Friday, July 25, 2014

Thursday, July 24, 2014

My Quest to be Healthier

I encountered challenges over the past year or so that have really taken a toll on my body. I've put on weight, especially through my mid-section. I know that age has its influence too. I've gotten to the point where I am not OK with how I look and feel. It's time to take action.

I've created my daily 5 for health. Nothing drastic or weird, just easy steps to be healthier and stronger. A few of these steps are things I've been doing all along, but now I am making sure I do them each day.
First step is an apple a day. This has become an addiction for me. If I don't have my apple I am out of sorts. Kind of like skipping that morning cup of coffee. Apples are inexpensive and highly portable. If I am not on the go, I use my handy dandy corer to remove the core. That's my favorite way to eat them because I don't have to pay attention to whether I eat seeds or not and I feel like there is less waste. You know that old saying an apple a day keeps the doctor away. I believe it's true!
Next step is drinking lots of water. I like water. It's the main thing I drink. Occasionally I'll have some milk or a soda, but usually water is all I drink. I tried to increase my intake early in the day and taper off in the evening so I don't have to get up at night to use the restroom. This time of year I go through a lot of ice with my water and am thankful for our ice maker!
The next step is a newer one to me. Its daily bike rides. My husband loves riding his bicycle. In fact, he was on his bike when we met. I've always had trouble with riding because I can't find a comfortable seat, but a few months ago my hubby found one a great (used) bike for me with a comfy seat. Now I quite enjoy riding. My daughter *LOVES* us taking bike rides together. I use the Map My Ride app to keep track of how far we go. I try to do 4-5 miles a day. I am not concerned about speed but rather peddling! My legs are firming up!
Another new step is planking. I decided to start planking after a friend suggested resistance exercises when I am telling her I have no control over my middle. I started to look into joining a gym, but I knew I'd go a week or 2 and then stop going. Then I'd be mad and ashamed that I was wasting money. I was telling another friend that I was going to check out a new gym that was opening and she suggested that I try planks. What? A quick free exercise? Awesome! I could only do about 15 seconds at first, but now I am easily able to do 45 seconds. Now that I've shared that I will work harder tomorrow to increase up to a minute. I do feel my core getting stronger!
Last is an oldie but a goodie~ walking! We have been doing this for years. My hubby and I walk the dog each evening. The dog loves it and it gives us chance to talk about our day and upcoming events. We are good about walking when we are on vacation and away from the dog. I am not so good about walking in the dead of winter, but I try to go walk at the mall or other inside venue.

Another important step for maintaining good health is to have good health insurance and get regular checks ups. Our family gets regularly scheduled physicals. If you don't have a health plan you should check out HBF for their health insurance plans. Their health hub outlines a variety of options suitable for everyone.

I am going to continue my quest to be healthier. I see older people with what I consider preventable ailments. I think to myself that I don't want to be like that. I want to take care of myself and be there for my family for a good long time. My next step is to make sure I am eating well every day. I found some great tips and recipes in the Living Well section at HBF. I can't wait to try out the Salmon soba noodles and bok choy with mirin and soy dressing. YUM!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

My First Pattern Testing Experience (Sewing Guest Cherie)

My First Pattern Testing Experience and I am Now in Love with PDF Patterns by Cherie of Darlin' Girl Creations.

I've been sewing and crafting since I was a kid in the 1970s. I think I've used about every kind of pattern, from circa 1900s to high-end designer custom ones; from proprietary boutique-owned patterns and special costumes for a Las Vegas stage show, to writing my own couture versions. I've also had years of fun designing, writing and drafting my own for stuffed animals, clothing and home decor items. In other words, I've experienced just about every pattern type and source... except PDF patterns.

Can you believe it? I couldn't! I just keep going back to the familiar and convenient. Yet, this last year or so, I couldn't resist buying and downloading PDF patterns. But I wouldn't use them...I'd still go back to a paper pattern. Long time habit. Comfort in the familiar. Something like that, right?

And then an online friend, Amy Mayen of Mayen Designs at, told me about children's and doll clothing patterns in PDF that she loved and used, and encouraged me to try PDFs. And she definitely made me want to actually give them a try and sew with one.

My inspired interest in PDF patterns led me to a wonderfully sweet, fun, creative and incredibly detail oriented pattern writer that I began following online. What I really loved was that she hated raw and unfinished seams and edges as much as I do, and she was almost obsessive with perfection, detail and simplicity. (I greatly respect those traits, and may or may not have a little of that in me, as well....)

If you've read my earlier blog posts, you're probably nodding and thinking, uh huh, yup, she means Erin. And yes, you're absolutely correct... I'm referring to Erin Erickson of

Given that when I get excited about a new pursuit, I generally jump in with both hands and all my piggy bank savings, I purchased all Erin's patterns (except for maybe one or two), and watched or read all her tutorials, and I knew when I tried my first PDF pattern, it would be one of hers. And it was! A Get Carded wallet, which I use every day and love to pieces! (I even wrote a post reviewing the pattern and process on my blog.)
It's funny how some things work. After making my first item from a PDF pattern, and being a big fan of Erin (and her Bob), and loving the little wallet and how easy it was to follow the pattern, I was an even bigger fan and loved following them on social media. One day they started posting about a one size scalable pattern for tech gadgets, a padded sleeve that could be used for any size gadget about an inch thick, but any size length and width. I was very intrigued at the pattern design and writing process, so I followed daily, and saw a post asking for pattern testers. I just happened to be one of the first to read it, so I offered if she needed additional testers.

She got an understandably overwhelming response (she has a LOT of adoring fans, and rightfully so), but I was honored to be one she wrote to and accepted! I was thrilled (probably more than made sense to be, but I get rather giddy over new sewing and creative projects). And so I became an official PDF pattern tester for only the second PDF pattern I had used. Yep, funny how things work sometimes.

And I took the responsibility seriously, followed the beta version of the pattern and made one of the first Gadget Guards. The instructions, tips and photos were very thoughtfully laid out. Detailed explanations were beautifully illustrated with dozens of wonderful color photos. I started with printing the pattern and instructions out. The pattern I printed on blue card stock, so they would hold up better. I bought a poly semi-transparent two-sided legal size envelope for it, and I keep the pattern pieces in one side and the instructions in the other.
After getting all organized, I started one of the most fun parts of a new project... picking out the fabric! I'd been hoarding a yard of this fun cotton fabric and I realized this was exactly the project I was keeping it for! Since it was a grayscale fabric in a keyboard print, I chose a black lining with white mini dots that just made the gray keyboard fabric pop! And of course, the zipper color was the detail that brings these types of projects together, and bright white long pull zippers were just the exact right choice!
Next logical step was to determine the size sleeve I wanted. For my iPad? Mayyyybeee. Oh, nope, my MacBook Air! Yep, that's the gadget, and so I measured, followed Erin's easy formula and pulled out my rotary cutter to get started.

Once the zippers were in (there were two because I chose the version that had a large zippered pocket on it for carrying accessories), it felt like it finished very quickly from there. (I know that zippers can be daunting to many of us, but no worries here. Erin takes time to really show the easiest way I've seen to put in zippers and how to size them for the project.) Then, I sewed the lining as directed, and suddenly it seemed, all that was left was to turn the lining to the inside, stitch a little portion to close it, and voila! A brand spanking new Gadget Guard. Beautifully padded with the loveliest zippers, I just adore it! It fits perfectly, zips like a dream, holds my laptop and iPad, and it makes me smile.

One of the things I loved about my first pattern testing experience was the confidence it gave me about using PDF patterns. There is no hesitation now. I am a PDF pattern fan, and use them every chance I get. My book shelf is filling with colored poly envelopes filled with printed patterns, and I feel like I have a gold mine filling with special treasure.
The other thing I came away with after this experience is a real desire to test patterns again. The feeling of doing a little sleuthing, needing to be observant and on task, the absorption in my project, and the feeling of helping someone put out a beautiful product so many can enjoy, is definitely an experience I hope to repeat in the near future! Until then, let's see, which PDF pattern do I start on now....
Make sure you check out Cherie's Blog & Etsy Shop!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

June Vacations Recap

I went on 2 trips last month. The first was a cruise with my siblings & mom. The second was a two-week camping trip to South Dakota with the family.

The cruise was the Carnival Imagination out of Long Beach, CA. Yes, we've all heard of the issues with Carnival cruises, but we had a great time. Everything was safe and clean and the service was excellent. We went to Catalina Island and Ensenada, Mexico. It was a great time filled with laughter, fun, relaxation, yummy food, and great memories.
Mom, Me, Sister M, Sister C, C's hubby, Brother J
Tendering into Catalina Island
Relaxing on the beach on Catalina Island
La Bufadora, Ensenada, Mexico
Pulling out of the Port of Ensenada
Sibs & nephew
Our family camping vacation to started a few days after I returned from California. First destination was Devil's Tower, which is actually in Wyoming. My brother (who was on the cruise) and his family joined us too.
View from our camper of the Tower (not our camper in the foreground!)
Rainbow opposite of the Tower after a storm
Watching Close Encounters of the Third Kind in front of the Tower
Then we moved on to Custer State Park in South Dakota, where we were joined by my cousin.
Our campsites at Legion Lake
This burro that was looking for hand-outs startled my son!
Bison everywhere! Babies are so cute!!
Enjoying a hot springs fed river
The whole gang
Then we parted ways with the Colorado crowd and headed to Badlands.
Our set up just outside of Badlands
Bighorn Sheep & Lambs
Next was 2 nights at West Bend State Park. We set up the camper and just hung out at the campground. They had fun bike rentals that the kids enjoyed. South Dakota State Parks are awesome!!
view from our campsite
Our final SD destination was the Laura Ingalls Homestead. It was the highlight of the trip. I'll put a few photos here, but I am going to save most for it's own post about the homestead. So much fun!
I sewed prairie outfits for us to wear.
It was a great trip! South Dakota is a beautiful state. We highly recommend Custer State Park and the Ingalls Homestead. Badlands are cool, but you can do them in a day. Mt. Rushmore's evening program was a HUGE disappointment!