Santa’s Kitchen


gingerI got into the holiday spirit last weekend and whipped up a batch of the most amazing gingerbread ever. Seriously. You haven’t had gingerbread until you’ve had this gingerbread.   (Spoiler alert: the secret ingredient is a cuppa Guinness. Duh.) If you gotta have it: HERE’S THE RECIPE


But that didn’t satisfy the need to create, so I also stormed the kitchen to stir up some  organic sea salt scrub made with coconut oil, salt, and a generous helping of peppermint essential oil. After stirring up a batch, I scooped generous dollops into jelly jars, topped them with festive tissue and raffia, and voila! I had flagrant, healthy, soul-satisfying,  gifts to give to friends and colleagues. The beauty of these charming little hand-crafted gifts is a fait accompli. A short list of benefits includes:

  1. Cost – which is minimal. Salt and coconut are easy to come by. Don’t pinch pennies on the essential oil, however. It’s the magic ingredient.
  2. Aromatherapy. It’s good for you! And who doesn’t love the lovely, bright fragrance of peppermint?
  3. Moisturizing oil. In winter, skin takes a beating. Baby, it’s cold outside, hot indoors, and as the body’s first line of defense, skin gets dry, flakey, and cranky.


  • Two cups coconut oil 
  • Two cups course sea salt
  • 30 drops peppermint essential oil

Bring the coconut oil to room temperature for ease of handling. Mix in sea salt and stir to evenly distribute. Add essential oil and stir, but don’t overmix. Scoop mixture into containers for sharing. If you double up the recipe, you’ll have a ready supply of festive hostess gifts at the ready for those last-minute invites.

USE: Treat knees, elbows, heels with combination exfolliating/moisturing scrub and sail through the winter months with smoother, happier surfaces. Don’t wait; raid the kitchen cupboards and whip up your own magic winter skin treat!




this drought is no joke

gold fame


For anyone who has watched firestorms devour entire towns; who has watched farmland wither and die for want of water, who has wondered if our current lack of water is not just temporary, but indeed the Mother of All Droughts, Claire Vaye Watkins’ debut novel, Gold Fame Citrus is familiar territory.

In a hazy future, LA-born Luz lives in  “Laurelless Canyon” with her boyfriend Ray. They are squatters in a once-famous starlet’s once-elegant house where Luz spends her days dressing up in discarded ball gowns. Ray makes lists, scavenges for  gasoline, food, anything worth trading for something else.

“Your people came here looking for something better,” Ray tells Luz. “Gold, fame, citrus. Mirage. They were feckless, yeah? Schemers. That’s why no one wants them now. Mojavs.”

In Vaye Watkin’s future, California is a wasteland. The rivers are dry and the underground aquifers are dust. The sun blazes and when it does rain the air is so hot the water evaporates before it reaches the ground. The state is dry as death and anyone with any money at all has long since abandoned it.

Vaye Watkins’ prose is powerful, and her narrative true. The story is as real as it is terrifying, because in a place where water has become mythic, geography is all that’s left.

“They ate crackers and ration cola and told stories about the mountains, the valley, the canyon and the beach. The whole debris scene. Because they’d vowed to never talk about the gone water, they spoke instead of earth that moved like water.”

One night, Luz and Ray go down to the bonfires, a place where the climate refugees gather to drink, dance, forget. Down among the drifters and the druggies, the drinkers and the plain dangerous, Luz finds a strange toddler who whispers in her ear that her name is Ig, and she says “Don’t tell anyone. Don’t tell, okay?” The child appears to belong to a clutch of grifters, or to no one at all. Driven by instinct she doesn’t understand, Luz picks up the child and tells Ray they’re taking her home.

Luz and her family escape Los Angeles, heading east, seeking a place more hospitable, somewhere safer, somewhere with water. Their car breaks down in the midst of a borderless sand dune so vast it spreads and grows with all the desiccated bits of earth and stone and mountain that was once the Central Valley.

They join a band of misfits led by an enigmatic leader who is either a visionary or a madman, or both. The collective lives on the edges of the dune, surviving somehow as an outpost of civilization, moving their temporary desert city as the sand shifts and threatens to swallow them alive.

Gold Fame Citrus is a complex story of connection and belonging, of outcasts and survivors, of climate change to the extreme, and about the very small scrap of nature that humanity manages to cling to, in the most adverse conditions. Part science-fiction, part cautionary parable, it is a book worth reading if ecology means anything at all in the future of the West.

Cynthia Gregory is an award-winning author who lives and writes in the Bay Area with her rescue pup, Winston The Wonder Dog. Her new book, An Inspired Journal: the Art & Soul of Creative Nonfiction, on Green Tara Press, will be available in 2016.

Gifting Books


I recently read some Christmas gift-giving advice: give something to wear, something to to play with, and something to read. What a fabulous idea!  Years ago, when my first hubs and I were young and poor, we agreed that our entire Christmas budget would be an extravagant $100. We scurried off to get our creative best, and I headed down to Acres of Books in Long Beach, CA (a wonderful world of  new/used books). I blew half of my $50 budget on fabulous used books that I bought at a fraction of the cost of new, and that I new my young husband would love. And he did. It is one of the best Christmas memories ever, filled with love and joy.

Now lo, these many years later, I’m still giving books for Christmas. Nothing is more rewarding, tantalizing, or generous than the gift of a book. These days, I do love my e-books, especially for travel, but my home is still filled with stacks and stacks of delicious books — and thanks to me, so are my friends’.

If you love books too, and if  you’re looking to shop for books with meaning, you couldn’t do better than to check out our friends at Green Tara Press.  A small press, Green Tara specializes in books with meaning and depth, lovely tombs filled with poetry and wisdom.

This holiday season, you can shop the big box stores, or you can shop online with the giant online retailers. Or, you can make a stand for the arts, and buy a book from the indies. We love that idea, and we love our readers. Support the Arts: Buy a Book!

Wishing you a merry and jingly gifting and receiving season.

The Girls @ Sephs Salon