Talk Like the Trees

Jane Goodall on Chimps and Trees

Jane Goodall, who is best known for her work in communicating with primates, was just on Here and Now talking about the communication skills of another unexpected tribe: plants.

Goodall explains that trees and plants have the ability to warn each other of environmental threats so that others can survive. For example researchers have discovered that in a drought, pea plants can communicate methods of preventing water loss in order to survive. When compared with a “naive” group of peas, Goodall says:

Those who have learned to react better survive better | Frock Files

I’ve had a hard time putting into words just why I want to research conversation, but I think this quote by Jane Goodall does it for me. In learning to communicate better — to prepare well in reacting to the situations and people around us — we, like the plants and trees, can survive better. And maybe even thrive.

P.S. Listen to Jane Goodall explain how trees talk on Here and Now.

Let’s Chat: The Best Way to Greet People

The best way to say greet someone // Frock Files

Today marks the beginning of my exploration into the art of conversation. Over the past few months, I’ve found myself in situations daily (and sometimes multiple times a day) where I wished that I knew what to say, and instead have been left rambling, laughing uncomfortably, or just plain speechless. And each time, I’ve thought there must be something to do about this.

Awhile back, I wrote about Tom Ford’s explanation that grooming and dressing well are a form of showing respect for other people. In the same way, I believe that cultivating great conversation skills creates an atmosphere of ease for the people around you. The people I know who are great conversationalists are immediately welcoming and warm, generating with their personalities the kind of comfort you feel when you step into a well lived-in home.

The wrong way to say hello

I’m starting with something small: greetings.

In one of Gretchen Rubin’s very first blog posts for The Happiness Project, she wrote about how she was trying to say hello to people more often. At a Kinko’s she gave it a whirl, but was dismayed to find that her attempt at conversation — pointing out the inefficiency of the staff members — created an air of negativity. Definitely not a happiness booster.

I often find myself pointing out the negative first thing, as well, and sometimes being overly honest when asked a simple question like, “How was your weekend?” Rubin points out that these interactions require “one of Life’s True Rules: emphasize the positive.”

The Monday cure

One tip I read suggested starting your Monday morning by thinking of just one great thing that happened over the weekend.

This solves so many problems! It puts a positive spin on the questions, “How was your weekend?” and “Did you do anything fun this weekend?” and it keeps you from rambling on about the minute details of your time off — when, really, the person asking is probably just hoping for a quick response.

So what one great thing happened to you this weekend?

 Image source

Taking a Sickie

Relax // Frock Files

I’ve been hit hard by another cold – my second this year – so I’ll be taking this week off to recharge. Since I have a hard time slowing down, and since the past month has been particularly jam packed, I think this is my body’s way of saying, “Enough already! Relax!” I’m trying to be a better listener, so I’d better follow through.

In the meantime, I’ll be posting links to my favorite finds from around the web over at my Facebook page, so let’s keep in touch that way, okay?

Thanks for your understanding, and I’ll see you next week!


Flourless Strawberry + Chocolate Petit Fours

Flourless Chocolate Strawberry Petit Fours // Frock Files

Sometimes I take a really long time to catch on to things. My parents raved about Harry Potter for two years before I caved in and read (okay, devoured) the entire series. And then it was like, “Why did I wait so long?!” and they were like, “We told you!” because they’re a thousand times hipper than I am.

That’s how I felt when I finally made brownies with black beans. People had been pushing me to try them for awhile, but it took me until now to hop on the legume bandwagon. And then – bam – conversion was complete. I began dreaming of these brownies. I had a regular brownie and realized it wasn’t as good as these bad boys. And then I started to imagine all the different ways they could be doctored up. And then it hit me: flourless strawberry-chocolate petit fours.

Flourless Chocolate Strawberry Petit Fours // Frock Files

Brownie recipe from Babble. Glaze recipe adapted from Sugarhero.



1 19 oz (540 mL) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup cocoa
2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt

Interior: strawberry jam
Topping: Whole strawberries (or other berry of choice)


1 envelope powdered unflavored gelatin
3/4 cups water, divided use
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder


1. Preheat the oven to 350. Throw all of the brownie/cake ingredients into your food processor. Blend until smooth (blend for a minute or so, scrape the edges, and blend again). Pour into greased 8″ x 8″ pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Allow to cool completely.

2. Meanwhile, prepare the glaze. Mix the gelatin with 1/2 cup water until combined. Allow to sit at room temperature while you continue with the other ingredients.

3. Combine the remaining water with the cream and sugar in a medium saucepan. Heat on medium-high until sugar is dissolved and mixture begins to boil. Add the cocoa powder and continue whisking for 4 to 5 minutes.

4. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

5. Cut the brownies with a plastic knife. Layer two squares together, and trim the edges so they’re even. Spread a layer of strawberry jam between the layers.

6. When the chocolate mixture is pourable but not runny, place the brownie-jam sandwiches on a wire rack over a baking sheet and spoon the glaze over them. If the glaze is too thin, put it in the refrigerator for a few minutes and try again. Once glazed, top the petit fours with strawberries.

Frock Files | More Simple Recipes

Bookmarked: Sleep Donation

The month of March flew by, and all of a sudden the snow has turned to rain (at last!). There are few things in the world that I love more than lounging around with a book when it’s raining outside. This month’s Bookmarked pick is a short one, but I have a feeling it’ll have my wheels turning long after I take in its last word.

Bookmarked for April: Sleep Donation / Frock Files Book ClubMy book pick for April: Sleep Donation: A Novella

It’s ironic that this book, by Pulitzer finalist Karen Russell, is available in digital format only. So many reports have been released lately about the negative impact of our devices’ blue light on our sleeping patterns — and this is a book about insomnia.


The novella is set in the not-so-distant future where insomnia has become an epidemic. People are dying because they can’t get enough sleep for their bodies to function. The Sleep Corps helps insomniacs by providing sleep infusions, or the transference of restful sleep from donors to the sleepless. But as a loyal recruiter discovers, the Corps may not be what it seems.

Not Your Brother’s Sci-Fi

Are you thinking, “Ugh, Sci Fi”? I don’t blame you. The thing is, Russell, who wrote Swamplandia, has a way of infusing her stories with such empathy and humanness that you can’t help but feel that this is all on the very cusp of possibility. And since science is so very close to science fiction these days (check out the TED Radio Hour episode “Predicting the Future” – they can grow bones from your own genes!), sleep donation may not be as outlandish as it sounds.

What are you reading this month? And how are you sleeping?

P.S. Check out author Karen Russell on Fresh Air. She’s lighthearted, thoughtful, and brilliant.


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