11–20 of 23 entries from the month of: May 2006

Can I call you Liz? Can I just call you?

May 17th

Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert is one of those books that I’ll always carry around in my heart. I’ll share it with others and I will read it again. I’ve dog-eared countless pages where I felt like Liz — my new best friend forever author — is speaking directly to me, as though we are sitting in some cafe sipping tea and dishing over lost loves, great food and our spiritual journeys.

“Traveling is the great true love of my life. I have always felt, ever since I was 16 years old and first went to Russia with my saved-up babysitting money, that to travel is worth any cost or sacrifice. I am loyal and constant in my love for travel, as I have not always been loyal and constant in my other loves. I feel about travel the way a happy new mother feels about her impossible, colicky, restless newborn baby — I just don’t care what it puts me through. Because I adore it. Because it’s mine…
I have my own set of survival techniques. I am patient. I know how to pack light. I’m a fearless eater. But my one mighty travel talent is that I can make friends with anybody.”

I wish she was in my life. I wish I could have dinner with her and quiz how exactly she climbed in my brain and made me feel better — about everything. I once described an ex-boyfriend as a drug I simply couldn’t get away from. I knew he was bad for my soul, but I was hooked. Guess I’m not the only one.

“Addiction is the hallmark of every infatuation-based love story. It all begins when the object of your adoration bestows upon you a heady, hallucinogenic dose of something you never even dared to admit that you wanted — an emotional speedball, perhaps of thunderous love and roiling excitement. Soon you start craving that intense attention, with the hungry obsession of any junkie. When the drug is withheld, you promplty turn sick, crazy and depleted (not to mention resentful of the dealer who encouraged this addiction in the first place but who know refuses to pony up the good stuff anymore — despite the fact that you know he has it hidden somewhere, goddamn it because he used to give it to you for free. The next stage finds you skinny and shaking in a corner, certain only that you would sell your soul or rob your neighbors just to have that thing even one more time. Meanwhile, the object of your adoration has now become repulsed by you.”

Scary how true to form I followed that little recipe for disaster. Thankfully, I survived. This 300+ page book reminded me how nice it feels to be happy and to not be the freak waiting for her crap boyfriend to return (although the skinniness was nice while it lasted.) Finny sent this literary therapy as a gift (or perhaps on loan. Regardless, I owe her a new copy) and I inhaled the story. I couldn’t put it down. But then, too quickly, it was all over and I was taking each of the last 20 pages one letter a time hoping desperately that there would be more by the time I’d finished.
Liz, if you are reading, thank you. Within your book of travel and adventure, you reminded me of who I am and what I love. I too love to travel. I love to eat great food. I’ve got a great friendship with my faith. And I love who I am. Your story of rediscovering the beauty of you reminded me that life is to be cherished — not paced by relationships. I finished this book on my recent trip to San Francisco. With the novel in mind, here are a few glimpses from my travels:


pretty pissed to be on ice
Produce for sale, China Town


St. Francis of Assisi church
Mosser flower
Garden Ganesh


A perfect afternoon

Miss Finny in her garden. One of my favorite people in one of her favorite places. The wine was nice too!


Some of the best public transportation in the world. How can you not love BART?

beautiful pink rose
next time take me along!
so much fun for 5 dollars
Welcome to China Town
Mother's Day in China Town

A mother and daughter in China Town on Mother’s Day. This made me ache for my own mama.

Eat Pray Love — five out of five bananas, absoloodle.


*More San Francisco photos here.*

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Journal, Travel
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Home Again, Jiggity Jig

May 17th

I made it home safely to Phoenix yesterday, after circling above the city for an hour, waiting for a severe dust storm to clear. When I made it outside the airport, the warm weather and scent of pending rain embraced me like a mother who’d found her misplaced child.
New Mexico was lovely. The obesity conference I attended was nothing short of fantastic and Marion Nestle is officially my new public health hero. Without blabbing too much, let me just say Dr. Nestle is smart, dedicated and changing the way Americans eat. I think I have a professional crush of sorts.
The conference took place at a new resort just north of Albuquerque called the Sandia Resort and Casino. It is brand, spanking new and by far the nicest casino I’ve ever been in. (Even better than the Atlantis in the Bahamas. And yes, I realize how white trash it is to be comparing casinos, but I’m calling a spade a spade.) If you are ever in the neighborhood and looking for a nice place to stay, make reservations. You won’t be disappointed.

Sandia Resort and Casino, pool, golf course

Beautiful, no?


Although there is lots of tourist-y native art. But some of it is really pretty…

Native American statue

Like this lady! I love her jewelry.

How do you finish off a day of listening to doctors and experts discuss how America is eating itself to death?

the perfect afternoon treat

With booze, fried chips and the latest Britney gossip. That’s how.


Posted in
Public Health, Travel
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How Can You Not Love the Home of the GAP?

May 11th

Notice: all yummy enchiladas made with Hatch chiles, Dungeness crab and loaves of sourdough bread beware. I’m headed your way and as always, AfricanKelli is a hungry dame.

I’m off to New Mexico tomorrow and then to San Francisco for a few days. I’ll be seeing the lovely Finny and her hubby Andy. They are two of my very favorite people on earth and if I haven’t taken credit for it in the last 20 minutes, I set them up. You didn’t know I was a yenta in my free time, did you? Granted, they are they only success I have, but it is a happy marriage indeed. Check out her garden. We are so knitting here.

I’m trying to focus on the long walk through Golden Gate Park I’m going to take Sunday afternoon and not on the fact I have to be at the airport tomorrow morning at 4:30 am. Oy. That’s early even for moi, queen of the early morning. Also, in between adventures I’ll be celebrating the much deserved new shiny graduate degrees of Alma and Rebilou. Woohoo!

See you at the Old Navy flagship store. (You know, the one that is slightly off color and shoddily made, but so cheap you can’t help but think, “Huh. It’s worth it. And where is Indonesia?”) Or Pier 39 for ice cream. Or one of the many art museums I love to troll when visiting the peninsula. Or better yet, Scrap! I’ll be the one freezing my ass off and wondering why it is so damn cold in San Francisco in May, flirting with the trolley men and knitting in the park. And where knitting in the park may be a strange act in Phoenix, there are much stranger things happening in this cultural hub.



P.S. Look who turns 72 today! The infamous British grannie.

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Journal, Travel
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To Get My Vote, Lobby for Peace

May 11th

Yesterday’s post elicited a strong reaction from friends and family. Some of my favorite comments included:
“You want to help poor people that bad, move to Detroit!”
“Sudan!?! SUDAN!?! Why not just move to Dangerstan or the Republic of HostileTerritory?”

But there were several very supportive comments made too, and I truly appreciate the entire spectrum. Believe it or not, I am not the only one applying for work in the developing world. Most of these jobs require 7-10 years experience, considerably more than I have. So, let’s all take a deep breath and back away from the word “Sudan” for a few months. I’ll let you know when I hear anything. In the meantime, I’d guess my wanderlust will be quenched with work trips scheduled in Nicaragua at the end of the month and to Bolivia in August. My passport isn’t getting dusty quite yet.

So, back to Stepford, land of the zippers and pearls, where friends and family occasionally comment but don’t call me at work in the middle of the day to question my sanity.
Look what arrived in the mail yesterday:

Sweet Heaven

My winning eBay bid for 25 zippers was $5. With shipping, it was $10. I feel like I hit the domestic lottery. As you can see, most of these are metal and the colors are fantastic.

Old Rose, Spinach

Spinach is such a perfect name for that shade of green, and seriously trumps whatever bland Crayola names the Coats and Clark people have been using for the last few years. Today’s zipper of this shade would more than likely be “dark green.” Duh.

Barberry Red, Nile Green

Nile green and yellow and man I can’t wait to start making more little pouches with these.

Dk Teal

Mmm… Dark Teal, one of my favorite colors. It reminds me of the Mediterranean.

Kerry Green

Kerry Green. Do you suppose if I made Senator Juan Kerry one of my pouches he might find a platform and stick with it? I could write a to do list/platform for him and tuck it inside. It might read something like this: Less Botox, more Teresa. Tell daughter to wear a bra when photographed. Oppose preemptive anything. Find a good running mate, preferably female. Stand up as the leadership of the Democratic party and make members proud. Spend less time in France and more time at Toastmaster’s. Challenge Hillary to a duel Aaron Burr style. Hire Jon Stewart as speech writer. Take more naps. Do more pushups. Take a stand on immigration, abortion, the death penalty and Gay rights and stick with it. For the love of God, avoid all things wishy-washy (aka — end friendship with the creator of the Internet, Senor Gore.) Lobby for peace.


P.S. My mother suggests I move to Texas. Texas/Sudan. I’m guessing I’m not the only one out there who thinks becoming a cowboy boot-wearing Republican is far more frightening than living in northern Africa.

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Domestic Art
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If Not Now, Then When?

May 10th

Picacho Peak Arizona

I took this photo of Picacho Peak this weekend on my drive from Phoenix to Tucson. I’ve climbed this mountain with my parents and brother, and eaten ice cream cones at the Dairy Queen in its shadow more than once. It is its prettiest in March when wildflowers make it dazzle in shades of yellow and orange.

I’ve had a good bit of time lately to consider moving. I love Arizona. It is where my grandparents live, my dear friends are raising their families and is the backdrop for nearly all of my memories in the last 26 years. Simply put, Arizona is home.
And yet, in the last year I’ve watched my parents move away, a relationship crumble and my job become increasingly difficult. I try desperately to be someone who complains once about a problem and then works to find a solution. I’m surely “glass half full” to the point of annoyance to those around me. So consider this my official complaint: I am bored.
I need something new and exciting in my life and I’ve got the instinctual feeling that the time to act is now. I know that my last experience living abroad alone was unbearable and I’m more than a touch hesitant to pull out my passport for a major move again. However, I read about some of these international health crises and I ache to be there, to feel like I’m doing something to help. So, don’t tell my father, but today I applied for a job in the Sudan.
Dad, I’m not kidding. Stop reading now.
Sudan! That country with janjaweed and refugee camps overflowing and international health workers being hacked to death. The country where more than 1 million people are dead and my senators aren’t doing a damn thing about it. I’ve been writing them letters now for, oh, say two years. If I get one more canned response from Jon Kyl I am going to throw up. I’d bet the aide who licked the stamp couldn’t find Sudan on a map if his/her life depended on it. The funny thing is, so many lives do depend on a reaction. Silence is acceptance so world hear me now: I am not willing to accept what is happening in Sudan, Zimbabwe, Iraq, Palestine or North Korea.
I know. I’m insane. But I somehow feel like if I get the job, it’s a sign. It is time for a change. It’s time for adventure. It’s time to get out from behind this desk and use the basic public health knowledge I’ve got rattling about in my brain to use in the field.
Before I get off of this soap box of high morality and supreme bravado, I’ll be the first to admit being that far away from a knitting shop would suck. And I’m pretty sure my sewing machine or bundt pans couldn’t come along either. (Although strangely enough the job is to teach women how to use solar ovens and other basic tools for microeconomic projects. So technically, maybe there is a need for my rudimentary baking skills.)
The continuing journey to finding balance between my passions remains a struggle.


Posted in
Africa, Arizona, Public Health
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The Grandmother Chronicles

May 9th

My maternal grandmother, Grandma J, grew up in England and immigrated to the United States at the wise age of 22. Recently wed to an American serviceman, she had a baby on each hip and enough sense to get out of the marriage as soon as possible.
She is tough as nails and as sweet as a scone. When she loves you, she’d give you the world. When she’s angry, she makes those crazy footballers gone mad after a bad game look like whiny children.
I’ve been wise to stay on my Grandma J’s good side.
When she immigrated, there were few things she could bring, although a crochet hook, some knitting needles and a beautiful crockery bowl made the cut. My mom has the bowl, I’ve got the needles, and my grandma is still hesitant to give up the hook. Fair enough.
A few months back, Grandma J called me to see if I’d be interested in her knitting supplies. Her eyesight isn’t what it used to be and the boxes of yarn and needles were taking up space. (I’ve noticed my grandparents are regularly sorting their belongings and giving things away. It makes me sad and grateful. Dealing with their deaths one day will be sorrowful enough, without having to hold a yard sale on top of it.)
I jumped at the chance to have her things, especially the ancient knitting books that she worked from when pregnant. The pages are dog-eared and have notes scribbled in the margins. The cursive words are usually names — ones she was considering naming her growing brood. Karel, my mom, and Calvin, my uncle, appear as possibilities on several pages.
In addition to several boxes of yarn, enough knitting needles to last me a lifetime, and the books, she gave me a bag with a sweater inside. She’d started the sweater in 1986.

Nice cardigan dude

I’m pretty sure it was fugly even then.

Roly Poly Sweater Pattern

And it isn’t getting any prettier.

Grandma's obnoxious sweater project

Regardless, she didn’t ask me to finish it for her, but there was a not-so-subtle unspoken nudge to do so. She had this thing almost done — with only the gray sleeve left unfinished. I’ve completed the sleeve and now need to attach the pieces and complete the turtle neck. I look forward to wrapping this thing up in a pretty box and delivering it to her soon — because nothing says Arizona summer like a 3/4 sleeve acrylic Roly Poly Turtleneck.

My paternal grandmother, Grandma Max, lives in Tucson. I see her often and while she isn’t crafty, she is known for her green thumbs. Even in the harsh Tucson desert soil, she’s created a lush garden. I asked her this weekend how she learned how to garden with such patience and she reminded me that kids who grew up on farms during the depression often had nothing to their names but patience. Flowers, in comparison to crops, were easy to sow. I gulped back my naivet√©.
On Sunday she carefully went out to her garden and clipped several large leaves from a garden begonia. She has this plant growing in two places — one in full sunlight, where its leaves are fiery red, and one in the shade, where its leaves are emerald green. It is a pretty plant, but I can’t say I’ve ever paid much attention to it.


Until Sunday. She handed me a jam jar full of cuttings and told me that now this plant was mine too. Her father gave her mother this garden begonia in 1928. It survived the depression on a Pennsylvania farm, and countless moves there after. My grandmother has lived in Texas, Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico. This begonia has gone with her at every turn.
Now it is my turn.

Garden begonia 1

Lord, please don’t let me kill this plant.


Posted in
Arizona, Domestic Art, Journal
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Lips Zipped Shut

May 8th

Remember last week when I was like, “I am so great with zippers. I love zippers! They are so easy! Watch me sew away!!”?
Well, apparently the zipper gods were laughing their merry little zig zagged heads off at my taunts. This weekend, I figured out how to completely destroy a wristlet with one snip too close to a zipper stop.

The Zipper Gods Laughed

Apparently that zipper stop is there for a reason. When I purchased zippers too large for the latest batch of wristlets, I over-confidently thought, “I’ll just trim them! Ha ha! Watch me be the master of my zipper domain!” Alas, when you cut off the zipper stop and then proceed to yank the zipper pull, it comes off and refuses to go back to a functioning state, leaving you with two nicely sewn rows of zipper teeth with nothing to pull them together. Lovely.
[Note: In this case, just pull out your rotary cutter and trim that zipper off. Start over and sew the remaining pieces with a new zipper, more carefully trimmed. Then promptly offer up a little prayer to the crafty goddesses and promise not to get too cocky in the future.]

My Project Spectrum entry for May. Lovely greens:

Project Spectrum Entry, May GREENS


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Domestic Art
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Books, My Old Friends. How I’ve Missed You.

May 6th

The Time Traveler’s Wife
By Audrey Niffenegger
3.5 out of 5 bananas, absoloodle.

This book was just what I needed to get me reading again, an adventure of sorts to rediscover all I love about paperback fiction. I go through spurts where I can’t stop reading, and times when I’m in literary drought — wandering aimlessly looking for something great to get me back on course. I’ll pick up books (Elizabeth Costello, Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling, Shipping News,) and meander for a 100 pages. I get discouraged if it doesn’t grab my attention and make me thirsty for more within the first few chapters. Hating to declare defeat, I prop these books back on my bookshelf, determined to one day conquer them.
The Time Traveler’s Wife was the compass I was searching for. The passport back to a world of reading — a world where you can drown out the noises of a bustling cafe because you are within the story. It is alive and dancing on the page before you.
This is the story of a man — Henry — who can travel through time, and his life-long love affair with a woman — Clare. It isn’t as science fiction as it sounds; it is an excellent love story and would probably be more appropriately classified as “chic lit.” Then again, related searches for this book on Amazon bring up Kite Runner and Middlesex — two excellent books that are certainly not tailored to female readers. (I suggest reading these and figuring out where you think they should be categorized because I’m obviously having a tricky time of it. Or better yet, don’t categorize them. Just recognize they are great reads and worth the pages on which they are printed.) TTW was a relatively easy and quick read. A character to hate: Gomez. A character to question: Ingrid. A character to love: Alba.

One of my favorite passages:

“What an uncertain husband I have been, Clare, like a sailor, Odysseus alone and buffeted by tall waves, sometimes wily and sometimes just a plaything of the gods. Please Clare. When I am dead. Stop waiting and be free. Of me — put me deep inside you and then go out in the world and live. Love the world and yourself in it, move through it as though it offers no resistance, as though the world is your natural element.”

I read this book upon the suggestion of several girlfriends. Have you read it? What did you think? I’m now enjoying Eat, Pray, Love, happy to be back in the familiar Land of Literature.

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How to Gain 10 Pounds in 12 Easy Bites

May 5th

Perfection 2

I came home last night to find a DHL box on my doorstep. When I looked at the return address, I shrieked!
It was from The Smitten Kitchen.
Several months back, I emailed Deb and asked for her mailing address. After following her New York City blog about cooking and being a newlywed, I wanted to include her in CAOK. I had an apron and some chocolate that were headed her way. I’m sure with some hesitation, she gave a complete stranger her address and the rest is history. She was a happy recipient and asked what I’d like in return.
In all honesty, I told her not to send anything. (Not the point, right?) In all fairness, I would love a place setting at one of her dinner parties. Deb’s site is one of my favorite culinary delights. Her photos make it all worth while, where even the simplest produce looks fantastically delicious. Do you have a favorite cooking magazine or TV show where you constantly drool over what they are making and so wish you could be there just for a taste? When she made her hubby homemade Oreos a few weeks ago, I couldn’t help but comment. My. God. Did those look good.
Well, guess what? They taste pretty damn good too. Wish fulfilled.


Step one to the 10 pound weight gain: grab your camera and photograph evidence.

The first one hits the dust

Step two: inhale first cookie.


Step three: promise to run a few extra miles each day for the next month, because oh my God are these so worth it.

Step four: pour yourself a large glass of skim milk and dive in. (Skim of course, in the same wonky way people order Diet Coke with their super sized Big Macs.)

Step five: reassure yourself that these aren’t crack, even if you can’t wait to get your hands on the next batch.

Step six: unbutton top of jeans.

Step seven: breath freely and dance about in a sugar-induced state of euphoria.

Thank you again Deb. Such a sweet treat!


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A New Day

May 4th

Thank you very much for your encouraging comments yesterday. A couple of them left me in tears. I am regularly reminded how important my friendships are, so thank you again. As for the call for an Etsy shop, I’m flattered. For now, the wristlets will remain special gifts, but I’ll keep them in mind for future contest prizes!

Today is a new day indeed, and I’ve got a better attitude. In the last 24-hours, I’ve cleared a significant portion of work off my desk, completed to giant freelance assignments, sent out interview questions for two more and gotten in a great swim. I am learning how to manage stress. I respond well to a lengthy pool therapy session, where it is just me, the cobalt blue tile on the bottom of the lane, and a Nalgene bottle full of water. After about an hour, a long hot shower, and a quick drive to the bagel shop, my day is off to a fantastic start.
Several of you recommended, The Time Traveler’s Wife, as a good read. I can’t put the thing down. I found myself reading at a stoplight this morning. Great recommendation! Next up is a book from Finny Eat, Pray, Love. It looks stoplight-worthy too.

Last night I collapsed into bed after writing and interviewing. No baking. No crafts. Tonight I’m starting my new swim coach gig, so I’m pretty sure my domestic adventures are going to become more weekend activities.
I did make these recently, for Mother’s Day gifts. I took some of the photos from the Gracious Gardens photo pool and turned them into card sets.

photo cards

If you are ever interested in printing color digital images, Costco makes it very easy and affordable. You can upload your files via the Internet and then just show up the next day and they are ready. I was impressed.

Photo cards

Viola — easy and thoughtful gift, especially for those who love to write letters.


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Domestic Art, Journal
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