2017 Goals

I set so many goals last year, they became so overwhelming that I just ended up ignoring most of them, so this year I’m keeping the list short:

1) Pay off student loans
2) Continue saving $ for a house
3) Finish half of Ian’s portrait
4) Run two 5ks
5) Travel to 1 new place
6) Get Harlow’s teeth cleaned
7) Get rid of things I no longer want/use
8) Have lunch or dinner with my mom and grandma at least once a month
9) Send 1 letter to a friend or family member once a month in order to stay in better touch with people.

Wish me luck!

8 Months in 1 Post


Yikes! Where has the time gone?

The last 8 months flew by. You may be wondering:

Where did Lisa go? What has she been up to? She looks rough! Is she getting enough sleep? Are those grey hairs I see?*

Last you heard from me was in January when Nick and I completed my lovely secretary.

Later that month we joined his parents and brother in Florida for a much needed nice, sunny vacation. While on the trip, I started crocheting a basket to hold all of my knitting/crochet supplies, so they wouldn’t be strewn about my new desk and spent most of February working at it in front of the TV while we binge watched Netflix’s Jessica Jones and Daredevil and caught up on the latest season of The Walking Dead.


Once that was complete I acquired, Kristina McGowan’s Modern Top-Down Knitting and More Modern Top-Down Knitting, both of which are full of lovely patterns for skirts, dresses and more. I immediately fell in love with one of the dresses, knitted up some swatches using Lion Brand’s Microspun and cast-on with the pretty blue you see below. About a month into it I discovered that the yarn I was using had been discontinued and I couldn’t find it anywhere on the internet. After moping for a a few days, I remembered that I have lots of the same yarn in lavender, black, and lime green.** So I frogged (ripped out for you non-knitters) very carefully and convinced myself it would look good as a two-tone black and blue dress. It has yet to be completed, so we’ll see in a month or two.


By then it was May and time to put the fiber projects away, turn off the TV and enjoy the great outdoors.

In anticipation of lots of summer road trips, I replaced the radio in my car, which had been broken for ages. I purchased a kit from Crutchfield, watched a YouTube video on how to install a radio and got to work.

Now, not only do I have the radio/CD combo of yore, I also have a fancy USB jack and an aux input for my phone. It’s almost like I got a brand new car!


May and June were filled with yard clean up, planting and a visit from Nick’s folks!


July was filled with bbq’s at my folks, a tubing trip, adventures in Cincinnati, OH/Louisville, KY with our dear friend, J and her dogs, and a concert featuring 2 bands I absolutely loved in high school, plus lots of delicious vegan food.


August featured me pining over beach time during my work breaks, a visit from my parents, pinatas, awesome birthday gifts from friends and loved ones and lots of trips around the neighborhood and/or Lake Park to collect Pokemon!***


It also was the month I finally decided to replace our couch cushions with thicker cushions and nicer fabric for all the TV watching I’m planning on doing this fall/winter.****20160813_123654-collage

In September I pulled out the crochet hooks and started to work on a rug that matches our couch so the dogs have an extra warm spot to lie down this winter.20160910_132755-collage

I also ran my first 5K in a long time (and beat my time). Our Monkey had surgery to remove some tumors, which was successful! I purchased some bass gear from my brother in the hopes of starting a new band here in Milwaukee. We saw Belly in Chicago, went to the Milwaukee Maker Faire, ran along the lake, started our annual horror movie marathon and started getting our house ready for Halloween, phew!img_20160905_210654-collage

Oh! I also started baking again and canning lots of food I’ve been making from everything we’ve harvested from our yard.img_20160924_185122-collage

And of course through it all we had to throw some dog time in there, too!


It’s been a helluva year! I’m looking forward to fall/winter when I typically spend less time on the go and more time at home working on projects.

I’ll keep you all updated on rug and dress progress*****. In the meantime enjoy the lovely fall weather, because winter is coming…

Winter is coming

*around, stuff, yes, sometimes, and yes. In fact the very first photo was taken at a Dunkin Donuts after I signed away a paycheck to get my shocks and struts replaced. I think I got a dozen new grey hairs that day while I sat there waiting for about 5 hours with my book and my coffee.

**I went through a phase were I thought I would be knitting lots of little green men. X-Files anyone?

***Go, team Instinct, go!

****Our butts no longer hit a hard surface immediately upon sitting, hooray!

*****All 3 of you ;-)

Learn How to Stain Like a Pro!

I’ve been dyeing to stain a piece of furniture for a while and I finally got to!*

Here’s how you can, too:

  1. Supplies: Figure out what color/s you want to stain your piece and head on over to your local hardware store** to pick up the following:


  • Some pre-stain (if you’re staining soft woods like pine)
  • Your stain/s
  • Some polyurethane finish
  • Turpentine ( for clean-up if you have an oil based stain)
  • Paint brushes (enough for pre-stain and each stain color you’ll be using – be sure to get brushes for oil based paints if you’re using oil based stain)
  • Sandpaper or a new sanding disc for your new disc sander***
  • Rags, if you’re fancy. Otherwise clean old t-shirts from that job you’re never going back to cut into rags work just as well.****
  • Painter’s tape if you’re using multiple stain colors.
  • Timer (we used our phones)
  • A stylin dust mask and pair of goggles if you’re prone to chocking on wood dust/getting splinters in your eyes like me or you can forego these if you enjoy living dangerously, like Nick:0102161210a

2. Once you have all your supplies, read the instructions on the back of all of your liquids to determine how long you’ll need to wait for things to dry/how many coats you’ll need to apply, etc. and determine:

  • What pieces are being stained
  • What color you want each piece to be

This is a good time to test your stains on a scrap piece of wood or the underside of one of your pieces if it won’t bother you. We used the underside of the lower shelf from the desk as our test piece:


I had originally wanted the trim and drawers on the desk to be a warmer sand tone, but as you can see, the “sand toned” stain I bought for the trim was more white than anything. Therefore I chose to forego staining the trim and drawers, leaving the pine elements natural. The dark stain, however, was exactly what I wanted for the rest, so we got to work!

3. Choose a well ventilated area and begin prepping your wood.^ You’ll begin by sanding all areas to be stained until smooth. We used Nick’s fancy new disc sander to sand all our outer surfaces and sandpaper to sand the harder to reach places.0102161210bOnce your pieces are sanded you’ll want to wipe them off with a dust cloth, to make sure you get rid of all wood dust before applying your liquids. Working as a team taking turns sanding/wiping makes this part go faster.

4. Apply your pre-stain to your clean smooth surface with a clean brush. Pre-stain helps condition soft woods, so they will absorb the stain evenly. Let it dry for the time indicated on the packaging before applying your stain, but be sure to apply the stain within the window indicated on packaging. Our pre-stain said to apply stain no later than two hours after application.


5. Once your pre-stain is dry you can begin the fun part – staining! Now ‘s the time to cover up any areas you DON’T want to stain with painter’s tape. Apply the stain with a clean brush using even strokes going with the grain and allow to sit for 5-15 minutes depending on how dark you want your piece to be (Not dark enough? Use your test piece to determine how many coats you’ll need to apply to achieve the color you want). Wipe the stain away using a clean cotton cloth going with the grain. Be careful when applying stain/wiping around any edges you don’t want to absorb stain. Your wood is like a sponge – don’t ruin it!                                               This part also went quickly since we were doing it as a team. Be sure not to let stain sit too long/too little before you wipe or you’ll have an uneven surface and you’ll have to spend more time trying to blend everything. Discard rags as they become saturated with stain and replace them with fresh rags as needed.


When staining raw edges, apply stain to edge first and then to surface or your edges will look uneven like this:


Also, watch out for unsightly drips when staining vertical surfaces!

When you’ve finished your staining and feel like everything is relatively even, you can pull off your painter’s tape. Voila!


6. Once your stain has dried for the time indicated on it’s packaging, you can begin the finishing process. Using a clean rag apply polyurethane finish to all surfaces (including those you chose not to stain, like the trim in this instance) and let dry. We applied three coats of finish to all of our surfaces with a light sanding between each coat before deciding it was ready for use.

7. Add hardware and you’re done!

Give yourself a pat on the back and start using your new piece of furniture!


*Please excuse the terrible pun.

**We love Blifferts!

***Projects like these are perfect excuses to buy new tools!

****The sleeves of said t-shirts also work great as babushkas to pin your dogs ears to their head if they happen to injure their ear and create blood splatters worthy of Dexter Morgan all over your bathroom walls.

^It being January, we used our basement. Not the best idea since our hallway smelled like fumes for about a week. Next time we’ll do it in the garage or when it’s warm enough to have windows open.


Modern Secretary: a labor of love


My Lovely Modern Secretary

Ever since I was a little girl, furniture with lots of little hidden drawers and compartments has appealed to me. I attribute that to spending a large portion of my childhood at my grandma’s house. She had many vintage pieces handed down from family members, as well as, pieces my grandfather built from scratch into the house itself.

Growing up I was fascinated by the large blue secretary in her house that served as dresser, desk and book case. I used to love opening the hinged desk to see all the compartments inside for letters and papers…the little drawers filled with stamps and paperclips. I liked watching it close and wondered if anything happened in there when we weren’t looking.

As an adult, secretary desks still appeal to me. I like their functionality and that everything has a place. I am forever battling clutter and am often misplacing things like my stamps or that birthday card I meant to send to a friend. Nick has wandered around enough antique stores with me to know how much I like them, so when he stumbled upon this strange piece in an alley here in Milwaukee, it sparked an idea.

Apologies for the blurry picture.

Apologies for the blurry picture.

We’re not sure what this thing was in it’s past life, but our best guess is a prayer kneeler*. The metal tabs along the inner side of the legs hold the legs in place and look like something was once attached to them. When you pull those tabs up, you can fold the legs in. The metal was exposed at the top as though something had been attached there, as well, and it came with a small light fixture.

Regardless of what it had been, Nick showed it to me and asked if I’d like him to turn it into a secretary for me for my birthday. I was skeptical and said, “sure?”** So using scrap wood he found in our garage, tools he bought and/or borrowed from friends and YouTube videos as his guide, and a few moths later it looked like this!!:


After much deliberation and hunting for the perfect drawer pulls; which we found at Farm Girl Antiques, I decided what colors I wanted to stain it and we ended up with the gorgeous desk you see in the first image!


Now all of my writing materials are organized and I have a lovely place to sit and write/draw. Thanks for the lovely birthday gift, Nick!

I’ll be posting a tutorial on how to stain such a piece for those who are curious soon!

*Other theories sourced from posting a picture to the internet included: cage around ticket kiosk at a theatre, or bank tellers’ cage.

**Who knew? Best to start skeptical and be pleasantly surprised by results.







New Year, New Goals



It seems like there’s always so much to do and I’m easily distracted, so every year I set goals for myself to make sure I’m getting things done and growing as a person, be it in big or small ways.

Here are my goals for 2016:


  • Blog once a month
  • Knit or crochet one item
  • Finish cross-stitching the Ian pillow
  • Complete 2 sewing projects
  • Complete 6 assignments out of The Photographer’s Playbook, edited by Jason Fulford and Gregory Halpern
  • Practice bass or keyboard at least once a week
  • Finish zine/novel project


  • Read 60 books
  • Find doctor and dentist and schedule check-ups
  • Take Ian and Harlow in to get teeth cleaned
  • Start saving money for a house
  • Tend garden at least once a week during gardening season
  • Start seeds indoors in March
  • Keep my Tillandsia plant, pictured above, alive and flowering.*
  • Call my grandmother at least once a month
  • Send close out of town friends snail mail or e-mails at least once a month.
  • Continue gaming with friends regularly (at least twice a month).


  • Run a 5k
  • Lift 50lbs – overhead press and bench press
  • Bring mile time down to 10m30s
  • Go to gym twice a week
  • May-October – bike to work at least twice a week.

This year Nick and I also decided to set a few goals to accomplish together:


  • Try one new recipe from one of our many cookbooks once a month
  • Deep clean once a month
  • Take 2-3 trips
  • Complete 2 projects
  • Take a class together
  • Spend at least one of our nights together without the TV**

* I killed the first one I had

**This typically isn’t a problem during the summer, but we become couch potatoes during the winter

Edit: Goals stricken through were completed, woohoo!

Riverwest Garden Walk

Back in July, Nick and I met up with some people we met at the Milwaukee vegan potlucks to take a tour of gardens in Riverwest. We saw lots of lovely flowers, got lots of cool ideas, got to sample some delicious raspberries and made some new friends. It was great!

Here are some of the highlights:




One of several fairy gardens we saw




Mmmm, raspberries!


Cute potting table made from a recycled door




One of the gardens had several cute wagon planters that were handmade by the owner


Looking forward to next spring when I can put some of the ideas I saw into play in my own yard!

Hello, Wisconsin!

At the very end of 2014, Nick and I packed up all of our belongings and moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin for my new job as a Young Adult Librarian (yay!). We found a cute little apartment in Milwaukee’s Riverwest neighborhood that accepted pitbulls and snatched it up as fast as we could. We’ve spent the past month and a half working diligently to make the place feel like home and this weekend I completed a project I’ve had on my plate since we moved in – make curtains for the closet.

You see, our two bedroom apartment only has one closet and it happens to be located in our guest/hobby room and it also just so happens to have no doors (the apartment is missing doors in several key areas, but more on that later…):OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs you can see, it’s not the prettiest thing to look at and while I don’t care that my underwear is on display for all to see, it might make some guests uncomfortable. What I do care about is having a room that’s conducive to my creative process and to relaxation and this cluttered mess just doesn’t cut it. I need a place that’s bright, inviting and relatively clutter free!

Luckily I found just the right amount of Jessica Jones’ Leaflet fabric (one of the few fabrics that Nick and I could agree on) at The Needle Shop in Chicago last weekend.

Ian MacKaynine clearly approves and was probably hoping I’d make him some new pillows out of it. Sorry buddy…ianI went with Leaflet, because our hobby room at our old place had a teal accent wall that made the room feel bright and cheery. Plus, I liked the symmetry of the leaf pattern and it seemed fitting since the hobby/guest room looks out onto our yard.

Since I finally had a weekend without band commitments or family commitments, I pulled out the cutting table and my sewing shears and got to work as soon as the sun went down on Valentine’s Day.* OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI haven’t used my sewing machine in a few months, so curtains were a good project to get back into the swing of things, since they’re simple. Most of the work was measuring, pinning and ironing all of my seams, which isn’t so bad if you have good music to listen to…

Closet Curtain Playlist 2015

  1. Adorable – Against Perfection
  2. The Beatles – With the Beatles
  3. Ted Leo and the Pharmacists – Hearts of Oak
  4. The Police – Greatest Hits
  5. Ted Leo and the Pharmacists – Living with the Living
  6. Simon and Garfunkel – Bridge Over Troubled Water
  7. Saves the Day – Stay What You Are
  8. Common – Be

After a few stabbed fingers and about a dozen songs into The Police’s Greatest Hits, curtain number 1 was done and I was ready to call it a night.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABy early Sunday afternoon, the closet looked like this:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA So much better!

I even managed to get the leaves along the center seam to line up fairly well. Not perfectly, but I’ll take it!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANow that that’s taken care of, I feel like I can finally figure out what’s going to go up on the walls in that room and clear out the rest of the clutter in there so it becomes a room I want to hang out in and that I’m not embarrassed to let other people stay in.

Next big project – install doors to our bedroom and the guest/hobby room since the only room that currently has doors in our apartment is the bathroom…

*Nothing says “I love you” better than letting your partner do their thing when they feel inspired even if that inspiration happens to strike on a day when you’re supposed to be glued at the hip.


Getting back into the swing of things…

Colorful leaves and a chill in the air always make me want to curl up in a chair and knit or crochet. So when summer wound down a couple of weeks ago, I pulled out my knitting books and magazines in search of the perfect pattern to get me back into the swing of things. I wanted something quick, but challenging, so I picked the Gretel Tam from Debbie Stoller’s Stitch’n Bitch Superstar Knitting.

It was pretty, it had cables (something I need to practice more) and I figured it would come in handy this winter since in theory it should fit over my longer hair better than my old hat. So…Nick and I found a new show to watch (Six Feet Under) and I cast on using Red Heart Super Tweed in Pinkberry, excited about my new hat!

15147020910_f8fb374512_oHowever, that excitement waned last week as somewhere along the way I lost count of my stitches; which isn’t all that surprising considering I got sucked into the Fisher family’s drama. I mean what is up with Brenda and Billy? Will David ever learn to relax? Is Ruth going to be miserable forever? She just wants to connect and be happy, but she doesn’t know how to do those things and it’s painful watching her try…

Needless to say I went back on some cables when I should have gone front, as I watched these people’s lives unfold. I decreased too much too soon and I ended up “finishing” the hat around row 48 when I should have been able to keep going until row 58.


So I ended up with this stiff hat that fits more like a cloche than a tam and/or looks like a weird chefs hat if worn farther back on my head, which is dissapointing.

This one is definitely getting put in the box of stuff I have waiting in my car to take to charity:


Here’s a picture of what it’s supposed to look like from the designer’s website: ysolda.com:

Gretel Tam - photo and design by Ysolda of ysolda.com

Gretel Tam – photo and design by Ysolda of ysolda.com

















So pretty!!

I’m going to have to try this one again in the future. Perhaps if I knit it during my commute to/from work, it will turn out better. Normally I would’ve ripped it up (or frogged it for you knitting purists) and started again, but with all the cables and decreasing that would have been more work than it was worth. For now Stitch’n Bitch Superstar Knitting, is going back on the shelf while I work on an embroidery project for my friend Heather’s baby shower next weekend.

More on that soon!




Grand Rapids Zine Fest

Yesterday I tabled at Grand Rapids Zine Fest, which was my first experience tabling at a zine fest outside of Chicago. I had a lot of fun and met a lot of great people, which has me excited to check out other Midwestern zine fests!

Here are all the zines I picked up. Can’t wait to read them all!



I added something new to my repertoire for this zine fest, Touch & Go (a novel in increments). I wrote this novel in my early to mid-twenties and I’ve always meant to do something with it; however, I had a lot of problems with it as it was. In order to motivate myself to edit it, I decided to release it in zine form a few chapters at a time. I’m crossing my fingers and hoping people are into it. If they are, I plan on self-publishing it as a paperback book at some point.

Here’s what I took with me, plus I brought an assortment of my photo postcards, of course!


Thanks to everyone who stopped by to look through my stuff and chat. Special thanks to everyone who bought a postcard or a zine. Extra special thanks to Sara and Drew for organizing the whole thing!

If you weren’t able to make it and are interested in getting a copy of Touch & Go (a novel in increments) Vol. 1, Second City Vegan (recipe zine) or Rip It Up & Start Again, visit my Storenvy page.

Addendum: Chicago folks Second City Vegan and Touch & Go (a novel in increments) are now available at Quimby’s, too!



Sunrise on Lake Michigan

Last week Nick helped me get the green machine up and running again. I got her new tires and tubes, he lubed up my chain, helped me install the tires and checked my brakes and I was good to go!

My green machine, a.k.a. my vintage Schwinn Varsity

My green machine, a.k.a. my vintage Schwinn Varsity

It had been over a year since I’d ridden it, so we took it out for a spin around Humboldt Park and while I was pleasantly surprised to find I could still ride, the idea of riding it on major streets between 9am – 1am freaks me out. I never was fully confident on streets, so I’ve decided to build up to it with early morning rides along major thoroughfares to enjoy those precious little things in life we often miss, like sunrises, while building confidence by learning to deal with traffic (minimal, of course), road hazards, etc. without all the stress. Kind of like how I learned to drive in an empty church parking lot and slowly worked my way up to the highway with all the zooming cars and distractions. I was able to master that with minimal scares and accidents, so hopefully I’ll be able to master this as well.

The first of these rides happened this morning at 4:30. Nick and I woke to a grey dawn full of chirping birds, dragged ourselves out of bed totally confusing the dogs since their internal clocks don’t wake them up until 6, groggily put on our gear and rode along Division Street (since it has bike lanes) to North Avenue beach in order to try to catch the sunrise at 5:15. We didn’t quite make it to the lake to see the sun break the horizon, but what we saw was pretty nonetheless.

Here are some of my favorite shots from the trip. Can’t wait ’til our next one!





Chess Pavilion





king queen copy


Metaphoto: Partners in crime documenting each other documenting

Metaphoto: Partners in crime documenting each other documenting

Overall it was a lovely way to start a lovely day and I made it to and from the lake with almost no incident (I almost ran a pigeon over as I turned onto my street, but managed to avoid him and stay on my bike at the same time – win!)