Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Shoalwater Abandoned - Cast On For Shetland Triangle

As many of you may know, I have been trying for 5 weeks to knit a Shoalwater Shawl for my friend Margo. After weeks of frustration and too many lifelines to count, I have decided to ditch this shawl in favor of another pattern, the Shetland Triangle Shawl from Wrap Style.

It looks like a much easier and faster pattern. What was supposed to be a serene prayer shawl was turning into too much frustrated effort and UNpeaceful thoughts. I'm starting over with the same colorway, Dream In Color Nightwatch, but I just decided that after being only 1/4 finished with a shawl in 5 weeks was ridiculous. I want to get this shawl to my friend - she needs the comfort it provides.

I've just had so darn many knitting projects go south this year, it's weird. But in most cases, the problem has been that I hang onto bad projects for TOO long, hoping they'll get better. Lesson Learned: Bad projects, like bad relationships, usually don't get better. Breathe. And let go.

So Shoalwater is off the needles - Shetland Triangle is ON. It's totally in chart form but looks easy - and hopefully FAST.

I'm starting Ravelempics in only about 11 days.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Vest Vault

Yesterday I was visiting Knitcraft store. It's the charming little shop where I learned to knit in 2003. The shop clerk, Rita, who is an enabler extraordinaire, led me to some new yarn they now have in their store called "Wisdom Yarn/Poems" which is sort of similar to Noro in terms of colorway, but much softer and cheaper. I picked up this lovely yarn for only $5 per skein and bought a package of 10 (has about 100 yards per skein). I bought it in color #473, which has lovely shades of purple, turquoise and rust. In the photo, the rust color run is photographing as red, but it's rust.

Right away, I feel in love with it and decided to knit up a vest that is on the cover of Creative Knitting September 2008 called "Striped Modular Vest."

I've made a decision to change my Ravelempics project from WIP Wrestling to "Vest Vault." You may think I'm crazy to attempt another vest after my previous 2 vest disasters (both way too big) but this is exactly WHY I'm going to do it, I can't let this sweater gauge problem beat me. I'm going to make one more valiant and sincere attempt to make a decent garment that actually fits.

The way the Ravelempics works is that you can swatch for your project ahead of time to get gauge, you just can't actually cast on nor start working until the August 8th start date. I entered this project into the Ravery database and swatched for it yesterday. Me being a loose knitter, I had to go down from the recommended Size 9 needles down to a 7. I am also going to wash and block the swatch to make sure this is the right gauge.

In the meantime, I am trying to pry myself away from the spinning wheel long enough to work on the Shoalwater prayer shawl that I've been working on for weeks. Feels like I'm not making much progress at all on it, but I need to focus to get it done, or at least progressing faster.

Have a great week everyone.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

One Purse Love Abandoned for Another

Remember how I labored long and hard to find my Lime Namastate Laguna bag? It took me weeks and weeks of desperate searching as other Laguna Bag seekers were clawing to get them in a heated buying frenzy?

Well, I've loved my Lime Laguna bag and used it pretty consistently. But then, unexpectedly, a couple of weeks ago, this new bag arrived quite unexpectedly in the mail. It seems that my dear friend Phyllis decided to gift me with a brand new Namastate Cali Malibu Bag in the classy color of Saddle. I love, love, LOVE it. And everyone else does too. I've received many compliments about this bag and people DO stop me on the street and inquire about it. No one believes it's not real leather. It's soft as butter.

Idiot Proof Diet Report. Now, speaking of Phyllis, she and I have partnered up on experiencing this diet together. I talked about the book which inspired our diet plan in an earlier entry.

Well, we've been on the diet for 3 weeks as of tomorrow. All I can say is I feel so much better, more energetic, more healthy. Best of all, I'm not craving everything that isn't nailed down. I feel satisfied and not wishing I could eat my old favorites of chocolate, potatoes and pasta. I see people eating that stuff around me, and I am able to resist. Over the last 3 weeks, I've been in movie theaters with my family and refused popcorn. We've eaten at Mexican restaurants and I've sat there ignoring my old favorite of chips with salsa. I've been freed of my late night snacking. I've actually been grossed out by my coworkers having a "food day" where they devour enormous amounts of snack foods and deserts and then feel sluggish and tired all afternoon. Yep, I've avoided all those things and am so happy with this diet thus far. I have lost at a healthy rate of about 2 lbs per week. So I think altogether I have lost 6-7 pounds. I don't know yet because I weigh myself tomorrow morning, but I don't think I've lost this week due to a hormonal thing.

But all in all, I think both Phyllis and I are very happy with this plan. We both are losing at a healthy rate. We are supporting one another via email and Sunday check-in conference calls. During that call, we discuss our strategy for the week to come.

I think we'd both say that the diet was HARD the first week, especially the first 5 or 6 days. Weaning our bodies off all that caffeine and carbs was damn HARD. If we hadn't been in this together, I don't think we'd have succeeded as well.

We're at the halfway point. We both committed to sticking to this lifestyle for 6 weeks which ends in mid-August. We're halfway there and think we like the change.

On the coffee front, we are allowing ourselves ONE cup of coffee per day, but I'm finding I'm not going crazy for it like I used to. Once those initial days of starting the diet, and having bad caffeine withdrawal headaches, I'm no longer getting those at all. Also, on this diet, you drink NO soda or carbonated beverages. I've found that to be a big improvement. I drink decaf tea instead and mainly water, water, water.

Have a fun weekend everyone.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Look - I Made Yarn!

I used to hate it when a knitting friend of mine got into spinning. Why? Because everytime I saw it happening, the person afflicted with Spinneritis would soon become hopelessly symptomatic and would drive me crazy talking about it constantly. It also severely took away from their knitting time. No matter how relaxing and fascinating they claimed it to be, I vowed NEVER to become one of those Crazy, Obsessed, Hopelessly Gushing Spinners. Right?

Well, yeah, until now. I started a couple of weeks ago working with a drop spindle and that has been both frustrating and fun. But ever since Grammy gave me her Ashford Traditional spinning wheel, last week, I began to realize the infection was catching. Then I fully came down with it yesterday, when I took my first day-long Spinning Class at Yarn Barn.

I arrived early enough to enjoy a delicious low-carb breakfast at my favorite restaurant in Lawrence, Miltons, which is only 2 doors down from YB.

The owner of YB, Sue, is such a nice lady. I walked into her store not even knowing the parts and operation of my wheel. She quickly took a look at it, replaced the brake band and tension spring. She oiled it and then pronounced it ready to roll . . . or in this case SPIN.

There were 8 people in our class, which was taught by a young woman named Dana. She first talked about sheep and fibers. Then she went into a brief overview and demonstration of drop spindling. But most of our day was spent with the actual spinning wheel spinning. Only 2 of us had our own wheels and the others were using the store-loaned wheels. They encouraged us to move around the room and try different wheels, but I resisted that because I wanted to take advantage of every single minute of time to practice using MY wheel and figuring out how to troubleshoot many of the difficulties.

It felt a bit awkward at first, but I have to say, I started enjoying it immediately. Even though my yarn was alternatively too thin, too thick, too kinky etc. that was fine. It was MY yarn.

We learned how to spin 2 bobbins of singles, and then learned to ply them. By the end of the day, I was pleasantly exhausted.

Then this morning, I got up fairly early and tried to start a new yarn - afraid that the knowledge might have evaporated overnight. Luckily, I was not only still able to do it, but my yarn was noticeably better. I became more comfortable with changing the tension of the wheel and in doing what I needed to do to make a BIT more consistent yarn.

So, I promise not to become TOO obsessed with Spinning that I turn into a Spinning Maniac. But I now understand why people love it so much. Yay, I made yarn!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Ravelympics 2008

Well, guess what, my friend Rosemary got me involved in? It's the Ravelympics 2008. What is it? Well, if you are a member of Ravelry, you can read about it here.

What it amounts to is huge group of Ravelry members, I think it's well over a thousand now, are going to compete in various knitting events while the Summer Olympics are going on, from August 8th through August 24th. You are supposed to pick a project or projects for yourself that would be a CHALLENGE for you to complete in 17 days. There are several categories including sweaters, socks, shawls, bags, baby items, gift items, etc. There's even a separate category for WIP Wrestling. You pick a category you'd like to compete in and begin planning the project and getting the yarn etc. in the weeks before it starts. You can even do your swatching in preparation beforehand. But you're supposed to wait to actually cast on until the first day of the Olympics.

After selecting a "sport" to participate in, you pick the team you're competiting in. After many days of contemplating this and trying to be realistic, I decided that I should really do the WIP Wrestling because being a person of short attention span, I tend to have about 10 projects going at once, in various phases of incompletion or unrecognized abandonment. Around August of each year, I begin to face up to these orphans and decide to either own them again, or rip them out. So this Ravelempic competition might help me face them more confidently and actually take action on them. With the WIP competition, you obviously don't start anything new, you just focus on the project(s) you're going to complete and start aggressively working on those as of the August 8th start date.

I'm going to get these projects lined up and will report on my chosen WIP targets by the end of the weekend to develop a plan of attack.

Because I'm a Dr. Who fan, I am on Team Tardis.

If any of you care to join in any of these events, go to the link here.

Let the Games begin!!!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

This Perfect Weekend

I don't know what it is, but I feel really good this weekend. Yay! I think part of it may be my new diet/exercise routine. Part of it might be giddiness over getting my spinning wheel. Part of it might be the delightful spring-like weather we're having here now in the middle of July.

The weekend started off right with us going to see a really FUN 3-D movie called JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH - a contemporary group of adventurers go on the old Jules Verne journey to the center of the earth. I LOVED the 3-D effects and already want to go again. Even though I was tired Friday night from a hard week at work, we really enjoyed the movie. It was a blast. The screen effects were so real that I reached out and grabbed for a flying bird that "flew" right in front of my face. I hadn't been to a 3-D movie in years, but I used to go to several of those back in the late 1970s when I was in high school. I was also proud of myself because I didn't eat popcorn or soda at the movie.

I stayed true to my diet all week through. That's a really powerful, invigorating feeling. So did Phyllis. Congratulations, Phyllis, we did it! And we're going to keep doing it, for at least 5 more weeks. After that, we'll see how it's working and reevaluating at that point.

What's amazing is I didn't feel hungry. I felt pretty headachy and raggedy the first two days, a bit better on Tuesday, but from Wednesday on, I felt a surge of energy and much better mood. Not hungry. Not craving things. Just fine. Even though it was a crazy, hectic week at work, I didn't do the emotional eating that I too often do when on a low-fat, low-cal diet. I felt happy and satisfied.

Saturday, we spent the morning lazing around the house and I read up on spinning and signed up for my spinning class taking place next week. I was reading a really excellent one called Start Spinning by Maggie Casey that was recommended by Kelly Petkin of Knitpicks. It covers both drop spindles and wheels at a pretty basic level. There are lots of pictures.

Had a chance to knit for several hours on my Shoalwater Shawl. This shawl is going slowly, because I keep making mistakes and having to rip out. It's not a hard shawl, I just have to pay closer attention because it is so easy, I get overconfident and then make a mistake. So there are LOTS of lifelines. Still, there's progress.

Saturday afternoon, we went shopping for my daughter's boyfriend a birthday present. Even going to the mall, which I normally don't like to do, was fun. Saturday night, we drove around in the cool night air down some country lake roads. Spotted several herds of deer and watched them for a while. Very relaxing.

Today is Sunday, my "free and easy" day. I've had a leisurely morning but am going to soon go out and get my week's worth of healthy groceries and start cutting up veggies, preparing my food plan etc. so I can have just a successful week this week as I had last. Being on a diet like this is restrictive in some ways, but freeing in others. I have to PLAN very carefully and be AWARE of what I'm eating so that I can make the right choices.

For some reason, I feel more relaxed right now, on Sunday afternoon than I did last week after having a 3-day weekend. I can see that planning my weekends in advance, and planning for having really FUN down-time is as important as planning my meals and exercise.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Look What Came to Live At My House

As you know, I've been just beginning to play with spinning --- very VERY beginning. And I took the Drop Spindling class a couple of weeks ago.

My grandmother, Ferne, has been a weaver, spinner, seamstress, knitter and avid crafts person all her life. I probably inherited my love my crafts from her.

Well, when Grammy recently learned I had taken an interest in spinning, she offered to give me her spinning wheel. I believe it is an Ashford Traditional wheel of 1970's vintage. But I'm not sure exactly, that shows you how darn little I know about wheels yet. And spinning.

She hasn't spun in a long time with it, and insists she wants me to have it.

Her giving me this wheel means the world to me, and I'm intent on learning, however long it takes. I'm taking a class in Lawrence, Kansas at The Yarn Barn next Saturday - an all day beginning spinners class.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Diet Check In

Well, so far, the Idiot Proof diet is working fine for me. The first day was pretty bad, Sunday, because going "no caffeine" gave me a terrific headache all day. The second day, also, I had a bit a headache early afternoon, but it eased with me using my favorite headache remedy, the Origins stress reliever lotion, it's a strong peppermint scented lotion that you rub on your forehead, temples, and a couple of dabs just under my nose too. Though it doesn't totally eliminate the headache, if you put it on at the onset, it helps. I also took 1 tablet of Aleve, not sure if that has caffeine in it or not, but I was avoiding Excedrin Migraine, because it definitely has caffeine!

Day 3 (yesterday) was much better, no headache.

Best of all, with this diet, I am having no cravings. I am feeling pleasantly full, not bloated, I am drinking lots of water. Mainly eating eggs and 2 strips of bacon for breakfast, a salad with a lean protein for lunch and a protein with grilled veggies for dinner. Pretty simple. For snacks, you can have cheese and nuts. Eventually, the menu will expand, but the first 2 weeks are pretty strict.

I've been feeling good and going strong. What amazed me is that we went out to dinner last night at one of my favorite Mexican restaurants. Instead of eating a whole bowl of chips and salsa like I usually do, I refrained from the chips - even watched Bob eat them without diving in. Just ate a taco salad - without the beans or shell, and it was delicious. I managed to sit through a whole hour of temptation while sticking to my diet. And it was late - 7:00 p.m. when I'm normally starved. Because of this diet, I wasn't feeling hungry and crazy, so I was able to do it. Yay!

Saturday, July 05, 2008

It Worked For Me Once . . .

Once upon a time, in January 2000 in fact, I was 20 pounds overweight and facing my first major middle-age weight hurdle, and I went on what was then a more sane version of popular low-carb diet that started with an A. I closely followed Suzanne Somers, Eat Great Lose Weight, her low-carb method was called Somersizing. Over several months, I lost weight and found it easy to keep the weight off and my cravings down. I stayed on it for over a year, nearly two years, but gradually let the carbs creep back in. Consequently, the weight crept back on.

For some reason, I decided I simply couldn't live without carbs and caffeine. So ever since then, the pounds have continued to add up and I can't stick to WWers worth a damn. The points are just too low at my height to make it workable. Low-fat dieting does NOT work for me.

During this weekend's ass-kicking and self-analysis session, I've decided to really dedicate myself, for the next 6 weeks, to a low-carb lifestyle again and see if that helps me shed any pounds. So from now until August 17th - I'm low carb. And okay, I'll give up caffeinated coffee. I believe THAT will be the biggest sacrifice. No coffee (well I can have decaf, but that's just not the same) - but I'll do it.

After I made this resolution and went grocery shopping, I discovered in my favorite weekly magazine, Woman's World, that on page 18, they feature a new lob-carb diet called the "Idiot-Proof Diet" by India Knight and Neris Thomas. They are two witty British women who, when they started the diet, looked like "eggs on legs." They still aren't exactly skinny but have lost over seventy pounds each and have kept it off for over a year. If you want to see a sampling of their diet plan, get the mag and have a look-see. Their book is fun and extremely readable. It's laugh-out-loud funny.

My biggest motivation for going low-carb is Bob's beautiful Aunt Eve who started low-carbing in November of 2004, she's petite in height, like me, and lost nearly 40 pounds. Best of all, she's KEPT it off for nearly four years. So if she can do it, I can do it. (She also is an avid coffee drinker who switched to decaf).

My low carb lifestyle starts today - I'm off to weigh and measure ME. Will check back in a few days and let you know how it goes.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Like Skill - the Importance of Self Ass-Kicking

This year, to be honest, I just ain't feeling the fireworks. I feel blah. Others around me seems blah. Everyone seems stressed-out and just getting by. With the price of everything (gasoline, food etc.) going up sky high, people really seem unusually on edge. I don't know too many really genuinely happy people right now.

With a much-needed 3-day weekend approaching, I have to confess that I'm looking more forward to having an extra day off then to actually celebrating Independence Day.

I've been feeling tired, old and world weary.

At any rate, in spite of a sinking and almost scared feeling at times, I realize that I've been holding my own - not sinking into a mental depression, which I have always been prone to. Instead, I've been doing a lot of self ass-kicking, forcing myself to hang in there and find things to look forward to. Finding the smallest things that I can enjoy and taken pleasure in each day.

The other day, I found my old Gratitude Journal. Force myself to write down 3 things each day, however large or small, that I'm grateful for. When I focus on the gratitude, it makes me feel richer, happier, and appreciative.

My gratitudes for yesterday were: feeling better as I recover from a bad sinus infection (finally getting my voice back); eating a big juicy tomato from my garden; fixing the mistake I made 20 rows back on the Shoalwater Shawl I am knitting. It feels really GOOD to fix something that is screwed up.

It occurs to me that one of the most important life skills I hope to pass onto my daughter, and I think I learned it from my Mother, who has had a hell of a hard life, the real "secret" to life, if there is one, is the ability to hang on - no matter what, to make things better for yourself and not depend on anyone else to provide solutions. Make your own changes to get results. In that vein, nothing is more important than to do a self ass-kicking whenever you find yourself down for whatever reason.

So here's to fireworks - and lots of self-assessment in the coming days off. Best of all, a chance to enjoy what I have and be grateful for it.