Let’s Start Over, Shall We?

Mexican poppies in the shadows
New start
A time for new beginnings
A little light

One of the many reasons I love Holy Week, Spring and Easter is that it is a time to wipe the slate clean and start over. I’m taking an internal inventory this week, coming up with some new life plans and trying to take quiet time to truly listen to my faith and be in conversation with God. I feel like these Mexican poppies — full of life, not quite yet open, uncertain of what lies ahead but willing to turn my face to the sun with faith that it will all work out for the best.

Happy first day of Spring to all,

Holy Week Road Trip

I drove to Nogales, Arizona yesterday to work for the day. Although the health project I was there to observe is on both sides of the border, I wasn’t able to cross to Mexico because I forgot my passport. (Such a consummate professional.) Regardless, we wouldn’t have been able to cross because the lines each direction for those walking was three hours and longer if you were going by car. I didn’t have six hours total to observe, much less just that for a silly queue. Needless to say these new passport-for-Mexico-travel rules are slow-going in the effective implementation department. I can only imagine how businesses on both sides of the border are hurting with decreased traffic.
Instead, I spent my time visiting with our health project workers and catching up with the progress we are making in these poor communities. It was an exceptionally fulfilling day professionally.

On the way home, I stopped at the Mission of Tumacacori and the Mission of San Xavier del Bac. First up, San Xavier:

San Xavier Mission is being refurbished
San Xavier, getting a face lift
San Xavier cathedral
The saints inside San Xavier
the last supper, san xavier
sunlight on a saint
bells at San Xavier

This church is everything you’d imagine a Spanish cathedral in the middle of the Arizona desert on an Indian reservation to be. It is starkly beautiful, ornate and mind boggling. It is surrounded by poverty you cannot imagine being “American.” Nonetheless, it is a very pretty building and I am glad we stopped. It was a great place to sit down for a few minutes, collect my thoughts from the day and refuel spiritually during Holy Week.


Hippity Hop for the Peeps

Bunny cards
That time of year again
Cut out bunnies

Flowers are blooming, bunnies are prepping for a busy weekend of egg-hiding, and I’m sending out lots of CAOK correspondence to celebrate all things Spring. If you were to receive an Easter basket, what would you want included? (I may be considering party treats for community dinner participants this week, so think small and economic.)

Hope your week is going well Peeps,

P.S. Peeps (the candy) gross me out. So do Cadbury Eggs. Ew. What is that sticky center all about anyway? Anyone else totally repulsed by the idea of eating fake egg yolks? My favorite Easter sweet, hands down, is malt balls. Whenever I have anything with malt (which is best in small quantities, such as one plastic egg-full), it reminds me of Easter egg hunts with my brother around our childhood home’s backyard. We ate way too much candy in the yard before racing back inside to have sick stomachs at the brunch table, because nothing says resurrection of the Savior like a giant bunny leaving mystery candies in the yard. Right Santa?

P.P.S. Thanks again Barbara for the new stamps!

Later Gators. Or Cats.

Packaged up and ready to go
Adios gatos

The kitties are on their way to Canada.

Morag's going away

I am going to miss their mom, Morag. She’s been an excellent roommate. That said, I have a feeling she’ll be home in Arizona again soon enough.
We surprised her this weekend with a great going away party at San Tan Flats. Have you ever been there? It is officially in Egypt (out by the San Tan Mountains, through a sea of suburbia in Queen Creek and Gilbert) and takes a quarter tank to reach from Tempe, but is worth the drive. The burgers are excellent, the music is pretty good and it is a fun atmosphere. They have fire pits where you can roast marshmallows after dinner and their strawberry margaritas aren’t too bad either.
I’ve got to have a dinner party out there one of these nights. It reminds me of the old school Raw Hide, for those Arizona natives.


An Anniversary, as I Understand it

We entered this version of the Iraqi war five years ago this week. No one could have guessed (although I’m pretty sure we pay a couple branches to do just that) how miserable the last 60 months would pass. Initially, it seemed like we’d made the best choice by invading Iraq. Americans were still smarting from 9/11 and looking for a culprit to blame. Our leaders told us those villans were in Iraq; we’d find them there. We’d have our justice. We nodded, like scared sheep and laughed at the pacifics. There would be blood and we would enjoy it.

The statues of Saddaam came down. The Iraqi people, Shia and Sunni alike, partied in the street praising Allah that the violent, horrific Hussein tenure was finally finished. In the US, we waved flags, patted ourselves on the backs, praised the administration for a job well done. Alas, the celebration was premature. Saddaam was found in a hole. We watched him assassinated months later. His sons were killed too. Some how we knew these deaths were not our justice, but we celebrated them anyway.
In the meantime, the Shia and Sunni remembered why they weren’t too keen of each other’s views. They retreated to their prospective neighborhoods and came up with a plan: survival meant killing the other. The US was suddenly in the position of courting men we’d never wanted to have a relationship with. Iraqis turned on each other. They turned on the US soldiers trying to create a government and stabilize the region. The Kurds pushed north, strengthening their own communities and trying desperately to stay beneath the radar until they could sharpen their claws against their No. 1 enemy — Turkey.

We watched. Initially, CNN was on every television and news radio drowned out Musak in elevators, the dentist office, the convenience store. But when one year turned into two, we became accustomed to the death and violence of war. It was still disgusting, but not as horrifying as it had been in 2001. Subconsciously, we were disgusted with ourselves. We watched great men fall for the government’s lies and have their careers ruined in the process. Instead of taking to the streets and rioting like other democracies around the world, we went on a shopping spree. We made ourselves feel better at a real estate buffet, borrowing until we couldn’t borrow anymore. Now, five years later, we’re tapped. The war is still killing boys and girls from our hometowns. Iraqis are still understandably upset that they have some of the world’s richest land and yet cannot get a steady government in charge to do anything to protect their resources. Bank runs, democratic candidates tearing each other apart by the limb, and a war that continues to rage — the news is no longer entertaining. We’ve switched from The Economist to US Weekly and hate ourselves for it, but the enemies are much easier to understand in Hollywood.

To the soliders of the United States and all the other countries in the world who’ve selflessly served in this war — my thanks. I am so grateful I live in America and I am incredibly and deeply touched that you are fighting to promote liberty. I have to think that is why we are there; even as the bodies stack up, I have to think the United States had and has good intentions and we are in Iraq and Afghanistan because we want the world to be better tomorrow.

To Iraq, I am sorry we haven’t done a better job of stabilizing your country. I’m sorry this war has taken so long and that so many of your innocents have died in the process. I am sorry that Americans seem bored by the violence that plagues your daily lives. I have hope we’ll be celebrating the incredible economy and stability of your country in five years to come.

That is an anniversary I’ll celebrate.

Passport Menu

Appetizer platter

Appetizer inspired by the Mideast. Fruit, medjool dates, tahini, soft cheese, crackers, nuts.

Medjool dates, tahini, laughing cow

Medjool dates are my very favorite dessert.

African peanut soup

First course inspired by Africa: spicy peanut soup, served over brown rice with peanuts for garnish.

Ginger chicken with seasame and spinach

Dinner included ginger chicken with spinach and sesame, salad, and steamed veggies — a combination of Thai and American influence.

Shortbread center
shortbread... now where is Strawberry?

Dessert was two varieties of shortbread, via Scotland. Morag’s roots are African and Scottish, although she is living in America and moving to Canada. I think her bon voyage community dinner reflected her global hopping well.


Les Chats

Even in French, they are still just cats. Jen, by your request, a few of the furry ones who’ve been living in my tiny home.


Jazz, the troublemaker.


Molly, who likes to cuddle. And sleep on top of the fridge. And scratch at my door at 2 am.

Angel, camera shy

Angel, who is slowly but surely eating her own leg because she’s stressed about moving to Canada next week.

Fudge, the favorite

And Fudge, my favorite. He likes to just chill in the window and I’d consider keeping him around. He’s pretty sweet.

Fudge's feet are giant, with 12 toes

Plus, he’s got 12 toes, so we bonded over both having giant feet.

Sweet baby
Angel and Fudge

Ah, the life of a cat. There is one more around here, but Mulligan isn’t fond of having his photo taken apparently.


A Step Back from Stepford

hooray for frozen beer

I’d be remiss if I let this whole Spitzer thing pass without throwing in my two cents. And those two cents would be spent as follows:
1. Dragging his wife from the podium where she keeps “standing behind her man” into reality to remind her that hey! Silda! You were a very successful attorney before you married this clown and had three kids with him. (All daughters, naturally.) He just spent $80,000 on a 105-pound hooker. When was the last time you spent $80,000 on yourself? Now is the time honey. Now is the time. (And I’m not just talking lawyer fees. We’ll let him cover those. Mkay?)

2. Seriously? Hookers? Eliot, didn’t you get the memo? A quarter of American girls have an STD. And if you think your waspy wanker is protected because these girls you are paying to spend time with are “high end,” you’d be wrong. Oh, and by the way, thanks again for your excellent leadership. You, my friend, are an immoral moron. A pox on your house. Oh wait…

Yes, PapPap and Grandma, I did just use the term “waspy wanker.” No, please don’t call me about it. I have my days too and this latest political scandal has me rather annoyed. It may be because once upon a time I dated a man who worked in government and had his eye on bigger politics (there by putting me in the role as that glassy-eyed doe with a Stepford zip code). Really though, I just think it’s the fact that some how this keeps happening and the women, the dedicated wives, keep looking like the idiots. Is power corrupting? Or are these fools immoral before they get into office?


genius freezing plan

P.S. I froze beer. No idea if this ruins the yeast, but I’m hoping it works for future loaves of no knead bread. Now I don’t have to run out and buy a 40 in a ghetto koozie every time I want to bake bread.

Sewing and Swimming

mini cheesecake

My roommate is moving next week to Canada and taking the five kitties with her. I’ll miss her company, although I am still not a “cat person.” Give me a Saint Bernard any day. I just don’t know what to do with cats, other than vacuum behind them regularly. I’ve thought about getting another roommate because the additional rent money is quite nice, but I need some time to sew. And knit. And do things outside of the kitchen. Next week the guest room will be transformed into my art studio once more and I’ll have to rely on the kindness of friends to feed me. I’ll be too busy with my Singer to mess with my skillet.

mini strawberry cheese cake

This week I’m busy making mini cheesecake for my neighbor, reading, hiking and preparing for Spring sports. Yesterday I signed up for $320 worth of events in March, April and May. (See? roommate money put to good use.) I’ll be competing in the Masters swimming state meet in Tucson in a couple weeks, a 2.4 mile open-water swim in Tempe, a few Splash and Dash events and a couple triathlons. With all of these events lined up, my workouts have become more disciplined and focused. I’m not just exercising because I love it but because I have dreams of winning the Splash and Dash series. And maybe the mile event at the state swim meet. Oh, that would be fun! Having swam in my brother’s shadow for nearly my entire life (you know, until he quit swimming and I just had coaches remind me ever so often that I was “Cody’s sister!! Is he still swimming?”) I am the one competing these days. The fact that even though he hasn’t swam in years and could more than likely still beat me in the pool in a sprint doesn’t bother me at all. Really. That said, I’d probably have to rescue him during the 2.4 mile race. I’ve always been more of a distance athlete. If nothing else, maybe that chip will fall off my shoulder during that mile swim. Ha!


Perfect Combination

A little more than three dollars at Whole Foods

I went to a friend’s house for dinner last night; he’s been attending the community dinners and has said more than once that he loves my chocolate cake and really enjoyed those Brussel sprouts. With that in mind, I headed out to the market to buy a few supplies for my addition to the dinner menu: the ever so popular combination. (What? You didn’t have this for dinner?)

dinner greens
the sprouts of brussels, halved
lemon cubes
cube of sunshine
simmering away

Garlic & Lemon Brussel Sprouts:
Take one pound of Brussel sprouts, wash and half. In a skillet, brown 1 diced onion and 3 cloves of garlic with a dash of olive oil. Add Brussel sprouts and 1 cup of white wine and lemon juice to your liking. Let this simmer for 10-15 minutes. Add a dash of salt and pepper before serving.


As for the cake, I added flax seeds, yogurt and apple sauce in a silly attempt to make a boxed mix healthy. It was still good and those who ate their vegetables enjoyed a nice fat slice.