1–10 of 15 entries from the month of: September 2014

Needle Wrangler

September 28th

Anyone else have a tangle of circular knitting needles that looks something like, oh, say, THIS?

Sewing and Knitting

Sewing and Knitting

Good times. Or, a tangled nonsense of zero fun. Your choice.

I did a bit of research, asking fellow knitting nerds how they store their supplies. The results varied in methods, with “in a giant mess” being the loudest, most popular vote. I was already winning that race, and frankly it wasn’t working for me.

Looking around my office, I had an old three ring binder full of recipes. (Remember the quaint days of writing recipes and storing them? Awwww. Once again I say: thank God for you, Internet.)

Sewing and Knitting

Sewing and Knitting

Sewing and Knitting

Sewing and Knitting

Sewing and Knitting

Sewing and Knitting

Sewing and Knitting

Mayhem managed. Nothing to see here. Carry on, friends.

~K

Posted in
Domestic Art, Heirloom Hacienda, Reduce, Reuse
Comments (5)

Writer School: Prompts

September 26th

Pencil Case

Ever get stuck with your writing? How about a brief writing exercise?

Here are three prompts. Take one of them and run with it. Email me what you’ve accomplished. I’d love to read it! Hopefully this gets the creativity flowing:

 

1. A woman is standing in her kitchen. Suddenly she is startled. What just happened?

2. You are on a walk when you watch, with shock, as an object falls from the sky and lands nearby. What is it?

3. You are at the bank when its doors lock behind you. Now what?

 

And, go.

(Trust me, sometimes little assignments like these are just what the doctor ordered to get back to writing. Try it.)

~K

Posted in
Writer School
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Heirloom Hacienda Eats

September 25th

Fall cooking

 

I am in a recipe rut. I have 8 down pat: Mexican meatloaf, chicken enchiladas, shepherd’s pie, chicken curry, 16-hour pulled pork, turkey pot pie, turkey meatballs with yogurt sauce, and risotto. What is your favorite go-to dinner recipe? (Extra points if I can make it in the Crockpot, as it is still approximately 1,000 degrees outside and my oven laughs nefariously when I turn it on this time of year.)

 

Dad's 60th

 

Like it did when I made these chocolate cupcakes for our family weekend — and none were eaten. I sent a dozen home with a guest and gave a couple others to friends.

September 22 095

 

Thankfully, the patient pepper plant is still sweetly producing these mild peppers like a champ. They find their way into just about everything.

Fall cooking

Fall cooking

Fall cooking

 

Like this chicken stock. I see risotto in our future. Mmmm… risotto.

~K

Posted in
Domestic Art, Heirloom Hacienda, Recipes
Comments (8)

Canyon Prep

September 24th

Did I mention we are hiking the Grand Canyon next week? And that I’ve climbed a bunch of hills lately in training? (Twist my arm. The only difficulty this time of year is the blasted heat.)

Life at the hacienda

 

Usery Mountain pass loop

Life at the hacienda

Life at the hacienda

Life at the hacienda

 

South Mountain

Grand Canyon Prep Hikes

 

See that water way down there? Yeah. We could hear it for an hour before we could finally reach it. TORTURE.

Grand Canyon Prep Hikes

 

This weekend when visiting Tucson, we had a chance to hike Catalina State Park. These pools looked like ice tea, but by the time I reached water it could have been black and I would have jumped in. (Come to find out a good hiker’s diet should is not a pre-workout meal of carne asada burritos and ample champagne. Who knew?)

My pack for next week is ready. It weighs 11 pounds without food or water, but with a bikini and waterproof mascara. Because if you are going to do something this difficult, you might was well look cute at the bottom when you arrive.

Am I right? 

(Please don’t leave snarky comments about how I’m not right. I know. I KNOW. Still packing both.)

~K

Posted in
Arizona, Happy Hippie
Comments (5)

Always With Us

September 23rd

This weekend was a big one for our family; my dad turned 60 and my cousin Kate got married. My family came in from Colorado and Texas to celebrate both occasions.

Dad's 60th

Friday night we had a dinner for my dad, who of course wanted everything low key and easy. Costco pizza, salad and pie — with surprise guests. My parents’ closest friends joined us for the easy family dinner. It was what Donley dinners often are: a contest of who can tell the funniest story the loudest. We are certainly not a shy bunch.

I made my Grandma Maxine’s peach blueberry pie for dessert — my dad’s favorite:

Dad's 60th

Dad's 60th

Dad's 60th

Dad's 60th

Dad's 60th

Dad's 60th

Dad's 60th

 

Nelson didn’t get pie, but did make sure his grandpa got proper 60th birthday cuddles.

My dad said the pie tasted just like my gram’s, which made me teary. She is still an active character is all of our stories and family gatherings. When I shared a photo of her pie on Instagram earlier this week, I had many ask for the recipe: Peach Blueberry Pie

Also! Kate got married. And was one of the most spectacularly beautiful brides I’ve ever seen. It was such a fun wedding:

Kate's wedding

I’d never been to the Arizona Inn before, but it is gorgeous in that perfect southwestern Tucson way. They said their vows with the sun setting on the Catalina Mountains. The immaculate grounds had lots of wildflowers, cactus and succulents. (I thought twice about sneaking clippings, but the margaritas got my attention instead.) The inside looked like an ode to Frida:

Kate's wedding

Kate's wedding

Kate's wedding

Needless to say, I loved it. It was wonderful to catch up with family too, especially this stinker. My grandfather just turned 88.

Kate's wedding

 

His filter is gone, and he had no problem telling people to “get out of his way” when he approached on his motorized scooter. Ah, family. My grandmother would have loved the weekend. She was there with us in many ways.

~K

Posted in
Arizona, Celebrate!, Recipes
Comments (7)

Happy 60th, Dad

September 18th

Dad

My dad turns 60 today. So much of who I am is because of him. I am deeply thankful I won the dad lotto 35 years ago.

Happy birthday, Papi!

~K

 

Posted in
Celebrate!
Comments (2)

End of Summer Reading

September 17th

Life at the hacienda

I’ve been reading more than normal lately — which is nice. I’ve been carrying a paperback with me at all times, and having another book at my desk for breaks. A couple of these reads were so good, I was reading at stoplights.

Gone Girl: three out of five bananas. I enjoyed this one and could not get over the twists and turns. The characters are great in the sense they are dark, dysfunctional and will stick with you for days after completing the story.  I’m excited to see the movie. And I’m having a hard time not talking about the story. So, maybe it deserves more than three bananas. 3.5 then. Absoloodle. (Stoplight read)

Life at the hacienda

The Wildwood Chronicles: This young adult adventure story was recommended by a friend’s sons. They said it was one of their recent favorites, and I’d like the pictures. I took it thinking, “uh, huh. The pictures…” Sure enough, the illustrations — done by the author’s wife — are incredible. They add such another level of richness to the tale.

The author is also the lead singer of the band “The Decemberists,” who I happen to love.  I did think the last 100 pages were too much in regard to the detail of battle scenes. It didn’t keep my full attention. That said, I’d probably read the next one in the series. 3.5 bananas, absoloodle.

Life at the hacienda

The Scarlet Letter: I am tutoring a high school student this year. She is required to read The Scarlet Letter for English. While I appreciate this is a classic piece of American literature, I think the story being on the curriculum today smacks of a school district pussy footing around discussions of healthy sexual relationships. Sex and shame are one in the same in this story — for everyone involved. Of all the great books they could be reading instead… Two out of five bananas.

I spent a good bit of the summer reading The Cuckoo’s Calling, which I thought was okay. Again, I’d likely read the next one if I had it on hand. I’m currently reading, Gonzalez and Daughter Trucking Company.  It is fun and easy — about a woman who is in Mexican prison and is one of the few who is literate. As such, she starts a reading group but instead weaves a wild tale, pretending to be reading. It is left to the reader to decide if she is actually telling her story.

Next up: I am the Messenger, by the same author as The Book Thief. Very much looking forward to this story.

Life at the hacienda

What are you reading? What was your favorite book of the summer? Mine was, Where’d you go Bernadette? Loved it. (Stoplight read)

{Also: the sunflowers did well in the garden this year. Many of them tipped over from the recent heavy rains, but they did their jobs of purifying the soil nonetheless. Sadly, I’ll have to go without gardening anything significant for the next few months. My patio wall needs to be replaced and I’m not going to plant to have it ripped out for construction.}

~K

Posted in
Flora and Fauna, Media
Comments (3)

Knitting and Plotting

September 16th

My friend Adam (and I’m sure others quietly) has long made fun of my love for the holidays. I love Thanksgiving — the prep, family time, football, food, days off of work and cooler weather. And I love Christmas, although less so since my family has scattered and now it seems to involve stressful travel. All the same, the gift planning and creating is my favorite.

I’m not entirely sure why it is so important to me to make as many of the gifts I give for the holidays as I can, but it is. I enjoy combing through patterns and recipes and plotting gifts for family and friends alike. It truly brings me joy.

So, make fun — but the Christmas knitting has begun. (How can it not? Knitting is so time intensive. You’ve got to plan!)

First up: this orange cable scarf that seriously took 15 months to complete, but is ready for Christmas this year! Yay!

Christmas Knitting

Christmas Knitting

I am also really enjoying the Golden Pear beanie pattern:

Christmas Knitting

Christmas Knitting

 

Christmas Knitting

 

I first made this pattern for my friend’s new baby, Sawyer:

Golden Pear Beanie

Yep. Looking forward to the next 10 or so weeks of knitting and wrapping and spending time with those I love most. And yes, I know I am a dork. A knitting dork. And I’m totally okay with it.

~K

Posted in
Domestic Art, handmade, Happy Hippie, Heirloom Hacienda
Comments (3)

Writer School: Character Development

September 12th

Kelli Draper

How do you create characters who are interesting, fun, memorable and also human? It isn’t easy. There are plenty of examples of great characters in literature — those who are so unique you can’t help but remember the story because of the person.

A few examples from my favorite books:

Edgar Mint

Owen Meany

Garp

Laura Ingalls Wilder

Nancy Drew

Each of these personalities brings complexity to the story. For the most part (perhaps excluding Nancy Drew), the reader sees both the good and the bad in the person. If the person is all good, you are quite possibly writing a super hero story. But hey, even contemporary takes on Batman show us he isn’t entirely pure and good.

So, how do you create interesting characters? I cut ads out of magazines and answer a basic questionnaire for each of my major characters. I like having a visual, and I like to know what the character loves, hates, fears, is annoyed by, etc. I get into detail in the character interview that often isn’t included in the story, but is important to me to consider when I am writing. I organize these in a three ring binder and use it often when adding details about my characters long after I’ve started writing the story. It’s a memory cheat — did my character have blue or green eyes? Does she have siblings? Like dogs? Allergic to bees? It is important to your reader to keep the details consistent, at a minimum. And if you are writing a serial, I would guess those interview questions would grow exponentially as you get to know your characters more with time.

(Also: if you are writing a serial — it makes sense that your characters will change slightly with time. They will also have new faults.)

Who are your favorite literary characters? Do you have a difficult time with character development?

 

~K

P.S. A few favorite tv characters: Don Draper and Peggy Olson from Mad Men. Tony and Carmela Soprano. Leslie Knope, Parks and Recreation. Liz Lemon, 30 Rock.

Posted in
Writer School
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Mini Goes to the Circus

September 11th

Min's circus school performane

My friend Mini (or Elizabeth, or Liz, depending on how you know her) started taking classes at circus school last year. She has always been a dancer and was on the dive team in high school. The girl is flexible. She’s most recently been doing a bunch of those crazy relay running races, like Ragnar.

Min's circus school performane

She mentioned to a handful of us that the circus school was having a student show and, “would we like to come?” Uh, yes. Yes I would like to come. And I agreed even before she sent me the link with her costume, or ideas for face painting. I’d been listening to her talk about the characters at this circus school for months. And occasionally seeing her bruises from the routines. And I wanted to see what could possibly be so fun she’d be willing to drive 40 miles one way to play.

So, there we were on a hot Saturday afternoon in a cramped industrial park in north Scottsdale sitting on gymnastic mats. I played with her nephews and chatted with her boys. She had a strong showing of support, including her parents, sibling and family friends. We mingled among all the others, also sitting on gym mats, also sporting tentative looks.

Min's circus school performane

Min and her friend were the seventh act and they nailed it. They seriously nailed it. It was fun and exciting and scary in parts. (Those silks don’t come with a backup safety plan.)

Min’s always been my adventurous friend. (It is funny to write that because she is also my friend who is scared of windy roads, the dark and anything that has to do with planning related to death.) But she really is so adventurous — including getting over her fear of the dark by doing those ridiculous relay running races at 2 am. The day after her rather amazing circus performance on the silks, we were out hiking in the desert and it dawned on me how very proud I am of her.

Min's circus school performane

 

 

Min's circus school performane

Min's circus school performane

These photos don’t do these weirdos justice. Their performances were certainly strange, but also beautiful. And you could tell how passionate they were about their craft. It was fun to watch and hard to photograph.

 

It sounds silly, but that is the right word: proud. She is a hilarious mix of sarcasm, wit and gossip. And she’s also a great mom, super successful realtor, and writer. She’s fun to be around, and she also has a lot to teach me — a rather nice combination for a friendship that is pushing 30 years old.

Min's circus school performane

Proud of you, Mini Tolar/Liz Newlin/Liza Wildcat. You make one hell of a circus weirdo.

~K

Posted in
Arizona, Celebrate!, Happy Hippie
Comments (4)