40 Books In 2008: 8 Months to Go

Sandy totebag

Book bag for a swimmer friend. This has me thinking. A. I need a new tote for my summer travels that must hold lots of books. B. I need to start putting aside trusty used paperbacks I can leave behind as I go.

My goal of reading 40 books this year is going pretty well. January was a banner month. February was brief and a great time to be outside riding my bike, not on the couch lazing about. March I got hung up reading a book I really didn’t enjoy, only to then spend $7 on the movie that I didn’t like either. Go figure.
There have been some great reads this year; I am a little in love with William Powers and wish Anne Lamott was my friend. There have been some silly ones too. I’ve been tutoring a friend who is in high school and reading a fair number of books I wouldn’t have otherwise enjoyed — like those Traveling Pants.

1. Whispering in the Giant’s Ear
2. A Thousand Splendid Suns
3. Lipstick Jihad
4. The Island
5. A Year of Pleasures
6. Blue Clay People
7. Traveling Mercies
8. Grace Eventually
9. Bird by Bird
10. The Other Boleyn Girl
11. Glass Castle
12-14: The Traveling Pants series, 1-3 (tutoring)
15. Wuthering Heights (repeat, tutoring)
16. Animal Dreams (repeat, tutoring)
17. Atonement

Next up: What is the What, Three Cups of Tea, Plan B. I know I’m a goof ball for being so excited by the growing stack of books on my nightstand, but someday I’m going to be a busy parent and am going to look back at my twenties and think, “I am so glad I read those then!”

What are you reading? Is there a book you’ve read in 2008 that you can’t wait to share with others? I’d love to hear about it. In 2007 that book for me was The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint. In 2006 it was Winterdance.


Turn on Skirt Spinning Tunes

My first wrap skirt

Tiffany and I went to grad school together; she is one of those girlfriends who I can go months without connecting with and yet pick right back up where we left off. She is the proud mother of a precious nearly-two year old girl who I just love. Rory is a sweet little thing and it breaks my heart I don’t get to see them more often — they now live in Michigan.

wrap skirt for mam

Anyway, Tiffany thinks my sewing abilities are up there with Martha’s and will occasionally send me patterns and suggestions. (Ha! I’m about as close to Martha’s sewing as I am Julia’s cooking, but the thought is kind.) Wouldn’t this shift be cute in plaid? Wouldn’t this skirt be nice in a summer cotton? Did I mention I have a cute little daughter who is perfectly sized for a game of dress up?

mama and baby matching skirts

Okay, she doesn’t really say that kind of stuff, but it is a conversation we occasionally have in my head. I’ve been wanting to make them matching skirts for months and finally got around to it a couple weeks ago. Rory also received one of those pillowcase dresses.
I used this wrap skirt tutorial and sent along several long pieces of ribbon with the skirt too. I didn’t care for the thickness of the tie I originally created, but it was out of the same fabric as Rory’s sweet little elastic skirt, so it needed to stay. The package arrived and the girls love their new wardrobe. This was simple enough I really should make them another set. Perhaps in plaid.


Tacos and Margaritas, Anyone?

can i get you a taco

Querida Finny,
I just love your birdie apron. I wish I had bought five yards of that fabric and could at least toy with the idea of sewing the beautiful dress we saw in the window of Josephine’s. Oh, my love of expensive fabric knows no bounds.


Good thing I’ve got a couple side jobs. Remember that customized apron idea I had for Mother’s Day? Well, I’ve completed two orders. The first was for Jessica and it turns out she is really pleased with the results. Woo hoo! The second I just completed last night, so fingers crossed it also gets a good review. A friend of a friend emailed me to see if I could make her mom and apron and include her nickname (Meesh) and tacos. Come to find out, Meesh is a taco-making machine. I think I captured the espiritu with this April apron project.

ribbon and embroidered taco

So, who is our grand prize winner for April? Your chance to pick. I’m thinking up a fun project for May-June. Do you mind if we double up? I won’t be around a sewing machine (or electricity, really) for most of the later.


Spicy Sunday Dinner

drained, rinsed and ready to be transformed into...
Hummus: the usual suspects
Black bean hummus and veggies
black bean hummus
black bean hummus and cut veggies

Black bean hummus + cut veggies: I swapped garbanzos in this recipe for black beans, added a dash of flax to thicken this a bit more and a lot of cayenne. Now that I’ve got the hang of making my own hummus, no more store bought nonsense. This takes all of 10 minutes to throw together at 1/4 of the price.


Community Dinner: Viva Cuba!

Community Dinner: Cuban Cuisine

Cheap red wine + two liters of Sprite Zero + sliced citrus + lots of ice = Sangria!

Community dinner has been on a hiatus for the last couple of weeks and will more than likely go into hibernation again soon; summer is arriving and everyone is getting busy — including this wanderer. I thought last night’s dinner would be canceled, but last minute I received several RSVPs. As a hungry reader of Andy’s Diner, I shot Andy an email and asked if he had any quick go-to Cuban recipes he thought would work.

Community Dinner: Cuban Cuisine
Community Dinner: Cuban Cuisine
Community Dinner: Cuban Cuisine

Ay caray! He was the man to ask. I made Cuban black beans (substituting turkey bacon for pancetta) and stewed chicken with white rice. We had sangria and coconut-pineapple sugar cookies too. It was a feast and everyone went home with perrito-bags. And I may have wolfed down black beans with my eggs this morning.

Community Dinner: Cuban Cuisine

Thanks Andy! Great suggestion.

I hope you are having a happy week. I am very much looking forward to this weekend; one of my best friends is coming into town and we plan on painting it red. Or rojo, as one with another round of sangria up her sleeve might say.

Hasta luego,

The Peace T-Shirt Project

Peace T-Shirt Project

Last summer when I traveled to Africa I was lucky enough to deliver hundreds of goody bags bloggers put together for orphans in need. It was a wonderful and yet exceptionally frustrating experience. The customs officials in Mozambique were none too pleased I was bringing in “commercial goods” without a formal tax letter, etc. It took quite a bit of arguing and promising I wasn’t going to sell toothbrushes on the black market for the goods to finally leave the airport and make there way to the orphanage.

Peace T-Shirt Project

So, this summer I thought I’d go about things a bit differently. What could be put in my suitcase and not seem out of place? T-shirts. The Nicaraguans and Mozambicans I work with live on less than $1 per day — the World Bank marker for extreme poverty. They get their clothing through a complicated route and it has been my experience that regardless of color, fit or style, folks are tickled pink to receive a new (to them) piece of clothing. I save my clothes during the year that would otherwise go to Goodwill and instead take them on my trips. When I’m done wearing them, I hand-wash the best I can and pass them on to someone else. I try to do this in a respectful way, fully recognizing that hand-me-downs can be a rude pat on the head. The friends I’ve made through international travels have always been pleased.

Peace T-Shirt Project

If you are interested in participating, I’ll be taking as many T-shirts as I can to Nicaragua in May and Mozambique in June. A T-shirt provides a creative canvas for those who want to decorate, and the opportunity for the non-crafty folk who want to play along by sending one they want to share. I’ve got a couple ideas for onesies (orphanages in both locales) and for adults. I would like to give that freezer paper technique a whirl.

The details:
1. Please send only two things: a new T-shirt of any size (I’ll be working with newborns to the elderly) and a 3×5 card with a note on why you wanted to participate. If you want to include a photo/prayer/quote on your card, great! No card? That’s fine too. The card motivation is to let the recipient know there is someone in the world who wants a better life for them, even if all we can do in this moment is share a shirt and perhaps some peace in the process.
If you want your shirt to go to Nicaragua, please write the note in Spanish on one side. If you want it to go to Mozambique, please write the note in Portuguese. Here is a good translation program.

2. In return I’ll send you a thank you along with photos of those the T-shirt project benefited. I’ll provide a more detailed story of the typical Nicaraguan and Mozambican who benefited from your kindness. I’ll be forever indebted.

3. Shirts must be to me in Arizona by May 25th.

4. Email me for shipping details: africankelli at gmail dot com

Peace T-Shirt Project

I’ve received great support from bloggers, friends and family in the past and I don’t have any doubts the mailman is going to be crazy busy once again. I am so thankful for your participation. {And if you are new around here thanks to Craft, welcome! Nice to meet you!}


Fair Fare

Here comes my ride

Survived the bus commute today in honor of Earth Day. The daily ride pass costs $2.50, not $1.25 as I thought. This left me scrambling at the front of the bus for change for a $10 after I had already put in all the quarters in my wallet (5, as planned). It was like being at Rhodes Junior High School for the first day of 7th grade all over again. There I am fiddling with my bottom row locker when all the freshman are spinning through their combos with ease, hovering above and snickering at the green new kids. Thanks to the kind wave of the bus driver, I took my seat without ever finding the right change.

Bus gear ready for the ride home

It was the right change to my routine. The brief experience threw me into a new mix of folk who I otherwise wouldn’t spend an hour with socially. I like these sorts of social situations where you feel completely uncomfortable because the universe is shaking you down and trying to teach you something about yourself. There were high school students from the technical school speaking Spanish and playing with their long, shiny brown hair. There was an African immigrant in a pressed white shirt that was so thin I could see his bus card clearly through his front pocket. A man with a hearing aid slowly rocked back and forth, flicking his long fingernails and never looking up from the black plastic flooring. I smiled, thumbed through my book mindlessly and people-watched with hunger. Bus riding is good for a writer’s soul.

Bus view.

The commute was easy. It took an hour, including about a mile walk — which I thoroughly enjoyed knowing we are full well climbing back in the oven known as the Phoenix summer soon enough. The bus was comfortable, the company eclectic and I didn’t have any road rage while reading and day dreaming. Imagine that.
I may have to give this public transport thing a fair shake, although it means I’d miss my morning coffee stops on the way into work. You know your life problems are insignificant when it all comes down to caffeine.


XOXO Pachamama

what are these tall green things

Pachamama is beloved in South America and I find the idea of an earth goddess looking over us endearing. Rather than bemoan all the recycling we should be doing for Earth Day (Soapbox tone noted, Erin), I’ll say:
Querida Pachamama,
Thanks for all the cool stuff here on this third planet from the sun that doesn’t cost a dime: dark African nights with the Milky Way strung across the sky in a tangle of cosmic creation; the first sight of an ocean or the Grand Canyon, sunsets in Phoenix in August when the sky seems to be on fire, butterflies swirling about when you are on a long hike, silky white saguaro blooms gathered in late Spring crowns, shocking peonies, forests of tall pine that smell like butterscotch, animals so pretty they make you blush in awe, the smell of the desert after a long rain, monsoon season, honey, coffee, grapefruit, wine and the humans who once upon a time came up with the bagel/tortilla/bakery.
Gracias Mama Earth!


P.S. I’m sporting my Chacos and birdie messenger bag today and trying yet again to make sense of the public transportation available to East Valley residents who work downtown. Carpooled in, bussing/walking home. I’ve got my camera ready for another fun urban adventure.

Give Us This Day…

twin loaves
crusty fabulousness
honey whole wheat

No Knead 2.0, honey whole wheat.

A loaf for a dinner party last night, and a loaf today for a luncheon at work. I tripled the recipe (and quadrupled the yeast) to get bigger loaves than normal. It worked!

I think a sign of a great week to come is a slice of warm, homemade bread to start off your Monday. Don’t you? Giddyup and pass the butter.


Tried and True

Tri for the Cure: Checkity check. The “Tempe Y Tri Babes” did well and had fun in the process. Positives: my relay partners were prepared, raced hard, and had great attitudes. Negatives: poor race organization. Not only were there swarms of people without the foggiest idea of the course map, transition area rules, etc… but wowie — we started a good 1.5 hours late. This screws everyone up as far as energy (eat breakfast? Don’t eat?) and bathrooms. There were 900 women racing and few facilities. Now imagine 850 of them who are hungry and doing a very cranky pre-race dance standing in bathroom lines.

My eyes: much better. Thank you. And thank goodness for leftover drops because I’ve got another Tempe Town Lake splash and dash in a couple weeks. You can lead this horse to water, and chances are I’m going to jump in and swim, even if the water is gross.

Being in this environment is such a kick. First, there is the people watching. You wouldn’t believe the variety of age, size and physical shape of triathletes, especially in these sprint events. Without a doubt I know I’ll get my ass handed to me by someone 15 and under and someone 65 and older. Competing is good for humility if nothing else. Also, the tattoos! I think triathletes are probably second only to Harley Davidson folk for the number and variety of tattoos clearly labeling their favorite hobby: swim! bike! run! I once wanted an Ironman tat, but I’m reconsidering after the variety I’ve seen. While no doubt they are special, they aren’t unique.

There is nothing else in my routine that motivates me like being around other athletes. I stand up straight and throw my broad shoulders back with pride from the countless swim workouts that created them. I watch with body-confidence envy at the women who sport tri bikinis, for those rocking six packs and those who enjoy a good six pack. I cheer for the newbies and watch the elite athletes in awe. From start to finish, I am overwhelmed with the desire to simply be better. I want to eat smarter, train harder, stretch more and be stronger. I want to compete at the top of the field instead of hanging around the flabby midsection. (Correlation noted.)