Party Like it’s 1999

trying to play doctorita, entre rios

One of my favorite photos of the year. I’m at work in Bolivia, helping prep this woman for her surgery by our volunteer team.

It sounds silly, but I feel like I really celebrated life this year. I took great trips, spent time with loved ones, read more books than ever, listened to some great new tunes and reached one of my life-long goals of getting on the triathlon train. Okay, the triathlon training train.

~I taught my 80-year-old grandfather to email (Hi Pap!)
~I sat at the top of Machu Picchu
~I finished my first novel
~I threw a Prom party and actually talked all my girlfriends into wearing our old dance dresses out. To Macayo’s.
~I became friends with Ruby
~I finished my grandmother’s sweater
~I baked. And baked. And played frisbee and baked. And visited the bagel shop and baked. And then to celebrate it all? Yep. I baked a bit more.
~I rode a mechanical bull. Sober.
~I dove into the dating pool with gusto and learned a thing or two about myself in the process

I’ve loved this year and look forward to the adventures of 2007.
~I’ll see Italy
~I’ll write for a commercial magazine
~I’ll have my book published
~I’ll camp
~I’ll learn how to bead
~I’ll write my second novel
~I’ll learn Portuguese
~I’ll finish a 1/2 Ironman
~I’ll ride my bike or take public transportation to work once a week
~I’ll buy less and use what I have more

May you have someone to kiss when the ball drops (or if you are in AZ, when the giant tortilla chip drops),

No Downward Dogs during Down Week

Ah, Down Week — one of my favorite times of the year. The week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve when everyone seems to be relaxed, lounging around in new clothing and having egg nog sunny side up for breakfast. I’m seeing lots of movies, eating way too much party food, sleeping in and writing stacks of thank you cards. I really enjoyed my time with family and am actually looking forward to going back to work next week. In the meantime, round two on the party circuit as we celebrate the birth of 2007.
{Note: Time to dust off the old resolutions and make some new ones. Like more crunches and less Capt’n Crunch.}

A few reviews:

~Blood Diamond is a great movie, although shockingly violent. You’ll never look at bling the same way again. Plus, it’s shot in Mozambique, so you’d get to see where I work. Jennifer Connelly has never looked more beautiful. Leo’s Boer accent sounded good enough to me.

~Second Hand Lions is a sweet, wonderful film. Have you seen this one? I found it in a stack of DVDs my parents own. Lovely and great to watch with kids.

~January’s issues of both Real Simple and Martha gave me the oomph to reorganize my closet and take a much more critical look at my pantry. Have you seen the January cover? Does anyone’s kitchen actually look like this?

~Justin Timberlake on Saturday Night Live? One: You cut a hole in the box. HILARIOUS.

~The FDA approving cloned animals for meat and dairy production? So, so glad I’m a vegetarian.

Three cheers to Down Week! Back with photos next week,

Cowboy Cheer

Ho Ho Ho Y'all

Merry Christmas y’all. I am five days into a fantastic break and am enjoying every second of it. I’m eating too much, sleeping way too much and watching endless movies. Life is good. The only way it could be better is if my brother hadn’t been snowed in outside of Denver. However, even he is making the best of it. He called me this morning from the top of the ski lift.
“Kel, we’re talking 8 inches of powder. Doode. It’s like, totally a Merry Christmas.”


He’ll be here soon enough and then it’s back to Phoenix and the routine. I hope you are enjoying a wonderful holiday too!


Gingerbread — the Breakfast of Champions

Everything’s wrapped. My cards are all mailed. My little Christmas tree is looking quite bare now that the gifts are being delivered. I drove to work truly enjoying a gingerbread man for breakfast. I’ve so enjoyed this holiday season.

{I think about how much fun Christmas will be when I have children one day. I can’t wait to do Advent calendars, hang their stockings, go cut and decorate a tree and create family traditions. One family tradition I know I’ll continue is an orange in the toe of the stockings. I’m not sure how this started in our family, but my brother and I on cue poke at the toe of our stockings Christmas morning and say, “ORANGE!” More than likely this was because we grew up with a bunch of citrus trees in the backyard and my parents had quick access to an additional treat. Regardless, it is always fun to have a bit of routine to holidays.}

Wrapped and delivered this week:

everyone wants a tree tshirt

Embroidered T-shirts. I stole this idea from Melissa.

girl's circle tshirt

Yep, there is more of that pointsetta fabric. Needless to say, I’ve gotten my money’s worth!

c'est l'afrique, non

Who doesn’t want a tee with a bit of African sass?

saguaro with flowers

An embroidered saguaro cactus tee for Molly. She was my partner in Shelley’s City Swap. Who is my partner I wonder?

GBOT project travel bag

I sewed up a couple drawstring children’s activity bags too. These were stuffed with crayons and coloring books and sweets. They are for some friends who will be traveling this Christmas. Keeping the kids busy and happy keeps the parents cheerful too. Non?

wristlet of the week

And a poppy wristlet, using the last of my photo fabric paper. I love that photo!

I’m officially out of Adventathon photos and completed projects. Phew. Handmade Christmas was a success this year. Tomorrow I travel to be with family. Be well friends!
Merry Christmas,

‘You Were Born To Bake’

Giddyup. I heard that at the bagel shop this morning when dropping off some Christmas goodies for the poker boys. That was nice to hear. They received peppermint brownies, double chocolate brownies and low-fat pumpkin brownies.

double chocolate brownies

Low-fat pumpkin brownie recipe here.

pumpkin brownies

I threw in a few pumpkin peanut butter cookies for good measure too.

pumpkin peanut butter cookies

Tonight I’m celebrating Christmas with one set of grandparents. I’m pretty clueless when it comes to buying gifts for men. I don’t know what to craft for them, if anything. And the wallet, cologne, belt thing only lasts on repeat so long before you are a dreary predictable gift-giving mess. This year, I’m baking and mixing for the men in my life.

My grandfather's Christmas gift

Pumpkin spice cake for my grandpa. My grandma doesn’t bake for him anymore, so I know this will be a hit.

bottled trail mix

And trail mix for a few others. Pretzles, peanut M&Ms, raisins, apricots, chocolate chips and a new water bottle to boot.

dark Christmas

The Christmas kitchen is officially closed for business.


Roly Poly Stripes Anyone?


Remember this sweater my grandmother gave me back in May? After knitting for some 70 years, she retired her needles and gave me her stash. Within the bags and bags of yarn and the such, I found a sweater in pieces, nearly complete. I’m not sure why she never finished it, but she remembered she started it in 1980. She also mentioned that she’d love to finish it “one day.”

Ha ha I finished you

I put it on my list of Christmas projects and what do you know, but I actually finished this sucker! In all fairness (or as they are now saying on NPR in every other story — “In full disclosure…”), my mom helped me quite a bit. I couldn’t figure out how to cast on for the turtle neck and join the front and back sections of the sweater. She got it started, and I finished it.

grammie sweater done

Granted, one shoulder is totally wonky, but it works. I’m giving it to her tomorrow and I’ll be sure to take photos. I am not sure why I am so proud of this project, but I really cannot wait to give it to her. Isn’t it ugly? And the yarn? Acrylic and totally scratchy. Regardless, I know I’m going to make my British knitting grannie happy. And itchy.


A Baker’s Dozen

Me, December 2006

I think thanks to my regular posting, and frequent commenting on other’s blogs, I have a growing readership. I find myself regularly answering the same questions in email from y’all, and without a set blog bio, I thought I’d clarify a few things. {By the way, thanks for the comments! It is such fun to read what you think about this craziness.}

1. I am not African. Let’s just get that one out there right now. Africankelli is not even my nickname, although more than once in the last few years I’ve been introduced as, “Kelli. You know. Africankelli.”
After college, I joined the Peace Corps and lived briefly in Cameroon — central Africa. Once my collegiate email address expired, I needed something catchy. I was headed to Africa and viola — the moniker was created. My mom’s wise comment was, “Well, there’s only one Africankelli.” As far as I know, she’s right. Today, I work in health and get to travel to Africa about once a year.

2. I have grown up and lived in Arizona nearly all of my life. I have also lived in Torreon, Mexico. I speak Spanish and a wee bit of African French.

3. One day, I’ll be a published author. Until then, I spend a lot of my free time sending out literary agent queries for the novel I’ve finished and the novel I am working on.

4. “How do you do so much?” This question makes me blush and gag. I’m not super-human, I’m a super-dork. I keep my camera on hand and am obsessed with documentation. I photograph just about every art, gardening and kitchen project. You’d be surprised how much of it doesn’t end up on my blog.

5. I’d rather give a gift than receive one any day of the week.

6. I don’t have cable TV. I would rather spend money on films. I’d watch a foreign or independent movie any day of the week.

7. My parents and my brother are some of my best friends. We speak daily, especially now that they aren’t living in Arizona. To some, that is weird. To us, it is normal. My brother asked me the other day if I think it is strange we say, “I love you!” before we say goodbye with each call. I don’t .

8. I love gossip magazines, but hate that I love them.

9. I started sewing, knitting and becoming domestic in March 2005 after joining the first Backtack. I was fresh out of grad school and had some time on my hands. My wise mama seized the opportunity to woo me to her world of craft. It worked.
So, when you ask if I am an experienced sewer or why I don’t have an Etsy shop, I scratch my bashful head and thank God my photos don’t show the details. {By the way, there are certainly days I wish I had spent all that grad school money on culinary or art school.}

10. I’m known for telling terribly childish jokes.

11. I drink about a gallon of water a day.

12. I think one day I’ll be a politician. If not in the government, than I’ll certainly be the mayor of my household.

13. I love blogging about what is good in my life. There is plenty going on behind the scenes you don’t want to hear about. Believe it or not, I’m not a resident of Pleasantville.


Checking My List Twice…

A Christmas Bag

With a pointsetta swing bag sewn for a bit of holiday sass…

birdie recipe cards
we're a perfect blend

And ribbon recipe cards stamped…

covered journal JR

I moved on to covering journals for the writers in my life using Alex’s tutorial… {Her work is stunning.}

thank you notes

And decided everyone needs a set of penguin thank you notes this time of year too.

minestrone soup
minestrone soup2

After a flurry of sewing, stamping and wrapping, I decided if there is ever a time for a carb-loaded soup — it’s now. Pull out your spoons!

Kelli’s Veggie Minestrone

1/2 onion
3 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 box of rigatoni
1 can of kidney beans
1 can of white potatoes
1 can of mixed vegetables
6 carrots, sliced in rounds
4 cups chicken broth (or veggie broth)
1 can of stewed tomatoes
pepper, oregano and salt to taste

Brown onions and garlic in olive oil for 8-10 minutes in a large soup pot. Add carrots for an additional 5 minutes. Add chicken stock, canned vegetables of choice and let simmer for 30-40 minutes on low heat. Add pasta for an additional 10 minutes. Add spices. Serve with a dash of parmesan cheese, large glass of wine and a 45-minute nap.

A jolly weekend to y’all,

These Boots Were Made for Wassailing…

I bought myself a nice Christmas gift last week, and I’m not going to lie. I cry a little tear each time I have to take these boots off, I’m so in love. I’m a closeted shoe-aholic. There is nothing like a sassy new pair on my feet to make me smile and skip through the day.

If you are looking to add a skip to your day, consider the following:
~ Need something to get you in the holiday crafting mood? For truly impressive sewing and fabric selection, check out Not Quite Vintage’s flickr account. Ay! Such lovely projects.

~ Need a kick in the apron to get you in the kitchen, baking for all those parties this weekend? Smitten Kitchen is such fun to read and her photography makes my stomach growl with envy.

~Trying to figure out what to wear to those parties? How about a FedEx rush delivery for this with this and a little bling. Yep, these would get you pulled under the mistletoe in a hurry.

And if you are staying home this weekend to finish your wrapping and the such, throw in a good movie, pour some Baileys into that coffee and whip up some lingerie bags for your girlfriends.

lingerie bags

The latest installment in the adventathon. Here are a few other ideas.

These are essentially giant wristlets, minus the strap. I give them in pairs — one for clean, one for those to be washed. They are great for those in your life who travel regularly and cringe at the thought of airport security folks digging through their luggage. A friend of mine gave me a set when we traveled to the Philippines several years ago. I use them all the time!

Three cheers for practical gifts,
Kelli, the booted blogger

Jingling the Bells

Knitted cap

Last night while wrapping gifts, I realized that I’m flying to Texas next week for Christmas. Yay! I am really looking forward to playing with the family dog, taking long walks with my mom, lounging on the couch and watching movies with my dad, people watching at the mall with my brother. You get the idea. I go into holiday mode where all pants have an elastic waist (or are yoga pants and hang precariously close to Plumberville), all sunrises are happily missed for hours of extra sleep, all meals are consumed with loved ones and my normal diligent routine isn’t just put aside. It’s run over by reindeer, trampled and forgotten in the front yard like a heap of dirty snow no one wants to shovel.
As my friend Homer J. Simpson would say, “WOO HOO!”

Between now and then? Well, that’s another story. Like many of you, the next week will be a test of strength. How much eggnog can I consume? To how many holiday parties can I wear the same generously stretchy black dress? How many empty boxes can I stack in my studio, waiting to be refilled and sent full of homemade goodies?

Girly hat

I haven’t knit many Christmas gifts this year, mainly because they are so incredibly time consuming. I can sew like Speedy Gonzalez, but my knitting is on par with Eeyore. These hats have been sent off. I wanted to doll up the green one a bit, so I added the fabric flower and hand-stitched it on a pin so it can be removed if the recipient isn’t as fond of it as I am.

flower close up

This week, I’m trying to finish up this sweater. I’m so darned close, but I very well may be found in an exhausted heap of purl one, knit one ribbing — my knitting Lex Luther. I’ve got 4.5 more inches of ribbing before the turtleneck is complete. Maybe I should be drinking Red Bull instead of red wine when working on this…