Tag Archives: tween fiction

Just Connect Me, Dahling!


Robot waiter, butler background vector

Verella awoke to the sound of her wrist ringing.

Her wrist wasn’t really ringing, but the compact instrument strapped to it demanded her attention in a screechy, nagging tenor.

“Yes?” she whispered groggily, pushing her RESpond button. Her other hand rubbed her temple to quell the throbbing inside her head.

“Verella? Great! I caught you before you left the hotel. Send me another set of those charts we discussed this morning before you fly off to Beijing. What time is your flight anyway?”

While Mr. Hummph, Verella’s boss, blathered from the top side of her wrist bone, Verella struggled to control her rising ire. She tuned him out for a  femtosecond to gather her wits.

What the . . .? My plane leaves in four hours. Thanks to that global conference Mr. Hummph blared at 1 a.m. by setting off those gawdawful emergency X-Bells in our  laptops, I’ve had two hours sleep. I’ve got so much jet lag, I’ll probably run into myself sometime around noon. 

“Verella! Did you fall back to sleep?”

“No sir, I’m here. My flight leaves at 8. I’ll get those graphs to you in a few minutes, Mr. Hummph.”

“Minutes? Better make that seconds. Time is money, Verella, money. But you know that, you little globe-trekker you.”

Oh brother.

This week, Mr. Hummph’s globe-brokers, of which she was a part, but simply tagged as X705 to everyone but Mr. Hummph, were working in Beijing, Brussels, Moscow, Paris, Dubai, Tokyo and Never-Heard-of-It Nevada. Did that annoying man ever get any sleep? Lord knows she never did.

Verella dug her GPFX *GlobalPORTOTrans* from her purse, connected it to the laptop and issued a verbal code-connect-go. She stared at the purple pulses and wondered if Mr. Hummph could possibly be one of the new HU-ROBS already speculated to be infiltrating earth’s population. Of course, HU-ROBs were vehemently denied as myth, but exponential rumors about anything always adds up to something, Verella believed wholeheartedly.

Promising she would check out her suspicions when she returned stateside, Verella clapped her hands. Travel Tesauro, her constant travel assistant, whirred to life—his crimson, green and amber lights twinkling.

After a Command-String, TT – as she affectionately called him – instantly packed Verella’s suitcase, leaving the lid open for her pajamas after her morning toilette. He magnetically started the bathroom shower and waited for her with a warmed towel as she stepped out three minutes later.

While she sat in the hotel chair, TT presented Verella with a frothy latte and a power beet bar. TT’s front quadrant morphed into a giant clock with a second hand ticking away in Verella’s face. She allowed herself a long four minutes to relish her breakfast, thankful her assistant had made the latte lukewarm for fast downing.

A tray loaded with Verella’s makeup flipped out from TT’s left side. The tray exuded soft musicRobot 1 with a rousing under beat – one of the new music strips that soothed and hurried a person at the same time.

A peacock blue *Verella’s favorite color* panel glowed from TT’s other side as he awaited her makeup instructions for the day. “Moisturizer. Foundation. Enough rouge to cover my ghastly pallor. Comb out my eyelash extensions with the burr brush. Teal eyeliner. Relaxed eyebrows. Ratta-2-ee coral lipstick,” Verella commanded in soft tones.

After the last dab of robotically applied lipstick, TT zipped the suitcase closed and waited while Verella wiggled into her travel clothes.

Less than 30 minutes after arising, she emerged breathlessly from the Marriott Village d’Ile-de-France into a waiting cab, her freshly pressed suit crisscrossed with straps holding her TransGlobal-Connecting devices. TT carried her luggage and a medium-hot paper-cup latte for the ride to the airport.

While Verella settled into her plane seat for the flight to Beijing, TT worked at blinding speed to set up her in-flight office so she could begin working before takeoff.

She put her head back and sighed.Watching TT, she calculated she had at least sixty seconds before he completed his tasks – enough time for a few random reflections.

Thank the galaxies I became a biz-globe-broker and not one of those poor, weird women who manage households, she thought with a little shiver of disgust.

Their lives are so demanding.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Of course, this is satire, but do you think our connectivity might reach a point in which we scream, Enough! ?

Do you sometimes feel you are part of a surveillance society? As Orwellian as it sounds, we can now be contacted and/or observed anywhere in the world 24/7. Does that bother you? Personally, it doesn’t worry me that much. At least I can still choose WHEN and WHERE and HOW I want to be connected via computer, smartphone, etc. That gives me a bit of an illusion of retaining control.

Even if genuine seclusion is becoming a thing of the past, I can live happily in a 24/7 Connectivity World as long as I still control the finger that turns on *or off* all those connectivity devices! Make sense?

Make sense?

P.S. I recycled this post from a published article I wrote long ago. Understandably, I’ve had to seriously update the technological elements in the rewrite.

 

Arrow

Feel free to wander around my website. It's guaranteed non-toxic.

If you like Sassy, Danger and Mystery, you'll love my any-age novels. Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT and Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: CANYON OF DOOM are available at your nearest Barnes & Noble Bookseller, on this website, Amazon, B&N.com and more. For your convenience, it’s also available on Kindlethe Nook and most other eBook readers.

Book Three of the Silki trilogy, VALLEY OF SHADOWS, launches fall 2016. Here's a quick synopsis:

Bummed that yet another summer has passed all too quickly, Silki and her best friend Birdie head out for one last hurrah at the Navajo Nation Fair. When the fun is overshadowed by the theft of a famous horse, Silki is plunged into a baffling adventure teeming with international undercurrents and intrigue. What’s more, boy-crazy Birdie is fluttering her eyelashes at Silki’s good-looking, visiting cousin at every turn, and Rez legend Old Man Concho is coughing up secrets dating back to 1942. What possible connection could he have to the Japanese tourists, and will Silki discover an ancient truth about the Valley of Shadows in time to save Lava, the leader of the Ghost Herd, as well as salvage her own broken heart?

Meet my CANYON OF DOOM AND VALLEY OF SHADOWS illustrator, the Drawing Hands.

Jodi Lea Stewart was born in Texas and grew up in Apache County on a cattle ranch near Concho, Arizona. She left the University of Arizona in Tucson to move to San Francisco, where she learned about peace, love and exactly what she didn't want to do with her life. Since then, Jodi graduated summa cum laude with a BS in Business Management, raised two children, worked as an electro-mechanical drafter, penned humor columns for a college periodical, wrote regional western articles and served as managing editor of a Fortune company newsletter. She currently resides in Texas and New Mexico with her husband, two Standard poodles, two rescue cats and numerous gigantic, bossy houseplants. SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT is Jodi's debut novel and Book One of the Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves trilogy. CANYON OF DOOM came next, and VALLEY OF SHADOWS hits the shelves summer of 2016, completing this exciting and fun adventure-mystery set in the Navajo Nation. Next on the horizon? A historical mystery novel set in the 1930s told through the eyes of a sharecropper's daughter.

Grow Your Own Jewelry


My childhood as the only girl on an Arizona ranch could get downright lonesome.

Television and radio reception were nonexistent, and all the wonderful gadgets of today weren’t yet invented.

Friends were far away, so play dates and overnighters were as scarce as green grass, which is plenty scarce in the high deserts of the Southwest.

One day, probably as a result of my mournful expressions and heavy sighs, my mother – shrouded in mystery – beckoned me to follow her to the garden. There, between a peach tree and the rock house that supported our water tank filled with well water, she poured several tear-shaped seeds about the size of corn kernels into her hand from a packet.

What were they?

Job’s Tears, she said, and I was immediately beguiled.

What a name! I could barely breathe as I asked her what we were going to do with them.

Plant them, was her reply.

And we did.

What exactly are Job’s Tears?

Jobs TearsFor starters, Job’s tears are nature’s jewelry.

The plants grow a pre-drilled, polished bead that can be used to make an endless assortment of necklaces, bracelets, and other baubles. The male flower grows up through the center of the bead. When removed, it leaves a hollow core just right for stringing.

People have grown Job’s Tears for thousands of years. In western India, a bead-making shop circa 2000 B.C. was uncovered. They found beads made from soapstone *man-made beads* and Job’s Tears *nature’s beads.*

Different cultures have used the beads in creative ways. In Africa, shaker gourds enclosed with a loose net and covered with hundreds of Job’s tears are said to produce a lovely musical sound. Here’s what Wayne’s Word said about it: As the beads slap against the gourd, a loud shaker sound is produced – as good as any modern instrument for this purpose. Using the neck of the gourd as a handle, the sound of the bead net is amplified by the hollow gourd.

Why are they called ‘Tears?’

The tear-shaped beads sometimes refer to Job of the Old Testament, a man who endured great suffering. They are also called David’s Tears, Saint Mary’s Tears, Christ’s Tears and Tear Drops.

jobs_tears_gardenMore than a pretty bead

  • Coix lacryma-jobi – Job’s Tears’ scientific name – is a close relative to corn. The plants strongly resemble corn but are skinnier. It is considered one of the earliest domesticated plants.
  • The beads have been used all over the world as a source of food and medicine.
  • They can be ground into meal, or used as a coffee substitute.
  • They are common in products sold in Asia. When supplies of rice were low during the Vietnam War, Job’s Tears became a staple substitute.
  • In Japan, Korea, China, Taiwan and Vietnam, Job’s Tears are available as flakes or powder. They are often added to other grains, liquors, candy, bath products, vinegar, and tea.
  • Hatomugi, the Japanese word for Job’s Tears, is used in traditional Japanese Kampo herbal medicine. The grain is valued as a nutritious food and has long been used in traditional Chinese medicine to support hair, skin, nails, and as a digestive aide.
  • Here’s what Amazon says about them: This plant’s seeds are used in soups and broths, and can be used in any way that rice is used. They can also be ground into flour which is used to make bread. The seeds are popular for making decorations and have herbal and medicinal uses. 

Growing Job’s Tears

Job’s Tears are easy to grow. The plants don’t need a lot of water and are quite hardy. Here’s a link telling you exactly how to do it, but I promise, it’s easy!

Growing Job’s Tears and stringing the beads into necklaces remains one of my fondest childhood memories. My mother learned about Job’s Tears from her mother. Why not make some passed down memories for your special girls and guys?

They’ll never forget it. Amazon has the seeds for sale right now. And don’t forget to come back and tell us about it, okay?

 

I always love to hear from you.

 

 

Arrow

Feel free to wander around my website. It's guaranteed non-toxic.

If you like Sassy, Danger and Mystery, you'll love my any-age novels. Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT and Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: CANYON OF DOOM are available at your nearest Barnes & Noble Bookseller, on this website, Amazon, B&N.com and more. For your convenience, it’s also available on Kindlethe Nook and most other eBook readers.

Book Three of the Silki trilogy, VALLEY OF SHADOWS, launches fall 2016. Here's a quick synopsis:

Bummed that yet another summer has passed all too quickly, Silki and her best friend Birdie head out for one last hurrah at the Navajo Nation Fair. When the fun is overshadowed by the theft of a famous horse, Silki is plunged into a baffling adventure teeming with international undercurrents and intrigue. What’s more, boy-crazy Birdie is fluttering her eyelashes at Silki’s good-looking, visiting cousin at every turn, and Rez legend Old Man Concho is coughing up secrets dating back to 1942. What possible connection could he have to the Japanese tourists, and will Silki discover an ancient truth about the Valley of Shadows in time to save Lava, the leader of the Ghost Herd, as well as salvage her own broken heart?

Meet my CANYON OF DOOM AND VALLEY OF SHADOWS illustrator, the Drawing Hands.

Jodi Lea Stewart was born in Texas and grew up in Apache County on a cattle ranch near Concho, Arizona. She left the University of Arizona in Tucson to move to San Francisco, where she learned about peace, love and exactly what she didn't want to do with her life. Since then, Jodi graduated summa cum laude with a BS in Business Management, raised two children, worked as an electro-mechanical drafter, penned humor columns for a college periodical, wrote regional western articles and served as managing editor of a Fortune company newsletter. She currently resides in Texas and New Mexico with her husband, two Standard poodles, two rescue cats and numerous gigantic, bossy houseplants. SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT is Jodi's debut novel and Book One of the Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves trilogy. CANYON OF DOOM came next, and VALLEY OF SHADOWS hits the shelves summer of 2016, completing this exciting and fun adventure-mystery set in the Navajo Nation. Next on the horizon? A historical mystery novel set in the 1930s told through the eyes of a sharecropper's daughter.

Why are Metaphors Both Awesome and Terrible?


Miss Metaphor! Image from Wikipedia Commons.

Miss Metaphor! Image from Wikipedia Commons.

One dreadful  inspiring morning at a writing seminar long ago, I emerged from a face-to-face editor session feeling as though I were stepping out the door and onto a parade float. For a few minutes, I could have sworn I was wearing a pageant gown, a tiara, and a ribbon sash proclaiming I was Miss Metaphor, and not in a good way.

Said editor had reviewed the first pages of my first novel and practically stamped that lofty title *Miss Metaphor* on my chest.

I emerged from the room fluttering a weak little Miss America wave at the other terrified aspiring writers awaiting their turns at the chopping block.

That experience caused me to

  • Greatly revise my manuscript, and
  • Wonder why metaphors are both awesome and terrible

With a little research, I found a true Metaphor Devotee — Italian semiotician, literary critic, and novelist Emberto Eco, who said, “…metaphor gives birth to pleasure (in writing).”

He claims that knowing how to conceive metaphors is an art.

I agree.

Metaphors, and their cousins – simile, hyperbole, allegory – add punch to pallid writing. They enlighten and freshen dull manuscripts.

Too Many Metaphors

Some writers (Jodi Lea Stewart in the past, for example) are addicted to figurative language. Consider the following paragraph, and yes, I wrote it myself, and furthermore, it was easy because I could almost live inside a metaphor but that’s another story, n’est-ce pas?

The female fire hazard blazed her way into the board meeting – bull nostrils flaring, poblano pepper eyes glowing – and roared at the Sovereign Power himself, “Give me back my job or I’ll torch your underwear from the inside out!”

Thirty-nine words, twenty-one of which indicate some kind of metaphor.

That’s overkill.

Writers who use metaphors to that extent might want to hook up with a 12-step Metaphors Anonymous program sooner versus later. Over metaphorizing *I made that up to add interest* dulls out the reader almost as much as the writer who doesn’t use figurative language at all.

Too Few Metaphors

If Elements of Style by Strunk & White makes you salivate,

If you love stringent grammar rules and feel it is a crime to alter them,

If you use symbolic language ultra-sparingly, or not at all,

If you wallow in strict English correctness,

Stop reading this blog.

Grab your Elements of Style and repertoire of grammar books and take a nap with them because you’re boring us all to death  with your writing. Sleep. Just sleep.

However, if you are boring even yourself, and you are often told by readers, agents, or editors that your writing lacks color, excitement, or imagination, then I have a suggestion for you.

Run, don’t walk, to buy Arthur Plotnik’s Spunk & Bite. Read it under the covers with a flashlight if you must, but read it without delay.

Plotnik, a self-defined, writing-rule-rebel said,”Both Strunk and White knew well that bending the rules…can give writing its distinction, its edge, its very style. Bending the rules can spring writers from ruts – get them out of themselves, out of the ordinary, and into prose that comes alive, gets noticed, and gets published.”

Strike the Balance

A sassy blend of metaphor mixed with essential writing rules will let you stand proud on that Miss *Mr?* Metaphor float, or anywhere else. Just as a superb pageant contestant is lovely, well-rounded, and interesting, so is the kind of writing that stands out from the crowd.

“Metaphor is the supreme figure of all…connecting notions and finding similitude in things dissimilar.” – Umberto Eco

What about you? Have you been guilty of too much flowery writing? Did anybody ever tell you to stop? Maybe you abhor metaphors, simile, hyperbole and the like. Tell us about it. We love to hear from you!

When writers share, we just get better.


That dame saw me borrow unauthorized social media. Maybe I can dart under the table...

That dame saw me use unauthorized social media. Maybe I can duck under the table before she calls the coppers.

Pssst! – All media used in my blogs are either acquired by payment for their use, or don’t require licensing for public use. Often, I use my own personal photos. Please play it safe and don’t recycle images, okay? (P.S. This one of Henry Fonda is free for all. Borrow like crazy if you want!)


Arrow

Feel free to wander around my website. It's guaranteed non-toxic.

If you like Sassy, Danger and Mystery, you'll love my any-age novels. Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT and Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: CANYON OF DOOM are available at your nearest Barnes & Noble Bookseller, on this website, Amazon, B&N.com and more. For your convenience, it’s also available on Kindlethe Nook and most other eBook readers.

Book Three of the Silki trilogy, VALLEY OF SHADOWS, launches fall 2016. Here's a quick synopsis:

Bummed that yet another summer has passed all too quickly, Silki and her best friend Birdie head out for one last hurrah at the Navajo Nation Fair. When the fun is overshadowed by the theft of a famous horse, Silki is plunged into a baffling adventure teeming with international undercurrents and intrigue. What’s more, boy-crazy Birdie is fluttering her eyelashes at Silki’s good-looking, visiting cousin at every turn, and Rez legend Old Man Concho is coughing up secrets dating back to 1942. What possible connection could he have to the Japanese tourists, and will Silki discover an ancient truth about the Valley of Shadows in time to save Lava, the leader of the Ghost Herd, as well as salvage her own broken heart?

Meet my CANYON OF DOOM AND VALLEY OF SHADOWS illustrator, the Drawing Hands.

Jodi Lea Stewart was born in Texas and grew up in Apache County on a cattle ranch near Concho, Arizona. She left the University of Arizona in Tucson to move to San Francisco, where she learned about peace, love and exactly what she didn't want to do with her life. Since then, Jodi graduated summa cum laude with a BS in Business Management, raised two children, worked as an electro-mechanical drafter, penned humor columns for a college periodical, wrote regional western articles and served as managing editor of a Fortune company newsletter. She currently resides in Texas and New Mexico with her husband, two Standard poodles, two rescue cats and numerous gigantic, bossy houseplants. SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT is Jodi's debut novel and Book One of the Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves trilogy. CANYON OF DOOM came next, and VALLEY OF SHADOWS hits the shelves summer of 2016, completing this exciting and fun adventure-mystery set in the Navajo Nation. Next on the horizon? A historical mystery novel set in the 1930s told through the eyes of a sharecropper's daughter.

TJ (Thomas Jefferson) and the Tomatoes


 

Tomatoes. How we love them. How we need them.

Need them?

Sure. I’ll prove it.

Imagine a plate of spaghetti and meatballs without a  delicious, red spaghetti sauce. Envision always ordering white pizzas with an Alfredo or cheese sauce base.

Red sauce = tomatoes.

Salsa = tomatoes.

Ketchup = tomatoes.

Must I go on?

Yes. Because nothing but tomatoes can make our salads both juicy AND pretty.

Okay.

Since we admit we need them, what about the tire-tread taste of the tomatoes we buy at the store?

First of all, don’t blame the tomatoes. They’re innocent. Tomatoes grown for commercial purposes can’t luxuriate at the Riviera in the sunshine until they are red and ready. They are harvested from the vine while still green, gassed with ethylene – which turns them pukey pink inside – and shipped off to stores to wind up in your sauces, soups, and salads. That’s why they look sick and have no taste.

Thomas_Jefferson_revDid Thomas Jefferson (TJ) have to tolerate crappy tasteless tomatoes?

What does Thomas Jefferson have to do with tomatoes? Well, he indisputably was the most enthusiastic gardener-president we’ve ever had in office. He kept a garden calendar from 1767 to 1824, and he never failed to plant tomatoes. They appeared often in the Jefferson family recipes.

Naturally, Jefferson loved tomatoes.  And he should have. They were delicious, different “creatures” in those days. Even most home-garden grown tomatoes and organic crops aren’t as good as the ones Thomas Jefferson produced. Why? Because TJ grew them before genetic modification. Genetic modification makes generic seeds and grocery-store vegetables:

1)      more resistant to pesticides and weed killers,

2)      easier to ship,

3)      slower to rot,

4)      tasteless . . . and of dubious nutritional value.

Furtunately, we aren’t stuck with these cardboard versions of formerly delicious vegetables.

I found out about heirloom gardening  from my mother, who found out about heirloom seeds from her sister. They had a farmer dad, you know, and it’s in their blood to care about things growing out of dirt.

What are Heirloom Vegetables?

Heirloom seeds are carefully harvested from strains going back thousands of years. Some descend from seeds sewn into clothes by immigrants coming to America, or from Thomas

Monticello Vegetable Garden

Jefferson’s own garden.

According to Jack Penman in Getting Back to America’s Roots, since these seeds evolved before the age of industrial agriculture, they often grow better under eco-friendly practices.

Did you get that? They’re naturally hardy and disease resistant without chemicals.

Jere Gettle, owner of Baker Creed Heirloom Seeds, sends out two million heirloom seed packets a year and says that number is rising at about thirty percent annually. Who knew? Added bonus: You can buy enough seeds to grow a crop for three years for less than ten dollars. Plus, you won’t have to reorder if you save your seeds. (P.S. You have to click on the Baker Creed link…it’s so cool. And you’ll see vegetables that look surreal!)

So now you know. Choosing pasty, yucky tomatoes or full-bodied delicious ones right out of Thomas Jefferson’s garden is now a matter of choice…and a little sweat o’ the brow!

Want to know more?

The Heirloom Tomato: From Garden to Table: Recipes, Portraits, and History of the World’s Most Beautiful Fruit

 

 

 

 

 

Heirloom Gardens to see  

What about you?  Do you ever worry about the gases they use to “ripen” our fruits and vegetables? What about hybrids and genetic modification . . . scary or not scary? I’ll say this, I’ve learned that none of us is getting out of this world alive. Therefore, our quality of life while we’re here should be pretty important. Upping the quality of the food we eat may be part of seeking that higher ground.

 

 

Arrow

Feel free to wander around my website. It's guaranteed non-toxic.

If you like Sassy, Danger and Mystery, you'll love my any-age novels. Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT and Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: CANYON OF DOOM are available at your nearest Barnes & Noble Bookseller, on this website, Amazon, B&N.com and more. For your convenience, it’s also available on Kindlethe Nook and most other eBook readers.

Book Three of the Silki trilogy, VALLEY OF SHADOWS, launches fall 2016. Here's a quick synopsis:

Bummed that yet another summer has passed all too quickly, Silki and her best friend Birdie head out for one last hurrah at the Navajo Nation Fair. When the fun is overshadowed by the theft of a famous horse, Silki is plunged into a baffling adventure teeming with international undercurrents and intrigue. What’s more, boy-crazy Birdie is fluttering her eyelashes at Silki’s good-looking, visiting cousin at every turn, and Rez legend Old Man Concho is coughing up secrets dating back to 1942. What possible connection could he have to the Japanese tourists, and will Silki discover an ancient truth about the Valley of Shadows in time to save Lava, the leader of the Ghost Herd, as well as salvage her own broken heart?

Meet my CANYON OF DOOM AND VALLEY OF SHADOWS illustrator, the Drawing Hands.

Jodi Lea Stewart was born in Texas and grew up in Apache County on a cattle ranch near Concho, Arizona. She left the University of Arizona in Tucson to move to San Francisco, where she learned about peace, love and exactly what she didn't want to do with her life. Since then, Jodi graduated summa cum laude with a BS in Business Management, raised two children, worked as an electro-mechanical drafter, penned humor columns for a college periodical, wrote regional western articles and served as managing editor of a Fortune company newsletter. She currently resides in Texas and New Mexico with her husband, two Standard poodles, two rescue cats and numerous gigantic, bossy houseplants. SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT is Jodi's debut novel and Book One of the Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves trilogy. CANYON OF DOOM came next, and VALLEY OF SHADOWS hits the shelves summer of 2016, completing this exciting and fun adventure-mystery set in the Navajo Nation. Next on the horizon? A historical mystery novel set in the 1930s told through the eyes of a sharecropper's daughter.

Cacti, the Rock Star of the Desert


Paid-for Image from Fotolia

Paid-for Image from Fotolia

The truth is, cacti can be the best of times and the worst of times. It can represent the age of wisdom or the age of foolishness. *forgive me Charles Dickens*

The Best of Times/Age of Wisdom

Cacti as Food

Nopales, a fancy name for young cactus pads of the prickly pear cactus (Opuntia) is a food marvel. Use them in scrambled eggs and jalapenos. Grill them and use in tacos, enchiladas or quesadillas. Use them in salads, or as a side dish. How do they taste? Sort of green-beanish with a hint of lemon.

Almost any fleshy cactus fruit is edible, but the prickly pear fruit wins the popularity contest, hands down. Also known as cactus fruit, cactus figs, Indian figs, Barbary figs, and tunas, this little fruit is dynamic! It grows two to four inches and is shaped similar to an avocado.

The immature fruit is green and matures to orange, red, pink or magenta. It can be eaten raw, or made into jelly, syrup, candy or even margaritas!

Cacti for Health

Nopales are being added to smoothies. Why?

Because the humble little Opuntia cactus pad is receiving high marks for its low glycemic rating and ability to control blood sugar naturally. What’s more, research suggests the imbiber’s blood sugar continues to drop for two hours after ingesting it.

Cacti for Drink

Who hasn’t seen any of the old vintage Westerns depicting a poor soul with sun-blistered skin and shredded clothing crawling, scratching, grunting to get to a lone cactus in the torrid desert? He has only the strength to reach the cactus and carve a hole in the side or top. He reaches in with both of his filthy, shaking hands and brings the lifesaving liquid to his peeling lips.

Ahhhhhh. Man is saved. Cactus is the hero.

But hold on! Although the large saguaro with its arm-like branches can store as much as 200 gallons of water, the liquid can be toxic to humans.

What is a dying desert crawler to do?

Aim for the prickly pear and barrel cacti, and don’t expect a lot. Forget clear bottled water. The inside walls of the cactus will be tough. The drinkable fluid inside its moist, spongy pulp will most likely be bitter.

The best way to get nutrition or water from a cactus *in an emergency* is to peel and eat the prickly pear or barrel cactus fruits. Or eat the raw pads of the a prickly pear. Be careful of those spines!! Ouch!

Cacti for Ranchers

Native prickly pear growth has been used for over a century to feed cattle. The pads of the Opuntia are low in dry matter and crude protein, but will suffice in emergency conditions.  The pads also contain a sufficient amount of moisture. Recently, the Southwest cattle industry has begun to cultivate prickly pear cacti as a fresh source of feed and water for cows. The spines can be burned off to reduce mouth injury.

Since cattle tend to avoid the sharp spines, prickly pear cacti can actually be used like a fence to keep cattle in a certain boundary.

Cacti as Art

No explanation needed!

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The Worst of Times/Age of Foolishness

Cacti as Tormentor

Anyone who has ever stepped on a cactus, fallen into a cactus, or gotten the spikes of a cactus in any fleshly region of his/her body, knows that cacti can be “the worst of times!”

A childhood story …

After a long afternoon of walking in and out of washes, climbing rocks and scouring the red dirt of our Arizona ranch looking for Indian pottery shards, my brother and I wound up back at the pickup truck thirsty and tired. The grownups had all the canteens with them, so we were out of luck. My brother got a bright idea – why not eat some of the prickly pear fruit decorating the cacti all around us?

Great idea.

He sliced off a couple and tossed one in my direction. I carefully picked it up, but stupidly tried to take a bite out of it. Tears immediately began streaming down my cheeks as I realized my mouth and tongue were full of hairy little spikes from the skin of the fruit.

I’ll never forget how I felt trapped with a mouth full of stickers (glochids). My brother scrounged a pair of pliers out of the glove box and went to work. Soon, I was free again, and for that one day . . . he was my superhero.

Do you love or hate cacti? Have you ever had a cactus houseplant? Did you ever step in the middle of those spikes? Fallen into them? Eaten any of the fruit or pads? What’s your favorite cactus recipe?

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Feel free to wander around my website. It's guaranteed non-toxic.

If you like Sassy, Danger and Mystery, you'll love my any-age novels. Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT and Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: CANYON OF DOOM are available at your nearest Barnes & Noble Bookseller, on this website, Amazon, B&N.com and more. For your convenience, it’s also available on Kindlethe Nook and most other eBook readers.

Book Three of the Silki trilogy, VALLEY OF SHADOWS, launches fall 2016. Here's a quick synopsis:

Bummed that yet another summer has passed all too quickly, Silki and her best friend Birdie head out for one last hurrah at the Navajo Nation Fair. When the fun is overshadowed by the theft of a famous horse, Silki is plunged into a baffling adventure teeming with international undercurrents and intrigue. What’s more, boy-crazy Birdie is fluttering her eyelashes at Silki’s good-looking, visiting cousin at every turn, and Rez legend Old Man Concho is coughing up secrets dating back to 1942. What possible connection could he have to the Japanese tourists, and will Silki discover an ancient truth about the Valley of Shadows in time to save Lava, the leader of the Ghost Herd, as well as salvage her own broken heart?

Meet my CANYON OF DOOM AND VALLEY OF SHADOWS illustrator, the Drawing Hands.

Jodi Lea Stewart was born in Texas and grew up in Apache County on a cattle ranch near Concho, Arizona. She left the University of Arizona in Tucson to move to San Francisco, where she learned about peace, love and exactly what she didn't want to do with her life. Since then, Jodi graduated summa cum laude with a BS in Business Management, raised two children, worked as an electro-mechanical drafter, penned humor columns for a college periodical, wrote regional western articles and served as managing editor of a Fortune company newsletter. She currently resides in Texas and New Mexico with her husband, two Standard poodles, two rescue cats and numerous gigantic, bossy houseplants. SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT is Jodi's debut novel and Book One of the Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves trilogy. CANYON OF DOOM came next, and VALLEY OF SHADOWS hits the shelves summer of 2016, completing this exciting and fun adventure-mystery set in the Navajo Nation. Next on the horizon? A historical mystery novel set in the 1930s told through the eyes of a sharecropper's daughter.