My Pants Don’t Fit


I’ve had a sinking feeling for the last few months that I was going to have to wave the white flag of defeat and by bigger jeans. I’ve always crammed into my jeans as soon as I could on the weekends. Paired with flip flops and a t-shirt, they are my comfort clothing. But, not surprisingly after having canceled my gym membership about a year ago, they aren’t fitting so comfortably today.

My friend Adam tells me regularly I’m good with accountability and discipline. My waistline these days says otherwise. I’m by no means fat, or even technically overweight. But I am not happy. I have an entire section of my closet that I’d really like to wear without sucking in, shimmying and having a stomach ache all day from the tightness.

Veggies for roasting

I haven’t become sedentary; in fact, I think the extra cush is in part because of being more social. I’ve spent much less time in the last six months cooking for myself, or just being at home. The after work happy hours, weekends with bowling and bar food and that taco festival? Well. You can do the math.

I weighed myself yesterday for the first time in a few months and I am about the same as I was 10 years ago when I left for the Peace Corps. Granted, prior to leaving, I spent the better part of  a couple months curled up in the fetal position on the floor of a Cold Stone Creamery, mainlining mint chocolate chip. I was worried I’d never see anything cold in Africa. I was not worried about my jiggle.


Today is another story. So, I have a plan! Rather than waiting until January with all the other lemmings, I’m taking this pants vs. my waist circumference challenge by the horns today. And because I tackle few projects without waxing poetic, I figured I’d share the details and progress. You know. Just in case anyone else may have a few extra pounds to lose?

  1. I’ve downloaded a calorie counting app on my phone. Every bit of research I’ve read lately says writing down what you eat makes you more accountable and keeps things in check. You see what you are really doing to yourself with those after work nachos and margaritas. (Oh, those calorie numbers hurt.)
  2. I joined a gym. As much as I hate the gym rat routine anymore, it is just too dark outside this time of year for the hours I have available to work out alone. A gorgeous trainer named Natalie is scheduled to start shaping up my flab tomorrow afternoon.
  3. I’m cooking. It is a lot harder for me to be disciplined about this than ever before because my work schedule is nuts. Yet the sodium content on a lot of the foods I’ve been eating — both brought back to life from the depths of the frozen food section and “healthy” eating out — is off the charts. My heart needs a break.
  4. Specifically, I am cooking with more vegetables. I’m also going to try to eat less meat. I know the hype with protein is “eat more! lose weight!” but in my mind, that more often than not translates to “have sausage on your morning bagel! the meat will be good for you!” Wrong.
  5. And, of course, I’m going to be a lot more selective about what I’m drinking. Far more water, far less wine. I’m unwilling to cut it out entirely. But for the time being, there will be fewer cocktail parties and more Netflix and knitting.

The goal is 30 pounds by April 1. Yes, it is a lot of weight. Yes it is completely possible. Yes, I can do this.

Each week, look for a new recipe, new weight loss tool and weight update. There is nothing as motivating as public shame.

Blog, keep me accountable.



On the needles

In this case, for his pleasure. (Who says knitting can’t be sexy?) A Malabrigo ribbed scarf in the works as a commissioned gift for a friend’s boyfriend.

I am plotting my holiday projects on an Excel spreadsheet. I’ll be sharing at least one a week until Christmas. I’m certain there will be homemade love that is baked, sewn, knitted, photographed and wrapped in a recycled bow.

Are you planning anything homemade? What are the projects that have you inspired? Please share what you are interested in creating, how you track your gifts and what type of planning you use concerning your time and supplies. I’d love some help!


Home + Hope


This little house I have in Tempe feels like home. It didn’t for many years. Although I’ve been here for nearly 8, it’s only been in the last few that I put love into where I was living. It was always clean. I always had dinner parties and an orphaned roommate living in the guest room. Thankfully, there has always been plenty to eat, enough blankets to stay warm, a sturdy roof, and ice old air conditioning for the long summer nights.


I never thought I’d be here as long as I have. I was dating a man I intended to marry and thought this would be a convenient nest egg — a real estate dowry I could bring into the relationship. Close enough to the university to always find renters, I thought I was so cleverly planning my future.

Life (again, thankfully) had other plans. While neighbors have come and gone — many having purchased at the top and watched their own tiny nest eggs disappear like so many in the United States — I’ve looked elsewhere but always returned to the trusty 85282. My home is just bigger than a shoebox by Arizona standards. In a sea of giant stucco homes with stories and walk-in closets and four car garages, I have a covered parking space, 900 square feet and a community swimming pool


My home by big city and developing world standards is huge. And perfect. And more than enough. Sadly, it took me far too long to realize the same. You’d think eating dozens of meals in homes with dirt floors and long drops, I’d be thrilled to come home. Looking back, the pivotal moment of growth when I saw my house as a home came when I planted a garden.


Planting a garden is a sign of hope. You are confident you’ll be around to see it come to harvest. You invite conversation from countless neighbors and salespeople who ask a dozen questions. “What is it?” “When will it be ready?” And often more sheepishly, “Can I have a couple?”

(The answer to that last question is always yes. I plant with the rule of thirds. One third for me, one for the bugs to much away and the last third for hungry friends, neighbors and when possible — the food bank.)

Two weeks ago I planted an experiment — tomatoes in October. With the climates changing, I’ve heard rumors of growing tomatoes year-round in the desert. I companion planted with basil, peppers, lettuce, collards and cilantro. If I remember to cover them on “freeze” nights, I should have another bumper harvest in January. I’m planting this garden with hope that my next tomatoes will be in the earth after Mother’s Day — the rule in the high plains of Colorado. I’ve got big dreams of an acre plot with a white picket fence, a small house, a huge garden, a shed for the chickens, a dog door for the mutts and a welcome sign hung above the front gate. Arizona will always be home. With a bit of luck, I’ll create the same in Colorado. It’s a leap, but I intend to split my time between the two, writing, working with family, and watching my friends’ children grow in both places. I hope to take an annual trip to Africa too. Why not?

Once I got the idea I could do this, to took off like a kudzu vine. An African desert southwest kudzu vine.


Snip, Drip, Flip

I crammed a lot of crazy into the last 3 days.

First the snip:



I know. The photos aren’t great. But the haircut? Well, I’m kinda in love. One day (after having a baby or four), I’m going to suck it up and get the courage to cut my hair exactly as I’ve wanted to. Until then, this little bob did my spirit some good.

The drip:

I donated blood yesterday. Have you done this lately? If not, give me two seconds and I’ll talk your ear off as to why it is great for your community and you to do so every 8 weeks. I earned that gallon pin this year and I still get the sweaty shakes every time I donate from fear of the needle. But the free cookies and Capri Suns? They keep me coming back. That and the thought that if I ever need blood, I hope someone else took the 30 minutes to help out. (Plus, who doesn’t enjoy showing fear a thing or two? Take that!)

Also, I got a flu shot today. Because I’m a public health nut and I’ll be damned if I’m dying in the next pandemic. No way, Jose. If I die some tragically young death, may it be in the jaws of an African lion, or sky diving or something else far more exotic than being too lazy to get a free shot.

{Stepping off soap box}

The flip:

Good thing they got that blood yesterday, as it aged today. Anyone else notice life gets sweeter each year you flip the calendar? Truly, if you’d told me at 24 life would be this good at 31? Well. I’d have spent less time trying to squeeze into skinny jeans and more time reading books and drinking margaritas. Speaking of that last part, I’m late for dinner.



P.S. I heard this week that my blog has taken a particularly less personal turn. Lots of community events, little about what is going on in my life.  While I admire those who discuss just about everything, my comfort levels have changed since I started blogging at 24. Today, I don’t think anyone swings by to read who I’m dating.  Or what’s got me angry. Or where I’ll be in 6 months.

(Wouldn’t you like to know? — SB1070 + Arizona politics — Zimbabwe or Colorado)

Now, back to those dinner reservations…

Here, batter batter

I’m throwing softballs this week — busy with lots of community projects and haven’t been crafting much. As such, a few lazy photos of some fabulous Italian eats enjoyed this weekend at Casa Mia.







(So lazy, in fact, there are no photos of the completed pizza. Inhaled before captured.)


Yep. Those orange cookies are my infamous peanut butter pumpkin recipe. It is below 90 today in Phoenix — officially Fall!


Acts of God

Last week the Phoenix area was hit with nutty weather — not yet another day of 100-plus degree heat, but tornadoes and hail the size of bricks. Car, house, window destroying bricks. My little car happened to be parked in the midst of chaos.


I sat in my boss’s office and watched as the skies turned an eerie shade of yellow before crashing, banging and otherwise throwing a giant tantrum that left much of the Valley in disarray. The car dealership nearby reportedly lost 300 cars to severe damage; it was unreal — a bit of mayhem for people who rarely if ever see snow, much less golf-ball sized hail clumped among the cactus.

This storm arrived the day after a much scarier one thankfully began to dissipate. For the last six months my my mom’s been sick. It started with a backache and quickly progressed to something obviously more serious. It took four months before the specialists could figure out the region of her body causing the pain and another two before surgery was scheduled. There were countless appointments and even more tests. She was poked and prodded and thoroughly annoyed by the time they got her into the surgical suite.

My mom and Dad

My parents mean everything to me. These two, and my brother, are my world.  Somehow, out of 6 billion of us, I got lucky with these three as my clan.

Mom + Dad

Cody, cute

The last six months have been an ugly blur. Many nights that I woke up at 1 am crying. Bags form under your eyes, your belt gets a bit tighter as you try to eat away exhaustion, your mood is snippy and nothing seems to be good enough. The looming darkness that could be wrapped us in blankets of anxiety. I reverted to a selfish child. What if she was really sick? What if she couldn’t come to my wedding one day? What if she never met my children? What would my dad do? What would we do? I want my mommy!

Night after night I made a list of things I had to ask her, things I wanted her to teach me, sentiments I had to say again and again to make sure she really knew. Just in case.

It’s that space of “just in case” where we do so much needless harm. My dad and brother weren’t coping any better. Thankfully, we took turns calling each other to cry — rotating who was the strong and who was the one overwhelmed with grief. To hear my dad and brother cry — I would have given anything in that moment to change life.

Dad, Mom, Moi

We rallied her and made sure she had no idea how very worried we were. She was showered with cards, flowers and prayer. My dad’s adoration for my mom was even more clear — he did everything he could to make sure she was comfortable and as happy as could be.


The surgery came and went last week. I sobbed and later celebrated when we got the news — no cancer, completely treatable, she’ll be fine.They finally figured out exactly what it was and she would be good as new.

The day after the storm, two days after the surgery, I called my insurance company about the damage to my car. The agent apologized for “acts of God” that caused the destruction. I couldn’t respond. What do you say to a “storm specialist” after this kind of week? How do you adequately communicate your pure relief that this act of God kind of damage could be repaired with a $500 check?

The same way you say, “I am so glad you didn’t die. I’m not ready. I’ll never be ready. I love you.” You just do. And then I recommend hugs and margaritas all around.  Because, oh sweet God, it is time to get back to celebrating life!


Ignite: Fruitful Harvest

A little more than a week ago, I was given a chance to speak about Fruitful Harvest — a new community program in Phoenix to plant fruit trees on irrigated lots to supplement food banks. The ASU Ignite talk was just five minutes and it took more than a few hours of repeating the same five minutes worth of information to contain my excitement. (Understatement of the week: I’m a talker.)

This Thursday, I’m bringing together anyone interested in helping Fruitful Harvest — those with land, shovels, time, a bit of money or just the desire to see Phoenix be a better place. I sincerely believe using our water for fruit trees to ease hunger makes simple sense. How simple? Easy enough for me to do the math:

1 hour + $100 to purchase 5 fruit trees + 1 irrigated lot (with no extra water used!) = 1,000 pounds of fruit per tree in 3 years.

1 hour. Tell me you can’t give 1 hour of your time to make our home better?*

The meeting will have representatives from the Phoenix Permaculture Guild, local food banks and local faith communities on irrigated lots interested in participating. If you attend, I promise to find you an appropriate place to pitch in to be a part of this great work.

When: 7 pm, Thursday, October 14

Where: Asbury United Methodist Church — 1601 W. Indian School Rd, Phoenix

RSVP: africankelli at gmail dot com


* I’ve heard from more than one friend lately they are getting a little tired of my “Dear Friends,” emails. This is apparently my favorite salutation before a community call to action. To this I say, do you know who I am? Big mouth, bigger heart. Now, stop your complaining and grab the shovel. We’ve got some trees to plant.


Arizona Taco Festival

Arizona Taco Festival

Arizona Taco Festival

This weekend was the Arizona Taco Festival. Even if it had just offered tacos, I’d have been there. But, Dios mio, then I heard about the entertainment — Lucha libre! I knew nothing of Lucha before seeing Nacho Libre. And while it definitely didn’t make me want to get into a ring any time soon, it was a lot of campy fun.

Arizona Taco Festival

Arizona Taco Festival

Arizona Taco Festival

Arizona Taco Festival

Arizona Taco Festival

Arizona Taco Festival

Arizona Taco Festival

Arizona Taco Festival

Mexican WWF. I had so much fun screaming and jumping watching these guys. It was choreographed silliness.

IArizona Taco Festival

Arizona Taco Festival

And having these cute men in tow didn’t hurt either.