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Thursday, May 17, 2018

Backyard Makeover

It wasn't my plan to do anything with the backyard of my new house. Sure, only 2/3rds of the yard was sodded and the rest was dirt, but I could live with that and landscaping is hugely expensive. But it didn't take long before it became clear that I didn't have a choice. Every time it rained, the erosion was horrifying. All that soil being carried from my yard into my neighbor's yard.

The erosion was so bad that the poor trees already had their roots partially exposed and all I could think about was how vulnerable that made them. A good strong wind and one or more could fall--probably onto the house since some of the trees were tall. We called the landscaper.

The cost was as horrifying as I'd feared.

Watching the dirt leave my yard after another rain storm made it clear there was no choice. First, the trees that were in bad shape needed to be removed. This caused me pain and not only because of the cost. I love trees. They're beautiful, they give oxygen, they provide shade. But the landscaper said that they were in bad enough condition that they'd probably come down on their own at some point. I didn't want them coming down on the house and so they had to go.

I don't have a picture of the backyard from the fall, but here's a picture I took when it snowed here last winter. You can see there were a lot of trees back there.

After the trees were gone, the yard looked sad and stark with that bare dirt just sitting there. But it was too cold to put down sod so we had to wait for it to warm up. The tree guy also broke one of the light posts in the yard and had to order a replacement. You can see the gap. This was our view while we waited.

In the meantime, more rain, more erosion. At last, it warmed up enough for work to commence! Hurrah! It took a week longer than anticipated because it kept raining. On day 1, they extended the irrigation system into the dirt area. Day 2, sod was put down and those guys worked late! Day 3 was much shorter. They put down pine straw around the four remaining trees.

I hate pine straw. It looks cheap and ugly beyond belief. It's not anything I've ever seen in Minnesota and I didn't want it in my yard now, but it's about the cheapest thing there is. I'm saving up for bushes and hope to get those installed next year because yuck! Pine straw!

But the yard turned out super nice. Here's a couple of shots of what the yard looked like as the landscaping team pulled out of my driveway. No more erosion!

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Full Tilt

I have a compulsive personality. When I enjoy something, I'm all in. It's why I own thousands of books and why my To Be Read pile numbered over 1500 before I moved from Minneapolis and donated a ton of books. No exaggeration; I literally donated over 2900 books to my local library.

This is why I have a ridiculous amount of scrapbook paper, enough to create about 50 scrapbooks, even though I haven't done this craft in years. Part of it was because I didn't like taking all my stuff out and putting it back away again, but even after I moved to a place where I didn't have to put anything back, I didn't get back into it. The paper actually hit on two of my areas--number one was the scrapbooking hobby and number two was my love of office supplies.

So I'm sure it's no surprise that I threw myself headlong into my latest hobbies--crochet and knitting--the same way.

I started with crochet because knitting seemed too hard. After all, I'd have to manipulate two sticks instead of just one. I enjoyed it and bought a ton of yarn. I didn't know yet that this was called a stash, but I collected one with gusto anyway. So pretty, must buy more!

And I started to purchase a ton of patterns for sweaters and such that I would make some day, once I was better at what I was doing. The thing was, though, that as I browsed crochet patterns, I'd stumble across knitted items that were just so adorable! And I thought well, why not learn to knit? Then I can make clothes and such no matter if they're crocheted or knitted. Win!

I took a knitting class. I started accumulating needles and patterns and yes, more online knitting classes even though I hadn't finished all the crochet classes I'd already purchased. And ooh, look, this designer is having a pattern sale. And wow! It's a Knit-A-Long (KAL)! The only thing that tempts me more than a Knit-A-Long is a Mystery Knit-A-Long. I don't know what I'm making? Let me buy that pattern right now. Never mind that I can't keep up the pace with more experienced knitters. I want in!

I'm trying to overcome this behavior. I managed to go a good four months or so without buying any new yarn, but the patterns were more difficult, especially when they went on sale. Sale might be the magic word for me, and if it's a Mystery Knit-A-Long pattern that's on sale just for one week? I'm there and trying so hard not to be.

And yes, I recently caved in and bought yarn for a KAL and then made a huge error that was impossible to recover from and didn't have enough yarn to start again, so I had to visit the Local Yarn Store (LYS). While I was waiting for the lady to help the woman in front of me--and it was taking forever--I found more yarn. Yarn I didn't need. But it was pretty! Curbing my compulsive buying habit is clearly a work in progress.

Thursday, May 10, 2018


While I'm talking about physical efforts (referring to my post about the 5K race that I posted on Tuesday), let's discuss yoga.

So the day before the race, I went to yoga class in the morning at my gym. It nearly killed me. It was my first yoga experience ever and the teacher took us right into stuff she called "advanced." I don't know if it really was or if she was just trying to make the class feel better, but for a novice, it was difficult.

I had no plans to go back to yoga, but I'm part of a challenge at the gym that needed us to go to one class to earn points. I narrowed it down to yoga or boxing. Yes, boxing.

Ultimately, I decided on yoga. I liked the way this class was taught more than the morning class I attended, but the end result was the same. Muscles I didn't know I had are stiff and sore and I'm walking like a zombie.

Yoga is hard! I knew it would be challenging, but I didn't realize I'd be dealing with all kinds of soreness for days afterward.

I was swearing off yoga again when one of the guys I work with said that if I keep going, it'll get easier. Well, yeah. If I can still walk. But it is tempting to keep going. It would only be once a week and it would give me the chance to become more flexible.

Is Tai Chi easier? Or at least less painful? Not that it really matters since my gym doesn't offer it, but I've heard Tai Chi is good for balance and flexibility, too.

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Chin Up, Diva

I had a goal for myself: Finish a 5K in March. I started training in January and discovered that mostly using the elliptical for months on end when I went to the gym had taken a toll on my stamina and my speed. I'd been a very fast walker before I'd gone full elliptical, but I wasn't fast any longer. It taught me a valuable lesson--always cross train and don't simply do one thing every day.

The trainer at the gym gave me an action plan and I followed it as best I could. If it was raining and it was the weekend (my gym is in my work location), I walked circles through my kitchen. But I kept to my training schedule and intervals.

I'd done a virtual 5K before, back in 2016 when I was walking every day and still fast. It was also completed on a treadmill and not outdoors. On the day of the race, I discovered doing a live 5K is very different from the virtual kind.

So race day dawns and it's cold. Like 32 degrees cold. I'd originally planned to wear long sleeves, but had read online to wear clothes you're used to working out in, which meant my gym T-shirt. Short sleeves. Even with my jacket on, I was freezing as I waited for the race to start. Then, finally, we were off!

This was interesting. Adrenaline kicked in and had me walking (yes, I was going to walk the 5K, not run it) faster than my usual pace. About the time I realized that I was going too fast and this was going to kill my pace on the back half, my app told me I'd completed one mile. Wow, I thought, that didn't feel like a mile. Maybe I could maintain a pace like this for the entire race. My app announced the halfway mark, then it announced mile two. Cool! This was going to be a personal best.

And then I saw the sign on the road. 1 Mile.

Confusion reared up. Did that mean 1 mile to go? Because my app said a little ways back that I'd passed two miles and a 5K is 3.1 miles, so it could be distance left. Except that didn't make sense. Why would they mark that? Plus I'd seen the race map and I didn't feel as if I was far enough through the route.

I had a sinking sensation that I was only 1 mile into the race and that meant my pace had been way too fast for me and I was going to pay on the back side of the course.

The second mile was okay, but I was sucking up reserves fast. Shortly after that was the water station and then the tiaras and boas were handed out a little after that. I draped my boa around my neck, held on to my tiara with one hand and my water cup with the other, and continued on.

I started flagging in the third mile and I knew this was going to happen. I had to dig deep to continue on, but my goal was to finish this race.

I'll be honest. I thought about quitting a couple of times. I was exhausted and that last half mile was walked on sheer determination, not any energy I had left in my body. I thought about my goal, I thought about my trainer at the gym and how disappointed she'd be if I didn't finish, I thought about being a Capricorn and how we're stubborn and determined, and I continued walking.

Toward the end of the course, I started passing ladies who'd already finished and were on their way to their cars. They encouraged me to keep going. The auxiliary police officer stopped traffic encouraged me. The volunteers standing along the route in the cold cheering everyone on, even us slow people, encouraged me. And then there was the finish line. Up a hill.

Yes, I had to finish the race on an incline and I'd even run out of fumes at this point. But seeing that line and knowing I was that close kept me moving. I finished!

At the finish line was champagne. There was bananas and cookies, which I skipped, and bottled water, which I accepted. And there was the medal I'd worked so hard to achieve. I clutched the bag in my hand, but didn't open it and put it on. I was too tired for that. All I wanted to do was find my dad, get on the shuttle back to the car, and go home.

I barely made it through the rest of the errands for the day--grocery shopping, gassing up the car, etc--and I didn't do things I normally do on a Saturday like wash clothes. Instead, I took a three-hour nap, drank 11 cups of water (I normally struggle to drink 6), and moaned and groaned while I sat on the couch.

My legs were exhausted all day on Saturday, and while they felt better on Sunday, I still felt drained. At least all the sleep I got re-energized my brain, which was also flagging. The funny thing is that I think I want to do this again next year.

Here's a picture of all my bling:


Thursday, May 03, 2018

Commuting Time

I blogged a while ago about getting music setup to listen to on my daily commute. (I still miss my van pool!) Well, that was okay, but I was getting tired of the music. I know! After all the trouble I went to in order to get a wide variety of music, it sure didn't take long to get tired of it.

I started out with podcasts, but it didn't take long to run out of episodes and then it dawned on me. I have audio books on my phone, too.

This is actually working out really well--so far at least. I have a ton of audio books I want to listen to, but I've been so busy listening to podcasts that I just never get around to it. My first book was about the plague in medieval Europe which is an endlessly fascinating topic for me. Most of the titles in my library are nonfiction.

There are a couple of drawbacks. I can't connect my iPhone into the stereo system the way I could with my iPod. I did a search online and it can't be done per multiple websites and bulletin boards. This wouldn't be all bad if I could hook in via Bluetooth, but while I can make phone calls that way, I haven't figured out how to do that with audio books/music/podcasts etc. Issue one then, would be sound quality because I literally have my phone in my cup holder to get enough volume to hear it and even then (if traffic is loud), I sometimes have trouble.

Issue 2 is (of course!) getting so involved with what I'm listening to that I end up sitting in my garage to hear more. I have a lot of books that I haven't listened to, so I don't have to worry about running out of material!

We'll see how long this lasts, but if worse comes to worse, I can always switch back to music or podcasts.