Thursday, December 30, 2010

...And the Flowers and the Trees

I have been ogling Nicky Epstein's Tree of Life (or Tree's Breeze) pattern for a long time. I actually contemplated making it for my sister's wedding two years ago, but I'm glad I waited until now, because I'm a much more confident (and competent) knitter. Oh, and I had a two-month old and a 2.5 year old. Not exactly a recipe for success on a complicated pattern.

After making the Serenity blanket, I knew that I couldn't go back to a standard acrylic ribbed or basketweave baby blanket. So with babies, babies all around, I cast on for the Tree of Life. (I'm using Lion Brand's Cotton Ease, which I'm really liking for baby blankets. Soft, yet easy-care and drapes well.) I first was going to just make the baby throw version, but the reviews all talked about how it was disappointingly small. I'm a go big or go home girl, so I was just going to double the width and realized that was the same as making the full blanket. 180 stitches per row is a lot of stitches I'm finding, and it's also almost comical that when I was looking at other people's projects, they had given themselves months...lots of finish their blankets, while I'm giving myself less than that. Substantially less. So, here I am, two days and a little carpal tunnel later and I'm almost half-way through. Oh, I meant half-way through the first skein of yarn, the first of 6 motifs. Oh, the hilarity.

But I have to say, I'm already loving how the stick-like branches are twining through one another with nothing more than simple cables. The more projects I knit, the more I'm astounded by the looks that can be achieved with the most basic skills. It's marked as an 'experienced' pattern, but I wouldn't let that scare you. If you can knit and purl (and knit and purl and knit and purl ad nauseum), have a row counter, a cable needle and some waste yarn for a lifeline, then I say cast on my friends. Cast on.
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Sunday, December 26, 2010

Hit the Road Jack

So, now that I've told everyone, paid the money, and am officially registered for my very first full marathon. I guess it's time to start putting in the work. J surprised me with the Garmin Forerunner 405 from my wishlist and  stocking of herbal tea samplers, gum and other non-candy items to show that he's fully in support of my goals. This watch is amazing, and I'm so excited to start using it. Luckily I have a 6 mile run planned for this morning, so I'll get to really see what it can push me to do. I've never run with a watch at all, since I was always with a group where my buddy was timing me. I have a vague idea of my pace right now, but it will be interesting, and perhaps even a little bit of tough love to see at what point I'm really starting from.

It was a wonderful Christmas, capped off with boys who were so excited about the gifts they got each other and J got a great new camera (his first!) so he can take pictures when he's at his trainings in January and May and I still have a camera to document Casa de HP.

In addition to my 'magic pants', I also got a pair of YakTrax which are proving to be awesome. I went on a snowy, icy run the other day and was completely confident in them.

It's not just been all about training, though, I'm still getting my knit on with a hat for Baby A, and a new sock pattern (Monkey Socks by Cookie A) that looked oh-so-complicated a year ago when I first contemplated it, but is just flying off the needles now. The hat just needs seaming, and I'm getting ready to turn the heel on the first sock. 

Using a twisted rib for the sock band

With the skein of yarn inside so you can see the pattern. I love the texture of these.

But now, as the notepad on my fridge says 'So many things to get done, but first I'll run'. The sky is darkening and I can't miss my window of time before J has to head to work. Hit the road, toad!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

May All Your Christmases Be...

Being married to an ED physician means that Christmas will usually not be a holiday on which we spend the whole day lounging and enjoying time with each other. This year, J has Christmas morning off, but goes to work at 2pm. Really, all kids care about is Christmas morning anyhow, so it works out pretty well. He also works until 10pm on Christmas Eve, so hopefully the elves have completed their work and Mrs. Claus is in bed by the time he sneaks in.

Instead of trying to fix a big dinner in time for him to leave by 1:30, I decided awhile ago that I'd just have a good breakfast and we'd call it a day. Part of me is sad that I won't be making pies and mashed potatoes and all the other trimmings for the ham or prime rib or whatever meat you choose for the big day. Then the other part saw people struggling under over-burdened carts today and breathed a sigh of relief. 

When we wake up, I'm going to carry on my mom's tradition of making sticky buns for us to enjoy after the presents have been opened and the sugar consumption has begun. Except instead of laboring over the dough, I'm going to steal Ina Garten's genius idea to make Easy Sticky Buns in muffin tins. (Hurry out and get some puff pastry today, because you probably already have all the other ingredients on-hand.) I also got some yummy thick-sliced applewood bacon to serve with scrambled eggs and OJ. Of course, there will be copious amounts of coffee being brewed in the french press. 

Our day would be complete. Except for one thing. I realized today that I hadn't really thought past breakfast. What? Chocolate Santas and Reece's Trees won't get us through the rest of the day? 

So, with our new home will come a new tradition. I'm going to make pizza dough and we'll have homemade pizza and ice cream sundaes and then give the boys their baths and pop popcorn to eat while we watch a Christmas movie. That is, unless the kids are totally naughty and go to bed without dinner. Which would be quite an awesome Christmas tradition in itself. Just kidding!

When I told Henry about my plan today, he was so excited. I'm really glad that they are young enough that they won't be disappointed when Jared has to go to work in the afternoon because it's just the way their life is. And, really, it's a pretty wonderful life.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

In Vino Veritas

Yesterday I put on my magic pants (aka compression tights) for the first time. Which led to a second 'first' for me; going commando. The only time I don't regularly wear underwear is to bed. I know that the majority of people don't wear them when they run, but I was not sad to be a minority in this matter. Why the sudden change of heart? Because when you stuff sausage into casing, there's often not room for foundation pieces.

After yesterday's run, I could be convinced that it's a better way to go. I'm just glad that I take care of that 'situation' or it may not have been as comfortable.

On the running note, I've officially registered for my first full marathon. It's not the same one I talked about before, but it will be a great fit because Jared will be there to cheer my on, and my best friend is running with me. I think my sister-in-law who ran with the two of us at the Fine Wine half-marathon in July is going to run as well. My friend and I are marathon virgins, while my sister-in-law has birthed this baby before, so it will be interesting to see how our experiences differ. June 4th, 2011 in Newport, Oregon. I'm equally excited and nauseated, but I'm willing to apply the same suspended disbelief that I did while training for the marathon and only focus on the mileage for the week.

Last night J and I went to a fun holiday party. A good time was had by all and the vino was flowing freely. A little too freely, actually. It was my day off in the game, so I relished my glass five glasses of cabernet and a cab/syrah/merlot blend and had a great time meeting some of the people with whom Jared spends those long days and nights.

I was feeling nice and toasty, but not bad, as we paid and thanked the sitter, went through the nightly routine and the enjoyed the rest of all that date night entails. (see C.D. I do talk about sex sometimes!) Okay Dad, you may want to stop reading now.

Anywho, the fear of all parents became a reality for us as I heard the pitter patter of little feet, about a fraction of a second later than I normally do and voila; coitus interruptus. Awesome. As I lay mortified in the bed, J ushered a sleepy and seemingly unaware H back to bed. Within about 30 seconds both kids were awake and crying for their Mama.

Rocking them both in the La-Z-Boy, I was starting to drift off when I felt that unforgettable hot and flushed feeling. I called out for J trying not to wake the sixty plus pounds of dead weight that was pressing on my guts and exaccerbating the urge to purge. J to the rescue and kiddos were extracted from my grasp just in time for me to rush to the bathroom and tango with the gods of drinking. I'm so glad I left the lights off because I can only imagine I would forget what I'd drunk and think I had stomach cancer.

Teeth brushed, clean shirt slogged over my head (does anyone successfully avoid splash-back?), water swish-swish-swished and then a glass downed and I welcomed the surrender to my bed. Thanks to a caring spouse who's been there, done that a cold cloth was pressed to my forehead and I was out like a light, but only after I murmured 'Seriously, how old am I? Nineteen?!'

This morning brought two pre-schoolers who don't really care to know about what you did while they were sleeping, and raring to go with zero sensitivity to noise, action or speed of movement.  The show must go on so rally I did with a bowl of oatmeal fortified with greek yogurt, peanut butter and some ibuprofen. Opening the Advent Cubicle for the day's activity and found the rest of my cure, watching my kids decorate gingerbread cookies (well, mainly eat candy and frosting.)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

That's the Way The Cookie Crumbles

Is it really the 15th already?! This year, the holidays feel like they've come way too fast and I have so much catching up to do. Today after H got home from school, I sat at the table and stuffed Christmas cards into envelopes while they sat and colored. I know! Yes, I just said 'while they sat and colored.' Every once in awhile they surprise me.

We've got almost all of the shopping for the boys done, Santa says he's completed the Wutzke list, and our Elf on the Shelf , Nicky, has been reporting back with mixed reviews to Santa each night, but it's an awfully great blackmail tool for good behavior. H gets out of school on Friday, and I haven't even fully decided what to get for his teachers yet. While I'm sure they'd love yet another plate of baked goods, I'm trying to think outside the box a little bit.

And, if my banana bread from tonight is any indication, I should get anywhere near an oven in the near future. I don't know what happened. I've been trying to satisfy my sweet tooth while still staying within the parameters of the game-on diet, which generally means vegan desserts. Contrary to popular belief, I haven't yet had one that was bad. They're all sweet and just as satisfying as the 'real' thing; though one might argue they are  the real thing since they have whole and natural ingredients instead of relying on processed sugars and grains. But I digress.

Tonight I made the banana bread from Natural Papa because I couldn't find the one I'd made last time. The recipe looked very similar, so I got out the bowl and potato masher and within ten minutes, I had a lovely batter in the bread pan.

I set the timer for fifteen minutes, knowing I'd have to do it a little longer. When I tested it, the toothpick came out clean in several places, but the top still wasn't golden, so I put it under the broiler to give it a crispy finish. After removing it from the oven, I turned it out onto the cooling rack and it just didn't look right. Because it wasn't. Realizing there was no way it just needed a little cooling, I plopped it onto a cookie sheet and put 'er back in the oven. After more time, all I can say is thank goodness it tastes so much more wonderful than it looks!

Paired with some fat-free, plain greek yogurt, you've got a great 'meal' (read 5th meal of the day, which I usually make a dessert of some kind) with protein, carbohydrate, fat (walnuts and olive oil) and a little bit of sweetener. I modified it a little bit to make it comply better. This food plan has allowed me to continue to lose weight while indulging in Holiday fun (one day off per week) and feeling like I 'deserve' those times instead of regretting them.

In addition to my never-ending quest to create a more natural kitchen, I've found another new love and that would be yoga. Specifically heated yoga. Now, those of you who know me know how much I love to be hot. Ha! Okay, you know that I get super self-conscious of the ridiculous amount of sweat that pours out of my body every time I just think about moving my limbs. After running, however, I've started to embrace that part of myself. I'm just really good at clearing toxins from my body, right?! Instead of thinking of being sweaty as an indictment of my fitness level, I was able to see that some people just sweat a lot, fit or not.

My friend Jen has a yoga practice that has been the best thing ever. I honestly was thinking to myself as I lay in the final savasana (don't worry, I've had to look all these up too) the other night that if I had her to talk me through contractions I could totally do a natural child-birth. She's amazing, and I would strongly urge any Walla Wallans who've been even thinking about taking a class to start now. I think it's really been a huge part in getting me through this holiday season without a major beyatch episode. Just a couple minor ones. Another huge benefit is that when I go running right after a yoga class I feel amazing. I'm already warm and stretched and that first mile is infinitely easier to slog through.

Which brings me to something pretty huge for me. Since my friends all got a sweet 26.2 tattoo emblazoned on their arches, I've decided that I too will earn that tattoo. They say you're supposed to tell everyone when you set a big goal so that you won't back down. On the converse, I've heard the that you're supposed to hold your dreams close to the vest so that people won't dash them. Well, I have a wonderful coach who's making a training plan for me, a supportive husband, and a will to go the distance. I'm counting on the people in my life to make only positive comments about this training. Because if you can't say something nice...well, you know the rest.

It's going to be a long road, with lots of training, probably some tears from the mental barriers I'll have to push through and about half a year to nine months where I'll be one-track-mind girl, but it will culminate in the most physical feat I've accomplished aside from child-birth. I hope you'll join me for the ride.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

It's Been a Chard Day's Night

Last night I used chard for the first time. I never really thought to use it until I'd seen my friend's fritata post on Late Nite Kitchen where she used rainbow chard. I'm definitely an aesthetic person, so seeing the bright red stems against the deep green of the leaves in the produce department this week was all the further convincing I needed.

Back in the swing of the Game On challenge, I'm always surprised to be reminded of how much I love simple foods. We had salmon that I broiled after I'd brushed it lightly with a little bit of Olive Oil, WW Viognier and some garlic. On the side was a little brown rice and the chard, which I wilted in a saucepan with some spinach, garlic, sliced mushrooms and garlic.

I was so pleasantly surprised. I've been going through about two of the large bins of spinach each month because it's just an easy way to get in some veggies, but I vastly preferred both the texture and peppery taste of chard over the spinach. It went really well with the mild, buttery flavor of the salmon and the rice. Next up, I'll be trying out her chard and hazelnut lasagna (but I'll use the walnuts called for, since I've never been a big hazelnut fan).

On Cyber Monday, I started off the holiday shopping season and even got a couple things for myself. After a break from cloth diapers, we've decided to go back to them and I was so excited that BumGenius just came out with a fourth edition that is sized larger and has snaps! Believe me, I know just how lame it makes me that this was my coup of the day. One better, was that I got a Toddler Hawk mei tei at a huge discount. Fabric makes me happy. Both were purchased from mom-owned businesses; Nicki's Diapers and Frogmama.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Wai-ter, I Would Like The Pe-Can Piiiiie

What a busy few weeks it's been! Turkey day went off without a hitch. We deep-fried our turkey for the first time, and our house didn't burn down so I'm calling it a success. I make pecan pie a la Mark Bittman and it was fantastic. It was thickened with eggs and a little bit of sugar as opposed to the traditional glop of corn syrup so it had a wonderful nutty flavor instead of being sickeningly sweet like others I've tasted.

Just before going in the oven

My mother and father-in-law celebrated with us, and she taught me how to make her pumpkin rolls, which was really fun, and not as intimidating as I thought it would be. The trick? Turn it out immediately and roll it in a tea towel to cool. You know I would have waited for it to cool and then you'd find me hours later crying and cursing the cracked and crumbling mess as I tried to roll it. 

I listed my java jackets on etsy again, and have sold 18 so far! It's been fun to experiment with embellishments and textures, which is a good thing because if I was just doing the plain stockinette ones all the time....YAWN!
I made a cute pair of mittens, and modified the thumbs so that they can be peeled back for texting. They're modeled after the mittens Bella wore in the first Twilight movie.

I am also super excited that my licensing for the Pepperberry Knits Hannah and Josie Newsboys is complete, so I can now make them for re-sale. They are a super fun and relatively quick (don't laugh, Michele) project that was intimidating initially because of the steps (namely a brim with interfacing...seriously, it doesn't take much to make me doubt my abilities), but have been simplified by the designer by picking up stitches instead of seaming. I started on one for my friend last night, and the band is complete. My camera isn't picking up colors as well as I'd like, but you get the gist. I'm calling it Sublime in Lime on my ravelry project list.
Big J and I are interviewing a baby-sitter tonight so that we can attend our first 'professional' Christmas party, and I'm pretty excited. Hopefully she doesn't turn tail and run, because I've already bought a cute dress, I'm going to the trouble of mopping the floors just before she comes over so that she doesn't leave with fur boots and I might even take the time to clear the gourds from our front porch that have gone from decorative to decomposing almost overnight.

Locked and Loaded is done and blocked and I'm seriously considering keeping it for myself...we'll see...

Lastly, I'm starting Game On! again today with my bestie so that we can be happy with our Hawaii pictures. May the force be with me. My running group from Worcester started up again, so I've been following their program from afar. So not the same thing, but motivating nonetheless. I'm starting to think seriously about a full marathon this Spring or early summer prior to getting pregnant again. I really want the cool 26.2 tattoo that my running mates got on their arches after completing the Cape Cod marathon in October. Oh, and I want the amazing sense of accomplishment, too, of course!