Cherry On Top

My friend Amanda recently raved about a new recipe she’d tried and loved: chocolate cherry cupcakes. She’s a baker and the one who introduced me to my very favorite baking cookbook, “The Cake Mix Doctor.” I thought I’d give these a whirl for some bagel shop/coworker CAOK love this week.

filled with a mini chocolate cake

I picked up a few of these Chinese take-out boxes last month with the hopes of making fortune cookies to celebrate the Chinese New Year. I thought the pink would be particularly festive for the Year of the Boar. Alas, the fortune cookies didn’t happen. (Although one day! I have cute little fortunes in mind to fill them with.)

inside the box

Instead, they were filled with one giant chocolate cherry cupcake. I poured the frosting over the cake once it was in the box, keeping my fingers crossed the frosting would harden as planned and not make a gooey, chocolate puddle. It worked!

chocolate cherry wish

A bit of ribbon and one of many stamped CAOK notes and voila — a chocolate treat wrapped and ready to go.

I knew the bagel shop boys wouldn’t appreciate the frill, so their platter was plain.

delivered to the bagel shop

It is safe to say they enjoyed these — down to the last drop of frosting. Recipe found here.


Maison Rêveuse

shutters, stars, dress form, white and soft blue

I work in international health. I get to travel about nine weeks a year to far off lands to manage and develop health projects for the poor. I truly love my job. Not a day goes by that I don’t find myself truly thankful for being in this line of work. I’m very lucky.
This past weekend I was in charge of a giant fundraiser. It was the first time I’ve been responsible for this sort of event and it took about six months of work to pull together. We had 500-plus people attend and early estimates show we raised about $100,000. Thankfully, it was a huge success. I am even happier that I’ve got nearly a year until we do it again.

blue and white quilts

Needless to say, I haven’t been crafting or baking as much as usual. Last night was the first time I’ve been able to sit down and really sew in about a month. No photographs of my CAOK projects yet — they need some final touches before their Kodak moment.

yellow and white room

However, I did manage to find time last week for a haircut. While waiting for my trim, I browsed a new magazine, Country Home. Have you read this? The March 2007 issue was the first time I’d even seen this magazine and like I’d been struck by cupid, I fell head over heels in love. The cover photo is ugly, but once you get past the chartreuse, the interior photos and information really speak to my style and current love of all things shabby chic. {French shabby chic is even better!}

dreamy kitchen table and setting

I cannot believe that I’m finding myself loving the country-farm-shabby style, but I am. Why fight it? Instead, I drooled over these photos and am making plans to incorporate more of these colors, textures and styles into my home.

just my type indeed

If you are looking for a design magazine with great decorating tips and well-written articles, I highly recommend this issue.

I'm going to find this table for my living room


dress form, stars, turquoise table, purple flowers

P.S. I very well may have to file an extension for my February entry to the In Stitches Sew Along. What a flake I am! To be an organizer and to not have my project completed. C’est la vie.

P.P.S. I got quite a laugh from my stylist when during my haircut we were discussing art. She mentioned that while she loved Frida Kahlo, she still really wishes she’d had time to wax those brows and mustache.

lovely country dining room table

The 2007 Ya Ya Oscar Goes To…

The girls I’ve grown up with are essentially my sisters — the Ya Yas. We love, fight, gossip and party like we came from the same womb. While we’ve seen our interests and lives go in different directions since we’ve left our parent’s homes on Dobson Ranch, our bond remains tight.

If we’d been attending the Oscars last night, we certainly would have been at the Beverly Hills Hotel beforehand, kicking out the stylists to make more room for bartenders, drivers and nannies. I can just imagine the night would go something like this:


Amanda, with her long golden hair, would exit the limo with a tuxedoed Ryan on her arm. She’d smile and bat her long eyelashes at the cameras, trying carefully not let the scar from her recent neck surgery show. Knowing Amanda, she’d have her hair pulled to one side to carefully cover the wound (a la Gwyneth) and nary a paparazzi would see the bandage when she accepted her award for Volver. {Freduardo, the mysterious neck lump, will not return this time!}

Jen and Kelsay,MattmasII, Dec, 2006

Jenny, with her silken tresses piled high on her head, would wear a long red sheath gown and a tasteful diamond bracelet. She’d have to pull her beau Kelsay away from the masses of onlookers as they walked down the red carpet. He’d want to entertain them along the way with his silly humor. Jen — who spends 80% of her life on the road for a very demanding job — would graciously accept her award for The Departed before sneaking out early to spend time at home.


Min would wear Betsy Johnson, fabulous heels and jewelry from her mom’s collection. She’d have the outfit of the evening that everyone would comment only she could pull off with such taste. Her husband Jason would wear a tuxedo t-shirt and would try not to tear up when Min accepted the award for Dream Girls. The mother of two of two sons is expected a new babe this fall.

Shay and Maddy, MattmasII, Dec, 2006

Speaking of girls, Shayla and her lovely daughter Maddy would have matching outfits and would hold hands walking down the red carpet. They would wear black velvet gowns and have diamond stud earrings. Shay would beam with pride when they were both called on stage to accept their award for Little Miss Sunshine.

matt & bec

Reese Witherspoon would be glad she wasn’t at last night’s Oscar. It is An Inconvenient Truth for her that fans regularly approach to ask if she knows she looks a lot like a certain Rebecca who lives in Phoenix. Rebecca, and her husband Matt, would wear Versace — she in a flowing eggplant-purple gown and he in a George Clooney standard tuxedo.

Kacey, MattmasII, Dec, 2006

And Kacey would walk down the red carpet with her sweet Mike in hand, making sure she didn’t have chalk dust on her gown before smiling for the cameras. After having just finished coaching volleyball at her her inner city school near Chicago, the teacher would have to be pried away from the always-demanding needs of her students to accept for Notes on a Scandal. It seems Louis Gossett Jr. should be the principal at her school. Kacey could teach that million dollar baby a thing or two about teaching tough kids.

Me? I thought about accepting for Pan’s Labyrinth — considering many days seem like a series of mazes until I reach my next bagel. Instead I opted for The Pursuit of Happyness. I’m silly-optimistic and the fact they spelled it incorrectly makes me want to accept the award with a bottle of White Out tucked in my tiny Judith Leiber handbag (I’ve always wanted the ladybug.) I’d be wearing Carolina Herrera and Manolos and would keep my impromptu speech short and sweet.


Words to Live By

“The three highest causes of the upright human: Honor, Duty, Truth.

The three manifestations of humanity are: Civility, Generosity and Hospitality.

Three things from which never to be moved: one’s Gods, one’s Oaths and the Truth.”

From my friend (and domestic queen!) June.

I promise to have more energy for craftiness and the such next week. Long weekend of work ahead — and I have a great feeling it is going to be very successful. Here is to having a wonderful weekend!

Take A Tray at the Blog Buffet

beautiful superstition mountains

Where I ran Sunday — the beautiful Superstition Mountains.

I’m thrilled so many people are excited about CAOK! Thank you for the fantastic feedback. I’m going to post ideas and photos of projects. I’ve also organized a flickr gallery if you are interested in showing others how you are participating. I’m trying to find the precarious balance here between congratulatory and motivational. The point of CAOK isn’t to pat yourself on the back; then again I am regularly inspired by other’s blogs to act — so there needs to be some sharing.

*-* Update *-*
A button for CAOK participants:


Created by lovely Colleen. Thank you!

Ideas for week one:
~Send your grandparents, parents, best friends a letter. You know the joy of receiving a piece of great mail. Why not stop to pick up a few postcards next time you are at the market? It will take you less than 30 minutes to write out 10 cards and imagine the joy you’ll spread.

~ Burn some great music and share CDs. Mail them out, leave them anonymously on your coworker’s desk, give one to your child’s teacher.

~ Bake. Everyone loves baked goods. You can make them healthy with a bit of applesauce vs. butter substitution. Wrap up your cupcakes, cookies, bread and tie them with a ribbon. Leave them on the doorstep with a note (who is going to eat something left anonymously?), take your goods to the local shelter, or hand them out to street folk you may see on your way to work.

This week is by far the busiest week of the year for me at work. I haven’t had two seconds to bake, write or craft — ahem, note to self, consider practicing what you preach — but hope to catch up with myself Sunday. I’ve got a bit of In Stitches sewing to do too. Gulp.

the state of my front seat

That said, I couldn’t help but laugh looking at my front seat this morning. Oy. This accurately describes the craziness of my life at the moment. Notice the coconut and chocolate from last week’s cupcake disaster. And my running shoes, socks, moleskin from the ill-fated trail run two weeks ago. Moleskin is fantastic, by the way. My feet didn’t hurt one bit during the race Sunday.

Maybe I should add “hand out moleskin to runners in your life” on the above list. Ha!


spring trees

Last year during the Lenten season I had a bit of a goodwill campaign I coined Calculated Acts of Kindness, or CAOK. The 2007 Lenten season begins today, along with CAOK II. In a nutshell, I think the easiest way to make the world a friendlier, more peaceful place is to make your home, neighborhood, workplace a friendlier, more peaceful place.
You’ve got to walk the walk.

Call me a bleeding heart liberal (wow, so original, I haven’t heard that before.), or a tree hugger (again, hello! I went to NAU. Our mascot may be the Lumberjack, but the only trees we cut down are those holding up Big Box stores.) — but I really think that each of us can make the world better.

And so, enter CAOK. The idea is to plan good acts during the next 40 days and to do so with a “pay it forward” attitude. I’m going to focus my artistic efforts during this time toward celebrating others. I’d love to hear if you are interested in doing the same.

When the world seems mad, like we cannot control who is in power or why the earth is heating up like a tea kettle, the Lenten season gives us the perfect opportunity to slow down and realize that in fact, we can control all of these things and more. By simply starting with the little things — holding open a door for a stranger, helping a neighbor with their trash cans, complimenting the woman who makes your coffee every morning — we can make our world better.

One person at a time, we are conducting a campaign of calculated acts of kindness.
Won’t you join me?


Back to Africa I Go

I booked tickets this weekend to return to Africa. (!!) I’m going to Mozambique and South Africa in May for two weeks, for work and play. I’m actually going to be able to see the swanky side with several days in Cape Town scheduled at the end of the trip. {What a change this will be after having worked in the orphanage in Moz. It always makes my head spin.} Hopefully I’ll get to sneak over to Zimbabwe for a couple nights too. Perhaps my friend Bruce, who is taking a job in Botswana next month, will be able to meet us for a couple of days.

Bots pouch

I made this little pouch (definitely not a wristlet. Men don’t “do” wristlets.) for Bruce and his new adventure. He’s an amazing man and was once my boss at the state health department. He’s moving to Bots to take on a new AIDS project. I’ll miss him, although I have a feeling we’ll stay in touch. I think of Mma Ramotswe every time he talks about Botswana. I’ve got to visit that country one day to enjoy a cup of their bush tea.

In other African news, a childhood friend who served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Guinea emailed me yesterday to say they were canceling her program because of recent violence. Please consider, once again, dropping your congressperson a note on the matter. Feel free to say something to the effect of, “Considering we are paying $12 million PER HOUR for the Iraqi war, do you think we could fund some UN Peace Keepers to help our African friends? Granted, they don’t have oil, but they do have spirit and they are worthy of our care and kindness. Plus, don’t you think we kind of owe the world a few drinks at the Peace Bar?”



I ran the Lost Dutchman 1/2 Marathon this morning and thanks to a silly error, I ended up running an additional 2 miles. It was my first time running this race and I was just happy I made it to the start line in time. In the time crunch, didn’t look at the map for the course. I never do, actually. I just situate myself in middle of the pack and follow those in front of me until I see the sweet, sweet finish line. Typically this works without a problem. This morning, not so much.
I felt like a silly sheep after making a turn at mile 3 (following the runners ahead of me.) We ran for a mile before we noticed angry runners were streaming back past us. Quickly it was decided we’d made a wrong turn and more than 100 of us had to turn back to join the rest of the race.
I was running alone, although it was easy enough to hear the grumbles of those around me as we headed back to the pack. It seemed the excitement of the race immediately fell to the pavement, only to be trampled by 200 disappointed feet. I could feel myself being pulled into the cloud of discontent — so instead I forced a smile, turned up my iPod, and said to the woman running nearest to me, “Ha! Now we get a 15 mile run for the price of 13!” She looked at me like I was mad. I smiled wider.
Where the Lost Dutchman lacked in race management (seriously, no food on the course? Are you kidding me?), it won in the scenery department. The Superstition Mountains are stunning and even though I’m an East Valley native, they still catch me in awe. The sun rose over the dark purple mountains, surrounded by bright pink clouds. The sunrise was glorious. The saguaro cacti stretched their arms toward the morning sun. The quail were chirping and scattering about. Even the not-so-native snow birds were there in full plaid effect, cheering from their driveways.
I love the desert. This really is the prettiest race I’ve ever run, hands down.

Now, a wee bit of advice from a weary, exhausted runner. If you are planning on running or walking or being at a marathon or 1/2 marathon, please consider the following:

– It is proper race etiquette to be at the very, very back of the pack if you are walking, or planning to walk any portion of the race. If you situate yourself at the front of the start line and then start walking, be prepared for an angry onslaught of runners to mow you down and curse you. It is just rude!

– If you have to stop for whatever reason during the race and do so immediately, be prepared to be mowed down by the runner behind you. It is common sense to move the margins when you are slowing down. Don’t these people drive? You can’t just stop in the middle of the lane on a highway. Consider a race the same!

– Runners are not more important that walkers. We all pay the same amount to be there. That said, when runners have trained for months to compete and you’ve just plopped out of bed in your sweats and decide to go for a long walk? Be respectful of the difference in commitment and get out of the way. You absolutely do not for any reason need to walk in the middle of the raceway.

– You really shouldn’t have to carry your own water on a race like this. You are doing yourself a disservice to haul that extra weight when they provide water every mile. Now food? I covet your Cliffshots on mornings like today when no food is provided.

My brother was at the finish line to cheer for me. It made me laugh to see him, brutally hungover, yet standing at the finish waving. He gave me a hug and then quickly stepped back.
Cody: “I was going to invite you for lunch, but, uh, you smell.”
Brilliant observation. Funny how 15 miles will do that to you.
Me: “Eh, I’ve got a clean t-shirt in the car. Meet me at Einstein’s? I’ll pay.”
Cody: “Yep.”

Good race. Good lunch.

November 2006 1/2 marathon: 2:28
December 2006 1/2 marathon: 2:16
Today’s 1/2 marathon (taking extra 2 miles into consideration): 2:10
WOO HOO! All those 5 am canal runs are starting to pay off.