Monday, November 28, 2011

Motivation Monday* - A Practice Race

  *Notes from a knitter attempting to run her first marathon.

As I look forward to the race in January, I feel a bit nervous.  To make myself less so, I am familiarizing myself with various aspects of the marathon.  Mostly this involves running sections of the course beforehand.  However, I also wanted to practice the whole experience of pinning a number on my shirt, approaching a starting line, and taking off with a crowd.  Last week, I got to do just that by signing up for our local Turkey Trot.  I even talked our teenager into keeping me company.  Although he is athletic, he had no particular interest in rising early to run 6 miles in the cold.  All it took to change his mind was the promise of his own pumpkin pie.

He originally agreed to jog along with me, but he became quite excited as we were surrounded by other runners at the starting line.  I encouraged him to take off.  I didn't want to hold him back in case he actually enjoyed himself and wanted to run with me more often in the future.  I stuck to my own comfortable pace, admired the scenery, and took pleasure in the communal experience of running the course with 1300 other people.

The day offered up plenty of practice opportunities.  At times I am tempted to speed up when I am near other runners, but in the marathon I will have to pace myself to make it to the end.  During the Turkey Trot I certainly got used to being passed, and I didn't even mind.  Also, I will rely on the aid stations for hydration during the marathon, and I was happy to see a water station during the Turkey Trot.  I would have practiced accepting a cup and drinking without stopping, but instead I got to practice stopping and removing a rock from my shoe!  All in all, it was a lot of fun to chat with other runners who happened to be nearby, as well as to hear a few cheers from the sidelines.

I met my boy at the finish line and asked him if he enjoyed himself enough to run with me more.

His answer?

"As long as there is pie!"

Friday, November 25, 2011

FO Friday: I finished it but I still need to fix it!

I hope all my American friends had a wonderful Thanksgiving with their loved ones.  I know I have much to be grateful for including this wonderful knitting community!

This week I finished the first of the Howlcats which I had planned to knit as Christmas gifts:

I usually like to take an FO photo of a hat when it is actually being worn on someone's head.  There is only one problem.  This FO doesn't fit on anyone's head because the bind off is too tight.  I went up in needle size and tried to keep it loose but it still just doesn't have enough stretchiness to it.  I plan on ripping out the bind off and redoing it with Jeny's surprisingly stretchy bind off.  I think it will be fine after that.

Does that count as an FO?

Redoing the bind off will go quickly, but it is forcing me to reevaluate my gift knitting plan.  I have 6 more gifts I'd like to knit, and only 4 more FO Fridays before Christmas.  Yikes!  While I love a good long stretch of stockinette knitting, I think some other quick-knit hat patterns may be in order at this point.  Maybe Bubbles for one of the kids, and an earflap hat for the other one.

The good news is, out of the 6 gifts, 3 more of them are started.  Still, I have some serious knitting to do! Not such a bad thing, really.  Meanwhile, I look forward to seeing some FOs on the FO Friday list that are actually finished.  Maybe I will even get some more hat inspiration!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

WIP Wednesday - Now That's Customer Service!

When I think of holiday knitting, I think of Malabrigo.  I've also been drawn to two-color knitting patterns lately.  So, it seemed like a natural decision to make a few Howlcats for Christmas presents.

More hat inspiration from an FO Friday blog post,
thanks to The Knitting Squid this time! 

Off I went trolling the internet for beautiful color combinations of one of my favorite yarns.  Unfortunately, my usual online yarn haunts, such as Jimmy Beans and WEBS, were low in stock of the soft squishy stuff.  After much searching and clicking, I happened upon The Cozy Ewe.  I was excited to see a huge selection of color as well as the words "sale price".

The choices were almost overwhelming in their abundance but I managed to narrow it down.  I clicked through the ordering process, and immediately received a confirmation email.  The next day I was surprised to see a new email with the subject heading "Refund from the Cozy Ewe".  At first, I was concerned they were refunding my order because they were also out of stock.  Upon opening the email however, I was delighted to find that the shop owners had taken it upon themselves to send the yarn by priority mail which was faster and cheaper than the ground shipping I'd selected, and they were refunding part of the shipping cost to me!

A couple of days later this arrived:
Thanks Cozy Ewe!

I am still knitting away on the sleeves and collar of my MIL's Emily, but these Howlcats are the perfect portable knitting project for a busy Fall.  I cast on for the green one first.

Malabrigo worsted in "Cypress" and Malabrigo lace in "Lettuce"

When that is done, I have these taxiing the knitting runway:

Mmm, yarn cakes!

For more fiberphile eye candy, be sure to visit WIP Wednesday at Tami's!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Motivation Monday*: Music to Keep Me Moving

*Notes from a knitter who is attempting to run her first marathon.

I am fortunate to live in an area with beautiful running paths.  During most of my runs I am happy to enjoy the natural ambiance of the trail: the wind rustling the leaves of the trees, the bird calls, and the gurgling of the nearby Sacramento River.

The Ribbon Bridge - When I reach this point in the
marathon I will have less than 5 miles to go.

Once in awhile though, I'd rather not listen to the sound of my own feet hitting the pavement, and I need a little music to motivate me.  On those days, I am extremely grateful for the invention of the ipod.
I can put my headphones and know that a few happy and funky tunes will energize me.  Just for fun, I collected a few songs from my running playlist here to share with you:
(I found YouTube links for some, and tried to link to an MP3 player for others.  I hope this works!)

Iwoya  - Angelique Kidjo

Son of a Preacher Man  from the Pulp Fiction soundtrack
Son Of A Preacher Man

Beautiful Thing  - Conya Doss
Beautiful Thing

Change  - Joy Denalane

Dr. Feel Good  - Travie McCoy

What about you?  Do you have music that gets you in your groove when you need a little boost?  I would love to hear suggestions from you to expand my playlist.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The circular needle organizer goes to . . .

   . . .  Paula!  I will contact you for your mailing address and the needle holder will be on it's way to you soon.

Thank you to everyone who participated in my little contest.  I enjoyed reading each and every comment and I have installed many of the suggested apps on my new phone.  Tink and I have even been enjoying a round of Words With Friends.  Let me tell you, that woman is a word whiz.

I look forward to exploring more of the apps whenever I can wrestle my phone away from my 15 year old!

Friday, November 11, 2011

FO Friday: Not Your Grandmother's Knitting

    On second thought, I would not be the least bit surprised if quite a few of the other 939 projects on Ravelry based on the "fornicating deer" chart were, in fact, knit by actual grandmothers.

Here is number #940, knit by me:
Happy Birthday Leonard!
Pattern:  fornicating deer chart by Anne Rutten
Source:  free on Ravelry
Materials:  Cascade 220, Lion Brand Superwash Marino Cashmere, and US 7 needles
Modifications:  The free Ravelry download is a chart for the image, not an actual pattern.  My notes on turning it into a worsted weight hat are Raveled here.

What fun I had knitting this hat!  I brushed up my stranded knitting skills, learned a new skill (lining the hat), and as a bonus I learned some facts about reindeer, or caribou.  I had to do a little research after noticing that many Ravelers removed the antlers from the first deer on the chart.  Some noted that in most deer species, only the males have antlers, and their deer-hunting husbands wanted heterosexual deer on their hats, gosh darn it!  However, if you care about that kind of thing, you might also like to know that both male and female caribou have antlers.  I decided to think of reindeer, and left the antlers.  To each their own!

Here's a peek at the hat lining:
I could not find an on-line tutorial of the process,
so I'm sharing my method here.
After the top of the hat was complete, I picked up the provisional stitches from my cast on row, and knit a few inches with the Lion Brand (cashmere-blend softness without breaking the bank!) yarn.   I knit one last row with the main color and cut the yarn, leaving a tail long enough to tack down the live stitches to purl bumps all the way around the inside of the hat.  As I tacked down the stitches with a yarn needle, I was careful to keep my tension loose, to leave some room for the stitches to stretch when the hat is worn.

This lining does double-duty by covering up a lot of those pesky yarn floats, while adding softness to the brim of the hat.

A big "Thank you!" to Denise of the Knitting Kitties blog, for the hat inspiration.  I first spotted this pattern when she posted pics of the 3 deer hats she made last Christmas in an FO Friday post.

And that folks, is one of the many reasons it's worth checking out the lovely and exciting FO Friday list at Tami's Amis.  You never know when you might spot a project you will add to your queue in time for gift knitting!

P.S.  I will draw a number and announce a contest winner in the morning.  Thanks for your wonderful app suggestions everyone!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

WIP Wednesday -The anti-procrastination version

Some things just lend themselves to procrastination more than others.  Recently I made a list of those things and I am trying to work my way through them.  So far, I've been to the dentist, bathed the dog, and cleaned out the refrigerator.   And then there is sweater seaming, which is in a class all by itself when it comes to my ability to procrastinate.

 I last posted about the Emily cardigan I am knitting for my MIL almost 6 months ago!  As with most sweaters I knit, it stalled when seaming became necessary.  I am happy to be over the hump.  The back and front pieces are joined and I have picked up stitches to knit the sleeves top-down and in the round so that seaming won't be a hang-up again.
Yay!  Only stockinette sleeves, and a collar left to knit.
I look forward to being able to post this cardigan on an FO Friday in the not too distant future.

But this hat jumped the queue, as it is a gift for a friend whose birthday is this coming Friday.  Here is just a peek:

I would have been even further along on it last night, but my stranded knitting skills were not improved by a glass of wine and an Netflix episode of Dexter!  After ripping out two mistakes, I went to bed.  I'll save the big reveal for Friday when it's finished.  I promise if you come back to see the FO you will agree that it's a funny gift for someone with an irreverent sense of humor.

Click here to go to my contest post where you can win a circular needle organizer.
Click here to visit a multitude of colorful WIPs at Tami's Amis.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Motivation Monday * - Information & Inspiration

   * Notes from a knitter who is attempting to run her first marathon.

One of the views I enjoy on my runs on the Sacramento River Trail  

When I decided to run the Redding Marathon, I wasn't exactly a couch potato, but no one was accusing me of being a runner either.  In fact, at first I was only jogging at a 15 minute-per-mile pace.  When I tried to enter these slow workouts into MyFitnessPal, I couldn't find a 15 min. pace under the heading of "Running".  After more searching I felt both amused and dismayed to see that this pace was actually called "Walking" in MyFitnessPal!

Clearly I needed information and inspiration in order to take it up a notch.  As usual, I turned to books for both.  First a visit to the library turned up The Essential Marathoner:  A Concise Guide to the Race of Your Life.  This book is a great source of practical information on training for a marathon for the first time.  I used their guidelines to come up with a basic training schedule which I can stick to and which I hope will allow me to get ready for the big day injury-free.

After perusing a few more running instruction manuals, I was ready for something more inspirational.  Right on time, my running partner loaned me a copy of Born to Run:  A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen.  The description from the back cover reads: "An epic adventure that began with one simple question:  Why does my foot hurt?"  The author, Christopher McDougall, seeks the answer to his question in an incredible adventure that ends with him racing successfully with other ultra-runners in a 50 mile race up and down the Copper Canyons in Mexico.   This was such an enjoyable read, especially for an armchair traveller like me.  Though I'm still not convinced that I was "born to run", I felt inspired by the sheer joy of running that oozes off the pages of this book.  If nothing else, reading about ultra-runners pushing their bodies in 50, 100, and even 150 mile races makes running 26.2 miles seem not quite so crazy!

More inspiration from the River Trail -
this graffiti gave me a little happiness boost as I ran by.
Back to knitting:
Lastly, my current read, The Happiness Project by Gretchen Ruben, is inspiring me to fit knitting back into my schedule along with the running.  As my dear readers know, I let the knitting and blogging fall by the wayside lately, and in missing it, I realized that knitting is part of what keeps me a happy camper!  One of Ruben's Secrets to Adulthood is "By doing a little bit each day, you can get a lot accomplished."  I've gone back to keeping a knitting project handy, and knitting a little bit even if I only have 15 minutes free.  So I'm excited to be working on some knit gifts.  I'm almost done with my MIL's Emily cardigan and I've begun sorting patterns and yarn for Christmas presents!

Friday, November 4, 2011

An FO Friday Giveaway

    My most recent finished object is not a hand knit, but it is knitting-related, and it is a giveaway for one of you lucky knitting addicts!
   It is a circular needle holder created from the 
pattern in Stitch 'N Bitch: The Knitter's Handbook.

I must admit that I don't sew, and I had some help with this.  But I did get to have all the fun of choosing fabric, doing the finishing work such as sewing on buttons, and creating the iron-on labels.  There is a slot for each circular needle size US 0 through US 17.  I have one of these holders myself, and I find it very handy.  Now I would like to give this one away in a random drawing.

The Contest:
It is kind of a silly contest!  I recently upgraded to a smartphone and I would like to hear suggestions from all of you about your favorite apps.  Don't worry about it if you don't have a smartphone.  You can still have a chance to win by leaving me a comment.  

I've downloaded a few apps but I would like to learn about more.  Are there any knitting-related apps you've found?  What else do you use?  Are there helpful apps for fitness, organizing finances, photography, and/or fun games?  So far I've downloaded just a few.  I'm using MapMyFITNESS to track my marathon training runs.  I'm just a little bit addicted to Words With Friends, and I may have skipped breakfast this morning because I was too busy playing Angry Birds!  Which is weird because I'm usually not much of a video game person.  Anyways, that is just to let you know that I am interested in any variety of apps.  

For a chance to win the knitting needle holder, leave a comment on this post by midnight next Friday, November 10th.  You can tell me about your favorite smartphone app, or tell me why you would like to win the needle holder, or even just say hello!  I will use a random number generator to pick a winner next weekend.

Edited to add:  Oops!  I posted in the wee hours and forgot to link back to Tami's Amis.  So, here you go:  check out all the lovely FO's!