I’m a sucker for that stack of new crafting books at any retail store. Even though most have the same ideas recreated with the latest cute fabrics, there are times a new project grabs me. I’ve never sewn applique, or used a dresden plate. So, when I saw a pattern for this pillow and have a friend who is soon going on Wheel of Fortune, I knew the combination was perfect.
I’d learn something new and be able to give a ridiculous good luck gift.
The pillow is still in process. See how that circle is a bit wonky? I need to work on the template. And I’m going to sew a zipper along one edge to hold in the pillow. I have wanted to do quilted pillows for a while. Log cabins, etc. I think a quilted pillow is a charming gift — something you can easily tailor to the recipient. And one quirky pillow on a couch or chair adds a pop of color and a story.
I’m reading Phoenix Noir and All the Light We Cannot See. I recently finished Wild and Freedom. I loved Wild. Cheryl Strayed’s Dear Sugar saved my life once. (That’s a story for another day. Thank you Juliann!) Her podcast “Dear Sugars” is also great.
Freedom was a beast, and I’m glad I read it. I’m more interested in Franzen’s new book Purity than I thought I would be. His books are a commitment. The character development is so thoughtful, but the lack of dialog can make the story slower than it should be at points. That said, I think he is the best author of our time to capture middle class America living and somehow make it interesting.
Side note: I stood in front of the “new in paperback” section at Target this week and drooled. I have a cornucopia of books to read; I’m making a sincere effort to read what I have and pass them on. But oh, the bright and shiny happiness of the new $12 paperbacks that I could inhale in 2 days is delirious. Instead, I’m fighting the urge to buy new when that same delirious feeling came over me every time I bought the 400 or so books collecting dust in our office.
I’m back to hot yoga. I’ve been taking 4-5 classes a week for the last few, and have joined the little studio in our neighborhood. The timing of their morning classes works out great; I can get a butt-busting workout in before work and make it to my desk with a hot cup of coffee by 8 am. All this exercise and the waning summer heat has me looking at my wardrobe with disgust. I’m tired of the same look, the same things, and the same soccer-mom Gap sense of style. I want to dress more like this and less like this. I’m in a rut.
I need to mix it up. I’m just not sure where to start. Conceptually, I like the idea of these for fall, but I’m pretty sure I’m not going from cotton capris to leather leggings and tennis shoes. There has to be a more gentle move toward being on fleek, right?
Louise. On fleek. Am I even using that right?
This week’s project — a baby star quilt. The walking foot my mom gifted me a few years ago is making quilting so much easier and prettier. I’m really enjoying this project! It is frustrating to have to leave in the morning, with my sewing table set up, and not be able to sit down for an hour or so.
Such is the creative life. You’ve got to work to be able to do all the other things you love.
What are you working on?
I try to be a glass half full person. And for the most part, I try to be patient with those who aren’t. I’ll tell you, friends, that patience is waning.
I’m in the middle of a major work change. The division I work for is going through a transition. Most people were able to keep their jobs, some were offered early retirement, some were given a quiet severance and nice letter of recommendation. There are unhappy people in all three categories. Grumbles can be heard in every row of cubicles, distraught with how these changes have occurred.
If there is one thing we can all agree on it is this: no one is terribly fond of change.
At first, I was also upset. I lost my beloved boss, was sure to lose my beautiful office with the lovely windows and had no idea where I’d land next. For what it’s worth — I still don’t know where I’m landing next, but I do have options. (We all have options.)
It’s at this point in the summer each year when my entire body aches for cooler weather. This year, I’m missing Colorado. The cool, late summer nights full of stars, warm afternoon hikes that leave you dizzy from the thin mountain air, and those mornings that require a light sweatshirt for a dog walk.
What I have at the moment is this: hot, too hot, and WE ARE DYING IT IS SO HOT.
It is entirely impractical to consider moving back to Colorado. While the career changes leave me open professionally, now I have family here and we are very much desert dwellers. This doesn’t keep me from dreaming of the scenery I once had. I now commute about 30 miles each way, on a good day picking up a coworker to use the carpool lane. This weekend it dawned on me that if I were living in Evergreen, my very favorite place, and likely working in Denver, it would be about 30 miles. The difference is, I don’t have to drive in snow in Phoenix.
And there is little that terrifies me as much as driving when huge snowy flakes build on the windshield.
I wish there was a way to pick up my Arizona life, with this sweet family and my closest friends, and drop us all on the western slope. We’d live in log cabins with river rock fire places, have aspens planted in the front yards and glass greenhouses in the backyards to keep our vegetable gardens going past season. We’d have dinner parties with board games to close the night. We’d snow shoe and hike and river raft and always have a new peak to climb.
So, yes. I’m pining a bit. I know the grass is greener under your feet. But I do miss you Colorado — more so during excessive heat warnings and when everything else is in flux.
The kids each wanted a pencil pouch for their backpacks. Come to find out the best way to get them involved is to suggest they pick the fabric, zipper and project. I was busy working on those baby quilts when they sat down, with curiosity, asking what I was working on and why. They loved going through the box of fabrics and we have more projects up our sleeves.
I think in a dream life, I’d be a kids’ craft camp counselor. I’d just plan and do crafts with happy children all day long. This is a small, happy taste of that dream.
I just heard my dad gag all the way from Texas. My father, while otherwise perfect, is neither a fan of cold soup nor squash. I don’t know how we are related because I could live on gazpacho this time of year, and I love all things squash. You know those people who can’t wait for the pumpkin lattes to come back each autumn? I’m like that, but with butternut, acorn, spaghetti — hell, even zucchini.
What I’m trying to say is we eat a lot of squash at our house. This week: cold roasted squash soup.
I slow roasted two long crookneck squash, some parsnips and onions with a bit of olive oil and salt and pepper. Then, adding what remained of the turkey chicken broth, I threw it all in the blender with some paprika. It is delightfully good. I added a dollop of sour cream and hot sauce to the top and just drank a jar for lunch. It was cold and rich and a little spicy.
Because that’s how ladies do it. We drink our soup right from the hipster jar.
This is one of several meals I’ve got planned for the week that is bright and cheery and secretly full of so many vegetables, we’ll all be hopping around like Nutmeg (the beloved bunny) soon.
Do you love the savory, spicy, sweetness of a good mole? Me too. I also love to figure out how to replicate great Mexican recipes at home, with a healthier twist. This mole recipe couldn’t be easier or better for you.
What’s the catch? Well, while I do think this recipe is easy, it is a bit time (not work) intensive. Start by making your own broth. I used what was left of our frozen Thanksgiving turkey, some parsnips, celery, carrots, garlic and onion. I let this cook low and slow with bay leaves, peppercorns and a dash of sea salt for several hours.
Does anything make a house smell like home more than broth slow cooking on the stove? NOM. Let the liquid gold cook down for as long as you have the time. I like to make broth on the weekends when I both need to do a refrigerator check up (what do we need for the week? What do we need to eat now?) and have time while I’m working on other chores. I get wrapped up in doing laundry, watering the garden, planning the week’s meals and ironing all while the broth simmers away.
See? Time intensive — definitely. But it isn’t like I’m doing a darn thing after I’ve put it all in the pot other than paying the electric bill.
Assuming you’ve got at least 2 cups of broth…
2-3 cups of broth
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 carrots, diced
2 small onions, diced
1 heaping tablespoon of diced garlic
6-10 dried red chiles
1 medium-sized roasted sweet potato
dash of pasilla chile — or cayenne
salt and pepper to taste
This is where the easy part sinks in: Throw it all in the pot. Let it simmer for 30 minutes. Put it all in the blender and blend until smooth. That’s it!
I’m using this sauce to make red chicken enchiladas this week. There is so much of it, we’ll likely use it as a sauce to roast a pork loin too. The sweet potato adds an earthy sweetness that is delightful. I could sit down and eat a bowl of this, topped with a bit of sour cream and Sriracha.
I’m trying to improve my quilting skills — and like anything in life, that means practice. Lots and lots of practice. I thought it would make the most sense to start with strip quilts. Basic, bright strips of fabric that are easy enough to put together, but also challenging on the fundamentals: pinning, quilting in the “ditch” and binding.
I am happy. This is the next pattern I’m going to tackle for a certain American baby born this week in Canada.
I awoke yesterday, took Nelson for a quickly walk around the block, and then — leaving my “I do not run!” puppy at home, I strapped on the full Camelpack and headed for the hilly streets near my home. Granted, these are Phoenician hills — so it is a gradual incline, but it is still there.
The first mile wasn’t bad. It was warming up quickly as my watch beeped 7 am on the hour — not quite 100 degrees. I kept it slow and tried to focus on my breath. My head down, legs strong, mood a little foggy from a generous glass of wine the night before.
Nothing like running it off! I told myself. Foolishly. My inner voice was happy.
“Look at you! You remember how to do this! Good for you!”
By mile 2.5, I was walking more than jogging, but still putting up a good fight. The heat came up at me from the pavement and down from the bright blue morning sky; a few cyclists said hi and I saw a couple other runners out too. We did the suffering together nod of acknowledgment and I loped on.
I was hurting, and my inner bitch screaming and whining.
“Who do you think you are? Feel your legs burning? That’s because you love burritos and the couch. That’s your natural environment. Why are you doing this to me? You belong inside. You’re too old for this. You look ridiculous. See those runners with definition in their legs? That’s because they are good at this. And you suck.”
By mile 3, panting, I was at home. It wasn’t exactly the Rocky-esque return to running I’d hoped for. More like Paul Blartt, suburban runner. But hey! It was 3 miles more than I’d done the day before. Or week, or month. It was something — a start.
Mercifully, that inner bitch took a nap and I got on with my day.
I went about my morning, washing the dogs, playing in the garden and hanging up laundry outside. I even sat outside with a cup of coffee, feeling the “cool breeze on my sweaty skin.” It wasn’t until 11 am when we were ready to leave for an afternoon of errands that I realized my peripheral vision was blurry. This has happened twice before in 15 years of “running” in Arizona; both times it meant I am soon to be down for the count.
Sure enough, I spent much of the next 18 hours in bed with an ice pack over my eyes. The pain of a heat-induced migraine feels a bit like this: someone with a hammer banging on your head above each eye ball. Also, your inner bitch in that “I told you so” tone going, “SEE?”
It has relented a bit today, but isn’t entirely completely gone. Essentially I feel rotten, and my legs are sore.
More so, I feel foolish. I’m not new to this game, even if it has been months since I’ve run outside. Rule one for an Arizona athlete? The heat is The Godfather, and you are wise to pay your respects. (Hydrate, wear sun screen, wear a hat and sunglasses and preferably be done with your outside exercise as the sun is rising.) August morning run where you decide to push it? I’m lucky I got to sleep off the damage.
When I came into work today, I was hit with far worse news. A local leader I met with just a couple weeks ago on suicide prevention ended his life this weekend. His staff reached out for support services.
I do need a nap. And a burrito. And a plan for what to say when I return to meet with them.
And also, new running shoes and more water.
Hey Arizona friends: want to spend a Saturday together crafting it up? Well, what are you doing Saturday, August 8th?
I’m on the 11:15 panel with Kitty Carlisle and Stephanie Liebold — both of whom I admire and am so excited to hang out with. We’ll be talking about craft blogging — what’s worked and what hasn’t. I’m excited to take a couple workshops, meet more like-minded lovers of pom poms, ric rac and 40% off JoAnn’s coupons, and spend the day learning.
So grab the mosquito spray, your project bag and let’s go to Craft Camp!