Monday, 21 January 2013

There's a solution to everything, you've just got to find it

Solution #1
I was happily knitting away on Deane's scarf yesterday, when to my horror, I discovered a mistake.  One tiny mistake, but a mistake that would be glaringly obvious to me every time I looked at the scarf, which would drive me nuts.  I just couldn't leave it there.

 


See that?  Smack-bang in the middle of that picture is a purl stitch that should be a knit.  Gah!  And what's worse is that I didn't realise this mistake until after I'd knit a bunch of cables above it.  You know what that means, right?  Can't just drop the stitch down and reknit back up, oh no!  You have to frog back to the mistake and knit the whole lot again.  But... do you...?  By sheer dumb luck, this happened to be the same row I'd had to change balls of yarn.  That meant there were two ends just hanging out the back a few stitches away.  So with a bit of knitting smarts, I duplicate stitched with different (very obvious) coloured yarn from where the loose end was up to the incorrect stitch (and a few extra in either direction, just to be on the safe side):


I then pulled out the stitches with my working yarn and re-duplicate-stitched it back again, being sure to re-orient the incorrect stitch.  I then pulled out the waste yarn.  And you know what?  It's like there was never a mistake there in the first place:


I was pretty happy about that :D

Solution #2
I wanted a nice tidy cast on and bind off for this scarf, that was stretchy and not obvious.  There are many options available of course, but I decided to use the alternate cable cast on in a 2x2 rib (because the scarf is worked in 2x2 rib).  Unfortunately, I couldn't seem to find a bind off that looked the same.  I had considered doing a provisional cast on and then binding off each end the same, but to be honest?  That seemed like a little too much work.  I can be a bit impatient at times, and damn it, I wanted to cast the scarf on NOW so I just did the cable cast on, figuring I'd find a bind off later.  As I was knitting the scarf, I would periodically do a search on the internet to see if there was a bind off that looked similar, if not the same.  I asked the Twitter-verse if anybody knew of something suitable.  I wasn't having much luck.  It was suggested I try the standard bind off in pattern, so this afternoon when I finished knitting the scarf, I gave it a go.  Nope, I wasn't happy with that.  So back to the internet I went.  Now usually, my Google-fu is pretty weak, as if I couldn't find an ice cube in a freezer.  But luck was upon me today my friends, because I stumbled across this YouTube video.  And you know what?  The bind off was exactly, exactly what I was looking for:


You know which is the cast on, and which is the bind off?  No?  Neither do I ;-)  ::happy dance::  Btw, here's a 'finished' pic of the scarf:


Awesome, huh?  I love it.  And may possibly steal borrow it off Deane at some point.  I haven't bothered to check the row gauge because I know it'll be out, having knit this in DK weight yarn instead of worsted, but it was a little too short after having done the two full repeats as suggested by the pattern, so I knit a third one.  It's a little over 1.5m long now (which was the recommended length) and I'm pretty happy with it.  There may be a mis-crossed cable at the very beginning of the scarf, but seriously y'all, I'm not going to reknit the whole thing.  It can just bloody well stay there!  I'm doing my absolute best to ignore it (although I might just frog back the end of the scarf a little and mis-cross a cable to match.  We'll see).

Solution #3
You may recall some time ago (July/August last year) I knit this sweater:


Let me tell ya people, I luuuurve this sweater.  Of course, it's been too hot to wear it for some time, because of it being summer and all.  So it's been sitting in the hand-wash pile for a while.  The other day I figured it was time to wash these knits, as I really wanted to be able to wear the sweater and my handspun cardi whilst in Canada.  So I dug out the Soak and hand washed everything.  Not surprisingly (because of the relatively loose-knit style) the sweater grew.  A lot.  I mean A LOT.  So I laid it out on the floor and smooshed it up, figuring it would shrink a little as it dried.  I left it for a few days just to be extra sure.  When it was absolutely definitely dry, I tried it on.  It was a little too loose for my liking.  Not huge, like it was when it was wet, but not the comfy snug fit like in the picture above.  This would just not do!  So this morning I hurled it in the machine with a bunch of other laundry, then threw caution to the wind and chucked it through the dryer as well (even though the care label for the yarn says cool hand wash).  Guess what?  My sweater is now perfect!  Hooray!  So it's going in the suitcase with all the other knitted goodies to keep me warm in Vancouver.  ::more happy dancing::  Of course, now there's a bunch of clothes covered in white yarn fluff...

Right, time to get off the computer and get the boys sorted for bed.  Have a good week!!

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Long runs and rainbows

On my last two long runs, I've seen a rainbow.  Granted, they've been different kinds of rainbows, but rainbows all the same.  Last weekend's 20km was this rainbow sighting:


The Rainbow Warrior was in port, and taking groups on tours of the ship interior.  No time for me to stop though, I had a 20km to finish.

On this week's long run I spotted this beauty:


This picture was taken at Kohimarama Beach, on the return leg of my 25km.  Hang on, let's back track a wee bit there.  2 5 k m.  Yep.  I did that.  Here's the proof:


It's a little hard to see, but that was my longest and farthest run to date, started before 6am.  It took me 2:15:50, and I loved every minute of it.  I had a gel before heading out the door - another of those Accel Gels.  I will admit that this one tasted a little better (Strawberry Kiwi), but it was still pretty awful.  I won't be buying any more.  Unfortunately, I still have two vanilla flavoured ones left, ugh.  I ran an average pace of around 5'26" for pretty much the whole run (of course, pace varies per kilometre, but I kept it pretty steady).  The weather was pleasantly cool, and there were a few bouts of rain, hence the rainbow which popped up between drizzles.  This run I didn't take headphones or a water bottle - there are enough drinking fountains along the way to keep up with hydration, and I've found that I quite enjoy the quiet of just running.  I think I'll reserve headphones for fast 5km days - fast paced music gives you a speed boost ;-)  I did take some GU Chomps - Cranberry Apple with caffeine.  I'd had a late night waiting for Deane to get home from Sydney, and didn't get to bed until nearly midnight.  Sleep wasn't overly cooperative either.  So I was a little tired and figured the caffeine certainly couldn't hurt.  They were yummy!  Easy to eat on the move, and it didn't matter if you ate some then didn't drink for a kilometre or two (which happened when I mis-timed a drinking fountain stop and had to wait for the next one - oops!).  I will be getting more of these for sure (gotta try all the flavours!), and would recommend them.  I didn't feel at all fatigued at the end of the run (although my knees would argue).  I'm not sure how much of that was physical, and how much mental - I was so positive about this run.  I kept thinking to myself "I got this", and that thought, along with the knowledge that my body was feeling good, made me really happy.  And a little added bonus - no pitstops!  That was one of my concerns - I hadn't previously been able to run this long without needing to stop for a toilet break.  So yay!

Now before I change subjects, just a few more things - I've scoped out a few areas to run in Vancouver and I'm really looking forward to it (wow, we leave in a week!!!), but I can't imagine I'll get much time for running.  Looks like we'll be spending a bit of time on Whistler (and I'm not complaining about that!  Snowboarding, zip-lining... oh, such fun!!!).  Also, there's a lululemon outlet store in Vancouver (where the company is based) so I'm going to have fun shopping ;-)  Unfortunately, Deane is struggling to manage 5km on the road - he can run it okay on a treadmill, but as you may know treadmill running is much easier than road running.  To be honest, I thought he was a little over-ambitious wanting to go from 0-5km in a matter of a few weeks, but the man is stubborn so it's advisable not to place your bets too early.  I still wouldn't put it past him to pull it off at the fun run.  I'll let you know how it plays out when I get back ;-)  Also, I have signed up for the Auckland Round the Bays Fun Run on 10th March.  The other races this year seemed so far away (the first of the Unitec series isn't until July!!) so I thought an 8.4km fun run sounded like just the thing ;-)  Thanks to Sherry, for the idea!

This week has seen me power through the longest assignment I've come across so far - a three parter.  First part: build a database.  Second part: create a PowerPoint presentation and write an accompanying speech.  Third part: report on the systems development life cycle of a business information system etc etc etc.  I finished writing the report for the third part yesterday.  I haven't submitted it yet because I was unsure of how to correctly reference and cite the information I'm using from the set text so I'm waiting to hear back from the Learning Centre about that, but it is done!  I can sumbit it first thing next week.  Phew!!  I might even knock out the last module on ergonomics so all I have to do when I get back is revise for the exam at the end of February.  Sounds like a plan to me ;-)

It's also seen me knit a hat for Deane, and make a fairly good start on the matching scarf.  Here's X modelling the hat for me (since Deane was in Sydney):




Autobahn, knit in Naturally Heather.  I really like the style of the hat - it's very eye-catching.  I've made a fairly decent dent in the knitting of the scarf too:


This is apparently halfway, which seems ridiculously short to me, so I think I'll knit an extra pattern repeat (btw, this is one full pattern repeat.  They're quite long).  I know I can block the snot out of it and make it longer and wider, but Deane is a big guy, and needs a fairly substantial scarf.  The good thing is, with cabling on every second row there's no chance of getting bored.  The pattern is generally pretty intuitive, but you do have to pay attention to the cable crosses at the 'corners' as the direction of the cables changes.  The scarf is reversible too - the pattern is the same on both sides.  Gotta love ribbed cables :D  The only thing I'm not sure of?  How to bind off.  I did a 2x2 rib alternate cable cast on which gives a nice edge, but I have no idea out to bind off to match it.  Any ideas?

The boys are enjoying the holidays - this week we went clothes shopping for X to spend his Christmas voucher, got them each a Nintendo game for the car trip to and from Hawkes Bay (where they're staying while Deane and I carve the slopes in Canada), and shaved their heads.  Their hair was getting ridiculously long and girly-looking, so now they're wee baldies with buzz-cuts.  I like it when they've got shaved heads.  They look so much tidier, and their hair is so soft and fuzzy, I can't stop rubbing their heads :-)

I've also been trying to sort out some form of basic itinerary for our trip (as much as you can when you're married to someone like Deane, who lives for spontaneity) - we were considering flying to Toronto then going on a 3 1/2 day rail trip across Canada, but with limited time and only one available travel date, plus the idea of Deane stuck on a train for that length of time without any real form of engaging activity, we decided against it.  We'll just spend more time on the mountain instead.  I'm cool with that (but will admit that I really quite liked the idea of 3 1/2 days of knitting while enjoying a whole country of beautiful scenery out the window of a train, not to mention the possibility of seeing a moose).  Niagara Falls will have to wait for another time (as will meeting the Yarn Harlot - one of my 'I'd love to do that but I've got no idea how I'm going to pull it off' ideas for the trip.  Dude, the woman has a Wiki-page!).  On the to-do list is checking out the local yarn stores (which includes the Sweet Georgia Yarns Studio - oh my!), the Capilano Suspension Bridge, the Vancouver Lookout (like the Sky Tower, but without the casinos), Commercial Drive, and I'd really like to check out the Vancouver Public Library because the building is amazing (seriously, do a Google search for images).  Other than that, I'm open to suggestions.

But for now, that scarf of Deane's isn't going to knit itself, so I better get moving!  Have an awesome weekend!

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

kreachr and the neverending assignment

I swear I've spent twice as long on this assignment than the 'minimum hours' already.  According to the study plan, it should take a minimum of 15.  So far it feels like about 30.  I spent days building the database for the first task.  I just spent the last two nights in a row creating a PowerPoint presentation and writing the accompanying speech for the second task - last night I crawled into bed at 1am, very glad that I had managed to get it done.  Now I have to write a report on the systems development life cycle of an e-commerce website or a client server network for the third and final task.  Wow.  This is definitely more Deane's department.  However, I think I'm doing pretty well, and I'm nearly finished.  There's still over a week before we leave for Canada, so there's plenty of time left.  With Deane currently in Sydney I'm able to turn off the TV once the kids have gone to bed and get stuck in.  Of course, now that X goes to bed at 8.30pm that's a pretty late start for study in my opinion (hence the 1am bedtime), but it's better than trying to do it during the day while they're making noise and asking questions relentlessly.  I'm in a bit of a love/hate relationship with this paper.  I love that I am learning so much from it, and get little thrills when I find that I have not only understood something, but have been able to put it into practice.  But I hate that I am finding it so difficult to write the assignments.  I've never been good at putting my thoughts into words, and am absolutely terrible at explaining anything (seriously, do NOT ask me for directions!  I will get you lost!!) so writing down all that I have learned in a coherent format is no easy task.  I feel a bit like Tim Taylor from Tool Time.  Information goes in, but comes out all mixed up and sounding like gobbledegook.  I must be doing something right though, because I got 78% on my last report (unofficially - they still haven't sent the results).  Not the best result, but I'm happy with that.  At least it's a pass!

Studying only at night has given me a little more time to do other things during the day - yesterday I went crazy on the housework and cleaned the bejeezus out of the bathrooms.  I'm talking OCD-level clean, people!  Those bathrooms are sparkling!  I got out an old toothbrush at got into the all the little nooks and crannies around the taps and in the shower.  The mirrors are spotless, the walls are cleaner than they've ever been... In related news, I now understand why my fingernails are always so mangled-looking.  Must buy more toothbrushes...  I also vacuumed, mopped, got all OCD-like on the walls (white walls mark easily, just saying), and dusted everything (well, mostly everything, I didn't do the top of the bookshelves.  Nobody can see up there anyway).  My house is clean!!  The laundry is all done!!  You know what that means?  Knitting time!!!

I've been working on a hat for Deane to wear in Vancouver.  I started out using some ridiculously squishy soft alpaca yarn I received recently in a swap (Indiecita DK in a gorgeous charcoal), but after three cast ons (first one I screwed up the pattern, second one I ran out of yarn for the long-tail cast on (hate that!), third one I got three pattern repeats in and decided you couldn't see the pattern well enough due to the fuzziness of the yarn) I decided to give up on that and try something else.  Same awesome pattern, different yarn.  After dropping Deane at the airport on Monday, the kids and I made a little detour to Mishi Yarns in One Tree Hill (which is closing soon, bummer), where I found the perfect yarn - Naturally Heather DK in a lovely mid-grey.  The pattern calls for worsted, but this DK is on the thicker side.  That, in combination with the stretchy rib, means the yarn is perfect!  It also has a satisfyingly sheepy smell about it.  I love that.  I managed to get ten pattern repeats done over the last couple of days:


Pic of the hat-in-progress during a coffee break yesterday in between bouts of housework :-)  And yes, I'm reading The Hobbit.  I figured if I read a bit of it to the kids each night before bed, I might actually get through it.  I think it helps that they've seen the first movie (or in T's case, half of the first movie) - it helps them understand what's going on, as they can visualise the scenes and the characters.

I'm stopping the repeats at 10 instead of the 12 called for in the pattern, as people have noted that the hat seems very tall.  I am of the same opinion, having tried it on last night and deciding that it is plenty long enough.



So today I'll knit the crown shaping (which I'm really looking forward to - it looks so cool on the finished hat pictures!) and then, on to the scarf!!!  If I don't get it finished by the end of next week, I can always knit it on the plane :-)

Something I can't do while Deane is away, is run.  Nobody to look after the kids.  Sigh.  But that may be a good thing - rest days are part of training and being able to continue running.  Plus, the big toe on my left foot looks like this:


That is not nail polish!  My poor big toe got a bit of a hammering on my long run last weekend.  Speaking of which... I planned on running 24km+ on the Saturday, and prepared myself for it that morning.  I got up at 5.30am and ate a good breakfast, so I was ready to head out the door at 7.30am.  I put on sunscreen, wore my favourite (newest) running shoes, comfy shorts and singlet top.  I had my phone, headphones, gels, and a bottle of water.  I figured since I was planning to run quite a distance, I'd best start out at a fairly leisurely pace so as not to burn out too early.  This turned out to be a mistake.  My legs, not used to running at the slower pace, got quite fatigued - the shin muscles on each leg were burning by the second kilometre.  I tried walking for a bit and starting up again, but that didn't help.  So I resigned myself to the fact that I wouldn't be running the distance I'd planned, turned around after 5km and headed home.  I figured that since I wouldn't be running far I might as well pick up the pace.  And you know what?  By the time I got home, my legs were fine!  (That's how I know it was the speed that was the issue).  I was a bit sulky for a while, then decided to get over it and go for another run the next day.

So on Sunday I got up (a little closer to 7am, which is slightly more respectable), had an Accel Gel (which by the way was horrible!  I'm not sure if it was the flavour (orange) or if they're all terrible.  I have three left in the cupboard, so I'll let you know), and headed out the door, sans headphones and water bottle.  With the plan to only run 15km, I just ran my normal pace.  Guess what?  No problems!  So I kept going, and ended up running 20km instead.  At about the halfway point, I had another gel - this time a GU Gel (which was way better - nicer consistency, more palatable flavour (Strawberry Banana), and easier to eat).  Then when I got home, I cooked myself some bacon, scrambled eggs with cherry tomatoes, and had some wheatmeal honey bread (baked the previous day) with goats cheese.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that I didn't feel tired or headachy for the rest of the day, which I've found can happen if I don't drink enough water or refuel during long runs.  Plus, Deane kindly gave me a leg massage which most likely helped with muscle recovery.  It was later this day that I discovered what had happened to my toe nail.  I'd been wearing my trail shoes, which are a little more snug-fitting than my other pairs.  They also give me blisters (on my left heel only.  Poor left foot).  Note to self, do not wear trail shoes for long runs.  Hmm, maybe I need another pair of road sneaks...  Next long run, I'll try having a gel beforehand again (instead of breakfast, which I'll have after), and will try the GU Chomps during.

This week I squeezed in an 8km on Monday before Deane left, then Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are (enforced) rest days, and I'm hoping I can try that 24km+ run on Friday.  IronMan 70.3 is on this weekend, and it's being held around the viaduct and Tamaki Drive areas where I usually run, so I'd like to avoid trying to navigate around that.  If not, I'll go for Plan B (run other routes around Ponsonby, Westhaven, Herne Bay etc - shorter runs, but full of hills.  A good challenge).

Another thing I can't do (or rather, shouldn't) is bake.  I've been baking so much lately, I've started giving stuff away - our friends Ben & Lichelle are rather enjoying all the goodies I keep foisting on them.  Yesterday it was zucchini bread and another loaf of plain white bread (best batch yet - it gets better every time!).  But I've been eating a lot more lately, and with Deane away there's nobody else to eat the stuff the kids won't, like the zucchini bread, and these rather delicious cinnabon cookies (which are now, thankfully, all gone.  They were ridiculously good though):


So I have to stop making so much yummy stuff.  It's too dangerous!  But oh, I'm having so much fun!  I made wholemeal pita bread the other day:


It doesn't look the prettiest, but damn it was good!  So much better than the store-bought pita bread - fresh, warm and fluffy.  Next time though, I'll make them smaller and thicker, and probably use all white flour so the kids will eat them (fussy little horrors).

I am baking another loaf of bread today (the other one is nearly all gone) and I'll make a pizza base for dinner tonight.  Maybe some more cookies for the kids, as they've nearly finished the other batch (the vanilla chocolate swirl cookies that T helped make the other day).  That should do it.  The rest of the day is knitting time!  My hot cup of tea and favourite rocking chair is calling, I'm off to lounge and knit.  Enjoy the rest of your week!

Friday, 11 January 2013

Well, knock me down with a feather...

...I'm going to Vancouver!!  In two weeks!!!  Yes, yes, I've mentioned it several (hundred) times already, but it never feels real until those flights are booked and paid for, and I have my e-ticket in my email inbox.  W00t!!!  I can't wait!  And the coolest thing?  Deane's company is participating in a fun-run on my last day there, so I'll be joining them.  It may require some new running gear though.  7am start, in Vancouver, in the middle of winter.  Methinks it may be a little chilly and possibly snowy and standard kiwi running gear just won't cut the mustard.  Ah, I love a good excuse to buy more gear ;-)  Deane will need some too, since he will also be running.  Bless the man, he went to the gym the other day and ran 5km on the treadmill.  No small feat for somebody of his size, who has previously not run before.  Sure, he said he was pretty dizzy and felt a little sick at the end of it, but who hasn't been there, right?  I'm having visions of he and I running the streets of Auckland together...  hahahahahahaha!!  Hilarious!  There's actually three distances (that I'm aware of) for the fun-run - a half, 10km and 5km.  I'd love to do the 10km, but I suppose since I'm there with Deane for his conference, I should probably 'stick with the group' and run the 5km with the rest of the company boffins.  No worries, I'll just run faster than them and kick their butts ;-)

Confirmation of my trip has been the bright light in a week of grey.  I have been working on my assignment in order to get it finished before we go.  I'm on the first section, which requires you to build an Access database.  No problem, except I've come up against a problem that I cannot see my way through.  I spent no less than six hours yesterday trying to figure it out, and I have made no progress on it at all.  This morning I sent an email to one of the lecturers, so I'm hoping for some feedback soon, fingers crossed for the helpful kind.  So far with this paper, they've been pretty useless.  Grrr.  Knowing my luck it'll be something super simple and I just couldn't see the wood for the trees.  I have also been trying to figure out a study plan for the rest of the diploma and the degree.  Having spoken to one of the advisors this morning, I've decided to go ahead and enrol in the degree and get stuck into the level five papers for that.  The diploma will get finished probably around the same time - late 2015 (if I can manage three papers in one of the trimesters.  Hmm, we shall see...) or early 2016.  Gosh, that seems like forever away.

Nothing much else has been happening this week since a lot my focus has been on this assignment but we did make it out of the house for an hour or so yesterday (plus I squeezed in a 5km run before breakfast) - we went to the park and had a picnic lunch, then the kids played on the playground.

 
Yay, swings!  I had a go too, and remembered how fun it was.  I also had a go on the merry-go-round, which was fun until I remembered that I'm no longer a kid and that dizzy spinning feeling doesn't feel quite as good when you're an adult.  Felt a bit queazy for a few minutes after that, and had to have a bit of a sit down...

 
Then we had this 'pose with the freakishly large animal statue' episode, where T stole X's 'signature photo move'.  A fight ensued directly afterwards (it came to blows mere seconds after I snapped this pic):


I found it quite entertaining, but the boys got a little upset.  Time to go home. 

Knitting of all kinds has stalled, but I have at least finished one sock:


Next on the needles will be a hat for Deane to wear in Vancouver.  I'm thinking this pattern.

Today however, I will be baking some stuff I've been wanting to make for the last couple of days but didn't get to - gingerbread cupcakes, cinnabon cookies, more granola (because it's awesome and keeps disappearing), this time with dried figs and dark chocolate, and more crusty bread.  I'm going to try wholemeal and honey today.  The other loaves turned out really well - gruyere and rosemary (although I think next time I'll just use normal cheese), and cinnamon, raisin and pecan (that one was really delicious!!  I'll definitely be making it again.)

Update:  Granola made (okay, but the white chocolate works better, as does apricot and raisins), bread rising, cinnabon cookies in the oven, and T decided he wanted to make some vanilla chocolate swirl cookies, so the gingerbread cupcakes can wait for another day :-)

Right, more baking to do, then more study.  Tomorrow, I'm thinking a 24km run...

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Ridiculous problems

Ridiculous problem #1: Pants.  My pants are too big.  My favourite jeans keep slipping down, so I'm constantly hiking them up.  My shorts are loose and look as though they're hanging on for dear life.  My skinny jeans just aren't skinny enough.

Ridiculous problem #2: None of my belts fit either.  Sure, I could wear them, but they'd be loose.  Which makes them completely useless for fixing ridiculous problem #1.  I could wear them tighter, but then they have a really long sticky-out end bit, which flaps around.  It's too long to fit snug across my front because it needs to wrap a little further around, but it's not long enough to tuck into the belt loop at the side.

Ridiculous problem #3: I no longer have enough boobage to fit into my bras.  My breasts are about the size of a 14 year old teenager going out to buy her first training bra.  Apparently that's the first place I start losing weight, and yet, when putting weight on it goes straight to my thighs.  Why not my boobs???

So as much as I am enjoying being fitter, healthier, leaner and more toned, there are down sides.  Like, needing a whole new freakin' wardrobe.  Gah!  We're halfway through summer now, maybe I can hold out a little longer and just buy new clothes next summer.  In winter, it doesn't matter quite so much - you can get away with floppier clothing.  Right?  Come oooooon, winter!!  At least (most of) my tops and underwear still fit...

Meanwhile in the house of kreachr, the school holidays are plodding along and we've been spending a lot of time just fluffing around.  On Saturday I headed out for a long run, intending to do about 16km.  I ended up running a half marathon, and knocking five minutes off my previous week's time.  Total distance was 21.11km, run in 1:56:35.  Awesome!  A sub-two hour half was my goal, and I've already achieved it in the first week of the new year!  Guess I'd better set a new time goal...  I have discovered that some form of refuelling is needed over these longer distances - I started feeling it at about 14km (although that may have had something to do with the sudden headwind due to change of direction).  I went out and got a few gels (GU and Accel gels) and some GU Chomps.  I figured I'd experiment a bit and see what works for me.  I'm always a little dubious about how I'll go with foods and liquids when on a run, as my tummy is dodgy at the best of times thanks to IBS.  But I had no problems with the Sport Beans, and I got to try a GU Chomp when I got my new running shoes on Boxing Day (the guy at Shoe Clinic had a packet of strawberry flavoured ones open and offered me one, after we'd been discussing various refuel options for long runs).  Once I settle on what works, I'll buy a bunch and be good to go!  The next hurdle will be hydration.  Deane got me a hydration belt for Christmas, but I've never liked the idea of wearing one.  Not only do I think they look really daggy, the sloshing would irritate me no end.  Plus, I hate having stuff around my waist when I'm running.  Hopefully I'll be able to get a Camelbak pack soon.  Fingers crossed they're cheaper in Canada ;-)

On Sunday we went to Browns Bay beach for a picnic breakfast - waffles, bacon, eggs, fresh baked bread, strawberry jam and lemon curd courtesy of mum, fresh blueberries, coffee and tea.  And sand.  No matter how hard you try, if you're picnicing at the beach sand will always, always get into your food.  We all dipped our toes into the water and deemed it just a little too chilly to go whole hog and jump in (to be fair it was only 9am and overcast), so we headed on home again and I went to knitting.

Yesterday I squeezed in a 12km before 7.30am, then managed to drag the kids out to the butcher, greengrocer and supermarket before we all blobbed for the day.  I spent hours browsing Pinterest, Twitter, and various other internet locations.  I figured I wouldn't get much chance to chill out and do nothing from now on, so enjoyed it for one day.  Still fed the kids and did a bit of tidying, and some study once they'd gone to bed, so the day wasn't a complete waste.

This morning saw me out the door before 6am for a 15km (these short morning runs seem to be getting longer...) then we had an appointment for X at 9.45am.  Now we're home again, and I have comandeered the laptop so I can study (and update this here blog ;-P).  I have plans to get at least some of my assignment done (not due until 3rd February but we're heading to Vancouver on 26th January so I need to get it done in the next couple of weeks), and doing a bit of baking.  Ooh, speaking of food...

I made those cinnamon rolls for breakfast Christmas morning.  Um, wow.  I ended up using less than half a cup of melted butter for the filling part.  And it turns out I'm terrible at rolling dough into a tight roll - mine was very loose and floppy, which made it a little tricky to handle once I'd sliced the roll into 1" sections.  Transferring them to the dish was a messy affair, with buttery sugary cinnamon dripping all over the show.  But after a night in the fridge, they'd risen and expanded to fill the space, and after they were baked you'd never have known.  I also only made a half batch of the frosting - I'd baked the rolls in two dishes and just poured frosting on one dish of rolls.  But dudes, seriously, these cinnamon rolls are freakin' awesome!  Way better with the frosting, but pretty darn tasty without.  I will be making these next Christmas.  I do think they're a once-a-year kind of thing though - the batch, although already halved from the original recipe by the person sharing it, was huge.  It made enough for six adults and four children, and there were still leftovers a couple of days after Christmas!  To be fair, we had heaps of other stuff for breakfast as well (waffles, bacon, fritattas etc) but you do end up with quite a lot.  You'd want to make them when you've got a large amount of people to feed.  Or if you plan on eating cinnamon rolls for breakfast, lunch and dinner for two or three days.  Whatever, I won't judge ;-)

Also, I think I have perfected my crusty bread - I've made several loaves now, and am at the point where I'm happy to start experimenting with flavours.  The boys love it (they're big fans of fresh baked bread).  The bread resembles a ciabatta once baked - fairly dense and slightly chewy in texture, with a crusty (as the name suggests) outside.  Really quite delicious, and very nice with mum's strawberry jam or lemon curd.  I have found that I get better rising results if I put the dough in the hot water cupboard, and leave it to rise for about five hours or so (ie make the dough in the early afternoon, then bake the bread in the evening, ready for the next morning), and recently I've been using one rounded teaspoon of breadmaker's yeast instead of a half teaspoon of dry active yeast.  Either works fine though.  I'm thinking of making a loaf this afternoon with maybe some gruyere cheese and herbs.  Or perhaps some cinnamon and raisins.  Or maybe I should just make two loaves...

We tried this roasted cabbage the other day, and it didn't really work out for us.  Deane made it, and ended up having to cook it for nearly twice as long, and it was still really crunchy.  Having said that, we had quite a large cabbage, and Deane hadn't properly covered the quarters in tin foil (I'd have cut out the core and wrapped them much better!), but we came to the conclusion that this recipe wasn't one for us.

I made brioche nanterre, which was ridiculously yummy!  Making the dough was a little challenging, as I don't have a cake mixer.  I ended up putting everything in the food processor (once I'd come to the conclusion that mixing it by hand was out of the question), then once it was sticking together enough, dumped it out on the bench and worked the butter in by hand.  Let me just say that that part was actually quite fun.  There's a bit of a technique for incorporating the butter into the dough, as I discovered with this video, and it can make one hell of a mess.  But like I said, fun :-)  It came out pretty good, even though I wasn't really able to shape it all that well.  There was enough left over for a brioche pudding too.  I chopped the remaining loaf into large cubes and split them between two ramekins, then made an egg custard by bringing to a boil 350ml cream with a split vanilla pod.  I whisked two whole eggs and one yolk together with 60g caster sugar, then quickly whisked that into the cream.  I poured this over the brioche, then baked the puddings for 30 minutes, and served them with fresh strawberries and blueberries, dusted with icing sugar.  Sooooo gooooood!!!


And I can't forget the ice cream I made last week too.  I've never made ice cream before, because I thought you needed an ice cream maker.  Turns out, you don't!  I believe this recipe is an Alison Holst one, but I stumbled across it in a roundabout way (found on some random chat site) - this is how I made mine:

Separate three eggs.  Beat the egg whites until peaks turn over.  Add 3/4c sugar and beat again.  Beat the egg yolks with 1 1/2 tbsp warm water until frothy.  Add another 3/4c sugar and beat until light and thick.  Beat the cream.  Add flavourings (I used grated 70% dark chocolate and vanilla extract with seeds) then fold all three mixtures together.  Freeze at least six hours (will still be quite mushy), but is best after 24 hours.  Makes two litres.

I'm planning on making some hokey pokey ice cream this week - the kids have never made hokey pokey (a tragedy!!) so we'll make some and keep enough aside for the ice cream.  Yum, can't wait!!!

And just quickly before I go (because I really should be studying!!), I've got a couple of new projects on the needles - some socks that I started last week while watching the women's tennis semifinals:


Weasley Rib socks, knit with some unknown sock yarn I received a couple of years ago in exchange for some Ashford bobbins.

And I've started knitting a Cassidy hooded cardigan, using the yarn I bought Deane bought for my birthday last year - Knitsch Delft DK in Tennant.  Such delightfully squishy yarn!  It's quite thick, more like a worsted weight, which is good because that's what the pattern calls for.  I was a good girl, and knit a swatch before casting on the cardi, and discovered to my delight that the gauge was pretty much spot on.  Here's a pic of the progress I made on the first day of knitting the back:


I've managed to get a little further since this pic was taken, but not much.  I'm part way through the increases on the upper part of the waist shaping.  I'm not in a hurry for this cardi, since winter is still several months away.  Ah, the beauty of knitting without a deadline...  Plus, I need to knit Deane a hat for Vancouver because it is going to be super cold over there!!

Okay, enough procrastination.  This assignment isn't going to write itself!  Have a good week people :-)

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Goals

Its always good to have something to work towards.  Gives you something to focus on, something to do.  And the sense of achievement when you reach your goal is awesome.  If you don't reach that goal?  Motivation to work harder.  I set goals for myself all the time, small and large.  I find they help me get through the days - being a stay-at-home-mum can be challenging in that you find yourself filling days with pointless meanderings.  I could waste weeks wandering through town, having coffee or lunch, visiting friends, sitting on the computer browsing the internet (and hours upon hours on Pinterest!), reading, watching TV series and movies, etc etc etc.  This type of thing is not particularly productive though, and seems to me to be a waste of time.  Sure, I like to have the occasional day of doing hardly anything (we all need a lazy day every now and then), but lists of 'things to do' are very handy to have.

I am in awe of those amazing people that manage to juggle full time employment, family, 'extra-curricular' activities, and sometimes even study, like my bff.  She is my hero.  Three kids, a mortgage, full time job, two or three other things on the go (sports and a stage show usually), and part time study (although still more than I study currently).  And a single mum!  Astounding!  I guess I'm just really glad, and very lucky, to be able to have extra time to be able to decide what I want to do and when.  Hence the goals to keep me motivated and moving.  So after all that waffling, its time to list some goals for 2013!  Here we go...

  • Run 2,013 kilometres in 2013.  That's a pretty hefty goal, and will require an average of 38.7km per week.  But with the two half marathons coming up later in the year, and training for these, I think I might be able to do it.  Fingers crossed for an injury free year!
  • Finish my Diploma and start my Degree.  Once I've finished the current paper in late February, I'll be halfway through the Diploma.  I plan to study two papers in Trimester One and Two this year, which will mean I can finish it and get started on the Degree sooner.  And the cool thing is, every paper studied for the Diploma can be cross-credited to the Degree, which will mean the Degree will be one third complete already!  Awesome :-)
  • With the increased amount of study, there won't be as much time for reading, but I'd still like to get through at least 30 books.  Leisurely reading is an important part of life for me.  Keeps me sane.  Mostly.
As for knitting and spinning, I'll play that by ear.  But I would like to at least get these made:

  • Versio hoodie.  It was on last year's list but I didn't quite get to it.
  • Fingerless mitts.  I have the perfect yarn in my stash for these.
  • Cassidy hoodie.
  • Neptune High socks.  Halfway through this pair, better get the other one knit!
  • Citron shawl in handspun
  • Cloud Illusions shawl
  • Dryad scarf
  • Atmospheric shawl
  • Stole in handspun
  • Sweater for Deane
  • Sweater for X
  • Sweater for T
  • Sweater for niece
  • Sweater for nephew (although he may not wear one - must consult with his mum)
  • Socks.  Lots of socks.  Although maybe not 28 pairs.  Perhaps a goal of at least 12 pairs will be okay...
  • I also would like to make an afghan, but I haven't decided yet whether it will be knit or crochet.  Plenty of time to decide though :-) 
I'd also like to get some more spinning done this year, as I did very little last year. 

Well, that's all I can think of for now.  Small goals by many standards, but something to keep me busy for 2013.  I've never been one for New Year resolutions (they hardly ever pan out anyway), but continuing on doing what you do, with improvements along the way, seems like a good thing.  Do you have resolutions or goals for this year?  What about previous years, did you achieve what you set out to do?  I hope 2013 is a happy and productive one for you :-)

Right, I'm off to attempt some brioche nanterre, sans mixer.  Should be interesting...

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Oops, missed a bit...

I forgot to include in my 2012 roundup that I ran the Auckland quarter marathon in October sub-one hour, straight out of injury recovery, and still beat last year's time. I was pretty proud of that. Just thought I'd mention it...

Also, I had a wee look back at all the stuff I made for Christmas, aside from all the socks. In summary, I made:

1kg+ of peppermint bark
120+ gingerbread cookies
50 shortbread cookies (2 batches - they were big this year)
70 truffles
96 mini fruit mince tarts
200+ choc-dipped pretzels
2.8kg fruit mince
2 litres tomato ketchup
1.6 litres bread and butter pickles
2 jars beetroot relish
4 jars dukkah
1 plum pudding for Christmas dinner

I like making stuff :-)

Everybody has their own Christmas traditions, and I'm enjoying establishing my own. It has been decided collectively by the family that every Christmas I shall make shortbread, peppermint bark, and plum pudding. Added to the list this year was the gingerbread cookies and fruit mince tarts. They were so popular and delicious that they will be included in future Christmas essentials lists. I'm cool with that. Although I may have to make larger batches...

The kids (all four - my boys, plus niece and nephew) received special letters from Santa this Christmas, requesting larger stockings. The ones they have are small, as I had made them for the kids when they were babies. This of course means that hardly anything fits anymore. It seems the larger the child, the larger the stocking stuffers. Guess I'd better get onto it then, huh? ;-) I can't decide though, what type of stockings I should make. Patchwork (which is what they currently have), plain ol' sewn stockings, cross-stitch linen, or knit? Maybe I should make them all different ones? Decisions, decisions... Any ideas people? Recommendations? What Christmas stockings do you have?

While I mull this over a little more, and ruminate on the 2013 list of things-to-do, I'm going to sit back and relax with a hot cup of tea and a good book. That's what the holiday season is for, right? I hope your 2013 has started well. I know mine has.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

2012 Recap

Wow, what a year!  So many ups and downs, as I guess happens every year.  I'm very much looking forward to mapping out a vague plan of attack for 2013 in order to achieve everything I hope to achieve during this new and exciting year, but first, I want to take a look back at what 2012 has brought me.  First off, knits (of course ;-P)


Let's see here... three sweaters, one tee, two cardigans, two baby vests, five hats, six pairs of mitts, one phone cover, one kindle cover, one butt cover, five shawls/scarves, one secret project (not pictured, because it still hasn't been sent!), and twenty pairs of socks.  But wait, there's more... Christmas knits!!!  Guess what everyone got this year?  Go on, guess!  *nod nod*  Yep, socks ;-)


Aquaphobia socks, knit with MaKe Original Impilia sock yarn, in Cantiacorum.  These went to my MIL.


O Captain My Captain socks, knit with Penny Rose Yarns Rose sock yarn in Treehouse (a special 2012 Sock Madness colourway).  These went to my MIL's partner.


Shur'tugal socks, knit with Vintage Purls sock yarn in Avon.  These went to my sister.


Spring Forward socks, knit with Penny Rose Yarns Rose sock yarn in Meadow Flowers (another 2012 Sock Madness special colourway).  These went to my mum.


Elementary Watson socks, knit with Patons Patonyle sock yarn.  No flash colourway name, just a number that I can't remember.  Forest green in any case.  These went to my niece and nephew's dad.


Java socks, also knit in Patons Patonyle sock yarn.  In brown.  Obviously.  These went to my dad.


Owlie socks, knit with Vintage Purls sock yarn in Mort.  These went to my bff.  LOVE this colour!  Want more.  Lots, lots more.  You can't really tell from this picture, but the eight owls on the leg of each sock have beads for eyes.  Actually, I kind of have to apologise for the sucky Christmas knit pictures.  Most (if not all) of these socks were finished late at night or in the wee hours of the morning, and a quick pic snapped before bed.  As my days were choc-full I never quite got around to taking better ones.  Then my plan of taking a 'group photo' of all the socks together didn't eventuate either, so this is it.  Oh, and while we were in Napier, I cast on and finished another pair of socks.  Because, y'know, seven pairs in as many weeks doesn't quite seem epic enough...


Scylla socks, knit with Regia Design Line Jazz Colour, with the absolutely fabulous colour name of 06455.  These socks ended up going to my bff's work mate, who is absolutely lovely.  I only met her this year, but our paths have crossed several times and she has been such a help to my bff, I thought she was very deserving of some socks.  Also, her favourite colour is pink :-)

So all up, that's 28 pairs of socks knit in 2012.  And mum, I have kept only two of those pairs.  Just sayin' ;-P

As for books read, the list is shorter than last year.  This is due in large part to my first year of study towards the Diploma in Records and Information Management, of which I am nearly half way through.  Still, I did manage to read 40 books (hurray for audiobooks!!):

Tremble - Addison Moore
Diary of a Wimpy Kid - Jeff Kinney
The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins
Bite Me If You Can - Lynsay Sands
The Wedding Gift - Kathleen McKenna
The Apprentice - Tess Gerritsen
Burn - Addison Moore
The Book of Fires - Jane Borodale
Blind Pursuit - Michael Prescott
Darkest Mercy - Melissa Marr
Inheritance - Christopher Paolini
Visions of Sugar Plums - Janet Evanovich
A Game of Thrones - George RR Martin
I Am Number Four - Pittacus Lore
Heat Rises - Richard Castle
Richard Castle's Deadly Storm: A Derrick Storm Mystery - Richard Castle
Catching Fire - Suzanne Collins
A Brewing Storm - Richard Castle
Accidental Vampire - Lynsay Sands
Vampires are Forever - Lynsay Sands
To the Nines - Janet Evanovich
Ten Big Ones - Janet Evanovich
Eleven on Top - Janet Evanovich
Twelve Sharp - Janet Evanovich
Plum Lovin' - Janet Evanovich
A Raging Storm - Richard Castle
Lean Mean Thirteen - Janet Evanovich
Fallen in Love - Lauren Kate
The Struggle - L J Smith
Plum Lucky - Janet Evanovich
Fifty Shades of Grey - E L James
Fifty Shades Darker - E L James
So Brilliantly Clever - Peter Graham
Vampire, Interrupted - Lynsay Sands
Deadlocked - Charlaine Harris
The Colour of Magic - Terry Pratchett
A Bloody Storm - Richard Castle
The World of Poo - Terry Pratchett
A Clash of Kings - George R R Martin
Frozen Heat - Richard Castle
 
I suspect the book list for 2013 will be shorter again, as I'm planning to increase the amount of study.  I think I'm okay with that.

As for running, I started out the year alright, then had a four month break from April through July, starting up again August.  Due to injury (caused by my own stupidity) September and October were slow months, with only a little running.  However, for the year of 2012 I ran 81 times, with an average distance per run of 7.4km.  A total of 600km for the year, nearly 60 hours total running time!  My average pace was 5'56".  Wow!  It's pretty cool to see that.  I also managed to achieve quite a few goals (bear in mind that I'm listing the most recent 'fastest' times - they've changed quite a bit since the beginning of the year):

  • Fastest 1km on the 9th November - 4 minutes 14 seconds
  • Fastest mile (1.6km) also on the 9th November - 6 minutes 54 seconds
  • Fastest 5km on the 26th December - 25 minutes 53 seconds
  • Fastest 10km on the 19th December - 55 minutes 55 seconds
  • And my longest run to date on the 29th December, one I am very, very proud of - a half marathon (21.1km) in 2:00:42!!! 
So close to sub-two hours!!  In my defence, it was a very hot day in the bay, and I started my run at 9.10am by which time the temperature was in the mid-twenties.  I walked a few times, so as not to choke on my Sport Beans, which I was trying out for the first time. (I'm starting to experiment with different ways to refuel on long-distance runs.  Mostly to keep Deane happy and assured that I will not waste away to nothing).

There was also our trip to America in April of this year, which we thoroughly enjoyed.  Sadly, we became quite attached to several things over there (squirrels, southerners (they're such nice people!), Lea & Perrins Thick Worchestershire Sauce, graham crackers, IHOP red velvet pancakes, and Waffle House to name a few...), but have found alternative sources for some of these, and I'm working on the others.  However, I think squirrels will be off the list for the foreseeable future.  That makes me a little sad.  Perhaps I will knit these to cheer myself up.

X turned ten in November, a big milestone in a child's life to be sure.  One more year of primary school for him, then on to intermediate!  My, how time flies.

So yes, 2012 has been a busy year, and we closed the door on it last night when we stood out on the corner of the street and watched the New Years fireworks above the Sky Tower with some friends and a glass of wine.  Since we'd only arrived back from Napier an hour and a half before, the boys got to stay up and see the fireworks too.  They were pretty happy about that, and crashed within seconds of their heads hitting the pillow when we sent them to bed directly after.  It was pretty great.  So my friends, onwards to 2013!  I hope it's a good year for you!