World of Pets Expo, Timonium, Maryland 2009

Wren on January 24th, 2009

Fair trade has arrived at the World of Pets Expo. This is Heathcote Earthings’ first year at the Expo, in its eighth year. and I’m glad we took the plunge!  This is a huge, hoppin’ event! What fun to serve customers walking all manner of dogs. I’ve been offering a “sheltie discount” in honor of my own, but no shelties have taken me up on it yet!

I’m in a huge room of mostly pet related vendors, many of whom are giving away free samples. A neighbor gave me vegetarian dog treats, which Tuatha, Echo and Chance enjoyed so much that I can’t currently find the package, to tell you the brand! Besides vendors, the organizers have set up agility shows, comedy shows and interesting workshops.

There’s even a food vendor here with lots of vegetarian and vegan choices. I recognize them from the Spoutwood Fairie Festival!

I’ve moved many of our animal themed crafts to the front of the booth. I’m featuring our popular clay cat trio, pictured here. And I’m discounting some purses and ornaments and other crafts left over from the holiday season.

So come on out to the Timonium Fairgrounds and look for our tent hoops over the crowd, decorated with batik flags of dragons, fairies, etc. See you there!

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Save the Sea Kittens?

Wren on January 19th, 2009

I’m grinning like a Cheshire cat! PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, has launched a new campaign to “rebrand” fish into sea kittens, presuming people will be less likely to eat them. I guess the memory of  that book, 101 Uses for a Dead Cat, is long past…

Let me know how the campaign goes, kids!

I often like the slogan, “I don’t eat anything with a face,” but friends take me to task on oysters. I insist they count as having a face–They’re just all smile!

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Any artist knows that once s/he shapes the ink, the paint, the words, the clay, the movement, the meaning is made by each new observer and the life that observer has known. I’ve always read that Christina’s World, Andrew Wyeth’s most popular painting, was inspired by a neighbor who was paralyzed, probably with polio. I could identify on that basis, because my biological father had polio and later post-polio syndrome. I could extrapolate something of what the world was like for him, with his weakened legs, based on the powerful image. But the bare, vaguely rolling hills have always reminded me of my family’s farm in Kentucky. And the image of the crawling woman, eying a homestead that appears telescopic on the horizon has always spoken to my gut–I’m outside of my family, my history, my home; So far to return and a body that’s broken…

The amazing thing about learning of Andrew Wyeth’s death yesterday is that I was just holding a postcard of this painting on Sunday, dancing and shouting around my partner Iuval’s parents’ house in Queens, New York. I had discovered the card on a night stand and the painting is one of my favorites. Iuval had just finished reading my screenplay Bacca Blooms the day before. And because of my strong connection to the image and Wyeth’s emotional treatment of it, I had written the painting into my story of a mother and daughter who are returning to the family farm from which they’ve been separated a generation. Like other observers, when I look at Christina’s World, I’m seeing a little bit of me, a bit of others I know, and an experience of the human condition. Andrew Wyeth, kind soul, thank you for the gift of your art and the way you speak the language of forms!

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My original plan was better. I know myself and I felt that if I ever ventured to New York City, I’d better travel with a friend familiar with the place who could show me the ropes, keep me moving and help me not look like a hippie-chick-from-the-woods-in-the-headlights with a giant target on my coat. So when my partner Iuval, who grew up in New York, asked me to travel there with him, it sounded perfect.

Then my mom was in a car wreck and Iuval and I spent a month on the road dealing with family matters, followed by a week in Berea, Kentucky for Christmas Country Dance School. When we got back to Heathcote and he said, “When should we leave for New York?” I couldn’t do it. I needed to be still and be kissed by dogs. He went on the bus without me and I planned to drive up alone the following weekend. Me. The small town kid who had panic attacks when she first moved to Maryland and drove around downtown Baltimore was going to drive into New York City alone.

This isn’t dramatic enough. Let’s add a snowstorm headed my way. Not enough yet? Let’s add that the windshield wiper jets on my car had failed and helpful poly sweeties Iuval and John had removed them, rigging a rubber hose with a nail in the end, held in position by a clamp. Let’s further add that this contraption only works at highway speeds. In case this seems implausable to you, I include a picture of my new hood ornament.

I decided to leave several hours earlier than planned, to beat the snow to New York City. But I had parked the Heathcote Earthings van on the lawn of Heathcote’s mill for our annual inventory and the battery had died. It wouldn’t take a charge and the first charger we tried appeared dead, too! Delays! I had to abandon that adventure and get on the road. Thanks to Heathcoters John and Bob for getting my van moving!

So I was on the road to the big scary city, alone with weather threatening. But despite  the annoyance of high tolls, the trip was fairly easy. I left early enough that I missed the ice that gripped NYC streets that night. And when the flakes appeared and I needed to use my sprayer, I was able to maintain those magic highway speeds. My gps took me a different way than Googlemaps, but I’m a wimp and it’s easier to listen to a computer voice than read maps in traffic. I found the Guggenheim Museum, about which I’ll post later. I even found a parking spot around the corner and nobody honked at me or mugged me. I am a powerful witch. I earned a cookie.

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Hippie Chick Power Lunch

Wren on January 9th, 2009

I’ve just gotten back from a “power lunch” with my IT team! Paul Phillips, Roni Noone and I are ready to take this site to the next level, bringing my complicated adventures in simple living to a larger audience.

We met at the Red Brick Station in White Marsh, Maryland. Roni, our blogging expert, posts about dieting so she knew this eatery would have a few nice vegetarian choices for me and Paul. He and I were wondering whether Red Brick Station would have any vegan choices, or if all the dishes would contain meat and/or cheese. I was pleased to see a couple of vegan options, although I was frustrated that all their salads come with meat. Roni ordered what I was about to order, the Katie’s Veggie Wrap, and she showed me a better way to have it: She substituted steamed veggies for the chips/coleslaw side. I copied her and had a guilt-free, feel-good meal.

A couple of years ago, I lost about 50 pounds. I did it the realistic, hard work way of reducing my portion sizes, avoiding sweets, fats and empty carbs and exercising my ass off. Roni also lost lots of weight a few years ago and began to blog about her experience. Her site caught on and now she blogs on several sites full time, tapping people into resources to do real, not fad weight loss. Her company is skinnyminnymedia. Now she’s using her knowledge to help HCD find and expand its niche audience.

Paul Phillips has lived at Heathcote Community with me for many years. Previously, he was one of my partners in my fair trade retail venture, Heathcote Earthings. He runs Co-OpTek, a software consulting firm structured as a cooperative. When he and Roni wanted to help writers communicate with their audiences through profitable blogs, Paul thought of me, having followed my writing career through the years. And so HCD became their guinea pig.

So how, you ask, do blogs become profitable? Yep, ads. Our long term goal is to hand select advertisers we want you to know about because we’re excited about their product or service. In the meantime, you’ll soon see context-based ads appearing in subtle corners of our pages. This means that, if I’m blogging lots about eating organic foods, you might see ads for organic foods. Also, because computers don’t know any better, you might see ads for organic fertilizer or organic shampoo. I dunno. I invite you to surf the ads with your goddess-given discernment. I will also post about products I think are great. That you can take as my endorsement.

Also, I’ll be forming an affiliate relationship with So when I recommend the Communities Directory because it’s just a crazy fine must have resource, you can click on a link and get your hands on one! You can link directly that way to the music I’m listening too, books I’m reading or recommending, etc.

Thanks to my readers for your ongoing support. HCD isn’t a little girl any more!!!

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Cute Things Falling Asleep….dot org???

Wren on January 8th, 2009

Okay, it’s clear I won’t run away with any prizes for marketable website design in the face of competition like this: comedian Nick Malis has established, a website of kittens, puppies, bears, babies and a few more exotic things nodding off, rolling off and snoring off to sleep. Shameless! I at least pretend to talk about sustainability or vegetarianism while subjecting the world to endless disproportionate nose shots of my dogs and goats.

For example, here’s a still shot of Tuatha falling asleep in a stuffed chair. I’ve surrendered and covered the chair with a throw because he and Echo keep the seat covered in dog hair and unsitable for humans. This practice is more sustainable than say, using the paper covers one finds at the doctor’s office. My sister in Minnesota gave me this blanket. It has fish, moose and hunting cabins on it. Ironic, since I’m vegan. See how I effortlessly fold this stuff in?

Here I go again with more snugly sustainability: When I had to move my compost pile for the new dog pen, I uncovered a nest of hatching baby black rat snakes. They were sleepy…some of them were very sleepy, sad to say, because they were cut in half by my shovel before I knew they were there. I took some pictures with my cameraphone but they came out blurry. I moved the eggs and babies and the cut-in-two snakes with the compost pile. The cut ones became the compost they were born in. Some intact ones were plucked from the pile or wriggled off lethargically to be food for my wild neighbors. How cuddly and cute is the circle of life?

This post is going downhill fast. Fine. It doesn’t have to be a competition because I know that after you enjoy watching babies slump over on couches and puppies plop into their water dishes, you’ll think, “Hey, not all babies and puppies have loving homes like these. I am inspired to become a foster parent and volunteer at my local no-kill animal shelter.” And after you watch the polar bear cub swimming in her sleep and the sloth baby, well, being slovenly, then you’ll think, “You know, I could work from home and turn down my thermostadt…” You won’t be like me and think, “Okay, corn chip time.”

Hey, this Cute Things guy has t-shirts! I want t-shirts! He doesn’t even put any graphics on his t-shirts, or the dot org part of his name! I could have better t-shirts; He knows nothing about marketing. Yes! Yes!

Can I just go home with the prize for missing my own point while trying too hard to have one?

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Noon Adder

Wren on January 8th, 2009

Noon Adder reclined on her beige Goodwill couch, her bags from the nursing home partially blocking her view of the basketball game on the brand new tv. “I’m home. We’re fine,” she monotoned into her cellphone. Her pudgy legs lined up like logs, crinkling copies of Southern Living and Mother Earth News. She hadn’t regarded her face and body in a mirror since the accident. But she knew if she had, she’d see her mother’s flabby, atrophied arms, her father’s gray hair showing in the roots below her dye job and her aunt’s haunched, frail frame.

Bare, fingerprinted walls ping ponged light from the one den window. As the tv crowd cheered a basket, Curtie shuffled from the bathroom, tracking a diagonal path past Noon Adder, grazing her suitcases. “Sorry-I’m sorry.-Not-used-to-stuff-being-there.-Glad-you’re-home,-though.-Let-me-know-if-I-can-help-you-unpack.-Sorry.”

“Curtie, don’t apologize,” Noon Adder rolled, annoyed. “I’m on the phone.”

“Sorry.-Ha!-I-did-it-again!” He pivoted and marched to his room, so as not to be underfoot. But what did that mean if Noon Adder never left the couch? Although he was nearly her age and still wealthier, he could not figure out how to act like anything but a timid pup.

Noon Adder pointed her lazer sights on the game, the only stimulation in the drab room. “I’m home. We’re fine,” she nailed the words to her receiver as if she were hanging a shingle. After some seconds, she said goodbye, clipped the phone closed and upped the volume on the game.

Open for Business.

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Brushstrokes of Autumn

Wren on January 5th, 2009

I feel like Frederick the mouse, sitting with all the experiences I’ve had this winter, and going back to the colors of warmer seasons. I’ve just settled back home after a month in Kentucky with my new partner, both of us helping my mom after her car accident, and attending Berea College’s Christmas Country Dance School. As I download photos and sort through the shapes, shades, rhythms and rhymes of my December travels, I can’t help sharing these sometimes impressionist images of the children and pets this past fall. It was a fall to be outdoors, with warm days and air that was kind as a lover to the skin.

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