Maine or bust!

Monday, September 24, 2012

A Different Way to Preserve, and Actual Knitting Content!

I had a brainstorm the other day. Doesn't happen often that I'm struck with a genius idea out of the blue, but I was on Sunday. My grocery store sometimes has some decent finds on the "half-price produce" rack, and other times, it's either all junk or there's no rack at all. On Sunday, however, I hit the jackpot. Pint after pint of gorgeous grape tomatoes (those super-sweet little oval cherry ones). Ten pints. Normal price is $2.99 a pint. I paid a buck a piece for them. And the worst I came across was maybe a little mold on one or two per pint. All in all, a total steal! But what was I going to do with ten pints of cherry tomatoes? Never fear, I had a plan :)

They were so juicy and so pretty, I couldn't resist. And when you find out what I did with them, you may set aside a plant or two next year for just this purpose.

It's okay to pack the baking sheet this tightly, because as they dry, they'll pull away from each other. That's right, I set my oven to 200F and tossed the sheet in there overnight (it was more like five sheets... this was the last batch). The next morning, I had this:

Imagine if someone decided to make a tomato candy. A complex, rich, sweet, smoky candy that just brought back your happiest summer afternoons when a bonfire in the evening was just starting to sound like a good idea. Now imagine if that candy was not only delicious, but also had no sugar added, and was good for you! These crunchy/chewy little morsels are hard to pack away, because you just want to keep popping them in your mouth. I now have a quart jar full of dried ones, and once the last batch comes out of the oven tomorrow, I'll have a couple of four ounce jars of them packed in olive oil. SO GOOD. You can either eat these dry, or you can rehydrate them in soups, sauces, casseroles... I'd like to add some to turkey sausages for a more complex flavour.

Now, onto the knitting.... I have actually been working on knitting, I promise! :) Here's a hat I cast on Saturday afternoon during can-a-palooza!

Knit out of Gedifra Airmix (discontinued) that I got at Knit Knackers very shortly after I first learned to knit, this is the Bankhead Hat by Susie Gourlay. This stuff is a dream to knit with. It's wool and cotton mixed, it's fluffy, it's soft, and it's warm! For some reason, when this time of year rolls around, I get a hat fixation and I have to knit a half-dozen of them before I'm satisfied. Which is odd, because I don't wear hats. What I really need is some fingerless mittens, because my forearms and hands get really cold. Like right now.... the rest of me is perfectly warm, but my arms and wrists are frozen.

So, of course, I'm knitting a sleeveless, off-the-shoulder sweater. UGH. It's pretty though :) I love the chartreuse shade I picked. The top is Tempting by Jenna Adorno, knit out of Jill Eaton's Minnow Merino in Celery and it's available on Knitty. Another thick, poofy, soft cloud of a yarn. Although this one fluffs something awful, and it tends to untwist itself slightly. Also, don't use invisible joins with this stuff. I had two come apart before I clued in (had to duplicate-stitch those back up). It's pretty, but not terribly practical...

But OH SO PRETTY!!!! And soft! I'm loving it :) I've also made a bit of progress with Rob's kitchen curtain. I'm on the last pattern repeat before the top garter stitch. I'm debating whether to have eyelets for the curtain rod to snake through or having a fold-over tab to slide it through. Decisions, decisions....

I should probably point out that this is only the bottom panel. As they're café-style curtains, there's a small upper panel as well, but he really just wants the bottom one. This is knit out of Estelle Cadenza which was given to me by a friend who was destashing it a few years ago. It's tried to be a few things since then, but this is what it really wanted to be. Cadenza is a (sadly) discontinued yarn made from merino and silk and it's lovely to knit with. Please excuse my mismatched stitch markers. The only way I can knit lace and retain my sanity is to have a stitch marker every pattern repeat. The pattern in this case is this one from Knitting on the Net's online stitch dictionary. I adapted the bottom, side and top borders, but it's basically just miles of Triple Chevron lace :)

And that's what I've been up to lately. The Riverbed socks have been entirely ripped back and will be started again when I can face the idea of knitting socks for someone else, since I know they'll never fit me. The plain vanilla socks will be picked up again the first time my feet get cold, I'm sure! Rhinebeck is only three and a half weeks away!!!!!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Preparing for the Zombie Apocalypse...

... in my own special way ;)

This weekend, I had no plans whatsoever. None. I was a girl without a plan (errr... clue). So of course, I decided to can ALL THE THINGS!!!!! Seriously dudes, I produced so much canning this weekend that the zombies can come at me any time they want. I'm ready.

I started out with something I've been *talking* about making for weeks, if not months. That's right, Marissa McLellan's Cantaloupe Vanilla Jam from the Food in Jars cookbook! This jam... it's complex and yet simple at the same time. I need to watch a few more tutorials on how to scrape vanilla beans though, because those suckers are NOT easy to work with. Maybe I just need a better knife. Anyway, after much frustration and cursing at the vanilla beans, I ended up with this:

Every year for New Year's Day, my aunt Nicky invites the entire family over for brunch. And every year, it is tradition that a basket of croissants and a variety of "different" jams be placed on the table. This year, this is going to be one of those jams. I was supposed to pickle a whole bunch of carrots, so I got everything ready, had the pickling spice in my freshly-sterilized jars and was ready to just put the carrots in when I opened the bag and... all my carrots were covered with black rot. Boo! But I had gotten some asparagus for an excellent price earlier in the day, so pickled carrots became pickled asparagus!

Five pints of this lovely stuff now grace my pantry - the sixth went to live at Kari's house. I can hardly wait the two weeks you're supposed to let these sit. I love asparagus, I love pickled asparagus, and this is MINE. This is kind of a combination between Marissa's Pickled Asparagus recipe and Williams-Sonoma's Crunchy Pickled Carrots recipe. There's lemon, there's dill, there's pickling spice, but I didn't have any cider vinegar, so I made it with plain old white. I had prepared seven jars though, because my new canning pot (with a RACK!) holds seven and the recipe was supposed to make nine. So I had this pickling spice sitting around in a jar... I couldn't just toss it.

BAM! One lonely little jar of zucchini pickles! I had a zucchini in the fridge, so I sliced it super thick, made up a bit more pickling brine, and off I went. So now I have eleven jars sitting on my counter, and I know I have this huge bag of yellow plums in my fridge that won't last forever, so.... Marissa to the rescue again. I used her Spiced Plum Jam recipe (from the cookbook again) and ended up with this:

Three pints of pure heaven! I didn't get quite four pints out of it, but I got three and a bit, and Kari says it tastes fantastic (she got the "and a bit" and apparently had it for breakfast this morning. I was concerned that it would be too tart because the plums were REALLY firm, but she said it was just the perfect balance of tart, sweet and spicy. YAY!

So this morning, I was in the shower when I suddenly decided that I really needed to do something with the huge bag of onions I got on the half price rack at the grocery store before they met the same fate as the carrots (which weren't half price!). I waffled between making onion chutney, onion relish, and finally decided to just bloody pickle them! Now I've made pickled onions in the past, but never with full-sized onions. I'd only used pearl ones before. In addition, I didn't have a recipe. I was just flying by the seat of my pants. Turns out, I'm pretty good at flying by the seat of my pants, so I present to you...

Sweet Balsamic Pickled Onions

8 lbs onions, halved and cut in thirds cross-wise (to make thick half-circles)
1 1/2 cups balsamic vinegar
2 1/2 cups white vinegar
4 cups water
2 Tbsp coarse salt
1 cup sugar
3 Tbsp pickling spices, divided among jars
3 sprigs fresh dill (optional)
3 quart-sized canning jars

Sterilize your jars by submerging them in water, and bringing the pot to a boil. Boil for ten minutes, then remove from heat (but do not remove jars from water). Place the lids (the little flat part only) in a small pan of water and simmer.

Chop your onions and set aside.

In a large pot, combine the vinegars and water. Add the salt and sugar, and bring the liquid to a boil. Once the liquid has boiled, remove your pots from the water they've been resting in. Add 1 Tbsp pickling spices and one sprig of dill to each jar. Pack each jar with onion slices until you reach the narrow neck.

Ladle the hot vinegar mixture into the jars, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. Place the lids on the jars, tightening the band just until it resists (i.e. fingertip tight). Once all the jars are filled, put them back in the hot water (you may have to bail some out to prevent overflow) and return to a boil. Once a rolling boil has been reached, process the jars for 20 minutes.

Remove jars from heat and set aside to cool. Let jars rest for 3-4 weeks to fully develop flavours. Enjoy!

©2012 Lynne Toll at

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Blog Roll, and a bit of boring...

I was kicking butt and taking names this morning, even though I felt like a walking corpse.

  • I cooked lunch for the kids and I (that sounds a lot fancier than it was - it was just last night's red rice and shredded tofu leftovers with some chipotle sausage chunks and mozzarella thrown in).
  • Got everyone outfitted in clean clothes (which is a monumental task when the minions won't bring their clothes to the laundry room to be cleaned and I can't walk into their obstacle course bedrooms).
  • Signed permission slips and found enough money to pay the outing fees even though SOMEONE only gave me the slip at 7:30 this morning as we were supposed to be leaving the house (money was given in quarters. I apologized to her teacher at the bottom of the slip).
  • Packed myself a healthy lunch to keep up with food goals (so far, so good!).
  • Went in to pay my daughter's school fees (last year, I think it was November before I got that done...)
  • Forgot to bring myself a diet coke, so no caffeine yet today.... wups.
Okay, that last one kind of sucked, and I'll be going out shortly to get myself something to drink. The other thing that kind of sucked this morning was that it was chilly, so I wore my lace sweater... and I pulled a thread on it going through the front door at the school. Fixable, but a pain in the ass. This sweater:

(Okay, that looks like crap with a shiny turquoise tanktop underneath it, but I can assure you, it looks quite nice with the dark red one I'm wearing today... not that it does ANYTHING AT ALL to flatter...)

I went to the gym last night and did gym-type things. Two days in a row? Not so much. I was doing fine at first, and then my body just gave out. The recumbent bike was probably the hardest. I really need to find a way to increase my ability on the bike, because it's depressing me. Tonight will be a walk, because I can probably manage that without hurting myself (the other thing - exercising while sick? ugh...)

As for knitting, I got a few inches done on Tempting at school the other night (two-hour presentation on library resources - YAY, knitting time!). Last night, I didn't feel like doing endless K2,P2 rib, so I picked up Rob's kitchen curtain and got five rows done on the last pattern repeat. That means thirteen rows to go, and I can start the garter stitch for the curtain rod! He may get it before his birthday! Sock hasn't been touched, because I'm waiting until I can concentrate on it. The other projects don't require that much thought. 

I figured I'd close off today by sharing the blogs I read regularly. Then I'll link them on the right so everybody can enjoy them! 

  1. First, of course, is the blog of my good friends Sue and Kari - Two Tangled Skeins. This is the blog for their podcast of the same name. Sue also has an etsy shop where she sells hand-made cards and stitch-markers.
  2. My not-so-secret addiction? The Yarn Harlot's blog. I have met Stephanie twice, taken classes with her, and she is a fantastically funny person. She's one of those straight-faced, sarcastic funny people, and she's my personal knitting hero :)
  3. Two Sides of the Same Stitch. I was privileged to be able to take classes with both Kellie and Gwen this year at Stitches Midwest, and I really enjoy their banter and their knowledge!
  4. Northwest Edible Life - you didn't think I just read knitting blogs, did you?
  5. Dog Island Farm - At one point I was reading about 20 "urban homesteading" blogs... I'm down to two. Be thankful LOL
  6. Just Bento - I looooooooove bento meals. They fascinate me! My favourite sushi place offers vegetable tempura on a bento-type platter with several different little treats in it!
  7. Food in Jars - I started reading Marissa's blog on a whim, and now it's become one of my first stops every morning. She recently came out with a cookbook (same name) that I bought and love! I've already tried a few of her recipes, and I highly recommend them!
  8. Wayside - this is my friend Amanda's blog. It's got a bit of everything. Cooking, knitting, spinning, dyeing... you name it, Amanda talks about it (she also has her own etsy shop selling naturally-dyed yarns.
Now you know what I do all day (other than writing cheques, paying bills and the other fun stuff a financial secretary gets to do...). Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Simple joy :)

I feel like crap right now (got a sinus infection, joy) and I'm tired, and things are a bit up in the air in several areas of my life (most of them financial), but then I saw this, and it made me so happy, I cried.

This guy started traveling in 2003, and filming his friends and himself dancing in odd spots. Then he started getting other people to dance, and nine years later, this is what he's up to (his name is Matt Harding, and his site is called "Where the hell is Matt?"

Anyway, I just thought I'd share this with you guys, since it made me really happy, and I figured it might do the same for one or two of you.

Things that make me happy: picking and/or eating something I grew myself (hasn't happened in a long time), reading a book I can lose myself in, movies that make me forget time passing, watching my kids discover something amazing, closing my eyes and savoring something that tastes awesome, holding hands with Rob for no reason, hugs, laughing with my friends until we're all about ready to puke, singing, dancing with a baby in my arms, seeing a shelf full of jars of things I made, watching someone enjoy something I cooked/knit/made for them, stretching out in crisp, clean sheets, smelling fresh-mown grass, seeing the water trickle or roar over the rocks at the dam on my way home.

What are your happy triggers?

Monday, September 17, 2012

I know... I promised knitting!

But the Tempting top is in time-out right now. My invisible joins? The ones I was so thrilled to learn about? Yeah... one of them came apart when I was about 10 rows further on. Now I have to duplicate stitch the bloody thing to cover the loose ends and make sure it doesn't come apart. Needless to say, I am annoyed with the sweater and have put it in the corner so it can think about what it did.

I did get a few rows done on Rob's kitchen curtain (yes, that one. No, it's not finished. He'll get it when I'm done). I also finished the heel flap on my first sock and I'm three rows away from finishing another charity hat  - I left it in the middle of the decreases to go to Kari's for lunch on Saturday. We made some Parmesan baked squash (kumbota, I think) and shrimp marinated in Frank's Red Hot sauce that was to DIE for :) Then we headed over to Sue's (with a few hiccups along the way) to record an episode of their podcast. Check them out if you're into knitting or just want to watch two whackos have a good time! You can find them on blip, youtube and iTunes as "twotangledskeins" or just follow this link! It's really worth checking out! 

Sunday mainly included being lazy, going to my mom's for dinner and having baby time. After we got home, I chopped up what seemed like an enormous amount of tomatoes, cooked them up a bit and ended up with this:

Yup. That's all. Six pints of tomatoes. (Well, five pints in jars and one in a plastic container in my fridge). That was depressing. Granted, they cost me less than the grocery store ones, and there's no salt added to them (just plain tomatoes and a bit of lemon juice to adjust the pH level). I did them according to Marisa McLellan's method at Food in Jars. Maybe next year I'll be able to grow tomatoes and not have to buy them at the farmer's market. I didn't end up getting around to the plums, because I only have one burner on my stove, so the tomatoes took FOREVER. Yeah... ONE burner. Landlord apparently has a new range for me in the basement, but it's still sitting down there.

Tonight is going to be spent doing laundry, reading for school, relaxing with the kids. Here's what we did for the squash: quarter a kumbota squash and remove the seeds. drizzle with a bit of olive oil (to prevent sticking and add a pat of butter to each quarter. Sprinkle with allspice and bake at 350°F for 45 minutes. 5 minutes before the end, add 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese to each quarter. 

The marinade for the shrimp was just a bit of olive oil, a lot of Frank's Red Hot sauce and a bit of honey to cut the spice. We let them sit until the squash was done, then pan-fried them until they were pink. SO GOOD. (granted, we both REALLY like spicy food - your mileage may vary!)

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The fruits of my not-quite labours...

This post is very pic-heavy, so be warned! I just figured I'd show you all what I've been up to this week... I roasted a few pumpkins:

I cut up a bunch of fruit to freeze (the idea here is to make jam when it's a bit cooler in my un-air-conditioned kitchen!):

Those are frozen kiwis and apples on the top shelf, and trays of pears,
strawberries and peaches on the bottom one. Please forgive the ugly ice packs.

These are Bing cherries (lots more in the bottom of the freezer),
pumpkin puree from last summer, and an absolutely stupid amount of
frozen rhubarb from my mom's garden!

Something new I found this year - PLUMCOTS!!! I can't wait to try
these. Just going to do these plain because I want their flavour to shine.
And while I was digging around in my late mother-in-law's old recipe booklets, guess what I found? A VINTAGE BALL BLUE BOOK!!!! For a home canner, this is like finding a Guttenberg bible!

No idea what year it's from,but the cover price is 10ø!
And yet to be processed are some yellow plums I got an EXCELLENT deal on, and some roma tomatoes from the Orleans Fruit Farm. I bought some crab apples too, but the kids gobbled those, so none for canning.

(Sorry those pics are fuzzy... I was literally taking pictures into the bottom of my fridge). And of course, there's this weekend's project... the cantaloupe!

This - and the gorgeous display Mother Nature puts on - is the reason I love fall so much. It's a time of preparation, of anticipation. It's a time where we put things by, like squirrels and bees, to get us through the long, cold darkness of winter. It's a time for knitting cozy warm things, and for stewing fruits and vegetables on the stove in anticipation of these things becoming scarce (or at least prohibitively expensive). It's a time of apples and pumpkins and spicy goodness, and a time to kick piles of leaves while walking in the forest. It truly is a time of thanksgiving for all that we are given. I hope you all take the time to enjoy it to the fullest!

Next post: KNITTING!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

With the smallest of efforts...

The smallest effort is not lost. Each wavelet on the ocean tost aids in the ebb-tide or the flow; each rain-drop makes some floweret blow; each struggle lessens human woe.                                                                                           ~ Charles Mackay

I have no idea who Charles Mackay is, but I like him :) Day three has dawned bright and early. And the change in seasons means that I just want to bury myself ever-deeper in the covers and sleep until noon. Especially on a day where I spent the previous evening peeling and chopping kiwis for the freezer so they wouldn't spoil before I could use them in jam! I'll confess I probably went to bed a tiny bit later than I should have. 

I stayed on track food-wise yesterday. Ate about 200 calories more than the previous day, but still kept well under my goal. I was kind of peckish around bedtime, but I figured it'd keep until morning. I also did my walk at lunch time, but didn't end up going to the gym later in the evening.  My right ankle was a bit weird, and I didn't want to push it. Got on the scale this morning (yes, I know, I'm obsessing), and with two short days of concerted effort, I am down FOUR POUNDS. Holy Toledo! See, now THAT kind of result is motivating! I have a long way to go, but THAT kind of success makes me want to blow my goals out of the water. 

I've been kind of bummed at the lack of knitting time lately. Other than at knit night, I never have time to touch it. Part of that is because renos in my apartment mean there's a new mess waiting for me every night when I get home (red brick dust everywhere), and because I'm trying to keep the house neater, I'm actually doing, y'know, HOUSEWORK in the evenings. There's also the fact that I'm back at school, so are the kids, and they've started swimming lessons again as well. Busy family is busy! If I'm going to finish Tempting before Rhinebeck - remember Rhinebeck? I'm going to Rhinebeck! - I need to bust a move on it!

So many fantastic things should be happening in my kitchen, but I've a) not got the space right now, and b) not got the time... ARGH. I do hope to get at least one batch of jam out of the way on Saturday. That cantaloupe in the fridge isn't going to last forever. So that's why cooking posts have been scarce of late. I did make an awesome batch of cabbage soup at my mother's last weekend. I can't remember if I've shared that recipe before, but Mom swears it's as good as the Habitant canned cabbage soup we used to get when I was a kid (that's high praise indeed from my mom!)

There are endless variations on cabbage soup. You can add carrots, you can add tomatoes, you can add pork sausage if you want. But this is my basic recipe (which was arrived at when trying to reverse my mom's favorite canned cabbage soup LOL)

Simple Cabbage Soup

1 head cabbage, quarted and shredded
2 large or 4 small onions, quartered and thinly sliced
2 Tbsp olive oil
2-3 quarts of low-sodium beef stock
black pepper to taste
1/2 tsp celery seed

Heat olive oil in a wok over medium-high heat. Add cabbage and onion, stirring to coat. Sauté until softened, about 8 minutes. THIS STEP IS VERY IMPORTANT. If you do not sauté the vegetables before cooking the soup, you will get that god-awful boiled cabbage smell all through your house, and you'll be forbidden to ever make it again! That, and the sautéing process imparts a wonderful nutty flavor to the cabbage! DO EET.

Once the cabbage and onion has softened, transfer to a large stock pot. Add beef stock, celery seed and black pepper to pot, and return to medium heat. Bring to a rolling boil and reduce to a simmer. Continue simmering for 20-30 minutes. Serves 10-12.

©2012, Lynne Toll at

This soup freezes beautifully, which is why my mother has me make it for her several times a year (she asks once she's run out of the frozen stuff). It's also DIRT CHEAP to make, especially if you use a box of bovril instead of liquid stock, or if you use HOMEMADE stock (gah... I can never do this - I have no space to keep it!). Cabbage is often 69¢ a pound or so. This last time, I added a head of Napa to it (yummy!) which added a bit of sweetness to the soup, so I added a 1/4 tsp of celery salt to offset that. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


Yesterday went well. I managed to keep my fat intake at 40% of my total calories (that seems a slightly more attainable goal than 33%) and although I didn't manage to get to the gym, I did walk to school and back - which is 1.25 miles each way! I did DRIVE to the gym... only to discover that I had left my gym bag (and thus, exercise-appropriate clothing) at home on the couch. SIGH.

I've recently become enamored of this blog here: Just Bento. I love bento!!! Little bits of different things all packed together like a present really appeals to me. It also helps limit portions, which is something I have a lot of trouble with. Now while I haven't rushed out to buy myself a bento kit, I do have a few Rubbermaid containers that will do the trick of containing the whole thing (the one I've been using this week is a tad small and I've had to squash things or pack them separately, I'll be moving up to the next size tomorrow). So yesterday and today, I packed myself little bentos for dinner and lunch. Last night's dinner was pancetta with raw veggies and dip, and a coco de nata pudding for dessert. Today's lunch was turkey meatballs with peanut sauce, more raw veggies and dip, and some dill pickles on the side. Breakfast involved a "thin" bagel (they're about the size of a slice of bread) and a pear.

So at lunch today, I had to walk to the bank to pay some bills for the office, so I figured I'd walk to the dollar store on my way back. The bank and the dollar store are in opposite directions from my office, so I ended up walking 1.13 miles! YAY! The whole point of the visit to the dollar store was to obtain..... *drum roll* STICKERS. I bought a lot of stickers, y'all. I got heart stickers and butterfly stickers, and cutesy animal stickers and dolphin & shark stickers and Winnie the Pooh stickers... I may have gone slightly overboard with the stickers. But my September calendar now has TWO shiny new stickers on it (we went with a heart and a little chibi horse today) for my exercise and eating yesterday!

I had my first class last night - I'm taking a course called "Lexique du français moderne" and it's really interesting, if really REALLY technical and a bit heavy. I think I'm going to like this one. Granted, I can't knit in class (too much note-taking involved), but I did get a bit of knitting done on Tempting during the break. I can't wait until Friday night when I can work on it uninterrupted again! Yes, I do spend a good deal of my non-knitting time wishing I was knitting... I may be slightly obsessed.

This weekend is going to be a bit crazy. I have ALL THE FRUITS to deal with in my kitchen. I went for groceries and they had big bags of kiwis for half-price (they're a tiny bit soft). CHEAP KIWIS. I may have bought them all *ahem*. This makes five different kinds of jam & preserves that need to be dealt with soonish. The apples are frozen, as are the cherries and the peaches, but that's still a lot of fruit to deal with. Peaches, pears, apples, cherries, plums, cantaloupe, kiwis. Holy fall harvest, Batman! I'm not even sure I have jars for all of this, even including the ones I brought back from Rob's. Never mind the ridiculous number of onions I bought last week to perhaps pickle or perhaps make onion chutney with... OH CRAP. I forgot about the tomatoes!! GAH! (if anybody wants to come over and help me can, I will be your willing slave forever... wait... no, I'll just be really grateful!)

It's been brought to my attention that many people have difficulty posting comments. I choose to believe that this is why I get so few of them (and not because I get, like, zero traffic LOL). Sorry about that. Apparently it's a known Blogger issue, but I didn't know about it before I signed up! I'll do a bit of research and see if it's worth my while to move everything over to another site. In the meantime, those of you who are facebook friends can leave me comments there (and several of you have been) or if you really wanna tell me off for something, my email address is listed at the top right of the main page :) Cheers!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A Renewal of Faith...

Just about everyone who knows me knows that I've been struggling to lose weight recently. What a lot of you don't know is that I've been struggling with my weight for about 25 years. I first became aware of my "body image" when I was 12 years old. Puberty had been kicking my ass for a couple of years by this point, and I noticed that I was starting to fill out a bit more than I liked. I had grown about a foot between turning 10 and turning 11, and suddenly stopped growing, so I was not at all used to the body I was now finding myself stuck with.

All through my teen years, I felt fat. I wore baggy clothes and half the time wouldn't wear a bra to school. I stopped taking care of myself... only showered when my parents forced me to, didn't brush my hair half the time, etc. Puberty had left me with a rather monumental set of breasts, and they had attracted some unwanted attention before I even left grade school, so I wasn't eager to show my body off at all. We had very poor eating habits at home - usually some pasta from a box thing (oh the disgusting stroganoff... I hated this stuff with every fiber of my being, and my dad would make me sit at the table until I had finished the whole thing - sometimes it was 9 or 10pm before I got to leave the table!), very few vegetables (and they were all canned), and a bowl of either popcorn or chips in front of the television every night.

Looking back at pictures of myself now, I wasn't fat. I wasn't in shape, but I certainly wasn't fat. That didn't come until I got pregnant. I was probably about 10 lbs or so overweight when I got pregnant in the spring of 1998. Suddenly, I was eating all the time, and I mean ALL the time. I was not exercising at all, first due to morning sickness, then due to sciatica, but mostly due to laziness. I ballooned from 170lbs to 245 when I delivered. The entire time, I had been asking my OB if I was gaining too much weight, and he kept telling me not to worry about it. I used that as justification to sit on my ass and do nothing. A walk to the grocery store (all of two blocks) the day before I went into labor just about killed me. I had to sit on the stoop outside the store for about 30 minutes to recover.

Over the next thirteen years, I've gained and lost and gained and lost and gained and gained and gained. I've tried South Beach several times and am now finally deciding that it's too restrictive and I end up doing worse than I would if I just ate reasonably. I've gone through periods of absolute obsession with the scale, stepping on at random times during the day, weighing myself every single day and going crazy over the numbers. I've gone through periods of regular physical activity and other periods where I was binge eating on a regular basis and barely moving at all. I've gone through brief periods of feeling and looking fantastic and (longer) periods of looking and feeling like a tub of lard.

I've been telling Rob the last few days that I think I've been going about this the wrong way. I keep failing because I don't SEE any changes in myself, and so I give up. I need a tangible, VISIBLE means of tracking my progress, and I think the stickers will help with that. I need the positive reinforcement, but it has to come from ME. I grew up with far too much negative reinforcement in my life, and it's time to buck that trend.

Currently, I'm going to the gym twice a week and trying to walk a set distance on the days I don't go to the gym. I was trying to stick to South Beach and that just wasn't going well. So what's the plan? The plan, currently, is to simply reduce my food intake to a certain caloric amount, and to try to limit the fat portion of that caloric amount to no more than 33%. Each day I reach that goal, I get a sticker :) Each day I do my physical activity for the day (either going to the gym or walking my minimum time/distance), I get another sticker. If I hit a certain number of stickers in a given month, I get a small treat - either a book I've been wanting, or a CD or a ball of yarn or SOMETHING that's not food-related. These are my rewards for treating myself properly and making myself a bit healthier (I'm toying with the idea of adding a bigger reward if I have a perfect month - like a piece of new clothing, but I'm not there yet).

I know I can do this because I believe I'm worth doing it for. More importantly, my boyfriend and my kids believe I'm worth doing it for. The kids have been going out walking with me and encouraging me at every turn. Rob has been my number one fan and cheering section. I'm always going to be a curvy girl (even bone-thin at 14, I had wide hips and boobs), but that doesn't mean I can't be a healthy one!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Truly, Madly, Deeply..... CRAZY

My upstairs neighbour plays guitar. This normally doesn't bother me, even when he plays late at night. Today, however, he's been trying to teach himself Savage Garden's Truly, Madly, Deeply. This means he's playing the song over and over again trying to get certain bits right. So far, I have counted FORTY-SEVEN repetitions of the damn song. Now I like Savage Garden as much as the next girl, but COME ON!!!!!

*deep breath*

In other news, I woke up to a lovely thunderstorm this morning. I don't think there's anything in the world quite like waking up to pattering rain and rolling thunder in your storm-darkened bedroom, knowing that there's nothing at all you need to leave the bed for. I did eventually get up, but it was such a nice feeling. Last week, I called my boss at the store and quit my job :) Best. Feeling. EVER!!!!! So now my weekends are my own and I'm enjoying the new-found freedom.

Anyway, after I dragged my sorry butt out of bed, I sat at my desk and got frustrated at all the semi-balls of yarn lying around that I've used for various projects. I decided to do something about it, picked up two leftover bits of Lion Brand Homespun and... cast on another hat. *sigh* At least our fall charity drive will get a pile of stuff this year! I thought I had at most 30 yards of the beige, so it would do the brim and a few single row stripes before I switched all the way over to the red. Um.... so much for that. There was a LOT more beige left over, but at least now it's all gone. Only problem? I have enough red for a whole new hat. DAMMIT. But it's pretty.... lookit:

Incidentally, call me a yarn snob, but I hate this stuff. I hate working with boucle, and this is no exception. I only bought it because the yarn selection at the Walmart in Zion is woefully inadequate and it was the only "bulky" yarn they had. I knit some props for my sister-in-law because her photographer didn't have any infant props.

I also cast on a new project on Friday... I'm knitting Jenna Adorno's Tempting (from I liked this top the moment I first saw it, and it was one of the first items added to my Ravelry queue. I'm finally attempting it. Kari's determination to finish her sweater and shawl for Rhinebeck kind of inspired me to do something insane, so I'm going to try to finish it for Rhinebeck. Oh, did I tell you? We're going to Rhinebeck :D Sue, Kari, Sarah and I are all going to pile into Sue's Jeep (I think it's a Compass) and head down Friday, October 19th after work, stay in Albany and come home on Sunday evening. I'm really looking forward to it, although I don't plan on doing nearly as much shopping as they are LOL Also bought my ticket to go to Rob's for US Thanksgiving. YAY Porter seat sales!

I'm off to knit and watch movies!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Progress report...

Progress on what? Well...on life in general, I suppose.

Contractor's still a bit of a jerk, but he's doing a good job and I'm not the one paying him, so meh. I have to admit, it's annoying to come home to a new and interesting mess every night, plaster on the bottom of the toilet seat (you'd think he'd wipe his hands before touching himself there, wouldn't you?), having to empty different portions of my house into others - last night, it was the cupboards on only one side of the kitchen. Thank goodness only one side, but the awesome news is - I'm getting a range hood! :D YEAH!!!! I've been moaning about the lack of one since I moved in! My back room is completely drywalled and patched, and he's starting work in the bathroom.

Cooking - I was a bit lazy last night. Skye had begged for a pasta salad from the deli, so Zachary and I were left to our own devices. We decided to go with shrimp with salsa and balsamic fig sauce. You wouldn't think those three things would go together, but OMG it was amazing. I then used the cooking liquid (leftover salsa and fig sauce) to make the most awesome stuff ever. I had a few small carrots going wrinkly on the counter, so I sliced those thinly, then tossed in a quartered and sliced onion, and then a pile of sliced portobellos I'd gotten for half-price at the grocery store. Only one tiny piece of mushroom was slimy, so I got an awesome deal there! I cooked that up until everything was soft and wonderful. Then I made a small pot of couscous with cottage cheese in it (TRY it, it's SO GOOD). I packed myself lunches for the rest of the week with a scoop of couscous and a load of veggie stuff on top. AAAAAAND then I promptly forgot my lunch on the kitchen counter this morning *sigh*

Instead, I went to the Table for lunch. Braised onions (my fave), roasted tofu with broccoli and cauliflower, braised red cabbage, and some awesome squash dish. I have now researched a recipe for braised onions and will be trying it this weekend *drool* This was also nearly half a mile from the office, so I got a good walk in before eating :)

Although this is a short week, it seems like the longest ever. A good deal of that is because Rob left at lunchtime on Monday, and time has been dragging since then. We've been doing the long distance thing for a while now, and it sucks more now than ever. The fact that we've never spent as much time together as we have this summer, in my mind, just shows how much better things would be if the distance didn't exist. I keep joking that he'll just have to marry me so we don't have to do this anymore (I have to admit, I love that it freaks him out a bit).

I'm about half-way through the heel flap on these never-ending socks - okay, I know I'm making progress, and I'm not working on them all that much, but I'm not used to working with such fine yarn, and it's frustrating. This is why I knit and crochet BULKY stuff. LOL But they're so pretty! (sorry, no pics yet). I do have a picture of the hat I finished on Monday. I decided I wanted something small that would end quickly, since the kitchen curtain and socks are taking forever (let's not even mention Color Affection, okay?). So I knit up a Hurricane Hat in some Gedifra Airmix (discontinued) that I had lying around. This stuff is so soft, I bought all of it I could find when Knit Knackers was getting rid of it years ago. I had one skein of blue and six or seven skeins in different shades of pink. This is going to go into the pile for our fall charity knit-along in the Ottawa Area Ravellers group.

Oh, and worry not. I know the hat looks huge, but it really isn't. My foam head is just freakishly small *sigh* When I took Stephanie's Grok the Sock class, she taught us that the length of your hand from the base of the palm to the end of the middle finger is the length a hat needs to be before the decreases start, so I went with that. It fits me perfectly. I do, admittedly, have a big head, but bigger is better where hats are concerned. You want it to cover your ears... and you can always roll the brim up if it's too long. If it's too short, nothing can save it.

Tonight I'll be spending time reorganizing things around the house so we can find stuff during "the ordeal" and doing laundry, because... three people (including one clothes horse) = lots of laundry. Tomorrow is knit night, and I can't wait! :D If I can get my kitchen back into some semblance of order, then this weekend might see me making jam! I have a lovely cantaloupe I plan to make Marisa's Cantaloupe Vanilla jam with, and I'd like to make another batch of my now-infamous Peach-Ginger jam. My mom's cousins from Florida love this stuff so much, they ate an entire jar when they visited! Secret is to use super-fresh ginger and to add it with the pectin so it stays spicy :) Cheers!