Knock Knock

Do you know what happens when you self isolate at home? You spend a lot of time staring out your windows, looking for freedom. Instead, you notice things you never noticed before. And because you have the clear understanding that you will continue to stare out this particular window for literally ever into the murky future, you discover something that bothers you. A tiny thing that makes you crazy as time marches on.

You will have to make it go away.

We have acorn woodpeckers that use our palm trees as long term storage facilities. They fly in with a single acorn in their beak and proceed to ram said acorn into the tree. As hard as they can. Wherever it will fit. I don’t know why the acorn isn’t accidentally rammed down their throat in the process or why they don’t have a profound headache afterward. When we trim the palms, bushels of acorns fall out of the frond pockets, exploding like a piñata (Exhibit B). These birds will spend the following days patiently retrieving every single acorn from the ground and ramming it right back into the trees.

I like birds. I’m happy for their stash. If things go south, I will rob their cupboards and make acorn griddle cakes like the native Kumeyaay tribes. But this spring, they went a step too far and began ripping a hole right into the trunk. A big hole, a bird-sized hole,  a community-sized hole with a billiard room attachment (Exhibit A). And this tree is miles tall.

The internet told me to hang sparkly things in the trees to discourage the birds, but all I had at the moment I snapped were shopping bags. I lifted the bags up on the end of a pole and hung them in the shortest palm. They flapped around in the breeze and the woodpeckers spent 24 hours cussing me out before remembering the malls are closed. Then they went back to business.

I replaced the bags with a surprise birthday party. 24 hours later, they were out there singing along with me and doing the limbo rock.

I replaced the birthday party with Christmas decorations. The floating tinsel kept them away for three days before they decided to fill the trees with presents.

I replaced Christmas with floating mylar balloons on a looooong string. This seemed to do the trick. By now, the woodpeckers were out of cuss words and stopped working on the giant hole. But the helium won’t last forever.

If they come back, I have CDs of really bad movies ready to hang. After that, honestly, I’m going down to the local JiffyLube and borrowing their floater guy. You know the one:

Oh yeah. This’ll work. Dance Party.

The woodpeckers have a lot of housing and cupboard options, including Hollywood. Don’t feel sorry for the little vandals. They sit at the top of the cypress tree and laugh at my shortness and wonder when I’m throwing the next party.

I wonder how they feel about disco balls? Lasers? Fog machines? I know a guy with a drone…

Who’s there?

This means war.

Hot pockets. Piñatas full of acorns. Thousands of acorns!

Logical. Everybody hates shopping. Will keep you from pinching free samples.

Fine. Happy Birthday from the ground!

This Is Not Your Happy Place!

Mother’s Day Hotline 2020

Good morning my dears and here are some cheers for the Mothers Day about to arrive.

No need to fret that the mall’s not open yet or the family has nowhere to drive.

Buying diamonds online is so unrefined, though flowers from the lawn might do.

But laughing is free and we always have tea, so relax with this bit just for you.

Good morning and thank you for calling the Mother’s Day Hotline.

Please listen carefully, as our menu has definitely changed. Who are we kidding?

The planet has definitely changed.

If you were the perfect mom….until you had kids, you’d better press 1.

If you feel like crying along with your toddler, press 2.

If you just need to unwind (un-wine?) with a girlfriend, press 3.

If you need to explain “boredom” to your middle school kid, please press 4.

If “distance learning” is now part of your life, please press 5.

If you are raising teenagers, please press 6.

If you need a heartwarming reminder that it will all be okay, press 7.

If you are the kid and need ideas for your own mother, better press 8.

If you are parenting fur-babies, please press 9.

If you need a reminder that you are rocking this mom gig, please press the pound key.

Thank you for calling the Mothers Day Hotline. Enjoy your tea. Be kind to yourself. Breathe. You are loved.

(We’re having a special this year on last year’s Hotlines! To access previous Mothers Days, please press here: 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016)

The JARR Farmhouse

The JARR Farmhouse comes to us from “a house of four women who are completely unqualified farmers” but post regularly on Instagram anyway, sharing inspiration and creative tips for container gardening and other homestead adventures direct from the southern California quarantine.

If you’re looking for a breath of fresh air to take your mind off the kinda-spooky-never-ending rain, the longer-than-humanly-possible house arrest, and the you-don’t-know-who-coughed-on-that produce aisle, look no further.

Whether you have a jar of dirt or an acre of land, you too can grow fresh produce with a little ingenuity and patience. The way these ladies figure it, if they can do it, so can you. The idea behind this style of gardening is to keep pests to a minimum and the planters movable.

Here are today’s tips for tomorrow’s harvest.

Cinderblock containment.

Cinderblocks make fast, easy garden boxes. Plant flowers (marigold, chrysanthemum) and herbs (rosemary, lavender) that repel pests in the holes and fill the center with your soil and root plants like potatoes, ginger, and onions. Using cedar wood shavings as mulch is also a natural pest deterrent. If gophers are a problem in your area, lay down a sheet of welded wire first, then edge with blocks and fill with soil. If you need to add a cage to keep the deer, rabbits, birds, or raccoons out, the cinderblock is a sturdy base for your tent poles and chicken wire.

Cinderblock and planks.

Green goodness.

Add a few planks to the cinderblock and take your planting vertical. In the base is your watermelon and pumpkins (they will grow out beyond the base) and layered on the benches are a variety of containers. A smaller version of this idea is placing the containers in your sunny kitchen windows. Most pests have a hard time reaching anything up high like this. Leafy salad greens don’t require a lot of root space and can be planted in more shallow containers. Root crops like carrots, radishes, and beets need more soil to grow in, so choose deeper pots. The ladies plan a trip to the second hand shop as soon as it opens to scout for fun containers. Personally, I like teapots and old work boots as planters. You do you.

Climbers need a grip.

Any of your climbing viney crops, like peas, cucumbers, and runner beans are planted next to anything that will hold their weight when they produce. It can be a simple as this twine lattice or as sturdy as a chain link fence you have along your yard. You can repurpose everything from an old ladder to a pallet for your climbing garden.

Wheelbarrow berries.

Nobody loves strawberries more than slugs and snails. An elevated planter, without obvious paths to the prize is a genius solution. Strawberries are also happy in hanging containers and don’t need much room. Keep your delicacies safe from tell tale holes and eat the berries yourself!

Sprouting jars.

Chia, barley, and wheatgrass seeds lend themselves to making sprouts in jars. They make a great salad topping and green smoothie goodness. For tips on sprouting, see my blog here.

Mobile munchies.

Some plants demand containers. Really. If you are unsure of your eco zone, especially if you are chasing the sun as the seasons turn, putting your tree in a pot makes sense. This is a dwarf nectarine. Move the pot to meet the sunshine or avoid a heavy frost. Most varieties of berries and mint are downright invasive if not kept in a pot. You were warned.

Coming soon…!

No way am I leaving without showing you this little fluff. In a future blog, we will devote ourselves to chickens and other critters, the other fun parts of The JARR Farmhouse as it evolves. Have yourself a happy little garden, even if it’s a pansy in the window. Be sure to follow @the_jarr_farmhouse on Instagram to watch the crops come in.

Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. Genesis 1:11

The Mural

The mural joined us in the fall of 2006. It was painted in acrylics over the space of a few weeks. The finishing touches emerged, swirling into corners and bleeding occasionally onto the ceiling and spattering, no matter how much I scolded, onto the floor tiles we had chosen deliberately for our oldest child’s room.

He was the firstborn of five offspring and it took us that many attempts at reproduction before it was apparent that none of the little versions of ourselves in any way resembled each other or danced to any drum but their own. He drew his first lizard at two years old, with a crayon, on the back of his granddad’s giant sheet of unwanted street plans; a purple curvy amphibian basking across the black and white, straight and narrow, professionally engineered road map.

During grade school, what began with a proper mother’s encouragement grew into a secret mother’s certainty that her eldest child was a creative genius. It was as quickly quenched when all parties concerned were summoned into the middle school office. No one could understand how a sullen, doodling pre-teen could sit in the back row ignoring the teacher until called out for it; said pre-teen answered the questions correctly, aced the test, and doodled his way back out the door. No one could decide whether this was an academic or an attitude problem.

But my son’s art got better.

In high school, he enrolled in an art class and dropped it again after one week. It took three more semesters before he came to an understanding with the teacher and stayed in the class to play with different mediums. One day I went to pick him up from water polo practice and found the team huddled around a player, intently watching my eldest. He had dared the player to shave his head and in return, my son, using a black sharpie, drew an intricate Maori design on it that completely covered the scalp. With neither a beginning nor an ending, the design was both a prank and a masterpiece.

And my son’s art got better.

Meanwhile, our small home underwent a third and final renovation. The baby was almost ready for kindergarten, and bursting the seams, we added a new garage, den, laundry room, bedroom, and bathroom. While it was under construction, our eldest decided to live in the rafters of the new garage. He laid a plywood floor, moved crates of clothes up to it and wired some lights. He had no use for a ladder. He swung himself up like a gymnast and enjoyed his privacy. In this aerie, his art advanced to include nudes, interlaced fingers, fantasy-scapes, cyclops.

And during the last semesters of high school, he graced his brand new bedroom with a singular mural. It developed like a polaroid, integrating shapes from his night terrors, from our garden, from a place deep in his mind that sparked colors and vivid imagery that he interpreted in paint.

Always spontaneous, always unexpected, his art got better.

After he graduated and moved out, when it was time to repurpose his room, the mural was painted over in comforting soft pale green. A cover that, in hindsight, I think I wanted to caress the mural with, and preserve it along with the painful period of growth it represented. To plant it, perhaps, beneath moss and clover and allow it to become humus – eventually, fertile ground that attracts roots.

I mothered the mural because I could not mother the man-child.

His art is always getting better. No matter the medium, his signature style is stamped into it. He wanders the world, collecting no moss, pushing straight lines into flowing curves and painting them brilliant purple.

Toot-in-Common’s Curse

Many know the legend of the curse that follows those who dare disturb the sarcophagus of Toot-in-Common. Few have dared to approach it. None have dared to open it.

For many years, people circled the area, knowing that foul deeds and fouler air were contained in the bowels of the ancient tomb. What treasures must be locked away in there? What mysteries hidden in the depths of the forbidden zone?

One intrepid archeologist risked her reputation and her life by venturing where no man had gone before. Well. A man or two had obviously gone before her to build the thing. And yes, what they buried involved another man who should have died for the plan to work. Somebody somewhere had to curse the thing.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

There were strange markings in the walls that she couldn’t decipher. Patterns in the tiles plastered above the cavernous entry. Mold grew in the corners in a black spidery gesture that unmistakably beckoned the wary explorer to come closer. She looked carefully for a trap. There was nothing here that could sustain life. The smell was a mixture of damp clay, stale air, and sewer slime. The floor shifted with her weight and creaked. The wind outside moaned in warning. In the dim light, she stepped closer. The sarcophagus was buried here in the dry rot. She could feel it.

Waving to her team of hired thugs, she moved into position. She put on gloves, a mask, and protective eye shields. On her signal, hammers fell against the stone that encased her prize. She reached for ear plugs. Shrapnel flew through the chamber, filling the air with dusty debris. “Stop!” she cried, lifting a fist. “Time to use the chisels.” With detailed precision, the last of the stone was chipped away, revealing the edges and smoothly polished target of her ambition.

“Yes,” she said, running her gloved hand over its alabaster surface. “You’re mine.”

She turned to look behind her. There were three intricately carved storage chests. Taking up a mallet, she smashed through the front panel of the one on the left. “Empty!” she cried in frustration. She broke open the one on the right. There was nothing inside but a cracked cistern, oozing thick, black offal. She backed away quickly, signaling to the minions to cover it up. With one last desperate swing, she cracked open the central box. She moved her boots out of the way just as odd shapes and parcels began spilling at her feet.

“Bag it,” she said. Time to sort her treasures later.

Circling slowly, she knew what she had to do. Others would hear about this as soon as she left. They would follow, curse or no. The credit was hers and hers alone. She would remove her prize and destroy the place behind her. She took photos first. Proof for those who might scoff later. A tease for those who hadn’t been brave enough to go after it themselves. Cowards.

Workers lifted the huge sarcophagus from the bowels of its encasement and gingerly moved it towards the entry as others took up hammers again. “Level it,” she said, and took the first swing. The cavern wall opened immediately, gaping wide as huge chunks fell away on their own. Through the rubble, black slime began crawling from hidden recesses above the ceiling and down into the room. It percolated from the holes in the floor, bubbling up in anger. The alluvium of a thousand years rose to challenge the intruders and surrounded them in stench.

There, in the wall, was the source of the curse. It pulsed with the remains of a thousand human hands, dripping with stripes of brown, green, and yellow stalactites. A sulfurous decaying mass began to slide towards her. It was offended by the carrion birds who had entered with irreverence to pillage and destroy. The curse had been released and she felt the air hum with its static. They stampeded for the exit. “Bleach bombs!” she cried, staggering towards the fresh air.

Hubby was waiting outside. “I almost died in there!” she said.

“I told you so. You had to do it, didn’t you?”

“I still might die. What happens when you breathe all that?”

“Leave it alone, I said. We can hire a professional, I said.”

“A professional is who built that bathroom in the first place. A man who did a lazy job with the plumbing and left it dripping for the last 30 years in the wall.”

“Where did you find my hammers? I hid the hammers.”

“At least I got the tub out in one piece.” Kid #5 stood there and pointed to the dings in it. She tried not to feel defeated.

“I hope you’re happy. The bathroom’s destroyed. Now we have to rip out the mold and it goes in every direction.”

“Yes, I’m happy. The place is like death in there.”

“Please don’t touch the toilet. What did the toilet ever do to you?”

“Toot-in-Common can stay. It’s the only thing that worked right anyway.”

“Thank goodness for small blessings. I’m not good with rivers running through the house.”

“Well,” she said, “at least I can find out what’s been falling behind the cupboards for the last million years.”

Someone’s retainer. Someone else’s diaphragm. An enema. Floss. Meds. Qtips. My sanity.

I might just light the thing on fire and rebuild from scratch. I mean. She might. She’s a crazy archeologist with a torch, you know.

 

Hot Diggity

TMI

Don’t open this. You were warned.

Almondines – A Classic

Good morning my fellow quarantinettes!

I imagine that you’ve cleaned the pantry, weeded the garden, binge-watched your shows and taken the kids on maybe a million walks around the block by now. How about a change of scenery? My girlfriend and blogging-buddy, Mary Knight, offered a peek into her world of food and fancies and agreed to share the following recipe with us! Mary travels the world, making friends, creating recipes, and curating mouth watering photos. She’s interviewed Julia Child herself and that will get a girl inspired, wouldn’t you agree?

Mary’s blog is a cornucopia of glorious photos of recipes and travel. SpoonAndSuitcase.com will take you on a tour of Portugal, Sicily, or Santa Fe without leaving the living room and is a breath of fresh air in a world afraid to inhale. Let’s take some time to relax.

Grab some almond paste from Amazon and clear the kitchen, because we’re going to make Almondines!

While cleaning out an upper cupboard in my closet last week, I discovered a forgotten box. A treasure full of old recipes I had created when I taught cooking classes, as well as letters and postcards I’d sent my parents from La Varenne in Paris, France. It was like opening a present on Christmas day. The “missing pieces” from my life suddenly inspired me to go back to the recipes I’d embraced many years ago. Early in my cooking career, ideas for recipes came like lightning strikes, unexpected but exhilarating, followed by cloud bursts of extended creations. It all seemed so easy. I almost couldn’t get the ideas down fast enough, not to mention implement them.

Here is one of those recipes for Almondines that I’ve adapted. The results impressed me more than I’d expected. The tart is made delectable by the inclusion of almond paste. Rich and tender, the almond filling almost melts on the tongue and the unifying light almond crust is the accent mark. Divine. It’s been a hit with all my taste testers. The best part is you can fill the tarts with the almond creme, sprinkle on the sliced almonds and freeze for an impromptu breakfast or tea time. They only take about 18 minutes to bake or about 25 if frozen. I’m making a batch to freeze for weekend guests and neighbor thank you’s. Enjoy!

Almondines

Course Breakfast, Dessert
Cuisine French
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 18 minutes
Servings 11

Equipment

  • small tart tins
  • food processor (optional)

Ingredients

  • 4 oz butter (this is equal to 1 stick or 100 grams of butter)
  • 1/2 cup sugar or 100 grams
  • 7 oz almond paste or 198 grams
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup flour or 65 grams
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp almond extract

Pâte Sucrée (Sweet Pastry Dough)

  • cup flour
  • tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 4 oz unsalted, cold, cubed, butter (this is equal to 1 stick or 100 grams of butter)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • ½ tsp almond extract
  • 3 Tbsp ice water
  • ½ cup sliced almonds

Pate Sucree

(This is my favorite from A French Chef Cooks at Home by Jacques Pepin) I added the almond extract. Feel free to use your favorite crust recipe too.

Instructions

  • Combine the flour, salt and sugar.
  • Cut in the butter pieces until size of small peas.
  • Combine the egg yolk, almond extract and water.
  • Drizzle into the flour mixture and combine gently.
  • If the pastry feels too dry, add a bit more water.
  • Knead lightly to form a ball. Pat the ball into a 6” round, wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least a half an hour.

Notes

I use a food processor to make my crusts.

Almondine Filling

Instructions

  • Cream the butter, sugar and almond paste together.
  • Beat in the eggs one by one.
  • Beat until light in color and fluffy. This will take about 5 minutes.
  • Slowly add the flour and salt. Stir in almond extract. Mix just until combined.
  • You can refrigerate the filling at this time or use immediately.

Notes

  1. I made this recipe using organic sugar with crystals much larger than the white C&H variety. The crystals melted into the butter and did not whip up into a fluffy mass. The filling was much denser than I like. I prefer using regular white sugar for the filling for a lighter crumb.
  2. I prefer to weigh my ingredients. There is a tiny bit of discrepancy in the measurements when you use Standard vs Metric measuring. This is not enough to alter the recipe.

Create Almondines Like A Rock Star

Instructions

  • Roll the dough out to ⅛”-1/4” thick. Cut into rounds appropriate for your tart tins. I used 4” tart tins and the recipe made 11 tarts. You can also make one large tart using a 9” quiche tin. If the dough seems too sticky, you can pinch off pieces of dough and fit them into the tart molds.
  • Pat the dough into the tins and put in freezer to chill.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • When the pastry crusts are cold, fill with almond mixture and sprinkle with sliced almonds. Pat the almonds down slightly to help them adhere to the filling.
  • Bake for 15-18 minutes. They are done when deep brown on top.
  • Brush with strained apricot jam when warm to create a beautiful glaze.

Notes

These can also be frozen after they are baked.

Believe in your heart that you’re meant to live a life full of passion, purpose, magic and miracles.”
― Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart

Caio for now,

Feeding Spam to My Ferrets

I love my job. I mean LOVE. I snack on words at tea time. I shake them in a bag like dice and see what they form when they roll out. People send me words and I’m as excited as a kid at Christmas to read them. My collection of greeting cards fills more than one box and when I’m down I pull one out at random and feel the love.

Words. The gift that keeps on giving.

But when I want a laugh, a good deep belly laugh, I pull up my spam emails and feed them to my ferrets.

It is my pleasure to communicate with you via this platform. Your positive regards towards this very message will be appreciated, please do not regard this email as one of the common unsolicited email or false business invitation in the world today. I am fully convinced that you will really be of help as a new friend and business partner. I hope my message to you will be given proper attention despite the fact we have not seen or even meet each other before. knowing fully well it takes a minute, an hour or even a day to know somebody and also establish an everlasting relationship with truth and honesty between you and I without cheat, lie or sabotage the business project. My lawyer will prepare a good memorandum of Understanding to facilitate the success of this project in-line with law of your country of origin. I can assure you the success of the business transaction if you can keep it top secret. Humbly indicate your full name, Contact address and contact number while replying my proposal.

Hello my loved one! I wish to say that this post is amazing, nice written and include approximately all significant infos. I would like to see more posts like this.

certainly like your website but you need to test the spelling on several of your posts. A number of them are rife with spelling issues and I to find it very bothersome to tell the truth then again I will definitely come again again.

The subsequent time I read a weblog, I hope that it doesnt disappoint me as a lot as this one. I imply, I do know it was my choice to learn, however I actually thought youd have something attention-grabbing to say. All I hear is a bunch of whining about one thing that you might repair in case you werent too busy on the lookout for attention.

It’s a shame you don’t have a donate button! I’d most certainly donate to this fantastic blog! I suppose for now i’ll settle for book-marking and adding your RSS feed to my Google account. I look forward to new updates and will share this website with my Facebook group. Chat soon!

Thanks for the tips you discuss through this blog. In addition, several young women who become pregnant don’t even try and get health insurance because they dread they probably would not qualify. Although some states right now require that insurers supply coverage no matter what about the pre-existing conditions.

We are approaching a future of a one-world cashless society in which they will mandate us to have an RFID microchip implanted in our body. This chip will contain all our personal information and we will lose much more of our privacy because of the tracking capabilities. More importantly, did you know that this was all prophesied almost 2000 years ago by a man named Jesus? Don’t believe me? Keep reading…This may be the most important thing you will ever read.

Was it ever. Went on for pages and repeated in several languages. But he could have spared the space and just beeped the info via satellite into my microchip.

Knowing fully well it takes a minute, an hour or even a day to know somebody and also establish an everlasting relationship with truth and honesty, I know I can count on you to stick around when I do a bunch of whining about one thing that I might repair if I weren’t so busy looking for attention.

You’re the best.

And it is my pleasure to communicate with you via this platform.

The Maelstrom

My kid stepped on a screw last week. He went through the garage barefoot to take out the trash and started hollering. When I answered his warbles, he calmly asked me to unscrew the screw sticking out of his heel. To do this properly, you have to turn it ‘Lefty Lucy’.

Later, after a trip to urgent care, some X-rays, a new Darth Vader boot, and a tetanus shot, he rode the whole way home updating his social media accounts.

“Seriously kid?”

“If I don’t post it,” he said, “it didn’t happen.”

“Oh, it happened. It was disgusting.”

Silence. More tapping.

A long, long time ago, somewhere off the northwest coast of Norway, a Viking discovered a swirling vortex of death, a tornado made out of ocean, and just said no to the maelstrom. Have you seen the movie, Sharknado“? This is how I feel when surrounded with social media. My kid was sucked in willingly and I never heard from him again. The kraken got him.

It’s his own fault.

In the meantime, I’ve created accounts on Instagram, YouTube, Goodreads, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and three – count em, three – Facebook thingys. One of which is a Private Group called Jolie Tunnell’s Earlybirds“, which is basically a book club. I’ve got a website, a business, a blog, and a book to maintain.

So, I’ve set my own vortex into motion, spinning in happy little currents, and as the tide goes in and out, I wonder how much time I have left before it traps me. At its center is my newsletter. Everything else is attached to it in some way and that feels like the right direction for this year. Lefty Lucy. If you want to know what happened to Jolie, read the newsletter.

Which, by the way, I may have accidentally on purpose signed you up for already. I knew you wouldn’t mind. But if you do, there’s this cool button called “Unsubscribe” at the bottom of it that will make it all go away. It has adorable palm trees in the title so you can find it in your inbox but I think most of them landed in your trash. You’d best go dive in there and save it from last month.

🌴

If the kraken ate it, sign up here for a fresh start:

My Monthly Newsletter

One minute, please...

Thank you for joining the party!

 

Enjoy.

Insomniacs Unite

Our next meeting is tomorrow morning at 1:30am Pacific Time, mark your calendar.

Last night’s agenda:

2am: Wake up hearing a strange noise. Realize you smell the essence of skunk and wonder if the garage door was left open. Listen for strange noises for a few more minutes.

2:08am: Tell yourself it’s nothing and try to go back to sleep.

2:10am: Realize that nice tune in the back of your head is Maroon 5. Congratulate yourself on good taste in music.

2:12am: Recall that a critical task was left undone and due at 6am. Reassure yourself the world will not stop spinning if you didn’t post a blog. No, we aren’t’ getting up right now and doing it.

2:20am: Bladder insists that we can’t wait until morning. Check the garage door. Sneak into kitchen for a drink. Your house is creepy in the dark.

2:24am: WHO ARE THESE BARBARIANS? The sink is full of dirty dishes. You cleaned this place before you went to bed. You live in a barn. Go back to bed.

2:46am: Practice dramatic yawning in attempt to force oxygen into sleep part of brain. Stretch extremities. Roll over.

3:08am: Hubby still snoring. Contemplate the droopy bags, dark rings, and the wrinkles I’m actively creating under my eyes. Mentally inventory makeup drawer for solutions. Don’t forget to add a new mascara to the shopping list.

3:24am: Decide I need to be a better parent. I should help the boys with their college planning. When was the last time I took a daughter for coffee? Am I supportive enough? Give them enough space? Give them enough time? My poor babies.

3:39am: Try not to get mad. Lots of people aren’t sleeping right now. Probably the President. For sure moms with newborns. You don’t see them getting upset, do you? Pound pillows into proper sleeping shapes.

3:48am: The song is so appropriate. So right for right now. Explains everything. You might as well watch the whole cartoon in your head. We have time. You got yours and I got mine.

3:52: It’s such a cozy bed. Snuggly, really. All is well. And if it isn’t, well, there’s always tomorrow. We’ll have coffee. Cooooofffffffeeeeeee……

4:01am: Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

The Imperiled Ocean Winner!

The Imperiled Ocean by ocean journalist Laura Trethewey is a deeply reported work of narrative journalism that follows people as they head out to sea. What they discover holds inspiring and dire implications for the life of the ocean — and for all of us back on land. Battles are fought, fortunes made, lives lost, and the ocean approaches an uncertain future.

Congratulations to Missy from Illinois, the winner of Laura’s freshly minted and personally autographed book! These smart and thought-provoking stories are worth sitting down and thoroughly ingesting. Here is an excerpt from her piece, Cleaning the Coast.

Thank you, Laura, for an exploration of the earth’s last wild frontier, and the opportunity to get to know it – and you – better.

A worn piece of plastic drifted on the ocean over a thousand miles from civilization. A sailboat approached with a 30-year-old woman on board. She leaned out over the gunwale to pick the plastic from the surface. Except she couldn’t: long, dangling seaweed roped the plastic to the water. She reeled up the weed, hand over hand; it stretched deeper and deeper into the depths. Down below, she saw fish darting between the fronds.

As Chloé Dubois sailed farther into a slowly spinning gyre of plastic in the largest ocean on Earth, she experienced this scene again and again. It was 2015, and Chloé and her team at the nonprofit Ocean Legacy had sailed to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch to collect microplastic samples for The Ocean Cleanup, another plastic-pollution nonprofit.

Using samples collected by 37 boats, Chloé’s included, that trawled a 3.5-million-square-kilometer swath of the Pacific, Ocean Cleanup hoped to create the first high-resolution map of ocean plastic. Chloé remembers hauling up the water-sampling trawler and peeking in at its contents on deck, and discovering all manner of marine stowaways in the detritus. How did you get here? she wondered as she picked up a tiny crab clinging to a bottle cap in the middle of the formidable ocean. Drifting by the boat, she saw buoys covered with gooseneck barnacles. Ocean-knotted islands of rope that hid masses of organisms.

“On the news, there’s this plastic island in the middle of the ocean that’s the size of Texas, and that’s pretty much what people know unless they go out there and experience it for themselves,” she said. Instead of a floating island of waste, as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is so often portrayed, she encountered more of a drifting slurry. The pollution came in all shapes and stages of degradation, from microscopic particles and fibers, to toothbrushes, bottles and great tangles of fishing nets and lines.

She witnessed, too, how nature worked with the plastic intruders. In the ocean, bacteria and algae quickly glom onto any floating feature they can find, drawn to the nutrients that collect there. More and larger animals, like barnacles and tubeworms, follow suit, fastening themselves to the marine debris. How productive of the ocean to use the plastic to build tiny ecosystems out on a vast desert of salt water, where so little life thrives in comparison to coastal waters.

The Garbage Patch was not a dead zone at all, she realized, but a world teeming with life.

Since she was 17 years old, Chloé has been involved in the environmental movement. In her early twenties, she began collecting plastic from beaches and she’s now cleaned shorelines across Mexico, Alaska, Costa Rica, Panama, and Canada. When she was 29, she co-founded the nonprofit Ocean Legacy, and she has become obsessed with cleaning plastic from the environment. She knows the names, acronyms, and resin codes of the plastic pantheon like they’re her children.

For a moment, Chloé hesitated before destroying the little crab’s home, this plastic piece of garbage that it had found and colonized and survived on against all the odds. Rationally, she knew that the crab’s plastic bottle cap was on its way to becoming a toxic pill. Plastic is a master at teasing out toxins from the ocean, sucking floating chemicals from the water column and condensing them into ever more hazardous forms. Industrial metals, pesticides, fertilizers, plastic softeners, and flame retardants can dissolve in water or be hydrophobic, meaning they want out of the water fast. Plastic already contains some of the chemical contaminants found in water, and that makes certain types of plastic naturally attractive hosts to wayward chemicals. A smaller animal might then ingest that poisoned plastic item, covered in slimy nutrients and pollutants, like PCBs, that have been banned on land for decades but are still drifting out in the ocean. A larger animal will then eat this animal, and up the food chain the plastic goes, magnifying its toxicity as it jumps to each new animal.

Chloé knew all this. She had seen the damage firsthand, yet destroying an animal’s home still gave her pause.

Then she plunged her hands in and removed all the plastic she could find, no matter how much life clung to it. The team built a home for displaced crabs in a glass tank on deck.

When they had sailed outside the center of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, Chloé dove off the boat and into the sea. When she climbed back on board, tiny pellets of plastic covered her skin. After a month and a half sailing across the Pacific, her sailboat returned to land with 154 water samples hauled up from across the ocean. Every single one contained plastic.

Not all plastic is a problem. Much of it helps us and is integrated into every step of human life from birth to death. As I write this, I tap away on computer keys made of plastic, scroll through webpages on a mouse made of plastic, and peer through glasses rimmed with plastic. It’s the cheap, omnipresent plastic that lasts hundreds of years but is built to throw away the second after we use it that’s a big problem, perhaps one of the biggest for the ocean.

For almost as long as industrial plastic production has existed, we’ve known that plastic was going in the ocean. In the 1970s, a team of researchers sampling water in the sluggish Sargasso Sea reported that tiny plastic fragments were floating on the surface. During a 1997 yacht race from Los Angeles to Honolulu, a sailing scientist named Charles Moore passed through a remote stretch of Pacific Ocean and found himself surrounded by plastic debris in all directions. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, as it was later called, grabbed the world’s attention.

Suddenly there was a tangible place where all our waste was going, just outside the limits of our imagination.

The sea is a vast, deep, mutable force that covers 71 percent of the Earth. Plastic is small, ubiquitous, and breaks into ever-smaller pieces. When these two meet, they marry: a horrible collision between the synthetic and the natural.

A trawl sample collected from the Great Pacific Gyre by Ocean Legacy.

Given enough time, the ocean has the ability to spread plastic to the most remote reaches of the planet. Today, plastic is drifting in the waters off Antarctica. Plastic comes down in rain. Plastic fibers pass through the filter-feeding valves of oysters. Not long ago, Japan’s Deep-sea Debris Database reported finding a fully intact plastic bag in the Mariana Trench, the deepest underwater trough in the world.

We still don’t know exactly how much plastic is going into the ocean. One study, published in Science in February 2015, conservatively estimates that eight million metric tons of plastic is entering the ocean each year from municipal solid waste streams on land. That is 200 times higher than what had last been calculated in 1975 based on plastic pollution entering the ocean from maritime activities, and more than 2,000 times higher than what had been estimated from floating debris samples.

In that 2015 study in Science, environmental engineer Jenna Jemback and her co-authors argue that barring any major changes, plastic going into the ocean will multiply by a factor of 10 in 2025. That’s 80 million metric tons of plastic dumped in the ocean each year.

Despite the startling numbers of waste already in the ocean, our love of plastic endures. Plastic production is growing and expanding right along with plastic demand. By 2030, our need for plastic is expected to double.

The financial guru Warren Buffett once compared a stock market crash to the tide going out: you find out who’s been swimming naked all along. During the 2008 financial crisis, we discovered that big banks can fail. For centuries, we’ve believed the same of the ocean: that it was simply too big to fail. But an encroaching movement of threats, such as a warming ocean, overfishing, and pollution, could change that in the not-too-distant future.

If we could see beneath the surface, what would we find at the bottom of the sea? Perhaps millions of tons of plastic lying undisturbed, except for the bottom-dwellers that nibble at the nutrients collecting on it. Perhaps this evidence of the world’s waste will eventually become a layer of sediment pressed between rock layers: the Plastic Era, a fitting symbol of human-made change, baked into the Earth’s crust.