The Real Timbuktu is in Mali, by the way

Hello, my name is Kelli and I’m a shopaholic. My mother, in Texas, is reading this and throwing her hands in the air screaming, “Hallelujah! She’s progressed from denial to acceptance!”
Okay, I admit it. I enjoy a purchase or two. This is only a problem when I’ve organized an art fest with a use-what-you’ve-got-theme and thumb my nose at my own rules. Mea culpa.
So, if you saw me shopping at JoAnn’s this afternoon, I:
A. Used a gift card
B. Used a coupon
C. I suck.

In my weak defense, if you are playing along to this In Stitches Sew Along, you see that the project requires a grommet. I did not know what a grommet was until this afternoon. Now, I am the proud owner of a grommet tool, to which I applied my 40% off coupon.

In happier and less-guilty shopping news, lookie what I “won” today! I love eBay. While she may not be as cute as the brown birdie bag, she is a fraction of the cost and three of my favorite colors.

timbuk2 bag

LOVE! Now, the only think that might make me a bigger dork was if I was sewing a coordinating document duvet. You know it! But seriously, how cute is this bag going to be when I’m trekking through Mozambique this summer? Or hiking about Central America this Fall? Work it!


eBay As A Form of Environmentalism

What is it about January that makes us all crazy about changing our lives? I jumped on the resolution train with a first class ticket, so I’m just as guilty as everyone else. I even got on the scale at the gym this morning. And took a couple huge bags of clothing to Goodwill. I’m sorting, resolving and cleaning like a maniac with the best of you. But you know that one resolution I made? The one where I said I was going to use what I had more and buy less? Well, I’m making one caveat.
eBay doesn’t count.
I am officially ruling eBay (pretty much my second favorite store next to Tarjay) a form of social environmentalism. It’s somebody’s trash is another man’s treasure come to life. For example, this bag?


Yep. I really shouldn’t spend $100 on it. I don’t need it, but wow. The birds? The brown? I’m kind of in love. Even though I’ve got an REI gift card burning a hole in my pocket, I’m not buying this cutesty bird bag. I’m not. (The only thing girlier in the entire store? The pink Nalgene that’s currently sitting on my desk.)

But if I were to find one on eBay for a fraction of the price? Well, that’s just smart investing.


Visions of Azucar Plums

When working in Nicaragua in May, I had a chance to take a long hike through the rainforest. While knee-deep in jungle, my guide pointed out a vanilla tree dripping in long, bright green pods. I nearly jumped out of my skin I was so happy. Vanilla beans for my taking! I carefully removed six long pods and brought them home, tucked in a sock, thereby breaking several teeny tiny international laws.

vanilla sugar process

I decided I’d use them to make vanilla sugar for holiday gifts. The directions are very simple — place 2 cups of sugar and one vanilla bean in a jar. Seal the jar for 2 weeks. Remove the bean. Viola — vanilla-flavored sugar.

saving jars

I saved every jar I could for several months and then took the opportunity to clean out my fridge to find a few more. With 10 jars, 1 giant bag of sugar and 6 vanilla bean pods I set out to make my project. It was only when I sliced open the first pod did I realize my grave error. The pods were green because they hadn’t matured. Even though they’d turned a beautiful coffee brown when drying in my pantry, they’d never fully germinated. There were no vanilla beans inside.
Considering I had all of the other ingredients, I went to the market to buy the missing piece. For $12, I purchased two tiny vanilla pods and made do.

vanilla sugar tags

On another note entirely, thank you for all of your well wishes with the race. They worked! I set another personal best time and was really happy with my progress. Something about my training is going right!

.5 marathon, tucson


All Tied Up

I am not one to spend lots of money on fancy wrapping paper. Instead, this Christmas, I’m using things I already had around the house and a large dose of creativity. To wrap my advent gifts, all 250 of them, I used my alphabet stamping set, some red ribbon, a bunch of brown paper bags, some silver paper, and one $4 box of ornaments I purchased at Ikea. Viola — a bit of Christmas craftiness.

advent gifts, numbered
advent 1
advent wrapping

Using what you have is satisfying and challenging. The added benefit is getting back a few more shelves in my studio. I spent about 6 hours crafting yesterday, only to put everything away last night and have the closet doors close with ease. Woo hoo!

If I were home this weekend, I’d be bopping around the house in a holiday apron, listening to Frank Sinatra crooning about mistletoe and wrapping myself silly. Instead, I am off to Tucson to run another 1/2 marathon. The Tucson Marathon and I have a love/hate relationship. I love her when she is six months away and hate her the day before. The last time I ran the full marathon, I cried hard for last 13 miles. There is nothing like a long, solitary race through the desert to make me hysterical. By the time I crossed the finish line, I was dehydrated, embarrassed and frustrated. This year, I’ll be prepared with an iPod full of great tunes, warm clothing to ditch on the sidelines as the race progresses and an improved attitude. It’s just a nice stroll through the saguaros, right?

Can’t Knit? Sew Recycled Mittens

That crafty Martha gave me another idea. In one of the recent Living issues, she listed a handful of projects using old, matted wool sweaters. Living in Arizona, I don’t have many (any) of these hanging around, but thankfully I did have one gifted to me by a fellow crafter in a recent swap.
I followed Martie’s instructions on how to transform this lovely gray sweater into a pair of simple and sweet mittens. {What? You don’t call her Martie? Come on. She’s been in prison. I’d guess this is one of her kinder monikers. Then again, looking at her successful return to society, I’d guess there’s nothing like time in the pokey to make you more inventive. Spoon = shovel. Straw = shiv… Well, that’s a whole different magazine.}

Martha's idea
pinned glove pattern
gloves cut from sweater
completed felted gloves

Voila — a unique and warm pair of gloves. After I took this photo, I dolled these gloves up a bit with a few pretty black glass buttons sewn on the cuffs. They are wrapped and under my little tree, ready for a certain family member’s hands.
I’m going to use the remaining part of the sweater to create iPod cozies. That way when you throw your tunes in your purse, the screen doesn’t get scratched by your keys. I’m thinking of embellishing these with embroidered initials, buttons and a piece of pretty ribbon around the edge.

I promise you all of my advent posts won’t be crafty. I’ve got some decorating, wrapping and baking ideas coming down the pike too. It’s just that I’ve been sitting on these photos for a bit and couldn’t wait to share.


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


Simplified Living

Wristlet for Reethi

Scrappy, patchwork wristlet sent to Reethi.

I’m not a clutter fan. I don’t like piles, or stacks or heaps of just about anything — minus the obvious (money and ice cream.) I haven’t always been this way. My childhood consisted of towers of Nancy Drew mysteries, Sweet Valley Twin tales and the Babysitter’s Club books. My dresser drawers were stuffed to the brim with clothing. My desk had more Hello Kitty paraphernalia than required by all of Japan. My closet was stuffed with dolls, dress-up clothes and cows. For a long time, I collected cows. It started in 7th grade and finished my sophomore year of college when someone gave me cow pajamas for Christmas and it dawned on me that WOW this had to stop. Now. I’ve given away most of the cow clutter, other than one sweet tea pot and an antique creamer.
Today, I collect nothing. Well, almost nothing. I still like a few stacks of books, but now they are arranged on shelves and regularly recirculated. So when my studio/guest room becomes a dumping ground for all things artistic, I begin to go a bit ballistic. I switch into “use, reuse and get-rid of” mode. I start finding reasons to give things away. There is nothing like having more space than you need. I am embarrassed by the current state of my studio shelving. It is overflowing with fabric, ribbon, yarn and projects that need to be completed.
So, I’m scrapping this week. I’m using up little bits here and there to finish a few projects and not letting myself move on to the next endeavor until the previous one was completed, wrapped, packaged and at least put in the “to mail” pile.

Fall scrap mat

Fall zakka mat, sent to Jessica. I’m still taking sewing lessons once a week and starting to see the benefits. Seam allowance understanding and proper rotary cutter use is rather useful information. Who knew?

And finally, a new purse for a girlfriend. It’s an Amy Bulter Dorothy clutch. Thanks to Sarah for sharing the pattern!

Amy Butler clutch, front

I added the bling to doll up the photo. This is the only Amy Butler fabric I’ve ever purchased. What a luxury!

Amy Butler clutch, back

Clever design with a back fabric handle.

Amy Butler clutch, inside

Pretty in pink.

This weekend I’ll be clearing out some of those shelves and offering up a few freebies in the week to come. Why save this stuff when others may be able to put it to use? They’ll be first come, first serve in the spirit of Mary Ann.
Happy Friday!