Saturday, March 31, 2007

Shoes, and Other Random Thoughts

What is it about shoes? They can make or break my outfit, my mood, my day. I have become friends with people because I consistently liked their shoes. I have spent days with one of my friends shoe shopping (hi, Margs!). The perfect outfit is absolutely no good without the right shoes. I love them, I wear them, and I save them. My husband looks at my boxes of shoes and says, "How can you POSSIBLY not have any shoes to wear with that outfit? How can you possibly need another pair? How many pairs of shoes can you possibly own?"

He's right... and he's oh, so wrong. I have at least 10 pairs of classic, high-heeled pumps that I wore in my days as a medical rep. Black, navy, brown, tan, spikey-heeled, low-heeled, crocodile -textured, spectators, patent leather, suede. Most of them pinch my feet now, but they are all in good condition and... you just never know! Am I right here?? Then there are the clogs. Black, brown, red, green, closed back, open back, fleece-lined, suede, flat, high. And sandals, both casual and dressy. And sneakers, old ones for painting and new ones for tennis. The odd hiking boots. Flip flops, in rubber, leather and pleather. I know you are the same way. Unless they are totally trashed, I never throw them away. Do you? Luckily, I have a big closet:-)

So, as I sat in my big closet, musing over my shoes, I started thinking about the special events connected to them: the shoes I wore on a job interview. The ones I bought for a special new year's eve. The silver ones I wore to Mike's graduation. The ones I only wore once, because they hurt my feet, yet I love them too much to part with them! My mind continued to wander to the people connected with them. Oh, I bought those when Deb and Nancy were here. I wore those the first time I met Lynn. (She noticed them!) And so on. And really, aren't those shoes a lot like friends?

Sometimes, with friends, it's love at first sight. You know, when you meet that person and you just instantly know that you want to be friends with them! It often works out... sometimes, it doesn't. They looked great, but gave you blisters. Sometimes, they didn't strike you as being so great at first, but they were an absolutely perfect fit, and they grew on you. No matter what, unless they are truly worn out to nothing or absolutely hideous, you save them. Maybe you only see them once in a while, but they are there for you when you need them. Maybe you only wear them with your fat pants, but they fit perfectly and you love them.

So, this is the part where I thank you all for being my friends. I love you all, truly, I do. Thanks for putting up with me, even when I give you blisters or don't quite match your favorite sweater.

Speaking of sweaters... (am I smooth, or what?) Okay, the cabled sweater front is frogged. A big pile of wavy spaghetti looking yarn. I need to rewind it and start anew and I'm ready for it. Of course, I'm just a wee bit side-tracked on my knitting. I'm constantly drawn to the ever convenient-to-carry-around sock #2. I've become re-enamoured with the portofino shawl. It's knitting up so beautifully and it feels so soft. I'm picturing myself sitting on the beach, watching the sunset, the shawl wrapped around my shoulders like a warm hug. That picture in my mind, along with the fact that we really have rented a beach house for a week in August, have led me to believe that perhaps I can truly knit an entire summer wardrobe! Yes, beachwear. A couple of tank tops, easy. Maybe a big, loosely knit swimsuit cover up. (No, Mike, I am NOT knitting that bikini!! At least not for wearing in public!) (He has been begging me to knit that for years. Those of you who know me personally know that me, in any bikini, would send young children screaming for their mothers!) Anyway, I've been browsing my knitting books and magazines, mentally assembling my summer wardrobe.

Okay, let's get real here. Tomorrow is April 1st. I'm not a fast knitter. My neighbor is about to have a baby and NEEDS knitted baby things. (She doesn't know this yet, but she will.) I have to face the fact that I will be lucky to finish the portofino shawl in time for the beach... and maybe one tank top, too, okay??

I only have one piece of yoga news, but it's very exciting: My friend Beth has offered to host my yoga class in her basement! I'm back, baby! I'm so excited to start teaching again; I didn't realize how much I missed it. Let me know if you are interested. (Thank you, Beth!)

"The Raw Food Detox Diet" is going pretty well, thanks for asking. I haven't actually weighed myself, since I hate being depressed, but some of my pants are looser than they were, so I think and hope I'm heading in the right direction. I'm just trying to do fruit/fresh juice until noon, and start with salads, and eat reasonably. Yes, it could very well be that I'm only wearing pants that are stretched out from wearing them before :-) We'll see. In the meantime, I want to share my absolute favorite recipe, slightly modified. This is from "The Raw Food Detox Diet" by Natalia Rose:

Hearty Corn Salad

3 portobello mushrooms, chopped
1/4 C balsamic vinegar
1/4 C olive oil
1 Tbs. maple syrup
3 C fresh corn, +/- (fresh is best, but I usually use thawed frozen corn)
2 scallions, sliced
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 tomato, diced small
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Whisk together the vinegar, oil and maple syrup. Marinate the mushrooms in this mixture for about an hour. Combine remaining ingredients in a bowl. Pour the mushroom mixture on top and mix well. That's it! Best eaten right away. Mike and I love this stuff. I can't wait for the summer corn to arrive, and tomatoes... it will be even better! I have added cucumbers, left out the tomatoes, added celery, it's all good.

I think that's it for now. I do have more to say, but I'll save it for another time. Sorry to go so long between posts! I'll try not to do that again. Leave me a comment! It's not much fun to write if no one reads it:-)

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Flirting With Summer

Today the temperature got up to nearly 80 degrees!! It was definitely a tease though; the temp is dropping already and the next few days are supposed to be considerably cooler. Isn't it amazing, though?? Just when you can't take ONE MORE DAY of stepping into your freezing closet, the temperature rises and all is right with the world again. By the same token, when you can't take another day of sweating in the closet by the end of August, the temperature drops. As though Mother Nature knows exactly how much you can take before you blow your stack. (note: Perhaps your closet is not located over the garage and against two outside walls, leaving it vulnerable to the whims of Ms. Nature. You get my drift :-)

Anyway, the warmer weather has most definitely whet my appetite for the foods of summer: salads, fruits, vegetables, grilled food. It all sounds great to me! Those gigantic zucchini, the ones I couldn't bear to look at by last September? Oh, I canNOT wait!! Spring is a time for new beginnings, for trying new things, for opening up your heart and mind to the possibilities. So, I will tell you about my latest journey into open-mindedness.

I received an email from my new friend, Marcia. (Hi, Marcia!) Okay, we've never actually met in person, but we've exchanged intimate info online, so we are now friends. Anyway, she invited me (and anyone else who was interested) to a class about raw foods. I responded that I would love to go, but couldn't make it to that particular class. I added that I just wanted to learn some more recipes; I am not actually interested in "going raw." I took a raw foods cooking class a couple of years ago in San Diego. It was fun, the food was great, it took the "experts" all day to cook an entire meal. They brought in laundry baskets full of greens which were quickly blended down into nothing. Seriously. There was just no way I would have the time, energy, money or refrigerator space to feed my family this way.

Marcia agreed, but asked me if I'd ever read a book called The Raw Food Detox Diet by Natalia Rose? No, I had not. She told me to check it out, so I did. I borrowed the book from the library and it was endlessly fascinating to me. Natalia says that you don't have to eat a completely raw diet to gain the benefits of raw foods. She has tons of information about "detoxing" your body, adding a few raw foods at a time, food combining, easy recipes, and so much more. Okay, stop rolling your eyes at me!! I know, I know. BUT, I have to say, I have recently developed some digestive problems. Nothing is really "wrong" with me, but I just seem to be having bad juju in the digestive area. Okay, I was desperate to try something, anything. This was interesting, new, fun, and perfect for warmer weather food.

I bought a juicer and I started drinking the green lemonade in the morning. This is good stuff; almost addictive! You simply juice romaine lettuce leaves, kale leaves, a lemon, 1 or 2 apples, and a chunk of ginger root. Tastes yummy and feels healthy! Mike held his nose, but he likes it, too, and seems disappointed if he misses his opportunity and I drink it all. The other thing I do is just eat fruit/fruit smoothies until noon. It's not hard and I get to eat fruit!! Am I detoxing? I don't know, but it's fun! Everyone loves smoothies!

The snack the family LOVES: Take a romaine leaf. Spread about 1 tablespoon of almond butter on one end. Squirt a little honey on top. Roll it up, like a spring roll. Man, it is delicious! It's got to be better for you than a bag of chips! (Hey! I'm not dogging the chips! I'm just saying....)

The salad dressings are really, really good. You can make the lemon dressing and then put it on grated cabbage with a few raisins and have a delicious coleslaw. I could go on, but I'm not sure how much I'm allowed to share before I start breaking some laws!

Bottom line: check out the book. I ended up buying it online for about $10. I don't know about the science or the detox or the weight loss, but I do know you'll find some fun, different recipes, perfect for this time of year.

As a natural segue, we will move from summer eating on to sweater knitting. (Sorry, but it must be discussed!) I'm talking about the cabled sweater I have been knitting (or not knitting) since last August. Okay, I found the pattern, I had the yarn, I loved them both, I started knitting. I knit the back, got a bit bored, moved on to other projects. Back to the sweater, knit one front piece, started the other side, hit a major snag: when knitting in the buttonholes, some beautiful, one row buttonholes I learned from Candace Eisner Strick at a knitting workshop, I screwed up. I knit one buttonhole on a purl row of the buttonband, and one on a knit row. I was only thinking about perfectly spacing them, NOT about the mechanics. They ended up not lining up. Obviously not lining up. Well, I was frozen. Could I live with the crooked buttonholes? No. Could I bear to rip out all that work? No. So, I did nothing. I ziplocked the baggie and moved on to other projects.

The sweater has been haunting me! I love it, I want it, I want to wear it. I don't know what happened. They say time heals all wounds, and I guess it's true. I just made the decision to rip out the entire piece of the sweater with the buggery buttonholes and start it over. I haven't actually ripped it out yet, mind you, but I've made the decision, so that's a start.

Springtime, starting over, fresh starts, open mind, open heart. (I knew I could tie it all together in the end!)

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Playing Catch Up

Okay, let's start with the phrase "playing catch up." This implies that you are behind, and you have work extra hard to catch up, right? Is there anything playful about that?

There is one thing that I rarely do: I rarely buy a bunch of yarn when I really don't have a project in mind for it. Oh, I might buy one or two skeins of something that catches my fancy. I know I can always come up with a hat, a pair of mittens, a scarf, or whatever. But eight balls? What was I thinking? I am talking about the Portofino yarn, of course. And let me confess right here and now: I bought it because it was a good buy. A good deal. A bargain, if you will. I liked the pale gray color, almost blue-ish gray. I liked the cotton blend. I liked the feel of the yarn, the texture and the drape. I liked the yarn; I just didn't love it. So... drop the price and I guess I'll buy anything.

So, I have a bunch of this yarn. Not enough for a sweater. Not enough for a big lace shawl. Not really the best yarn for a vest or a tank top; doesn't seem like it will hold it's shape very well. I'm starting to see why it was on clearance! I don't feel the need for a lightweight, cotton hat, or scarf, or mittens. Too flimsy for a bag. Not a good color for a baby. I think you get my drift.

So... I decided that it WILL be the perfect yarn for a shawl or a wrap of some sort. Yes, it WILL be. Some people wait for their yarn to tell them what it wants to be. I seem to be more of the wrestling type. First, I started with my knitting books. (I have a lot of them!) I thumbed through every single one but, alas, no suitable patterns. Next, I decided to browse my pattern collection. (Two notebooks full!) No dice. I turned to the magazines. This took a while. I frantically flipped through several years worth of several different knitting magazines. I was obsessed with this! Magazines in the kitchen, in the bathroom (duh!), in the laundry room, on the coffee table, on the dining room table. The worst part was when I found a pattern that was a "maybe," then I forgot which magazine it was in. I THOUGHT I'd remember, can you believe it? Oh, I'll remember, the one with striped sweater on the cover. Uh huh. After a few days of this, I had my "maybes."

I started swatching. Too open. Too tight! Too ugly. Very ugly. Ugly. Wrong gauge. Wrong.

Next, I whipped out good old Barbara Walker, volumes one and two. By this time, I had some sort of idea of what might work with my yarn. Believe it or not, I just couldn't envision it. Nothing in BW was floating my boat. I knew it was time to take a break, but I could not. A new magazine came in the mail. I frantically flipped through to see the picture of the ONE shawl. It was laceweight. It wasn't beautiful. I didn't covet it. I wanted something bigger. Still... I decided that it was the one. I didn't swatch or calculate my gauge or figure out how much yarn I had or how big it was going to be. I just cast on.

I knit a few pattern repeats and... the cast on edge was too tight. I ripped it out and started over. I knit a few pattern repeats (again) and... I liked it! It worked! It didn't look like the picture, thank goodness. The fabric felt soft, like a comfy sweatshirt. I roughly figured out how big it would be: perfect! I have the right amount of yarn. It's not too fancy, not too plain; it's just right.

With knitting, sometimes you have to plan and swatch and measure and calculate. Sometimes, you have to just do it. I cannot believe I've written an entire blog entry about this shawl. That's right, even MORE time spent lamenting the shawl!! It better be a good shawl. I'd better love it and carry it around with me all summer long and wear it out!! (Whether I love it or not, you will either see it on me or receive it as a gift!)

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Answers to Some Questions

I've had some questions about some of my previous posts, so here are some answers:

Pressure Cookers
  • Buy stainless steel
  • Make sure it's large enough. You can only fill them 2/3 or 3/4 full, so even though they look large, you will need a decent-sized pot to make a decent-sized batch of chili, or whatever. I think mine is the 7 liter size.
  • You will have to replace the rubber gasket at some point, and you may have to replace other parts, so make sure you can get in touch with the manufacturer, or whoever sells replacement parts. I think I replaced my gasket after 2 years, but your mileage may vary. It's inexpensive and easy to do.
  • There is no maintenance; just keep it clean and maybe rub some oil on the gasket to keep it supple.
  • Yes, you can freeze cooked beans. Just put them in freezer baggies in 1-1/2 or 2 cup portions (similar to a can of beans) and freeze. Cheap and easy!
  • Potatoes? Yes, here is a recipe: Cut a bunch of potatoes into bite-sized chunks and throw them into the pressure cooker. Any amount of potatoes, 1 pound or 2 pounds or whatever you have. Any kind of potatoes will work, though the starchier potatoes will fall apart more. Add 1 cup vegetable broth. Now you can add any kind of herbs you want; my kids like a few cloves of garlic, or you can add rosemary or whatever you like. Put on the lid on and bring it to high pressure. Lower heat and cook under high pressure for 3 or 4 minutes. Remove from heat, quick release and open the lid. I usually smash the potatoes around a bit with a spoon, add salt and pepper, you can add a drizzle of olive oil if you like, or minced fresh parsley. Eat. You will love these! I make them for lunch a lot; quick and easy and everybody's happy!
  • Yes, I did have a pressure cooker accident ONCE. The vent got clogged with chickpea skin. It wasn't a disaster and no one got hurt, just some spraying of chickpea juice. It was my fault. First, I filled the cooker too full, and I knew it; I just wanted to use up all my chickpeas. Second, I did NOT add a tablespoon of oil to prevent sticking to and clogging of the vent, as I knew I should. Third, I had fair warning. The cooker was making a funny sound. I heard it, I ignored it. It won't happen again :-)


  • Yes, I do want to teach again. I'm looking for a place to teach and I'll keep you posted!
  • I have many, many yoga books that I love. I will try to review some of them on the blog, eventually. One of my favorites is definitely The Spirit and Practice of Moving into Stillness by Erich Schiffman. It is suitable for all levels, beautifully written, and will teach you a lot about yoga and different philosophies. Right now, I am working with Yoga Mind, Body and Spirit by Donna Farhi. It is also suitable for everyone. The thing I am especially enjoying about this book is that the approach is different from what I learned and usually practice. Donna teaches you how to approach the pose through and with the breath, which is different from the structural way I usually practice. She also emphasizes learning how to feel the pose in your body. I like this, since many people want to see themselves in the mirror!
  • I do not regularly practice with yoga videos or dvds. I think they are great, but they just don't work for me. I don't like to constantly have to look up to see what's going on! On the other hand, I own several videos and have learned a lot from just watching them. I've gotten a lot of great ideas from videos. They are worth the investment, even if it's just for inspiration. My preference would be a video done by a "yoga person," as opposed to a "fitness person."


  • You are right, I haven't been knitting that much lately! (Okay, no one asked me about that:-) The skin on my right thumb got so dry that it just split open. It stayed an open sore for a few days, which was very painful and uncomfortable and not conducive to knitting! It healed, but then I had the dry chunks of skin, which caught on the yarn constantly. I'm happy to report that it's healed now and I'm back to knitting!
  • Yes, I do have 2 of the Barbara Walker Treasuries, Volumes 1 and 2. I bought them online, used, and I love them. They are worth the price just for the sheer inspiration. In case you aren't familiar, the BW books were the 70s I think. They are simply huge books filled with stitch patterns and black and white photos of each one. Barbara does comment on many of the patterns and offers suggestions, but it's basically just a springboard for your own patterns and imagination. Oh, FYI, there is now a website where people are posting color photos of stitch patterns from the BW books.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend! I'm posting without photos because Mike is "ready to go!" More soon, with pictures, I promise :-)

Friday, March 2, 2007

Aging Gracefully

For as long as I can remember, I wondered why people dreaded getting older. Why was it so bad? Why did people dread it, fight it, avoid it? From a very young age, I remember thinking that I would be different. I would embrace aging. I was going to age gracefully.

My first sliver of reality occurred at the age of 19. I was brushing my hair and saw something glimmering in the bathroom light. I looked closer. Could it be? No. No way. I was only 19! No way did I have a gray hair! I carefully examined my entire scalp, using mirrors and positions I now only dream about. Well, that was it. Only one. It had to be some sort of fluke. I carefully plucked it out of my head and threw it into the garbage can. The kitchen garbage can. Underneath some other stuff.

Somewhere in my mid-twenties, I noticed a couple more gray hairs. Just a couple. They didn't really bother me. When I was 33 and pregnant with my son, my hairdresser said, "Whoa! After you have that kid, give me a call and I'll take care of those grays for you!" That's exactly what I did. It's okay, I reasoned. Curly hair that grays early runs in our family. No big deal.

I've been through years of coloring, highlighting, orange hair, chunky streaks, you name it. Every six months or so I think back to my promise to myself about aging gracefully. I decide to let my gray grow in. I usually last a couple of months or so; then I see my grandmother's face staring back at me from the mirror (the one with the curly gray hair), and it's back to the coloring. One time, a friend I hadn't seen for a while said, "What is up with your hair????" "Uhmmm, I'm trying to be more natural?" I whispered, hopefully. "Yeah, well, you look old. Here's the phone, call the salon or I will." And I folded, just like that.

And so it goes.

When I was pregnant with my daughter, I gained 54 pounds. I lost 60 pounds fairly easily and was wearing a bikini the next summer. I silently wondered what all the fuss was about. Baby fat? No problem. Those were the days when I could eat an apple for dinner for two or three nights and drop 5 pounds.

Then I hit 40-ish. I don't remember the date, but I remember the jeans. (I might even still have them.) I'd spent the summer wearing stretchy shorts and loose-fitting skirts, and when the weather turned cooler, I pulled out my jeans. They were too tight and riding right up my butt. Huh. I must have put these in the dryer... for a really long time... and forgot about them. So, I pulled out the Gap khakis. Same story. Shrunk in the dryer? Suddenly it hit me: I had gained weight. I was shocked and appalled. Okay, I can deal with this. I spent the winter in stretchy elastic waisted pants from Costco. I tried every diet you can think of: low carb, low fat, cabbage soup, rice, grapefruit... did I forget any? I jogged, I aerobicised, I lifted weights. I never got back into those jeans. Now, at age 46, I am starting to slowly accept that this is my body, and it's as good as it's ever going to be.

I don't think I'll go into the sagging body parts. Let's just say that everything that was once pert and perky is no longer.

My latest aging woe has hit me hard. I injured my back about 4 years ago, and it was a bad one. The doctor said it was probably a pulled muscle. Then it moved into my hip and down my leg into sciatica. I went to a chiropractor. Oh, yes, I was all out of alignment. He adjusted me and it helped, for a while, but it never really totally healed. A sudden movement could send my back into spasms and cause pain for days. The acupuncturist helped, too, for a while.

For the past couple of months, the pain has been progressing. I resisted seeing anyone, thinking that it was going to heal. All by itself. Okay, I'd buy a new mattress, then it would be better. I'd find some magic supplement, I'd eat right, I'd exercise right, I'd lose weight, I'd meditate. Somehow, it was going to get better, I just knew it, I held on to that hope. Maybe even a miracle would occur! A miracle cure! Maybe I could cure myself?

Meanwhile, I was in pain. I broke down and made an appointment at the chiropractor everyone I know recommended to me. (Thank you, Kelly and Anne and Karen!) He was wonderful. The Derek Jeter of chiropractors. He listened to my story, then expertly ran his fingers down my spine. "Oh, there it is, " he said. Yes, that was the spot. "Yeah, it's the disc at L4. You have sort of twisted your spine in compensation, and you have tightened up right here." He touched below my left shoulder blade. Yes, more pain, he was right. "You know," he said, matter-of-factly, "once you have a disc injury, it never really totally heals. You will always have a weak spot there, for the rest of your life." I don't know why, but for just a moment, my world stopped. For the rest of my life?? So, I wasn't going to get better? I wasn't going to be able to practice all those yoga twists? I wasn't even going to be able to practice headstand variations? This was it? It was all over????

Okay, it wasn't just yoga. I have to be careful any time I bend over to pick something up. I even have to watch it when I step into my pants in the morning. Secretly, in my heart of hearts, I knew. I knew it was a disc, and I knew the injury would always be with me. Still, until I heard someone say it to me, I could deny it. Those days were over.

So, the good doc feels my cervical spine and moves my head around a little, and says, "Oh, you've also lost a little bit of rotation in your neck." "No I haven't!" He smiled, then demonstrated how my head moved easily in one direction and not so the other way. "I couldn't have lost rotation; I do YOGA!" I exclaimed. "That probably helped, and helped your shoulder, too. It could be a lot worse."

I got my adjustment. I bought the supplements and I'm taking them. I've made my next appointment. I came home, and I cried. Yes, you do gain wisdom and confidence, and the wrinkles aren't so bad. It's the loss of the dreams that hurts. And now, I get to put my resolution of aging gracefully to the test.