Friday, December 30, 2011

The Torch has Officially Been Passed (My first attempt at Bittlewa!)

One of the traditions in my family around Christmas is making bittlewa, a Lebanese/ Arab pastry made with phyllo dough, walnuts and syrup.  Many people know baklava, the Greek version, which is similar except we don't use honey and include orange blossom water in the syrup.

Until just a few years ago when my Aunt Pat passed away, she and my Mom would get together about a week before Christmas and make three trays of pastry.  Mom typically prepped everything the day before and then, they would spend the day putting it together and baking it.  Each tray takes about 2 to 2 1/2 hours to assemble then nearly 3 hours to bake.  We would come home from school and they would be in the kitchen making the bittlewa.    They always joked about it being "hillbilly bittlewa" because my Mom's people were from the South.  Situe (my Lebanese grandmother) made bittlewa when I was really little, but most of my memories are of my Mom and Aunt.

When Popue (my Lebanese grandfather and the family patriarch) was still alive, there was a whole ritual around the serving of the bittlewa after Christmas dinner.  Popue, my Uncle Roni and Aunt Theresa and my Dad would have a piece on their dessert plate.  They would examine the top to see the layers and the bottom for browning and the walnuts for moistness.  They would then take that first bite.  My grandfather in particular would compare the current year's bittlewa with the previous years.  It's kinda funny to think back about it.  My Mom took all of this in good humor! 

The year or two after Aunt Pat passed away, her husband, my Uncle Harold, would come and help Mom make the bittlewa.  They weren't able to make any for a couple of years, so I decided that it was my turn!  I definitely do not want to lose this family tradition.  So, here goes!

I bought the ingredients to make two trays but decided to do one before Christmas and one after.  The night before I planned to assemble and bake,  I clarifed 2 pounds of butter.  Basically, you put the butter in a saucepot and let heat until it just begins to bubble.  Skim off the white foam from the surface.  Keep doing this until the butter is translucent.  As a last step, pour the butter through a cheesecloth to remove any leftover bits.

For one tray of bittlewa, you will need about 2 1/2 pound of walnuts.  The grinder below attaches to a chair and grinds the nuts in no time!  Add about 1 heaping tablespoon of powdered sugar to the nuts and store in a sealed container until ready to use.

The third and final task for the night is to make the syrup.  Five cups of sugar, four cups of water, 2 T. of fresh lemon juice and 2 t. of orange blossom water.  Boil gently for about 50 minutes.  The syrup should reduce and thicken.  

The next day, take the clarified butter out of the refrigerator and heat through.  Assemble the pan, butter, brush, sharp knife and dough.  The phyllo comes in one pound packages and should not have been frozen.  You need 1 1/4 lbs. for the bottom and the same amount for the top.  Dampen a clean dish towel and lay the dough on top of it, then cover with a second damp dish towel.  

Brush melted butter on the bottom of the pan, then begin laying the dough.  Take one layer of dough and position it in the pan, trimming the edge as needed with the sharp knife.  Brush with butter.  Keep laying the dough and brushing with butter. As you work, keep the dough covered with the towel or it will dry out and crumble.

Once the bottom is assembled, put the butter on the stove to keep warm.  Pour the ground walnuts on top, pressing them evenly in the pan.

Now, begin layering the dough and melted butter for the top.   Once the top is assembled, it's time to cut the bittlewa.  But first, set the oven to 350 degrees and make sure the rack is in the middle of the oven. Cut lengthwise first, into 8-10 columns then diagonally.

Bless the tray by sprinkling the top with water before putting it in the oven.                                                    

Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes, lower the oven to 275 degrees and bake for another 1 hour and 50 minutes.  Remove from the oven and pour the syrup evenly over the whole tray. 


Thursday, November 17, 2011


Tuesday was a beautiful fall day in Detroit so I decided to take advantage of it by pulling a bunch of the carrots that were still in the garden. Here is my carrot patchAnd some of the carrots that came out of it.

I got to thinking that it is such a shame to toss all the tops into the compost bin and wondered if they were edible. I went into the house to peruse my cookbooks. The first book I took off the shelf was Deborah Madison's Local Flavors. I picked it up at a neighborhood estate sale for $1 and have made quite a few recipes from it. It was here that I found this recipe

Carrot Top Soup

1 bunch carrots, tops and roots, about 6 medium
2 T. butter
3 T. white rice
2 large leeks (I didn't have any leeks so I used onions from my garden)
2 thyme or lemon thyme sprigs (I used lemon thyme and because we love it, 4 sprigs)
2 T. parsley, dill, celery leaves or lovage (I used parsley)
salt and pepper
6 cups Vegetable Stock (I used my homemade stock)

Wash and chop the carrot tops. You should have about 3 cups loosely packed. Grate or finely chop the carrots. I used a combination of yellow and orange ones.

Chopped Carrot tops and carrots:

Melt the butter in a soup pot. Add everything except the stock. Cook for several minutes, turning over a few times, Add the stock, bring to a boil and simmer until the rice is done.


Saturday, November 12, 2011

Souper Saturday

This time of year, and as the weather turns colder, we make and eat soup at least once or twice a week.
One of our favorite soups is Italian Bean and Squash Soup from Moosewood Restaurant's New Classics. You can use just about any type of winter squash and any type of beans.

Here's the recipe:
1 T. Olive Oil

3 1/2 cups finely chopped onions

6 large cloves of garlic, minced

1 celery stalk with some leaves, finely chopped

1 3/4 cups crushed tomatoes with juice (15 oz. can)

1 quart vegetable stock

1 t. dried oregano

pinch of crushed red pepper

4 cups diced peeled butternut squash

3 1/2 cups cooked pinto beans ( two 15 oz. cans, rinsed and drained)

1 t. salt

freshly grated pecorino chees (optional)

Heat the oil in a large soup pot and saute onions, garlic and celery about 10 minutes, until soft. Add the tomatoes, broth, oregano, red pepper flakes. Bring to a simmer. Add the squash and cook until tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add the beans and salt and pepper. Cook until beans are heated through. Serve hot topped with the cheese if desired.

I use my own canned Vegetable Stock, which tastes wonderful and compared to store bought, is so much cheaper. (Store bought vegetable stock ranges from $1.79 per quart to $2.99 per quart for organic). Canning your own stock takes some time and effort but so worth it! I also can tomatoes out of my garden and dried beans so they are ready to use. It's a great way to use your own garden harvest or support local farmers. Canning fresh produce in season tastes better and can be much cheaper. I can usually find dried beans from one of the local farmers down at Eastern Market.

For the batch pictured above, I used pinto beans. I also used the sweet dumpling squash, garlic, onions and tomatoes from my own garden. Enjoy

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Detroit Does Have Grocery Stores, BUT

There is an ongoing debate about food in the City of Detroit. Sometimes called a food desert, other times called a food swamp, the city has no national chains with stores in the City.

According to the Annual Report on the Detroit Food System which was published in May, 2011 and released at the Detroit Food Policy Council’s Powering Up the Local Food System Summit, there are 79 full service grocery stores in the City of Detroit. These stores are independently owned, but with one exception, not by Detroit residents.
At the Summit, we heard from residents who shop in their neighborhood. Some were satisfied with the stores, others were not. We heard from many Detroiters who were not happy with the quality, price and/or customer service at their local grocery stores. Many shop at these stores because they have no other options; lack of transportation was a main reason given.

We also heard from residents who admitted that they rarely go in their neighborhood grocery store, preferring to shop outside the city. The real and perceived reasons: quality, price and customer service.

The Detroit Food Policy Council, through its Healthy Food Access Work Group and the Detroit Food and Fitness Collaborative’s Food System Work Group, are working together to identify ways to improve access to healthy, fresh and affordable food. We want to hear from Detroiters on this issue.

If you are interested in this issue, try this:
Make a list of grocery items that you purchase on a regular basis. Go to your neighborhood grocery store and if you do most of your grocery shopping outside of the city, also go to the suburban store that you regularly shop at. Purchase the items on your list, taking note of the quality and availability of the items, the format and condition of the store and the customer service that you received. Compare the two. What did you find out?

If you are willing to share your experience, please send an email to me at

Friday, October 28, 2011

Summer Vacation in the Upper Pennisula...A Whole New World

In June, the boys and I joined a group of about 12 families for a fabulous camping experience in Michigan's Upper Pennisula. The trip was part of a National Park Service Program to expose families from Detroit to the National Forest System in Michigan. The group photo was taken at Taquamanon Falls. Here is another pic of the falls. The water is a copper color from the tannins in the oak leaves that line the area.

Our itinerary included Hartwick Pines where we hiked among old growth forest areas that included white pines, oak and maples trees. The Park's educator grew up in the Detroit area and was excited to share the park with us.

We arrived at our home base at Clear Lake Education Center located in Hiawatha National Forest at about 4:00 p.m. The camp site was well equipped with plenty of cabins, a building for meetings and media center and one with a full kitchen and eating area. We were welcomed by two Park Rangers (Mimi and Dave) and were assigned cabins. My boys and I shared a cabin with the Moore's and Dixon's -- three moms and seven boys, ranging from 6 years old to 17 in all!! We are all pictured here with Mr. D...he and his wife were the trip organizers.

We spent a whole day hiking in Hiawatha National Forest where we learned how the habitat here contributes to a healthy eco system and how we (humans) are impacting the forest-- both negatively through pollution and positively through conservation efforts. Although it was raining most of the day, we made the best of it.

This lighthouse was at Pictured Rocks National Shoreline. It was foggy that day but still beautiful. We toured the lighthouse, as well as the historic home that had been restored and learned about the bootleggers who operated in the area because of the proximity to Canada... that's something Detroit and the U.P. have in common!

We had a chance to try six different activities in one day including kayaking, mountain biking and fishing. My favorite was the kayaks and I have since gone kayaking several times.

Evenings were a chance to share a meal, make new friends and play games.

All in all, it was a great trip and one we will remember for a very long time. Thanks to the National Park Service and trip organizers, Delashon and Nick Dicrese, Lisa Perez and Ranger Dave!!

Monday, October 17, 2011

And the Kale Stands Alone...Well, Almost

I took this photo of my Kale this afternoon. It's not quite alone in the garden, but almost! Just an hour earlier, it was surrounded by tomatoes, peppers, winter squash and beans, but no more.

I have a love - hate relationship with October! I love fall but hate garden clean up. Although by this time of the year, I am exhausted from harvesting, canning, freezing, drying the garden's bounty. And, I am thankful for another year of being able to provide good food to my family from our little urban farm.

Here's a photo of the asparagus bed, which is now covered in straw mulch. Yes, that's a tomato plant in the middle. I did not have the heart to pull it yet because there are still lots of black cherry tomatoes on it that are not ripe. These were among my favorite tomatoes of the 2011 garden.

My boys and I spent a few hours outside today clearing out much of the garden that remained. I harvested the last of the beets, some carrots, lots of tomatoes (both ripe and green), a few last beans and peas.

Here are the last of the beets...and beets greens. YUMMY!

I will try to write a more extensive review of the 2011 season at some point. Probably after the maple tree has finished shedding her leaves and the snow flies.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Knitting and Stitching and Sewing, Oh My!

I learned to knit and crochet as a child but hadn't done so for a very long time. A couple of years ago while on my annual Ladies Camping weekend, I was inspired to pick up some yarn and needles. A number of the women were brought their knitting and crocheting projects. One of the women who had back surgery in the past year had knitted and felted a huge number of bags. The ones she had with her were beautiful. When I returned home, I decided that I wanted to relearn to knit so I could make a felted handbag. So, I went to the store and bought some yarn, needles and a "teach yourself to knit" book.

I now have a collection of knitting and crocheting books and patterns and tons of yarn. My favorite place for yarn and great instruction is City Knits. They are located in the Fisher Building in Detroit. They also have a store in Mt. Clemens. Their website is
Always on the lookout for local sources for anything that I want to buy, I attend a Lavendar Festival and discovered not only locally raised yarns from alpaca and sheep, but also beautiful knitting needles made from Michigan hardwoods. This summer while we were up north, we took a trip to East Jordan, Michigan, home to Stonehedge Fiber Mill. Here are a couple of photos. Debbie McDermott is the owner. She gave us a tour of the farm and mill and we met her herd of about 50 sheep (She called each one by name!)

We also met a pair of African Geese named Lucy and Desi and a young rooster who responded to Khairi's "cock-a-doodle, do"

I took a sewing class last spring with the goal of being able to read a pattern and do simple projects... probably more handbags and totes! More on that at another time. So now, I knit and felt bags, have made a few more bags from old wool sweaters. Decided to try make bookmarks and glass cases. Learned some simple embroidery...

I have accumulated about a dozen finished bags and an assortment of bookmarks and glass cases, so...

Last summer I decided that the time was right to begin selling my bags, so I now have a website on Etsy, a forum for selling handmade and vintage items. I have also done a couple of custom orders, which has been fun. My clients pick the yarn colors, fabric for the lining and pendant. I have sold a few bags, but I am not spending much time these days on it, which is ok. I mostly knit, etc. as a creative outlet, anyhow. I have made many gifts for family and friends and just bought enought yarn to knit myself a sweater. As soon as I have time to start it...

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Detroit Food Policy Council Invites Community Action

The Detroit Food Policy Council (DFPC) was established in December 2009 after several years of work led by the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network. The DFPC is committed to nurturing the development and maintenance of a food-secure City of Detroit in which all of its residents are hunger-free, healthy and benefit economically from the food system that impacts their lives.

Those few words describe a complex issue. Far too many people in Detroit cannot physically get to fresh food because of health and/or lack of transportation. Many of us cannot afford the cost of healthy food or are understandably confused as to what “healthy” food means. It seems like an overwhelming topic.

The good news:

There are successful efforts underway in Detroit right now to improve our food system. More of us are gardening, cooking and sharing our knowledge with others. There are initiatives underway to improve the number and quality of grocery stores in the city. Activists, community leaders and neighbors are coming together to help create solutions that will work for all residents.

This past week, the Detroit Food Policy Council hosted four community forums to engage citizens in our work. The forums were held on April 19th at Gleaners Community Food Bank, April 20th at Nsoroma Institute, April 26 at Christ the King Church and April 28 at Most Holy Redeemer Church. Community residents gathered to hear about the history and goals of the DFPC and to discuss food and the food system in Detroit. Three sessions were held during the evening and one during the day where participants discussed and debated the positive progress and the challenges of creating a local food system that works for all of our citizens.

Citizens learned and help suggest solutions in four areas: Healthy Food Access, Urban Agriculture, Community Food Justice and Schools and Institutions. Short descriptions of each group are below.

The Healthy Food Access group focuses on access to healthy food. Access includes the ease and ability to travel to where quality food is available, as well as the affordability of that food and its cultural suitability to specific population groups within the community.

The Urban Agriculture group discusses the opportunities and challenges for Detroiters to grow, harvest and process fresh food in the city as an important means to creating a robust local food system.

The Community Food Justice group focuses on ways to ensure that Detroit’s majority African-American population, as well as Latinos, Asians and other marginalized groups, are represented at all levels and in all aspects of the food system. This group considers the impact of economic, racial and social justice issues in the food system on our community.

The Schools and Institutions group focus on schools and other public institutions, such as hospitals, colleges and universities and the prison. These institutions provide meals to large groups of individuals and can play a unique role in educating the citizens of the City of Detroit about healthy food.

The input from these sessions is being used to help plan the DFPC’s first Annual Powering Up the Local Food System Summit, scheduled for May 19 and 20 at Eastern Market. The Summit will feature learning sessions, networking and resource fair and the release of the first Annual Detroit Food Report. Online registration is now open. The cost of the two day Summit is $20 with scholarships available. For more information on the DFPC or to register for the Summit, go to

The Detroit Food Policy Council was established in 2009 by unanimous approval of the Detroit City Council. The DFPC consists of twenty-one members, including twelve (12) members with expertise in various sectors of the food system, six (6) "at-large" representatives and three (3) governmental representatives, each named by the Mayor's Office, City Council and the Department of Health and Wellness Promotion (DHWP).

To register for the Summit or for more information, visit or send me an email at

Friday, March 18, 2011

Food Security, Food Access, Food Justice

What Can I Do?

Submitted and Published in the Michigan Citizen, February 6, 2011

According to the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network, the definition of food security is: When all of the members of a community have easy access to adequate amounts of affordable, nutritious, culturally appropriate food.

Those few words describe a complex issue. Far too many people in Detroit do not have food security. Many cannot physically get to fresh food because of health and/or lack of transportation. Others cannot afford the cost of healthy food. Still others are understandably confused as to what “healthy” food means. It seems like an overwhelming topic that as an individual, any effort you make, will have little or no significant impact on your fellow Detroiters’ ability to access food. Or, maybe you think that this problem doesn’t affect you if you don’t live within the city of Detroit.

However, this issue goes beyond accessibility to the very heart of how food is produced, distributed, sold and eaten. Our industrial food system negatively impacts every individual in every community in the U.S. It is not working for any of us and the biggest negative impact is on those with the fewest resources. Many advocates describe it as a broken system: unhealthy, unsustainable, and unjust.

The good news: Food has become a hot topic from local grassroots activism to national political debate. From a vegetable garden at the White House and the First Lady’s initiative to address childhood obesity to urban agriculture and the rise in popularity of local and organic produce. There is a growing awareness and interest in changing the food system, from farm to table to landfill, that affects our health, our economy, our communities, and our environment.
Detroit has the opportunity to create a community where all of its citizens have access to fresh, sustainably grown food but we must work at all levels to accomplish our goal. There are successful efforts underway in Detroit right now. From expanding the regional food hub at Eastern Market to the Garden Resource Program that teaches residents how to grow food to the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation’s initiative to help local grocers improve their stores and fresh food offerings and the Detroit Public Schools’ success ensuring that as many children as possible participate in the school breakfast and lunch program, there are many people focused on improving our local food system.
You may be asking: “what can I do?” There are many ways to get involved in local, state and federal initiatives on food security. Among them are:

Participate in the First Annual Powering Up the Food System Summit organized by the Detroit Food Policy Council on May 19 and 20 at Eastern Market. The Summit will feature opportunities to learn and become involved in community-led efforts to increase food access and build a stronger local food system that benefits all Detroiters. Attend one of the pre-summit forums. Following the Summit, join one of the task forces that will develop solutions that build on current efforts and speed up progress toward a healthy, sustainable, just food system.
Learn more about the city's efforts to develop an urban agriculture policy and share your thoughts with leaders about how other proposals that are being developed—such as, for example, under the Detroit Works strategy—might affect food security (positively or negatively).

If you have school age children, encourage your child’s school to develop a Healthy Food Policy. School policies that promote healthy breakfast and lunch programs also create an opportunity for small businesses.

Contact your representatives in the State legislature, which is considering an end to the Earned Income Tax Credit. If passed, this will have impact on impoverished households' income and further challenge their efforts to meet basic needs, likely increasing their reliance on area food assistance programs.

Improve your own household’s food habits. Visit one of the many Farmer’s Markets that operate from June through October or come to Eastern Market all year round. And, invite a neighbor who may not have transportation to shop with you. Support your church or community soup kitchen or food pantry. Shop your local grocery store. Talk to the manager about offering Michigan fruits, vegetables and other products. Buying locally produced products helps keep money right here in our own community.

Cheryl A Simon is the Coordinator of the Detroit Food Policy Council. She can be reached at (313) 833-0396 or

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Winter Camp at the FRC

This is the second year that my son, Theo and I have attended the BRRR Dead of Winter Camp at the Farm Research Cooperative, located in Bloomingdale, Michigan (northwest of Kalamazoo). The camp invites students in grades four through 6 for a weekend of academic sessions related to science and art.

The camp director’s name is Dr. LeRoy Ray. Dr. Ray was born in 1930 in Texas and has dedicated much of his life’s work to helping African American students graduate from college. He has been a university professor, farmer, cowboy, business owner and educator among many other things. At 80 years old, he has influenced thousands of young people to attend and complete college.

The Farm Research Cooperative, a non profit organization that he started, and this camp is one example of the work that he has sponsored, organized and help fund for nearly 40 years in Michigan. The schedule below reflects the rigors of the weekend and the urgency with which Dr. Ray operates. We end the weekend satisfied but exhausted. Here’s what our weekend looked like.

Friday, Feb. 4, 2011
5:30 p.m. Registration and Sign In.
6:00 p.m. Assign Sleeping Quarters
6:20 p.m. Introductions
7:00 p.m. Dinner- Spaghetti, Salad, Bread Sticks
8:00 p.m. Orientation, Code of Conduct and Expectations (Dr. Ray)
8:30 p.m. Team Building Exercise

In preparation for Saturday's campfire, we dug out the firewood and prepared the fire pit.

9:15 p.m Writing a Proposal/ Note Taking Skills (Ms. Simon)

I conducted a session on effective note taking skills. Each student receives a tool kit with notebook, pencils, highlighter, red pen and a dictionary.

10:15 p.m. Chemistry Experiment: Dehydrating Snow (Dr. Ray with help from all instructors)

The students collected three samples of snow, weighed each one using a double beam scale and put them in three locations, including a dehydrator. They recorded the time the experiment started. On Saturday morning, they checked their samples and discussed what happened to the snow and why.

11:30 p.m. Red Eye Research and Assignment
The students were expected to be able to recite the list of 17 expectations for the camp.

Saturday, Feb. 5, 2011
7:00 a.m Rise and Shine

8:00 a.m. Breakfast! Eggs, toast, bacon, cereal and juice
9:00 a.m. Clean Up
9:45 a.m. Group Assignments: The students were divided into two groups:
Group A: Demarion, Jayshon, Quiana, Dewan, Kwesi
Group B: Marcellus, Theo, Lila, Yyvennia, Brandon

10:00 a.m.

Group A: Science: Energy: Electricity and Conservation in the Carver Lab (as in George Washington Carver)

Instructors: Mr. Vincent with help from Mr. D and me presented a session on electricity. Students learned to convert watts to amps for incandescent bulbs and CFL's. They also learned ways to conserve energy and water at home.

Group B: Newsletter in the Red Barn (the newly constructed learning space that was opened in Summer, 2010)

Instructors: Mr. Palmore, Mr. McClendon

Students learned how to take photos, write stories, set up a newsletter in Microsoft Publisher.

12:00 p.m. Lunch: Grilled Cheese, Fruit, Cookies and Juice

1:00 p.m. Instuctors Meeting

We discuss the struggle that we see students having with taking notes. We determine that our schools and teachers rely heavily on worksheets and handouts so our students are not learning these skills at an early age. The instructors decide that one way to help students is to review notes after each session and help them edit/ fill in the information they missed.

1:00 Students Tour The Silo Museum

Instructor: Mr. McClendon took the students on a tour of the Silo Museum, which contains photos, artifacts and stories about Black Inventors. Dr. Ray is planning to renovate the Museum in the summer. Students shared ideas for updating the museum with the group.

2:00 p.m.

Group A: Newsletter
Group B: Science

3:30 p.m. Art

Instructor: Mr. Palmore, an accomplished fine artist from Kalamazoo, teaches students how to draw a face. They are then encourage to create an abstract piece of art with plaster compound and paint. Mama Leslie and I assist the students with supplies and watch as they create their art. Theo gives his finished piece to Mr. D, a volunteer from Saginaw who brought four students to camp, who he really connected with.

7:00 p.m. Outside Play

8:00 p.m. Dinner- We roasted hot dogs on the camp fire and then made smores!

9:00 p.m. Group Activity and Newsletter

During one of the breaks, Dr. Ray and I spend some time in his library. He has many, many books on lots of subjects. His collection of works from W.E.B. Dubois brings him special pride. He also has reel to reel tapes from his visits to the 107 Black colleges and universities located in the U.S. We discuss the need to preserve his collection and agree to talk further about how to accomplish this goal.

12:00 a.m. Red Eye Assignment

Sunday, Feb. 6, 2011

7:00 a.m. Rise and Shine
8:00 a.m. Breakfast
9:00 a.m. Clean up and Pack Belongings

9:30 a.m. Take a Stance

Dr. Ray spends time talking about the future of FRC, his vision and hope that this group and others will continue to work on behalf of African American youth. He helps the students (and adults) connect history with the present and future.

10:30 a.m. Plans are made to create way for students and instructors to keep in touch. I collect email addresses and agree to create a secure website for this purpose. We also discuss creating a presentation for the Family Farm Conference or other upcoming meeting to showcase the students work and encourage support for the FRC.

11:30 a.m. Depart for Home

We take a group photo outside before we all go our separate ways. I am grateful for a wonderful experience for Theo and myself.

Friday, January 28, 2011


According to the Webster's dictionary, a lacuna is "an empty space or gap"

I am a big fan of Barbara Kingsolver so when she announced the publication of her newest novel, I pre-ordered it from Amazon. I don't usually buy new books. I borrow and trade with friends, go the used book sale at the Detroit Public Library, hit our church's annual garage sale and regularly cruise the thrift stores. But...I knew that I wanted to add Lacuna to my Kingsolver collection.

So, I read it when it came out. When I finished, I have to say that it was not my favorite Kingsolver book. As time went on, and frankly, after talking with a friend about the book, the concept of a lacuna has stayed with me.

There are several meanings of lacuna in the book. The empty space or gap is both physical and emotional and spiritual for the main character.

So, thinking about where I am in the cycle of life. I have several close friends who are turning 50 this year and I'm not far behind. Still feeling young but realizing that nobody lives forever. Signs of aging... grey hair, a few wrinkles, creaky joints. I'm in that space between youth and middle age (or middle age and old age!?).

Between worlds... physical and spiritual. I try to focus on what is important and lasting. Not an easy task in this ME, ME, ME, NOW, NOW, NOW!! culture that we live in but I have to say, I am getting better at filtering out the noise.