Rocky Mountain Bound

close up of the clouds, mom's fabric painting

I found this somewhere a year ago and keep re-reading from my journal. Smart, powerful, motivating words:

The Four Agreements

By Don Miguel Ruiz and Don Jose Ruiz

1. Be impeccable with your word: speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the truth and love.

2. Don’t take anything personally: nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dreams. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

3. Don’t make assumptions: Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

4. Always do your best: your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are tired as opposed to well-rested. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret.

I’m taking a few days to travel and refuel. I’ll be back next week with lots of photos and renewed spirits. With luck, I’ll have made these agreements. In the meantime, give Cupid a kiss for me and have yourself a sweet Valentine’s!


American Girl, African Heart


I haven’t written much about Africa lately, although as always the continent’s political turmoil weighs heavily on my heart. We in the West are currently consumed with election news, pushing African headlines that much father away. Did you know Laura Bush recently visited Zambia? Me either. It happened the same day Paris Hilton was released from jail. Ick.
Instead of another conversation about candidates, La Lohan, the fashion ethos of leggings and booties and the $1 cup of coffee from Starbucks, I’d rather be able to debate:

– The recent violence in Kenya. Presidential elections in December turned sour after allegations of fraud, reigniting centuries-old tribal grudges that have sent this previous example for African democracy into a tailspin. Kofi Annan is there, working on peace and trying to help restore order. However, reading stories of tribal warriors spearing innocents, (while carrying cell phones on their loin cloths no less) makes me fume. I just don’t understand tribal violence — whether in Africa or the Middle East. How is killing innocent people ever justifiable?

– The recent coup d’etat that has sent thousands from Chad into neighboring Cameroon. I pray for these families as they make the trek. There is no harder existence than the life of an African refugee.

– The on-going violence in Sudan. I am proud to see Americans pressuring China to knock it off. I fully do not understand the political relationships between China and many African nations, but I do know those cheap weapons are coming from somewhere and it isn’t American sweatshops. Instead we manufacture much more expensive bombs and planes and sell them directly to foreign governments. Americans are far from blameless, I realize. And something tells me if we had the oil agreements with Sudan (instead of Russia and China guarding the valued paperwork), none of this refugee news would reach our shores.

pray before lunch

Okay — have I fully bummed you out? Here’s the silver lining: There are lots of great things happening in Africa that never reach the news. TDH is safely in Zambia working alongside a team of foreigners who are trying to quell the tide of infant deaths to HIV. (Compassionate) Bruce is in Botswana similarly working with people to best implement HIV-prevention programs. (Selfless) Peace Corps volunteers are scattered across the continent teaching school, building homes, creating small businesses and being incredible examples of American kindness. (Generous)

kelli with two orphans

If you are interested in African news, here are some great blogs I love to read:

Ali in Mozambique
Luckybeans in Malawi, just moved from Zambia
Brian in Congo
Memsahib in Kenya

Prayers for Africa and prayers for all countries. May we soon figure out as a specie how to help others in distress and do so peacefully.


Breakfast of Champions

1.5 cups of barley to 8.5 cups of water
spices for the barley breakfast
cook barley and cinnamon
breakfast of champions
my new love -- barley

Barley for Breakfast

1.5 cups of pearled barley
1 cinnamon stick
1 vanilla bean
Zest of one small lemon
8.5 cups of water

Bring water to a boil, add barley and spices. Let simmer for 45 minutes. Reduce heat, add zest if desired. Cook until thick and water has absorbed — another 30 minutes or so. Dive out into Ziplock containers for the week. Add a dash of honey, or some yogurt and fresh fruit on top to create a healthy carb breakfast that won’t send your blood sugar through the roof.
Oatmeal, you’ve officially been booted.


A Season of Good Deeds

Have you heard the old adage that kindness is a boomerang? You give it away and it keeps flying back your direction. For example, when a friend had a shipment of baskets at work that were leftover from a project, he called. Could I use them at work for my upcoming charity auction? Could I use them at all?

towering baskets

Could I.

new basket, filled with january treats

Again, this progression from an anti-PTA, never-going-to-be-domestic, raging femmebot to my current Country Living-subscribing, bread-baking, nesting-self surprises me daily. My tastes and interests are so radically different than they were 10 years ago when I was hell-bent on being a corporate executive who lived in the glitz and glam of a huge international city. I would laugh and roll my eyes at my mom when she talked about what she was cooking, sewing, doing at church. My edges are definitely softening. I love these baskets, and not just because they came as a thoughtful gift. They are sweet shabby chic and oh my God a bit of the radical feminist in me just died by saying I wish I had more.

may or may not have stolen from a neighbor

There is so much potential with a stack of baskets and a sunny, warm Saturday afternoon, especially when your cute neighbor is at the gym and his backyard gate is left unlocked. He won’t notice if I pick a few dozen lemons off that burdened tree, will he? I didn’t think so.

the glisten of brownie fat
ready for delivery

Especially when you wave a new shiny (read: chocolate) object to redirect his attention.

CAOK is off to a great start. I created that photo pool over at flickr so everyone could share ideas on how to harvest and distribute great acts of kindness during Lent. Then I read this verse and felt like a braggart. Yuck. I hope my intention is clear: I love CAOK because it gives me a chance to spoil others and do so abundantly. This isn’t a praise-seeking mission.

This week’s CAOK idea: correspondence. It’s Valentine’s week and what better chance to sit down and write a quick note to those you love? I’ve got a stack going out today and am writing a couple rough draft letters to my grandparents. They are getting up there in age and I’d like to let them know how they’ve influenced my life, made me better, shown me kindness and created happiness. They’ve taught me so much. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime kind of letter, but I hope to mail it off to each set of lovely abuelitos this week. Yep, I’m a sentimental femmebot.

Here is wishing you receive a bounty of love this week too!


or you could just buy it

Thanks for all of your barley and kefir advice! I took some of my own and decided to buy kefir instead of making it from scratch. Essentially I think kefir is like super-yogurt. I actually add a bit of milk to each serving to make it less dense, but I get the feeling it is doing my tummy some good. I’m adding this to the weekly market list.

It has been a crazy week, full of fun adventures. I had a sound therapy healing session on Monday that was 100% new age-y and 100% fantastic. I laid on a massage table while the therapist played Tibetan meditation bowls around me for about an hour. You can feel the vibration from the bowls as you relax. See? Totally hippie, but groovy too. If you are open to new experiences, it is a great way to meditate and find your balance.

Also, saw this guy in concert Thursday night and he is the bees knees. He is sporting a bit of a Don Johnson Miami Vice look, but once he starts singing, oh lordie. He makes a mullet look sexy. I was melting in my seat. The Salty Senor had to look away at one point when I threatened to take off my bra and throw it on stage. (Particularly hilarious considering we were two of 30 people in a tiny jazz bar.) The bands were so good I was bounding with energy. I wanted to go home and write, be poetic, be artistic. My favorite line of the night was when a singer explained her break-up song inspiration: “I know I should have called, but my life is pretty awesome.” Ha!
SS now says he wants to take guitar lessons so he can say trite things and have a room of women respond by threatening to take off their clothes. I think I’d put on two bras to see that.

Here’s to a great weekend! It is supposed to be in the 70s here tomorrow, so I’ve got a much needed date with my long lost friend Ruby.

Be well,

Kathryn Louise

Sleeping happily

I met a new friend today — Katie Lou. Isn’t she beautiful? Her parents should write a book on relaxed parenting. I saw them today for the first time since her birth and they looked like they’d just walked off a beach. They were calm, cool and far too collected. Katie and I chilled for a bit until I tried taking her photo. This is when her inner diva emerged:

Give the girl some space!

“Please, Kelli. We just met I don’t want my pictures in Baby Weekly. I just want my privacy!”

Please! No paparazzi!

“I’m just not ready for press! Come on! I’m just back from Lacatation Therapy for Pete’s Sake. Have you no shame?”

Sweet baby toes

“But seriously, how cute are these socks? You should see the matching bib.”


Imperfect is Perfect

soup for church

Soup for Lenten Supper at church.

I reached out to an old friend a month or so ago. He was my confirmation minister, but left the ‘burbs to lead another United Methodist Church in Central Phoenix 15 years ago. The church is near my office, which is 20 miles from home, and I’m quite comfortable attending the UMC church in my neighborhood. Nonetheless, Jeff pulled me from my comfort zone and lured me to making the ridiculous drive on a weekend to attend services at his church.
I am so glad he did.
The church is a perfect reflection of why I love Jeff. He is the minister who helped initially sculpt my faith. He made me think, ask tough questions and look within myself to find the voice that guides you to what is right and wrong. He then nudged me along to have a conversation with that voice, gently teaching me about the Holy Spirit and how to develop a relationship with God.
His church is a welcome sanctuary to anyone and everyone who wants such a caring guide. Some people wear jeans, while others have on suits. There are swarms of happy, colorful children. There are loving and sweet couples of all persuasions. Mentally handicapped and homeless folk sit in the front row and shout “Praise God” at the most inopportune times. Everyone keep smiling. There is a feeling at this church that I’ve never experienced before — one of complete and total acceptance. I swear this is where Jesus would go to church if he swung by Phoenix on the Resurrection Tour.

simple soup for a day of meditation

A couple weeks ago I asked Jeff if he had any reading recommendations for Lent, which begins today — Ash Wednesday. He suggested “Traveling Mercies” by Anne Lamott. I read it in two days, aching when I had to put it down to work, sleep, drive, etc. I’d never read anything by Lamott prior and I fell for her style. This memoir about her faith emphasizes the importance of accepting your imperfections because “focusing on that last 5 pounds is just really such a waste of time when you could be enjoying a Coke and Oreos.”
Lamott made me laugh:
“I always imagined when I was a kid that adults had some kind of inner toolbox, full of shiny tools: the saw of discernment, the hammer of wisdom, the sandpaper of patience. But then when I grew up I found that life handed you these rusty bent old tools — friendships, prayer, conscience, honesty — and said, ‘Do the best you can with these, they will have to do.’ And mostly, against all odds, they’re enough.”

giant jar o soup

She made me recognize a battle I didn’t realize I was fighting:
“You could be all the traditional feminine things — a mother, a lover, a listener, a nurturer — and you could also be critically astute and radical and have a minority opinion that was profoundly moral. You could escape the fate of your mother, become who you were born to be, and succeed in the world without having to participate in traditionally male terms — without hardness, coldness, one-upmanship, without having to compete and come out the winner.”

so they know what they are eating

In a chapter where I couldn’t stop crying, Lamott talks about losing her best friend to cancer and going to sea to spread her ashes.
“I tossed a handful of Pammy’s into the water way out past the Golden Gate Bridge during the day, with her husband and family, when I had been sober several years… Ashes are deeply contradictory — they are both so heavy and so light. They’re impossible to let go of entirely. They stick to things, to your fingers, your sweater. I liked my friend’s ashes off my hand, to taste them, to taste her, to taste what was left after all that was clean and alive had been consumed, burned away. They tasted metallic, and they blew every which way. We tried to strew them off the side of the boat romantically, with seals barking from the rocks on short, under a true-blue sky, but they would not cooperate. They don’t. They cling, they haunt. They get in your hair, in your eyes, in your clothes.”

In reading, I couldn’t help but take a look at my own expectations of perfection. I have been hearing, “You are too hard on yourself.” “You are anal, aren’t you?” “Wow. Miss Type A. Nice to meet you.” since my mother had me placed in kindergarten at age four, because I could be in first grade by five, so why wait? There is beauty in imperfection. Today, I officially resign as chairwoman of the perfection committee. I’ve got Oreos to eat.


P.S. CAOK III kicks off today. Read more about the Calculated Acts of Kindness Campaign and if you decide to play along, please consider posting your photos here.

There Will Be Prizes

tiny, cast iron pots

I’ve been incredibly lazy about sewing and knitting lately. I temporarily have a roommate and am without an art studio — now a guest room.* My craft supplies are crammed in closets and tucked in long Tupperware containers under my bed. Instead I’ve been feeding my domestic drive by cooking up a storm and have some new recipes I’d like to try. I could use some advice:
~Have you ever made keffir? Or your own yogurt?
~Have you ever cooked barley? What is your favorite recipe?

When I do pull out my knitting needles, I’ve been commissioned to make another Nudu cap. Woot! I need some help with this too, considering my knitting books are in a storage box.
~Do you have a quick pattern for a beanie/skull cap knit with bulky yarn?

Internets, show me some love and help a girl out. In return, I’ll pick a couple commenters for hand-sewn prizes. I’m thinking Spring aprons and recipe books.


* {I am really enjoying having a roomie after living alone for several years. She even has cats. And don’t tell anyone, but I kinda like one of them. Okay, maybe two. Don’t ask how many there are. Okay, there are five. Yes, I am currently living with 5 furballs and a lovely South African emigre.}

Simmer Down Now

cast iron

I’ve got a new kitchen tool I’m loving — le cast iron skillet. Don’t ask why it took me so long to make the $15 investment, but I’m not turning back, ever. It is so sturdy and cooks evenly. Plus, it weighs a ton and can be used as a self-defense tool if necessary.

cast iron love

Thanks for your excitement and curiosity about TDH. It was nice to see him, and he too had a great laugh at the bird poop incident. Alas, with an African plane ticket in hand, he is geographically undesirable.

simmer down now

So many cute boys, so much time…