Buenos Dias Indeed

Spring blooms 008

Tomorrow I’m off to Mexico for the day for work. In turn, today is “comp time.” Sweet cracker sandwich, I love the odd vacation day.
It’s 5 am and I’ve got snickerdoodles and brownies hot out of the oven ready to be delivered to the bagel shop, a pretty spring dress and sandals to wear, a massage scheduled for this afternoon, a stack of new magazines to go through and the Tempe Art Festival starts today. One would think I would have planned to sleep in. Alas, my body is in a set routine. Just that much more time to enjoy the day.
Plus the desert is coming back to life after a brief winter. The cacti are blooming in wild colors and everyone in Phoenix seems to be outside, drinking up this weather with a glass in both hands. The only indoor activity I’d like to schedule this weekend is seeing this movie. Life is good.
Happy weekend!
And if I don’t show up Monday, send a search posse. Tequila, pinatas, blue and white pottery, awesomely cheap vanilla…


A Storm is Brewing

Zimbabwe has been falling apart by the seams for years thanks to the wicked, cruel leadership of Robert Mugabe. The country once well known for its fertile earth, beautiful people and Victoria Falls has become the poster child for what is wrong in Africa.
The government is corrupt. People are starving to death — bitter irony for the breadbasket of Africa. Dissenting voices are beaten and kidnapped. AIDS, poverty and violence are so common that Zimbabweans struggle to remember a life before these three ugly neighbors set up camp.

Thankfully, it seems this bitter storm of destruction is finally getting the attention it has long deserved. Mr. Mugabe, I hope you are saying your prayers and counting your days. I have a great feeling your dictatorship is finally coming to a grinding halt.

Zimbabweans — hold tight. Help your neighbors. Take refuge. Be hopeful. The world is praying for you and hoping peace returns swiftly to your sweet country.


P.S. South Africa? Buck up. Your neighbors need you. Stop playing politics and get in there and help these people. I don’t care if Mugabe helped end apartheid. He’s the Hitler of Africa and you are playing Switzerland annoyingly well.

Energetic Entertaining

I’m having a small dinner party this weekend and am a wee bit excited. Here is my problem: I entertain rather infrequently, but love doing so. When I have people over, I tend to get a bit worked up and just plain silly. The meal is days away and yet I know what I’ll serve, how I’ll set the table, what I’ll wear, the music, the wine, etc.
Crazy — right?
Do you ever find yourself going helplessly overboard and yet not knowing how to stop? I feel myself starting to plan down to the last detail, full well knowing from the outside I must look bonkers. {Gift bags, for example. Who gives gifts at a dinner party? I have the sneaking suspicion this is too much. Then again, I don’t care. See, I have a great idea…} I feel like Bree VanDerkamp has taken over, with a prissy coif and all — although I’m nicer. I swear.

Reversible market tote, 2

I get such a kick from pulling entertaining ideas from magazines and watching them come to life. I love the idea of serving a great meal on pretty plates in a clean home with the quintessential Hollywood homemaker soundtrack playing in the background. And well, if that sounds bonkers, then so be it.

Reversible market tote

This week, my new reversible market tote will be filled with ingredients for my African-themed feast: peanut soup over rice, piri piri shrimp, banana leaves for koki, coconut, avocado and mangoes, South African reisling and Tusker. I may need two totes.

I should fall back on my mama’s wise advice: live like it doesn’t matter what others think. Life is too short to worry about spoiling your friends.


Email from a Craft Rock Star!

Dear Finny,
I survived my bike-swim-bike. I’m tired today, but I’ve found that two cups of strong coffee after a long ride help get me through the typical “bonk” period post-workout. Slowly, I’m learning how to push myself farther in this tri training. Are you stoked for your big race next Sunday? Doode! One week from today and you’ll be a 10ker! I am so proud of you.

Now, before I go any further, you are never going to guess who I got email from this week. Ms. Amy Butler herself. AMY BUTLER! Can you believe it? I thought to send her a quick note to let her know about our In Stitches sewalong and guess what? She’s agreed to provide a prize for an overall winner when our little sewing bee ties up in December. I KNOW! And to make matters that much better, have you seen her new patterns and stationery?

I yelped when I got her email and got all shaky — kind of like I’d imagine I’d react if I ran into Madonna at the market. My knees got a little weak and I was so unsure of how to respond that I let the email sit there for a day — going back over it word by word and pinching myself to make sure it was real. (It’s real and I’m bruised.) She, on the other hand, is as clever and charming as her designs would suggest.

How is your March clutch project going? Can’t wait to see what you pick for April! And ooh, I am already green with envy over the lucky lady who scores the loot from Amy come December. I can hear the Singer sewing engines roaring in the background!


With Intention

on the bookshelf

I used to laugh at those who didn’t read the newspaper or keep up with current events. I thought it was so important to be up with the latest CNN bullet points. Only recently have I been making a point of avoiding gossip sites and magazines. {A life without the latest Hilton/Lohan/Spears shenanigans is in fact a more pleasant existence.} I’m listening to a lot more music and a lot less NPR. Even better, I’ve been opening the windows and listening to the birds, the wind, my heartbeat. I’m not reading nearly as much news, or letting my favorite anchor pull me into the streets of Tikrit.
I promise I’ll return one day, but I need a break. A media fast — or better yet, a media diet. I’m trying to live more intentionally in many ways. I’m certainly feeling happier as a result.

Yesterday Ultimate was canceled because of the beautiful rain that blanketed the Valley. Suddenly I had three hours of my late afternoon handed back to me, tied with a velvety Shiraz bow. I poured myself a nice glass, made a great salad, turned on some tunes and got busy behind my sewing machine.

purse among the books

I’ve been thinking about creating this bag for a bit. I don’t know why I’m on a Nancy Drew kick as of late, but I am. I tried to make this bag to look as much as possible like the old Nancy Drew mysteries — the ones with the golden covers, black bindings and creamy, worn pages. I used canvas for the lining and the Amy Butler downtown bag pattern. Voila!

Nancy Drew Book Purse, side view

Another CAOK gift going out in the mail today.

Mystery of the fire dragon

Tomorrow morning I’m going on a 20-plus mile ride to swim at a new pool in north Scottsdale. It is time to begin the brick training for this triathlon and I am a bit nervous. I hope I have energy to swim after the ride. I hope I make the ride without any mishaps. (In the last two weeks, I’ve had several friends hit by cars/Fed Ex trucks when on their road bikes.) I’m also hoping to have enough energy to ride home after the tough practice. I was swimming the other day with my new team when I realized three of the four swimmers in my lane are former Olympians. Huh. Needless to say, their presence in my lane is about as close as I’ve ever been to swimming for my country. I’m so glad I joined this team. The challenge is incredible!

You know, Nancy Drew always liked a challenge.
Happy weekend fellow sleuths,

My Amazon Cart is Overflowing

Media loves of late:

I have the LOST needle in my arm and am officially a junkie. I just cannot get over the twists and turns. This truly is the only television show I sit down for each week and I’m hooked to the point of being upset when things go awry. And on LOST, things go awry often.
{If you watched last night and want to talk about the episode, I’d love to hear your take on the closing scene. AY! The suspense!}

The new Modest Mouse. Love. Must buy. Also, my new musical crush — Robert Glasper. His interview on All Things Considered this week made me want to run out an buy everything he’s ever touched. Rarely do I feel so inspired — and never before by jazz. Oddly, his music reminds me of Radiohead. Anyone else?

Country Living subscriptions for $12.

Country Home subscriptions for $5.

A bookshelf threatening to topple with recommended reads. I’m currently reading that book at Starbuck’s with the kid from Sierra Leone. His writing style is starkly different from Janet Finch’s, but he is African and has a great story to tell. I’m being patient.

The April issue of Real Simple. SO good. Great articles, great design, nice photography. This magazine leads the pack month to month. Bravo RS!

Media misses:
The Easter issue of MSL. Oh Martie. That feathered egg tree? Awful. And your editor in chief is begging for a new photo. That head shot is awkward, odd and over used at this point. Get one of your crafty web designers to spruce her up a bit. They did a fantastic job with your new site.

The April issue of Country Living. Blah. You can, in fact, have way too many slip covers. I don’t care if you live in the south and have a plantation home. That doesn’t mean you should wrap the entire building in white canvas with teeny pleats at the corners and a giant bow on the back. Slipcovers are like fattening foods — best in moderation.

If this doesn’t make you a: laugh or b: want to become a vegetarian, there is a little bit of our soul missing.

C’est tout. A wonderful day to all!

Dutch Orange

My friend Caroline is South African by birth, Dutch by heritage and American by citizenship. She is a sweet blend of European beauty and African fun. I used the March In Stitches project to fuel my creativity for a gift for her birthday this week.

After a bit of research, I found out the Dutch were responsible for turning the common carrot orange. Carrots used to be purple and red and all sorts of different colors. In honor of the House of Orange (and in all fairness, this is where my knowledge of Dutch history gets a bit shaky), some crafty Dutch dudes changed the color of the common vegetable so all Europeans would think Dutch and orange when getting their beta carotene. And this all happened in the 1700s. Go figure.

I’d wondered why Dutch soccer stadiums are always full of orange crazies. Now I kind of get it. One of Caroline’s favorite sweets is carrot cake. Do you see the theme brewing?

Caroline's birthday gift

A Dutch-inspired clutch, mini tulip carrot cakes and an orange Dutch/African card.

when your purse matches your couch

I had been saving this soft orange floral fabric for just the right project. I love the way the clutch seems so demure…

Dutch-African clutch

When really it is just hiding a loud, happy African party inside. I bought this navy/red/orange print in Mozambique. Makes for a perfect lining.

cvid detail

To fit with the In Stitches theme for March, my adaptation to the pattern is this wrist strap, embroidered with Caroline’s initials.

Carrot cake tulips


The bag is Dutch on the outside, African on the inside. Just like Caroline.


Welcome Home

Do you ever want to pinch yourself because you just feel so blessed? Lucky. Alive. I’m known for being a glass half-full sort, and lately that glass has been overflowing. {Maybe I’m channeling Dharma.} Joy is arriving in waves — not lapping, but of the tsunami variety. Giant, rolling surges of happiness that catch me off guard and make me a bit dizzy.
And even better? I love to swim. So, when I’m not blowing bubbles at schools of brightly colored fish as they swish and swirl through their nautical kingdom, I’m backstroking, watching the color of the sky change as the sun moves slowly overhead. A great place to be to watch for falling stars and consider how lucky you already are.

In childhood, I was the kid who dreamed of seeing the seven seas, carrying a passport thick with stamps and shopping in open-air markets for the catch of the day. I’ve gotten to see so much of the world already, with the possibility of adding several more countries to my list this year. I’m the world traveler who still lives 10 miles from my childhood home.

I was also the girl who dreamed of living like Nancy Drew, with a closet full of clothes just right for the task at hand, the girlfriends who were always there in a pinch, the little speedy car with the air blowing through my hair. Not to mention outwitting the bad guys. I’m so thankful for minimal villains.

I couldn’t have ever imagined the joy I’d find in a daily routine. I never thought I’d be an athlete. I never thought my brother would be one of my best friends. I never thought I’d find happiness living two states away from my parents. I never thought I’d consider taking a day off of work to spend the time at home, knee deep in cookbooks. Or jump for joy at the redesigned Martha site. Again with the aprons and pearls. Who’d have thought?

Ultimately, I’m learning joy is all around us. It is just a matter of inviting her in with a welcoming, deserving, grateful smile. {And perhaps a cup of tea and a cookie.}

banana chocolate chip oat cookies

Chocolate Banana Oat Cookies:
2 Cups all-purpose flour
1/2 Teaspoon salt
1/2 Teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 Teaspoon baking powder
1 Teaspoon baking soda
1 Cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 Cup packed light-brown sugar
1/2 Cup granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
3 Tablespoons milk
2 large eggs
3 Cups old-fashioned oats

(Or one pre-mixed bag of oatmeal cookies from Betty Crocker.)

To this, add:
2 more cups of old-fashioned oats
2 bananas (the riper, the better)
1 bag of chocolate chips

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease two baking sheets. Mix all ingredients in a deep, large bowl. Watch the consistency. If the cookies are too runny, add more oats. Too dry? Add a bit of soy milk. Scoop out your cookies and cook for 12-15 minutes. This should make 2-3 dozen. These are like those chocolate covered bananas at Disneyland, but oaty.


P.S Wish of the week: to attend this class. I’d make this bag in chocolate brown and pink, with a tiny passport pocket inside. In New York City. With a stop afterward at the Magnolia Bakery. What are you wishing for?

Spring Rising from the Ashes

Madison bag

A Spring bag & CAOK gift. Amy Butler’s Downtown Madison pattern.

I finished White Oleander this weekend — having read much of the last 100 pages by the pool Saturday. {Oh, the weather we are having! Let me gloat. We will quickly enter the 110-plus season that threatens to last five months.}

The themes tie so well into Spring — brushing off the cold, craggy darkness for a new, fresh beginning. Janet Fitch drew me into this novel, her writing hypnotic at times. I found myself consistently late last week — trying to fit in just a few more pages at stop lights, lunch breaks, standing in line for my morning coffee.

Favorite excerpts:

“I liked it when my mother tried to teach me things, when she paid attention. So often when I was with her, she was unreachable. Whenever she turned her steep focus to me, I felt the warmth that flowers must feel when they bloom through the snow, under the first concentrated rays of the sun.”

“Who am I? I am who I say I am and tomorrow someone else entirely. You are too nostalgic, you want memory to secure you, console you. The past is a bore. What matters is only oneself and what one creates from what one has learned. Imagination uses what it needs and discards the rest — where you want to erect a museum. Don’t hoard the past. Don’t cherish anything. Burn it. The artist is the phoenix who burns to emerge.”

“What was a weed, anyway. A plant nobody planted? A seed escaped from a traveler’s coat, something that didn’t belong? Was it something that grew better than what should have been there? Wasn’t it just a word, weed, trailing its judgments. Useless, without value. Unwanted.”

Four out of five bananas, absoloodle.

Madison downtown bag


Viva La Verde

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Plate of pistachio cookies

If you are looking for an easy green treat to feed your loved ones today, try these pistachio cookies. They’ll take 20 minutes including clean up time and be gone in no time flat.

cooking up some spring

{Cute new spatula was a spring gift from my friend John. Chirp!}

Ireland is one of the prettiest places I’ve ever visited. I’d love to return and spend more time in Galway and Cork in particular. In the meantime, it’s green Ace Pear Cider and cookies for all!