Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Packing for a Sport Climbing Trip

I was originally really excited to write this post.  I was supposed to finish up a bunch of school stuff, make sure all my dance stuff was prepped since we have competition in a week and a half, and head down to Kentucky today for 4 days of climbing in the beautiful Red River Gorge.
Then I woke up and saw this:

Which turned in to this:

My crew ended up pulling the plug on the trip.  The road we were planning on taking down through Wisconsin was apparently pure ice, and the snow storm and blowing snow was going to follow us as far as Chicago.  If we waited until tomorrow to drive down, that means we would have more driving time than climbing time to get back by Monday when I teach dance in the evening.
I'm torn about this turnout.  While I'm exceedingly bummed out (a climbing trip at any time is awesome), another part of me knows that I'll be heading down to the Gorge in May for at least a week, and I now have time to start grading the 75 8-page papers I collected from my students on Tuesday.

Yeah.  Those.
I'll also be able to see my family this weekend at our Easter get-together, which is actually really fantastic since I didn't get to attend Christmas this year due to being in Florida with my folks.
The sacrifices, eh?
Instead of knitting on the 15 hour drive each way, I'll knit tomorrow during my duty day at my college during meetings and in the car driving to the cities for the weekend.  Not a bad trade, if you ask me.
The sad thing is, I was actually packed and ready to go when the plug was pulled.  I had my gear bag, my camping bag, and even my knitting bag set.
So, what does a lady climber bring on a Gorge trip in the spring, you might ask?
Well, for starters, you need the proper climbing equipment!

To start, my day pack is Black Diamond's Bolt Pack from a couple of seasons ago.  If you can't tell from the numerous patches, it's accompanied me for a ton of trips already.  It's the perfect for both a sport climbing or a lead climbing day; I've fit a double rack, personal gear, rope, and food for the day in there with a comfy suspension system to get to the climb, no matter the hike in.
Whenever I go to the Gorge, I always bring at least 12 sport quickdraws.  This is a minimum.  Mine are Mammut's Element Key Lock set in a nice red.  They're a little beefier than some of the slim and light sets, but when I'm going from car to crag in two minutes, they're perfect. Plus, I'm used to carrying 7-10 pounds of trad gear, so a could extra ounces for these lovely draws isn't much.
The other draws you see are alpine draws.  One of my partners and I wanted to do some trad climbing, and the deal was if he brought the trad gear, I would bring the alpine draws which extend (which in meandering trad climbing is a must).  I also have a couple of extra prusik cords for rappelling or a smaller climber lowering a larger climbing in case someone forget them, as well as some rolls of tape, a water bottle, and my knee brace.
My harness is Black Diamond's Aura Harness, lightweight and beautiful.  I was planning on bringing two pairs of shoes, both from Evolv.  My trusty Geshido SC shoes (bright green) are my absolute favorite pair of climbing shoes EVER.  Evolv is not making any more of these amazing shoes, and I'm almost at the point of buying like four pairs of backup for the next ten years of climbing.  That's how much I love those shoes.  The other are a pair of Evolv's Shamans, women's version.  I got these on a pro deal when I was still at VE, and I'm still breaking them in.  No verdict yet... :)
As for clothes, I try to keep it to a minimum with room for error, or the "In case it rains like crazy and I need a backup set of clothes" scenario. :)  Since I'm only car camping, I'm not too worried about bringing an extra something-or-other with.

Even in the depths of summer, I tend to just wear pants rolled up for climbing, and I love Prana's Halle pants.  They breathe well but protect against the elements, and the roll holds when it's time to get down to business.  For seriously hard sport routes and nighttime lounging, I brought my amazing tasc Performance Nola Crops, which are easily becoming my favorite piece of clothing ever.  I truly tested their "stink-proof" claim last week (just for fun), and they lasted through an hour of very hot yoga, two hours of climbing, my 3-mile run, and 3 hours of dance.  Normally I'd be one stinky lady, but they somehow held up and had no stink.  It's black magic.  I'm so glad I took advice from The Morning Fresh on that one- and I plan on getting another pair in the future!
For a zip-up warmth layer, I got an Ibex Shak Lite Hoody for Christmas, and the bright blue is perfect for summer needs.  My thinner long sleeve is a "so-last-season" North Face 1/2 zip on sale from Backcountry, but I wore it on Devil's Tower during the height of summer and have packed it on climbing trips ever since for both chilly weather and a block against the sun.  Since spring means a variety of temps, I packed three Tshirts and 2 tank tops for the trip, along with a pair of legwarmers in case it got chilly at night.  Besides my raincoat, my headlamp, and my Mammut zero-degree down jacket from a few years ago (always need a puffy!), I was set!
Except...
Then the weather turned to poo.
::sigh::

Guess I get to watch the cats chase each other around the apartment instead and be all responsible.
Good thing I have all summer to go on trips... :)

(PS- This post was in no way sponsored by anyone I've mentioned above.  I use and recommend the gear listed above based on years of climbing and gads of trips I've taken.)

Sunday, April 13, 2014

FO: Bitty Ballerina Gift Set

It's been a pretty chill Sunday so far.

I woke up with a stomach ache and feeling dizzy, so I've been taking it pretty easy today.  Albert napped with me for a bit, I worked on school prep, and I finished a small project for a pregnant friend- a Bitty Ballerina Gift Set, since she owns a dance studio and is having a little girl!

Pattern(s): The Super Simple Little Legwarmers (pattern found here) and Saartje's Bootees (free from the Ravelry page)
Yarn: The legwarmers are Ella Rae's Lace Merino in Blue/Purple and the bootees are Lorna's Laces sock yarn in multi-colored pink (last seen used in Heather's Star Hat... one of these days I'll finally finish using that skein of yarn...)
Needles: DPNs in size 1 & 3

Timeframe: March 22nd-April 12th
Worst Part: None.  This was an easy-peasy project.
Best Part: Loving the adorable little bootees the moment I sewed the buttons on!  I'm also excited to completely surprise my friend by sending these in the mail to her dance studio. :)

I'll be wrapping up my weekend with a little bit of time at the dance studio, then watching Cosmos tonight while doing a little knitting.  Hopefully whatever is making my stomach unhappy goes away so I can get back to normal- I need to get back on the 1/2 marathon training schedule and prep for a quick climbing trip coming this weekend!  More on that next post... ;)

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

FO: Alaskan Cowl

Last night I cranked out the last part of the Alaskan Cowl for my friend Amanda!  She's heading up to Alaska in 2 days to spend her summer guiding kayaking adventures, and she asked me to knit her a little something to keep her warm, preferably a cowl.
The only slight problem was that she asked me barely a week ago.
Knit a cowl in less than a week?
Challenge accepted.
I cast off last night and blocked it today!
It spent the morning on the heater since it was cloudy, then when the sun finally began to shine and things warmed up I stuck it out on the back porch for a couple of hours of last-minute drying.  It's now wrapped and ready to be gifted at her going-away party tomorrow night!
Pattern: My own!  I based it off of a couple of different patterns for the look and the number of stitches to CO, but essentially I just added in a little lace between garter rows and did what I thought looked right.  Pattern is as follows:

CO 180 stitches 
P 1 round.
K1 round, P1 round 4x. 
K 1 round. 
YO, K2tog for a round.
Repeat the italicized part until the cowl reaches the desired length. end with the K1P1 rounds.
CO with Jeny’s Surprisingly Spring BO.
Yarn: Brown Sheep's Nature Spun in Worsted Weight, colorway is Stone.  Got to do a little de-stashing with this particular cowl...
Needles: size 8 on the Denise Interchangeable.  They're starting to wear out a little bit, which makes me sad.  Those needles have served me well for years.
Timeframe: April 4-8.  You guys- I knit this in four days!
Worst Part: Being worried that I wouldn't meet the deadline.
Best Part: Meeting the deadline with two days to spare, and winging a pattern and liking the results!
This morning Scott and I both accidentally slept in past our alarms, and he raced up to work in the truck- our only vehicle between the two of us that I normally have dibs on.
I was pretty okay with it this morning, though, because he helped me pump the tires up on my bike for my first day of bike commuting!  
I'll admit, doing an hour of hot yoga followed by a completely uphill bike ride wasn't the greatest first bike commute of the season, but it didn't feel as hard as I thought it was going to.  My legs were already stretched out, and I didn't get truly sore until I was home and grading (sitting) for awhile.  
Another reason I think the biking feels all right is because I'm deep in the first week of training for my half marathon!  I won the lottery to get in the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon on June 21st, and my name was chosen!  This week was my first week of training, and so far I've done two runs, both over 3 miles.  It helps that Scott has done most of those runs with me- he pushes me a little, and makes me not cheat when I want to be done and go back.  
So far no major running issues besides dealing with side aches and sore feet (I have really high arches), but I'll keep you posted as training continues...

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Mini-cation

On Thursday afternoon, I got back to my office after my last class of the day, took a giant breath in, and collapsed in my chair.  I may have sat there for at least a few minutes, doing some yoga breathing, rolling my neck around, rolling my shoulders, and letting the stress of the week collapse into my exhales.
It's been a long week.

This is a picture of my dinner Wednesday night before subbing some young kids for dance class.  This is what the entire week felt like- eating on the go, rush rush rush from one thing to the next, and grading.  Always more grading.
Thursday I (finally) handed back the last of the 2nd batch of papers to my students, and a tremendous weight was lifted off of my shoulders.  Yes, I still have a giant folder of latework to grade.  Yes, I have to grade and comment on 75 outlines this weekend.  But the papers are done.
I rewarded myself Thursday night with a visit to my friend Alex's house, where I met her new puppy and we watched Frozen.  I finished the first legwarmer of the Bitty Ballerina Gift Set and cast on for the second.

It's so close to being done, and I can ship it off to my friend soon!
After the movie, I drove home in yet another snowstorm that closed down schools and yoga class for me on Friday.  I'm really hoping it's the last snowstorm.  Don't get me wrong, I love winter, but this year I'm ready to be done.
Scott and I took a mini-vacation up the shore this weekend to Tofte to visit his Mom, and I think it was really good for both of us to have a nice break before the semester goes into overdrive.  We had some good food, good company, good coffee, and an amazing day out cross country skiing.

The trails in Superior National Forest were groomed and completely empty, so Scott's Mom, Scott and I were able to enjoy a gorgeous day outside.  My cheeks even got a little bit of color in them!

(I don't want to hear any snarky comments on how pale I am- believe me, I know...)
It was so warm out that we quickly shed layers to stay cool.  It wasn't a long ski- only about 6km- but it was a fantastic chance for us to get outside and breathe some fresh air before hunkering down today for homework (Scott) and grading (me).  It also made me realize how much I really love cross-country skiing!  I used to do it with my parents out on Lake Minnetonka, but I haven't done it a ton up here despite the abundance of trails, and I think I found a new cardio winter sport!  Now just to find some equipment for cheap before next year...
Today is lots of grading, some dance, some grocery shopping, some cooking and baking, and (hopefully) some knitting tonight to watch Cosmos, which is quickly becoming the only show that Scott and I watch together.
An hour of science with Neil DeGrasse Tyson, plus knitting?
Yes, please. :)

Monday, March 31, 2014

Chugging Along

I almost wanted to title this post "Things my cat ate this weekend that were NOT kitten food".  Luckily, that passed, mostly because I didn't get to nab pictures of her eating several post-its, part of a sweatshirt, the rim of my foliage hat (I made that one in 2008... talk about a knit that's been around the block...), and some egg shells that Scott left on the counter.  We actually chased her trying to get the last bits of the eggshell out of her mouth, but she dashed under the bed and gulped the remainder of them down.

Stupid cat.
It was one of those weekends where I get a lot done, but it's the boring stuff.  For instance, the legwarmers aren't any further along.  The cowl received like three more rows tops.  I haven't touched the giraffe in ages.
But... the laundry is done, the house is really clean for the first time in ages, and I made a dent in the pile of papers I need to grade.

(Notice that Maeby seems to require my attention even when I'm grading and she's been fed.  Monster.)
I even cleaned and put away all of my ice climbing gear, since the 40-degree days have destroyed any semblance of ice, mixed, or dry-tool conditions at our local crags.
And I did most of it by myself, as Scott was off in Chicago for his Computer Security competition.

Yes, he's that big of a geek.  However, he's the type of geek one makes friends with because he can destroy my computer to levels that no one could bring it back from.  Or block my favorite websites, like Ravelry or Pinterest.  Or block cat videos from Youtube on our wireless.  You know the type.  Good thing he's on my side. :)  Notice that even the cats make friends with him.  Maeby eats far more of my stuff than Scott's.  Smart little girl...
Other than that, I'm waiting for the weather to not be raining and gross so I can go outside and start training for the 1/2 marathon.  It was raining all day today, and the not-so-nice weather man keeps threatening that it will turn to freezing rain tonight.

I'll admit, in my humble opinion, spring weather is the worst.  Everything's melting, so you can't really do a ton outside.  Ice season is over, rock season is not quite going yet, and I don't even bike commute to the dance studio yet or I would show up a blob of mud.
Not that my ladies would be the least bit surprised, but I like to try to be a good role model.  Or at least be clean.
Anyhow.
I'm going to close out this random post, go make a cup of tea, and finish a rather intriguing collection of essays on China.  I'll let you know how it is later.  Until then, cheers all. :)

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Distracted

It's always about the best-laid plans, right?
My week was extremely organized on Monday morning.  I spent the morning at LSC, getting a ton of lesson planning and work done.  I carefully made my to-do list for the rest of the week, intentionally not over-booking myself so I knew I could get a fair amount of my projects done for both work and fun.
Like Taylor's cowl, for instance.
But then...
Oh dear...
Then I heard that one of my old dance friends was pregnant with a little baby girl, and suddenly things were happening that I couldn't stop if I wanted to.

Oops.
I mean...
Well, since I already stumbled, I decided that a little baby dancer girl needs a bright pair of baby legwarmers to go with her pink dancer shoes.

Right?
Then on Wednesday, the day that I was supposed to get loads of grading done and blog and vacuum and clean the house more and pack Scott some snacks for his weekend away, I got a call from this lady:

Juliet and I go way back.  Waaaaaay back.  We started in the UMD Theater program together as undergraduates, and people used to call us "twins" since we're both the same height and build, with long blonde hair and loud laughs.  She's also the one that actually got me in to climbing.
Yeah.  She's that kind of a big deal.
She's been driving all over the country for the past few years with her boyfriend Jon (you can check out their travel blog here!) climbing, working odd jobs, and basically living an awesome vagabond lifestyle.  If I ever have a semester with no classes, I might take a leaf out of her book and jump on the road for a few months.  I wonder if Scott would be all right with that...

Anyhow, we got to head to the Duluth Coffee Company after a morning yoga session to catch up.  Yoga turned into lunch turned into climbing.

I didn't get home that night until dinnertime, but it was absolutely worth it.  I haven't seen Juliet since before Christmas, and since I might be out of town when she swings through Duluth again in August, I needed a nice big fix before she headed out.
It turned out to be fine that I didn't get any of my real work early done this week, though.  Mostly because today the weather turned to total poop.

(I took this selfie to send to my Mom in Florida- she LOVES getting the "bad weather" pics ever since she moved down there... I wonder why...)
It took me just about 40 minutes to get home on a normally 10-minute commute, and my only concrete plans thus far tomorrow are yoga early morning if the roads don't suck and climbing in the evening.  The rest of the day is smashing my entire to-do list from the week in there.  I'm going to be a grading machine, fueled by lots of coffee and the soundtrack to Game of Thrones (thank you, Duluth Public Library!).
It'll be fine... as long as I don't start thinking about baby knits again. :)

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Spring Break Mini-cation and a Big Frog

I finally traveled down to the cities for a few days of friend time with no work attached, and it was much-needed and enjoyed!

I spent a day and night with my friend Val first, and we got to do some great lady stuff!  We climbed, ate ice cream, and even checked out a candlelight yoga session at a downtown Minneapolis yoga studio.  My last morning with her, we went for a nice walk around Minneapolis with coffee!  I haven't really aimlessly walked around Minneapolis much, so doing it with a friend was a nice change of pace.

After some quality Val time, I rocketed over to Woodbury to hang out with my brother and his girlfriend.  I finally got to see Frozen (AWESOME) with Kendra, and after my brother got home from work, we all went to Red Lobster for dinner!
Friday I had a climbing session with my old friend Jenelle, who I haven't seen in eons!

I've known Jenelle since my undergraduate years at UMD.  She actually got me my job at the dance studio I work at 4 years ago, which I am forever indebted to her for.  We got to catch up, climb a bit, and talk dance for awhile.  Since she currently has dance, grad school, and family obligations like crazy, I was really excited to have a little time with her in both of our busy schedules!  Overall, it was really nice to run off for a bit to see some of my friends and family, and it'll definitely sustain me for the next few days as school stuff picks up again.
While down in the cities, I worked a little bit on Taylor's Honey Cowl, and it's slowly but surely beginning to grow.  I'm hoping to finish this thing in the next week or so, as the "Things I need to knit NOW" list becomes bigger and bigger.

Knitting with pure white is also perhaps a little less than inspiring at the moment, as Duluth got another 6 inches of snow while I was gone, and I'm feeling the need for more bright things in my life!  Speaking of bright and happy things, I found a beautiful needle case on Etsy a week or two ago, and it was waiting for me when I returned from the cities!

Can you tell I perhaps still had the Sochi Winter Olympics still in my mind?  This was a treat for myself for finishing Scott's Dude Sweater (which I will blog soon, I promise!) and winning my gold medal in the Ravellenic Games.  It's beatifully made, huge,and for practicality sake, it's fantastic to be able to look at the pockets and know exactly what I have knitting-needle wise.

It also means that I no longer have to search for the needles that I need!  I used to put all my needles jumbled together in an old can, so finding five needles the same size turned in to at ten minute search every time I started a project.  Not okay, and finally solved!

Last but not least, I grudgingly took the step this morning that I needed to with the Narwhal mittens.  It was hard, but I wasn't happy with how they were turning out.  The gorgeous yarn I originally chose was much too springy for the fair isle without bunching up, and it wasn't the quality knit that I was going for.
So I pulled the needles out...

Took a deep breath...

And wound back the yarn.
It's okay though, because as you might notice in the pictures, replacement yarn is standing by!
When I was down in Woodbury, my brother's girlfriend Kendra and I visited a small but fantastic little local Woodbury yarn store, where I picked out some new Dalegarn Falk to use for the outside of the mittens.  I know that in the long run, I'll be much happier with the mittens with this yarn as the outside, despite the sadness of all that work going down the tubes.  Quality is important, right?  As for the original yarn, I plan on making a simple but pretty cowl with the pink yarn to give to Brit along with the mittens, so it's not going to sit around in my yarn drawer for very long.
That way, next Christmas, I can gift her a pretty set of bright pink knits that she can wear together. :)
Now I just have to cast on for the mittens... again.
Good thing I liked the picot trim...