Make-It Tuesday, Barbara: Look What I Made!


randomAt the end of May last year, Christopher Robin and I went to Breckenridge for a long weekend.  I was resting, supposedly. Doing some research to continue a Georgian series I love.  But at four m the first morning we were there, a character woke me up.  Insistently. She said she had a story for me.

I tried to go back to sleep. She kicked me.

I got up.  By the time CR woke up, I had three main characters: a 19-year-old heroine I adore named Jess Donovan who is plucky and lost and really trying to make her way in a pretty hostile world where she doesn’t have enough tools, plus current boyfriend and the new won, a setting, and a page of synopsis. By late afternoon the next day, I had 67 scenes, in order. By the end of the summer, I had a whole book, the start of a three book series called Going the Distance.

Once in awhile, I’ve had a gift book. I’ve never experienced an attack book, but I will take another one, any time.

It’s New Adult, so I took a pseudonym, Lark O’Neal.  (This is thanks to my dear friend Christie Ridgway, who told me one night at the conference that she used to make up stories about being Batman and Robin’s sidekick, Lark. I immediately knew it was exactly the right name for this venture. Christie loved it, too.) Don’t be put off by the words “new adult.” It’s women’s fiction-y, romance-y, love and sex and the whole damned thing.  Trust me. 😉
And TODAY IS THE DAY!  Here is Random, Lark O’Neal’s debut. It’s my first totally indie-published book, edited by a team of professionals I’ve worked with in the past, cover designed by a team of brilliant artists (thanks, Mollie and Sharon), and I’m having so much fun I feel about 19 myself.

Buy it:  Amazon  Apple  Nook  Kobo  Paperback  (The iBooks and Kobo links are still not live, but I’ll be back to add them later.)

Barbara: The Joy of Food

IMG_4982First a note: I’m having a hard time keeping up with weekly posts here on Wellness Wednesdays.  Perhaps I’ll post every other Wednesday and you’ll get more substance.  I wrote a pretty crappy blog earlier today, but I hadn’t one of my rare sleepless nights last night and honestly, I phoned that baby in.

But after writing that blog, I started cooking. It was simple stuff, vegetarian tacos with a new base to substitute for ground beef. It’s my mother’s recipe, with chile beans and softly fried corn tortillas drained on paper towels.* I love them, but I haven’t found exactly the right substitute, and I was trying again. The play of cooking restored me and gave me a better idea for a blog.

If you’ve ever read any of my books, you know that I love food and cooking. I love to cook for people. I love to cook for myself. I love browsing farmer’s markets to find the produce that’s just exactly right this week.  I love puttering around with recipes, inventing new ideas, figuring out how to showcase something stunning, like fresh mission figs or the best cantaloupe I’ve ever tasted (which I found last week, by the way, a Rocky Ford (which is only 60 miles away), as big as my head. It smelled like an afternoon filled with sunshine and hummingbirds and tasted like candy, the very essence of summer mornings) or one of my favorite things of all time, baby red potatoes taken six minutes ago out of my garden.

This week, I harvested the first of my potatoes. I never grew them before I had this garden, but Christopher Robin’s mother sent me potato bags from England a couple of years ago, and told me what to do, and I was hooked beyond all reason. I have figured out that it costs me about 3 x as much to grow a pound of potatoes as to buy them, but it doesn’t matter.  This is why:

It’s a hot sunny afternoon and it’s finally The Day. I carry a colander out to the garden with me and clear a spot of weeds and little rocks. I upend the bag and there are the jewels, purple red potatoes, so pristine, so perfect that you’ve never seen the like in your grocery store. They’re all sizes, from fingernail to Texas Roadhouse Spud size, and all of them are cloaked in that bright, tender skin. I handle them carefully, gently, their dewiness easily bruised and injured. I think about people who never eat potatoes because they’ll make you fat, or because they’re too high in carbs, or because they have a high glycemic index (true), and think we are too far away from our food.  If you pluck an ear of corn from a stalk or dig a potato out of the ground or watch a peach ripen all summer long, just waiting for that one, perfect moment, you are invested and respectful of food. You don’t stuff yourself. You don’t overdo it. You don’t throw it away, knowing there is another bag of potatoes at the store, another pile of peaches, another stack of sweet corn at the market.

We have moved a long way from the true joy of food in our current society.  Part of it is our diet diet diet mindset, but most of it comes from being so far from the sources of our food, far away from farms and ranches, far away from backyards bursting with produce and maybe a chicken, from a barn where there was a cow or a goat who gave us milk, far, far, far from the slaughter of a cow or a pig, an elk or a deer, to see us through a long winter.  We have lost a sense of our connection to food, what it really takes to get nutrition to the table and into our bodies, and therefore, we have lost perspective.

Most of us don’t have the land or the inclination to grow all of our own food (and it’s very time consuming to boot!) but we can get to healthier attitudes and get a lot more joy out of food by taking a few steps to be aware of the food we’re eating.  When you’re cutting a zucchini, think about the plant, then the flower, then the tiny baby vegetable, then the hands taking it off the plant and getting it to market.  Think about your eggs, and where the chickens live.  Think about the peaches and where they are growing and who does what to bring it to your table.  Maybe think about growing some tomatoes on a patio or some radishes or potatoes in a pot next year. Put some potted herbs on your kitchen window, or dig up a few cubic feet of grass and put in some vegetables or a fruit tree next year.

And this week, consider heading out to your local farmers’ market. Pick up some stuff that was in the fields a day ago.  Working with what’s in season connects us to the natural rhythms of seasons, and it tastes amazing.

Have you been cruising the farmers’ markets? What’s fresh and great in your neck of the woods? Do you have something getting ripe right now in your garden? What will you do with it? 

*The substitute was the best one so far. Boca ground crumbles stirred with onions and olive oil, then a vegetable bullion cube.  Yes, I know this is not particularly whole-foods or local-food friendly, but one does what one must at times. The tacos are worth it. Here is my mother’s recipe:


Barbara: Wellness Wednesdays–a dog, a ball, and a lake

My brother had a dog named Loki, a black springer spaniel mutt, who loved the water and loved chasing balls. If you combined the two, say a lake and a 1012181_481787078578553_1501958219_nball, he would chase that baby for hours.  Hours.  Until his legs were shaking. Until the sun was setting. Until my brother had to leash him to make him stop.

That’s what exercise should feel like.  Believe it or not, there is an exercise out there that will feel that good to you. Our bodies were designed to move and every single one of us has something that will feel like that spaniel and the ball in the lake

As I’ve said before, I was the anti-PE girl.  And I’m still so uncoordinated that I wouldn’t dare pick up a tennis racket or try to throw a baseball. But this afternoon, I headed out to the garden.  I kept thinking I should go swimming because I’ve been doing it a lot and my massage therapist said that my back looks great, and many of us are headed out to the national RWA conference next week, so I wanted something to keep looking good. Calves and back, that’s what I’ve got. (And forearms, baby. Let me flex my forearms for you sometime. Please?) Everything else is showing its age.

What I did instead of swim was drift out to the garden.  Shade comes into my backyard in the late afternoon, and I can address certain tasks even if it’s a hot day.  I’ve had some black fabric bags to hang on the fence for weeks, and I found some cheap, half-dead petunias and verbena at Lowe’s the other day.  I told myself I could do a little gardening, then go to the pool.

I changed my shirt and shoes—again the RWA conference is coming and my feet have their usual, embarrassing walking sandals tan—and headed out.  Gloves, a cute flowered bag with pockets that Christopher Robin’s mother sent me (she sends great gardening things from England) and got to it.  Digging a little here, pulling weeds there, tying up some beans.  A wild thing that had been adding a nice bit of architecture had finally grown too tall so I dug it out and put in some squash.  I pulled more weeds.

It was hot.  I sweated a lot.  My face was streaming, and dirt stuck to my chest. I kept thinking I’d stop in a few minutes, but I had an idea to put the leftover petunias in the cinder blocks I use to prop my fig trees up high enough that when my darling dog lifts his leg, he doesn’t pee INTO the pots.  If he pees on the petunias, they’ll cough a little and be fine the next day.  When that was finished, I decided to dig out the dead rose and put some cucumbers there.

By then, I was seriously thirsty so headed in for a drink of water. I glanced at the clock and realized I’d been out there for three hours.  THREE hours!  I drank a big glass of water and headed back out to finish up, dragging my trash inside, making sure the new plants had water.  Of course I was famished.

Because you know how many calories general gardening burns in three hours? Continue reading

Barbara: Step One: Go Outside and Breathe

My niece is twelve. She’s boy crazy and crazy smart and easily bored. She texts me at such times. One Sunday afternoon, I asked if she was going to get outside and enjoy the day.  She said, “Well, I would, but it’s so…outsidey.”

That’s how a lot of people feel about being outdoors.

This weekend we went to the mountains for a long weekend away.  For a few days, we hung around Breckenridge, where it was still actually snowing, then headed to Buena Vista for an orienteering event.


Actually, he went orienteering—I just took a walk on the roads.

In case you are not familiar with orienteering, and I’d be more surprised if you were, it’s basically running as fast as possible around rugged terrain to find flags.  You use a compass and a map and punch a card when you find the right flag in the right place.

I gave it a real shot a few years ago. Let the president of the club, a woman, teach me everything about compasses and shortcuts and orienteering secrets.  I mastered white and yellow courses in one day, then progressed to orange and stayed there. I think I might have finished one course, finding all the flags.  Mostly, I couldn’t find the stupid things, and I’d wander around in a circle, getting more and more freaked out because I was by myself in the deepest forest and that might be a bear over there, and isn’t that bear poo? And isn’t that a bear track? Continue reading