Monday, January 25, 2016

Requiem for Velma

Darlings, it's been a couple of weeks since my last blog. I apologize. I've been in kind of a funk lately. My beautiful tiny black cat, Velma, died in her sleep early in the morning on January 8th.

I'd had Velma and her sister, Roxie, since they were tiny baby kitties. When I brought them home, they each fit in my cupped hand. I was there when they learned how to purr. Velma saw me through eleven and a half years. Four apartments. Five significant others.

Around Thanksgiving, I noticed that she was developing some growths on her chest. Around Christmas, I saw that those growths were impeding her lung capacity. Through it all, she ate, drank, played, and snuggled just like always. But I knew I had to do something. I was waiting for my first paycheck after our holiday break from the opera to take her to the vet. She had other plans. My roommate, Sarah, woke up first that morning. She went into the kitchen and saw Velma lying on her side under the kitchen table. On a normal morning, Velma would bounce up when someone entered the kitchen in the morning to see if there was kibble or fresh water to be had. This time Velma didn't move a muscle. Sarah came into my room and said, "Dawn-Marie, wake up sweetie. Something is wrong with Velma." I got up quickly and dashed to the kitchen. I touched Velma's cold little body. She was gone.

Sarah and I surmised from Velma's position that she hadn't suffered. She was lying on her side, all four legs extended, tail curled gracefully behind her. It appeared that she had gone to sleep and simply forgotten to wake up. The silver lining is that Roxie got to see Velma. Got to know that she had died, that she hadn't just gone away and not come home. She got to mourn Velma as Sarah and I did. Roxie was disconsolate that day. She was listless and occasionally let out a mournful caterwaul. I was scared that she would never be my happy, silly Roxie again. Thankfully, in the past couple of weeks, Roxie has learned to love her only child status.

Velma was the alpha cat. However, she was a savvy alpha cat, allowing the physically dominant Roxie to believe that she was the alpha most of the time. It was beautiful to watch her machinations! Roxie played checkers while Velma played chess. When We moved into the Barbie Dreamhouse, Roxie stayed in the cat carrier for so long that I worried that she was sick (She wasn't; she was just chicken!!). Velma, on the other hand, sprang out of the carrier to find out what new adventure she was on. She explored every inch of the apartment and rubbed her face on everything, claiming it as her own.

Velma loved gyro meat and french fries. She loved ice cream -- the cow milk kind, not the coconut milk kind, thank you very much -- and was rather disappointed with me when I went vegan. She loved yarn. Oh, how she loved yarn! Roxie lost interest in yarn very early in my crochet journey. But Velma was obsessed with it til the very end. One of my favorite pictures of her was one I took just over a month ago. I was crocheting in bed and she fell asleep in the middle of the skeins of yarn. I captioned the photo, "My shop foreman, sleeping on the job!"

Velma had just this summer discovered the joys of iced coffee. I tried to shoo her away from my glass, but she just kept sneaking back to lap it up. Just what I needed, a caffeinated cat!!

Velma was a beautiful, funny, nurturing little weirdo. My world got much smaller when she left me. I took comfort in the fact that she died on David Bowie's birthday. And then Bowie died two days later. But that's another story for another blog.

That's all the news for now. This week's Stitch 'n' Bitch is Thursday at 7pm at R Public House. I hope to see you there. They make a mean vegan pizza. Until next time, Peace, Love, and Yarn!

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Stitchin' and Bitchin'

Hi, sweeties! Happy Thursday! I hope you're all kicking major butt in your chosen endeavors in 2016.

Tonight is the first Stitch 'n' Bitch of the New Year. People are often very curious about the term Stitch 'n' Bitch. No, we're not a bunch of bitter old broads sitting around and knitting our enemies' names into our work like Madame Defarge. We do a lot more laughing than bitching, actually. It rhymes, friends! It just rhymes! No, I didn't make it up. Debbie Stoller has a series of knitting and crocheting books called Stitch 'n' Bitch. So I lovingly appropriated the term. Yes, we will teach or advise if you've always wanted to learn to knit or crochet, or if you're a neophyte and need some guidance on a project. No, you don't have to knit or crochet to hang with us. We don't discriminate. People draw, fold origami, do bookbinding, quilt, cross-stitch, or just sit and chat. All of these things are totally acceptable.

Years ago, when I started my Stitch 'n' Bitches, it was just my beloved Matt Andersen and me working diligently on our projects. Matt is deaf, so he can't talk while he knits or crochets -- he must choose one or the other! So when other hearing people joined our merry band, they were surprised at how quiet our Stitch 'n' Bitch was. I had just grown accustomed to stitching in silence. (People who know me well are laughing at the prospect of me doing ANYTHING in silence!) On the rare occasions when Matt is able to join us, I do a LOT more bitching than stitching. In sign language, of course!!

Tonight's festivities are at Rogers Park Social, 6920 N. Glenwood. The merriment begins at 7:00. Please feel free to join us if you're in the neighborhood!

Here's a picture of my very talented friend Victoria and me crocheting at the Glenwood Avenue Arts Fest in August.
That's the news for now, my darlings! We'll see you at Social if you're able. Until next time, Peace, Love, and Yarn!!

Monday, January 4, 2016

Happy New Year!

Happy 2016, my darlings! I hope your holidays were filled with laughter and love. Mine most certainly were, and I'm looking forward to a brilliant, creative, and joyful new year.

Stitch 'n' Bitches are making a triumphant return in 2016! If you have a portable craft that you like to play at, please join us for crafting, socializing, and imbibement. You don't have to be a crocheter or a knitter -- we don't discriminate. We've had pen and ink artists, illustrators, bookbinders, quilters, cross-stitchers, and even loved ones who don't craft and just want to hang out! We'll be at Rogers Park Social, 6920 North Glenwood, this Thursday at 7:00. This will mark the return of our first and third Thursday at Social, second and fourth Thursday at R Public House, 1508 West Jarvis. For more information, join the Facebook group, Rogers Park Stitchers.

These fine establishments are also the homes of my Tipsy Craft Circus neighborhood craft markets. We'll be at R Public House in March and September, and at Rogers Park Social in June and November. If you or someone you love is an artist or crafter who wants to sell their wares in a fun and laid-back environment, please get in touch with me for details on those events. 

I'm working on some new projects and building inventory so I can take my Etsy store live again. It's been dormant for an embarrassingly long time, and it's time to make things happen in the online market arena. Here are a couple of my new items that I'll be selling on Etsy.
These are my harpist gloves. This yarn is so delicious and soft, and my best friend Sarah says they make her feel kinda tough when she wears them!!

This is the prototype of a coffee cozy I designed. I sold a bunch of these for Christmas gifts!! They were a very popular gift for teachers.

I'm also excited about learning some new stitches this year to up my crochet game. I was inspired by my dear friend Victoria to learn the primrose stitch, and it was life-changing! Now I want to learn more specialty stitches. And when I learn them, I'll share them with you.

That's about all the news for now. My goal is to publish two posts a week, on Mondays and Thursdays, so we'll see you back here on Thursday. Meanwhile, Peace, Love, and Yarn!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Sometimes I Cook Too

I wasn't intending to blog today. To be honest, I wasn't intending to do most of what I've done today. But I'm on staycation, so I go with the flow!! It all started when I texted my gal pal Johanna to see if she had a gown I could borrow for an upcoming fancy dress function. She asked if I wanted to come over tomorrow and watch movies with her. Well, of course I do -- she's delightful!! She said she'd supply the wine, so I offered to make snacks. Being mostly vegan, I find it's beneficial to show up with food to share so that I'm guaranteed to have something that I can eat and the omnivores learn that vegan food is delicious and fun.We couldn't decide between savory and sweet, so I said I'd bring both. Johanna is gluten-free, so I said I'd make vegan gluten-free brownies, black bean hummus, and spicy oven-roasted chickpeas.

Which brings me to why I'm blogging. These recipes need to be shared! I had made the brownies before, but with all-purpose flour. The other two recipes are new and so very delicious! I've included links to all three recipes below.

The brownie recipe is from Minimalist Baker. I love the recipes on Minimalist Baker! The only changes I made were I used chia eggs (1 Tbls. chia seeds and 2.5 Tbls. water) instead of flax eggs, and I substituted Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free 1 to 1 Flour for the all-purpose. I also added in a very healthy 1/3 cup of chocolate chips, as recommended.

The black bean hummus recipe is from My It's my first experience with this website. Rest assured, I'll be back. I left out the cilantro, because when I went to the grocery store I thought I had cilantro at home. When I got home, I realized that was not the case. And I wasn't feeling another trip to the store. So my black bean hummus is cilantro-free. Not everybody likes cilantro anyway. Oh, and I used the juice of a whole lime. I like lime.

The last treat I made, the spicy oven-roasted chickpeas, came from This is my maiden voyage with this website as well. I was not disappointed! The chickpeas are crunchy and have just the right amount of bite to them. I hope I can keep my hands off of them for tomorrow! And if I can't, they're so easy to make, I'll just make another batch!

That's the hot news for now. Last night's Stitch 'n' Bitch at R Public House was really fun! I won't be at next Thursday's even at Rogers Park Social, as I will be on vacation in scenic Portland, Oregon, but Victoria and Meg will be there, and they're really cool girls!! If you're in in the vicinity of the 1500 block of Jarvis Avenue tomorrow between noon and 10 pm, check out Rogers Pork, a block party with food, drink, art, and music,Until next time, Peace, Love and Yarn!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Muse

There’s been a persistent little voice in my head lately whispering, “Write a blog, DM! Write a blog!”  Several times of late I’ve sat down in front of a blank screen on my computer, just waiting for The Muse. The Muse did not come. I think this is why Hemingway drank so much rum. And then yesterday, my lovely cousin Beth said, “Have you blogged in a while?” I confessed that it had been quite some time since I’d written a blog. My conversation with Beth got my wheels spinning, but we were at Wrigley Field on a family adventure, so I just ate peanuts, drank beer, and sang, “Go, Cubs, Go!”

This morning, as I was lying in bed, The Muse said, “I’m ready!” So I quickly got dressed, grabbed my laptop, and ran over to the Heartland CafĂ© for a delicious vegan breakfast and copious amounts of coffee and I began to write.

I spent a lot of time explaining The Muse to my campers at my various arts camps this summer. Often Inspiration makes us wait until she’s ready. In our Google-driven society where we possess immediate answers at our fingertips, we no longer cultivate patience and artistic thought. Kids are often derailed by waiting for Inspiration. “I don’t know what to draw, what to paint, what to build,” they’d lament, fear and frustration in their eyes. “Doodle,” I’d say, “or write, or smoosh clay in your hands. The Muse will come. You just have to encourage her with Play.”

 Kids are no longer encouraged to think creatively. The education system, as it were, has taken away art and music and physical activity – what I like to call Fun Disguised as Pedagogy – and turned today’s students into rote-learning, test-taking, fact-spewing robot people. They don’t learn how to think; they learn how to regurgitate. And even toddlers know how to use a smart phone or a tablet, but take the screens away and kids are lost! “Scissors?? Paint?? Mod Podge?? I don’t get it!!” There’s also no grey area, no room for interpretation. “Is this right?” The children ask repeatedly, desperation in their eyes. I respond brightly, “This is art camp. It’s very difficult to be wrong here.”

We’re all born artists. Be it music or sculpting or painting or sewing or gardening or cooking or acting or writing, we’ve all got it. Music also teaches math. Visual art can teach chemistry. Performing art teaches physiology and kinetics. All of these endeavorsa teach history and geography. Albert Einstein said, “Creativity is intelligence having fun.” We need to encourage our intelligence to have fun. We need the music, the art, the theatre, the beauty to tap different parts of our brains. Einstein played violin and developed the theory of relativity. Einstein did not take standardized tests. Let’s all – every one of us – let our intelligence have fun. And if we have young people in our lives, let’s encourage them to let their intelligence have fun too.

Those are my thoughts this week. Please join us for Stitch ‘n’ Bitch this Thursday from 7:00-9:00 at R Public House, 1508 W. Jarvis. Also mark your calendars for the Tipsy Craft Circus, a Neighborhood Craft Market, on Saturday, September 19, from noon-5:00, also at R Public House. Until next time, Peace, Love, and Yarn!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Jazz, Baby!

Darlings, I've converted another one!! My dear friend Andy McGuire, the music teacher at Kilmer Elementary in Rogers Park, had never crocheted before. Apropos of nothing, he decided he wanted to crochet a blanket that was big enough to wrap himself up like a burrito. He's 6'3". Having spent a substantial amount of time with Andy, both socially and in his classroom as a coach for his after school rock band, I know how ADD he is, so I confess that I was skeptical that he would make it through a giant blanket as his first project. And in all fairness, I do not possess the patience to finish a man-sized blanket.

Nevertheless, two and a half weeks ago I invited Andy to come to the stitch 'n' bitch at R Public House and taught him how to start his ginormous project. He caught on quickly. Singers usually do, I find. He really enjoyed crocheting too, even when his project was in its infancy and didn't really look like much. I again cautioned him that a blanket for a tall man was a lofty first project, but his enthusiasm would not be thwarted.

That night, when he got home, he stayed up and did a second row. Then he would text me every couple of days saying, "This is really fun!" "I just finished another skein!" "It's up to my waist now!" He was -- dare I say it -- hooked!

Saturday night Andy sent me this picture.

His progress amazed me! Yesterday afternoon he texted me to tell me that his blanket came up to his chin. At 11:00 pm he texted me to report that his blanket reached his nose. Although he had told me that he was going to make only his blanket -- "one and done," he had claimed -- I had a feeling he was going to be a crocheting man. I asked him what his next project was going to be. He said he had a pregnant colleague and wanted to make her a baby blanket. (!!)

I sent him this picture of my current baby blanket project and told him I could teach him the pattern.

The following is a transcript of our texting conversation.

ANDY: Oooooh!!! That's cool!!!

ME: It's just doubles and chains. You've got to count a lot for the first two rows, but after that, it's a cakewalk.

ANDY: Hmmmmmm. I can count!

ME: Yeah, but you're a musician -- you can only count to four!!

ANDY: Sometimes 6

ME: I count 6 in three -- sometimes two.

ANDY: True

ME: The starting chain is 129, then you've got to count twos, threes, and fives (??!??) for the first row!!!

ANDY: Eek. That's a lot of meter changes.

ME: It's jazz, baby!!

 At 1:49 am, Andy sent me this picture. Jazz, baby!!

So that's the news for now. Lyric has a performance of "Tosca" tonight which is going to keep me from Rogers Park Social, but I'm willing to bet there will still be a gathering of the faithful for stitch 'n' bitch from 7-9. And don't forget Toddler Music Jam at the Common Cup Friday morning at 10:00. Oh! One more thing! Here's a picture of my adorable second cousin Addison (the one who chooses the color of my bangs) at her third birthday party. Photo credit to Colton Loeb.
 Until next time, darlings, Peace, (Radical) Love, and Yarn!!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Baby Things

Darlings, don't drink the water!! It seems as though EVERYONE is pregnant, or knows someone who is!! I'm making baby hats, baby booties, baby blankets like a boss! I just updated my order list. I've got four baby blankets and two baby dresses on my docket right now!!

One of my coworkers at the opera is due in two weeks. She's having a girl. She has a sweater in which to bring her precious angel home from the hospital, but she wanted a girly little hat. So I made one of these.
 It's a new pattern. I'm really happy with it. And I had extra time and extra yarn, so I decided to make her some coordinating booties as a gift with purchase. They strongly resembled this.
I started with a pattern, then I went rogue on the tops of the booties and used the same lacy pattern that I used in the hat.

Baby things are awesome to make because they're so cute and tiny, and they take so much less time than grownup stuff. Those booties took me one act of an opera to make, and it was my first attempt at that pattern. I think this is the time to rekindle my romance with all things adorable and tiny. I'm always seeking to up my crocheting game, and I think it might behoove me to start small. And people tend to spare no expense for adorable baby things, so that's a nice bonus.

That's all the news for now. This week's stitch 'n' bitch is Wednesday from 7-9 at R Public House. And don't forget my Friday morning Toddler Music Jam from 10-11 at the Common Cup! Until next time, Peace, (Radical) Love, and Yarn!