Adventathon: 2

Roasted Squash Dip — perfect for a holiday party or as a snack. I love sugar as much as the next person, but I find overwhelming amount of sweets at the holidays make me cranky, my stomach hurt and my pants tight. So, how about a healthy alternative to add to the potluck buffet?

Squash dip


1 sweet potato

1 small butternut squash

1 other small squash — could be acorn, etc.

3 cloves of garlic

1 dash of olive oil

1 cup ricotta cheese

1/4 cup cheese of choice — I like mozzarella

Dash of garlic salt, pepper, cayenne if you want it spicy


Roast squash and garlic — with a splash of olive oil — on a cookie sheet at 350 for 45 minutes. Let cool for 20 minutes and then remove flesh with a fork into a large bowl. Add cheeses and spices and stir. Serve with veggies or crackers. Voila! A healthy seasonal appetizer.

Squash dip

Other options include adding brown sugar (not the point, really) or salsa. This is exceptionally easy, tasty and versatile.


Adventathon: 1

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Advent begins today, some 26 days before Christmas. I don’t remember ever celebrating advent with any great fanfare as a child, but have coveted intricate and beautiful advent calendar traditions during the last few years. I am particularly fond of this calendar and this homemade version. {How amazing would it be to receive a sweet note each day?}

This season means different things to Christians. For me,  it is a great time to prepare. It provides 26 days to find reasons to be thankful, be mindful in prayer, and to get my heart and home ready for the Christmas season. Cheesy? A bit. Truthful? Definitely. I am a sentimental girl.

I didn’t participate in Black Friday this year and don’t plan on buying a thing for Cyber Monday either. The older I get, the less the stuff seems to matter. I don’t need a thing. Most in my life are equally blessed. And let’s be honest — all you need is a $.50 newspaper to be reminded the most important things in life cannot be purchased or wrapped — love, fidelity, health, sanity, peace. The very last thing I needed this weekend was to sacrifice sleep for the celebration of consumer gluttony. (If I want to celebrate gluttony, I prefer to do so in the comfort of my own home with a piece of pizza in one hand and bottle of wine in the other.)

Instead, my list of handmade items is long and my list of tiny intentional acts of beauty is longer. This year, I’m celebrating Christmas with Christ in mind — He who fed the poor, spent time with the lepers, advocated for love and peace. Needless to say, I’ve got a lot to learn.

I’ll be posting a project each day for the next 26 days. Some take considerable time, while others are conquered within minutes. I hope there will be something included that strikes your fancy. I wish you and your loved ones a holiday season abundant with the very best of life!

Adventathon: 1 Children’s Art Portfolio Tutorial

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Supplies needed:

  • Exterior fabric 18″ x 11″
  • Interior fabric 18″ x 11″
  • Interfacing 18″ x 11″
  • Interior crayon/marker pocket fabric 7″ x 8″
  • Two pieces of ribbon, each 10″ long
  • Wax paper
  • Art supplies

Directions: Iron all fabrics. Iron/sew interfacing to wrong side of exterior fabric. Set aside.

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Take interior pocket material and iron under top (7″) edge, 1/4″.

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Repeat, ironing same seam again under another1/4″, hiding raw edge.

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Repeat with right-hand (8″) edge of pocket. Top stitch top seam.

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Iron center crease on right side of interior fabric. Align the folded under right-hand edge with the center crease of the interior material:

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Pin down pocket side edges and bottom. Stitch 1/4″ from edge of pocket material securing pocket to interior fabric. Do not sew down top edge you’ve already hemmed.

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Now, pull out your markers, crayons, pencils, paint brushes or whatever art supply you’d like to gift in this porfolio. Measure the width of these items. We are going to create a series of pockets for each of these by running hems from the top of this pocket to the bottom, backstitching at each end.

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I created 8 of these lines, measured equally across the pocket, to hold a packet of markers.

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Now, measure the drawing pad you’d like to include on the other side of the interior fabric.

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Find the center of the right-hand side of your interior fabric, 3-4″ from the top edge. Draw a line measuring the length of your drawing pad, adding 1/2″. This pad was nearly 5″ – so my line was 5.5″.

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Very carefully, snip this line open with a pair of scissors.

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Tuck the back cardboard edge of your drawing pad into this hole to make sure it fits. If it doesn’t, make the hole a bit bigger on either side.

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Now hem a small zigzag stitch in a coordinating thread around the hole (buttonhole stitch) to close the raw edge.

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Place the exterior fabric — with interfacing already attached — on top of the interior fabric with right sides matched.

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Measure 6.5 inches from the top of the left and right hand sides of the portfolio and tuck your pieces of ribbon between the exterior and interior pieces, leaving at least .5″ outside to pin and later stitch. Sew both sides together with a 1/2″ seam. No need to leave a hole to turn right sides out. Clip the corners, trim any excess including that extra bit of ribbon and then pull the right sides through your drawing pad hole. Iron flat, pushing out the corners carefully. Top stitch in a coordinating thread.

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Now, measure several pieces of wax paper to place in the center of the portfolio for stamps/stickers. Carefully run a tight zigzag stitch down the left-hand side of the wax paper to secure to the portfolio. This also creates a center binding for the portfolio because you are stitching through all three layers (make sure your bobbin thread matches your exterior fabric.) This step is entirely optional. Wax paper doesn’t hold up well and if your artist is too old for stickers, skip it.

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Add a label if you’d like.

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Place the drawing pad in the hole by securing the back cover.

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Add your art supplies

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And stickers

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Voila — a children’s art portfolio.

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Other variations may include thank you notes, stamps, stationery, etc.

Tomorrow: a favorite holiday recipe


With Grace

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Candace’s Thanksgiving Apron

A few things I’m thankful for this year:

– Grandmothers who inspire me regularly to be better

– My little brother’s sense of humor

– My girlfriends. Nearby, far away, in other countries — I am blessed with great friendships. Thank you!

– My extended families who always make me feel like I’m one of their own clan

– Community work; feeling like my job has a greater purpose

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– a church where I am accepted for exactly who I am

– a strengthening relationship with God

– being loved, loving, feeling the full spectrum of confusing emotions involved

– time and passion for creativity and art

Finny and her little farm; she makes me want to be better at just about everything

– Spending Christmas with my family on the beach in Mexico in a few weeks

– Friends who do great favors, like design my book cover

– Salty Senor, for always making me giggle

– And the superficial: Dior Addict mascara, Tory Burch flats, great jeans, t-shirts, all things Target, Changing Hands Bookstore, my bike, swimming, pumpkin cookies/bars/pie, Sweet Republic Ice Cream, dark chocolate, a good glass of wine, bowling,, great stationery, NPR, REI, and Bumble and Bumble thickening hair spray.

Happy Thanskgiving weekend to you and your family!

With love,


Curl Up

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One of the things I’m most thankful for are good books. When I read a couple weeks ago about “14 Cows for America,” I knew I had to read the story for myself.

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It’s about a group of Masaai warriors who decide to give cows to the United States after 9/11.

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The symbolism in the book is startling. There are often exquisite drawings with two tower-like figures in the background. Giraffe necks, walking sticks, branches of acacia trees.

Interestingly, I bought this book for a young friend. Reading it to her, I realized she is young enough to have been born years after the national tragedy. While I had tears in my eyes by the end of the story, touched by the beautiful illustrations as much as the carefully selected words, she was entranced by the animals.

In a way, this is healing.

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The other recent children’s book I purchased is “The Red Shoes.” Again, it’s the matching of spectacular drawings with words chosen just right that make this book art.

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Plus, who doesn’t love a good story of redemption that includes amazing accessories?

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Both stories are full of hope and healing with patient perseverance. They are being added to my list of favorites for children, including “The Fire Cat,” and “The Secret Garden.”



Thankful correspondence

Letters for this week

Sunday I was in charge of Children’s Moment at church. The timely lesson was about giving thanks. I whipped up some Thanksgiving cards and we talked about the importance of being grateful. The kids went into the congregation and found someone to give a card to and then we worked on cards for their families in Sunday School.

I am a bit like Johnny Appleseed, but with correspondence. Johnny Stampyseed? Kelli Appleletter? Hmm… I like to spread it and make others write letters too. (My brother told me the other day he’s saved all the letters I’ve sent him since he left for college and there are more than 100. I’m a little crazy, I know.) The kids agreed — getting personal mail rocks.  They now know the secret too — to get mail, you’ve got to send some stationery love too. They were as excited as a group of little ones gets about a thinly veiled manners lesson.

November Music Mix

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I whipped up some music mixes this weekend too. Looking at this photo I just realized the Four Seasons song is a Vivaldi and it is Violin not Violent. Ha! Violin autmun, not violent autumn.

I think these might be my two very favorite things to receive:  handwritten notes and mixes of la musica.

Hope your Thanksgiving week is off to a great start!


Stained Glass

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Stained glass quilts

Stained glass quilts

Three lap quilts made with African fabric scraps and backed with cordouroy :: Each quilt has at least 50 pieces, symbolizing jubilee :: Gifts to celebrate weddings and friendship.




I have been hoarding essays lately, trying to figure out the best way to wax poetic about the latest happy happenings. Instead, how about some photos of cookies and scattered reminiscing?

Gingersnaps are my favorite cookie, without a doubt. I like them stale, with cold milk. I like them warm, with hot tea. I like them small, big, lumpy, covered with crystallized ginger and even the chocolate variety. I am not alone in my love of the gingersnap. My mother — who would buy bags when grocery shopping with her children and allow us to eat them from the cart (before paying! The rebel! We were shocked. And far too excited we were all going to be caught and thrown out.), and Rebilou are also fanatics of the baked good.

Gingersnap Scarf

So, imagine my delight when I realized my latest knitting project is just the same hue of gingery rust orange. Snap!

Gingersnap Scarf

This scarf is one of many holiday projects and the details are being kept under lock and key. However, may I instead offer you details about the wildly fabulous Barbara Kingsolver and her new novel, “The Lacuna?”

Did I mention I met Ms. Kingsolver (along with 100 other people in a busy auditorium) last week and managed to ask her a question that made her laugh? Did I also mention that the first 50 pages of “The Lacuna” are heavy and the interviews I heard with Barbara beforehand had me nervous my 12 years of dedicated worship were misplaced? She was just so serious and I was sincerely worried the biologist from Tucson who wrote “Animal Dreams” and “The Poisonwood Bible” had been eaten up by the now super succesful Kentucky best selling author.

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Good news. I was wrong. In person? She is witty, funny, tall, slightly awkward and really down to earth. She read her book excerpts with passion and with a faux Mexican accent that made me giggle a bit.  She took questions from the audience and deflected silly comments with such grace, everyone was laughing. Also, the book picks up speed quickly and is becoming one of my favorites. I’m having a hard time balancing my daily activities with my hunger for being on the couch, deep in the story of an American boy growing up in Mexico. Of course, that American boy is living in central Mexico and goes to work for Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera.

The dialog is exceptionally good and the manner of telling the story is wonderful. I am inhaling this book, not unlike the way those cookies above quickly disappeared.

Gingersnap Scarf

The other essays go a bit like this: there are the three quilts waiting for binding, Thanksgiving correspondence in need of stamps, holiday baking planned, an apron to give away thanks to all of your lovely comments, and a community garden begging to be replanted. Also, my Botswanan squash are growing up the side of my house and into my front door. My little home is beginning to resemble a fairy tale. Everyone keeps saying “prune” but the vines are so pretty.

Oh — and that apron. Congrats luck #21,  Candace!


A Rebuttal


This weekend, theologian Matthew Fox came to lead a three-day series of workshops and lectures at my church. Now, before you stop reading because I used the words “theologian” and “church,” I promise this isn’t going to be some heavy-handed religious post. I was interested to hear Matt speak because my minister and good friend, Jeff, loves him. To be honest, the only other people I’ve heard Jeff refer to with such deference are: the Beatles, U2, and this other Irish dude who lives on the Isle of Man, John Bell. So, I was fascinated to meet someone Jeff refers to as a modern day prophet.

For me, no surprise, that person is Jeff. He has been my teacher since I was in 8th grade. I’m tickled pink we are such good friends today.

Hand of Buddha

I missed Friday night’s lecture for the flopped dinner party, but attended 7 hours of lecture and workshops Saturday. Matt has written a book called, “Creativity,” among many others. The workshops were art-inspired, including mural making, mosaic, prose, etc. I led one on community gardening that was a lot of fun. After observing him on Saturday with such rapt attention, I was beginning to see why he draws such a crowd. He emphasized compassion repeatedly and talked about how being comfortable with silence is critical to hearing and appreciating the Holy Spirit. What he had to say resonated. I was truly looking forward to the sermon on Sunday.

Fast forward 18 hours and you can imagine my dismay when Matt stood to speak about “Jesus in 2009,” and spent the next half an hour pointing out the injustices in our society. He had four pages of yellow paper that he read bullet points from. They included things like, “Jesus is in the homeless man at the central Phoenix church who no longer receives a free meal because the neighborhood is up in arms,” etc. Four pages. 30 minutes. And a lot of anger.

Matt was defrocked by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) for believing in original blessing vs. original sin. I’m summarizing greatly, but essentially decades of work as a priest were ground to a halt over a difference of dogma, which today manifests in Matt’s work with a bit of an angry edge. Not bitter necessarily, but you could certainly tell by this sermon that he was less than pleased to have been so publicly embarrassed.

Like cherries

His list of errs in our society got me thinking about the way I see Jesus in 2009. (This is where this post may get a little heavy-handed, fyi. But you are this far, so why not stick around?)

In contrast to all that is wrong with Phoenix, Arizona, the United States, the earth and universe — here are a few ways I see Christ as the embodiment of love, compassion, hope and light alive and well today:

Ginny Hildebrand has led the Association of Arizona Food Banks for decades with limited to no recognition. It really is thanks to her incredible patience, hard work and willingness to stick with her mission that thousands of Arizonans get enough to eat daily. She answers phones late at night to make sure hungry mothers get food boxes (no exaggeration), travels to Washington DC regularly to get our congress people to pay attention to the wide swaths of rural Arizona with very hungry folk, and blushes when you thank her. She is selfless and my community is better for it.

Randy Yavitz is a lawyer who has 4 acres he gardens in central Phoenix. Last year he donated thousands of pounds of produce to the food banks because using the land for good makes sense. He works two hours in his garden each morning before he goes to work a full day to make sure this happens. He is generous and my community is better for it.

Blood orange

The 1700 folks who walked the Breast Cancer 3-day this weekend and raised gobs of money for mammograms, research and treatment. You are warriors for change and my community is better for it.

Sam Richard, who is the most effective networker I have ever met, is the future of Phoenix. He writes about a dozen blogs, lobbies, pickets, volunteers and pushes us all to get going toward social change. He knows how to rally a neighborhood and work through politics to see things improve. I can tell as his friend that he so desperately wants Phoenix to be more socially progressive and he’s willing to work at it 18 hours a day.  He does so with very little thanks.  He is tireless and my community is better for it.

There is a little boy at my church, one of a dozen children from same-sex partnerships, who had the courage to stand up on Mother’s Day and thank both of his mommies for their love. He is brave and my community is better for it.

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I see the light of Christ in my friends who are parents and sacrifice everything — at times including their sanity — to be their very best for their families. In the environmentalists in town who take the bus and the light rail and their bikes even though it means an extra hour each day commuting. In the folks who work at the animal rescue and humane societies, praying today will be the day their nurture pays off with adopted pets. In the man who waits to hold a door open for the next person, the woman who donates her work clothes for homeless women starting over, in children who share, in the Valley Interfaith Project that brings together leaders from many dogma to work together for the betterment of all.

Life is a matter of perspective; my life is full of gratitude, incredible people who inspire, love and compassion. I’d guess Jesus is pissed there are people standing in front of a church, hungry and in need with government standing in the way of their next meal. I’d also guess Jesus in 2009 is an optimist who smiles at the good and hopes there are enough people fueled by love to get motivated.

Sounds like it’s time to call Sam and rally the troops.



I like that the word kismet begins with a kis and ends with a met — okay, that is Zach Galifianakis-inspired. Regardless, I had a kismet kind of day and am feeling invigorated. Lots of great happenings professionally and personally. I have had several friends say in the last month, “Wow! Everything is coming together, huh?”


And to be fair, one of the most insignificant and yet happiest things to have happened is that I RULED at bowling on Saturday. Ruled by my standards, that is. I scored 130, 140, and 100. I usually hover in the 80s, so this was remarkable.

(Dude. I abide.)

Teaching Lebowski a thing

Yes, I have just become that suburban 30-something who brags about her bowling score on her blog. Pretty sure I could rename this Africancliche.

And thanks for your kooky stories yesterday. You cracked me up and really cheered me on. I’m glad to see I’m not alone in my perfectionist tendencies, but also glad to see we can all laugh at ourselves too.

“My dad always said we were lucky to have Galifianakis as a last name. It starts with a gal and ends with a kiss. …”


Kelli’s Law


You are familiar with Murphy’s law. And perhaps even my friend Adam’s law. (“Some people say, ‘You make your own luck.’ Most of those people are pretentious assbags.”) This weekend I finally figured out my very own.


Kelli’s law goes a bit something like this: over-think the task at hand, create lists and schedules and completely stress yourself out when these don’t fall into place as planned, reject all compliments given concerning the final project because in your mind it wasn’t 100%, and call the entire thing a failure. Regardless, the majority of those around you have no clue you are so upset — otherwise, you’d be adding that guilt to your plate too.  Instead, be the whiny martyr and smile through your aggravation only to blog about it later.

Homemade pesto


My parents are in town. I’ve been excited about their visit for weeks and invited some of our closest family friends over for dinner Friday night. Of course, my parents wanted to go out and I wouldn’t hear of it. So I took Friday off from work and spent the morning shopping, chopping, cooking, cleaning and planning. These are not chores in my mind; I am my happiest in the domestic habitat.

Chicken parm

The meal included pesto and olives on baguettes with wine for an appetizer, chicken parmigiana and creamy pumpkin pasta and spinach salad for the main course, and spicy mexican brownies for dessert.

Creamy Pumpkin pasta

We sat on the patio under the stars and ate by candlelight. Decanters of wine flowed and the conversation was plentiful. And while I wish I could relax a bit and admit I pulled this off, I can’t. I wish the food had been warmer, the linens on the table had matched and a few other things had gone the way I’d planned. I fully recognize I’m letting my perfectionist tendencies ruin what was otherwise considered a great night, but alas, that is why this is Kelli’s law.


Happy customers: my papi, Martha, my mami, Martha Jr., and Alberto.

Every drive yourself crazy with your own kooky behavior? I’d love to hear them. Leave a comment and I’ll pick one for a Thanksgiving apron later this week.