Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Oh, my, my – the middle of July!


Where the heck did the spring go?  I can’t believe we’re officially into the second half of the year – and school starts in just 4 weeks!  That’s our town, for sure, probably not yours.  Due to the construction at the schools, the town has decided that this fall, the kids will start August 16.  Of course, they’ll get out early next spring too – just after Memorial Day.  And next year not go back until Labor Day, giving the workers a solid 12 week summer to finish up the construction. 

So, we’re trying to cram as much summer into June and July as possible – we’ve been to the pool, Cedar Point (yay coasters!), grown two enormous zucchini plants, and I’ve been running a lot.  Not so much knitting though – funny how exercising in the evening cuts into my crafting time. I ran the Healthy People Healthy Planet race I mentioned last post - 4th in my age group.  By 2 lousy seconds.  The lady that got third passed me in the last 1/2 mile and I just couldn't stop her.  That staircase was the death of me.

I did finish up a couple things since I last posted though (and took pictures!).
Socks!  Socks! More Socks (in progress).  One of my goals this year was to use up as much of my sock yarn stash as I could.  It’s been about 6 years since I made my first pair of socks, and in addition to some beautiful new yarn I’ve bought along the way, I’ve got a lot of 20g mini-balls left over.  Using Grumperina’s spiral sock tutorial, I’m slowly making my way through them with some wild stripy socks. Pics to come soon, I hope.
These are Cookie A’s pattern "Sunshine"; the yarn is Shibui Knits.

Sunshine socks

Finished two shawlettes – Argus (Wendy Johnson) I “doubled” the pattern to make it stay over my shoulders’ better.  Isn’t that a pretty yarn?  It’s Cherry Tree Hill Alpaca lace.  Kind of a “do it yourself” 13th anniversary gift from Mike (traditional 13th year gift is lace).  That was last year, but I just finished it this spring (in time for our 14th anniversary of course).

Argus Shawlette
Argus shawlette

And Maluka, in a non-nylon enhanced sock yarn I bought on vacation.

Maluka shawlette
Maluka shawlette

And in the category of “try something new”:
blouse
A blouse!  Sewed by me!  Simplicity pattern XXXX, in linen.
Lessons learned:  you must catch all three layers of cloth under the needle when you sew a narrow folded hem.  The places you miss fray in the wash, right up to the seam line.
blousehemcloseup
 Kind of like how an unnoticed dropped stitch will runner down the length of a sweater,  given the opportunity.  Price of experience:  only about $12 for the fabric, and a couple hours of time.  I don’t think this is wearable, at least not without a cardigan over it.  Fits pretty well though.  If I do it again, I’m not sure I want as much fabric gathered along the back neckline.  It’s overly loose around the torso.  Also this linen is not drapey enough to make the front neckline hang the way (I think) it should.

In progress:  a rayon skirt.  Fabric cut, just need to sew!

Monday, April 30, 2012

Week 18/52


Cuh-razy weather!  Sunday morning (race day) was 32F when I left the house at 7:30 a.m.  Bright and sunny though, and by halfway through the race I was ready to ditch the gloves.  Didn't really need two layers of shirts though, although it wasn't uncomfortably warm.  New tights were great!  Much warmer than their thickness suggested they would be.

Race results:  I got third place in my division!  Total stats:  3/11 Female 40 - 44; 7/39 Female Masters; 19/110 Females overall.  Time: 33:13 for the 4 mile race.   Not too shabby for my first race in almost 10 years!

I think I've got the next race picked out.  Healthy People, Healthy Planet at the Metroparks. 5K, a little bit road race, a little bit cross-country race, a little bit staircase.  Yup, you read that right.  The course goes right up the 135 step staircase to the top of the bluff behind the Nature Center.  Sounds killer.  Sounds painful.  Sounds like the training is guaranteed to get my booty ready for bathing suit season, no?

Weight: Goal + 0.8 lbs!   Okay, that’s what it was this morning.  I don’t really think it will stay there all week – I’ve been fighting a cold and not eating as much, but wouldn’t it be nice?

Try something new:  Carrot Cake quinoa muffins.   Discovered on Pinterest, recipe can be found here.
Verdict:  I cooked these for the full 22 minutes, but they are still too moist for my liking.  Taste kind of mushy.  Maybe I overcooked my quinoa?  That would add a lot of moisture to the recipe.  Also, too sweet for me.  I would add less sugar next time.  Other issues:  the recipe says it makes 6 muffins, which seemed kind of skimpy, so I doubled the ingredients.  I came up with enough batter for 12 muffins plus a 9” cake pan!  I’m thinking the author may have been using those giant restaurant muffin tins?  I was using the standard size cupcake muffin pan – you know the size you can get 24 cupcakes from one box of cake mix?  Best thing about these muffins: even my small cupcake size muffins are nicely filling; with a glass of juice and one muffin, I’m making it all the way to lunch without getting that starving, low-blood sugar feeling.   Would I make it again?  Maybe.  But I need to tinker with the recipe.

Knitting:  Finally blocked the lace shawl!  Also finished a pair of socks, just need to graft the last toe.  

School is almost over, just one month + one week left to go; kidlet is registered for a couple of summer camps, and I am itching to get into the garden.  With forecasts like we have this week, I’m glad  I didn’t plant anything yet (although the weeds seem to have no problem with late frosts), but soon I’ll start a few rows of lettuce and radishes right outside.  With the addition of the kitten this year, we decided not to sprout any tomato or pepper plants on the kitchen counter.  She seems to like pushing things off counters when she can.  I’ll just but my seedlings at the garden store. 

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Summer! (psyche!)

Week 12/52

It’s summer! Seriously, it was in the upper 70’s for several days this week. Feels like summer to me! Now that I’ve finally finished the two wool shawlettes I was working on, I don’t feel especially motivated to block them. But then next week is expected to be a little more March-like, so maybe I should after all.

I have been busy running outside though – such a different feeling than running on the treadmill. To force myself to keep up with it, I registered for a 4 mile race – my first race in almost 10 years – eep! It’s Emily’s Rainbow Run, and if you are in the Cleveland area the last Sunday in April, won’t you come on over? There’s also a 2 mile fun run/walk and children’s ¼ mile run. It’s a charity run for Pediatric Cancer research at the Cleveland Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital.

I’ve added weekly hillwork and pace/speedwork to my routine, and my pace is improving already. Still need to work on endurance. I feel pretty good that I can run a mile in 8:00, but I need to tack on three more of those miles without resting. I’ve still got 5 weeks before the race. I’d be really happy with a sub-32:00.

The Sunshine socks are coming along nicely – first sock is done (except Kitchenering the toe), will cast on second sock this weekend.

Try new things: hmmm, nothing really new here. Still taking skating lessons, so a little bit of “new” every week, just signed up for another 6 weeks of classes.

Monday, March 05, 2012

February is Finished!

Here we are, the 1st week of March – what have I finished last month? One pair of mittens, one shawl, one pair of socks. Not too bad! Still on the needles/sewing table: Maluka, the casserole tote, the quilt and the Christmas stocking(s). Maluka is nearly done – I’m in the stockinette section at the top and it is going really fast. I added 6 border repeats (total of 39) based on many peoples’ comments that they wished it was larger. I also want to use up as much of the yarn as I can – I have 400 yards, and the shawl as written only takes 250 - 290.

My mitten entry won a prize on Jeanne’s blog! She brought it to knitting last night – wow, I am so awed at the generosity (and skills) of her friends that donated prizes. There is a small tote bag/purse (jenbuza bags) in bright spring colors: ,

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a box of handmade soaps in flavors good enough to eat:,

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and a framed linoleum block print by Susan. I’m thinking living room for the print – the clean lines and simple color scheme will go well in there.

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Weight: goal + 3.5 lbs! Will I be able to maintain this? I don’t know. The key really seems to be portion control and limiting carbs, which is very hard when cooking for a family. I spent most of last week at a conference in Florida, which when done right, can be a great way to kick start some good habits. Typical conference day: lectures start at 8:30, and the “commute” is a quick 2 minute walk from my hotel room to the conference room on the first floor. Plenty of time for some exercise before the day starts, and I don’t even have to get up early (compared to my Cleveland alarm clock). Bonus: February in Florida means you can jog outside in a t-shirt and shorts – much preferred over the treadmill at home. Grab a Luna bar and some water for breakfast, wash up and walk past the table of donuts and muffins by the conference room, sit down with a cup of tea. Morning coffee break: continue to ignore the donuts and muffins. Lunch: this conference provided a buffet lunch each day – awesome. At a larger conference, you are usually on your own and that can mean food court or fast food near the conference center. Fill up half my plate with salad, take a piece of fish and a roll, more iced tea. Afternoon coffee break: no cookies or brownies for me! Dinner: on my own two nights, (Indian the first night, Lebanese the second), the third night was the conference reception and I got invited to join a group of people going to Bonefish Grill. Reception and dinner out with a group means total calorie splurge, but we all need a night off, right?

Conference ended at lunch Friday but I booked an extra day of vacation for myself. Friday afternoon – sunny and 87°F. Pool time! Got a little tan. Friday night – choice of sitting in hotel room (boring), going to bar alone in strange city (not happening), or driving up to a sports complex in the ‘burbs and going skating. Guess which one I picked? OMG I had forgotten how much rental skates suck! Black and blue all over – falling doing the simplest things.

Saturday was much cooler – only upper 60’s, not really a pool day. I checked out of the hotel, spent the morning at the outlet mall picking up some new clothes for the spring and the afternoon at Lake Louisa State Park, about 30 minutes west of Orlando. Perfect hiking weather – I spent two hours on the “orange” trail wandering through a cypress forest. Microclimate changed from pines to cypress dripping with Spanish Moss, a blackwater stream, a sandy beach. So peaceful and quiet, so opposite of Orlando. Headed back to the airport and collapsed.

Tried nothing really “new” the last two weeks – just trying to keep up with work and family schedules, sticking to the tried and true. Last swimming lesson was last night – and nothing (sports wise) on Audrey’s schedule for a while – skating goes through the end of March for her, then I think we’re done until Fall.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Done!

Week ?/52. I'm useless at this numbering system. Valentine's week!

Another project done for February is for Finishing. Cha-Ching!

Here's my Bird in Hand Mittens - yarn is Shelter, by Brooklyn Tweed in Fossil and Almanac. I used about 0.5 skeins of the white, and just a skosh over 1 skein of the blue. Arghh! Increases project cost by 50% - was not planning on buying 3 skeins of this yarn for mittens! But, I think I have plenty left over for a matching hat, so not a complete loss.

Bird in Hand Mittens

Pattern: Bird in Hand
Designer: Kate Gilbert
Yarn: Brooklyn Tween Shelter
Needles: US1

Try something new: crock pot chicken parmesan. You can find variations of this recipe all over the web, I won't repeat it. Verdict: BIG FAIL! Provided many giggles for my 2nd grader though as she watched me try to fit a large (frozen) oval chicken breast into a small round crockpot this morning. I went with frozen because there are 10 hours between leaving for work and sitting down to dinner, and I needed to add a couple hours on to the usual "6 - 7 hours on low" crockpot instructions. I breaded the breasts last night and froze them, stacked, (big mistake) in a container. Then this morning I could not separate them. And they were too big to fit flat on the bottom of my crockpot so I put them in propped up diagonally. The cheese I layered on the chicken all slid off and fell into the sauce. Oh the mirth!

It tasted okay though - just looked a disaster. One blogger claimed her dish was worthy of serving to company. If you are company at my house and I serve you this hot mess, well, you will know what I think of you.

Weight: Goal + 7.5 lbs. Endurance is up, upper body strength modestly improved. Pants a little loose today!

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Wednesday, February 08, 2012

February is for finishing!

Week 6/52

So, I held off posting this week until I could honestly say I finished something. My friend Jeanne (check her out at lifeincleveland.blogspot.com) came up with the great idea of using this short, sweet month to clear the dust of some of those WIPs and UFOs and get some stuff DONE! FINI! She's even having some contests to get you motivated - check it out!

My Argus shawlette is done - off the needles. Still needs to be blocked, so I'll wait on the photo until it's ready for its close-up. What else is on my list for February? Well, I guess I'll have to finish up those mittens after all. Then I'll fire up my sewing machine and finish the casserole tote I started, and bind that quilt I made before Audrey was even born. If I still have time, there's a cross-stitch Christmas stocking with my husband's name on it (really. But the sky still needs to be filled in, and there is some outlining detail that needs work.)

Kitty has a name - Luna. She is shaping up to be a very mellow cat. I've never seen a kitten sleep so much. I have a feeling she is going to need the "Less Active" cat food in another year or so.

Weight: up. Phooey. I didn't eat that much this weekend, but I think all the salt I ate on Super Bowl Sunday must have caused all of Lake Erie to cling to my waist.

Try something new: crock pot Buffalo chicken sandwiches. Awesome. Low fat (but high sodium, unfortunately). We used wing sauce from Anchor Bar. Yum - and we have leftovers in the freezer for more sandwiches this weekend!

Happy finishing!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Kitty!

Week 5/52

I ought to have my head examined!

Got a kitty this weekend! Here she is -

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She was born last July, and we got her through Love-A-Stray. Very shy – she loves to be petted, but so far will not approach us. We’ve had to extract her from under the TV cabinet to see her at all. Yet, once in my lap, she makes no effort to leave. And purrs like a motorboat! Her whole body vibrates when she purrs.

Not a complete surprise, we have been promising Audrey we would get a cat for a while now. I just expected we would spend more time looking before picking one. It’s hard though, because at any given time there may be only one or two cats that fit our criteria at the adoption center to look at. Do you pull the trigger, or wait another week? And of course Audrey fell deeply in love with EVERY cat she petted.

Now we have to cat-proof the house. Already one plant has been earmarked to be moved to my office at work. Zoey used to love to chew on it too, but when Zoey was alive, this plant was small enough to put on top of the bookcase. It’s over three feet tall now, and that is not an option anymore. What is it about plants with blade-shaped leaves and cats? I doubt it actually tastes like grass.

In knitting: done with Chart B of my Argus Shawl. Just one chart left – yay! I think I’ve pretty much abandoned the goal of finishing the thumbs on the mittens right away. I mean, it’s going to be in the mid-50’s today. I don’t think I am going to need warm mittens this winter. Next year, for sure.

In exercise/weight loss. Moved to Workout 2 of the 30-Day Shred. More ouchies. Some interesting new exercises I have not done before – plank jumping jacks? So you do jumping jacks with your legs while your body is in plank position and you try not to fall forward on your face while wondering if the neighbors can see that your shirt is slipping up around your shoulders through the curtains you forgot to close. Exercises legs, abs, arms, and mind! Weight: Goal + 8 lbs. Not budging. Love handles not disappearing either, but pants feel a smidge looser. Legs are feeling rock hard, between these exercises and the ice skating.

Successful recipe – not really a recipe, but a method. Nothing new and innovative either, just a first for me: tender pork chops. Thick cut pork chops (about 1”), sprinkled with dry rub (salt and spice only, no sugars). Preheat iron pan on front left burner, dial #7.5, spray with Grilling Pam. Sear both sides of chops, insert thermometer and put in 400F oven until reads 155F. Total time ~30 minutes. Yay me! Even Audrey ate her portion.