Thursday, February 28, 2013

Not quite like clockwork

I love clocks. I'm serious, I actually do. Is this because I don't wear a watch? Probably. It seems like there's always a clock where you need one, whether it's on the computer screen, the smart phone, or on the wall. I'm not one of those people who always has the phone close by when I'm at home - mostly because my favorite sweatpants don't have pockets - so I'm pretty dependent on the wall clocks I have around here. I've never spent more than $30 on a clock and I've had pretty good luck. With one noticeable exception.

I searched for months to find this clock when I bought it a couple of years ago because I was looking for something that was of a pretty specific style. I never quite found what I really wanted, but figured this clock was as close as I was going to get. Is it really 10:32?


The wall clock was last set in October when we fell back because of Daylight Savings. The loss of 11 minutes in 3 months - maybe not such a huge deal? Well, in the grand scheme of things, I suppose not. The trouble is, this wall clock hangs in the bathroom where I get ready before going to work each day. My eyes are constantly glancing back and forth as I brush my teeth, blow dry my hair, pick out my clothes and jewelry, and finish getting ready each morning. The digital clock above is in my bedroom, and I do see it a few times each morning also, but it's usually difficult to read because of a glare coming in through the window. My parents have a clock at their house that has never, in my lifetime, kept good time. In some ways I think having a clock you can't trust is more disorienting than having no clock at all, so I realized after living with it for way too long that I had to make a change.

I had high hopes for the new clock I was going to find too. It wasn't just going to keep accurate time...
What's that white stuff peeking out from behind the clock?

Yep, it's a wash cloth that has been living inside the clock for the last 2 years to muffle the noise from the mechanism which was so loud it made it hard for me to fall asleep!

So, this is the replacement! I found it at Target before Christmas and stashed it in my apartment somewhere for several weeks until I had the chance to get it out and set up. I was really excited because I had blind faith it would keep good time and be quiet about it. Seriously, I don't know why I thought it would work better than the old clock, except that hope springs eternal.

The new clock is definitely quieter. But, I think because the face is exposed, it also easily stops keeping time. The second hand clicks back and forth but the hour and minute hands stay stock still. I put this sucker on the wall on Saturday and soon made the discovery that it wasn't keeping time at all. I removed it from the wall and fiddled with it several times on both Saturday and Sunday. I seriously tried flicking the hands, knocking on the back, laying it flat, leaning it upright, and any other awkward thing I could do to spur it to action. I'm not sure which of these actions was most effective. All I know is that I finally got it going. Ever since I hung it back in place on Sunday morning, it's been doing great. I got really lucky!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


So, as some of you might know, Ginny recently had a birthday. It was very exciting! I was able to get things together to host a party for her, which was a lot of fun. I knew back in November what kind of gift I wanted to make for her, but with everything going on, I got delayed.

A while ago, Ginny and I went shopping and I noticed her admiring a multicolored scarf that had a lot of pink in it. While I could have gone back to buy it, I decided I could make one just as easily. I found this yarn back in December, which I knew right away would be just perfect! I love that it has pink and green, but the shading is so dark it won't only be wearable on Easter. Gladly, winter here seems like it's starting to wind down, but hopefully she'll still get some use before it starts to warm up.

I spent some time figuring out exactly what kind of stitches I wanted to do and the appropriate size needles. In the end, I used 10" aluminum needles in size 6.
 I bought two skeins of the yarn because I really wanted to make sure I had enough to make a generously sized scarf without having to worry about going back for more. As I started making progress on it, I realized that I was going to have a TON extra.

So... I decided to take the only logical step and make a hat! If you've been hanging out around here for a while, you might recall that I've been trying hard to learn how to make hats for babies using double pointed needles ("DPNs"). Using a DPN allows the fabric to be knit together into a tube, rather than knitting one flat piece and stitching up a seam to make it round. Having done the "flat" method before, I decided I really wanted to find a pattern and use DPNs.

I did some research and found this pattern. I modified it only a tiny bit. I used a different yarn, though I figured the two were of about the same texture. The pattern also recommends making a total of 49 rounds, binding off in the 50th round. I wound up doing 51 rounds, binding off in the 52nd because I was a little bit nervous it would otherwise be too short. This pattern was a LOT different than the baby hat patterns I've used in the past because it started at the top (crown) of the hat, with several rows of increasing stitches. All the other patterns I've used start at the bottom and decrease stitches to shape the crown. It was definitely intimidating, but I'm pretty proud of how it turned out!

As you can see, it's not quite perfect.  The pattern suggested starting out with a total of 4 needles, carrying stitches on 3 and working with the final one. I was initially nervous about how that was going to work, since I've had trouble with triangularly shaped hats in the past. However, in this case, I think it worked well especially because there are 6 places (rather than 3) where stitches are increased in each round. Once I had the total number of 88 stitches on my three needles, I decided to add a fourth carrying needle because I was worried about dropping too many. Unfortunately, I still dropped some, and in the future, I might even add a fifth!

All along while I was working on the hat, I was pretty sure it was going to be too small. It might simply be the way its shaped with the four carrying needles, but I seriously thought I was going to wind up with a hat fit for a little kid. Imagine my surprise when I got it off the needles and decided to try it on!
 My hair's a bit of a mess, but the hat fits and that's what's important! Hooray!!!

Here we have the finished set of stripes - hope Ginny loves it!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Trying it out...

One of the "projects" that has been occupying my attention this year has been an attempt to eat better. I suppose I have known for a while that healthy eating should be more of a priority, but it actually surprised me how little it seemed to come up during my flurry of doctoring that lasted essentially from August through December. But, in January, I was finally in good enough shape that we could begin to talk about what was going to happen in the future. These conversations, which I had with each of my doctors, included some good, some bad, and some ugly.

Even so, when one of my doctors suggested that I consider modifying my eating habits and begin following the Paleo diet, I was kind of surprised. Though eating Paleo isn't going to make my aneurysms go away, he thought it would be worth a try. I trust him a lot - he's the doctor who "gets me" - so I thought seriously about it, though I was a bit skeptical. I had a follow up appointment with a different doctor just a couple of days later and mentioned this conversation. The second doctor chuckled and then told me about how the first doctor had used the Paleo diet himself because of health concerns and had lost a noticeable amount of weight. This conversation was super reassuring because its always good to hear a success story about a person you actually know. I also felt more better about myself knowing that even doctors sometimes need to reevaluate their path. That's the long version back story about how now I'm trying to eat Paleo. Thus, my book review of The Paleo Diet by Loren Cordain:

I suppose I should start by giving a brief overview: the Paleo diet is so named because it is modeled on the foods eaten by our Paleolithic ancestors in pre-agricultural times. "Good" foods include meats, veggies, and fruits. "Bad" foods are grains, dairy, sugar, and processed foods. I think there is a TON of information out there, especially on the good ol' Internet, that will tell you much of what you might want to know about the Paleo diet, and really, none of it was earth-shattering. But, if you're seriously considering Paleo, I'd strongly recommend this book.

A short amount of internet research will show you that Loren Cordain was basically the first one to really write about this "diet" (a word I hesitate to use because the emphasis is on making changes for a lifetime, rather than restricting calories for short periods of time to focus on immediate weight loss) in the popular media. I think this book is awesome for its exploration of the scientific principles that underlie this approach. While the internet is a good resource, I think there's quite a bit of shrill commentary out there that is really not helpful to people trying to learn and do their best (i.e. me).

For example, you might read on a Paleo website something like "Cheetos are poison!" I suppose there are people out there who believe that, but I'm not one of them. I love Cheetos. In this book, however, the attitude is more like, "Cheetos are not healthful, and when you eat them, they take the place of food that's actually nutritious." I think just about anyone can agree with that statement, avoid buying Cheetos, and not melt into a puddle after enjoying a handful of Cheetos at a party. It was refreshing, after having spent some time reading extreme stuff on the internet, to read this book, which expressed a more sensible point of view.

The author answered one of the most important questions I had: is it worth it to make the effort to eat meat and veggies, avoiding processed stuff, even if you aren't 100% committed? I have definitely heard of people who were diligently following a diet, went off the program and immediately lost all the benefit they'd gained. The answer? This isn't like that. Every meal of good food is helpful.  I'm giving it my best shot!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

High-Speed Summary

So, in the almost three months since I've written, a TON of awesome stuff has been happening.

I completed my quest to make a perfect baby hat!
Not one of these hats could conceivably be described as perfect - in fact, they're all far too large for a newborn. The pink one went to little Miss M, who is presently almost 14 months old, and it fits her just about right.

I got to celebrate Miss M's first birthday. I picked out this outfit for her - and spent the rest of my time at Old Navy wishing they had it in my size!

I also got to go to TWO baby showers, both of which were totally filled with joy. Both of these babies are here now, and they are happy and healthy, which is truly wonderful news! I made this blanket, which I'm sure the little man is enjoying!
I also spent some time writing and mailing Christmas cards. I LOVE receiving Christmas cards, and I know you've got to send 'em in order to receive 'em!

And, speaking of Christmas, I celebrated with my family as I always do. Here's the Christmas tree at the Marvelous house!
Santa brought us lots of wonderful things - including the new laptop I'm using to write these blog posts. Awesome!

I also hosted a small gathering of a few friends on New Year's Eve. While I don't usually host, and I had been invited to a party elsewhere, it seemed to me that I'd have a more relaxed evening at home.
While I thought about making some kind of charming decorations, I decided to spring for this banner when I spotted it at Walgreen's for a buck. It worked out really well!

With a great diversity of guests - including kids, a pregnant lady, other healthy adults, and me - we rang in the New Year with champagne and non-champagne.

Oh, and of course, some raspberry ginger ale, which this group of friends always loves to drink!

After the clock struck midnight, we toasted and ate fortune cookies, thinking about the year to come.

This was my fortune - if it came true, I haven't noticed yet!

There were also lots of exciting moments I didn't get to capture with photos. I attended a bachelorette party and a wedding. I've known the bride from these events for the last 10 years, as she was my classmate in college and in grad school. It was so fun to be included and to take a break from my own stuff to go out and celebrate!

My dad also had knee replacement surgery in January. I forgot how tiring it is to have a loved one in the hospital - some days, it seemed more tiring than it was when I was actually the patient back in December. While there were some days that were long, and some days that were stressful, and unfortunately, some that were both, Dad came home from the hospital 8 days after his operation and is making a great recovery! 

All in all, the last three months have flown by in a whirlwind. I'll leave you for today with an image of how my desk looked recently. Seriously.
It did take me about a week to amass the collection for this pyramid. But, I can happily say that these cans have been trashed as things have been returning to normal. Now, some of my office mates have begun a no-pop pledge for the Lenten season, so there won't be any more conspicuous displays on my part of just how much pop I've been drinking. But, since these cans were on my desk, I guess it's a good thing that I recycled them - now I actually have a place to put my work!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Knock knock!

Is anyone there? Still? REALLY? It's been almost three months since I've written a post on this blog. And you've hung in there this whole time? Thanks a million! I'm back!!!

As you might recall, I began a break from writing at the beginning of December. I spent some time getting ready for surgery, including a preliminary hospital visit. They put a bracelet on me that I though I'd be hanging on to during my admission. Just after leaving the hospital, I ran into my friend and former boss, Lisa, when I stopped by my alma mater to drop something off. She happened to have this bling in her desk and she set me up!

Unfortunately, this bracelet had to be replaced when I got to the hospital for surgery - not because of the bling, but for other reasons. The surgery took more time than the surgeon had expected, but was free of complications. Hooray! I spent six days in the hospital in downtown St. Paul recovering.

I was lucky to have a great care team, but by the time my 6 days were up, I was very excited to go home! While I was looking forward to returning to my apartment, I wound up going to my parents' house and recovering there until just before Christmas. Some great co-workers and friends sent me wonderful cards and gifts of encouragement.

Love these flowers! I can almost smell them just looking back at the photo!

And these guys came with a sweet balloon:
Yay! I spent most of December hanging out with my family, resting A TON, reading blogs, knitting a little, and watching lots and LOTS of Hulu and Netflix on the computer. My energy came back slowly but surely, and I was able to go back to my apartment before Christmas. Once I got home, I was lucky to be the recipient of gifts of food (which meant a ton!) along with plenty of visitors. It reminded me of just how very lucky I am to have so many great friends in my life.

I returned to work pretty much right on schedule on January 7. I spent a few weeks working reduced hours, though I'm now back to full-time. I had hoped to resume blogging around the start of the year, but it took quite a while for me to re-adjust to going to work for 8 hours each day. The best news is that the day is here! I'm looking forward to writing a few more posts this week and will hopefully be back to full strength here very soon! Thanks so much to everyone reading for hanging in there with me. You're here and I'm amazed. The best is yet to come!