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Chicago Reunion Trip

I had never been to Chicago before so I am aware the title of this post is a little deceptive.  The reunion part of the trip was in the form of KW and Max–my two awesome roommates from when I lived in Washington, DC 10 years ago.  We all live in different parts of the country now and don’t talk as often as we should so when Max suggested a reunion over Labor Day we all jumped at the chance and actually made it happen.  We picked Chicago because none of us had been there before and because it was a good central location.  (Actually, technically I have been there before but I was a teenager and with my family on a huge road trip and we didn’t really see anything in the city so I don’t count it.)

So, I loved Chicago.  If you love cities (and goodness knows I do) you will love Chicago too.  First, the food…

On a first trip to Chicago you HAVE to have deep dish pizza.  We got ours at a famous place called Giordano’s.  I think it might be a touch too famous as the line there was INSANE.  We fought the crowds, got up to the counter where they told us we could put our name down, wait an hour and a half, and then come back and order our pizza.  We did as we were told only to find out that once you order the pizza, the wait is another hour before you sit down.  At this point we were at the end of a long day and opted instead to have the pizza delivered to our hotel (to cook the pizza and deliver it was going to take the same amount of time).

Deep Dish

Pizza in your hotel bed while watching a pay-per-view movie…perfect.

We went to some great restaurants.  Rick Blayless’ XOCO had really amazing sandwiches and guac as well as churros for dessert with a shot of chocolate and some Mexican vanilla ice cream for dipping.

Mmmm...churros

So good.

Another noteworthy meal was Heaven on Seven for brunch.  One of the brunch options is a buffet style meal.  There is not a buffet set up in the restaurant but if you order the buffet you get a variety of dishes brought to your table, all you can eat, for everyone to enjoy–100% participation is required.  Once we saw this deal, obviously we all decided to enjoy the buffet.  We were brought scrambled eggs, thick cut bacon and sausage, potatoes, shrimp and grits, cornbread, and all of our personal favorite…bananas foster french toast.  Yeah.  We ended up getting seconds of that perfect food.  It was divine.

Heaven on Seven buffet

We also snacked on copious amounts of Garrett’s popcorn–we got the mix of cheese and caramel popcorn and it was amazing–although it turned my fingers fluorescent orange whenever I ate it.  KW didn’t have the same problem and I couldn’t understand why until I watched her actually eat some popcorn.  She swiftly but delicately would pop each kernel into her mouth, one at a time but really fast, which resulted in super clean hands.  I really must remember to eat more lady-like when consuming large amounts of popcorn.

We also loved the Doubletree cookie we received at check-in to our hotel.  Max tried to fib sweet-talk her way into another cookie when we checked out but the lady ignored us and we remained cookie-less.  Sad.

So the food, it was really great.  Chicago is known for it and I got a small taste as to why.  You would think that was all we did (interspersed between bouts of food comas) but no.  We managed to get out and experience some of the town too.

We went to a Cubs game.  I am not a huge baseball fan but I do enjoy seeing a game in person.  Plus, Wrigley Field is historic and an arena unlike any other I have been to.  You can just feel the history there.

Me and KW at Wrigley

Our seats were located in a section that was nicely shaded–only problem, this was the kind of day where you really needed the sun to be comfortable.  I learned why Chicago is called the Windy City.  The wind coupled with the lack of direct sunlight resulted in a very cold watching experience.  But still, it was fun to be there.

Us at Wrigley

One of the highlights of the trip was going to the Chicago Art Institute.  There is some amazing art there that we had a lot of fun exploring (and taking pictures with).

Max as art

Max as modern art.

Us at the museum

Some took a little more time to take in.

Max listening

Max listening in.

We also walked around Millennium park, took lots of pictures of ourselves in the bean,

Us looking into the Bean

and saw other cool outdoor art.

Chicago outdoor art

If you wait a few minutes he starts crying.  It’s pretty deep.

One morning, we took an Agricultural river cruise.  Chicago has some of the most interesting and historic buildings and architecture in the U.S. so this tour was very interesting and a great way to see the city.

Chicago Agricultural River Tour

Our tour guide was awesome but she also looked and sounded exactly like the girl who plays the super fan Mel from Flight of the Conchords.  I’m not joking, I even wondered what the possibility of them being the same person was.

Tour guide as girl from FoC

Hi Mel. You were an awesome tour guide.

Perhaps the coolest thing we did was visit Oak Park to see Frank Lloyd Wright’s first family home, the studio he built, as well as a ton of homes in the neighborhood that he designed.  We were able to go on a tour of the inside of his house and it is hands down worth the trip out there.  He really was a genius and you can see it even in his early work.  I was in awe the whole tour long.  I wish they would have let us take pictures of the inside but alas, you will have to settle for this.

Frank's Studio

Outside Frank’s studio

As you can see, this trip was awesome.  What made it even more special was I got to reconnect with two friends who I love and share a lot of history with.  True friendships stand the test of time and pick up right where you left off.  KW and Max are those kind of friends.

Us at the Bean

Love you girls.

Yeah, I crochet

Before last weekend the only crochet I had attempted was some edging for a knit project.  I didn’t really have the desire to learn to crochet because (generally) I like the look of knitting better.  I figured knitting was enough and I didn’t need crochet.  But over the years a few projects crossed my path, and project by project my prejudice quickly melted away.

Of course, the desire to crochet is not enough–you still have to learn how and I was dragging my feet.  As a result of my call for inspiration (thank you, thank you to everyone who shared what is inspiring you) I decided that learning a new skill might be just what I need.  (It was.)

I bought the book The Happy Hooker as my reference guide (in honor of the SnB book that taught me how to knit in the first place), created a few swatches and then went to town on my chosen project.  Ever since I saw Nova’s GORGEOUS hexagon blanket I knew my time as a non-crochet person was ending soon.  I had to have one too.

I got some yarn:

Cascade 220Cascade 220 in all kinds of heavenly colors

And here are my first hexagons:

First 5 hexagonsLOVE.

I am a wee bit addicted to making these right now.  I love them.  I love picking the color of each round as I go.  I love how each hexagon is different and has its own personality (really, they do!)  I love how fast crochet goes which leads to more instant gratification.

One thing I feel I have to admit though, I’m not sure I’m doing it right.  Meaning the whole crochet thing.  The book teaches to hold the working yarn in your left hand (like when you knit continental style).  I started out that way and honestly am not sure when it changed but a few hours into crocheting I noticed I was holding the yarn in my right hand–exactly like I do in knitting, using my pointer finger to control my tension and everything.  It has been working for me so I hesitate to bring it up but I thought I would in case anyone knows why I shouldn’t be doing this.  Am I forming a bad habit?

Overall this project was exactly what I needed.  I am feeling creative again.  I am itching to make stuff again.  I choose to knit a hexagon over playing ninjump on my iPhone…and that folks, is progress.

A dress!

So, I made a dress.

Vogue 8469
I finished the dress a couple of months ago but didn’t hem it until this weekend.  Thankfully the weather is still pretty warm here so I was able to wear it at least once before the season really changes.

The pattern I used was Vogue 8469.  I had to make an adjustment to the bodice–adding about 4 inches to it in order for the waist band to actually make it to my waist (I did a muslin of the bodice and everything!)  The fabric is cotton but with a titch of spandex so it has a nice body to it.

The dress is far from perfect–if you look closely it is clear I am not an expert seamstress.  Putting in the zipper was my least favorite part (and now that it is done opening and closing the zipper by myself requires some serious arm bending).  The waist is pretty snug so gaining weight is not an option (which I suppose is a good thing).  As for the pattern itself, the sleeves turned out a little shorter than I was picturing and I wish they were a bit longer as I don’t love short cap sleeves on me.  Overall though, I am happy with the way it turned out.  And while I won’t be appearing on Project Runway anytime soon…I am pleased with my sewing progress.

Vogue 8469 close

Now that this dress is finally finished I can’t help but think of what’s next.  Ideally something without a zipper.  I mean really, do our clothes actually need zippers?  I think a lot more people would take up and stick to sewing if zippers weren’t involved.  Just saying.

Wanted: Inspiration

Thanks to my blog and it’s handy archives, I have noticed a pattern with me.  At least over the past 4 years, I tend to get a little sluggish around this time of year.  The end of summer/pre-fall season.  I don’t want to knit or sew–can’t really think of anything I want to make.  I don’t want to cook or try new dishes.  I certainly don’t want to blog.  I am tired.  Bored.  Uninspired.  Simply put, in a funk.

If I could write this off as an isolated occurrence I would feel better but using my blog as evidence, this is a pattern.  This discovery is troubling to me.  Fall is my favorite season…or so I have always thought.  Actually no.  It is.  Fall is my favorite.  I love the weather and the food and the holidays and the clothes and everything about how it feels.  So why aren’t I anticipating it?  Gearing up?  Planning my fall adventures?

My worry is that (as in years past) the funk that falls over me bleeds a little too far into the actual season.  Thus spoiling, or at least preventing me from fully enjoying fall.  I am not sure how to snap out of it but I figure recognizing the pattern is my first step.  Second step…Inspiration.

My first thought was knitting.  I need to start knitting something I actually want to wear and make.  Everything I have started since I finished the carp hasn’t done anything for me.  I go to ravelry for the first time in ages and the first pattern I see…Delancey Cardigan!  Ummm…I love it!  Looks different and fun to make.  Plus it looks like something that would actually look good on me.

Could this be it?  The answer to my post-summer/pre-fall funk?  Maybe it is that easy but just to be safe I think I need a little more inspiration to wake my soul up a bit.  So I was thinking, maybe you guys (the faithful still reading my blog) could help me out.  What has been inspiring/exciting you lately?  Doesn’t need to be knitting or craft related–really anything: a recipe, pattern, song, book, quote, activity…whatever.  Thanks in advance.  As you can see, I can really use your help.

Carp. Done.

I was discussing the carp sweater the other day with a family friend.  He asked me how much something like it would cost to buy–meaning a hand-knit sweater like it.  I told him my estimate of how much time the sweater has taken me (160 squares with each square averaging 1 hour to complete = 160 hours at least.)  So he took that and factored in $50 an hour for my time (it would have to be worth my while after all if I was knitting for pay) which resulted in him declaring that if I sold the carp I would have to charge $8,000.  Um, yeah.  So if anyone is interested in seeing what an eight thousand dollar sweater looks like…

Okay, I love it.  Not, “I love it except for this wonky bit in the back” or “I really like it but in an ideal world it would be a few inches longer” or “It would be better if I had paid better attention to my row gauge.”  No buts.  I just love it.

For those familiar with the saga of this sweater you may remember my being nervous because I had no idea how it would fit.  Because of its crazy construction (knit in metered squares forming long diagonal strips of fabric that eventually sync up and form a sweater) I had no indication of how it would turn out.  I often have to change a pattern to fit my body and with this pattern I couldn’t alter anything without majorly confusing the pattern so I was forced to knit it as written and trust it would work out.  It did.

I was lucky that the yarn I choose matched the gauge close enough that I didn’t have to worry too much.  If you are doing a yarn sub that gives you a very different gauge I would recommend doing all the math to make sure you are making the right size.  This sweater invests way too much of your time to NOT do your homework.

The top uses two colors of yarn.  I tried to pick two shades of green that are close enough to each other in shade so when you look at the sweater from a far it gives the illusion of being one interesting color and you can only really see it is made up of two different colors when you get close.  I think I did a pretty good job of pulling that off.  One of the yarns is a little more shiny and the other more matte but both are kind of sage-y green.  I am pleased with how they work together.

One of my favorite parts on this top are the sleeves.  If you look closely you can see how the two sleeve halves mirror the mitered squares by alternating which yarn has the purl ridge.

Stats

Pattern: the carp

Source: Japanese Inspired Knits

Yarn: Karabella Vintage Cotton & Reynolds Sunday Best

Needles: US 2 & 1 1/2

Size: 39

So I love it, and I have little interest in giving it up…but I should say, if anyone loves the sweater $8,000 worth, give me a shout.  I bet we can work something out. 🙂

  1. Prison Break.  The TV show.  All seasons are on Netflix instant watch and my good friend Teri had recommended the show to me a while ago so I tried it…and can’t stop watching it.  I am on the final season now so soon I will have my life back.
  2. Vivid dreams.  Lately I have had a rash of them.  I suspect it has something to do with number 1.  Last night Lincoln from the show stopped by my dream which was lovely.  Characters from the show are welcome just as long as T-bag stays away.
  3. A small bowl of Multi-grain Cherrios when I get home from work or the gym.  For whatever reason, with it staying light so much later right now I just don’t feel like cooking dinner.  So right now, at 7pm, nothing sounds better than a bowl of this particular cereal.
  4. Cup hooks.  My brother-in-law Adam came by a couple weeks ago to help me with some stuff around my house.  One thing we did was install cup hooks in the kitchen and every time I look at them they make me happy.  It is the little things folks.
  5. Karaoke Revolution.  When Kara and I were roomies we had much more of an opportunity to break out the game and sing our little hearts out, often with lil sis Bri in tow.  Fun times I tell you.  I don’t ever do it on my own so it has been a while but lately I have had some occasions to karaoke again.  By far my favorite experience was when my nephew Ryan decided to give it a go.  He was fearless…even when booed of the stage by computer generated concert goers.
  6. My view.  In particular my across the street neighbors.  They do a fantastic job with their flowers and lawn and every time I open my curtains I am greeted with the sights of a beautifully designed and maintained garden.  I love it so much I think I am going to send them a thank you note in the mail.  Just trying to decide if it will come off as creepy or not.
  7. My office space heater.  Holy cow I love this thing.  A co-worker had a spare and gave it to me when I mentioned the sub zero temperatures I have been working in now that summer time air conditioning is in full effect.  Admittedly, I am a wee bit addicted to the heat but I can’t begin to express how happy it makes me.
  8. Drinking my homemade light chocolate soy milk/banana/peanut butter smoothie with a straw.  Especially the bendy kind.
  9. Listening to Pandora radio on my iPhone while working out or while getting ready in the mornings.  I never know what little gem is going to pop up on the playlist.  Love it.

So there you go, nothing like a good itemized list to break me out of my no-blog slump.

I have wanted to put up an inspiration board for years–ever since I had a designated craft room in my Denver apartment–but just never got around to doing it…until now.  In my new place I knew exactly where the inspiration board should go but couldn’t find a big enough bulletin board for the space so I ended up buying 4 smaller ones, initially thinking I would cover each in a different kind of fabric.  None of the fabrics I picked were working for me AND with the color of the walls.  Some were perfect individually but none really went all together.  So I sat on it while I thought, and thought, and finally one day I was talking it out with Kara and the idea came to us…why not use all one fabric?   So I did.

Fabric is Anna Maria Horner’s Branching Out.

I love it!  Almost enough to not tack anything on it.  But then I did.

And I loved it even more.  I had a hard time getting a good close up shot but there are some pictures of outfits I ripped from magazines and catalogs, some of my favorite photos (one of my all time favorite Halloween costume, Wonder Woman, sewn my my Mom and a casual shot of my Mom and Dad when they were dating), my old passport (idea stolen from Kara), postcards, a take out menu from a great restaurant in Denver, my MS walk medal…

It is a work in progress, but the studio/craft room is well on its way.

Just in case you were wondering if the shoes I made little Maggie before she was born fit…wonder no more.

Sigh.

I love her feet.  I love these shoes.  I love her.

All about…Kara

You guys know my sister right?

Well, for those that do and for those that don’t, here is a random, itemized list all about her:

  • Kara is 4 years my junior and pretty much idealized me while growing up (let’s be frank, I doubt this has changed much.)
  • We share A LOT of the same obsessions: travel, knitting, sewing, urban living, young adult literature, all things British.
  • I don’t really remember when this happened but at least post-High School graduation Kara has always been “the funny/clever/witty one”.
  • Kara has way better hair than I do (but my toes are better than hers so it all evens out.)
  • I once had a group of co-workers who labeled Kara “bad sister” because of the difference in how I talked to her on the phone as opposed to baby sister Bri (who was labeled: “good sister”.)
  • Kara is not (and has never been) a “bad sister”.
  • Kara is like a mama bear to her cubs when the people she loves are hurt or wronged. Lesson: don’t mess with Kara’s people.
  • Kara’s last passport got so full she needed to expand the pages.
  • Kara LOVED animals when she was a kid, so much so that she once declared herself a vegetarian but couldn’t make it stick due to a slight addiction to Chicken McNuggets.
  • Kara still loves herself some Chicken McNuggets.
  • And finally…today is Kara’s birthday!

Happy birthday to my beautiful, brave, creative, strong, adventuresome sister.  I am grateful every day that God saw fit to give you to me.  Love you Kara.

Um, I believe I have just found the greatest invention ever.  Are you ready?

A reclining armchair/blanket combo!!!

(Make sure you scroll through all the pictures to really see what I am talking about.)

If it weren’t so weird and my place wasn’t so small I would be ALL over this.