Friday, December 4, 2009

Finally . . . Emma's sweater!

Remember Emma's Sweater that I started last year?  Well, it's finally, finally, finally done.  And I am too through.  I am so incredibly happy that this project is finished.  It took me forever and I swear to never undertake a project like this again.  It was too much of the same stitch (stockinette) in a yarn that I wasn't fond of.  I really hate 100% cotton for knitting because the stitch comes out so unevenly (cotton doesn't give).  But I was determined to finish before the year was out and I'm happy to say that I did.

So without further ado . . .

That last picture is Z1 modeling it.  As you can see, it turned out huge (this is the largest size-supposedly for a four year old).  One of these days, I will knit swatches and check gauge instead of diving into projects head first.

I'm not sure what I'm going to do with the sweater.  It's not my best work and we no longer see the little girl I made it for.  I have a book of her mother's though . . . should I try to reach out just one more time?  Return the book and gift the sweater?  Perhaps I will.  I probably would without a doubt if I were more satisfied with the workmanship.

Anyway, I have two projects that I'm looking forward to starting:  the Clapotis for a good friend of mine with a birthday soon approaching and the Sideways Grande Cloche (both are Ravelry links).  I already have the yarn for the Clapotis.  The yarn for the hat is KnitPicks Cadena in the Cranberry colorway and even with shipping and handling it will cost less that $15 (which is way less than the recommended yarn would have cost--way, way, way less).

I'm so excited about starting something new that I (almost) forgot that I have one more sock to finish. I'm so excited I can't even really get into my latest Octavia Butler book (I just finished Wild Seed which was sumptuous and I completely loved). So, hopefully, there'll be some beautiful FOs soon.  But don't hold your breath!

The Second Time's a Charm

I'd asked for an aerobic step bench on Freecycle before but no one responded. I figured what could be the harm in asking again and this time, I received.  It seems like the second time is a charm.  Yes, I would have to drive about 30 minutes to get it but I was going to be going up north anyway.  It's not that I would have been closer to the pick-up spot but at least I would already be in motion. I called the Freecycler to arrange and what do you know?  She works in the town that neighbors mine! So I had a ridiculously easy and quick pick up and I'm now in possession of a step bench.

I have this tape that I bought at the library for $1 eons ago called Fat Burning  Breakthrough by Kathy Smith. I didn't realize it needed a step bench when I bought it so the tape had just been sitting there. So now that I finally had a step bench, I was eager to give it a try. And I was surprised to find out that I really liked it. It was a challenging and balanced workout although I think the challenge came mostly from trying to master the choreography. Kathy Smith could have done a better job of cuing but  the routine is not over-the-top complex.  I think once I'm comfortable with the steps, I can really ramp up the intensity on this workout. It was a pretty long and comprehensive workout--lots of cardio with strength and flexibility thrown in.  More than all of that, it was fun and very different from the style of my other workout DVDs.  It's a little annoying that it's on tape because I have to use the television as opposed to the computer.  Our computer is positioned in our living room in such a way that it's more conducive to working out.

In any case, it's something really good to add to the mix while I try to figure out what I'm going to do next exercise wise.  I'm going to check at the library for other workouts that use a step.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

They've taken me as far as they can . . .

Yeah, it's true:  I've plateaued when it comes to my workout DVDs.  I currently have only one that really challenges me (Women's Health Train for Your Body Type) and even at that, the cardio is too short (only 22 minutes).  This is quite exciting to me because it means that I am in much better shape than I was when I started consistently working out in January.  It's not so exciting because now I have to think of what to do next.

I'm determined to get into the best shape of my life which means I need more intense cardio exercise for longer periods of time.  I've thought about the gym but I personally can't stand to be on a treadmill or an elliptical for more than 20-25 minutes although I know I should be pushing cardio to almost an hour.  It would be great to take classes but the gyms I can afford don't offer that many options.  And to be honest I enjoy working out at home.  [When I strike it rich, my home will have an exercise room (and a crafting room).]

So I'm back to looking at DVDs again . . . but I know they will have to be very different from what I'm doing now.  With the ones I have now, half the time, I don't even break a sweat!  The hubby says it's really up to me to push up the intensity of the DVDs I currently have--to use them only as a rough guide because really only I know my body.  But at the same time, I want a real guide and if I had it, I know I would have already hired a personal trainer.  I don't want to think too too hard because I really have a lot of other things I'm thinking about.  I just want an effective workout already laid out for me.  I want to get in there, work hard,  sweat a lot, and lose the weight.

I've heard about P90X, Chaelean Extreme, and TurboJam and all the other Beachbody products but I just don't know!  I thought about the TransFirmer System too . . . something different from what I'm doing now (since it uses a step) but previewing the workouts, I don't think they are anywhere near as intense as I need--especially since some are only about 30 minutes long.

My sister says there's only so much you can do with DVDs at home.  I wonder if she's right.  Will getting in the best shape of my life require a gym membership?

I am actually thinking about hitting the pavement and running.  I've always wanted to be able to run miles.  But I kind of know my body is not built for it . . . it's really difficult for me to run for long distance.  But maybe I can train myself?  And it's winter . . . will I really be down for running in winter?  I know once you start you warm up but brrrrrrrrr . . .

Have you any experience with any of the Beachbody products?  Care to share?

Bananas and Blueberries . . . a winning combination!

I have a large bag of frozen blueberries sitting in my freezer leftover from summer smoothie making. In the winter, I just can't drink anything cold.

On Sundays we usually have pancakes for breakfast and since I had a whole bunch of very ripe bananas, I decided to try a banana blueberry pancake, which I've never had before. Z1 loves banana chocolate chip so I just made up the batter for pancakes* (adding two mashed bananas). For half of the pancakes, I used chocolate chips and for the other half I used blueberries. (I don't mix the add-ons into the batter--I just drop them onto the uncooked side of the pancake while it's cooking. I got this tip from Alton Brown and I have to say, this works out a whole lot better.)

Well, it turns out that I really like the banana blueberry combination so yesterday, I decided to do the same combo in a muffin. Weeks ago I found the best banana chocolate chip muffin recipe I have tried so far. It's super moist and delicious and all that. I've substituted nuts for the chocolate chips and so yesterday I thought, "Why not try blueberries?" I did and it was really good. Even Z1 who's not a fan of blueberries was gobbling them up.

I had wanted to raise a berry bush in the back last year and didn't get around to doing it. This coming year, though, I think it would be a great idea. I really liked these muffins and we use lots of blueberries for smoothies and stuff. Supposedly, berries are pretty straightforward to grow so I'm kind of excited to try.

*I have since decided that the recipe does indeed need 1/4 cup of extra liquid which is what the original recipe calls for. So the recipe I am using looks like this:

Pancakes Like Mom Used to Make (Except Vegan)
2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 1/2 tsp aluminum free baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tbsp sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil (or other flavorless oil)
1 1/2 cups soy milk

1/4 cup water
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Put your oven on "keep warm".

In a large bowl, sift all the dry ingredients together. In another bowl, mix the wet ingredients. Add the dry to the wet and stir until everything is well combined and all the lumps are gone.

Oil your griddle or pan lightly with some flavorless oil. Pour 1/3 cup batter onto skillet and cook until bubbles start to form on the top or until the bottom side of pancake is as brown as you'd like. Flip and cook the other side.

Makes 8 pancakes.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Holding your breath?

It's very plain to see (or at least I think it is) that right now people are hurting financially. The cost of things are going up when people are losing their jobs.  I can't say how grateful I am that the hubby has a (pretty) secure job in healthcare (though I don't have any illusions) and I can't even imagine the fortune I have had so that I was able to land a Saturday gig.

When I started the Saturday job, which is at a learning center, I thought to myself that this would be a great way to keep myself in the job market at least somewhat so that when I'm ready to return to work or go back to school for my doctorate, there's no huge gap in my resume.

But what I notice whenever I start to think of the future is that somewhere deep inside I hold back.  Of course, no one can predict what the future will be.  No one really knows what things will look like a few years from now.  But it can't be only me wondering when the shit is going to hit the fan.  Right now, it seems like so many folks are intensely invested in maintaining the status quo.  Business as usual--with a few very slight modifications to take into account the fact that their money is kind of funny right now.  But you'd have to be seriously delusional to not notice that it is most decidedly not business as usual.  The world is changing in ways we've never seen before.  They are calling this depression (which folks want to still misleadingly call a recession) the Greater Depression.  It will get a whole lot worse before it begins to get better.  And when it gets better, things will be a whole lot different.  Will Ph.Ds be relevant then?  What will a teacher's job look like?  How exactly do you plan when you don't know what you're planning for?

I don't spend money frivolously at all.  I weigh every penny I spend and struggle to stay within my budget.  I think to myself though that this may be the last time for a long time that I'll be able to get those silver earrings I've been looking at, those workout DVDs I've been wanting, so maybe I should just go on and get them.  Then I think to myself . . . in  a few years, will these things even be relevant?  Will I lose weight because I am not eating preferring to give the expensive food to the children while I survive on nuts, raisins, and topinambur (which was about the only thing we were able to grow in abundance this year)? Will I be looking to sell off my silver and gold to facilitate getting the hell out of dodge?

Is that kind of thinking pessimistic?  Or realistic?  And in my day to day dealings, should I be thinking about these things?  How do you go about in life not thinking about them?  How do you pretend that everything is exactly as it's always been (all this talk of recession is really just a hiccup right?  We'll be back in a minute!) when clearly, it's not.

You've read the articles about the "alarming" number of folks needing food stamps now.  What about when the government can't afford to subsidize the food stamp program?  You've heard of the folks who used to donate to food banks who are now accepting donations.  What about when the food banks can't afford to do what they do anymore?

So, yeah, I find myself holding my breath unconsciously sometimes.  You know, you plan your life out and dream about all the things you'd like to see happen.  But you don't hold on to those plans too tightly.  You let those dreams be fluid and loose and start to focus on the most basic of things that could keep you happy.  And alive.  You start to think about ways in which you can become more resilient and more versatile and more adaptable.

I think about my children and wonder about the kind of world they live in.  I just hope they can have childhoods, i.e. that the shit hits the fan after they are grown or something.  I know that's kind of selfish since there are other children coming up after them.  (And why the hell do I still want more kids if I know the condition of the world?)

The taxes where we live are too high and will get higher yet moving in this market is really not a possibility.  Like many folks out there, we'd have to sell to buy and quite frankly, ain't no one buying.  So we just go on paying our mortgage that has us by the gonads.  We are currently breaking even at the end of month even with strict budgets and accounting for every penny spent.  Yet, the list of things we need/want grows steadily--and we as parents struggle to do without, trying to give the kids a sense of abundance while cluing them in to the reality that for us and for many others, money is not growing on any trees.  So I'm determined to sock the money I make at this Saturday job away--tenaciously.  I know how easy it is once you're making money to spend money especially with kids, especially trying to give them all the things I didn't have as a child--like Christmas trees and such.  But my focus now is really and truly saving a good chunk of money while striking that delicate balance.  While avoiding feeling like I'm depriving my children and my self.  Having cash money can serve as good cushion to absorb whatever shocks we may be about to experience.

It strikes, me that this is also a good time to get my spiritual life in order too.  Again, shock absorption. Sure, I've been searching for my path but I am more motivated to focus on finding where I'm supposed to so that I'm there if or when the "just in case" situations happen.  So that I am there when the time comes to exhale.  And figure out what to do next.
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