Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Yo corro.

So was yesterday depressing enough for you? It depressed me just reading that silly post. Today I still have all the same work to do but I'm much less stressed. I'm back to that "I just don't care if it all gets done" place ... a much better place if you ask me [laugh!].

So today I thought I'd focus on something a bit more positive. I haven't been sharing my running progress and today S and I hit another milestone so it seems like a good time to post about it.

As some of you may remember, back in mid January S and I decided to start a Couch to 5K program using Robert Ullrey's podcasts. We went out and equipped ourselves (new shoes, new running clothes, new mp3 player for me -- love my little 1 GB Sansa Clip MP3 Player!) and off we went.

Those first days I never believed I'd actually run for minutes at at time (yep you read that right, meaning more than 1 ... the program starts with run a minute, walk, run a minute, walk ... and even that was a challenge!). Over the past 3 months, S and I have been slowly but surely working our way through the program. Now if you count the weeks you'll realize that we should be through the program but we're not. Life happens you know and my goal was simply to try to run, not to make or break get to a 5K in 9 weeks.

I made it through the place where you run 20 minutes (all without a break!) and was so proud of myself. The next week has you run 25 minutes in a row.

I have learned that for me, where I am in the program now, about 75% of it is in my head, not my body. I really had a hard time getting to that 25 minutes. I kept "needing" a walking break. Then a bit over a week ago S's ipod died and so I ran with him (running a day I had already finished -- the 20 minute run). This time the 20 minute run seemed easier. Somehow *knowing* I could run 20 minutes in a row (and didn't really *need* a walk break at the 10 or 15 minute mark) really made a difference for me. Over the next week I gradually ran 21 minutes in a row, 22 minutes in a row, and finally 25 minutes in a row. Yeah!

This week S and I ran together (again repeating week 6 for me) and today we both ran 25 minutes in a row! I won't pretend it was a walk in the park but the truth is I can do it. I went from not being able to run for 8 whole minutes (with walk breaks every minute) at the beginning to running 25 minutes without a break. This is truely hard to believe. In fact, I think there must be some major crack in the foundation of the universe somewhere in order for this to be true.

It is a big accomplishment for both S and I to get to this point. Our program now has us run 25 minute runs for a week, then 28 minute runs for a week, and then finally 30 minute runs. Getting to the end no longer seems impossible. I know I'm going to want to take breaks and now I *really know* that that is just my brain, not my body talking.

S and I will perserve and maybe in a few more weeks our hearts & lungs won't know what hit them!

This is definitely a positive to focus on -- yeah for health and for life outside of work!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Time, how she flies

The best thing I can say about the passage of time over the past week is that at least the garden has been growing. We have baby cucumbers, corn, and radishes in the garden now. That unfortunately is the end of my upbeat interpretation of the week.

This week has been hell. I can't even point to one or two bad things, it was just one of those weeks. Too much to do, not enough time to get it all done. Ever have so much to do that you just get paralyzed and can't do anything? That's the kind of busy I have right now. I've been just denying the number of things that need to be done and then Friday I got some bad news at work (I'm losing a co-worker who has really helped me keep the boat afloat -- it will be a tremendous loss for us). I successfully managed to put the news aside all weekend and just pretended that nothing had happened.

Yesterday, back in the office, it wasn't so easy to pretend. I went through the motions and just fought off the urge to burst into tears every hour or so. Today was better. I got up and started problem solving. I fixed a few small things and found out that one bad thing won't be as terrible as I thought (the person who is leaving is willing to stay involved part time for a year which will help alot!). I still have a mess to clean up, no real idea how it's going to get fixed, but at least a little time to figure it out.

I think the trick is going to be just to push through... one task at a time... and to just hope for the best. It's a fact, not everything in life can get done at once. I'll do what I can. It won't feel like enough, but what's a girl to do? Sit at home and knit? Don't tempt me [laugh]!!

There's not been much on the knitting front around here ... my paralysis has unfortunately followed me home. S's sweater (above) is coming along but feels like acres and acres of stockinette stitch ... oh wait... it is acres and acres of stockinette stitch! The fabric is knitting up quite nicely and is nice, easy knitting. I'm more than half way finished with the front (the back already complete). Sleeves are clearly going to be endless though. I've already started joking with S that I'm going to turn it into a vest!

So hang in there everyone... I will be. Clutching to my sanity and trying to slowly, one by one, cross things off my to do list!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Happy Earth Day!

I've been thinking about earth day all day today. Most of the day yesterday and the day before as well. Honestly, the earth has been on my mind quite a bit for the past months (and for some time before that as well).

To celebrate earth day today I decided I wanted to think about how I'm going to be reducing my footprint by eating more locally ... right outside my back door in fact. Today's pictures reflect the state of our garden this week. Not looking too shabby, I think.

Just take a look at these lovely tomatoes! Gotta love such healthy looking plants in April.

Our other veggies have that fresh green, spring color going for them as well.

I can hardly wait to pluck a big salad out of that bed!

Even our brand new, just a few months old peach/nectarine 4-fer has set fruit. We had to take a picture of that (right before we pulled the fruit off -- you aren't supposed to let them grow fruit the first year or two but rather put all that energy into root, leaf, and trunk development).

Even our avacado tree has put on a blush of new leaves. Doesn't she look pretty?

Just walking though our little backyard farm makes me very happy. It helps me feel like I can make a small amount of difference right here at home.

I've been finding inspiration all over the place recently. Most of that inspiration, from books. I've read some real winners! Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (very inspirational), In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto, All New Square Foot Gardening (a great how to do it gardening guide for bio-intensive gardening), and Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage of Fruits and Vegetables to name a few. I'm so inspired to grow lots of produce and then can and store it all away. I don't think Southern California is cold enough to actually cellar food though. I guess the trade off is I can grow great tomatoes in April (and probably grow other plants in December and January).

While I haven't yet committed to any "buy nothing" pacts yet, I've made a lot of effort to reduce my purchases and feel like that's gone very well. I've been using public libraries alot (!!) and feeling very content with that option.

I even thought about trying to use public transit to get to work today, but then thought better of it (my last two tries it took 1 1/2 hours and 1 hour 45 minutes respectively to travel the meager 4 miles ... I could probably walk faster). This is one of my future goals though.

I think today I've been most inspired by a post over at No Impact Man. He talks about the futility that we all sometimes feel and the wondering we do about whether we can make a difference, whether or not things can be changed overall. He says:

"So sometimes, the question of whether we can make a difference or not may be the wrong question. I think another line of inquiry might just as productively go like this: Do I want to be the kind of person who tries or the kind of person who doesn't?

It took me 42 years to realize it, but I want to be like Mayer Vishner. I want to be the kind of person who tries. Whether Michael Pollan is 100% right or 50% or 10% right, when the game is over, I want to be one of the people who tried. Whether the world is saved or not, whether I'm still alive to see it or not, I want to be able to say I tried."

I think this really hit home for me. Sometimes I'm a little too "half empty" for my own good (and certainly for the good of others). I know I don't want to say I didn't try though. So that's where I'll be. I'll at least be able to say I tried. Tried to make the world a better place, in lots of ways. My job now is to keep finding all those ways and to make the list of ways I tried a bit longer.

Enjoy your earth day and I hope it's a day of reflection and inspiration for you as well.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Celtic Knots knotted

I'm pleased to report that my celtic tote is now knit, felted, and lined.

When I first started this project, I struggled quite a bit with the cable pattern -- it's definitely the most complex cabling I've done. After quite a long vacation from the project (about 4 months) I picked it back up and found it to be quite simple. Don't know what made the difference: better knitting skills, better neuron functioning? Regardless I didn't look a gift horse in the mouth and kept up the progress to finish the job. (Of course with this increased skill and ease I realized that I wasn't knitting the wrong (even) side rows of the chart from left to right but doing all the rows from right to left. Most of the time this didn't matter, but there are a few places where the cables aren't symmetrical so I do have some purls where I should have knits, but after felting it doesn't really show).

The knitting was finished about a week ago. Amazingly, the embroidery also didn't take me too long. I had seen several comments on ravelry complaining about that. For me, the seaming was more punishing, but that's only because I have a mental block about it.

Here she is, prefelting, lounging outside on one of our recent 90+ degree days.

And then into a bath she went. Now in hindsight I realize I probably should have felted it even more, but I was worried about overfelting and erred on the conservative side.

Post bath and drying, I sewed in a bit of a liner (which should help especially since it isn't very felted) and she's ready to go.

See the lining. Love the green myself.

It's a generously large bag. Somewhat narrow at the top, but deep and wide.

Celtic Tote from Interweave Knits, Winter 2007 by Jennifer Tallapaneni
2 balls of Patons Classic Wool Merino (100% wool)
Color: Old Gold (Color 204, Lot 175068 07)
1 ball of Patons Classic Wool Merino (100% wool)
Color: Chestnut Brown (Color 231, Lot 153067)
Lining: Batiks' Olive Green Floral (100% cotton) from JoAnn's
US size 9 circulars and size 10 dpns (because this is the size dpns I had)
cast on November 13, 2007
finished April 18, 2008

size pre-felt: 11" tall; 13" wide at top, 15" wide at bottom; 2" deep at top, 5" deep at bottom; straps 18" long from end to end.
final size: not much different, my felting was minimal

Modifications: Repeated cable pattern for strap 11 instead of 9 times to lengthen the handles. Cast on 10 instead of 6 for sides and bottom in order to make the bag about an inch deeper (and I'm glad I did as it still is fairly narrow).

On Ravelry here

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Seaming serentity... coming soon (we hope)

Time... she is quite elusive! Since last time we talked, two more conferences have transpired. S left for Portland on Wednesday for his sociology conference (and arrived home this afternoon).

After dropping him off at the airport at the obscene hour of 4:45am on Wednesday, I traveled to the second conference, mine in Irvine -- of the psychological variety.

While S stayed in Portland for the entire length of his conference, I just made the trip down to Irvine a few times. Irvine is S's daily commute so driving there for a few days seemed quite reasonable for me.

My conference was fine. Nothing terribly outstanding, but my talk on Thursday seemed to go well. The best thing, after conferencing on Wednesday and Thursday, I decided to stay home on Friday and Saturday and do a bit of knitting.

My celtic tote called to me from my WIP pile and I'm pleased to say that as of Sat evening, all the pieces are now knitted and embroidered.

The bottom of this bag is fairly interesting (picture above). You start knitting the narrow top of one side, knit down the the bottom, double your stitches and then knit in the round for the entire bottom. This creates a sleeve into which you place a plastic sheet to provide a rigid bottom for the bag. Once you get the bottom to the length you want, you close the sleeve up (essentially by knitting two together, using one stitch from the top and one from the bottom of the sleeve) and then you finish up the other side.

Now all that's left is the seaming. Ah yes... the seaming. Can you guess why I'm blogging right now and not working on the tote? Yep... seam avoidance {grin}.

I finished up my conference this morning with a great little statistical workshop and thought I'd jump right into the project this afternoon. No so much. I'm going to meditate on my budda hand and hope that some seaming serenity descends soon.

Hope everyone else had a pleasant and productive weekend!

Monday, April 07, 2008

Relaxing over the (nutty) weekend & an opening

Really... there is nothing like it. Sitting on the couch, going to the farmers' market, running or walking when you want to ... weekends are great.

As you might imagine given the idea of relaxation, none of the work that I brought home with me this weekend managed to get done. None even came out of the book bag. Sadly that means that it still all waits for me, but the good news is that my weekend was stree-free!

So in between all that relaxation (or maybe I should say as part of it), what kind of knitting did I do? Well baby knitting for the wave of pregancies and baby expectations that seem to be cropping up everywhere! In the past week or so, I've learned that two more families are expecting children (in addition to one other I've known about for awhile). The closest delivery date is in just a couple of weeks so off to the knitting tasks I went.

With a few modifications... the booties and beanie hat from Natural Knits for Babies and Moms.

Nonnahs, over at A Little Loopy, had posted pics of her finished set several weeks ago and I ordered the book thinking this might be a good project for one of my expectant families. When two more families turned up, I decided that I should dive right in.

[Don't you love how the decreases come together at the crown of a hat?]

I had my heart set on using these green and natural colors (Lion Brand Nature's Choice Organic Cotton). Of course all I had to do was open the book to see that my gauge would be way off with this choice. Amazingly, I didn't let that stop me this time. I pulled out my handy dandy calculator and did some pattern adjustments and, yep it's amazing, it worked.

Boy's Striped Beanie from Natural Knits for Babies and Moms by Louisa Harding
<1 ball of LionBrand Nature's Choice Organic Cotton (100% cotton)
Color: Pistachio (Art 480, Color 170, Lot A6439)
<1 ball of LionBrand Nature's Choice Organic Cotton (100% cotton)
Color: Almond (Art 480, Color 098, Lot A6343)
US size 6
cast on April 6, 2008
finished April 6, 2008

On Ravelry here

Boy's Booties from Natural Knits for Babies and Moms by Louisa Harding
<1 ball of LionBrand Nature's Choice Organic Cotton (100% cotton)
Color: Pistachio (Art 480, Corlor 170, Lot A6439)
US size 6
cast on April 5, 2008
finished April 6, 2008

On Ravelry here

Modifications to both: stitches and rows modified for gauge of substitute yarn.

On other knitting fronts, there was also a LYS opening yesterday! One of the women, Veronika, who attends my knitting group has had a long time dream to open her own store and accomplished that goal yesterday. You can see pics of the store, All about Yarn, and all of us who showed up for her first SnB at the link above. It's nice to have another LYS in the area! Put the date on your calendar, the grand opening is April 19th (the store is in Azusa, CA).

And... by the way, I finished week 6 of my couch to 5k plan over the weekend. Yes, I ran 25 whole minutes! Yeah me!

p.s. did you catch the nutty part of my weekend? almonds and pistachios?

Friday, April 04, 2008

Budda gives you a blessing

This, I think, is my favorite souvenir from San Francisco. It sits on the dining room table, where we sit for meals and where I work on the computer, and keeps me centered. It's a beautiful object and reminds me that there are important things in life and less important things. Sometimes it's important to remember that and not get caught up in the little stuff.

Speaking of which, I can't believe a whole work week has flown by! It has been a crazy busy week ... so busy that I didn't get around to blogging about the rest of our trip to San Francisco (or anything else for that matter). I'm glad to say that I don't go back to the office for two full days... thank goodness for the weekend!

So what about the rest of my trip. Well of course knitting played a role in my weekend trip! As I shared in my last post, I did do a bit of knitting. I'm now finished with both the front and back of my celtic tote. It was funny picking this back up after a bit of a hiatus. The pattern seems simply easy now. I don't know if my neurons have just resorted themselves to be able to knit this more easily or if my skills have actually increased that much, but I just zipped through the rest of the chart to finish the front of the bag. I've already started on the sides/bottom and think I may try to find fabric to line this bag as well.

But knitting was not the only fiber-related activity of the trip. No, of course not. I had to do a little yarn crawling too. First stop, Artfibers. This was a very nice store. Very helpful staff. You may know that Artfibers sells their own line of yarn and the best thing about the store is that you can see swatches of every yarn knit up in every color. There is nothing like seeing a yarn knit up for me. I just can't visualize what a yarn in a skein will look like when knit up. Seeing things all put together... great.

One swatch in particular called to me, a lovely sagey green silk/superkid mohair blend.

I don't have a pattern in mind yet but am hoping this will become a summer sweater.

Next stop, Imagiknit. OMG... this store!! Loved this store!! Really, I can't imagine how a store could get much better than this. Big space, stuff with lots and lots of different kinds of yarn, all well organized, very open, very bright, incredibly helpful staff. It was absolutely heavenly. It was one of those stores I kept going back and looking at everything a second, and third, and fourth time. Wow to live in San Francisco and have access to this store regularly!

One of my goals for this little trawl was to find some yarn to make a sweater for S. I think I've already mentioned (although I can't be certain and am too lazy to go back and look) but S is going to be living in Fort Bend, Indiana for a few months later this year as a visiting fellow at Notre Dame. Guess what, it's a little colder in Fort Bend than it is in Southern California. S has now decided that it would be great to have a handknit wool sweater.

I am happy to oblige and we picked out this great Ecological Wool for the project. So far, love this wool too. It seems like I can feel just a bit of lanolin in it as I knit, and it feel soft and slick as I work. The swatch I worked up and washed is just as soft and nice as it can be too. Very exciting.

I, of course, couldn't wait to start and cast on April 1st (no fools!). And the extra bonus... it gives me something to carry around in my Doctor's Bag!