Wednesday, October 31, 2007


"The key to change is to let go of fear." (Roseanne Cash)

Happy Halloween, from me and the little felt ghosts I made years ago. You can see them on my mom's blog, too. Looks like one is missing an eye. They're a little worse for wear, I guess. I know how they feel!

I received my Halloween package from my Sweet Goodness Sister Swap partner (see her adorable daughter here). Will post pictures of her generous gift tomorrow. We never get any trick-or-treaters (I guess they don't want to climb to the third floor), so Ed and I are planning a nice relaxing night tonight.

Monday, October 29, 2007


"I think it's a basic truism of our species that we grow to the extent that we can participate in other people's growth." (Miram Polster, In Sweet Company)

I sent out a bunch of packages last week, and I think everyone has received them now, so I can post this photo of a finished felt pumpkin. I made eight of them, from various colors of orange and rust-colored felt from recycled sweaters. I used a conglomoration of these two patterns. I sent one to my Sister Swap partner, one to each of the swap organizers, one to my mom, and one to my sister. I kept a couple for myself!

In I'm-getting-old news, I think I'm getting arthritis in my fingers already (I'm 43). A physical therapist doing free massages at my health club suggested soaking in epsom salts, so that's what I'm doing tonight. (I found some nice lavender epsom salts at Walgreens.) I have some pain in my knuckles, plus they're starting to look a little bigger. I can't be having senior citizens' diseases before I get my children!

Mom and Amy, do you remember this saying that Uncle Fran used to say all the time?

Saturday, October 27, 2007

What do we want? Peace!

"All we are saying is give peace a chance." (The Beatles)

I spent today as thousands of Americans did: protesting this illegal and immoral war in Iraq, where so many innocent people have been killed. And now this administration thinks we need another war, in Iran. It's time to take back our country!

My niece Clare showing what the next generation thinks!

Our whole group. Does it look like the '60s or what?

Sears Tower in the background.

My sister and I. Her sign says "Librarians for peace. Books, not bombs." She got lots of positive comments about it. Her T-shirt says, "I will not raise my child to kill your child." I got it for her at the SOA protest.

Homemade signs from the Manion clan.

Edmund and I protesting together. I'm so lucky to be married to someone with such strong values.

Tuckered out protesters at the end of the day.

I'm so proud of my sister, who brought her three kids plus three more all the way from the suburbs to downtown Chicago for this protest. She is such a great role model for her kids, and they seem to be learning the importance of peace from her. Here's praying someone in Washington is listening...

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


"Whatever God does, the first outburst is always compassion." (Meister Eckhart)

I just got home from two days in Indianapolis for work, a meeting of a subgroup of this professional organization my magazine belongs to. It's a nice group of editors, who are not surprised when I knit through the part of the meeting where we all go around and basically catch up. I'm getting close to finishing my second pair of socks.

Since I needed to get to Indy by Sunday night, I decided to leave a day early and spend some time with my friend Kristi, her husband, Brian, and their three kids (fourth on the way as you can see from the photo above), including my godson Silas. Kristi is a crocheter (is that a word?), so I made her model a baby blanket she's working on, though she still has to add the white ruffles. It's always great to see Kristi, and I really admire her and her husband as parents (well, for other things, too, but also as parents!)

On the way from South Bend to Indianapolis, I saw a sign for "Flea Market," so I stopped and it was quintessential Indiana (very rural, very low prices). I got all that thread at left for a quarter, the vintage Christmas cookie cutters for a quarter, four rolls of brown paper for a quarter each, and these eight vintage gold-trimmed bar glasses (with recipes for drinks like Singapore Slings on them) for $5. Rebecca can tell me if that's a deal, because I know she collects vintage barware. I'd like to someday too, but for now this is it.

There also was yarn buying in South Bend, which I'll share at a later date. The scenery on the drive was so pretty (we just aren't having good colors in Chicago this year). I tried to take some pictures from the car while driving (see that truck bearing down on me in my rear view mirror. Yikes!) I also had a wonderful meal of Asiago-encrusted scallops and warm pear bread pudding with caramel for dessert at a restaurant in downtown Indianpolis called Palomino. Anyone ever been there? I guess it's a Midwestern chain. Yummy.

Good to be home, though. Ed had the guys over to watch football while I was gone (Those darn Bears. I can't believe they beat Philly in the last seconds like that!) But you could hardly tell he had anyone over, the place is so clean. I'm married to the best man ever.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Stuffed pumpkin

"They that are born on Halloween shall see more than other folk." (Saying of unknown origin)

I'm starting to get in the Halloween spirit this weekend. I'm not a big Halloween person--always a little shy about dressing up, somewhat creeped out by the gory stuff, and not willing to amass a whole bunch of decorations just for a few weeks in October. But I do love fall and pumpkins and leaves and apple cider, so maybe there's hope for me.

This is a peek at a little Halloween decoration I'm making this year. I'll have a finished photo soon. Sufficed it to say it's made with felt! And that's there no "recipe" for stuffed pumpkins.

*The quote above reminds me of my nephew Jack, who was born the day before Halloween. I'll be joining him for this anti-war protest on Saturday. Check to see if there's one in your town.

Friday, October 19, 2007


"What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family." (Mother Teresa)

There has been knitting going on around here, including this new project, which I'm going to be hush-hush about because the person it's for reads this blog. Now doesn't that make all of you wonder! It's a new pattern, so it's interesting, and it's yarn from my stash so that's good.

Movies to knit by: I knit a lot of this while watching Letters from Iwo Jima, and although I hate war movies, I thought this was rather good. I also was impressed with my ability to knit and read subtitles at the same time. I forget which blogger was talking about how she can read for school and knit at the same time. Wow, I'm jealous! Wish I could do that. I love multitasking. I also watched the classic The Way We Were (Pass the tissues, please) while doing some creative sewing with felt, which I'll show you later this weekend.

I also made this yummy Cranberry Banana Bread recipe from Barb. I make a lot of banana bread because my husband likes to buy bananas and not eat them (and he thinks they're bad as soon as there's the slightest darkness on the peel). I usually jazz up banana bread with chocolate chips, but cranberries gave it a nice tartness.

I'm a little behind with my Halloween package for my Swap Sister, but I'll get it out early next week. Sorry, Christy, I'll get it to you by Halloween, I promise!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Belated Blogger Action Day

"We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children." (Native American proverb)

I'm a little behind for Blogger Action Day (it was Monday). The idea was for all bloggers to get behind one issue: the environment. Ed and I have tried to do a few things: change our lightbulbs, do lots more recycling, and live more simply. But the biggest environmental thing we did was live without a car for five years. We have a car now ($700 of repairs this week! Timing belt, water pump, and brakes). We hope to avoid being a two-car family, though it will depend--as it does for most people--on our jobs.

But the other big thing has been my shift--thanks to blog reading--to thrift shopping. I used to regularly go to Target and buy clothing, stuff for the house, etc. Now I buy things secondhand, in part to save money, but also in part because it feels right to reuse something rather than always buy new.

I also spend a lot less on craft supplies, now that I shop secondhand. While I'm not lucky enough to find yarn very often, I have become the queen of wool felt from recycled sweaters. I still make my purses (three of the latest ones pictured above) and found out today that a few have sold at an art galley in Indiana that has carried them since summer. Yea! They also were recently mentioned at this site.

I also applied for my first real craft show: the St. Nick's bazaar at my parish, St. Gertrude's in Chicago, in early December. More details if I get accepted, but meanwhile I'm working toward a goal of at least 50 purse for inventory by then. (I have about 20 now). I also would like to have something small,too--maybe an ornament.

And I'm still selling my felt scraps in my etsy shop, and recently started offering a smaller bag of smaller pieces for $3.99. (Those photos are of bags for sale in my shop now.) It's nice to help other crafters with their supplies, add a little cash to the adoption fund, and save some old, wool sweaters from a landfill.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Sweet pea

"Forgiveness is the answer to the child's dream of a miracle by which what is broken is made whole again, what is soiled is again made clean." (Dag Hammarskjold)

I stole this idea from Pink Trees since I needed a gift for a 1-year-old. It was my godson Lincoln's (cutie at left with his godfather) birthday party on Saturday, so I made him this stuffed felt pea and little bag from a polka dotted sheet to go with the book. I made an extra for Sam! (I was home recovering from oral surgery: the insertion of a steel rod in my jawbone, getting ready for the implant. The sedative knocked me out for the whole day.)

At the birthday party, these two adorable kids--my friend Karen and Jeff's twins from Ethiopia--came in wearing the sweaters I had knit for them before they adopted. Aren't they adorable?! The sweaters actually fit, too.

Later that night we went to see our neighbor Reggie's band at a dive bar in Chicago. They're sounding better and better every time I see them! Also ran into someone I knew from yoga there. I love it when Chicago is such a small town. Our third Saturday night social event was a little get-together for our friend Christian's birthday. Whew! I haven't been that social in a long time. So I slept in Sunday morning, too. Felt good to be lazy on a rainy day.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Swapping for Sam and Sophie

"Run through the day with wild abandonment. ..but don't carry scissors." (Rufus Radiflorius)

We cleaned out the study/nursery last weekend to make room for company (Jenny and Jon from California here for the St. Clement's young adult reunion). Then this week I got more stuff to put in it. This adorable wooden puzzle arrived all the way from Australia, courtesy of the generous Shopping Sherpa.

Look at the cute fabric she wrapped it in! She also included some yummy candy, most of which I've already eaten. In exchange, I sent her some Martha Stewart Halloween stuff from Michaels, a felt bookmark, some sewing magazines, and some fabric.

Sam and Sophie's bookshelves are getting full, thanks to Catie, my partner in the Vintage Storybook and Bookmark swap. She sent me this fun one from 1976... these two that address my desire for books with people of color in them...

Plus a bunch of Golden Books. At left are the two adorable bookmarks she made--one for Sam and one for Sophie, each decorated with their name and lots of little doo-dads

Then she stuffed the rest of the box with lots of vintage stuff: some embroidered pillowcases and two aprong (love that print at left), some Holly Hobbie gift wrap, some ads from a women's mag from 1919 and another little book.

Finally, some thrifted goodies: a whole bag of jewelry bits and bobs, plus the squares for an entire lilac flannel quilt. I've always wanted to try quilting and this would help me skip the whole cutting step.
Thanks to both of you for helping us get ready for our little ones!

Monday, October 08, 2007

Ode to fall

“Autumn stands as an epiphany to the truth that all things are passing and even in the passing there is beauty.” (Authors Joyce Rupp and Macrina Wiederkehr, The Circle of Life)

There has been a lot of "autumn love" out there in blogland. Apparently this is a very beloved season for lots of people. I know it is for me. It is what I missed most when I lived in LA. And I'm missing it now, since it's been nearly 90 for the past week here in Chicago in October. Did you hear about all the people passing out at the Chicago Marathon. How sad.

I love fall because I like new beginnings, like new school years, and I was a brownie-type student who loved getting new pencils and notebooks. I also love football, so fall is great for that. Later in life I connected with the weird juxtosposition of grief and loss with majesty from the colors, all symbolized by the falling leaves in autumn. Seasonal spirituality has been a big thing for me, ever since I got involved with a center of feminine spirituality.

So I finally finished my felt leaf garland. I'm so happy with how they turned out (I ended up embroidering the "veins" in them.) I still have a few packages of fall colored felt in my etsy shop. If you buy it and want a copy of Martha Stewart's leaf pattern, I'd be happy to send it to you. It helps that my walls are autumn gold, don't you think?

Friday, October 05, 2007

20 questions

"When I tell my stories, it gives others permission to tell their own." (Alma Flor Ada, In Sweet Company)

I've been doing some swapping this fall. I joined the Vintage Storybook and Homemade Bookmark Swap and was partnered with Catie at Catiean & Co., who has been struggling with some health problems and who lost much of her vintage book collection in a fire. I was lucky enough to find a vintage Richard Scarry book (Oh, it was so hard to give away!), which she collects. I added some others, including some new books to inspire her, plus this felty leaf bookmark. She should have received it by now.

I also sent a bookmark to Heidi at Absinthe Knits, along with a vintage Heidi book from my collection, when I learned she didn't have one. My plan is to include a list of craft bloggers named "Heidi" in my sidebar. Can you believe I already have four? And yesterday at a workshop, there were three Heidis in a room of 25 people. It's not that common of a name!

I also mailed out my scarves for soldiers to my mom this week, and have a package almost ready for Blair, who forwarded me the Martha Stewart leaf pattern so I could make these (almost done and ready to hang this weekend, I hope).

Finally, since I never miss a swap hosted by Rebecca and Lucy, I joined the Sweet Sister Holiday Swap, but unfortunately my work spam blocker prevented me from getting my partner for a week. But now I know my new "sister" is Christy of Confessions of a Misplaced Southern Belle. I'm sure we were matched because we are both writers and knitters. I've read her 20 questions (from the swap organizers to help us get to know each other better) and now here are mine. It's fun to start getting excited about the holidays coming up!

1. Favorite Color: I love so many! My house is decorated in warm colors mostly: sage green, gold, red, eggplant, pumpkin, though my bedroom is a cool blue. I love pink and black (I dream of a craft room in those colors). I'm not a huge fan of pastels.

2. Chocolate Lover? Milk, Dark, White, or none of the above? I like dark chocolate, but I prefer fruity candy to chocolate.

3. What is your favorite craft hobby? Knitting, though I'm doing more sewing and some embroidery these days. But definitely knitting.

4. What is a craft/art hobby that you would like to start? Not sure I need to start any new projects, but I do wish I knew some rudimentary crochet for when knitting patterns call for it.

5. What craft do you NOT have an interest in or just not great in ( so your partner doesn’t send something you wouldn’t use)? I've only done one scrapbook in my life, and while I wouldn't mind doing another someday, I don't want to collect a bunch of scrapbooking stuff. I only have so much room! I do some occasional stamping, though.

6. Do you have any allergies? (we don’t want to send anything with peanuts if it’ll make you blow up like a balloon!) No food allergies.

7.What’s your favorite part of Halloween? Decorating, candy eating, costumes, or something else? Definitely the candy. I've discovered the new Brach's Candy Apple Candy Corn: yum! I'm pretty low-key with Halloween: I like simple decorations, pumpkins, some cutesy stuff. I'm not really into the vintage, Victorian Halloween stuff. I've never been a big fan of costume parties.

8. Do you decorate for Thanksgiving/Fall? I love fall decorating, though I don't have too much stuff. It's my favorite season, and I love the symbol and motif of leaves and acorns. Fall leaves were the theme for our wedding.

9. December Holidays--what holiday do you celebrate? What type of decorations do you like to put up in your house for that holiday? We celebrate Christmas and St. Nick's Day. Lately my tree has been decorated with gold, silver and crystal ornaments. Our house is small so I can't have too many themes going at once, but I like some vintage stuff and can imagine a pink tree someday!

10. Do you have any children, if so what are their ages, boys/girls? My two kids are in my heart but they haven't arrived from Vietnam and China yet.

11. Do you have any pets, if so what kind? No. As my sister says, I'm lucky not to have the dog-lovers' curse! Probably because I was bit by one when I was a kid.

12. Are you a reader? If so, what type of books do you like? I read for a living, but also like to read for pleasure. Quality fiction, sometimes mindless mysteries, also non-fiction. If it's on the Trade Paperback Bestsellers List, I've read it or want to. I'd appreciate recommendations for good parenting books too or anything on adoption.

13. Are you celebrating a birthday or anniversary in October, November, or December? If so, what day and what is the occasion? Not personally, no.

14. Do you collect anything? If so what type of things do you collect? Yarn and knitting patterns, for one! And fabric and old wool sweaters. My favorite collection is mine of Heidi books: vintage, new, other languages. I also have started collecting vintage aprons, dish towels and other linens.

15. What type of things do you like to cook? Are you an appetizer person, cookie maker, dessert freak or a take out type of person? I'm not a huge cook; in fact, my husband does most of the cooking these days. I like to bake, but can't afford to have baked goods around or I'd be fat! I love to bake at Christmas, though.

16. What is your favorite scent? Is there one that you can’t stand? I stopped wearing perfume years ago (one less step in the morning) but I do like the scent of spicey pumpkin, especially this time of year. (I also love all the pumpkin-flavored coffee, shakes, etc.)

17. What’s your favorite song? Not sure I have one anymore. My favorite band is Everclear, but I also love yoga chant. I'm not a huge music person.

18. What’s the last movie you went to see at the movie theater? How embarassing! I can't even remember! I like to watch movies at home so I can knit. We're Netflix members, but I love old movies on TMC, especially Cary Grant and Doris Day.

19. What’s your favorite Candy? Oh, there are so many! This is my weakness. My favorite is probably those Haribo raspberry candies, but I love anything fruity.

20. Tea or Coffee or other? I went off caffeine about 15 years ago, but still enjoy a cup of decaf in the morning. But in the winter I love to drink different flavored teas (also must be decaf). Does Vanilla Stoli vodka and caffeine-free Diet Coke count as "other"?

Hope that helps, Christy!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Support our troops--with seed stitch

"When you are no longer aware of your true nature, you feel threatened by anyone or anything that is different from you; so, in an attempt to restore your own balance, you make others wrong or the world broken." (Native American author Twylah Hurd Nitsch)

So here's what I was knitting around the campfire (see last year's similar photo here): a scarf for soldiers going to Afghanistan. Most people who know me know that I vehemently opposed this war (well, any war actually), but I think it's unfair to say that peace protesters don't support the troops. It's their lives we're worried about!

So I decided to join my mom in knitting these scarves out of Lion Brand Homespun in Rococco and Bernat Camouflage in Sand (Bernat has some new soy, bamboo, and organic cotton yarns I'd like to try). The pattern is simple: Cast on 15 stitches and do seed stitch (K1, P1) until it's about 40ish inches. You should get two scarves out of the two skeins. I made my first scarf too long, so will have to frog part of it to use the yarn to make the second one long enough. I love the look of seed stitch, but it's rough on my wrists. I don't wrap my yarn around my finger (I hang onto it) so the switch back and forth from knit to purl is not that smooth. Oh well.

A few more camping photos: See the wind blowing our tent? And that was after we moved the whole thing to a more protected section of the site. My sweetie (below) packing our packs. He carried all the heavy stuff. Still, I felt it in my hips when I walked with my pack. I'm getting old! Plus it made me realize the strain on my body if I were carrying 30 extra pounds of weight.

We keep thinking this will be out last year of camping for awhile because babies and backpacks don't mix too well. This year better be our last year.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Fall camping

"[Autumn] is the season that teaches us that beginnings and endings are part of our experiences; though [it] represents the fulfillment of cycles, fulfillment must also bring ending." (Gary Schmidt and Susan M. Felch, Autumn: A Spiritual Autobiography)

I'm just back from a weekend of camping at Newport State Park at the very tip of Door County in Wisconsin (that's the peninsula that sticks out into Lake Michigan). This is the fourth year my husband and I have camped there; we backpack in about two miles to a pretty secluded site right on the water.

I'm calling this year "the year of no incident." The first year, I left out a pot of water one night, which attracted a raccoon, who charged our tent and scared the bejesus out of me so I couldn't sleep the rest of the night. Year Two brought the flood--nearly 2 inches of rain in the bottom of our tent. Last year we had a new, watertight tent, but I was up all night because of a huge thunderstorm, listening to trees being hit by lightening and falling not far off.

This year the wind the first night was pretty strong, and I imagined every little sound to be either a bear or a mass murderer coming to get us. But then I came upon a solution: earplugs! I slept well the second night.

I brought some knitting (will show that tomorrow) but also these little felt leaves that I cut out for a leaf garland that everyone was making last fall. I decided mine needed some embroidered "veins" in them, which means I'll be lucky to get my leaves up before fall is over. Actually, the embroidery is relaxing and pretty simple. I got five leaves done over the weekend.

It was a little chilly on Saturday, but I can't complain about the weather. We only had a little rain Saturday night. We got to our site in time to put the tent (most of it) up before dark Friday night, and had decent meals. One thing I like about camping is that we nap a lot. I was up early but took two naps on Saturday! Lake Michigan was very low; the water about 30-50 feet out from where it normally is. But the fall colors were almost peak and gorgeous. We saw a few more people than we usually do, including a young woman who was camping alone in the site near us. Now that's brave!