Today is the day to take those small moments and give them to those you care about.

~Susie Davis




I read books about words, like Spunk and Bite, Better Than Great, The Snark Handbook, In Other Words and I’m Not Hanging Noodles on Your Ears.



I love Dictionaries, the ordinary and the obscure ~ one-letter words, all-consonant words, all-vowel words. And every one on the list below can give you an edge in Scrabble with your brainy friends. Not to mention a jack-in-the-box moment on every page.

WORD SPY: The Word Lover's Guide to Modern Culture

Whether you’re a word wonk or a “n00b”, word spy will make your bones boogie.




Take the word mungy, with a soft, j-like G. I learned this word on Paul McFedries website. It means overcast and damp, like it was the day before yesterday. You know, the kind of weather that provokes grey-sky thinking…. and its extreme version, black-sky thinking.


But not yesterday.

It was definitely a blue-sky thinking day.

Down in the hollow…


…and at the coffee shop.


So Readers, this narb’s for you. Every blog post is a small narrative bit, a tiny story about a small moment. Want to share one of yours? Leave a digital morsel in the comment section. It’s the perfect place to pass along your narb ~ by word-of-mouse.

Toni 1/25/12


I’m sure Heaven rocks.

Johnny Otis and Etta James are there.

Johnny Otis, the “Godfather of Rhythm & Blues,” fiercely imagined a mix of music ~ bebop, stride piano, electric blues, strip-time percussion, cool blues and jump boogie.

You know who he is. It’s 1959 and you sang along.


Otis discovered a young R&B firecracker, and with a simple flip of her first name, introduced the world to the dynamic, high-voltage Ms.Etta James.

“I sing the songs that people need to hear.”  And she did.

Jamesetta Hawkins had a gritty Southern-soul edge. She and Otis cooked up an earthy fusion of rock and gospel, tossed in blistering horn arrangements, funky rhythms and added a church-style chorus.


Etta wasn’t slinky, skinny or silky like the other female blues singers. She was Street. She wasn’t Southern gospel, New York doo-wop or Chicago blues.  She was pure R&B.

Etta’s life was a powder keg ~ heroin addiction, drastic weight fluctuations, a troubled childhood.  She smoked marijuana, snorted cocaine and shot heroin. She hung out in gangs. One of them, an a cappella group called The Peaches, gave her the nickname ~ “Miss Peaches.”

“My mother always told me, even if a song has been done a thousand times, you can still bring something of your own to it. I’d like to think I did that.” 

Boy, did she ever.

1961.  At Last.


Johnny Otis wrote about his life and the music ~ ~ and Etta wrote about the rage to survive. <iframe frameborder=”0″ scrolling=”no” style=”border:0px” src=”’d%20Rather%20Go%20Blind&pg=PA173&output=embed” width=500 height=500></iframe>

I never met Otis or Etta.  Lucky for me, though, they live on my playlist and are with me wherever I go.

Requiescat in pace, Godfather and Miss Peaches…

…but the music will never die.

Toni 1/23/12



Tis the season to be wary.  Like many of you, I resolve to be more organized, read more books, write more poetry, learn new things, get more sleep, lose weight, spend less, eat healthier, keep the car cleaner and the closets emptier.

Janopause is the buzzword for the January time-out that Brits take from alcohol consumption, in the belief that it will give their livers a break. For a wider audience, it’s basically post-Christmas, bleak-winter pressure to abstain from anything remotely pleasurable.  Not for me, thanks.

My Janopause is a time to muse.  It’s the mid-month stop-and-take-stock time.  New Year’s resolutions have yet to be broken.  And there’s still a passel of willpower left.

It’s not likely that I can keep any resolution all year, maybe not even until July. But I think if I can make it through to the end of January, the odds are in my favor.

Professor Richard Wiseman researches the psychology of luck, self-help, persuasion, and illusion.  A passionate advocate for science, his best-selling books have been translated into over 30 languages and he has presented keynote addresses at Microsoft, Caltech, and Google. Wiseman is the most followed psychologist on Twitter.

Here’s his 59 second mini-motivator~



I’m starting with “be more organized”.  More specifically: Clean one bookshelf every week. Take one box of “stuff” out of the cellar each garbage day.  Not too challenging, not too easy. And, of course, there will be rewards ~  Keep my eye on the prize. Like fiddling around on YouTube.



Resolution #2 ~ Eat healthier. Michael Pollan says plants are good for us. Eating more plants brings health benefits. If we fill ourselves up on plants, then we eat less of unhealthy foods. Plants have antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids and fiber. Vegetarians have better heart health than meat eaters. Flexatarians (occasional meat eaters) have much better health statistics than meat eaters. The more vegetables you eat, the healthier you’ll be. Can’t argue with that.

As for my resolve to “learn new things”, I listen to podcasts.  The NPR podcast directory lets you mix skadoodles of topics and programs. WIKIPEDIA has a random article link for the “Hey-I-didn’t-know-that!” moment that is crackling good fun. And then there’s the Learn Something Everyday App, free in iTunes, for an all-important daily dose of humor.

Bloggers are a mixed breed but there’s tons of truffles among the toadstools. They’re the Renaissance writers of the Internet. They have plenty to say and teach us about life. Like Fish and Dew. And they’re just a mouse-click away.

Janopause isn’t the season to be sorry, to punish yourself, or go for the one-hit, one-month stab in hopes of long-term liver health. It can be a spritz of joy and some shanti for the soul.  Wished for and welcome.

Toni 1/16/12


  So many choices.  So little time.  

In 1856, Thoreau wrote in his journal: “My themes shall not be far-fetched. I will tell of homely everyday phenomena and adventures. Friends! Society! It seems to me that I have an abundance of it, there is so much that I rejoice.”

Thoreau appreciated what is truly important in life ~ food, shelter, clothing, fuel and a few simple tools. He borrowed an an ax to build his cabin. He grew beans for fun and barter. He whittled pencils. And he lived about fifteen minutes away from his mother.

It’s a Walden Pond tradition to leave a rock near Thoreau’s hut.  But I think this visitor really gets it.

(Photo courtesy of Teeny Pies)


Thoreau’s intention during his time at Walden Pond was to strip away all superfluous luxuries and live a simple life. I’m all for that.  But good food, like a teeny pie, is not a superfluous luxury.

Thoreau thought a lot about his diet. He only spent about twenty-seven cents a week on food, frugal for even the 1850’s ~ rye, cornmeal, potatoes, rice, beans, a bit of salt pork, molasses, and salt.  He mostly ate grains and vegetables and flat bread, some fish… and once, a pesky woodchuck.

But Thoreau left the woods quite regularly to dine out with friends.  He was known to dash across the fields anytime the Emerson’s rang their dinner bell. Rumor has it that Henry would even steal pies from his neighbor’s windowsills.  I think the Teeny Pies blogger, saving the world one pie at a time, is onto something.

For me, going to the Vermont woods is a simple pleasure.  And when the dinner bell sounds, I make a beeline for the village of Manchester, a place “as refreshing in its way as the rustle of leaves.”  Straight to the Silver Fork.



The Sliver Fork is an intimate six-table restaurant owned by award-winning chef Mark French and his wife Melody. It’s got an insanely friendly vibe. The masterful chef, who has received many Silver Fork Awards, comes into the dining room to chat, his wife works the bar and his daughter serves the tables. You truly feel like a guest in their home. The menu is inspired ~ impossibly stellar plates prepared with an abundance of fresh local ingredients. Thoreau would rejoice. It’s opulence on a fork.

So save room for pie.  And this.


Toni 1/13/12

Use What You Know: Another Key to the Success of These Classrooms I’m Watching and a Story from My Youth to Match

Use what you know! demands 5th grade teacher Mr. P. You know alot, pull it up and make use of it without me reminding you! It’ll help you make the three-pointers!

 Just like what my dad taught me way back in the day when I was in 5th grade.

Pillow on his face, brown, snap-on bowtie tucked in his pocket, top shirt button undone, Dad is stretched out for his after supper lie-down. His den is tucked away behind the parlor and closed off by a set of French doors that muffle the rowdy sounds of our big family.  If any of us needed help on writing, we could come and get it from Dad during this time. I sit on the ottoman near the couch.

He lifts the pillow off one side of his face and eyes me with a raised eyebrow, What’s up?

I frown and swipe my fingers through the dog-eared notebook pages.  I’m working on this story about the time a violinist almost falls off the stage because he’s so energetic in his bowing. With every draw of the bow, he jumps and his chair moves closer to the edge.  I pause to see if Dad’s getting it. He’s keeping the pillow in lift-up mode.

Go on.  He lets the pillow fall back on his face.

The audience stops listening. Everybody’s looking at the chair leg.  It’s a ‘will he or won’t he’ kind of drama.  I’m in the audience.  I save him.  Want me to read it?  I smooth the notebook pages flat and take a breath.

No, don’t read it.  Talk to me. I’m curious. Why do you have your performer be a violinist?

I sigh. I don’t know.  I just started that way.

What do you say about him?

This is where I’m stuck. I sit forward. I keep saying the same things: He’s drawing his bow across the strings, he’s drawing his bow…

Dad lifts the pillow off his face. Why don’t you make ‘him’ a’ her?’  You know lots of things about girls.  And, he puts the pillow back, Why don’t you make your her a cellist?

It was as if he’d clicked a flashlight on in a dark room or given me a boost over a wall. ‘Cause I’m a cellist! And I’m a girl. Great idea. I’ve got it. I start to jump up, but Dad reaches out and grabs my notebook edge. Pillow’s lifted again.

Remember: Use what you know. Every story begins with a speck of some personal experience or observation. Like your pearls.

I finger the add-a-pearl necklace on my neck.  My pearls?

Right.  A grain of sand lodges in the oyster shell.  The pearl forms around it. Pillow drops.

Got it: Kernel of knowledge grows into pearl of a story. Use what I know. Thanks, Dad.

And thanks, Mr. P. Those 5th-grade kids of yours are high-achievers because you tell them to use what they know and build around it. 3-pointers, here we come.