Monday, March 26, 2012

"The Wedding" Cross Stitch Project

I’m a Stitcher. A Cross Stitcher that is.

Many years ago, I became hooked on stitching to occupy my time. My sister taught me to lay my first stitch on fabric and I carried on. My first projects were actually Petit Point where I created a Scottie Dog and Bull Dog. They still hang in my dining room to this day.
Petit Point Scotty Dog 
Petit Point Bull Dog 
And so began my love affair with stitching. Some finished, some not. Long ago I could stitch almost anywhere. At home, at work, in bus shelters. Petit Point is done with one half stitch on very tiny mesh fabric. Whereas Cross Stitch (or X-Stitch for short) as the name implies, is a small X with two stitches. I moved into X-Stitch as there were many more patterns and were much easier to create. 

I hadn't picked up a project for a couple of years but jumped back in last January with my current project, “The Wedding” (Lavendar and Lace). I plan to have it finished sometime this summer so we can have it framed before my daughter's wedding on October 6, 2012. Which means many nights I am stitching for hours.
The Wedding
Pattern by Lavendar & Lace
X-Stitch is an amazingly tranquil activity. Even if I get a stiff neck, sore shoulders and strained eyes.

But just like any other project in life I found myself procrastinating in actually starting. I knew the prep work that had to be done before I could put in the first stitch, like painting a room or beginning a reno. The prep work can sometimes be the hardest part of the job.

When I finally decided to tackle this pattern, I first had to find it somewhere in my house. That took a full day as it was buried in a box in the basement. Then I had to buy the fabric (I chose 32 count Lugana instead of the Linen they suggest). Then it was sorting through all my DMC embroidery floss and buying a few missing ones. Find the needles, the frame, the light, the magnifier, the glasses—all the preparation. Settle in a comfy chair and …

Find the middle of the pattern and mark with a piece of thread. Count to the place you want to start stitching, thread the right floss and finally the first stitch. All in all, it probably took me a week before that first stitch. And a bunch of removing many stitches where I had made mistakes.

You see I've also discovered that my eyes are not like they were 30 years ago and are very much showing their age. Not only do I need reading glasses but working on an intricate pattern now requires a magnifier and bright light. Last week my daughter brought me an Ottlight from Joanne’s Fabrics in the states.

Thank the Lord. I can now see the tiny little holes in the fabric and tiny little stitches.

For the first few stitching days, there isn’t much to get excited about but as the days go by, like magic an image begins to appear. It gets exciting as it grows. It starts to become real as the image pops off the fabric.

Here is how my project is progressing:

Groom starts to appear. January 2012 
The Bride takes her place beside her groom. 
The bouquet begins to appear. 
More of the dress takes shape and the bouquet is almost done. 

Here is my inspiration from another Cross Stitcher. I am changing the colours of the bows to purple to match the colours of the wedding, although we have decided to remove the flower girl.
My Inspiration
I'll be posting photos regularly as the Project continues. Wish me luck in getting all the stitches in place well before the actual wedding takes place. It's a work of art from my heart for my beautiful daughter and her new hubby.

If you want to learn more about Cross Stitch, try this link I found: Click on the How-To tab for some handy instructions.

Happy Stitching

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Friday, March 23, 2012

The True Secret of Youth and My Nike Sensor

What a treat to enjoy summer spring right now. This week we hit record temperatures around 26C (80F). It's only March. In Canada where our daily highs are usually around 5C (40F) with snow covering the ground. The snow is gone, the sun is beating down and most people are in shorts and T's.

But the true excitement is the ability to return to walking outside. Like little ants we are swarming the sidewalks and parks.

I've exercised since my 20's. Most of the time I was overweight, sometimes obese but I kept it up. It didn't help me lose weight—that just didn't happen. In the 70's it was walking and some running. In the 80's it was feeling the burn with Jane Fonda (with the requisite leg warmers) and walking. The 90's brought steppers and treadmills into my life. And walking. As we entered the 21st century it was more walking and walking and walking. I did give up for a couple of years, frustrated that no matter how much aerobic and weight lifting I did my weight didn't budge. But I'm back enjoying the feeling that moving my body is so worth it.

My goal for exercise, specifically walking, is to stay young and fit. It feels so good to just move and I know it will make for a better life as I age. I know I won't lose weight. Just not going to happen for me but that no longer matters. I did lose weight by redesigning what I ate. I am no longer obese, just slightly overweight, ~27 by BMI standards, and I will keep on walking.

Hopefully you too can be motivated to move because last year this article appeared in our newspaper which confirmed my commitment to Just Do It!:

The true secret of youth? Exercise
Treadmill program reverses signs of premature aging in mice, study finds.
Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Canadian scientists appear to have proven that you can, in fact, run away from old age. In what could stand up as the most powerful evidence yet that exercise prolongs life, a McMaster University study in Hamilton last year found that signs of premature aging were halted — and even reversed — in virtually every tissue and organ in the bodies of exercised mice. (now this must be true since McMaster is my Alma Mater)

The finding, which could be a turning point in antiaging medicine, suggests the proverbial fountain of youth won’t come from a pill or from an exotic berry from the Amazon, but rather plain old exercise.

Mice genetically altered to age faster were forced to run on treadmills for 45 minutes, three times a week (imagine those tiny little treadmills!). Five months later, the mice looked as young, healthy and active as wild-type mice while their sedentary and same-aged siblings were balding, greying and shrinking. While the exercised mice scampered and scurried about their cages, the aging non-runners huddled in a corner, barely moving.

Epidemiological studies in humans have shown that people who are physically active or exercise regularly have fewer chronic diseases and tend to live longer — runners especially.

But, the message is “it’s never too late” to start exercising. (I think they got a little wheelchair for the mouse on the right.)

Now that I'm moving closer to 60, I think I would like to look more like the mouse on the left than the haggard looking one on the right. For any of you still contemplating whether exercise in any shape or form is a benefit, just look at the picture. Who wants to actually look old!

My Motivation: The Nike Sensor

Last year I bought this little sensor that pops in the hole under the sole of Nike shoes and then uses the Nike app on either the iPhone or the iTouch.

One little amazing product. As I walk it figures out how far I've gone and when I get home, it uploads to the Nike site to record my distance, time and calories. I've hooked it to my Facebook page and it will give a status update at the same time. At any time during the walk, you can see distance, pace and length of time. I use it more as a record to keep my motivation but it also lets you set goals.

The only little wrinkle is that it keeps saying I ran and I haven't figured out how to tell it I am actually only walking. Well I guess walking is just slow running so I'll have to just leave it.

You don't need Nike shoes to use the sensor. You can get a generic holder which attaches to your shoe but you do need the iTouch or iPhone to record the info. And I'm told there are lots of other little gadgets that do the same thing. 

There are so many more studies showing the benefit of exercise on all ages, all abilities. But it only works if we actually do it rather than just read about it.

I'm now waiting for the drunken mouse experiment. You know the one where they let mice drink two glasses of wine a day to see if it really does lower cholesterol. I'll keep you all posted.

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Monday, March 19, 2012

Funeral Portraits

The other night hubby and I had dinner at my sister's place. She cooked a lovely meal — Jack Daniel's Glazed Salmon and Quinoa Chickpea Salad. Click the titles to see the recipes.

Afterwards we watched some of the photos and video of their recent cruise through the Panama Canal. Extremely interesting and now a trip I would like to take. During her cruise they had photos taken during one of those fancy evenings where you dress up. Professional quality—the photographer posed them and made an attempt to make them look better rather than those quicky shots that are usually quite dreadful.

So they bought the package—a single portrait of each of her and her hubby and also shots of the two of them. 

They are quite nice. 

Then she said: “Now I have a nice photo for my casket”. 

You know the photo that is displayed on the casket at your funeral. I laughed. I will say that the two of them have been at quite a few funerals this past year where they saw a lot of funeral portraits. Which got me thinking about finding a nice photo and putting it somewhere that can easily be found so the photo on display at my funeral is a nice one. 

I guess my point in all this is do you have a picture that you would want to have on display at your funeral? 

I was thinking of doing the same car top photo as Kim Jong-il, the maniac dictator from North Korea who finally passed from this world (thankfully). 
I would also like my epitaph to read:
“Life is not a journey to the grave with intentions of arriving safely in a pretty well-preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, thoroughly used up, totally worn out and loudly proclaiming ... WOW! What a ride!”

Here's a cool site if you want to make your own car top funeral portrait:

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Saturday, March 17, 2012

Coffee, Double Doubles and RRRoll up the Rim to Win

I love coffee. Strong, black, no sugar.

One of our donut shops, Tim Hortons, has the RRRoll up the Rim to Win promotion bombarding the airwaves (you have to say RRRoll as if you're Scottish or Dérrroule if you are French). Buy a coffee from them, then roll up the cardboard rim to see if you won a car, electronics, a donut, a free coffee. But more often then not it says: Please Play Again.

Tim Hortons is also famous for a new word(s) that has become part of the Canadian lexicon: the “Double Double”. When ordering a coffee all that you need to say is Double-Double and you get double cream, double sugar in your cup. Did you know it is harder to order a black coffee almost anywhere? 
Me ordering: “Medium black coffee, please”
Girl: “Sugar?”
Me: “No, just black, black” 
Maybe I should just order a double-double black to make it easier.

I stopped buying coffee long ago at coffee shops unless I'm travelling. Mostly because I find it too weak. And expensive. As I said, I love strong coffee and so does hubby. We make a pot every morning and I bring a thermos to work to enjoy as I get on with my day. I am currently using the President’s Choice (Loblaw's) West Coast Dark Roast.

Growing up, my mom always made coffee in a glass percolator each morning. Then along came instant coffee, then the freeze dried instant coffee crystals which would revolutionize coffee drinking, then chicory coffee as the price of coffee beans sky-rocketed. My parents always added milk and sugar. Later my dad used those little saccharin tablets that he’d plop into a cup of java. They were also tea drinkers, after dinner, a routine I have yet to embrace.

But I didn’t drink coffee until I left for university. I first remember trying a cup from a dispenser machine the night before a final exam. It was god-awful. I hadn’t studied enough and needed to stay up all night so it seemed the best caffeine choice at the time as I chugged it back. I passed the exam.

I grew to love the smell, taste and kick that coffee gave me. At first I used a bit of milk, but that quickly disappeared. And it surprised me when I met hubby, that he too drank his coffee black. 

Today, coffee has taken on a life of its own. Now there are so many ways to make coffee: Drip, Plunger type, Steam Press, Espresso Machines, K-Cups… 

To make it even more convenient, you no longer have to haul your ass out of the car and walk into a store. You use the drive-thru. It always amaze me how many people do the drive-thru thing. Every single day. Many of my work colleagues arrive with cup in hand—Tim Hortons, Starbucks, Van Houtte (located in the lobby of my building). In my mind it is such a waste of money to be spending $2 or more on a cup of coffee, sometimes two or three times a day! 

And don’t get me started on the specialty coffees which can set you back mega $$. You no longer get a cup of coffee you get a—mocha, caramel, macchiato, latte, frappucino, espresso—creation first brought into the limelight by Starbucks. Now all the coffee places are pushing these “drinks” both hot and cold. With lots and lots of whip cream. Even McD's is getting on board with the McCafe.

As winter turns to spring and summer, all the coffee shops will be pushing their icy creations full of fat and sugar and calories. Here’s just one example of the nutrition info for a Starbucks Double Chocolaty Chip Frappuccino® (Venti—that's the big one) 
520 calories 
23 g of fat (like eating 2 tbsp of butter) 
69 g of sugar (like eating over 17 tsp of sugar)

Holy mother of god! That’s a third of my daily calorie intake. In one coffee! Can we see one of the reason’s we are becoming a “fat” society. 

Before you go posting some outraged comments, I know that the occasional treat is part of a healthy diet. I eat chocolate. I eat donuts. Just the other night I “wasted” 450 calories/23 grams of fat on a tiny piece of my birthday cake. Nutrition labelling is a good thing but do people actually know what is going into our mouths. 

The key word here is occasional. What I see is an entire generation drinking these concoctions daily. I also see kids and teens ordering and sucking these back along with a donut or two. 

Don't get me wrong. I love a good cappuccino. I make it at home a couple of times a week with decaf espresso, hot frothed skim milk and 3 brown sugar cubes. Yummy just before bed. 

But lets hear it for a nice cuppa strong, black coffee.

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Thursday, March 15, 2012

It's a New Day—A Blog is Born

Today I turn 58, born March 15th, 1954, the Ides of March.

And so today, this blog is also born.

For more than two years, I have blogged—a journey of weight loss to health. 40 pounds gone and working on the last 10. I’ll go into that in another post because my timeline of life has become much more than losing weight.

As I blogged away, I realized there was a bunch of other stuff rolling around in my brain. Losing weight, I discovered was not about losing the pounds. There was so much more to why I let myself get fat in the first place and blogging helped bring out some of the demons — and also some serious reflection.

I have a dear friend who I met on-line. No, not a dating site. She was one of my weightloss buddies who also blogged and I so enjoyed her writing. In early 2011 she suffered the tremendous loss of her husband and the rawness of her pain could be felt through cyberspace. We later met in person and it was as if we had been friends forever.

As I watched her pick herself up from the ashes and move forward, it inspired me to rethink where I was in life and where I wanted to go. I had been focusing on weightloss issues for so long and like a light-bulb moment, came to realize my life was much more than losing weight. She might not know it but through her re-invention this past year, I too have dug deep to see what really is important. In one of her posts she spoke of trying to put together the puzzle of her life and I guess that too is where I am.

But it was one of her quotes that started my brain change:
"All I can tell you is that it’s important to look at your life and figure our where you are and what truly makes you happy... "
To which someone responded: 
"Enjoy the life you have, even though it may not be the life you planned."

The Winds of Change
Over the last few months, I started to lose interest in blogging about my weight loss, or actually my no weight-loss, what I ate each day, how I measured food, cooked the food, ate the food...

I connected with so many others through our various blogs and even met a bunch of them in person. They are my forever peeps who I adore and love for always being there.

But a funny thing happened as time moved on. A few of these bloggers whose blogs inspired me, dropped out and stopped posting. I have kept in touch in other ways (Facebook, e-mail), but I think they too found it hard to keep saying the same old stuff over and over again. It became a chore. It wasn't why I had started blogging and it turned my thinking into what I want to do to make the best of the rest of MY days.

Which spawned the blog name. And a wind. For change.

The photo at the top of my blog is from a picture I took in Varadero, Cuba a few years ago. I kept waiting for the people to leave the beach but it didn't happen. And the sun kept going down. Now with cropping I see I captured one lone soul walking the beach into the sunset. It could just as easily be someone walking into a sunrise. Take your pick. I'm still trying to figure out if I am winding down or just getting my second wind in life.

This blog will grow (or collapse from neglect). I do it for me but if you can gain any insight from it, please follow along. There will be bits and pieces of This and That. Some Flotsam and some Jetsam. What I do know is that I am still a work in progress. I haven't yet figured out "What I want to be when I grow up" even though I'm 58.

But what I have learned over the years have led me to this point. I really haven't had a master plan. I find blogging is a bit of a GPS to help me get to where I'm going. Although the final destination has not been decided nor what I will do along the way. Will I take detours and side tracks? Will I go where the wind blows me?

Then again, it might be best to throw away all the devices and just experience an unplanned, uncharted journey for the Rest of My Days.

Sometimes you won’t know until you take that first step.

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