Category Archives: Swap

Discussing creative art swaps, including “It’s a Wristlet World” swap.

Nature Envelope Exchange

Envelope exchange

Envelope exchange

Envelope exchange

Envelope exchange

Envelope exchange

Envelope exchange


I am participating in a local envelope exchange, hosted by my friend Danna. It has been far too long since I’ve played along in any sort of craft-along — and this felt great. It was also the impetus to get the craft stuff unpacked and sorted and while the craft/office/crap room isn’t entirely sorted — I was able to sew and stamp and do what I needed to complete this project. I used an old Arizona Highways photography book of Arizona scenery and an envelope template to make mine. Each pouch included pens, pencils, stamps and a note.

I have no idea what I’ll be receiving in return, but it will be fun to watch for the postman!



On the twitter the other day, one of my most favorite ladies was talking about a pin cushion swap she’d just signed up for. Considering I love a creative challenge, logically I signed up.

Scrappy Pin Cushion Swap

Thankfully, a long weekend with very little planned has left me with ample time to catch up with my sewing machine. Oh, the simple, sweet, and pure joy of being creative. I find it matched solely in the high of a great run or hike. This weekend I’ve bounced between both activities with long, gloriously refreshing naps in between.

Scrappy Pin Cushion Swap

Scrappy Pin Cushion Swap

Thank you, America. Your birthday is pretty awesome.

Scrappy Pin Cushion Swap

Also awesome is the pool of photos from the scrap pin cushion swap. Wowza. Color me intimidated! These little pieces are truly works of folk art.

I was just thankful to have Nic’s lovely apple pin cushion pattern and one of her kits on hand. I’m pretty darn happy with the way this came out, including the double leaves and the tiny leather stem. I used rice to fill it to give it some heft and it is off in the post to my secret partner this week. As Nic would say, WOOT!


SSS, or better yet, SOS

secret santa, the beginning

Brown bag to be reused in the spirit of being green + international posting box. $37 for all countries, up to 20 pounds.

When Donna emailed in August asking if I’d be interested in a Secret Santa Swap, I thought, “Sure!” I didn’t have to mail anything until December and that seemed so far away. October was kinda busy. And then November rolled around and I got wrapped up in Urban Dares and ditching Ruby for a kayak. Even though Donna has got this international swap exceptionally organized and even kept us all up to date with postal delivery times around the world, I started sewing yesterday. It needed to be in the mail tomorrow.
Procrastination is how I roll.

pink and orange and happy all over
bag, after being jazzed up
secret santa pouch
secret santa swamp bag and zippered pouch

I wanted this gift to be artsy, but also earthy. I took a well-loved handbag I had and added some pink and orange love, paired it with a sweet zippered pouch and stuffed that international postage box nearly to my 20 pound limit. My recipient will receive chocolate, yarn, a design book, a journal, an ink pen, a quilted pillow case and a lucky giraffe in addition to the purse.

secret santa swap ready for the mail

Now, on to that holiday sewing I’ve been thinking about…

My Melody Was My Favorite

wrapped gifts

Heidi sent a message a few months ago — would anyone be interested in a “back to school swap?” With fall right around the corner, did anyone else feel the desire for new paper, pens and a school bag? Yes. Not surprisingly, yes. Not only have I always had “a thing for bags” as my mama says, but also love correspondence. I am constantly writing and sending letters, and keep a journal. (You know, where I talk about all the non-Cleaver stuff inappropriate for the Internets.)
When I was young, you couldn’t buy Hello Kitty stationery in Arizona. But there was one shop at a mall in California I found when visiting on vacation. An entire store! Pencils, paper, cute little Japanese characters that made me want to sit down and write a pen pal letter to every girl I’d ever met at camp, in part just to show off my pretty paper. And then seal them with monkichi stickers!
I spent the next few years saving all my babysitting and car washing money to go hog wild in that store each summer vacation. And so yes, I’ve always been a dork — but a dork with sparkly pencils.

art, writing supplies

Imagine my delight when I received this swap from Marian. Not only did she use African fabric for the bag, but she also made a clutch and a moleskin cover. She spoiled me rotten! I simply love her creativity and attention to detail.

fold over clutch
the most perfect moleskin cover ever
elephants, paper and yellow

Thank you Heidi for organizing and thank you Marian for your generosity!



pray before lunch

Internets, I love you. Thank you so much to the droves who responded to my call for goodwill goody bags yesterday!

The details:
1. Size/weight is important. I’ll be taking these bags with me in my one, giant duffel. Please make sure your goody bag isn’t larger than a quart sized Ziplock bag. I mention the Ziplock because even if you decide to package these in something the same size (which is great!) please consider still sealing everything in a Ziplock to minimize any spills.

2. Please do not include money. Thank you anyway! I have a long list of charities I work with, if you are interested in that regard. If you can’t participate this time around, no worries! I make trips like this about three times a year and am always bugging my friends and family for help.

3. Please don’t forget the card/photo and note. These must be in Portuguese because Moz is a Portuguese speaking country. You can translate your letter here.

4. Things to consider including: pencils, soap (they really need soap), a washcloth, a small t-shirt, bandannas, band aids, chapstick, hair ties, stickers, gum, art supplies, etc. Hotel-sized toiletries are perfect too. This will take some creativity considering the size of the goody bag. Such a great challenge!

5. Please do not include: any medication, money, razors, anything you wouldn’t hand your own 7-year-old child.

6. I appreciate those who want to send more than $10 worth of stuff in one bag. To keep things simple (and equal), I would appreciate it if you’d use this as a general guide.

7. I must receive these by May 18th. Email me and I’ll send you my address. Please include a return address!

8. If, for whatever reason, I receive too many of these, I can assure you they will go to good use. I return to South America to do very similar work in August. I’ll take any extras there.

9. Of course you can participate if you aren’t American. That was a foolish note in my previous post. I didn’t realize how many international folk stop by here; the more the merrier!


I think that covers it. I am so thankful for your generosity!


Sending Goodwill to Mozambique

When I was a kid, there was a television program in Phoenix called “The Wallace and Ladmo Show.” Wallace and Ladmo did all kinds of silly skits in front of a live audience of school children. At the end of each show, each kid received a brown paper Ladmo Bag that was overflowing with goodies. They would zoom in on the lucky ones as they tore through their treasure trove of junk food and toys, and rolled the credits.
How I wanted one of those bags. Ask any native Phoenician age 20 or older about Ladmo bags and watch him or her foam at the mouth. It’s a city-wide phenomena.

Sweet girl

What child doesn’t love to receive gifts and feel special? When I return to Mozambique next month, I will work in an orphanage. There are two large orphanages in town — one for babies to age seven, and the second from age seven to 18. Most of the mothers died during childbirth, or afterward from HIV. The orphanage population fluctuates; there are typically more than 100 children in each facility.
The children at the older facility are in school. Like many in this country, they live in a type of poverty (and general hunger) that is unfathomable. Yet I haven’t lost hope that we can nourish these children into becoming the future leaders of a healthy, productive and happy country. They are wonderful kids and like children in any country — they want to be loved. They don’t want their children to be raised in an orphanage. It is easy for them to dream of a better life.

Can't wait to play!

Next month, I would like to hand each of the kids at the older orphanage a small bag of goodies. I envision a quart-sized Ziplock bag including a bar of soap, a toothbrush, dental floss, a pack of gum, Chapstick and perhaps some stickers. Most importantly, I see a small card with a photo of their new American friend. The card is written in English and Portuguese and says why this American wanted to extend her/his friendship and wish this child well. {If I had kids, I’d include a family photo.} The entire bag shouldn’t cost more than $10 to put together and mail.
If you are interested in sending one (or more) of these bags, please contact me. In return, I promise to take many photos of the children at the orphanage and send you a print when I return. This is a simple way you can easily make a difference in the life of a child in need; imagine their joy when they find out there are people they’ve never met who love them.

Love these babies

Will you help? Raesha has offered to help coordinate this. Please email either of us with questions!


Blurry Vision and Mixed Thoughts

I woke up this morning and I swear my sight is going. I don’t know what the problem is, but my vision is considerably less accurate today than it was yesterday. I really need to get my eyes checked and my glasses fixed. Mental note: add $300 to already strapped December budget. Joy. Good thing I’m on my way out the door for a long swim, which requires little grace or 20/20 vision. Before I strap on my goggles, a few thoughts dancing around this morning:

~ Yesterday’s run was wonderful. The race redefined community participation. In contrast to some of the gazillion dollar races I’ve run in (namely the San Diego Rock and Roll Marathon, which includes a full day trade show the day before with every athletic technology known to man), yesterday was 40 people on a dusty canal with nothing more than a stop watch and a mission. Rex stood at the start line (which doubled as the finish line) with a huge smile and I could tell he was embarrassed, but happy about our “I’m running for Rex” t-shirts. Everyone applauded him beforehand and gave him a high five when we finished. Several friends made it out for the run and it was a great time. Thank you all for your support! On a health update, Rex has one more round of chemo next week; I’ve got my fingers crossed he is creeping toward remission.
Prayers are answered.

~ I am so pleased to have signed up for Shelley’s City Swap. Shell is one of my closest friends from college. I could write novels about how incredible I think she is, but in a nutshell: when NAU stopped carrying Italian courses, she petitioned the university until they provided her with the education she wanted. Even if they may have rolled their eyes at the one girl on campus who wanted to learn Italian, they eventually caved. Shelley didn’t waste the knowledge; today she runs her own bed and breakfast in Rome with her Italian fiance Alessandro. Oh, and she speaks Italian fluently, of course. Finny chronicles Shell’s amazing life much better.
For the City Swap, I’ve been matched with Molly in Alaska. She seems more than somewhat refined and makes me once again wish I had this outdoorsy life I don’t have in Phoenix. I am looking forward to creatively coming up with $20 worth of Phoenix to send to arctic. (Close enough.)

~Turkey week is upon us and I’ve got my elastic pants ready. My parents arrive Tuesday and you can’t hear me, but I’m jumping for joy and doing my best Homer J. Simpson “WOO HOO!!”


This Ad Has Been Approved by Africankelli

Yanks, please vote tomorrow. If you are in Arizona, I double my plea. We’ve got lots of interesting things (and people) on the ballot. Do your civic duty and don’t give me any grief about not voting as a form of patriotism. I don’t want to hear it. Read more about what we’re voting on here.


Friday’s mail was fabulous. I was spoiled by both Melissa and Finny. Melissa and I agreed to a bag swap. She sent me a lovely Fall bag lined with the prettiest orange and yellow print. It hasn’t left my side since I unwrapped it. Of course the box was also stuffed with fantastic ribbons, fabrics and notions. A very indulgent and successful swap indeed.

my new fall bag
tiny happy bag
great loot from melissa

And you may have read Finny’s recent chronicles about visiting our friend Shelley in Rome. I was super envious of her trip. Finny, the generous soul that she is, thought I’d lose my green-tinge faster if she showered me with gifts. It’s working.

My new lemony apron
Goodies from Finny

And a treat for those who are still reading. This is the first of the Africankelli Fall Rummage Sale posts. Any interest in either of the items below? Let me know and it is yours. First commenter interested may have either or both. More crafty goods to come.

Kaffee Fassett up for grabs
Patchwork crochet up for grabs


Rocky Mountain High!

Rosie spoiled me rotten. She drew the short stick and got me for the wristlet swap. I have so enjoyed getting to know her and hope we can one day catch up in Denver, if I ever get my lazy butt to Colorado to visit my brother.

Check out what she sent:

Colorado wristlet from Rosie

Isn’t that wristlet beautiful? And she made it out of recycled clothing, because, “Colorado is environmentally friendly.” I love it! The chapstick is beer flavored — from a Colorado beer. Chocolate, tea, a beer cozy — all the goodies are just awesome. As if that wasn’t enough…

Bolivian bolsita from Rosie

A second wristlet for the Bolivian Bolsita project. WOW! And it was stuffed with very thoughtful personal hygiene items. I am just bowled over by her kindness.

She also sent me a clock! Super cool. She made it out of a box of earl grey tea. And a lovely bar of lavender soap that I’ve already enjoyed.

Thank you very much Rosie!

You other wristlet participants have just a few hours to send in your photos. The flickr album with all the details should be up later in the week — along with a list of prizes.