“Bring Back the Fish”

Roller coasters, penguins, Shamu, Candu and Mamu and a whole lot of WOO HOO! We had a great time at Sea World today.

Hi there Flipper

I had forgotten how exhausting theme parks can be. We arrived when the park opened and had ridden all the roller coasters within the first two hours. By then, the stroller army had come out in force and wee ones in bathing suits were running and screaming in all directions. We headed toward the animal exhibits and I fell in love with the penguins. They are too sweet! Actually, they were so pretty and majestic up close I thought they were fake. They seemed a bit robotic because they were too perfect. In May I am traveling to San Francisco and am taking a vacation day. I plan on visiting the San Francisco Zoo just to see their well-praised penguin exhibit. Stunning! Although, sadly no photos to back up this statement. The photography ops were limited. But look who did pose for me:

Nothing says Sea World like the random donkey

What? You were expecting the clich√© Orca shot? Well, I’d hate to disappoint.


And then, of course, I found the African angle to a water park with killer whales in the middle of Texas.

Hi friends!

Yes, we can ship artic animals to the center of Texas (just think about the absurdity for a second. Please.), but pressing national issues, like um, healthcare, immigration and peace? Well, let’s leave those to D.C. The true brains are obviously in San Antonio. I can’t even imagine what type of flights these animals required.

Stepping away from my cynicism for a moment, any day I can ride roller coasters with my parents is an awesome day. Two quotes from my mom:
When watching Viva!, a show with a fair combination of dolphin and whales paired with excessive synchronized swimming, she shouts, “Bring back the fish!” The kids standing around us applauded.

And, when I wanted to see the penguins after riding the first roller coaster, my mother — notorious for her animal-loving ways — says, “They smell. Let’s hit the rides.” I think she was temporarily possessed.

Six hours later, we’d conquered the park, been thrown upside down, drenched on a log ride, and close enough to pet a dolphin. A nap was in order.

A fun day indeed,

Top 10 Things About Visiting Texas

1. You sit next to a cute boy on the airplane.
2. He asks for your number.
3. Your parents meet you at the airport with open arms and generous hugs.
4. They tell you they are taking you to Sea World tomorrow.
5. You giggle like you are five years old, and promply revert to such age, letting them shower you with desired parent-child attention.
6. Cable. (This “Big Love” show is seriously scandalous!)
7. BBQ
8. Boxed wine, iced with a dash of Sprite to make a “Karel Spritzer.” Oh, the sweet, dizzying wrongness of it all.
9. Pretty flowers, fresh air and friendly faces. If you are going to visit San Antonio this year, now’s the time. I’ve been here late summer (hot, sticky, ew) and in the winter (brown, chilly, ew). Texans are a strange bunch, but they are friendly. I’d forgotten how nice everyone is.
10. Dharms, the family dog, chasing her tail for 10 minutes in glee when she sees you. Man, I love that pooch.

So come on down, y’all! I’ll save you a spot on the couch and a plate of chicken grilled to perfection. Ooh, got to go. Bill Paxton’s smootching on the next wife…


Rock Star Buns: aka Catnip for Men

rock buns, cu

The first time I made Jane’s rock bun recipe, I got rave reviews. From my father. My very health conscious father who doesn’t rave about much, much less baked goods.
So I made them again.
And again.
And again.
They have now become one of his favorite desserts. While I’m not entirely sold that he loves them as much as he says he does, it’s worth the praise regardless of its sincerity.
I’ve changed Jane’s recipe slightly, adding toasted coconut, cherry flavored cranberries and orange zest. My brother received a few of these this weekend in his early Easter basket. He called me just to tell me how good they were. Not to ask for a favor, not to bug me about something trivial — to thank me for his new favorite treat. I know. Stop the presses. It made me beam.
Jane, you’re on to something here. We’ve coined her rock buns as Rock Star buns and the men in my family are officially in love.
A good medium between a cookie and a scone, they are fruity, sweet and addictive.

plate of rock buns

These may or may not be going with me to Texas tomorrow to celebrate Easter. I wouldn’t want to give away my final CAOK gift, but to know me is to know I can’t keep a secret. So, Papi, they are coming with me. Let’s just hope the airline people can keep their hungry little paws off of these babies.
CAOK is offically wrapped up, at least until I get home and have a chance to sit back down at my sewing machine. I’ve truly enjoyed surprising my friends here and there and sharing a bit of love. Karma has come back to me ten-fold. After swimming through a rough sea of not so smooth waters there for a couple of months, I’m now fanning myself on the beach ordering another margarita — so to speak. The old adage that the best way to get over your own petty grief is to focus on helping others actually works. Who knew?

Wishing you a happy and sweet Spring,

Fresh Orange Cake

Fresh orange cake stays moist and yummy for several days after baking, thanks to the additional eggs, oil and orange juice added to the cake mix. This is one of my favorite recipes from “The Cake Mix Doctor;” yet another cookbook staple at my house. I bake cakes about once a week, for my coworkers, friends at the gym, and even the guys who play poker at my bagel shop. Everyone knows I love to bake, including my friend Rebecca. She gave me a CAOK gift of my own last week — sweet new Kitchenaid baking molds in the shapes of flowers. One of the tricks of baking cakes for so many people is finding such molds; then you don’t have to fuss with plates and napkins and serving utensils. You just wrap up your little individual treats, or place them on a pretty serving platter, and away you go.
To continue the CAOK Week 5, FOOD! extravaganza, I give you fresh orange cake tulips and lemon cake daisies:

plate of flower cakes

These were an awkward shape and number to arrange on a round platter, but you get the idea.

Daisy close up

I glazed these with a mixture of confectioner’s sugar, fresh orange juice and orange zest.

neighbor's plate

This Easter dessert combo platter was a gift for my neighbors. We keep swapping treats. I don’t have the heart to tell them I’m not eating sweets right now, but my Girl Scout troop is thoroughly loving their generosity.

Do you have any special Passover/Easter/Spring traditions in your family? Is there anything special you’re cooking?


CAOK, Week 5: FOOD!

CAOK is winding up with Easter just around the corner. This last week of surprise sweets are literally sweet. Check your mailboxes because there may be a Easter basket or two headed your way!

Today, Easter Nests from Nigella Lawson’s “How to be a Domestic Goddess.”

Nigella nest
plate of nests
nest cu, better

This is an easy spring recipe, using melted chocolate, shredded wheat and a few Whopper egg toppers. I highly recommend this cookbook if you are looking for something a bit different. Nigella is the British Martha, but sexy and sweet.

Happy nibbling,

Picture Show

I treated myself to an afternoon movie yesterday at the foreign film house in Phoenix. (Yes, in a city of 3 million, we have just one theater that regularly shows foreign and independent films. Ay.)
I’d been wanting to see Tsosti for some time and was thrilled when it won the best foreign film Oscar this year. You may remember the director accepting the Oscar with a speech in several African languages, peppered with English. All things African intrigue me.
Tsotsi is the story of a young man growing up in what the viewer can only guess is Soweto. The million-plus township sits on the edge of Johannesburg. The cinematography captures the plight of the poor in these communities and their struggle with education, violence, and their roles in society. Tsotsi’s story is contrasted by that of a young baby from an affluent Black family who Tsotsi inadvertently kidnaps. I’m not giving anything away– this happens in the previews and the first five minutes of the film. Tsotsi — Swahili (I think?) for Thug — initially decides to keep the baby and raise him in his tiny metal shack in the township. Through the story, you learn more about a South Afrikaner‚Äôs perspective in surviving a parent who’s died of AIDS, in addition to a slew of other emotional twists that left me hurting for more. I fell in love in particular with the female lead who was so beautiful, caring and nurturing. I wanted to sit on her couch and have a cup of tea with her, learn more about her character, become her friend.
The movie is heartbreaking and excellent.
Five out of five bananas. Absoloodle.

Gracious Gardens

yellow wildflower

I’m inviting you to a garden party at my house. All you have to do is take a couple of photos of what’s growing near your house and drop them off here.
I’d like to see plants from other countries. What’s growing in Australia this time of year, when our Aussie friends are heading into winter?
I’ll post photos in this Flickr pool as I travel this summer too. I’m always fascinated by the similarities and differences in plants around the world.
Do you have a favorite tree? Do you have a favorite bloom? (I know several of you do!) Do you ever take a walk just to notice what is growing this time of year? Take a shot and tell me why. There will be the occasional prize too. And if you want a serious case of garden envy, check out Finny’s pumpkinzilla. This girl’s got such a green thumb, plants are sprouting from her compost! Ay!
And Eva’s blooms too! So pretty.

Here are a couple of my favorite shots from a recent walk.

orange poppy center
orange lantana

From the top: wild daisies, poppies, lantana.

Happy gardening!

Green + Orange = Happy Nicaragua Bag

I’ve been trying my darndest to participate in this “Use What You Have” project for April, coordinated by Sooz in Melbourne. Essentially this means not purchasing any new craft or art supplies for the month. God knows I have enough yarn and fabric to have me knitting and sewing myself silly for quite some time, but the notions have been a bit tricky. I’ve run out of certain colors of thread, zippers, buttons, etc. I’m making do, but we’re just at the beginning of the month. It should be interesting.

My first scrap knitting project is the market bag from “AlterKnits.” I plan to fill this with goodies for a family I’m visiting this summer in Nicaragua. I like the way the bag begins and ends with orange and the green stripes in the center make me smile. It is a happy, wild color combination.

scrap yarn bag before felting

This was a great way to use up a bunch of small bits of wool I had left over from other projects. I’m going to use some wood handles to finish this baby off once it is done felting.

scrap yarn bag cu

Colors gone mad!


Road Trip

Road trip!

Yesterday I was on the road again (sung to the key of Willie Nelson) for work. I headed north to Flagstaff and then took the scenic route back to Phoenix, winding my way through Oak Creek Canyon and Sedona.
It was a beautiful day.

San Francisco peaks from the road


Typical Flagstaff

Ah yes, Flagstaff. Poverty with a view, as Rolling Stone once described it. I love this little hippie town.

Road, red rocks

The red rocks of Sedona never seem to bore me. I know, I know. I keep going on about the beauty of Arizona. I’ll stop at some point. Promise.

sedona red rocks

Just not today.

Sedona red rocks2

Tell me this doesn’t remind you of an old Western? John Wayne should be galloping by at any moment.

This post brought to you by the AfricanKelli Arizona Tourism Board. “Arizona, where the natives are crazy, but love that dry heat.”

Mother Nature’s Palette

I came out of the grocery store last night to find the sun setting in a brilliant array of firey colors.

sunset, cropped
sunset, orange and purple

I’ve found myself in an artsy rut as of late. I’m sewing the same things over and over again (See my aprons, for an example.) I’ve knit the one skein wonder pattern enough times that nearly all my girlfriends now have a dusty knitted ball at the bottom of their bra drawer that is far too small to wear. I baked four dozen chocolate chip cookies last night. Why? Because it was easy. Because I didn’t have to think about it.
Bah! Time to shake things up and get more creative. This sunset reminds me that my best source of inspiration is mother nature. I would never think to pair pale sky blue with bright pink, soft purple and firey orange — and yet, do these color combinations come in any more beautiful form?
CAOK is coming to an end. I’ve got the last few packages on my kitchen table, waiting to be mailed out on Friday. Then I’m got a few new art projects in mind. Ones to make me think. Ones to keep me learning new techniques and seeing color and texture in a new way. Photo cards, new handbag patterns, finishing that sweater for my grandmother, wedding quilts for girlfriends…