Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Training and Bok Choy and Tofu Stir Fry

I was hoping to have some cool pics from climbing the last couple of days, but every time I wake up, it's raining on and off all day.  Super lame.  Especially since I got this in the mail yesterday:

a brand new Asana climbing pad (and chalk pot with cupcakes on it)!  I'm on a plateau right now, right around 5.11, and reading up on training for harder climbing all points to bouldering and campus board training as the way to push into the higher grades.  Today I'll be heading down for actual training at the climbing gym, since it's still raining- not just climbing.  Hopefully this will help!
Besides climbing, I've been trying out a ton of different types of yoga classes at my local studio (evolve duluth- awesome place!) and biking all over town.  I want to be in as good of shape as possible before next week, when Dance camp and my summer classes officially start down at my dance studio!

I'm teaching tap classes, a musical theater class, and a pointe class.  Super excited to get back in the studio- I can always tell when I haven't danced for awhile- it's such a good creative outlet, both through choreography and simply dancing.
Lunch yesterday was Bok Choy and Tofu Stir Fry- I had a basic bok choy recipe to go off of, and a ton of fresh bok choy and other greens from a friend's garden, so it seemed like the perfect chance to use it!
I cut the tofu up into blocks, cooked them about five minutes per side in some vegetable oil, then put them on some paper towels to soak up the extra oil.  I added a little more veggie oil to the pan and stir-fried some chopped-up garlic, the bok choy (just roughly cut up), and a handful of other "tougher" greens that needed to be cooked to be eaten.  Those only take a few minutes to cook before I added some teriyaki sauce for the greens to soak up, then added the tofu back in, and let it cook in for a couple of minutes.

Done and delicious.  A few more greens would have been nice, but this worked for a quick one-person meal. :)

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Book Review: Game of Thrones

One of my 13-in-2013 goals was to read 26 books, and I'm very close to already achieving that goal.  Ideally I was aiming for one book every two weeks, but especially with a little extra time in the summer, I'm already up to 21 books.
3 of these are part of the Game of Thrones series, including Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, and A Storm of Swords.  Together, they're about 3,000 pages of medieval craziness.  I'm pretty sure everyone has at least heard of the Game of Thrones- either the book series or the HBO TV series.
A lot of friends had been recommending the series to me, calling Martin the Tolkien of America, and saying that GoT was one of the greatest modern fantasies written.  I thought it would be a great summer read for me- some fun fantasy after so many papers.

After reading 3 of the books (out of 5 total so far), I can say for certain that I've definitely enjoyed the series.  They're incredibly fast-paced and involved, jumping from character to character and backdrop to backdrop every chapter.  While I don't think I'd go so far as to compare Martin's writing to Tolkien, one thing I can say about the author is that he's absolutely not afraid to change a character's perspective, introduce major controversy, boldly make taboo subjects seem almost acceptable, and kill off pretty much any character he pleases.  For instance, incest in royal bloodlines is a topic often discussed and even participated in by main characters, yet Martin handles the subject in a matter-of-fact way that forces the reader to confront it head-on.  His characters are very real, and act so.  They are selfish, they are afraid, they are bold, they manipulate, they lie, and they are cowardly.  They are, essentially, human. 
Scott's almost halfway into the fourth book, and once he's done, I get to continue on with the series.  The break is nice, but I'll be excited to delve into Martin's world again- partly because I'm nervous I might forget some of his vast cast of characters and who is alligned with whom and what crazy plots are coming out of the woodwork.
If you've been on the fence about this series, I would definitely suggest giving it a try.  They're thick, but short chapters break them up nicely.  Definitely one of the better series I've read in awhile.  Just be careful not to get too attached to any one of the characters- you never know what might happen to them... ;)

Postscript- I have watched the first two seasons of the HBO series, and both Scott and I very much enjoy them.  We've been actually watching the season after we finished each book together.  HBO pretty much follow the books, and it's really fun to see how the TV show deals with certain plot points, characters, and problems.  I'm really excited to see season 3, and I'm exceedingly curious about how they plan on doing parts of season 4, since Book 3 is seasons 3 & 4 of the TV show.  Shows how much goes on in the books!  If you have the opportunity, I'd say read the books alongside the TV series- keeps things interesting. :)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


Yesterday dawned beautiful and not terribly hot, so I called some friends, grabbed my gear, and headed down for a full day climbing again at Sandstone.
It was pretty great- lead a whole bunch of stuff, got a whole bunch of stuff, and got to climb with some pretty sweet people!

I had trouble on only one problem- I was leading up a wonky 5.11- called "Multiple Sax Partners", and I couldn't figure out how to get past one section without the possibility of a bad fall (the route has a PG13 rating, meaning it's pretty easy to get at least mildly injured).

I kept going up and backing down, looking around, and going up and backing down until my forearms were completely pumped.  It was only after I fell that I realized I missed a tiny ledge to crimp off of just above a bad sloper I was desperately grasping on the first time.  Hindsight allowed me to climb up easier once I knew what I was doing.  Next time- a clean run, hopefully! :)

My climbing partners also did well, and I even scored a couple of pics from the top of Sandstone's wall.  This is one of my buddy Coulter grabbing a lead on a 5.10.  Coulter is 13, and competed at the National level for climbing this year.  Super sweet kid, and his energy helped me get stoked, too!
While at Sandstone, I scoped out my project for this fall- a 5.12 called "Sigma".

It's a super-beautiful line, well bolted with clean falls.  You basically pull a few technical moves at the bottom, then fight up the thin crack to the anchors, hoping your arms don't give out on the way up.  The wall is pretty vertical, so it's sustained climbing the entire way.
It'll be a fun line to work over the next couple of months, before the snow flies.  I'm hoping to get down to Sandstone at least once every week or so to jump on it- super stoked!
I'm definitely sore today after climbing all day yesterday and Monday night at the gym.  I'll be doing an evening run, stretch out a bit with yoga, then back in the gym tomorrow to train more on the bouldering wall!  It feels soooo good to be sticking with my work-out schedule- climbing about every other day, running every other day (or more)- and I know I'll be happy I did down the road! :)
Fall climbing season is coming, so training has to be amped up now for sweet sends in cooler temps!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Quick Mittens in Summer

I'm chipping away more and more on Christmas knitting early this year, so it's not a crazy rush-induced panic come November when I look at my queue and realize I forgot to knit something for three different people.  One of my projects is the Chrysanthemum Mittens- a pair of fair isle mittens for a family member.  Normally I wouldn't knit fair isle mittens in the middle of the summer (it just feels wrong...) but the last pair of fair isle mittens I knit took way more time than I thought, so I wanted to start these early.
Turns out I really didn't have much to worry about.  I was here on Friday morning:

I was here after my shift on Sunday:

and then last night, Scott and I popped in National Treasure, allowing me to get here:

These mittens are absolutely flying off the needles!  I attribute a large part of that to things being slow at my job on Saturday and Sunday, allowing me a lot of time to knit.  I'm working a couple of other shifts this week that will (hopefully) let me get even further, but this bodes super well for me!
Actually, a very large part of me is pretty sure the reason I'm going so fast on these mittens is because the other Christmas knit I'm working on is exceeeeeeedingly monotonous.  Monotonous to the point that I almost want to pull it out and do something else with the yarn.  Monotonous that I only look at the project bag out of the corner of my eyes and give it looks that I normally save for misbehaving tap dancers.  Granted, I chose the project because I needed an "easy" knit going, so I have no one to answer to but myself.
Perhaps I'll knit a little more on the mitten before reevaluating the other situation...

Friday, July 19, 2013

Heat Wave and FO: Spring Affection

Minnesota has received a ridiculous heat wave in the last few days that has been more than a little unpleasant.  Since I had a few days off, I ran down to visit my Mom in the Twin Cities.  I can battle the heat in two ways- on the lake and in her air conditioned house!
We definitely did a lot of floating...

and when my brother and his girlfriend came out in the evening, got in some evening boat rides (and knitting time for me)!

The heat was good for one thing- blocking a rather large shawl.

After soaking, blocking in the sun took barely two hours.  My mom helped take pictures for my now-finished Spring Affection Shawl!

Pattern: Color Affection by Veera Valimaki
Yarn: MC- Plymouth Yarn Dye-for-Me Suri Alpaca Merino Glow in laceweight white with sparkles, C1- Juniper Moon Farm Findlay in Silver, and C2- Juniper Moon Farm Findlay in Mermaid!  I used at the very most perhaps half of each skein.

Needles: size 6
Mods: I didn't really make any true modifications on it, mostly just counting mistakes for picking up the three-color section stitches as I went, and having to pick up more about halfway through (oops).
Time: April 7th-July 15th, 2013

Worst Part: I thought that the miles and miles of stockinette was going to get to me, but it actually didn't.  I kind of wish I would have picked out a brighter color for contrasting color number one.  Also, I didn't get the stitches as loose as I should have switching back and forth between the three colors.  It wasn't a big deal until I was blocking- and even now it'll just be a little curlier, which I can deal with.

Best Part: Realizing just how large it was- first when I cast it off, and then when I was blocking it!  I generally don't work with lace weight too much- tiny tiny needles and stitches make for looooong projects, so a shawl in lace weight is kind of against what I would normally start.

When we were taking pictures, my Mom asked me if she could have one as well- she really liked the long crescent, and thought it would look great with some new sundresses she bought.

We picked out a shawl pattern, but I'm not sure if she realizes that it takes awhile to make one of these things.  More like a Christmas present, when she probably won't want it anymore...
I got back to Duluth a couple days ago, and have been trying not to melt on my living room floor.  Usually Duluth has so few days that hit 85 or hotter that it doesn't make sense to have an air conditioner, but the last few days have hit 90, making things mildly unbearable in my little 2nd floor apartment.

The kittens are spending almost their entire day napping to try and beat the heat, and I've been escaping to the grocery store's frozen foods aisle or a movie theater with Scott to cool down.  The heat makes knitting feel ridiculous, so I'm trying to get other projects done instead.  I do have a little something-something to show next time, though... :)

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Beating the Heat

It felt really good to enjoy some days at home after all the traveling I've done.  That didn't mean that I spent those days idle, however.  Quite the contrary- it's been busy!

My cousin delivered the kitchen table my aunt is gave me a couple of weeks ago, and I gave it a little TLC.  I sanded it three times- each time with finer sandpaper- to take away some of the old paint, the marks, and the grooves, and am giving it a few coats of bright red paint with enamel to make for easy clean-ups later.

I'm excited for this table and chair set to replace the metal art table and folding chairs that have served as our dining room set since we moved in to our apartment.  One more step to having a (somewhat) grown-up apartment!
I've been cooking a lot more, for myself and for Scott and I.  I'm even trying things I never would have thought before!

This was my experiment with sweet potatoes- I tried making both fries and chips, using recipes found on Pinterest (links are on each!).  The sweet potato chips didn't make it past trying to fry them in the pan- they were mushy, and I probably added waaaay too much olive oil when trying to fry them.  Oops.  The sweet potato fries, however, were simple to make- the hardest part was cutting up the potato!  One large potato rendered tons of fries, and instead of using salt and pepper, I sprinkled them with Old Bay Seasoning.  SO good. :)  Scott and I finished off the entire batch I made in one night.  Om nom nom...

I've been climbing at least every other day lately, and I'm finally starting to feel like I'm getting back to my old strength level, pre-surgery!  Yesterday I went climbing at Sandstone Quarry with my friend Bailey.  An initial onslaught of mosquitoes at nine in the morning wasn't a great start, but we were saved by a Christian group rappelling down the wall near us who shared their bugspray.  After spraying (a lot), we got to work on the Muskrat/Sax Wall, which stayed in the shade the longest.  When the sun hit us (and the 90 degree heat), we finally called it quits around 2.

I came home to kittens not dealing well with the heat- both of them zonked on the bed in various states of unhappiness.  They're shedding their winter coats like crazy now that the heat has finally made an appearance, and until they get rid of their black winter hair (which is quickly coating the apartment), they're taking an exponential amount of naps lately...

My knitting has been exceedingly productive in the evenings, thanks to hot weather and season one of Modern Family!  I finally cast on for the left front section of Scott's Dude Sweater, and I'm about halfway finished now.  I'm really happy with the speed that it's flying off the needles!  We just started season two, and hopefully that will see me through this sweater front and starting the right side.

This morning, I'm starting another Christmas knitting project that I know will take me awhile.  The recipient needs a pair of mittens, and I figured a pretty fair-isle pattern would be perfect.  Hopefully this pair will be good for travel knitting (once I photocopy the pattern so I don't have to carry the book with me everywhere...).
Here's hoping that I stay feeling productive, because I have a lot of projects going that need progress.  The hot hot hot muggy weather better not make me as useless as the kittens...

Sunday, July 7, 2013

For the Fourth

I barely felt like I had time at home after our trip before Scott and I were off again.  We ended up spending the 4th of July with his family, including a brotherly dispute between Scott and his brother Andy, resolved in the best way possible. 

I made some spring rolls to bring up to the festivities- soooo easy, and didn't take very long.  
The prep was just a bunch of cutting up veggies and preparing the arrangement for easy-creation.  I'm definitely going to be making these again.  I stuffed them with rice noodles, cucumbers, carrots, alfalfa sprouts, and cilantro.  Drizzling peanut sauce on each bite just made it even more delicious. 
(Maeby taking a snooze during a really warm and humid afternoon while I indulge in some page therapy!)
I've been on a roll lately reading- I'm halfway through the third Game of Thrones book, and I finished one of Ian McEwan's books this morning.  I loved McEwan's book Saturday, which I read for class back in grad school, so when I found out that my local library branch had a selection of his books, I thought I'd try a couple out.  The Innocent was decent- placed just after WWII, with an interesting twist that worked well with the intense character development which is signature of McEwan's books.  I'm going to try a couple more by him before I make any judgements on his writing- I still have his newer ones, such as Solar, and his most famous one, Atonement, to read.  I'll be biking up to the library tomorrow to trade out books.
Yesterday was spent largely in the car.  We had a wedding in St. Cloud to attend, and due to bad weather last night, Scott and I opted to drive home after the wedding instead of camping in St. Cloud that night.  That meant a lot of time on the road.  This wasn't exactly what we wanted- by now, we're both pretty sick of being in the car, but the trip was good for my knitting:  
I finished the tri-color portion of the Spring Affection Shawl!  Only thing left is two inches of turquoise on the bottom.  I have a couple of shifts at the climbing gym coming up this week (plus a possible trip climbing up the shore), so I'll be saving this mindless knitting for that.
I have other things to do- such as cast on the front sections of the Dude Sweater.  That puppy needs to be finished before the snow flies, or I'll probably get in trouble...

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

New Bike!

Coming back from a trip- no matter how short or long- always feels a little jarring.  I go from not caring terribly about a variety in my diet, eating the same Clif bars every day, and not minding being constantly dirty, to making lists, craving greens for lunch and dinner, and changing my clothes every day. :) 
Coming back from this particular trip was very exciting for me for a big reason- I (finally) got a beautiful new commuter bike to ride around Duluth on!
I've been riding hand-me-down bikes for a very long time.  The only good mountain bike I've ever owned was stolen in the dead of night a few years ago (in the middle of January, no less), and since then I've been nervous about getting a nice bike that's possibly too nice to leave around while running errands. 
The let-down for that is that I'm riding not-great bikes.  My current road bike has 4 gears on a good day, no real granny gears, one front brake, and no real shocks.  Today, after 2 years of riding this bike around the Duluth hills, I finally used some money I saved up over the year to get my first "real" bike. :)
It's light, has plenty of gears, has fancy brakes, and biking uphill to my house felt good, for the first time in a long while!  I'm really psyched to use this not only for commuting, but for long bike rides with Scott to work out a bit!
We're going to hopefully get outside climbing in the next couple of days here, which will be good- our gear is still spread in piles and packs around the apartment, waiting to be sorted.  When we use it all this much, we usually just keep it all close by and in bins and packs, adding and taking out gear as needed.  It's a little messy, but we're on the go enough to work with it like this. :)
Last night saw Scott and I watching The Bourne Supremacy while I worked even more on my Spring Affection shawl.  I can see the light at the end of the tunnel for this shawl, and I really want to get this done within the next week or so.  Too many project to work on for other people! :) 
Off to run errands- this time on my brand new bike. ;)

Monday, July 1, 2013

Devil's Tower Trip!

Scott and I rolled in last night around 1:30 in the morning.  He was snoozing in the passenger seat, and I was literally pulling my hair to keep myself awake.

We had left Devil's Tower around 9 am that morning, and drove over 700 miles in one day.  One thing the long drive did, however, was give us a chance to rest and recuperate.  We climbed a lot over a three day period!

Scott and I both really love climbing hand crack and finger crack, but we definitely picked routes that were bigger than that.  I tried to lead Gooseberry Jam- and over halfway up the off-width, I realized that I still had 50-60 feet of climbing and only one cam big enough to fit in the crack.  Oops.

We did get more climbing in that first day, and we ended the day dirty and (for me) sunburned.
Our second day included some climbing in the morning, a siesta in the afternoon, and starting up the classic route "Durrance" later in the afternoon.

Unfortunately, a wrong turn in our route reading and a 3-person party (we brought a friend of Scott's along for this climb) meant that we got as high as we could (literally could see the top, just not there) just as the sun went down.  We realized that between the 3 of us, we had one headlamp and 600 feet of rappelling in the dark to do.  Oops...
It ended up being fine- our rope never caught, we all got down from the Tower safe, and we even got a glimpse of the Northern Lights!  I didn't get to pull my camera out until we got to the parking lot at the base around 11:30 pm.  We were all so hungry that we boiled water for mac and cheese right there, eating our dinner more than a few hours late.

We even ran in to a guy wandering down from the tower not long after we started inhaling our food.  He showed us some pictures he took of the Tower with the northern lights behind it- and a little headlamp light halfway up the tower!  I gave him my email address, and hopefully I'll get an email with a copy of that picture soon.  :)

Our last day consisted of more climbing- this time actually doing a hand and finger crack called Walt Bailey, and finally reaching the very top of Devil's Tower.

We all signed the climber's register at the top, got some pictures, took in the view of 4 states (depending on which way you were looking), and rappelled down as the sun started to set.  A fantastic end to a fantastic trip.

All the driving across South Dakota meant that I had time to chug along on my Spring Affection shawl.  I got a ton of the third color section finished, despite a few of the naps I took along the way.  Scott and I have to head up to Tofte on Wednesday to reclaim our kittens, then we have a wedding in St. Cloud on Saturday.  I'm hoping between the driving time for all of those trips, I'll be able to finish this thing.  I have a lot of other knits that I need to work on (oh goodness!), so getting this completed would be great. :)