Monday, January 29, 2007


"Live simply, so that all may simply live." (St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, first native-born American saint) My new-found joy of thrift shopping is supposed to be keeping me out of Target, Michaels, Joann's etc, but this past weekend I had to return something to Target, so I did a little shopping there and had wonderful luck. After hearing about it on the Not Martha blog, I found one of the rare, Chefmate cast-iron pots. I've been wanting to find a Le Creuset one for cheap at Marshall's for years, but no luck. So I bought this lovely red one, which matches my kitchen wall, and I promptly made my friend Suzanne's famous White Bean Chicken Chili for Kaycee and Erik on Saturday night.

I also found something else very cool and cheap (and involving red) at Target, but I will have to post it later, when the "project" is finished.

In other "red" news, I finished another purse this weekend. Notice anything different? (Hint, hint: the flower in the corner. It's a pin that's removable. A new feature!)

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Busy, busy, busy!

"What do you do when you're not sure?" (Father Flynn in John Patrick Shanley's Pullitzer Prize-winning play Doubt)
I've been a busy crafter lately. Last week on my day off I made three (count 'em) purses, which I've posted here. That one above is already spoken for and I just sold the gold one at the end to my friend Kaycee last night. I'm working on some others today, including one for my neighbor downstairs, who just put a bid on a house. Boo-hoo! We're so sad they'll be moving. They're great neighbors. In fact, I'm writing this on a computer they lent us, because mine seems to be on the fritz.

Yesterday I stopped at the St. Vincent de Paul's that is next to the grocery store and they had a sale: all sweaters for a $1. Now I've been trying not to add to my massive wool sweater stash, but I couldn't pass up that deal. I brought home a whole big garbage bag full. Ed is getting very worried.
My goal is to open my etsy shop with about six or ten sweaters by Feb. 1. Then I'd like to start making a bunch, with the goal of having enough (30? 50?) to make it worth it to have a booth at a craft fair in the fall. Meanwhile, I keep selling them to people I know.

I also have been making a new thing with felt and will post that later this week. It's kind of related to the pink and brown swap. I'm excited!

On Thursday, I saw this play and it was really awesome. I tend not to be a doubting person, (even when my life is crap, I don't blame God, for some reason) but it gave me a lot to think about. I highly recommend it if it comes to your city.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Charity knitting/stash busting

"Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters, that you do unto me." (Matthew 25:40)

I've been doing a bit of charity knitting lately. These are not muppets but rather hats made of Fun Fur yarn for children with cancer who are undergoing chemo. My cousin's then-6-year-old daughter was diagnosed with cancer almost two years and, thank God, is cancer free now. So when I saw that Kate was organizing knitters to make chemo caps for kids at Children's Hospital in Boston, I knew I wanted to help. Can you believe that she currently has 549 knitters on board?!?!? It also shows the power of the Internet: one person tells another, who posts it on her blog, and before you know it, you have thousands of hats! I sent my three to her today.

Thinking of children suffering with cancer and the pain their poor parents must be enduring has really helped me to not obsess about our own problems--and has had the added benefit of decreasing my yarn stash by three skeins! I'm really trying not to add to the stash these days, for space reasons but also to save pennies. I have plenty of yarn to keep me busy for many, many months, without buying any more. (This is also the first time I've knit something with two color yarns: see the green one with blue stripe. Easy-peasy.)

Another charity project I'm excited to be joining is this one: Made for China. The sister of Kidding Around blogger has an adopted daughter from China and is collecting handmade toys to take with her when she returns to visit orphanages. She expects to visit about 300 children. Who knows: maybe one of my toys might actually get played with by my daughter! Someday I would like to organize something like this, when I know where my kids' orphanages are. Details should be posted on Tuesday.

I continue to be amazed by the generosity of craft bloggers: both to each other and to needy causes. Go for it, girls!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Thrifty weekend

"I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don't notice it." ("Shrug" in The Color Purple, by Alice Walker)

So we got more bad news about our adoption on Saturday, so it looks like we will not be parents anytime soon. Although I was pretty upset, I am thankful I have such a wonderful husband who is really supporting me when I feel like giving up. Not to mention a whole slew of friends (in person and online) who are praying for us.

So Saturday afternoon I decided to go thrifting to cheer myself up. And look what I found! Don't you love that metal pitcher (above). I think this is what you call enamelware, right? It was $1.50. Then a cute vintage square tablecloth, which has a few, light stains, but not bad, in yellow, pink and aqua. Look what Colorado Heidi did with her vintage tablecloths! I found two aprons, this vintage one with embroidered roses and a newer one. And another Japanese mug--with strawberries! Only 40 cents.

These are some things I forgot to post from my last estate sale haul: This 60s pattern for what looks like a pretty cute dress. I'm not that into sewing clothes, but I like old patterns. I know others have cut them up for paper projects. Would that be a waste?

This embroidered table runner was handmade by someone. I didn't love, love, love the colors or pattern, but couldn't pass it up. I know this stuff is hard to resell on ebay--too many vintage linens out there seems to have depressed the prices.

A just-started crewel pillow... not that I plan to finish it, but maybe someone will. It seems I've acquired that "disease" so common to other craft bloggers in which I get all emotional seeing someone's handmade stuff and just can't not buy it! Anyone know the cure?

And what looks like some handmade lace trim. Bunches of it. maybe when I have a girl, I'll sew it on her dresses!

Thanks to all these treasure, I had to finally do some clean-up in the "crap room" (aka the study and/or future nursery) last weekend. There were TOO many piles after Christmas! I also started making a bunch more recycled sweater purses, which I hope to post this week and to put in my new etsy shop. My goal: shop up by Feb. 1. I also hope to post some charity knitting soon!

Friday, January 19, 2007

De-lurking and Weirdness

"Still, there are many times I am bewildered by each mile I have traveled, each meal I have eaten, each person I have known, each room in which I have slept. As ordinary as it all appears, there are times when it is beyond my imagination." ("The Third and Final Continent," Interpreter of Maladies, by Jhumpa Lahiri)

Just as I am late to just about everything (except meetings at work: I hate it when people are late to meetings), I'm finally de-lurking in honor of National De-lurking Week, which I think was about two weeks ago. I've been busy commenting on lots of people's blogs where I usually lurk, but apparently I'm also supposed to post a photo of myself so all you lurkers can see what I look like. (Plus I get to post this button, which made me laugh.) This photo is a couple years old but I still pretty much look like this. That's my husband, Ed. He's always acting silly.

The "name 6 weird things about yourself" meme has been going around, so I asked the aforementioned husband to help me think of some, and he proceeded to name all my bad qualities. Nice! Well, I finally came up with some, and then today Heidi of Vacuuming in High Heels and Pearls tagged me. (btw, isn't it weird that all my life I've met about three people with the same name as mine, and yet within the past few months I've started reading two other blogs by Heidis--the other is The Wise 5.)

OK, here comes the weirdness:

1. I sleep on my stomach, face down. Can't fall asleep any other way. Good thing I never got pregnant or I don't know how I would have slept!

2. I eat candy before bed (and then don't brush my teeth before going to sleep.) No lectures, please! And yes, I have a lot of cavities, but my dentist says it's genetic.

3. I can't do the fish pose in yoga because it hurts my throat.

4. My knees crack all the time, and no one knows what causes it.

5. My nose is always cold. Right now it's downright icy because our heat seems to be broken again.

6. My last name (Schlumpf) in German (with an umlaut over the u) means "a little troll." And it's what they call the Smurfs in German. It fits, because my whole family on that side is short. I'm 5 feet tall.

There you go. I will also second Heidi that I've never watched "American Idol." But then I'm very unhip in many ways! So, I'm tagging you, Mom, Aunt Pat, and Sue. Amy, you can go ahead and do it in the comments, if you want.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

MLK Road Trip

"Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the staircase." (Martin Luther King Jr.)

Awwww! Isn't she cute? Meet my new niece, Elena, daughter of Ed's brother and sister-in-law. We took our first real road trip in our new car to Lexington, Kentucky, to visit them. It was a great trip: Ed and I both got a little practice in baby-holding, we had two wonderful meals prepared by Tom, Ed's brother (scallops and rissotto--YUM!), and didn't kill each other during the 6+ hour trip each way.

In fact, Ed was nice enough to drive the whole way on the way down there, so I was able to finish this hideous blob of blue eyelash yarn (at left). Through another blog, I learned about this woman, who is hats made of "not-so-fun-fur" and other eyelash-type yarns for cancer kids in Boston. Immediately I thought, "Sign me up!" She's already got some 300 knitters and is offering prizes (as if getting rid of your stash of eyelash yarn isn't enough!) The green/chartruse yarn is next. I hope to knit three or however many it takes to get rid of most of my furry yarn.

On the way home, I helped with the driving but was still able to start this copy of the girlfriend scarf (oh, I mean "friendship" scarf--I was corrected by my mom for non-inclusive language) I made for myself. This is destined for a certain friend who admired mine.

The cherry on the top: Ed let me run into a Goodwill in southern Indiana that was across the street from the Waffle House where we had lunch. In 10 minutes, I found a nice wool sweater for felting, a few Japan mugs and something for the Pink and Brown Swap.

When we arrived home, we discovered we had no heat and hadn't for several days while we were gone. Luckily, my hero went to the hardware store, bought a new, digital thermostat, installed it and had the warm air blasting by dinnertime. Of course, then we watched this, and I immediately felt guilty. I'm buying new, energy efficient lightbulbs this weekend.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Knitting and babies

"Knitting provides an antidote to the current chaos of modern day life. Its very nature helps us to slow down and pay attention; its spirit invites contemplation." (Susan S. Jorgensen, Knitting into the Mystery)

I've been knitting for some new babies lately. So many of my friends had the gall to get pregnant and be due near Christmas! So during Christmas I knit this cute sweater for little William, son of D'Arcy and Mike Ryan, who was born a bit early on December 9 but is doing very well. I saw him when he was just 24 hours old in the hospital, and then Ed and I stopped to visit him on the way home New Year's Day. The sweater is knit with some wool I got at a garage sale for something like $2 a skein, and it took one skein. The pattern is from Yarn Harlot, and is my first raglan sleeve. It was pretty simple. I'll try to find the pattern url and update this later.

I also knit a little cotton hat with eyelet and tie for my friend Kassie, who just gave birth yesterday to little Rowan (in a home birth, no less). I like this pattern (from a book whose name I can't remember just now) but I wonder if it's a bit girly for a boy baby? What do you think?

On the subject of babies, I have started posting on my adoption blog again. No news, just venting.

On the subject of knitting, Jane has a lovely reflection about the merits of repetition here.

My mom forwarded me an article in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal about one-skein knitting here (Sidebar is here.) The paper also ran an article on aprons.

Speaking of babies, Ed and I are planning to drive to Kentucky this weekend (in our new, old car) to visit his brother, sister-in-law and little Elena (also born Dec. 9, so shares a birthday with William Ryan). This is our first road-trip together of more than 3-4 hours and I think some snow might be headed this way, so wish us luck!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


"A rock pile ceases to be a a rock pile the moment a single [person] contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral." (Antoine de Saint-Exupery, quoted in Spiritual Caregiving by Verna Benner Carson and Harold Koenig)

I did some thrifting over the holidays (one quick jaunt to Salvation Army on Montrose), where I found all this good stuff. If it hadn't been for other bloggers (of course, I can't remember who now) who pointed out how cute these Japanese mugs are, I wouldn't have known to snatch up this matching set for a total of 80 cents. I love how they stack. Very 1970s. In fact, I think my mom might have had some like this, hanging on an orange mug rack.

I bought a bag of assorted things just to get these two wooden apples with iron spikes as stems. Aren't they cute? The bag also had two oranges made of concrete or something very heavy. I don't want them but can't bring myself to throw them away. Seems like they would make a good gag gift for something.

Here's some of the cool fabric I found.

Many, many yards of this tan floral print in a heavy decorator type fabric.

This cool pillocase in neutral colors. Leaf motifs are my favorite.

This graphic pillowcase. Love the red and orange together.

This is one large piece that is one big print. I have no idea what to do with this, but I really liked the graphic.

Finally, this soft brown and orange pattern on some old drapes.

And of course a bunch of wool sweaters for felting...

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Christmas Redux Part III

"As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world--the myth of the atomic age--as being able to remake ourselves." - Mahatma Gandhi

OK, I know what you're thinking: "Enough with the Christmas posts already--in January, no less!" Sorry, I'm playing catch-up, and this is my last one, I promise. (Plus as my liturgist co-worker reminds me, Christmas officially ends today with the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord.

These recycled sweater purses went in the mail yesterday: They were custom-made-to-order Christmas gifts for my sister (grey and burgandy) and mother (blue and green). Now I start making them for the future etsy shop!

In final Christmas news, Ed and I are almost done with our Christmas cards!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Christmas Redux Part II

"The day will come when, after harnessing space, the winds, the tides, gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And, on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire." (Teilhard de Chardin)

For several reasons (day off Friday, finally having a car), I was able to go to two estate sales this weekend. Yes, in January! I love estate sales, not only for the deals, but because I find the process of going through a person's entire life's worth of stuff is holy in some sort of way. Although these sales were very different, I think it's interesting that I found Christmas stuff at both of them. The vintage Christmas swap really opened my eyes to cool vintage Christmas stuff.

The first sale, on Friday, was in Albany Park, a neighborhood near me. When I arrived, there were already about 30 people taking numbers. I've never had to compete with dealers like this. While waiting in line, one woman exited with nothing and said, "It's all man stuff!" I was afraid this meant no linens or other goodies for me. It had been advertised as having lots of music/electronic equipment and books. If I'd had more time I would have gone through all the books, but one (The Better Homes and Gardens New Garden Book, from the 1950s) caught my eye, so I grabbed it. Then I saw a little jam jar (I think that's what these are) shaped like an orange. Earlier this summer, I got a strawberry and grape one, so now I have a set of three.

Then in the living room I saw this cool Christmas hanging, which immediately reminded me of my Secret Santa mobile. I grabbed it, even though the price tag said $5. In the basement I found more Christmas stuff, including three mini bottle brush wreaths and some tattted snowflake ornaments. I also got an old Scrabble game and two bags of fiberfill. All for $10.

I think this was the home of a single man (gay? There were a few books that indicated maybe) with some interesting hobbies. Obviously he loved music: there were two pianos in the dining room and the living room was filled with old LPs and music equipment. Upstairs one bedroom was completely filled by a race track for those little cars. But what I want to know is who used the fiberfill? And made the Christmas hanging? The mysteries of estates sales...

On Saturday, I drove to Cicero, an old Italian-turning-Hispanic working-class suburb just south and west of Chicago to a neighborhood of well-maintained bungalows and two-flats in the shadow of factories. It had been advertised as the home of a Lithuanian couple and I think it was their son who was running it. The upstairs was nearly empty, but sad: In one tiny bedroom there were "get well soon" cards obviously colored by grandchildren still on the wall.

The treasures were in the basement, and I found a bunch of cool fabric, mostly old drapes. The woman must have done some sewing as I found needles and some trims, including what looked like a hand crocheted one. There was a box of yarn, but it was all acrylic so I passed. Also a newish looking chenille bedspread, which was the find of the day. Finally, a bunch of little stuff, some crochet hooks, a little Corningware baking dish, and a bunch of gold Shiny Brite ornaments in the box .

Christmas Redux Part I

“A life less planned is better.” (Pope John XIII, quoted in The Christian Century)

Thanks to my new "flex schedule" (in which I work longer days for nine days, then have every other Friday off), I had the day off on Friday. I used it to take down all the Christmas decorations and pack them away. I'm a keep-Christmas-stuff-up-till-Epiphany kind of gal, but I do understand why so many people want to clean their houses by early January. Our place was filthy, and it felt good to vacuum all the needles up and start organizing. But I am by no means deep into reorganizing yet. Maybe next week.

Christmas continues in other ways: My vintage Christmas swap package from Sarah London arrived last week from Australia. Look at how prettily she wrapped everything! I love the bright (vintage?) paper? The photo below shows some of the cool ornaments she sent, included four really nice glass ones, plus two thrifted stockings in red and white, and Christmasy red and green buttons (love them!), plus some pretty candy-cane-ish yarn. But the best gift was this handmade stuffed scottie dog. Sarah uses chenille in many of her creations, an idea I'd like to try myself, since I've recently thrifted a few chenille spreads. Thank you so much, Sarah. I know she's gotten stiffed on some swaps, so I hope this one has renewed her faith in swapping.

Speaking of swapping, I've signed up for the Pink and Brown swap, co-sponsored by Lucy at Sweet Repeats and Rebecca at Thrifty Goodness. The idea came from Rebecca's impending wedding, where the color theme is pink and brown. You're supposed to send one thrifted item, one craft supply item, and one handmade item. I've already started my handmade item. Can't wait to see who my match will be!

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Creative resolutions

"Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right." (Oprah Winfrey) These are my niece and nephews, who had a lot more NYE spirit than I did. After reading lots of other creative blogs, I would say people are evenly divided about whether to make resolutions or not. Some people call them "goals," which doesn't sound quite so cheesy. I'm not a big resolution maker, but since I created this blog in part to help keep track of my creative projects, I think I will make some goals for the next year:

Craft goals:
1. Master how to knit socks.
2. Make enough recycled purses to sell at a fall craft fair.
3. Open etsy shop and sell purses or other items there.
4. Knit sweaters, make clothes for Sam and Sophie.
5. Continue to make gifts for friends and family.
6. Participate in swaps as I feel comfortable.
7. Continue thrifting. Maybe sell some thrifted stuff on ebay.
8. Knit from yarn stash as much as possible to try to get it to a manageable, storable size.

Decorating goals:
1. Finish Ed's bathroom: new sink, toilet, paint, shower curtain
2. Decorate nursery.
3. Organize desk area in bedroom.
4. Organize craft supplies, especially yarn stash.

Blogging goals:
1. Convert to Blogger Beta.
2. Learn how to do custom banner.
3. Make categories.
4. Merge "Spiritual Decorator" with "Spiritual Knitter."
5. Resume "Spiritual Bookworm."
6. Continue blogging.

* I reserve the right to add to these as I think of new goals.

At this time of year, it seems that many bloggers also reevaluate why they blog and whether or not to keep blogging. I started blogging mainly to have a space where I could chronicle my creative endeavors. Whether anyone besides my husband, mother and sister would read it never even entered my mind. Here in Chicago I have a bunch of really close women friends, but few share my creative hobbies (except Delia!). Online I have found women all over the world who do, and it's been fun creating that community. I like comments as much as the next person, but I don't really live or die by them. It'd be nice if you'd comment once, so I know who's out there, but don't feel like you have to give me positive strokes to every mitten or purse I post! I also use my blog to post links to other cool things I have seen online, so I can remember them. Thank you to all of you for your great ideas and creativity!

On that note: Don't forget to visit the Kim Family Auction. And thanks to My House is Cuter Than Yours for alerting me that Everclear is going to be in Chicago Feb. 10. Hint, hint, Edmund.