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Armida Evony
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Happy St. Patrick's Day!

I'm at the dentist, no green in sight. Hoping I don't have to feel that "little pinch" .... fingers crossed!

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Blossom Noir

I guess I am in a weird mood, I keep seeing drama in these fruit blossoms. Or maybe I'm just getting tired of the fluffy pastels and find the quirky dried up twigs and the texture contrasts more interesting. Anyway ... here is the Witch's Wedding Bouquet of ornamental pear blossoms and Two's Company, Three's a Crowd ... starring a rebel wild plum tree that has sprung up in my hedge this year. The courting couple is enjoying a drive in their antique car, but the woman scorned is following right behind. Can't you just imagine how this love triangle is going to turn out?

If this is just too out there for you, have a good Monday anyway :) 
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Tower of Camellias

I went for a walk at the Japanese Gardens yesterday, one of my favorite places to find a calm and zen mood. I was disappointed that I missed the blooming of my favorite weeping quince tree, but instead I hiked up the little secret uneven wooden steps to the camellia path, and discovered this deep red beauty in the process of taking over the forest. Not a bad substitute :) I was also delighted by a surprise tiny shrine which can only be seen from one narrow angle on the path, which I've never noticed before. And the three-tiered miniature waterfall, which I always notice and always love. It's so nice to go someplace just for enjoyment, with no to-do list or agenda.


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Blossom Drama

Simultaneous sun and rain kept the color of the light changing constantly .. I love all the wonderfully subtle color combinations, which really show when the air is washed crystal-clean. We have more rain expected tomorrow ... how's the weather where you are?
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hanging in there ...

There is a sprinkling of pink petals on the ground, but most of the blossoms survived last night's big rainstorm. 

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I'm ten feet off the ground ...
delirious ...
never coming down

There's a party going on in my neighbor's plum trees ... as these baby blossoms dance exuberantly between the sunbeams and raindrops. The essence of spring, like sappy swedish pop songs :)

Happy Thursday!

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The Home of the Brave

This is a message of encouragement to my fellow Americans. I have never put anything like this into words, especially not online, and I’m nervous at the thought of exposing my feelings and ideas about democracy in such a public way. But now, if ever, is the time. So, deep breath …

If you are an American citizen, you have the power to do something about our frightening political situation. You have a voice. You, personally, have the opportunity and the democratic right to take action. Too many of us don’t really believe that we can do anything individually to make a difference. And that’s why our generation of the American public has become a splintered hodgepodge of isolated personal interest mini-groups. It’s ok to feel overwhelmed, we all do. Nobody knows what’s going to happen next or how it will affect our everyday lives, our families, and our communities. These are difficult times, but we as a democracy can't just sit around waiting to see what's going to happen and hope it isn't too awful. The recent election was a shock, but let’s be encouraged by how many of us had the same reaction: an urgent desire to somehow engage with and understand our fellow Americans, and try to pull ourselves together as a nation. This is a new thing for me, but I’m trying .. and if you are too, I bet we can use each other’s support and encouragement.

If you have any interest in politics, even if you’ve never thought of yourself as politically active, I encourage you to dive in. If you're scared to talk about politics, read a book or some quality, unbiased articles and blogs. Trust your instincts. Avoid online political discussions if they make you as nervous as they do me! Find a local discussion group, a petition to sign, a lecture to attend, a place to volunteer in your community. You don’t ever have to say anything if you’re not comfortable .. actions speak louder than words. But if you can, try real, face-to-face interaction with your fellow Americans, in person. And not just the ones who agree with you. If you really want to make a difference, find somebody who doesn’t agree with you, and try to have a respectful discussion that broadens your understanding of how we got to this unprecedented place in our history. How else are we going to move forward as a nation?

Now, because I’m fed up with the troll drama of the G+ Public, I’m going to be blunt about online political posting. I'm tired of seeing a stream full of clickbait articles by irresponsible journalists. Please don’t give credence and clickthrough advertising support to low-quality news providers! Your time would be put to better use looking at legitimate media sites that support fact-checking and quality reporting. I’m tired of cynicism and hysteria. I am also tired of seeing outraged posts by people (both American and international) who don’t understand the U.S. political system and how our government functions. This is not a dictatorship. We have checks and balances, and legal methods of persuading our elected representatives to listen to us. Regardless of hype and negativity, concerned citizens can make, and already are making an impact on this administration .. by doing something, instead of staring at the tv news and panicking.

And finally, to my friends in other countries, who are always happy to tell me how stupid, crazy and selfish Americans are: you are entitled to your opinion. We certainly have some stupid and crazy people here, like most countries, maybe even yours :) But I’d like to request that you don’t judge us all by what you see on tv. This is a big country with a diverse population. There are very few statements that can legitimately be applied to “all Americans.” And as somebody who is actively trying to engage in political discussion with real live Americans, I can tell you: we’re not all stupid. Some of us have a broader focus than just our own job, family, friends and neighbors. Some of us are able to care about the vulnerable people in our communities and still think of ourselves as global citizens, too. We can even have the foresight to feel concerned about how our political situation is going to impact the rest of the world, and not just on some issue that happens to affect us personally. We may not all be posting articles and YouTube videos, or dueling with trolls online, but that doesn’t mean we’re burying our heads in the sand. I know this sounds defensive and snarky, but y'all .. I'm really tired of the drama around here.

Now you know where I am and what I’m up to these days. Thanks for listening. And if anyone is interested, here are some books I’m reading and current resources:

Haidt, Jonathan. The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion

Hochschild, Arlie Russell. Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right

Packer, George. Unwinding: The Inner History of the New America
an interesting blog focusing on critical thinking, decision making, and innovation.

The Commonwealth Club of California: an example of a nonprofit, nonpartisan educational public affairs forum in my local area. Fee to join. Includes a lecture series and a weekly political roundtable.
find or start your own local political discussion group


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Cake Hacks

So the Twelve Days of Christmas are over, the New Year is started ... and how are those resolutions working out for you? laughs evilly
As you may know, I actually don't believe in resolutions, but I am trying to reduce my sugar intake. My plan is to trick myself into doing it gradually so I don't have to go to the extreme of doing those Cut Out All Sweeteners Forever plans, which, frankly, are 100% unrealistic in my universe. gnomes cheer

Thanks to my dear plusfriend +Katherine Bond, who has fantastic taste and excellent priorities, I was inspired today. In fact, Katherine and I had a mindmeld moment where we had both packed up our Christmas decorations and were both thinking about rewarding ourselves with chocolate bundt cake ... how amazing is that?

Katherine was much more self-disciplined than I was, but I did avoid my instinct to rush over to Nothing Bundt Cakes and buy a 12-inch Double Chocolate with ... ok, never mind that. Instead, I substituted the Chocolate Pudding Cake recipe from this wonderful cookbook, which I received for Christmas and already love. The America's Test Kitchen folks do an amazing job with testing combinations of ingredients and cooking techniques to come up with the best, and their reduced-sugar baking recipes are absolutely mouthwatering. No weird sugar substitutes full of chemical aftertaste, no bizarre ingredient substitutions (like figs and avocado) - just straightforward instructions for making wonderful-tasting sweets that are just a little less sweet than you may be used to. I have a sweet tooth par excellence, so if I like them, I bet you will too. Surprisingly, I actually find these desserts have more flavor than their full-sugar cousins.

I meant to take a picture of the cake, or at least a piece of the cake, for y'all, but when I got organized with my camera and went back to the kitchen, the pan was empty. Absolutely true story. Fortunately, I got the first piece (cook's prerogative) so I can be amused and flattered by this vote of confidence from everybody in my house :)

Anyway, I decided to post a link to the cookbook, in case you would like to try it out for yourself. Highly recommended. 

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Awwwwww ....... +Anitta Hiekkanen​ is amazing! The gnomes are really impressed! How cool to be 'published' in miniature :)
A copy of the "Bûche de Noël" by +Armida Evony​.

Sorry, couldn't resist the credit ;D
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