food. Half of his fish bones he’d given to his parents. It was all any of them would have that day. Perhaps for many days.

Esteban lifted one of the three fish skeletons gingerly between his huge fingers.

“And how do we eat this magnificent banquet?”

“We grind them between stones and lick the dust from our hands. It isn’t much but it may keep us from starving.”

“To be sure.” Esteban sighed heavily.


We recently read Walk the World’s Rim by Betty Baker. It is the story of a friendship between a 14-year-old Native American boy, Chakoh, and Esteban, a slave traveling with a small group of Spanish explorers. Chakoh leaves his homeland among the Gulf Coast Avavare people to join what remains of Cabeza de Vaca’s expedition through the Southwest and Mexico. Cabeza de Vaca’s life was crazy. Read a little about it here.

The Spaniards and Esteban are cautiously accepted by the native peoples because they assume the roles of medicine men. Chakoh’s contact with outsiders whets his appetite to learn about the Spanish god and try to save his people from the Spirit-of-Misfortune (basically, starvation). As he journeys, he gains perspectives from other native peoples and the Spaniards.

Chakoh is lured into complacency in Mexico. He is well fed for the first time in his life; he becomes distracted from his purpose. Esteban—sold into slavery as a boy to save his family—understands the value of freedom and autonomy. He points out Chakoh’s increasing dependency upon the Spaniards. There are worse things than hunger, Esteban urges. His strength and integrity challenges Chakoh’s simplistic notions about slaves. Ultimately, Chakoh honors Esteban’s life by returning to his people, armed with new skills that help his people to better nourish themselves.

The book explores complicated concepts: the clash of cultures, faith, culture, freedom, integrity, slavery and purpose. Like travel, sharing stories with my girls leads us to complicated and interesting ideas, and gives us enjoyable ways to talk about them. (Well, that’s how I see it, anyway.)


Per my custom, I pick a baking project inspired by stories we read. I picked corn tortillas for this one. They represent Mexico, the seat of Spanish power at the time, the place that lures Chakoh away from his people. (If you’ve ever eaten a not-from-a-store, freshly made homemade corn tortilla, then you understand just how compelling they can be.)

I’ve made flour tortillas before, but this was my first attempt at corn. It was easier than I thought. I used the tortilla press I’ve owned four whole years but hadn’t taken out of the box. I could use that gadget more. Not just for tortillas. A cool new cookbook I have suggests tortilla presses can also be used for some crackers, flatbreads, pasta, pizza dough, dumpling wrappers, and tartlets. It takes me awhile to get around to these projects, but when I do, I enjoy them.

I’m signing off now, because it’s time for breakfast, and my leftover corn tortillas should make tastier-than-average huevos rancheros.

Happy Holidays, friends! I hope you are slowing down, resting, enjoying time with your loved ones, and that 2017 is full of blessings and new adventures.


Christopher Columbus-inspired baking

My favorite days with my kids are the days I don’t have to go anywhere. Presently, our Tuesdays are commitment-free. So on Tuesdays, I make it a point to do two things that feed my soul: reading aloud with my kids and baking. The past couple months, I’ve started combining reading aloud and baking a little more intentionally. It’s all terribly nerdy, and I’m having a great time with it. (I think they are, too? Either way, I’m going to keep it up.)


It wasn’t always common knowledge that the world is round. A handful of people eventually figured it out, but not everyone knew or believed. Many feared if they sailed a ship too far, they would tumble off the edge of the world. What a terrifying thought.

We recently read the book Pedro’s Journal by Pam Conrad. It’s a short book of historical fiction that imagines Christopher Columbus’ 1492 voyage through the eyes and heart of Pedro de Salcedo, a young boy aboard the Santa Maria. This passage jumped out at me:

There is a brooding silence about the crew, and I am surprised to learn through mumblings and complaints that few of the men want to make this voyage. No one has much faith. And they whisper among themselves of sea monsters and that the sea will come to an abrupt end and we will go toppling off the edge of the world like a log careening over a waterfall. My Captain seems like a smart man. I cannot believe he would do something so foolish. So I turn away from the men when they speak so, but late at night, when I lie sleeping beneath my covers, sometimes I bolt awake, sure we are falling through space and that we’ve left the world behind.” (p. 7-8)


When is the last time you did something that terrified you? Even if it was scary, was it really unchartered? With Google in your pocket, probably not. How crazy it must have been to be aboard one of Columbus’ three little (and they were pretty little) ships.

Columbus sailed West to discover the East. He knew the world was round, though it turned out to be much larger than he calculated. The crew were fearful and mistrustful. Mutiny threatened. What a long, tense, 70 day voyage that must have been. Finally, they sight land. Not the Asia they expected to reach, but a whole “new” world. When they stepped onto land, it kicked off a truly world-altering exchange of people, diseases, plants and animals. It’s a complicated story, amazing and courageous and brutal and sad at once.

I wanted to do a simple baking project that linked to the story in some way. Nothing Pinterest-worthy, just memorable and edible. A project related to this story could have gone in many different directions. (Ha! See what I did there?) We decided to go with naan.

Why? Well, naan is Indian, and naan is flat. Dreams of India set this whole Christopher Columbus story in motion, right? Mark Bittman assured me that while “something is lost in translation between the scorching heat of a tandoor—the clay oven of northern India—and the relatively tame 500 degrees of a home oven, you can indeed make credible, even delicious naan at home.” (How to Cook Everything, p. 873) We gave it a shot.

I made the dough, the girls rolled it out, and I popped them in the oven. It wasn’t scary. It wasn’t the best naan I’ve ever eaten, either, but that didn’t stop me from offering it to our friends who came over for dinner. They ate it graciously. (Thanks, guys.)

Columbus did not find the riches he set out for, but that didn’t stop him from making three more trans-Atlantic voyages. Each voyage probably a little easier than the last, in some ways. Less fear, maybe? More greed, probably.

We gave naan a second shot, using a better recipe from this ridiculously awesome cookbook that I’m basically baking my way through. This time it looked and tasted like naan, and I was terribly impressed with myself.


We’ve moved on to reading about the insane adventures of Cabeza de Vaca. What to bake to go along with that? I’ll have to think on it. We’re basically reading and baking our way through American History. It’s not a bad way to spend a Tuesday. In fact, it’s my favorite.



an item of importance

Ten years ago, I splurged on a backpack for use as a diaper bag. I bought it online after reading a review of bags that were functional, durable, and good lookin’.

Even on clearance, this backpack cost five times more than ones that had gotten me just fine through high school, college, various jobs and graduate school.

I was searching for an elusive solution to the bag problem. As a new mom, I detested the never-ending process of packing a bag I could never ditch. Restocking items, transferring contents from one bag to another, etc. But if I didn’t do all that, I paid for it somehow. The cumbersome, bulky, unrelenting, bag problem.

The backpack I purchased never solved the bag problem, but somehow I didn’t fight with it as much. It was a nice size. It was relatively comfortable. The fabric wiped clean easily. It had a few compartments but not too much structure.

It wasn’t at all subtle—bright blue, with a whimsical flower pattern in yellow, green, pink and coral. So cheerful. More cheerful than I on a daily basis. A metallic neutral would have suited me better, but whimsy was on clearance and I am practical in some ways.

Over the past ten years, I’ve reached for this bag 85% more than any other, changing it up only for good reason.

I carried it when I thought Sofia would be an only child. I carried it with Charleah, still surprised I am a mother to three.

It started as a diaper bag

morphed to a hands-free “purse”

back to a diaper bag

then to a homeschool field trip bag

and back to a diaper bag.

I only ever manage to pack essentials. Diapers, wipes, a wallet, keys, phone, lip balm, a notebook, a pen, a book. (My essentials.)

Less frequently, I include a change of clothes, a changing mat and bib. Snacks—though I often forget those. (I hit drive-thrus as needed. Too often.)

I know well-prepared friends who cart such items as band-aids, tylenol, hand sanitizer, eyeglass repair kits, chewing gum, tic-tacs, play-doh, toys, books, on and on. I don’t know how they do it. I have been the recipient of their remarkable preparedness on more than one occasion.

I do get out of the house often, with my kids. That is something.

The zipper on the most-used compartment of my backpack has been busted for a while. The oilcloth fabric is separating and peeling, and the stitching on the inside pockets is coming loose.

I said goodbye to blue backpack today, but I needed to stop and write a little homage.

Thank you for going almost everywhere with me for the past ten years. Thank you for keeping my sh*t together, sorta. Thank you for holding the essentials my babies needed. Thank you for looking so cheerful. Thank you for for being my companion during a decade of intense, important, meaningful years. I am terribly sappy, I know, but I won’t forget you.




tracking dinosaurs

Reading books about dinosaurs with kids is good.


It’s better to wade into the cool waters of the Paluxy River with kids on a sunny day in October and walk among tracks made by dinosaurs a long time ago.





That’ll get your imagination going.

We spent a beautiful day last week at Dinosaur Valley State Park in Glen Rose, Texas. We hunted for dinosaur tracks, hiked, splashed in the river, and made memories. Because of this sweet day, I might remember the difference between a theropod and a sauropod. Mostly, I think I’ll remember sunshine, water flowing over rock, and wonder.

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a lesson in wonder

From time to time, my kids bring home from science class (or preschool, or church, etc.) little styrofoam cups filled with soil in which a seed has been planted to impart some lesson. They’ll set these cups on the windowsill, over-water them, check on them erratically and gasp in amazement when they witness growth and change.

How sweet, I think to myself, usually from across the room. When we plant something from seed, we’re more connected to it. It is a little bit magical to witness a seed morph into a plant, a plant produce a flower.

I’m generally a removed observer to these miracles, but this past spring, I did a seed experiment of my very own. I planted two neat rows of Mexican Sunflowers around the porch. In my future I saw a living screen, dotted with velvety orange blossoms whose marigold centers would lure Monarch butterflies.

On a sweltering morning in June, I asked the girls if they would like to earn some money.

Maaaybe, replied the nine-year-old, and the five-year-old perked up.

Doing what?

The flower beds need weeding. We’ll pay you a dime per weed pulled.  

They took the deal, despite my lowball wages. After a brief lesson on weeds, they got to work.

Brian and I thought ourselves clever to outsource a little work this way. The girls hustled around, tossing uprooted imposters into a growing pile. Elder Daughter surged ahead in the tallies. Middle Daughter didn’t like that one bit; she doubled her efforts.

My memory is faulty, but I could have sworn we discussed my neat rows of plants— virtually identical in shape and height— lining the porch. I thought I declared those off-limits, with gestures to ensure we understood each other:

“Late summer or early fall, these will turn into Mexican Sunflowers! These were sown from seed; their survival is of particular interest to me.”

Maybe that lecture never happened? Maybe they forgot—or tuned me out entirely. Stranger things have happened.

I cringed when I heard Brian’s voice holler, “Noooo! Those are Mom’s!…They do look a little like weeds…at the moment…but they aren’t.” 

In the blink of an eye, our five-year old bulldozed my flower babies. She was confused; I felt bad for her. (I felt bad for me, too.) She’s new to yard work, but she was giving it fine effort.

It’s all right, baby. No big deal.

Buuut…are you still gonna pay me for pulling those ones?

Well. That seems like a grey area. There are plenty of real weeds, let’s focus on those. {Sheesh.}

To my delight, she left a few Mexican Sunflowers unscathed. I watched them with interest this summer, wondering if I’d live to see the day they bloomed.

This past week, I caught sight of a bright orange flower with a marigold center, reaching for the sun. I gasped.

Mexican Sunflower

It managed to survive our wacky Texas weather and my spunky five-year old. It’s tall, dignified, and pretty as can be. It is kid-full-of-wonder-amazing to conceive that this plant is the result of one small seed. Thanks for the reminder, God. I loved being one small part of it.


That RV Life

A few months ago, we bought an RV. We’d wanted one for a long time, and we finally pulled the trigger. It’s a hybrid-style camper, with a lightweight aluminum frame and beds that fold out like a pop-up (without being a pop-up.) We’re partial, but we think she’s cute as can be.


The kids notice slogans that I often tune out. They picked up this one at Camping World.

We’re having a blast with it. DFW is our home now, but it’s awfully good to get the heck out sometimes.

We don’t wander too far, yet. Time being finite, we’d rather spend it enjoying new scenery with the kids than driving long distances with them.

Happy Little Glamper

The past few months, we’ve been to Lake Ray Roberts, Joe Pool Lake, Lake Bob Sandlin, Lake Tawakoni, and Tyler State Park. We’ve hiked, swam, paddle boated, kayaked, napped in a hammock, played dominoes, and sat in folding chairs reading or doing a whole lot of nothing.

Hiking at Lake Tawakoni
Charleah’s 1st boat ride. She hated the life jacket, but is typically a great sport. This was her 5th time camping in her short 10 months.
Sage liked kayaking best. She said “I could get used to this!”
Sofia loves climbing trees. This one made a good breakfast spot, too.
Hammocks and I go together like coffee and cream, wine and cheese, chocolate and peanut butter.

For breakfast, we have (tastier-than-usual) breakfast tacos and French press coffee. We top it off at night with s’mores and hot chocolate. Or beer. Or both.

We do not sleep on the ground. We do not walk desperately to bathrooms in the dark of night. We do not lack for warm showers. These are game-changers.

Brian and I have an agreement that is pretty key: he, um, does most of the work. He handles all things trailer-related, 90 percent of the packing, and most of the cooking on our trips. Fortunately, he loves this stuff, so it’s an arrangement that works for us. He understands that many women do not camp under any circumstances and I am not one of those women. I just need support. If that’s in place, I genuinely enjoy myself.

Camping— even “glamping”—isn’t for everyone. But if this sounds like a way you and your family would enjoy passing the time, call me! RV camping with friends would make a very good thing, better.


The gift of Peter Rabbit with a five year old.

“Hey, do you want to read a book with me?” I asked my five year old, Sage.

“Yeah! What are we gonna read?” 

“I’m not sure yet. I’ll pick something. I’ll meet you on the front porch. I’m just going to grab another cup of coffee first.”

“Ahhhh!” She rolls her eyes. “You’re always drinking coffee!” 

Yes, I suppose I am. Is there any other way? I shift the baby to my hip, fill my cup three-quarters full, hit it with cream. I walk to the bookshelf, assess my choices, and reach for The Complete Adventures of Peter Rabbit. I hadn’t read it with her yet. Peter’s a naughty, charming rabbit; he and Sage have a little in common.

The April sky is overcast; the air on the porch is fresh and cool. My squirmy girl and I sit side by side, while the baby reclines in a bouncy seat at my feet. Sage studies the drawings, a shock of golden bob falling against her plump, rosy cheek. I begin reading.

Her big brown eyes grow round when she learns that Peter’s father came to his end in Mr. McGregor’s garden:

…your father had an accident there; he was put in a pie by Mrs. McGregor.”  

You know, that’s not an easy line for me to read, and it’s been a lifetime since I was five.

I’m reading three different books right now. I dip in and out of each, depending on where I am in the house when I get a few minutes to read. I’m fully aware I’m entering another world, and will have to snap out of it soon. Kids fall deep in a story, though; the line between fantasy and reality blurs. It’s no wonder Sage cringes and covers her face when Peter makes a beeline for the only place his mama told him not to go: Mr. McGregor’s garden.

“Is he gonna have an accident like his dad? Is he gonna end up in a pie?” 

I want to laugh, but instead I make my eyes big like hers and say, “let’s see what happens!”

We laugh at Peter binging on vegetables–vegetables Sage would never eat with such enthusiasm. When Peter loses a shoe, she re-lives the time her sister lost one at the park (and when we arrived at a restaurant, I made her hop inside on one foot.)

I admit, I’m not always the best listener with my kids. In my defense, all I can say is that I juggle a lot. Ironically, I might be at my listening best when I read books aloud to them, an activity that is, at least, a consistent part of our lives. I’m forced to be close and still, where I can glimpse the connections they make to their lives through a story. If I were reading to fifteen kids at a time—which, thankfully, I’m not—I’d have to stay focused. But as a parent reading to 1-3 kids, I can afford to chase a few rabbit trails. I like seeing where they take us.

I reel her back in after a while and we catch up to Mr. McGregor. At this moment, he’s chasing Peter around the garden with a rake.

Sage cries out: “Why doesn’t Mr. McGregor share his vegetables with Peter? If he doesn’t, Peter’s just gonna keep running around his garden like a crazy bunny and tear it up more!” 

I’m not sure how sustainable that arrangement would be, but I like how she thinks outside the box.

Peter has several close calls: he’s snared in a net, loses his clothes, hides in a watering can, hits a emotional low, and ultimately makes a break for it past Mr. McGregor, back to the safety of home. By nighttime he’s not feel so hot (stress will do that to a bunny.) He gets one tablespoonful of medicine (chamomile tea) while his good little siblings get bread, milk and blackberries for supper.

Sage, incensed: “No fair! Why doesn’t Peter get any!?” 

“Hmm. Do you think he should?”


“Well, let’s see. His mom told him not to go to the garden, and he didn’t mind. Why didn’t she want him to go?”

Reluctantly, she answers. “Cuz he could get hurt…” 

“Do you think he could have ended up like his dad, getting caught?”

She thinks out loud. “Well…you know, little bunnies have a lot of energy, and they can run real fast! Like me! Little bunnies are faster than old…I mean, big…I mean, you know… daddy bunnies.” She laughs.

I laugh, too. 1) At her sidestepping that Peter also could have ended up in a pie and 2) She just called me “old” in a most charming way.

“Well, I think Peter’s mama loves him a whole bunch and wants good things for him. Sometimes little bunnies don’t know what’s dangerous and what’s not.”

I know she knows we’re not talking about rabbits anymore. She’s a sweet sport, but this game’s about over. She nods and concedes this much: “Yup! There is danger out there, Mom!” 

A hilarious ending to end this magical conversation.

Before my fat little rabbit wriggles away, I steal a hug. “I loved reading this story with you,” I say.

And I sure did.

The End.

a book recommendation: Isaac’s Storm by Eric Larson

He was in his mid-forties, twice as old as the other freshman in the writer’s group I tutored at CSU Fresno. He lived in the Central Valley town of Selma. He’d worked as a trucker for several years before an injury necessitated a career change that necessitated a college degree.

I learned through his writing his grandfather had resettled in the Central Valley after the turn-of-the-century hurricane in Galveston. 

He mentioned this as though it were an event I should be familiar with, but I wasn’t. I asked him to tell me more about the storm.

It was the worst natural disaster in US history, he said. It hit Galveston without warning. People didn’t know as much about the weather back then and didn’t have the kind of predictions we have today. The hurricane killed around 8,000 people and devastated the city. My grandfather had nothing left, so he came West to California. 

At the time, I’d never been to Galveston; neither had I experienced a hurricane, so it was hard for me to imagine. But I remember thinking if it weren’t for this faraway storm that arrived without warning, we wouldn’t be sitting there talking together. The storm was a turning point in his family history. He seemed fascinated by it, and that made sense to me–I probably would have been, too.

A few years after our conversation, my family moved to Fort Worth. Like so many Texans, we made a trip to the beach at Galveston. I loved Galveston. While I was there, I remembered the student whose grandfather left this city long ago. I didn’t think much about him though because who wants to dwell on death while your adorable children are happily playing in the sand and surf? I wanted to dwell on where to eat seafood and when to return to the charming confectionery on the Strand.


laking confectionery

Earlier this year, Texas Monthly ran a feature article about Galveston Island and it referenced a book by Erik Larson about the 1900 storm my student at the Writing Center told me about. The book is called Isaac’s Storm: A Man, A Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History.

You know going into the book that Galveston will be devastated and thousands upon thousands will die; however, Larson tells the story with suspense, weaving together perspectives of survivors, the politics within the Weather Bureau, and just enough science to help the reader understand the chain of events. It’s about a tragic storm but also about inflated confidence in science, human pride, and the sheer force of nature.

I’m thankful we have better systems for tracking predicting weather these days; even so, I finished the book the same week multiple fatal tornadoes touched down in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. We’re all still no match for the forces of nature.

If you’ve spent a day walking the beach or strolling the Strand in Galveston, you might read this book. If you’re fascinated by inclement weather, you might read this book.

As for me, I kind of wish I could talk to my former trucker friend again, whose grandfather left Texas for California after the storm because he “had nothing left.” I keep wondering what and whom he lost in Galveston on September 8, 1900.


using ingredients to brainstorm new recipes

I planted basil, mint, oregano, sage and chives in my little backyard square foot garden this year. I used basil and mint the most, followed by chives. I preserved my oregano using a dehydrator, but I already told you that. Despite my good intentions, I don’t think I used my sage at all.

I planted sage because I like the way it feels—the leaves are velvety soft. I also like the sound of its name—but you already knew that if you know my family. I associate sage (the herb) with the cornbread dressing my Mom used to make at Thanksgiving— which was good—but other than that, I don’t cook with it.

So, I didn’t know what to do with all the fresh sage in my garden.

I decided to pull out the dehydrator again, since I am committed to using the thing now. After harvesting and rinsing the herbs, I asked the girls to pinch off the leaves and sort them into piles of good-looking/not good-looking. We found a couple leaves with worms on them, which was all very exciting. We put the good leaves in the dehydrator at 95 degrees and left them until they turned crispy. Lastly, I packed the dried herbs away in cute containers and put them in a prominent place so I wouldn’t forget about them.



I grew this sage myself, so I don’t want to use it on just anything. I want its destinations to be good ones. After flipping through my cookbooks and cruising the internet, I came up with these promising recipes:

I’m pleased with my list! I’ve got new ideas for breakfast, snack, lunch, dinner and dessert, all because I spent 15 minutes focusing on one ingredient.

LIGHT BULB: What if I used the same strategy for common ingredients as I did for this “exotic” (to me) ingredient? That could be a good strategy for meal planning.

In my house, it seems we go through a lot of spinach, cheddar cheese, eggs, apples and bacon.  If I took each of those ingredients and generated five really promising ideas for each, that’s 25 different go-to meals.

If I keep that list of possible meals in an easy-to-access format, it could be a great resource for meal planning. I could create a document on my computer, print it out, and keep it in my home management notebook. Or, I could create Pinterest boards around each ingredient. (But I probably won’t do that, because who really follows through on things pinned to Pinterest?) Maybe you do–it could happen.

I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s meal-planning brain child! What is your favorite strategy for generating new recipe possibilities?