sad day, happy day

Growing up, I spent many a Saturday afternoon wrenching with my dad on his old MGB. Forty years later, I endear myself to my husband by being a bit of a petrolhead. Power-to-weight ratios and torque vectoring are things I know and care about.

Combine that with my bleeding-heart-liberal degree from Berkeley, and you get a passion for diesels. In particular, the diesels of the Car of My People. After my first (gas) VW, it was all diesel wagons, all the way - Passat, Jetta, then a 2014 Golf TDI, which was going to be the last car I ever owned. I even named her 'Sabine,' after Sabine Schmitz, the fierce Warrior Princess of the Nürburgring.

IMG_3847.jpg

LIttle did we know, the VW Diesel Scandal was lurking in the wings. (If you've been living outside the world of cars for the last few years, you can read up on it here.)

I still believe that VW has done brilliant things with the amount of efficiency and performance you can get out of a diesel engine. I was proud to drive a diesel, and still believe in the place of diesels in helping us not drive ourselves off the planet. Heck, most of my relatives in Germany drive diesels, and most of those are VW.

However.

The longer I sat with it, the more I felt... betrayed. I don't want to beleaguer the point, but as they reveal how far up the VW food chain the cover-up went, the more I wonder - do they deserve my loyalty? I can champion the technology, but not with these decision-makers behind it.

So yesterday I drove Sabine to my VW-Honda-Nissan-etc-etc dealer, and came away with ... A Honda CR-V. Not a hybrid, just a gas engine... so not the environmental helper I thought my diesels were. (Though it gets a respectable 34MPG.) Honda has won us over with their build quality, and I'm hoping that the new car will actually be the 'last car I ever own.'

This time, for sure.

Added bonus: this one can actually carry my double-bass.

Added bonus: this one can actually carry my double-bass.

keto half-marathon training, week 1

As promised, here's a recap of my first week transitioning into ketosis. I'm in Week 4 of my half-marathon training as well, so I was concerned I might not have the 'oomph' to accomplish all the runs I had scheduled as my body switched from burning carbohydrates to burning fats.

Good news is, by following Leanne's tips for making the first week easier, I mostly avoided the 'keto flu' (similar to Whole30's 'carb flu,' which I had in spades during my first Whole30)!

FOOD

I consider myself lucky that I was transitioning to keto having done a few Whole30s; switching from a Standard American Diet (SAD) would be rougher, for sure. We already didn't eat a lot of grains (rice, oats, bread), so reducing our carbohydrate intake wasn't too stark. What was noticeable, however, was the protein! When you go Whole30, there's a LOT of protein! I've ramped it back and still have had a hard time keeping it around 100g per day. A girl got used to sausage and eggs in the morning!

A typical breakfast, lunch, and dinner for a gal going keto

A typical breakfast, lunch, and dinner for a gal going keto

Breakfast has typically been two eggs and 1/4 or 1/2 of an avocado (depending upon size) over wilted greens (spinach, chard, and baby kale). Basically the breakfast I've enjoyed for the past three years, minus the extra protein. I'll make a latte with whole-fat milk for the morning, and we're good til lunchtime.

Lunch has become a ritual - always a 'Big-Ass Salad' a la Mark Sisson (and with a hat-tip to my fab friend Gretchen, who showed me how always having salad for lunch simplifies your life!). Changes here include (you guessed it) taking off the extra protein (Boyhood will continue to get his protein load on here - he gets more grams per day alotted than I do!). I've enjoyed sprinkling Hemp Hearts on mine; they add a texture and nuttiness that's nice with the dressing. (We love blue cheese dressing, since -fortunately- neither of us has a thing with dairy!)

Dinner has been a protein serving and one or two sides of veggies - here we've got greens sautéed in bacon fat, zoodles in ghee, and a chunk of local-source salmon (one of the bennies of living in the Northwest!). Big fat dollop of homemade aïoli and we're good!

I'm still loving paleotrack.com to plug in my macros - since we don't have breathalyzer/blood test ketone tracking devices (yet), I wanted to make sure that I was training myself to eat what I needed to in the right balance. I'm aiming for around 2,000 calories/day, with macros set around 150g fat, 70g protein, and 75g carbohydrates. Let's see how I did!

Day 1: 1986 calories • 134g fat • 75g protein • 122g carbohydrates
Day 2: 2429 calories • 196g fat • 109g protein • 60g carbohydrates
Day 3: 2127calories • 155g fat • 102g protein • 94g carbohydrates
Day 4: 2716 calories • 217g fat • 113g protein • 82g carbohydrates
Day 5: 2218 calories • 182g fat • 90g protein • 61g carbohydrates
Day 6: 2091 calories • 148g fat • 94g protein • 96g carbohydrates
Day 7: 2235 calories • 151g fat • 137g protein • 90g carbohydrates

Overall, I'd say I'm learning how to dial things in so I'm closer to 2,000-2,200 calories, and you can also see me play with amounts of protein. And after Day 1's birthday lunch with my mother-in-law, I've actually come in closer to the goal grams for carbohydrates than I thought!

The lesson from the first week has been: you probably don't need snacks as you get adapted (but if you're hungry, have a fat bomb! I made some from almond butter and cacao butter melted together and covered in melted stevia-sweetened chocolate chips. Yum!). The one symptom of carb flu I got was hunger, especially in the afternoons. But with my tracker app, I was able to consider what I had room in the budget for and eat accordingly. Despite the overage in calories on a number of days, I saw a three-pound drop on the scale!

TRAINING

Fortunately, I had a one-week buffer built into my training schedule for my half marathon coming up in July, so I was able to roll with the amount of energy I had this week. And overall, the energy levels weren't bad: I took naps when I felt I needed them, stayed hydrated (and added mineral drops and salt to my water to keep my electrolytes up, as Leanne recommends), so I didn't end up with more than one sluggish run!

Here's how the exercise worked out in Week 1:

Day 1: morning walk, with HIIT training (7 sets of stair climbs from Downtown to Uptown)
Day 2: morning walk, plus 5 mile run at 13:17 pace
Day 3: brief morning walk
Day 4: morning walk
Day 5: 4 mile run at 13:16 pace
Day 6: morning walk, plus 5 mile run at 14:11 pace
Day 7: (travel day; no extra walks)

I'd read that anaerobic exercise (ilke the HIITs we do up the stairs) are harder when transitioning to burning fat, so I didn't build those in on non-run days as I otherwise would. The runs on Week 1 were generally good, without the sluggishness I remember from the first week of a Whole30; that Day 6 run's pace probably reflects the balance of the energy shifting - a slower, yet still doable and comfortable, pace was my main indicator that things are changing.

I also need to confess that my Fitbit AltaHR gets a lot of credit for just how much exercise I got in during this week; two friends challenged me to a 'Workweek Hustle,' and my competitive nature won out and got my butt off the couch more days than not! Thanks, Fi and Bridget, for keeping this girl moving...!

All in all, a good solid week of learning and not a lot of suffering! (The latter I chalk up to Leanne's good advice in her book about how to make Week 1 more manageable.) As I write this, I'm into Day 12 and happy to report that I wasn't hungry between breakfast and an early dinner yesterday - one of the first days in recorded history that this girl willingly (and easily) skipped a meal!

Hope someone finds this helpful down the line... feel free to leave any questions in the comments!

if it's good enough for Everest...

Came across an article this morning as I was reading the "Weekend Link Love" from Mark's Daily Apple (a great source for information on all things Paleo and Primal, if you're not familiar with it yet). 

Boyhood has an interest in stories about folks who are crazy enough to climb Everest (like my friend Eileen who recently made it up to Base Camp!), so of course I clicked through to this article from Men's Journal about alpinist Adrian Ballinger and his success summiting Everest without additional oxygen (summiting is one thing; summiting without O2 is quite another - only a few hundred people have managed it).

Surprise! The key to his success on his second attempt without O2? KETO.

“Adrian was heavily reliant on eating some kind of high-energy bar, gel, or similar product at once-an-hour intervals. ...” Basically Ballinger constantly fed his body carbs, so that's the fuel it preferred. And like a lot of elite climbers, he didn’t see anything wrong with that.

“I’ve been completely dependent on carbohydrate for all of my climbing,” he says. “I was always hungry, morning to night, but I also had this line I would tell everyone, you know, ‘I never gain weight, my metabolism must be so high, I can eat a loaf of bread a day.'”

When you’re a carb-burner, you have about 45 minutes of fuel storage in your body — glycogen — at any one time, and after that your body runs out; you have to feed yourself constantly to keep it up. But while that system works fine on most peaks, in the punishing altitudes of Everest — above 25,000 feet is dubbed “the death zone” because of the lack of oxygen — suddenly your digestive system shuts down, you feel nauseous, and you can’t put food in your mouth, Ballinger says. When his hands went icy, it’s because he was depleted of glycogen; his body went into protective mode, and sent more blood flow to his gut and away from his extremities. “All of a sudden I didn’t have those carbs stored — I needed my body to burn fat for fuel.” But his body wasn’t primed to do it, Johnston guessed.

 With the help of his training team and a team from UCDavis, he goes keto and re-does his training regime to become a better fat-burner. There are two great takeaways from this article: one, that the nutrition sets you up for hours of bonk-free endurance; and two, that by slowing down your training sessions, you can raise your aerobic threshold (where you're still in an aerobic state at a higher BPM).

Great news for those of us venturing into keto training - and reassuring to me that my 13:00/mile pace will be just the right way to train for my next race! 

And as Ballinger says, this great slow burn rubs off on all areas of your life:

“A few weeks into training, I started to feel entirely different — I could go for long workouts and not bonk, wake up in the morning and go for hours without eating,” he says. “I used to be the kind of person who would wake up and couldn’t send a text until I’d eaten some food. I was that short of energy.”

Ballinger’s fat-burning metabolism and revamped training approach proved that the hunger cravings he’d had on mountains before, the highs and lows based on constantly needing to eat or feeling fatigued, wasn’t the most efficient way to do what he wanted to do: climb 8,000-meter peaks, trail run, and ski. “This past ski season was the best I’ve ever had, and not only because the snow’s been amazing — I directly credit this,” he says.

Inspiring!

keto half-marathon training

[Apologies to my fibery friends - this post contains precisely 0% knitting content. Whole30 and health nuts, read on!]

As part of My Clean Year (#mycleanyear), going hand in hand with taking a break from alcohol, I've wanted to break my sugar habit. Doing several rounds of Whole30 (and non-strict, Whole30-inspired 'resets' afterwards) went a long way, but I kept finding myself sliding quickly back into a near-daily relationship with chocolate, sugar, baked goods...

And then our friend Dr. B was diagnosed with Lyme disease, and has been fighting the wee beasties with a ketogenic diet: super-low carbohydrates (around 50g/day), moderate protein, and lots of healthy fats. He's feeling so much better, and wow has he leaned up! As someone who's hovered at the Overweight/Obese line of body fat percentages, that leaning up sure caught my attention.

Then come to find out my stepdaughter and her husband have been going keto as well, and feeling and looking great too. That non-scientific cohort of 3 was enough to convince me to try it. (I had already committed to the month of June sans sugar altogether, so keto was a logical extension.)

But wait - what about that half-marathon goal coming up? (I'm doing the Pie High Trail Run in July.) Can I switch to running in ketosis while keeping up my training runs? Googling the question got me some anecdotal information from a few (über-geeky) (male) ultrarunners, but not a lot of real-life, I-did-this feedback from my fellow women half runners. So I thought I'd put myself into the mix! [Note: I'm not affiliated with Leanne (yet!) - all opinions are my own, and I don't make any $ from any links here.]

I'm working from the plan outlined by Leanne Vogel in her book, The Keto Diet. I've appreciated her focus on whole foods, especially the open door to vegetables! Old-school ketogenic diets (like Atkins) have eschewed all carbohydrates, even those from plants -- and as a big fan of Michael Pollan and his reasoned approach ("Eat Food. Mostly Plants. Not Too Much."), I like that we need fear no veg.

Step One: wholesale dive into 'keto-izing' my kitchen: a spiralizer (I like this one from OXO); bone broth, hemp milk, coconut creamer, various oils and nut butters, sea salt and mineral drops. (Many of which were based on Leanne's shopping list from the Healthful Pursuit website.)

Step Two: purge the kitchen. This wasn't a huge effort, considering that we were already pretty Paleo/Whole30 to begin with. Mostly, it was ditching the partial, opened and older boxes of mysterious pasta (pasta?!) on the upper shelves. But I did rearrange some things to put the oils close-by, and shift the less-used items (almond flour, etc.) to higher shelves. Oh, and putting my new food processor out on the counter, ready for action!

Step Three: Devour the book and plan for implementation. The first half of Leanne's book is background, information about how the eating plan works, and how to set yourself up (particularly appreciated is the 'roadblocks to keto' section, which includes some mindset resets that I found very reassuring during this first week of adjustment.)

As a planner geek (didja guess?), I knew I'd want to track my 'macros' - how many grams of the macronutrients fat, protein, and carbohydrate I was eating in a day - so I could know I was on-plan. I've loved using PaleoTrack so far; Marc, the creator of PaleoTrack, has done an amazing job to keep the UI streamlined yet supremely functional. It's rare for me to stick with a tracker so thoroughly, even ones I love initially, without losing focus or spacing out entering info. Marc's made it so intuitive and easy - I bit the bullet and subscribed for a full year. Since Boyhood & I aren't jumping on buying a ketone monitor (yet), I'm going to rely on how I feel and where my macros are to gauge when/whether I'm in ketosis.

Now for the interesting part: I'm in my second week of training for my half, so how is the shift to keto going to work with that? Shifting to burning mostly fats has a rough transition period, not unlike the first week to 10 days of Whole30. You may get the 'carb flu' in the first days, feeling grouchy and hungry and lower energy as your body shifts from its reliance on carbohydrates to burning fats. (I liken this to trying to start a fire with logs and no kindling - the carbohydrates were the fast-burn kindling in your system.)

I've found I can do quite well on 3 runs a week - that seems to give me the time on my legs that I need without risk of injury to my nearly-50-year-old joints. The past month, I've been cruising on 3-, 4-, and 5-mile runs, but this next week I up the ante to 4-, 5- and 7-. The ramp-up is beginning - right when I'm likely to be low-energy.

The good news is, I built in a buffer week to my training - when I laid out my run schedule, I had 11 weeks instead of 10 on the calendar. (Always a good move, in my experience - it lets you account for the vagaries of life and the strange weeks you get when you can't get quality runs in no matter how you try.)

I plot out my runs on my monthly pages in my planner with little sticky flags, so I can move them around if necessary without a lot of erasing or white-out.

So I shifted a few things around - mostly moving the long run stickies down a week - and did three runs per my slower regimen of the last few weeks. I started eating Keto officially on Thursday (June 1), so I've done two runs so far on the new eating plan!

Happy to report that, at least in these first few days, runs haven't been noticeably harder or more sluggish than before. Could be that I'm still digging through some stored glucose, of course, but so far so good.

Next run is tomorrow (Monday), and I'll see if I can't take on that 5 miler I have planned. Knowing the reason why I might bonk is keeping me calm - that, and a tablespoon of almond butter before I hit the road, that is.

My aim is to post here once a week to keep track of how this transition to keto during half-marathon training is working for me. Thanks for coming along for the ride!

Also, FYI: I'm on Day 4 and already down 2 pounds. Consistently eating around 2,000 calories, with carbohydrates at or under 50g. On the days I don't run, Boyhood and I tackle the stairs from Downtown to Uptown - 130 short steps in the full flight, and we do 7 sets. Good HIIT training, we think!

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it's the little things

I don't know if it's the spring weather or what, but I find I'm making time to fix those little annoyances around the house that had been bugging me for ages - yet I just didn't get off my duff to take the few minutes to make them better.

Case in point: my needle stash labeling system. I keep my needles in a little sheet-music drawer stand my mom gave me - and the little paper labels I made years ago for the needle sizes keep flicking off from where they were taped down. Grab a needle, replace a label. Grr.

Like any other card-carrying member of the OverOrganized Club (that should be a thing, shouldn't it?), I own a labelmaker. I own a labelmaker with a keyboard, for kripes' sake. That stays plugged in permanently (in case of those sudden labeling emergencies).

So this morning, hey presto Eureka and lo, we went from this –



to this!

And in the Department of Redundancy Department, each needle size has its needles contained in a LABELED zip bag. I couldn't trust the little buggers not to roll around in the drawers and commingle like freshman at a college dorm mixer.

Power to the Labelmaker, People!

How do you store your needles? Do you have the same problem corraling them as I do? (Or maybe you don't have the crazy deep needle stash I do -ahem-...?)

on swatching: size matters

[Repost from a new thread over in my Ravelry group]

(Fountain pen for scale.)

Every once in a while, a newbie knitter would bring to my teaching table a swatch made up of just a few stiches - a wee, postage-stamp-sized slip of a thing. “The pattern said I needed a gauge of 6 stitches to the inch, so I cast on 6 stitches!” Fair enough - that’s an easy assumption to make as a brand-new knitter. Knit up 6 stitches, and if it’s not 1 inch, you’re off… Right?

Welllll, no. And what I’m about to say applies to just-slightly-larger-but-still-not-big-enough swatches as well: if you aren’t working long enough rows, you aren’t really creating the kind of fabric you’ll make in a larger garment. PLUS, you won’t be able to count accurately.

A sweater-sized project will likely have a hundred or more stitches across a row - long enough for you to get into a good rhythm, get moving at a good clip, maybe even space out a little bit. That different rhythm can impact how loosely or tightly you knit! So the longer you can make your rows in your swatch, the more accurately it will reflect how you’ll knit in a sweater.

A slightly more experienced knitter might cast on the # of sts in 4”/10cm called out on the pattern. So, 24 stitches in 4” for the same gauge as the newbie above. That’s better, but still no cigar, and here’s why: your edge stitches always curl in just a little bit, which sucks away a bit of the measurement… And you don’t have a larger bit of fabric within which to measure, which means you might lose that half-a-stitch that would otherwise creep into your 4”/10cm measurement across - and a half a stitch in 4” means 5 stitches in 40” around a sweater, which could be an inch or more off. Might not sound like much, but believe me - it’s the difference between your sweater fitting beautifully or not. Between your fabric being just the right density, or being too stiff or too loose. Those half stitches matter! And the way you’re going to be able to see that is by knitting a swatch that is larger than 4”/10cm across.

So if your gauge says 24 sts = 4”/10cm, CAST ON MORE THAN THAT. Doesn’t really matter how many more, as long as it’s materially more. In this case, 4 more stitches would be a bare minimum. I’d be more likely to cast on 32 or 36 or 40 for a swatch at this gauge. Be generous with yourself - those longer rows are more pleasurable to knit, anyway.

And while you’re at it, make sure your swatch is also tall enough - row gauge matters too! Sometimes different needle sizes will generate a bigger difference in row gauge than stitch gauge. And a too-tight row gauge means you’re eating up yarn faster than the pattern calls for, so you might run out before you’re done…! Or it might mean your fabric is too dense. So check your row gauge as well; at the very least, it’s a good indicator that you’re on the right track, fabric-wise. I try to go until my swatch is nearly square, or until I’ve done about 10 rows more than the row gauge on the pattern over 4”/10cm.

This is the first in a series of posts in praise of swatching, and how to make it really work for you. More in the coming weeks!

on slowing down

We're a few days into #slowfashionoctober, a conversation/movement instigated by Karen Templer over at Fringe Association as a means for us to dive into what 'slowing down' our fashion or clothing consumption might mean to all of us.

It's a many-sided topic: some folks are getting into the environmental and human consequences of 'fast fashion'; others are getting into the nitty-gritty of making more of their wardrobe... There are so many ways to enjoy the notion of 'slowing down' our wardrobes.

Week One of "Slotober" this year is dedicated to Introductions, so here's mine. I'm Karen, a maker of sweaters for years and years who's just branching out in the wild and wonderful world of sewing (making garments in days rather than months! Yippee!). I call myself a 'creative minimalist,' with all the rhetorical tension that implies. I love being inspired to make things (especially things to wear), but I aspire to a capsule wardrobe of just the right things. I have a yarn stash and a fabric stash, and never enough time to make all the things that I'm inspired to start.

So for me, it seems fitting that my version of Slow Fashion October become about SLOWING MYSELF DOWN.

Boyhood and I had planned to take a major cross-country trip starting this week, heading East to Rhinebeck. Yet the closer we got to our departure date, the more agitated we both seemed to get. Boy confessed to feeling ungrounded as well as sad about leaving his workshop with all his creative tools (unlike me, his creative outlet isn't portable!).

So.

We sat with that feeling, tossed around a few 'what if?'s, and cancelled our trip. We're staying home and creating a generative, healthy, creative staycation space for ourselves, complete with a round of nearly #whole30, walks every day, and a focus on maximum creative time. We're thrilled.

Perfect timing for Slotober, right? I was immediately filled with a desire to DO.ALL.THE.THINGS!, running around making lists of epic proportions. And then I stopped.

Hey waitaminute: there's the word S-L-O-W in there. Maybe that might apply to *how* I'm working this month?

The best way for me to slow down this month is to really allow myself the luxury of focusing on one project at a time. Yup, Project Monogamy. I've been notoriously skittish with projects, working on as many as five at a time, due to deadlines and work constraints for the last few years. This is a perfect opportunity to just settle in and meditate over a project. Helpful that the project in question is the gorgeous cardigan White Pine by the fantabulous Amy Christoffers - a cabled bit of loveliness that requires good, solid attention lest a twist go the wrong way when you're not looking.

So no binge-watching "NCIS" this month; no flitting off to work "just a few rows" on this or that other project with its siren song... Just me, a little soothing ambient background music, and The Pines of Rhinebeck. Until it's done.

Knitting is supposed to be meditation, right? It's that thing we imagine sinking into with complete flow after a hard workday... it's what we dream about when the kids are melting down before dinner, or when we're stuck in traffic... "If only I could be quietly sitting on the couch, enjoying the yarn moving through my fingers and the satisfying click of the needles..."

So why not be there with it? Let's slow down and just knit together this month. You know what project I'll be bringing...!

on ruthlessness

I'm a sorter by nature. Give me a bunch of random bits and a little chunk of time, and I'll happily put them into distinct piles. Add that to my growing tendency toward minimalism and you have all the ingredients for a great wardrobe purge!

The notion of 'capsule wardrobes' fascinates me - if you really, really knew yourself well and put an eagle eye on what you love to wear, could you get down to a core set of clothes that served all your needs?

I love my 'batterie de cuisine', the set of pots & pans I've had for over two decades. I have just the right pot for all the things I like to cook, and despite my father's occasional plea "I found this great set of pans on sale at Macy's! Are you sure you don't need anything?", I haven't budged off of that set or felt the need to change anything.

So the notion of a 'batterie de garderobe' is something I've been edging towards for months. And now that Courtney Carver has put out the start date for the Fall 2016 edition of #project333, I'm all in!

Boyhood's away from home for his work week, so I've had carte blanche to turn the house upside down with piles of clothes. Perfect timing - let the games begin!

In the past, I've sorted and filed away clothes into empty suitcases (great use of space, IMHO); I've sorted them by season/off-season, by color stories... you name it. But this time, the goal is to only have so many clothes that they all fit in my half of the teeny wardrobe in our bedroom or in the upstairs storage closet. (That's about 5 linear feet of hanging space - not a ton!)

So out came the suitcases and the underbed storage bins... and I basically KonMari'd my way through all my clothes in under 3 hours. If I wasn't feeling the love for a piece, I gave myself a reason why - my new sorting piles: "too small" "too schlumpy", "uncomfortable, sadly", "too casual"/"too formal", "too bright" (my wardrobe's headed in a more neutral direction these days), "a past life", and "more Mom's taste than mine" (since I luck into her hand-me-downs sometimes):

 

These categories somehow magically gave me an extra boost, a bit of rationale for why I don't gravitate towards these pieces enough that they end up in the rotation. And those rationales made it enough for me to steel myself and get ruthless - ruthless enough to cut 1/4 of my wardrobe today!

I'm now down to a more manageable (yes, still First-World, but better) level:

•120 +/- pieces of clothing
• 35 pairs of shoes
• 15 handbags

(Those who know and love me would see that ratio of shoes to clothes as perfectly logical for me; the # of handbags, on the other hand, is probably lower than most of you suspect!)

And I have over 50 items leaving the building. I'm taking the Eileen Fisher pieces back to the store for their "Green Eileen" initiative (they re-sell them after lovingly cleaning and restoring them; the proceeds from the resale go to women's and children's charities). The others have gone into a big ol' suitcase, ready for a "Naked Lady Party"! (Down boys: it's an evening where you invite your friends over with a bottle of champagne and have them try on and take home whatever they want. Come in your best underwear!)

Next step was to lay out the 33 items I'll be using for my Fall #project333:

4 pairs of shoes; 5 pairs of pants; 2 skirts; 2 dresses... and 8 of the 33 items are me-mades!

Boyhood and I are hitting the road on a huge, cross-country road trip right as this Project 333 begins - so perfect timing to put it in action! We'll be sharing one rolly suitcase, so I imagine I won't even be taking all 33 items with me...

But more on that soon!

for the love of analogue: managing projects

I do love my digital tools and apps for their flexibility and their ability to manage all sorts of ideas without taking up physical space in my compact world.

... But there's also the immediacy of the written word, the chance to write something down so you can see it and rembember it - which is where my analogue systems come into (literally) play!

As a creative person who can easily be overwhelmed by ideas and inspiration, I love using my analogue systems to manage the projects I've begun or want to begin. If, like many knitters, you have a rash of 'UFOs' (UnFinished Objects) lingering on the needles, here's a tip about how I'm managing mine that might be helpful for some of you.

A while ago, I took an inventory of my UFOs (and took a moment to put them all up on my Ravelry projects page - another great digital tool!). The Ravelry side of things leaves me with a place to put my hands on notes ("where are my 3.5mm 24" Addi Rocket needles again?"), but it doesn't give me any sense of priority or (god forbid) urgency about finishing them. Some day, I'd like to be UFO free, working on current projects in a manageable way - but how to get there?

Enter the analogue system. In your face, flexible - helpful in getting 'em DONE.

This is the monthly page in my Get to Work Book - where I can glance and see appointments, birthdays, events, etc. But it's also hosting a little fleet of Post-Its at the bottom of the page, each one representing a kind of project I've dedicated to work on this month.

I color-coded the little Post-Its based on the kind of project: UFOs are traditional yellow; sewing projects are green; gifts are orange. (Spoiler alert! Bro, you're getting socks. But you knew that. Bro always gets socks, because he loves them so.) Not shown on this page: new projects I want to complete for my wardrobe of handmades for Fall - those are starting in the queue next month.

When I was doing my (sobering) UFO inventory and adding them to Ravelry, I also wrote down one per Post-It and gathered them at my desk. I did the same for the gifts I'd like to give folks for the remaining birthdays in the year and the holidays, as well as future sewing projects for the Fall wardrobe. That's a lot of Post-Its!

Then I flipped through my planner monthly pages and started distributing projects - which ones could I best complete in which month? The aim was to get all the gift knitting done by November, saving a few last gifts for local family for December (since they won't need to be shipped); dedicating a few perfect projects for my two vacations/trips coming up in August and October (pairing a project to a trip - that's an art form, and a blog post in and of itself, eh?); and planning some sewing here and there to suit the season.

Once I was done, I got a monthly set of projects like you see above: a little UFO finishing, a little sewing, a little gift knitting to store away. And what I'm left with is a sense of satisfaction and control - if I can stick to what I've planned, I know I'm making progress on my goals, getting the right things done. And in any given week, I won't have to ask myself 'what's my priority?' If I'm inspired to sew, I can check and see what's on the docket. Grabbing a project for a car trip? Look at my gift list and see if there's a sock or two I can finish.

Should keep me on track, I think!

The other great thing about the Post-Its is that they're moveable and removeable - as I finish items (like the yellow 'skirt' Post-It pictured above), I can remove it from the planner and either move something up in its place, or move on to one of the other projects (in this case, the remainder of the month will be spent on the Simple Tee UFO). Done and done!

this organized life: balancing digital with analogue

In this day and age, it's easy to be spoiled for choice - if you're a tech junkie, there's always an app for that (or everything!), and the quality and variety of analogue planners, datebooks, calendar systems, journals is limited only by your patience for internet searches.

A person can spend a lot of time and money trying out this and that, and I've done my fair share. But ultimately, it comes down to what helps you keep track of your thoughts and plans effectively - without becoming a time-sink in its own right.

I had to do some soul-searching to figure out not just what worked, and why some things I tried weren't working. In looking at my past (failed) systems for tracking my stuff (to-dos, appointments, ideas, lists), I came face to face with the following quirks about myself:

1) I always want to accomplish WAY more in a day than any middle-aged human could reasonably expect, and yet I still think my lists are reasonable. Boy will sometimes ask me "what's up for your day?", and then chuckle at the litany.

What does this mean? If I let myself write down everything I WANT to accomplish in a day, I'll inevitably be disappointed at the end of the day, looking at the list.

Takeaway: be careful what you write down on paper!

2) If left to my own devices, I'll assume that a project can be completed in one fell swoop - it took a good thorough reading of Getting Things Done to understand that most things we consider 'projects' require more than one step, and one step on a project may be all we can work into a busy day. But a whole series of 'next little steps' is hard to keep track of - and hard to plan sequentially into a planner.

What does this mean? I need a flexible, fluid system for thinking through steps of projects. For me, this meant a digital helper for my larger projects and goals.

Takeaway: be aware of the size of the projects you take on, and don't expect them to get done in a day!

What does all this mean? I'm happiest when I balance digital and analogue. I love my smartphone, love the capacity it has to remind me of things I scheduled or wanted to do at a certain time; and yet if you get me near a stationery store I start to quiver. Fountain pens and little notebooks are in my blood.

In the end, I've come to an arsenal of digital and analogue devices to help me manage my projects and ideas and lists - I'll be talking about all of them here in the coming days. But here's a brief overview of what's working for me on the digital side, given what I've learned about how I need to organize myself.

Digital Tools:

1) "Things" app for iPhone, iPad, and Mac.
I'll admit - when I first read through Getting Things Done, it didn't click for me. I couldn't figure out the difference between an 'area of responsibility' and a project. It took a couple of years in a full-time job in a dynamic company to help me see the value of his system, and figure out how it can work for just about anyone. I use "Things" on all my devices to get my to-dos, large and small, out of my head and into something that can keep things organized as well as remind me when they need to be done.

2) "Reminders" app for iPhone, iPad, and Mac.
I owe my brother a huge favor for pointing out some features of this app that now make it a lifesaver for me. If I have a small thing that I need to remember to do or get at a particular time or place, I can pop it into Reminders (because I've always got my phone on me) - the feature that Bro pointed out is the little 'i' (information) icon at the right of your new entry - click on it, and you get a list of features like "Remind me at a place (arriving or leaving!)" or "Remind me at a time". Genius! Now, if I need to pick up a book at the library, I can set a reminder for Thursday afternoon, or for 'when I leave home,' headed in the direction of the library!

I also use the Calendar app on my Mac and Google Calendars to keep track of appointments - they have 'remind me the day before' functionalities to ping me ahead of time in case I need to prepare something or be prompted to leave the house.

3) "Strides" app for iPhone
This is a recent addition that helps me with habits. I know that many analogue planners/Bullet Journalists like to incorporate habit trackers into their planners, but I find that I do better if my phone dings at me at a particular time to do something. I like the nudge - it works better for me than a page in a planner, which I might forget to look at until the next day. I'm currently using it to build in a few new healthy habits: taking my vitamins, going for a certain # of runs a week, going for my morning walk. It even has a 'negative habit' tracker, which I might start using to encourage me to lay off the evening glass of wine!

 

That's the digital arsenal of helpers in my toolbox right now - next time, I'll share what goes in my paper planner, my move from the Passion Planner to the Get to Work Book, and you'll be able to fully appreciate my love of orange! (My analogue life is a serious reflection of this orange tic I have.)

Let the Light In - new pattern!

Here's the other new pattern I've been cooking up with the help of some lovely yarn from Blue Moon:

Let the Light In is a slightly boxy pullover in an all-over mesh lace stitch that's easy to learn and memorize. I love the texture it creates on the purl side - it reminds me of those woven cane chair seats!

Just 1 skein for the Small size (to fit up to 36" bust), or 2 skeins for the Medium and Large sizes of Blue Moon Fiber Arts Silky Laci or Laci. At 900 yards apiece of hand-painted glory, there's so much joy to be had in these bountiful skeins!

We're starting a KAL (Knit-a-long) over in my new group on Ravelry, akabini & friends. We won't be casting on 'officially' until Tuesday evening July 19 (chill down those cocktail shakers!), so that should give everyone plenty of time to order and receive their yarn, wind that first big-ass skein, and swatch, swatch, swatch!

Best of all, when you purchase your pattern, you'll get a PDF with ordering instructions from Blue Moon that includes a 15% off coupon code off your purchase of Silky Laci or Laci! So if you can't decide which luscious semi-solid colorway to knit first, get several - the code is good through July!

Sure hope you can join us and let a little light in on 2016. It's had its dark moments, hasn't it?

Keystone Socks - new pattern!

A big part of my design life has been spent in the excellent company of Tina, the color maven behind Blue Moon Fiber Arts. We've conspired with sweaters and socks and cowls and all sorts of knitted goodies over the years.

Her Rockin' Sock Club is a big whirlwind of sockstravaganza craziness, with hundreds of knitters looking forward to packages of yarn and patterns hitting their mailboxes every other month. Back in 2014, I contributed a sock pattern to the Club that's hands-down my favorite one to knit and wear.

I named them 'Keystone' partly because of the way the shaping cradles the arch of the foot on the sole, and partly after the Port Townsend-to-Keystone ferry run that's a part of life here in my little hometown.

Today, Keystone Socks are available on Ravelry for your downloading and knitting pleasure!

Hope you enjoy them - they're a great way to feature fabulous hand-dyed yarns like Blue Moon's Socks that Rock™!

something's coming

I've been quietly working away behind the scenes this year, getting ready to launch something new!

I'm thrilled to be working with Tina and her gorgeous range of yarns over at Blue Moon Fiber Arts again - and I have two surprises in store for you later this week.

Yarn is BMFA Laci in colorway "Debra's Magic Blue"Can't wait to show them to you!

this organized life

I'd better admit it right up front - organizing is one of my hobbies. With a free evening on my hands, the thought of pulling things out of cupboards, sorting and then re-organizing them actually sounds like a lot of fun.

Realizing that this isn't everyone's cup of meat, perhaps my enjoyment in how I organize things might lead to some insights for folks who like it a bit less...

So expect a regular thread on organizing and managing your to-do lists, your creative supplies, your wardrobe, your... you name it!

Top of the list for me right now is my digital vs. analogue life: I've been spending a lot of time lately thinking about journaling, to-do lists, and generallly managing all the ideas and to-do lists that stream out of my brain every day. (Trust me, it's a lot, and unmanaged it would be pretty scary.)

(The mild irony of that sticker is not lost on me.)Like a lot of 21st-century creative professionals, I've spent the last ten years or so, since the advent of smartphones and tablets, thinking that I should go completely digital with my to-do lists and grocery lists and lists of all the things. As soon as I'd jotted down a note on paper, I tried to convert it to an item in an app somewhere. This had its advantages - timed reminders to do things, no bits of paper to fly around (or forget at home when running errands), but there was a whole side of my brain that wasn't ... satisfied with the digital capture.

I'm a child of the European school system - the fountain pens for schoolwork, the paper notebooks handed in for homework, the leather cases with slots for pens and pencils... The stuff of an analogue life is close to my heart.

So last year, when a colleague discovered the Passion Planner, I dove in and never looked back. Analogue was back in my life! (It didn't hurt that at about the same time, a wee shop opened down the street selling fine fountain pens and inks. We were doomed.) Suddenly, I was carrying a pouch full of pens and pencils to meetings, loving the feeling of writing things down again.

I've loved getting back to the literal - being able to pick up a pen and just write something down has an immediacy to it that typing into my phone or tablet can't match. Plus, the potential for visual creativity is such a joy on its own: which pen to use? which ink color do I want for that little list?

As with all obsessions of mine, this one swung to the extreme - I was barely using my digital reminder systems at all anymore... and after a few missed appointments and scrambles for information, it became clear that I could do with a balanced set of analogue and digital tools.

It's taken me a while to figure out which things I like to keep in which format, and my planner system is morphing into a new shape now that I'm back to freelance work from home, but I've enjoyed the process of considering what works for me and building my little set of tools - which I'll start to share with you over the coming weeks.

Go dust off those fountain pens, if you've got 'em! We're about to go play.

[My stack of toys, bottom to top:]
Passion Planner for 2016 (16-17 editions now available!)
Roterfaden cover and notebooks, available from Baumkuchen in LA
• Leuchtturm 1917 notebook (mine from Goulet Pens)
• "Things" app for iPad
• Vintage Parker fountain pen 

my digital life

double-screen action!

One of the things I've been looking forward to is having more time to organize the various bits of my creative life. KonMari-ing my yarn stash, re-folding and revisiting my fabric stash, creating a spreadsheet for my sewing patterns ... I've done a bit already, but today felt like a good day to tackle a biggie: my digital pattern library.

Like many modern knitters, my pattern stash is mighty (can't blame a designer for loving designs!). I've been on Ravelry since they were in beta and required invitations, so it should surprise no-one that I have six pages of patterns in my library there. ... And given the newfound obsession with garment sewing, the digital pattern library now extends over to Seamwork magazine, Colette, Grainline and other fabulous indie design houses.

Up until now, I've been happy to host my pattern PDFs on my iPad in the iBooks app. It was always a nice one-two punch to save them there, and open and read them there as I worked.

However.

My iPad 2 won't last forever... and the iBooks app is starting to 'burp' when I launch it, which tells me that the end may be nigh. That, and recent vagaries of iCloud (where the h*ll are all those old photos, anyway?) have started to make me nervous. What would happen if my iPad failed to boot up one day? Where on earth did I buy that download of the Verb for Keeping Warm Endless Summer Tunic that I keep wanting to make more and more and more of?

WHAT WOULD I DO IF I LOST MY iPAD?

So today I faced the inevitable - time to get those precious PDFs backed up into a safe location and revisit what apps I use to access them.

Unfortunately, it's not as easy as "grab them out of iBooks and export them into _______" - because the only apparent way to get them out of there is to export them individually with email. *le sigh*

In case any of you are in the same boat out there, here's how I've chosen to move forward with this:

1) Storage and access: DROPBOX. I've used Dropbox for work the last few years, and Boyhood and I enjoy how it gives us access to files from different computers without moving and managing mutiple copies. I started today by creating "Knitting Patterns" and "Sewing Patterns" folders in my Dropbox (which I have access to from my computer desktop, as well as on the web).

[I have many friends who love to use Evernote instead of Dropbox - I have accounts in both places, but for some reason I use Evernote for screenshots and receipts and such, more than files. But that could change!]

2) Migration: I started with the most precious sewing patterns, sending them as individual e-mails to my gmail account, then downloading them from there on my laptop into the proper folder in Dropbox. Right now, I own far more knitting than sewing patterns, so the knitting patterns have subfolders like "Cardigans," "Pullovers," "For the Neck" and so on, so I can find them again easily.

3) More Migration: I quickly realized that it would be quicker to download directly from my Ravelry library those patterns I bought through Ravelry (which is the lion's share, anyway). Oh, and added bonus: checking for updates and getting the latest and greatest versions into Dropbox!

4) Access: I carry my iPad with me from room to room and tuck it into my bag/purse when out and about, so I'm always sure that the pattern I might need to reference is right there (without having to look it up on my teeny tiny iPhone4 screen!). But from here on out, I think I'll save iBooks for actual books and reading material ... so where to look up my patterns?

Dropbox has a great iPad app, and an 'offline' function for those PDFs you'll want to open and read even when you're not connected via wifi. So I'll download and have ready for offline viewing those PDFs I'm currently working on.

And then I think I would like to use some of my free time now to learn KnitCompanion! I have friends who rave about the tracking functions, pattern-reading highlighter lines, etc. that make this such a good aid to knitters. I'm off to YouTube to look up some tutorials and get started!

new year, new paradigm

2016 is ushering in a lot of great new things over here at casa akabini!

I'm back to designing full-time, and looking forward to re-issuing some of my 2nd Nature patterns as akabini patterns...

And Unpatterns.com has found a new home here - see the tab up at the top of the page (where there will be more detailed content coming soon), and feel free to click the Patternfish link at right to see the whole collection for purchase over there.

And I'm looking forward to posting here again with my random thoughts about life, healthy food, geeky knitting tricks, and ALL THE MAKES!

 

Nice to be back.

#Whole30 Wrap-Up

'Day 31' is here!

Strange as it might seem to put this experience up there with something as physically grueling as training for and completing marathons, I'm just as proud of this 30 days as I am of each marathon I've run.

I'm the kind of person who devours 'Before and After' stories, who flips to the 'They Lost 100 Pounds!' features in the magazines... and now I have an inkling about how they must feel.

It's been fascinating to unplug the cravings, starve out the bad habits, and really learn an excellent way to take care of myself. Because, after all, at its root, that's what Whole 30 teaches you to do: to take exquisite care of yourself.

From planning meals and not skimping on preparation; to feeding yourself wonderful things so you don't crave the crappy stuff; to paying attention to what you're eating and making sure you build joy into each meal... it's been an education.

Best things I've learned:

• I can make my own salad dressing, and it *is* as easy as everyone says it is! (Sorry, Tina, Fiona, Laura... I should have listened.)

• Where sheer willpower can be limited, personal integrity and strength is buildable and potentially boundless.

• Thai curry paste + canned coconut milk = nearly-instant dinner! (Just don't get the green kind if you're a gringo like me. Thermonuclear, that stuff!)

• I am just as attached to beverages as I think I am. (Missed those milky drinks most of all!)

• There is life after toast.

• Salad every day for lunch is a great thing! (One more thing to simplify! hooray!)

In this 30 days, I negotiated how to host a party and not indulge (key: cleanup crew; and make yourself absent during the dessert service); how to negotiate a restaurant menu (hint: it's not as hard as you think - there's nearly always a meat & veg. option somewhere in the entrées); how to take a trip out of town that doesn't turn into a feast fest. Plus: Starbuck's does coconut lattes now! Revelation!

So Day 31 started out just as Days 1-30 had: eggy breakfast, pack a salad for lunch... and the only differences were my first mug of proper tea in a month (!) and a dinner out where the deviations were Caesar salad w/ dressing and Parmesan and a glass of wine.

This new life? Shaping up to be pretty good.

(Oh, and not that it really counts, but I like it: lost TEN pounds. In a month. That has NEVER happened, and certainly not while I was eating like a prince!)

#Whole30, Day 4

Day Four is done, and I did not want to Kill. All. The. Things!
(The joke is that by days 4 and 5 of #Whole30, you run into a serious emotional wall and get cranky. Co-workers will testify to waves of poutiness on my part, but so far no major crank.) 

 Breakfast used up the rest of the shrimp, with a shrimp-to-egg ratio that was truly thrilling (cut back to 2 eggs). Peek-a-boo from underneath was the rest of my bag o' spinach. Suprisingly tasty, even without the Parmesan cheese I would normally have been tempted to add!

Lunch was more leftover Thai curry (think I can go without making quite so much next week). I found I actually *missed* my salad - and ended up not eating more than half of it.

The poutiness occurred after lunch (see above re: possibly not eating enough), and was prompted by the thought that I couldn't have a comforting, satisfying cuppa Builders Tea. But two cups of Rooibos later and I was on a roll with work.

Afternoon spaciness combatted by the realization that I had nuts in my desk drawer. Almonds and cashews to the rescue!

An early dinner, so I could be in the shop by 5 pm:

 I sauteed up two turkey burker patties and set aside one for breakfast for Day 5. The last 1/4 avocado, and a BIG slice of heirloom tomato as an ersatz bun made for a yummy turkey burger! Some quick romaine and more tomatoes for a speedy side salad. It was warm out again, so a little spritzer with grapefruit juice and soda water sent me out the door to go back to work to finish my second 12+ hour workday.

Biggest revelation so far: I'm not hungry in the same way I used to be! I used to get sharp, searing stomach pangs if I didn't eat every 4 hours. Now I just notice a deeper, subterranean rumbling and notice that I'm slowing down and getting a little spacey. Is this what other people are talking about when they say they forget to eat? Hmm.

Friend T had her first round of chemo on Thursday. If she has to be strong for her stuff, I can damn well do this, too.