A handmade Christmas

I’ve been waiting to post this! I made the bulk of my Christmas gifts this year and could hardly wait to share what I created! As you know, I love to sew. Sewing was one of my first loves, after Jesus, piano, and Spanish. I learned how to sew a button on as soon as my little fingers could handle it. Knitting came much, much later… years later in fact. One summer I stayed with my grandparents for a week while Aaron was in Arizona and decided that I would ask my grandpa to teach me how to knit. How I wish I had a picture of us! We sat out on the patio in the bench swing, my hands fumbling the whole time. However, after my best friend Amelia showed me a different method, I finally understood and off I went!

So, with tutorials, YouTube handy for knitting help, and lots of time snuggled on the couch with the husband, I endeavored to make people pretty things. (Well, I tried to snuggle. It’s kind of hard with two needles in your hands. ;))

Here are some new things I tried (disclaimer: I apologize for my awful awful photography skills):

Lace.

It looks really complicated, but mostly it’s just knitting, yarn overs, and passing the slipped stitch over. I made this scarf for my mom for her birthday, which was in October. I got really frustrated at first, trying to keep the same number of stitches as I went through, but after a few rows I had it down. My blocking can definitely use some practice, though!

Scarf for my mommy

This following picture is of a hat I made for Gabi. I had to try it on! 😉 It’s technically a lacey pattern; it’s just hard to see it from so far away. I LOVE the color. It’s the Caron Simply Soft yarn. It’s inexpensive and soft.

Hat for Gabi

Cables.

Oh. My. Gosh. I cannot believe how much I love cabling. It’s easy too! I made this chunky scarf for a friend, and the hat for my Hunk-a-hunk-a-burnin’-love. He picked out the yarn himself.

Scarf for Becca
Hat for the hubby

Tutorials.

Friends, these are so easy and FUN. I found a lot of them on Pinterest. It really helps the visual/tactile learner like me who unless someone is literally holding my hands, showing me how, I just can’t.

Little purse for my niece
Purse! I made one for each Rhianna and Zaia

I designed my own knitting tote-ish carrying thing for my Amelia. Yes. My Amelia. And all from a picture on Etsy!

Just big enough for one knitting project!
Made with vintage fabric and thread

This is a purse with Asian-inspired fabrics for my sister Emily. I used an actual pattern for this. There was this one time, well, when I bought like 10-15 patterns because they were all on sale for $1!

cute!!!
Love!!

For my new nephew I made a  little knit hat with mitts in Bears colors. I should have knit on some little ears to make it look like a bear! This boy is gonna have SO many knit things… I really want to make him one of those hats with “beards”.

For his older sister, Lena, I made her a “Mommy and Me” journal where she and my sister-in-law Katie can write and draw pictures back and forth. I also bought some cool pencils and included stickers!

I don’t have a picture of it but I made my other sister Leah a three-piece centerpiece for her dining room table. It was just three glass jars with old books pages and fabric Modpodged. I also made a matching table runner. She loves it. 🙂

So there you have it. I was a busy bee all of 2011. My knitting has really come a long way, and I’m currently in the process of a late Christmas gift for my friend Megan and Rand’s baptism present. They’re both turning out very nicely! While handmade gifts are usually inexpensive, I think they mean a whole lot more than something I could buy. And while I could sell some of the things I make, I get so much more joy out of giving it to someone.

You know you’ve made some cool stuff when you’re tempted to keep it all! 😉

Work Out Wednesday and Adjusting Goals

I had a great workout today. My body was thanking me as my fat cells were crying for dear life. We’re down to one car right now (maybe even semi-permanently) but it’s not all bad. I reluctantly had the day off today, but Aaron worked a half day. So, I took him to work and then headed over to the gym for a 1:30 workout. I haven’t had one that long since I did my 8.6-mile run a couple weeks ago. At least, I think it was a couple weeks…

I started by running/walking on the treadmill. I go to the cardiologist on Friday. My internist said no runs over 2 miles… heh. Whoops. I say, Screw that! I probably should heed his advice. BUT. But. I have a half marathon that’s paid for coming up in two weeks. Even if I don’t race it, at the very least I can run it… ANYWAY. I got this little idea in my head that I’d run 6 miles on the treadmill. I got 2.5 miles in and saw that there was a spin class about to go down. So I hopped off that thing and into the spin room.

With Computer Keiser M3 Indoor Cycle Stationary Indoor Trainer Exercise Bike
We get to ride on these.

It was an amazing workout. I sweat like I pig but I didn’t care. It was worth it. If the display is in miles, I “rode” 17-18. WOW. About five people left during the class and you can tell the instructor looked amused and confused. But I stayed the course and rode my little heart out.

I’ve been pondering taking a break from really long distances (14+ miles). I guess my heart thing kind of made me start thinking about it. I weighed myself at the gym, which is usually a more accurate scale, and it said 165. That’s definitely at the TOP of my personal “acceptable” range. I weighed in on the same kind of scale at 152 back in January. That means a weight gain of 13 pounds. Now, it’s no where near what I used to weigh, but it’s still an increase and I can tell some of my clothes, specifically pants, fit tighter.

I think one of the culprits is the mental part of long distance running. I have a hard time balancing my nutrition when running 14, 18, 20 miles. I think, Oh, I just burned 2500 calories on a run so now I can eat whatever I want. Ehhh. Not so much.

After the half in January, I want to focus on more short-distance races, like an 8K (4.97 mi) or 15K (9.3 mi). I love those distances; just enough to challenge me but also training for them doesn’t take soooo many long runs. I also want to have time to focus more on weight  lifting. Yes, real weights, not the machines. I just have to take the plunge into the male-macho-dominated weight room.

Since I’ll be taking Aaron to work, on Tuesday and Thursday when I work in the afternoons I can go to the gym straight away after dropping him off. I’ll be able to get a good workout in, and maybe even do a group fitness class if the schedules coincide.

So…. barring what the doc says on Friday, Aaron and I are planning an 11-miler for the weekend. Uphill. Both ways. In a blizzard. Haha, kidding about the last two parts, but maybe uphill. Snow? Heck no. It’s gonna be in the 60’s!

McKelligon Canyon, I will again make you bow to me.

Home improvement resolutions for 2012

I don’t know about you, but I get the post-Christmas blues. All the work of cooking, decorating, gift-giving is over and it just bums me out. What better to lift my spirits than to dream of crafting?!

Last year around this time I started planning out gifts for next Christmas. I’ve actually already made my list for birthdays, Christmas, and BABIES. I know of several babies who will make their debut in 2012. (Sorry, no babies are on our personal project list for the next year ;)) As far as projects for myself and around the house, I have a mental list (and it’s on Pinterest….) If you want to see pictures of all these (yes, feeling lazy this morning), check out my Pinterest.

LIVING ROOM

  • DIY Ottoman. My friend Jess and I found a great table for this yesterday at Savers (like a Goodwill, except their clothes are way overpriced). It was only $4! Maybe after payday I’ll venture over there again to see if it’s still there.
  • Different living room curtains. I think they need to be longer. I might use the fabric in the curtains I have now for the ottoman… hmmm.
  • Slipcover for the couch. I found a decent one that fits tightly on overstock.com for around $50. I thought of making one myself, but to buy all the fabric and supplies would be around $200. That’s silly; I could find a different couch for that!
  • We have a baker’s rack that’s set up as you walk in. It’s always so messy with jackets, gloves, running gear and shoes. Lord, we both have like three pairs of running shoes! I’d like to take it apart and paint it, and get a coat rack. Guess they don’t believe in coat closets in the desert. 😉

KITCHEN

  • Spice shelf, DONE. I did this one several weeks ago. So far it’s been helpful to have all my spices/herbs out where I can see them. I just have to reorganize every now and then. (I put this completed project on my list to reassure myself that at least something got done! Ha!)
  • Refinishing the kitchen chairs. After one of them broke, we actually only have three! I’ll be on the lookout for some free or cheap ones on Craigslist or the Bliss Online Garage Sales. It’d be smart to make easily removable chair covers to throw in the wash when they get dirty. I’d like to do each chair slightly differently.
  • Finding or thrifting some serving dishes. I looooove the Rachael Ray ones, but if I could find some antique-y looking ones, that’d be great too.
  • Completing my set of green 1950’s dishes. I tried looking online, and my dishes are few and far between. If I could find some of these serving dishes, that’d kill two birds with one stone.

HALLWAY

  • I’d love to get a new light fixture, but that’s not really realistic since we’re renting.
  • Getting the family tree framed. It’s actually a printed photo that my grandpa took of the original.
  • Runners in the hallway. My grandpa has made so many rugs with his loom. I wish we had one of the looms (he had three at one point) but I was afraid it’d get damaged when moving and I wasn’t sure we’d have room for it. Now I know that it’d fit in my craft room perfectly! Anyway, I need to find an efficient way to make some rugs for this nasty brown carpet.
AARON’S ROOM
  • Aaron’s computer is still set up in the second bedroom, where all my sewing stuff used to be. We’ll probably try to find a futon or cheap twin bed to put in there for guests. (Ahem… GUESTS. Come visit! El Paso won’t disappoint, you, I promise!)

MY ROOM

  • I’d like to get a cheap desk or table for doing homework. That will go under the window.

GUEST BATHROOM

  • We need a couple red rugs in the guest bathroom. Just waiting for a Kohl’s coupon or something. 😉

OUR BATHROOM

  • I like our bathroom pretty well. We have a ton of storage as we have a built-in shelving unit in the wall. Just need to get fabric of some sort to hang to cover it; it’s definitely not organized at this point… maybe that needs to go on my list.

OUR BEDROOM

  • The curtains made a huge difference in our bedroom. Love them! The walls are still pretty bare, and I’d love a vanity. I actually saw an awesome one at Goodwill that had a flower design made from pieces of colored glass, but it was missing the chair and drawers and they still wanted $50 for it. So that was a no-go.
THE BACKYARD
  • We’re saving our Christmas tree to cut firewood this year, to use for either camping or a bonfire in our fire pit out back. It’d be so fun to have friends over and grill out, especially with the semi-cool nights we’ll have in the spring.
  • I want to try growing tomatoes, peppers and herbs in pots. The soil is, well, sand, and I’m no green thumb.
  • Hanging some lights would also be a good move! Maybe some tiki torches…
I think most of these projects are definitely doable on our tight budget. This list is more for me than for you, but if you have suggestions, I’m open to it!
We’ve discussed moving into an apartment or a cheaper place this coming summer when our lease is up, but for the price we pay this house is within our budget, and even more so as our housing allowance will go up this next year. Not to mention the trouble of moving. The Army only pays for it when you have orders. We love this part of town; it’s close to our jobs and the interstate. An apartment with two bedrooms/two bathrooms would run us only about $100 less per month. To me, it’s just not worth moving. This house is perfect for us.

Things I love as of late

I love Christmas. With my hot coffee and Ghiradelli chocolates (no calories, I promise! ;)) to keep me company this morning, it’s been a good time to think about all the things I love. So in no particular order:

  • The fact that this is our NINTH Christmas together. There have been so many that I can’t remember how we’ve spent them all!
  • I love that it’s just the two of us today. I’m making a full dinner and it’s nice and quiet with my Pandora station going. Better enjoy this now!
  • Pinterest. Pinterest is my bestest friend, well, besides Amelia. 😉 That site has saved my sanity when it comes to organizing all the inspiration. It’s definitely the most productive site EVAR.
  • Knitting. I love seeing the piece come together row after row. It’s amazing what one can do with yarn and a stick! Ha! I also love that I have so many people in my life who appreciate the work that goes into a handmade gift.
  • Long hair. I’ve pondered cutting it into a cute shoulder-length bob, but seriously, I’d hate myself and my husband for letting me cut it. I love being able to pull it into a ponytail or side braid. If it didn’t get boring, I’d do a side French braid every day of my life.
  • El Paso. We could be in worst places, like Death Valley, or Iowa. I feel like El Paso is a city that’s misunderstood. I heard in my mind tumbleweeds, miles and miles of nothing but blazing hot desert, and the sun. Lots of sun. But there are mountains, green-ish plants, SNOW (still rubbing this salt in the wound of the Midwest), beautiful sunrises and sunsets. The elevation here really makes all the difference. (FYI: the only time I’ve seen a tumbleweed was in Oklahoma or New Mexico on the drive here.) But seriously, we’re a day’s drive from the Pacific, from the Rockies, and from the Gulf.  Like they say, “Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it.” Five months in and we aren’t sick of it yet! So, come visit us already!
  • The new journal and pens Aaron got me for Christmas. I’ve been journaling since I was six years old, thanks to my first-grade teacher Mrs. Larson. She’s the best. I use my journal for prayers, thoughts, lists (duh!) and sermon notes.
  • Fabric and sewing. Ahhh. I love the sound of the sewing machine; it’s therapeutic. It’s really cool to look around my house and see all the things that have been handmade either by me or someone I know and love. Much of the fabric I have still smells like my grandparents’ farmhouse.
  • Traditions. Chili on Christmas Eve. Opening gifts in some sort of order. Handmade decorations.
  • This ring. Most days I wish we wouldn’t have bought my sapphire engagement ring on a credit card (doh!) and just have gone with a simple ring like this. It’s a wonder I haven’t lost or knocked the stone out already.
  • Piano music. Like, good piano music. I really really miss my piano, but I know she’s safe in my cousin’s house in Illinois.
  • Babies. Though I don’t have any of these yet, they’re cute. And cuddly… and… poopy. And speaking of babies….
  • Jesus. I think it’s pretty awesome how humbly He came into the world, and how victoriously He left it.

Have a lovely Christmas! We will!

 

A favorite sewing project

I just had to blog about this because it’s been one of my favorite sewing projects so far. My mom gave me a gift card to JoAnn Fabrics (YAY!) for Christmas and of course the day I opened it, I went shopping. With coupons in hand, I bought almost everything I needed to make a messenger bag. Since I’m planning on going back to school in 2012, I needed wanted a new bag.

I used this pattern. I probably could have found a good tutorial on Pinterest, too.

mccall's #5824

The bag is pretty big and can probably hold a laptop, books and notebooks. I will eventually make a laptop sleeve.

I had a hard time picking out fabric. Since I was using a gift card and coupons, I wasn’t too concerned about the price. Normally I’d go for fabric that’s cheaper, but I was looking for perfectly complimentary fabrics. Thank goodness for a patient husband who actually helped me out with that.

I encountered a few new things in this pattern. For one, there were about 20 pieces to cut out, no joke. And some I had to use more than once for the contrasting fabric. I forgot to buy fusible fleece, but I actually had a mix of fusible interfacing, cotton/bamboo batting, and polyester batting. The strap has the cotton/bamboo and it’s so comfy!

For another, there was piping. And not premade piping, but the kind where you buy the cord and make the piping. Whew! The most difficult part was working without a zipper foot. It was hard to get close to the piping, but I managed and it turned out great!

There were also three zippers, but I’m a pro at those so no biggie. 😉 Anything is easier than an invisible zipper in satin on a wedding dress. I used thread I had. I ran out of tan eventually, but by that time I was done with the outside and could switch to brown.

The pattern was a little tricky to follow. Sometimes patterns have mistakes, and I found a couple. The problem I have with patterns is that I’m a visual/tactile learner and sometimes I just need someone to show me how to do it. But I’ve learned to trust the order of all the steps and it turned out fine.

Now I just have to get accepted to this program and have a legit reason to use this bag. 😉 Someday in an alternate universe, it will also make a nice diaper bag. Lots of pockets for organization!

It took me only a few days; sewing is one of those things that I can do for hours and hours on end and not even recognize my need for food or water. 😉 This week I worked half days, so I had plenty of time!

peek at the contrasting fabric in inside pocket
front of bag. LOVE the fabrics!
fits nicely! and happy to see all the christmas cookies haven't had their effect... yet. o_0

Focus on fitness: back to the basics.

I’ve decided that Christmas is evil. All the chocolate, sugar, saturated fat, empty calories in drinks like hot chocolate and wassail (if you don’t know what this is, you should!). Despite indulging a little bit, I want to try to focus on fitness.

Because of my nervousness about my heart, I am not going to run farther than 4 or 5 miles at a time until I see the cardiologist. I figure, instead of throwing a pity party about not going on 11+ mile canyon runs with Aaron, I’m going to do cross-training, and do it right.

Today I ran 2 miles on the treadmill, mainly doing intervals and not running slower than a 10:00/mile. My fastest pace was 7:30. I was sweating! And with the lack of decent fans at the gym my face was probably beat red. Then I got on the bike for 15 minutes and rode about 3.5 miles, including some “hills”. That felt great, although my backside was sore from riding yesterday. I tried the rower today, a new machine in my repertoire. It’s a full-body workout! I did that for 10 minutes for a total workout time of 45 minutes.

My goal for my gym sessions is to sweat, get my heart rate up (definitely pushed my max today!), and feel the burn. My goal is not necessarily to lose weight. I need to get that pesky number out of my head (and it’s not even a bad number!). I should focus on what my body can do and the ways I can encourage myself to get stronger.

I want to start lifting free weights… but here’s the thing. The weight room scares me. It’s visible just as you walk into the gym on post and it’s all these buff, or not-so-buff, soldiers looking all mean and strong and stuff. I guess I’m worried I’ll have bad form or not know what I’m doing. I really hate taking advice from people I don’t know. Any advice from my trustworthy readers would be great! 🙂

So, total this week so far I’ve done 16 miles. I figure if I am “allowed” to run after I see the doctor, then keeping up my cardio will help me get back into it without too much trouble!

What are you doing to stay healthy and fit this Christmas?

Bataan Training : Week 6

Total miles for week 6: 11.6 miles.

I did my long run on Tuesday, running around a good portion of the northeast. My average pace was 10:47, which is great for me for that long of a run!

I went against doctor’s orders by running that far.. he said for me to not run more than 2 miles at a time. I did have some minor chest pains last week, but no other symptoms. I had just a couple headaches. The migraine medicine could be causing other side effects, although the one I take is known to not affect people too much.

Sigh. Looking forward to my appointment with the cardiologist to figure out what all is going on. My goal is to get to the gym five days this week to ride the bike, do the elliptical, and some short interval/hill treadmill runs.

If Bataan doesn’t happen for me, I’ve already decided that I will be supportive and encouraging to Aaron, and sign up to volunteer for the race. If I am restricted to half marathons, that’s fine with me too.