11–20 of 29 entries from the month of: May 2009

Creating a New Culture

May 20th

Cheesy Smiles

Like minds

I am feeling a bit redundant around here lately; gardening! sewing! cooking! happiness! — plus the occasional buffalo.

It dawned on me yesterday how foreign I’m feeling in this culture; also, this is why the craft/travel/cooking/faith blog community makes me feel so reassured. When watching the occasional television show, or browsing magazines at the airport, I notice how wildly different my values are. I am not sure who Heidi and Spencer are, or why they seem to be in every “women’s interest” magazine. I’ve learned they are the products of brief fame via reality TV. At least with sports figures, we can justify our adoration by their talents. What exactly do these two give to American culture, other than heaps of ridiculous photos?

I had a fairly lengthy conversation with Jessica and Shelley about my irrational dislike for  socialites. Ultimately, I don’t understand why anyone would want to accept the life handed to them without trying to make it their own. If I were an heiress, you’d better believe I’d have studied at an Ivy league and be doing something worthwhile. The last thing I’d want to do is wander southern California with a Starbucks cup in one hand and no ambition in the other — like the swarms of other trust fund, glassy-eyed, underfed girls my age.  Not to mention if I had that kind of fashion budget, I’d never be caught in dirty sweats, barefoot at the coffee shop. (An entirely different post.) My God, what I’d do with that fashion budget…

And so, from this browsing, I bought a copy of The Atlantic, read a fascinating article about a happiness study conducted at Harvard and was amazed how 5,000 words and no papparazzi photos later, I felt like I’d actually gotten my $6 bucks worth. I’m not turning my nose up at gossip magazines, reality television or living a fast food lifestyle. To each is own. It’s just not mine. The older I get, the more I find my joy in living a simple life, the harder it is becoming to relate. Imagine if we had the papparazi following Mugabe and Castro and the future of their countries interested us in the same way? If you could drive through a fast food restaurant and get a great, organic salad for $5. If we celebrated teachers and education the way we do starlets and fame.

Have you ever felt this way?

Thankfully, I’ve got similarly minded friends and a faith that reminds me regularly of the virtues of frugality, simplicity and finding joy in experiences not things.  If the Internets is good for anything, it is bringing together people who share similar values and interests — whether they are baking your own bread and moving to a commune or cackling at the fashion faux pas of the rich and famous.

If you wouldn’t mind — I’d appreciate hearing your opinion on American culture. Where do you find yourself recoiling? Where do you find yourself jumping in with both feet?


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Happy Hippie, Journal
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May 19th

To be fried!

I am very happy to be home. I love adventuring, but what sweet satisfaction there is to clean pajamas and your own pillow after a long day of travel. I was even happier to be greeted at the front door by vines full of red, ripe tomatoes. The garden has accepted the recent spike in heat by bursting with watermelon sprouts, sunflowers arching toward the sky and basil shimmering with new leaves. We’ll see how long the garden, along with my refreshed spirit, stay lively instead of shrinking into a heat-induced stupor.

In lieu of my annual summer trip to Africa or South America, I’m digging in around here — staying focused with local work and the community garden. To keep my creativity happily fed, I’m considering these:

This dress, perhaps in this fabric


– Gorgeous, handmade felt dolls with embroidery


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May 17th

The fastest way to find wildlife in Yellowstone is to first locate the gaggle of humans. This rare specie will more than likely have a camera way too powerful for their own good, a giant RV, and potentially be wearing Hello Kitty (which I didn’t realize they made in adult sizes.)

When approaching such animals, I highly recommend toning down the cynicism and instead asking such brilliant questions as, “So, what are you guys looking at?” and “What’s up?”

LOTS of Wild Animals

In this case, they were staring at a buffalo that had been recently taken down by a pack of wolves. Other animals were circling, waiting to feed. Also, a bald eagle was in a tree.

Dead buffalo

That teeny tiny brown dot in the river is the poor buffalo.

Black Bear

That teeny tiny black dot in the tree is a bear. Thankfully, another gaggle of tourists helped us with this sighting. I have no idea why the bear was in the tree, but he sat there for quite a while, occasionally moving his head. I later saw what I think was a grizzly, but it very well could have been a quick buffalo at a distance.


These antelope were everywhere. We managed to see some big horn sheep today too. Even though I like to come across as someone who could handle any sort of outdoorsy adventure thrown my way, I was a little worried this Yellowstone trip wasn’t going to be my thing. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

If Bullwinkle were a girl

Down to a Bullwinkle, we saw just about everything.

Pretty much the prettiest place I've ever been

We even managed to get in a good hike and at 7,000+ feet, my little heart was racing. We’ve thoroughly conquered this park and seen just about as much of it as I imagine humanly possible in such a short period. I can’t wait to return.

Next time, I’ll learn to fly fish. I’ll bring a tripod. I’ll spend lots of time staring and the stars and certainly spend more time on my feet and outside of a car. I’ll spend gobs of time in the Lamar Valley, one of the most gorgeous places I’ve ever been.

Montana: A+.


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Happy Hippie, Journal, Travel
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Where the Buffalo Roam

May 16th

Smiley American breakfast

European Breakfast

My breakfast vs. Shelley’s. Are you kidding me? A day in Yellowstone and all you are having an English muffin? Bring on the carbs. And the eggs. And the smiley. (Jess ate the pork.)

Roosevelt Gate

My blog's new motto

Or jellystone

Shell and me, hanging

The Roosevelt Gate at the entry of the park. A sign of the great things to come during the day, including many a “nature” sighting.

Lady elk





Bubbling geysers!


Is it wrong this makes me want a burger?

Hello cute baby buffalo!


Mama and baby buffalo

And even better, baby buffalo!

Peeps waiting for Old Faithful

Every 90 minutes

Come on already

Little bit o' steam

Bubbling up


Working the geyser

Old Faithful

Girls at Old Faithful

Look ma!

Look, Mom! Old Faithful. It was actually much quieter than you’d expect, especially considering how many people sat on bleachers waiting for this gurgling geyser to do its thing.


Truly the highlight of the day — a wolf! Amazing. We later saw a coyote, but this sighting was truly majestic.




We ended our adventures at the Chico Hot Springs, soaking with margaritas in hand. I am thoroughly catching up on some much needed rest and am more relaxed at the moment than I’ve been in months. Thank heavens for this fantastic vacation. Tomorrow we’ve got our eyes set on the Lamar Valley where according to a local lead, “Bears roam on the side of the road.” We’ll see.

Later gators

Off to enjoy the Montana nightlife — dinner, gin and tonics, a jacket and a set of swings over looking the river on a starry night.


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Home on the Range

May 15th

Lincoln Logs

Yippie I O


Yellowstone River

Road trip food

Comfy room Trail Mix Montana Style

Sweet friends

The road trip after landing in Billings was a sugar-fueled 120 miles. Apparently we all have vacation mode that means lots of Diet Coke and Red Vines. Thankfully, our little room in Gardiner is as amazing as you can imagine, overlooking the Yellowstone River. Kayakers just went by and I am pretty sure the three pair of sandals I brought weren’t the best idea.

Snow. In May. Who knew? That said, today was the 13th day with temperatures higher than 100 in Phoenix and I’m currently wearing a coat. Life in Montana — giddyup.


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May 15th






Rebecca and Matt are having their first baby any day now and you can feel the excitement in our group. Mini’s three boys and Shay’s sweet girl were met with equal enthusiasm.  I cannot describe how fun it is to be a part of this.  Bec’s been my friend since second grade.  She met her husband on my 21st birthday. Her parents, sisters, neices and nephews are my family too.  And so, I am regularly moved to tears when I see her now, knowing how cherished and fabulous this child will be. Not to mention, the nursery they’ve created would have Crate and Barrel/Martha Stewart folk taking notes. It is beautiful and sweet and perfect.

For the record, I’ve got May 21st, baby girl, 8 pounds, in the baby pool. Matty’s going for baby boy on the 20th. Mini’s birthday is the 18th, so I am pretty sure she’s pulling for a double birthday. Matt and Rebecca are both born on holidays, so they are hoping for May 25th — Memorial Day to complete the trifecta.

I’m off for the annual Finny/Donk adventure this weekend, with our sweet Shelley home from Rome joining in the fun. So, if this little bird could hold off until Tuesday, that would be fantastic. To encourage such continued nesting, in the middle of the night I delivered a flock of Abraham Owls to cheer on the future Mom and Dad.  Bec’s got a thing for owls; I’ve collected them for her in a dozen countries. Now the wee one will have a cadre of her own.



P.S. The Aussie/African roomie may or may not know how to sew buttons better than me; apparently they teach such life skills at boarding school. He wouldn’t let me take a photo, but he was very helpful and deserves credit for the owlies above.

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May 14th

About Oulipo: it’s short for “Ouvroir de Littérature Potentielle”. “Un ouvroir” is a place where women met to do needlework in the old times but it suggests also more generally a place where people work together, sharing projects and techniques. Ouvroir is a deliciously old-fashioned word which, associated with “littérature”, suggests that people can meet and produce literary work as women did embroidery or lace in the past: chatting happily and having fun, I suppose. The word “Potentielle” refers to something possible in the future or about to happen.

I subscribe to a wordie email where, in part, people debate and discuss meanings and how language is anything but static. When I read this response earlier in the week, it made me smile; it is how I’d love to describe this space.

Where people work together, sharing projects and techniques:

Work it, tractor man

Garden progress!!

Like the garden’s next door neighbor, who happens to have a tractor and happened to have some extra time this week. I cannot thank that man enough. Bravo! The concrete removal, planting and labirynth planning begin this weekend. Families are ready for the earth to be prepared. I am ready for seeds to get in the ground and grow!

Un ouvroir is a place where women met to do needlework:

Mama's dear jane

Mom's dear jane quilt

My mom’s Dear Jane quilt, nearly complete. She’s worked on this for so many years, it is very exciting to see it come together. She’s submitting it to an international quilt fair. Each square, per tradition  of this quilt, has a story she’s carefully recorded. She has a book describing where she was, why she used this fabric, what was happening with our family when each one was created. Amazing, really; an heirloom I’ll cherish.

And, “The word “Potentielle” refers to something possible in the future or about to happen.”

Bringing a little Dutch home



President Obama had me enchanted last night with his speech in Tempe. It was as though a mystical cloud of optimism blanketed the city. He spoke of working as a community, celebrating character vs. celebrity and rejecting the “poverty of ambition.” Indeed. The future may hold sacrifice, hard work and discipline, but it couldn’t be brighter.


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Score One for Sizing

May 13th

Sundress for the Summer

My one giant flaw with sewing is I my spacial abilities are quite poor. Sizing isn’t my forte.  My grandfather once received an apron that went to his toes and wrapped around him nearly twice. I knit those once in style One Skein Wonders for a dozen friends for Christmas one year, only to never see a single one ever worn. I did hear a lot of, “Wow! So cute, and so tiny…” Skirts, usually too big. Rebecca’s pajama pants at Christmas were so large she could stand in one leg. You get the idea.

When I started working on this quick sundress for Delaney, I held the first version up to myself to realize that it fit nearly perfectly. That is, it fit me nearly perfectly and I’m only about a foot taller and 100 pounds larger than this sweet 9 year old. Perhaps I should become more acquainted with my measuring tape.

It fits!

And so, imagine my delight when she put this on and it fit perfectly. Giddyup.


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1960s Housewife

May 12th

may 8 .2 031

may 8 .2 033


Homemade sourdough

I made sourdough from scratch for the first time this weekend, using an Emeril recipe for the starter. My home smelled like a brewery within a couple hours. This yeasty bread sounded, but ended up way to hard. When recipes call for a fancy kitchen mixer with a bread paddle, I make do with that much more kneading.  One day, I’ll have a Kitchenaid (and a kitchen large enough) and a baking stone. It wouldn’t be fun if it came out perfect the first time anyway.

What to do with hard bread?

Turkey bacon

Have you ever seen 1950-1960s cookbooks with the colorful appetizer platters that are so overdone and usually involve deviled eggs? The presentation cracks me up in part because I would imagine the majority of those recipes were the result of incredibly bored housewives enjoying a bit too much of the sauce mid-afternoon.  How else could such nonsense be so entertaining?


From the garden

April Domestic Bliss 2009 010

April Domestic Bliss 2009 011


Without the pearls or the pressed dress and apron (because it was a weekend, not because I’m opposed), I decided to channel my inner 1960s inspiration with BATS — bacon (turkey), avocado and tomato sandwiches. The bread still made these rather difficult to eat, but the Sunday dinner crowd crunched away merrily.

bowling treats

carrot cake with cream cheese frosting

The cupcakes, however, were Goldilocks-right.

I am struggling a bit this week; I think in part it has to do with the severe change in weather. I spend so much of my free time outside — running, swimming, walking, wandering — that when it’s 100+ degrees out, I wilt. The funny thing is, I’ve lived here nearly my entire life. Yet every May, I go through this period of shock that I’m still in Phoenix being burned by my seatbelt and watching my makeup run off my face between home and work. I need a new plan.


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Domestic Art, handmade, Journal, Kitchen Talk
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Bowling With Baby

May 11th

matty's sympathy belly

she bowls, she makes babies

He puts on her shoes

holy devotion

9 months pregant, she bowls!

She bowls

The big Lebowsky

Rebecca celebrates the bowling

may 10 006

Bowling wrapped this weekend, with our team some how taking the league championships. That’s right — I’ve got a bowling trophy on my desk. While the sheer joy of winning was worth attending, watching Rebecca bowl 9 months pregnant was truly oh-my-God entertaining. (Adam’s Big Lebowsky impersonation was a close second.)


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