Monthly Archives: June 2013

Six Tips: Get Up and Run


Back in the summer before my last year of university, I managed 6 weeks of waking up at 5:30 in the morning to go for a run before getting ready and heading off to my cubicle at my co-op job. It felt amazing. It felt like I could do anything in those wee moments of the morning. My favourite moments were the ones spent sweating on my back porch stretching the run out of my hips, thighs, and calves, listening to the backyard of my student house come alive. (See above, 22 year old me, all sweaty and gross just after a run.)

I learned a lesson in those six weeks that has been following me around and taunting me ever since: I am fully capable of waking up early and getting in a workout before work. I am fully capable of doing this consistently. I enjoy it more than I enjoy my bed. It’s not that hard.

This is a lesson I’ve been ignoring for four years. Or, to be more precise, I acknowledge this lesson at 10:30 at night as I get ready for bed and set my alarm for 6:00 the next morning. I start ignoring it at 6:00, when that alarm goes off and Mocha snuggles in beside me even further. This past Wednesday though, I listened to that alarm, struggled out of bed, struggled into my running clothes and sneakers, struggled out the door. The heat and humidity meant there was no more kidding myself that I could run when I got home from work. If I wanted to move, I had to do it in those early hours before the sun returned to scorching.

Friday, today, is Day 3. It’s becoming easier, my body naturally pushing back the moment I crawl out of the covers and swing my legs to the floor. 6:08. 6:06. 6:00, the moment my phone starts to scream angry music at me. In honour of my third day of success, I have some tips for people like me, people who set their alarm for early, but are best friends with Snooze #5.

One: Remind yourself how much you regret it when you don’t listen to your alarm.

This is how I managed to get out of bed on Wednesday morning. As I left the house the previous day, I fully acknowledged my disappointment in myself. I was leaving the house on time, but, had I gotten up early, I could have done so much more with the morning minutes. Showering, eating, throwing on some clothes and make-up – these were not accomplishments. The next day, the reminder of this disappointment pushed me from my bed and out the door.

Two: Don’t give yourself a choice.

Every time my alarm goes off at 6 am, I have a choice. I don’t have to be out the door until shortly after 7:30 to get to work on time, so I could quite safely sleep until 6:45 and still get my shower, breakfast, and a little time to apply a flick of mascara. I don’t have a choice, however, about that 6:45 alarm. If I elevate my morning run to the level of getting dressed, something that is absolutely required before I step out the door, suddenly the matter of choice about the snooze option on my alarm is gone. Don’t give yourself a choice about getting up and you will get up.

Three: Plan for it.

Maybe this one should be moved up in this list. If I don’t go to bed by 10:30 at night, getting out of bed at 6 am is a lot harder than it has to be. Going to bed early is not a problem for me – I’m a sleepaholic. But, I still need to be consciously aware of my decision to wake up early so my 10:30 bedtime doesn’t suddenly become 11 because I wanted to load the dishwasher before bed. And run one last load of laundry. And finish the last three chapters of my book. It’s surprising how easily 10:30 becomes 11:30, even for someone who loves sleep.

Four: Go easy on your performance.

I don’t run as well in the morning as I tend to run in the evening. I feel sluggish for the first mile and a half until I am really and truly warmed up. Neither my legs nor my lungs seem to enjoy being pulled from the relaxation of sleep to the insistence of movement. My warm-up takes longer, finding my stride is more difficult, increasing my pace feels impossible. I try not to let these things matter. The important thing is that I’m running.

Five: Set a goal. 

This is a good idea for any kind of exercise, obviously, but here, I’m talking specifically about a goal for getting up in the morning. Back in university, my goal was 6 weeks of early mornings. I met that goal. Of course, once I met the goal, I re-introduced myself to my snooze button, but I had already learned the lesson I needed to learn in that time. (I also went back to classes, and had a far more fluid schedule. Get up at 5:30 when I don’t have to be on campus until 11? I don’t think so!) Having the goal allowed me to experience my own capabilities and assess whether or not I wanted to keep going, with full awareness of myself. Set yourself an achievable goal – maybe even only one week! – and assess at the end of that time frame whether early morning exercise is actually something you want to do and enjoy. If it isn’t, turn off your 6:00 alarm.

Six: Don’t be too hard on yourself.

This is a lesson I have to learn over and over again about so many things, but it is probably one of the most important things when it comes to health and exercise. Say, you follow all my suggestions and multiple suggestions from more knowledgeable people too, and you’re still incapable of getting up early to go for a run, even though you want to be able to so badly. Give yourself a break. I fully believe in the morning person-night person dichotomy. I know that some have natural sleep cycles that insist they should be horizontal at 6 am. I see them on the subway, clutching their fifth cup of coffee or fast asleep even if they’re standing. If you hate morning exercise, or find yourself consistently unable to extract yourself from your blankets, there’s a chance that it’s just not for you.

And that is perfectly ok.

4 Comments

Filed under Exercise, health, Running

Food Dabblings: The No-to-Low Grain Experiment

Remember how I posted a few weeks ago about a few shake-ups I was doing with the food I consume? I like to play around with my diet every so often. These experiments don’t necessarily last long, but they almost always teach me something new about how my body reacts to food. Re-examining my diet almost always reminds me why eating nutrient-rich, real food is so important.

Most recently, I decided to cut back on my consumption of carbs, specifically, those found in grains, white potatoes, white rice, etc. etc. I had come to the realization that I had no idea how to feed myself and the Husband without focusing on one of these fillers.

Anniversary rack of lamb.

I made it a week. So short, I know! And then, convenience weaseled a little pad Thai onto my dinner plate and it was downhill from there.

No, downhill isn’t quite the right word. It turns out, that week was just enough time to re-adjust something very crucial in my diet. I learned to eat less.

It was weird. In the past, I’ve never fully experienced such a dramatic difference in how I felt and how I ate after the experiment. During this particular experiment, I ate as much as I want, focusing my consumption on meat, beans, and ginormous salads*. I tracked what I was eating to make sure I was getting enough calories, and adjusted as I went along.

Curry slaw

And then, the new pho place down the street officially opened its doors. I ordered the pad Thai. I couldn’t finish it. I could hardly eat half. A fluke, I thought, as I forced myself to at least eat all the shrimp. But, a few days later, I whipped up a batch of spaghetti, falling again for the convenience of pasta. I was stuffed after half my usual amount.

Where I can, I’ve still be leaving out the grains, or at least focusing on fewer grains. More and more, I’m noticing I need less to be satisfied for longer. Is this a legitimate benefit of cutting out all that filler? Or is it merely head games? I have no idea, but I’ll take it.

* The fact that I don’t actually love salad that much was probably the downfall of this experiment. I got bored. Fast.

4 Comments

Filed under food

Curb Appeal: Before and (Almost) After

I still don’t know why the previous owners of our house decided it was a good idea to destroy any hope our house had for curb appeal by pouring a concrete pad over the front lawn. It was a rental before we bought it, so it was probably a practical decision that meant the owners wouldn’t have to worry about negligent tenants. I wonder if they thought about the people who would be ripping it back up in the future as they poured it. I wonder if they knew how back breaking it would be. 

Our house, before two weekends of hard work.
Back breaking or not, it’s done! Or, almost done. And so very worth it. We’ve got grass, we’ve got mulch, we’ve got flowers. Soon -ish, we’ll have a brick walkway, new stairs, a new porch railing, new windows, a new roof, perhaps even newly painted trim to finish off the look.
Our house, after, sodded, mulched and flowered. 

The sod needs a little time to take hold. How long does it take for the lines between each strip to disappear? The flowers need a little time to grow and fill out. We’ll be ordering a little tree soon, I think, a silver maple, or an oak perhaps.

I’m proud of what we accomplished, though, admittedly, it was mostly the Husband and a friend who cleared the remainder of the concrete and did the planting – in the rain and mud, I might add – on Saturday.

Grow, flowers, grow!

2 Comments

Filed under curb appeal

The Anatomy of a Trip to the Dog Park with Three Dogs in Tow

My parents have been in Ireland for a month. For the first half, they were cycling around seeing as much as they could see, on a tandem bike that travels with them in a box the size of a suitcase and takes a quick lickety-split hour to put together. For the second half, they joined some friends on a tour of ancient Celtic crosses.

(No. My parents are not exactly typical.) 
Whenever they go on extended vacations like this, they like to leave their dog with us. She’s getting old and, as a ‘people dog’, suffers significantly when her people leave her behind somewhere. They’ve tried the kennel thing. Never again. They’ve developed relationships with a number of people in their community who are good with dogs and happy to watch her for a few days. But, when they go away for a long time, they like to leave her with me, someone Liia knows a little more intimately.
(Also, someone they don’t have to pay to do it.)
I like having Liia around. It can be a little bit of a pain, because she’s huge and sheds in a way that neither of our dogs do. And, this time around, as she’s getting older, we’ve discovered some issues we struggled a bit to work around. She won’t go down our back steps, for example, because she finds the the floors too slippery, so the whole experience is just a little terrifying for her.
But, she still loves long walks. So, we introduced her to the dog park! She’s a country dog, so interaction with other dogs doesn’t exactly happen often. But, it went well, and I think she even came to enjoy the time she spent there. At least, that’s what it looks like in this video. 
Without further ado, allow me to bring you along on one of our trips to the dog park with not one, not two, but three dogs in tow.

Liia goes home today. She’ll be extremely excited. The kind of pure and simple joy that nothing but a dog can experience.
Happy Friday everyone! I hope you all have great weekends!

Leave a comment

Filed under bernese mountain dog, dogs

Three Things for Thursday: A Quick Yarn Hodge Podge

One: Pot Holders

If you follow me on instagram, you’ll know I’ve been working at mastering the coffee cup cozy. (I hope to have a pattern to share with you soon!) So, now that I’ve made a grand total of three of them, I think it may be time to turn my attention elsewhere. In my blog browsing, this caught my eye:

This potholder is by the extremely talented Holly who blogs about knitting, crocheting, DIY, houses, and all sorts of other things. And, I think my house needs a few more pot holders… especially pretty ones, like this.
Two: Advanced Crochet Stitches
I’ve been doing quite a bit of knitting since finishing the baby blanket for my best friend a couple weeks ago. And, I’ve been enjoying it! Knitting is presenting me with a challenge that I didn’t feel I had been getting with crocheting. I’ve been turning to the Internet and Youtube, time and time again, to explain unfamiliar terms and techniques. I’ve even begun to wonder if enjoy knitting more than crocheting purely because of the vast array of new things to learn. 
But, wait. A quick peek around the Internet reminds me that crocheting is not just about single crochets and double crochets. There are a vast multitude of techniques to learn with a simple hook and a ball of yarn yet too! Like this one, puff stitches and crochet cables:
There’s a myriad of others, 32 recorded here. Perhaps I aught to start a sampler afghan, making one square of each new technique? 
Three: Craft Rooms for Knitters
It’s surprisingly difficult to find craft rooms targeted at knitters on Pinterest. There are plenty designed for scrapbookers, sewers, painters, jewelry makers, general DIY, and writers. Pinterest craft rooms involve large islands or sewing tables, and peg boards full of ribbon, scissors, and baskets of scrap paper. But people who play with yarn? We need good yarn storage, good needles storage, a little table for a cup of coffee, or tea, or a glass of water, a radio, or speakers for our audiobooks, and a nice comfy chair in which to sit for a long period of time. Simple things.  
In reality, there are likely so few yarn-inspired craft rooms because knitters and crocheters have so few requirements. The couch in the living room easily becomes knitting central. 
Do you have a craft room? If you knit or crochet, where do you do it?

5 Comments

Filed under Things for Thursday

Getting Our Curb Appeal Mojo On

Our house is seriously lacking in curb appeal. I think it’s a cute house, but I’ll be honest; I didn’t like it when we pulled up in front of it that very first time we saw in the winter of 2011. By the time we were finished viewing it, my views had done a 180* and I was feeling encouraged, but not because I liked the house. Nu-uh. I was excited that what we were looking for did actually exist. Now, we just had to go find it. In a different house.

Of course, we soon figured out that, yes, what we were looking for – a fixer-upper with at least the potential for a basement apartment that had decent head room – exists… but it exists in this house and, at that time, only this house. Of course, I had originally dismissed as having the perfect basement apartment, but terrible curb appeal. We went back. The curb appeal was still terrible. We bought the house anyway. 
For two years, that cold concrete pad outside our house taunted us. We don’t know why the previous owners put it in. A sink hole? Extra parking? A loathing of grass? I expect a combination of all of the above. Either way, we have been craving a little green something-something out in front of our little house. 
So, since we’re still stalled on the attic project, on Saturday morning, we went to Home Depot and rented a mini jack hammer. 

It was a long day. The Husband jack hammered, sledge hammered, and broke up the concrete any way he could. I moved it. We discovered the concrete pad was a solid 4 inches in the low parts and a whopping 8 inches at its thickest. By 4:30, we had finished breaking up and moving half of the concrete pad. We felt remarkably accomplished. 

It must look worse before it looks better, right? Soon, there will be sod, decorative grasses, tiger lilies, tulips, and all sorts of other pretties. Suggestions for what we should turn this blank slate into?

9 Comments

Filed under curb appeal, gardening

Garden 2013: A Garden Tour

The weather in Toronto the past few weeks couldn’t be better for my garden. We’ve been getting plenty of rain, but every few days or so, the clouds break and the sun shines through, encouraging the tiny seedlings out of the ground, encouraging blooms to begin, encouraging each plant to grow strong and green.

Not everything has done well. As I was weeding on Saturday, I realized I didn’t even know what parsnip seedlings look like and I couldn’t identify any plant that they might be among the mass of little seedlings that have come up where I planted them. At this point, I can only assume they didn’t come up at all. A number of our seedlings, the tomatoes and peppers we started inside, have been growing, but slowly, and will likely never grow fast enough to hit our harvest season with vegetables on their plants.

On the other hand, so much has been doing well. Our beans are growing full, our peas are sending out their tendrils, our broccoli has turned bright and green, our spinach is developing beautiful edible leaves, most of our tomato plants are developing tiny yellow flowers, our peppers are thriving, our squash and melons are taking over the ground, and we even have a few flowers blooming like crazy.

How are your gardens doing? Is everything growing and happy? What are you growing?

4 Comments

Filed under garden

Knitting is kind of like obsessive fiddling

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ll know I go on tangents. For a week or two at a time, I get drawn into something and can’t seem to get enough. Gardening, at the beginning of the season last year. Books, from December until the end of March, one after another, as if words were keeping me alive. I’ve also been obsessed about pet photography, writing, and of course, this blog. I stop being able to talk about anything but.

I’m on a new bender, guys.

It all started when I finished the baby blanket last week. The combination of finishing something beautiful and the endless possibilities of starting something new did something in my head that blocked out most other thoughts than knit one purl one knit one purl one yarn over knit two together passover knit one purl one, you get the picture. I spent a few days knitting a lacy baby booty that turned out to be for a giant baby, then settled on this pattern.

I’ve been working on it every single spare moment I have. Waiting for the bus. On the bus. Walking to the subway platform. On the subway. On the next subway platform. On the next subway. Walking to the last bus. On the bus. And then, home again at the end of the day. I finish the day off with a few hours of knitting in front of the television. 
I can’t get enough of the feel of yarn in my hands. 
I’m probably a little over halfway done and already planning another project. A coffee mug cozy is definitely on the list:
Or, a pretty scarf or shawl, full of complicated lace stitches.
Crochet or knit? It doesn’t matter. Just, yarn. 
Happy Friday everyone! 

1 Comment

Filed under crochet, knitting, yarn

Project Attic of Awesome: Slow as Molasses in January

(In fact, molasses does not move slowly. If someone wishes to explain this figure of speech to me, I would be grateful!)

Attic progress hasn’t moved much. The Husband and a friend managed to finish up the framing upstairs on the weekend, but for the moment, we’re kind of stuck. Stuck with too many other demands on our time, stuck with not enough resources. Soon, I hope to be able to give you a proper update, perhaps the announcement of a subfloor, or maybe drywall. At the moment, it looks like neither of those things are going to happen any time soon.

I wish they would. I’m getting antsy to move our bedroom upstairs and free up the downstairs room for other things. I want to remove all the clothes from the closet and fill it with with yarn and fabric and notions.

(Photo taken at Romni Wools in Toronto, 2+ years ago)
Bookcases, all around the room of course. Three or four filled with books and pretty bits of inspiration. I want to add a daybed, and pile it high with pillows, so it can become a quiet place to knit or crochet, write or read. 
There will have to be a desk and, eventually, a computer. It won’t just be my space, after all. The Husband will use it too, to work on his own projects.

Sometimes, I wonder which I’m looking forward to more: the attic bedroom retreat, or the office/craft room/ guest room we’ll get on the main floor.

1 Comment

Filed under attic, craft room, guest room, home office

A Baby Blanket for Baby F

About two month ago, I got a phone call from my best friend. Keep in mind, we’re both millennials, and while we like to think we’re not typical when it comes to our professional lives, we will quickly acknowledge that we share the millennial aversion to telephones. We don’t call each other often, preferring to maintain our friendship through emails, Facebook, Google chat and, most importantly, face to face. So, whenever I get a phone call, I know there’s something up.

There was indeed something up. Something so exciting, so life-changing, I could hardly sleep. My best friend, the one I’ve known since we were babies and have been like sisters with since we were 7, is pregnant!

The very next day, I went to Michaels and bought yarn.

There’s something kind of special about creating a baby blanket for the unborn child of someone important in your life. Each stitch somehow holds more significance, each row feels more important. I finished it this past week, wrapped it up, and went to visit the excited mom- and dad-to-be, exactly two months from the day I started it. I don’t think I’ve ever finished anything of this size quite so quickly.

(Of course, the knitting club helped!)

I used a really simple free pattern for this one, found on Ravelry. The nature of crochet is leveraged in the pattern to make it, in a sense, ‘reversible’. On one side, it is predominantly blue. On the other, it’s predominantly orange. I edged it in a simple border of single crochets. It’s a heavier baby blanket, perfect – as my mother pointed out when I showed it to her – to lay out for the baby to play on. It’s soft enough, though, that it could also be used in a crib to keep the baby warm, especially in the winter.
As I’m sure you’ve noticed, I didn’t use traditional ‘baby yarn’. I have a thing against baby yarn. True, it’s super soft and delicate for newborn skin. But. Pastels? Not my thing. Also, not really the thing of this baby’s mom. Instead, I used Red Heart Soft yarn. I’ve used it before and love it.
Tangerine and Sea Foam. I see orange and blue, but those are the colour names on the yarn’s label. I always have a bit of a difficult time choosing yarn colours when I start a baby blanket, so I was kind of grateful that this pattern only required two – though I could have chosen to use up to four! There was the added difficulty in the fact that I have no idea of the baby’s gender. Whatever, I thought. Little girls can like orange and blue too! I am a girl, and I like orange and blue. By the time I finished the blanket, any niggle of doubt that I had chosen the wrong colours was gone. 

I think this is my favourite project to date.

For more project details, check it out on Ravelry!

Do you have anything on your hook – or needles! – right now? I have lots of plans, but nothing currently in the works.

9 Comments

Filed under baby blanket, crochet