Taking the Good with the Bad, Part II

Remember when I said I can’t read a sewing pattern to save my life? I wasn’t kidding.
I present my latest sewing blunder, in full effect. This was intended as a baby gift — a cute little summer romper dress. I love the colors, the cut and the apparent simplicity of the design.

Baby's dress, front

Ah, from the front, you are so cute. So sweet. So very hippie 1970s child running through field of daisies.

Baby's dress, back

From the back you are pure evil. Look how your edges don’t match. And what is that giant tear in the fabric?

Why I shouldn't be left to sew alone

Oh right. That giant tear. That would be a seam trimming gone terribly awry.
Thankfully, I’ve found someone patient enough to give me some sewing lessons. I brought this to a friend’s house last night and after she calmed down from her fit of laughter, she pulled out an entire trunk of childrens clothing she’s designed, piece, patterned, etc. I was sent home with the homework of cutting out two new dresses and returning with a notebook to take plenty of suggestions down in ink.
I know practice makes perfect. So, I’m trying to hide my impatience and promise myself I’ll try this again. And if she can’t help me, I’m pretty sure the children’s section at Target is the next stop.


Taking the Good with the Bad, Part 1

this weeks healthy eating

This weekend had its highs and lows of domestic engineering. In some ways, I felt like Martha herself — twirling about in an apron, cooking, knitting, cleaning, sewing, singing along to the radio. I crave weekends like this — when they are simply all about me. I eat what I want, when I want. I laze around the house watching foreign films, with subtitles in full effect. I listen to ridiculous amounts of NPR. And I can do all of this naked if I want to an no one is the wiser. Ha!

New cookbooks

Last week I received a surprise gift from Jessica — a new cupcake cookbook. (Love it!) I spent much of Saturday morning watching “The Motorcycle Diaries” while reading it and picking out my Sunday baking selection. Carrot orange raisin cupcakes it was. Perfect! Then I picked up other new cookbook — vegetarian wonder — The Moosewood Cookbook. I selected sweet potato pancakes to serve for brunch the following day. They would be a lot of effort, but they sounded wonderful. Paired with a nice fruit salad and the wonder cucpakes, my neighbor’s would be pleased with the invitation to an afternoon meal.

don't be fooled

At first, all was well in the world. I made the cupcakes, minus the frosting, and they are delicious. I substituted apple sauce for half the oil and was pleased with the choice. They are dense, and the golden raisins give them a touch of sweetness that is just right. I will make these again. While baking, I enjoyed, “The Girl from Paris.” It is a sweet story.

Cupcakes gone right

Alas, it was three hours into my Sunday morning cooking when my guests arrived and I realized something had gone very, very wrong. While I followed the sweet potato recipe somewhat, I apparently do not have the knack for pan frying. I first tried margarine — big mistake. My small kitchen filled with angry, stinky smoke. When I switched to canola oil, I thought I was doing well. Yes, they were a bit burned on the edges, but they were golden and seemed crispy, per the recipe’s instructions.

Burnt on the outside, raw in the middle. Yum

Wrong again. They were burnt on the outside and raw in the middle. Gah! The looked gross. The smelled gross. They tasted notsogood. With two guests standing in my kitchen ready to be fed, I wondered, “What would Martha do?” I loaded up a plate of fruit and cupcakes for my neighbors and asked them to take it home and return in five minutes — giving me a second to pull myself together. I was so disappointed that all this effort was in vain. The sweet potato concoction when straight in the trash. I threw the rest of the food in the fridge and grabbed my pocketbook. Mexican food at a local burrito joint it was. I brought the rest of the food into the office today for my coworkers.

What went right

It wasn’t a complete loss, but nonetheless, it was a lot of work only to end up eating chips and salsa. Next time, smaller pancakes and plan on recipes well tested when inviting over guests.


A Friday Roundup

Never heard of the Tropical Diet? There is a reason. The Mediterranean diet, yes. Lots of olive oil, good for you fats, etc. The Japanese diet, again, yes. Lots of fish, rice and a little wasabi never hurt anyone. When I heard The Havana Cafe was a good dinner spot, I was excited to try it out. There are three of these Cuban-inspired restaurants in Phoenix. I happily met a friend last night for dinner and we each started with a bowl of soup. I had black bean and he had Chilean cabbage. Both were very good. They are the only dishes I would recommend.
Our tapas were fried black bean fritters, with a mint green avocado dip, and a bowl of super greasy peppers and sausage. I’m not a Pork fan, so I avoided the sausage, but tried everything else. It was all gross. I don’t eat a lot of fried foods, and when I do, I expect them to be overwhelmingly delicious — like a tostada or deep fried ice cream. These tapas were not worth the calories.
Dinner was arroz con pollo. Again, it was okay, but not great. The best part of the dish was the heart of palm garnish. Yum!
In short, if you want great tropical food (i.e., black beans, rice, fried platains, lots of heavy meats) go to Nicaragua. The food is much better and much less inexpensive.
If you are in Phoenix, avoid the Cubano and head over to Rosita’s. You won’t be disappointed and you’ll have saved yourself at least $30.

Several of you have asked where I swim and if I do so outdoors. I swim at two different pools regularly — both definitely outdoors. The only indoor pool I’ve ever taken a liking to is the natatorium at NAU. Otherwise, they are sticky and typically stink of chlorine. I’d prefer the sunshine, thankyouverymuch.
One pool I swim at is near my home in the suburbs, the other is downtown, not to far from my office. I coach an adult masters swim program twice a week at the downtown location. It sits in one of the most expensive neighborhoods in Phoenix, literally at the base of Camelback Mountain.

The pool, with Camelback in the background

Mountain. Pool. This is a much more impressive photo first thing in the morning when the sun is coming over the butte.


One of my favorite places to be.

Happy Friday y’all,

Don’t Wake Me

I had the craziest dream last night — one for the memory books. (Or the blog, natch.) I went to a benefit concert for Africa as Angelina and Brad’s guest.
That Angelina and Brad.
I remember arriving at the gates and having Brad recognize me and escort me backstage — much to my friend’s shock — only to throw my arms around Angelina. She was so happy to see me! And I kept telling them, “I’m just so happy you guys are happy. I mean after the scandal and all, you look great.” We talked Africa and strategies for ending global poverty and it was such fun to hang out with them.

[Note to self: Less US Weekly. More National Geographic.]

As if this dream wasn’t strange enough, when I woke up, I also remembered going to a salon and requesting a “Shaggy bob. Just take off the bottom part. It’s too hot.”

New hair, front2

Then I ran my fingers through my hair and remember that wasn’t the dream. Pretty sure I never uttered “Dorothy Hamil,” but it’s okay. It certainly is cooler, although I do feel like I’m living a “Not Dudley Moore! I said Demi Moore!” moment.


A Giant Can of Worms

Goodness gracious. I seemed to have started quite the conversation about our eating habits and obesity in America. I thank everyone for their comments. Obviously, our culture caters to “bigger is better.” It is difficult to fight.

Anyway — thank you! I have enjoyed reading what you’ve had to say; it makes me feel better we are all thinking about this and trying to figure out how to make changes in our own lives for the better.


Yo Quiero Self Control

So, I admit it. I’m one of those SparkPeople currently obsessed with monitoring every morsel that goes in my mouth. And running. And swimming. And occasionally hauling my body on a scale.
I don’t have a horrible body image, nor do I hate myself or ever skip a meal. Ever. I like to eat and do so fast and often.
Working in health, I get to develop programs to fight obesity in the US and malnutrition in Africa. Ah, the brutal mismanagement of resources is divine. I swear there are weeks when I’ve held a malnourished child days from death only to return to the United States and seen enough food in the airport food court to feed an entire village. Fun, no?
I love my job, but I am regularly embarrassed by America’s gluttonous ways. I don’t think a fat tax is the solution, but a good old dose of self control would do this country some good. I simply cannot believe how large we are getting. Everything suddenly seems a bit out of control (including our national debt, but I’ll leave that one for another post.)
To make my point: have you heard of Taco Bell’s new slogan? It’s called “The Fourth Meal. The Meal between Dinner and Breakfast.”
No joke. To point out the obvious, it can’t be called break-fast if you are eating all night. This sort of thing makes my skin crawl.
I don’t like that I’m becoming a bit crazy about the state of our nation’s health, but I can’t help but count the overweight people in public places when I’m waiting in line. It scares me. We are facing a huge health battle in the next 30 years and my generation very well may be the first to die before our parents from preventable disease.
So, not that you need my advice in a world teaming with “easy” ways to eat well, but here are a few things I’m working on. Some are easy, others take a good bit of effort. The effort is worth it.

1. Move, every single day. Even my one non-gym day, I take a walk. My heart and I are becoming the best of friends. I treat her right, she’s going to let me see 80.

2. Buy a pretty water bottle and use it. I drink at least a gallon of water a day (I live in the desert.) I also have become a big fan of Crystal Light. I carry this bottle with me everywhere.

3. Eat veggies and fruit daily.

4. Egg whites, grilled chicken, whole grains are good for me. They give me fuel and make my workouts better. Sugar-free fudge pops are the silver lining.

5. When I go out to eat, I immediately offer to split my meal with my dining companion. If he/she isn’t interested, I ask for a to-go container and take the other half home. Even if I don’t eat it, I surely didn’t need the entire portion.

6. I make deals with myself. If I’m going to stop for a bagel in the morning, I don’t drink wine at night. There are only so many free, fun calories a day and you can’t always have both without jiggle in the mid-section.

7. I find something I like about my appearance every day. I remind myself that I am healthy and take good care of myself and that is far more important than numbers on a scale or in the back of pair of jeans.

8. I try to only eat when I am hungry. This sounds like a “no shit” thought, but I have often found myself — especially now that I live alone — eating when I’m bored, eating in front of the television and eating because food is available. I’m not a camel. I don’t have to stock up. If nothing else, I can always drive through for that fourth meal…

Here’s to a healthier America,

Serial/Cereal: I know there’s a catchy title here somewhere

I just listened to a report on NPR about the serial killers terrorizing Phoenix. Indeed, I’m a bit freaked out. Although, I really wasn’t until I heard that report. Funny how you can live in your own little protective suburban bubble until Michele Norris knocks you silly. [Tangent: does it annoy you that she pronounces her name “Meee shell.” Gah.]

So, there’s the two wackos wandering around the city, randomly shooting, killing and raping people. And then there’s the oppresive heat that is making those without air conditioning, even when temporary, rather unhappy. If this isn’t a tourism brochure for all those interested in moving to Phoenix in July, I’m not sure what is.

Current distractions:
1. Swam this morning and get to swim again tonight. Love that. It’s a double dip kind of day.

2. Knitting. Kay and Ann are smarties. Check out my ballband dishcloth:

Ballband 2

3. Sewing. Lots of totes to give away on the tour de South America next month.

4. Cooking. Um, notsomuch. Unless you count pouring the cereal into the bowl “cooking” this time of year.

5. Reading. It’s dry, but interesting. And way scarier than a serial killer.

6. Listening. I added many of these to my running mix. Nothing like a little Queen to get me hauling bootie on my morning runs.

La de dah, off to the pool. Let’s hope they catch these crazies soon.

Didn’t We All Want to Be Nancy Drew? *updated*

I know I did. So did Amanda. We both have nearly the entire old school set of Nancy Drew novels, thanks to our mothers, and our love of used bookstores. I spent more than one summer afternoon curled up with a Carolyn Keene classic.
Amanda’s birthday was last week. I was stumped on a good gift — but when I saw a little Nancy Drew notepad when vacationing in San Francisco, a sleuth-y idea came to mind.

Nancy drew pouch, front

A colorful pouch featuring book jackets from a few of our faves.

nancy drew pouch, back
Nancy Drew pouch

Once she added a chocolate bar, a gift certificate and a few other goodies to the pouch, the mystery of the birthday gift was solved. Voila!


*I guess we really all do want to be Nancy Drew! I love the comments and email. Thank you! To transfer images (from the web, or digital photographs) to fabric, I buy transfer sheets at Wal-Mart. They cost about $6 for 4 sheets and are found in the craft department. (No Sherlock Holmes work there.) Then I arrange my images in publisher and send one of the sheets through my laser printer. I let it dry for about an hour before crafting with it. It is simple canvas fabric — nonfusible. Then I cut out my image and carefully sew around each edge. If you want to turn these edges under, leave yourself some room when cutting. Viola! The mystery of the transfered images is solved!*

Where’s That Darn Toto?

The Tie One On theme for June/July is an apron based on your favorite musical.
Truly, my favorite musical is Wicked, but I couldn’t for the life of me figure out to show the crafty, cunning side of Elphaba that made me fall in love with the story. (Or the saccarine sweet side of Galinda that has me singing along to “Popular” every. single. time.) So, instead I went for the Frank Baum classic-inspriation of Wicked, “The Wizard of Oz.”

Tie one On, June July 2006

Nothing like a pair of great ruby stilettos to go skipping down a yellow brick road…


Not Sew Smart

I purchased a baby pattern this weekend at the local craft joint. Pretty fabric, notions, and several precious hours of weekend time later and I was ready to poke my eyes out with the seam ripper — which was warm from so much use. Needless to say, the project is in pieces.
Am I the only one out there who would pay double for a pattern that was easy to understand? I swear I’ve yet to complete a patterned sewing project* that hasn’t left me shaking and angry at my inability to understand the creator’s directions.
Either I don’t speak “McCalls” or I’m sew dumb.

*The one exception are Wee Wonderful patterns. Hilary gets it. Or I’m fluent in Wee. Your choice.