When the Moon Hits Your Eye…

Calzones before

BBQ Chicken Calzone


NPR’s All things Considered has been featuring recipes this week that will feed a family of 4 for $10 or less. Each day’s recipe is created by some famous chef and I’ve been listening with great interest. When I want to make something inexpensive, beans, pasta or grain come to mind. Bread, really, is the easiest and cheapest thing to make to feed the masses. (The wine and fishes tend to be a bit more expensive these days.) I have eaten more bean and rice dishes living in Mexico and Africa than I care to remember. While I like the occasional pasta or potato dish, if I am going to indulge in carbs, bring on the bread.

Last night I made bbq chicken pizza — in part to encourage Matty’s many “birdies” in his golf tournament today — and used the leftover dough to make calzones. Next time, I’ll brush these with egg whites and a dash of garlic salt. Regardless, the whole wheat dough worked well and soon, the pizza performed a disappearing act.

Pizza for dinner

BBQ Chicken Pizza on whole wheat crust

Digging into the pizza pie

(Nothing says classy entertaining like having guests eating next to your open compost bin. Oy vey. Martha would not be proud.)

When the moon hits your eye...

I make up songs when I’m in the kitchen, especially when cooking Italian. In my very best soprano, I sent Matt and Eliza running into the garden with my rendition of “When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s amore…” They may not have liked the tunes, but appropriately, they loved the pizza.


Like Cricket, but Better

Cafe late, pomegranate, passion fruit

Such promise

Light rail!

The African roommate and I joined a group of friends last night to watch the Diamondbacks get slaughtered by the Cubbies. The adventure started on a great note with frozen yogurt in Tempe and my first ride on the light rail. Come to find out, I’d find the train ride far more entertaining.

Eliza and Ryan

Used to be Bank One Ballpark -- BOB

Running in Sedona Red

We went with a large group and ended up squished at one end of the row. It was hard to socialize and let’s be honest, I don’t go to baseball games to watch the game. It’s about spending time with friends, people watching, making fun of the women wearing heels at a ball park and guessing what the vendors will be selling next, as they bark their way up and down the aisle. Matt had many questions about baseball and unfortunately was sitting next to me.  I was far more interested in talking to my girlfriends than explaining why foul balls are strikes only to a point.

Plus, I’m not so sports smart. I get the basics, but don’t ask me why pitchers in one league have to bat and not in the other. I don’t get it either.

GO Ketchup!

What I do get is the condiment race, where kids dressed like hot dogs race and the entire stadium cheers, “Ketchup!” “Mustard!” “Relish!!” Seeing those little ones in their little buns running as quickly as they can is worth the ticket price alone. Again, how to explain this cultural hiccup? We are a culture in love with food? That’s not news. Better yet —  they are kids. They are dressed like hot dogs. That should be funny in any culture.

It very well may be

Dbacks vs. Cubbies

Ultimately I decided I’d explain American baseball with the best of my eloquence, arrogance and patriotism: it’s like cricket, but better.



homemade ice cream sandwiches

I’ve been reading, “A Natural History of the Senses” and have blushed more than once by this nonfiction account. Without a doubt, this is the sexiest science I’ve read and it has left me with a handful of the oddest observations too:

-Polar bear fur is translucent. They are white because the color of the snow and atmosphere gives the ivory perception.

-Benjamin Franklin loved to write in the nude.

-While two colors cannot occupy the same space without combining, two musical notes can.

homemade ice cream sandwiches

I told you — a very bizarre assortment of fact — but entertaining and fascinating too. Diane Ackerman’s woven prose thoughtfully ties together the senses in ways I’d never before considered.

In “hearing,” regarding drums and flutes being primitive instruments of most cultures:

“Something about the idea of breath or wind entering a piece of wood and filling it roundly with a vital cry — a sound– has captivated us for millennia. It’s like the spirit of life playing through the whole length of a person’s body. It’s as if we could reach into the trees and make them speak. We hold a branch in our hands, blow into it, and it groans, it sings.”

homemade ice cream sandwiches

In “vision,” regarding our lack of sufficient adjectives to describe the complexity of colors:

“The color language of English truly stumbles when it comes to life’s processes. We need to follow the example of the Maori of New Zealand, who have many words for red — all the reds that surge and pale as fruits and flowers develop, as blood flows and dries. We need to boost our range of greens to describe the almost squash-yellow green of late winter grass, the achingly fluorescent green of the leaves of high summer, and all the whims of chlorophyll in between. We need words for the many colors of clouds, surging from pearly pink during a calm sunset over the ocean to the electric gray-green of tornadoes. We need to rejuvenate our brown words for all the complexions of bark. And we need cooperative words to help refine colors, which change when they’re hit by glare, rinsed with artificial light, saturated with pure pigment, or gently bathed in moonlight.”

In “touch,” describing the evolution of the kiss:

“It’s as if, in the complex language of love, there were a word that could only be spoken by lips when lips touch, a silent contract sealed with a kiss. One style of sex can be bare bones, fundamental and unromantic, but a kiss is the height of voluptuousness, an expense of time and an expanse of spirit in the sweet toil of romance, when one’s bones quiver, anticipation rockets, but gratification is kept at bay on purpose, in exquisite torment, to build to a succulent crescendo of emotion and passion.”

And if I haven’t sold you on the beauty of this book quite yet, another favorite line:

“Great artists feel at home in the luminous spill of sensation, to which they add their own complex sensory Niagara.”


{The ice cream sandwiches:  Smelled like cinnamon, dark chocolate, brown sugar. Tasted salty and sweet, with crunchy oats and soft dough. Felt warm and cold, as the vanilla ice cream dribbled between my fingers. Looked fabulous but fleetingly so; they disappeared quickly.

Stay Away Birdies

Ripen up other green friends

What’s that hiding among all the green tomatoes?



Stay away birdies

A tomato grows in Tempe! (And a red one at that.) This weekend I listened to a great podcast discussing the Easter season and gardening — how spiritually clearing the earth and watching it bloom again coincides with the high holiday in the northern hemisphere. Regardless of your spiritual leanings, pretty sure leaving for work on a Monday morning only to find your first ripe tomato ready for the picking is a sign of many good things to come. Now, if only the birds won’t notice the harvest is ready…


abe darby

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I was invited to table at the Old Town Farmer’s Market in Scottsdale today; it was fun to talk a bit about the organization I work for and to meet other nonprofit/gardener/activist folk. There were lots of families roaming the market, many with small children and dogs. The people watching was fabulous and the company of the other vendors was lovely too.

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Of all the gorgeous organic fruits and vegetables for sale, I bought homemade ice cream and a container of medjool dates. Sweet Republic’s “burnt sugar” tastes like crème brulee in a scoop. Their flavors are so creative and fabulous – in part because they use local, fresh produce when making their batches.

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If I’d had another $20 in my wallet, I would have purchased an armful of these roses. The gardener grows them in downtown Phoenix as a hobby; she talked me through the varieties. This is the first bloom of the season for the Abraham Darby rose, my new favorite flower. She said the second bloom will occur in mid-May. I’m going back with a giant vase and a pocket full of cash. {I’ve been back twice to buy African baskets from Abdullah, as many of you requested. He hasn’t been back since.}

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This bunch of flowers appeared a uniform and delicate ivory from a distance. Upon closer examination, they are the palest yellow, purple and pink. I was surprised how much I was taken by their beauty. Fat cabbage and antique roses are simply stunning. Certainly a delightful way to start my morning, surrounded by the sweet scent of spring.


Quilted Earth

With more than an acre of land, a half dozen families from Burundi and a well intentioned group of overly caffeinated volunteers, the community garden plots took bloom today. Actually, without irrigation this week, the rock hard caliche land left us little room to do any significant gardening. Yet we were able to take several truck loads of donated wood, blocks and brick to carefully deliniate the 18 garden plots. Each one is more than 8′ x 15′.

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We had more than 70 seed packets to distribute. I have a feeling this land will soon be full of sunflowers, okra and more melon than we know what to do with.

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A couple local coffee shops provided the first bit of grounds to help turn the land from a sea of Bermuda to something a bit more productive. We are going to need all of Phoenix to up their coffee drinking in the next few months. I thought I’d gathered quite a bit of grounds — not enough for even one plot.

Yet another exercise in learning patience.

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Graciously, Greg came forward to give more than a dozen tools to the community shed. Plus, any excuse I can get to visit the Urban Farm merits the drive. I wandered through his yard of apple trees — heavy with misshapen pale green fruit — and rows of early summer vegetables that look like a heavenly salad bar for any lucky rabbit.

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Trying to make sure each plot is the same size and marked appropriately is a bit more of a challenge than I realized. Come to find out, spacial planning is not my forte. Thankfully, the roommate has a much keener eye. He put us to work and soon enough the earth was lined with recycled materials. Soon the refugees scattered among the plots, selecting the site for their future garden bounty.

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(One might think pick axing the earth without gloves would hurt? One would be right. Then again, my prissy hands were holding the camera and remain splinter and blister-free.)

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It was a beautiful day in the garden and while it will be months until anything significant comes out of this communal space, we made progress today. I am so thankful for the handful of friends who helped and sincerely appreciate the miraculous generosity of those who’ve given seeds, time and money.

Small small catch monkey.




pulpy grapefruit margaritas

Matt once again matches the drinks

I had a few friends over last night to enjoy the spring garden spoils. The grapefruit margaritas were the biggest hit; I liked the collard green wraps. I stole the idea from a restaurant in Scottsdale and then found this handy website to help with the prep. The wraps are sturdy enough to hold steak, beans, guacamole and other vegetables as they did last night — without the gummy flour tortilla getting in the way.

Or, you could follow as Kent did last night and make it a double-decker, using both for a bit of collard green salad inside your wrapped tortilla. With the myriad of produce on the table, one friend commented — “I’ve never even seen some of these vegetables.” Jicama and chayote were to blame. Most of it ended up in the composter, but of course I loved it. His 4-year-old daughter, on the other hand, loved the Cacahuate Brownies — take your traditional recipe and add a bit of cayenne, cinnamon and spicy peanuts.


guacamole in the making


taco fixings

Skirt steak tacos

Crowded dinner table

New friends, old friends, good food, warm evening weather and a walk through the garden after dessert — it was a lovely evening.


Sprightly Spring

Spring Bag

Pocket, tag

Spring bag, open


Spring swing bag

Details: A CAOK gift for a girlfriend: Amy Butler Swing Bag pattern: Decor weight fabric.

It felt incredibly fulfilling to sit down and be creative yesterday. I turned on new music, went through stacks of fabric and fell into a bit of a trance. There should be a word for the feeling of being so content at what you are doing, time slips away unnoticed. Do you ever get lost in what you are doing, only to look up and realize hours have disappeared? It doesn’t happen often, but this luxury is one that can’t go unappreciated.

There was a bit of a deadline to get this project finished; it had been sitting cut on my kitchen table for more than a week. I am having a few friends over for dinner tonight and I’ll need every inch of kitchen/table space available. I’ve got an idea of what I’m making, but nothing is certain other than fruity margaritas. It is the end of the citrus season in Phoenix and my pantry is overflowing with lemon and grapefruit. Also under consideration: skirt steak tacos, pepita green wraps, chips and guacamole and cayenne brownies for dessert. Ole!

{Left on the April-May project list: 25 tote bags for Susie’s sorority, a baby wall organizer for Steph’s adopted Ethiopian babies, aprons for the Sweet Republic ladies, a table runner for Meg,  recycled cashmere sweater stuffed animals for Tiffany/Rory, a wrap skirt for Christy, a pair of “baby blue fingerless gloves” for Delaney, and a neon green sun hat for Madison. There are a couple May birthdays and Mama’s day gifts too. Woo!}


Breaking Bread

Ready for some attention

18 hours later

The loaf has risen

Baking bread

Work it

Learning to knead

Poppy seed bread

A friend wanted to learn to bake bread this weekend; we whipped up a couple loaves of the infamous No Knead variety. I must say, this bread is great for soup but not the best for everyday stuff –like sandwiches. The crust is too hard. I’m going to keep playing with the recipe. I am envisioning a whole wheat nutty loaf that would be good as toast for breakfast or a kick ass hug around some turkey for lunch.

You know who has amazing bread in Phoenix? Wildflower Bread Company. They sent me a $50 gift card this week for some contest I didn’t realize I’d entered, much less won. I highly recommend the sweet potato sandwich. It’s like Thanksgiving on a bun.


{On a completely different note — many of the local gang have asked about the community garden details. This Friday we’ll be planting in the morning and could use your help. Shoot me an email if you want directions and details.}