Thursday, September 27, 2007

Three years ago Tuesday

"Perfect love casts out fear." (1 John 4:18)

We were both so busy that we forgot our anniversary until after lunchtime on Tuesday. But Ed got me flowers that night, and last night we went out to dinner at the Persian restaurant where our reception was held. Then we tried to watch our video, but the DVD has a problem. So we looked at the photos instead, and remembered what a beautiful day it was.

I loved getting married later in life. You so don't care about the silly parts of a wedding. I especially loved that I walked down the aisle with Ed. We were two adults making another step in our commitment to each other that day, not ontologically changing from single people to married people (a little theological term!). And the two did not become one. We're still two people.

Craft-wise, I made our invitations (stamped with a fall leaves theme) and stamped/painted terra cotta pots (again with fall leaves theme) for the centerpieces (the mum plants were $1.99!) and then stamped mini terra cotta pots and put fall-color foil-wrapped candy in them for favors. It was just enough to put a personal stamp on the day (no pun intended!) but not so much that I stressed out about making everything. I'll have to post photos of those someday since that was pre-Spiritual Knitter. My goal is to do our wedding scrapbook before we have kids!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

"Z" is for zucchini

"We all live on bases of shifting sand [and] need trust." (Erma J. Fisk)

Well, we've come to the end of the Encyclopedia of Me, which I started at the beginning of August as a challenge to myself to blog everyday. That didn't happen; thus it took me two months to get through the alphabet. I tried to sneak crafty and thrifty news throughout the personal stuff, so I hope it wasn't too boring. (Monica at Quilt While You're Ahead just did whole a ABC New York in one post!)

So "Z" is for zucchini, which I wish I could say I grew, but I don't have a garden here on the third floor! This is from my sister, and it was a good 2 feet long and 6 inches in diameter. I grated it and made yummy chocolate zucchini muffins from this recipe from Deb at Homespun Living. They were great, but I'd probably decrease the oil a bit, as they were plenty moist. I gave one mini-loaf to my friend Tom (a crocheter), who just left our office for a new job. Good luck, Tom!

Monday, September 24, 2007

"Y" is for yogi

"Before you've practiced, the theory is useless. After you've practiced, the theory is obvious." (Yoga teacher David Williams)

On Sunday I participated in the Global Yoga Mala for Peace. A mala is a yoga practice that consists of 108 (99 plus 9) sun salutations. My friend and yoga teacher Lourdes Paredes used to host a mala every solstice and equinox. It's kind of like the "marathon" of yoga, but its purpose is not to "feel the burn" but rather to do the series of postures so repetitively that it becomes mindless and meditative.
Lourdes was the local organizer of this Mala for Peace, but she decided to just do nine sun salutation, so that yogis of all abilities could participate. We had hoped to line the Magnificent Mile with our mats, but couldn't get the permit, so we did it around Buckingham Fountain and faced Lake Michigan. We easily had more than 300 people.
I have been practicing yoga as long as Lourdes has been teaching--about 7 or 8 years. It is not only a physical practice for me, but also a spiritual one. Through yoga, I learned how to "open my heart" both physically and emotionally (not a coincidence that I met my husband shortly after that.)
You may notice that my "Spiritual Knitter" logo is sitting in lotus position. I don't practice as often as I used to, but I still try to regularly (here). I do know that people who have practiced yoga their whole lives not only are healthier longer, but they ooze a peace that I hope to have someday!
I ended my busy weekend serving as the emcee for the 30th anniversary celebration of Call to Action, a church reform organization based in Chicago. So not much crafting this weekend, though I do have some new projects to share as soon as I finish the Encyclopedia of Me. Only one post left!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

"X" is for xtremely proud aunt

"I think we each have our own soul assignment, our own unique way of contributing to the world." (Episcopal priest Lauren Artress, In Sweet Company)

OK, so "X" is a bit of a stretch. But I'm not a xenophobe, so I didn't know what else to do. (Amy, I know you hated when people spell words wrong on purpose like this. Looks like it's someone else's pet peeve too.) Plus I wanted to mention some of the fun things I did this weekend. (And it's a good thing I did some fun things, since the stress level at work is getting ridiculous.)

On Saturday I spent the day in Aurora, with my sister's familily. My mom came down from Wisconsin, too. First we went to my nephew Jack's high school freshman football game. Unfortunately the Benet Academy Redwings lost their first game to Joliet Catholic. It was a closet game, though, with an exciting kick-off return for a touchdown. Jack had a QB sack.

Then in the evening we went out to dinner at a yummy Mexican restaurant (homemade salsa and guacamole made specially at your table). Then we headed over to the Riverfront Theater to see Night of the Living Dead: The Musical, which featured my nephew Kevin as a zombie. He said it was his favorite role ever (even though his only lines are to moan). He's quite the budding thespian, and I highly recommend the show if you're in the area. I laughed out loud--a lot.

I didn't get to hang out with my niece Clare that much, but she is an amazing gymnast. She showed me her round-off into back flip, which she makes look effortless.

A talented bunch of kids, those Manions.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

"W" is for writer

"There's nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein." (Sportswriter Red Smith)

As many of you know, in my day job I am a writer and editor for a national Catholic magazine. I've been managing editor for three years now, and unfortunately I do more managing than editing lately--and even less writing. Thankfully I do a fair amount of freelance writing, too.

I'm not going to say that I always dreamed of being a writer (though I did start a neighborhood newspaper with my sister when I was about 10). And I have no desire to write fiction. I wanted to become a writer because I saw it as a way to influence how other people think (and to make them think), hopefully about important things that really matter. That's what led me to cover religion and spirituality.

People often come to me for advice on how to become a writer. and answer is simple: write. Too many people, I think, are enamored with the idea of being a writer. They don't really want to write--which is actually quite a bit of hard work. I love the gathering of information, interviewing people, then organizing all that information and finally putting it in a format that is understandable and attractive to busy readers. Whether it's writing my own article or coordinating an entire issue of U.S. Catholic, I find it immensely satifsying.

I thought you might enjoy seeing some of my articles that are out there on the web:

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

"V" is for Vegetarian--sort of

"You are the veil that hides the paradise you seek." (St. Brendan)

This is why I am no longer a vegetarian--two reasons: starch and cheese. I was a vegetarian for a few years but found that I replaced meat primarily with starch and cheese. So I decided that carb addiction was a bigger issue for me than meat. I still don't eat a lot of meat (I never was a strict vegetarian. My rule was that if someone else prepared it or I ate it in a bar, it didnt' count.)

Last night I made homemade macaroni and cheese (pardon the awful photo. It looked much better in person) with a recipe from this cookbook. This is my favorite food, homemade with the bread crumbs on top and preferably served with sliced fresh tomatoes. When my mom used to ask me what I wanted for dinner for my birthday, I would ask for this.

My co-worker Tom gave me a recipe for a jazzed up Mac and Cheese with gorgonzola and tomatoes. I'll try to find the recipe and post it later.

Monday, September 17, 2007

"U" is for unstoppable

"Pain does not alter the beauty of life, the magnificence and mystery of life, and my gratitude for the mystery." (Alma Flor Ada, In Sweet Company)

I was thinking of all the "un"s I could use for "U": unusual, underdog, untidy (very untidy lately). But I decided on "unstoppable," because I think my tenacity is one my more prominent personality traits. It has its pros: I go after what I want. And it has its cons: Sometimes I don't know when to quit. But it has been a good quality as we go through the adoption process for the past two years. When it's something I really, really want, I never give up.

(No photo today, but a report on Renegade soon!)

Sunday, September 16, 2007


"If you follow your heart, you're going to find that it is often extremely inconvenient." (Buddhist nun Pema Chodron)

We interrupt this Encyclopedia of Me game to bring you some finished knit objects--all for my former neighbor Leigh Ann, who is expecting in November. I'm going to her baby shower on Sunday.

I wanted to try knitting something with Lion Brand's cashmere blend because it is so soft (in cream because Leigh Ann doesn't know the gender), but at $9 a 84-yard skein, it's a bit expensive. So I decided to knit the smallest size of the Chunky Knit Cardigan from Simple Knits for Cherished Babies. It turned out very tiny! I'm sure this baby will wear this sweater once, if I'm lucky. Plus I didn't really love this pattern. I don't care for set-in sleeves to begin with, and these didn't fit perfectly.

I also made a boo-boo on the buttonholes, but these tiny glass pearl buttons are so small they fit through the knit. The hat has a K2P2 band. The booties are from a new pattern but I can't remember where I found it. They're supposed to be made in angora, in which case the squareness of the toe would be hidden a bit more. I learned a new technique with these: double knitting. Very cool! Anyone else ever done it?

The teddy bear is from some Polarspun yarn my Aunt Pat gave me, and now I know why she was getting rid of it (and why it's discontinued). It's awful to knit with, although the teddy bear is nice and soft. I knit a little scarf for him out of cotton. I hope Leigh Ann and her little one like these gifts. She had some trouble getting pregnant so I'm so excited that everything's going well with her pregnancy. I'll probably do a bigger sweater for her baby, once I know whether it's a girl or boy.

Movies to knit by: I watched a bunch of TCM movies while knitting this, as usual. My Netflix choices were Letters from Iwo Jima or Last King of Scotland (my husband is obviously a history buff), so I chose the latter because it didn't have subtitles. It was riverting (and Forest Whitaker was great) but gory. I guess I'll have nightmares about dead Ugandans instead of dead Japanese and Americans.

Saturday, September 15, 2007


UPDATED: Blair from Wise Craft was sweet enough to email me a pdf pdq! Thanks, Blair. I should have leaves to show soon.

Remember last autumn when everyone was making those cool felt leaves garland? Well, I went to Martha Stewart's website and downloaded the pattern and printed it out--and now I seem to have misplaced it! And Martha no longer has it on her new site. Did anyone print it out and have a copy of it? I would be willing to trade something (a bag of lovely felt, some vintage wallpaper or wrapping paper? Name your poison!). I was all ready to make them tonight and after an hour of searching, I'm giving up and asking all of you. Help!

Friday, September 14, 2007

"T" is for thrifty

"We sit at the feet of the master, not to hear his pearls of wisdom, but to watch him tie his shoes." (Unknown)

Get ready for a photo-post. I'm going to share a bunch of thrifted stuff that I haven't unpacked, photographed or put away for weeks. It goes without saying that I'm thrifty, not only in my love of finding new uses for old things from thrift stores or garage sales, but also just all-around thrifty.

I always buy things on sale (if not on clearance) and generally am not impressed with brand names or designer things. Although I do have some brands I've come to love (Ann Taylor Loft petite clothes, for example) and find that it's "thriftier" to buy good quality things that last a long time. Still, one of the things I have learned from the craft blog community is the thrill of a thrifted find and then the joy of making something new from something old.

So here are my recent thrifted finds. First from the largest garage sale ever (at Lake Keesus), where I think I spent about $10 total for everything: (above) some old bingo cards and numbers, and this adorable vintage game (bought for the illustrations).

A plastic shoe box full of bias tape--more than 50 unopened packages in every color of the rainbow. I guess I won't need to buy bias tape for a long time!

An old pattern for a girls' jumper, an old Workbasket magazine, an old kids book with incredibly un-PC images of Africans, an old Betty Crocker cookbook, and some vintage Christmast coaster. I remember my parents having some of these paper kinds.

Finally, from the ginormous fabric pile (which was already pretty picked over): a strawberry print, a navy daisy print, and this cool print with brown and pink antique images on it. Not sure what to make of that. An apron?

This is from the St. Paul Savers I went to: these brand new, hand-woven linen towels. The tag says "Smoky Mountain Hand Weavers, Gatlinburg, Tenn." I got two small ones for 49 cents each, and a big one for $1.

And a hand-embroidered tea towel on very stiff fabric. I liked the tea pot design.

I have a lot of crafting planned for this weekend. And I'm going to Renegade! Will have a full report. Plus I have a bunch of FOs to share. I know some people are giving up on the Encyclopedia of Me game, now that we're approaching the hard letters! It was supposed to be done in a month, so I'm already two weeks behind, but I'll give it my best shot to finish it. I'll admit "X" and "Z" are going to be tough! Have a great weekend, everyone.

Monday, September 10, 2007

"S" is for Spiritual

"Like billowing clouds, like the incessant gurgle of the brook, the longing of the soul can never be stilled. It is this long with which holy persons seek their work from God." (Medieval mystic Hildegard of Bingen)

When I first started this blog, I named it "Spiritual Knitter" because that name captured not only my crafty/creative side but also another huge part of my life and what ultimately became my life's work: spirituality.

My spirituality is nothing if not eclectic (like those items from my home altar). Grounded in the liberal Catholicism in which I was raised (very post-Vatican II church with hippies and the whole thing!), I have also found wisdom in other traditions, including Judaism, Buddhism, and Hinduism through yoga. I also have been heavily influenced by feminist theology, which I studied at a Methodist seminary at Northwestern University.

I can't sum up all my spiritual and religious beliefs in one post, but I can say this: I think there is something bigger than this world, something most people call God. I don't think God is omnipotent, meaning that God controls everything that happens here on earth. But I do believe that God is with us through all of life's joys and sorrows. Also, as a Christian I believe God entered this world through the person of Jesus, who taught a radical way of being human that focused primarily on social justice and on the belief that life can come out of death in so many ways in our lives. The seasons and life/death/new life cycles of the earth confirm that truth to me.

When people learn I work for a Catholic magazine, they often assume I'm conservative or an apologist for the Catholic Church (I am neither). I do believe that Catholicism can be path that makes sense, and it has more or less worked for me. I also see lots of other viable paths and, like Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh (whom I once interviewed), believe it's probably best for people to try first with the path they grew up in. I don't think it's impolite to talk about religion; in fact, I think it's one of the most fascinating things to talk about!

One bit of "spiritual" news is that I finished my book this past weekend. Tentatively titled, As We Wait: Spiritual Reflections for Adopting Parents, it will be published by this small publisher next year. It's been healing for me to write it during our adoption wait, and I hope it can help others who are going through the adoption process. Feels good to be done. Talk about a FO!

Friday, September 07, 2007

"R' is for Retro

"My life is my message." (Mahatma Gandhi)

I guess I've always been a little "retro." I've shopped through my grandma's stuff and worn her dresses from the 60s, and I love old movies, especially Doris Day. Connecting with other bloggers and thrifters has encouraged my "retro-ness" ("retrocity"?) My decorating style is more Pottery Barn with just a hint of retro mixed in.

These pillowcases are from a recent visit to Salvation Army. They make good linings for my purses, and I picture little girl dresses out of them someday.

Here's some stuff I found during a quick 10-minute dash into the Salvation Army in Rice Lake, Wisconsin when we were there for my cousin Tryn's wedding. I actually thrifted while wearing a black strapless dress! I found this slightly damaged chenille spread (for cutting up) for $1, some rickrack, plus this hand crocheted Barbie dress (also a $1). Inside the dress was a piece of masking tape with this written on it: "Great Grandma Madejski crocheted this dress in the year of 1960." Now, how could I not buy that!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

"Q" is for quiet

"There are times when silence has the loudest voice." (Author Leroy Brownlow)

I know everyone else who is doing this meme has done "Q" is for quilt, but I have never quilted in my life, though I wouldn't mind trying it someday. My sister-in-law quilts, as does my aunt, who made this quilt as a wedding gift for Ed and me.

Instead, I'm doing "Q" is for quiet, which is something I crave and need. As much as I love and thrive on talk, music, and high energy stuff, I also need daily doses of silence. It's where I get my most creative ideas, and where I hear the voice of God, if I listen close enough.

I know I will be getting a lot less of quiet once we have kids. Speaking of, here are some cute clothes I got at the Salvation Army last week. (Nice segue, huh?) They were each 45 cents. I also got what I think may be a Hanna Andersson shirt for my niece. They are (from left) a Gymboree vegetable print shirt, a Carter's boy outfit, and a Baby Gap denim dress. God, I love that veggie print!

Monday, September 03, 2007

"P" is for party

"Promise me you'll always remember... You're braver than you believe and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think," said Christopher Robin. (A.A. Milne)

My parents know how to throw a party. Over Labor Day weekend, Ed and I went to their house for the annual summer lake party, which includes a game organized by my parents and their neighbors, Dan and Donna. It's kind of like a scavenger hunt, but the questions have to do with each of the five bays of the lake my parents live on. This year eight pontoon boats-ful of people entered.

We were on the judges boat with my parents and their neighbors. The first rule of this game is that the judges are always right. And we accept bribes for points. (Except that the email about the party had a typo that said we accept "brides" so one team had a guy dressed like a bride.)
The best bribe had to be these yummy grilled onion-tomato-and-bacon-wrapped pork loins. Yummy! We also got cookies, brownies, jello shots (top photo), bottles of wine, liquor, and lots of other goodies. After the game, all the boats tied themselves together for a party, with a separate pontoon for the porta potty.

It was a wild party. At one point Ed commented that everyone seemed to be on the same Wiconsin cocaine--hyper and folksy at the same time! It's kind of funny that my parents can party with the best of the twentysomethings on their lake. Me? I was tired by 10 p.m.

I did make Jennifer's "Friend Maker Browies" with Kaluha, chocolate pieces, and pecans. They were awesome. I'm going to try them in a 9 x 13 pan next time, because they almost were a bit too much. She's not kidding: these are the best brownies I've ever had!

Saturday, September 01, 2007

"O" is for organized

"It's life, Sidda. You just climb on the beast and ride." (Vivi Abbot in Divine Secrets of the Ya-ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells)

I like to think I'm organized because all my books are alphabetized by author and I have really cool closet organizers. But actually I'm really disorganized, which is why I need very good systems of organization or else I wouldn't be able to function. Does that make sense? Without my books alphabetized, I'd never be able to find one, and without my closet organizers, my closets would be stuffed with crap.

One of my favorite organizational systems is this filing system from The Container Store, which my sister bought for me after it changed her life. It's expensive ($30) but it's worth it, because once you organize all your financial and personal files with this system, you never will have to again. Believe me, I'm not being paid to hype this, but I really found it helpful.
Now if I could just do the same for my yarn stash.