July 2010

July 2010

Golden; book published; Cody + Jessika; People of the Book; 50 ml lens; Cezanne; Mad Men 4; dinner party; Tempe Town Puddle; Meg, Scott + Roscoe; bamboo bags; Matty’s great return; Sheila, Charlie + family.

A beautiful month, well lived and loved.


Phoenix Rising

The rare rainy and cool Saturday summer morning in Phoenix brought out the best in everyone at the downtown farmer’s market this morning. The seasonal rains cut the tension of the heat exhausted; there’s nearly an audible city-wide sigh of relief when the storms begin each year. Today, it seemed even the flowers were rejoicing the temporary break.





Squash blossoms



summer melon





Downtown Farmer's Market

It makes me happy to see how the market has grown in the last few years; there are so many more vendors and a wild variety of food and handmade items offered. The Public Market is also a fantastic new community resource for Phoenicians.

The perfect Saturday morning would be the oatmeal at Matt’s Big Breakfast, a tour of the farmer’s market with a lazy walk through Burton Barr for some new books and then off to Gallo Blanco for lunch.

Phoenix is huge. It is stucco and beige. It has backward politics and suburbs across 100 miles of the desert floor. It is hot half of the year. It is Goldilocks-perfect half of the year. And yet, if you look a bit closer, you can see the beauty in the growing community of folks who want to make this city something a bit better too. The volunteers and farmers at the market. The local restaurateurs gathering at each other’s openings and special events in collaboration and support. The world class art at the museums along Central Avenue. The music of the Pangean Orchestra. Independent movies at Camelview. Arizona wines poured at FNB. Maya’s Farm produce put to great use at Sweet Republic. Thousands of miles of hiking trails. A growing number of bike lanes. And a city that will once again rise from the latest nonsense that has tarnished the reality of so many more ethnicities, faiths and ways of life living and thriving together.

May the rains stay a bit longer, and may they wash away the hatred hanging over our state and help the current crazy state leadership set sail for other lands.



Water lines

I run around Tempe Town Lake a couple times a week with an early morning gaggle of friends. We muddle through a 4.2 mile loop that includes bridges, dirt paths, canals, horses, the occasional rooster and even the odd coyote. (And once a man I thought was a moose. Long story.) It is in the center of Tempe — my little city of a million or so.

Here little rabbit

Public art

railroad bridge


Last week, one of the rubber sections of the dam broke, sending much of the water into a dry lake bed beyond and leaving me unexpectedly emotional. I’ve swam in the lake for sport — including the 1/2 Ironman — and fallen in love with the charm of this monumentally-out-of-place body of water. Surrounded by desert, the lake and its well-worn running paths, have become friends. More than once, when I wanted no one else to see me upset, I laced up my sneaks for a teary jog. The magic of the exercise and the time with urban nature always worked its serendipitous ways.

Ready for water


Tree of life

Tree of life

Tempe Center for the Arts

A view

Lake bottom

Sole survivor

When the dam popped, it was big news city-wide. Our group happened to be running the next morning, which we did with a handful of reporters gathered at the parking lot where we meet. We’ve watched the water recede considerably in the last few days and ogled the odd pieces of furniture and metal jutting from from the drying soil. The fish were captured by game and fish and donated to the local herpetological society for alligator food. The entire thing has been, well, a bust.

Tempe Center for the Arts, down dam

Water water everywhere...



Swallow nests

Bridge Beam

Above the bridge


But it did give me good reason to grab Matty and head to the lake for a long walk after work with my camera. I think we safely captured both the charm of the park and the sadness of its temporary dry spell.

Drop by drop

Rural Road Bridge

Pelican Tempe

Remind me never to wish to come back to the next life as a city fish.


P.S. Update to this story — apparently it’s spurred contests over which type of swimmer tastes better. Oy.


A late birthday gift for my friend Jenny.




I picked up a new lens this weekend — a 50 mm 1.4 something or another. It is a fixed lens, meaning you can’t turn it to zoom in and out. I know so little about photography other than what I like. It’s the je ne sais quoi of art. I can’t explain why I like what I do, I just do. And so, forgive the blurry photos I’m certain to post in the months to come. They are my own odd form of art.


July Jones

My friends Juliann and Kent hosted a small Mad Men Season 4 party tonight. We came together for a light meal, heavy drinks and a great episode of television. I had a bit of fun dressing up for the event and channeling my best Betty Draper. (As a 5’10” brunette, there isn’t much we share. A twitter friend said rather than January Jones, perhaps I’m July Jones. Indeed!)

Mad Men Season 4

Mad Men Season 4

Mad Men Season 4

Mad Men Season 4

Mad Men Season 4

The prep also included making Nigella Lawson’s gin and tonic jello mold. While the mold came together beautifully, transporting it to the party in 100-plus degree heat was fatal. Next time, I’ll make this for New Year’s. The few spoonfulls we ate before having to throw the runny mess away were delightful.

Mad Men Season 4

Mad Men Season 4

Mad Men Season 4

Mad Men Season 4

Mad Men Season 4

Mad Men Season 4

Mad Men Season 4

Mad Men Season 4

Mad Men Season 4

Mad Men Season 4

Here is to hoping the relationships in this show get better. Betty is becoming my least favorite character on TV. Don is still as gorgeous and charming, but lacks the bravado of season’s past. It seems Peggy is the only one who time has been kind to; she’s developed quite the backbone and her sass is admirable.

Without a doubt, I wish I’d lived in this era. No doubt I’d have been bored, but to experience it for a day would have been delightful.


Gallo Blanco

If you live in Phoenix and haven’t yet tried Gallo Blanco, do. The tacos on Tuesday are buy 2 get one 1 free. The white sangria comes with a glass full of fresh cut fruit. The servers are eclectic and kind. And if you’ve got time to kill, hit the pool at the Clarendon before or after. It is spectacular.



lunch \Lunch \Lunch

The best aspects of the menu: the guacamole (with diced citrus), agua frescas, huevos rancheros and the beans. Oh, the beans. Something so simple and yet so rarely this plate-licking good. Reasonably priced, Gallo is fast becoming one of my favorite restaurants.

(I may or may not have bought one of their t-shirts after brunch yesterday. I am a sucker for supporting great local businesses and if they feed me? Well. Even better.)


Summer Reads


I’ve been reading more lately; Matt’s been out of town visiting his family in Africa. I’m long since out of the habit of watching television. Also, I’ve needed an entertaining distraction from the realities of too much NPR. (The polar bears are drowning. The gulf is slick. Obama won’t be re-elected. Iran hates us. We hate Iran. North Korea hates us. North Korea is starving to death. We hate North Korea. Mexico is now officially being run by the cartels. ) You get the very sad point.

So, to the library/bookshelf/bookstore I go! Regularly. I need a break from Michele Norris* or I’m afraid I may start suggesting feeding the polar bears to starving North Koreans and shipping our cocaine habits feeding the Mexican cartels to Iran.  (See? Books are a much better idea.)


The Lonely Polygamist: This is my favorite book of the summer so far. Four out of five bananas. For those who read The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint, you’ll see some similar themes. Both books include strong young male characters who are a fair mix of hilarious, precious and pathetic. Both books are set in the desert Southwest and both include LDS families. Brady Udall is fast becoming my favorite author. I love the voice of his characters, the way he is so carefully entwines important issues into otherwise bizarre and funny stories — so you feel like you learned something — and his wit. He is a very clever writer.

The Long Goodbye: This book is my first adventure with author Raymond Chandler. His word choice and settings are delightfully antiquated today. This story details a private investigator’s search for a killer, of sorts. It is twisted and well thought. It was a bit long in places and didn’t keep me so interested I couldn’t wait to get back to it. Three out of five bananas.

The Double Bind: This is the third Chris Bohjalian book I’ve read — after Midwives and The Law of Similars. I loved both of those stories. They were well written, kept me dying for quiet time to read more and again, taught me about subjects I knew nothing about without feeling like I’d received a lecture. The Double Bind is also a good read, but the ending was a sucker punch. It hurt.

Honestly, it made me a little angry too.

I wanted to start over from the beginning;  I was so confused and torn.  I do recommend the novel because I’ve never before read something and had such a strong reaction to the conclusion. Plus, for Great Gatsby lovers, this book is a treat. Three out of five bananas.


Blood of Flowers: I may have blogged about this read already — it was a quick in-between-book-club-assignments-read. I appreciated the setting — Iran, centuries ago. The main character becomes an apprentice and learns to weave rugs. The story is interesting and it certainly has great villains. I enjoyed this as light, fun reading. Three of five bananas.

The Elegant Hedgehog: Did I already write about this? I fear I did. It is still considered a summer read because the tattered copy is on my nightstand. This book is far too smart for my tastes. It is a quirky story, but the characters don’t bloom until page 200 of a 300 page novel. It was a book club selection and I am not interested in reading more from this author. 1.5 bananas.

People of the Book: This is the latest selection for my book club and I have to say — one of the most intellectually stimulating books I’ve ever read. It is fascinating. The story discusses the adventures of a woman chasing down clues to an ancient haggadah that has reappeared after the war in Sarajevo. The story flows between centuries, faiths, languages, cultures and politics. I can only imagine how much time it took the author to research. It was in ways like reading an exceptionally smart version of The DiVinci Code. I truly enjoyed this book and look forward to reading her Pulitzer Prize winning novel, March.

I’ve just started In the Woods and it looks like it has potential. Plus, it’s set in Ireland, one of my most favorite places.

What are you reading and enjoying this summer?


* Tell me you NPR listeners don’t crave the day that someone will finally say to that smug Michele Norris — “JUST SAY MICHELLE ALREADY. KNOCK OF THE MEEEEESHELL.” Or is it just me?

A Pinch of Creative Spirit, Shall We?

Cover art, framed

I opened my mailbox Saturday to a giant box from Colleen. She saved the original cutout she created of the cover, signed and framed it with gorgeous fabric and sent it my way as a congratulatory gift.

There weren’t enough Kleenex in the house.

Cover art, framed

Cover art, framed

I thought about editing out the toaster, but this is life. My home isn’t a gallery, but the kitchen just got a lot more aesthetic thanks to Colleen’s incredible generosity.

Birthday gift

In the artsy mood — I had a bit of time to sew this weekend for a birthday party later in the week. I love this pattern. I made a couple of these bags this time last year. It’s the mix of colors, the tapered design and the bamboo handle. Something about the handle brings it all together  and makes it look a little less homemade and a bit more handmade. (Semantics to some, style to others.)

Birthday gift

In other crafty news, for those participating in this month’s One Yard Wonder sew-along and want some guidance on sewing the Elodie Elephant, Sue found a great set of tutorials on Youtube. Brava!

IMG_4610Birthday gift

And on a final note, holy Mary Moses! On toast! How adorable are these baby dolls Shanna has created for the Brazilian Babies project?! I have such amazing artists in my life.




My friend Sheila bought this basket for me when I recently visited Colorado. Isn’t it gorgeous? It’s from a women’s cooperative in Ghana. Imagine me in the Denver airport with this as my carry-on. I got more than a few interesting looks, but in truth — pretty perfect luggage for a girl who calls herself African.

Metaphorically, my basket is overflowing. This new job, that in truth I took because I was suddenly unemployed and unsure, has become  a gigantic challenge in the best of ways. I’m working in a fast-paced medical practice with a team of smart, energetic, focused people who make me want to be my very best self everyday. I am thriving. The expense of this great new career, versus the job I thought I was signing up for, is a personal struggle to find equilibrium.

My previous two nonprofit jobs were, to put it mildly, far less demanding. I worked fewer hours and many of those which I did work were in stretchy pants on the couch labeled generously as “work from home.” This gave time for community dinners, ample sewing projects, household stuff and mental health breaks.

Now, I commute. I suit up. I work feverishly for 10-12 hours most days and I am never, ever caught up. Within my first two months I was promoted and given a new department to manage. Now I have two. I feel like I could use another set of arms  — one to type and the other to file, answer the phone, pat people on the back, etc.  While it’s taken a bit to get back in the habit of getting up at 4:30 am to squeeze in my morning run or swim, this return to routine is such a gift.

I work with people! In my office! Daily! I go on business trips. I have minimal authority and I use it wildly!

(Crazy the things you don’t realize you miss.)

So, I haven’t been blogging with the same fervor because my daily schedule has become a rinse and repeat of workout, work, read until I pass out. I think the last three months have shown I’m committed and willing to put in the air miles and time in the office to see my departments are successful. This week I’m going to find time to add the other elements of my life that make me truly shine — art, writing, gardening, dresses and a social life, time with friends and blogging.

Balancing the basket,