A letter or two…

cards 004

The winner for the stationery is Becky Sue because she hit a cord with her pro-book stance:

“I don’t know if this is considered “old-fashioned” but it certainly seems the tide is turning with all these new e-book thingys like the Kindle and the Nook. Give me a good old-fashioned book any day…I love the feel of it in my hands, the feel of the pages, the smell. I have never listened to an audio book either, and I don’t really care to – even if it might save me some time.”

I am all for technology, but I can’t imagine the time I’ll take a Kindle over a great used book found on a dusty shelf at my local haunt. I like the sensory experience of books and I cannot believe this is now old-fashioned, but so be it!

Your comments about the letters you’ve written, saved and cherished over the years brought out the sentimentalist in me. I am so thankful so many others celebrate this simple joy. I’ve learned you received letters your grandparents had written each other when courting, you’ve written letters to your future children when pregnant, you penned letters to introduce yourself, and to end relationships too.

What used to be an art now seems to be contrite; I still find a good letter a great entertainment. Thank you for sharing your stories!


Maple Pecan Banana Bread 1.0

maple pecan banana bread 006

What to do when a coworker hands you a bag of pecans from his family’s trees?

maple pecan banana bread 005

Bust out the hammer, check out what you have on hand and and yelp with glee when you find another key ingredient stashed in the back of the freezer:

maple pecan banana bread 007

These little chips are like pancakes melting in your mouth. They were a gift from that great Denver Brunette, Julia. (FYI, don’t Google “Denver Brunette” expecting to find her blog. Ahem.)  I knew nuts + pancake maple goodness + a black banana from the freezer that was ready for some action = a nice afternoon of bread baking.

Simple addition, really.

maple pecan banana bread 001

maple pecan banana bread 010

maple pecan banana bread 009

Oh, I gave this loaf away, but it wasn’t easy. In fact, I gave this loaf away missing a significant corner I hope the recipient thought was due to a little something I like to call “pan stickage.” As a result, I can testify this is some damn good bread.

Let’s say you don’t have maple burst chips in your pantry — I’ve adapted the recipe assuming you do have syrup:

3/4 c. sugar
1/2 c. butter, softened
1 really overripe banana
3 tsp. baking powder
3 tsp. maple syrup
1 c. chopped pecans
2 eggs
2 c. sifted flour
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
In a mixer, cream sugar and butter; add eggs. After well blended, add banana and lemon juice. Add flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt. Mix. Add pecans and pour into a well greased 9×5 inch loaf pan. Pour syrup over top of bread. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.*
I’ve already alerted Salty Senor and his lovely Betty Page I’ll be baking up another loaf for them soon. I want to try making this with buttermilk and oats. A tasty experiment lurks!
*To be fair, I’ve never added the syrup this way, but I think it will work. Good luck!

Some Like it Hot


A girlfriend recently brought me back a copy of this Mexican magazine, knowing with certainty it would be appreciated. I’ve never read Arqueologia before, but their article on the chiles of Mexico is spectacular.




They take many of the chiles enjoyed nationally and track their histories — both geographically and how they were used ritually.

january 033

Such as an ancient form of punishing children.  Ouch! This makes my eyes burn to look at the ancient art, of which there is also a chile-influenced section.

january 035

There are also some really cheesy photos from the 1970s of Mexican women grinding chiles. Doesn’t she look enthused? Nothing says photo shoot like giant ribbons in your hair and a good slouch.


And there must be at least one sombrero. I love this photo. This older man is sitting in a field of chiles.

If you see a copy of this magazine, it is worth the purchase even if you don’t read Spanish. The photos and maps are fascinating!


Letterpress Dreams

cards 001

If I had gobs of money to spend on new hobbies, I’d be taking letterpress classes. I love the design, look, feel and weight of letterpress stationery. It is simply perfect.

Alas, this is not in my immediate future. (Although a friend mentioned yesterday he knows someone who knows someone…) In the meantime, I enjoyed the current stationery sale at JoAnn’s and bought a few new supplies that fueled an afternoon of correspondence creation.

cards 004

cards 003

cards 005

cards 002

cards 006

That Ginger Rogers really did get the short end of the stick. You know who else gets cheated? Every single female character on Mad Men. Have you watched this show? I am a bit obsessed. The fashion, set design, and feel of this show makes it visual art. The writing makes it brilliant. I simply love Mad Men, but I am struggling with the female leads. I don’t identify with any of them.

It makes me wonder what my grandmothers put up with and how they view the world today — one where in certain circles, not wearing panties gets you splashed on every magazine for the week. How the art of femininity has changed for the masses.

My love of a great handwritten note and Mad Men are linked in that  I’m enamored with all things old fashioned. Sure, text messages are efficient, but a well written letter? A letter you hold on to. Certainly jeans and soft cotton t-shirt work, but a tailored dress, flats and pretty jewelry? They make me feel like Christmas morning.

And so, another contest for a bundle of handmade stationery. Leave a comment describing one of two things: a letter you’ve received or need to write and why it is special, or, what old fashioned thing you consider the bee’s knees. I’ll select the most creative answer and post it Friday.



“Talk doesn’t cook rice.”
–Chinese Proverb

january 013

Don’t mind the saggy butt on this bag; it doesn’t look like it when it is full of baby supplies. This contemporary take on a baby bag is in the post, heading to Robin. I “met” Robin and her husband via Salty Senor once upon a time. Robin and Jim have two little girls — Amalea and Maya. They are the epitome of a sweet, young family. I love reading both of their blogs and rooting for their success.

january 015

january 016

I’d been promising Robin this bag for too long and am glad it’s finished. I am loving all things orange right now.

january 018

{How great is that duck fabric? I fell in love with it once I saw it peeking out of the remnant basket at the fabric store. Quack!}

january 022

The last few weeks have been peacefully busy — productive without stress. I’ve been sewing, gardening, cooking, reading, watching (Mad Men), running, hiking, bowling and spending quite a bit of quality time with friends. I have also been trying to eat more “whole” foods and cut out the junk. You wouldn’t have known this if you saw me at the bowling alley, per se, but change comes in baby steps.

january 024

In an attempt to actually cook that metaphoric rice instead of just talking about it, I roasted carrots this weekend for the first time. Roasting veggies for soup seems to be the new fad at my house lately. I grab whatever looks good at the market, throw it on a cookie sheet with some olive oil and an hour later scoop it into a blender before adding some stock.

january 026

This week’s bright green soup has roughly 10,000 times your daily dose of goodness in each scoop. Of course, I made way too much and will be eating it for a couple days — but there are worse problems to have. My magic touch with these soups is to add gobs of cayenne. It is so spicy, I can’t help but want more. Perhaps this will fuel a few more healthy changes.

Hope your 2010 is off to an equally happy start!


New Roots

Tomato bloom blushing

I know, I know. More than half of the nation is suffering from bitter cold and I’m wearing flip flops and planting tomatoes. Just remember that the other six months of the year, I’m wearing flip flops and a sweaty, prickly mess. So, three cheers for Arizona winter! And I’m trying not to think about that other season that is always looming.

20 new tomato plants

Instead, 22 tomato plants in the ground, along with thyme, sage cilantro and peppers.

The little marigold that could

Book a flight; there is going to be some great salsa on the table come April.


How I Roll

roller 003

I saw a tweet earlier this week that Skateland Mesa was having “free skating night” yesterday. On a whim, I sent an email to a bunch of friends to see if anyone would be interested in returning to one of our childhood haunts. Indeed, several took the bait.

roller 004

Imagine a covered wagon mosying along during a NASCAR event and you’d have a good idea of what I looked like among the throng of far too talented skaters. There were 3-year-olds and 60-year-olds with custom wheels and attitudes to match. I am pretty sure there were even a couple former professional ice skaters in the mix. These men would occasionally skate up to our group of three, trembling and giggling girls, to wow us with  salchows and dips. I wanted to scream, “TOE PICK!” but no one would have heard me over the thumping Lady GaGa.

It was a ridiculous amount of fun. When I finally pulled off those weighty beasts above, my toes ached as much as my cheeks from smiling. For the record, however, Skateland still smells exactly as it did 20 years ago — like popcorn, Red Vines, sweat, embarrassment and grime.



love my carbs

“There’s a trick to the ‘graceful exit.’ It begins with the vision to
recognize when a job, a life stage, or a relationship is over — and
let it go. It means leaving what’s over without denying its validity or
its past importance to our lives. It involves a sense of future, a
belief that every exit line is an entry, that we are moving up, rather
than out.”
–Ellen Goodman

I’ve been reading quite a bit lately. I know I’ve enjoyed the recommendations of your favorite reads in the past, and talking about what I’m reading is one of my favorite points of conversation. Yep, I’m a dork. But you know what? I’m done caring that this label makes me anything other than exceptionally curious about the world.

In 2010, (or the last few days of 2009), I’ve read:
The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet: this book came at the recommendation of my friend Erin. When I saw it on sale at a local bookshop a few days later, I scooped it up. Out of 5 bananas, I’d give this a 3.5. It is the story of a Chinese boy and Japanese girl who fall in love in Seattle during World War II when the United States so thoughtfully decided to inter Japanese families. The story is told from the present and the past. It is a sweet, interesting read and taught me more about an ugly chapter in our nation’s human rights history.

A Homemade Life: Molly Wizenberg is the blogger behind Orangette who made French cooking in the current day seem fun. Her blog is delightful. Her book is like your favorite slice of cake served warm from the oven. (Or, like “Christmas morning,” as Matty would say.) The essays chronicle chapters in her own life (father’s death, meeting her future husband), each capped with a recipe that reminds her of the characters involved. It is such a good book — one my mother begged me for when I finished it on our vacation. Uncharacteristically, I said no. This is a book I’m keeping forever. Instead she copied large portions of the recipes by hand and has since purchased her own copy. I’ve also made several other recipes since and they are very, very good. Molly is a great storyteller and a good cook — two of my favorite things. 5 out of 5 bananas.

The Hummingbird’s Daughter: This book couldn’t be a better read after having just finished The Lacuna. The Hummingbird’s Daughter is a fictionalized take on a real woman’s life as a healer. It is set on a ranch in northern Mexico in the late 1800s – early 1900s. It is a fascinating read. I learned much about Mexican politics of the time, life on a working cattle ranch, bee keeping, healing with herbs, the Catholic church’s influence on international politics, etc. If this secret wasn’t already spilled: I love Mexico. I love the way this country celebrates color, spice, dance and life. I love the vast history of mixed people. I love the varying landscape — from tropics to desert plains. If you share my passion, you’ll love this story. 4 out of 5 bananas, absoloodle.

I would love to read a book a week in 2010, like this person did in 2009.

“Naive you are / if you believe / life favours those / who aren’t
–Piet Hein, poet and scientist (1905-1996)

And if you are still reading — a personal tidbit to throw into the mix. I resigned yesterday. I didn’t sleep much last night but I know it is the best choice. I’m moving on to a new position and career direction, and am balancing a couple part-time jobs too. Change has notoriously been difficult for me, but there are times when you know that the sting of the unknown won’t last long. At a time when so many are out of work, I can’t tell you how lucky I feel to have options.

Taking fear by the horns in the new year,


P.S. Yep, that is a potato shaped like a heart. A sign I love carbs? Indeed.

Squishy Squash

When I go into the garden with a spade, and dig a bed, I feel such an exhilaration and health that I discover that I have been defrauding myself all this time in letting others do for me what I should have done with my own hands. -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Roasted Squash Soup

Roasted Squash Soup

Roasted Squash Soup

Roasted Squash Soup

Roasted Squash Soup

This weekend I had a handful of girlfriends over for some craft gleaning — as in, “Please take this stuff home with you that I’m not using; I need the space.” I promised I’d provide lunch while we knit, sewed and mostly gossiped. Roast squash soup it was. This soup is so easy to make and one of my favorites when the weather is a bit chilly. Plus, it is a tasty way to eat a ton of veggies.


3 assorted squash, split with seeds removed

1 head of garlic

2 tablespoons olive oil

6 cups chicken broth (ahem, making this not vegetarian)

1 bunch of celery

2 zucchini

1 onion diced

1 pinch of cayenne, if you like it spicy

1 tablespoon of nutmeg

ground pepper to taste


Roast head of garlic and squash (fleshy side down) — sprinkled with olive oil — on a cookie sheet for 45 minutes at 350. Dice onion and brown with olive oil in large soup pot, or dutch oven. Add diced zucchini and celery. Add chicken broth and spice. Bring to a simmer. Once veggies are roasted — including garlic — spoon them into a blender with ladles of soup. Batch by batch, you’ll puree the vegetables together. Let simmer for another 10-20 minutes. Top with plain yogurt. Good with a crusty bread and some hot sauce.


One-Yard Wonders Sew Along


Dear Finny,

I once again found myself with a group of girlfriends yesterday explaining the origins of your nickname. Thankfully, they didn’t ask me about Donk. Can you believe we’ve been coordinating these sew-alongs for 3 years? I must say, I never thought we’d host one with one of YOUR books. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve long since known how fabulous you are. I just didn’t realize you were planning on conquering the literary world as well.


You are awesome! Look at your book! Naturally, we’ll use it as our sew-along book for the year. And while we are destashing with these great patterns, we’ll also destash around the kitchen. Each month’s challenge will also include a recipe.

There are a handful of kitchen techniques that take you from being simply a cook”to a domestic goddess. This year is officially the year of going from good to great. The best part of these great secrets is they are easy! (Just like most cooking or sewing projects, they simply take leaving your ego behind and jumping in with both feet.)

So — to be clear: each month Fin and I will select one project from One-Yard Wonders and one recipe.

Interested in playing along? Whether you are new to the group or have been hanging around since day one — the rules of such a sew along remain the same (and are set up to be as easy as pie, I must say):

  • At or around the first of the month, Jess (Finny) and I will both post the month’s ONE sewing and ONE cooking project and one of us will announce the previous month’s winner. It’s possible that the number of projects might change and we’ll just expect you to be adults about the whole thing. Embrace change and what not.
  • By the last day of the month, anyone who wants to participate will finish one or both of the projects and post pictures to our new One Yard Wonders : Sew Along 2010 pool for judging.
  • We will then show back up at or around the first, announce the winners and do the rest of the stuff I just said in the first bullet.

One-Yard Wonder project: The “Good Hat Day” Hat by Rebecca Jo Malmström

Recipe: Spicy Garlic Salad Dressing

Homemade salad dressing can take any salad from “eh” to “Wow!” Plus, it is healthier and less expensive than anything you’d find in a grocery.

Homemade Salad Dressing
1 tablespoon or more of Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 teaspoons red vinegar
1 pinch of garlic salt
1 pinch of coarsely ground black pepper
juice of 1 lime
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon honey
any fresh herbs you may have — I used thyme

Homemade Salad Dressing

Homemade Salad Dressing

Blend this in a food processor, adding more red wine vinegar and lime juice if necessary. This is also easy to make if you want to omit the chopped garlic by simply adding all ingredients to the Dijon mustard bottle and shaking with fury. Then pour over your salad and enjoy the fresh, rocking dressing you’ve made!
Do you have a salad dressing idea? Share it!

Thanks again, Fin. Looking forward to another great year of creativity with you!


P.S. The winner from Nov-Dec’s sew-along was: Askercado. Bravo! Email me with your contact info for your prize.