Dear Fin,
Guess what? In all my domestic prowess (roar), I realized mid-sewing the March pintuck table runner project that really what I was learning here was how to sew a pleat. Score! You know how many of my skirts hang way too low because I’ve never been sure how to pleat in an inch here and an inch there? Well, guess what? I mastered the pleat this weekend with my entry to the Finny and Donk’s Sewing Adventure.

Side table, before

B.P. Before pintucks. Also, A.C. After cats.

I figured my little kitchen side table needed some sprucing. Now that my casa is happily cat free, my houseplants needed to be repotted. Alas, my cutting of that begonia my great-grandfather gave my great-grandmother when he was courting her? Didn’t make it through the 10 weeks with kitties. Thankfully my Tucson grannie has more of the plant and I can snatch another cutting next time I visit.

Pintucked table runner
Pretty green floral fabric on the back

The other plants were very pleased to see bigger pots, fresh soil and their canvas pintucked table runner. Voila! Now, you get to pick the April project. I’m not going to influence you (place mats) but you know what my kitchen could use (place mats)? I am thinking my community dinners would be that much more fun with a bit of canvas pintucked place mats to rock the table. Canvas because my dinners already look like they are sponsored by Salvation Army. Nothing matches. Might as well try to blend the crazy collection of cloth napkins with something neutral.

Side table, with new table runner
my life-long rubber plant

Looking forward to your selection and browsing that fabulous photo pool to see how everyone else pleated themselves silly.


Swimming, Without Political Drama

Don't you bring your knitting to a swim meet?

I swam in the state masters meet this weekend — the mile last night and four events this morning. I am blogging on nothing more than anxiety and exhaustion. I’m home, a wee bit sunburned and very happy to have competed. And yes, I took knitting to the meet. I’m just that strange.

Arizona State Masters meet

I notice that in true Kelli fashion I underestimated myself. My entry times were stupid slow — as in I swam in heats with an 81-year-old dude.

50 fly
200 IM
100 fly
1650 = mile

Yep, I beat that old man silly. Okay, really I waited in the water for him each time to finish and then shook his hand. I mean, how cool is it that he is still competing at 81? Lou and I were fast friends by this afternoon. He didn’t seem to mind I completed the mile 22 minutes faster than him and tread water the entire time waiting for his finish.

For the swimmers out there — did you learn to stay in the water until everyone is finished and shake hands with your competitors? I thought this was common courtesy. Safe to say this is not a level of competition that should be void of manners. Also safe to say I’ve got to find a new team to train with because next year I’ll be greeting Lou from the fast heat.


Y’all Invited: Southern Community Dinner

Celebrating Adam’s 25th:

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BBQ pulled pork sandwiches on

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Buttermilk biscuits,
with a side of

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BBQ chicken wings

And those not wanting heart disease enjoyed:

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Las frutas y

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Los vegetales.

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I think he was happy with the dinner.

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It smelled good, but I simply cannot bring myself to eat pork or chicken wings. It’s the fat, and the skin respectively. Skinless bbq chicken? Love it, especially if it is my dad’s recipe. But this is just not my style. That said, it was fun to try something so new.

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Thankfully he disagreed. And omnivore and carnivore alike came together to feast on brownies and ice cream in the end.


Cigar? Beret? Inappropriate Costume? CHECK.


Okay. Obviously it has been a long week and it is only Wednesday. Thanks to Amanda, we’ve got some scanned college photos including a few gems of me in a bikini and socks in a dorm room, lounging on a pool chair. Yeah. Those aren’t ever making it on the web.


But my Monica Lewinsky costume? Apparently a-okay. Time for a good laugh, especially with another Clinton headed to the White House.


African Heart, American Summer

Plains of Mozambique

So, let’s just get this out in the open: yesterday my summer Africa trip was canceled and for pretty silly reasons. I had a good cry over the thought of the friends I won’t be seeing, but today I am feeling better.
The truth is, I could let this job stress eat me alive, or I could embrace the new challenges it presents and move along with a smile. I talked to my dad on Sunday for a routine family weekend catch-up and could hear the panic in his voice on the other end when he heard me holding back sobs. It is hard enough going through this kind of emotional nonsense without putting extra worry on those around me. I’ll be fine. In fact, I’ll be better than fine. In that internal evaluation I’ve been conducting I realized that I’ve got a pretty good grasp of running a successful nonprofit. I love public health. My passport proves I’m willing to travel and commit myself to my work. The right agency is looking for a new leader and it is about time they met my resume. And then my baking. But hopefully not my blog.

Hanging out at the orphanage with the workers

While you may be able to take away my plane ticket to Africa, you cannot take away my love for the continent, my passion for my work, my mission to help those in need. Dude, Africa is in my heart. (I feel a bit like that Lee Greenwood song right about now.)

Keith and I walk through the villages

Things I’m pretty darn happy about today (both shallow and divine):
1. Spending gobs of time with my friends and their families during Easter, including the Brennan clan. Meg and I have been close friends for more than ten years and now I get to watch her in action with her first son, Roscoe. He is simply adorable. I love Meg’s husband Scott too (always a perk) and Meg’s family is like an extension of my own. I tagged along for dinner with the entire family last night and it felt routine in a great way.
If I haven’t said it this week, I am exceptionally blessed with great friendships. I have more people who care about me and my well-being than I can count. What more can you ask for?

2. New Madonna! Woo hoo!

3. I’m cooking a southern feast per request of the Salty Senor to celebrate his birthday at community dinner tomorrow night. New recipes, a full house of friends, lots of food and we’re going bowling for dessert. Yee haw!

4. The Wednesday food section of the NYT.

5. I’m so taking this “commute to work on your bike” class. Free classes at REI inspire me to buy a great backpack and see a lot of the Western United States on foot this summer. I’ve got weeks of vacation time to burn and suddenly a month of my life handed back State-side. See? Tell me that ain’t some sweet lemonade.

Lator gators,

7 Ya Yas and 150 Cupcakes Later…

Coconut cupcakes from that Barefoot Contessa

One of my childhood girlfriends celebrated her wedding this weekend. She and her husband eloped in Hawaii and then had a reception here. They’ll have another reception in a couple months in Chicago, where they now live.
They asked if I’d help bake for the event. Amanda and I took the project by the horns and produced 150 homemade mini-cakes for the event. She went so far as to find Hawaiian-themed chocolate molds and make her own candy. (I’d be lying if I said I didn’t swoop in and steal a couple of those, leaving the cupcakes behind with a swipe of frosting missing. Classy gal, I know. Blame the open bar.)

Baking for a wedding

Mine were either lemon or coconut and of the dozens provided, there were few left at the end of the afternoon. Mission accomplished. Even better was having the entire gang in town for the weekend. It has been so nice to have everyone together. Last night over pizza (and water — I do have some self-restraint), we pulled out a box of photos from junior high and high school. We laughed so hard my stomach hurts this morning. I learned a few things:
1. I cannot believe I ever wore that much makeup. White eye shadow should be banned. (1994-1997)
2. My Monica Lewinski Halloween costume is still my favorite of all time. (1998)
3. We dated a lot of boys with bad haircuts.
4. I am so blessed to have these girlfriends. We’ve stuck with each other through thick and thin (literally).

Ya Yas, 2008

May we all be blessed with such genuine friendship.

Creative Fuel

No knead

I made a couple more loaves of no-knead bread this weekend to take to Easter dinners. There is something about the smell of bread baking (especially these loaves; I added rosemary and parmesan cheese) that makes me ravenous. I wanted to pull them out of the oven, pour myself a big glass of milk, and eat the whole thing. Thankfully, I did not.

Earthy african fabric jewelry wrap
Hi pretty tags

Instead, I sewed. I have a bunch of CAOK gifts I’m behind schedule in sending. Two African fabric jewelry wraps are being mailed out today. Thankfully Stephanie is helping me sort out the tunic mess. Fingers crossed that project will be back on track by the end of the week.

Also, I hope to be back on track soon too. I’m going through a rough patch professionally that has me uncharacteristically blue, cranky and anxious. Ultimately, I need to find a new job and I may not be able to go back to Africa this summer as I’d planned. I am not just bummed out, I’m heartbroken. I can’t discuss the details, but I am so thankful for my faith. I know that from challenge comes greatness. I’m just not sure what that is quite yet and in the in between uncertainty is eating my happiness for breakfast.

Thanks for your well wishes.


Domestic Disasters

Dear Fin,
Oy vey, oy vey, oy! What a ridiculous week of disasters it has been. First off, remember that nudu hat? The gray one that the minister in Chicago ordered and I finished lickity split? Well, I didn’t sent it with delivery confirmation because I’ve never had anything get lost in the mail. Before. Yep, I had to start over after the hat never arrived. I’m sure whomever received the hat found themselves tickled pink by their new gray dreaded accessory. Alas, this left me scrambling to fill the order again and I’ve thankfully just dropped this baby off in the mail. I kinda like it better in black anyway. Hopefully so does the customer. Fingers crossed this baby arrives in no time and the remaining fee comes my way pronto.

adios nudu

And the tunic. Thankfully my love for Amy Butler is well known around here because you’d never know by hearing the obscenities I’ve screamed her direction in the last week. Pattern sewing is just not my strong suit. I am not dramatizing this scene: me last weekend, sewing four hours on the tunic, trying desperately to finish it in time to meet a you’ll-be-able-to-wear-this-for-Easter promise I made Rebekah when I realized I’d sewn the yoke on incorrectly for the third time.

The Tunic that Nearly Killed Me

I didn’t even attempt to rip it out. I am just thankful I didn’t pull out my shears and make confetti of the entire project. I’m going to attempt to decipher the pattern and sew this top again this weekend. Poor Rebekkah had to find something else to wear to services tomorrow. {And if you have any gentle tips on what you think I may be doing wrong with the yoke, I’d be happy to hear them. That said, if you are going to forward me blogs where the seamstresses write, “Anna Tunic? So easy! One afternoon of skipping through the sewing and I wore it to dinner!” you might as well send me a barf bag too.}

As for that table runner? Haven’t even thought about it. I am guessing I’ll jump on that baby this weekend. I have to say, you paved your own way quite successfully on this project, didn’t you? Bravo!

Hope the Easter bunny brings you gobs of Reese’s eggs, my friend. Miss you, and oh how I could use your pattern-sewing and margarita-making skills right. about. now.


We Got The Feast Part Down

build your potato station

Potato bar, anyone?

Community dinner last night wasn’t so much community as it was two people. I blame it on my friends not speaking French — RSVP. However my patience for this lack of bilingualism is running thin. Ahem. I don’t expect participation, but I do appreciate good manners. March madness doesn’t help either.The boys are in Vegas, the girls are either dreaming of Easter baskets or also feverishly hovering over their brackets. Guess which category I’m in?


Steamed with lemon juice and so good I ate 1/2 a pound alone. The other 1/2 is packed for lunch today. Eating seasonally has its perks.

carmelized onion, mushroom and garlic

I’m digging this cast iron skillet; caramelizing onions, mushrooms and garlic is a snap.

green pepper cornbread

Green chili corn bread.

sweet potato, dude

Gratuitous sweet potato shot before we get to all the desserts. Oh, you know there were desserts.

Thankfully, one of those who attended is a good eater and lives in a house full of hungry college kids who I’m imagining greatly appreciated the feast he came home with. Including an entire chocolate cake. So, we got the feast part down to the Maunday Thursday tradition, but we skipped the foot washing. We instead opted for belly-filling.

yummy shredded wheat

One of my favorite Easter/Spring desserts are bird’s nests. So easy, they are included in the “children cook!” section of Nigela’s Domestic Goddess book.

making of the nests
i ate way too many of these yesterday
birds nests, a la nigella

Seriously, how cute are they? I love these little nests. Plus, that giant bag of malt balls was kinda nice to have around all day yesterday when I was doing the domestic dance.

As for those Easter baskets, I didn’t get around to buying anything special. In fact, I made a dash through the Target $1 section and decided against buying junk just to buy junk. Instead, I decided to clog the arteries of my friends with lush, dark, fabulous chocolate mini cakes.

recycling bags for easter baskets

Recycled bags +

putting those stamps to good use

Easy-peasy stamped tags +

easter treats

chocolate cakes =

practical baskets

a happy little collection of non-conventional Easter baskets.

A Good Friday to all,