Thanks Moms!

Mom's Quilt

Mom's quiltMom's QuiltMom's QuiltMom's QuiltMom's Quilt

You may have already seen photos of this beauty on Facebook or Instagram — but it’s worthy of some blog love too. My mom surprised me with this gorgeous quilt for Valentine’s day. The postwoman came when I had a couple girlfriends over sewing, and I jumped up and down. “IT IS A VALENTINE FROM MY MAMA!”

I ripped open the box and pulled out the quilt on the living room floor. And then I realized it was made with scraps of my sewing projects from 2015, and I had to hold back years. I’d brought my mom a Target bag full of scraps from various projects I’d sewn and she used her magical powers of alchemy to turn them (and a bit more) into this quilt. There is ASU for Jason, and Frida for me. And I simply love it.

There are some pretty cosy perks of being a quilter’s kid.


When Life Gives You Citrus and Sunshine

acacia bloom

future marmalade

Arizona sun in a jar

Spring is in full bloom in Arizona; our “winter” lasted all of three weeks, or so. As such, the citrus limbs are heavy with golden orbs and the acacia are flowering with the most delicious scent. (It really is my favorite smell.)

When you have a hundred pounds of citrus, or so, what to do? My go-to is marmalade. I use the recipe from the traditional Ball Canning Book. It is essentially a 1-1-1 ratio of citrus, sugar and water. Boil this as hot as you can muster for a good 55 minutes and then let simmer until you see it thicken. The natural pectin in the citrus should be sufficient, but when a batch doesn’t seem to be setting up — I add a package of Sure Jell.

When there is only a bit left after a canning adventure, or I haven’t prepared enough jars, I will stick a half-full jar in the fridge for experiments. This week we used this jar over a pork loin in the Crockpot. Cooked for 8 hours on low, we had orange pork over steamed vegetables and rice for dinner. The kids inhaled it. (My new mark for a winning recipe.) I also used a bit in a yellow cake mix to bake a couple loaves of orange bread. Easy, sweet and using what we have.

In the garden, we have broccoli that went to seed and pepper plants that have been producing. Carrots, onions and flowering bulbs are coming up strong. And the basil and lavender have found a sweet spot in the yard, tucked under a giant ficus. They get enough heat, but not direct sun and plenty of water.

I am so happy this time of year. The windows are open when possible, the geraniums are flowering with colorful abandon, and our backyard is full of love birds, hummingbirds and three noisy dogs.


Where Bibliophiles Lay Their Heads

For a bibliophile friend.  CAOK 2016 February 2016 Mesa, AZ www.africankelli.comBook Pillow for Jen

Book Pillow for Jen

Book Pillow for Jen

Book Pillow for Jen


My long-time blogging friend Jen recently switched jobs and homes. She is an avid reader and I’d long had my eye on this pattern. I thought it was the perfect time to try a book pillow. I asked Jen for a couple of her favorite authors and embroidered their names on the books. (I tried my hardest to copy the fonts, which is really tricky.)

I’m really happy with how this came out.



My Tree

A thinking tree

When I briefly lived in Cameroon 16 years ago, I was so homesick I could barely breathe. I took solace spending my free lunch time under a huge mango tree in a school yard. I’d sit on the concrete step of a classroom (not in session) and look across the yard at the huge tree. It was probably 50 feet tall and had arms that stretched wide, with thick green leaves. If you stood under it, you could see tangerine mangos high above. The lower limbs had been plucked clean, furry pits strewn about the dirt school yard.

I’d sit on that stoop, or stoep, depending on your African linguistics, and think of my mom and dad. I’d wonder what my brother was doing in high school that day. I’d think of one of my closest friends, who was pregnant with her first child and due any day.

I spent a lot of lunches staring at the limbs of that great tree, watching birds come and go and dreaming of the comfort of home.

The beast

There is a tree not far from my home today where I find similar solace. Mercifully, I’m no longer sick of any sort. Instead, I get to this tree and rest in the lush green grass, letting Nelson off the leash to chase bunnies in the nearby desert brush, and relax. It is just the right size for shade and warmth. It is the perfect thinking tree.



Calculated Acts of Kindness 2016

Here we are, again — the first day of Lent and therefore the first day of Calculated Acts of Kindness (CAOK.) The idea behind the campaign is simple: during the next 46 days, complete random kind acts. They can be simple (dragging your neighbor’s trash can back up off the curb) or more complicated (donating time and supplies to a local shelter.) One year, Finny picked up left-behind/lazy-owner dog poops on walks with her dog.

If you decide to participate, please tag your posts on social media with #caok16. It will be fun to highlight your creative ways of making the world a bit kinder. Join the Flickr group here. 

To be clear: this is not a secretive method of evangelizing. You do not need to be of a specific faith to participate. Instead, it is a time of the year when I find spiritual peace by intentionally spreading kindness (and encourage others to participate.)

For ideas, check out a few of the previous year’s photo sets or posts here:


CAOK 2014

#3 CAOK Birthday treats




I will continue to post ideas during Lent. Thank you for participating!



Hearts and Love and Cherries Too

Valentine sewing

Valentine Sewing


Galentine's crafts

Galentine's crafts

A bit of Galentine love. These and a couple other pillows are being sent out to girlfriends this week.

I was asked to speak to a group of soon-to-be college graduates the other day. Most in the room were young women. I was asked a bunch of questions about sexism in the workplace, when to push back, what to do to stand out, etc.

One of my strongest pieces of advice was to never be the mean girl. You remember those girls — the ones that always found a way to make you feel rotten? Instead, I said the best way to make your new workplace a fantastic, life-changing, challenging environment is to decide going in that you are going to be kind, friendly and take no crap. You are also going to work to build each other up.

I did feel a bit like Leslie Knope giving a galentine’s speech, but hey — what did they expect?


The Sewing Room is Open for Business

Sewing space set up!

When I went on the walk-through for J’s house, I had to focus on keeping my feet on the floor when we walked into one of the bedrooms to see it had been converted into a sewing room. The previous owner had custom cabinetry installed and racks for fabric in the closet. I wanted to giggle with glee. A real sewing room! Not everything spread out on the dining room table, where you have to shuffle to get things organized and tucked away before guests come over.

A real sewing room.

It took 18 months or so of sorting and organizing, but this week the sewing room finally transformed from the catch-all for everything else in the house to an actual sewing room.

Valentine sewing

Valentine Sewing

Just in time for some Valentine and spring birthday projects.



A Few Ideas for Valentine’s Day

cu of tags

A few posts over the  years — if you need creative inspiration for Valentine’s:

Heart cupcakes for delivery


Heart-shaped baking

The ultimate brownie show down (scratch vs. box)

All the Single People Dinner Party (and menu)



Milagro cards

Photo cards

The Lover’s Dictionary — one of the best books you can give for Valentines


Valentines pillow for Rachele


Heart pillow 

Tea towel aprons

Funky flower pin

Knitting needle roll

January knits


Gloves and hats


Spread some love!