Archive for May, 2008

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This girl turned 3-2 last week AND celebrated engagement to the Crafty Mister with parents who flew in from Philadelphia to meet Mister’s extended family, cry with happiness, lend advice, etc. The best part of all this celebrating was putting on a purple dress (thrifted of course) and yapping with people I love while sipping on The Recipe. I got some really sweet gifts, too, including tickets from the Mister to *George Michael in Concert* at the United Center Isn’t he a GEM?

I love this backpack picnic basket we can take to the beach and to Millennium Park for free concerts all summer like ANDREW BIRD – from the Mister’s aunt and uncle.

It’s outfitted with everything you need for a meal on a lawn, including a cheese cutting board and wine bottle holder, and enough dining accoutrements so I won’t have any guilt of tossing plastic throwaways every time we eat dinner under the sky.

We bike to Millennium Park maybe once a week starting in June, or to Grant Park for summer outdoor movies, both excellent reasons to put up with the hassles (read: rampant corruption) of living in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois.

My mother of course gave me leopard pajamas and leopard mixing bowls.

I don’t buy myself PJs anymore since it might hurt her feelings. Also she has a knack for knowing when I’ve worn out the old ones. These are summer weight and trimmed with red. She’s my original leopard lady, and I’ve followed in her footsteps as best I can. since I’ve pretty much given up on retail shopping, spotted kitchen accessories are news to me.

My mother’s friend sent a stunning cookbook – The Silver Spoon – originally published in Italy in the 1950s and recently available in English.

The Mister is coming around to the Italian cooking I grew up with, and is leaning slowly toward those flavors rather than the Mexican ones to which he gravitates. This book is the best bedtime story ever since we could read about food aloud to each other all the time.

I didn’t know some of these vegetables existed — and the Silver Spoon has six ways to cook them deliciously (I do know what turnips are, but not six ways to cook them).

Cousins shared from their collection of vintage campaign buttons, since we both are journalism nerds who like this kind of thing. I ran off with the one from an ancient coroner’s race — when Cook County used to have a a coroner instead of a medical examiner. Can’t wait to make some sort of upholstered frame to stick them on as a display.

And I absolutely love this gorgeous birthday gift:

It’s a limoncello starter, started by one of the Mister’s best friends, the Polch. Polch has been on a brewing and distilling kick all winter, and I’d been admiring the homemade limoncello he and his Lady have been making, so he started a jar for us to keep going at home with citrus peels and more plain old booze, as well as instructions for finishing this delicious southern Italian liqueur. Much as I love homemade presents to give I love to receive them, too.

* More to come in future blogs about outfit for GM.

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thrift therapy

As I write these words I know they’re wrong. I know it’s wrong to deal with emotional turmoil using a shopping cart. I’m also having quite a time at my job, and am tired to singing the same song to my Crafty Mister, who, to his credit, doesn’t tire of hearing it.

My office is in a terrible part of the Chicago area, in a built up McMansioned, retail hell containing fake-blue-water fountains, “upscale” chain stores and restaurants, and flocks of entitled drivers of ridiculous, expensive vehicles. Also, it’s 22 miles from my home and though we changed offices this year, the Powers did not even consider proximity to public trans for the 5 of us (out of 9) who live in the city, close to said public trans. Grrrrr.

The only upside to working in awful materialistic suburbs is the thrifting (grocery shopping is convenient, too) . A-holes who live at malls shed a lot of clothing, and leave all kinds of quality merch at 2 particular Salvy stores – one on the way home, one that requires a little more of a trip. And since my taste differs from the Mexican ladies who shop the one, and the Polish and Palestinian ladies at the other, I usually hit the jackpot.

Last week while passing each store, I stopped in.

Bunch of these goodies will go to Etsy. Bunches of the purple sort will stay in my closet where they await me.

I used to skeeve thrifted shoes because they’re harder to clean than your standard hot-water-washable blouse. But now that most shoes are made so cheaply from “man-made materials,” I prefer the older leather ones. Can’t always drop $90 on a single quality pair, especially a pair meant for fun, and I don’t want to drop that on shoes that only go to the hated office.

Ashamed to say I feel better.

Anda, anda everywhere…and nowhere

I spotted several Anda bastardizations in Old Navy ads lately, which prompted me to finally make one already:

And so I’m spending a day with myself (while the Mister works a nightshift), mocking up an Anda in light purple poly fabric I got from a kind Chicago Freecycler, since it’s fabric I don’t love love love, but could totally live with if the pattern fits and flatters. Other beauty of the solid color is that it’ll totally cry out for freezer paper stenciling once it’s done, and I’ve been thinking about evil eye designs for only the last decade or so. Such a charming, basic dress. Here’s hoping. I don’t use Burda Style patterns enough, though I’m beginning to look at them more.

Might have to mess with the neckline a la Old Navy ads, though, since that high Anda neck doesn’t flatter a bust such as my own. Let the experiment begin!

**

Ugh. Anda that matches my measurements is an awful tent.

**

I’ve since pulled in the sides considerably. Instead of putting in elastic, I experimented with a purple sequined belt at different “waists”: high, natural, drop. They’re all terrible. Might have to face it.

Anda just might not work for me.

Governor’s yard sale

We used to call the neighborhood garage sale annual extravaganza in Chicago’s Ravenswood Manor the Governor’s Yard Sale because Ill. Gov. Rod Blagojevich lives there and when first elected, socialized and pitched a table of goods to hawk. Now that he’s generally hated for doing *nothing* on the taxpayer’s dime except hand over jobs and $$$ to campaign contributors (allegedly), he’s nowhere to be seen. But the name stuck in my mind because they’re some of the loveliest homes in Chicago and there’s good stuff to be bought. Totally a solid mix of junk for cheap and antiques for relatively cheap.

I was pretty restrained this year. With all the recent fuss of intended nuptials, I’m feeling a little full of stuff and over-crafted — or at least over committed to the crafts I’ve already started. But a few wonderful bargains could not be resisted.

yard sale dishes

Four dishes printed like fancy cheeses in a round cheese sort of box $1.

Packet of holy cards, mostly feat. O.L. Miss Manners tome (heart her!) for $2. Vintage knitting pattern catalog (free to a good home).

yard sale

Necklace kit containing 55 freshwater pearls and the hardware to put it together for $.50.

Packages of lovely stationery with scalloped or torn edges, glossy or matte paper, white or rosewood or heart-printed, 6 for $5, and a box of pint-sized Mason jars I’ve been wanting for the dried spices from the bulk bins or the garden, and the hot sauce the Mister likes to make once the pepper plants do their thing.

yard sale fatima

Portrait in needlepoint of Our Lady of Fatima I’ll use to make a present for my friend and fellow lover of Our Lady, Kelly B.

And this smocked apron, hand sewn by a grandma of the woman who sold it to me for $1. The hand work that went into the tiny tucks and rick-rack edging make me dizzy, since it’s not a ball gown – it’s a utilitarian apron.

yard sale apron pocket

How lucky am I to live in the 21st century where crafting is a choice, not a means of survival?

Same lady had a sewing chair for sale – a low cushioned chair with a flip up seat that reveals storage space for mending and darning bits. I left it there since I’ve already dragged home 7 or 8 chairs, and then the Mister always asks, “Why do you want that?” and “Where will it go?” I want it because the ottoman I sit on at my desk (upholstered from a nightstand) isn’t comfortable at all. Might have to knock on the lady’s door and see if she’ll sell it a week later.

See, I totally come from scavenger stock, and some of my earliest memories with my mother’s grandmother involve touring and throwing yard sales with her. The best part of these sales is purging junk from the house that other people can and still will use.

If you come away with a few $$$, it’s even more fun.

Crafty Mister

My Mister asked if I would marry him. And he asked me after the Dolly Parton show in a photobooth of a Chicago bar where we (and Dolly) have some history. And it turns out he’s super crafty, having made a fantastic ring from one belonging to my grandmother AND having timed the proposal so the photobooth flashed while Promises were being made.

I am a happy, lucky lady. I have a fabulous man who’s mine for, as he now likes to snark, a Lifetime. And he gave me a token of that Lifetime fits me perfectly.

My father told me my grandmother also married in her 32nd year. Like me.

And my Mister’s grandmother’s advice was, “Never take the ring off. Ever.”

Done and done.

How to… cut a top from a bad fit

Remember this mess of a fit handed down from a cousin?

Boxy cut is too big in all the wrong places, stretchy fabric catches on tiny front hooks, red square sequins a bit much for most uses.

But it’s precisely those red square sequins that made this an irresistable keeper.

Enter Dolly Parton concert for inspiration. Dolly has no fear. She grew up dirt poor. She married at 20 and stuck it out. She takes all kinds of risks. She laughs it off when people are rude and tacky to her. And she loves to show off a bosom.

So take her moxie to heart, and give a big chop of something you know fits really awfully a try. Here’s how I did it (and it was a long time in the making):

1. REMOVE SLEEVES. I sliced through the shoulder seams to remove the sleeves whole. I also cut off the tiny hooks and eyes meant to hold the front closed because they caught on the fabric.

2. PULL IN SIDES. Fit to your body, pin and stitch well. What were boxy shoulders now are effortless cap sleeves.

3. CUT OUT A NECK. The front used to close all the way up – I wanted a loose V-shape, so I had to cut off the excess fabric from the original neck. Also meant pulling off, one by one, the sequins that line the edge.

4. FINISH NECK. Hem the neck by hand or with a binding. I sewed in grosgrain ribbon with the machine, then hand hemmed it over.

5. CLOSE IT UP. Tried a bunch of things to make this a top rather than a cardigan. Wrap-style with ribbon ties looked silly. Pinned the sleeves like a band to the bottom to hold the wrap felt too bulky. Finally – since I knew I wanted the sequins to stretch out into a design – I sewed two big snaps on the bottom corners.

The first set was sewn to the inside and a corner,

the other to the outside.

6. PULL OUT THE BOOTS AND GO. I’ll add a tiny ruffled cami top underneath, and a fitted denim skirt on bottom before going out in public.

and back

Dolly! This week!

She‘s coming this week and I’m all set.

View cinematic oeuvre (9 to 5, Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Rhinestone, Steel Magnolias, Straight Talk). Check.

Check out old interviews on the Tube. Watch new video with Amy Sedaris, old musical specials on DVD. Check.

Learn words to Hard Candy Christmas, To Daddy, Tennessee Mountain Home. Check.

And now my bosom is ready to shine! I finished my fabulous TOP the better to sparkle along with the lady Dolly.

Lucky my Mister was stuck at work covering the Indiana primary until very late this eve, freeing me up to think about how to get this refashioned bugger to work.

If you recall, I started out with a giant boxy stretchy red cardigan jacket, handed down from a cousin. And I ended up with the Hottest Little Dolly Top in Chicago.

As always, there’s a How to… right here.