How Does Your Garden Grow?



My Calculated Acts of Kindness campaign this year has a food theme — which with passions for cooking and gardening works well. As a advocate for local food banks and an end to hunger, it’s exciting to think how we can each make a few small changes to improve the food security of our neighborhoods. For example, did you know the average tomato in America travels 1500 miles to get from the garden to your table? Not to mention, spending 400 gallons of gasoline in the process.

Needing some structure

And so, we plant. We make a commitment to dig up some patch of earth or fill a giant pot, and we drop in a few seeds. Through nurturing the earth, we reconnect with the precious process of watching nature slowly transform into a warm tomato off the vine that makes us wonder how we ever put up with those waxy, off-color mutants we’ve been eating from Kroger’s.  In the process of growing, we plant an extra row with intention and give to those who are hungry. The Plant a Row program (PAR) was created to add additional produce to food bank shelves nationally. It’s been going strong for 15 years and could use that extra row of beets, onions, carrots or potatoes now more than ever.


Perhaps you are reading this in Minneapolis or Canada or some other far away freezing locale and rolling your eyes and growing tomatoes for others when you’d kill for a bit of sunshine yourself. This doesn’t have to happen today. Your summer will be lovely. While I’m curled up in the fetal position praying to the air conditioning Gods to get through an Arizona heat wave, you’ll be skipping through the tulips. The grass is always greener, but hunger is hunger regardless of your zip code. It doesn’t matter when you plant. Just plant.

Mystery plants

And if you are thinking that you don’t know heads or tails about how to grow your own food, much less the difference between organic, all-natural and locally grown — oh, do I hear you. Gardening is like any other hobby. It can be exceptionally intimidating and the challenges can easily send you running the other direction. This is my very first garden and my thumbs are still black as night. But! Again, like any other hobby — it gets easier with a bit of practice and experiment. Seeing it done with your own eyes always makes doing something new easier for me. If you can show me and I can ask questions, I can figure out just about anything, including how to turn a handful of seeds into a basket of great food.  Or so I hope…

For local folk, come out to Superstition Farms on Saturday, March 7, 2009 from 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.  Enjoy Arizona’s Ag Day’s 29th year with a $1 Farmers’ Share Lunch, petting zoo, dairy tour, hayrides,,


Viva le compost!
How does my garden grow? Optimistically, of course.  What will you grow to share?


CAOK 2009

Little birdie

For the last few years, I’ve promoted doing calculated acts of kindness during Lent. Today is Ash Wednesday, and so the fun and secrecy of COAK begins.


The idea behind COAK is to spread anonymous kindness in your community. This may start with family and friends and spread to previously unknown neighbors, strangers, etc. There have been some pretty amazing CAOK projects in the past and I’m certain this year will be no different.


I’ve received some pretty horrendous email and comments about COAK in the past, if you can imagine. Some folk seem to find the project a lame attempt at self-glorification. Needless to say, secretly doing good acts to brighten someone else’s day does make me feel good. Actually, it makes me feel incredibly powerful and really, really happy to be bringing someone else joy — no matter how minor the act may be. Talking about those acts here is a way of encouraging others to hold the door open, put a few extra coins in a needy meter, leaving a hefty tip at the coffee shop and writing a love letter or two to your aging grandparents.

If that’s selfish, so be it. I absolutely love the clean slate Lent brings, giving us a chance to take a closer look at how we can be better versions of ourselves and providing a perfect opportunity to do so. I have a lengthy list of changes being made and kind acts being calculated. I’d be honored if you came along for the journey.



2-7-09: Front Veggie Garden Planted

I’ve taken on a new community project that I am really excited about. It was mentioned at church a few months ago that our conference is pushing for facilities to become more “green.” Considering our church was built nearly 100 years ago, the windows leak, the roof could certainly use solar panels and we could probably do a better job of recycling. One thing we do have going for us is a lot of land and grandfathered water rights via regular irrigation.

When the community garden idea was mentioned, I jumped. I formed a committee of local folks I thought would be interested in having a stake — including a refugee organization nearby that is looking for land for their clients to use, a hunger organization trying to find new methods of helping those in need and a local Green Guru who I’ve admired from afar for many years. We are quickly making progress. This weekend we decided after surveying the land to start with a citrus orchard, and transplant several date palms shooting from the mama, which came from a seed brought back by a congregant who’d visited Israel. This week I’m making tree cut-outs to sell after service Sunday. For $25, anyone interested can buy a citrus tree for the orchard. They can come to help plant them in the next couple of weeks and eventually help pick the fruit — if they are interested. Or, they can just give a bit of  “seed money” to help support the project.

Eventually, the garden will also include a dozen 3’x4′ plots that we’ll divy among refugee families, community members and anyone from the church who wants to garden too. The fruit from the orchard, which will eventually include peach and fig trees too, and the vegetables from the church plots will, in theory, be given to hungry families in the congregation and the area. This church sits in a not-so-ideal section of town, so hunger is an issue — especially for produce.

I’ve been talking/planning/dreaming of a large space to garden for years. While the opportunity to buy a larger home for just such a reason hasn’t yet presented itself, this incredible stroke of luck has. In the process, we’ll get to know those who live near the church, introduce refugees and congregants and hopefully get some good, organic and nutritious food to those who need it most. If you live in the Phoenix area and are interested in getting involved, the more the merrier! We’d love to have your support and your elbow grease to see this grassy lot turn into something much more beautiful.

Happily, I’ll be posting the progress as we plant these seeds!


Get Crackin’

Lots of cracking

My mom used to tell my brother, “It’s time to get crackin’!” when we were dragging. I thought of her this weekend when making the breakfast for the masses.


Phyllo -- the ultimate short cut

Thankfully, Rebecca added several great suggestions, including bacon and fruit. She sent her husband over with two large bags of oranges and grapefruit and encouraged me to fry up some piggie to go along with the eggs.


Kitchen scene

Breakfast for the masses

Egg cups

Thankfully, I don’t have photos cooking the bacon. So, let me just paint you a brief, gruesome picture. Me, leaning over a skillet, watching these strips start to crackle and pop, telling the woman next to me, “I’ve never cooked this before!” when BAM! Bacon grease starts going bananas and I really regret wearing a v-neck t-shirt. The burns weren’t bad, but stung enough to strengthen my resolve that pork is disgusting. Ew.

That said, guess what they loved most? The bacon.

Breakfast for the masses:

48 eggs

2 packages of phyllo dough

1 container of half & half

2 cups grated cheese

2 bags of fruit

2 pounds of bacon

{Another woman from the church brought coffee, juice and toast.}

Total cost to feed 45? $32.  Giddyup.


Sweet & Sour



— I hurt my neck this week lifting weights and am finally feeling better. Amazing how easy it is to take our health for granted until you are immobilized and in a silly amount of pain. Three cheers for the power of Aleve, massage and heating pads.

— I am volunteering to feed a group of 45 visiting church officials who are in Phoenix this weekend for a conference. Tomorrow I’m making breakfast for the crew. If I can do community dinner for 20, I can do eggs and bacon for 45 — right?

— Spending time with my little garden has brought new joy to my life. I spent a few extra minutes out there this morning before work, watering my tomatoes, encouraging the lush bunch of beets and cajoling the cilantro to last a wee bit longer. I’m officially a happy hippie in the gardening department — and the crazy girl who talks to her plants.

— Started Ultimate frisbee this week (which I can only imagine is MUCH more enjoyable without the throbbing pain of trying to keep your head upright) and my team is rad. Truly, 100% rad. They aren’t obnoxiously competitive. They aren’t jerks. They aren’t frisbee hogs. In fact, not only did I get to touch the frisbee in the first game, but I scored. And the team was screaming, cheering and encouraging all the girls the entire time. Love it!

Citrus season


— Whomever leaked the photo to the media of a beaten and bruised Rihanna should be ashamed. She may be a radio star, but in this case she is also a domestic violence victim and it is not at all cool that we can all see her misery.  Truly, horrifically shameful.

— Elitism in the United States. I must say, I have a distinctly sour taste in my mouth when it comes to those who think their power puts them ahead of the rules. We’ve recently been bombarded with ugly examples of the elite run amok: Madoff, the new Stanford investment guy, A-Rod, Ted Haggard, the Illinois governor and now the senator too, half of the originally nominated cabinet for Obama’s administration who couldn’t serve because they don’t pay their taxes, etc. It is gross and frankly — not American. This deceitful, selfish behavior could not be less patriotic.

And so, today, with this tangy and tart combination — one can only hope for a bit better of a world. Let’s hope this weekend brings renewed strength to remember what makes us a great nation, and the characteristics that we need now more than ever. This recession is a great time for us to pull together, meet our neighbors, help those in greater need and remember the morals and strengths that truly do make us great — even if only the off-kilter clowns get the press.



Baby Bee

Lounge Pants for Susie

Latest pair of lounge pants

I have a friend who is pregnant, and in true community spirit, we are all praying and cheering and rooting for this baby to arrive healthy, happy and talking about what an amazing stork ride he just had. In trying to honor the privacy of the situation, I’ll just say this — she and her husband have had a gut-wrenching, heart-breaking series of experiences in trying to start a family. They are both amazing folk, the type of people you just know were meant to share their love and joy with a child. As their friend, it has been so hard to watch them suffer. I have spent many a day crying with and for them.

And so, when they became pregnant and she asked for a pair of comfy lounge pants to wear as she hangs around the house, waiting for the sweet arrival of this babe and watching her tummy grow — I knew the project needed to be just right. I selected this bee fabric because, simply, they are a symbol of fertility. They are yellow because you can’t be anything but hopeful in pants that remind you of a warm, sunny day. They are drawstring because that baby is growing, turning and kicking away and this champ is going to need a lot of room.

So — if you pray, or believe in vibes or karma or whatever you want to call it — I would really appreciate you sending lots of great thoughts to my friend and her husband. When this baby is born, we are going to throw one heck of a party. I cannot wait to tell him how cherished he’s always been and how lucky he is to have these great parents.



Roasted Roots

My new cooking obsession is making root vegetable fries and having them come out crispy. I’ve yet to master this. However, the practice has been fun. In this batch, I took four large sweet potatoes and two turnips. I coated them with a bit of olive oil, cumin, cinnamon and cayenne and roasted them at 350 for 45 minutes. Then I broiled them for 5. The only reason I took them out after five minutes was a couple may have caught on fire…

Little bit of smoke never ruined a fry — or an afternoon.

Also? My first time using the broiler I realized it’s like a boiling pot — best not to walk too far away.

The end of winter is the perfect time to enjoy these sweet root veggies. What’s your favorite seasonal dish of the moment?



Phat Quarters

Picked up my sewing machine Friday afternoon and it works better now than when I bought it 12 years ago. Seriously. I am embarrassed I complained about having to take it in! And while the clerk was finding it in the back, I took a quick stroll through the aisles of gorgeous fabric. If you are in Phoenix, you know our local fabric selection is lackluster at best. But this shop was anything but the cartoon print material you’d find at Wal-Mart. {35th Ave Sew & Vac on Ray and Rural in Chandler}

Also? I met a local blogger for breakfast this weekend and it was such a delight. T is so kind, and had some pretty great life advice to share.We’ve been chatting online for a couple years, so it was great to put a face to the name. Funny how relationships are changing with the Internet. I’ve met friends through Twitter, am reconnecting with extended family and high school friends via Facebook, and another friendly blogger is coming to stay with me in a couple weeks for margaritas, pool time and knitting.

Ah, Interwebs, you are so good to me.

This week:

Sewing:: lounge pants for Susie, February CRAFT assignment

Knitting:: Scarf for friend

Cooking: Greek — tabouli, babaganoush, hummus, lamb

Gardening:: Time to harvest the cilantro and onions

Making:: Stamped stationery to refuel the correspondence box at my desk

Missing:: My parents and brother. We need a Spring reunion.

Reading:: Reading Lolita in Tehran Just finished,  A Spot of Bother — 3 bananas. Quite entertaining!


I Love JC


If you can’t tell by the fabulous photo*, that’s me and Jimmy Carter. President Carter was in town for a book signing last night and I managed to drag along some friends to pick up my copy. He looked right at Rebecca and said hello to her pregnant belly! Interestingly enough, we realized standing outside in line beforehand that we were both in utero when he was in office. Nonetheless, we fully enjoyed our brief glimpse of the great. I wanted to talk  peanuts and Habitat for Humanity, but according to the Secret Service, JC didn’t have the time.


*Taken with a crap Blackberry camera, hence the blur. Regardless, I owe this shot to Amanda. Thanks!

Show Some Love

Link love for the day:

1. Matt and Stephanie got word this week, after waiting FOREVER on a list, that they’ll be adopting twin Ethiopian boys! They are 2.5 months old and on their way to their new mommy and daddy. I couldn’t be more thrilled for this great pair! It will be fun to read about their adventures as a family.

{Sidenote: I’ll probably be writing about my own adopted African kids and our adventures as a family one day.}

2. Ms. Candace has joined the bloggy world. She’s a fellow Phoenician and an artist. Stop by to say hello!

3. Finny is suddenly speaking German. What in the world?

4. This Dude hosts community dinners every Sunday in Paris for the first 50 who reserve on his web site. Seriously. J’taime dude. J’taime.