1–10 of 25 entries from the month of: December 2010

Finale & Farewell

December 28th

Remember that stack of yarn cakes?

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Well. Fast forward two weeks and the final Christmas gifts are done. I don’t know why I decided the cowl was my 2010 project (and walked around asking people, “Did you know it is the ‘year of the cowl?’” like it was something I hadn’t just made up), but I did.

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There is something about how snuggly they are. You can pull them over your mouth when the wind is whipping (say, 300 miles north of my desert home). Or pull them over your head when you want to run outside in the cold. Or wrap it over a cute t-shirt and under a jean jacket for a pop of color. Every fashionable woman should have a cowl.

Christmas Cowl

Christmas Cowl

Christmas Cowl

Christmas Cowl

If you had asked me in November if I’d have 10 of these done by Christmas, I would have laughed. If you’d mentioned the 14 handbags, 9 crayon rolls, three golf towels, two scarves, one hat and a partridge in a pear tree – I would have curled up in the fetal position. Then again, fueled with enough caffeine I think I could manage Everest –  if I didn’t freak myself out beforehand with the stories of how hard it would be.

There is some clever  lesson in this post about how life is so much easier when we take it one project at a time, and eliminate the noise of others who try to distract us from our goals. (I saw a bumper sticker in traffic the other day that read:  Don’t let your dreams be crushed by those who have give up on their own. AMEN.)  Alas, for those in need of a proverb, I got up at 5 am to finish these cowls before work so they would be ready for tonight’s final holiday party and my cleverness  is still under the covers. Instead, I’ll sigh with relief I reached the finish line for this holiday season — minus a couple hours of terrifying icy driving on the way to Santa Fe — stress free. I am so very thankful I managed to escape the grasp of the expectation monster who haunted holidays past.

Now, who is ready for some handmade Valentine card ideas? (chirp. chirp. Is this thing on?) Just kidding. Let’s all just bask in the glow of no pending celebrations for a bit, shall we? I for one will be doing such celebrating on this veranda.

Malawi and Zimbabwe or bust, baby!

See you in three weeks,*

K

*If there happens to be Internet on the tea estate, I’ll say hi. I for one am hoping for a tech-free holiday. Three weeks without my incessant (and potentially addicted) social media blabbing will do the worldwidewebs some good. I will miss you. But I hope to be occupied with swimming, hiking, exploring, photographing, sleeping in, napping, drinking tea, reading, knitting, day dreaming, chasing the estate’s monkeys, lounging, shopping and perhaps even a bit of writing with an old school pen and notebook.

The best news is — this little blog will be even better come 2011. Be ready for lots of fun, friends.  And know that with all my heart — I wish the very best for you and your loved ones in 2011.

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Santa Fe’d

December 27th

Cliche Santa Fe

La mama

Really, people? You wonder where I get my kindergarten love of punny humor?

Door way

Wares

Wares

The family

Christmas was fun in a Ben Stiller Christmas movie kind of way. You know, the kind where getting there is a pain in the ass, the hide-a-bed doesn’t have sheets, your brother doesn’t mention he’s bringing his dog until the giant hairy beast comes bounding through the front door, the restaurant you talked to about reservations for Christmas eve doesn’t happen to mention they closed  for the holiday, and there are four towels for five adults.

Christmas was also sentimental and sweet in all the good ways that makes us pay $9 for that kind of movie in the first place. We were all together, including my brother’s lovely girlfriend. (She’s pretty fantastic, and possibly blind. That beard was the topic of much conversation.) We had way too much to eat, including my mama’s Christmas tradition of sticky buns. We took long walks and spent a lot of time catching up. I held my mom’s hand as much as possible and threatened her with orangutan kisses — with my impression of the shit-throwing zoo animal included — every time she thought about putting on her cranky pants. We went to the movies. (True Grit. A-) We shopped. (REI, bookstore. A+) We played a lot of board games. (Apples to Apples, Scrabble. A)

And I didn’t cry. Not once. I usually cry when I finally get around my family. I’m crying because the time has finally arrived and crying because we are soon going to leave each other again. This time it was easier. I suppose five years since our family dispersed across the southwest, I should be okay with the goodbyes. (I’m not. I’m just getting a bit tougher.)

The drive home was also one of the prettiest I’ve ever taken. I took the other route through Heber and Payson. The Mogollon Rim is simply splendid. Rocking out to podcasts and CDs,  watching the changing vista, I thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon.

Santa came to Santa Fe, where my dad says he summers. I didn’t see any reindeer, but there was plenty of green chile and cheer.

~K

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25: Advent

December 22nd

2010

My greatest joys of 2010:

-My mom recovered from kidney surgery and is doing great

-Gram turned 80 with a surprise dinner party

- The little garden that could produced hundreds of pounds of herbs and vegetables

- Matty returned to the 85282 and spent much of the year making us laugh with his shenanigans

- I reconnected with my cousin Dax, who I hadn’t seen in 16 years. His gorgeous daughter Lola is one of my favorite people.

- Finny and I took our annual trip — this year to Idaho. As luck would have it, I’ve had dozens of great adventures with friends in 2010.

- Time with family in Colorado makes my being happier

- The little book signing that could. Novel 1 took off at a trot and continues to gallop along. Novel 2 is determined to win the Triple Crown.

Without a formal Christmas card, I am sending a warm embrace from the Arizona desert a few days early. I’m off to be with my beloved family for the holiday and plan on surprising everyone by not blogging, emailing or checking my phone every 2 minutes. If I was reminded of one thing this year, it’s that I don’t spend enough time fully listening and being with my loved ones. Someone is always just a tweet, text and email away. May I surprise even myself by instead being fully present to those in my presence in 2011.

May you be surrounded with people who make you laugh, food that makes you put on stretchy pants with gluttonous desire and happiness that encourages your dreams for the New Year.

With love, I wish you and your families a very merry Christmas!

~K

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24: Advent

December 21st

Pasta Party!

Pasta Party!

Pasta Party!

Another pasta party this weekend, because this time of year makes me want to curl up on a mattress of spaghetti with a bottle of champagne. Or not.

Today’s blessing is insomnia. Yes, this post is brought to you by 2 am — when my creative brain shakes me awake more often than I’d prefer. There is simply so much excitement scheduled for the next few weeks — time with family and a return to Africa at the top of the list. So, rather than toss and turn, I’m up writing, reading and enjoying a lunar eclipse. The world is conspiring to keep me entertained in the middle of the night.

Stephen Colbert and Jesus Hussein Christ are also keeping me very entertained. I’m pretty sure Jesus had zero political interest, but ouch — this social justice fueled monologue about the disassociation between those claiming Christianity and our actions is spot on.

“Don’t forget Jesus hung out with tax collectors and prostitutes. No good conservative would be caught dead with tax collectors.”

~K

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23: Advent

December 20th

Just a handful more days until Christmas, which means I’m scrambling to complete a few final projects and am ready to share what I’ve been working on:

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Depending on the recipient, these scrappy pouches are either pencil bags or makeup cases.

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This larger patchworky bag was given to one of my favorite librarians to use as a work tote. I love those zebra handles — which match the lining.

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And yet another Spud + Chloe cowl. I knit this yesterday while watching Black Swan. Yeowza, that movie. Made me glad I grew up a swimmer. Spending my childhood in a Speedo was a gift by comparison.

Today’s blessing is that OHMYGODITISFINALLYCHRISTMASVACATIONWEEK. I have so enjoyed sewing and knitting again. It is nice to take a break from hobbies and then become reacquainted. Woo!

~K

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22: Advent

December 19th

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My Advent blessing today is a bit unconventional, but still in the theme of gratitude. I’m thankful for timing. While it doesn’t always seem like a blessing when things just don’t add up the way the are “supposed to,” they still seem to always work in my favor. Whether it is the end of a job leading me to a much better opportunity, or the end of a relationship paving the way to greener pastures — I have been so very lucky.

It’s hard to remember in the middle of heartbreak, or that sickening punch to the gut when life is bitterly unjust, that eventually you’ll be able to look back and think, “Huh. Thank GOD that didn’t work out the way I wanted at the time. Phew.”

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Over dinner with family friends tonight, we each said how exciting the prospect of 2011 looks. Each person at the table, ranging in age from 80-plus to little Emme Lou at not quite 2 years old, had something they were looking forward to. (Granted, I think the little one is just looking forward to more ice cream, but hey! That works.) I’m thankful for how each little bit of life has worked out to put me right here, right now. Ready for a new year, adventure, challenge, and a continuing journey of faith and growth.

~K

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21: Advent

December 18th

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Blessing for today: waking each morning with a desire to be better. I’ve read this week that the urge for self-improvement is a traditionally middle class American value. Whatever it may be, I am thankful that I have this insatiable hunger to be a stronger, smarter, more clever, kinder more patient version of myself. There is a lot of room for improvement, and i think the gentle encouragement to get to it already is the holy spirit working within.

~K

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20: Advent

December 17th

20: Advent

20: Advent

20: Advent

My blessing for today is found in nature. My daily morning commute includes a 15 mile drive north on the freeway. At one point each morning, I drive up a small incline. Without intention, I seem to have coordinated the sunrise with my brief view from the top of this little hill. To my right, there is a vast expanse of Native American reservation. Some of the fields hold the gray, dying remnants of a Pima cotton harvest. Others remain fallow. To the immediate north are the McDowell Mountains. To the east, the Superstitions, Four Peaks and Red Mountain. On the other side of the freeway, Camelback and Mummy Mountains look jealously to the east, watching their counterparts once again be showered first in a burst of color. I’ve come to look forward to this vista each morning.The miraculously quick change of color as the sun peeks over the mountains and the sky moves from navy to aqua to tangerine and violet — it is spectacular.

I will greatly miss the mountains and the sunrises when I move from Arizona.

~K

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19: Advent

December 16th

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Africankelli Best of 2010 Continued, Arizona Edition:

Best bagel sandwich: western bagel at Back East Bagels in Tempe. They are so good I have to keep this a weekend indulgence, or I’d be wearing stretchy pants to work.

Best place to buy quirky gifts: MADE in downtown Phoenix. Their jewelry and pottery collection — created by local artists — are fantastic.

Best place to buy artsy gifts: Phoenix Art Museum gift shop. (They have a section dedicated to Frida!)

Best place to buy cheap books: Burton Barr Library book shop. Most books are $1-5 and they regularly receive donations from press junkets. Meaning, you can find books new to the market for pennies, and the store supports the library’s outreach.

Best indie fabric store: Three Dudes Quilting. Their selection is plentiful, although they don’t carry Amy Butler.

Best yarn store: Tempe Yarn and Fiber. While I love Jessica Knit’s in Scottsdale, the Tempe store is friendlier. They have community tables and their prices are fair. Since my mom moved and took my knitting help with her, these folks have helped me more than once mid-project.

Best sushi: Sakana in Ahwatukee. (Conveniently next to Three Dudes, for those who want some fabric with their raw fish.)

Best place to have a long lunch and a glass of wine before sneaking back to work: Herb Box.

Best running store: Sole Sports. They are patient, will watch your stride and fit you for shoes that will make any walker or runner much happier. Their prices are competitive and if you bring an old pair of running shoes in to donate to homeless outreach, they take $10 off your total.

Best pool: masters swimmers work out at a handful of pools in the Valley and while I love the SRC at ASU, the parking is a nightmare. Trying to find a spot near the university for a quick swim is nearly impossible. Cactus pool in Scottsdale is older, but they run long-course in the summer and the bulkheads in the winter aren’t terrible. The pool is maintained well and if you don’t want to pay for a masters program (although SwimDevils workout there and their program is excellent), you can pay a drop in fee for a lane during open swim.

Best thrift store: Flo’s on 7th. Sales benefit Florence Crittenton of Arizona. Their selection of glassware, books and fabric is diverse. I can always find a Pyrex dish in a pinch, or a stack of fabric napkins.

Best place to people watch: Chloe’s Corner at Kierland Commons. Grab a drink and a patio seat. Spend time with a girlfriend. Watch the plastic surgery parade go by!

Best hike: Mormon Trail at South Mountain. From the south side of the mountain, there is a 5 mile hilly loop. I’ve got this down to 1 episode of This American Life and .5 episode of The Splendid Table. It is a gorgeous hike and depending on the time of year, could be covered in flowers, baked in the heat or dry and dusty.

~K

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18: Advent

December 15th

18: Advent

There are so many end-of-year lists going around. Time magazine this week (with the rather brilliant Palin cover) listed the best of movies, film, theater, books and music. I had heard of 20% of those included. The New York Times best 100 books of the year list was even worse. I’d heard of 3, read 1. Nothing like the fancy schmancy New Yorkers to keep an Arizona literary ego in check. Plus, they obviously missed out on my favorite book of the year. Ahem.

My quirky foray into this trend — Africankelli Best of 2010:

Best yarn: Spud and Chloe. Fun colors, soft yarn, easy to work with.

Best knitted project: the cowl. Let 2010 reign as the year of the cowl.

Best shoe: I’m in love with Tory Burch flats. I want them in all colors. They are comfortable, wear well and worth the price.

Best band new to me: Vampire Weekend

Best simple pleasure of the year: spending time with so many friends in other states. Shelley and Ale in Seattle, Sue in LA, Finny, Andy and Katy in San Fran, Finny in Idaho, Mike, Bunny, John and Emily in DC, Sheila, Charlie and Julia in Colorado, Zarah in AZ, etc. Loved it!

Best tech purchase of the year: my schmancy fixed lens. I love the bokeh.

Favorite restaurant of the year: Gallo Blanco. I make up excuses to drink margaritas and eat huevos rancheros any time I’m in Central Phoenix.

Favorite book of the year (other than mine): The Help, with Let the Great World Spin and Disappearing Spoon close. Then again, People of the Book was also an excellent read, and The Road was hauntingly good.

Favorite new group of the year: My crazy book club where I’m the only non-librarian. Such smart women who encourage me to think differently.

Favorite website: twitter. I’ve met so many sweet, interesting, rude, funny, and like-minded folk on twitter. I’ve attended dinner parties, happy hours and random tweetups to meet these folk in person. I love Twitter’s ability to build community. I also laugh at Twitter’s ability (blame the technology) to get me in social snafus.

To be continued…

~K

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