Monthly Archives: January 2014

Days 29 & 30: Red Lentils & Pleasanton Parks and Rec

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Some days you just have to be kind to yourself. Since by early afternoon I had a raging migraine, for me that day was yesterday. There was no way I was leaving the house, and I had no project ready. What would I do for my One New Thing? Thankfully I had a couple of new things in the kitchen, though on any normal day I wouldn’t call them enough. However, they were just gonna have to do.

Red split lentils, I discovered to my dismay, are not some wonderful new lentil. They’re simply peeled lentils – naked lentils. And when cooked, they have no skin to keep them from turning to utter mush, and they lose their lovely pinkness and become grey-brown. However, they still taste nicely lentilish in broth with mushrooms.

The kombucha has been in the fridge for a while, since I haven’t really loved the others I’ve tried. What a nice surprise then, especially since I was feeling so horrible, that this Third Eye Chai was as yummy and sparkling as a good ginger-ale (though not at all gingery), and wonderfully settling for my tummy. Nice!

Today I gave myself a bigger challenge. You may have learned about me by now that I’m very uncomfortable going to new/unfamiliar places, especially alone. But I’ve been wanting maps and information about the parks and hiking trails around town, and what’s online is too tiny to be useful. So today’s ONT was to go to the local Parks and Rec for information.
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I don’t imagine strangers can see how tough this is for me. I walked in with a big grin and made my request, telling them why I wanted the maps. The ladies smiled back and pointed helpfully, though I could tell they weren’t at all interested in my story. I got maps, I got a magazine, I got flyers, and I got the heck outta there. Having survived it, it’s easy to wonder why this is so stressful for me. Hopefully, by the end of the year, it won’t be. And in the meantime, now I’ve got a few more ideas for other ONTs. 

Have you done something new today?

Day 28: Gluten Free Bagels & Fermented Butter

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Today’s post is short and sweet, however, at the end is a very important question I’d love you to answer in the comment section.

But first: today’s ONT was quick and easy for me, involving very little work on my part while letting me try two things I’ve been putting off. My hook-up at Trader Joe’s gave me some of his fresh, homemade fermented butter (which I will no doubt be making myself sometime this year). What to put it on? Udi’s gluten-free bagels, which I’d heard were quite good (I’ve not been impressed with other gluten-free breads that supposedly successfully mimic regular wheat bread).

So, about this butter: as you know, I’ve been playing around with fermenting and growing things in an attempt to heal up my gut and improve my health. My buddy Chris has been a great resource for this, giving me starter for kefir, a scoby for kombucha (brewing here soon!) and now fermented butter. He gets cream which he allows to ferment, then he beats it into butter. Oddly enough, it looks just like, um, butter. Smells like it, too, though with a little sour edge to the scent.

Of course, I had to toast the bagel. Did it fool me into believing it had gluten? No. It does not have that lovely, stretchy tooth of a really good bagel, but otherwise the texture was actually pretty good, and the flavor was fairly convincing. It toasted up perfectly. And the butter? I didn’t notice any sourness in the taste. It tasted like, you guessed it: butter. I would have liked it a little saltier, honestly, so I could have enjoyed that buttery flavor a little better.

All in all, it was a nice, satisfying snack, and a good ONT.


And now, the Very Important Question. I’m having so much fun with this One New Thing, and I want you to have just as much fun with me. I’d like some help with that. Would you prefer blogs posted more frequently, that is every day or two like I’ve been doing? Or would you like longer posts less frequently? Please use the comment section below and let me know what you think. Also and always, any other comments or questions you have are welcome, and I will do my best to respond.

Have you done something new today?

Days 26 & 27: Detour to Walnut Creek, Daikon Radish & Oil Pulling

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Yesterday our day took an unexpected detour. Beth and I were on our way to meet someone for an exciting surprise outing (I was the one who was supposed to be surprised). I haven’t a clue what was on the agenda, but Beth assures me I’ll love it – if it ever happens. We were about 30 minutes from home when our Main Event Coordinator called and cancelled. So there we were: out and about with no ONT to go to.
We were passing Walnut Creek when the call came, so we decided to go on into town and find a new restaurant as a second option. But gee whiz, are we hard to please! Being gluten free can put a real crimp in my style! We were all set for Thai, but upon inquiry discovered that the one dish I wanted was the only one on the menu that used malt vinegar – which is the only vinegar that is not safe for a gluten free diet. Italian: all that pasta. Sandwich shops… um, nope. Obviously not pizza. And other places I’d already been to. Beth nixed anything that looked like sushi.
But then we discovered that it was farmers’ market day. Great! We’d never been to the Walnut Creek Farmers’ Market (okay, we were kinda scraping by this time). So we wandered up and down rather listlessly (have I mentioned we were both disappointed and STARVING?). I noticed that even farmers’ market prepared foods are predominantly gluten-full. 
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But we did find something new! A radish? Really? I just looked it up this morning: yup, a daikon radish. The guy at the booth said to just saute them. After my online investigation this morning, though, I think I’ll roast them with carrots instead. That’s for tonight’s dinner. 

But the day wasn’t over yet: we still needed lunch! And finally – JACKPOT! An unprepossessing-looking place slap up against a corner parking lot.

At first glance didn’t seem too impressive. But we took a look at the menu and – holy kamoley! For starters, all their soups were gluten free, and they looked good! Sure, they had sandwiches, but they also had fantastic looking salads. I got one with quinoa, cucumbers, lime, dill, and a great big slab of grilled salmon, plus roasted corn soup. Beth’s salad had mixed greens and goat cheese and I’m not sure what all, and she also had butternut squash soup. Yummy! So it all worked out great, and we were quite pleased with ourselves and our outing. 
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Even though I’ve got the crazy radish for today’s ONT, there’s something else I’ve been waiting for a “free” day to try, but my days are just filling up! I decided not to wait any longer. Remember me brushing my teeth with activated charcoal? This is more tooth health. (Btw, about the charcoal: I’ve continued using it most days, and my teeth overall don’t seem any whiter, but the yellowing along the gumline is definitely less.) I’ve been reading about oil pulling, which, according to Katie the Wellness Mamais an age-old remedy that uses natural substances to clean and detoxify teeth and gums. It has the added effect of whitening teeth naturally and evidence even shows that it is beneficial in improving gums and removing harmful bacteria!” 
It’s simple: using coconut or olive oil (different sources suggest other options), swish your mouth out for twenty minutes (yup – twenty!). I tried it with coconut oil and couldn’t stop gagging, so olive oil it is. I made it the full twenty minutes, but I admit it was not my idea of a good time. As with many of my New Things, one day really isn’t enough to gauge accurately, so I guess I’ll be doing this again… and again. If I can stand it. There was no discernible difference after one time. Rowan does it regularly, and she thinks it’s making a difference for her. I’ll let you know.
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As for that daikon radish? I decided to saute some and roast the rest with carrots and parsnips. I wanted to get a good feel for it. Most of the familiar “radish” taste mellowed almost completely away in the cooking, leaving, well, not much taste at all, actually, except for the butter and salt it was cooked with. Other than texture, there wasn’t much difference with the two cooking methods. Will I eat if again? Sure, if I’m a guest and it’s being served. But I don’t imagine I’d ever go out of my way for another taste. 

Whether I like the radish or not, though, I’m glad I tried it. I’m glad for all these new experiences. I notice that I’m increasingly less hesitant to try new things; in fact I eagerly look for new opportunities now, and not just in food. I like that. I like it a lot.


Have you done something new today?

Days 24 & 25: Ginger Day and Go It Alone

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Day 24 was all about ginger. I had been fermenting a quart jar of it on the counter for 5 days, and I was now ready to turn it into syrup. I also had infused vodka with ginger, and I was ready to try that. Since I haven’t found the perfect ginger ale/beer, my theory was that I’d mix the syrup with the vodka, a lime, and sparkling water and voila! The perfect Moscow Mule. But first, I had to make the syrup. And as an added bonus, I’d have a whole bunch of candied ginger as a bi-product. That’s known as a win-win.
First I poured the whole quart jar of fermented water and ginger through a sieve into a 4-cup measure. I had almost 2 cups of liquid, so I doubled that to figure the amount of sugar I needed. Water, sugar and ginger all went into a pot, and boiled merrily for quite some time, until the ginger was deliciously hot and sweet and the liquid was more syrup than water.
Once the syrup was cool, I was ready to try the first ever Sarah’s Genuine Original Triple Ginger Moscow Mule. I took a knob of fresh ginger and muddled it in the bottom of my glass mug first, then added the other ingredients. Oh, this was gonna be great!

Um, not so much. Sigh. It was plenty sweet, but after all that work, where was the burn? Tragically lacking!

Then I poured off the liquid again, and laid out all the bits and pieces of ginger on wax paper to dry. There’s my candied ginger – yum! Very hot and sweet – just how I like it. Traditionally the ginger pieces are then shaken with granulated sugar, but I’m more into the ginger than the sugar, so I skipped that step. 
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I messed with it a bit. I added finely ground white pepper and ground cloves, which made the taste richer but did nothing for the lack of burn. Clearly, the journey for the perfect Moscow Mule continues. . . .

Today I went to the movie alone. Really: all by myself. I’ve thought about doing this many times in the past, but, well, didn’t. But why not? We have a very cool cinema in the next town over, the Vine Cinema and Alehouse. Not only do they serve wine, beer and actual food, but in addition to roomy, comfortable theater seats they also have couches! For real: plush, velvet couches. And between the couches are nice little tables where you can set your beverage and your food and any accumulating trash. It is fantastic! They tend to play the more non-blockbuster type movie, and that’s fine with me, too. My choice: Philomena. I won’t review it; let’s just say I really enjoyed it. I’d meant to get a nice pinot grigio to go with the film, but unfortunately I got there at the last possible minute and there was a line. So I just hot-footed it inside where, to my delight, there was still a good choice of couches available, in spite of the fact that, for a 1pm Saturday matinee of an off BBC movie, the place was surprisingly packed.
But the most interesting part of this sojourn came after the movie. I meant to stop in at Trader Joe’s on the way home for something for dinner, but my cute, sparkly shoes (yes, I dressed up to go to a movie by myself) were rubbing fierce blisters into my heels. I’m not too familiar with that area so I didn’t know where I might stop to buy band-aids. I thought about just going home, but I really wanted one of those yummy roasted chicken patties. Then I thought to go home first and change my shoes, but that’s ridiculous; I have to go right past TJ’s. And that’s when I realized that I was terribly anxious. I didn’t want to try to find a place; I didn’t want to step outside the familiar, because even just thinking about it was making my anxiety level skyrocket. It was those damn cows all over again! 

I have a friend who has terrible anxiety. It’s so bad she is often afraid to leave her home unless she’s accompanied by someone she knows/trusts. Lately she’s been suggesting that the reason I feel stuck is that I have anxiety issues that keep me from doing what I want/need to be doing in my everyday life. I thought she might have a valid point, and I’ve been mulling it over. Well, today I got the evidence sure enough (and was conscious enough to “get it”)! But here’s the thing: just like with the cows, my response was along the lines of, “Oh, HELL no! I will NOT let this beat me!” And so, even with cortisol live-steaming into my body, I turned off the known road and went into an unknown place to find freaking band-aids. Go figure – way in the back of the place I pulled into was – a Walmart! And while I was there, what the heck, I did another New Thing: I bought my first pair of off-the-rack reading glasses. Me go, girl!


Have you done something new today?

Day 23: Saying Goodbye

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Today I went to visit my friend Ray. Of course this wasn’t the first time I’d ever visited him. But it was the first time I visited him here, in the cemetery. Wires got crossed, connections didn’t get made, and so I’d missed his funeral and the party afterwords. I was on my own for wishing him bon voyage. Back home, cemeteries are big, spacious places with lots of trees and rolling hills and curving dirt paths. They’re nice places to go just to be outdoors, to have a quiet walk even within city limits. But here? This was flat and squarely gridded out, overtly a place where bodies are laid. You wouldn’t bring a picnic here. In my fragile state, I was almost shocked, it was so. . . utilitarian. Still, it’s where I had to go. It’s the closest I could get to my friend.

My grief has been welling up in me all week, threatening at every moment to break the dam of my self control and cause flooding. I expected to need a rowboat at least today, if not an arc. But I sat on the grass beside the fresh Ray-sized plot of new turf, and I laid my hands on the grass, and instead of tears pouring out, all my grief poured out, and away. I talked to Ray for a while, then, remembering things we’d done together. I remembered the time I was finally able to get him out on the dance floor. He lead me with a grace and confidence that astonished and delighted me, and I could tell he, too, was surprised by how well I followed (only on the dance floor!). I remembered when I was going through a really hard time that lasted for months. One night he fetched me and took me out, just to get me out, just to get me out of myself. I remembered how honored I was when he came to me in his hard times.

After a while I got up and brushed myself off. I went to one of his hangouts; actually, it was where I’d been when I heard he’d passed. I ordered his favorite drink: very dirty martini with Ketel One and two olives (he never ate the olives – I did). It was as awful as ever! And the bartender and I shared stories about him, and she told me about the funeral and the party, and I learned a few more lovely things about this lovely man. I took my Yes Box with me, but I decided to keep all these emotions inside my heart for just a little longer.


Have you done something new today?

Day 22: Yes Box

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A couple of weeks ago Beth and I were talking about how often we feel guilty about stupid stuff. One of us suggested that it would be great to have a box you could just put your guilt into and leave it. The more we talked about it, the more it seemed like a really smart idea: a Guilt Box. Sounded good to me. So today I decided to make one. But just guilt seemed too restrictive. I wanted to put all kinds of things into my little container, things like anger, depression, hot temper, quick judgments, grief. In fact, I wanted a box that I could fill with all the emotional junk I don’t want.
But what would I call it? Bad Box? Crap Container? Ugh! I tried a bunch of names; none seemed right. Then I understood: I want to say “yes” to all my “negatives.” I want to say yes to the emotions that make me cringe, the feelings I don’t want anyone else to know I have, and the events I don’t want to experience, like accidents and surgery and the deaths of people I love. So that’s today ONT: I made myself a Yes Box.
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I started out with a gorgeous, sheer piece of fabric I bought years ago and never used. I made long strips out of it, and started weaving. I wanted it to be imperfect, like me. Which was a good thing, ’cause it is most certainly imperfect! Like me.
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Many, many years ago I used to weave baskets. It hasn’t gotten any easier with the passage of time.
My Yes Box is shiny and kinda cute, in a lopsided way. I think I’ll feel good about storing guilt in it, or grief, sadness or a bad mood. And it’s got plenty of holes, you know, for ventilation. Maybe if I go back to fetch stuff out of it, I’ll discover that everything just leaked out through all those holes.

Have you done something new today?

Day 21: Homemade. . . Bread?

I’m not making this up: it’s called The Bread That Will Change Your Whole World. I mean, that’s it’s actual name. How can a person who is committed to doing One New Thing every day for a year NOT try that? And today’s the day. But is it really bread? It calls for sunflower seeds, flax seeds, hazelnuts, rolled oats, chia seeds, phyllium seed husks. . . no kind of flour whatsoever. I can tell you this much: I’ve made a lot of bread in my day, and none of it was anything like this. 
My sister Judy has been sending recipes for me to try as part of ONT, and last week she sent me one for some fancy-healthy hot chocolate drink. I haven’t made that yet (you’ll be the first to know!), but I went to the lady’s page (Julie Bainbridge on Yahoo Food) and, while browsing, I found the recipe for this, um, bread, developed by Sarah Britton (Sarah’s original article – well worth reading – is here). (Maybe she calls it bread because it’s cooked in a loaf pan?) It looked fascinating, and I fully intended to follow the recipe eXACTly, but I couldn’t resist making a few teeny-tiny tweaks. 
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First off, I avoid eating whole flax seeds because I read somewhere that we can’t get through that hard little shell to get to the nutritional goodies inside, and furthermore, that hard casing can perforate the intestines. So instead of whole seeds I used flax meal. I used pink Himalayan salt instead of sea salt – that shouldn’t make any difference, right? I blended up dates for sweetener instead of maple syrup. And I added one totally new ingredient – any guesses? Of course: fresh ginger!
Oh, and I did do one kinda crazy thing. Remember when Rowan soaked the walnuts for those amazing waffles she made on Day 11? I saved the soaking water – just pure water that organic walnuts were soaked in – and it’s been growing like some kind of wild kombucha on my counter ever since. I strained out the slimy stuff, and used this in place of 2/3 of the water. I’m convinced that this stuff is full of really good probiotics and will help with the whole “changing my whole world” thing. I did taste it first: totally unremarkable.
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The recipe couldn’t be any easier: Stir all the dry ingredients together in the loaf pan. Pour in the wet ingredients (1-1/2 cups water for starters), mix, then leave for at least two hours (or as long as overnight) before baking. This does just what soaking those walnuts did: makes the enzymes and other nutrients easier to digest and more bio-available. The baking part is unique also. After twenty minutes in the oven, turn the loaf out of the pan, put it upside down on a rack, and keep baking for another 30 – 40 minutes. 
Now I’m just waiting for awhile, letting it brew on my counter before I bake it. I’ll be back with a report later.

Okay, it’s later! I’m not sure this bread is gonna change my whole life, although it is a little early to tell. In the meantime, here’s Beth’s assessment: It’s good but slimy. She’d like to try it toasted sometime. Rowan’s assessment: “I like it. It’s slimy but it’s good, it’s not sweet enough, I can taste the ginger, it tastes like curry but I like it.” 
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As for me, I also find it a tad slippery feeling, no doubt because flax, chia and psyllium all produce gel-like substances when mixed with water. It’s that very attribute that binds this loaf together. I think “slimy” is too strong a descriptor. I tried it still warm, and also toasted with butter, and it’s pretty darn good either way. I thought it would be sweeter, which is why I added the ginger. If I make it again, I’ll either make it sweeter (I think it would be really good with fat apple chunks and cinnamon) or skip the ginger. I also think it should have cooked longer, but I didn’t know how to know. I’d probably do 30/40 rather than 20/30. It has tons of texture and I like the flavor. I think this would be great for a peanut butter sandwich on a day when I need to take food with me and I don’t want to fuss – maybe peanut butter and applesauce (I’m definitely seeing an apple theme here). All in all, this was a great ONT and I like the possibilities for future cooking fun. . . but I still don’t think I’d call it bread.
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. . . with peanut butter and honey. . . ohhhh, yeahhhh . . . .


Have you done something new today?

Day 20: Ferry Point, Richmond CA

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Today Rowan and I went to Ferry Point in Richmond, CA. I discovered this a couple weeks ago when I was doing who-knows-what online and I saw a fascinating photo. I followed the photo trail and this is where it led: a derelict ferry building that has been used as a graffiti heaven for who knows how long. Also, out in the water are the remains of an old railroad pier. They actually used to drive railroad cars right out the pier and
onto a ferry, which would take them across to San Francisco. I took so many pictures, and I love them all! So prepare for lots of pictures and not much text for this ONT.
First off is the approach from the second entrance to the Miller/Knox Regional Shoreline. There are great views of the bay across toward San Francisco as well as of the railroad pier. And here are the pics of the building from all angles.
Even though we went into the building at this point, I’m saving those pictures for last, because they are unreal. Next are pictures I took on our circuitous route back to the car. There are a lot of nice walking areas, paths and some shoreline, old bits of railroad tracks, and a lot of drought-bit plant life.
I love old wood, I love the sea, I love beat up, abandoned buildings. When you combine all three into something like this railroad pier, I am in heaven and my photo-finger gets a heckofa workout! 
Okay, that’s all pretty darn cool. But what was really so compelling that I would go all the way to Richmond, maneuver my way around a big, locked up fence and sneak in the back way of an old abandoned building?

This was a real adventure today. It was wonderful that we got warm sunshine, and that there weren’t a lot of people around. And I’ve never seen anything like this up close and personal before. I really loved it. And hey, it’s been ages since I trespassed!


Have you done something new today?

Days 17, 18 & 19: Ginger, Vodka, Dinner Guest & Chia Drinks

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Friday was fun because I did multi-purpose ONTs: I did two kitchen concoctions, so I got the ONT of making them, but they need some time-lapse to be ready to consume. Perfect: I’ll get two more ONTs out of the deal. Plus I got another bonus one because Beth and I stumbled on a whole new path on an old familiar trail. Note the picture: my first time up a tree since the accident! (This might not sound like such a big thrill, but I’ve been a tree-climber from way back, and I miss it. I didn’t actually climb this one, though, just hiked myself up onto the branch. 🙂  )
The first kitchen concoction was ginger-infused vodka. I may have mentioned my undying passion for ginger (a time or two…?). I can never seem to get it strong enough. So, for my current favorite tasty beverage, a Moscow Mule (ginger ale, lime and vodka) I thought maybe I’d just cut to the chase and make it with the heat already jump-started. I figure I’ll give this from a week to a month before I try it out.

Next up is a chia drink. I see these all the time at healthy food places. Supposedly they just dump raw chia seeds into juice, and the seeds swell way up. They’re pretty cool looking, though I admit I don’t actually imagine I’ll like it much.
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I expected the seeds to swell up super-fast, and then I’d drink the stuff later in the day. It didn’t happen like that. In fact, today is Sunday and the stuff still doesn’t look like the ones in the stores. Oh, well, I’ll drink it anyway, and that will be today’s ONT.
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This is right after I poured in the black current juice and shook up the bottles.
Here they are several hours later. Not at all what I expected. I added more juice, hoping that would make a difference. Nope.
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And here they are today, after a solid 48 hours. I don’t think it’s gonna get any better. It’s a little disappointing, but what fun is experimenting when you always know exactly what will happen?

Yesterday’s New Thing is sadly lacking in pictures. It was, however, quite delightful. Other than my dear friend Jack back home in Michigan, I don’t think any man has ever invited me into his home for the express purpose of cooking for me. Until yesterday. My friend Geoff had me over (also a first; I’d never been to his house before). He let me root around in his liquor cabinet for a tasty beverage I’d not encountered before. I selected a lovely dark bottle; even Geoff wasn’t sure what was in it, but he guessed it was a French port. We planned it for after dinner. He made the most fantastic butternut squash risotto. OMMerciful Heavens, in was incredible! It was even better than the spinach salad with fresh cracked walnuts and Amish blue cheese that preceded it. YUM! We had such good conversation and lingered long enough over the risotto, however, that we were running late for the movie, and had to race off without cracking the bottle of, um, port? We went to see Walter Mitty. We should have stayed for the port.

And now for today’s One New Thing: the disappointing chia seed infused black current juice. I’ll be right back…
Okay, that was surprising good, like drinking oddly delicious swamp water full of tadpoles! The chia seeds gave the juice a much deeper, nuttier flavor that I really liked. However the seeds themselves are now tiny crunchy bits – like blueberry seeds – coated in a slippery, tapioca-like slime. Hmmm. I bet it would be even better with some of that ginger-infused vodka. . . .
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Have you done something new today?

Days 15 & 16: Cows, Bookstore & Ginger Ale

20140115_135502Yesterday was a helluva day. I had a really juicy ONT already lined up, my first author talk and book signing at an independent bookstore, Towne Center Books in Pleasanton. Then I got two surprise ones, tough ones. The first was an unexpected and unavoidable face-to-face with cows. The thing is, I am absolutely freakishly terrified of cows. (See Video of Victory below.)

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