Monday, April 30, 2012

Introducing ... Pippin Yoda-cakes!

Introducing... Pippin Yoda-cakes! The cutest and smartest and sweetest and most exploratory kitty on the planet! Look at her cute curled-in paws! Copyright (c) 2012 Wendee Holtcamp 

So it went like this... My friend Mary sent this pic as a text a few days ago: U wantz kitteh? Me 2 seconds later: Yessssszzzz!!! Me Needz Kitteh!! And so it was that I found myself 20 minutes later at the vet, meeting my friend to do the changeover. She found her under a garbage can outside a doctor's office. She is TINY and flipping adorable. She was a stray, so I got her first vaccination and dewormer and a flea treatment. She had an upper respiratory infection and drippy eyes. All of that has cleared up now, a couple days later.

Like I said in my previous email, the kitty even won over my teenage daughter Savannah who seems to think she "doesn't like animals" - not to mention moms or brothers or ... pretty much anything these days. Ahhhh teenagers. I still love her! :)

She was won over by Pippin's cuddliness (If only I could win her over by MY cuteness! LOL). She and Sam named it Pippin (after the hobbit in the Lord of the Rings). I added the Yoda bit because of her ears!! And "cakes" just because it's cute. Whatevs.

Pippin on my lap. :)

We introduced her to our other two cats, and Rosie here is cautiously interested... both my cats are kind of scared of her. It's pretty funny!

Look at that face!!

I put her in a plastic box with a blankie in it, and Savannah gave her a stuffed penguin to cuddle with. She's so tiny!

This is one of my favorite pics. She is just so much fun.

She was really grooving on my foot! LOL!

And I was a proud momma when she potty trained the very first day!! TMI I know, but that's what happens when peoplez haz kittehz.

I took this photo today. What a doll!

She likes to cuddle up to her reflection in the mirror sometimes. Here she was "kissing" her image in the mirror!

I love her markings. She's so precious!

She was sitting on my lap and I took this with her looking up at me.

She loves her little penguin friend!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Roaming around Madison, Wisconsin

UW-Madison badgers! Copyright (c) 2012 Wendee Holtcamp

Just returned from a few days in Madison, Wisconsin. It was my first time in Madison, though not my first time in Wisconsin (I had previously tubed the Apple River when I was a teenager and living in Minneapolis). I was there for the Science Writing in an Age of Denial conference which was really cool.

A shot of the staircase inside the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery, where the Monday sessions of the conference were held (not to be confused in any capacity for the Discovery Institute in Washington! A totally different animal - though the DI is a classic think tank for science denial...).

I'll post more about the conference, but for now I wanted to leave you with some photos out and about Mad-town and my adventures with my friend Theresa, one of my BFFs from 8th and 9th grade when I lived in Minneapolis.

(I should mention I have an adorable snoozing 6-week old kitten on my lap?! I just got home yesterday and a friend texted me a photo and was all, do you want a kute tinee kitteh? And I'm all, are you kidding me? Who can resist its charms? Yes! Even my 17-year daughter whose all emo and angsty lately couldn't resist the kitteh cuteness. But I digress. More on the kitteh of cuteness later.)  

Theresa and I hadn't seen each other in... we calculated it at 27 years... and we had so much fun! We'd kept in touch by email and Christmas letters, but my travels had not taken me to the northern states so this was the first pop to see her! This is a photo taken on my Android using the Vignette app, which I love. 


We did so much in a day and a half! She arrived as my conference was winding down, and we walked a mile or so from UW-Madison campus over to State Street where there are lots of shops and restaurants. This Rastafarian banana cracked me up! 

The window of this one shop had all sorts of these and they were so funny! I particularly liked these two.

And of course this one is particularly relevant right now! I shoulda bought it for myself for Mother's Day... 


We went into this one shop where I bought a "Jesus was a liberal" button. And took a photo of this bumper sticker. If you don't agree, don't shoot the messenger!  

We walked over to "the square" where the Wisconsin State Capitol building is (no more protesters, but I did hear one "RECALL WALKER" rant in the distance). There are several shops around and we explored and photographed the Capitol building the inside of which is incredible!  

This is another self-portrait of me and Theresa outside the Capitol.  

There are tons of tulips outside the Capitol building of different colors and I thought they were so pretty. Kind of a cool retro image.


This is a tree outside the capitol building. 


And a church across the street. 

Inside the capitol dome area. 

A black and white image of the same view.  
Inside the dome is amazing and photos just absolutely can't capture it!  
Another self-portrait of me and T inside the capitol.  

The whole reason we walked to the Capitol in the first place was on a hunt for cheese. Someone had recommended the store Fromagination, and we walked there, and arrived right as a busload of tourists did - like 50 people! So we left and went to the Capitol and came back after they were gone. They had tons of samples and we walked around sampling cheese and crackers and spreads. Yum!  

Do you think I went a little overboard on the cheese purchase? We bought some and wine for later at the B&B we were staying at. 


The other reason we went to Capitol Square was because that's where the foodie restaurant I'd picked out was located. It's called Graze! It's in the building with all the windows, and these are the tulips from the Capitol lawn. Nice huh!

Cool shot huh! 

We sat outside because the weather was drop-dead gorgeous - sunny and 60ish (see I didn't die of frostbite in the Himalayas of Wisconsin, y'all!). I had the Crispy Smoked Tofu served over toasted farro with smoked mozzarella, asparagus and other garnishes. It was delish and I wish I'd taken a photo! Theresa got the trout. After we ate, we walked back to the campus where Theresa parked, and drove 15 minutes or so out of town to the Token Creek Eco-Inn B&B.  

I will blog separately about the way cool B&B - it's so cool - but for now here's a pic of the door! We stayed up late drinking wine and eating cheese (after a big dinner!) and then went to our room, where we proceeded to laugh our fool heads off over the Bloggess's Giant metal Chicken named Beyonce blog post (I am reading her AWESOME book Let's Pretend This Never Happened, which I picked up in the bookstore at the airport, and I NEVER have time to read but I've read the whole thing except a few pages and I don't want it to end!) And then we went outside and looked at the stars, and then downloaded Skymap app so we could see the Southern Cross through the bottom of the Earth below us... and then I couldn't sleep! LOL. 


And I would be remiss if I didn't mention that when I flew to WI, I had a 3-hour layover in Minneapolis, so my other BFF Kris picked me up from the airport (I also hadn't seen her since high school) and we went by my old house... see below... 


I totally remembered the house style and the lawn, but I didn't remember the color. Maybe they painted it. This is where I ran away from home for exactly one night, and slept in the car garage and my parents never came looking for me. And where I punched my stepdad in the nose after he chased me out to the garage. As Kris said, I was a force to be reckoned with. Or something like that. :) Even in 8th grade - ha! And that was well before my wild child days really began!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Heading to Wisconsin. Cheese anyone?

Mount Kanchenjunga in eastern Nepal, the world's third tallest peak (or, "how a Texas-sunshine-lover views the frigid far north of Wisconsin, where I am heading...").
Copyright (c) 2007 Wendee Holtcamp.

In a couple days I embark on my next adventure. This time it's to the far north! Well far enough that my memory of the place is that my boogers froze and my nose turned red and icy between my front door and the bus stop, which actually was directly outside of my house. Yep, I lived in Minneapolis, Minnesota for a couple of years of my life - 8th and 9th grade - and about the ONLY thing I remember from that time (besides my friends) was the cold-ass winters. Only I didn't call them that, then. I had moved there from Portland, Oregon, where I'd only spent a year, and from there I moved to Houston where I graduated from high school. I made some great friends there, and yet despite my connecting with friends from almost every other place in the US where I have lived, I have never seen any of my friends from Minneapolis since high school. That is about to change!

Technically, what brings me to the far north is a really cool conference: Science Writing in an Age of Denial, held at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I heard about it a few months back and just knew I had to be there. What a cool topic! As some of you know, the whole issue surrounding evolution and Christianity is a long-time passion of mine, and so this was something I really wanted to write about (and yes, I have an assignment!). It's a 2-day conference, and I'm really excited about it. I'll be staying at the Wisconsin Union hotel, which looks pretty nice and is adjacent to where the conference events are held.

But here's the even cooler part: I will be seeing two of my friends from Minneapolis while there! First, I have a three-hour layover in Minneapolis so my friend Kris is picking me up from the airport and taking me by my old house, and then out to eat yummy Thai food or something. We are both super excited.

And then, after the conference, I will be spending a day and a half with my other friend Theresa, who is driving to Madison from Minneapolis to visit me. We have found a super cool looking B&B that is ecofriendly. I got a recommendation from some other writers and local Madisonites, and this one was the coolest I could find. It's called Token Creek Eco-Inn and we are staying in the Capitol Room Suite! Other than that, Theresa and I have planned to go visit this cool thing about an hour outside Madison called House on the Rock. I don't know a whole lot about it but Theresa wanted to go and it looks way cool!

Oh - ha ha - I have to mention a funny conversation I had with Theresa about the weather there. I was like, what has the weather been? She was all, it's warm like 60 in the day and 40-50 at night. And I was all, in Texas, that is winter weather, and I would wear jeans and a hat and a sweater. She was like, ha ha everyone here is putting on summer shorts and t-shirts! Then she added, you will want to bring a light jacket or something for evening, and I'm all uh-huh right, I will pack my down North Face jacket! :)

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Journey into Healing Day 4 & 5

Santa Monica beach. Copyright (c) 2012 Wendee Holtcamp

“This week will be like a tsunami of mind-blowing information.” – Davidji

I can't believe it's been a month since I updated my blog- my bad! I have been working on an article on the whole H5N1 (avian flu) brouhaha and the associated "dual use" dilemma - something your average scientist, let alone your average person, has not heard of. Dual use means research that could be used for good or evil. In the case of the H5N1 research, there are two studies where scientists made the deadly bird flu (which kills something like 60% of known infected people) more transmissible, and hence better suited to be turned into a biological weapon. The question becomes: should this research have been done?! Now that it has, should it be published? That has been the subject of a heated debate over the past 4 months that has totally flown under the radar of the general public. Science has a whole section that highlights past articles on this issue so you can get up to speed, if you are interested.

So I wanted to finish my blogging on the awesome Journey into Healing workshop, and share some of my highlights, and then leave you with a few last photos. And by the way, this workshop has been life-changing for me in that I have meditated for 30 minutes every morning except for two, and on a couple days I've done twice daily meditations (usually when I'm particularly stressed). I am really enjoying the practice.

My highlights...

  • Valencia Porter is a medical doctor who has amazing credentials, and she also specialized in environmental health, which fascinated me since I have been doing so much writing in this area lately. In one of her talks, she described the Ayurvedic wellness perspective, which is to treat the whole person – body, mind, and soul. She said, “If all your tests come back fine, even if you still feel like crap, you’re ‘healthy’ according to the Western model." But according to the Ayurvedic view, illness is the absence of vibrant health in any one of these three areas, and it aims to not only treat the whole person but also sees people as individualistic rather than a one-size-fits-all view. It's very much NOT about just prescribing medication until the symptoms go away, as Western doctors so often do today.

  • In one of Davidji's talks, his descriptions of "doshas" -- vata (air), pitta (fire) and kapha (earth) -- were hilarious! He is such a talented speaker, as he is just plain funny and his passion for the subjects comes through. He had us all in stitches. In an Ayurvedic approach, one's diet, medical treatment, behavioral care, etc, can depend on your constitution or dosha. I hope to write more about this in the future but there's tons o' info online about doshas if you are interested! Which do you think I am?

  • Last, in one of Deepak Chopra's two talks, he said something in passing that I just loved. In his lilting Indian accent, he said “And if I don’t like a thought... ‘NEXT!’” It was funny, simple, and extremely profound. In other words, we can just tell the thoughts we don’t like to scram. And I have literally said this - NEXT! - to several of my thoughts over the past month. Try it - to works!

  • And last but not least: RPM - Rise, Pee, Meditate! :)
My roommate Suzi (from Ireland), Paige (she came up on the second to last day to hang with me at the La Costa Resort) and me.

I loved these "tree of life" paintings they were selling. I got a 5x7 card of one. They come in all sorts of colors.
Davidji, Peaches the Buddha Princess and me on the last day.