Thursday, December 8, 2011

Good Stuff!

It's been quite the fall for me! In November, right before Thanksgiving, I participated in my first craft fair--The West Walker Holiday Art Fair--and it was so much fun! My heart goes out to all craft fair vendors though, it's actually very hard work sitting in a sale for 8 hours. You're always "on," reading people's body language, selling your work, even if it's through mental telepathy. At the end of the day, I was completely exhausted, mentally and physically.

Surprisingly, I did very well. I sold about 80% of everything I had! I'll definitely do this again. I've started working on my own designs for stranded mittens too. Here are some pictures of my booth, as well as my friend Deann's which we shared. She also successfully sold most of her linoleum-printed cards.

The Irving Park Community Food Pantry is also in the middle of a frenzied couple of months. For the first three weeks of November, every client went home with Thanksgiving-friendly foods, in addition to their regular distribution. Also, we commenced with our annual coat drive, which just ended yesterday. The number of clients increased as well; we served about 900 individuals in the first two weeks of November alone! Now we're in December, and clearly the volume knob is up to eleven. Yesterday, the first Wednesday of the month, the pantry served 943 people in 307 families! The volunteers worked until 3 p.m., which is about 3 hours past the normal closing time. I’m continually amazed by the volunteers at the Irving Park Food Pantry. They obviously believe deeply in their mission, they take it to heart, and keep it there.

Meanwhile, we’re getting ready for our special Holiday Distribution for those clients who qualify. This will occur on December 21st. We will distribute food appropriate for a special Christmas dinner, as well as toys for the children of our clients. Santa will be there too. We typically apply for the U.S. Marines’ Toys for Tots program, but that is also greatly supplemented by donations of toys and money for toy purchases by all the residents and church congregations in the area. It’s a huge undertaking.

Finally, just to add fuel to the fire that is my life, after many, many months (maybe even years) of thinking, vacillating, researching, fretting and finally accepting the challenge, we went to the Wright-Way Rescue in Niles and took home Bette. She is a 10-week-old full-bred yellow lab, and she is really beautiful and quite friendly. The four of us are learning so much from her right now. I had to put my personal training sessions, as well as my knitting, on the back burner for a little bit, and my new trainer (a dog trainer!) Amy, says it’s like having an alien in the house and learning to communicate with it, just as like we are aliens to her!! In terms of how it’s changed our lives, it’s a lot like having a new baby in the house...and we love her so much!

Happy Holidays!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Warming Up for the Holiday Art Fair: Mitts

I think I'm finally getting the hang of stranded knitting (2-color work). I finished this pair of black/red Norwegian mitts and have immediately started on a new pattern of Russian Komi mitts from Charlene Schurch's book...this pattern obviously has a strong Norwegian influence. I noticed that I've been using the same yarn for all of these recent mitts - Frog Tree sportweight alpaca. I've also noticed that as I start each new work, I'm using smaller needles, which makes the project much easier to handle. For this one, I'm using #2 needles, and already the pattern is coming out so clearly. Also, the choice of colors works well too. I really like the subtlety of black/red together as well as complementary colors knitted together, but there's nothing like the beauty of just mixing one light color with one really contrasting dark color.

The black mitts, along with several other knitted accessories and garments will be on sale at the upcoming West Walker Holiday Art Fair, on Saturday, November 19th. 100% of the proceeds will fund the Three Brothers Community Garden. This garden is a volunteer-operated garden, and all of its produce is distributed at the Irving Park Community Food Pantry, so that our hungry neighbors can also share in the delicious and healthy harvest that our earth yields. Hope to see you this Saturday!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Mittens and Post-Marathon Maintenance

I’m pretty much finished with my third pair of Norwegian Mittens, these made of 100% alpaca wool (think warm!). I used US size 3 needles, and I probably could’ve used size 2s, and would’ve ended up with a tighter mitten and a sharper design. However, these came out very nicely, still warm, and fit on my hand without being too snug. There’s a little stretch in them, so my question is: Would men wear Norwegian Mittens? The color scheme is manly enough, but the design—it scares my husband away—he’s a man of simple, minimalist tastes though. So to all of the other men out there, what say you? Yay or Nae to the Norwegian Mitts?

In other news, yesterday I had three clients who needed post-event massages after the Chicago marathon. Two of them, both male, complained of tight and sore hips. This isn’t surprising, especially after 5 hours of constant jarring of joints upon the pavement. The good thing is that they requested massage within 24 hours after the event, before the delayed onset muscle soreness (doms) really takes hold. All of the massages were gentle, light, and focused on restoring circulation throughout the core muscle groups, calming the body down after hours of endless contraction of muscle groups, ending with gentle stretching to retain the muscle length. One of my clients iced his joints for a long time after the event, and this too is an excellent measure, as it goes a long way in preventing swelling and inflammation of sore areas after the marathon. Icing alone probably cut down his recovery time by a few days. I’m always impressed by runners. It’s not only a physically-demanding activity, but a mentally-challenging one as well, and very daunting to this massage therapist. However, one common phrase that all the clients said was that “If I can do this, anyone can!” It’s always encouraging to hear those words.
So in short: Ice, and massage…don’t wait!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Nature's Influence

I’m getting over a really terrible cold. It lasted all week. Plus it rained all week. However yesterday the sun came out and poured its beautiful light over the mums, so I took some pictures. Then I took some pictures of the latest project I finished. It’s being blocked right now. As you can see, the colors of the flowers really influence the colors I choose for knitting, and vice versa!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Happy Fall!

I realize while looking at this blog that I have not posted anything since April. A large part of the reason is because I didn’t feel like I had much to say, but of course, finding the time to write was a challenge too. It’s been on my mind though, does that count?

Many people around me are sad to see the summer wane, and I too love this season, but honestly, I’m glad it’s over. The summer of 2011 was rough for the Stein household.

Between massages, the food pantry, the church’s summer program, and normal life, it just moved so fast. There was no time for a breather. On top of that, we got robbed in July, the very last day of my work with Magic Mushroom summer program. It could’ve been worse, but it certainly was bad enough. It affected all of us, the violation, the insecurity, the anger…my son especially had some difficulty adjusting. After the incident, he was afraid to sleep in his room, which is on the 2nd floor of our house, if there was no one else occupying the second floor. This lasted for months, and I think it’s only beginning to get better. We’re still waiting for our claim check on that one.

I didn’t like the weather this time around either. It seemed extreme. Too much rain, too much humidity, too many extreme-temperature days. There were so many times where I wanted to go outside, but was cooped up in the house because it was the only place that was bearable. And I consider myself pretty tough when it comes to dealing with heat, so I didn’t understand that.

My son broke his right arm too, which many consider to be a rite of passage, but for us is mainly a pain in the butt because he can’t do half of the things he really loves to do (ride bike, swim, basketball) as well as the things he has to do (like write). Poor guy. Luckily, he’s young, healthy and strong, so he’ll be out of his cast probably by the end of October.

These are just a few of the obstacles that faced us between June and August.
However, some good things happened too. My daughter found the camping/travelling bug in her, and she spent most of her summer doing just that, and had a wonderful time meeting new people, doing different outdoor activities, and generally having fun. My son discovered baseball, and seeing him smile 100% of the time while he played just made both Mitch and I so happy.

Strangely, for the first time in my 6 years of knitting, I had to put down all wool projects this summer. I couldn’t do it! My hands would perspire and stick to the yarn and it was impossible to knit, due to this extreme weather we had. Perhaps that is most what put a sour color on my summer, the inability to knit.

But all that’s over now.

Yesterday a knitting friend and I went to yarncon in Chicago (Pulaski Park) and bought some gorgeous hand-dyed yarn. I’m back on the Norwegian/Russian mitt craze and have some totally gorgeous projects coming soon. I’m also thinking of a new original design for a knit stole. I love it when my brain starts to obsess on creating original work.

I’m currently finishing my projects to sell in the upcoming fine arts fair in November, which is very exciting to me. This will be my first time participating in a craft fair, and all of the proceeds from the sales of my work will go to charity. I will post more specific information as I receive it. In the meantime, feel free to look at my finished projects in the photostream link at the bottom right of this page.

Until next time, which will be a lot sooner than five months. Forgive me! :-)

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Many Paths, Many Directions...

I haven’t written in the blog for a long time because 1) I’ve not had any time, and 2) I’ve been concerned about the purpose of this blog.

It started out as a blog about knitting and massage therapy, but the entries have wandered a bit, much like my life. I wonder if I should change the title and description of it.

It’s more about what I’m doing, and less of an “advice” or “educational” or “informational” tool. It’s more about how I’m coping with the things I’m doing, what I’m learning from those things. So, yes...the blog is a work in progress. What else is new??

As I mentioned before, I recently took up a position of “Volunteer Manager” at the Irving Park Community Food Pantry. I really love the work, and as it's been foretold, it would be a little rocky for a while, but I’d soon get the hang of it. How true!

Last week was the beginning of the Easter Basket Distribution for Pantry kids, and there were some serious worries about whether or not there’d be enough supplies to fill the baskets. That worked out though. On that same day, there was scheduled a large group from a local elementary school visiting, about 34 children—all 4th grade and younger—and 20 moms, and all expecting to work. The challenge was what to do with all of these people when you already have a staff of 30 working, and it’s the first week of the month, which means more clients will come in than any other time of the month?

As Vinnie Barbarino once said, “We’re gonna die!!”

When I received the number of 54 additional volunteers, it happened to be the Friday before the big day. This gave us a weekend to figure out what to do. Thank God for the Three Brothers Garden—which supplies produce for the pantry during the summer months. Thank God it’s April, because it’s time to start working on the garden! I made a desperate call to the folks at the Carlson Community Services and asked them if there was work to do at the garden and luckily there was: Clean up, raking and flattening out the dirt beds. That took care of 20 people from the 54.

This left 23 children and 13 moms for the pantry. I remember as I was standing on the floor of the pantry amidst all the noise and hustle and bustle, the incessant mantra going through my mind was “Think think think, Lee—think outside the box—what can be done? What needs to be done around here? Think think think!”

Somehow, there was plenty to do. Everyone had work to do. One child and his mom sorted through all the school supplies we collected since last summer. Several kids and their moms filled up and distributed Easter Baskets. A couple of boys and a mom continually took empty cut-up boxes to the recycling bins. Some kids and moms did crowd control, helped clients with their groceries, sorted through the frozen meat, put together double-bags for the food, some handed out numbers for the clients…it was amazing. I couldn’t believe we pulled it off!

I should have known that this job wouldn’t be easy. I haven’t even really sat down alone and thought about what my goals are for the volunteers yet. I haven’t had time to think about what the long-term purpose is for them, and how to streamline and make this job more efficient. I’d like to get to a point where there’s less of “putting out fires,” and more of a procedure, something calmer…but I’m new. There’s a learning curve, and I’m at the bottom right now.

I also finished my first newsletter with the West Walker Civic Association. I have to admit…that was fun. I was nervous about picking up layout after so many years out of the business, and especially learning a new program. I’m so used to Quark, but now we’re using InDesign. Obviously it’s like riding a bike. You never forget, and no matter how many types of design software there is out there…they’re all basically the same.

In the back of my mind, during all of this, I’m thinking about that Art Invitational next November. I can picture in my mind a table, covered with beautiful knitted garments and accessories. That’s my goal. Whenever I have a free moment, I’m knitting. I’m almost done with the capelet. Started a new scarf with the same yarn used for the capelet. Worried that I don’t have enough yarn for my basketweave wrap (maybe it will be a cowl). Thinking ahead for other projects to make and sell. I get excited about it.

Next week, I’ll be giving chair massages at my husband’s company. I’m also working at the Pantry. I’m also taking two of my volunteers to a training session at the Greater Chicago Food Depository. My gym trainer is supposed to call me whenever a time opens up so I can work out, because as it is—there’s no time to work out next week. In addition, my daughter and I are facing a new road for her. She’s going to register for a new school next year. She is eager to leave her old school where she has been for almost 9 years. She says she wants to meet new people, go to a new and different place. She’s ready for a big change, she says. It’s very exciting for her, somewhat scary, and also somewhat sad. As we get closer to the end of the school year, she tells me about some of her classmates, kids she runs into in the halls, in recess, at lunchtime. She describes the jokes, the conversations, their different personal characteristics, idiosyncrasies…sometimes she moans and complains, but then she almost always laughs, and then she smiles, and I can tell she really knows these kids. She’s known them so well for years, and she will miss these boys and girls.

I can’t believe Faith is almost 12 years old.

Meanwhile, I put off the massage I was supposed to get for myself a few weeks ago. Not good. I haven’t followed my own advice. I’ve been giving massages, but not receiving. Strangely, my body feels okay. I don’t ache, I’m not particularly tired. I do need stress relief though. I need to not think about anything for 1 week. Actually, both my husband, and my kids need to unwind. We’re going back to Captiva soon and it’s just what we need. I can’t think of a better way to welcome the summer. Just when the cold packs its last bag to leave, we visit a place where all the flowers are in bloom, the smell of saltwater is in the air. Every day, the sun is out, warm on my skin. Everyone’s dressed in bright, colorful clothes, walking outside, riding bikes, swimming in the water. There’s time to get that massage. And when we return, we’ll be ready to get back to work and do the things we are meant to do!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Project Update

All right now! It’s been a productive week. I finished this paneled top made with 8 balls of Noro Silk Garden yarn. I love it. I want to make another one! Like I said in an earlier entry, I love the simplicity of this pattern. I feel like a painting when I’m wearing it!

In addition, I finished a scarf made out of the super bulky wool Cascade Magnum yarn that was leftover from my Sidecar jacket. This is an original design (if you want to call it that) and it’s available for free on, called “The Big Easy.”

I’m trying to finish a lace stole, a bog jacket and a cabled scarf. All of these, plus the Big Easy will be sold next November at the Fine Arts Invitational held at Irving Park Lutheran Church. This actually fulfills one of the items on my life’s to-do list: Sell knitted work at an art & craft fair. 100% of the sales from this fair will be donated to the Carlson Community Services, which does so many wonderful things for the area.

I’ve also started a new pair of Selbu Mittens. Now, I know these are going to be warm and beautiful—but I’m slightly disappointed in the lady who sold me this yarn. It’s Frog Tree sportweight Alpaca and yes, I know, Alpaca is soft, warm, beautiful, amazing…but I don’t think it’s optimal for stranded knitting. It’s so stretchy, delicate, and these little strands of Alpaca fibers keep fluffing off while I work, and it’s hard to hold and I’m already annoyed and have barely even begun! So…note to self: No alpaca for stranded knitting! I like the hard stuff…the 100% regular wool, durable, tightly wound, tough, rugged (like a lumberjack)! The Nature Wool by Araucania worked well. I’m also going to look into some of those Shetland woolmakers like Harrisville and Jamieson’s.

My hope is to make a whole bunch of mittens for the sale, as well as hats, scarves, shawls, and maybe even a quilted baby blanket or two. Hands don’t fail me now...