Monday, 17 December 2012

Adventures in the kitchen

It's Christmas baking week!  Yay!!!  I've already started, having made the peppermint bark today, and I'm going to get stuck into the shortbread a little later on.  But aside from the Christmas goodies, I've been having a little fun with a few other things food-wise.  As I've mentioned before, Pinterest is a dangerous time-waster, but it has some amazing stuff on it all the same.  I've quite enjoyed experimenting with a number of recipes.  Here's a wee list, and my verdicts so far:

Sunflower nutella - I'm not a fan of hazelnuts, so when I stumbled across this recipe (admittedly, not on Pinterest, although it's certainly on there now!!) I was intrigued.  I made it this morning, and was pleasantly surprised.  It is rather delicious!  I haven't tried it out on the kids yet, but give me time ;-)  Of course, I'll have to hide it between bread slices, as it doesn't come out as smooth as the store-bought chocolate spreads.  But I'm hoping if they can't see it they won't notice, and they'll like it.  Maybe then I can do a bit of a 'reveal'...

Oatmeal banana breakfast muffins - not bad, but although they proclaim to be healthy and use no flour, they are still over 200 calories per muffin and since you blend the bajezus out of the oats, you're basically just using oat flour.  They weren't anything special, so I won't bother making them again.

Honey cloud pancakes - I made this on Sunday after a long run (I figured I'd earned a treat!).  It was delish!  However, as I didn't have an oven-proof 6" frying pan, I made it in a pot.  This made it rather difficult to get out without it falling apart.  It didn't look quite so pretty, but it still tasted yum.  I made mine with strawberries and blueberries, just like in the picture :-)  Sadly, I didn't have any nectarines on hand, or I would've thrown some of those in too.

Healthy apple pie dessert - okay, so this isn't really a recipe as such, more like instructions.  Super simple, but still good.  Why didn't I think of this before?!?

Make-your-own instant oatmeal - another one of those 'why didn't I think of that?' moments.  I haven't actually eaten this myself, but X is a fan of the Uncle Toby's Brown Sugar Cinnamon Instant Oats packets.  Rather than buying more, I just made up a couple with some oats, brown sugar and cinnamon I had in the pantry.  He gave them a thumbs up!  When winter rolls around again, I'll be putting some more of these together with different fruits and nuts.  They'll be perfect to grab and make in the mornings after a run.

Overnight french toast - I have made this twice now.  I think I'm going to have to stop making it.  It is just SO. DAMN. GOOD!!!  Very dangerous for the waistline, but man oh man, it tastes divine!  On its own, with ice cream, whatever.  It is delightfully delicious.  Second time around, I omitted the pecans because the kids don't like them.  With or without, this is a 'keep going back for more' kind of food.

Overnight, no-cook, refrigerator oatmeal - basically bircher muesli.  We've tried two flavours so far, the cinnamon apple and the blueberry maple.  Both were yum, but we preferred the blueberry maple to the cinnamon apple.  Next on the list to try is the banana cocoa.  There's a link to another page with six more flavours.  Of course, you can basically make any flavour you want, depending on what you fancy, or what you happen to have in the cupboard.  It's a good use of chia seeds though.

Granola bars - I haven't actually made any of the bars yet, but I made the winter granola this morning (yes, I am aware that it is the middle of summer, but it just sounded so yummy I had to make it), and had a wee taste test.  OMG yum!  I substituted raisins for the craisins (I don't like cranberries, and I didn't have any in the cupboard), and used walnuts instead of pecans, since I'd used up my pecans on the french toast (above).  I chopped up some Cadbury Dream white chocolate in place of the choc chips.  This is definitely a breakfast muesli that I can see myself making again!  The granola bars will be something I will try some time in the new year.

Blueberry breakfast grilled cheese - the link just goes to a random blog site, not to the 'recipe', so the link I've posted is to my Pinterest page with the pin (not sure you'll be able to see it).  Basically just the idea grabbed my attention.  Take two slices of bread, slather with cream cheese, sprinkle on some blueberries, whack them together and grill, then dust with icing sugar.  Yum!

Pretzel cookies - we don't get peanut butter chips in New Zealand (that I know of) so I just used chocolate chips.  These cookies are weird, but yum.  T loved them!  X hated them.  Guess you can't win 'em all...  Perhaps I'll freeze half the dough next time, since we ended up with quite a lot and with only two people eating them, it took a while to get through them all.  They're certainly something a little bit different.

Pancake bites - there's a bunch of stuff on this blog page, but I liked the idea of individual muffin-sized pancakes so I made some pancake batter and pulled out the muffin tin.  Half I kept plain for the kids, and the other half I added blueberries to.  There was still plenty of pancake batter left so I made some 'normal' pancakes as well.  Meh.  X claimed that they tasted different, and didn't like them.  He did eat the normal pancakes though.  T refused to eat the pancake muffins and had the normal ones too.  They were a bit annoying to get out of the muffin tin, and although it did cut out a bit of standing around and pancake flipping, the convenience-factor wasn't worth it.  Think I'll stick to 'normal' pancakes :-)

Chickpea, tomato and feta salad - pretty good this one, but next time I'll cut back on the feta just a smidge.  Seemed to me there was a little bit too much.

Next on the list to try is this cucumber salad (although on a smaller scale - can't see us getting through six cucumbers!  Or three for that matter...), and tonight I think I'll start this bread, so I can bake it first thing in the morning.  The kids adore fresh home baked bread, so I'm hoping this one is a winner because it sounds dead easy!  I also like the idea of being able to add any flavours - I see some experimentation in the future with this recipe.

For Christmas morning, I have my sights set very firmly on these cinnamon rolls.  They look absolutely divine, and I love me a good cinnamon roll.  So mum, I hope you're keen to give them a try for Christmas morning breakfast!  I plan on getting up nice and early to make the dough.  Hopefully I'll be able to make it quietly without waking the kids up.  In the meantime, if I can't hold back the cinnamon roll cravings, I think I'll make these cookies.  Having said that, I still have plenty of other baking to keep me busy this week, so probably best not to add to the list...

I've pinned a bunch of salads and dinner meals which I hope to try out in the new year as well.  Might have to give you another recipe roundup in the near future :-)

Of course, with all this experimenting going on in the food department, I've felt the need to kick up the running a notch to counter the effects.  I ran a fairly decent 50km total last week, finishing off the week with a rather fantastic 16km that I was pretty damn happy with.  If not for the knee, I could've just kept running.  My body felt like it could go for hours.  My knee did not.  And with the longer distances my Asics give me blisters (one of the many reasons I prefer my far-more-comfortable Nikes).  Of course, this 16km was on almost completely flat ground - the usual Tamaki Drive route I fall back on for long runs.  It's such a nice relaxing route - good view, nice and flat (mostly), with a lovely breeze coming in off the water most days.

I have been trying out a few hillier routes lately though - my current favourite is quite a tough one, but good.  I found it online on RunningPlus (which I think is a relatively new site), called the 'Ponsonby Loop'.  Members can submit and share their favourite running routes, and people like myself can give them a whirl ;-)  The Ponsonby Loop is great - very hilly, and it takes in some lovely scenic areas of Central Auckland.  I was quite surprised to come across a herd of cows the other day while running through one of the parks!  Unfortunately I forgot to snap some photographic evidence.  Perhaps next time.  I've run it three times now, taking slightly different paths through the parks, and will admit that I've only run all the hills once.  As I said, it's a tough one!  But one I'll keep working on.  It's a nice distance, and it gives me a challenge.

This week will involve trying to fit early morning runs in before breakfast, as the days will be full of finishing off the Christmas knits (not long to go now!!), Christmas baking, housework, packing and study.  I'm hoping to get another couple of modules finished, which will leave me with just the second assignment and one more module to do next year, before lots of revision and an exam at the end of February.  I think I may just make it to Christmas without the wheels falling off the cart...

I hope you're all sorted for the holidays!  If I don't make it back on here before then, have a wonderful couple of weeks, and enjoy the summer weather (or winter, if you're over that way ;-P)  Right, I'm off to bake some shortbread :D

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Peanut butter, you're alright

Isn't it funny how tastes change over the years?  I remember as a very small child eating peanut butter sandwiches, and then one day coming to the realisation that I didn't actually like it.  From then on I refused to eat it.  Over the years I have tried it on occasion, and discovered that I still didn't like it.  Always thought that was a little odd, since I like peanuts and pretty much all other nuts (except hazelnuts, ew).  I bought some ABC (Almond, Brazil, Cashew) spread from the supermarket a little while ago as I was starting to feel like I was missing out on something.  Turns out the ABC spread is pretty yummy.  It's also rather expensive, and unjustifiable on our new budget.  So I bought some plain ol' peanut butter (Deane had polished off the previous jar.  And left it in the cupboard.  Typical.) and was quite surprised to find that I like it now!  Particularly with banana (btw, super awesome snack idea - slice up a banana and sandwich the slices together with a smidge of peanut butter.  Simple yet tasty.)

Unfortunately, my new-found love of PB has just gone a little too far - I had a whole wheat tortilla for lunch with sliced banana and peanut butter, and now I feel rather ill.  Perhaps the natural oiliness of the peanuts doesn't agree with my IBS in large doses.  'Large' being about what you'd have on a couple of slices of toast.  Stupid IBS...

So I'm stuck here at the moment, feeling nauseated, unable to work on my study as I'm waiting for a response from the lecturer on something and can't move forward until it's cleared up, exercise is out of the question (who wants to do jumping jacks when their stomach is churning??  Ugh!), and I really don't want to be vacuuming or cleaning the bathroom right at the moment either... what to do?  Blog and knit of course ;-)

The Christmas knitting is coming along nicely - I have a few more things to do, which should be easy enough to get done in the two weeks left before Christmas.  One thing I'm working on is so close to finished it's not funny, but I ran out of yarn.  Thankfully, Ravelry being the amazing connectivity tool that it is, I was able to find somebody in Dunedin that had a small amount of the same yarn, which should be enough to finish my project with.  Fingers crossed it arrives in the next day or two, so I can whip that project off the needles and focus on the last two.  I so very much want to share with you all that I have been knitting!  It will just have to wait.  ::sigh::

Which reminds me, I had a list of all the things I wanted to knit before the end of the year.  That's kinda fallen by the wayside a bit, hasn't it?  Let's recap:

THE LIST (In no particular order, just to be clear)
  • fingerless mitts for X in black
  • fingerless mitts for T in green
  • fingerless mitts for mum, because I forgot she wanted some for Mother's Day, or maybe these
  • scarf for _________________ (shh, it's a secret!)
  • shawl for mum (the original size is too small) - just an extension, not the whole thing again
  • sweater for me
  • socks for X (no pattern required)
  • socks for T (no pattern required)
  • socks for school librarian (again, no pattern required)
  • socks for Deane (haven't decided yet what pattern, so many to choose from!!)
  • fingerless gloves for Deane (maybe. I'm still a little annoyed about the $2 shop ones)
  • armwarmers for me
  • sweater for me
  • kindle covers x 3 for mum, MIL and bff
And the extras:
  • another scarf, but in handspun for... unknown at this time
  • stole for unknown person, haven't decided yet - started and stalled some time ago
  • shawl for unknown person, maybe me
  • another shawl, in some more handspun
  • this stole, in my handspun laceweight
  • these socks, and these, and these, and a whole bunch of other socks
Priorities shift I guess.  Aside from the stuff crossed off on the above lists, I have also knit a cardigan, TARDIS phone cover, a pair of mitts for my nephew, five pairs of socks, two hats, a scarf, a shawl, a baby butt cover, a baby vest, half a hat, one knee high sock, and the secret Christmas knits I've finished so far.  Oh, and a kindle cover, which ended up being for Deane's kindle.  The other three I've decided not to knit.  Sorry ladies ;-)  Phew, that's a lot!  I'm looking forward to making a little photo collage of all the projects at the end of the year, and I know you're just dying to see it too!!! ;-)

On the fitness and exercise front, things have been going rather well.  I managed a fairly decent 14km on Sunday.  The knee was a bit sore at the end but like every other run, once I stop running it's fine, and there are no lasting effects.  I guess all those exercises I'm doing every day (see previous post) are helping with that too.  I'm being careful and increasing the mileage slowly, but trying to get out more often as well as increasing distance per run.  Going to try a 15km this weekend I think.  I managed another 'fastest 10km' again the other day, don't know how that keeps happening.  I don't aim for a fast run (and in fact half the time I think I'm running rather slow!) but I'm not going to complain :-) 

I've come to the conclusion that my much-loved Nikes are going to have to go as soon as I can afford another pair of running shoes.  They've done an estimated 600km now, and they both make an annoying squeaking noise when I run, which can be a little embarrassing if you're running past people and there's no background traffic noise.  They're still really comfy, and they house the little footpod for my sportband, but I really do need to give them up, before I end up with another injury.  Odd, they're only shoes, but I've become quite attached to them...

Eek!  Just had a surprise visit from the landlord!  Luckily there wasn't any kid-mess visible from the front door!  Although the front yard wasn't looking its best.  Coincidentally, I was just thinking this morning "ooh, the landlord will probably pop around some time in the next couple of weeks to do the whole 'Merry Christmas' thing like he did last year.  I must be sure to keep the house tidy and do the gardens".  Pfft.  He's going to visit again in the next couple of days to inspect some work that a builder will be doing on the front gate - note to self: do the bloody gardens before he comes back!!

On a slightly happier note, my tummy is far less oogly-feeling now, and there's still 45 minutes before the kids get home - enough time to dust and run the vacuum around.  Best get to it before I get sucked into wasting time on Pinterest again...

Enjoy the rest of your week!

Edit to add: Just checked my official result for my last paper.  A-!!!  Yeehaa!!!

Thursday, 6 December 2012

I'm sensing a little déjà vu

I'm sitting here in semi-darkness in the middle of the day, with rain absolutely pelting down outside.  Thunder and lightning, reports of a tornado somewhere in West Auckland... isn't it supposed to be summer?

This is much along the lines of what happened last summer here as well.  Last summer was utter shite, if you don't mind me saying.  I really hope this year's doesn't pan out the same, or I'll be really pissed.  The climate in Auckland is definitely not to my liking.  I think I've said this before.  Of course, I happen to like rain, particularly (IN WINTER!!) when I'm cosied up inside with a book or some knitting (or in the case of today, a particularly difficult assignment).  But c'mon, a girl needs a bit of sunshine to go with the god-awful humidity, am I right?!?

I went out for a short 5km run yesterday morning at 6am thinking I'd beat the heat.  No such luck.  Normally a 5km barely breaks a sweat these days, but when you throw 17°+ temperatures and eleventy-billion percent humidity into the equation, you get a horrible sticky, sweaty mess.  The kind of sweaty you get after a 10-12km run.  Not good at that time of the morning :-/

Anyway, enough whining about things we cannot change, and onto more awesome stuff.  I am officially past the half-way point in my Christmas knitting, yay!!!  Still no pics, so as not to ruin the surprises, but lemme tell ya, I'm happy to be on the home stretch!  With only 18 sleeps to go (OMG!!!), the more I can get knit now, the less I'll be stressing in the last couple of days before the 25th.  I'm absolutely itching to get back into the kitchen to make more yummy goodies too, but I have to be good and wait until closer to the day.  We don't want to be giving out weeks-old cookies now, do we?  No, definitely not. 

The boys' birthdays are done and dusted for another year (eight and ten.  Gosh, when did they get so big?) and they're enjoying the daily ritual of opening the advent calendar to see which chocolate they got, comparing similarities and differences between the two calendars.  We've been a bit slack in dragging out the tree and decorations this year, but there's no hurry.  Perhaps a job for this weekend?  I have sorted out my dinner meals for the next two weeks, which takes us up to the 23rd, by which time we'll likely be heading to Napier for the annual Christmas holiday.  I'm looking forward to the big two-weekly grocery shop this weekend.  Yes, I'm one of those weirdos who actually enjoys going to the supermarket, the butcher, the green grocer... as long as I'm by myself of course.  Throw a husband and kids in the mix, and it's my worst nightmare.  Well, one of them anyway.  I have many.

I'm very glad to have finished a rather tricky assignment that I've been working on for the last TWO WEEKS (OMG, and this is supposed to be a Level 5 paper?!?!?) - I submitted it not half an hour ago, and have proclaimed the rest of today as knitting time (and exercises - more on this later).  Deane has been informed that I am not cooking dinner this evening, and he's okay with that.  I've been sticking to my meal plans and cooked everything I said I would in the last two weeks, but because Deane has been coming home from work late most nights, he's been either eating his for breakfast the next morning (because he's weird like that) or I've had it for lunch.  He's going to be late again tonight, so I'm having leftovers for dinner, the kids are having noodle omelettes (something my bff's mother made me once when I was a teenager, and I have loved ever since) and Deane can have whatever he's having wherever he's going to be.  Sweet as.

I'll continue the rest of my study on this paper... perhaps next week.  We'll leave tomorrow open for a long run, a leisurely shower, and some more Christmas knitting.  Maybe I'll do the grocery/butchery shopping tomorrow, and just go to the green grocer on the weekend...  Ah, planning flexibility :-)

Now, I must share the latest time-suck I have fallen prey to.  Many of you will already be aware of/joined up to Pinterest.  As usual, I was a little slow to the party.  To be honest, I knew it was a time-suck and thought it best I avoid it.  But after having listened to many friends' proclamations about how awesome it is, I decided to have a wee nosey, and oh boy, is it awesome?!  I totally get it!  But yes, time just seems to fall into the great black hole that is Pinterest and an hour goes by before you know it.  One must be vigilant, and remember the way back out.  Having said that, I have barely scratched the surface of all that is Pinterest, but am enjoying trying out lots of new recipes and ideas I've found so far.  One such idea has been to write a bunch of different exercises onto ice block sticks and pop them in a cup on the bench.  Whenever you happen to be standing around (say, when you're making a cup of tea, cooking dinner, whatever) you grab a stick, do the exercise on it, and before you know it, you're buff!  Haha, just kidding ;-)  But wouldn't that be nice?  Here are my exercises:

There's a total of 36 different exercises in them there cups, working every area - arms, calves, thighs, butt, and of course abs.  Maybe a little bit OTT, but whatever.   I managed to do all of them on Monday and yesterday, and most of them on Tuesday (but I figured I could get away with missing a few, since I ran 10km.  With hills).  I've only done eight so far today, but there's still plenty of today left, so I should be able to squeeze in quite a few more, if not do them all.  Gotta leave some knitting time though ;-)  The kids are strangely interested in these exercise sticks - if they're around whenever I grab one, they ask which one it is.  If it's an exercise they haven't seen or heard of before, they want to know what it is, how it's done, if it's really hard etc etc.  Kinda funny really.  Maybe I should encourage them to join in...?  Nah, they'd never fall for that...  (Tried getting X to run the kids marathon this year (2km) and nearly got him interested.  I think he was seriously considering it.  By the next day though, he'd changed his mind and decided against it.  Oh well, maybe next year.  I'll start working on him earlier, maybe take him out for a run around Victoria Park...)

There are many other awesome things on Pinterest - I've already mentioned all the recipes (there. are. so. many!!!), there's also umpteen-million outfit ideas, motivational quotes, funny quotes, videos, pictures, links to blogs, gorgeous landscape pictures from all around the world (very inspiring, I want to travel EVERYWHERE), cute pictures of animals, babies, anything and everything (great for when you need a little cheer-up), and so many fabulous gift ideas, which of course is perfect for this time of year.  If you're a little stuck, there are excellent hand-made gift ideas, many of which are really budget-friendly.  I may have added a couple extra ideas to my Christmas gifts list this year because I just couldn't resist (but not too many, because I already had that pretty much covered), and I've pinned a few more for Christmas next year, or birthdays, or whatever occasion happens to fit the gift or vice versa.  Did I mention how much of a time-suck Pinterest is?  I did?  Oh...

Well, the boys will be home from school in half an hour, and I have a date with a hot cup of tea and some Christmas knitting.  Be good, enjoy the rest of your week, and look after yourself :-)  See you next time!

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Ten - The Year of Nerf

X had his tenth birthday over a week ago now.  Gosh, time is zooming by, T's 8th birthday is this weekend!  It's all happening pretty quickly.  Let's recap:

X's birthday involved eight rowdy boys, about as many Nerf guns, and half a dozen laptops all linked together for Minecraft LAN gaming.  The original plan was a six hour LAN gaming party, but the boys had other ideas - a bunch of kids brought along their Nerf guns, and X ended up with four of them as gifts, so they spent a large chunk of time running around inside and outside the house shooting each other and yelling loudly.  I had my bff here for the weekend so we managed to avoid the first half of the six hour long birthday party (yes, that's right, s i x  h o u r s!!!  Madness!) but the three hours we were here for were complete chaos, so I can only imagine the first three were much the same.  Boys are a special breed - only they can consume such copious amounts of food while simultaneously shooting each other with foam bullets, yelling at the top of their lungs and playing computer games.  I do believe though, that my boys had an absolute ball of a time.  And the amount of food consumed throughout the day meant nobody was hungry for dinner and I didn't have to cook.  Hooray for small mercies.  So now my boy is ten.  Oh my, when did he get so big?  He reaches the bridge of my nose, and it will be a matter of months I'm sure before he's taller than I am.  Sure, I'm not exactly towering at 5', but still...

Last weekend he headed off to a birthday party of a school friend, with a Nerf gun in hand.  And guess what his gift to the birthday boy was?  Yep, a Nerf gun.  I shall declare that ten is the Year of Nerf.

T is literally counting the days until his birthday rolls around - he tells me every morning how many days are left, just in case I forget ;-)  We still have no actual plans for his day, all we know is that children have been invited.  I think we'll leave it at that for now.  I have learned from recent experience that kids birthday parties don't need too much structure - as long as there's food, drink, toys and games, they'll be happy.  Oh, and we can't forget the cake!  For T, chocolate cake covered in M&Ms.  Easy-peasy!  He has requested boiled eggs in little car egg cups with toast slices for breakfast, sausage sizzle for school lunch, and home made pizza for dinner.  My boy has simple tastes, and for once I'm not going to complain.  It gives me more time to get on with other things, like study.

Boy, this paper I'm studying at the moment is full-on!  Information Systems.  Very tech-orientated, with a bunch of e-commerce thrown in for good measure.  I'm learning stacks (particularly the recent work with Excel spreadsheets - colour me amazed at the stuff you can do with a spreadsheet!), which I have already managed to put to good measure by writing up the mother of all budgets.  Deane's been harping on at me for years about writing one up, and I finally got around to it this week.  I spent the better part of three days on it, but I finished it this morning.  It's the snazziest thing out, with the past six months' financial data input into it for averages, comparisons and analysis.  Worksheets are linked so everything I input automatically updates where it needs to so I don't have to re-enter information. OMG the formulas!  So many!  I have to say I'm pretty proud of my efforts, and I hope I can manage to stick to it and possibly save some money.  I'm on a bit of a roll actually, having started a weekly meal plan as well.  On Saturday I went to the butcher, the vege shop and the supermarket, then sat down and planned out dinners for two weeks with the meat and veges I'd bought.  So far, it's worked out pretty well.  Of course, we still have to get milk when we run out, and the occasional thing we run out of and need before the next shop (like honey, bread rolls and apples for school lunches - hopeless), but if all goes to plan I'll get better at this organisation thing and eventually be able to do one shop every two weeks.  We have a larger freezer sitting in the laundry, so we might as well put it to good use!

I'd fallen into the bad habit of going to the supermarket nearly every day because it was so close.  I'd run out of one or two things, then swing by on my way past and grab those things, plus a few extras just because.  Not good budgeting practice, let me tell you.  Our grocery bill was huge!  I know this because I just input all that data into my snazzy budgeting spreadsheet ;-)  So here's to a more organised budget-friendly future, and hopefully some spending money for (and airfares to) Vancouver!

I have also been knitting away as much as possible on Christmas gifts - I'm about a third of the way through my knits list.  With less than a month to go, it might be a tight squeeze but I may just make it.  Foodie gifts are mostly done except for the last-minute stuff, and I know what else I need to get so as long as Deane doesn't throw a spanner in the works, I think we're pretty much sorted for the silly season.  How about you?  Are you organised?  Only 26 sleeps to go...

Friday, 16 November 2012

I'm still here!!

I haven't updated for a wee while, but it's been a little busy this week.  Organising X's 10th birthday party which is on this Saturday, the same day I will be trying my best to watch every Twilight movie there is with my bff.  She arrives tonight (so excited!!) so maybe we can watch the first one this evening, then while all the boys are downstairs LAN gaming tomorrow (yep, totally nerdy) we'll be upstairs watching New Moon and Eclipse, and maybe Breaking Dawn Pt. 1.  We will of course be on feeding and watering duty - nine boys and a man will need fuel for their activities - so there will be breaks in between.  Whether we manage to watch all of them or not, I can't say.  But some time this weekend, we will be going to watch the last Twilight movie - Breaking Dawn, Pt. 2.  We have been waiting for this movie for some time, and are really looking forward to seeing it!

Otherwise I have been studying my butt off, trying to get ahead on this paper so I don't have to study over the week of Christmas, and so I can (if all goes to plan) head off to Vancouver in late January without having to worry about assignments.  It's been quite a mission as this paper is on Information Systems.  Something I'm not very clued up on.  Why do you think I have Deane? ;-)  I have managed to get comfortably ahead this week I think, but had to sacrifice a few things, namely, exercise.  Last week I ran 25.5km, and cycled a little under 59km.  This week...     *cue chirping crickets*

To be honest, my knee was quite niggly after the 12km I ran on Sunday so I intentionally avoided heading out for a run earlier in the week to rest it.  However, I really got stuck in to the whole study thing (I'm learning heaps!) and made excuses (to myself, because nobody else cares), filling in non-study time with Christmas knitting, running errands, housework, various child/adult appointments etc.  I probably could've squeezed a run in this morning (in fact, still could) but... eh.  There's always next week, right?  This week is for eating terribly bad food (although really, how bad could a chocolate muffin be if it is made with beetroot?  Certainly not as bad as two chocolate muffins made with beetroot.  Must stop eating the chocolate muffins) and put on a kilo or two, and next week I will run it off again.  Seriously, that does happen.  A lot.  Could this be termed yo-yo dieting?  Or yo-yo exercising?

Yes, this weekend I will be enjoying all sorts of fine fare - frozen yoghurt from the most awesomest of awesome places - Whites & Co., like this one I had earlier in the week:

Vanilla frozen yoghurt with fresh strawberries, chocolate brownie, and valrhona dark chocolate covered biscuit pearls.  Yummy!!!

...and birthday food.  I asked X a few questions about what he would like to eat on his birthday, and it was quickly decided that we would have chocolate chip waffles for breakfast, pizza for lunch, and roast pork with 'crackle skin' for dinner (I'll be skipping that I think.  Not a fan of pork).  And of course, 'classic' chocolate cake for the birthday cake.  Sweet as :-)  It'll be the usual early start to Saturday morning to get the waffles made, so we can head to Britomart by 8.30am for the market where I'll be gathering vegetables for dinner, and fruit for the attempt at a slightly healthier party snack (amidst the pizza, lollies, chocolate and chippies that is standard at any kiwi kids' party).  And the aforementioned frozen yoghurt of course ;-)

I have also been knitting as much as possible, but you can't see any of it because it is all for Christmas pressents.  The big reveals will have to wait until after - I'll have to do a big post with all the pictures.  I did however manage to knit a cute little Milo vest for the receptionist at the physio - she's pregnant and going to have a boy, so I couldn't resist using up some gorgeous light blue yarn I had in my stash:

Milo vest with aran braid, knit with Naturally Loyal DK (8 ply) - 3 month size.  I had also intended to knit some cute little baby socks and give her those as well, but I managed to knit each sock with a different sized needle.  Because I am freakishly amazing.  Really, I even have a t-shirt that says so:

 So the socks didn't exactly match:

Although it only takes a few hours to knit one, I figured it wasn't that important and the time would be better spent knitting Christmas gifts and doing other stuff, so they've been put away for some other time when somebody else needs a quick baby gift.

Anyway, must dash.  I have an appointment to get to, then housework to finish amidst baking and decorating a birthday cake and preparing a temporary bedroom for my bff's stay.  Have an excellent weekend people, I know I will!!

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

'Tis (nearing) the season...

Gosh, can you believe it?  Christmas is less than two months away.  Only seven more weekends left to prepare!  Are you getting organised?  Or are you one of those people who are in denial until days, or even hours, before 25th?  Good on you, keep on ignoring it ;-)  Or are you somebody who doesn't celebrate Christmas at all?  If so, feel free to laugh at my craziness for the silly season so far, which I will lay out for all and sundry in this post.

My planning started earlier this year when I spotted a few gift ideas in my foodie mags, which I stored away in my memory to recall closer to the time.  As soon as the calendar flicked over from October to November, the planning kicked up a gear.  I started writing my lists.  Giftee lists, gift-make lists, ingredient lists, supply lists, list lists... I'm kidding!  Sort of... (I get my list-writing habits from my mother.  I figured this out after several trips to Napier during which I noticed various grocery lists.  Not your average 'oh, we've run out of this stuff and need some more' lists, oh no, I'm talking 'this is on special at this supermarket, and these are on special at that supermarket, and this is how much they cost' kind of lists.  The very in-depth, well-researched variety of lists.  We're a list family.  I may have mentioned this before).

Preparation is well under way now - I know exactly what I'm making, who I'm making it for, have even managed to make some stuff already (more on that shortly), and have supplies for several other things.  A few bits and pieces will have to be made closer to the day, but I'm organised.  As for the Christmas knits, I have started, but production has had to take an unscheduled yet necessary break.  Here's why:

I decided this year to make my own fruit mince.  I like fruit mince tarts and pies, but I don't like mixed peel.  Hence, making my own.  Aside from removing the peel, I wanted it to be fairly traditional, which involved tracking down some suet.  I decided to try the trusty local butcher, and phoned them to ask if they had any.  They informed me that they had none in stock, but would put some aside for me to pick up.  So I went in on Monday afternoon to pick up what I thought would be nicely prepared, ready-to-use suet, but what I got was raw, some-meat-still-attached suet.  No matter I thought, I can clarify it myself, no problem.  The internet being as fabulous as it is, it took me no time at all to find good instructions on how to do this, so after helping the kids with their homework, I set to work.  Unfortunately, trimming meat from fat is a rather boring task, so my mind started to wander to other things.  Big mistake, because the next thing I knew my wonderfully long, sharp knife had sliced quite quickly and easily through the back of my little finger!  I grabbed a paper towel to prevent the blood from getting everywhere and called out (very calmly), "X, can you please go upstairs and grab the plasters out of the bathroom for me?", to which he replied, "Can you get T to do it? I don't want to".  Yes, my children are very helpful.  Needless to say, I had to trudge upstairs with my hand wrapped in paper towel to dig out the plasters myself.  I gave my hand a quick rinse under the tap and had a closer look.  The ability for the skin on the lower half of my finger to move quite independently from the top half made me feel a little queasy, so I went and sat down for a bit.

I tried phoning Deane, with the idea that he may be of some use.  This proved fruitless, as he didn't answer either his work or cell phone (apparently he was in meetings all afternoon).  So I had to get the kids to wander across the road with me to the doctors (they agreed to only if they could get a treat from the dairy afterwards.  Pfft).  The nurse had a look at my finger and kindly informed me that I had missed the tendons and it would heal nicely with steri-strips.  So here I sit, with my finger wrapped in bandaging - I have to keep it straight, and can't get it wet, which makes showering quite awkward, as you can imagine.  This has also make knitting difficult, so I have had to set it aside until I can bend my finger again.  It has, however, given me time to get stuck into my studies.  This paper is a challenge for me - it's all about information technology.  Stuff Deane knows by rote, but that I have never understood.  I've learned quite a bit already, but the real trick is getting that knowledge to stick!

It also gives me plenty of time to get out of the house, so I went out for a short, fast 5km run yesterday, and a rather fun bike ride today.  I'd bought a helmet over the weekend, as I'd been really wanting to get out for a ride.  Deane had kindly cleaned up my bike, greased the chain, and pumped up the tires a couple of weeks ago after I'd brought it back from Napier last trip, and today was the perfect day for it - overcast and a little bit breezy.  I set out around 10.30am with a vague idea of where I wanted to get to.  My plan was to bike about 20km just as a bit of a test ride (it's been years since I biked anywhere and I wasn't sure what a good distance would be).  I had just downloaded a phone app that would track my time and distance (OMG I love my phone!!), so I set that going and off I went.  I must admit the traffic through town was a little scary, particularly as I'm quite inexperienced in dealing with it, but once I'd gotten past the thicker traffic I was good to go.  I biked all the way out to St. Heliers, turned around, and came back again.  It was about 25km, and took me a little over an hour.  I'd forgotten how fun it is to ride a bike!  I'd also forgotten how sore your butt gets, particularly when your tires are very firm and the bike path very bumpy.  I'm thinking I may have to invest in some of those padded bike shorts...  Can't wait to get out on the bike again soon (after my butt has recovered) - I've found some bike routes other people have posted on the app that look quite good, so I'll give those a go.  There's also some interesting looking running routes that I'm keen to try out as well.  Ooh, looking forward to it!!

Finger injury aside, this has been a pretty good week so far.  I hope yours has been good too!  Enjoy the rest of it :-)

Monday, 29 October 2012

That went well

Y'all are probably aware that I was running in the Auckland (Quarter) Marathon this past weekend.  I may have mentioned this previously.  A lot.  Here is my summary of the event:

I had thankfully managed to finish and submit my assignment the day before, so I was glad to have that out of the way.  Trimester complete!  Which meant I could focus on getting ready for Sunday.  Once the kids were out the door and off to school, I wandered into town to go browsing for some new running gear.  I have two pairs of running shorts that I've had since I started running over three years ago, and they're getting pretty manky and old.  I don't like them much.  I figured it's about time for some new ones.  So into Rebel Sport I went, spending a whole 45 minutes trying on pair after pair after pair of shorts.  The only ones I liked were super short shorts which weren't actually shorts (they were 'netball knickers' - you know, those things women wear under their netball skirts so they don't accidentally flash their lady parts), and some Nike shorts that were $70 (!!!).  I decided to give up on that, and headed to a couple of other places (Stirling Sports, which had far less selection and nothing I liked, and Cotton On Body which was all crappy.  I have some gear from Cotton On and I don't like it much so I'm not entirely sure why I went in there in the first place).

I had at least managed to kill enough time that the marathon registration expo was open, so I headed down to the Viaduct Event Centre to pick up my race pack.  Whilst there, I saw they had a car that was covered in writing.  On closer inspection (because I'm nosy) I discovered that it was actually covered in names.  Of all the people participating in the 2012 marathon.  Dude, my name is on a car!!  Check it out:

Pretty cool, huh?  Don't think that makes it my car though.  Oh well...

I arrived home in time to sign up for the latest Knitsch yarn club, for which I was the 'inspiration' (ahaha).  I had asked Tash for a custom dye of Tennant (a gorgeous Doctor Who blue) on DK weight yarn so I could knit a cardigan with it.  She thought this such a good idea, she decided to set up a special one-off yarn club where you could order as much DK as you wanted in Tennant or Rose (a new colourway, inspired by one of the Doctor's companions.  No prizes for guessing which one ;-P).  Then I had lunch and got stuck into my race pack.  The 'goodies' weren't too bad this year (this is after having filtered out a veritable mountain of leaflets):

The toothbrush made me laugh.  I guess it was for after you'd eaten the lollies :-)  I left this stuff laid out on the floor, so when the boys got home they divvied up the 'good stuff' (X got the popcorn, T got the bagel bites, and they shared the lollies) and left me with the rest.  I have no idea who's going to eat the chicken - canned chicken kinda grosses me out - but I enjoyed the crunchy muesli bars so much I went out and bought some more.  They're really good!  As for the race shirt and my official number:

I didn't care much for the colour combo, plus the shoulders of the shirt were kind of weird.  When you lifted your arms away from your body, they sort of peaked up a bit - reminded me of Professor McGonagall's coat in Deathly Hallows:

And they always say you shouldn't wear new gear during a race, so I decided to just keep it as a souvenir (like last year's garish bright green shirt) and wear my normal gear.  The afternoon/evening was spent cleaning the entire upstairs - my housework has been a little neglected of late, with study etc taking centre stage, so the place was in desperate need of a spring clean.  I wanted to get it done before this week so my week between trimesters wasn't filled with boring housework stuff.  I think I managed to fit a bit of knitting in somewhere too.

Deane spent the day out fishing with his mates and their new boat.  He got up at 6am (very rare for Deane) and didn't get back until about 8pm, so I was home all day with the boys.  This gave me the opportunity to spring clean the rest of the house and get all the laundry done.  I was rather pleased to have it all finished.  Not so pleased to have the entire kitchen covered in fish scales and guts after the intrepid fishermen (and woman) returned with two large snapper and a few mackerel.  I cooked them dinner then sat down and knit (I'd eaten pasta earlier with the boys - a bit of carbo-loading before the race).  I'm not a fan of eating dinner at 9.30pm, nor am I big on fish, so this was fine with me.  The kitchen got cleaned before I went to bed (a combined effort), so I knew I didn't have to worry about it when I got up in the morning.

Sunday - Race Day
I couldn't really sleep much, which I guess isn't surprising, so I ended up getting up at 5.30am.  This gave me time to have breakfast, which I had previously planned to avoid.  Nothing worse than needing to go to the loo in the middle of a run, especially when you're in a race and trying to get a good time!  It was a light breakfast, but low GI which would help keep me fueled for my run.  Then I had time to potter around and get ready at a leisurely pace.  By 6.20am I was ready to head out the door.  I dropped my gear bag at Victoria Park, and headed over to the start line.  Did a few stretches, and it was time to go.  The countdown started, the gun went off, and the shuffle began.  A short while later, I crossed the start line and began my running app.  Unfortunately, I had failed to turn off the music option, so my phone was blaring away with no way to mute it.  This meant I had to stop the app and restart it, so my race stats are a little out.  No matter.  It also meant my start was a little slow because I was distracted, but again, no matter.  Once I settled in, everything was fine.  I was feeling good, and I was happy.  By the time we hit 1km (or rather, a little after since my app was a little behind) I was into a rhythm, and settled into a relatively quick (for me) pace of 5:23.  Knowing I wouldn't be able to keep it up for a full 10km, I slowed down a smidge and kept going.

I was very happy to see that we had a little entertainment and encouragement along the way:

Excuse the blurriness - I was running sideways while snapping the second pic.  I believe they found that quite amusing :-)  At about the 5km mark just past Ngapipi Road was the turnaround to head back to Victoria Park and the finish line.  On this journey back, I got a bit of an eyeful that made me chuckle.  I saw an older man jogging along with his race shirt and number on, and the most unusual pair of bike shorts I've ever seen.  The print on them made it look like he was naked from the waist down.  I'll let you picture that in your head for a minute....... yep, funny :-)

By 7km I was still feeling good with a pace around 5:35, and by 8km I knew I had it in the bag.  My knee was a tiny bit niggly, but nothing drastic.  I finished at about the same pace, and had a wee smile when I heard my name announced (wonder if they got a photo of that?).  Unfortunately, I was mucking around with my phone so I could stop the app and didn't get a good look at the timer clock, so I was unsure of my finishing time at that stage.  I was also looking around for Deane and the boys, and my friends who said they would be there to cheer me on.  I didn't see them.

Through the finish chute I went, grabbing some water, banana and a Powerade on the way, and dropping my timing chip into the bucket.  I headed back to my gear bag and phoned Deane.  Turns out T was being uncooperative, and they hadn't made it to the finish line in time to see the end of my run.  Nor had my friends (one of which was  sleeping off a bit of sun stroke from their fishing trip the day before).  Deane had been thoughtful enough to bring me some breakfast, as I had told him I wouldn't be eating any before the race.  Of course, I'd ended up eating breakfast anyway so I didn't need it, but the thought was there.  After a bit of a chat with him and the boys and our late-arriving friend, they headed off home again, and I hung around for a while hoping to see a couple of friends finish their half and full marathons (unfortunately I missed both).

I headed home a bit later and had a shower, then we went across to the school where the annual Italian Festival was on, and had some lunch.  By late afternoon, the results were up on the website.  My official time?  59 minutes, 50 seconds.  I had just scraped in under the one hour mark!  Sooooo happy!!!!!!!  (Official time is when the clock starts to when you cross the finish line.  Net time is when you physically cross the start line to when you cross the finish line, so the net time is the one that counts).  I beat last year's time by four and a half minutes! 

A vast improvement on last year's experience, I don't believe that race could have gone any better.  The only thing that could have made it better would've been having Deane and the boys there in time to see me finish.  Oh well, there's always next year ;-)  Now I'm just waiting for the race photos to be available so I can see how awful and red-faced I looked.  They're probably all of me looking at my phone...

All in all, I'm very happy that my training didn't let me down, and the physiotherapy has worked.  My knee held up very well, and there are no lasting effects from the longer distance.  To thank my physio, I'm... (drumroll please)... knitting him a pair of socks to say thanks.  I've finished one so far:

These are Escalator socks (which I thought was kinda funny, because y'know, I couldn't walk up and down stairs for a while without my knee hurting so would use the escalators whenever I could, but now I don't need to because it's all better... anway...), knit in Patons Patonyle.  I'm hoping to get the other one finished over the next couple of days so I can take them with me for my (probably) last appointment.

Next, I'm going to be knitting some plain vanilla socks.  I've been wanting to try some 9" circulars for a while now, so I ordered a pair last week.  Some people swear by them, others hate them.  I'm willing to give them a try and see how I get on.  They arrived in the mail this morning, and they're quite weeny:

The tips are very short (about an inch) so the whole circular can be 9" - the average circumference (with a bit of stretch) of an adult sock (give or take half an inch or so).  In comparison to my usual circulars, which have 5" tips, this should be quite a different knitting experience.  Apart from some gardening I need to do, and feeding the troops of course, I have all week to conduct this experiment, so I'll let you know next post how I'm getting along.

As for this post, it's getting rather long now and I'm sure you all have things to do, so I must dash.  I'll leave you with a picture of the ridiculously large amount of biscuits I baked last night, for the kids' school lunches:

They are rather yummy, if I do say so myself ;-)  Right, time to go cook dinner.  Have a good week!!

Edited to add: The quarter marathon was a personal best time for me - my fastest 10km at 55:55.  And the photos are now available - I'm smiling, and don't actually look too bad.  Much better than last year's photos, when I was trying not to pass out!!!

Monday, 22 October 2012

Looooooooooong weekend

The long weekend is drawing to a close.  Half the children are in bed, and the other half is heading there very shortly.  Unlike Hawke's Bay (who had a four day weekend, or in the case of my niece and nephew a five day weekend due to a teacher only day on Thursday) ours was like most - a three day weekend.

Saturday morning (after a breakfast of bacon, poached eggs and yogurt rolls) was spent with friends at Crafternoon Tea, then we headed to Armageddon where I caught up with Deane and the boys.  We spent the entire afternoon right throught until 5pm absorbing all the nerdiness we could possibly fit in.  I was especially pleased to see several girls in TARDIS dresses, and the cutest little guy wearing an eleventh doctor costume.  It was adorable!!!  And we got sucked into the vortex surrounding the United Sweets stand.  We couldn't escape without grabbing some American goodies - I was overjoyed to discover they had graham crackers, and just HAD to buy some.  I've been missing these since we ran out earlier in the year.  One of the things I actually liked about America...  We also got Twizzlers, PopTarts (various flavours), PB&J (surprisingly good), Twinkies, and a few other bits and pieces.  All I wanted was the graham crackers, but whatever.  They're opening a store in the Sylvia Park mall soon, so hopefully I'll have a ready supply of graham crackers to hand in the near future.  I'm thinking of contacting them to see if they can import Deane's favourite sauce.

There were many neat costumes, many crazy costumes, and a whole huge lot of people.  It was a fun day, the boys enjoyed it and got to play some of the new and soon-to-be-released XBox games.

Sunday absolutely bucketed down almost non-stop all day, so we cosied up inside for the day.  I made pancakes for breakfast with cornmeal and oats (found the recipe in the latest Runner's World magazine).  I was expecting the kids to complain, but they happily devoured them without a peep.  T had two, which I wasn't expecting, they were quite filling.  I only managed two myself!  I spent a large part of the day knitting a stranded argyle knee-high sock (more on this later), but did stop to cook dinner.

This morning, thankfully, the weather had cleared and I headed out for a run.  I took my headphones with me - something I haven't done in a while - and ran around the viaduct area, which is pretty standard when I'm running a short distance.  What I didn't realise was that the triathlon world champs were still going on.  I ended up running alongside the triathletes competing in the running leg of their race (although outside of the actual track the athletes were running in).  I had to cross the course at one point, in between runners.  The combination of fast-paced music and inspirational international athletes spurred me on to run my fastest 5km to date - 26:31, with an average pace of 5'17" per km.  Excuse my lack of modesty, but I was impressed! ;-)  The rest of the day was spent (unsurprisingly), cooking (mmm, yummy lunch!), eating, knitting and cleaning (not much of the latter to be honest, but it still counts).  I managed to finish one of the knee-highs:

Awesome, huh?  The pattern is Neptune High, and it's knit with Happy Go Knitty BFL sock yarn.  I'm looking forward to wearing them, when I manage to get the other one knit (which will have to wait until I've finished the 2,000 word essay I have to write by Friday!!!)

I plan on heading out for another 5km run on Thursday, albeit much slower, as the quarter marathon is this Sunday.  I do not expect to break any records, or even beat my time of last year for that matter, but I do believe my knee is strong enough to manage the full 10.55km race.  I ran a 7km last Friday (as per the physio's instructions) and although my knee felt a little niggly towards the end, I managed it okay, and there were no lasting effects.  So fingers crossed!!!  I've signed up to have my real-time progress updated on a live feed on Facebook, so if you happen to be up at 6.45am next Sunday (unlikely, I know) feel free to check out my timeline to see how I'm getting on :-)

Otherwise, I'll let you know next week.  Until then, have a good one!

Monday, 15 October 2012

Back to school

Hallelujah!!!  The kids went back to school this morning.  What a relief!  Time to myself again, to go to the supermarket, walk into town, run errands, study, do the housework, or even just to sit in peace and quiet and knit.  Oh, the blessed quiet.  It's the little things in life...

Last week was a busy one - Monday saw us driving down to Napier.  It was a leisurely six hour drive with a couple of stops on the way.  Tuesday morning I managed a short but successful 3km run.  No pain, no niggles, nothing.  It was awesome, and I was ridiculously happy.  It was a lovely sunny day in the bay, and we went out for lunch.  The kids had a bit of a play around on the beach while waiting for the food to arrive:

Wednesday was spent running errands, visiting friends and family, and hanging out with the cousins, which is pretty standard for our Hawkes Bay visits.  Thursday was a lovely day as well.  We headed up to Te Mata Peak and went for a bush walk, and X was being his usual daggy self:

We went up to the Peak and checked out the gorgeous views:

Rather stunning, don't you think?  Such a lovely country we live in.  That evening, everyone called around to my parents' house for a barbecue, to celebrate my 33rd birthday.  A good time was had by all, and it gave the kids the excuse to stay up ridiculously late.  My sister gave me the most hilarious (and appropriate) birthday card:

On the back it said 'next time I'll just run around the block'.  Haha :D

Friday, I headed out for another run.  I intended to go for a 5km, but the knee was feeling a little niggly, so I erred on the side of caution and cut it down to 4km.  That night we went to my MIL's place, and enjoyed a fantastic roast lamb dinner. Oh, how I love roast lamb!  It think it may be my most favourite meal.  Absolutely divine.

Saturday was the usual last-time visits with all and sundry, then we hit the road early afternoon to head back home.  Unfortunately, the weather had turned rather nasty, and we had to endure gale-force winds and driving rain while travelling the Napier/Taupo road.  Not terribly pleasant, but we managed to get through it all the same.

While in Napier, I didn't get any study done at all (no surprise really), but I got plenty of knitting done.  I finished the Elementary Watson socks I had been working on:

I had cut it pretty close with the first sock, with only a couple of metres of yarn left from the first ball.  With the second sock, I entered into a game of 'yarn chicken' while working on the ribbing.  Unfortunately, the yarn won, and I only had enough for ten rows of ribbing.  Which meant I had to undo the bind off on the first sock and frog back a couple of rows so they would match.  If I had a little more yarn, I'd have knit another repeat or two on the leg, however I'm happy with the overall result.  The pattern was easily memorised, the heel much the same, and I could quite easily (and probably will) knit the pattern again.  I hope the intended recipient likes them too - they'll be posted tomorrow, and should be handed to him this weekend.

I also cast on and knit most of the Peacock Shawlette while in Napier, and ended up binding it off on Saturday night after arriving home, which meant I could block it Sunday morning.  I'm rather pleased with the result, and the colour is beautiful:

I'm rather glad I frogged the socks now ;-)

I had managed to finish the butt-cover and beanie before we left as well, and the wee boy's mum was very happy with them:

Which meant that as soon as the shawl was off the needles, I could cast on for an 'instant gratification' project (because a shawl in a week just doesn't cut the mustard, apparently...).  I cast on a kindle cover while at knitting on Sunday, and finished the last five rows and grafting when I got home, bringing the total time for the project to three and a half hours:

I knit this using some leftover handspun I had lying around.  And the cool thing is that it fits both my kindle and Deane's, which came in handy this morning when I was heading out the door and couldn't find my cover. 

Suddenly finding myself yet again without a project on the needles (the stole doesn't count, I am studiously ignoring it at the moment), I cast on this hat (in the larger, floppy size.  Because it looks awesome).  Great Southern Yarns is having a LOFT/Shelter craft-along, and the pattern was generously gifted to me just so I could (or rather, would) participate.  So, armed with my recently-purchased-specifically-for-the-craft-along skein of LOFT in 'Sweatshirt', I cast on.  So far I've managed ten rows of ribbing.  No hurry, the -along goes until the end of November.  I may stray a little, and cast on these socks...

So, how was your week?

Saturday, 6 October 2012

If at first you don't succeed, try, try again

That is my motto for the week. I headed out for a run on Wednesday morning, and only managed 500 metres before having to stop and walk home. I was very disappointed and sulked the rest of the day.

I had another appointment with the physio on Friday and I was running late (washing and drying such long hair takes time you know). I had to run/walk to get there in time, and it seemed to be okay, including running up a hill. After some discussion and assessment, we decided to axe the swimming for now (since that hurts my knee and may be delaying recovery), go back on anti-inflammatories, more rest, more strengthening exercises, and give it another go next Tuesday. I am quietly optimistic. I won't go so far as to say excited, as this has proved a bit of a jinx thus far.

I went a little crazy yesterday though, and signed up for the North Shore half marathon next September. That's nearly a year away. Plenty of time to train for it, right? I wonder if there's enough of a gap between 1st September and 27th October for recovery time? I wanted to do the Auckland half marathon too. Hmm, personal challenge. I like those :-)

The kids and I have managed a couple of outings this week, despite the on/off rain that seems to be a constant in Auckland (I really don't like the weather here much). On Thursday we went to see Madagascar 3, which was of course hilarious, and yesterday spent a couple of hours at MOTAT, where we cooked damper over an open fire, dug for kauri gum, went gold mining, and made butter by hand. The kids really enjoyed themselves, and absolutely devoured the damper with fresh butter they'd made themselves. Well, mostly. Skinny little kid arms get tired of all the effort required to shake cream long enough to produce butter. So of course mum had to step in and finish the job. Mum also had to finish cooking the damper when the fire got too hot. Still, it was a fun experience for them. T wanted to make more bread when we got home so I found a recipe for oven damper (basically just a large scone), and they had some with more of their butter for an after-dinner treat. I must say, it was rather yummy.

As was my lunch yesterday. I've been trying to help Deane lose a bit of weight by making a salad and sending it off to work with him every morning. But plain old lettuce salad gets boring, so I've been trying out different stuff, and its absolutely amazing how much variation there is in the world of salads. Yum!!! I look forward to trying out more in the coming weeks! Can't guarantee Deane will lose any weight though...

I received my assignment results yesterday, and was pleasantly surprised to discover I had done quite well, achieving 82%! That's two As so far for this paper. The last assignment is due late October (right before the quarter marathon), so at least I'll have some time to get it done after the kids go back to school, because I've only managed a couple hours study while they've been home. I didn't expect much.

I have had time to knit though, and have finished the vanilla soakers:

Don't they look ridiculously funny? Imagine them on a baby butt - that might help. These were knit with Skeinz Urban DK yarn, and I used about 1.5 balls for the medium size. I omitted a few rows on the leg bands because I figured they were long enough. Next up, a plain black beanie, which will be knit in the same yarn. But black. Obviously.

I have also knit one sock of a pair:

These are the Elementary Watson socks, the pattern for which is inspired by an Aran sweater worn by Doctor Watson in the TV series Sherlock (which btw is awesome). I started knitting the first sock while watching the first episode of Elementary (another Sherlock program, gosh there are a few...). I thought that was kinda funny, in a nerdy sort of way. And did I mention they're for somebody with the surname Watson? Yep, I'm a dork. I love the pattern - it's really easy to memorise, which of course makes the knitting go faster. And it has cables. Y'all know I'm a fan of cables :-) The yarn - Waikiwi (possum/alpaca/merino/nylon) - is not the best choice to show the stitch definition, but oh, do I love that colour! This is my first fleegle heel too. I quite like the construction but must admit the short rows feel like they go on f-o-r-e-v-e-r... I tried the sock on Deane's foot, and it fits nicely. I may end up knitting more.

Hmm, seems my little rule of never knitting the same pattern twice is falling by the wayside a bit, huh? Oh well, I don't think the knitting police will be knocking on my door anytime soon. If I start knitting hideous shawls in furry feathered novelty yarn, however...

I'm itching to cast on another shawl (or maybe this one), but think I'll knock out the baby beanie first. Methinks the shawl should be well and truly started by Monday ;-)

Enjoy your weekend! I hope it brings you some sunshine.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Good news!!!

I started my day early this morning - 5.40am-ish.  I got up, had breakfast, dressed, then headed out the door with my backpack.  A brisk walk to the Tepid Baths, and a 1,200m swim.  I had plenty of time for a 1,500m swim, but the pool is very busy that time of the morning - I had to share my lane with three or four other people, some of which were faster than me, and it got a little annoying after a while so I decided to just get out of the way.

On the plus side, it gave me more time for the shower/hair-dry stuff afterwards.  I had an appointment to make - the all-important physio session.  I went to a cafe and had a quiet cup of tea to prepare, then walked into the physio office right on 8.30am for my appointment.  Long story short, I got the go-ahead to get back into running!  He stressed that it was very important I take it slowly - start with a short 3 or 4km run on flat ground, and definitely have a rest day the next day.  And be absolutely sure to stretch both before and after, and keep doing my exercises!  So I will be heading out first thing tomorrow morning for a short test run.  Oh, I can't wait!!  I will be able to go for another run on Friday, before the next physio appointment to assess how the first/second run went, and go from there.  I'm excited!

In other good news, I finished my Rock Island shawl!  Our Sunday knitting group was rather quiet this weekend, just Zoe and myself, but it was a lovely sunny day so we sat outside for lunch and chatted about all things geeky (latest TV programs, our respective studies, current knits and projects to be started... the usual).  During that time, I managed to finish the garter stitch section of the shawl, and she happened to have a wee bag of goodies that not only included the shawl pattern (which she will be knitting herself shortly) but also a tapestry needle so I could graft the last stitches together.  I blocked it that evening, and here is the resulting shawl:

Oh, it's so pretty!!  Although I have no idea when/where I'll wear it.  I was joking that I would have to find some random author to hand it to.  You may recall a couple of incidences in my recent past involving hand knit lace shawls/scarves and well-known authors at book signings...

Anyway, this shawl, again, is the Rock Island shawl designed by the most fabulous Jared Flood.  The pattern is very well written and easy to follow, and in fact relatively easy to knit, although I guess that would depend on your knitting experience.  I was a little dubious about it, as I had heard people commenting on how they'd had trouble with the two-sided lace with no 'rest rows', and the chart having the same symbol for different knit stitches, depending on what side you were working on.  I actually found it pretty straight-forward, and only had to tink back two rows - Deane's fault for distracting me with inane questions and snuggly kisses.  It took me half an hour to knit the two (rather long) rows, and about two hours to un-knit them.  I was unimpressed to say the least.  However, the rest went swimmingly, and all up it only took me two and a half weeks to knit, with about a week's break in the middle (between the border and the lace on the body).  It is knit using a skein of the most glorious merino silk lace yarn from Spinning A Yarn in the colourway 'smoke and mirrors'.  It's beautifully soft, and lovely to work with.  I'd recommend it to anyone.  And interestingly, I still have 33g of the 100g skein left!  There was 600m in the skein, and the pattern is supposed to use 600m of yarn, so I have no idea what happened, but I apparently only used 402m.  Oh well, no complaints here :-)

I've now caught the lace knitting bug, and have decided to knit this Peacock Shawlette next, using yarn from a frogged pair of socks.  I had stalled on a pair of Anchor Me socks some time ago - I reached the gusset increases then lost all enthusiasm for them.  To be honest I was only knitting the pattern because I wanted to try out the really neat chain cable in the middle of the sock - I have no interest in boats, boating, or anything of the nautical persuasion, so these socks really didn't fit with me.  I guess it's no surprise then, that I finally came to the decision to rip them completely and reuse the yarn for something pretty.  I think the shawlette fits well with the gorgeous blue of the yarn, and I might be casting this shawl on soon.  Or a pair of these awesome Elementary Watson socks, using some lovely Waikiwi I purchased from The Little Craft Store before it closed.  I haven't decided yet.  First, I have to finish knitting the Vanilla soaker - only the leg bands to go:

I must say, they look a little weird without the leg bands.  Of course, they'd also look much better on a nappy-covered baby butt.  I don't currently have one of those - these are for a wee boy turning one in Napier.  I'll probably be seeing him soon.  You can't really tell from the picture, but the yarn is a lovely bright red - I'm knitting these out of Skeinz Urban DK yarn.  At only $5 a ball, and machine washable, it was an easy choice to make.  I also need to knit the child a beanie, but that won't take long - I'll probably leave it as a simple project to work on while we're in Napier next week.

Ooh yes, even more good news - my Bellevue sweater was featured in the latest Twist newsletter!  Scroll down to the bottom of the page, and you'll see moi!!  How cool is that?!?!?

In the okay-news-but-not-as-good-news section, the boys are home for school holidays (sigh) and yesterday we did some baking:

Chocolate chip mini-muffins (that T helped with), and monochromatic rainbow biscuits (that X helped with).  Monochromatic because they're clearly all brown, rainbow because the original recipe called for Smarties.  We didn't have Smarties, and I didn't see the point in going to the dairy in the rain to get some when we had leftover chocolate chips, so we just used those.  Of course, this resulted in a ridiculously unhealthy lunch.  I don't think it'll kill them...

So that is all the happenings in the kreachr household.  Today has been on/off wet again, and I've been in the kitchen for half the day making an asparagus quiche for dinner, and some wholemeal rolls that turned out horribly and ended up in the bin.  Tomorrow I think we'll get out of the house and go see a movie (if it's wet) or go to MOTAT.  What are you up to this school holidays??

Friday, 28 September 2012

School Holidays. Again.

I'm not ready!!  Unfortunately, the kids most definitely are.  And so is the school.  Guess I don't really get a say in it...

This week has plodded along at its own pace, and I feel like I've just been swept along in its current.  I didn't get to study nearly as much as I'd have liked, which means that I'll have to try and cram some in to next week, while the kids are home.  Not sure how that will go to be honest.  I'll give it a crack at any rate, and hope for the best.

I have plenty of knitting to keep me occupied - the Rock Island shawl is coming along nicely, although, as with study, I haven't managed to get as much knitting done as I'd have liked either.  However, progress shot:

Of course, being lace, you won't get to see its fabulousness until it is all stretched out and blocked, but basically I just have to fill in that v-shaped gap in the middle with a whole lot of garter stitch and it'll be done.  Then it'll look much prettier :-)

The Step Ribbed Stole is coming along slowly - I'm only working on it a bit at a time, and it takes an hour to complete a full 18 row repeat:

As you can see, quite apart from the pattern itself, the yarn is creating some rather interesting effects.  I think I'll just go with it for now, although I'm not sure what'll happen when I get to the second skein.

I've been asked to knit another pair of vanilla soakers and a beanie for a wee boy turning one, to be a part of his first birthday party costume (because, seriously, who doesn't want to dress up for their first ever birthday party?  Pfft!) so I know I'll have plenty of simple knitting to keep me going over the next couple of weeks, while the kids are at home being their usual annoying selves ;-P

Sadly, while they are home, that means less exercise for me.  I can't go out for a run in the early morning before Deane heads to work (stupid knee injury!!), and swimming would be out of the question - I don't think the pool staff would be happy for me to leave my children unsupervised while I spend an hour swimming laps.  The pool does open at 5.30am, but while I am willing to beat the feet at that time of the morning, I don't think my enthusiasm extends quite far enough to be walking 20 minutes, jumping into a (supposedly warm) pool, then rushing through a shower and walking back home in time for Deane to head out the door.  I guess I'll see how I feel mid-next week - this may change.  My knee is slowly improving though, so I'm hoping very much to be able to go for a slow, short run perhaps next week or the week after.  I have another physio appointment next Tuesday, so fingers crossed I get the all-clear!

I have managed to swim a total of 3.5km this week - 1,500m on Tuesday, 1,200m on Thursday, and 800m today.  I did consider swimming 1,300m today to make it an even 4km, but I got a little tired, and my goggles kept fogging up and leaking which just pissed me off, so I kept it at the lower end.  Still, that's 1.4km more than last week, so I managed to achieve my goal.  As for the next couple of weeks?  See above paragraph.

Speaking of goals, I decided to set a proper, big goal for myself the other day.  I'm always making up little challenges for myself - knit such and such by this date, or run x number of kilometres, or beat last week's swimming time etc etc.  But never anything... big.  So as I was driving the kids home from ice skating on Tuesday (actually, it was just X - Deane had T in the other car), I got to thinking about things I'd like to do.  What would be possible for me to achieve, that is a reasonable challenge, but not overly ridiculous?  I do have a degree I'm studying for, that I hope to finish by the end of 2015, but that doesn't seem big enough.  Every man and his dog has a degree.  I guess that because I've been obsessing thinking a lot about running lately, that's what popped into my head.

So I have decided that I want to run a full marathon by the time I'm 36.  Which is also before the end of 2015, coincidentally.  Ooh, sounds like 2015 might be a big year...  Big enough to be considered 'Epic'?  (yes, the capital E is intentional).  Maybe ;-)

Note: reading my blog hurt my eyes - white text on dark background makes you see things funny after a while.  So I changed it again.  Hope it's a little easier to read now!