Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Epic Dodgeball

Tap, tap. Does this thing still work? Sorry for the major break in posting. I've been too busy having fun to post about it over the past few months, but today's experience was just so epic that it calls for a blog post.

As many of you know, I teach seventh graders. In light of the holiday season, our school collected cans for a local food pantry. I announced it to my fourth period math class, and for the first six days of the can drive, we had six cans. The six I brought in. Then, all of the sudden, we picked up steam! Kids started raiding their parents' pantries for legitimate items, and at the first count, we were in first place! Then things started getting competitive. Due to the (supposed? actual?) peanut butter shortage, jars of peanut butters were worth 5 cans. Other fourth period classes started to catch up and pass our total. At the next count, we were in sixth place.

Now, middle school students are altruistic, but much more generous when they have incentive. And this was the carrot we were dangling: a dodgeball tourney for the top 6 teams. My kids were psyched to be in the top 6 teams, but they knew their position was precarious, so the day before the final count, one girl implored all of the other kids to bring in peanut butter. Another kid offered to stop at Aldy to buy it if they gave him money. (They also had their dander up because a couple of 8th graders came into my room pretending to count cans for student council and stole them from my class! Fortunately they were caught and their cans were returned. Anyways, that made my students pretty mad, once the word got around school.)

So the kids brought in more cans, more jars of peanut butter, and more swiped goods from their cupboards, but on the final day, when an email was sent around school, it revealed that we were in 7th place, one place short of qualifying for the tournament. Oh well, I figured. We wouldn't have gotten too far anyways.

But then, my telephone rang. It was the principal (not principle, how most of my kids like to spell this position), weighing the option of expanding the field to 8 teams, having two rat-tail matches on the morning of the tourney. I knew my kids would be pumped, so I readily agreed.

Pumped they were, once the principal announced that the top 8 teams would qualify. On Monday, we picked a team color to wear (black) and a table of boys dreamed up strategies on their mini-white boards between math problems. I really did not think that my class had any chance of getting out of the rat-tail match, but it was fun to be silly with them. Other classes were taking it to the top with tie-dyed tee-shirts and pow-pows of planning.

Fast-forward to this morning. We were playing the art teacher's class, and can I admit that I was a little relieved to note that a good athlete was on crutches? (Get better soon, kiddo!) The rules were stated, the horn buzzed, and our team took them down! My kids did look pretty intimidating with their eye black on and their black outfits, granted, but I was amazed at their athleticism! Throwing, dodging, catching, all with grace and ease! (Note: I wish they could be so amazing at math.)

So, they made it to the next round, which I wasn't able to watch. We were up against 8th graders (yikes) so I figured that was it. But... following the next round, we had made it past both of our opponents, and we were facing the tie-dye-tee-shirt-making team, in front of the whole school at the end of the day.

The game was on, Team S---- vs. Team B-------.

Following 7th period, I walk into a packed gym, wearing my high school soccer jersey since it was the right color for the tourney. (Thank goodness I bought that 8 years ago! I've used it sooo many times.) The kids were talking strategy and getting themselves all riled up for the game. As the crowd filled in, chants started.

The game began, and for a while, it looked like my team had the right strategy: get out the best players on the other team ASAP. I was cheering like a mad woman. But then the tides turned, and we were down to one player. The other team was hurling balls at her from the 3 point line and she dodged, admirably. Then, lo and behold, she caught one and our best player was back in!

I thought we had a chance, but then she slipped while dodging a ball and it hit her hair. OUT. One kid left, against five formidable opponents. But all of the balls were on his side of the line and he became the aggressor. He made them back up to behind their 3 point line and bam! Bam! Bam! Several throws letter, they were OUT. Our class was the school champs!!!! High fives ensued, but I was immediately torn away: the victors had to face the staff team, which I had agreed to play on, hence why I was wearing my black FHS soccer jersey.

I figured I could be a double agent, or at least I would be an easy out for my kids. At the same time, I didn't want to be the first out, so my strategy was to hide behind the big guys on my team. I was just goofing off, scurrying away from the throws, squealing whenever anything came my way. And then, miraculously, I caught a ball.

Now, most of you know that I am not a star athlete. I didn't earn many points on the soccer field or running track. My first year of being on the varsity soccer team I was the back-up goalie who didn't even play when the goalie was out! I'm fit, but I am not an athlete. (Hence why my parents were shocked that I won an award in high school for being a scholar athlete! "Really? YOU?")

It must have been the combination of fats and sugars from my last day of school parties, the florescent lights, and the previous chants of the crowd, but I was on fire. I caught balls. I dodged them using an amazing spinning move. I blocked them using a dodgeball I just caught. I was UNSTOPPABLE.

Until I launched a ball at one of my students, first ball I threw of the game. My kiddo looked like she caught it (apparently she didn't), and I turned away half-disappointed, half-hoping my kids would win. Then two more balls smacked me and I was out. For a few moments, it looked as if my kids might be able to withstand the attack the staff was mounting, but soon, it was all over. Staff was victorious, and I was high-fiving my kids, telling them great game. They were disappointed, but they knew they had done an outstanding job.

As the principal was giving the pep-talk, my fellow teammates awarded me MVP, an honor I am not accustomed to receiving for my athletic endeavors. And on the way out, I felt like a rock star again. I high-fived at least 100 kids, fist bumped the opponents from Team B------, got smiles and cheers from 6th graders I don't know but hopefully will have next year, and generally felt loved and admired by all.

It was an awesome day. I think I still have an adrenaline high.

Even better? Now we have break.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

This IS my first rodeo...

Some of you may have been aware of my late evening hatched decision to participate (I hesitate to use race) in a triathlon via the facebook, but if you weren't aware, I participated in a triathlon last night. I will start from the beginning, which is actually around September 2009. My friend Ryan convinced me to go to Madison to watch the Ironman Wisconsin. He wanted to check it out and Madison is a good place to eat/visit, so we went. Ryan had in his head that he wanted to do an Ironman, he still may, I don't know. As we stood around the finish area we watched as folks came down the chute with big smiles on their faces, after swimming 2.4 miles, biking 112, and running 26.2. I saw some folks who didn't look like they should have been able to do it, but you know what? They did. They got to hear the announcer say, "Mr. or Mrs. So and so, you are an Ironman" As the announcer kept saying that to those folks after moving themselves 140.6 miles I got some goosebumps. I also realized that to them, that race was the easy part, the training is what was crazy hard. It was nearly 10pm and those people had been moving since 7:00am. It was then and there that a crazy idea hatched inside my head, "I want to finish an Ironman", maybe my heart said that, either way, something inside of me thought it was cool. After leaving Madison I still thought it really cool, and even thought it cool before I went, and I had done some informal training with a guy at work who has done Ironmans. He showed me the swim stroke, gave me some practice cards, and that was about it. I never did even a little triathlon. I didn't swim, but I did start running. I had already been road biking. Enough of that, onto yesterday.

The triathlon started Wednesday at 6:30pm, a small local race ran by Speedy-Feet, a local timing company. I decided to do this race around 9:00pm on Tuesday. A 1/2 mile swim, a 20.7 mile bike, and a 3.6 mile run. I messaged my friend who had done triathlons before and asked if he had tri shorts as I didn't want to swim in my bike shorts. He had them, and goggles. Oh ya, goggles, those would be useful. They will be on the porch he says, I plan on picked them up in the morning. I go to bed knowing that my lunch hour tomorrow will be spent getting my bike ready, figuring out what to wear, and learning where the heck this race even was as I had never even been in the area before.
In the morning I drive to said friends house to grab the shorts and goggles. He was leaving for a run and wished me luck. If he was more awake he probably would have laughed at me, as he thought I was going to drown/pass out. At lunch I get my things together. I come home from work at 5 and practice changing my shorts with a towel rapped around me as I decided to swim in one pair of shorts, bike in bike shorts, and run in running shorts. The tri shorts that were lent to me had a hole in them, and the elastic wasn't working so well. All is well. Hilary got home at 5:25, I load the car, and we leave. (we only have one car) The race is at 6:30 and we are about 45+ minutes away.

I race there in the car, find it, pay my fee, and line up. People had already left but this was a casual race with no mass start. I put on the chip for timing on my ankle and hope it doesn't fall off. I ask about the swim course and start, no worries, no butterflies or anything. I had no time to worry.

I swim, trying to practice my triathlon swim, minimal legs, jet into the water near your ear, and hold the long stroke. Someone passes me. I keep swimming, looking up to make sure I am going the correct way. I turn the buoy and head back. I pass someone, nice. I swim keeping the guy in the red swim cap to my right, making sure I can stay with him. Soon I exit the water, big gut and all.

I change into my biking shorts, put on my shoes, eat a fun sized snickers and drink some water. Onto the bike course. I think, "I sure hope it is marked well, I don't have a clue where I am going". My legs are tired, but turning. I focus on keeping my elbows bent and my head up. I pass a few people before I get out on the road. I refuse to look at the mileage on my bike computer, just the time. At the 5 mile marker painted on the road I am going slower than I thought I could go, but by mile 10 I've passes another 5-6 people and I'm feeling good, legs loose, high cadence. I pass more people. At mile 15 I'm going downhill and loving it, booyah racing! I shift as I'm feeling great and high tail it back to the transition area, passing another 5-6 folks, nice bikes included. Both of my bottles are empty.

I wanted to slow down because I knew I still had to run, but felt great and going fast is fun. The run is only 3.6 miles, I can suffer through it. I was a bit worried as it was super hot out.

I exit the transition area and start running, grabbing water to pour on myself and one to drink. Thank you Speedy Feet for having cold water in cups. I run for 6 minutes and pass the two mile marker, realizing that I have to do two laps. I drink water at about 1.5 miles at the other water cooler and keep running, passing people. I start lap two and realized I might finish in under 2 hours like I thought I could. I pass one other guy who is walking. I tell him he can do it and he runs with me for a bit. At mile 3 I hear footsteps behind me. "not know I think, all this way not getting passed and it is about to happen". I make the turn into the finish and realize the person on my tail had another lap to do, "Nice" I think to myself. I finish, soaking wet, not totally tired, thirsty for something other than water. Hilary comes over and congratulates me, "way to go Dan". Yeah, way to go Dan.

And for those of you that just wanted this information...


Finished 38th

And for those of you that don't get the people say, "This ain't my first rodeo" instead of "I know, I've done this before"

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Marathon Thoughts

90% of me wants to run a marathon.

10% of me wants to sleep in on Saturday and Sunday mornings, relax on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, to forget the stretching and the warms ups, the strength training and the cool downs.

I ran a half marathon as part of a relay team with my brother, way back in 2004, as a sophomore in college. I was young enough and confident enough to just do it. I didn't really train for it. I had run 10 miles around a lake on summer vacation and 10.5 miles on Thanksgiving morning without any training. So I figured, what's another 3? My training runs were on trails, up hills, no miles, just time. I went on one long run, 7.5 miles, on country roads around my college. Was I worried about not training? Uh, nope! In fact, my dad, some of his running buddies, and my brother's girlfriend were all running the full. It felt like Andrew and I were just wimping out with the half marathon.

So I did it. I came home on October Break, packed a bag, and hopped in the family van for a trip to Columbus. I picked up my goodie bag with my way too huge tee shirt, ate carbs, and tried to get a good night of sleep. I got up, ate what Shelley ate, jogged to the starting line, and tried to stick with her 8 minute mile pace. And I did, for about the first 5 miles. After that, I lost her and just kept running along. Racing normally makes me nervous, but I didn't have any expectations for myself. I was just doing it to do it!

I'm not exactly sure what my time was. If I remember correctly, there was some disparity between what my watch said and what the split was recorded as. I think the posted time was 1:52. I attributed that to the fact that I had to untie the chip from my shoe with stiff, cold fingers in order to transfer it to Andrew's shoe. Then I kept jogging until I found my mom. When I found her, the first words out of my mouth were "Thank God I'm done." If you know me, you know I don't take the Lord's name in vain, but it just popped out. Truly, I was thankful that this run was done, but I was so embarrassed that I said that! I was exhausted, freezing in my shorts and long-sleeved shirt, and I wanted nothing but to sit in a blanket and sip hot chocolate. I think I was even crying a little bit. My mom congratulated me and gave me my warm clothes and probably even got my hot chocolate as I hobbled around on stiff legs. We watched the rest of the racers come in, my dad and Shelley both qualifying for Boston.

If only I had known that running 13.1 miles was really an accomplishment. With other people in my life who had run so many complete marathons, I felt like my half was hardly noticed. (Typical middle child for you, huh?) And, without really training hard for it, I guess I felt like it didn't deserve to be noticed.

And, if only I had known that my overall pace of 8:30 minutes/mile was really quite decent. I look back at my 19 year old self who ran 8:30 minute miles without thinking much of it and wish that I could get some of that speed back. In my memory, it was effortless, although I'm sure something about running up and down the Houghton hills had just a bit to do with it. Now, a few years wiser, I realize that 13.1 miles is crazy for some people even to contemplate. It can be a huge accomplishment. My husband recently ran a half, as did two sisters-in-law (one on each side), and I think of how proud I was of them!

So I'm talking myself into running a marathon. No, I don't think it will be a fast marathon. I'd need to do a lot of speed work for that. No, I don't think it will compare to my dad if he does the same marathon, or my sister-in-law who is gearing back up into marathon shape after the birth of their first baby. No, it wouldn't compare to Dan, who is also considering running the same marathon. But it would be my first marathon. It'd be my declaration that I can achieve my goals, that I can be that woman who follows through with a training plan, that I can run 26.2 miles.

I'm just about there. The visit to this website to sign the next 4 months of my life away.

But I really just want to know: what does the tee shirt look like?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Dan's Best Ever Kale

Just in case you get some kale in your own summer vegetable adventures, this is how Dan prepared it.*

Saute some chopped sweet onion and red peppers in a tablespoon or two of olive oil. Add a partial package of frozen green beans. Stir them around. Dump in a few (too many) red pepper flakes. Search the cupboard for some chicken stock and add a cup or so. Throw in a few raw almonds for crunch. Let the concoction simmer for a few minutes. Meanwhile, wash and stem your kale and toss it into the pot. Saute until the kale cooks down, about 5 minutes. Enjoy!

*Confession: I tried to micromanage him through his recipe after I asked him to make it. It's a bad habit of mine -- asking Dan to do something and then jumping in to take over. These were various sentences that a fly on the wall might have heard: Aren't you going to use a whole package of green beans? Why did you add whole almonds? There are slivered almonds in the freezer! Don't you think you should wash the kale? The salad spinner is in the fridge. How are you washing it?

I need to show Dan that I trust him in the kitchen, and with a few more experiences like these, I'll zip my lips in anticipation of the tasty results.

Monday, June 13, 2011

CSA: Week 2

Week 2 for the CSA rolled around, and I have to admit, I was dreading it a little bit. The problem was that we still hadn't eaten some of our CSA veggies and yet other store-bought veggies were hanging out in our refrigerator too. It was one of those goofy weeks when we ended up not eating as many meals as I had planned -- out to dinner, leftovers, and a meal not on our original menu. Added to that, this week the entire box was ours because of M & M's generosity, although we still shared some of the bounty. So there were no tears because the box wasn't overflowing. In fact, I was a little relieved.

Our haul on Wednesday included:
1 bag of "chard"
1 small bag of broccoli
1 bag of kale
1 bag of garlic scapes
1 bunch of green onions
1 qt. and 1 pt. of fresh strawberries

The strawberries were beautiful, ripe the entire way through, perfectly red and juicy. As I had spent an hour in the blazing heat on Monday with Bethany picking about 10 pounds of strawberries (and had spent the previous evening making them in to jam and strawberry cotulis), I knew that I couldn't hoard these berries. We made a date to share them with Mike, Mary and their boys over some strawberry shortcake with freshly whipped cream. Can we say delicious?

As for the garlic scapes, I decided to make them into another pesto, similar to what I did with the garlic greens. I've decided I like basil pesto more, but since I needed to use these, it worked! It's a pretty strong flavor, but it jazzed up our pasta.

The green onions went into our Pasta and Italian Sausage Veggie Extravaganza. That was solution to the way-too-many vegetables conundrum, and oh my goodness -- it was fantastic! Pasta from the cupboard, asparagus languishing in the fridge, red peppers purchased for a dish we couldn't make (see next paragraph!), green onions, leftover garlic greens pesto, and some bulk italian sausage, all topped with some Parmesan cheese made a fantastic dinner. (We ate the broccoli as we prepped for this meal, after a short 13 mile bike ride.)

And the chard, a whole bag of which we still had from the previous week? Well, last week it was called chard, but it looked a lot more like lettuce and much less like the pictures of chard that were posted online. And in this week's newsletter? It was dubbed lettuce. We were much more willing to eat that, and most of it was consumed in our chicken salads on Saturday evening.

The kale is wilting in our fridge for a few more minutes, but I'm going to give it a whirl in a variation of this recipe. Dan searched for "best kale recipe ever" when he learned that we had gotten this in our share, and I think that mixing the kale with beans (but skipping the mushrooms, of course) will make it a bit more palatable for the two of us.

The last thing in our share was a bunch of flowers. Dan was probably right when he called them weeds, but they have been brightening up our apartment all week.

Hope your adventures in summer eating are as delicious as ours have been!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

CSA: Week 1

School is out for the summer! And now that I have some time to myself again, I'll report on life here in Dayton.

Dan and I, along with our friends Mike and Mary, joined a CSA this summer. A CSA, for those of you who don't know, stands for Community Supported Agriculture. We sent a farm a check before the growing season began, and they use those funds to operate their farm. Then, every week from May to September, we get a crate of fruits and veggies, which we split between the two of us. It's a great way to support local farmers without the hassle of winding my way through the Second Street Market every week. It also forces us to get creative with veggies that I wouldn't usually buy.

So this Wednesday, I stopped by the pick-up location and met George, a guy with dreads who I assume to be the farmer. He handed me a crate filled with this stuff, which we split, as best as possible with M&M:

A bunch of garlic greens
Green onions
Swiss chard
Chinese cabbage (all ours)
Boston Lettuce (all theirs)
Strawberries (mostly theirs)
Granola (all ours)
1 dozen eggs

He assured me that the crate will fill up with additional veggies as the season goes on, but after all the rain we've been having, they are still light on produce. That's why we got the homemade organic granola and the farm-fresh eggs.

So, how am I doing on using things this week? Well, so far I really haven't (oops!). Dan ate the granola for breakfast, so that's gone. I used one green onion in my quesadilla yesterday. But here are my plans for the rest of it.

Sunday: Eggs & Bacon for breakfast. (I love farm fresh eggs. They are infinitely better than store bought.)
Garlic greens pesto (They had some on the table when I picked up the crate, and their newsletter provided the recipe. It was delicious and a very vibrant green.)
Monday: Stir fry with the Chinese Cabbage and Green Onions
Tuesday: Something with the chard! Maybe this, although sometimes the texture of sauteed spinach grosses me out and it's kind of the same sort of things. And by that time, our chard is 1 week old. But we've to eat it. I'll let you know how we use it up.

Monday, May 23, 2011

What the heck?

I wanted to take a brief moment and let everyone know that all of this rain stinks.
Mountain biking this Spring has been very difficult. A series of Wednesday night races have been postponed, rescheduled, pushed back, and officially cancelled for the Spring. No racing.

The two main areas around here are closed whenever the trails are too messy for riding, which is both good and bad, but they also have been closed. No mountain biking.

The 270 miles of paved off-street bikeways are located along the river corridors, so guess where they have been? That is correct, hiding their faces covered up by water. When the water levels do go back down the wonderful paved off-street bikeways are then covered with layers of mud. They dry up and eventually get cleaned off, but bikeway biking.

Road riding you ask? You bet, but that too has been challenging this year. It has been raining a lot, and I am sick of it. The next few hours will sure to be wet. Check it out.

Lord, you said you wouldn't flood the whole earth again, which I am thankful, but could you save some of this rain for July, August when we need it and it is 1000 degrees outside? Thanks.

Monday, March 21, 2011

3 things plus

I was just sitting around the other day and was thinking about all sorts of things. Three things really. One of the things I was thinking about was pride. I think the thoughts started in small group, but it stuck in my head nonetheless. Pride: How we all struggle with it and how all sorts of folks are prideful, myself included. I thought about how facebook is basically one big pride statement, sure they call it status, but we basically type what we want others to think of us. And this is the weird disconnect part...I also decided the other day that people like great stories, we like to hear what other people are doing (facebook), what they are listening to, taking picture of, and how they are feeling. All of these things can happen on facebook, which is probably why it is such a great success. And this leads me to the third thing that I was thinking about, I like to read some blogs. I like to read what other people are doing to keep them inspired, what great adventures friends are taking, and how they are coming along. This led me to think that some folks also just like to read about the general day to day, which gave me the idea that I should document my work day via photographs. I enjoy knowing what other folks are doing from day to day, so hopefully someone enjoys seeing what I do from day to day. So...the following is a general day in the life of day, hopefully with no prideful "I wonder what people think of me" thrown in. I will even through in some thoughts that go through my head.

Part of my breakfast. I generally eat fruit, homemade granola, and hot tea. Juice if we have it as well. Sometimes I get crazy and eat some frozen waffles.
Then Fido gets to go for a walk. He hates the camera and tries to hide when it comes out, but he does love treats, so I held one above the camera with my free hand. He likes his walks in the morning. I try to get in 40 minutes, but sometimes it is only 10.

And then I suit up and get ready to go to work. Work is .8 miles from our front door, so sometimes I bike and sometimes I walk. I generally bike though so I can come home for lunch and have more relaxing time.
And this is the outside of our office building. The big graphic makes it really easy to give directions, "Yep, just turn left and our building is on the left with the big outdoor graphic on the front" It is rather nice, but these are also the only windows in our first floor cave office building.

My desk/cubicle. I have no neighbor right next to me, but I do have some folks over the walls. I spend a fair amount of time in here, but I can always go outside and work, even if it is on office stuff. My chair is my favorite color, but it doesn't stay up at the correct height. It leaks air or something and sinks down by the end of the day. The office safety team says my chair should be at the correct height for proper office ergonomics, but my chair sinks throughout the day. Maybe I should shed some extra pounds. It is annoying.

And this is the inside of the Second Street Market. I had to go here as part of work to promote cycling and man the MetroParks booth. It was a welcomed change. I enjoy getting out in our parks and meeting new folks.

This is the booth I was working. I was there to promote cycling in general but specifically our new bike hub downtown. It offers secure bike storage, shower facilities, lockers, and close access to downtown businesses for the bike commuter. (Did I sell you on it?) It is a nice facility, come check it out sometime. I was glad to work the booth, but I was hungry as I sat here over lunch. I forgot my lunch at home and I had no money to purchase something, so I waited and went home afterwards.

And this is where I got sick of taking pictures. My afternoon was filled with me finishing up a presentation and setting up for that presentation. My day is filled with all sorts of random things, but most days I do go home for lunch. I let the dog out and watch trash TV or the news. I then bike back to work and finish out my day.

I know this is weird again, but I just posted about my day and talked about being prideful in the same post, talk about irony. I do hope you enjoyed seeing what one (half) of my day looked like.

Now I must go research more about Subaru's and their tire oddities, but maybe more about that story will come tomorrow.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Sunday Morning Pancakes

As a kid, one of my favorite nights was when my mom would let us have reading suppers. This would involve everyone bringing the book they were currently reading down to the dinner table and reading through dinner. Even my parents would join in, and secretly, they were probably glad to have a dinner time with no fights.

The only way dinner got any better was when we would have breakfast for supper. There's nothing like pancakes, bacon and/or sausage, eggs, pure maple syrup, and a big glass of cold milk enjoyed at dinner time. Apparently, Dan didn't like breakfast for dinner as a kid. He thought it was cheating, but he's changed his mind after we got married. PHEW. There's almost always what we need for breakfast-for-dinner in our cupboards, fridge, and freezer, so it's a good thing he doesn't mind when we indulge in this delectable meal for dinner.

Although this time we didn't enjoy these pancakes at dinner, I love this recipe for its healthy spin. They are hearty and wholesome without tasting too healthy, and sprinkled with a few blueberries (picked this past summer and frozen in bags) they are a great start to the day. Hope you enjoy them!

Whole Grain Pancakes*
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup oats
1/4 cup wheat germ OR 2 tablespoons flaxseed meal & 2 tablespoons oat bran
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups milk
1 egg
2 tablespoons oil

Combine dry ingredients together. Mix wet ingredients and add to dry. Let set for a few minutes as the griddle heats. Sprinkle with blueberries when cooking pancakes on the griddle. Enjoy!

*Perhaps this recipe is courtesy of Aunt Amy? The baked oatmeal wasn't (oops!), but I think this one is. Tell me if I'm wrong.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Knitting Project

I've come to realize that knitting is not exactly a cheap way to make gifts for others. The most cost-effective gifts are the small ones, like the hats I made for my family at Christmas. Nice yarn costs a good bit of money, but instead of seeing that as a downside to my hobby, I've embraced the fact that quality yarn creates a lasting gift.

As my friends have started to have babies, I've vowed to make at least one hand-knit thing for each of them. That is, each of their first babies. I can't vouch for my ability to knit gifts for an unknown number of kiddos, but I think I can swing at least one hand-knit gift per friend. I had no idea how many gorgeous baby items I can (theoretically) make. I'm loving the challenges I find in new patterns. Knitting for babies is so quick, too, and I don't need as much yarn, which is why I was able to splurge on yarn with gorgeous colors for Natalie's baby.

Natalie and Brandon didn't know what gender baby they were having until he arrived (hi baby Wesley!), so I didn't choose my pattern until he made it safely into the world. My friend Kate (whose daughter was the recipient of my first ever baby blanket) advised me to make something for a year or so into life, when the abundance of baby shower clothes had diminished, so I decided upon the Chunky Monkey by the brown stitch. I purchased the yarn after driving all about the Miami Valley on one of my recent snow days, and after finally landing at The Yarn and the Needle, I found a navy tweed (Cascade 120) and a buttery yellow, perfect for a boy but equally as perfect for any future kids they may have.

So without further ado, the final results!

And another shot:

I hope baby Wesley loves his vest when he can wear it, in about a year.

P.S. This present is not to its recipients yet. I'm hoping that Natalie will be too busy with the baby to read this post. And if not... Natalie, this is your gift!

Friday, January 21, 2011

A Weekend Visit

One of the best parts of living in Ohio is that we live relatively close to our families. We live close enough that they were able to help us pack up our moving truck (and oh shucks, I had to go to a bridal shower while that was going on) and Dan's parents were gracious enough to drive out to help us unload all of our possessions. My dad and mom have visited once, and then my mom and sister came out for cookie weekend in early December. Last weekend we were graced with a visit from the Aiken family, who win the award for our closest relatives, at 3 hours away.

A few years ago, right after we were married, we lived in rural Western New York. The Aikens came and visited us there, too, and while I was organizing pictures for this blog, I stumbled upon a few pictures from that visit. The big activity from that trip was a visit to Houghton College's climbing wall. My, how they have grown since these pictures were taken!

Living in Dayton has afforded plenty of activities for us all to enjoy, and we took the Aikens ice skating on the outdoor rink in Riverscape MetroPark and to the US Air Force Museum. The boys loved the big airplanes at the Museum, and we all enjoyed ice skating. The boys were fairly new to ice skating, so there was, alternately, a lot of hand holding and falling, but we made it through without any tears and celebrated with lots of hot chocolate at home.

Thanks, Aikens, for coming to visit us! We loved having you!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Baked Oatmeal

I like warm food. It's so much more comforting to have a bowl of warm soup than a cold sandwich. Or melted cheese on crackers, instead of just cheese with crackers. A tuna melt instead of a tuna and cheese sandwich. Toast instead of cereal, and so on and so forth.*

But in the morning, in the rush to get out of the door for school, I don't have time to make eggs + toast unless I plan it out ahead of time (which would mean exchanging hair-time for cooking-time). In general, I stick to quickly made foods. Unfortunately, that means I sacrifice my warm food for a bowl of cold cereal quite frequently. Unless, of course, I make baked oatmeal in the evening and then heat it up in the microwave as I'm tossing my lunch in my lunch box.

I read somewhere that the longer oatmeal takes to cook, the better it is for you. Hence, steel cut oats are the best for you. If you haven't ever seen them, they look like little pellets of oatmeal, but they take forever to cook -- an hour, according to the outside of the can. Then there are rolled oats (old fashioned) and instant oats, whose cooking time decreases in that order. I don't mind the kind of instant oatmeal that you buy in packets and put in the microwave, but I so often get little crunches of yucky sugar/salt/flavoring that grosses me out. In any case, there is quite a lot of sugar and salt in those little packets!

So in the interest of my warm breakfasts and healthy start to the day, here's my very favorite oatmeal recipe. A note: If you like your oatmeal the consistency of snot, this isn't for you -- it's a very solid oatmeal. But that's what Dan and I like about it. It also keeps me full until lunch. Thank goodness!

Baked Oatmeal, recipe courtesy of Aunt Amy
Bake for 40 minutes at 400 degrees; Serves 6

2 1/2 cups regular rolled oats
1/4 cup oat bran
1/4 cup flaxseed meal
1/4 cup steel cut oats
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 cups milk
1 egg, beaten
1/3 cup applesauce
1/4 cup veggie oil
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 cups fruit (1 15.5 oz can of peaches, drained and cut into small pieces; blueberries; some combination of the two, or anything else your heart desires)

In a large mixing bowl, stir together rolled oats, oat bran, flaxseed meal, steel-cut oats, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. In a medium bowl, stir together milk, egg, applesauce, oil and sugars. Add to oat mixture and stir. Turn into a lightly greased 2 qt. casserole dish. Bake, covered, 20 minutes. Stir in fruit. Bake 20 minutes more, uncovered, or until lightly browned. Spoon into bowls. Top with yogurt, milk or cream, or eat it as is.

*This does not apply, of course, to my all time favorite food: ice cream.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Hat Family Christmas!

Sometime this fall, I got the bright idea to knit each of my family members a hat for Christmas. Not only would this include my family, but Dan's entire family: his siblings, their spouses, their kids, and his 'rents. You see, I was unemployed at the time, and the idea of knitting 19 hats sounded like fun. I visited to find my pattern inspiration and began with the stash of yarn I've accumulated since I started knitting. Now, I don't have a stash like some people, but I had enough to make about 5 hats without breaking a sweat. For the rest, I ordered yarn from Knit Picks and began knitting until my fingers were sore.

Here's Dan's family, modeling their hats for us!

I started with this owl pattern for the 3 little boys, each knit in their own color.

Then for K, I made a headband based on this pattern and embellished it with a few leather flowers.

For Miss E, I made a flapper-inspired hat embellished with a purple flower, but alas, I need to a.) block it and b.) knit earflaps so that her cute little ears stay warm! This was my only project that seriously needed to be fixed so it was useful. (And that's my project for my snow day -- today.)

For all of the adult males, I used Jared Flood's Turn A Square pattern, which I was 100% satisfied with. I loved the decreases and once I decreased my needle size by one, it was the perfect hat for guys. They each got their own colors -- for Tyler, a Brown's inspired palate; for Mike, cool colors; and for my father-in-law, a little bit of everything.

The women got individual chosen hats, based on their preferences! For my mother-in-law, I used a pattern that was similar to a scarf I had knit her last year and used the same color yarn. For Kristy, a simple hat knit in a bulky yarn which ended up being one of my overall favorites. And for Colleen, who was super supportive and excited about the entire project, I made a black beret embellished with tea roses in shades of cream.

For my side of the family, I knit all of the women the same pattern: a cute, loose hat embellished with a button. They had all liked my own hat in this pattern, so I thought that I'd stick to simple and do the same for all 3! For my brother, I knit the same hat as for all the guys in Dan's family. I also knit his soon-to-be-born son a simple, rolled-brim baby hat in a beautiful gray-blue alpaca. Matching hats for the boys! And for my Dad? Well, he rarely wears hats, but I think he was a little disappointed that he didn't get one. So maybe I'll knit him one for his upcoming birthday. It didn't occur to me to take a picture of the in their hats, so perhaps when we visit after Baby Ben is born, I'll get a few pictures.

Last but not least, I just had to knit a hat for Dan. His was the last completed, but at the same time, was the most important that I finish. He opened it on Christmas Eve and loved it. (I'm showing off the huge candy bar that was my Christmas Eve gift.)

So what's next? First, fixing E's hat and mailing it off to Pennsylvania so she can actually use it. Then something for my friend Natalie who just gave birth to a baby boy yesterday, a hat for my friend Ashley, and something for myself. A scarf? My own hat? Learning how to crochet adorable flowers?

Only time will tell. :)