Sunday, November 15, 2015

Good Things Come in Small(?) Packages: Woolgathering

What the heck?  Evidently you can not be too skinny, too, rich, or too wasteful?   Are ladies petite of size more supersized in trendy/spendy/wasteful habits than the medium-and-up general population of clothes-wearing ladies?  Many times while dumpster diving, I have found what seem like entire wardrobes of XS, S, P and 0- to 2-sized clothing relinquished to garbage cans. In one go, I find a volume equal to 2 big, black garbage bags or 5 or 6 brown paper grocery bags.  Sometimes just a few thing left on top of a garbage can.

Oddly, there have been very few M, L, or XL finds on my excursions in spite of the US having a typical size of 14.  Are these ladies more frugal or or those sizes more difficult to replace? Thrift stores have a more even distribution. A friend tried to donate her size 0 to 2 clothes and was gently rebuffed by a women's shelter as their need was for larger sizes. Clearance sale items in first-hand store tend to have lots of smaller sizes on clearance, not so much in the middle, and perhaps never had large sizes to start with. Few brick and mortar stores offer plus sized clothing--Lane Bryant and Torrid are two destinations I can think of, perhaps more choice of larger sizes online?

Before I had a teen daughter, I washed and dried (on a hot setting) these finds and offered them to my nieces and petite sisters-in-law. I donated to a food pantry that had a clothing distribution. Now my daughter has dresses, velvet gowns, coats and jackets for all seasons and occasions, cashmere sweaters (1 new with a tag that read $120), dresses and cardigans in all colors of the rainbow by
J Crew. A friend said that we must had rich neighbors and that she could never find things like that in her neighborhood.  We bask in the reflected affluence of our neighbors.  High rents and high prices to buy homes nearby.  But! I have also found things near her house too!  I just looked. She was right and she was wrong.

I'm reading/have read/about to read several books on related topics: Waste and Want: A Social History of Trash by Susan Strauser, very interesting and excellent, delicious writing about quilting, reusing, mending, brings to mind boro cloths; others: Where Am I Wearing: A Global Tour to the Countries, Factories, and People That Make Our Clothes; Where Did My Clothes Come From?; Clothing Poverty: The Hidden World of Fast Fashion and Secondhand Clothes.


If It's Not One Thing It's Another

Small transformations, not in the thing, but in a small shift of thinking about the thing.

A small wrap around skirt becomes an apron.
Once when I found a beautiful linen floral one at a thrift store the idea popped into my head as a justification to buy it, not leave it behind as unusable.
Second time, sorting through dear aunt's wardrobe for donation.  Tenderly folding petite garments, many handsewn, many triggering memories of summer days, her wardrobe of hats, while searching for one 40-year-old dress she chose for burial, finding one wrap denim wrap skirt with patchwork pockets, now an apron in my kitchen keeping her memory close.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Grasshopper watched and learned

My dear daughter,Wisteria, came back from a summer camp field trip to an arcade--something along the lines of Enchanted Haunted Castle and Trails.  She came back with a bulging sack of candy and trinkets, reporting a great time with her buddy Lexi.  She said they after they spent up their designated tokens, they went a-scavenging in the dark corners and under machines for fallen tokens. She used her phone as a flashlight and he scooped up $20-30 dollars worth of tickets that they spent up on the objects of their desire.

link to Kung Fu quotes:

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Removed by Distance, Time, and Distraction

Has this every happened to you?  

You are wholly, merrily engaged, reading, drawing, (cough), engaged with the internet, when surprise, surprise, surprise, your Spidey sense tingles, a vague forboding, a slight discomfort, your vision dims, you look up and lo, the apartment is full of smoke. It may be that in baking a potato, you forgot a dish of chopped coconut in the broiler--what was it doing there? Good question Chumly. Explain that to the truck load of handsome firemen coming to the door you opened to let the smoke billow out.  Thanks neighbors for watching out. Or maybe you thought you were turning on the fire under the hot water kettle looking forward to a nice cup of tea.  Except you absentmindedly turned on the empty, buttery griddle that you made grilled cheese in for your eldest, cheese-loving child until said pan blackens.  Will Bon Ami really help you out?

Oh, never, you say?  Well, (cough), good for you.  Don't let this happen to you in the future, yeah?

Several years ago in San Francisco, we missed seeing Robert Plant in a free concert in 
Golden Gate (?) Park because we had to spend hours returning a rental car to the airport. 
If we read the fine print we would have noticed the neighborhood drop off place was closed that day and would have arrange to drop it there the next day.  I pined away thinking the closest I would come to the presence of Mr. Plant was a secondhand encounter.  My coworker one day found herself walking behind a long-haired and very handsome man on a downtown street.  Sometimes you can tell someone is gorgeous without even seeing his/her face. She enjoyed the moment all the more when he turned around. Sometimes you can feel someone eyes drinking you in.

My only encounter of walking behind a famous person and the faded, worn seat of his cotton pants happened near the Steppenwolf Theater, the known clotheshorse? John Malkovich.

Imagine my happiness and delight when we had an opportunity to attend a Robert Plant concert in our own hometown. Those emotions were tempered with cigarette and other smokes of the fellow attendees, the whooping of a nearby gentleman who was attempting to has his voice carry to the far off stage, and the misery of my 10-year-old daughter who thankfully went the distance. We heard all my favorite songs with the exception of "Stairway to Heaven" which he declined to perform.

Wishing you sweetness,


song,  a whole lotta love,

and company of friends in 2015.

Rock on!


Friday, December 19, 2014

Oh! Christmas Tree! Whereforth Art Thou Christmas Tree?

This is not our tree. This is not our living room. This pretty tree appears momentarily in a free ad in our local Craigslist. Free listings like pine needles expire quickly. 

One of my favorite heirlooms is a silvery aluminum table top tree from a great aunt and great uncle. It was a treat to visit their bungalow, feeling enveloped in their pink and black tiled kitchen and coordinating bathroom, their sun porch housed a collection of pinned butterflies under glass.  Their home was a time capsule of the 1940 and 1950s in the 1960s when I was a little girl. I was fascinated, the only other kind of butterflies I had seen were the live ones that landed softly on me in the prairie grasses in countryside around St. Charles.  

Where is that countryside now?  Buried under concrete, asphalt, and malls.  One statistic states that only 1/100 of 1 percent of the original prairie and oak savanna exist, that's like one penny out of 100 dollars. Mostly around railroad tracks and desolate Illinois cemeteries. Where are the butterflies?  In my memory, and hopefully in the fringes.  My aunt and uncle also live on in my memories.  Also their nippy chihuahua, he does not rest so quietly.  An annoyed and vengeful neighbor of my uncle's poisoned his dog in retribution for dog droppings in the alley.

As for the tree is with us, quietly waiting in a large box, waiting for it's moment to shine. The silver branches push into a wooden pole with drilled angled holes. The stand is padded with paper to hold the thin stalk upright.  Shiny deep blue and green balls sparkle, a rotating color wheel, prone to overheating, a gift from a coworker, shines up glowingly, alternately blue, green red. 

My dear, unsentimental children sadly regard this little tree as second rate.  They request a live tree. Stubbornly, I am loathe to purchase one.  I silently begrudged the salesperson in the hardware store parking lot the $35 my husband paid one year.  Since then we freecycled one  away from a professor who was getting ready to travel home Christmas week, one Craigslist free section posting of freshly cut one in a nearby alley (it was inaccurately advertised as 10-feet tall, which probably discouraged others from investigating), one I dragged home a block or 2 a day or 2 before Christmas Eve sliding the bottom over a slippery layer of snow.  It still had a personalized ornament dangling from its branches, ie, Joseph and Mary 2014, a clay couple holding hands.  My husband recut the bottom, and it was fragrant and beautiful 'til I took it down after 3 Kings' Holiday.

Clement is "willing" to "compromise" with an artificial green tree, but I'll take a walk around again in our "urban forest" this weekend to see if any neighbors are divesting themselves of their trees early. I'll give a secondhand tree a second home and a place in our memories.

Addendum:  Success!  Midday walk to drop off coffee ground to community garden and finch food to their spot, found 3 bouquets worth of protea, hydrangea, palm fronds, purple liantris, and the highly sought after live Christmas tree, thank you neighbors ;-)


Thursday, October 23, 2014

1-Egg Cookies, 3 Ways to Near-Instant Gratification

Some food-related habits/epiphanies make kitchen life more pleasant and organized.  Habits like planning meals a week in advance and shopping for those ingredients. Like making 2 lasagnas and freezing one for next month. Like washing/prepping/peeling/cutting raw produce in advance so it's as easy to tuck into as junk food.

My new baking habit is about fleeting happiness in sweet, bite-sized morsels. With the cooler weather, I've been craving cookies and hot tea.  I haven't had the time or inclination to bake full recipes which usually take a couple of hours and a couple of cookie sheets, and some juggling. Instead I've baked different, small batches of cookies (about 6-9) most every night.
I don't use the gas oven. The toaster oven with its little baking pan (about 8 by 10 inches) is just right.

White flour and white sugar, sweet or evil?

The glow of anticipation.

I use a loosey, goosey combination of ingredients with approximate proportions.
Different variations on different days depending on my mood.

The basic, inexact cookie "recipe":

I start with
one egg in a bowl,
add 4 pretty level tablespoons of sugar,
4 heaping tablespoons of flour,
a splash of corn oil
(it's what we happen to have, not going to play around with butter for this quickie deal).

3 variations:

1.  Added clumsily chopped fresh ginger (about the size of my pinkie fingernail)
and a dash of harissa powder;
2.  Added big splash of molasses and roughly chopped bar of dark chocolate (my favorite);
3.  Added mashed up sweet potatoes (about 3 tiny ones and raisins), cinnamon, and nutmeg
(least favorite, I dislike overly "moist" baked goods like pumpkin pie or banana bread).

That's it, then onto parchment paper or greased foil on the little pan, 350 degrees, set timer for 10 minutes or so, add a few minutes if needed. It's pretty easy, fast, and gratifying.

No chocolate chips? No problem, 
                                                        chop up a bar.

9 little beauties.


Saturday, August 23, 2014

local good news, bad news, thrift story

Update:  Sadly empty and shuttered, noticed 10/1/2014.

First the good news, American Thrift Store on Chicago Ave (1718 W.) in Chicago is having a sale on all clothes.  $0.99 for each piece.  I set out to look for a navy blue or black pea coat and a sweater cardigan for my 12-year-old son. Instead I found and bought a Bob Mackie 2-piece floaty, floral silk blouse and skirt set (so gorgeous, so not my size but will gift to a size 6 friend), linen pants, linen dress, merino wool sweaters this morning. My almost too heavy to carry bag was loaded up for $14.09. Outside the store perched on the edge of a garbage can was a pair of jeans, reader, I took them!

The store had lots and lots of women's and kids' clothes.  Highly recommend for anyone local to check out. For men, mostly tee shirts and light jackets.  No winter coats or jackets. Big rack of jeans. Didn't have the fortitude to paw through those as the store was very hot and airless.

So some happy finds and will have to keep looking for Clement's requested cool weather items.

Summer bummer: The bad news is that the store will be closing soon.  I hate when that happens to some of my favorite places.  So get there and shop while you still can and let me know what you find.

Can't close on a sad note, can I?  Enclosed are pictures of my favorite birds, taken in February of 2014, on the grounds of a resort, Iberostar Hacienda Dominicus in the Dominican Republic.