Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Knitting is Relaxing (aka Kelly vs. the Crocodile)

He's done!!!!


This probably doesn't excite you since you probably didn't know I was knitting Will a crocodile, but let me tell you, Greg and I are both QUITE relieved that this guy is finished.  Even my Mom is happy for me (ok, relieved), and she lives two states away from the endless seaming and finish work chaos that was this crocodile.  She's the one who suggested the cheeky title (Knitting is Relaxing) for this blog post.  Of course, the knitting WAS relaxing, it was the seaming and RE-knitting and re-seaming that wasn't so much fun!

The inspiration for knitting Will's crocodile - he loves pointing out the crocodile on his dinner plate!

The knitting pattern is from Sarah Keen's "Knitted Wild Animals" and it's an amazing pattern - just look at the detailed shaping.  The amount of thought put into designing this is incredible, and it looks fantastic. 

Love this knitting pattern book - the detail and shaping for the toys is fantastic. 

That being said, I did kind of want to tear my hair out by the time I was done.  The four feet were knit in eight pieces, then there were four legs, the body of the crocodile, two eyeballs, and two eyelids not to mention embroidery work.  That's SEVENTEEN pieces to knit for this stuffed animal.  Oh, unless you lose three of the feet pieces a week before Christmas.  Then it's twenty.  Unless you're a little tired one night and you knit one of the legs too short, then it's twenty one pieces.  Of course, if you lose one of the eyelids, then it's twenty two pieces and by now you've knit enough pieces that you're lucky you found those feet you'd lost even though you already knit replacements because now your should-be-sainted husband can unravel one so you can knit a new eyelid for Will's Christmas crocodile that you're finishing late January.  (Because of course, you've run out of yarn knitting all these extra pieces.)


Here are some suggestions in case you decide to knit your own crocodile, although many of these can be applied to knitting projects in general:

  • If it's less than a month before Christmas, you have two small children, and you're knitting several other projects, don't start a knitting project comprised mostly of seed stitch, over a foot long, and knit in seventeen pieces
  • If you do knit a project with that many pieces, KEEP TRACK OF YOUR PIECES
  • LOOK AT THE PHOTOS CAREFULLY before you start sewing on appendages.  Misplaced legs make for a very funny looking crocodile, and you'll be pulling them off and re-sewing them
  • Read all the instructions (I'm done!  Oh wait, I have to do the nostrils.  Greg, are you ok?)
  • Read all the instructions (Ohh, wait, it's chain stitch embroidery for the mouth.. I needed twice this amount of yarn... I need to pull the mouth out... Greg, are you ok?)

  • I found for the leg placement that lining up the gussets with the end of the seed stitch on the body and seaming halfway up towards the top of the leg from there gave me the most realistic looking crocodile
  • After seaming the feet, I lined the back of the foot up with the back of the leg (gusset side) just like a heel and whip-stitched around
  • Here's a great online tutorial for chain stitch if you're not familiar with it (I wasn't) 

The crocodile books I found to go with Will's crocodile!

"I'm going to eat Andrew's lovey! Arr arr arr arrr."

"Will's crocodile tried to eat my lovey, but I GOT him!  YAY!!!"

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Running with a Double Jogging Stroller

Ready to go!
(Knitters can read about those adorable mittens on my Mom's Ravelry page.)

The snow melted and we had an unseasonably warm day for January, so I bundled the kids up and went for a run with the double jogger!

Running with the double jogger is great because I don't have to wait until the kids are napping to hop on the treadmill, or until I have a babysitter or my husband is home on the weekend so I can run outside by myself.  Both of them love going for a ride, and this time of year it's especially nice for them to get some fresh air!

We were lucky enough to inherit a well-loved L.L. Bean double jogging stroller from my uncle's family, and it still works great!  (Especially once Greg re-inflated the tires.)

Here are some thoughts about running with a double jogging stroller:

  • Run for distance and not speed.  The stroller seems to add about a minute per mile to my pace when I push the double jogger with both kids in it (about 50-60 pounds if you count both kids and the stroller weight)
  • Push the handle with one arm and move the other one normally.  This gives me a much more normal stride than if I held with both hands, which is not great for your form because you end up leaning forward too much while you're running.  It's also great because then when you feel like quitting you can switch arms, see if that feels better for a little bit, then switch back.  Gives you something to do!
  • I don't listen to my ipod when I'm pushing the stroller because I like being able to have a conversation with my toddler if he starts pointing things out to me, and then I feel like if one of the kids got fussy I'd know right away.
  • Run up the hills for a bonus workout!  I used to always walk up the hills, and that's completely legitimate since you're still pushing a lot of weight.  Recently I've started running up them, and it drops my pace significantly on the hills, but I like the workout.  I think it depends on whether you're looking for distance or intensity, you might run more mileage if you give yourself some slack and walk up the big hills!
  • I try to stick to places where there's sidewalk, then a little grassy stretch and then a breakdown lane just to be safe when I run with the double jogger.  If you don't, I'd recommend making sure you use a strap.  We've hit a corner of a rock wall with the stroller and fallen before, and it's good to know there's some grass between the stroller and the road even if you've got the strap on your wrist!
  • Best part about running with a double jogger - watch other pedestrians and runners give you the right of way (because let's be honest, where are you going to go?!) and pretend they're deferring to you because you're so fast and awesome and athletic looking :)
***Ran my first 5k with the double jogger recently, you can check out the blog post here:
Watch out for wall outcroppings!

The perfect running sidewalk!
Ahh, fresh air.  So invigorating.
(I thought their heads looked suspiciously slanted)  
Loving my cool new arm-warmers and hat I got for Christmas!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Andrew is Eleven Months!

He's pulling himself up to standing, claps for everything, and will be walking before we know it.  He's even said his first two official words: "Da-da" and "kitty".  Love you, Andrew-bugs!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Running Playlist - Upbeat for New Year's Race

When I ran the 5k on New Year's Day, I decided to switch out all my race music to have new music for a New Year.  I grabbed songs that make me smile (and laugh) and keep me going.  It's 36 minutes long so I could start it a few minutes before the race and not be messing around with my i-pod when I should be dodging elbows at the start line.

Here's the playlist:

Somebody That I Used to Know (Gotye)
Some Nights (Fun)
I'm On a Boat (The Lonely Island featuring T-Pain)
One More Night (Maroon 5)
Ice Ice Baby (Vanilla Ice)
I'm Shipping Up to Boston (Dropkick Murphys)
Gangam Style / 2 Legit 2 Quit Mashup (PSY featuring M.C. Hammer)
One More Night (Maroon 5)
Paper Planes (MIA)
Jump Around (House of Pain)

Yes, the same Maroon 5 song is on there twice.  Yes, this playlist has both Vanilla Ice AND M.C. Hammer on it.  The best part was when the "2 legit 2 quit" refrain lined up perfectly with the biggest hill in an otherwise flat race.  It was awesome.  

I think I may continue trying to use all new running music for each race this year, it was fun not to think about the beginning, middle and end of other 5ks based on the same old running playlist.  I've picked my next two races, a 5k to try for a better time in April and my first 10k in June!  Greg gave me a great book to help me find a training schedule where I actually plan (whaaat?! plan?!) my running and train with some purpose.  More on that later!

Have fun, and listen to whatever keeps you going :)

See the guy next to me fiddling around with his i-pod at a race in September?
He needs a starting line buffer song!  

Monday, January 7, 2013

Mom's Nissu Recipe

Every year around Christmastime (and other times of year when perhaps it's rainy and a cup of tea and warm soft bread would go a long way) I pull out my mom's Nissu recipe and enjoy the slightly sweet cardamom bread with tea or coffee.  I enjoy baking it so much that most years I try to bake it for Greg's work and for our next door neighbors, too, making a little extra each time so we can enjoy it with coffee in the morning and tea in the afternoon.

Nissu is a Finnish bread that is usually a soft, braided loaf spiced with cardamom and sometimes including dried fruit.  Cardamom is expensive, but worth it, especially if you make extra bread for friends and neighbors and you can use the spice in savory meat dishes as well.

Mom's recipe that our family has enjoyed for decades is a simple version with a soft texture, light cardamom flavor, and it's basted with coffee and then topped with icing and maraschino cherries (optional) after baking.

This year I made four smaller loaves using the same recipe that usually makes two long ones, and found it the perfect amount to give to our neighbors who are families of two.

Here's the recipe:

1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 T yeast, dissolved in 1/2 cup of lukewarm water

2 beaten eggs
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom (or the crushed seeds from four pods)
up to 3 1/4 cups flour to make a soft dough

Coffee baste: 1/4 cup coffee combined with 2T sugar
Icing: 1 1/2 tablespoons heavy cream mixed with 1 cup confectionery sugar

Warm the 1/2 cup of milk in a saucepan until just steaming.  Remove from heat and stir in the butter, sugar, and salt until the butter is melted and the sugar has dissolved.  Cool to lukewarm (so you don't harm your yeast).  Combine milk mixture with 1 T yeast that has been dissolved in 1/2 cup of warm water.  Add the beaten eggs, cardamom, and the flour a little at a time until you have a soft dough that isn't so sticky you can't knead it, but is still very soft.  Too much flour will reduce the softness of the bread.

Knead bread and allow it to rise.  (If you've never made a yeast bread before, you may like reading my first blog post on making bread that covers the steps in more detail.)  Braid into two loaves.  I separate the dough into six equal parts, roll them into strips on the counter, and braid them loosely.  Allow to rise slightly in loaf form, at least while the oven preheats or until visibly increased in size just slightly.  Bake at 350 degrees for twenty minutes or until golden brown. Don't over-bake.

Braided loaves ready to go in the oven.

Transfer to cooling racks and baste two or three times with sweet coffee.  Frost with icing while still warm.  The icing tends to drip and make a mess on the counter, I like to put kitchen towels under the cooling racks that can then be soaked in the sink for a little while and thrown in the washing machine, rather than having to scrape and scrub the counter after the bread is glazed.  Growing up we put maraschino cherry halves along the bread, but I've started omitting them when I gift the bread because it travels better.

I know we're past the Christmas season - but Nissu is a wonderful treat with coffee or tea any time!

Finished Nissu cooling on the racks!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

It's Time to Start! (RUNNING!)

Before running a New Year's 5k this morning :)
UPDATE: This blog post in particular became so popular that it inspired me to start my motivational running blog geared towards new runners.  I hope you'll visit it at!

Happy New Year!  I love the New Year, because it's a chance to reflect on the last year, and think about where we'll be a year from now.  I even like New Year's Resolutions, because how cool is it really that there's a time of year when it's a cultural tradition to look at our lives, reflect on how we can make them and ourselves better, and chitchat with others about our goals in casual conversation.  It's awesome.  I think it'd be neat to have a New Year's Checkpoint in June where it's tradition to ask everyone around us how they're doing with their New Year's Resolutions.

Anyway, 2012 was the year I started running, and if I have a New Year's Resolution for 2013, it's to keep going.  I began the Couch to 5k program in July, which means I've now been running for 6 months!  I still remember being out in the heat of July with Will in the running stroller, trying my best to keep going and catch my breath as I ran for 90 seconds, walked for 60, and ran for 90 seconds again.  Now I'm running two or three miles about three times a week.  I'm still a very slow runner, and I've got some goals for this year to run faster and longer.  Most importantly, I'm having fun, I'm reaping the health and emotional benefits, and I'm back in my pre-pregnancy jeans.  Life is good.

Me running my second 5k on my 29th Birthday :)

Since I'm very new to running, and this is the time of year when so many people start running, I thought it might be fun to write down some of my thoughts on being a new runner.

Mile 1 (Starting)

  • Find a walk/run program, cheat when you need to.  I loved the Couch to 5K program, but the most important thing when starting is to work hard enough to feel it but not so hard that it's demoralizing and you're miserable and you injure yourself or just are too unhappy to keep going.  It's o.k. to catch your breath for a little bit and then run some more.  Even on race day.
  • Sign up for a race.  Nothing like a goal to work towards to keep you going!
  • If you have young children, a jogging stroller is awesome, borrow one or find one second hand!
Mile 2 (Keep yourself going)
  • Run outside if you can, not just on a treadmill.  Find new places to explore and run, enjoy being outside in the fresh air and sunshine.  It might seem harder in the winter, but it's even more worthwhile, too, because when else are you outside in 25 degree weather feeling warm without five hundred layers?  The best feeling is when you're running on a sunny January day and you stop, and just feel how it feels to be outside and not be cold.  It's amazing.
  • Have realistic goals, and keep track of your running on a calendar so you feel accomplished when you hit a certain number of miles in a week.
  • Listen to music, or podcasts, or books on tape, or, if you have small children, nothing, while you run.  Mix it up.
Mile 3 (Race day!)
  • Pick super awesome music to run to, or just enjoy the rush of being part of something
  • Watch people of all ages, shapes and sizes running ahead of you and think about how awesome it is that you, too, can become a better runner.  You're not too old, you don't have too many kids, and you're not too short or too round to run and enjoy running and run faster than people who look younger and better than you in a few years or maybe even a few races.    (They will still look younger and better than you, but you will be faster.)
  • Push hard, but not so hard that you can't wave at anyone and you're not having any fun.  That puts you at risk of throwing up before the finish line (not me) or having a photo taken of yourself looking like a nauseous, chinless zombie (totally happened to me).  I ran today's race hard enough to be within forty seconds of my best time, but not too hard, and it was way more fun.
My nauseous, chinless zombie photo. PR and my first 5k under 30 minutes though!
Can you tell I had to work for it?!
Look at that gorgeous blonde running.  She's younger and better looking, but I'm faster! ;)
Disclaimer: I will never push that hard in a race again, it was my third 5k and her first, and she's my younger and very awesome sister, with my super fun brother keeping her company, which I refused to do so that I could have my picture taken looking like a nauseous chinless zombie.

Mile 3.1 (Things to think about when you're running your first 5k)
  •  Think up funny (to you) slogans that you wish were on the back of your race day shirt at any given moment.  Some of mine from today's race: "I run because it feels so good when I stop", "My fast pace is your slow pace", "I just got passed by a woman in a tutu", "Why are all these people chasing me?!", "Is that an eight year old?", "I just got passed by an eight year old", "I had bacon and waffles for breakfast".
  • When you're running, and you feel like stopping, don't ask yourself if you can make it to the end.  Ask yourself, "can I do this for another ten seconds?"  Focus on the ten seconds ahead of you, and if you can keep going, (I usually can) go.  Don't let the distance demoralize you, focus on the now.  If you're breathing all right now, and you can keep going just a few more seconds, keep going.  
  • Put the best songs on your playlist in the middle of your run to keep you going, because I honestly can't focus on the music enough to be motivated by the last half mile, and the finish line is enough incentive!  A little Maroon 5 halfway through goes a long way.
My Running Goals for 2013:
  • Run a 5k in under 30 minutes with Will and Andrew in the double jogging stroller
  • Run a 10k
  • Not look like a nauseous chinless zombie in future running photos
Good luck to any new runners like me!  Run fun :)

New Year's 5k, mile three!

*UPDATE, MAY 2013* Still running!  Here are a couple links to some of my other posts about running:

Running With a Double Jogging Stroller:

The only way to run faster is to run faster: