Monday, January 25, 2010

Craft Hope for Haiti

"People [are] stepping up — the world is compassionate. Despite what many may think, the hearts of men and women are warm. Sometimes I think that we are distracted by so much war that we forget that we are loving people..." (Haitian musician and activist Wyclef Jean)

It's heartwarming to see how the craft community is rallying around fundraising for Haiti. These two bloggers I follow are auctioning off items as fundraisers. Craft Hope for Haiti has raised more than $10,000 in one week by asking crafters for donations to an etsy shop, where 100% of money raised will to to Doctors Without Borders. I didn't donate anything yet, but I did buy something.

When I saw these tiger jammies in a 12-month size, I knew they were meant for Sophie, who we hope to bring home right after celebrating the Chinese New Year of the Tiger.

They have sold 1,477 items already and only have 173 items left right now, but will be adding more soon. There are some nice downloadable patterns, including this cute Haitian girl for embroidery. I think I might get that.

Craft Hope organizes lots of other projects in which crafters make and donate items to charities that need things. So does this Mama to Mama site. I'll be watching both of them.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Cookie monster

"The curse of poverty has no justification in our age." (Martin Luther King Jr.)*

We interrupt what has temporarily become a decorating blog to bring you some crafting. I finally made some felt food for Sam's kitchen. While at Amy's, Sam helped make chocolate chip cookies (picking out the chocolate chips when eating them), so I thought he would appreciate these. I scoured my button collection for some "chocolate" colored ones for these cookies. Otherwise, they're just simple circles of tan felt, with a little batting and blanket stitched shut. He likes to carry them on this little baking sheet and put them in his play oven. Cute!

Next: an unplanned renovation project--a new toilet, which required three days of installation.

* Especially appropriate quote in light of Haiti.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


"Where there is great love, there are always miracles." (Willa Cather)*

No, not that kind of stripping--wallpaper stripping. Here are some photos from our wallpaper stripping project in the baby's room last weekend. I excitedly started with my spray bottle of non-toxic fabric softener and a putty knife early in the morning, thinking I'd have this wrapped up by afternoon. Not.

Once I got underneath a section of the pink (itself at least a few decades old), I discovered another layer, a nice burgundy floral. I'm not sure how old that was.

Underneath that were some pretty yellow roses on a tan/greyish background.

Not done yet. Here you can see the fourth and final layer: a light green texture.


Things went a lot quicker once Ed joined me with a razor scraper.

Ah, finally--clean plaster walls. you can't tell from this photo but they are in awful condition. Lots of holes and cracks. So the next step is to get a professional plasterer to fix them up so we can paint. We also removed the thin, cheap trim at the ceiling. We plan to put up crown moulding--the kind you can hang pictures from, so we don't have to put too many holes in the plaster. The other two walls must have been stripped and replastered when they put in the new windows. Thank God. Two walls were enough!

Unfortunately, we're in the middle of a little unplanned renovation this weekend--a new toilet. More about that later.

*Praying for miracles in Haiti--and donating to Catholic Relief Services. I have first-hand experience with CRS in India and Ethiopia. They do great work.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Baby's room before

"Quakers call the presence of the Holy Spirit working within us a 'sifting silence.' It separates the worthwhile from the worthless." (J. Brent Bill)

I can't believe we've lived in our house for almost four months before even attempting any home improvements. Yes, we had the floors sanded and varnished before we moved in. But we haven't even painted a wall. Well, while my sister's family watched Sam last weekend, we finally started the redo on his room (soon-to-be his and Sophie's).

There's not a ton to do in there, but here's my to-do list:

1. Remove peeling pink wallpaper on two walls
2. Have walls "skim-coated" with plaster; also the ceiling
3. Paint walls green (same color as nursery in our condo; it matches the rug) and ceiling white
4. Paint baseboard and other trim white
5. Add crown moulding and picture hanger moulding; paint white
6. Eventually have second door (to kitchen) closed off

7. Replace old light fixture (cute and vintage though it is) with ceiling fan (we have no AC)
8. Rewire the room (part of whole house rewiring) and add outlet

9. Replace curtains with white wood blinds

One thing we've already done: bought gorgeous solid oak bunk beds on Craigslist. Sam's been in a big-boy bed since after Christmas, but he still doesn't sleep through the night. Now one of us is in his bed, instead of vice versa.

Next: photos of the wallpaper stripping.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Twin set

"If you want to have a spiritual life you must unify your life. A life is either all spiritual or not spiritual at all. No one can serve two masters." (Thomas Merton)

I finished the second little hat for my friends' twin boys: Jack and Henry. Many thanks to Katie for explaining to me that I need to do the first round of a new color in plain stockinette, instead of the ribbing, to avoid the little "dashes" like I had in the blue one. I was tempted to frog the blue one and reknit it correctly (it is a small hat, after all) but then I fought that perfectionistic thought and let it be.

Here's the scary doll modeling the red one without the little dashes. Yea! You learn something new every day.

Speaking of kiddos, Ed and I were child-free this past weekend. Sam stayed with my sister's family as a trial run for when we go to China to get Sophie. (What a saint: she didn't get much sleep.) As much as I missed Sam, it was great to have a whole 2 days to ourselves. We watched a movie (see below), ate some Thai food, slept a lot and went out to a bar to watch football. And we started a home-improvement project, which I will blog about soon.

Movies to knit by: While knitting these hats, I watched two Netflix movies that we have had for about four months. Both were good, though not exactly uplifting. Frozen River takes place on a Native American reservation and is about two women doing what they have to do to make ends meet for their families. The Wrestler is about an aging professional wrestler (played by Mickey Rourke). Great acting in both, but I liked Frozen River better.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Knitting Christmas

"I never have any difficulty believing in miracles, since I experienced the miracle of a change in my own heart." (St. Augustine)

I got a few knitting-related Christmas gifts this year--mostly from my mom, of course. First, three skeins of Cascade 220 wool in a nice bright red. She had a specific project in mind:

... a sweater for Sophie! So she gave me this book, which I have yet to completely study and choose a fave pattern. Of course, at the rate I'm knitting these days, she'll have to make it!

Tucked in my stocking was this book from Santa. Although I like the idea of knitting a creche, some of these characters are a little scary looking. And they're pretty complicated too. But maybe...

My friend Karen gave me these two little knitted sweater ornaments, which she bought (she is not a knitter, alas). It's funny, because I had bought some little sweaters a long time ago at a craft fair (I think they were supposed to be for teddy bears) and I finally gave them to my mom, who used them as ornaments. Now I have my own--again. I hung these up in my craft room after Christmas so I can enjoy them all year long.

Cute "snowy day" pictures of Sam over at the adoption blog today.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Vintage Christmas (50% off)

"The great problem is bringing life back into the wasteland, where people live inauthentically." (Joseph Campbell)

Although there are TONS of great thrift shops in Chicago, I tend to go to two: the Salvation Army on Broadway and Montrose, and the Village Discount Outlet on Lawrence and Kimball. The Village has sales on most holidays--50% off the whole store. Unfortunately, I'm usually busy doing some fun holiday stuff and can't hit the store. But not this New Year's Day.

I haven't posted any thrift scores in ages, in part because I had cut back on thrifting in the months before our move--and when I did go, it was for wool sweaters for felting or kids clothes. But now that I have a big (relatively--to us) house, I can get a few treasures. Here's what I got for 50% off on New Year's.

First, the Christmas stuff: a vintage Rudoph Golden Book (20 cents), a handmade (but probably not too old) quilted tree hanging (about placemat size and 40 cents), and...

and this quilt, which is so soft that I bought it even though I'm not much into geese. Or is it a swan? It's about crib size and was 90 cents.

Onto non-Christmas vintage. This tablecloth has a few stains on the white edge, but I lvoe the yellow/gold polka dot center. It was 90 cents.

This picnic basket matches one I got last year, though this one doesn't seem old (maybe it's just in great condition.) It was $1.50 and is already full of yarn, just like its mate.

An Irish linen tea towel, 45 cents.

Here's a close-up of the saying.

And a few baby/kid clothes, mostly for Sophie. I love the burgandy corduroy skirt with ball fringe and yarn flower. The striped dress (with leaves for trim) is Gymboree. And the pink boots! So cute. Just plain green cords for Sam. All dirt cheap.

And of course about a dozen wool and cashmere sweaters for felting.

Friday, January 01, 2010

One down, one to go

"Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections but set about remdying them--every day begin the task anew." (St. Francis de Sales)

Hat #1 for our friends who had twin boys on Dec. 26 is done. I used the Huck's Baby Hat (free) pattern from Jimmy Bean's Wool, casting 55 stitches on size 5 doublepointed needles with some Lion Brand cashmere I got on clearance for $4 a skein last Thanksgiving in Lexington, Kentucky. I made it 6 inches, as the pattern called for, but it seems a bit long on this model (a doll given to Sam last night from his friend Mari.) I assume the twins will be a bit bigger, and it will stretch wider and not have so much extra at the top.

The next one is going to be red with a white stripe. Does anyone know how to make it so I don't have those little white "dashes" in the purl part of the rib where I start the white stripe? Mom?

I'm only making three resolutions this year: to start working out again, to go to church more regularly and to blog more regularly at the National Catholic Reporter blog. Oh, and to be a more patient wife and mother. I always do that one.