Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Yarn Along: Christmas Knitting

~ Two of my favorite things are knitting and reading, and the evidence of this often shows up in my photographs.  I love seeing what other people are knitting and reading as well. So, what are you knitting or crocheting right now? What are you reading? Take a photo and share it either on your blog or on Flickr. Leave a link below to share your photo with the rest of us! 
~Ginny at Small Things

I am in the midst of some Christmas knitting.  Mostly of the hat variety (yes, really).  This Miranda hat is for a friend's daughter.  Although I bought the Cotton Supreme yarn I'm using largely because it was crazy on sale, it has turned out to be crazy soft, too.  Win win!  I'm also modifying my favorite Adventure Hat pattern to make complimenting Christmas hats for Moose and Mouse.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit that before getting a good photo of the hat-in-progress on our Christmas tree, I managed to drop the ball of yarn down through the branches, where it got royally tangled up.  So artsy though it may be, I do not recommend if you are clumsy like me.  Or at least not until you've had a cup of coffee!
I am currently bookless.  Was contemplating starting Life of Pi but now I'm not so sure.  The last week has been emotionally trying (Moose keeping up the tradition of being a jerk on his birthday, stress of Thanksgiving, preparing for Moose's birthday party, and some questionable health news) and I think something lighter may be in order.  Any suggestions?

What are you knitting and reading?  Come join the sharing at Small Things

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Yarn Along: Back With a Hat (Big Surprise)

~ Two of my favorite things are knitting and reading, and the evidence of this often shows up in my photographs.  I love seeing what other people are knitting and reading as well. So, what are you knitting or crocheting right now? What are you reading? Take a photo and share it either on your blog or on Flickr. Leave a link below to share your photo with the rest of us! 
~Ginny at Small Things

I know.  You're stunned.  Another baby hat.

After weeks of picking at Mouse's baby blanket (2.5 balls to go!) I realized that Moose's teacher's last day before she goes out on maternity leave is tomorrow.  Eek!  So I picked up this really pretty skein of Cascade 220 Superwash in "Princess Pink" at my LYS and frantically cast on a roll-brim beanie Adventure Hat.  I think I'll finish in time - I'm starting the crown now.

When I'm not falling into bed at night, I'm getting lost in The Language of Flowers after the kids go to sleep.  It's the story of an orphan finding her way in San Francisco after "aging out" of the foster care system.  While we all know I usually prefer historical fiction (this departure is for my neighborhood book club), the Victorian philosophy of the flowers' meaning (and somewhat mystical power) woven into the story keeps me riveted.  And I'd be lying by omission if I didn't admit that the protagonist's being an orphan didn't grab at my heart and make me want to run into Mouse's room just to hug her.

A small additional note: this is my 100th post.  If this is your first time visiting, or if you've been with me from the start, a very warm thank you for stopping by and spending some time with me in this little space. 

What are you knitting and reading?  Come join the sharing at Small Things

Disclosure: this post contains some affiliate links.

Monday, November 12, 2012

High Five {Mindful Mothering Mondays}

Moose loves to mow the lawn.  Not for real, of course, but I think he thinks it is for real.  He informs me, very seriously, most mornings that he needs to mow the lawn and, despite the mid-40s mornings we've been having, dons his rain boots and jacket and gets down to business.

Each "mowing" session lasts 15 minutes at most.  He returns, pink cheeked and excited to show me his work: when the dew is still on the grass, the lines he's made with his toy lawn mower are visible. 

"Mom, look what I did!"

I dutifully ooh and aah from several angles (from the window where the above photo was taken; from the patio door).

"Mommy, high five!" It's not really a question.  I happily oblige.

If I had to guess, Moose's love language is words of affirmation.  There are lots of high fives in our house: after cleaning up toys, after successfully using the potty, after helping burp his sister.  He asks for (demands) them and, when he doesn't, I offer them. 

And I am learning that by prefacing a request not just with please, but by telling what a good job he did at that request previously, Moose and I butt heads (or antlers) much less frequently.  He's still a toddler (or does it make him a preschooler since he's about to turn three?), and a boy, so I still get plenty of "no"s.  But when it works, the little extra time it takes to ask him in his "language" is small compared to the effort involved in otherwise doing battle.

The bonus is that I've been getting a lot of "good job, Mom"s from him.  Which makes my heart smile, because my love language is words of affirmation, too.

Looking to be uplifted on a Monday? Hop over to Lyida's for more Mindful Mothering Monday stories:

Friday, November 9, 2012

Fitness Friday: "Modify" is NOT a Dirty Word


The above is what I think I look like doing Pilates.

But a lot of times, I suspect this is what I actually look like:
A tummy rub, can I PLEASE get a tummy rub?

How to get from here to there? Modify!

"Modify" almost seems like a dirty word in exercise.  A concession.  A cop out.

But it's not - or at least it doesn't have to be! The right modifications can be a gateway to a more difficult move that may be intimidating all on its own.  Or they can make a workout accessible during recovery from injury or illness (of course, check with your doctor first!).

What brought this subject to mind this week was doing some tough ab/core work as part of my October-in-November Blogilates Challenge.  I'll confess that I dread lower ab work to begin with, and after my recent downtime, I was feeling the work (i.e. pain) in my low back more than in my abs.  Cassey suggested a few perfect modifications that enabled me to get through the routine, get a great burn, and finish feeling accomplished rather than deflated.

So today I'm sharing some of my favorite modifications.  Try these suggestions to help you climb your way to the next level of fitness.

1) Burpees - Burpees or squat thrusts are a GREAT cardio move and feature heavily in a lot of HIIT (high intensity interval training) workouts.  Because they're so effective, they're also really, really TOUGH!  Rather than jumping head-first, try modifying by stepping back instead of jumping back into plank, as demonstrated in the below video.  It will help you avoid injury (and nagging defeatist feelings).

A different burpee modification I've used is to place my hands on a tall step or chair seat instead of taking them all the way to the ground.  By keeping your head above the level of your heart, it's a little less shocking on that cardiovascular muscle.

2) Corkscrew - the Pilates corkscrew is a fantastic move to work the lower abdominal muscles.  It can be tough on your low back when you're starting out (or restarting, ahem).  Bending your knees (shown in the below, full-length ab routine at 00:42) takes the pressure off of the low back and hip flexors while still torching the low abs!   

A more general lower ab modification is to place your hands under your glutes to give your low back a break while you're building that lower ab foundation.

3) Slow down - across the board (from mountain climbers, to Pilates roll-ups), when my fitness level is not up to par, simply taking things at my own pace can see me through the tough spots in a workout.  Learn to temporarily tune out an instructor's count, and concentrate on form.  You may only get seven repetitions done in the time it takes her to do 10, but you can still get a great workout, protect yourself from injury, and improve over the long run so you no longer have to slow down or otherwise modify.

The key is to use modifications either as an entree to a tough, new move, or when your body needs a break, and then up the ante by doing the full version when you're ready rather than resting on your laurels

What are your favorite ways to modify and still get a great workout?

Image credits: Toni Busch (perfect Pilates); Valerie "ucumari" (Pilates Bear)

Friday, November 2, 2012

Fitness Friday: A (Wo)man with a Plan!

Last week, when I shared some tips for starting (or restarting) a morning exercise routine, I left off one of my favorite, more general, fitness tactics - make a plan.  Maybe a plan doesn't work for you if you're a true free spirit.  But, for me, it eliminates the excuse of not being able to decide what workout to do when the alarm goes off.  And, silly as it sounds, it gives me some kind of accountability - even if it is only a box to check.

With this post-baby restart, I couldn't decide on a plan.  I thought about returning to the Jillian Michaels Ripped in 30 workout that kicked off this feature.  I was also tempted to make a schedule of the mybarre3 workouts I've been raving about.  Given my recent, alarming Cheez-It consumption, though, I really needed a shake-up: both of variety and intensity.

I've shared before some of the FREE workouts found on the Blogilates YouTube channel.  Seriously - if you haven't checked them out (and even if you're not game for my challenge), you need to!  Blogilates founder Cassey Ho puts out a great workout calendar every month, and I've been tempted to follow along before, but as an East Coast, early morning exerciser, I sometimes didn't have access yet to the new, prescribed workout du jour, and I just derailed.  (Yes, I am that OCD.)

But who's to say I can't break the rules a little and do the October challenge in NovemberWant to join me?  Since October (and, therefore, the October Calendar) started on a Monday, I'll be kicking off this coming Monday, November 5th.  The first workout on tap is the 100 Workout (10 exercises, 10 reps).  I've got my Pilates mat and coffee all ready! C'mon and do it with me:

(Or, if you want to keep current, you could always tackle the Blogilates November Calendar.)

What's your November plan?  Share in the comments below and let's keep each other accountable!