a thing I did today

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Today I helped my kids run their first 5K. They are not natural athletes, and they are not naturally fast or tough or any of those things that kids who can go out and just keep running for 3 miles seem to be. But they wanted to do it, and I wanted it for them, so we did it.

5Ks are actually my least-favorite distance to run – I like to run far, not fast (though I realize lots of people are able to do both) – and 5K races are over by the time I feel like I am just starting to hit my stride. This particular race – the Ann Arbor Turkey Trot – offers a 10K following the 5K; you can choose to run the Iron Turkey, which involves running both races back-to-back. I did that last year and loved it. In the case of the Iron Turkey, the 5K is more like a warm-up for the 10K; that works perfectly for me.

But this year, I am still coming back from a particularly nagging injury I sustained last spring in a half-marathon (anterior tibialis tendonitis), and I’m nursing some ongoing piriformis problems. I’ve had two running focuses this fall: coming back to running gently enough that I don’t reinjure myself, and helping my kids run. We started running together in late September, when a parent at the boys’ elementary school started a once-a-week running club for the 3rd/4th/5th graders. Every Tuesday, I go train with the boys before school. It’s been a great way to start the day, for them and for me.

We’ve struggled to fit in additional training runs, though, and I knew we were approaching this 5K with less-than-optimum conditioning. In fact, before today, they’d never run a full three miles.That was okay, though, since we weren’t really racing, per se – we were just aiming to finish and to have a good time.

The day didn’t start off great. One of the kids woke up grumpy and out-of-sorts; he got in better space by the time the race started (the steel drum band near the start helped!), but he was still struggling for the whole first half of the race. There were tears before we’d even reached the first mile mark. I struggled with how to motivate without being overbearing. I was frustrated – it’s hard to know how to help a child do his best. Hard to judge sometimes what is his best and not someone else’s best, you know? We ended up walking much more than running, and walking at a slower pace than I’d expected, and I had to let go basically all my expectations about how this race was going to go.

In the end, we barely finished ahead of a woman who took the race at a leisurely stroll while pushing a baby carriage. We crossed the finish line while the 10K runners were already lining up for their race. I came in last for my age group. So did the boys. Of course in their case there were only 13 other runners – so the fact that my two nine year-olds hung in for three miles does feel like a good accomplishment.

So we finished, and it was amazing to watch my boys sprint for the finish line while the 10K runners cheered them on. Seeing the boys’ faces after they’d finished was truly priceless. One of my kids told me with some surprise that he was feeling emotional, because he was so proud of himself.

I am feeling proud of them, too, and hopeful that this is something they will keep wanting to do with me. Given our back-of-the-pack finish today, I’m pretty sure their next race will be a PR for them!

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Fashion Friday :: styling a spring sweater for fall

When I first bought the yarn (The Plucky Knitter Plucky Sweater in “Chlorophyll”) for my Cape Cod last April, I had in mind a sweater for cool spring/summer nights. The gorgeous lime green just screams “spring” to me, and I was imagining pairing it with a white cami, white capri pants, and sandals.

But then I didn’t finish the sweater until right around Labor Day – just in time for fall! The cool fall weather has actually been perfect for this sweater, but I needed to reimagine how to style outfits around it. Inspired by seeing the musical “Wicked” on Broadway in early October, I realized exactly what I needed to pair with this sweater:
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black shirt, black corduroy A-line skirt (handmade), grey tights, black boots

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Boom! A fall ensemble.

I’m pretty happy with the combo.
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I’m pretty happy that corduroy-wearing/boot-wearing/sweater-wearing weather is here, too!
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(all pictures taken by Little Buddha, 9 years old)

What else would you pair with a lime green sweater to make it appropriate for fall or winter?

And how do you transition some of your favorite warm weather pieces into a more autumnal mode?

Fashion Friday :: the sweater dress

O Rhinebeck, I am so sad not to be in you this weekend. I will miss being with so many wonderful knitty friends, and seeing all the wool and fiber, and petting all the animals, and eating all the fair food. Those of you who are going to be there, I hope you have a fantastic time! (I know you will)

I’ve gotten to go to Rhinebeck twice, once in 2010 (when I broke my ankle the day before leaving town, and had to ride around the fairgrounds on a motorized scooter and meet people from below eye level and basically be in unremitting pain all weekend – and yet! it was still fun!) and once in 2011. Last year, I couldn’t get away due to my doctoral studies and this year I just can’t afford the time away due to work, family, and the fact that I have already been gone so much this year. I do hope to get back there sometime (next year?), because it really is a lovely and magical experience.

For Rhinebeck 2011, I did something I hadn’t done before (and haven’t done since – YET). I knitted a dress. A babycocktails design, it was a completely yummy experience. I made it out of Plymouth Tweed (discontinued within a month of my falling in love with it), in a delicious autumn gold:
knitted :: Allegheny

This is Allegheny, from the first volume of Brooklyn Tweed’s Wool People.

Man, I love this dress. It looks so great with purple tights and my chocolate boots:
knitted :: Allegheny

And the cable-y detail is just perfection:
knitted :: Allegheny

And the fun thing is that once I got to Rhinebeck, I discovered that one of my housemates, the gorgeous and amazing Elspeth, had also knit an Allegheny for Rhinebeck! Do you know what is even more fabulous than walking around Rhinebeck in a babycocktails-designed handknit tweedy fall dress? Walking around with this gorgeous creature in her own version of the same dress. To wit:
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(photo by Kirsten Kapur, used with permission)

We hadn’t planned on matching, but once we realized we’d made the same dress, Elspeth threw on some yellow tights and I threw on a purple scarf (my handspun Damson, actually a shawlette), so we could just be full-on color-coordinated. We had a hilarious and wonderful time.
candid :: Allegheny, side view

Sigh. I am missing my housemates, and my carmates, and seeing all the wonderful fiber-type friends this weekend.

But I digress! This post is about fashion! It is about the knitted dress! A thing I had never made before, because I was always scared of the stretch factor (because who wants to spend all that time knitting only to have something that ends up with a saggy bottom?), and I was also not sure I would wear it. But I do wear this one, very much. And it has held its shape right well. Which makes me wonder, why haven’t I made another one?

This pattern was wonderful, and it truly didn’t take much more time than knitting a sweater. For awhile I had thought I might design a knitted dress myself, but for now the design I had in mind is still locked in my mind, bumping around with all my other un-knit and un-released ideas.

And what about you? Have you ever knitted a dress? Would you? What do you think of the concept in general, and have you seen any knit dress patterns in the last couple of years that really caught your eye?

(By the way, I have scheduled my next Stitch Fix! It won’t come until next month – waaah – but I’m looking forward to it. Have any of the rest of you received and/or reviewed any new Fixes?)

[from the archives] – Autumn Afternoon

I am getting ready to take the boys on their first camping trip – they joined the Cub Scouts this year (Webelos, represent!) and they are very excited about this first pack activity, which will also include a 5-mile “fall color hike.” I am full-on in an autumnal frame of mind now, which also makes me nostalgic for autumns past. I found this old post, which is only pictures, from seven years ago. The boys were two years old, and that year we started a tradition we still keep, of going to the Dexter Cider Mill for cider, doughnuts, and a visit to the Huron River. As I get ready to camp with my Webelos, I thought I’d share this old post.










designed :: Cut & Paste Socks

Handspun Cut & Paste Kneesocks

Handspun Cut & Paste Kneesocks

Just in time for Socktober, a fun, free, and fully-customizable sock worksheet for you. Make your feet happy!

ready for fall!

ready for fall!

So about three years ago, I spun up this yummy autumnal yarn:
spun :: Hello Yarn August Fiber
Hello Yarn Wensleydale in “Heirloom” (August 2010 Fiber Club)
4 oz., 184 yards light worsted 2-ply

My hope at the time had been kneesocks, but I figured with the little yardage I got, I would need to spin another 4 oz., which I never did.

The thing about handspun yarn is, I always want to use every last precious ounce of it – I don’t want any of it to go to waste – and that can be difficult to manage when knitting socks. If you overestimate your yardage for the first sock, you end up not having enough yarn to finish the second; if you play it safe, you can end up having yarn left over. Which, like I said, I like not to do.

So I had this idea. Why not just knit all the yarn? Just knit it ALL UP till I’m done, and then make it socks? Find some yarn that would make nice contrast heels and toes, and knit a cuff out of it. Then start knitting with the handspun and just keep knitting till done. Then knit another cuff. That should work, right? So that’s what I did.

one loooong tube sock

one loooong tube sock

All 184 yards of handspun are there, along with cuffs made from Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sport (held double) in “Chocolate.”

a very long sock

that’s a long sock, yo

The afterthought heels I made last January (my first) went so successfully, why not try it again? Only this time, I would do afterthought toes, too. So I got out my scissors and went to work.

measure twice, cut once

measure twice, cut once

And I unraveled the tube until I had two tubes.

Tube socks! Only not.

Tube socks! Only not.

I put the live stitches on dpns and knit a pair of toes.

two toes, no heels

two toes, no heels

And then I got out the scissors again and cut a place to add the heels, added them, did a little weaving in of ends, blocked the socks, and then BLAMMO! Handspun socks. And not only that, turned out I had enough for kneesocks after all!
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Yeah, they’re fraternal:

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That’s part of the fun of handspun!

I’ve written all the details, including tutorial pictures, and made it into a free downloadable pdf on Ravelry, just in time for Socktober. It’s more of a worksheet than a pattern – fully customizable, you just take your own measurements, fill in your numbers, and get to it! I’ve also made a video tutorial to walk you through the process. It really is as easy as it sounds, but sometimes it helps to see these things in action.

happy feet!

I swear these socks took less time to make than an ordinary pair, though perhaps it only seems that way because they were so darn fun and easy.

Socks for fall

Happy Socktober, y’all!

Find the free worksheet here. As always, I’m happy to answer any questions.

a thing I was wrong about :: fall

365.133 - fall afternoon at the river
(fall 2008, on the banks of the Huron River)

Y’all were all so sweet not to correct me when I talked about celebrating the autumnal equinox on Saturday. No one pointed out that, in fact, Saturday was the last day of summer, not the first day of fall. I usually double-check my calendars for the beginning of season dates, but when Little Buddha started talking several days ago about the first day of fall coming, I made the assumption that he had double-checked. He is the most detail-minded of the four of us, after all. But he didn’t, and I didn’t, and so we celebrated fall before it had actually started.

That night, as the boys were getting ready for bed, My Old Man happened to be looking at the calendar and noticed that fall started on Sunday, not Saturday. He mentioned it to Tiny Dancer, who promptly burst into tears! Poor little boo. It really bothered him – he had been so excited about the start of our favorite season, and had happily celebrated all day, and it felt bad and weird to him to know that it wasn’t true. I told him that, to us, it looked like fall, smelled like fall, and tasted like fall, so for us, it was fall! That didn’t totally sway him.

As for me, I feel like we just got a bonus day of our favorite season. And now fall is here for real, y’all, and I’m thrilled. Time for trips to the cider mill, watching postseason baseball (Go Tigers!), picking raspberries, cuddling under blankets, having a bonfire, playing in leaf piles, FALL KNITTING, and, of course, baking (and eating) vegan chocolate chip pumpkin muffins. What’s not to love? What’s your favorite part about fall?

At any rate, now I can finally say it: Happy Fall FOR REAL, y’all!

baked :: in celebration of fall (Vegan Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins)

Five years ago, I had a BIG IDEA. It all started with my then-four year-old’s obsession with pears, and my promise that we would have pears once they were in season. When fall officially arrived, he expected his pears, so I created a pear cake. One thing led to another, and the next thing I knew, I had decided to make the Autumnal Equinox a reason for full-on celebration in our household. And because my life philosophy is always GO BIG, I celebrated by making a special breakfast, making a special dinner (a very time-consuming one, as it turned out), and making a special cake.

It was a fun and memorable start to my favorite season, but I vowed after spending so much of the day in the kitchen that, in future celebrations, we would scale back on the cooking/baking and spend part of the day outside. Also, I am older and more tired now. And I’ve learned  that sometimes the philosophy of “It’s the little things” trumps the philosophy of “Go big.”

My boys have inherited my zeal for celebrations and for special traditions, and they have come to expect Pumpkin Muffins on the first day of fall. And not only on the first day of fall, but actually every Saturday of the season. They began reminding me of this several days ago. “Mom, you know that the first day of fall is coming, and you know what that means, right?” “Mom, do you have all the ingredients you need for pumpkin muffins?” “Mom, you do know that we are supposed to have pumpkin muffins every Saturday in fall, right?”

Fortunately, in addition to being delicious, they are also very, very easy. And quick! I don’t mind making them regularly. I don’t even mind making them every week.

Vegan Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins

Vegan Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins

Our family is not vegan, but I do a fair amount of vegan cooking and baking, and I have a number of really good vegan cookbooks. One of my favorites is Vegan with a Vengeance, by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. I’ve adapted her recipe for “The Best Pumpkin Muffins” to include chocolate chips (Ghiradelli Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips are vegan, if that matters to you) and to substitute almond milk (which our family prefers to soy milk).  (And of course these don’t have to be vegan at all, if you would like to substitute regular dairy milk for the almond milk – though I can’t vouch for those because we’ve never tried them that way.)

I share this recipe here in case you would like to create your own every-Saturday-muffin tradition. Or in case you just want to whip up one delicious batch. Happy fall, y’all!

Vegan Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins – makes 18 muffins
1 3/4 C all-purpose flour
1 1/4 C sugar
1 T baking power
1/4 t salt
1 t ground cinnamon
1/2 t ground nutmeg
1/2 groung ginger
1/4 t ground allspice
1/8 t ground cloves
1 C pureed pumpkin
1/2 C unsweetened almond milk
1/2 C vegetable oil
2 T molasses
1 C chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 400. Lightly grease one 12-muffin tin one half of a second 12-muffin tin.
Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and spices. In a separate bowl, whisk together pumpkin, almond milk, oil, and molasses. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix. Fold in the chocolate chips.
Fill the muffin cups two-thirds full. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick or knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool. Serve (I like mine with Good Earth tea) and enjoy!

As my kids were eating their first pumpkin muffins of the season, I heard one of them say to the other, “I love fall, don’t you?” And the other one said, “As soon as I took my first bite, it reminded me so much of last fall.” It makes this mama’s heart so happy to hear such things, and to know that really, the little things do add up. Happy fall, to you and yours.