Thursday, May 30, 2013

End-of-Year Crazy

(They pretty much don't leave the window, now that it's almost warm enough to leave it open all the time.  Almost.)
I alluded yesterday to a project that I have a very tight deadline on.
Well, I didn't really mention how tight.
The end of the dance year is always fun and bittersweet all at the same time.  I love the big recital at the end of the year, even though it can often be chaotic, crazy, and stressful.  I also have to say goodbye to my seniors.  I've been lucky the last two years- I've only had one senior per year leave.  This year, however, my entire top line is graduating, which will leave me a blubbery mess on recital night.
I wanted to give these girls something that really said "thank you" for all of their hard work, late nights, and dealing with me yelling "5, 6, 7, 8!" over the last 3 years at them.  Nothing seemed quite right... until an epiphany hit me yesterday.  At DSW.  While helping Scott pick out some "grown-up shoes".
What better to say thank you than with a knitted good?
Since I like giving gifts the last week of class, and NOT the night of the recital (which can be super chaotic and things can be lost and forgotten by accident), that means I have exactly 4 days to finish 3 cowls.  I decided on making the good 'ol Marian cowls, since they knit up super super fast, and it seems like every teenage girl today is wearing a cowl.
I had Scott stop at Yarn Harbor with me yesterday before sitting down last night and knocking my first one off the needles by 10 pm.
I got home from my teacher training day today (How to be a Great Online Instructor!) and cast on for the second cowl.

Three cowls in four days?  Pschhhhhhhhh.  No problem.
My only problem will be balancing them with dance tonight, teacher training tomorrow, a wedding tomorrow night (can't bring white merino yarn to an outdoor wedding), a closing shift at the climbing gym on Saturday, possibly climbing on Sunday, and putting together the thank-you gifts for my other Monday night classes (ballet and non-competition tap).
Oh, and starting to assemble these:

20 little Pan Am bags for my middle-school tap dancing stewardesses.
Bah, it'll be fine! :)

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Memorial Day Weekend!

I was excited for Memorial Day weekend for one big reason- my parents were flying in from Florida!  I haven't seen them since Christmas, so having a weekend with them- along with my brother, Kyle, and his long-term girlfriend Kendra- was fantastic.
There was an enormous french toast and sausage breakfast...

followed by an afternoon of housework and yard work.  I got to help my Mom weed her gardens and conduct general clean-up while my Dad and my brother worked on fixing the boat, the truck that died in the garage over the winter, and cleaning up the "guy" end of things.  The early evenings were for card games...

and we got to have at least one nice dinner at our local swanky place to eat, Lord Fletcher's on the Lake.

The walleye dinner was amazing- a fish the size of your head, plus two side dishes and a salad.  I managed to eat the entire fish (pretty sure it was my body craving more iron...) and my side of corn before throwing in the towel.
We were able to get a family picture before leaving:

and heading back to my folk's place for some music and (for me) knitting!

I got a TON of knitting done this weekend- I finally picked up the Spring Affection shawl for myself after a long hiatus, getting quite a few more stripes in without a hitch.

I'll be really excited to wear this one- with this fingering weight, it's about as heavy as a sneeze, and absolutely gorgeous.  I also started what I've dubbed the Candy Cowl- yet another knit to add to the pile for Christmas in a few months.

It's knit flat before stitched together, and so far looks more like a flag than anything else.  You're supposed to alternate every other row with a different size needle, so I'm actually really happy I have the Denise interchangable needles for this project.
The weekend ended in in the perfect way- our giant Mountaineer, stuck in the garage all winter while my parents were in Florida, got stuck in the driveway (with our boat attached on the back), blocking me in.

Kyle and my Dad got to jump the truck after several unsuccessful attempts to get it started.
All in all, a great weekend with the family. :)
A week and a half now until my studio's year-end dance recital, and I've started some very last minute knitting projects as thank-you gifts for my three graduating senior students... expect an update on those very soon, as I have to absolutely knock those out fast...

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Finally- Outside!

After days of rain, northern MN finally had a day of nice weather in the forecast!  I was getting pretty cabin-fevery (absolutely a word) after days inside recovering, and wanted to get outside to do something.  Luckily, my buddy Mat felt the same way, and on Thursday morning we cruised up to Palisade Head along the North Shore of Lake Superior bright and early for our first outdoor climbing day of the year!

Mat's probably one of my favorite people to climb with- laid-back, constantly smiling and laughing, nonchalant, and encouraging no matter what level you're climbing at.  He climbs really hard when he wants to, but on this particular day, we were both just looking for a day outside to stretch our muscles in the sun.
We hit up pretty much every decent 5.9 and 5.10 at Palisade, since I was still testing my limits and Mat was "out of shape" for climbing (which means he hasn't climbed 5.12-5.13 in awhile...).
It was a beautiful day- sunshine, no fog, only a slightly chilly breeze coming off the lake, making for fantastic climbing temperatures.  We both still wore our down puffy jackets for belaying, though- typical Northern Minnesota belay in May. ;)

It was also really nice to climb with Mat because he knows his stuff.  I like taking new people outside to climb, but usually that means I'm setting up all the anchors, doing all the tear down, and usually trying to teach how to do these things at the same time.  With Mat, one of us would tear down the anchor while the other person set the next one up, letting us get in climbs back-to-back.  He is definitely a little more "MacGyver" with some of his belay setups, and we had a good laugh about setting up a few of them.

(Generally, three cams right next to each other in a crack is not the "best" practice... oh, Mat...)
By the time we started to slow down and get sore in the late afternoon, the wind was really picking up and it was time to get back to Duluth so I could teach dance.
I was definitely dead by the time I got home Thursday night after my very full day, but it felt amazing to really push my body for the first in a long time.  I actually felt like I deserved snuggling up with Scott on the couch to watch some Game of Thrones.  The best part about pushing my limits is knowing that I can only improve, and finally get back in to shape- for climbing, running, dancing, hot yoga-ing, and bike commuting.  It will take awhile, but the first step always feels the best!

(Happy after my 6th climb of the day, and finally getting sore!)
I'm off this weekend to grab my parents from the airport down in Minneapolis.  After a winter down in Florida, they're coming back to Minnesota for the summer, and I couldn't be more excited!  Memorial Day with the folks, then back to Duluth for training at my college next week in how to teach a good online class.  Hopefully a fair amount of knitting time this relaxing weekend, and next week I want to be done with the back of the Dude Sweater... it's so close...

Monday, May 20, 2013

Cabin Fever Cupcakes

I've never been good at the whole "recovery" thing.  When I had my kidney infection a few years ago, I definitely went climbing when I was supposed to be in bed, all the while insisting that "I just won't fall!", and wearing my extra-padded big wall harness (as if that would do anything).
I've been trying to be better with this recovery, since things inside me need to heal properly.  I tried doing some sit-ups yesterday, and quickly discovered those were a bad idea.  Today I teach dance in the evening, so that will be my deciding factor on fitness. Being home most of the day due to rain, though, drove me a little stir-crazy.  Stir-crazy as in the house is clean, bathroom scrubbed, bed made, kitchen wiped down, laundry is done and put away.  To fill a little more time, I decided to go on a baking adventure!

I found a fun-looking recipe on Pinterest for Lemon Cupcakes with Raspberry Frosting, and got to baking.  I actually really enjoy baking, especially when I can surprise people at the dance studio with tasty treats!

It was a little chilly in the apartment this morning, so having the oven on was a great way to warm things up (and make it smell great!).

After the cupcakes came out of the oven, I left them to cool for about an hour or so.  I have personal experience with frosting melting off of still-warm cupcakes, so I knew better this time, and left them until they were completely cool.  This gave me time to do all the crazy cleaning mentioned above...

When it was time, I made the frosting.  I have to admit, I was a little nervous about this part- frosting can be so bad if you make it wrong.  This stuff turned out great, and with fresh raspberries, it was really tasty!

The recipe is great, though I do have a few things I plan on changing for next time (ending up with about three times as much frosting as needed is one thing).  Maeby joined me during the frosting portion, and helped out in her own way.  This involved a lot of rolling around on her back on the floor, looking up at me, and meowing loudly for tummy rubs.  No shame, that one.

I still have a couple of hours left before dance.  I think I might make a giant to-do list of projects and ideas for the summer, since that always helps me stay focused and not feel like I'm drifting around like a ping-pong ball...
And while I do that, I'm going to have a delicious cupcake.  :)

Om nom!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Recovery and FO: Artist Mitts

Uffda- a lot has happened in the past few days, so if this gets a little long, bear with me!
I went in for my surgery on Friday morning bright and early, and as you can see below, I was very excited to get in and get it done!
While it took awhile to get checked in, dressed, through Pre-Op procedures, etc, the surgery itself only lasted about an hour, and the doc said everything went exceedingly well!  I woke up from anesthesia in the recovery room a little disoriented, but after checking my vitals and deciding that everything looked good, I was out of the hospital and home by 2 in the afternoon!  
The rest of Friday was a blur of naps and movies for me- I remember at one point in the evening putting in Wall-E, but I don't remember actually watching it... or even the end of it!  Yesterday was much better- the remnants of the anesthesia had worn off after a full night of sleep, and the pain was manageable with just ibuprofen.  Awhile ago, I had sewn together a heating pad using rice and a strip of purple fabric, and heating that up and putting it on my sore spot worked wonders.
I did a lot of reading, a lot of drinking tea, and more watching movies.  I'm about halfway through the second book in the Game of Thrones series, and I'm really enjoying it so far.  Great characters, well-developed world, and fast-paced action works well to keep my focus when it easily wanders.  It's one thing to write a brave, great character that everyone likes, but it's another thing to have a character- or in this case, several- that you completely, utterly, and absolutely abhor.  It's fun. :)   
I was lucky, since the weather seemed to know that I wasn't up for much more than that- 4 days of rain and fog, perfect stay-inside-to-recover weather!  
(It might finally be spring- see the buds on the trees?)
One nice thing about this down time was I finally able to finish a project that should have been done awhile ago.  This project knocks off my first Christmas knit for the year- huzzah! :)  Check out the Artist Mitts.
Pattern: Pomatomus Gloves, a free pattern by Tobi Beck (link to Ravelry page)
Yarn: Leftover Three Irish Girls Yarn Adorn Sock in the colorway "Kieran"
Needles: Size 1 bamboo
Timeframe: March 14-May 19, and it truthfully shouldn't have taken nearly that long- these guys knit up fast if you don't let them linger in drawers...
Mods: I did the same mods as last time- I made a "shorter" version by skipping the pattern repeat.  I also only picked up 3 stitches on the thumb instead of 5.
Worst Part: Knowing that this project were sitting in my knitting drawer, waiting while I graded and graded and danced and did everything but knit them.  Sad...
Best Part: Getting to knit this sweet pattern again, and use the beautiful TIG yarn!  Hard to beat it. :)  One of these days I'll make a pair for myself...
Today will be more R&R, and perhaps even a trip to the grocery store if I feel ambitious.  I'm starting to get a little tired of eating takeout for almost every meal. It's amazing how quickly we run out of... well, everything, when the guy of the house has to do the shopping... ;)  

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Getting Back Up

It's the last week of classes at my college, and all of my students are turning in their final papers to me today. As I went to bed last night, I wondered how many of them were staying up late to work on their papers (and hopefully not start their paper!).  The one nice part about this time of the semester is that I get a little bit of relaxing time before the onslaught of final grading.
I took advantage of it yesterday, and went on my very first run in a long time (and first since I've been anemic)!

(Note the bright red laces- Maeby chewed through the original black laces, so I had to replace them.  Dumb cat.)
It felt amazing to finally be outside running again- frankly, to be outside doing anything again, and especially something active!  I was so proud to get 1.3 miles in, with only walking a block of it halfway through!  This comes from the girl who couldn't walk up the stairs before my blood transfusion without getting winded.
I've also been good about eating healthier.  Case in point- lunch yesterday was a grilled cheese sandwich, loaded with spinach and avocado.  I'm becoming a fan of sandwiches again, and figuring out how I can add extra-healthy elements filled with iron is a plus!

One more exciting thing happened- I received my surgery packet in the mail!  Yeah- I get to have surgery. :)

The doctors figured out exactly what was wrong with me, and I have to have surgery to fix it.  I'll be going on in Friday the 17th- a week from tomorrow.  Luckily, it'll be fairly simple and straightforward, and my healing time should be very fast (keeping my fingers crossed).  After I heal, the anemia and all the problems I've had lately should completely clear up, and I'll be going at full speed again by my birthday at the end of June!  Although I'm a little nervous about the surgery itself, I'm ridiculously excited for the "afterwards"- including, hopefully, running the half!  I figure if I train pretty much every day, I can still make a decent showing at the race, and only improve every subsequent race!
Tomorrow- stitches in my back come out.  One week from tomorrow- surgery.  June 22nd- running 13.1 miles.  I see only positive things ahead! :)

Saturday, May 4, 2013

And... wait- MORE snow...

Sorry for the long wait between posts!  I meant to do more updating, but the first couple days after getting the transfusion I was still pretty wonky.  I'm definitely much better now- I have color in my cheeks, I can go up stairs without getting too winded, and I'm excited to go in on Monday and see what the docs have to say.  Due to the stitches in my back, I was told not to do anything to aggravate them (including sit-ups, push-ups, etc), and climbing right now is a big no-no as the area heals.  I'll get more info on Monday for how it's doing, and the stitches come out next week on Friday (HUZZAH)!
You'd think that I'd be going slightly crazy without my normal regiment of exercise, but I definitely have a lot to do besides that.

Oh yes, it's that time of year.  This weekend, I'm finishing a round of grading from papers turned in last week, plus grading my Composition II students on their research presentations they did last week.  Normally at this time of year, being inside grading is difficult- watching the sun, hoping to feel the warm weather, maybe grading out on my back porch...

Not this year.  It snowed yesterday on and off all day, and when I woke up this morning, there was at least an inch of snow on the ground (luckily the sleet/rain mixture is sort of melting it now).

Super lame!  It's supposed to stay in the 30's all day today, and slightly warm up tomorrow before (hopefully) rocketing up to 60 on Monday.  I can't remember the last time I had a spring this cold.  Part of me is kind of thankful that during a time when I'm limited on the amount of outdoor activity I can do, it's crappy out anyway.  But the truth is we haven't really had more than a handful of non-crappy days.  I'm really hoping it turns around after finals week, or the start of my summer is going to be pretty grim.
I'm chugging along more on the Dude Sweater, but it's at the boring point where the pictures start to look the same, so I'll wait until I'm done done DONE with the back section- GETTING CLOSE!  Once my students turn in their final papers next Thursday, I'm going to be drowning in grading, so besides dance, I'll hopefully get as much of the back done as possible while it's still crappy outside and I'm not swamped with final papers and exams.
Oh- and I'm starting to get really unsure about the Grandma's half marathon- considering that the one run I went out on before I learned I was anemic, I made it about three blocks before I felt like I was going to pass out.  Can one train for a half-marathon in a month and a half from pretty low-cardio shape? Or should I forego this one and sign up for Whistlestop instead?  I believe they have a 10K... even though my goal is a half-marathon.  I'm not sure.  After Monday I'll know more about what I'm dealing with as an obstacle, so I can go from there.
If I do Grandma's, it sure won't be a pretty run, that's for certain...

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Quick Visit to the Hospital

It's been an interesting 48 hours.  I went in to the doctor on Monday morning for a mole removal, and ended up not leaving for 11 hours.  Oops...
The removal itself went really well, but when I tried to sit up, I got ridiculously light-headed and almost blacked out.  I didn't get better right away, and after the nurses took my blood for testing, discovered that my hemoglobin level was at 5.2- way below where it was supposed to be.  They sent me over to the hospital to get a blood transfer- 700 mL of blood, to be exact.  I was so wonky that I couldn't even walk over from Internal Medicine to the Outpatient are for the transfusion- they pushed me in a wheelchair.  It took awhile to get my blood type, get the IV in, and get going with the transfusion, and at least 6 hours to get all the blood into my system.

I attempted to stay cheerful throughout the whole process, but was pretty zonked by the time I finally got home.  The nurses told me that once my body accepted the blood, I would feel much better, but that could be anywhere from a few hours to a few days.  I'm finally feeling much better this morning, after slogging through teaching yesterday and being unable to concentrate much on anything requiring focus.
I did, however, attempt to knit...

but was pressing too hard on my needle, and broke it!  My poor little size 1 bamboo needles...
All in all, it's been a long and kind of weird couple of days.  I overall feel much better with the new blood, but my left arm is still sore from the IV and my right shoulder constantly hurts from my large mole removal and stitches.  I'm not allowed to climb until my stitches are out so I don't accidentally pull them out, so at least I'll have a little time to get grading done for the end of the semester.
I'll be extra happy when I finally get my diagnosis and get this entire mess sorted out.  Until then- new needles, and lots of grading! :)