Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Fuzzy Fern Beginnings

[Warning: More fuzzy iPhone pics ahead.]

Just a snap or two of the new window on the boards -- Fern Window. After constructing the board wrong not once, but twice, I finally got down to piecing this window together.

It's at times like these that I can be heard grumbling, "Couldn't make the nice big design, oh no. Had to make the once with all the tiny, irregular shapes...." This time, there are about 250 of them.

I am feeling very Zen.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Me & My Hips Hit The Gym

Okay, in my quest for a better BMI, I figure I have to do two important things besides eating right. First, I have to come up with an exercise plan that I will make a regular part of my week. And second, I have to figure out a way to make it fun.

The whole problem with all this Slim Down! Get In Shape! culture of ours is that it seems so punishing. Weight rooms look like the back parlor of the Marquis de Sade to me. And I just can't handle fitness classes where the teacher hollers number counts over loud 80s disco music. Seems like a suburban version of Marine bootcamp to me. I'm all for discipline and commitment to a thing, but --let's face it -- at 47, do I really need anymore experience with deprivation, denial, and hardship? That's what my 20s were for! And the whole "you must comply with the the approved weight" thing just dredges up all my contrarian, anti-establishment history. Yes, we can say anti-establishment with a straight face again after the latest 60s reprise.

So, I figure I my previous exercise history based on enforcement and muscle pain needs to make way for a better energy. And I also figure that I need to set aside three lunchtime exercise sessions each week for this experiment.

Yesterday, I started off the search for exercise fun by going to the pool at my gym. Instead of getting in the pool determined to thrash my way through a set number of laps, I thought I might do a revolutionary thing -- enjoy the nice, calming water. Sure, I swam up and back and all that, but I decided not to give a darn about my stroke or how fast I was going or (yes, I am a competitive jerk) beating the gal in the next lane. I just swam. Then, I stopped when I felt tired.

And, darned if I didn't swim about half a mile. Instead of feeling like a beached whale for the rest of the day, I had this bouncy energy going into the evening. (Rather than my usual state of exhaustion by 6.) And, I slept like a baby last night, naturally drugged by a lovely tiredness.

So far, so good. Next up: A Pilates mat class. (Gym has one for free!)

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Tub O' Goo Speaks Out

Tucked neatly at the bottom of this blog (yes, scroll ALL the way down), you will find a hula gal dancing across a cyber beach. No, this is not a countdown to my next beach vacation, it's a weight loss/BMI increase meter. I will be logging in here every week for the next ___ weeks, months, or as long as it takes with the results of my effort to get healthy and slim down. If this goes well the pounds should go down and the BMI should go up. This is one of those inverse relationships having to do with my health that, as I am getting older, I am really paying attention to. Really.

Blame it on the screwy menopausal hormone dance (even crazier than Brian Eno on Mountain Dew) or thyroid disease or anti-depression drugs or a certain amount of exercise malaise -- I have all of the above and I am carrying around too much heft. It's like my body has been hijacked by the Michelin man. I feel all squidgy and out-of-balance and, okay I'll say it, fat. I feel about as sexy as a cardboard box.

I need to do something.

So, I am saying it here -- and even including a graphic meter to prove it -- I must lose 40 lbs. And, sure, it would be nice to be a size 8 again, but mostly it would be nice to give my heart, blood pressure, and feet a break. Not to mention my insulin response. I'm not shooting for any instant reductions, just a gradual ebbing away of, well, a chunk of me.

And, as well as I can, I will chronicle it here, in the spirit of fessing up and slimming down.

So there.

I'm not shooting for the skinny, post-anorexic look, but rather a healthier me who looks good dancing. I'm naming this goal "svelte goddess" in the spirit of that joyful, yet curvy deity Parvati. Well, okay, she looks joyful until she gets mad and grows a bunch of arms and has an attack of the rathful. Kind of like me without estrogen... But, you know what I mean. I'm shooting for healthy and strong middle aged body, rather than the skinny and brittle edition.

The good news is that Tom, ever patient spouse, is joining me in this endeavor. Hopefully, this will give us an extra five years at the end when we can still get on out and get it on. At the very least, I'm hoping he'll look good in animal prints.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Yakking Up The Koolhaas Hat

My friend, Jess, calls this the "cool ass" hat. Darned if I didn't see that double entendre coming!

The pattern for the hat was straightforward and easy to memorize. My only change was that I knitted it with US size 6 and size 7 needles. I am a loose knitter and usually have to go down a needle size to get that nice stitch uniformity. Also, since this hat is for my friend with the bald head, I wanted a tighter weave to keep those chilly drafts at bay.

This hat knits up in no time at all. The Shokay (yak) yarn is soft and springy, but also holds a shape and pattern with more heft than your garden variety merino. (Often, I find the thinner merinos don't do well for cable work, and make for a floppy cabled piece that doesn't keep its shape too long after blocking.) Okay, okay, but now I am deep in the wool nerd weeds...

Under threat of the cancellation of TV priviledges for the remainder of his natural life, Hippie Child agree to model the hat. Then, he asked me to make one for him. He even broke his 11th commandment -- Thou shalt wear black -- and asked for this hat in the cheerful cranberry color.

The power of the yak reigns!

(Photos taken in bad light with iPhone. Sorry.)

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Bicycle Made For Two Gallons

This is so darn cool, I can hardly stand it. I want one.

Just think: We can be cleaning our drinking water while we exercise....or when we are evacuating the city after the nuclear attack.

Talk about multitasking!

Better Than Mom

Honestly. Not a single mom I know ever, and I mean ever, sounds like this.

Not ever.


And I talk on a cordless phone. Big difference. Okay?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

A Small Note for a Big Guy

Word just came to us this week that our friend, Thor Hesla, was killed in an attack and bombing of the Serena Hotel in Kabul, Afghanistan. Thor had been working in Kabul since October, and happened to be at the hotel gym working out.

I wasn't one of Thor's closest friends, but I keep finding myself stopping and thinking of him. Of course, you didn't have to know Thor long to know what a funny - and I mean hysterically funny -- warm, kind guy he was. His famous "Big Letter," a much anticipated annual update he sent out that poked fun at himself, the world, our government, and the press was reknown. His stories and online articles made you belly laugh. He was a terrific uncle to his very lucky niece and nephew. Our thoughts and prayers go to his family and friends.

...and, in honor to Thor, I am posting a link here to his most infamous piece, Ann of a thousand lays, a dating guide for Ann Coulter that appeared in in 1999. Sure, it's rude, irreverent, and crosses several lines of common decency, but it's pure Thor, and that is something I will miss -- along with a lot of other people.

Monday, January 14, 2008

ISO Temple That Rocks

The Hippie Child (Runnin' Wild) has decided he is Jewish. This is a good thing, and I am proud of him and his decision -- even though I'm the token Christian (and pagan garden worshipper) in the family. Of course, his decision also comes with some extra work, since he has voiced a strong interest in being bar mitzvahed. As soon as he said this, I knew I needed help.

I should back up here and say that both my husband and I are personally mildly religious, but respectful of the devoutness of others. Both of us gleaned whatever religious knowledge we have through the ususal process of osmosis, of growing up in the culture of Jewishness (for my husband) and Christianness (for me). Like a lot of people, I just kind of know stuff about Jesus and St. Francis and grouchy, women-hating Benedictines. But, I digress... And beyond preparing Seder dinner every year and knowing to make a place for Elijiah, I am pretty lost in the desert when it comes the lives of the Hebrews. My husband is well versed in the nuts and bolts of Judaism, but not Hebrew or Judaism's volumes of scholarly and religious books. But he grew up immersed in the modern issues of Judaism -- the diaspora, the Holocaust, the historic and cultural history of European Jews -- and has relatives living in Israel.

So, I decided to start "test driving" temples. Thank G-d and Y-h that my friend Lisa joined up with me in this quest. For some things, it just helps to have a girlfriend in the boat with you. She is also looking for a way to give her daughter a good, yet inclusive Jewish education. Last weekend, we visited the historic 6th and I Street Synagogue in downtown Washington and took a tour of this magnificent building. Open to anyone who wishes to worship, meet, marry, or bar-bat mitzvah, this synagogue hails from Washington's oldest Hebrew congregation. It's flipped back and forth between being a temple, then a church, then a temple, yet it exudes a feeling of sanctuary and timelessness. Even my tweenish and bored son announced -- after an hour -- that this was THE place for his bar mitzvah and begged me to bring his grandparents here to enjoy this special place. This is a historic site -- and not a "working" temple -- so getting a Jewish education here isn't possible. (Still, if you have never gone there, do. It is a special place in Washington.)

So, on we went on our search. This past weekend, we tried out an interfaith Jewish-Christian group that meets in a local high school. I thought it sounded right up our mixed family alley. The congregation was warm and exuded charitable sensibilities and thoughfulness. Yet, as I sat there listening to them sing "We Shall Overcome" in honor the upcoming King holiday, I couldn't help myself from looking around for some candles, a stained glass window, maybe even a whiff of incense. I realized how much I needed the pomp and circumstance of organized religion, the music, the decoration, the special effects of spirtuality. Surprisingly, my son missed them too. "How come we didn't just go to 6th and I?" he moaned back in the car. He was also a bit nonplussed about who the Essenes and Pharases were and just what they all had to do with Jesus. I wondered too. Maybe so early on in life, what with dealing with puberty and all, this mixing of liturgy might be a bit too much for a kid.

So, this Monday morning, we are back to square one, even if we know more than we did before. Where do we fit in? Will the third try be a charm? And if I'm the one who thinks Hebrew is so neat, as my son says, maybe it really should be me taking the classes?

Stay week we're going reformed.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Say Four Prayers

N'Kiah Fogle, 6 years old

If you live in Washington, four people have been on your mind all week: Tatiana, N'Kiah, Brittany, and Aja. These four girls (ages 17,11,6, and 5) aren't the latest teen band on Nickelodeon. In fact, the likelihood they ever saw Nickelodeon or the anything close to the happy-go-lucky lives depicted there are slim to none. Rather, these four girls were found dead this week, in a brick rowhouse on a poor street in southeast DC, where their mentally ill mother murdered them one by one. When they were discovered this week, their bodies were so decomposed, the medical examiner could only say they had been dead at least four months. And that they were malnourished.

The girls were discovered by the U.S. marshalls who had come to evict them from their home. And even though social workers and policemen had shown up repeatedly over a period of months, it is ironic that in the end it was only nonpayment of rent that would bring someone who would have the wherewithal and to push their way through the front door past their crazy mother.

In DC, the fallibility of our social services is infamous, but this horrible event has laid even the most cynical of us low. School authorities, social workers, police officers, and hospital staff all interacted with these girls and their parents at some time over the past two years. Everyone seemed to think the mom was nuts, some even thought she was holding her oldest girl hostage. Yet, no one had the wherewithal to push aside the crazy mother blocking the door (literally) or take these kids into custody or at the very least ask about them. Neighbors ignored the terrible smell coming from the rowhouse next door. No one pondered why all their furniture was in the backyard. And since they were being home schooled (a high-fallutin word for parent-endorsed truancy), not even their principal bothered to find out why they weren't in class.

Of course, now everyone on their street is festooning their front yard with teddy bears and signs wishing them godspeed. And their mother was arraigned with three rows of relatives sitting in support behind her.

To say that I am disgusted, disheartened, and demoralized hardly covers it.

Friday, January 11, 2008

In All Directions

This is a visual map of the combined strategies of all the presidential candidates for Super Tuesday.

No, it's an interpretation of the U.S. exit strategy from Iraq. No, no. Honestly, this is brain imaging from the inside of the noggin of Britney Spear's dog.

All wrong; this is a close up of the design for my current window, known as the Fern Window. Thank Gd for White Out.

I'm making it for a display that I am getting together for my friend Ethan's showroom. (He and his company renovate an unbelievable number of houses round these parts). And I have an adorable brochure to go with it, which I will post post haste.

This here is a detail from a sheet of art glass that I don't have the heart to cut into pieces for any project. I think I'll just frame it and hang it in front of a window and just sit in front of it and sigh. This iPhone picture hardly does it justice.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Spring Again and Again and...

I love this clip.  It makes having to start something over again seem so much less of a chore...or maybe a bit more poetic.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

O'bama Wins Ireland

For those of us whose ancestors hail from Ireland, it's not surprising that Obama has a emerged there as the popular front runner for race for prodigal Irish American son.  (See 1992:  Bill Clinton for President and Irish American Idol.)

And since politics is as popular in Ireland as hurling -- and I don't mean the kind that happens after too much time at the pub -- an all out celebration after the Iowa caucus results was sure to be found in Ireland.  In this case, the party politics party was in full swing in central Ireland, in County Offaly, where O'bama's great-great-someone-or-other came from.  

Turns out, Obama is as Irish as I am.  

(There's a little interference at the beginning of the video...)

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Christmas Reprise

Before we put away all the decorations, I thought I'd close out the holidays with a little photo review....

Mad Hatters' Before The Ball: We always wear these silly hats to attend the annual Irish Christmas Eve Party at the home of dear friends, Ivan and Sighle and their kids, Eimhin, Eoin, and Aisling. (The Gaelic pronunciation quiz will be in the next blog posting...)

Goodies Galore: This was our year of reduced consumerism, when we lived simply and merely exchanged good will and kind thoughts, Grasshopper. Not. It was the usual wrapping paper bedlam at our house...but oh, so cheerful bedlam. Here, Rashid adds to his personal ceramics stash.

Rockin' Out:  Sammy got his first set of drums this year for Christmas from Dad and The Very Cool Uncle Rashid. (Mom got the headphones that come with them.)

Too Many Cooks...Never!: We believe that it could not be a holiday meal without every one of us working cheek-to-jowl in the kitchen, preferably hoisting pans of boiling liquids overhead and opening oven doors at will. Keeps things lively.

Recovery: Sometimes all you can do at the end of Christmas Day is read and digest next to the tree.

The Sanctity of Software: What would the festivities be without a little online troubleshooting amongst family and friends?

All in all, Christmas 2007 was a wonderful one....especially for yours truly.  Special thanks go out, as ever, to my in-laws, who have the marvelous habit of coming for the holidays every year, which means so much to me.  Thanks so much, Peter, Lore, Naomi, and Michael!

Friday, January 4, 2008

Knitter Knuckled Down By Yak

Considering that it is the New Year, it seems like a good time to begin some new knit projects. And since it's also Presidential Year, not to mention Primary and Caucus Season, it's just the time could to begin those late-night-waiting-for-the-poll-result projects.  One could make several sweaters alone to pass the time during those TV political coverage hours. You know, those important-pundit-tells-all-using-same-words-as-previous-pundit-but-in-slightly-different-order show?

So in honor of the political process, I will begin with:

Fingerless Gloves
I'm making these with some lovely, sproingy Green Mountain Spinnery yarn that I got for Christmas from my Vermonter sister-in-law, Naomi.  One of my first knitting teachers started me off with a fingerless glove project way back in 1986, and I haven't made a pair since.  They are great for a milder climate like ours, where the exposed knuckle or two will never put you at risk of frost bite.  I have just about finished the first glove, and have an order put in for additional yarn.  The pattern is my own interpretation of the glove pattern from "the knitter's handy book of patterns" by Ann Budd. I can't say enough good things about this book. It's the book I go to when I have some beautiful yarn on hand and need a plan -- but also need to be able to adjust the pattern for size and style reasons.

Jarrod's Kool Shokay Hat
Okay, so I broke down and bought the ever-so-soft Shokay yak yarn -- even after swearing up and down to anyone who would listen that I was not going to buy so much as an inch of new yarn until I had reduced my stash.  What was a girl to do when the folks at Stitch DC set up that road block yesterday in front of their Capital Hill store?  (I think they were using some off-duty guards from the Marine Barracks across the road...)  Under duress, I had to buy that yak stuff.  In that nice cranberry color. The pressure!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

This Is Your Brain On Reality TV

Well, it was only a matter of time before all that reality TV was going to catch up with you.  What with the writers' strike and networks pouring on as much writer-free programming as possible, this was sure to happen.  I mean how many American Greatest Loser Idol Bachelor Roomates can one person watch without finally sucumbing to...

The Eye Farts?