Live from Northern Jinotega, It´s SuperClutz!!

Our group arrived in Managua yesterday and spent today traveling north to Jinotega. We¬¥ve yet to accomplish anything other than wearing ourselves out and eating our yearly quotas of fried meat. What the Nicaraguan diet lacks in diversity is made up in the items they¬¥ve thought to fry. Today¬¥s lunch included no fewer than five fried choices, to which I said, “Hello, rice and beans, old friends.”
So far the adventure has gone well. I¬¥ve got 12 other people on traveling with me — none of whom have ever been here before. Literally at each turn in the road there was an excited question about the cultural significance of plants, cars, paint, bricks, food, music, dress, etc. The first hour of the drive I found this amusing. The second hour it was annoying. The third and fourth hours I took the AfricanKelli irritation evacuation route by way of a good hard nap. Not so surprisingly, everyone is so much nicer after a two hour journey to siestaville.
Tomorrow we begin constructing houses and working on a water project. Manual labor, here I come. I´m more than a bit worried considering my lack of grace and propensity toward stupid injury. For example, I´m currently sporting a lovely burn on my upper lip. Why you ask? Because I thought I should have my lip waxed per trip preparation and the girl at the salon burned me. Lovely. (A stranger at the Houston airport had the balls to ask me if it was a fever blister. I said no, I was just trying to look like Katie Holmes.) Pair this lovely scab moustache with road burn down my right arm. Technically, it is hill burn. After I woke up from my two hour nap this afternoon while on the road to Jinotega, I realized I´d slept through the previous bathroom break. I begged our driver to stop, ran over to the side of the road to find a latrine and proceed to fall straight on my ass and down half a steep hill, only to be thankful I didn´t piss myself to make it worse. My wrist and hand are all cut up, but again, I have a feeling it isn´t anything a good nap could help make feel a bit better. Or a Nicaraguan beer. Or maybe a beer and then a nap.
Oh, the adventures of public health!


BackTack III

I’ve been showered with BackTack III goodies. My package from Nicole arrived yesterday and you can’t imagine how fantastic it is. As a reminder, the rules of the game were to create a small stuffed animal using only black and white materials, with one accent color, five buttons and the recipient’s first initial embroidered somewhere on the piece.

backtack bunnie

The bunny is wearing a jumper with all the participating BackTack craft blogs printed on it. Amazing! The jumper is also reversible, with a lovely red velvet backside and a coordinating white button. Simply wonderful!

backtack bunnie, close up of printed fabric
backtack bunnie, back
hidden embroidered K

The K!

the other two buttons, belly button!

My bunny has a belly button. AY!

And if that weren’t enough, the package also came with more fantastic loot, including my very own Zebra Kitty. (I confess I saw this on Nicole’s blog a bit back and hoped with all my might it was coming my way.)

Zebra Kittie

She is tiny, she is pink, she is African inspired. How could I not love her?

Nicole also included one of her signature measuring tapes and embroidered felt magnets.

magnets and measuring tape

I feel like I’m bragging, but I can help but jump for joy! Thank you so much Nicole. I am so lucky!


Una Mezcla De Pensamientos


Mis amigas Nicaraguense.

*– Several of you have asked why in the world I am going to Nicaragua this week and what I do for a living. Blogging + work talk = big problems. Without too much detail, I work in international health as a public health practitioner. I set up, manage and evaluate health projects in four countries, aimed to improve the health of poor women and children. This will be my fourth time to the small, beautiful and hospitable Central American country. I’ll try to post while I’m gone. (I’ve replaced Diet Coke with blogging and found it to be just as addictive.)

* — I just finished reading “Icarus Girl.” It was a quick read with a crap ending. Not my favorite. Two out of five bananas, absoloodle. I’m sending it to Jen, who is visiting Africa with her husband. They’d been living in London, after having lived and traveled in Africa for several years. Jen’s one of those super chic chicks who casually shot me an email last week to say, “oh, ‘Icarus Girl.’ Um yeah, I met the author. Sounds good!” Not so much, but I’ll let you be the judge. Books are like any art — tomato, tomaahto. It’s all up to taste. Next up, “Dark Star Safari.” What do you want to bet Jen’s already read this one?

* — I’m working on a baby knitting project as of late that is going horribly. I think I’ve done something all wrong. If you’ve ever knit the baby kimono pattern floating about on the web, email me please. I’m pretty sure there aren’t supposed to be three arms.

Tell me this shape doesn't look wrong.

What is this thing? Does this look right to anyone? Help!

* — LOST. Huh. I’m still confused. Anyone else? Penny is beautiful and I love Desmond’s curly hair, but otherwise, I’m pretty much hating the lack of detail in that season finale. Matthew Fox, you are so my boyfriend.

* — I received the nicest surprise from Katie of Oscarcat this week. Look at the fab recipe books she sent me! Love them. Thank you Katie!

Surprise gift from Oscarcat

* — I really have to pack. And see if my malaria prescription is filled. And go for a swim and a run before I have to leave my exercise routine at home. Ooh… I should probably make time for pre-flight bagels too. Adios!


My Summer Bag

When spending time with my ever-so-fashionable friend Finny last week, I noticed she was carrying a new fabulous bag.
To know me is to know that one of my many weaknesses is a fabulous purse. I believe women cannot own enough pretty purses and I’m a fan of changing them up frequently. With some fabric purchased in Guadalajara last summer when vacationing with my friend Alma, and a new Amy Butler pattern in hand, voila — my new summer bag:

Close up, fruity covington

I’m only bummed that I’ve just gotten it done. It will not make the pack list for Nicaragua, but will be nice to come home to in a couple of weeks.

Covington bag

Love it. Although, just like any pattern, I already have a few thoughts on how I will do this differently next time. The lining is a bit small — which is more than likely my error and not the pattern maker’s. Also, the sides are sloppy, also my error. But the colors, wonky fabric and complete silliness of it all are just right.

I also got around to that purse organizer pattern I’ve seen on Craftster. I made myself one, lining up my personal items as suggested:

Measuring out the goods

This takes about 10 minutes to sew and is super easy. I love how organized my purse is, in theory.

Purse organizer, with flowery tag

In all fairness, after scrounging through this bag multiple times this morning, it does not look as tidy as it did last night.

Purse organizer in the works

Everyone should have a summer bag. For the first time in my life, I am without want at Coach and loving something I made. Holy moley!


Speaking of Strong Women

Jackie O inspired wristlets

Argentina had Eva, we had Ms. Bouvier. I sewed up these wristlets this weekend, inspired by Jackie O. If I had one style maven I could copy for the rest of my life, it would be a slightly updated Mrs. Kennedy Onassis. That woman had class, elegance and sheer beauty. Her wedding photos are stunning. Her fashion choices late in life are perfect. Even her children are about as amazing as genetics get. I think Mrs. Kennedy was lovely. I imagine you’ll see my love of all things Jackie shining through on a few domestic art projects in the next couple of weeks. I’ve gotten into polka dots, black, white, pearls and pink. Blame it on BackTack.

While she may not have gone for the lime polka dots, I can see her wearing the pink polka dot wristlet. She’d have black Oleg Cassini slacks and a pressed white blouse — open just enough to be alluring without showing too much skin. Her pearl necklace and diamond studs would shine, but not so much to draw attention. Her healthy dark hair would be blown out beautifully, not dramatically. She’d top it all off with the only things she did over the top — sunglasses and men.

I’ll never understand why President Kennedy cheated with Marilyn when he had the American queen at home.

These will be given out in the next week. I leave for Nicaragua soon and I’m going to stuff them with hair ties, toothbrushes and itty bitty Bath and Body Works samples of soap, perfume and lotion. This is all part of my international campaign to spread domestic art, pretty things, and sweet scents. I bet Mrs. Kennedy would fill hers with rosary beads, coins for children and photos of her own kids. Lovely, I tell you. The woman was incredible.


United We Rock

I’m buying the Dixie Chicks new album today, and I hope to encourage you to do the same. If they have a concert on sale, you could look online or click here to check out a concert website.
The Dixie Chicks made a silly misstep that angered many simply by voicing their opinions. They said something that offended 80% of Americans when we were huddled in a corner shaking after 9-11. Worse yet, they did so on foreign soil, making even some liberal Americans wince.
I get it.
I also get that being able to speak your mind is fundamentally American — often to the distain of the rest of the world. If we cannot criticize our president, you might as well begin the burka distribution line. I am proud to be American, while there are things about our culture and policies I would gladly change. I am proud to have rights that many developed successful nations do not provide to their citizens. I am proud of the Dixie Chicks for fighting back with their new album, rather than pretending this all just didn’t happen.
My point: we should support this group today because radio isn’t. We should support them because they are smart, talented women who represent many Americans proudly. We should support them because we do not believe in an America where secret commissions record phone calls, track email and plant evidence to preemptively kill thousands of people.
I do not believe in supreme presidential power, the confederate flag or punishing an American for voicing his or her opinion, no matter how much I may disagree with it. Let’s make this record one of the all time best-selling hits to send a message to Washington — we remember the Bill of Rights, and we believe in them. Vote with your dollar.

Thee Mailbox Doth Overflowith

It was an exciting weekend of mail at casa Africankelli.

First came a surprise from Lyn of Mollychicken. She sent me stenciled squares of fabric, an awesome crocheted creature and a tiny bag of tiny ribbons. I am thrilled!

fabric squares from Lyn

I plan on adding these to the next batch of wristlets. They are so sweet! I’m not sure how she stenciled these — perhaps Grocco?

Paco, my new traveling companion, from Lyn

And meet Paco, my new traveling companion. Lyn’s daughter Molly is very interested in world affairs. As I travel this summer for work, I plan on bringing Paco along and photographing his adventures. Molly will be receiving updates as we conquer Central and South America.

Catrina, of Bumblefunck emailed me last week. As if redesigning her site wasn’t enough, she’d also made time to put together some incredible craft packages. She’s cleaning out some of her fabric stash and sent me a very generous portion.

pile o fabric from Catrina

Holy moley. This was so fun to go through and imagine how I am going to put this stash to use.

white eyelet fabric from Catrina

My favorite was certainly this dainty white eyelet fabric. I just love it.

Thank you Lyn and Catrina! You made my day!

Sewing Miss Daisy

embroidery flowers, cu

My first attempt at freehand embroidery. I checked out Kid’s Embroidery from the library, after a thoughtful recommendation from Blair at Wise Craft. (Of course, she actually got this book for her children, but it is perfect for someone learning the basics of embroidery stitches.)

Mini flower pouch

Another wristlet/pouch. This one was a gift to Mini, who celebrated a birthday this week.


Sew Fancy!

Backtack Bunny Bottom, africankelli

Here’s a sneak peek at my BackTack III softie. She’ll be dropped in the mail Monday, along with a few other goodies. Once received by Kerry, I’ll post more details!
As always, these sewing challenges are such fun. They stretch my creativity and push me to learn new techniques. I look at domestic art a good bit differently since last year when I entered the first Backtack project. The once unconquerable (double pointed needles, sewing zippers, embroidery) are now small hurdles I can get over with enough patience. I realized how crafty/nerdy I’m becoming when recently shopping for a basic protective cover for my digital camera. After going from one specialty shop, to eBay, to catalogs, I finally decided this week, “Hell! I can make that!” So, camera bag has been included to the craft queue.

Speaking of domestic nerdiness, did anyone else hear the special Thursday morning on NPR about American sewing machine sales? The reporter spoke about how sewing machines used to be standard in each American home, but now manufacturers are making “super” machines that embroider and thread your needle automatically and cost $5,000. Oy. While my $100 Singer works just fine for the time being, I’ve seen what the gamut of machines can do. My mother owns several — one of which she’s never used. (Hello, Mom. Hint Hintaroo. Send your serger to me! I promise to use it! Love you.) The report was enjoyable to listen to, although I’m happy to still be doing my embroidery by hand.

In other sewing news, remember when I found Nappy bags to be a complete and total pain? Well, I’ve gotten to the point to where I can build these babies without looking at the instructions, modifying in my own strange ways here and there. I’ve finally gotten the hang of this thing.
The latest nappy:

Tiffany Nappy

The happy recipient. She’s due with her first baby mid-July.

Tiffany, with 8 weeks to go

Happy weekend y’all,

Prickly Pistachio Bundt Cake

pistachio bundt cake, side

My third and final entry for the Nordicware Bundt Cake Contest. See the other two here.

Prickly Pistachio Bundt Cake combines the nutty sweetness of pistachios with the creamy deliciousness of butter cream frosting. Top this with a hearty handful of white chocolate chips and the bloom of an aloe vera plant, or another favorite wildly-colored spring flower. Together, the cake represents the two main colors of an Arizona desert spring — sage and coral.

Ingredients for cake:
1 package of Betty Crocker White Cake Mix
1 package of pistachio instant pudding
3 eggs
1/2 cup of vegetable oil
1 cup of water

Pour yourself a glass of wine. Put on a cute apron. Turn on NPR or your favorite Fiona Apple CD. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Take one stick of butter out of the fridge and set it aside. Thoroughly mix the aforementioned cake ingredients, making sure to work in the pudding evenly. This will create a lovely sage green batter. Mix the batter for at least one minute, being sure to work in plenty of air. Grease bundt pan generously with PAM or another favorite baking spray. Slowly pour batter into the pan and even it out with a spatula. Tap the pan gently on the side. Cook for 30 minutes or until the top of the cake bounces back.

Pistachio bundt cake 3

While the cake is baking, help yourself to a handful of white chocolate chips and fee free to pour another glass of wine. All that mixing by hand is hard work! It can make a girl thirsty. Now get started on the frosting.

Frosting ingredients:
1 stick of butter at room temperature (The best is Challenge brand unsalted butter. This stuff is like baking gold.)
3 cups of confectioner’s sugar
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 package of pistachio instant pudding.

In a small bowl, mix this with an electric mixer on slow speed. Be careful or you’ll send teeny tiny globs of sugary butter all over your kitchen. If this happens, smile and turn up the music and move on. You’ll get to it later after the wine is gone.

When the cake is out of the oven, let it sit in the pan to cool for 10 minutes. Then run a sharp knife around the outer edge and flip the cake on to your serving platter. Let the cake cool on this platter at least 30 minutes before icing. Slowly add your creamy pistachio icing. Sprinkle the cake with a handful of white chocolate chips. Garnish the platter with your desert bloom. Best when served with a cold lime margarita and eaten in the shade.

pistachio bundt cake, whole

Voila, Prickly Pistachio Bundt Cake.