Crochet Project – Quick & Easy Scarf

Crochet scarf with fringe

The finished product – this one with fringe

Crochet … it’s not just for old ladies anymore! I admit, I used to see my grandmother, my mom and my aunts crocheting, and I would think to myself that this is an old lady craft. But I’ve come to realize that crochet is fun and artistic, and it has become an avenue for me to express my creativity, personalize gift giving and relax.

Quick to crochet

Once the yarn is on the hook, this pattern works up quickly

Warm and Cozy

One of my favorite patterns is the Fantastic Fall Scarf from Rescued Paw Designs. Krista has created a beautiful design that works up fast. And unlike some patterns, it doesn’t feel tedious while you’re working. The soft Charisma yarn feels wonderfully warm and cozy, and the scarf’s simplicity makes it perfect for everyday. Of course you could use whatever yarn floats your boat, but I found this one to be just right.

I ended up adding some fringe on the ends of some of the scarves I made from this pattern, just to add a little interest. I love it both ways, though, and it’s versatile enough that it looks great either way.

Great Gift

If you read this blog, you’ll know that the Favorite Things Party I have with my friends is an amazing good time. This year, I was so happy to give these scarves as my favorite things. The ladies who received them were thrilled, and even though it’s already warm enough to wear shorts here, they didn’t take them off for the rest of the evening. Don’t they look great in them?

If you crochet, this pattern is a must. For a beautiful, soft, warm and versatile scarf, this one can’t be beat!



My 5 lovely friends rocking their new scarves at our Favorite Things Party

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Friends, Food and Favorite Things


What’s better than great food and quality time with friends? A Favorite Things Party, of course!

What’s a Favorite Things Party? Only the most awesome, fun and fabulous time ever. My friends and I have been doing this every year for the past 4 years, and it’s the one party that everyone tries their best NOT to miss.

I don’t think I would have survived the past 7 years without my mommy group. We affectionately call ourselves the Mamafia because we can be a fierce force to be reckoned with whenever one of us needs support. We’ve been friends since our kids were babies, and as the kids have grown, so has our friendship.

Our kids are now in different schools and have different friends, but we still try to get together whenever we can. We have Mom’s Night Out as often as our schedules will allow – once a month if we’re lucky – and we have our Favorite Things Party.

Beth loves us!

Beth loves us!

We tried it one year in place of a holiday gift exchange and now it’s a yearly tradition. This year we waited until February because our holiday schedules were all so crazy, but no matter what time of year it is, it’s a blast.

5 Things for $5

If you’ve never heard of a Favorite Things Party, let me explain how it works. Instead of bringing one item for a gift exchange, you pick one thing that is actually one of your favorite things – something you can’t live without, something you probably use every day. So you pick one thing that costs $5 or less and buy 5 of them. Of course, you can set the dollar limit anywhere you’re comfortable, but we like to keep it as simple as possible. You’d be surprised at how many inexpensive things are indispensable in our lives!

So everyone arrives at the party with their 5 things under $5, and each person puts their name in the draw basket 5 times. Meanwhile, everyone also brings a favorite dish to share, and we eat fabulous food until we’re ready to pop.

Time for the Presents

When everyone’s fed and happy, it’s time for the gift exchange! Pull out the basket with all the names in it and pick someone to go first. That person gets to explain why their item is one of their favorite things, and they should feel free to be as descriptive or mysterious as they like. Then they draw 5 names out of the basket, and those 5 people get that person’s gift. It’s so much fun to hear about why something is a favorite, and it helps us all get to know each other a little better. Everyone goes home with 5 new things and some wonderful stories.

All wrapped up and ready

All wrapped up and ready

The favorite things are fabulous, too! Things that we each might take for granted in our daily lives start to mean more once we share them. And these are things that are truly useful and meaningful rather than the knick-knacks and other random items you might get at a typical group gift exchange or white elephant party.

We’ve had favorite magazines, cool lipsticks, lotions & body butters, all kinds of delicious food and snacks, even a can of WD-40 because it is truly something one of us cannot live without! These ordinary items take on special meaning because they’re special to one of our friends. And we can take them home, use them, think of our friends every day, and perhaps that item will also become one of our favorite things.

A Fun Tradition

A few of our favorite things

A few of our favorite things

I think what make the Favorite Things Party so great is that it’s so simple. And it never gets old or stale because we all discover new favorite things every year. It’s so much fun that my family traded our Christmas adult gift exchange for Favorite Things, and everyone loved it. Now we don’t go overboard with gifts, and we have a fun new tradition that the whole family can enjoy as much as my friends and I do.

If you’re looking for something fun to do with friends or family, I hope you’ll try a Favorite Things Party, too!

Favorite Things Party with my Favorite Mama Friends

Favorite Things Party with my Favorite Mama Friends


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Dinner Under 30 – Easy Salmon & Couscous

Delicious and pretty

Delicious and pretty


Every week, our house seems to get busier and busier. Between swim practice, soccer practice, Girl Scouts, gymnastics and music lessons, sometimes it’s hard to know who’s coming and going much less what’s for dinner. In this new series, Dinner Under 30, I’ll share some delicious meals that you can have on your table in 30 minutes or less.

Keep in mind, I’m not an expert. In fact, I struggle every day with shopping, planning and making tasty, healthy meals that my family will actually eat. Our weeknights are cram-packed with activities, but we have a commitment to eat dinner together unless it’s absolutely impossible to do so.

Plan Ahead, Keep it Simple & Be Creative

The key to successful, quick dinner is to plan ahead. If you can, take a look at your recipes before you go shopping and make sure you have what you need. Of course, if  you’re human, like me, there will always be something you forget or that you thought you had but you don’t.

That’s where keeping it simple comes in. The simpler the recipe, the easier it is to substitute ingredients if necessary. Something in your pantry might work in place of something you forgot, like a can of diced tomatoes might work if you forgot to put the fresh tomatoes in the basket.

And don’t be afraid to improvise! Being creative in the kitchen can be fun, and sometimes you’ll come out with something better than what you planned in the first place. My friend, Beth, has elevated this to an art form in her blog, One Missing Ingredient, where she tells a great story, then chronicles her successful substitutions and the delicious outcomes. (Go visit her; you won’t be sorry!)

Poached Salmon with Cucumber Dill Sauce and Couscous

So, enough of the background. It’s time to eat! And this recipe is one of my favorite quick and easy meals. It’s healthy, filling, tastes great and looks pretty on a plate.

Wild caught salmon stars in this dish, and while you can get it already cut into individual portions, I find that a big filet is easier to find (and a little cheaper, too). I just cut it up before I serve it, and nobody knows the difference.


I’ve had the recipe for years. It’s from a monthly recipe card series I got from Reader’s Digest called Cooking Smart for a Healthy Heart. Each month, when the cards arrived in the mail, I would faithfully put the recipe cards into the binder they gave me until I accumulated a whole cookbook. I’ve used a bunch of these recipes, but this Poached Salmon is one I keep coming back to. The couscous is our side-dish of choice, and it’s so simple it doesn’t come from any recipe book. Serve it with a simple salad or quick steamed broccoli or green beans and you’ve got a full meal!

For the couscous:

2 cups couscous (my kids like the Israeli or Pearl couscous, but you could use anything)

Diced, fresh tomatoes

Green onions, thinly sliced

Remember to take the picture before you cook the couscous!

Remember to take the picture before you cook the couscous!

Feta cheese, crumbled

Start the couscous first, and cook according to package directions using chicken broth or vegetable broth instead of water for a richer flavor. This usually takes about 10 minutes to cook. Once cooked, remove from heat and fluff it with a fork. Once cooled, serve with tomatoes, green onions and feta sprinkled over the top.

For the salmon:

1 lb Wild Caught Salmon filets

1 1/2 cups water

1 cup dry white wine or chicken broth (I usually use a combination of both)

2 green onions, sliced

8 black peppercorns (I don’t count – I just shake out a small handful)

Using a large nonstick skillet, pour in the water, then stir in the wine/broth, green onions and peppercorns. Place the salmon in the skillet, skin down (if it has skin), in a single layer. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium low, cover and simmer for 5-8 minutes, until fish flakes with a fork.

For the sauce:

3/4 cup Greek yogurt or sour cream (these are both great, but I prefer the yogurt)

1/3 cup finely diced cucumber

2 Tbs dill

1 Tbs fresh lemon juice (or to taste)

1 tsp salt (or to taste)

While the salmon & couscous cook, stir together the yogurt, cucumber, dill, lemon juice and salt in a small bowl. Set aside until it’s time to eat!

Once everything is ready, serve it up! Our kids have different opinions of the sauce and the couscous toppings, so we plate each person’s individually and let them spoon the sauce on themselves. But it IS a meal that they all eat, even my picky, fish-hater. And in 30 minutes or less, this is a perfect mid-week meal.

What do you think of Dinner Under 30? Let me know what you think, especially if you try the recipe! What else would you like to see here? Use the comments to send me your thoughts, ideas and questions. Thanks!






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The 3 Vs for Making the World a Better Place


“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” ― Mother Teresa

I want to save the world. But I can’t. So what’s a girl to do? I can follow Mother Teresa’s words and cast a few ripples. And you can, too. In fact, if we all do a little, we can create BIG change. So here are a few things that are easy enough for anyone to do, so don’t wait, do them now!

1. Vote!

If you’re over 18 and eligible to vote, there’s really no excuse. We all see things in our communities and our nation that frustrate us. Like how our education system (at least in Arizona) continues to take a beating every time the budget process begins, or how the potholes in the roads keep multiplying. And I won’t even mention Congress and how not much seems to get done in Washington these days. We feel powerless and unheard and neglected.

But we can vote. Let me say it again. We can vote. In fact, it’s our responsibility to do so. If I don’t like what is happening to the education system in my state, I can vote out the people in my district who are making the boneheaded decisions. If the roads need fixing, I can vote for a county supervisor who will do something about it. If I care about the direction this country is taking, I can, should and WILL vote in the presidential election.

Mine may be only one of thousands, but each one makes a difference. My vote counts, and so does yours. And don’t let anyone tell you different.

If you’re not registered to vote, click here to do it now.

2. Volunteer

What better way to make a difference in your world than to give your time and talents to something you care about? And you don’t have to give up a lot of either to really make a difference. The thing to remember is that your efforts will contribute to making some small thing better for somebody.

I started by volunteering at my kids’ school. My son’s Pre-K teacher wanted to make soup and teach the kids about different vegetables, so she assigned each kid to bring in a veggie, and I came in with my portable cooktop and made soup. Easy peasy for me because I had the time and I know how to cook. That grew into more food projects in the class, then some artsy-craftsy stuff, and finally, into me coming in once a week to read with the kids. It was fun, I got to see my kid at school (extra hugs for me!), and I felt like I was really helping to enhance the school experience for the kids in the class.

Now I’m a Reading Coach with a wonderful program here in Tucson called Reading Seed that pairs coaches with kids in our public schools who are reading below grade level. I’m using what I learned with my son’s teacher to help other kids improve their reading skills so they can increase their chances for success in school and beyond. I love that I can see how each of my reading kids is growing from week to week, and it encourages me to know that I’m making a difference in their lives.

Reading has become my volunteer thing. For you, it might be something different. Explore the things you’re passionate about, or if you’re like me and don’t know what you’re passionate about, think about what small thing you can do. It might be as simple as volunteering to bring a meal to a friend who just had a baby or whose spouse is ill. It could be collecting warm clothing for families who are struggling this winter, or helping an elderly neighbor take out her trash.

Don’t have a lot of time? Don’t let that be an excuse that stops you from giving a little of yourself to others. It’s great for us to donate money to causes when we can, but it’s the personal touch that often makes the greatest impact. And if you don’t believe me, just ask the exhausted new mom who is eating your chicken casserole tonight instead of crying over her empty dinner table.

3. Use your VOICE

Some of us are loud. Some of us are quiet. Some of us are super funny. Others speak with passion and eloquence. But we all have something to say, so say it!

Whether your audience is online or in person, find people who will listen and have your say. Since this blog is brand new, I’m not sure who it will reach yet, but I hope it will someday be an avenue for smart, beautiful readers like you to find useful and meaningful information. Until then, Facebook provides an easy avenue for letting people know what I care about.

Social media outlets, like Facebook & Twitter, make it easy for regular people to express themselves, and if used well, can create just those ripples that have the potential to change the world. Use them thoughtfully and people will pay attention to what you’re sharing. Use them frivolously and you may have to try a little harder, but even one person who “gets” your message starts that ripple.

Have coffee with your friends, talk to your neighbor, share a post on Facebook, or call your mom. Reaching out in the simplest ways can help you find your voice. Then just like your piano teacher told you, practice, practice, practice, and soon you’ll see what a difference it makes!

I know these 3 Vs can be done by anyone, anywhere, and if we all do them, imagine the good we can do in the world!

I’d love to hear your thoughts. What do you do to make a difference? And which one of the Vs can you do this week?

(Photo credit:

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For the Love of … Lettuce!

IMG_2529 IMG_2525

Crazy, but I never thought I’d say that. I’ve always enjoyed a good salad, but I’ve never been overly excited by one. But now? Those beautiful emerald & plum colored leaves, crispy, billowy, tender, and growing in my garden. What?!?

Me, the woman who can kill even the hardiest plant with just the slightest thought of neglect has a garden! And it’s growing! Okay, it’s not just my garden. We started it as a family project, but it has proven to be a highly satisfying activity for me, my husband, and a couple of the kids have shown mild interest, too.

As city dwellers all our lives, we don’t know much about growing food, but we’re learning. I’ve taken advantage of our public library’s Master Gardener presentations, asked tons of questions at our local nursery, and, of course, enlisted the help of our yard maintenance guys to get the whole thing started. After all, they know about green things. Honestly, we couldn’t have done it without them. From leveling the garden plot to building raised beds and installing a simple irrigation system for us, and telling us where to go for our starter plants, they have been more than helpful.

IMG_2526Now we have all manner of vegetables growing and thriving in our own little backyard plot. Broccoli, peas, tiny carrots and radishes, several types of herbs, and lettuce! All. Kinds. of Lettuce. It’s beyond awesome to think, “Hmmm, a salad would be nice with dinner tonight,” then walk out my back door and pick the greens fresh from the garden! And who knew that lettuces are so resilient to temperature changes and crazy weather from hail storms to abnormally warm days. The plants just keep on growing.

Gardening wisdom says that you should pick lettuce early in the morning to take advantage of the sugars that gather in the leaves over night, so we’ve been trying to do do that. But honestly, sometimes I don’t know what’s for dinner until 20 minutes before dinner, so I’ve gone out and picked the early evening lettuce and haven’t noticed any marked increase in bitterness or anything. I think the freshness factor might counteract that. Or maybe I’m just in love.

Tomorrow, I may need to learn how to harvest broccoli, but today, it’s all about the lettuce!


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