Happiness Wrapped in an Apron

Yesterday I baked. I put on my favorite apron, pulled out my favorite cookbook, bundt pan and spatula and spent the better part of three hours shuffling tins of sweets in and out of the oven. It was blissful.
I’m not sure why I love baking as much as I do, but it is a simple pleasure. I truly enjoy playing with recipes, displaying my baked goods on pretty platters and happily gifting them to hungry recipients. I was joyful yesterday — humming along to music in the kitchen while I worked. It reminded me how good time at home to be creative is for my soul.
This weekend’s menu of heart-clogging, fabulously sweet treats:

Cardamom cinnamon chocolate cupcakes2

Damn Good Chocolate Cake cupcakes, from “The Cake Mix Doctor.” I added a dash of cinnamon and cardamom to the top. They’ll be served tonight at a dinner party with a dollop of whipped cream.

Brownie madeleines

Cardamom fudge brownies. Can you tell what my new favorite spice is? I love the earthy smell. I wasn’t sure how a brownie recipe would do in a madeleine pan, but these turned out nicely. Imust point out, however, that you have to give them plenty of time to cool in the pan or you end up with a mess.

what happens when you take browies out of the madeleine tray too soon


the perfect brownie madeleine

You want a giant cup of milk right now, don’t you?

Peanut honey cookies

These are my peanut butter and honey cookies. They will be packed away in my luggage, along with the brownies, for a weekend trip to the beach with friends. I suppose if we can’t find milk, margaritas will do.

Treat anyone

I spent a few minutes dreaming of my imaginary bakery and how I’d display my cakes in the windows each morning.

happy me3

Happiness at home indeed.

Happy long Fourth of July weekend to all my American friends. To my British buddies, better luck next colony. Ha ha! (Just teasing.)


International Craftiness


*Updated, yet again! We’ve got more players!*

Combining two of my loves — crafting and learning about new cultures — It’s A Wristlet World kicks off today. We’ve got 31 ladies from 8 countries participating. I am looking forward to seeing what everyone creates!


Mary Ann
Cupcake Lisa
Rebecca (Rebilou)
Rebecca (Becky)
Rebecca (Bekka)
and last but not least, Miss Jessica of Finnyknits. She is the lovely lady responsible for my graphic. Thanks again Fin!

Happy crafting ladies!



There are times I forget that my family and friends read this site — like when I stupidly announced to the Internet I may have TB. Lordie, my cell phone started ringing off the hook. Needless to say, if you think you have a communicable disease, it may just behoove you to tell your loved ones first, rather than the entire world at once.
Good news — No consumption here. The tests are back. Thanks for all your well wishes. I’m actually sorry I brought it up. Nothing worse than being a hypochondriac.

I’m baking, sewing, and working from home today. Yay! Love days like these. Just a reminder, today’s your last day to sign up for “It’s a Wristlet World” swap. Tomorrow I’ll be sending out the matches.


Wolf! Wolf!

Thank you for your concern yesterday. As luck would have it, I’m feeling great today (without having yet filled the prescriptions, mind you.) Tomorrow I’m taking the day off for medical tests and the such, but I should have said in the previous post that I think my doctor is a quack and I’m just fine.
Sorry to have cried wolf. I’m certain I’m fine, but going forward with the suggested tests just to put to rest my parent’s worries.

lip gloss

Following Aimee’s lead, today’s simple pleasure: swimming. I am swimming four times a week now, and am starting to gain some strength in the pool. In particular, swimming butterfly. It exhausts me like nothing else, but makes me feel powerful and graceful.

Today’s material pleasure: Neutrogena’s new shiny lip gloss. Love it. It is comparable to Lancome Juicy Tubes for 1/5th of the price. And it smells fruity and pretty too!

What’s making you smile?


The Downside of International Travel

I went to visit a family doctor this morning, something I haven’t done since I saw a pediatrician. Seriously.
It’s not that I’m scared of visiting the doctor, but more that I’m really, really lazy. I’m also really, really healthy — usually. I eat well, exercise daily, wear sunscreen and all that walking-the-public-health-talk sort of stuff. But I’ve been home for three weeks from my latest international journey and the funny thing is, my stomach is still acting like I’m in Rocky Point, sipping tequila between bites of dogg-o tacos.
So, I made an appointment and guess what he told me? (No really, I couldn’t have guessed this either.) Apparently traveling to countries like Mozambique and Nicaragua and working in public health makes me a wee bit susceptible to our dear friend tuberculosis.
I may be the only person on earth who knows how to gain weight when possibly infected with a disease fondly known as CONSUMPTION. My God. What could this bacteria be consuming? Certainly not the weight around my mid-section. Or all the food that has been exiting my body exactly three hours after I’ve eaten it. Oh stomach, how you torture me.
So this week I’m spending my margarita budget on the not-so-glamorous or nearly as enjoyable chest X-rays, blood tests and antibiotics. Lovely.
The doctor had the gall to ask me if I’d be “doing this work for a long time?” Why yes, yes I will be. I love my job, although this bonus was not detailed in my contract.


A Love-Hate Relationship

Toas Indian Chanters with Drum, Ernest Martin Hennings, 1935

Taos Indian Chanters with Drum, Ernest Martin Hennings, 1935. The Phoenix Art Museum.


~That we’ve got more than a dozen participants to date in the “It’s a Wristlet World” swap, with room for more. WOOT!

~The Phoenix Art Museum. I took my full two hours there last Thursday and cannot wait to return. I wandered through the Western exhibit with my mouth agape. I won’t be able to describe any of the art with justice. Let me just say, if you can make it to this museum, it is worth hours of your time. The collections vary wildly and anything the museum owns is available to be photographed. Granted, photographed without a flash, but it’s better than nothing. A few of my favorites here.

~Blair’s shop update. Her bags are oh-so-fabulous! I’d like Lyndie please.

~Jane’s survival kits.

~The Namesake. I only wish I was curled up with it this very moment somewhere cool. It is a great story. Last week I finished Stiff. Strange topic, but very well written.

~Warren Buffett. Just when everyone was thoroughly in a tizzy over $4 million baby photos for charity, he said, “$4 million? I had $4 million for breakfast. How about $37 billion?” I love that his money will help care for millions of people, rather than a few very lucky heirs.

~Britney interviews. This train wreck was some of the best entertainment I’ve had all summer.

On the other hand — The Not-So-Much Category:

– Taylor Hicks, the entire Hilton family, leggings, skinny jeans, purses the size of European cars, designer jeans that are cut too small in the thigh and too big in the waist (in other words, nearly ALL designer jeans), KFed, JLo, LiLo and all other ridiculously self-centered people who insist on these insanely abbreviated names.

– The White House trying to spin the latest abuse of our rights into an error on the part of The New York Times. Um, no. Nice try.

– My backtack parcel still hasn’t arrived. I am officially very angry with the Royal Mail. Royal pain in my ass more like it. Here is the photo of the softie I made, now lost in never-never-land.

Peace out my homies,

Weird and Wonderful Indeed!

Weird and wonderful indeed

One of my girlfriends, Mini, married her college sweetheart, Jason, several years ago. Jason — the brain who designed this web site — is a twin. His sister Jen, and her husband Dave, are world travelers. They left for the Peace Corps not long after I did and also served in Africa. (Although they were far more successful.)
While I’ve never spent much time with Jen, Jason has told me more than once that we are kindred spirits. Our interests are similar — she is in love with Africa too — and we’ve created a friendship via email during the last year. She and Dave have been living in London, but just returned to Namibia, where they served as PCVs. While visiting, Jen pulled together the care package of a lifetime. I came home Saturday morning from the bagel shop to find a package from Africa sitting on my doorstep.
I pounced.

Care package from Jen and Dave

I have to say, hands down, this is one of the most thoughtful gifts I have ever received. The backstory is important to emphasize that I’ve never spent any real time with Jen, and yet, I swear she overwhelmed me with her kindness. The items she included from Namibia couldn’t have been more perfect.

bracelet from Namibia

Fabulous bracelet made by a women’s group in Namibia. It is made from PVC pipe, believe it or not. Love it!

close up of African fabric

Gorgeous fabric. I’m thinking a new nappy bag.

Namibia mask

My favorite is the mask. It is so different from the other African masks I’ve collected and the craftmanship is remarkable. It looks right at home on my mask wall.

mask wall

She also included a lovely “Welcome to a Better Life” postcard and bookmark, labeled weird and wonderful. I can’t wait to return the favor. Now I’ve just got to research what luxurious American things this austere expat may secretly covet and send them her way!


Swap, Swap, Swaparoo!


I’m hosting a craft swap! I figure this is a great way to get to know more bloggers and to get my creativity pumping. But what to swap? Backtack has taken on knitting rolls, handbags and softies. Amy does an awesome job with aprons. There are secret pal swaps, yarn swaps and postcard swaps too.
The one thing I make frequently and truly love to make are wristlets — pouches you can carry on your wrist. Therefore…

What: “It’s a Wristlet World” Swap
Using Thimble’s fabulous pattern, or another of your choice, make a wristlet for your swap recipient. Your wristlet should somehow describe where you are from. For example, as an Arizonan, I might use cacti fabric, or sage green yarn. That’s right! This is not solely a sewing swap. Those of you too timid to dust off the sewing machine can relax. It is simply a wristlet swap — make your wristlet uniquely yours — sew, knit, crochet, paint, perhaps even paper art. The idea is to be crafty, share your corner of the world with your swap recipient and have fun!

Who: Any blogger interested.

When: Sign ups begin today, and end June 29th.
Partner names will be emailed June 30th. Partners ARE NOT anonymous. So email him/her and get to know your recipient. Is she allergic to chocolate? Better hold off on the Hershey’s. Does she love opera? Don’t send her a Gwen Stefani CD. (Or do, because she rocks. Holla!) Wristlets should be received by your partner by August 15th. That’s gives you six weeks to impress us with your artistic abilities. That said, I’ll be even more impressed by those who meet the deadlines and follow through. Two digital images of the wristlet you’ve sent should be emailed by August 15th. I’ll put these in a Flickr gallery for us to all oogle and admire.

How: Sign up by emailing africankelli at gmail dot com. Please include: your name, mailing address, blog address, and whether you are willing to participate internationally. I hope to attract bloggers from around the globe. These shouldn’t be terribly expensive to mail considering they are small.

Why: Again, this is supposed to be fun. No firm rules on the size or shape of your wristlet, or what you should tuck inside. Swap karma exists. Be a good partner and you will receive nice things in return.

Or better yet, create your own!

Feel free to email me with any questions. There will be a surprise for those who participate. Craft on, friends!


A Culture Quest

I work in downtown Phoenix, and yet, am more than a bit embarrassed to admit it has been years since I’ve been to most of the museums within walking distance of my desk. More precisely, I haven’t seen the inside of most galleries since those elementary school field trips that hauled my pony-tailed self to their doorsteps, via a yellow Bluebird bus. Some of my favorite artists have had exhibits and I haven’t made the time to go visit; I am still kicking myself for missing the Dale Chihuly show a few years ago.

I’ve decided to go on a bit of an art adventure. I’ve got a new kink in my work schedule that gives me two hours each Tuesday and Thursday to wander downtown. With the summer sun above, indoor activities are a must. After two weeks of wandering bookstores and Target to kill this time, I’ve decided I need a change of pace. There are only so many Isaac tops a girl can try on before boredom sets in. (Especially when you can order these babies online…) As of today, I’m going to spend my bonus hours each week exploring a new museum, gallery, library, cafe, etc.
In part, I want to debunk those who say Phoenix is without culture. I hear this regularly from friends who’ve moved away to “more fashionable” cities, and I think it is a silly argument. Culture, like art, is where you look for it. Each community has its own pace. I’ll admit Phoenix is hot, vast and without great public transportation. Most natives have a Republican shoot-from-the-hip cowboy mentality. Yet, even cowboys have their own distinct style. The Heard Museum is our crown jewel, and there are some stunning Western art galleries in old town Scottsdale. While these out-of-town friends love to whine about Phoenix’s deficiencies in sophistication, they drink their wine with a screw top just like the rest of us twenty-somethings. And they love to come and camp out on my couch in January when it is 80 degrees outside. In my opinion, there is nothing fashionable about an ice scraper.
On today’s schedule — Judith Leiber. The Phoenix Art Museum is showing a collection of her purses and this seems the perfect exhibit to get my feet wet. I’m not worried about missing some secret hidden political message tucked away in a painting, nor does this exhibit require any research prior to purchasing a ticket. Better yet, I don’t even have to purchase a ticket. Admission is free on Thursdays. As my friend Homer J. Simpson would say, “WOO HOO!” (How’s that for culture?)

A review manana, absoloodle.


Resolution Redux

Elephant necklace by Queenthings

My new elephant pendant from Jenny of QueenThings/True Nature. Tres African. I love it. (Nice random hair stuck to my chest. Oy.)

Have you looked at the calendar lately? Six months have whizzed past and I swear I was just welcoming 2006’s birth 20 minutes ago. How this year is flying by! Before I’m scratching my head wondering how Thanksgiving has already arrived, I figured it was worth the time to stop and review my resolutions.
This year, I didn’t make concrete, measurable goals. Instead, I gave myself an outline.

~Finish my book.
~Spend more time in Africa and see a new country.
I’m happy to report a two-week work trip/vacay is planned for November, including a jaunt to Malawi for some much desired snorkeling.
~Speak Spanish more often.
After two weeks in Nicaragua and three weeks in South America this fall, double check.
~Be a better friend.
I’m working on it.
~Plot the next step in my international health career.
Well, there was the job in Sudan I applied for. This isn’t for lack of trying. Perhaps I’m just destined to be a novelist who writes about public health issues. La de dah. Wouldn’t that be nice?
~Learn a new craft.
Embroidery. I’m working on it.

There are plenty of other goals I’d like to accomplish in 2006. I’m adding a resolution addendum:
~Train and complete a half marathon
~Replace carpet in mi casita
~Plant a fall garden
~Bake a great loaf of bread for Thanksgiving dinner
~Start book #2
~Buy a tri bike, join a tri team
~Have friends over more often. Host small events and don’t get overwhelmed by the idea of throwing themed galas.
~Spend less time worrying about my appearance and more time admiring my surroundings.
~Be friendlier
~Slow down on the freeway.

How are you resolutions panning out?

Phew. That’s enough to keep me busy for a bit. Off to prioritize!