Friday, September 30, 2011

Backpack Enhancements

 Ooooh, check out that snazzy lookin' backpack up there!

Now that I do about two hours of train and foot travel every day, I need an easy way to cart my projects back and forth between my home and office. I tried something over the shoulder and more fashionable, but the aches weren't worth the approval of sleepy strangers on their morning commute. Thank goodness for my dorky high school backpack, a trusty Eastpack in my long-time favorite color.

See where I removed the Eastpack patch near the top? And the grime I've collected over 10 years? NICE.

I decided the plain bag needed to be updated and maybe say a little about myself. Less, "Look at that grown woman carrying a backpack! Where is she from that that kind of behavior is acceptable? Canada!?" and more, "Look at that crafty girl with her crafty backpack! I bet it's full of crafts and craft supplies. Iowans are neat. I want to be her friend."

I'm making my best embroidery effort with green, orange, and pink floss with both traditional embroidery craft designs and haute tribal-inspired motifs. It'll be a work in progress for a while, a nice thing to slowly add to as I have the time. It's something I can easily do on the train or while the boss naps. Currently I'm adding more thread stitches up the sides (seen below), and a few solid stripes on the face of the bag.

The felt Iowa pin was bought at the Renegade Handmade store when good buddy Liz was in town for a day. I'm thankful for artist Abbey Christine for helping me express pride for my beloved Iowa.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Fall Dress

Pardon the cat face, there were some lazy eyes back there...
Top: Gifted by Carissa
Skirt: My favorite color! Thirfted, $2.00
Belt: Borrowed from another dress
Tights: Target sale last year, $3.00
Boots: My favorites and signatures, $20.00
Approximate Total: $25.00

  Shirt Dress: Thrifted Banana Republic, $3.00
Belt: Vintage colored leather, $.25
Tights: From! $4.00
Boots: Ol' trusties again, $20.00
Earrings: Gorgeous Luxe Debris! Sent in a carepackage by Carissa herself!
Approximate Total: $27.35

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Kitchen Table

There's a significant difference between the way people use Craigslist in Iowa versus Chicago. Namely, people actually use it here and use it correctly. It must be on both hands that I could count how many Iowa CL interactions had gone awry for Jake. Here, responses are immediate and the people don't flake. 

In our first Chicago CL experience, we gained a dirt cheap 1950's formica kitchen table ($25 with the chairs!) and a new friend in the sweet, young seller. We've been invited to fill seats at the big downtown comedy club! She's currently house-sitting in a Frank Lloyd Wright home! She gave me a book she thought I might like when we picked up the table! 

Through full-disclosure on her part, we knew the table was in a very mild state of disrepair. Someone, long ago, screwed in new screws that were too long and too wide for the original holes. The table couldn't stand when it came to live with us, so I was teased for a couple weeks, looking at its underside while it propped against our wall. We moved here without a table of any sort, and I've been itching to be able to sit down and eat my meal properly without having to balance it on my legs while I sit on the couch. I will indulge in a bout of  First World Problems and say it was agony!

Luckily, my handsome roommate is also handy!

 Luchador painting was an overwhelming kind housewarming gift by the artist, Vaclav Hasek. The two prints are from Renegade Craft Fair, and their placement and framing/lackthereof is temporary.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Urban Garden

Our Chicago garden: basil plant plucked from my mom's Iowa garden and re-rooted, organic wheatgrass that looked like this before the cats found it, and a sprig of mint snagged from an alley, keepin' it real in a shot glass of water.

Monday, September 26, 2011


I was inspired by this little sweet pea at lost in the forest to revisit my love of pattern stacking, but try a fall-friendly color pallet. Yes, I love brown, but mostly I am guilty of piling on brighter colors than what is in the autumnal spectrum.

 I wish I had some fun, striped or spotted socks to add, but I generally avoid the things and thus avoid the sock aisle while shopping. Serves me right!

Blouse: Imitation Pucci, thrifted for $1.00
Skirt: Vintage navy blue houndstooth, $2.50
Bolo: Elements bought from the Rock & Gem Show this past spring, and completed with an unpolished agate from my personal collection, $5.00 (revisit the glory of the Rock Show on Carissa's blog!)
Belt: Recent thrift acquisition in Chicago, $.75
Tights: So old I think maybe they just created themselves from a pile of lint in my drawers?
Boots: My loves, my soft brown leather booties, $4.50
Approximate Total: $13.75

My Downtown Life By Night

I live two different, exciting lives here in Chicago. One in the quaint Northern neighborhood of Lincoln Square/North Center, fueled by local business and lacking entirely in tall buildings. The other is downtown, in the swanky River North 'hood, where I spend my time doing this:

Views from my office balcony:

 Across the right side, you can see the Chicago river.

And my train station, Chicago (and Franklin), which is a nice daily reminder and mind-blower that I live in frackin' Chicago:

 The blue antenna belongs to the Sear's Tower.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Thrift Bounty

Silver sneakers! Soft Spot brand, $3.00

I'm a sucker for the look (and flavor) of a carrot. Veggie-printed glass vase, 96cents.
Plastic flamenco hair comb, called a "peineta." I think I might paint it. Lately I feel bewitched by large hair accessories from other cultures (for example, Frida Kahlo's flowers and Maypole Fest crowns). $1.06

Thursday, September 22, 2011


Mutant basil plucked from my mom's garden and replanted in our little kitchen.

At the end of every summer, I manically raid the farmer's markets/family gardens/CSA share and make pasta sauce in an attempt to make the most of the sun and soil's delicious gifts to us. I also love spending hours on end in the kitchen, chopping, concocting, and making a mess.

Approximate Ingredients
this sauce is vegan! but you could definitely add meat if you reallly want to
makes almost a gallon, perfect for freezing and dipping into when winter makes you miss farm fresh veggies
  • 4 lbs(ish) of tomatoes, skinned (I used only about half of this and wish I had bought more!)
  • 5 large carrots, roughly diced
  • 5 celery stalks, roughly chopped
  • 1 whole large , diced
  • 2 big sweet peppers (like bell), diced *seen here are 3 peppers, which is delicious but too much
  • 1 whole head of garlic, finely chopped or pressed
  • 1 cup of chopped mushrooms
  • 4 TBS of olive oil
  • 1 cup red wine
  • Balsalmic vinegar, to taste (about 3 tbs)
  • 1 TBS ground ginger (fresh ginger would be even better if you have it and remember to dig it out!)
  • 1 medium-sized handful of sugar
  • Fresh basil, chopped, to taste
  • Dried red pepper or pepper flakes, to taste (I used two dried chiles)
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste
I put this together in a pretty boring, normal way...most importantly, the oil starts, followed by the onion, a little salt, and garlic a minute later (on top of the onion, so you don't burn it!). What is most important is cooking it for a long time on a low heat, letting it reduce, and tasting as you go. 

All of those beautiful veggies could be roasted beforehand to make an even yummier, smokier sauce. Other veggies (zucchini!) or spices (sage, bay leaf, oregano) would make wonderful additions as well, I just prefer a simple sauce that is more versatile.

Tonight, I'm using this to make a variation on shrimp creole. Tomorrow night, PIZZA!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


We're still in the hunt/gather phase for some things; thrifted frames for our new prints, big colorful rugs, the perfect dining table and chairs...but I have always dreamt of the day that I was able to paint my walls, like "One day I'll be able to paint my home any color I want, and that day I will be a real adult." And it feels just as good as I'd expected, though I certainly don't feel any more grown up. Adulthood will have to wait until I own my washer/dry combo in a furnished basement and an attached garage, I guess. Or maybe one of those fridges inside that garage that is full-sized but dedicated exclusively to canned and bottled beverages? Ha!

I spent almost my entire 5 days off last week covered in latex interior paint. Not especially relaxing, but the stress and body aches have been worth it. We're surrounded by colors! My craft room no longer feels like a captive sweat shop, the entrance no longer a cave, and the dining room and kitchen are cheerful and motivating. We're finally prepared to hunker down during our first Chicago winter. Between these productivity-inducing rainbow walls and Jake's "SAD" lamps, we are going to be dancing and creating our way through the subzero temperatures and gray January skies.

We foolishly chose to put that lovely orange color, "juicy canteloupe," on top of dark navy blue without a primer. Idiots! We knew better, but went against our own judgement. Three coats, 1 gallon of paint, and 1 full Brooke of crabbiness later, the blue was still very visible. After some deliberation, it was agreed that it'd be worthwhile to invest in another gallon of paint. we happened upon the exact right store on the exact right day to find the EXACT SAME COLOR in the "oops paint" section for $7.00. Beyond how lucky I felt, I couldn't stop giggling over how excited we were over a color that someone else had decided was terrible enough to return.

Modeling my underwhelming fall uniform in my newly painted and unorganized craft room.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Renegade Craft Fair

It's like a holiday to some Chicagoans, the Renegade Craft Fair. I can understand why, with almost 300 juried booths filled with expertly, cleverly handcrafted goodies. We dedicated a solid two hour block to shopping and barely made the cutoff, even while bypassing 75% of the booths--not because they weren't wonderful vendors, but because we had ideas in mind of what we wanted and needed and had to resist all other temptations.

After a hot tip from a hot friend, I signed up to volunteer at the fair on Saturday. My duty was to sit at the West Entrance, track attendance, pet dogs, and people watch. Halfway through my shift, the crafty dreamboat fox, Madelon of Renegade, brought me a free Goose Island beer. Not a bad way to spend a sunny afternoon in Chicago. I saw beautiful person after beautiful person walk by with amazing prints and posters of all sizes. With my apartment getting a paint face-lift this week, I resolved to go back Sunday and adopt some new wall decor.

Just a preview of our print and poster bounty. We bought 4 total in various sizes from different vendors, with plenty more on our WANT list. This was hand-drawn and printed by The Peaceful Traveler. The colors are perfect for our apartment's new look, and it appeals to our nerdy love of science and maps.

Spectacular activity book/zine by The Peaceful Traveler (creator also of the Plate Tectonics print above)

My cat-friendly porcelain sprout egg from Eco-Elements! It was cat friendly that two of my fluffy buddies attacked and broke this within 5 minutes of bringing it home. And then again, half an hour later. Cats can be such (loveable) assholes. Good thing the eggs are super affordable, at some point I'll buy one of the six-pack kits and put them high out of asshole reach.

Ethically Engineered's shaving soap to partner with the boo's absolutely terrifying new razor. Maybe this stuff will keep him from shaving his handsome face off?

And here I am, looking like every other girl at Renegade (except you can kinda see my bra--oooops).

Some of my other favorite vendors:
  1. Hundreds of hand-painted colorful dots on upcycled wood at The Bocket Store.
  2. Tree stump furniture by the Elizabeth Element.
  3. Gorgeous pewter animal jewelry by f. is for frank.
  4. Interesting vases and candelabras from Urban Analog.
  5. I grew up with a birch tree in my back yard, so Bettula's jewelry and art seduces me.
  6. Gorgeous, asymmetrical jewelry made of natural resources at yellowgrey--reminds me a lot of Luxe Debris!
  7. I felt like I was meeting The Beatles of modern handcrafts when I came upon Paul at Tugboat Print Shop. Be still my heart! Check out the team's amazing, AMAZING process here.
  8. Nate Duval's prints are definitely in my "next to buy" queue. Love 133 Buildings and The Duke of Iris.
  9. I really wanted one of Larken's mugshot prints, but my roommate thought we should wait...
  10. Beautiful and uncommon scents in gorgeous packaging For Strange Women and men, too.
  11. Tastelessly funny cards done right by McBitterson's (this one got me!).
  12. I'd really like one of these i am home fences on my wall (they also have fun chalkboard skulls).
  13. Fringe earrings made from bike tubes! Verte Moderne Jewelry nails it.