Category Archives: Good to Great

How We Roll

A few years ago, my friend Kara began posting about how she was shifting how she shopped. She was going to stop buying new and focus on vintage and thrift shops. Kara is a dish and has great fashion sense. She can pull off stuff that would look laughable on my near six foot frame. So, I was curious about her experiment and invited myself along on one of her Goodwill adventures.

It was shocking. There were so many nice, gently worn, and sometimes new-with-the-tag items on the racks for a tiny fraction of what I was used to paying. The experience opened my eyes. Of course, I wasn’t new to thrifting, but for whatever reason, I’d never spent time looking through clothing.

Fast forward two years, and now the shock comes when I walk into Talbots. Or Banana Republic. It is bananas (said in my best minion voice) what I’d been used to paying for a blouse, for example. Between Goodwill and ThredUp, I’ve completely changed my shopping habits to second-hand. I feel good about the environmental impact of this and certainly the change on my pocketbook.

That said, just like walking into a department store and walking out with a new outfit used to give me a rush, I’ve found myself making time for thrifting when I need a pick-me-up. This behavior has become a problem. Our closet was so full and Jason made a gentle comment about the number of shoes.

Coincidentally, my dear friend Meg is newly living in Denmark and just got her first European job. She did not bring a professional wardrobe with her and she reached out. Could I go to thrifting with her in mind?


I spent about $100 at Goodwill and a couple hours sorting through things in my closet that are not well used, but in good shape. Meg and I are the same size, which works out well. I’m excited to be taking this giant suitcase to her in a couple weeks. Needless to say, Denmark and Arizona couldn’t have more different weather. Denmark is cold and rainy and they live on the coast. We are dry, hot, and sweaty for 8 months of the year. But, with tights, gloves, and a good jacket, I think you can make just about anything work.

I won’t go into all the details, but if you need a nudge to change your shopping habits, consider this: for that $100, I was able to find three dresses, two skirts, two blazers, and a handful of other items. All are name brand and in great shape. No one item cost more than $14. Also, these items didn’t go into a landfill. No child labor, or giant ship to cross an ocean, was required for the Goodwill run. Plus, they have coupons! Spend $20, save 20%.

I’m on a shopping hiatus for the time being. I need to address and change the behavior to shop when I want to feel a rush of endorphins. It is a yucky habit and it does not align with who I want to be, the values I want to demonstrate. It also is grossly capitalist. Consume more! Feel better!

That said, a friend suggested I start thrifting for others as a side gig. I love to shop for others! I also would love to start a closet organizing business because my goodness, my nerdy hobbies run deep.

So, if you care to play along:

  1. What’s your best thrift find?
  2. Do you have a habit you need to change? How are you working to do so?
  3. Where is your favorite place to find a good deal? (If you are in the east valley, check out the Sunshine Acres boutique!)


Hello? It’s me. I was wondering…

Southern Arizona Honeymoon

Oh, hello dear blog. I’ve neglected you long enough. There have been a bevy of excuses: the wedding, the exorbitant amount of time I am now spending commuting, family life, publishing.

Basket Baby is being published, and I’ll have a signing at Changing Hands in Tempe. (7 pm, December 9th. Come one, come all. Bring your holiday shopping list — this bookstore doesn’t disappoint.)

There are other reasons too, namely that the older I get, the less I need to share. Also, there are roughly a dozen other ways I now keep up with friends and family that weren’t around — or I wasn’t using — at the inception of blogging. Most of the friends I’ve made through blogging have called it off, instead posting to Instagram or Facebook.

There is still a place in my life for keeping up this journal, albeit less about the daily happenings in our household and more about what’s going on professionally.

This week, I’m re-reading Basket Baby and coming up with a passionate passage for the book signing. I’m also writing the first draft of the next novel, Counting Coup. I’m on chapter 24 and I haven’t written a word in more than a month. This is an oddly terrifying place to be as a novelist. I put the project down when wedding and honeymoon plans and activities took over, whispering to Creativity I’d be back.

Now, Creativity (and Inspiration) both feel ignored — and rightly so. We’re courting. I’m hoping to have the project back on track this week, depending on how stubborn they are. My goal is to have the first draft done by the time of the book signing. I’ve got a solid idea for the next novel (Draper Drive is the working title) and I am eager to get started.

One of my greatest motivators at the moment is sitting in traffic behind vehicles with “Make America Great Again!” bumper stickers. An hour to work, and hour home, I sit in a cloud of pollution, flipping through radio programs and dreaming of a home office where instead, I write. Dogs rest at my feet. I switch up a cup of coffee for an afternoon glass of rose and listen to classical music while the words pour out onto the page. My nails are manicured. The garden is weeded. Dinner is cooking downstairs. The housekeeper is managing laundry and taking out the recycling.

Yes. The pollution might be getting to me.

I have a feeling the next four years are going to see a brilliant surge of art in America. For no other reason, this may make America a bit better.


A Full Plate


This month’s editor’s letter in Bon Appetit is about Adam Rapaport’s habit of taking himself out for a long lunch once a month, with a cocktail, to find inspiration. He sits at the bar, takes his time, and gets a ton of work done—all while savoring food at his own pace.

There is something so luxurious about dining alone. I love the idea of a lunch date with my work.

If you’ve noticed a lack of sewing, knitting, and baking around here it is because I made a decision in early 2016 to focus on writing. I’m reading books for research (with a bit of fluff in between) and trying to spend a least an hour a day writing. This included the business of getting the last novel out the door, too.

Time to write, to throw dialog and plot ideas against the page without worrying about editing, is my favorite part. I make up crazy characters with wild hair and bad attitudes. I make the next door neighbor an unexpected thief, the priest a murderer and the chef a brilliant recluse. I play with fodder from my word-a-day email, just to try them out on the page.

It’s working. I’m 40,000 words into this novel, which is about half-way. I’ve set up the conflict and the characters and am in the thick of it. This is where the research has to be right, the observations keen and the storytelling lyrical. The reader has already enjoyed a nice salad and piece of thick cut bread with salted butter, and the main course is coming out with cheese bubbling on top. There is promise of a great slice of chocolate cake with fresh whipped cream and a hot cup of coffee for dessert, too.

Today, between appointments and traveling across the state to speak on suicide prevention, I’m going to find a bar, a glass of sadly-I’m-still-on-the-clock seltzer, and work through lunch.

Thanks for the idea, Adam. And thank you for hanging around here where there are fewer tutorials and recipes, but still the same heart (and appetite.)


Garden Update

The veggie garden grows


We’ve had a delightful amount of rain in the last week. The garden soaked up every drop, and things are green and blooming this week. Even those transplanted volunteer tomato starts have taken root and are blooming:

The veggie garden growsYay! Their younger siblings are taking root too, reaching for the sunlight. One more week until I venture to transplant a few of these into the earth (within their peat pots):

The veggie garden grows

The veggie garden grows


The beets are sprouting.


February 34 039


The leeks are too.

The veggie garden grows


And the beans are growing, climbing toward the trellis:

The veggie garden grows

Makes my happy little heart swell with joy. I can’t wait to see how this all works out!



Sing Alleluia

Nelson, before

Hi friends! Did you have a nice holiday? Celebrate the New Year with bubbly and fireworks? I hope it was delightful. I am happy to have taken some time away to spend with friends and family. I had a break from work and have returned full of excitement about the tasks at hand, along with a lengthy list of resolutions and goals for 2015.

It is going to be a great year!

One use of time I’d like to be more mindful about is reading. I’ve let my reading for pleasure slip, spending more time watching Netflix or silly episodes of Castle. This year, I’d like to read a book a week and provide a review here. I have a room full of books I’ve already purchased that are of interest, and are begging for my attention. Two reviews of books finished during the holiday break:

1. Pastrix by Nadia Bolz-Weber. I heard about this memoir during a podcast of “On Being.” Nadia, a Lutheran minister covered in tattoos, was interviewed about her irreverent attitude about faith and how she feels God dragged her back into a relationship. I was crying by the end of the episode. My faith hasn’t wavered, exactly. But there have certainly been times of life when I was regularly attending church vs. lately. (I’ve been happily spending far more time seeking God on mountaintops, with my trusty hiking companions, than man-made sanctuaries.) Nadia sums up so many of my feelings on being in a relationship with God. Her spunky, vulgar, incredibly apt perspective about faith is exactly what I needed to read.

I’m only sad I didn’t attend her church — “House for All Sinners and Saints” in Denver when I lived in town.

One of many passages I found spot on:

“There is a popular misconception that religion, Christianity specifically, is about knowing the difference between good and evil sot hat we can choose the good. But being good has never set me free the way truth has. Knowing all of this makes me love and hate Jesus at the same time. Because, when instead of contrasting good and evil, he contrasted truth and evil, I have to think about all the times I’ve substituted being good (or appearing to be good) for truth.

“Very often I will avoid the truth until my face goes red… When someone like me, who will go to superhero lengths to avoid the truth, runs out of options — when I am found out or too exhausted to pretend anymore or maybe just confronted by my sister — it feels like the truth might crush me. And that is right. The truth does crush us, but the instant it crushes us, it somehow puts us back together into something honest. It’s death and resurrection every time it happens.”

One more, concerning her love for Mary Magdalene and how we should respond to violence and tragedy when we don’t know what to do:

“What Mary would do is show up and remind us that despite the violence and fear, it’s still always worth it to love God and to love people. And always, always, it is worth it to sing alleluia in defiance of the devil, who surely hates the sounds of it.”

Yes. So much yes. 5 out of 5 bananas because this book will stick with me for life and I’ve already bought copies to give as gifts. Yes.

Nelson, after

2. A Sudden Light.Did you read The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein? Well, this is another one of his lovely novels. It is set in Seattle and is about generations of fathers and sons in the same timber dynasty family who have to reconcile each other’s desires about wealth and the environment. It is told from the perspective of a 14 year old boy, Clever Trevor, who you’ll fall in love with.

I really enjoyed this story once I got into it. 3.5/5 bananas, absoloodle.

Nelson, on the other hand, is loving being able to see again — but not happy about always being cold. I pulled out the electric blanket for him this weekend. I think it is safe to say his Colorado roots have been officially transplanted.

Happy reading and rocking the first week of this sweet year!


Basket Baby

Ghanian baskets for sale at the Scottsdale Farmer's Market

This week marked a milestone: I finished the first draft of my second novel, “Basket Baby” and sent it off to a handful of friends who agreed to edit. I’ve been working on this story since 2009 and am profoundly happy to see what it has become.

I’m evolutions behind my favorite author, Barbara Kingsolver. But thanks to studying writing at Lighthouse and countless afternoons spent reading, it is getting better. I am learning how to tell a story.

So much of life is about just that. Whether we sit around campfires under a twinkling Wyoming sky after a day of fly fishing, or we shoot off a quick email from our smart phone with the latest gossip — humans are uniquely interested in hearing a good tale. The juicy bits. The lurid, the profane and the innocent and naive. We want our characters to have abilities we dream of, and faults just like those we don’t like about ourselves.

“Basket Baby” is a story of redemption and survival.  The synopsis reads:

When Luz leaves her infant daughter on the doorstep of a wealthy home in Tarija, Bolivia — she doesn’t know the Americans living within are mourning the loss of their first child. Instead, the teen sees opportunity for a baby she can no longer keep.

Macy is clinging to what remains of her marriage, while fighting postpartum depression, and watching as her husband’s ambitious career leads into the dangerous politics of South America.

The housekeeper, Ruth, is left holding the pieces of the fragile family together — all while trying to feed four young children of her own.

Told from the perspectives of these three women, “Basket Baby” asks what it would take to abandon what you love most.

And now, I wait for cover art from an artist friend, and edits to be made before it is sent to the publishing house. With any hope, I’ll have real copies of this in hand by the end of the summer and a few readings scheduled for Fall.

I am very, very excited to share this story. (And also a bit giddy about the next project — a mystery series!)



I haven’t been reading as much as usual. There was a time of my life when my parents would take away my books as punishment and make me fish.

(Today, I dream of summer vacation in Wyoming, fly fishing with family friends, and reading until the sun sets or the mosquitoes drive us indoors. Oh, to be on the Green…)

Fly fishing

I’ve fallen into watching a lot of Netflix/Hulu/PBS on my laptop. Downton Abbey, House of Cards, Sherlock, The Call of the Midwife, Castle, etc. Television seems to be better than ever.

I’m making an effort to return to reading. There is something insatiable about a great read — one I drape over my knee while commuting so I can inhale another page at red lights. It has been a good while since I’ve read something that delicious.

I’ve just finished Sherman Alexie’s “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” and it was entertaining. It wasn’t stop-light fantastic, but it was good and I’m interested in reading more of his writing. This book is young adult fiction, and the first hand account of a young man living among the Spokane Indians on a reservation. He decides to leave his high school for the better “white” school off the res. It is funny, poignant, crude and worth reading. The last 20 pages left me unexpectedly in tears.

“I realized that I might be a lonely Indian boy, but I was not alone in my loneliness. There were millions of other Americans who had left their birthplaces in search of a dream. I realized that sure, I was a Spokane Indian. I belonged to that tribe. But I also belonged to the tribe of American immigrants. And to the tribe of basketball players. And to the tribe of bookworms…”

It is a quick read and I think while at times heavy-handed, Alexie does a great job of expressing the difficulties a teenage boy must have living on an American Indian Reservation.

3.5 bananas, absoloodle

I am currently reading “Snobs” by Julian Fellowes of Downton fame. It is a bit hard to get started because the writing is so British and set on discussing aristocracy. But the soap opera is starting to get juicy, and there are characters named Edith and Isabel, which is easy enough to picture.

One of my many goals of 2014: read more, buy less. I will not own an e-reader or purchase more books until I have done something about the 300 pounds of books I haven’t yet read — but managed to buy. (I’m becoming good friends with the library and borrowing when necessary to stick with this economic resolution.)




Hear ye! Hear ye!

Beginning of the New Year public proclamation!

drinking up the sunlight

I am giving up artificial sweeteners. No more diet soda, or sugar-free anything. There is plenty of research backing up this decision, and a good bit of personal motivation too. A good friend was recently diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. She decided to make many changes after her diagnosis. I thought she might start using products like CBD oil, which have many health benefits including reducing the pain that comes with Multiple Sclerosis after getting several recommendations from the doctors and friends. And that is the sole reason why I did a lot of research on the use of CBD oil in the case of Multiple Sclerosis, and I discovered that Nabiximols (Sativex), a multiple sclerosis drug made from a combination of TCH and CBD, is approved to treat MS pain in the United Kingdom and Canada. I even asked her to do a quick Google search for something like ‘CBD oils UK‘ and then decide whether or not she wanted to use the oil. But instead, she has drastically altered her diet and way of life, and she recently announced that she will no longer consume diet sodas.

In solidarity, I am joining her.

And while this may seem like a simple thing, I am a Thirst Buster kinda girl. 64 ounces of pure Diet Coke love. No kidding: I buy my sugar-free gum at Costco. (That’s a lot of gum.)

This is one of the simplest and healthiest changes I can make this year. If you see me chomping on gum or gulping down saccharine bubbly, feel free to remind me of this proclamation and my hypocrisy.

Pretty tulips

The upsides: better bones and teeth, in the long run. Not looking like a unpolished galoot when I show up to meetings with gum in my mouth. One less product to have to buy in bulk. (Bye bye, Truvia.) Throwing away those refill Circle K plastic cups in the back seat of my car.

Showing some support and love for someone when I feel helpless to do anything else. And oh – showing myself I can do it. It has been a long time since I have put my mind to something and actually completed the task to the finish line. With someone to support in the process, it will be easier.*

What are your changes for the New Year?


*There is also more than a little bit of me hoping that if I can master this step, I can move on to other aspects of living a clean paleo diet that have thwarted previous attempts. One step at a time.

Curiouser and Curiouser

I’ve been bugging Finny lately with more and more gardening questions. (You know, she’s a super star garden student now, right? Running her own gardening business, going to vegetable school. I’m fairly certain she even has some “hydro basil expert” business cards or something.)

Lately, these have been questions on seed saving. I have been reading more and more about Monsanto’s reach and power, and I find it very bothersome. I come from farming stock, and I am certain my great grandparents would be horrified by the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in the company’s favor. In turn, I want to grow a garden — and live a life — as Monsanto/GMO-free as possible.

I know. This is a huge rabbit hole. Hang in here with me, and I promise we won’t spend too long staring into the hippie looking glass.

Seed saving

When I am curious about a new hobby, may it be gardening, knitting or cooking, I learn in dribs and drabs. Mostly, I learn from trying, failing and trying again. As such, I’ve been gardening for the better part of a decade without saving seeds, or considering soil amelioration. These both seemed a bit too difficult when I started, and I haven’t returned to the subjects until this recent Monsanto news. And let’s be honest — I’ve been using crap Monsanto seed that wouldn’t have been worth saving anyway. These seeds have been genetically modified so they are infertile, meaning gardeners (or farmers) have to buy them annually.

Brilliant, business-wise. Ridiculous nature-wise.

In my mind, seed saving is like knitting cables, or baking bread from scratch.

First you have to learn how to plant a garden for where you live, nurture it, harvest it and want to do it all over again before you have the energy to figure out how to tinker with what is already working. How can I get better seeds? How can I plant heirloom vegetables that carry on a family’s story? How can I avoid messing up the entire food chain by planting seeds that don’t allow proper pollination?

With knitting, I needed a decade to master simply keeping the stitches on my needles before I learned how to intentionally let a few fly free, twist them around, and cable them to glory.


And baking bread — well, let’s just say I had to learn how to not burn toast. (While I boldly showcase a lot of meals gone right around here, let me reassure you there are still gobs of failures too. Last night, we cut into bloody, undercooked chicken. Gag.)  I love to bake bread, especially in a warm kitchen where the natural yeast makes it an easy process. This recipe has made the entire process far easier.

Great Harvest Bread Company Baking Class

As such, I’m saving seeds, and reading this book. I’m plotting the next garden more carefully, with heirloom seeds from well trusted sources. I’m going through lists of Monsanto products online and bit by bit riding our home of this nonsense. I’m looking into seed-swapping organizations.

The next jump in education in each of these categories: soil amelioration, intarsia, baking challah.

“For, you see, so many out-of-the-way things had happened lately, that Alice had begun to think that very few things indeed were really impossible.”
― Lewis CarrollAlice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass


What You Can

Meal Planning

My new kitchen is full of color, and is my favorite room in the house. It is wacky, fun, and space-challenged, but all together perfect. I’m not working yet, and so each afternoon looks a bit like a scene from a 1950s television show. I usually wear a dress and apron, and am elbows deep into a new recipe until the moment D gets home from work. He goes outside to throw the ball with Nelson, while I put whatever odd concoction we’re eating on the table — which has been set since after breakfast.

Meal Planning

What? I’m a writer. Procrastinating is an art, people. And we have to eat…

Yeah. I realize this little routine isn’t going to last long. We’ll be throwing frozen chicken breasts into the Crockpot before scooting out the door to our respective careers soon enough. But, while I’ve got the domestic mojo flowing, we are all enjoying it.

I’ve taken Stacey’s model and adapted it for our life. We eat most meals at home. Between the two of us, I’m either cooking or buying ingredients (cereal, milk) for 36 meals per week. My new goal is to feed us well — local produce, etc. — for less than $100 per week for these 36 meals.

Meal Planning

It’s working. This week’s menu includes several recipes from Wine and a Spoon, including chicken tikka masala and meatball soup.  Other standards in our weekly repertoire include a roast chicken (which eventually ends up in the soup pot to be boiled down for broth), lots of salad, and several bags of steamed veggies brought back to life with spices and a little butter. We eat a lot of leftovers too. (Risotto, meatloaf, soups — all taste better day two anyhow.)

Meal Planning

What is not included in that $100: wine. Ice cream. The random block of gourmet cheese one of us always seems to pick up during the week. The lunch out when we just don’t feel like eating leftovers.

The cost of living is considerably higher here, and I’ve never been much of a coupon/food sale shopper. I’m hoping this new routine of planning our next week’s worth of meals, and shopping once at the most reasonable market will save us time, money and the “what will we eat tonight/what ingredient am I missing” headaches.

I’m looking forward for it to warm up a bit so I can supplement this menu with our own tomatoes, peppers and fresh herbs. And for the BBQ to be fired up.

Another perk to all this budgeting and being a responsible adult? Eating out is way more fun when done sparingly. It seems like a deserved treat to visit our favorite sushi joint Friday nights.