Thursday, August 21, 2014

Old Books New News

Look what was spotted as a featured book at the Chapel Hill Library!

A writer loves to see her books on the shelf in a library.

Better yet checked out and in the hands of kids.

And then this note from a teacher.  A writer
also likes to know her works
are bing used creatively
and meaningfully!

Circles of Hope


You might recall that I wrote to you 
last March to let you know 
I was using your book Circles of Hope 
in a UU regional workshop 
on storytelling and social justice.  
By the way, 
the story worked great!

This summer I have started
 a new project
called that reviews
stories that are particularly
well-suited for multigenerational worship.
I have just published
a review of Circles of Hope.
The link is:
I thought you might like to see it. 
I am just starting to get
the word out about the website.
 I think it will be a very
valuable resource for multigenerational
worship leaders who are always
looking for that next great story.
If you would be willing to mention in you blog,
I would be most appreciative. 


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Casa do Burro: Holiday off the grid in Portugal Part 2

 Casa do Burro, named after this guy,  another organic farm get- away is just one kilometer up the mountain from Aqua Ventura(see previous post).
 This welcoming farm owned by a German couple with two small children is just as magical as Aqua Ventura.
Also close to the sea and villages with cafes, Sagres and Lagos, hiking and adventure nearby this unusual get away has it's own kind of whimsy.

The mainstay of the organic farm and guest home is goat cheese made on the property and sold at local markets.

 Besides the goats there are rabbits, guinea pigs, cats and dogs, chickens, a horse and of course the burrow to add to the eclectic ambiance.


On Saturday evenings you might find a pick up soccer(football) game, Wwoofers( more to come in next post), guests, neighbors and anyone else who might be around gather in this unique setting.  You will find yourself in a horse corral playing with young and old from around the world.  The dirtier you get the more fun you had.

 If you believe that  the people you meet are the best part of travel then this opportunity to learn from, play with and enjoy an international community is something to be experienced.

Just witnessing the interest, the spirit and actual practical work on these organic farms off the grid gives one hope for the future of the environment and our children.

See more at:

Friday, August 8, 2014

Holiday off the Grid in Portugal(the Algarve)

Any time the directions to a place reads something like, "as  you enter the village of Pedralva turn left at the house with red shutters, then cross a small bridge, go about a kilometer and you will see a house on the hill on the right.  After that there is nothing,  you have gone too far."…I know I want to go there.

Johnny and Vio of Aqua-Ventura have realized their dream; an organic adventure tourist farm now located in the forest area of the Algarve region of Portugal. Still a work in progress it is a magical place built out of passion, creativity, a love of nature and home grown produce, shear hard labor and an ounce or two of perseverance, grit, ingenuity and faith that it could happen.  Friends and family and Wwoofers( help make it happen too.   Pure Magic!

The main building overlooks the bamboo forest, fruit trees and the suspension bridge that leads over a stream to the organic garden, chicken coop and the well.  It houses the kitchen bright with light and flowers and bowls of fruit where Vio prepares vegetarian and meat dishes that are part of the joy of this farm holiday.  

The deck is covered with bamboo stalks for shade.  If it rains in the evening you will be treated to sparkling water droplets clinging to the stalks in the the morning, a glistening natural decor. 


  There is also a dining room full of whimsy and color as is the living  space perfect for reading or writing or dreaming.  It should be no surprise that there is often music and singing in this gracious home full of life where guests are treated as family.  

But no fear.   If you want to curl up in solitude in the main house spaces or your  own cottage space, walk the grounds or take off for a longer hike up to the lake or across the hills to the beach, no one will disturb you.  This is a great writer's retreat with much to inspire.

Each cottage is colorful and unique.

No surprise to know there is an outdoor oven perfect for pizza and a fire pit for paella and community.  The family dogs enjoy a cookout here too.

There is a well(great for cooling beer when necessary).  Some living quarters include private bathrooms with plumbing and others offer an outdoor shower(lovely to bath under the stars) and outhouses.  Living off the gird means solar electricity for light, refrigeration and other amenities.   And it works!  The best of both worlds with a commitment to saving the environment.

The environs close by provide pristine beaches and hikes for all ability levels.  The towns of Sagres and Lagos are near by.  Lovely sparkling white villages tucked away all along the beaches, trails, paths and back country roads provide natural entertainment and /or a meal of wine and seafood.   Here can be found cafes, restaurants and boutiques where the Euro is strong but the prices are reasonable.

A kilometer walk to the village of Pedralva will offer a pizzeria and a restaurant/ bar where the owners are happy to chat or leave you to use the free Internet.

A short hike to a near by lake is an easy way to an afternoon or early morning swim.  Johnny has dreams of a house boat for more accommodations along with other exciting ways to add charm and the exotic to this get- away spot.

Aqua-Ventura still offers kayaking, rock climbing, hiking and surfing. Some of the best in the world.

 A night on the beach?  You got. it!

Johnny and Vio and family will help coordinate the holiday you are looking for if it is adventure and the opportunity to stretch your ability or something quieter.  Try both.

Check it out on

Thursday, June 19, 2014

All Things Sheep

Ever since I moved to the Navajo reservation I have been interested in all things sheep.

I have herded sheep, sheared sheep, carded, spun and woven wool.  So the Sheep is Life celebration is a high point every year.  It is a fiber arts workshop organized by The Navajo Lifeway organization.  ( )

This year Rebbecca Shepard taught us how to felt a sheep herders hat.

As with all things sheep it is not as easy as it looks.

Who knew we would have to start with uncarded raw wool?

I have carded before.  Believe me it is a labor intensive exercise for this beginning.

Happily we got to use a drum carder so it only took a couple of hours!

 Until we had this.  Piles of soft carded wool.

We layered the wool on top of the pattern for a hat.  The word of the day became "more" issued forth by our gentle task master. 

More layers.
Soap("Dawn is the best") and hot water.More hot water.

Maybe not more soap…suds ran across the table and dripped over the floor, down our arms and legs before we finished.
Definitely more of this.  Rubbing, beating, pounding the fibers together.  More, More, More…Who knew you could build up the upper arm muscle while felting a sheep herders hat?

Flip it all over like Navajo fry bread and more?  Really?  

Cut it off the pattern.

 Turn it over and inside out and back again and with each step…yes!  More!

But after all that rubbing and pounding and beating and molding we had a finished product.

I might not try this at home yet.

But I definitely want to make a scarf next.  You begin with silk and add the wool.  You use bubble wrap and I suspect more muscle power.

If you are interested, we hope to have Rebbecca come to Chinle for the scarf class or contact her about making a hat.  She lives near Many Farms so we can do it!  Stay tuned in late summer or early fall.


Thursday, June 12, 2014

One Little Picture Book and an Author Visit

It is gratifying to know that one of my books might change the life direction of even one reader.

And too a good reminder of the difference an author visit can make.

The power of words, of books and sharing and reading can be awesome!

Dear Ms. Williams,

My name is Laura Scherb, and I am a rising junior at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA. Growing up, I attended Heritage Elementary in the Franklin Regional School District, where one year, you were a visiting author. I very distinctly remember reading your book Tap-Tap and becoming enamored with the idea of Haiti. I interrogated my mom to see if that was where the car that we had just sold went (it wasn't) and imagined painting our new van to be a tap-tap car in Murrysville (I didn't). Instead, I declared that I was going to move to Haiti and be a French teacher there (using the French that I had yet to learn), and for a year, that's what I told people I was going to do when I grew up.

The years passed, and I forgot about Haiti. When the earthquake hit, I was upset to hear that so many lives were lost or changed forever, and I think I half-heartedly helped with a bake sale to "do my part." I promptly forgot about Haiti and went about my life in a bubble.

The next time I thought about Haiti was during my first day of classes at CMU, in fall of 2012. Everyone in the humanities college here is required to take a freshmen seminar, and mine happened to be all about The Uses and Abuses of Haiti, modeled after Paul Farmer's book. The class engaged me, and all of the sudden, Haiti didn't seem that far away at all. By happy accident, I found out that my RA had been to Haiti three times in high school and was interested in helping me to get a group together to travel there.

 A year later, after wading through wads of red tape from the university's side of things, we were an officially recognized organization on campus and on our way to Port-au-Prince. We spent spring break there in March of 2014 working with several schools, women's rights groups, and refugee camps in Port-au-Prince and the surrounding areas. We donated over $6000 and worked with the groups to find out how we could better equip them to accomplish their missions. We returned to Pittsburgh in the middle of a snowstorm, fired up and determined to make a difference.

The world is such a small place, especially where Pittsburgh and Haiti are concerned. I was so excited to learn that we have mutual friends in Haiti and in Pittsburgh, especially since it was you who inspired my love of Haiti so long ago. I would be honored to be featured on your blog, and I wouldn't mind at all if you used my name. I would welcome any questions about our group (CMU in Haiti), our work in Haiti, or my journey that was propelled by your book.

Best wishes, and thank you for captivating me with your words,

Laura Scherb

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Can you See the Snake under the Hood? A Chinle Story

Can you find the snake?

Here's the story:

 The parents and older folks(Steve and I) are in the backyard doing what adults do at a cook-out(drinking beer and wine).

The kids(not Steve's or mine) are playing in the street.  To be fair it is a cul- de- sac.

One child comes running around the house to announce.  "There is a rattlesnake in the street"(where some very young children are playing).   This brings back memories of when our kids were playing outback(presumably with matches although not in the street)  at a similar gathering when one child runs in to say there is a fire out back.  But that is another story….

Parents and old folks(Steve and I ) run out to the "street".

It would be a better story if I could say the snake really is a rattlesnake but there is no rattle.

It is a very pretty snake however and it is scared by all the commotion.  It slithers under a vehicle for protection.  In fact it is our jeep(the old folks).

And then we watch it swiftly and skillfully slide up the tire and into our engine.   Cameras (actually phones) click away.  The snake must be camera shy.

I insanely keep asking if it is poisonous and whether a snake can get from the engine of a vehicle into the interior as into the driver's or passenger's  seat.  I am assured it cannot but I don't believe it.  I watched a show on the Nature channel once….

Steve starts the engine to scare the snake out... or maybe shred the poor thing to bits.

Snake parts do not spew out of the open hood of the jeep.  Neither does a snake crawl out from under our jeep.

Steve must get to work.  He is on call.  He drives away and parks at the hospital.  Later he hears that someone saw a snake at the emergency dock.

This is what passes for entertainment in Chinle.

So I am going to assume I do not have to worry about a poisonous or non-poisonous snake in my jeep. This snake hopped off at the hospital.

But wait!  I had parked the jeep up on the mesa earlier that evening to walk Reena.  I suspect he (the snake)rode back to the hospital campus with me.  How many hitch-hiking snakes have I or will I pick up on the mesa?  And will any of them be a rattlesnake?

After note:  We later learn that the Navajo often put "medicine" around their vehicles to keep snakes from crawling into them.   Can I get this medicine at a swap meet?

Thursday, May 22, 2014

New Warp, Fresh Page

 My most recent rug is finally off the loom.   It is my first attempt at the outline weave.   There are some mistakes but all in all I am pleased.  It is taboo to disparage your own weaving so I will display it proudly and take what I have learned from this project and move on to the next.

It is the same way with my writing.  When I finish a project I must send it off into the publishing world.  Hope I have done my best and hope my best is good enough for an agent or an editor.  I will always think I might have done a better job.  But I always hope to apply what I have learned from my most recent project to the new work brewing in my imagination.

I am a slow weaver.  Like my writing, my weaving sometimes gets pushed aside for other chores and responsibilities. Or I might sit in front of the loom as I sit in front of my lap top, trying to find the design of my project with false starts and rewrites.  I need to take out an inch of weaving to correct an error.  In the same way I might need to delete entire paragraphs and begin again.

 A new fresh warp waiting to be filled with color and design is exciting and it is scary in the same way a clean new page waiting for the first words of a new story or essay is both exciting and terrifying.  Both a story and a woven rug must have a well planned beginning, middle and end.  I like to have a pretty good idea of where I am going before I begin.

I the Navajo tradition,  Spider Woman turned the clouds into cotton which became the warp which receives the weft which is the sun's rays.

A blank page is ready to receive a story woven from my imagination and sometimes some research, my experience and all that is around me.

For my new project  on the loom I hope to use some of the fibers I have died myself with vegetable dies from wild carrot, walnut shells, sage brush, and rabbit brush.  I plan to go back to the more common flat weave and to make this my best project yet.  One with the right amount of tension and even edges. It is the largest rug I have attempted.  It may take me a year but I look forward to pride in my finished work.

I have several writing projects on my desktop now but the scariest one is a rewrite.  I have opened up a new page in Word and plan to tear the original work apart.   I will use critiques from writer friends and my editor, and I will dig deep into my own imagination to give the story the fabric and color it needs to to make it come alive for the reader.

While I don't expect my rug to appear at a Navajo rug auction, I do hope my picture book project will one day be on library shelves.