Tattered Cover

Tattered Cover is Denver’s sister store to Tempe’s Changing Hands Bookstore. It is magnificent. And it is a miracle I came home with these alone — three of which are gifts:

Tattered Cover

There is much writing and reading to be done, but I am confident novel #2 will see the shelves of this great shop.


Oh, right.


I am a writer. There are days — months even — I forget. I let my mind and heart wander. I take on odd jobs. I help friends with complicated favors. I travel. I read. I watch Mad Men seasons on repeat. I take long, luxurious tours of museums.

On occasion, I even sew.

Today, I’m a writer. Tomorrow, I will be a writer with a few more pages under her belt, and the first day of a new writing routine in place. There is nothing like, “butt-in-chair” time to make a person with an idea just that — a writer.

I have a great friend who has mentored me for several years. When I told Alaina I was moving to Colorado, she made me promise it was for the writing. She regularly encourages me by sending copies of my first novel to her friends and family, returning with reviews. I don’t want to write to make her happy; but, it certainly doesn’t hurt to know there are so many like her cheering me along. To get these stories out of my head, on to the page and into the hands of those I love does make me happy. If the last year has taught me anything, it is that I can write a solid story when I put my energy and focus in the right place.


Today that means reviewing the first 17,000 words of novel #2 and rethinking the story’s organization. By the end of the weekend, I’ll have a new outline and plan. I’m focusing my creative energies for the remainder of 2011 (and however long it takes) on novel #2. If I get off track — say, by taking on a ludicrously exhausting second job that requires me to clean public toilets — I hope you’ll remind me of my goal: WRITE NOVEL #2.

{And pray that editor of mine is working on the final transformation of Under the Same Moon into an e-book format. It’s about time Donley Publishing hits the iPad, Nook, Kindle market.}



Secret Vegetables


sauteed onions and garlic make life better

My brother and his girlfriend came over for my first Heirloom Homestead dinner party this week. We celebrated Jess’ 23rd birthday. (Yeah. Not only is she pretty, but she’s young too.)

Mmm... brains! (okay, cauliflower)

Her favorite meal, per Cody is “alfredo with white wine and snickerdoodles.” The cookies didn’t happen, but the rest did. And because I’m trying to do this paleo way of eating, I knew I’d need more than just sauce. So, I steamed some cauliflower and blended it into the sauce, along with sauteed garlic and onions, to both make the pasta sauce thicker and more substantive. With chicken and a big spinach salad, it wasn’t a bad meal.

Cauliflower puree

(Yeah. I didn’t make the alfredo sauce. I don’t normally eat this way, but I was out of time and this was handy.)

Chicken, cauliflower alfredo

I nearly got away with sneaking the vegetables into the sauce without Cody knowing; alas, they showed up 15 minutes early and the hungry bear paced in the kitchen watching my every move. Thankfully, they were both too hungry to complain and seemed to like the dinner. I know they liked the mint chocolate chip for dessert.

I’m still dreaming of a big picnic table under that giant tree in the backyard for some summer BBQs. Soon.


Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

HH neighbor bread

HH neighbor bread

I left a few of these on neighbor’s doors and handed out a couple others to those I could catch in person; my parents are still friends with neighbors they had in their very first home after getting married. There is something endearing about knowing who lives near you, and not just so I can borrow their tools or take care of their dogs when on vacation.

My last home had a constant stream of changing neighbors; I hope to plant some new seeds of friendship on this street.



Garden gate

Garden, before


Underneath all of those weeds, there was a stack of paving stones and three garden boxes. They are now planted with an abundance of squash, turnips, radishes and one lone tomato plant. Thankfully I now have a steady supply of coffee grounds I can add to the soil — another perk of being a coffee shop employee.

Praying for a bounty I can share with the neighbors!


Recycling gardening


I am not a fan of weeding. I like being outside in the garden in every other capacity. Weeding is like picking a fight with the slow, violent and mean kids in junior high — miserable, prickly and entirely unnecessary. Alas, this new non-desert environment is host to many a weed. I’m pretty sure I’ve got nearly all varieties of the natives thriving in my yard.

I spent no fewer than five hours the first week in this house outside weeding. Not reading. Not planting seeds, or mowing the lawn or staring at the bees going in and out of the giant tree. Nope. Five hours pulling up handfuls of noxious plants that made my hands itchy, contemplating solutions that didn’t require a fire. Often it doesn’t matter how long you spend in the garden, there’s always more that needs to be done. After spending five hours pulling up weeds, my friend decided to tell me about a lawn care service that she decided to use to maintain her garden whilst she was at work. As much as we all like being in our gardens, having someone to deal with the upkeep of it sounds amazing!

Anyway, I have a long strip of rocks between the lawn and my drive. The lawn, the flower beds and the entire backyard were full of prickly, poky, annoyances when I moved. Recognizing my limitations in patience, time and energy, I decided to conquer just that strip of rocks with a bit of recycling gardening.


If you are building a garden bed, this can also be called lasagna gardening. Start with one giant cardboard box you care to recycle.


Add a box cutter, a couple package of $3 garden stakes, several bags of mulch and a fair amount of elbow grease.

Recycling gardening area

Place the cardboard down first — which will biodegrade with rain and time providing a layer of compost — over the weeds and desired area.

Recycle garden project

Add mulch. (Or if creating a garden bed, add soil, more cardboard, more carbon, rise and repeat layers.)

Voila — the inability for those pesky weeds to return/continue growing. The are stuck under Cardboardland, where they do not pass go. Do not collect $200. And do not continue to multiply like hillbilly bunny rabbits.

lawn, mowed~

And if for whatever reason you have the ability and energy to continue — mow the lawn. My vote? Lawns are dumb. A dumb waste of space and way, way too much physical exertion for too little gain. My permanent front yard will be permaculture and will not, under any circumstances, require a mower.


Scarves + Champagne

Flowers in NOLA

I have a new love of two things: scarves and champagne. Yep, call me Buffy. Give me a copy of the Preppy Handbook. Collars up!


Both are a bit pretentious, and yet? Fun. Scarves are worn, so it seems, year round in Denver. Having moved from the clothing land of “less is more,” where winter wear included wider flip flops, my scarf wardrobe is lacking. I’m on the hunt for the soft, gauzy scarves I see so many beautiful women here draping around their necks, over their bare shoulders, even around their waists.

And champagne. Well. Have you had bubbly lately? It’s fun and summery and delightful. (I suppose this isn’t really a new love, so much as a seasonal one.)

Other loves that won’t come as a surprise:

Bench, before

Taking a cheap Costco bench and making it my own with a bit of paint and love — the perfect addition to the homestead porch:

Bench, after

And correspondence. I had much fun putting together change of address cards, including an HH seal:

Change of address cards


HH seal

I have a new sign hanging in my kitchen that reads, “Do what you can with what you have.” These words keep ringing in my ears as I try to create a thoughtful, creative, artsy and warm home with as little new as possible. I remember watching Julia Roberts once on Oprah describe how she loved to sweep. She said she only had this tiny broom, but she made it work. Oprah finally asked her, “Why don’t you buy a bigger broom?” She just laughed, with that gorgeous smile, and said something to the effect that the little broom still worked, so why not use it?

Indeed. Plus, who wants to spend their budget on brooms when there are scarves and champagne to be had?


Rise and Rise Again

new home

I went for a hike last week to the top of the M — M for Mines, Colorado School of Mines, and Mount Zion. I only made it to the M, not to the top of Lookout Point — some 3 miles farther along, but it was a triumph. I’ve climbed this trail a dozen times in the last few years and never made it this far. A month of living in Colorado under my belt, I was still sucking wind when I made it to the this pinnacle.

The last month wouldn’t have happened if not for the generosity of my friends Sheila and Charlie (and baby R.) They opened their home to me in Golden, invited me to become a member of their family and truly showed me a kindness I’ll never forget. It gave me the time to find the right home, hike many trails, explore the city and many mountain roads and catch my breath after the move. It gave me the space to remember what is important to me — that voice that booms in the middle of the night when you can’t sleep. The pinch in your stomach when you know you meant to do something specific and you cannot waste another moment questioning your ability or purpose.

The last week has left me homesick. Not so much for Tempe, but for my friends. For a hard and hilarious run with Juliann and Adam. For Sunday dinner with Bec and her fam. For happy hour at Four Peaks with the gang. For the quick and uncomfortable hug with Mini. For teasing the African about his latest conquests. For feeling like a part of the Wright/Disbrow/Brennan families. A trip to the lanes with the bowling league. etc. I’ve created a new existence here that is far quieter, a touch rural and sincerely peaceful. It has given me plenty of time to consider what I want to achieve next and what I want this sweet Colorado life to look like.

And so, I try to shake the many trappings that continue to leave me guilt ridden and awake at 2 am.  So far from perfect, so far from giving up.

As my friend Jay Z says, you gotta get that dirt off your shoulder.*



*99 Problems would also be appropriate. Just don’t count me out as #100.

Foxes, Raccoons, Bees and Squirrels

tree, backyard

Saturday I spent several hours working outside, and met a couple of the neighbors. Two men who live down the street stopped to chat. They both laughed when I talked about the chicken coop.

Hydrangea bush

“To feed the foxes? Whatcha wanna do that for, chica?” Clyde thought my plan was hilarious. Me, playing Mother Goose to a coop of urban chickens. Rudy just smiled, watching me flush red with a quick Irish temper. Apparently I have a small forest animal zoo who’ve long lived in my backyard. Foxes? Raccoons? Well. I hadn’t planned for that little speed bump. Chicken coop plan A is temporarily on hold.

Hive, backyard

As for the bees, the giant tree in the backyard is home to a significant hive. I’ve got an arborist visit scheduled  this week, and worst case scenario they’ll be sucked out by bee folk and transferred to a hive south of Denver. I’d love to keep them around. They have worked hard to create their little home and they’d be great for the garden.

I leave them alone, they leave me alone. One can hope.

Kitchen windowsill

Thankfully, the Heirloom Homestead is otherwise well underway.

Curtain hung above my kitchen sink:

Japanese curtain

Kitchen sink

Garden boxes planted, with a compost pile, potager a few indoor herbs:


Bedrooms unpacked, closets organized, kitchen ready for a dinner party:

Kitchen table

This week my project list includes: hanging art, buying a few remaining pieces of furniture and I’ve got big plans for my tiny front porch (including the rare purchase of spray paint.)

front porch, before

There are also change-of-address cards that need to be posted, and curtains that need to be sewn for the bedrooms and office.


And perhaps most exciting of all, a dog. After so many years of talking about the addition to my family of 1, a pooch will be rescued this week from the local shelter. (Those poor foxes and raccoons!)

A busy week at this little home on the prairie in the shadow of the Rockies,



Apron Sans Tiara

I’ve long said if I could start over at high school graduation I’d have gone to culinary school. Or maybe the Rhode Island School of Design for pattern making. Amazing how interests change with time; when I graduated from high school, I knew I wanted to be a writer. My first trip to Africa inspired my love of public health. I am so very lucky and thankful I had a chance to study both. That said, I’ve always wanted to bake professionally. A tiny dog-friendly bakery where people could come to knit, read and eat the world’s best food.


Fast forward 14 years {sidenote: HOLY MOTHER OF GOD AND BURRITOS! 14 years? HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?}, and I’m just getting a chance to do that bakery gig. I’m training under a culinary school grad on the proper method of whipping up scones, muffins, cake, quick breads, cookies, cinnamon rolls and quiche. The very part-time weekend shift starts around 5 am, so that training part starts with me sticking my head in a bucket of espresso. Thankfully, they also serve such beverages and I get to drink as much as I fancy on the clock.

Brilliant productivity decision by management.

Where the magic happens

I’m considering this latest life experience great training and research for another book. It always comes back to the writing, which makes me realize this is yet another example of the grass always being greener. You know how you have this vision of what your life would be like professionally if you did something like, say, work at Disneyland, play a professional sport or run a bakery? Well. I am extra thankful my parents didn’t let me ditch traditional schooling. I’m a confident writer. I’m a meager pastry chef. (Plus, I’d be the Cinderella who’d run off with Snow White, Ariel and Jasmine to create our own fairy tale: the Empowered Super Heroine League — capable of saving our own asses!)

Professional baking: crossed off the bucket list.