Thrift Store Chic

Bamboo handles, before

Bamboo handled totes are a perfect fashion note for summer. Last week, I decided to sew a few for girlfriends. With a few minutes to kill before a meeting, I headed into a thrift store to see if I could find any older bags with these handles to recycle for this project. Voila — a $3 find.

Ten minutes later, I’d cut this baby up for the handles, a zipper from an inside pocket and the magnetic clasp. Twenty minutes later, I had a new sweet berry bag to gift this week:

Summer bamboo handled bag

Summer bamboo handled bag

Summer bamboo handled bag

Bamboo handled bag

Recycling at its prettiest.


Pennies Pinched

In lieu of visiting Oregano’s this week for one of my very favorite thin crust pizzas and a glass of chianti, I played around with that pizza dough recipe one more time and came up with something worthy of repeating:

I finally get this crust

Pizza for dinner

I figure I saved at least $40 by searching the pantry for ingredients instead of grabbing my car keys and the roommate for dinner. Plus, this is far from thin crust and therefore made dinner and lunch for two. It was considerably better than the crust I made Saturday. The only difference was the temperature of water I added to the dough. It calls for warm; the first batch’s water was too hot I’d guess. It was much harder to roll out and didn’t rise. This batch, on the other hand, was Goldilocks right. Then again, the roommate isn’t much of a food critic. He likes just about everything.

Sweet heavens, I never thought I’d be able to whip up a yummy pizza crust after work in time for dinner and make it something people would actually want to eat. Thank you again, Finny and my mama, for once upon a time being my domestic inspirations. Plus, there was that completely fulfilling feeling of using tomatoes, basil and rosemary we grew for our own dinner.

Garlic Hummus

Black bean cilantro hummus


Earlier in the week, I made hummus that received a “This is better than that Pita Palace place!” review. It’s Pita Jungle, but who am I to correct with that kind of praise? Thank you kindly. I made my standard garlic hummus and then went a little sassy with black beans and a handful of cilantro for the other. This was like hummus salsa and was so, so good. With a bit of grilled chicken, whole wheat pita, spinach and a splash of Sriracha — dinner is served.

{Btw — Mark Bittman says Sriracha is one of his kitchen staples and I couldn’t agree more. If you like spicy, pick up a bottle. They carry it in the normal, generic grocery stores in Phoenix. Plus, it is so hot all you need is a drop or two.}

This was a good week to stay in and cook from what we had in the pantry. Why? Because I’d much rather spend the dough (dough! ha!) at the beach, where I am escaping this weekend to visit some of my most favorite friends in the world. And now, thanks to a bit of frugal domesticity, I’ve got the cash for wineries in Ojai, pedicures in LA and lots of fun spoiling sweet Roscoe in between.

Happy weekend, friends!



I spent an hour this morning walking around Tempe Town Lake, watching the sun rise over the Superstition Mountains, the wispy white low pressure clouds scatter across the morning sky, a class of white cranes gather the edge of the water, waiting for a slow learning fish to swim by for a tasty breakfast lesson. I was listening not to the hum of traffic on the nearby freeway, nor the heavy engines of airplanes in the flight path above, but to Brother Thay talk about suffering, compassion and meditation as daily spiritual practice.

If you have one free hour this week, this podcast is worth your time. As a Christian, it may be strange to hear me recommend the wisdom of a Vietnamese Buddhist leader, but his vision is human — not denominational. Plus, doesn’t faith give us the ability to listen to leaders of other faiths and determine what we have in common? This teacher has much to share and I found his words healing and motivating. One of my favorite excerpts discusses taking each step with thought, being mindful of each breath:

Sitting in mindfulness, both our bodies and minds can be at peace and totally relaxed. But this state of peace and relaxation differs fundamentally from the lazy, semi-conscious state of mind that one gets while resting and dozing. Sitting in such lazy semi-consciousness, far from being mindfulness, is like sitting in a dark cave. In mindfulness one is not only restful and happy, but alert and awake. Meditation is not evasion; it is a serene encounter with reality. The person who practices mindfulness should be no less awake than the driver of a car; if the practitioner isn’t awake he will be possessed by dispersion and forgetfulness, just as the drowsy driver is likely to cause a grave accident. Be as awake as a person walking on high stilts—any misstep could cause the walker to fall. Be like a medieval knight walking weaponless in a forest of swords. Be like a lion, going forward with slow, gentle, and firm steps. Only with this kind of vigilance can you realize total awakening.

He also talks about how we can, through compassion, help those who are suffering in part by listening. Separating ourselves from ego to help others is a choice we can make toward enlightenment. This thought set off a chain reaction, bringing me back to a conversation I had with a girlfriend this week about how love isn’t an emotion, but a choice. You can say, “oh, I’m so in love” or you can make the choice to never speak poorly of your spouse or children, of showing those around you that your love for your family is profound — speaking vs. living. Through our daily actions, we love. We put our own needs aside to be loving and compassionate perhaps without realizing such choices put us in touch with our spirit.

This is how I want to live — like the thoughtful lion, strong and gentle. I am keenly aware of my ego, how it pops up at the worst of times and floods my mind with feelings of greed, jealousy and impatience. Thankfully, I believe God gives us the tools to recognize our human flaws and the choice  to improve, and to become more wrapped in faith, compassion and love in the process.

He who postpones the hour of living is like the rustic who waits for the river to run out before he crosses. -Horace, poet and satirist (65-8 BCE)



Cordially, Fondly, With Love

africankelli seal

so pretty!

viva la frida

initial stationery

frida's birthday is coming up

packages ready for post

cards for correspondence month

I was the kid at summer camp who always came home with a stack of addresses and managed to write a dozen pen pal letters in the first week, chronicling life in suburban Arizona as though it was dramatically different from the other WASPY childhoods of my new friends.  No surprise my fondness for this form of communication carried forward into adulthood, although my Hello Kitty stickerbook has been updated a bit. I typically start the new year with a fresh address book, making edits to the year’s changes in addresses with a stack of Christmas card envelopes in hand, and adding birthdays for new babies, etc. I keep a running list of birthdays in some attempt to remember as many as possible.

I’ve got plenty of people who think I’m crazy for operating on a pencil/paper system these days, even though my Blackberry is permanently attached to my otherwise technologically savvy self. I like an agenda where I can doodle, make lists, paperclip notes and not worry if I spill my morning coffee. Ink runs, but it doesn’t spark.  Same goes for my address book. It’s a scratchy mess by the end of the year — it seems this is a time of life when most friends hop from rentals to mortgages — but it is my mess and it doesn’t ever need to be in binary code.

And so, every few months, I find stationery and stamps and create a stack of  notes to be posted. In part, I enjoy writing letters because it forces a thoughtful selection of word choice and flow. There are things I’ll discuss at length when writing with pen that I’d never consider sending via gmail. Plus, with email how often do you have a greeting, a point and a kind valediction?  And in part, I write letters selfishly because the sense of opening the mailbox to find something handwritten and personal is the bee’s knees.

I’m adding this to my “list of descriptive words I need to create,” along with the feeling of finding an unexpected love letter. My mom used to tuck notes of love in our lunches on occasion. My dad slipped a letter into my luggage once when I left for a long trip. My grandma regularly sends me letters of love. I’ve even found one or two romantic, sappy and completely exhilirating notes from ghosts of boyfriends past. It isn’t just the words, but the paper and the ability to tuck such sentiment away to be cherished again and again.

I’m in the mood to spend extra time writing letters and connecting with friends. A correspondence month admist an otherwise busy technological world is old fashioned or vintage, quaint or lame, thoughtful or a waste of time. Like everything else in life, it depends on your perspective. I’m venturing to bet on I’m not the only one who appreciates kindness signed, sealed and delivered.


Garden Pizza

Dinner Date

Margherita, with artichokes

Saturday night

Basil and tomatoes from the garden, mozzarella and artichokes from the market — a modified margherita pizza

Yesterday was an odd blur of a day; I am trying to get back in the swing of long runs on Saturday mornings. To run this time of year, without having to haul water, you have to be outside laced up between 5-5:30 am. Normally, this isn’t a big deal. However, my early bird nature and my night owl desires collided Friday night. I went out with friends to see a movie and didn’t get to sleep before midnight. Surprisingly, my run still went swimmingly and I pushed myself farther than I thought I could go.  The morning flew by with a visit to grandma’s, errands, and the normal laundry/cleaning/trash weekend-chore trifecta. Then, out of no where, I was hit with a debilitating headache behind my right eye; heat, the exercise and not getting enough sleep the day before collided. Defeated, I curled up in bed and two hours of deep sleep later, I emerged with the afternoon gone.

Thus, a quick pizza for Saturday date night. No time for roasting, baking, pouring through my cookbooks for something impressive. Instead, still in a drooly daze, I went to the grocery to get a few things for quick summer pizza. (It was good last night but even better this morning, cold, with Federrer and the French Open keeping me company, it is even better.)

Dessert was Ben & Jerry’s with pinot noir enjoyed on a luxury rooftop patio in central Phoenix. I didn’t know there were pools on the roof of such buildings. And with a full moon, a bright city below and a starry sky above, it was a happily odd night to remember.



I took a break from the heat and escaped to northern Arizona for the day, stirring up trouble in my old college haunts.

good morning, latte at La Bellavia

swedish pancakes

breakfast, after

Such as La Bellavia, where they serve the very best pancakes in the world. (Swedish, with blueberries and applesauce)

typical Flag

Route 66 and tracks

hippie mobile

typical residential street

yellow rose of Flagstaff

june 5 031

missing an apostrophe

poppies blowing in the wind

And downtown, where I could spend my salary in the blink of an eye at Babbit’s.



palace doors

Dork and a moon flower

Pretty spot in tlaquepaque

Le boots

Only in Sedona

Then there was Sedona, with it’s galleries, gardens and sweet scent. There is the most calming, peaceful perfume that hangs near the cottonwood-lined Oak Creek. I could sit and listen to the water trickle, curled up in the shade, all afternoon. Or, I could go to Oaxaca for margaritas on the patio. And a burrito.

{And yes, apparently by “old college haunts,” I meant a bakery and a Mexican restaurant. I guess some things never change.}

It is incredible what a brief change of scenery does for my perspective.


Hopping into Technology

Hippity Hop to Present Technology

Goodbye Rabbit Ears

This man has talked me into cable and internet at home. I must say, the internet so far is pretty awesome, as are the cooking channels and my new-found access to Whale Wars.

The golf channel

Internet? On the COUCH?

He did a victory lap after the cable man left, sitting promptly in front of the tv with the golf station whispering away.   It was almost like my home was protesting the change. The poor cable man had to drill nearly a dozen holes in a variety of external in internal walls before he could finally get things straight. The price is minimal when split, but I’m truly hoping this doesn’t change my way of life. More reading, less tv is going to be significantly harder now that Paula Dean is in my living room.

Then again, with this new entertainment and the ability to immediately post photos, I was submerged in creativity, completing a handful of projects:

To be decked

Winner t-shirts



Beep beep

Those T-shirts for the commenting winners

Baby Owen Quilt, bound

Baby Owen Quilt, back

Baby Owen Quilt

The quilt for baby Owen, including hand stitching the binding. Wrapped, delivered and received with happiness. That sweet boy will be here soon!

Mary Bag

Mary Bag

Mary Bag

Mary Bag

And a new bag with bamboo handles. Last week, when having lunch at a nice restaurant downtown meeting new donors*, I saw a woman come in with a simple floral bag with bamboo handles. The bag looked so nice and classic. I knew I could recreate it; $6 and one hour later, I have a thank you gift for the weekend’s fundraising caterer. I’m looking forward to purchasing more bamboo to make a series of summer bags in this fashion.


*During this meeting (with a Senator and his lovely wife, no less) I managed, in a move only I could muster, to step just right when leaving the restroom and catch my sandal. It snapped, leaving me with one shoe 2 minutes before the lunch started. Nothing says, “Welcome Senator! Now, please consider giving us money!” like the blushing, barefoot girl.  Help me Rhonda, I hope they were looking at my smile and not at my sole.

Ask and Ye Shall Receive

Remember when I talked about taking a broken sewing needle in the throat and wishing for a new machine? My mom wasn’t just reading, she’d already bought one and had it stashed away. That incredible woman sent it back to Phoenix this weekend with some family friends who were visiting. I picked it up and thought perhaps she’d also packed my collection of Nancy Drew novels, it was so heavy.

The giant box

No, just the new Swedish beast. I managed to get her out of the box and plugged in. It seriously took three adults to finally find the compartment that contained the feet, which in all fairness we were calling the “foots” after a bit too much wine. Long story short, the new machine has arrived. The Singer is looking on with some serious performance anxiety and frankly I don’t know where to go from here.

Two machines, one chair

The Singer looks on with jealousy

The new beast

Wow. No idea what those do

Of course the new machine came with an instructional VHS tape, which might as well be an 8-track. I will read the manual and goof around with this until the next visit from my folks.

All said and done, I’m pretty darn lucky. I wonder if I start really wishing for that pony…