2: Advent

Advent: 2

Edward Hays, A Pilgrim’s Almanac, p. 196:

“Take time to be aware that in the very midst of our busy preparations for the celebration of Christ’s birth in ancient Bethlehem, Christ is reborn in the Bethlehems of our homes and daily lives. Take time, slow down, be still, be awake to the Divine Mystery that looks so common and so ordinary yet is wondrously present.

“An old abbot was fond of saying, ‘The devil is always the most active on the highest feast days.’

“The supreme trick of Old Scratch is to have us so busy decorating, preparing food, practicing music and cleaning in preparation for the feast of Christmas that we actually miss the coming of Christ. Hurt feelings, anger, impatience, injured egos—the list of clouds that busyness creates to blind us to the birth can be long, but it is familiar to us all.”

I am so very guilty of this. I spent far too much time racing around, trying to make sure everything is “perfect” and not enjoying the moment at hand. Instead, this advent season, I hope to spend more time in the garden, staring at the flowers, feeling my heart beat and the wind whistle in the pine trees above.

1: Advent




This morning we lit the first candle in the advent wreath. The first project for #adventafrica is a crayon roll. I saw this tutorial and counted the number of little ones on my Christmas list who love to color. (Or who have mommies who could easily place this in a purse as a portable battery-free distraction for waiting rooms, restaurants, airplanes.)



These were very simple to sew and fun to fill. They will be handed out by the dozen come Christmas.

On the first day of advent my auntie Kelli gave to me… a crayon roll for creativity.


Mingi Karama :: Many Blessings in Swahili


Advent begins Sunday; I’m honoring the holy time before Christmas by sharing a project each day. Some will be crafty, for others you’ll need a spatula, notepad or just a sense of humor. I’ll also be sharing holiday family traditions and wise words that lift my spirits this time of year.


Unfortunately, the holidays often make me blue. My expectations don’t come near reality. Instead of falling into the season depression trap yet again, this project is geared toward reminding me of all that I have to be thankful for — including my faith, the Christmas season and friends and family to spoil in celebration.

(Plus! My goodness. I’m spending Christmas in Santa Fe with my family and the New Year in Malawi with Matty! Giddy, oh sweet giddy, up.)

This baby hat, for example, was completed on Sarah’s recent visit. It was given to a new baby boy expected to arrive in January. Liam will be the first child of my dear friends Mike and Sam. I cannot wait to meet him and to squish his baby toes and smell his little baby noggin. A quick cotton knit cap is one of the simplest knitting projects for a baby and yet the practicality and tenderness of this gift always produces plenty of “ooooohs.”  Look for the pattern later during African Advent.*

I would love to hear your traditions, recipes, handicrafts and way of celebrating advent, Christmas, another faith or simply the season.

Mingi karama,


*If you are on twitter, look for the label #africanadvent.


Like a bird.

Pioneer Woman Cinnamon Rolls

Pioneer Woman Cinnamon Rolls

The cinnamon rolls, pre-icing. I didn’t have a chance to eat one, but the reviews were good and they made my home smell like Christmas.


And pumpkin pie! I don’t like pie. So I didn’t eat any of this either. But hot damn, I was so impressed with my pie making skills. It was so pretty and my family loved it. Never mind my friend Andrew came over to help bake and we had to go back to the store twice for ingredients I missed. Oy to the vey.

What I did eat: all the turkey, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, green chile corn casserole and cranberry relish in southern Arizona. Yum.

And then I ate the Scottdale region’s portion this morning at my desk for leftovers. (Yes, you can use your best Nancy Drew skills to deduce that I am not doing so great on that 30 pound weight loss.  Although I did hire a trainer who I’m pretty sure learned her techniques from the gestapo. And now that I’m through Carbfest 2010, I’ve got a company Christmas party and a trip to Africa to think of, I imagine I’ll refocus. )*

Now, on to Christmas decorating and planning/plotting/scheming! Yahoooo!


*If you can’t find me, I’m on the elliptical. Dreaming of bagels.



My friend Shanlee asked for a bag in “fall colors” and I couldn’t think of anyone I’d rather sew something for. Shan and her husband Tom are part of my surrogate parent network in Phoenix — regularly inviting me over for dinner, checking in on me, etc. Also, how fun is that squid fabric? It is weird and bright and certainly “fall.”

To continue the Thanksgiving theme, this print pretty much sums up exactly what I am thankful for in life. Trees! Nice people! Music! Beverages!


Weeeeeee Week


Have you seen that insurance commercial where the pig in the back seat of the car is screaming “weeeeee!” all the way home?  Not to invite the pig references during a week when I will wear stretchy pants to any occasion I can manage, but weeeeeeee! To play the role of Captain Obvious for a moment, it is Thanksgiving week!

Say it with me: weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

The happiness tied to Thanksgiving has changed with time. When I was young, it was a gloriously long weekend of doing nothing with my mom and grandma. This often included being pulled from one department store to another in search of discount Christmas gifts. It always included time around the table, stories from family members and feeling overwhelmingly loved.

While I’ve long since stopped doing the department store discount disco (Black Friday Breakdance/Target Tango/Walmart Mambo), this week thankfully still means family. My parents will be in from Texas — the first time I’ve seen my mama since her surgeries earlier this fall. My grandparents are cooking a feast and there is a possibility I’ll get to see my extended family too. As a geographic orphan, having my family this close for a bit of time makes me scream “weeeeeeeeeee!” (At least until the first inquiry into my non-married status is made. Then the “weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeees” will take a more chardonnay tinted “weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeurp!”)

I’m also continuing my stake in the holiday tradition pool this week. While Matt and Rebecca have Mattmas, the Couture/Mitterers have Christmas Eve Movie and Booze festivus, the Tolars have Christmas day brunch cornered, the Disbrows and Wrights have the market on Sunday Funday — I’m marking my territory for the cinnamon-roll-delivery-Thanksgiving-Day tradition.  As you can imagine, there aren’t many protesters. A few friends will receive a platter of warm cinnamon rolls delivered bright and early Thursday morning (with an overly sappy note on why I am thankful for them, of course.)

This year I’m trying a new recipe. Nevermind, why mess with the best? Ree’s cooking is superb. I’m also responsible for a pumpkin pie for Grandma’s house. Over the hills and through the woods, to Grandma’s house in Tucson I go…




The first orange

This is the very first orange produced at the Asbury Community Garden. I hope it is the first of thousands that will grow to feed hungry folk in central Phoenix and elsewhere. I am so very, very pleased this tiny community project now has 75 trees, with 9 more on their way in January. Just think — with 80 or so trees surviving, producing 1,000 pounds of fruit a piece each year on irrigation — we will be swimming in citrus in a few years.

This project speaks to my senses; we are using our resources smarter by feeding trees instead of grass. In turn, we’ll use land otherwise empty to grow crops for the hungry.

Speaking of great projects, Jessica’s work with the poor in Brazil continues to flourish. The Brazilian Babies project is posted. Thank you so very much to those who participated! The photos of those sweet girls with their new dolls — signs they are loved from afar. Ack! Sometimes I get a bit teary with the great things happening in the world.

If you don’t let the nuclear/sudan/northkorea/teabag craziness consume you? There are community gardens and Brazilian babies to celebrate. I vote we focus on this instead.


Fresh & Easy

So, not to be too much of a corporate hack that drinks the Kool-Aid, but I attended a Fresh & Easy event last night for a handful of media folk in the Valley, and while I’d love to come at this review without a bias — no such luck. It was so, so great. More than once, I asked my dates — Juliann and Mariah, “Are we in a movie?”

Fresh & Easy Event in Phoenix

From the location (penthouse patio of a building downtown in the most perfect weather of the year) to the food (three types of wine tasting, platters of delicious appetizers and desserts) to the bag of schwagg they sent us home with.  I felt like a rock star who gets to go to the Emmy parties and comes home with bags of goodies.

Fresh & Easy Event in Phoenix

Fresh & Easy Event in Phoenix

Fresh & Easy Event in Phoenix

Fresh & Easy Event in Phoenix

And of course Juliann won the wine raffle. How much more perfect could the night have been?

Fresh & Easy Event in Phoenix

I loved that Mariah’s first review of the bag of food they sent us home with was, “REAL VANILLA! Oh, man. I LOVE vanilla!”

Additionally, I swear Allison and Stephanie — who work for F&E in Los Angeles and flew out for the event — would be part of the dinner party gang if they lived in Phoenix. They are totally down to earth, love their jobs and were so fun to spend time with.

Plus, now I want to live in a penthouse apartment in downtown Phoenix so I can have dinner parties with flutes of prosecco and platters of appetizers. Or at least be able to throw a party like that once in my life!


The Sound of Silly Silence

Malabrigo Scarf for Scott

Are you a Simon and Garfunkel fan? I grew up in a home that worshiped the likes of Prince, George Clinton and some lady named Apollonia. We never, ever listened to hair bands (which is why to this day I don’t understand the Bon Jovi fascination of many of my friends), or folk.  My mother was both the keeper of the family stereo and the car radio. Funny, today when I put together mixed CDs and am rocking out during my commute, I regularly have Prince leading into something folksy. And both make me scream at the top of my lungs.

Malabrigo Scarf for Scott

Cecilia! You are breaking my heart!”

“She wore a raspberry beret! The kind you find at a second-hand store.”

{You’re signing along, aren’t you? You’re welcome.}

Malabrigo Scarf for Scott

Most of my mixes make absolutely no sense; they are simply songs of a dozen genres that I love. Often they include Yo Yo Ma, who I swear is divinely talented, Ani DiFranco — a college favorite, Vampire Weekend, Andrew Bird, Griffin House, GirlTalk (new album out!) and Simon and Garfunkle. I had a friend tease me once that every single CD I ever made had a song from Paul Simon’s Graceland included. Well, of course. I’m pretty sure music doesn’t come in a finer model than Paul Simon signing along about Arizona in Africa, with an African choir. (Not a stretch to see why I love this album, is it?)

Really, I have Mini to thank for opening my eyes in high school to Mr. Simon and Mr. Garfunkel. She choreographed a dance for our church youth group set to “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and I thought, “huh. That tune is pretty good. And it doesn’t include a man humping a purple piano, wearing heels. I should give this folk thing a shot.” The song, “The Sound of Silence” is one I’ve spent some time thinking of lately. I was reminded of it when I read this quote by Mother Teresa, “Be still. It is in silence we are able to touch souls.”

Still. I am not still often enough. Nor am I silent. But when I can steal a moment to knit, simply listening to the click of the needles, I can find an internal silence that is my true source for creativity and happiness. It is usually then I turn the radio back on and find my groove.


*Scarf knit for a coworker’s boyfriend, by request. Malabrigo yarn, size 9 needles, 3 stitch rib.