SSS, or better yet, SOS

secret santa, the beginning

Brown bag to be reused in the spirit of being green + international posting box. $37 for all countries, up to 20 pounds.

When Donna emailed in August asking if I’d be interested in a Secret Santa Swap, I thought, “Sure!” I didn’t have to mail anything until December and that seemed so far away. October was kinda busy. And then November rolled around and I got wrapped up in Urban Dares and ditching Ruby for a kayak. Even though Donna has got this international swap exceptionally organized and even kept us all up to date with postal delivery times around the world, I started sewing yesterday. It needed to be in the mail tomorrow.
Procrastination is how I roll.

pink and orange and happy all over
bag, after being jazzed up
secret santa pouch
secret santa swamp bag and zippered pouch

I wanted this gift to be artsy, but also earthy. I took a well-loved handbag I had and added some pink and orange love, paired it with a sweet zippered pouch and stuffed that international postage box nearly to my 20 pound limit. My recipient will receive chocolate, yarn, a design book, a journal, an ink pen, a quilted pillow case and a lucky giraffe in addition to the purse.

secret santa swap ready for the mail

Now, on to that holiday sewing I’ve been thinking about…

Glass Half Full

Seems like the majority of us have issues with portion control and most don’t like to exercise. Thank you so much for your comments yesterday! I loved reading each perspective. It is comforting to know there are so many others who put a good bit of their daily thought into their well-being. It also sounds like we collectively need a huge dose of motivation and a giant kick in the ass.

I’ll certainly keep posting about Body for Life and my new little Everest. If anyone is interested in doing this together, Monday is my official day 1 of the 12 week cycle. I’ve already got a body-fat analysis appointment set at the gym. Oy vey. How’s that for a great Monday morning?

On to more positive health news — I ran across this in the NYT this morning (while sipping my protein shake):

“Sharp Drop in Deaths from Measles Reported”
Improved routine immunization programs and huge national drives to give children a second dose of the inexpensive measles vaccine have contributed to a stunning 91% reduction in measles mortality across Africa, with deaths plunging to 36,000 last year from 396,000 in 2000, the World Health Organization and UNICEF reported. Globally in that period, measles deaths fell 68% to 242,000.

Woo hoo! I’ll take positive global health news anyway I can take it. Now, the fact the callous editors of the NYT placed this little gem of a news brief across from a giant Harry Winston diamond add that read, “Who needs moderation?” is another story. Silver lining: hopefully the poor Africans who dug up that giant diamond got their measles vaccines and are alive and kicking today!


Before Photos

Sushi, beach, diet coke, turquoise tank = heaven

Spicy tuna roll, diet coke, pool-side chaise and I’m in carb heaven.

I’ve recently started a new weight-lifting routine. I’m hesitant to even talk about it here because I seem to bore everyone in my personal life with nutrition/health/athletic blabbing. But, here’s the catch — I need the accountability. If I blog it, so be it.

I workout daily. I am one of those rare breeds that loves to exercise. Give me an hour of cardio first thing in the morning and I am a happy woman. I am not fast or particularly strong, but I am dedicated.

The trick now is to turn this dedication into motivation in the nutrition arena. While I don’t have a problem steering away from “bad foods” — I rarely eat junk and when I do, I make a point of selecting wisely (ice cream, chips and salsa) and truly enjoying it — I do have a problem of eating too much. My portion control is out of control. Why have the 1/2 cup suggested serving of organic, whole-wheat cereal when I can have 1/2 the sleeve? Seriously. I eat good-for-you foods, but eat way too much and the result is that I’ve goofed up my body’s hunger signals.

Processed beef and bikinis should never mix. But hey! We were on vacay!

Time for change! I recently picked up a copy of Body for Life. Have you heard of this? In a nutshell, it is a weight lifting/cardio/nutrition plan that promises to cut down your body fat and build lean muscle. It isn’t a diet — it is a way of changing your life. I’m only a couple days into this and I’m so far following it diligently. I like the small 5-6 meals per day and the extra protein is keeping me full. Plus, while the weight lifting has me achy, it is incredible to feel your body getting stronger. Or at least that is what I am trying to tell myself.

A couple of questions for you — please consider delurking:
– Do you work out regularly? Do you like it, or is it one more task?
– What are your nutrition and exercise habits?
– Is this topic so boring you can’t wait for a new knitting post? Ha!

The next time I’m on the beach? I won’t be hiding under a one-piece and a tank top. I also won’t be drinking soda and eating sushi. {Okay, maybe the sushi. It is vacation after all!}


Costa Rican Crayolas

Costa rica by color: green

Green {cloudy green, but still}

Costa rica by color: gray


Costa rica by color: fushia


Costa rica by color: mauve


Costa Rica by color: red


Costa rica by color: peaches and cream

Peaches and cream

Costa rica by color: cream


Costa rica by color: Rust and orange

Burnt Sienna

Costa rica by color: pink


Costa rica by color: turquoise


Me? I’m tan. And a bit sunburned. And covered in red mosquito bites. But you can just color me happy.

Cloud Nueve

John and Em, best

Em and John, whose matrimony we celebrated in Puerto Vallarta in January. Yes, our passports are a teeny bit ridiculous.

I’m home from Costa Rica, although I really wish I was still out on the ocean, looking at colorful coral and listening to the parrots in the trees. When Emily and John invited a bunch of friends to come along to celebrate Thanksgiving beach-side, visions of sea kayaks, margaritas, pool boys, and long, funny dinner conversations fueled by too much wine and filleted anything went bailando through my mind.

climbing the tree
just pee on it
ready for another day of poolside pleasantries
the perfect breakfast

Ask and you shall receive.

the girls

Costa Rica is the most beautiful, cleanest, prettiest and friendliest country I’ve ever been too. Our four-day getaway was the perfect length. Great friends, food that made us groan in gluttony, balmy weather and adventure. We sea kayaked* — my new passion. We zip lined through the rainforest, with monkeys hanging from trees watching us — the ultimate in role reversal. We cried when we had to leave our tropical paradise. Nary a sweet potato casserole was to be seen, but this is still the best Thanksgiving (best vacation, actually) I’ve ever had.

Thank you again Em and John!


* Apparently the resort folk aren’t too fond of those who bypass their time line for kayaking. I had a few hours first thing in the morning and I wanted to be out on the water. The gear wasn’t locked up, so I hauled it down to the water and paddled myself out. I was out there for about half an hour when I saw a red speed boat leaving the beach and headed straight toward me. They were none too pleased I’d borrowed the kayak without signing the pre-requisite waiver. As soon as I did, they smiled and sped off. I wonder if you can fit a kayak in a Honda Civic? Ruby has new competition.

my new want
on my way out with the stolen kayak
kayak, red speed boat, ocean

Madison: Supergirl, Irongirl

pre race smiles

My friend Madison recently decided she wanted to compete in a triathlon. Within a few hours, she’d decided to compete in the Ironkids tri, which was just three weeks away. Maddy is naturally talented in about 1,000 ways, one of which is swimming. The girl is a fish. She is also pretty awesome at running and basketball.

Go Madison

We talked transition details, what to expect, what to eat. I called her the night before and gave her my best Vince Lombardi speech, although I’m pretty sure it came out more like Donna Martin’s version. Regardless, the girl competed and it so fun to watch.

Into the water
she's off

Some 200 kids filled Kiwanis Park in Tempe last weekend to compete. It gave me goosebumps to see so many kids dedicated to the sport and out there having a blast. The youngest kids were tea-cup tiny and I am pretty sure I spotted a few bikes with streamers. (Note to self: get Ruby streamers. And a bell.)

swim to bike transitition
athlete in charge

There were also a ridiculous number of children who are in tri clubs and competed with thousand dollar bikes and specialized gear. Maddy and I are old school. Her pink two-piece bathing suit? So much better than any fancy tri shorts. Her multicolored helmet? She not only rocked the biking, but she did so with style. The run? The girl had the cutest braids and the biggest smile.

open wide
ripping through the finish line

Watch out world. Maddy is an Irongirl and I have a feeling she’s going to be conquering many more races soon!

Bippidi Boppidi Boo!

I know — another Cinderella reference, but you have to hear about my weekend. Remember that scene where the mice appear to make her glamorous just in time for the ball? I had a similar experience this weekend; I emailed a bunch of friends early last week with an offer — happy hour at my house in return for pizza, beer and a paint brush. You wouldn’t believe how many incredible worker bees showed up to pitch in.

Kitchen before:

kitchen, before
eating area, before

Bibbidi Boppidi Boo! …

kitchen, after
eating nook, after

Adios Mexican kitchen. Howdy, Country Chic. It is a bit sterile, as Rebecca put it, but it is also clean. And with such a small space, the lighter color does make it seem larger.

Those worker bees in action:

bec working the paint brush

Rebecca and Min, working the paint brushes.

busy painting away

Amanda, smiling at her husband on the ladder.

what to do with this water damage

Ryan, the husband, who single-handedly repaired and painted my ceiling. I love that my friends share their handy hubbies. When they aren’t out keeping me company on my bike, they are spackling my house. Pretty sure I have the best friends in the world.

amanda saying adios to old stove

This photo, in particular, cracks me up. Amanda had been pressing me to get a new stove for a while. My old stove was off by several hundred degrees depending on the day. This made all of my baking difficult. She lovingly says goodbye to the old stove.

Bedroom before:

bedroom back blue wall, before
bed, before in plastic

New bed from Ikea.

bed, first coat of paint

Two weeks and four cans of spray paint later…

SS puts together the new bed

Salty Senor puts together the pieces in my new soft yellow bedroom.

bedroom after

After three days of painting, cleaning and all things home-related, last night this new bedroom was way better than any fairy godmother magic. Plus, I think Cinderella had it all wrong. She can keep the glass slippers and the burning desire to be rescued. With Chacos on my feet, friends in my home and wine in my (new!) fridge — I’m set.


Atlas Shrugged, Then Went Shopping

matching wristlet, key chain

It is well known in these neck of the bloggy woods that I am rather head-over-heels for all things domestic. Balancing my desires to do as much handmade as possible is often challenging both time and money-wise. While I can’t turn back the clock, I can share the few budgetary secrets I’ve discovered. Heading into another wonderful time of parties, occasions to bake, and to send baskets full of correspondence, I’m singing the praises of my favorite sources.


Need zippers? Check eBay. I buy lots from non-smoking homes and can typically get them for $.20 or less each — gobs better than the commercial sewing stores. Thrift stores are great for zips and other sewing notions too, if you’ve got the time to spare.

For fabric, I don’t think you can beat SewMamaSew. She’s my favorite fabric source online. I’ve been tickled pink by her customer service and I think her prices are fair for the designer stuff. How great is this?

For embroidery, same goes for Sublime Stitching. Jess set the bar high and her customer service and prices are fabulous. Let me be totally honest and say I know little to nothing about embroidery and even I can figure out Sublime’s stuff. So, if you are at all interested, they are cheap and how cute would this look on a Christmas apron?

Mini flower pouch

For sewing labels, I love this Australian company. They are a bit pricey, but wowza — they are worth it for the craftsmanship. They’ll send you a 100 woven labels within a month, just in time for those stockings you’ll hang. {I admit that I love to take credit and sew an africankelli label into my goodies.}

The smudge on Frida's noggin looks intentional


For ribbon? Big Lots. You can typically find a bin of grosgrain ribbon for $1 a spool. For holiday paper? This is my favorite, although I’m also wild about reusing whatever you’ve got handy. For paper to make cards, place mats, thank you correspondence — Paper Source is by far my favorite. They have a beautiful collection of 2008 journals too.

cinnamon vanilla shortbread, sv


Shh… don’t tell anyone, but I love the $.99 Store for baking mixes, saran wrap, Ziplock bags and a few other supplies. The canned goods are usually pretty great and their dried fruit is also much less expensive than the market. Plus, when you’ve cut your grocery budget by a third, you can afford to wrap your gift on a pretty ceramic plate for a buck too and ditch the plastic baggies all together.

Believe it or not, I am trying to buy considerably less this season and use what I have. Obviously from the list above, I’m a consumer. This year I’m making everyone gifts and baking for my staff. I’m also taking a vow of anti-consumerism and using what I’ve got on hand first. Gulp.

What are your tricks for staying on budget during the holidays?

Cinderelli, Cinderelli!

The patio clean up of 2007, BEFORE:

patio, before
dark, dirty and pleading for a broom
patio corner, before

Several hours of elbow grease, a good broom, a dozen plants and a couple bags of mulch later, AFTER:

patio, after
patio, cleaned up
little changes, big difference -- patio, after
cleaned up patio, ready for dining

It may not appear that big a change, but let me tell you — I went from a dust bowl to a livable space. I am so tickled to finally be entertaining outside. I’ve had this home and hand-me-down patio set for years — but just started having friends over to enjoy this cooler weather and cleaned up environment last week. Since, I’ve served butternut squash lasagna, banana flax pancakes, chicken enchiladas and margaritas from this table with half a dozen friends leaving happy and mildly annoyed with the mosquito population. (If we had Fall and not 90-degree post-summer, there would be no mosquitoes, see.)

My dream for this patio is to install a small retention wall around the mulchy-garden area and grow veggies, all with an efficient drainage and drip system. These are December’s projects; I’m pacing myself both in budget and effort. In the meantime, the painting inside continues. I’m hoping my fairy godmother is going to show up at anytime and help. Or at least bring presents.