“Super Spinach”

I don’t know about you, but when I buy spinach, I usually want just spinach. But lately I’ve been fooled into buying some spinach/greens blends because I didn’t realize that “Super Spinach” is some sort of marketing ploy.

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Here we find bok choy, kale, mizuna and chard hiding out in the spinach, like super spies, waiting to see if you can detect the difference in taste.

I can only assume these companies are trying to trick spinach people into eating other greens. If so it works because I have given my unsuspecting spinach-loving ten year old “super spinach” and she hasn’t noticed. The downside to this ploy is when you have a recipe that would benefit from spinach flavor, but would not benefit from the flavor of mizuna, or the farty goodness of bok choy and kale, and you accidentally buy this instead of pure spinach.

Have you experienced Super Spinach or something similar?

“Realistic” Painting

When I was in fifth grade I got a valuable lesson in what makes art realistic. A boy in my class challenged me to a drawing contest: which one of us could do a better drawing of war time, as judged by our teacher. I got out my markers and drew a pretty, colorful cartoonish drawing of a tank and stuff. He drew a scribbled pencil sketch that to me, looked like a huge mess. Who won? He did. The teacher said his drawing, drab and chaotic as it was, represented what war was really like, more so than mine.

Which of these two paintings do you think better represents “war”?

Francesco Goya, “The Third of May 1808”


Watercolor by Kenneth Wootton

People occasionally ask how I get my paintings to be realistic.

Close up of "Dance" by Alyssa McFarland

Close up of “Dance” by Alyssa McFarland


I always say: Paint what you see. The trick is in the seeing.

Let’s look at a so-called realistic painting. What makes it seem realistic?

I would argue it is because most everyone would agree, “that’s what it really looks like.”


Hyperrealistic painting by Patrick Kramer


Now take a subject where the painter has taken a bit more creative liberty. This may be exactly how this painter sees the world, but not with his eyes. He’s filtering what he sees through the lens of imagination.

Noah’s Ark by Thomas Kinkade


What about stuff that doesn’t even look like it’s trying to be “real”? Well then you’ve got a case of the painter perhaps trying to express a new way of seeing:

“Weeping Woman with Handkerchief” by Pablo Picasso


Your thoughts?

Is Donald Trump just pretending to run for President?

Lately it has come to my attention that some people suspect that Donald Trump is not really a serious Presidential candidate, that he’s really just in it for the attention, just pretending to be a bigot, and possibly even trying to destroy the GOP. Despite the media attention and Facebook trending, Trump may well have very few average people actually rooting for him. Since at least as far back as February 2014, people have been suspecting he’s just running for office for the entertainment value of it.

Whether you believe that conspiracy theory or not, you might find this satire article or video amusing.

What do you think?

Every American Should Read This Book

Saving Capitalism

Robert B. Reich

In this readable and fascinating book, Robert Reich shows us the result of some crucial changes that occurred in the 1980s and how they’ve affected our entire country, resulting in a tangled nest of problems for everyone but the richest people. He can show you both the details and the inconnected big picture, leaving you well educated on both history and next steps.

Remember the TV show “The Honeymooners”?  Well, maybe you don’t, it came out in the early 1950s. It showed two men — a bus driver and a plumber — both recently married and able to financially support their wives on just one working class income. We have come a long way from that reality. Now many couples are caught needing two incomes just to get by. Largely, this is the domino effect of a shift in the 80s to where the Corporation’s main priority is to benefit its stockholders. Since then, everything has gone downhill for majority of Americans. Reich explains how this happened and what it has meant for us.

In the past few decades, I’ve seen it first hand: jobs got outsourced and real wages tanked. Many people must work multiple jobs to get by. Young people are drowning in student debt. Older people are going bankrupt because they can’t pay medical bills. Almost as if it were by design, struggling people no longer have time to join organizations that hold political clout. Unions have been weakened, banks have been deregulated and many laws and policies, including those about arbitration and patents, have been shifted to benefit corporate interests to the detriment of the populace.

Reich paints a picture of the world we live in in stark terms: people can no longer afford to buy the things that are made here and our jobs are going away, because today’s company has managed to “trim the fat” of “extra” employees, getting by with significantly fewer workers than in the past. It may look good on a balance sheet, but for who? Those few people who are busy playing the baseball trading card game with the stock market.

“Stocks are more like a vast collection of baseball cards, repeatedly traded. Apple raised $97 million in its initial public offering in 1980. SInce then, those shares have circulated among investors who have bid up their price, but the added value has not gone to Apple; it has gone to investors lucky enough to buy them low and sell them high.” (p. 199)

That quote alone is worth the price of the book to me. Here’s another good one:

In 2014, the “six Walmart heirs together had more wealth that the bottom 42 percent of Americans combined.”  (p. 213) Think about this the next time you see that commercial about how Walmart employees can’t earn enough to get by. 42 percent of Americans is 132,000,000 people. Think of that the next time you pass a homeless person in the street, or wonder why so many people are lined up at the food bank.

Reich points out that the way things have been going are simply not sustainable, and speaks of prior historical eras that were similar to our time (think Depression > New Deal) and how the pendulum eventually swung the other way, as it must do now, or capitalism will be destroyed. You simply can’t have a capitalistic free market when the consumers are too poor to play the game.

The end of the book is optimistic. One idea he sets forth (one that has a precedent in both conservative economist F. A. Hayek and the 18th century’s Thomas Paine) is the “basic minimum income.” Once a person reaches adult age, he or she could get a basic monthly income. This would reduce their need for private employers, and for getting a demeaning form of government assistence such as welfare. They could work of course, and many would, finding meaning in following their calling, rather than just being a wage slave in order to prevent starvation or homelessness. How would he pay for it? Read the book to find out.

The Power of No, the Power of Yes

“Enlightenment is absolute cooperation with the inevitable.” – Anthony de Mello

In the past six months or so, I’ve learned a lot about the power of No, and the power of Yes. But you may be surprised that this is less about duality, and more about accepting imperfection.

Let’s start with No.

“No” is what happens when you finally realize you’ve bitten off more than you can chew. It’s when you say, “No I’m sorry I cannot take on the responsibility for X, because I am already busy with A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V and W.”

“No” is choosing priorities and not feeling bad about it. It is looking at your calendar and realizing you absolutely need to get your car in to the shop ASAP, but the only day free on your schedule is two and a half weeks away, so you are going to have to say to someone “Sorry, that thing I said I could do? I can’t do it after all.”

“No” is admitting you are terrible at something and then refusing to do it because it would be a waste of everyone’s time to pretend otherwise. It’s admitting that even though you sincerely wish you were flexible enough and smart enough to take on a completely new skill you’ve never had before, like marketing and schmoozing, it’s absolute bullshit to think you could even do a passable job at it because the fucks you don’t give could fill an ocean.

“No” is telling your health care professionals you are tired of seeing them because you are. You may like them personally and enjoy their company, but if you’ve been seeing them for months or a year and they still haven’t fixed what ails you, it’s time to part company and try a new approach.

“No” is saying you are going to express how you feel even if someone else doesn’t like it. It’s running away from bad energy people as if they had a contagious illness.

I have found that if I don’t say No sometimes, my body says it for me, by getting sick or having pains or something.

Now let’s look at Yes.

“Yes” is about accepting what’s coming with open arms, even if it’s something you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. It’s coping with illness, tragedy, car trouble, a cancelled flight, a broken bone and a toilet that won’t flush.

“Yes” knows that you burned dinner and doesn’t mind.

“Yes” happens when you get lost while driving and then decide to do something else besides what you had planned.

“Yes” is when four different landscapers fail to return your calls but then you find a great one who does.

“Yes” is running out of curry powder and using a creative blend of spices instead. If it comes out better than usual, then great, if not, you now have an excuse to heat up that freezer burrito you would have rather had anyway.

You take whatever comes and say, “Yes. I see you and I will deal with you and I will not let you break me.” It’s knowing that whatever happens happens for a reason that you may not fully understand what’s what because you don’t have perfect clairvoyance, and that’s okay.

How about you? What have you said “Yes” and “No” to lately? Or, how have you embraced the imperfections in your life?


First I said “Yes I will let this plant grow in my yard.” Then I said, “No this plant has tiny, silly flowers and fluffy, annoying seeds. Out it comes.”

Knife, Bread, Toaster

About 12 years ago I participated in the Fresh Art Festival in Fremont, Seattle, and in just a few hours, completed this painting:

If you have the original of this, please let me know.

If you have the original of this, please let me know.


A stranger paid $50 for it at auction and I regret I have only this fairly low res photograph of it. Many people have admired it over the years, and I would love be able to offer merchandise and copies of it via RedBubble, but at the moment all I can do are stickers and phone cases. Still, I thought I should announce this painting’s entry into the world of merch.

What I learned from NaNoWrimo 2015


I did it! I “won” NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) for the first time. All I had to do was write 50,000 words for a new novel in one document during the course of the month of November. Which is easier said than done of course.

Here’s what I learned:

— I have a lot of ideas, some of them quite crazy, but I can elaborate on them for paragraphs, pages and beyond. My husband knows I am full of ideas, as I badger him with them whenever he’s playing Destiny (“They should have a side game where all you do is collect plants, berries, nuts and seeds, and then take them to a kitchen where they can be prepared into meals and then resold. You could have a whole restaurant thing for cash flow. Oh and what about pets? Can’t you have pets in this game? I want to have a pet snake that lives in a pocket on my chest and whenever I get killed, the snake bites whoever killed me and they die too.”)

— It’s easy for me to write dialog or anything when the ideas are just flowing. Typing 1000 words in an hour is no problem. However, when I’m just short on ideas or not in the mood to write, it goes painfully slow. I had some days where it just seemed like I was sitting down at the computer every few hours trying to make something happen and only getting a few hundred words typed each time.

— I can get ideas from life, Facebook, Time magazine, the newspaper or talking to people. So if I ever again face a kind of idealess writer’s block, stepping away from the page and engaging with life is a good way for me to get beyond it.

— My new novel, Truculent States of Oblivion, has the potential to be the most awesome thing I’ve ever written, but it needs a lot of work. Now that I have tons of stories, characters, scenes and ideas roughed out, I need to go back, do a timeline, a map, a plot outline, figure out all the character arcs, assemble what I have into some kind of frame work, and fill in all the gaps. And that’s before the editing begins in earnest. Still, I think if I can manage to work on it 5-10 hours a week for the next six months, I could probably have a rough draft by summer or fall of 2016.