Body topiary? 😉🌳💚 Plus: why didn’t I plant these in my yard?🌷

Despite the rain I’ve been enjoying long rambles in my neighborhood. I even pulled out my electric bike the other day. I’ve been a looky-loo, saying hi to all the blossoms that have decided to show up. Gosh, I hope things are lovely in your neck of the woods.

Here’s a quick round-up of some things I’ve been enjoying.


We were lucky to be included in a Portland premiere for the new Hulu show, TINY BEAUTIFUL THINGS. What a treat to be in a theater full of friends and friendly acquaintances who make you feel part of a larger community (otherwise known as loose connections–relationships that are essential to our well being). Everyone attended with best intentions to celebrate Cheryl Strayed and her big beautiful new show, based upon her eponymous book. Sign me up for any show that follows a well meaning, smart woman with poor judgment, doing her best in her messy life! (anyone watched BETTER THINGS? also on Hulu.) Kathryn Hahn, plays Clare, a floundering writer who takes on the mantle of Dear Sugar, an advice columnist. Through helping others she comes to be kinder and more tender to herself and those she loves. Hahn’s performance had me laughing and crying. The writing is fantastic and funny. I can’t wait to watch more. Thanks to Cheryl Strayed for sharing her big beautiful heart!


Okay, I know, I know… I’ve already recommended the show, GOOD GIRLS REVOLT, which is so good, about  women at Newsweek Magazine in the late 60s who never got bylines and how they came to claim their power. Well, now I’ve found a podcast (thanks Oldster Magazine for alerting me), that seems a good companion piece to the show. STIFFED tells the story of the time Bob Guccioni (yes, that Guccioni of Penthouse infamy) hired a bunch of feminist journalists to create a “crotch centric” magazine for women called VIVA. The podcast is funny, smart, a little scandalous (pubic topiary anyone?), and insightful. How do a group of upcoming, intellectual women, the likes of Maya Angelou, Nikki Giovani, and Betty Friedan, get to make the magazine they want, despite the agenda of porn king Guccioni?  If you don’t want to take my word for it, check out this article.

A song I have on repeat: HAPPIER THAN THE MORNING SUN, from Stevie Wonder. It completely enlivens my morning. Delay in the arrival of blue skies? Not my favorite thing, but survivable with a good spring listen. What’s yours? Just one song. Send it to me and I’ll make a play list for us all to share. xo!


This week was a busy cooking week. For Passover my son and I made a brisket from Alison Roman whom I adore, as well as her terrific celery salad. Then we made this delightful kugel which would make a perfect weeknight meal any time. Add a nice salad. Maybe this one from the NYTs. There’s a paywall, but all you need to know is it’s baby kale, dried cranberries, pecans, blue cheese, croutons, and a lemony-mustardy-vinaigrette.

The snack I want for dinner the next couple of nights? This Brussel sprout toast. I made it once and completely screwed up, more on that below. Here’s the recipe:

Charred Brussel Sprout Toast w/Ricotta

  • Olive oil
  • 4 slices (½-inch-thick, medium-sized) sourdough or country bread, make certain it is super hearty, I used focaccia because that’s all I had on hand and it was too soft… too insubstantial to bear the burden of the veggies, a total fail! 🙁
  • 1 garlic clove, halved
  • Kosher salt
  • 1-2 shallots, peeled and diced
  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed, halved lengthwise
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 c whole-milk ricotta, I screwed up here as well, accidentally opened the sour cream and used a bit before I realized, then thought, why not? I’ll tell you why not, the ricotta was runny and everything fell apart.. wah, wah, sad trombone.  
  • 2 T balsamic vinegar
  • Red pepper flakes, to taste
  • ½ c hazelnuts, toasted, loose skins removed, coarsely chopped


  1. Drizzle a large frying pan lightly with olive oil, add as many bread slices as fit in one layer. Turn heat to medium, cook until golden brown and toasted underneath, about 4 minutes. Flip, and toast the second side, about 1 minute more, then set toast aside on a plate. Repeat with the remaining bread, adding more oil as needed. Remove from heat and rub toasts with the halves of the garlic clove, and sprinkle with salt.
  2. Increase heat to med, add oil to recoat the pan. Heat the oil and add shallots and saute for about 3 mins, then add the Brussels sprouts, cut side down. Season w/salt and freshly ground black pepper, and let them cook undisturbed until well browned underneath, 3 to 5 minutes. Flip, and let the second side brown well underneath, 2 to 4 minutes more. Repeat this browning-and-flipping process until the Brussels have charred spots all over. Remove from the heat. Stir in balsamic. Taste, and season with more salt and pepper if needed.
  3. Mix ricotta with juice from half the lemon. Spread each slice of bread thickly with ricotta. Heap ricotta with charred brussels sprouts. Finish with another drizzle of oil, more lemon juice, salt, and red-pepper flakes, to taste. 

It’s finally spring and I imagine next week there will be rhubarb, and asparagus and all kinds of wonderful things in the produce section. Do you have a fav rhubarb recipe? Please do send my way! I never know what to do with it.

Thank you for reading! The newsletter is free, and it takes time plus consideration to put together twice a month. Maybe you’d like to say a quick thanks by clicking on the adorable button below and buying me a cup of coffee! If I run in to you IRL, I’ll return the favor!

Buy Me a Coffee 💛☕️

Look at these candy stripped beauties! Spring is trying! And geez! Why didn’t I plant these in my yard?  
Please, remember to tell your people you love them.
Happy Living!



Hey ho!


It feels like every time I send you a watch.listen.snack. email I’m fighting an uphill battle with laughter and light. The world right now, under the thumb of SCOTUS, seems frightening. In the + column, I am proud to have my abortion story up at The Today Show newsletter. In it I talk about my mother’s inability to get an abortion in 1961 and the hardships she suffered, right alongside my ability to get an abortion in 1988 and how that access made me a better woman, wife and mother. (My title for the piece was “Abortion: A Love Story”) Here’s my mother and father, in 1959.


In yoga this morning I came up with the idea that I need an FOL: Fortress of Light. How about you? We only get one go round, thus I’m going to fight hard to make it happy enough.

Did you catch this op-ed in the NYTsHow I Build a Good Day When I’m Full of Despair at the World  I’ll admit, she almost lost me when she spoke about drinking her coffee and staring out at the lake—without recognizing her privilege. A lot of us stare out at our neighbor’s house, or cars parked on the street. If you can overlook her the blind spot, there’s good advice. Indeed the world is both terrible and beautiful.

How’s this little gem for your FOL? Ringtone Dance Moves.  I know! And then there was a piece in the times about taking up a hobby as a way to front load for joy, and I thought, maybe I should make my own dance moves? My own ringtones? Do you have a hobby? Is it a little weird? Do tell!




A pal recommended CHA CHA REAL SMOOTH and boy am I glad they did! I don’t want to give any spoilers, so I’ll just say, this movie had a GIANT heart. I loved that it busted from the entertainment stereotypes that most men are either sitcom dufuses (Homer Simpson), or misogynistic jerks (Don Draper). Honestly, I found myself stuck in the training American movies and tv have provided me, I was waiting for violence that didn’t arrive, for cruelty. I also love that mental health issues, though present, were not center stage. People simply live with their mental health struggles, like real life. Do watch. It’s on Apple+.

Emma Thompson in GOOD LUCK TO YOU, LEO GRANDE is spectacular. I loved this movie. In case you don’t know, it’s about a woman in her 60s who hires a sex worker because she’s never had an orgasm. If you’d like to expand your way of thinking regarding sex work, women’s bodies, crossing boundaries, sincere and life affirming apologies, self-acceptance (and dare I say the revolutionary concept of SELF-LOVE), stream it on HULU.  Here’s a wonderful interview with Thompson.


We’ve been to two concerts. SAMARA JOY won the 2019 Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition. Of course she did! Her voice is thrilling, her band is terrific and she was a joy to watch.

Also, TROMBONE SHORTY! He has the summer vibe I want in my FOL (Fortress of Light, remember from up top?)! We danced our butts off!


Finally, do you have a theme song? You know, the song you’d want playing ahead of your entrance to a party, the grocery store, your favorite coffee house? I’ve had different ones at different times in my life. For a while I was really into this! (Please, do yourself a favor and click on the link!) Lately I’ve been into LADY BRI’s, Do What I Do. How about you? I think we need to make a playlist! Send me your song and I’ll share the list in another letter. Please! Do it. I’m excited to build it.


We’ve got this salad on repeat!
Sugar Snap Pea Salad w/Radishes, Feta & Mint
(a riff on a NYTs recipe)

  • ¾ c sliced radishes
  • 1 ¼ c sugar snap peas, sliced
  • 1 c feta cheese, crumbled
  • ½ c mint leaves, torn
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Pinch kosher salt, more to taste
  • 1 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 t balsamic vinegar
  • 3 T extra virgin olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste


  1. In a large bowl, toss radishes, peas, feta and mint.
  2. Using a the side of a knife make a paste of the garlic and salt. Place in a small bowl and add the lemon juice and balsamic vinegar and stir well to combine. Drizzle in the olive oil, stirring constantly, and add pepper to taste.
  3. Pour dressing over salad and toss well to combine.
  4. Taste and add more salt and pepper if necessary.



Stanley waiting patiently for gelato! (Vanilla is his FOL.)
Please, remember to tell your people you love them.
Happy Living!


w.l.s. – kill your inner heckler



Ten years ago, in the midst of chemo for breast cancer, I struggled to find joy and laughter. Hence we went to a lot of unmemorable stand-up comedy. But there was this one guy, super schlumpy, oily, cruddy teeth, a large belly, a funny little fedora, a t-shirt that forgot its job was to dress a human not a mattress, super smart and hilarious. Eddie Pepitone stayed with me. Yes, because I laughed a lot, but also because he hit some really hard truths about the way we treat ourselves.

I wish I was you,” he says to the audience early in. “I wish I was you because I am told that I am so funny and I can’t enjoy it. To me it just my horrific life that I am giving to you. But for you, this is terrific!

And it was. At the end of his 25 minutes or so he talked about how he’s always heckled and he got to thinking, what would it be like if the heckler really knew him, knew his tender spots. Then he put down his mic and stepped into the audience to heckle himself. It was funny. And then it was hard:

Why do you eat pastry in the middle of the night?
Napoleons are daytime food!
You never floss!
Why the hell are you such a slob?
Why doesn’t your mother love you?
You never lived up to your potential!

The audience got quiet. We were witnessing someone in pain. I mean, it was a performance, but it also felt real. And, the thing was, everyone has some part of that pain, right?

Everyone in the room got it. I think that getting it, recognizing it, made us all recast our inner critic as a crummy heckler. Someone we don’t have to listen to. Some voice that’s just trying to ruin our fun.


We’ve been watching WeCrashed and so far, it’s a lot of fun. First off, Jared Leto is terrific. I can’t believe how much he morphs from role to role. Here he is in “Dallas Buyers Club” and “House of Gucci” and “WeCrashed.”

Anne Hathaway as Rebekah Neumann is great as well. We’re only three episodes in and though some reviewers say it gets repetitive, we can’t attest to that… yet.

The third episode, in which we get Rebekah’s backstory, is an exhibition in time manipulation–skipping around with jump cuts, fade-ins and fade-outs, using setting as a bridge to the past, revealing the long arms of pain … I’m going to use the episode as a sample in the workshop I’m teaching on SPRING FORWARD, FALL BACK, TIME IN PROSE. If the workshop sounds interesting to you, check it out, I’d love to be in the zoom room with you.


Jon Batiste’s new album won the Grammy for Album of the Year because, well, it’s fantastic. His joy is infectious!


This guy clearly does NOT have an inner heckler. Here’s a great interview with him on PBS NewshourAt one point the interview asks about his song, “We Are,” saying that in America today people don’t see much WE. Batiste responds:

In schools, hospitals, community centers, across the country,

there is a lot of we. There is a lot of good that goes unnoticed.

There can be a lot more good.And, I’m just getting started.


Check these videos when you need a joy-burst in your day: FREEDOM, & WE ARE, & I NEED YOU


Feel like instagramming your food is a bit ridiculous? You aren’t alone. Sit down, put your phone away, and enjoy the meal —

Pancakes are a snack, right? I made these from THE SMITTEN KITCHEN COOKBOOK the other day, and honestly, they were very snack-worthy! I can’t really call them pancakes, they were more pansconecakes. I’m sorry. I was so excited to eat, I forgot to take a photo. (Thanks, IKEA, for giving me a pass!)

If/When you make these, don’t be deterred by the paste-consistency of the batter. It won’t pour into the pan you must plop it in and then press with the back of a spoon. Next, insert as many freshly washed blueberries as will fit into each little hill of batter.

Blueberry and Sour Cream PanSconeCakes

  • 1 lg. egg
  • 1 c sour cream
  • ¼ t vanilla extract
  • 2 T sugar (I left this out, I mean, syrup, right?)
  • ¼ t table salt
  • ¾ c whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • Butter, for pan
  • pint of blueberries, washed

1. Preheat your oven to 250 degrees

2. Whisk the egg, sour cream, vanilla, and sugar together in the bottom of a large bowl.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the salt, flour, baking powder, and baking soda.

4. Fold dry ingredients into wet, mixing until just combined and still a bit lumpy.

5. Heat your skillet to medium-low. A cast-iron skillet is my favorite to use for pancakes but if you don’t have one, just use your heaviest skillet for best browning. Melt a pat of butter in the pan, and spoon in ¼ cup batter at a time, leaving at least 2 inches between pancakes.

6. Push blueberries into each pansconecake, I used about 6-8 depending upon the size of the berries.

7. When the pancakes are dry around the edges and you see bubbles forming on top, after about 3 to 4 minutes, flip.

8. Cook for 4-5 minutes, until the pancakes are golden brown on the underside and the blueberries are nicely caramelized. If they’re browning too quickly, lower your heat. Transfer the pancakes to a plate in your warm oven  and keep them warm until you’re ready to serve w/more butter and maple syrup


Thank you for reading! This note is free, and it takes time plus consideration to put together twice a month. Maybe you’d like to say a quick thanks by clicking on the adorable button below and buying me a cup of coffee! If I run in to you IRL, I’ll return the favor! Thanks so much for considering.
Buy Me a Coffee 💛☕️


Please, remember to tell your people you love them. (Even if they are hairy, wet, and in need of a bath!)
Happy Living!xN


Hey ho!

Here in Portland, along with springtime scraps of blue sky, we’ve got a Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera and Mexican Modernism exhibit at Portland Art Museum. It’s a terrific show and if you’re in town, do go. One of the joys of attending is watching a mural bloom in the lobby.



Another, of course is the gorgeous work of Frida and Diego. I’m hugely enamored of Kahlo’s self-portraits, all of which are honest and unflinching and actually make me a little nervous. I feel intimate with her emotional life when I stand before her work. Of course part of that is what I bring to the viewing, what I know of her life, her physical pain. But it is also that she doesn’t sugar-coat. She doesn’t smile, her eyes aren’t soft, she is intensely present, staring at me as much as I am staring at her.


When I was a teenager, my mother commissioned a local artist to make a portrait, a large pastel, of the two of us sitting on a flowered couch, surrounded by the ferns and philodendrons that populated our late 1970’s home. We sat close together and the artist, Kitty Wallis, did her best to capture the love and vinegar of our relationship. My mother had the portrait framed, and never hung it up. Why? Wallis truthfully depicted our facial hair! We are a Jewish and Italian family and, like Frida Kahlo, our upper lips had fuzz. My mother and I used bleaches and wax to eradicate the unwanted adornment, yet Wallis revealed our embarrassing feature. We hated it! So much so that when my mother ran into Wallis at our local grocery store, she asked, sheepishly, if Wallis would “fix” the portrait. Wallis gave a firm no.

When I left the art museum I called my mom and yes, the portrait is still stashed in the back of her closet. The next time I visit I’m going to bring it home and hang it up. We are no longer mustachioed. (Thanks laser hair removal!) I am a little sad about the torment I felt about my upper lip. God love Frida Kahlo’s take no prisoners expression. I wish it had been a skill of mine.


I’ve been watching LIFE & BETH from Amy Schumer, and I’m all in. It’s about a women in her late 30’s trying to get back in touch with who she is in her core. It takes a minute to get caught up, so please, stick around beyond the first, even the second episode. It’s funny and real, with stakes higher than the easy laugh.

There’s a bit of Beth’s past, and how we all struggle to recover from events in our teens. There’s a Plan B scene in a pharmacy that is hilarious, and before getting an MRI, a technician asks Beth if she has any pre-existing conditions. “I’m a woman,” she replies.

Episode four is terrific, with Beth coming full circle, healing from some body shaming that happened to her in middle school. Does it take three decades to break free of middle school crap? Sometimes. Sometimes longer. Consider the painting I just told you about, huddled in the back of my mom’s closet. 😏


Sheesh, was I ever moved by the ON BEING podcast with Kate DiCamillo. I read her books to my children and we all three loved them. Listening to this podcast had me bee-lining to my local bookstore to buy a couple to reread (BECAUSE OF WINN DIXIE and LOUISIANA’S WAY HOME). DiCamillo takes very seriously her job as a beloved children’s book author. Her mission is to respect and honor the intelligence of her readers. She doesn’t believe in dodging the harsh events in all our lives, but she does believe in making the truth bearable. Hope and heartbreak live side by side, and she won’t hide that in her work. The podcast is full of so much wisdom and laughter. DiCamillo tells us that life is chaos, art is pattern. She also recalls a little boy who came to a reading. He was leaning against her as she signed his book. His mother said to the boy, “Honey, don’t lean on her.” and the boy responded, “It’s okay, Mom. She knows me.” Please do listen, you will be lifted up.

THE HIDDEN BRAIN has a recent terrific episode with Psychologist Naomi Rothman who studies  ambivalence, the discomfort and benefit from being uncertain. Does revealing thoughtful indecision benefit us in our lives, or cause detriment in some of our interactions? Yes and Yes! The conversation is fascinating and personal, funny and enlightening. How can any of us be absolutely certain about, well anything? 🙃 Plug in your earbuds, lace up your walking shoes and give a listen.


We are all about the Momofuku Chili Crunch at our house. Here’s a fantastic dip to try with crudités, chips, or to spread on a bagel.

Whipped Lemon Ricotta Dip with Chili Crunch Drizzle

  • 1-15oz pack of ricotta (get the best quality you can, and before you make the dip, put it in a fine mesh strainer set over a bowl to remove some moisture)
  • lemon zest (1 lemon)
  • lemon juice (about 4 tablespoons or 1 lemon)
  • 1t Salt
  • 2 – 3T good quality olive oil
  • Momofuku Chili Crunch to taste
  1. Place then (drained) ricotta into a food processor and add lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, and mix to combine. After the ingredients are blended, slowly stream in the olive oil.
  2. Place whipped ricotta into a serving bowl and drizzle Momofuku Chili Crunch on top, adding more to taste. Or, spread on a piece of grilled or toasted bread with chili crunch and fresh parsley. Serve with your favorite chips or veggies, on avocado toast, or a toasted bagel..

I wish we could swim like the dolphins can swim

Hey ho!


I’m just coming through the other side of surgery (all good, thanks for your concern!). I spent a good many days on the couch, crocheting, dozing and watching A LOT of television.  Every time I saw that little countdown note, “next episode in 7 seconds,” it felt like I was chain-smoking, lighting a cigarette off the one still between my lips! And I don’t smoke. I mean, sure I was grateful for the diversion of TV, but I felt gross after hours and hours. Thank goodness for pals who diverted me with flowers, snacks, phone calls, and care packages, including these tasty and handsome bears!



As a pay it forward, I offer this beautiful moment for us all: David Byrne singing Heroes. Remember when we could sing together w/out masks? (If you slid by, please hang a u-turn now to listen. It will lift your heart!) In case you want to see David Bowie sing Heroes, here you go. I do wish we could swim like dolphins can swim!



I fell for frilly! Literally watched all of EMILY IN PARIS in two days. Was it deep? Nope. Was it insightful? Nope. Was it truthful? Nope. But does anyone come to Emily for that? Lots of beautiful Paris shots. Silly snafus that plucky Emily gets into. Basically (for those of us of a certain age) it was THAT GIRL if Ann Marie and Donald Hollinger ever fell into bed. In E in P,  I did hate the perpetuation of the bitter older woman boss who won’t help the ingenue. But the food, the landscape, the clothing, the beautiful people, the female friendship… it was perfect for the brain fog of my recovery.  For some good Emily satire, check this SNL skit.

GOOD GIRLS REVOLT was the antidote to frilly. I don’t know how this show got by me when it first came out. My only complaint is that the people at Prime didn’t have the good sense to renew the series. Set in the late 60’s and early 70’s it’s a show about women working for a weekly news magazine (think Newsweek) and the very low glass ceiling. Racial conflict, social shifts, economic troubles, inequality, Viet Nam vets and mental health, sexual revolution… you name it, the show touches upon it. The characters are compelling as we watch women trying their best to thrive in a system that, well, tries to crush them. The costumes, the music, all of it is absolutely fantastic. The show is based upon the true events at Newsweek Magazine when women sued for the right to have a byline.

For something sweet and swift, check YES-PEOPLE, an Icelandic Oscar Nominated short film.

Finally, if you want a bit of music history, do watch MR. A & MR. M: THE STORY OF A&M RECORDS. It was terrific. So much fun to learn who they promoted and to witness their thriving friendship. Plus the joy of wonderful music and concert clips! I particularly loved Sting, and the Sergio Mendes and Brazil ’66 clips. As a kid, I wanted to be either a singer or a child psychiatrist. I used to sing along to this song. You can sign up for the free trial on Epix to watch the documentary and then cancel once you’ve watched. I mean, how much money does Jeff Bezos need?!?


The other day I listened to the podcast 10% HAPPIER episode with Karamo from Queer Eye. It was called, “How to Actually Do Self-Love.” It was great. One of the takeaways? Use the Reminders App on your phone to send yourself loving messages throughout the day, week, month, year… whenever you need them! Even tiny things help. Karamo sends himself a note about his sexy left eyebrow! No matter how bad he feels in a day, he knows he’s got the eyebrow working for him. I’ve adopted the strategy for myself. Some of my notes?

  • Never let anyone’s opinion of you take you hostage.
  • Don’t wait! Put in the effort to show people they matter to you. Celebrate when it boomerangs.

Maybe this is a tool you can use? I’d love to know what kind of love notes you send to yourself.


It’s a stretch to call these snacks, but they are. Little visual and human interludes, shall we call them beautyscrolling? artscrolling? lightscrolling?

The artist Laurie Frick makes really interesting and beautiful pieces that visually chart things like daily stress, emotional tone in emails, and you know, unchartable stuff. Check their website here.

Small Ditch, whose tagline says it all: Found fashion atelier of haute couture #trashion & natural objects©️♻️✂️collage & still life 📷 valuing life’s detritus 🌍. Check their website here.

thekeepthings which curates “stories of the things we keep to keep our dear dead with us.”
They are always accepting stories if you have a beloved object from a lost beloved. Check their website here.

And bodies_talks_stories, an account that gives women the opportunity to tell the stories of their bodies. Really smart. Really moving.

Okay! Finally, a true snack-snack! I am dying to get my hands on the cookbook SNACKING CAKES, by Yossy Arefi. The book looks to be just up my alley. And, to attest to its allure and power, it has a New Yorker profile!

Temporarily out of stock, so while I wait, I’m going to make this recipe, which appears on the New Yorker Instagram account:


Thanks for spending a minute with me. Here’s Stanley, enduring his ridiculous humans.



If you need a book, I’ve got all the recommendations from two years of this newsletter at my Bookshop.

Take good care! Hug your people!!


Hey-ho! For years I observed with joy, ambition, yearning, dismay, self-flagellation and sometimes sorrow the persistent displays of family love, humor, good-times, perfection (Christmas trees, gifts, meals, affection, mutual appreciation, romance and banished loneliness) we are bombarded with during the holidays. Not that our family doesn’t have our own sweet holidays but measuring up to (social)media and advertising heights is hard! I was a victim (well I allowed myself to be) of Martha Stewart’s impossible standards in the 80s and 90s. The J. Crew catalog slayed me… in a bad way. Why weren’t we playing touch football in the snow with adorable Labradors frolicking? Hot cidering in front of a fire, dressed in matching robes? (Where oh where was the counterpoint of SUCCESIONTHE SOPRANOS? CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM with petty Larry David hitting on Mary in a living creche?) One year it was impossible to take a lovely snapshot of our family and so, for our holiday card, I used a photo of the dirty dishes after Thanksgiving. Though I said something about happy messes, it was literally the best we could do.



And let me tell you, (hear me out) the Obama’s didn’t help! I love that family and am grateful for all they did. I read both Michelle’s and Barrack’s memoirs. I was moved (am moved) by their dedication to their family. And I ADORE this photo! I don’t know how I stumbled upon it, but man, when our family has had normal ups and downs, looking at this picture of the First Family oozing tension, being real, normalized my family being real. It helped me stop holding myself to impossible standards.



I hope you will let go of your own impossible standards. I hope, if you are traveling with family, visiting family you can grab a laugh and reality check with this photo…eye-rolling, teeth clenching, avoidant and pissed off. Man-oh-man! Thanks Obamas!


Before the next pandy wave makes it to Oregon, we’re seeing movies.

C’MON C’MON is gorgeous. I was in awe of the writing, and the performances. One line resonated particularly, something the boy’s dad said to him frequently. “Be funny, comma, when you can, period.” I’m changing it up, Laugh, comma, when you can, period. Putting that line on loop in my head.

My complaint about the film: the mother’s inner life is under used. Gabby Hoffman has too little screen time. And she ends up mothering her husband, her son, and her brother. The film literally asks the question, “Why on earth should it fall to [mothers] to paint things bright and innocent and safe?” Why indeed?

Nothing says anti-mother like Lady Gaga’s turn as Patrizia Reggiani in the HOUSE OF GUCCI.

Writers, the film is terrific to watch for the rhyming action—a romantic bath scene is replaced later with a fearful, lonely Patrizia holding her breath under water which must have gone cold. The precious cows in Tuscany that provide leather for Gucci products are later tender carpaccio consumed by the corporate raiders taking over the company.

BELFAST was my favorite. Just see it. Motherhood is realistic in this one. A mom makes mistakes, is strident about her expectations, fiercely protective, loving, and does not erase herself. It was stunning. I am grateful to Kenneth Branagh for portraying his mother with honest complications.

If you just aren’t feeling it, not ready to sit in a theater with strangers, I understand. So check out this beautiful short film (only 7 minutes)  by Stella BlackmonTHE VIRTUAL YEARS. Honestly, don’t scroll past this, even if you don’t come back for the rest of the newsletter. It is lovely!


Driving to visit far flung family? Spending long hours in the kitchen? This series from the podcast, THE SPORKFUL, is funny and intriguing. MISSION IMPASTABLE, in which the host sets out to invent a new pasta shape. Just sayin’, it hooked me!

In need of a non-traditional Christmas playlist? I got you. Doesn’t “Under Pressure” seem the perfect anthem for the holidays?

On a long drive, we enjoyed listening to THE LINCOLN HIGHWAY, by Amor Towles. The book is a roadtrip, with many missteps and adventures. Buckle up for a long drive. (We particularly loved Billy and Ulysses.)


Here’s a recipe for cranberry bread that may delight, sustain, and brighten your day. (I know, that is a lot to ask of a loaf!) The original recipe is from the NYTs and I of course reduced the sugar, switched to whole wheat flour, and increased the pecans.

Cranberry Nut Bread

  • 2 c ww pastry flour
  • ½ c sugar
  • 1½ t baking powder
  • ½ t baking soda
  • ½ t salt
  • ¼ c butter
  • 1 egg
  • ¾ c orange juice
  • 1 T grated orange zest
  • 1½ c chopped fresh cranberries
  • ½-1c chopped pecans
  • 2 T demerara sugar


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a loaf pan w/butter.
  2. Sift flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a large bowl. Using a stand mixer or two knives, cut in butter until the mixture resembles corn meal.
  3. Beat egg until light and well mixed. Stir in orange juice and zest. Lightly stir this mixture into the flour mixture just until the ingredients are blended. Fold in cranberries and nuts.
  4. Pour batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle with demerara sugar and bake for 1 hour, or until the bread is golden brown and springs back when lightly touched.
  5. Cool thoroughly on a rack before slicing.

Thanks for spending a minute with me. Take good care. Please, get vaccinated, boosted, and test before you spend time with vulnerable people. We all want to be in service to those we love and to our greater community.

I wish you all a lovely holiday that is fun, and funny, and lumpy and awkward and full of hugs!

Stanley is grabbing a peaceful moment.



If you need a book, I’ve got all the recommendations from two years of this newsletter at my Bookshop.

Take good care! Hug your people!!




Back in the before time, meaning before the Delta Variant terrorized us all, my husband and I went to a concert, INDOORS! I know, it was crazy, it was July. We saw Arturo Sandoval, the 71-year-old, Cuban American jazz trumpeter, and let me tell you, it was a joy-filled evening.

About halfway through the concert, Sandoval shared that as a small boy, growing up in central Cuba, he’d asked to learn to play the piano and was told the piano was for girls. So, he taught himself the trumpet. Yet the piano always beckoned and over the years Sandoval taught himself to play. “I’d like to play something for you now,” he said to us. “I hope you like it. I don’t care if you don’t.”

Man, that slayed me. Right on, Mr. Sandoval! He played piano because he was feeding his creative soul. Geez, I hope that’s something we can all do. Of course his playing was gorgeous. And when he picked up his trumpet again, that too was vivid and alive.

We left the concert feeling light and full at the same time, and I promised myself I’d tell you all about him. Sandoval followed his dream. Then he shared his passion, “I hope you like it.” But he also knew that the gift he’d given himself, learning the piano, was in and of itself enough. “I don’t care if you don’t.”

I hope you prioritize your passion and your curiosity with the same ferocity.




We’ve just finished watching 100 Foot Wave, which was fascinating. The power and beauty of the waves had our mouths hanging open. The obsession and fearlessness of the surfers was equally mesmerizing. I don’t understand the drive to put oneself at such grave risk, in the palm of something churning and vast and potentially deadly. Equally riveting was the arc of Garrett McNamara’s journey. To begin with he was selfish, absorbed in his own passion, slightly arrogant, and frankly unlikeable. But as the injuries and the years piled on, he softened. (Funny how that happens to all of us!) By the end of the series, I found him compelling and wholly sympathetic.

We also watched a charming and funny movie, CODA, about a hearing child of deaf parents and the responsibilities that fall on the child’s shoulders to help her deaf family navigate a hearing world. I really don’t want to say too much, it’s just a delight. Do check it out.

Finally, we tried to watch The Righteous Gemstones, a comedy series about a celebrity televangelist, his mega-church and the corrupt family behind it all. Even though I find capitalized religion distasteful, (the Gemstones take over a defunct Sears department store and turn it into a mega-church, which is meta and funny) I just couldn’t manage the show. The show asked me again and again to laugh at people rather than with people. It made me feel uncomfortable and bumped me from the lucid dream of the story. Mean-spirited jabs at large bodies, bad teeth, big belts, wigs and sideburns, greed, unnecessary violence, plus a gratuitous number of penises (why?), just didn’t add up to fun laughter. We gave it four episodes. If you’ve watched it and want to push back, shoot me an email and let me know why I should continue. I delight in being proved wrong!

















I know I’ve mentioned the Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend podcast here before, but I want to suggest the episode with Melissa McCarthy. She’s a joy!  A couple things she said really stuck with me, both as good advice for writing and also why I don’t like mean-spirited comedy.

MM: “If you are making fun of a character you are playing…there is a meanness that bumps me out as an audience member.”

Writing a one-dimensional character, someone who’s a dork, or mean, without giving nuance and complication, and well… humanity, feels cheap and easy. People aren’t like that, they have layers. As one of my writing teachers, Stewart O’Nan said, you’ve got to give characters some contradictions, make your serial killer an expert diaper changer!

MM: “When I play people, I think some people think I’m making fun of that type of woman… Nope, that is the woman that fascinates me. Someone I can’t take my eyes off of. If you’re in a store and there is somebody that’s like, ‘Yeah, I’m all in purple. Wait till you see me in the parking lot because my car is purple too.’ That’s the one I literally get love goggles. I’m not making fun of them. I’m like, you are literally living right because you don’t give a shit what anybody else thinks about you. You’re not hurting anyone, you’re just all decked out in grape.”



I believe that is how we have to write. It doesn’t mean we cannot write asshats, or weirdos, we just have to embrace their full, messy and complicated humanity. Or, as Louise Erdrich says, “To love another human in all of her splendor and imperfect perfection, it is a magnificent task…tremendous and foolish and human.” (Of course I can think of a slew of politicians who don’t fall into the lovable-despite-flaws category. I think that has to do with the power they wield.) But, as writers we must do this for our characters.

Another listen for you! I’m super excited to take part in Kelly Fordon’s project, Let’s Deconstruct A Story. In the first hour Kelly and I will be talking about my story, “Children Are Magic,” which is sold out at One Story Magazine, but you will get an electronic version for the discussion. In the second hour Kelly will provide prompts and you’ll have an opportunity to share your writing. What a wonderful way to spend October 13th from 3:00 – 5:00p PST. I hope to see you! (Side note, Children are Magic is from my novel, MUST BE NICE, and though one is not supposed to have favorites, the family in that story is so near and dear to my heart!)















This cake is so damn good and virtuous!


  • 2 1/4 c flour
  • 1/2 c unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1t baking soda
  • 1t salt
  • 1 3/4 c sugar
  • 1/2 c unsalted butter, room temp
  • 1/2 vegetable oil
  • 2 lg. eggs
  • 1t vanilla
  • 1/2 c buttermilk
  • 2c grated zucchini
  • 60z chocolate chips
  • 3/4 c chopped walnuts


  • Preheat oven to 325°
  • Butter and flour a 9x13x2” baking pan
  • Sift flour (I use whole wheat pastry), cocoa powder, baking soda and salt into a medium bowl.
  • Beat sugar, butter and oil (I usually use canola oil, but next time I’m going to try olive!) in your stand mixer bowl until light and fluffy
  • Add eggs one at time, beating well after each addition
  • Beat in vanilla
  • Mix in dry ingredients alternately with buttermilk in three additions, ending with buttermilk
  • Fold in grated zucchini
  • Pour batter into prepared pan and sprinkle with EXCELLENT quality chocolate chips. (I said semisweet back in the day when I had children at home. Now I use bittersweet. Hmm… that has to mean something, no?) Sprinkle with chopped walnuts as well
  • Bake for 50 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean
  • Cool cake in pan…or not! Maybe just eat right away!



Thanks for spending a minute with me. Take good care. If you’ve not yet gotten a vaccine, please chat with smart people to hear all the reasons it’s a good idea. Also, be certain to mask up and protect the kids who aren’t yet old enough for a vaccine.

If you have the funds, consider helping out our Haitian brothers and sisters. Here and here.

And a message from Stanley: take time to play!



If you need a book, I’ve got all the recommendations from two years of this newsletter at my Bookshop.