Monday, October 5, 2015

A Different Challenge

Last Sunday, I went to Painting With a Twist, which is a place where you can paint a picture, with guidance, for a small fee.  The twist part comes from the party atmosphere - you can bring wine or whatever you want to drink, along with snacks - their goal is for patrons to have fun while being creative.  CC and Loretta wanted to do this, so I tagged along, all the while knowing that I was not going to turn out any masterpiece; the fine art gene that made both my grandmother and mother such wonderful artists bypassed me completely.  I came to terms with that a long time ago...but I still wanted to paint a pretty picture.

We went to an open studio class, where you could choose any painting that they offered (they have THOUSANDS - it was overwhelming, so I narrowed my search options to ocean, which brought it down to just a couple hundred).  I picked a seashell painting, and I will say, the teachers there did warn me that this one was not quite for beginners, but they assured me that I'd be fine with it, so I went ahead with this choice.  Looking back, I can see that had I picked something with more straight lines that definitely would have been easier, but hey, why do that?

Getting started - for me, this is where my painting peaked.  No, not quite the blank canvas, but I painted the sand background using three colors and I was really pleased with how it turned out. 
Blank canvas, palatte of paint - what could possibly go wrong?
CC and Loretta - aren't they cute?!

I had my cell phone out, intending to take pictures along the way to document the process, but I got so involved with painting that I ended up taking very few.  Here's one of our teacher chalking on the outlines of the shells for me:
You can see the inspiration painting on table.  After I did my background, I was a little paralyzed with where to start on the shells, so I'm glad the teacher offered to help with the chalking.
CC channeling her inner Van Gogh?
They were doing a side-by-side painting, so their circles needed to match up.

As I began painting my shells, I realized that this was more difficult than I anticipated.  Most of them weren't one flat color, even before shading, so I was playing with mixing up colors, and even with the chalk outlines, I wasn't having the greatest time making of course I'd try to correct them, which would just make the shell bigger.  I finally figured that I could "fix" that when I did the outlines/outer shading, so I managed to stop trying to get the perfect shape (Ooh, metaphor for weight loss?  Conceal some figure flaws with clothing??). 
Midway through, still optimistic that shading was going to bring it all together.

At one point, I looked at my painting and saw a chili pepper, a croissant, and a fish - and yes, they were all supposed to be shells!  Shading.  Lots of shading, right?  Well, sort of.  As our class progressed, I knew I wasn't going to end up with a masterpiece, but I really enjoyed the process.  I got into it more than I thought I would, and I didn't go down that "I suck, I can't paint, why am I bothering" path that has plagued me throughout other artistic attempts throughout my life.
The finished painting.  I sent this shot to a friend, who responded back "why is there an acorn on the beach?" - and of course, now I see an acorn in addition to the chili pepper, croissant, and fish.  SHELLS, people...they are all shells!
CC and Loretta's painting came out great.  I heard later that CC's diploma was moved in order to hang their artwork, which made me laugh...a heartfelt painting beat out a Master's degree!

I know this post came off as pretty lighthearted, but the experience has stayed with me because for once, I didn't get irritated at myself over my lack of ability and go all scribblescrabble on the painting.  I don't know if it's a combination of maturity (which is always up for discussion), or the fact that over the last several years I've challenged myself to do things that I am not particularly good at, like an obstacle race, or running (I'm not good at it, but I am persistent), or heck, even changing my lifestyle when it comes to diet and exercise.  All I know is that I sure had a different attitude while working on my painting and it made for a really enjoyable afternoon spent with friends.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Friday Mishmash

I got a promotion at my volunteer job last week!  I'm sure you are wondering how it's possible to get a promotion when you aren't getting paid, but work with me here...these are the words that the volunteer coordinator said to Rosalie and I (my co-volunteer), so who are we to quibble?  Long story short, we took it upon ourselves to rearrange the items in the jewelry display case in a more pleasing manner, and not only did it look much better, but in the week between when we first did it and when we returned to the gift shop, some of the jewelry had actually sold!  After the volunteer coordinator told us how pleased she was with our work, she said that we were officially in charge of the jewelry display, which resulted in Rosalie and I high-fiving each other - always nice to get confirmation of a job well done.  I finally remembered to take some pictures of the case yesterday - all the glass and lights made it difficult to get a decent shot, but here's what it looks like now:
Working with what we had - I think it turned out pretty nice.  

Yesterday, we received a bunch of new scented warmer melts.  We were asked to fix the display to highlight them (they are seasonal, so there were a lot of pumpkin and apple scents).  Rosalie and I were faced with a wall of these, and after a couple minutes of deliberation, decided to place the new scents at eye level, with the older stuff above and below them.  We grouped everything by scent range, and also by color.  Later on, the volunteer who does the displays for the entire store (it's an overwhelming job) came in and, before she looked at that wall, asked if we could fix the scented melts.  We told her we just finished, and she said "oh good - did you put the newest ones at eye level?" - BINGO!  I can't help but think that all my years of shopping are paying off, because that's where I instinctively thought they should go.


Speaking of the gift shop, I am getting lots of practice with keeping a neutral face - especially when someone is buying a new baby gift.  Of course I want to share in their excitement - oftentimes, a new grandparent, aunt, or uncle will rush down within moments of the baby being born to buy a gift.  Naturally, I offer my congratulations, and ask the baby's name.  Ooohhh my.  My, my, my.  There are some interesting choices being made, and I do believe I heard the worst for a set of twin boys yesterday...let's just say that naming your children after a gun manufacturer might be about the most redneck thing ever.  But they got an "isn't that clever" from me, along with a smile and, of course, my congratulations.  Babies are wonderful.  However, these babies might choose to go by their middle names later on in life, is all I'm sayin'.


Remember when I bought the new pillows for my family room?  You, like I, probably thought I was doing that to make the room look nicer.  Well, Paco thought otherwise - these are for him.  This dog loves the pillows and is always snuggling on them:
I disturbed his beauty rest with my picture taking...


Sit and Knit update:  I finished one sock and have started on the other, but I'll wait to show you them when they're both finished, as they are opposites of each other and should look super cute together.  I'm also midway through that shawl, and I had a request for a baby hat, so I'll be getting started on that in the next day or so.  It's fun to have different projects going at the same time - when I get a little tired of one, I just switch to another.


Tomorrow is a big day for us - we will be running 10 miles.  I am crossing my fingers and toes that the weather forecast holds true, and it will be in the 50s on Saturday morning - OH PLEASE OH PLEASE OH PLEASE!!!  Running 10 miles is never going to be easy, but not doing it in sauna-like conditions would really be nice.  

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

WWU - 9 Miles!

Whew, it's been a long time since I ran 9 miles - we're talking last January!  Lucky me, I have a lot of 9 milers (and 10, and 11, and 12...) still to come over the next few months.

I was so happy to see that Loretta was feeling better and was able to run again.  She'd been out for a non running-related issue; while it's never fun to be sick, at least it wasn't caused by running.  Anyway, because there was no way she should attempt 9 miles after several weeks off, we did a different route so that she could turn back toward the park and finish with 5 miles for the day.  Overachiever that she is, she ended up running 6 miles!  CC and I left her at the 4.5 mile mark and continued on our way, and I have to say, it wasn't bad, this 9 miles, especially considering that it was warmer than predicted; we were supposed to be in the high 60s, but I was disappointed to see the car temperature reading 72 degrees as we drove to the park, and naturally, it was still super humid, too.  I can't help but think how much nicer those 9 miles will feel when we get a crisp, cool morning...probably not for another month, but hey, I can dream, right?!

I started using my Orange Mud HydraQuiver again a couple of weeks ago - until then, I'd been OK with using my Nathan handheld bottle, but all of a sudden, I was just plain OVER having to hold something in my hand.  I think having the bigger water bottle with the HydraQuiver has been a big help with my fueling for the longer runs, as it holds 24 ounces (compared to 8 ounces in my handheld) - I'm drinking more water, which not only is helping with staying hydrated, but it's also helping dilute the intensity of the GU gels that I use for fuel.
Recipe for a successful run, right here!

Speaking of fuel, I don't eat anything before I run, so I need to stay on top of that during my long runs - I don't like to wait until I feel like I'm getting tired; I'd rather stay ahead of fatigue instead of chasing it.  I took a GU at miles 3 and 5, and then at mile 7 I had a few Honey Stinger energy chews, just to get me through the last couple of miles.  This worked out great, and I had enough energy left to push the last mile, which ended up being our fastest by nearly a minute and a half!  Now that is a nice way to finish up a long run.

After everyone came in and we relaxed at the park for a bit, we headed to Blue Baker, where I tried doing something different for breakfast.  My stomach has been bothering me for a month or so now, every Saturday.  Much as I didn't want to think this, I figured it was from the breakfast food - my gallbladderless body sometimes doesn't like certain things.  Well, I finally remembered that my stomach used to always hurt after a long's not the food, it's just how my body reacts to all the miles.  So this time, I brought some protein powder that I mixed up at the restaurant, and over the course of about 2.5 hours had that, coffee, some bacon, and half a cinnamon twist.  I left feeling good, and I didn't end up with a stomach ache at all!  Kinda wish I'd realized this earlier, but hey - we still have several months of long runs ahead, so I'll continue to do this and hopefully won't spend the rest of my Saturdays in misery.

P.S.  I just checked, and the discount code still works if you click the link for Orange Mud and want to order any of their products - "MYJOURNEY" will get you 10% off. 


I'm happy to report that Jeff, Loretta, and I were able to run in our neighborhood on Monday with no sign of that aggressive dog.  I will admit to feeling a little trepidation as we approached the corner where he came at us, and between that plus worrying that I might accidentally flip the switch on the canister and mace myself, it wasn't the most mentally relaxing of runs but we made it.  Yesterday just Jeff and I ran, and it went something like this:  "!@#$% my legs feel dead!  !@#$% this humidity!  !@#$% running!"  So there you have it...nine miles?  No problem.  A 30-minute run?  Bah humbug.  They can't all be winners, but I guess if I'm going to have a bad run, I'd rather it be the short one.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Problems, Problems?

I swear, it's like we've been living in an episode of "This Old House" lately, only our show would be called "This Damn House" - in the last week we've had to have a plumber, a roofer, and an air conditioning repairman come out.  Now, our house is 15 years old and I understand that things are starting to wear out, but ugh, all of this at once is not fun.  A pipe near the kitchen sink had cracked due to the house settling (which is really common in Texas - well, the settling, not particularly the pipe cracking).  Naturally, it was in the wall, which meant the plumber had to cut a hole there to repair it:
Ya think anyone will notice this?  

Then our A/C went out - on a Friday night, of course.  Our trusted repairman was out of town until Monday morning, so we got to enjoy the 96 degree days full on.  It doesn't really cool down here at night (yet); needless to say, neither of us slept very well for three nights.  I was so happy to see our repairman at my door on Monday morning that I didn't care what was wrong, I just wanted it fixed.  Turns out the condenser fan motor was shot.  Easy replacement, but another hit on the checkbook.

On Thursday, roofers were here, replacing damaged tiles from our trees and other weather-related damage, plus they fixed the flashing around the chimney that had never been properly done.  I got to escape the noise for several house as it was my day to volunteer at the hospital, but poor Paco must have been traumatized by all the banging, as he stuck like glue to my legs once I came home.  There was all kinds of stuff being tossed off the roof:
I bet it's kind of fun to throw things off the roof once you're finished with them...

I had a little bit of money set aside and we planned on putting in some much-needed new carpet and flooring, but I'm not sure there's going to be enough left to do that now.  However, I can't help but be reminded of something a friend of mine used to say whenever anyone would gripe about a car repair, or having to mow their lawn, or deal with home repairs...he'd say "You have a CAR?"  or "You have a HOUSE?" - and it was a reminder of how lucky we were to have these issues; due to some poor choices in his younger years, my friend spent many years living in a men's shelter, before turning his life around and becoming a homeowner.  He always said things like "I GET to mow my lawn" in an awestruck way, and that has stayed with me.  So I got to have my leaky pipe repaired, and I got to have my A/C fixed, and I got to have my roof repaired, and I know that I'm lucky that these are my problems. 

Friday, September 25, 2015

Friday Mishmash

I have been on a roll with knitting lately!  I finished a pair of socks, started another pair, and frogged a shawl in favor of a more interesting one.

First up, the finished socks:
Sock pattern is my basic toe-up formula, yarn is Painted Tiger, colorway is Grand Old Flag .

The socks look a little different from each other because I used the Fish Lips Kiss heel pattern for the toe on one.  It worked, but it was a little more challenging than I'd like - half of the stitches needed to be kept "live" on a separate needle and while it feels and fits fine, I didn't want to mess with that for the second sock.  For that one, I used Judy's Magic Cast On for the toe, which is fast becoming my tried-and-true way to start a sock.  I don't mind that they are fraternal, rather than identical twins - keeps it interesting!

Here's the start of my new pair of socks - I have to knit to the 7.5 inch mark on this ruler before I can start the heel:
The yarn is Shibui sock - I bought it over three years ago.  As it turns out, I really like it, but naturally, it's been discontinued.

The other project I started this week is the Brickless shawl, designed by Martina Behm.  I was knitting a Yowza Weigh-It shawl with this yarn, but I lost interest in it, and the project had languished for about six months before I finally admitted defeat.  Luckily for me, in the meantime I'd come across the Brickless pattern, so I frogged the original shawl and cast on the new one:
After just a few hours of knitting - there are three different sections that should keep me more interested in finishing this.

Here's what the Yowza shawl looked like:
Row upon row of garter stitch, with just an increase at each end - and I was supposed to use that entire skein of yarn!  It was a little too boring for me.

I read someone's project notes on the Brickless shawl, and they recommended putting each section of the pattern on an index card, so it would be easier to focus on that particular part - I did that, and it's working out great:
Secret language of knitters written here!

Between these projects and the new fall television season, I'm getting a lot of knitting done.  And one of these days, it will be cool enough that I'll get to wear my new treasures!


Not a lot going on this weekend - we have nine miles to run on Saturday.  I think I'm going to approach it like I'm running three 5K's in a row.  We'll see if that makes a difference, mentally.  The weather isn't looking particularly cool, so it's still going to be more of a challenge than it has to be.  But the good thing about running nine miles first thing on Saturday morning?  Guilt-free lazing around for the rest of the day!

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Wednesday Workout Update

I've been running a lot over the last two months, thanks to a crazy training schedule.  I will be the first to admit that in the beginning, I wasn't happy about this - our mileage was increasing by much more than the recommended 10% per week, and with my history of dumb injuries, I was worried that something would happen and I'd be hurting, or even worse, sidelined from running completely.  Let's face it, I don't have the best track record when it comes to random running injuries.

Well, I'm happy to report that I'm feeling pretty good, all things considered.  Sure, I'm still a little stiff the day after a long run, but this is the least hurty I've been in years.  And it's no mystery to me as to why this is happening - I've been using my BFF Buffer often, and it's made a world of difference.  Before I run, I use it on the sides of my heels, my Achilles, and my calves, and the tightness that I usually feel when I start running has almost completely dissipated.  My calves used to be really knotted up and very tight, which pulled my Achilles tendon, which then pulled my plantar fascia was a vicious circle, and while I'm still not completely free of it, I'm feeling much, MUCH better.

I used to take Motrin on a daily basis to try and reduce the inflammation and pain, but I haven't needed to do that in months.  After years of trying everything, from foam rolling to using The Stick, from massages to chiropractor visits, I'm very pleasantly surprised that our somewhat spur-of-the-moment purchase last April has not only lived up to its hype, it's surpassed my expectations.  I wish I could have an Oprah moment and bestow one to each of you, but sadly, I don't have Oprah money.  You can order one here and use the code "JOURNEY15" for a 15% discount - it's still expensive, but out of all the things I've tried, I'm still sold on this product and cannot recommend it enough if you're hurting like I was.


So, speaking of running, we had another seven miler on Saturday.  This is the fourth time I've run seven miles since July, and I am surprised to realize that this distance barely registers anymore.  Now, I'm not saying that seven miles is a piece of cake to run, because it's still SEVEN FREAKING MILES, but it's not horrible...despite the fact that our weather continues to be hot and humid, which makes running extra challenging.  Loretta was still on the mend, so it was just CC and I doing this run together.  We were renegades and did the route opposite from everyone else - it's not that we didn't want to run with everyone, but if you go one direction, it's almost all uphill - well, not always hills, but just a continual rising of elevation.  So we chose to go the other way, and while we had several hills, it wasn't as bad as it could have been.  I was the one who created this particular route two years ago for our running club, and I'm not ashamed to admit that it works better one direction over the other, so it was a no-brainer for us.  And we still got to see our running club peeps as we passed by them going the opposite direction, which is always fun.

It was a little weird to see quite a few unknown-to-us runners out as we were running - unusual, really - but I finally realized that people were in town for the Aggie football game, and they were getting their run in beforehand.   The miles went by fairly quickly and before long we were at mile three, where we each had some fuel (Salted Caramel GU for me, yum).  We turned into the fancy neighborhood just as the sun was rising, and right around mile five, stopped to take a couple of pictures:
Sunrise through the trees...
It was a little foggy here (hot fog, yay) - we liked the look of the lacy tree on the right with the fog and sunrise.

I will say, I've seen more sunrises in the last few years than I have in my entire life, all thanks to running.  Anyway, we finished strong and felt good, which is all one can hope for when it's 72 degrees and 94% humidity.  Afterward, we went to Blue Baker, where we were spoiled once again:
Buttery pecan bar on the left, fudge brownie on the right!

They are so nice to us, especially in light of how sweaty we are when we come in.  We try to sit away from the other customers, at least - hey, we're considerate!  CC brought Loretta to breakfast so we got a chance to catch up...hopefully she'll be back to running with us very soon.


Early Monday morning, Jeff and I were out for our usual run through the neighborhood behind ours, when a big angry dog came out from behind a house, barking and charging at us.  In all my years of running, I've never had this happen.  We stopped, and he kept coming at us, which was scary.  Jeff was yelling at him to get back, while I was trying to calm both of them down, but that dog wasn't giving up.  We obviously couldn't keep running, as it would have taken that as a sign to keep chasing us, so we were stuck; we were less than half a mile away from our house, but the dog was between us and the street that we needed to turn down in order to get to there.  

Luckily, a college student came out of another house to get into her truck, so I called over to her, asking if she could give us a ride back to our house - turns out she was a nursing student.  I joked with her that she had a head start on the day, with saving two lives already.  Thankfully this ended without getting attacked, but it has made me wonder if I shouldn't be carrying pepper spray with me.  I was given some last year, but I've never taken it out of the package:
I hate to think about having to use this...but I also don't want to be hurt.

The dog incident unnerved me enough that ended up running with Julia at the park yesterday - just in case that dog was still loose, I didn't want to have another encounter with him so soon.  I'll bring the pepper spray with me on Monday, which will be the next time I run through that neighborhood...but I sure hope I won't have to use it.

Monday, September 21, 2015

In Knitting...And In Life

In knitting there's a saying about trusting the pattern.  But there's also a saying about trusting your gut.  Sometimes it's hard to know what to do if a project isn't turning out quite like you you trust the pattern and soldier on, hoping that everything will come together and you'll see the designer's intent in your work?  Or do you trust your gut, instinctively knowing that this is just not going to end well?
Not the sock I knitted...but see how cute the pattern is?

Recently, I encountered this exact dilemma.  I was knitting a sock pattern that I was really excited about.  I'd had the Fruit Stripes Gum pattern in my Ravelry library for quite a while, and finally had the right yarn to make it.  I cast on the toe, worked the foot, and once I'd completed the heel it was time to start the pattern.  Within 10 rounds, I wasn't happy with what I was seeing.  I went back to the pattern page on Ravelry and read project notes from other knitters who had made this pattern (there were over 400 finished projects), and no one seemed to have the issue that I was having - namely, the whole thing seemed loose, holey, and there were ladders (something that can happen when you knit in the round, usually when you switch needles).  Now, I'm a tight knitter, so I almost never have a piece turn out loose, and I usually don't have ladders either.  This was weird, but I decided since so many people had successfully knitted these socks, to trust the pattern and continue knitting.

Another 10 rounds later, and I still didn't like what I was seeing.  Crap!  What to do, what to do...I wanted to make these socks, but I also wanted them to look like what was pictured - and mine weren't.  I was trying to trust the pattern, but my gut was telling me that this just wasn't working out and I should cut my losses - I loved the yarn, but I didn't love how it was looking in this pattern.  Plus, I still had the matching sock to knit, and I knew I wouldn't want to make a second sock if I wasn't happy with the first one.

I put the project aside for a bit.  I read more on the pattern, and then knit a few more rounds.  Nope.  It still looked sloppy.  So, I put in an afterthought lifeline (meaning I captured a row of stitches just above the heel on a separate piece of yarn, or in my case, dental floss), took the sock off of my needles, and ripped out the pattern.  All of that work, for nothing.

While I was sad to not be knitting that pattern, I knew, deep down, that I was never going to be happy with those socks, had I continued with them.  Something was just not meshing between the instructions, my brain, and my hands.  I ended up knitting these socks in a plain vanilla pattern, and you know what?  I loved them.  The yarn itself was bright and pretty and in the end, the self-striping was just enough for me.
My Fruit Stripes Gum Happy Stripes socks!

Not everything turns out the way I plan.  Life has thrown me a few twists that I never could have anticipated, but usually I'm fairly willing to accept and adapt to them.  Knitting is just another version of this, on a smaller scale.  Who knew I'd be learning even more life lessons from a hobby?