Friday, August 31, 2007

"N" is for Nature

"Fear less, hope more; eat less, chew more; whine less, breathe more; talk less, say more, love more, and all good things will be yours" (Swedish proverb)

I am a city girl, for sure. I love the excitement, diversity, and energy of cities, and Chicago is my favoriate. I could never imagine myself living in a suburb or small town. We have great parks in Chicago, and today Ed and I went to the lakefront and had a little impromptu picnic and nap. It was a beautiful day, though you can tell the end of summer is coming.

But "city nature" can only take you so far. Ed and I both love to get out of the city and have a real nature experience as often as we can. We often go to my parents' place on a lake in Wisconsin, and we go camping once a year at Newport State Park on the very tip of Door County. We used to go in the summer, but now we go in September to mark our anniversary. It almost always rains, but it's so cool to backpack in and not see another person for two straight days.
Tonight we had some yummy Alaskan King Crab for dinner. I think I ate a half a stick of butter with it! Then I made a special order Harley Davidson-themed felt purse for my parents' neighbor. And now I'm trying to catch up on this "Encyclopedia of Me," which I should finished by now.

Monday, August 27, 2007

"M" is for Mom

"Women are the architects of society." (Harriet Beecher Stowe)

"M" is for Mom, and also for Mary, my mom's name. I've written about my mom quite a bit here, since she is my creative inspiration. I've told you how she taught me to knit and how she is so crafty herself. But I haven't talked that much about the other side of my mom. Although she was a stay-at-home mom until my sister and I were in school, my mom also was one of the first women to get a business administration degree at her university and went back to work (part-time at first) when we were older. She also went to school to get her master's degree, and my dad watched us all summer while she lived in the dorm. If you have a feminist mom, you usually have a feminist dad, too!

My mom always taught me how important it is for women to have their own way of supporting themselves. And because she always balanced work and family so well, I have this great model in her for when I become a mom. My mom is a very nurturing person, a wonderful "Gram," and also one of the fittest women I know. (She works with a personal trainer now, which is why she looks skinnier than I am in the photo above--taken at the Stitches Midwest knitting convention.) She is very socialable, loves going to parties and giving them, and is known for her fun flavors of Jell-o shots (I'm not kidding.) She and my dad are adventurous travelers, and although we don't agree much politically, we did used to go to the School of the Americas protest together, where we were arrested by the U.S. Army.

So while my mom taught me to sew and knit and bake cookies, she also taught me to be my own person, for which I am most grateful.

Friday, August 24, 2007

"L" is for Lurkers and Long-Lost Friends

"Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive." (Anais Nin)

Sorry no photo today. And apologies to those of you who have been anxiously awaiting the next installment of my "Encyclopedia of Me." (Ed's calling it the Encyclopedia of Narcicism. haha) It has been one hectic week, with our monthly magazine deadline at work, babysitting, parish council, and packing for a trip to northern Wisconsin and St. Paul, which is where we are now. We're visiting Ed's friend Josh (who has a gorgeous condo renovated from the late 1800s) and also met with our Vietnam adoption agency representative this morning. No news except that they are very close to signing with another province, although it's still not very likely that we will have our child (or even our referral) by the end of the year.

In the past week, I've heard from two unlikely readers of my blog: my sister-in-law, who "confessed" that she reads this to keep up on our family while also enjoying seeing the progress of her daughter's sweater, and a friend from high school I haven't seen or heard from in, exactly 25 years, who nows lives in Colorado. She found my blog not by googling me, but through her love of vintage Pyrex. What a small, small world. Hi, Leighann. I'll reply to your email soon. Just know that it seriously knocked me off my chair. I really don't keep in touch with anyone from high school, though another friend I know found me through my blog, too.

Today I went to the Savers thrift here in St. Paul, so now I know what those of you who have them in your towns are talking about. Wow, was everything organized! But prices were pretty high. Still, I got some sweaters for felting and what I think is wool yarn.

Tomorrow we're off to my youngest cousin's wedding. Will be nice to see family. I"ll post photos next week. And I promise it won't be so long till "M"--I already know what I'm going to write about! Hint.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

"K" is for Knitter

"Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life." (Picasso)

"K" is for "knitter," of course. I learned to knit as a child but learned again (both times from my mom) and really got into it when I was 40. It's a nice, portable craft, but also what you end up with is something most people want or need: a wearable item. I also love the feel and color of all the different fibers.

I've been knitting a lot of baby items lately, a few from this book. Last night I started the "Chunky Cardigan" with (top photo) with the Lion Brand Cashmere blend in off-white. This is a baby gift for our former neighbors, who are choosing not to know the gender in advance, so off-white seemed good.

I also finally finished what's called the "Rose Bud Cardigan" (it's shown with rosebuds instead of buttons) from that book in this German sock yarn in a pretty fall colorway. I used Size 3 needles (instead of the Size 2) to make gauge and made it in the 9 month size. It took just a little more than one ball of the yarn, so I hope to make a hat and socks to match with the rest of the yarn. I think this is one the longest, most complicated projects I've ever done, and now it's ready to go off to my niece Elena.

Last night we went to Millennium Park for the free "Peace Concert" with our friends, Karen and Jeff (and kids), Karlin and Charles, and Jon and Kristin (and Lincoln, who is modeling the sweet cardigan I made for him a few months ago.) It fits him perfectly. This is the free pattern from the Yarn Harlot, which I like a lot. Although the Chunky Cardigan may become my new favorite for fast baby gifts.

Movies to knit by: It was Spencer Tracy day on TCM toda yso I watched Boys Town (1938), Without Love (1945--love Lucille Ball in it), and Adam's Rib (1949). Then last night Ed and I watched Babel. Very good, though tough to knit through because of all the subtitles. It was a rainy day so a good day to watch movies and knit.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

"J" is for Junque

"It takes a lot of courage to show your dreams to someone else." (Author Erma Bombeck)
I have a confession to make: I'm a packrat. I'm an organized packrat, so visitors to my home may not notice the tons of crap I have stuffed in my closets (neatly stacked in nice plastic bins). When I had stopped crafting for a few years (after my divorce and during my wild single years), my crap collection was greatly reduced. I was living in a very small studio condo, so that helped.

But once I started knitting, along came the yarn stash. Then I started reading knitting, crafting and thrifting blogs and before you know it I had a huge pile of thrifted fabric and other craft supplies. I've always had a love of vintage things, and I have a lot of luck at estate sales and thrift stores here in Chicago. Still, we're reaching maximum capacity here in our relatively small 2-bedroom condo. We've got two kids coming in the next few years, and already their stuff is filling up our spare bedroom.

Still, it's hard to pass up some of these wonderful items, like that gently curved blue ceramic bowl (less than $1 at the thrift) or the $5 tin of old sewing stuff, including a dozen or more colorful balls of embroidery thread, from a recent estate sale. I had been at Michael's earlier that day and paid $2 a skein for a few colors of embroidery thread. And those Workbaskets from the 1950s and 60s were only 50 cents. The vintage kids' books were $1 apiece. Still, it seems like stuff should come with its storage cost attached too. Maybe then I'd think twice about acquiring some of it.
This week I'm working on moving some stuff the other direction: out! I listed a bunch of thrifted stuff on ebay and already some is selling (mostly vintage and designer linens) and I continue to sell off a good chunk of my extensive library on amazon. (Need to make room for kids' books on those shelves!) Finally, this weekend I will be getting together more felt scraps for sale in my etsy shop. Those really went well, and as I begin to feel a bit of fall in the cool evenings, I suspect people will be wanting to start fall and (gasp!) Christmas crafts soon. Proceeds from all this decluttering help our bottom line and to fund our adoptions.
Now if I can just keep myself from stopping at any garage sales this weekend...

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

"I" is for imbiber

"In reality the main purpose of life is to raise everything that is profane to the level of the holy." (Jewish theologian Martin Buber)

OK, you all are going to think I'm an alcoholic, with this my second post about liquor, and I'm only up to "I" on this Encyclopedia of Me! But this is just an excuse to show a photo from a dinner party we had last weekend with our friends Karen (above) and Jeff, and their two kids, Mari and Mesfin (at right) and our new friends, Mark and Michelle, and their son, little 5-month-old George (left). It was a wonderful get-together of adoptive and hopefully soon-to-be adoptive families. Don't you love it when you really click with new friends?

Karen's husband, Jeff, a wonderful cook who made the amazing cakes at our wedding, made these yummy drinks. He left the recipe behind, so I thought I'd reprint it here. Thanks, Jeff!

Mojito de Naranja
1 1/2 ounces Cointreau
1/2 oz. light rum
3 basil leaves
1 half wedge of orange
2 ounces sour mix
Float of soda

Muddle the basil, lime and orange. Add ice, Cointrau, rum, and sour mix. Shake and pour in a rock blass. Top with a float of soda. Garnish with orange wedge and basil leaves.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

"H" is for Heidi

"I feel I must praise and thank the Lord for the blessings he has brought to us all!" (Grandmother, in Heidi by Johanna Spyri)

I once asked my parents why they named me "Heidi" and they replied, "It went with Schlumpf." Heidi, of course, is a Swiss name, and so is Schlumpf. My family, on my dad's side, comes from Switzerland. I've liked having a unique name, and one that can't be shortened into a nickname.

A few years ago I started collecting copies of the book Heidi. I found copies in other countries and bought the rest of them on ebay for a few bucks apiece. I have almost 100 copies, stored in my favorite handpainted bookcase. (For a real "Corner of my Home," check out the photo below and see the yarn stash pile around the bookcase. And that's my "home altar" on top.

I have met very few "Heidi"s in my life, but I think it's interesting that in a few months of craft blog reading, I have met three others:
Isn't that odd? Any other Heidi craft bloggers out there?

Often when people meet me, they comment on my name, and most older men mention the time that the movie "Heidi" with Shirley Temple interrupted the NFL playoff game at a very exciting point in 1968. People call it the "Heidi Bowl."

So what about your name? Do you like it? Any good stories?

Friday, August 10, 2007

"G" is for Gemini

"Fear destroys 'the winged life.' But how to exorcise it? It can only be exorcised by its opposite, love. When the heart is flooded with love there is no room in it for fear, for doubt, for hesitation." (Gift From the Sea)

I don't put a whole lot of stock in horiscopes, to be honest. I don't read them in the newspaper or magazines. But I do know that I'm a Gemini, because I was born in early June. (This vintage dish towel is from 1964, the year of my birth.) I was going to make a bag out of this towel for Barb's Purse Project, but I never did. Maybe someday...

I thought I'd share some more of my vintage dish towel collection, all recently acquired from the thrift shop for less than $1 apiece. Lots of them are regional. One has the Australian Wattle,a bird, on it. Another has Lighthouses of the West Coast.

From Wikipedia: Gemini is the third sign of the Zodiac and associated with youth and versatility. Individuals born under this sign are thought to have a sociable, fun-loving, versatile, lively, communicative, liberal, mentally active and friendly character. The Gemini person is logical, inquisitive, clever, whimsical, nimble, quick-witted, articulate, lively, active, curious, capable of multi-tasking, talkative, sociable and mercurial; but they are also prone to moodiness, inconsistency, superficiality, restlessness, and be scattered, dual or two-faced, inconstant and gossipy.
Even though I think it has nothing to do with the time of year that I was born, it is true that I have a very "Gemini-y" personality, in that I have twin personalities: there is a very serious side to me. I am a tough boss, who has high expectations for myself and for people who work with me. I have very strong opinions about a lot of things, not the least of all my feminist beliefs, my religious beliefs, and my feminist religious beliefs.

On the other hand, there is another side of me that loves domesticity, especially creative things like knitting and sewing. (I'm not that much of a cook, though, and only clean because I like a clean house.) People who know me professionally are always surprised at this other side of me, but I don't think it's all that schizophrenic.

I think most people are a little like that: we have different sides to ourselves and can't be categorized as simply one thing. But maybe Geminis are just a little more so. This mod 60s-looking towel has to be my favorite, though I also like the traditionally stitched red pitcher one, too. See, my split personality even pertains to my taste in vintage dish towels! Anybody else collect these?

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

"F" for fan

"Son, in 35 years of religious study, I have only come up with two hard incontrovertible facts: there is a God, and I'm not him." (Father Cavanaugh, in the Notre Dame film Rudy)

I come from a family of sports fans. Both my parents are big Brewers baseball and Packer football fans, not to mention University of Wisconsin anything fans. My dad was a high school football and baseball coach. Although I never played sports, I was a cheerleader for seven years.

I also married a sports fan, though he's not as excessive as some guys. His teams are still Philadelphia ones: the Eagles, the Phillies, and the Flyers (hockey).

These are my teams: Notre Dame for college football, the Packers for pro football, and the Chicago Cubs for baseball (and the Brewers second). I'm not that into basketball or hockey or soccer.

I've been meaning to show you this new line of my purses for awhile now, but I keep forgetting. They are sports-themed purses, using ties from the team and lining them with some sort of "team" fabric. This Notre Dame purse, for example, uses a felted blue and green striped sweater, a ND tie, and some reused ND curtains. (It's being saved for a friend who requested it).

But I also have made some Wisconsin Badger ones, some Packer ones, a Brewers one, and have already sold a White Sox one. Since technically you're not supposed to sell items made from the licensed fabric, I won't be selling these in my shop, but I will do a custom order if anyone's interested (and I can get the materials).

Who's your favorite team? And would you carry a purse that advertises your fan-loyalty?

Monday, August 06, 2007

"E" is for Ed (squared)

"Love does not consist in gazing at each other but in looking outward together in the same direction." (Antoine Saint-Exupery)

The two most important men in my life are both named Ed. My father is Edward and my husband is Edmund. Still, quite a coincidence, don't you think? In some ways, they are similar: my dad was a high school history, geography, and journalism teacher and coach, and my husband is studying to become a high school history teacher and coach. And they are both very loving men who care a lot about their family, friends, and the world. But they are very different too. For example, my dad is a Brewer's fan and my husband is a Phillies fan. This was an issue this past weekend when the two teams were playing each other.

What I admire about my dad, and what I hope I have learned from him, is his integrity, commitment, and passion. My dad never does anything half-way, and his faith has inspired him to do plenty of things outside his comfort zone. And he always tries to do what is right. "Dare to be different," he used to counsel me when I was a teenager, and I thought he was so unhip. Of course, I ended up rather different, maybe not always in ways he would have wanted, but I did dare to be myself, and I learned that from him. My dad also can be stubborn, and unfortunately I learned that from him too! But in our older age (mine and his!) I think we have gotten along better than we ever have and have really learned to respect each other, and for that I am very grateful.

My husband is the perfect man for me. He is the ying to my yang, or vice versa, I can't remember. His laid-back personality is a wonderful complement to my high-strung one. He is intelligent, thoughtful, and very well-read. And he is extremely funny. He is a great partner, and he will make a wonderful father. I have never known a man to try so hard to love me and to generally do the right thing in life. Well, except for Ed Number One. I am so lucky to have found him, even if it did take me way too long.

P.S. Happy anniversary, Amy and Andrew!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

"D" is for dorky

"Let us rise and be thankful, for if we didn't learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn't learn a little, at least we didn't get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn't die; so, let us all be thankful." (The Buddha)

"D" is for dorky. I don't know if it's because I'm Midwestern or just because I come from a very gung-ho family, but we Schlumpfs like to do a lot of things that others might consider kind of dorky. And we are total die-hards, too. Like how many people would have their entire family sleep overnight in the gutter just to get good seats at the Rose Bowl Parade? The Schlumpfs did!

And everything has to become a total tradition. Like State Fair. Even though it was cloudy and humid, I dragged Ed to the Wisconsin State Fair today. But we had a blast! We went through all the animal barns (that's me with the cows--I love cows) in the top photo and did all the fun things on my sister's list. That's Ed at one of the shops. Despite his roll-your-eyes East Coast demeanor, he can be kind of dorky too.

Memories (left) of entering my pet rabbit Hoppy in the State Fair some 25-30 years ago. I remember he got 7th place (out of 9). And the requisite cream puff. Oh, my God, that was huge and rich! We had roasted corn for dinner, and yes, maple root beer.

Craft content: We toured the craft and food entries. These quilts were pretty. Some really nice knitting, though nothing that exceptional that I took a photo. We left just as the rain started and didn't hit any traffic on the way home. We had a really nice, relaxing time at my parents' house while they were gone. Even though the weather was yucky, we were relaxed and enjoyed having nature around us.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Yellow and orange goodness

"Only when one is connected to one's core is one connected to others." (Anne Morrow Lindburgh, Gift From the Sea--one of my favorite books of all time)

Taking a break from the Encyclopedia of Me to share my "Bucket full of sunshine" yellow and orange swap goodies I received last week from Sarah of Misadventures of Mama and Jack. Sarah is a wonderful thrifter and paper crafter (among other things), so I wasn't surprised that her lovely swap package to me included things that feature both talents. (Also, in one of those great-minds-think-alike moments, we both sent each other a piece of Pyrex. See what I sent her here.)

These were among my favorite things in this swap and both are trimmed with wallpaper. (although the favorite has to be the vintage orange-flowered shelf trim. I swear my mom had some almost like this! It's still in the package, and I hate to open it, but I gotta use this somewhere.) As a writer, I appreciated the decorated journal and especially love the silver "H" for Heidi. And the little tin with wee goodies (glitter, buttons, ribbon): too adorable for words.

This is Sarah's handmade contribution. I'm going to guess at how she made it: The fabric flowers seem stiffened by something (glue? starch), then curled for a 3D effect. A button is sewed to the middle and they are grouped on a framed canvas. Very summery and fitting of the theme. Right now it's cheering up my office at work.

Thank you, Sarah, for the very thoughtful gifts. I can't wait to see what the next Sweet Goodness Swap is. Something fallish, I assume?
(Old) Movies to knit by: Above Suspicion (1943, with Fred MacMurry and Joan Crawford as spies in WWII Germany); Autumn Leaves (1956, with Joan Crawford and mentally ill husband); and Paris When It Sizzles (1964, William Holden as screenwriter with Audrey Hepburn).

(Encyclopedia of Me will return tomorrow with "D" is for ...)

Friday, August 03, 2007

"C' is for creative

At the back of our brains, so to speak, there is a forgotten blaze or burst of astonishment at our own existence. The object of the artistic and spiritual life is to dig for this sunrise of wonder. (Chesterton)

I guess it goes without saying that I am creative and enjoy creative endeavours. My work is creative (writing and editing) and my hobbies are creative, too. Check out the cute tags I made with my new logo! They have my websites printed on the back. I used one of those huge paper punches to make these. They're for my purses, especially the five that were just requested by my friend Leigh Ann's mom, who wants to try to sell them in her art gallery in Indiana. Of course, they take 35 percent, so I am asking a higher price. We'll see if any sell. Nothing to lose for trying.

My mom bought me this book last time I was home visiting. We both liked the pattern for cute flowers made out of the cuffs of felted sweaters. You just take two cuffs, cut them open, and sew them to make a long (about 14 inch) strip. Then stitch the long end and gather it into the flower. I did this one by hand and it was harder than it looks because the felt is so thick. Maybe a thinner sweater would work better. I sewed on a button for the center, and may still add some leaves. There's a lot of bunchiness at the back so I'm not sure it will work as a pin. Maybe. Mom, what color would you like?

Thursday, August 02, 2007

"B" is for beer

"Sometimes our light goes out, but it s blown again into flame by an encounter with another human being. Each of us owes the deepest thanks to those who have rekindled the light." (Albert Schweitzer)

Most people who know me know better than to offer me a beer. I don't drink beer. Yes, I'm from Wisconsin, so that has been hard. But the problem is that I had my first beer(s) when I was quite young, and let's just say I haven't had any since.

It's been hard to be a non-beer drinker since my Dad makes his own beer, called "North Bay Brew," named after the bay of their lake they live on. When we were visiting last time, Ed and I helped my dad with his latest batch, which is supposed to be Guinness-like.

That's Ed doing the bottle-capping, above. Since I don't drink beer, I've become fond of lots of other kinds of alcoholic cocktails. For awhile I was known for always having vodka and cranberry juice. Why not get some Vitamin C and help prevent bladder infections? Then I discovered vanilla vodka and mixed it with Diet Coke. Takes like cream soda. Yum! But the caffeine bothers me.

Now I've adopted my mom's recipes for yummy Jello shots at parties. We buy the little cups and lids at Cosco by the gross and share them. My mom does all kinds of yummy flavors, like coconut rum in pineapple Jello or amaretto in cherry Jello. I like to color coordinate the colors for special events, too. (Mom designed a special logo for Dad's beer, at left.)

As you can see, our family does like to celebrate with a little drink or two. Christmas wouldn't be complete without Tom and Jerrys. And my dad also has a nice collection of flavored liquers that he likes to get out after a special dinner. I've taken to bringing him ones from around the world when I travel. Mmmm. I wonder if Vietnam has a liquer?

No craft news today. Maybe tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

"A" is for Amy

"I don't believe an accident of birth makes people sisters or brothers. It makes them siblings, gives them mutuality of parentage. Sisterhood and brotherhood is a condition people have to work at." (Maya Angelou)

I have one sister, Amy, who is 13 months younger than I. So she has known me my whole life, except for those first 13 months! I know it sounds trite to say she's my best friend, but she is. When we were growing up, I was the "smart one," and she was the "pretty one." When we got older, I learned she was pretty darn smart herself, and I got slightly better looking! Now my husband calls her "the nice Schlumpf sister," so I guess you can see we've been compared to each other our whole lives.

Here's what I admire about her: her intelligence, integrity and political commitment; her loving attitude toward her family; her three wonderful children; her compassionate way of listening; her generosity; and the fact that she laughs at everything I say, mistakenly leading me to think I'm funny. Her faults? The only one I can think of is that she can be messy. But when she gets to organizing, stand back! She's a maniac with that labeler I gave her a few years ago.

So I started out this "Encyclopedia of Me" by talking about someone other than me, but Amy is so much a part of who I am that it seems right. So, "A" is for Amy.

The other day, I read about the World's largest yarn stash at Mochimochi's blog, but I have my own scary stash story to share. Two weekends ago, my mom and I went to a rummage sale in at a home on their lake in Wisconsin. It was mind-boggling. This woman had died, and apparently they had already removed nine dumpsters of stuff. At the garage sale they were selling her craft supplies, which filled an entire garage and yard. Seriously, she had more stuff than some Michael's stores.

My mom took this picture of the fabric pile (which covered a 2-by-8 foot table and was about 2 feet high) with her camera phone, so pardon the poor quality. Apparently this was just a small portion of the fabric. She had a huge box of probalby 200 glue sticks, then another box of hundreds of smaller glue sticks. She had four or five banquet-sized tables piled with silk flowers. Clearly this woman had a shopping problem. She would buy things by the dozens or even the gross.

This scared the bejesus out of me, as I have a tendency toward pack-rat-ism. But I still bought some Holly Hobbie wrapping paper, a whole box of trim, and an old game. My mom and I both noticed that it seemed like knitting was the only craft she didn't do. Thank God, or her yarn stash would have been tempting!

Encyclopedia of Me

"The only proof he needed for the existence of God was music." (Kurt Vonnegut)

Thanks to this idea from Bella Dia, I'm going to try daily postings this month, using her "Encyclopedia of Me" meme. This means that each day, I'll do a post with a letter of the alphabet and tell you a little bit about myself. Her example: "Q" is for Queasy and then she'll tell you what makes her queasy.

My blog began as a place to "park" all the info about my creative life, but along the way I've revealed a bit about myself. Still, I don't spend enough time just sharing who I am on here. Maybe this meme will help. If you want to join in, visit Bella Dia's blog!

(I'll try to keep up with my spiritual quote a day, too.)