Friday, March 26, 2010

exciting news- lots!

Cocha Blanco in Peru.
Copyright (c) 2007 Wendee Holtcamp

Where oh where to begin? I just finished a draft of my article from my recent visit to San Antonio (about how the cities are taxing themselves to pay to purchase lands in neighboring counties in the aquifer recharge zone to help make sure it stays healthy). I now have another 9,000 things to do, but that's life, aye? So much has happened, pretty much all good, I almost don't know where to begin!

I'm finishing up Experiencing God bible study, and it has been one of the most amazing experiences - I won't say just studies because it's been an "experience." Before my divorce, I used to do bible studies pretty regularly, including ones at my church and even attending the Beth Moore Tuesday night bible studies downtown (she is a huge inspiration). And though since then I've read my Bible, and had an active prayer life, I sort of started to feel like God stopped talking to me. Well not as much. No, I'm not crazy and I don't hear a "voice" but God answers prayer in real ways, and sometimes delivers messages by when you'd sort of see the same bible verse in several places, that spoke to your circumstance, or that kind of thing. But to be honest, when I went into the study, I'd just come out of a period in life when I wasn't getting this kind of serendipity or any sort of word from God. And boy has that changed in just a short time!!

I entered into the study sort of placing my book and my life "on the altar" so to speak. When I wrote that blog post ch-ch-ch-changes, I was searching for a full-time job. Money is tight, the publishing industry is going to hell in a handbasket. And then after I wrote that post, the tragedy of all tragedies for a writer happened to me. My book publisher cancelled my contract. No real explanation. No extensive feedback. I don't mean to belittle the tragedy of miscarriage, but it was kind of like having a miscarriage. To any writer or artist, you understand a book is your baby. I've been working on it for 5 years, and on the experiences behind it for 10 or more. Deep breath. So I was devastated the first few days. And maybe I should add that to me, it was more than just a book. I've long felt that it was my Christian ministry to reconcile science and faith. So this sort of led to a faith crisis. Was I wrong? Did He not want me to follow this path? Don't get me wrong I'm not ever going to turn my back on the science of evolution, or on my Christian faith, but I just thought maybe something wasn't right in my message, or my approach, or maybe that was not my path to do.

But I set it aside, and started the bible study, placing the book on the altar as I said. That meant that I asked God what He wanted me to do with it. I was totally ok with completely walking away and throwing it in the waste bin. Or I would work on it more and try to find a new publisher. And through the class I've come to realize that God does want me to continue this path. It just wasn't the right publisher. And maybe I will self-publish or maybe I will find another publisher but I'm not in a rush.

I also heard the Lord speak "teach." I don't know exactly what that means yet. It may mean apply for a teaching job. And I have been investigating options for teaching jobs. I'll be teaching basic & advanced magazine writing workshops through Leisure Learning in Houston during June and July(hey the online catalog just became avalable! Here they are - Intro to Freelance Writing Jun 14 - $57 and Make Money Selling Nonfiction to Magazines July 19 & 26 - $150). And I may start teaching biology at an online university. But I also want to teach bible studies at some point, or even write them. So this is in the back of my mind. And one thing led to another and I'm going to be doing a "discipleship huddle" at the church. I'm super excited about that! I truly love learning about God's word, and studying it, and applying it to my life and to growing in spiritual maturity.

And so I came across this Writing Away retreat a couple months back and for some reason it just resonated with me. It's not like I can afford it, but I contacted the lady who runs it - Cicily Janus - and got some info. And then just 2 weeks ago I just knew in my heart that I needed to go. I don't know why, but I do. The retreat is an all-inclusive stay in a cabin in Breckenridge, Colorado in May for 5 days with agents and editors from publishing houses. I will get feedback from each of them on 10,000 words of my book, and the time to work on my book while there. She says she has an 85% placement rate in helping writers find agents and publishers. That's pretty phenomenal! I know this book needs to find its audience. So many people tell me all the time that they want to read it. I have to get it out there, with God's help of course. Maybe I was not writing it with Him close by every step of the way before but this time I hope to. So I signed up and bought my plane ticket today!

Other cool news that has lifted my spirit even more: I have made a couple of new friends, which is always so wonderful! I had been working out with Doug almost every day, and since he went offshore, I had that lack. But one of the new friends (both as a matter of fact, though one is more recent) work out there! And this may seem like "bad news" but it seems like the relationship of Doug and Wendee is winding down. It's been for some time. It breaks my heart, in one way, but I just feel like it's what I need to do right now. He's ok with it, in fact that makes it harder I think! To be real honest we've broken up about 900 times I think. Ha! But I never said much, and now it's concrete. I'm at peace and in fact happy. I think the hardest part of that whole thing was not knowing God's will for the relationship. I went back and forth a million times between my head and my heart. Ultimately my head won out... Sometimes I wish God would just speak out loud to make things obvious, but in that situation it was apparently my path to choose and not so clear.

In all these things that could overwhelm my soul, the loss of the book contract, the slow demise and breakdown of my relationship, I don't feel devastated, really at all. It is like God is carrying me, and I'm floating as if on a magic carpet above the "stuff" that otherwise could get me down. It just isn't. I just feel joy most days and it's unexplainable!

And here's another stupendously amazing God-thing: yesterday, a perfect stranger emailed, offering to give his used Honda Accord to me, after finding me online through a Google search. He and his wife had the desire to give back and see it help someone rather than just sell it to some random person. I'll post some details after it all happens in a few weeks, but I'm speechless! My Subaru has nearly 180,000 miles on it. All I can say is God is amazing!

In other news, our family recently sponsored a little Kenyan girl named Happiness through Compassion International (Savannah is going to be the primary person to write her and keep it up). We also donated to The Invisible Children, an organizatoin that helps rescue child soldiers in ganda. They came to talk to my daughter's school this week but even before that she was moved by reading about it online. She has developed quite a deep passion for helping orphans in Africa, and it will be wonderful to watch her life unfold.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Why I am not a Conservative Christian

On the eve of this historic vote that passed healthcare reform in our nation (once Obama signs the bill into law), I am hearing very polarized responses on Facebook among my friends. Some say we are all "doomed." Others are rejoicing. I'm with those rejoicing. It's not perfect, but it is historic, and it begins to bring our country's citizens, myself included, beneficial much-needed change. It will help ordinary citizens to not get crippled with debt from corrupt and greedy health insurance companies who drop them at their whim. It prevents them from rejecting kids and adults due to pre-existing conditions. And it ultimately will reduce the deficit over the long haul (20 years). But with all the Republican opposition to this, I just wanted to share a few articles/commentaries I've read from a Christian perspective that have some interesting food for thought.

They reflect in part my own thoughts and really answer the question of why I am not a "conservative" Christian but proudly a progressive, liberal, whatever youw ant to call me Christian. I don't fit squarely in the liberal box, and I don't like the way conservatives peg "liberals" (especially the likes of the Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter - but I give most conservative Christians a bit more credit then those outspoken and mean-spirited hypocrites). Frankly, I don't understand in any part of my mind, soul or heart how the Republican party has come to be the party of most Christians. It in so many ways opposes the fundamental teachings of Jesus. Here are a few articles that reflect my reasons why. I'd be very interested in your thoughts on these, especially knowing what those who are politically conservative Christians think after you read them.

A MUST-READ for Christians: "Why Conservative Christians So Often Fail the Common Good (Part 2)" by Richard T. Hughes a Religion Professor at Messiah College. ~ Quite simply this is a brilliant and important essay about the Christian faith. Not just important but must-read for anyone who calls themself a Christian, in my opinion, in the modern world! And here's part 1.

Another - "I can't think of one religious reason against health care reform. can you?" Great piece by Paul Raushenbush, an American Baptist minister, Editor of the Huffington Post's Religion section

But I'm going to give a bit more thought to this one which doesn't have to do with healthcare but with Glenn Beck and his not-so-long-ago tirade against churches promoting social justice. Glenn Beck Vs. God: The Bible Speaks For Itself by Christian ethicist Dr. David Gushee.

Gushee posts several Bible verses on justice in contrast to Glenn Beck's tirade against churches that preach about social justice. He includes one of my all-time favorite verses, "What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?" (Micah 6:8)" As Gushee says, "There really is no theme more central to biblical faith than the matter of justice." Although I would argue grace would be most central, he's right that when it comes to what Jesus actually preached and taught, I agree.

I have often wondered myself why Christians - or churches for that matter - so often fail to actually teach and preach what Jesus did in terms of vocal opposition to hypocritical religious leaders. No one wants to call a spade a spade, but Jesus had no qualms with it. Instead certain religious leaders lambast those outside the faith with differing beliefs, or lump "liberals" into one category (a bad one), while almost always ignoring the vile hypocrisy spouted in the name of Christianity at times (it's been up to the atheists to notice and discuss it, and that has given them great ammunition against the Christian faith). Now I'm not criticizing all Christianity, and certainly not Jesus and the Bible, or I wouldn't be a Christian. I have seen great depths of love coming from the Christian church aka the body of believers and it's why I love this faith now more than ever. Things that come to mind - Christian radio (KSBJ), Beth Moore, Women of Faith, Philip Yancey, Anne Lamott, and my own personal church all promote and practice brotherly and selfless love, kindness, mercy, and self-reflection.

At any rate, Gushee highlights 4 ways that Jesus confronted injustice (with key passages):

  1. Jesus confronted the injustice of greed and gross economic exploitation and unfairness. He demanded/invited justice for the poor and hungry (Luke 16:19-31).

  2. Jesus confronted the injustice of domination and bullying and demanded/invited his followers to exercise power in the form of mutual servanthood (Mt. 20:25-26).

  3. Jesus confronted the injustice of violent killing and demanded/invited peacemaking (Mt. 23:37-39).

  4. Jesus confronted the injustice of exclusion from community and demanded/invited into existence a new kind of community in which everyone has a place at the table. (Luke 5:27-32).

And just for kicks, here's just another great resource,,which won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize. It's slogan is "Sorting out the truth in politics."

Sunday, March 21, 2010

back from amazing San Antonio!

Sam never likes to smile for the camera unless you catch him unaware. Or, apparently, when he jumps up and into Savie's photo, as you can see in the first shot! This is him by the Alamo in San Antonio!

I had an absolutely wonderful time on my recent trip to the Hill Country, mostly in San Antonio - both in researching my article, and in the exciting things the kids and I got to do in and around the city. Where do I even begin to explain the short but awesome trip? Since it's almost 2am, and I've got a mere 9 days until my deadline, a brand new writing class that just started today, and loads of other things to do, how about... I cut and paste some of my tweets from the past few days updated with a few details and links (Tweets, to those unfamilar, is the name for what you call the 140-character sentences within a Twitter update). You can follow me on Twitter - I'm @bohemianone or

In a nutshell, we first went to the Dahlstrom Ranch in Buda, Texas, which plays a part in my article I'm researching. Saw some cool aquifer recharge features such as sinkholes, caves, plus karst, chert, and devil's toenails. Then we headed to the Grand Hyatt on the Riverwalk in San Antonio. After checking in at the highrise, we walked around the riverwalk a bit, eating dinner at the Italian restaurant Paesano's.

The next day, we went to Government Canyon State Natural Area and interviewed the biologist/superintendent there for my article, and got the chance of a lifetime to go up in a helicopter with conservation real estate agent Mike Luigs, who helps preserve land and ranches. We were a bit scared- all of us - and I think I'd have passed on the once-in-a-lifetime offer to fly in the copter were it not for Sam saying he wanted to do it (despite his initial fear). I'm so proud of him, and Savannah, and me for that matter!

After the hour-long 'copter ride over Government Canyon, Bullis Air Force base, San Antonio and out to Bracken Cave, we landed, then headed back to the hotel. Back in the city, we did a few things on the riverwalk (Ripley's Believe it or Not! Museum), then out to eat with my friend Laurie. The next day we spent all day exploring San Antonio thanks to the San Antonio Convention & Visitor's Bureau for providing us with a "passport" to the attractions and hosting our accomodation. Last, we stayed that third night at the breathtaking Westin La Cantera Resort, which provided us with an amazing meal at Francesca's at Sunset, a fine dining restaurant that specializes in locally grown sustainable food! Here's the tweets on the details of our cool explorations in the city.

March 16th:

  • About to drive to the Dahlstrom Ranch in the Hill Country, site of a unique public-private partnership to save land for aquifers 751am
  • I saw a patch of bluebonnets! very pretty! 1039am
  • Going to walk around the San Antonio Riverwalk 551pm
  • My son is naming his child Hubba Bubba 714pm
  • realized tonight my son is just inch or two shorter than Savi tonight (&hence me too) how did this happen?! 1016pm

March 17th - St. Patty's Day:
  • Just took my kids up in a helicopter over gov canyon near San Antonio for a hour! awesome! 234pm
  • Sam wants to know if he can go around pinching people not wearing green! Umm sure! just kidding 504pm
  • Checking out the Ripleys wax museum- my 1st wax museum. interesting. 531pm
  • Looking at a giant cow hairball at the Ripleys Believe it or Not Museum! 554pm
  • I'm now waiting by the Alamo for my friend Laurie who we're going 2 dinner with! im starving! lots of green clad peeps walking by. 746pm

March 18th:

  • Heading to brekky at the Contessa Hotel! 845am
  • I'm enjoying a vacation from my computer! havent downloaded email in 3 days! I guess the blackberry doesnt count right? 958am
  • We are about to go to the Tower of the Americas 4d theater (Skies over Texas). this tower was at the 1968 world fair. 1027am
  • About to go up a very very very tall elevator thingie-Tower of the Americas! 1057am
  • Now it's time for a river boat cruise tour down the riverwalk or technically down the river. what river is this anyway? 1225pm
  • Boudros (a local fave): Now its time for dessert! what the heck. a double decker brownie w/toffee ice cream & creme anglais. plus a tortilla fan w/berries & cream 204pm
  • Now headed down the earth at Natural Bridge Caverns. havent been in caves since Carlsbad at age 14! 417pm
  • We are back out from middle earth! 608pm
  • About to eat in Francesca's at the Westin La Cantera 753pm
  • All I can say is... I am soooo full! It was absolutely delicious! The resort restaurant (Francesca's) specializes in locally grown food. 1025pm

March 19th:
  • I'm loving the Westin resort at La Cantera & wishing i had more time here. we may just have to come back! heading to b-fast at Brannon's here 953am
  • driving home! 1216pm

Oh but there's so much more... I had a wonderful time visiting with my dear friend Laurie, whose laugh lights up a room and I just love to be around her! She and I hiked up Guadalupe peak with much laughter (remember "Wendee Holtcamp EXPOSED!"), and traveled to Granbury Texas together, both for articles in Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine- the first trip was for Top of Texas and the last trip for a 3 Days in the Field - Birds Over Broadway. At any rate, Laurie picked us up from downtown, and we ate at the Blue Star Brewing Company restaurant which was inexpensive and very good. Then the next day she and her hubby and grandson went to the Natural Bridge Caverns with us.

It's not almost 3am, so I will sign off... more updates on general life, and my February, March and April monthly resolutions! Have you made any monthly resolutions? How are you doing on your New Yera's ones? I found focusing one month at a time makes it more doable. I'll give an update next blog.

And I'll leave you with some classic Sam & Savannah photos. This is my attempt to get a normal nice photo of the two of them. Despite my begging and pleading and insisting, I could not get a single shot where they both smiled! They are always making goofy faces!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Naked bath-body groupon and free hugs day

My day in pictures...

The first order of business for the day was lunch at the Black Walnut Cafe in Rice Village. I had a side Greek Salad and a Roasted Vegetable Omelette - both of which were divinely delicious! Highly recommended! I got Daline the roses just because, they spoke her name when I saw them, and she's been working so hard at her education in all things music. Viva Spring Break! We tried for weeks and weeks to schedule this day to get together and use the "groupon" she'd gotten me for Christmas and we finally found the perfect day. And it was a perfect day! The weather was absolutely amazingly delicious, all sunshine and breeze and beauty.
After an early lunch, we walked over to Naked Body+Bath. I'd never heard of the place before Daline got me this gift for X-mas, but it's very cool! You create your own fragrances for lotions, perfumes, shampoos, bath gel or whatever you pick. We both opted to use our money toward a lotion using the Pink Sugar-Milk and Honey scent combo we made up, plus we each got a free make-your-own cologne.
Even without buying something, you get a free foot soak with a fizzing bath bomb, plus after the soak, they give you some Happy Feet sea salt scrub to rub and scrub your feet with, which makes your feet as soft as a baby's bottom. Then you rinse that off, they dry your feet, then they give you some Happy Feet lotion to rub in. Last, they spray the Happy Feet spray! It makes your feet happy warm and tingly for about 30 minutes afterwards. The Happy Feet line smells really good. It's got a mix of oil of mint thyme, peppermint, tea tree, and lavender. Time to check out! We had quite the adventure at the check-out counter, with us and the lady mixing, spilling, mixing more, adding more fragrance...We accidentally tumped some mica glitter all over the counter so we added that to the lotion, and then all over us as well. I swear by the time we left the place you could smell us from Timbuktu!
Having fun with lotion!
Next mission - FREE HUGS! We walked to the front of Rice Village on Morningside, and started giving out hugs. Umm, Daline? Your sign is upside down! :) We met up with an old friend of Daline's (Clint) from way back in the days that she had first met me, some 20 years or so ago, who took most of these pics!
As we like to say Amigas siempre!
Would you like a hug? Maybe? Come on, you know you want one!
OK, a sideways hug will do. He talked to us a while, and I think got a second hug later!
They were sitting on a bench close by, and after a while came over and asked us what this was all about. We explained there's no strings attached - just hugs! We talked a bit about India, where they're from. I spent a night there near Darjeeling back in 07, while trekking through Nepal! Yes it does look like I'm tickling him but I swear I'm not! Ha ha!
Hugs R Us!
These folks just loved the hug concept! They each got hugs from both of us and wanted to take pictures!
Hey that guy's cute!
Him too!
Hugs make the world go 'round! Take one, pass it on!
Daline gave out the roses later in the day!Whew all that hugging was hard work. We were worn out, and decided to go across the street to get some Nachos Cubanos - nachos with plantains and black beans (yum!) at El Meson Cuban Restaurant. And while at a Cuban resturant how could I not sample a mojito, since after all I am on an international quest for the ultimate mojito, and mojitos are a Cuban drink! And GUESS WHAT?! I found it!! This is the best mojito I have had the world round!! It was very delicious, just perfectly made! That makes sense, since it's a Cuban resturant... my previous favorite was in the Hotel Oro Verde bar in Guayaquil, Ecuador.

Friday, March 12, 2010


Somewhere in the Texas Hill Country...
Copyright (c) 2005 Wendee Holtcamp

Wow! It's been a fantastic day. Just one of those days where I could really see God at work in my life and like a lot of things are coming together. I can't explain it, totally, but things I've been praying about for a long time are coming to fruition. Subtle things, things within my heart and soul, things of God, things of grace, things of love, things of friendships. When connecting with an old friend from college recently, I told him the last 20 years in a nutshell: life has been both incredibly hard and painful, and amazingly spectacular. The paradox is that without one we can't really see or feel the other so well. At any rate, I'll be glad to put my 30s behind me later this year, and move into a hopefully better decade. The 30s were not the best, but many good things took place during those years at the same time.

In the past few days, I connected with a really neat woman, a new friend, which is always so good for the soul! I also participated in something at our church called theophostic prayer. The concept is simple: expose the lies we believe in and that keep us stuck. Interestingly, it's kind of controversial in some evangelical circles. Lucky for me, I'm not what you would call an "evangelical." It is offered though my pretty traditional Lutheran church and seems pretty normal and legit to me. I have read about it and now participated in it and found it very healing. I will keep going for several times more. It's sort of a guided visualization/prayer session over some issue going on in your life currently as well as how it connects back to your past memories. It's such a blessing to have these opportunities for spiritual and emotional growth, and the women who are sharing their time and their hearts leading these ministries to help people voluntarily- it's really quite amazing. To God be the glory!

At any rate I'm super psyched about tomorrow, and next week! Tomorrow is a long-planned but never-seeming-to-happen get together with my best friend Daline (who I met at Texas A&M years ago)! For Christmas she got me this "groupon" to Naked Body and Bath. Get your mind out of the gutter, already! That does sound kind of kinky though I must say, especially when combined with the word groupon. At any rate, it's not! Naked Body and Bath is a place in Rice Village in Houston where you can make your own perfume and potions and lotions. The groupon is just a gift certificate and to tell you the truth I had no idea what the heck "groupon" meant until today. I thought it meant coupon that you do with a group (hence, Daline and I). But I think - and I have to ask her - that its rather through this Groupon website where through group purchasing rates online you get good deals on various stuff.

Also we are going to do FREE HUGS! Remember Doug and I did this the last two Christmases in a row - 08 and 09. I've always had to rope my friends, kids, and Doug into this crazi-fun-ness but Daline is totally into it too so it will be fun to have two hug-a-holics hugging away!

Next week I'm heading to San Antonio for an article I'm writing on, as mentioned. And the kids are excited about getting to go somewhere new and different, rather than just sitting at home on spring break. I asked each where they want to go or one thing they want to do, and Sam wants to see the Alamo, and Savi just wants to take pictures (with my camera, of course...). I'm VERY Happy that both kids actually want to go, because sometimes I want to bring them places and they just whine and complain! OK Savi isn't too excited about the couple hour hike in Government Canyon, but I am! Anyway, we each get our favorite things to do, so it all balances out. And let me just take this opportunity to say that I am so incredibly proud of my two amazing children. They are both so smart, so hard-working and responsible, so kind-spirited, and I just can see the true light of Jesus Christ in their lives. That means more to me than anything and I hope they know that!

Anyway, while in San Antonio, we will stay at the gorgeous Hotel Contessa on the Riverwalk. There's a new mile-plus "Museum Reach" stretch of the Riverwalk that has some green development that I may check out (and am trying to sell a second travel piece on). We're going to go on a riverboat cruise thing. Not sure what else! Another bohemian adventure coming up ahead!

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

the bread of life

A green tree frog at Martin Dies, Jr. State Park in East Texas.
Copyright (c) 2005 Wendee Holtcamp

I had been wondering why God had me so excited about food these days, and while I don't have the complete answer, one thing was revealed to me in my morning bible study today. I'm doing Experiencing God with a group of awesome women at my church (which I am thoroughly enjoying) and today one of the exercises involved reading over the "names" of God in the Bible and seeing which we relate to, or recognize in our interactions with Him. One that stood out to me was the Bread of Life. Of course this relates to when Jesus said, "I am the Bread of Life" (or specifically, "Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty." John 6:35) and that relates back to when Moses had led the Israelites out of Egypt where they were enslaved and to the promised land of Canaan. Only they kind of screwed up and God had them stay in the desert for 40 years.

That's a very true-to-life scenario in life, it seems to me that sometimes due to our own mess-ups, we end up in a desert place. Sometimes we end up there due to circumstances totally beyond our control, but often we are involved in the desertification of our own lives... At any rate while in the desert God would send "manna" from heaven which was some sort of sweet flaky bread-like stuff. ("Then the LORD said to Moses, "I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day" Exodus 16:4)

It was just enough to eat and so they didn't starve but not enough to be sated. In Deuteronomy later in the bible, it says, "He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD."

I have always related to that, because it's how God delivers spiritual wisdom most often, and how He provides for our physical sustenance in the hard times. Somehow He has always come through, at least in my life, and no matter how hard it is or how challenging something happens - a check arrives, some unexpected help, a new assignment. And since I've totally grooved on food lately that one struck me! Enough of the Bible lesson, onto the recipes! Oh but first, I wanted to mention that the last few nights have been really good for endangered Houston toad breeding! This bit won't make it into my article, and I'm excited for the toads! After several really bad years, it's shaping up to most likely be a good season for them.

This first recipe was utterly divinely delicious. So simple and healthy. I already blogged about leeks but baking them this way just was sooo awesome. I worried they may overwhelm the sweet potatoes but not at all. They were very mild and sweet.

Baked Leek and Sweet Potato Gratin
3 medium leeks, white and light green parts chopped (6 cups)
1 1/2 Tbs. olive oil, divided3 cloves garlic, minced (1 Tbs.)
3 Tbs. chopped fresh rosemary, divided
2 medium sweet potatoes (2 lb.), peeled and cut into 1/8-inch-thick slices
1/3 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
3 Tbs. Italian seasoned dry breadcrumbs
2 Tbs. finely grated Romano cheese, optional

1. Preheat oven to 450°F. Coat 10-inch round pan with cooking spray.
2. Heat 1 Tbs. oil in nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add leeks, garlic, and 1 1/2 Tbs. rosemary; sauté 8 minutes, or until softened. Season with salt and pepper, if desired.

3. Arrange one-third sweet potato slices over bottom of prepared pan, overlapping slightly. Spread half of leek mixture on top. Arrange another one-third sweet potato slices over leeks; top with remaining leeks, followed by remaining sweet potatoes. Drizzle broth over dish. Cover pan with foil, and bake 35 minutes.

4. Stir together breadcrumbs, remaining 1 1/2 tsp. oil, remaining 1 1/2 Tbs. rosemary, and Romano cheese, if desired, in small bowl. Remove foil from gratin, and sprinkle with breadcrumb mixture. Bake, uncovered, 15 minutes, or until breadcrumbs are browned and crisp. Let gratin cool slightly before cutting into 8 wedges and serving.

Here's the sweet potato slices going in. One top of the first and second layer goes a layer of leeks. And then it's topped by more sweet potatoes and then some bread crumbs and parmesan cheese, then drizzled with vegetable broth.
This is a bit out I chopped leeks in half moons, as the recipe called for. This is the Pampered Chef knife - the only good knife I have. It's sturdy and awesome!
After rinsing, it calls to spin the leeks in a salad spinner, which I had thanks to Doug's Christmas present!
The recipe says that you should soak the chopped leeks to ensure that you get all the dirt off. Then you rinse it in a strainer.
I did this damage all in the same day I made it. YUM! It was sooo good, and so good for you and low fat too!
Just wanted to share a cool find from Target. I try to drink decaf as much as possible, and all my grocery stores had stopped carrying organic decaf. I used to get Newman's Own but they discontinued carrying the decaf version. I had read that coffee growing uses a lot of chemicals, so I try to buy organic where possible. I don't mind paying a little more to support organic growers, and I really love when I find a fair trade brand as well. So imagine my delight, after having to go back to non-organic decaf for a few weeks, when I found this - Fair Trade, organic decaf - and only $7.99!
And here is a picture of my completely overstuffed freezer! Remember it was emptied out after Hurricane Ike, since we had no electricity for almost two weeks. How did it get so full again? I am on a mission to eat the frozen veggies and stuff in my freezer! The problem is that I will find recipes that use the ingredients in the freezer but require me also to buy new stuff! :)

Monday, March 08, 2010

The Bohemian!

Sunset in the bamboo forests high in the Himalayan foothills of Nepal. A few of us were setting up a "camera trap" to try to get shots of the endangered red panda and we were on a very steep side of the mountain. I remember these moments so well. One day I'll share several from the series of the sunset that evening. Wow!
Copyright (c) 2007 Wendeee Holtcamp

I just finished a draft of my article on the Houston toad. When I say draft, I've already spent a decent amount of time editing and revising. It doesn't come out perfect! As Anne LaMott says in Bird by Bird, just work on your sh*tty first draft, and go from there. You've got to quiet the internal editor the first go-round or you'll never get anything down.

I always love this point, when after hours and days of working on it it all comes together and I can put it aside for a bit. I prefer to let an article sit for a day or two, but in some cases like this one, when I"m pressing up against deadline, that's not possible. I do however have to wait for some fact-checking from some of my sources so I may get it anyway. So lucky me, I get to blog before bed! I had an exhausting 500-calorie workout and I'm about ready for sleep. Doug is putting me to shame though. In his offshore vessel they have a nice gym and he's been burning like 1,000 calories. I'm like no fair! You weigh more so you burn more calories.

I wanted to share a link to a Q&A with yours truly at The Reef Tank blog: The Bohemian. Kinda cool, if I do say so myself. Tomorrow I'll share some more recipes! I made one that was out of this world!

I know there is much more I wanted to share, but my mind is too sleepy to think straight. Oh! I know. Next week, I am heading to San Antonio for an article I'm writing on water conservation (well, sort of) and since it's the kids' spring break I decided to bring them. We went to SeaWorld in San Antonio a couple years back, but they haven't been to the Riverwalk and the Alamo and the like since they were very young. So I'll kill two birds with one stone! I get so excited in my soul for even the smallest adventure these days! I'm going to visit Government Canyon State Natural Area and hike the canyon because that plays a role in my story.

And last, I'll point you to my latest article in Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine's March issue. Unwelcome Visitors: Invasive zebra mussels can wreak havoc on ecosystems. (They've just recently been documented in Texas for the first time ever).

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

more yummy recipes

Delicious colorful veggies - mushrooms, red peppers and cauliflower
Copyright (c) 2010 Wendee Holtcamp

I've done more recipe experimentation, and they're all really good!!! I don't know why God has me so excited about food and cooking these days, but that's where I'm at. The first recipe I made yesterday because I had a half cake of tofu I needed to use up. I didn't have that high of hopes, but to my delight it was really very scrumptious! I modified it a bit which made it even easer to make. Oh did I mention it caught fire? Oops. That's because I have a gas oven and had the tofu on the top rack - as it was supposed to be - but the "mango sauce" dried up on the pan and I guess somehow caught fire. Luckily I caught it before it got out of hand! The blackened baking sheet is now in my backyard...

Broiled Tofu and Steamed Mustard Greens with Spicy Mango Sauce

•2 Tbs. canola oil
•1 small onion, quartered and thinly sliced (1/2 cup)
•1 small red bell pepper, coarsely chopped (1/2 cup)
•¾ cup hot mango chutney, such as Patak’s
•1 medium tomato, coarsely chopped (3/4 cup)
•2 16-oz. pkgs. extra-firm tofu, drained and patted dry
•2 12-oz. bunches mustard greens, thick stems removed'

1. Heat oil in medium-size saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and bell pepper, cover, and cook 10 to 15 minutes, or until vegetables are soft, stirring occasionally. Stir in mango chutney and tomato. Cover, and simmer 5 minutes more. Keep warm.

2. Preheat oven to broil, and place oven rack in highest position. Coat baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Halve each tofu block crosswise to make pieces the size and thickness of sandwich bread. Cut each tofu piece into 4 triangles. Brush each tofu triangle on both sides with mango mixture (it’s OK if some bell pepper and onion bits stick to tofu); season with salt and pepper, if desired; and place on prepared baking sheet. Broil 4 to 5 minutes. Flip triangles, and brush with more mango mixture. Broil 4 to 5 minutes more, or until browned and crispy. 3. Meanwhile, bring 1 cup water to a boil in large pot. Add mustard greens, cover, and steam 5 to 7 minutes or until greens are crisp-tender, turning occasionally with tongs to make sure greens cook evenly. 4. Divide mustard greens among serving plates. Top each serving with 2 tofu triangles, and drizzle with 1/4 cup mango sauce.

NOTES: To simplify I didn't make my own mango chutney. In fact I didn't use chutney at all but thought that "Thai sweet chili sauce" that I already had on hand (that I used as dipping sauce for the wraps I made a few weeks ago) would work peachy. It did! And I used red Swiss chard instead of mustard greens. The broiled tofu was really good!! And amazingly so was the chard! It went together very nicely, and though this isn't something I'd ever have thought it making in a million years, it was on the page of some other recipes I'd photocopied, and I'm glad I made it.

Here's the charred pan with the tofu triangles sitting outside before I rescued them and put them on a plate (above). They didn't burn at all, but the extra sauce on the baking sheet did.

My next job was an attempt to make the inedible edible = Brussels sprouts. I used to hate them but hadn't eaten them in years. About a year ago, DJ Liz Jordan (on my fave radio station KSBJ ) had Domenica Catelli from Mom-a- licious as a guest and she talked about the way to make Brussels Sprouts yummy. Since then I have had that idea at the back of my head that I had to try roasting them. I didn't use her recipe, but used one from Vegetarian Times with cauliflower, which I love. It also had carrots and though I love raw carrots, I have never liked them cooked. But as it turns out, roasted carrots are awesome! This recipe was a 5 on a scale of 1 to 10. I liked the cauliflower and carrots, and the Brussels were edible but not fantastic. It's defintely healthy though!

Herb-Roasted Winter Veggies
2 cups bite-size cauliflower florets, each halved lengthwise
2 cups halved Brussels sprouts
2 medium carrots, cut into sticks
1 medium yam or sweet potato (1/2 lb.), diced
3 Tbs. garlic-infused olive oil, divided
1 Tbs. chopped fresh rosemary
2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
2 Tbs. chopped fresh parsley
2 tsp. lemon juice

Preheat oven to 450°F. Place cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, carrots, and yam in large bowl. Add 2 Tbs. oil, rosemary, and thyme, and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper, if desired. Scatter vegetables evenly on baking sheet, and roast 20 minutes, turning 2 or 3 times with spatula. Increase oven temperature to 500°F, and roast vegetables 10 minutes more, or until tender. Transfer vegetables to large serving bowl, and add parsley, lemon juice, and remaining 1 Tbs. oil. Toss to mix, and serve.

NOTES: I didn't use the sweet potato but that would've been good, I'm sure! The Brussels sprouts still had that odd Brussels sprouty flavor so a friend recommended adding some rice wine vinegar to cut that bitterness. I didn't have any rice wine vinegar and I try to use what I have on hand, so I used a bit of balsamic and it did help. I also liked using the Thai sweet chili sauce with these veggies. The photo below reminded me that when they came out of the oven the outer leaves of the Brussels sprouts had charred and separated from the rest of the sprout. So I separated them out rather than mix them into the other tasty veggies.

I am proud to say that I have eaten very little meat the past month, and the only meat I've bought was Marine Stewardship Council certified sustainable wild-caught Alaska salmon from Target. Target recently eliminated all farm-raised salmon because it's not good for the environment - read about it here! I baked it with a bit of lemon juice and lemon pepper. I ate one fillet and have been eating the second fillet on my daily salad.

And how can I forget? I made a delish Thai red curry soup. I love all this healthy food!

Vegetables in Thai Red Curry

1 small head cauliflower, cut into florets (3 cups)
1 cup green beans, stems removed and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 Tbs. canola oil
1 cup cremini mushrooms, ends trimmed (left whole if small, quartered if large)
1 14-oz. can light coconut milk
1–2 Tbs. Thai red curry paste
2 Tbs. brown sugar
2 Tbs. tamari or low-sodium soy sauce
1 small red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into slivers (1 cup)
20–30 fresh Thai basil leaves

1. Blanch cauliflower 4 minutes, or until al dente, in pot of boiling, salted water. Remove with strainer; rinse under cold water to stop cooking. Repeat with green beans in same pot of water; set aside.

2. Heat oil in skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms, and cook 5 to 7 minutes, or until mushrooms have browned and released some of their juices; set aside.

3. In wide saucepan over medium heat, combine coconut milk, curry paste, sugar, tamari, and 1/2 cup water. Start with small amount of curry paste and adjust for spiciness. Add cauliflower, green beans, mushrooms, bell pepper, and half of basil. Simmer 10 minutes. Garnish with remaining basil.

This recipe is adapted from Tassajara Dinners & Desserts by Dale and Melissa Kent, and my best friend Daline spent time at Tassajara! If you've been following along a while, you may remember that in 2007, my kids & I visited her when she was at Green Gulch, which is a sister Zen monastery to Tassajara, both in California. Check out the Bohemian Adventures archive from June 2007! You can see my Pampered Chef cookware, which I got several years ago and LOVE!! It's very heavy and sturdy. In fact I love most Pampered Chef products! Maybe I should start selling their products...??

Last, I hope no one thinks my photos are an attempt to actually do "good" photography - it's only an attempt to add some color to the blogs! I'm not near as good as my daughter at making the uninteresting look cool in pictures.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Should Killer Whales be in captivity?

A killer whale, aka orca, in the wild. Credit NOAA

The recent death of Orlando SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau has stirred up a heated debate over whether killer whales (Orcinus orca) should work so closely with people due to the inherent dangers or whether they should be held in captivity at all. The orca that dragged Brancheau underwater, named Tilikum, has killed two other people in the past. Some people have demanded that Tilikum should go free or get put down, but SeaWorld so far has opted to keep working with Tilikum.

I admit I have taken my kids to SeaWorld, where the Shamu Show (aka 'Believe') wowed us, but I also have become more aware of animal issues related to marine mammal parks by watching The Cove documentary, and also by talking with animal activist Tim Gorski while we trekked through Nepal. Animal activists like Gorski say captive confinement is no place for orcas, dolphins, or other marine mammals, since in the wild they roam over hundreds of square miles. Gorski produced the Telly Award-winning film Lolita: Slave to Entertainment about an orca at Florida’s Seaquarium. Lolita also features Ric O’Barry, star of The Cove.

The Cove Director Louis Psihoyos also made a public statement about the tragic death of Brancheau. "We join people in mourning this tragedy while keeping in mind that these animals don't belong in captivity,” he said. “Our film 'The Cove' reinforces this notion that placing dolphins and whales in captivity is not an acceptable method of educating the public about these magnificent and normally peaceful animals." Jean-Michel Cousteau also released a statement well worth reading. Based on his experience trying to reintroduce Keiko, the whale of Free Willy movie fame, into wild pods of orcas, he believes any such reintroductions will likely fail. However he hopes that we can close the current era of having orcas in captivity with dignity as we let them live out their days. "We are in the presence of alien intelligence and we are asking them to jump. It is a tragedy of a different magnitude," he writes.

CNN reporter Jane Velez-Mitchell got into a heated debate with animal expert Jack Hanna on CNN. Velez-Mitchell calls keeping animals in captivity torture, comparing it to keeping a human in a bathtub for a quarter of its life. She calls SeaWorld merely a money-making machine. Hanna argued that SeaWorld’s shows educate the public which helps people care about marine animals and the ocean, while also raises millions of dollars for science and conservation work. Hanna says captive animals can’t be released to the wild, but Velez-Mitchell argues that captive animals can be released into sanctuaries, which give animals more room to roam.

What do you think?