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I’ve arrived to New Zealand! I’m on an extended “working” vacation for a couple months—actually spending day 1 in Auckland finishing up a book indexing project for the Center for Basque Studies before heading north to Whangarei Heads. Follow my New Zealand photo updates as I travel around the North and South Islands, and then hop up to Australia for a few weeks too.

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A sampling of some of my crafted gifts this Christmas: (above) pine cone made out of shaved almonds and marzipan for Grandma Daisy; blooming cactus stationery for my mom; embroidered llamas as a gift to myself (he he); and block printed mountain goat towel for Grandma Daisy. (below) Christmas sugar cookies for everyone; embroidered panda bandanna for Alanna; block printed cow, mountain goat, and llama kitchen towels for friends; mountain goat bib for Grandma Daisy; and embroidered bandanna for Max.

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I also made some little herb packs from sage, rosemary, thyme, and oregano that I picked from the Udsen garden and neighborhood streets in Templeton and then dried—forgot to take a picture though! Max made an epic craft gift for his friends, old books turned into succulent planters. Mine, pictured below, is in an old Reader’s Digest anthology.

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My essay “Lost on Migration?” is out in the book Tahoe Blues, published this June by Bona Fide Books. I’m very proud of its inclusion in this collection, which I also copyedited and proofread before it hit the press. It’s such a treat to get an early read on Bona Fide’s material, to help shape it into book form. The essay is of a personal nature, about my migration from Georgia to California. It’s about fitting in, being different, feeling at home. I talk about brown thrashers in California, and the lone wolverine who’s made a home here. I think animals make such interesting parallels for our lives. I just bought the book Califauna and can’t wait to read more about regional animals and our connection to them.

A big thanks to Will Richardson of Tahoe Institute for Natural Science, the “biologist friend” in my essay who discussed animals and migration with me as I was writing this essay. Will is a valuable resource in our community. Just the other day, he pulled out his telescopic lens after an ultimate game in Truckee so we could view this red-tail hawk. I snapped this photo through the lens with my iPhone.