I went to the zoo for my 33rd birthday and took lots of photos and video like a good gawker. Would you like to go on a tour with me?
I made some quick videos of animals here.
I decided to start posting after action reports from Warhammer 40K battles on this blog so I can do at least something with it.
I’ve been playing a semi-regular game against a one of my coworkers for a few months. We’re both new to the hobby and learning a lot of the finer points, so it’s good experience for us both. I’m running a vanilla space marine army and she plays Dark Eldar. We play at a local game shop (Guardian Games) that has a great back room with high tables, a lot of terrain pieces, and beer.
After exchanging lists and quick Q&A we rolled for mission, we got “The Relic” mission and setup the field. There are a ton of terrain pieces available at Guardian, and we’ve been experimenting with different sizes and makeups to make the battle interesting. When we rolled the relic, we decided to use a huge ruined temple piece at the center of which we would set the relic. The terrain object is about 2′x3′ and presented us with a fun set of challenges we hadn’t dealt with before. We ended up having a set of assaults that went from round 1 through the end of the game right around the relic itself.
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Recently I’ve been doing a lot of little sewing, including altering some shirts and making these arm warmers from some old socks that no longer go over my gargantuan runner’s calves. Here’s the tutorial I used, and here’s the end result:
But that post isn’t about my little projects. It’s about getting rid of a big project. So let’s start again.
I made a thing! I need to get rid of it.
Here it is:
I followed this pattern for what I hoped would be a cute, flattering dress with ruffles around all the curves and a fitted midsection. I chose one of Taylor’s old button-up shirts for the waist and back to give the sleek sections a flattering, pin-stripe look, used an old white tshirt for the chest, and a single, old, black Think Geek tshirt for the skirt.
In general, I think the fabrics were the correct choices. I do think the shape of the dress is appealing, and I also like the relatively subtle subtitle the limited wording on the skirt provides.
What didn’t work:
Here’s the important part, and the reason I’d like to give this dress away — I made it the complete wrong size! I didn’t bother to look at the size-to-measurements listed, and assumed I would need to make the pattern at a size 10, like I had the last one. Silly me, this is a Misses pattern, with the measurements to fit a teenager! So, the waist is way too small for me to ever wear. I realized this toward the middle when I tried on the bodice and found there was no way I could fasten it. Ever.
Anyway, instead of abandoning the project, I decided to finish it and give it away. So, if I have a slender friend with a waist of 29 inches or less, and you like this dress, or know someone who would fit this criteria, drop me a note on Twitter, Facebook, or the comments. I’ll even mail it.
Otherwise it’s going to Goodwill. Maybe someone will love it.
I’d never done snaps before, and I decided to give it a try. I did an absolute amateur job, half finishing before I found this incredibly useful tutorial.
The snaps, as they are, will hold just fine, but the spacing isn’t perfectly even. I should have gone with the zipper option.
A new wrap shirt improvised from the pattern for the bodice of the wrap dress I recently made.
I had some problems the wrap dress, which you might recall:
a) Too big
b) Wrong material for the bodice front interface
c) Not topstitching when I wanted to.
I decided to tackle the wrap dress bodice again, just to get the dimensions right. The idea being I could always throw a skirt on if I felt like the bodice was the right size.
So I made the bodice, fixing what I had done incorrectly. I used a free shirt I’d gotten from a conference and a tshirt that I’d gotten as part of a grab-bag. (Word to the wise: if a tshirt company is doing a grab-bag deal, you’re going to get the tshirts no one wanted in your size. Taylor ordered one extra-large and got the girliest thing he’d ever seen. This became the back of my new creation.)
Everything that I predicted would work did: going down two sizes meant the whole thing fits more snugly. Changing the linings helped with the stiffness. Topstitching gives the whole thing structure. I also, to go ahead and brag a bit, recycled two ribbons I’d gotten for free to make the belt. It was a complete fluke that I used Taylor’s button-up shirt for the lower part of the bodice–a choice I made completely based on the color.
What didn’t work:
The bodice is still quite… generous in the chest. In fact, I was about to abandon the entire project for being too obscene when I realized I still had a perfectly good man’s shirt upstairs that I could sew into the rest of the wrap. That’s when I added the collar. Now I can actually wear this without something underneath.
All that being said, I think my work with this pattern is over. I look forward to trying out something else next.
I made something new! It’s a pillow:
OR IS IT?
A lot of our blankets live on our couch. Which means when company comes over, we have to either leave them out, acknowledging the shameful fact that we lie on our own couches under blankets like hobos, or we hide them in our closet. But blankets don’t like to go in the closet. They get sad in there, and walked on, and forgotten.
So I decided to take advantage of an old idea: the pillow blanket. Fold it up, it’s a pillow, still perfectly suitable on a sofa, but unfold it, and you’ve got yourself a party!
For the fabrics, I used two pieces of fabric made by Jade Gordon and for sale on Spoonflower. The pillow is based on an illustration she surprised me with after I posted a pic from a Ren Faire earlier this year. The inside is another piece of fabric that looks like the controls to a time machine. You can make up whatever story you like about how I picked that.
I lightly stitched the time machine controls to a couple yards of thick fleece by playing with the embroidery settings on my sewing machine. The machine knows several patterns, but they all tend to look like random splats at this point. I decided to go with something simple and use hearts. Some worked well.
Some did not
But she’ll hold together. The nice thing about making blankets, I discovered, is you can do a really amateur job at it and it still looks great. In fact, the more hand-made a blanket looks, the better.
And the best thing is, the whole project has firm and hearty support from both cats, who could simply not stay off any piece of the project for any amount of time. I think we’re going to be friends, new blanket.
I made another thing. Here it is:
It uses a relatively standard pattern for a women’s wrap dress, but I got a little silly with the idea and made it out of Taylor’s old tshirts.
You might remember from my post on Taylor’s shirt that I grew up considering brand-new clothes a luxury. It’s a luxury I’ve indulged more as an adult, but I still only go to buy new clothes a couple times a year. Meanwhile, Taylor shops a lot, especially as he continues to lose weight. In the last year we’ve thrown about 80% of his clothes into the sewing heap. That means lots of XL and XXL tshirts. With that much fabric, I either needed to make a blanket or a dress. And the dress won.
I’ve also watched enough women in my family age to know that the time of dressing like a teenager is over. In my early 20s I started watching what women wear as we fill out (especially in the middle) and I’ve come to two conclusions: 1) Pants are rarely flattering 2) Wrap dresses look good on almost everyone.
I misread the instructions and thought I needed fusible lining for the whole dress — a mistake I only realized when I went seeking 45″ fusible lining for the skirt and could only find 22″. I had already purchased and cut out the fusible lining for the bodice of the dress, though, so I went ahead and used that. (I used an old sheet for the skirt’s lining.)
Fusible lining gives fabrics a stiffness, like a permanent starch, that worked really well for the arms and back of the bodice, giving it nice structure. The front of the bodice… well, I’ll get into that in the next section.
Surprising as it might be, I also really like the feel of the tshirt dress. The fact that these are old tshirts means the skirt drapes really nicely, and feels cozy, like old pajamas. Sewing with old fabric also keeps the item from looking too crisp, like construction paper, the way much homemade clothing does.
What didn’t work:
The fusible lining worked great for the back of the bodice, but the front is supposed to be drapey and clingy, which is not happening. Next time the front lining will need to be something else, like a very fine linen.
I also went too big. Sewing patterns tend to run quite small, and according to the package measurements, I’m a size 14. But I have a bad habit of not using all the seam allowance they give me, so I probably should know enough to always go down a size, especially with stretchy fabrics. Add to that the fact that my fusible interfacing slightly stretched the material, and I could probably stand to go down to a 12 or 10 in the future.
I’ll improve the belt next time too. This belt made from tshirts is too flimsy. I had a hunch I should topstitch it to give it more structure, but when the pattern didn’t call for it, I didn’t do it.
I also took too much on at once. I finished the dress over the weekend with two 7+ hour days of sewing. I know better than that. When I get tired, I cut corners and make mistakes. Next time I’ll impose a hard limit on per-day sewing.
I’m going to try this pattern again soon, but not next. Next thing I am going to work on a simple pillow blanket using some Jade Gordon fabric I bought off of Spoonflower. That should only take me a weekend, and be ready while it’s still cold outside.
Surprise action shot!
By the time I finally reached the end of the marathon, the finisher’s shute had become a wasteland. Instead of the frenetic jostling I was used to at the end of a race… the almost maddening flow of people down the tables of oranges and chocolate milk… emptiness greeted me. A volunteer handed me a finisher’s medal and a wilted rose.
This is what it’s like to take six hours to finish a marathon.
Six. That’s an important number. Six months of giving up Friday nights so I could more thoroughly give up Saturday mornings. Heat, cold, rain… I ran it at 4:30am. And I did it diligently for six months.
Four-thirty is an important number too. That’s the pace group I ran with during our group runs. It was, to be fair, one of the slowest pace groups. I would often be the only one out to run the last few miles in the heat, so I was used to being the last person back to the start point, getting back after all the goodies had been packed away. I guess it’s what I should have expected.
Do you get the sense that I’m disappointed? Well, of course. In fact, I was sobbing by the time I found Taylor in the family area, a slow, uncontrollable staccato exhalation that I had been fighting back for hours. I couldn’t keep it in anymore, after all the time smiling miserably at the shouts of a “good job” I knew I wasn’t doing. It was mentally and emotionally grating, and I was raw.
So what went wrong? How did I fail so miserably on something I was so sure I was prepared for? I’ve made a list below, mostly for myself, on just how I messed up, and what I can do next time.
Because I set out to run an marathon. And I don’t feel like I’ve done that yet.
I wasn’t prepared physically
-I caught a cold: The last week before the marathon I started a new job. This was a foolhearty plan which backfired immediately when I got up Monday morning and realized I had a cold. So I now was sick and staring down the barrel of a week when I couldn’t possibly take time off for the cold. So I suffered through it — coming home and going immediately to bed for the first three days. A week is not enough time to go from sick to marathon. I can tell that because I am now, a week and a half later, still feeling the effects of all the extra crud.
I can only guess that that caused me to have trouble getting enough air into my lungs. I didn’t feel out of breath, exactly, just drained. And breathing was… weird. By the end of the the race my shoulders ached from it. I couldn’t raise my arms over my head. Every jounce and jostle hurt.
-I couldn’t speed up: The training group I’ve been running with encouraged us to slow way down, so I’ve been doing my training runs at about 12 minute miles. They promised left and right that when the race happened, we’d be able to run faster than we were used to. And I did. For the first 9 miles. Then I slowed down, almost to training pace. And then I realized that I couldn’t figure out a way to run, even at my very slowest, that didn’t hurt. My legs were burning and my feet ached. And I had 16 miles left. I should have hit the wall 10 miles later than I did. I just keep thinking: the training runs were too easy.
-I couldn’t eat or drink: I’d done training runs with the same food and water. I knew what worked and what didn’t. But something about the marathon day made even the stuff I was supposed to be able to handle turn to bile in my stomach. As it got hotter, it turned into an inner struggle: Take a drink and walk while fighting off nausea or continue to be thirsty. It’s a no-brainer, really. It’s quite easy for runners to die from dehydration. I took the drink and walked. But I struggle a lot with food and running. My stomach is exceedingly delicate, and it is the first thing to go when I get overworked. Before I even think of running another long race, I have to figure out what to do about that.
I wasn’t prepared mentally
-I was being passed: Just when I hit my wall and started to slow down — when I was mentally at my lowest — that was when I began being passed consistently. It makes perfect sense. I was running with people who were going to maintain their starting speed for another two hours, of course they would be passing me. But that effect of being passed has much more of an impact on me than I ever remember. I need to find a way to make being passed feel right, or at least ok, before I run again.
-There were so many miles: Seems obvious, right? Duh, dummy, you’re running 26.2 miles. So yes, you have to run 10 miles before the race really even starts. But this is something no one ever told me, and why would they? Who thinks of a marathon like that? The answer, of course, is that I do, but only when I hit mile 10 in the middle of the marathon. I’m convinced that each runner faces their own set of mental booby traps on a marathon, and this was my own personal one.
-I realized I could quit: This was ultimately what did me in. When that 10 miles mark hit and I had my mental lapse, the first thing waiting to comfort me was the sneaky little thought that had been hiding in my head all the time: “You don’t have to do this. You can walk away right now.” When that voice asked, “Why are you running this marathon, anyway? Who cares?” I honestly had no answer.
So why didn’t I quit? The answer is a remarkably simple one: it would have been inconvenient to quit where I wanted to. My body and brain decided I was done right at the beginning of a large, generally inaccessible loop that takes you for the last 15 miles. Once I was on that loop, I had to finish. It took me almost 4 hours. And my emotions raged from hopeful to disappointed to furious the whole time. That was much more exhausting than what was going on in my body.
So now I know what’s waiting for me, I have a short mental list of things I have to master before I begin even training for another marathon.
It was 4:30 a.m. and I was packing two army blankets into our Hood to Coast van. Taylor and I had spent the last 3 hours cocooned in these and other
blankets, sleeping on a tarp on a mist-covered field. I was freezing.
“Were you warm enough in your sleeping bag?” I asked Andrew, our van driver.
“Yeah, it’s great. Rated for as low as 20 degrees, although it rarely gets that cold here.”
I was envious. ‘Twelve years of marriage, and I’ve only wished I’d had a sleeping bag twice,” I said. “We never camp, and it’s not like we have slumber parties to go to anymore, so owning one just isn’t practical.”
“I would love to go to a slumber party!” Andrew said.
We both considered the statement for a moment. I saw myself surrounded by a bunch of other adults, all with our own gross adult problems, making ourselves purposefully uncomfortable for an entire night. It was eerily similar to what we were doing at that very moment. Andrew must have been thinking along the same lines.
“Actually, maybe not,” he said.
While the memories are fresh, Taylor and I both wanted to write our thoughts about each leg, and the experience overall.
Leg 2 – Maria
I’ve finally gotten over my fear of going uphill, but I still love going downhill. So I was a bit thrilled to find out I would be descending 1500 feet over the course of 5.59 miles. This was going to be a chance to find out how fast I could go in the very best circumstances, and to see if I could do it without injury. The answer at this point in my life is an eye-raising 5 minutes faster per mile than my training pace, even being deliberately steady!
It was a lot of fun, a good course with nice scenery. By the time I was done my legs ached a bit, but I felt great.
Leg 6 – Taylor
I looked at this leg closely when I picked out my runner assignment. It looked like a couple of rolling hills at the beginning, with a large downhill starting about halfway and continuing to the end. The biggest worry was a 1/2 mile hill a little before halfway through that looked pretty sizable. When we actually got around to running the thing, we had to walk a mile from the van to the exchange and I got there at exactly the same moment our runner did, so I had no time to think before running. I took off grumbling about the organization of the event. I’m glad I had runkeeper on and with me because I glanced down about half a mile in to discover I was running about 6:30 miles on the slight uphill I was running. Not wanting to burn myself out at the beginning, I reigned it in a bit. I remember passing a large hill and thinking “that must have been my big hill, smooth sailing from here”. After cresting another hill, I saw the big one, a nice curving uphill that seemed to climb forever. Before starting the leg, I had told the van I didn’t want support, and I would be fine without water, after getting up that big hill I really regretted that. It was starting to warm up for the day, and a lot of the side roads are dirt and were putting up dust as people passed. Thankfully, my team is smarter than me and was waiting at the half way mark with water. After a drink and pouring some water on my head it was a smooth run to a large downhill into the exchange. I was a bit warm at the end, but overal it was a good run. I didn’t feel too terrible after this one, but I probably should have drank a lot more water.
Leg 14 – Maria
We’ll call this the Hate leg. It was hot. I was running through boring industrial buildings and beside smelly train yards. The Saint John’s bridge never seemed to get any bigger in the distance. I was also having every kind of stomach problem you could imagine. Meanwhile, the high school divisions joined us in these legs, so I was unendingly being passed by jaunty 17-year-olds.
Leg 18 – Taylor
One review of the legs we read before the race called this leg the crucible. It looks simple on paper, it’s rated hard, but it seems to be a 5 mile gradual uphill. When running it, I felt every step of those 5 miles, and every inch of that climb. From the start it seemed like I was always looking up a hill. The sun had set a few legs before this and it was getting towards midnight during the run. The moon had also set and for a good chunk of the route, the only light was from headlamps of myself and other runners. I remember feeling a little pull in my left ankle towards the end that I thought would pass. An ominous portent of things to come.
Leg 26 – Maria
My final leg, a run through forest and farmlands and fog. I started in darkness and discovered, to my delight, that running in fog in a headlamp produces the same “warp speed” field that driving with headlights in a blizzard creates. I ran by mooing cows and singing birds on a variety of up and down hills. I passed a guy! This leg made me feel like everything might just be ok after all.
Leg 30: Taylor
This leg was at the top of the coast range, a little uphill to get over the last few ridges, and then downhill into the valleys. Before getting to the exchange, my left ankle was very sore and tight. I tried to stretch it out and warm up a bit, but nothing helped. It felt like my tendon was about an inch short and every step hurt pretty badly. With the runner before me coming down the hill, I decided to gut it out and run. This turned out to be the most harrowing run of my life. After taking off every step on my left was agonizing. On the uphills I would occasionally have levels of pain that made me see star or dark spots in my vision. I found a way to block it to ty to ignore what was going on, but it was pretty afwful. I hit a steep downhill about half way through and took it easy to try and keep the pain down, to discover the downhills actually felt ok. This run was actually pretty beautiful aside from the pain. I was running through wooded hills with streams and dense forest. At one point I passed a pasture and a horse came to trot beside me. I kept thinking the exchange had to be right around the next bend, and when it finally was, I handed off and immediately stopped moving and called for an ice pack from the van.
Overall – Maria
Having finished Hood to Coast, I can best describe it as what you’d get if you threw a road trip, camping trip, marathon and slumber party all in a blender. I don’t want to romanticize it at all: it was hard. The legs (legs are the 4-7 mile segments each runner does, which were spaced about 5 hours apart for us) were hard. The lack of sleep was hard. Eating nothing but power running food for 48 hours was hard. Not being able to go to the bathroom when you needed to, and then having to do it in portapotties that became increasingly disgusting was, shall I say it? Hard.
I won’t do it again. I will not look at the photos, and imagine that we’re all smiling because we’re happy. I won’t be swayed when people exclaim “How cool!” or “I want to do that!” into thinking “hey, yeah, that WAS really fun.” But I do have that little niggling part of my brain saying “If only I’d known to prepare for XYZ.” Or, “oh, yeah, it seemed hard at the time, but it was worth it.”
Did I really not enjoy Hood to Coast at all? No, I have to admit, in all my grumbling I WAS glad I did Hood to Coast once.
Overall – Taylor
My ankle was dodgy all through the final day after that run, to the point where I could barely walk on the beach at the end. We rested and took it easy and kept ice on it as much as possible. It’s not hurting now, but man was that awful.
Having done Hood to Coast, I can honestly say it’s the hardest thing I have ever done. I don’t think I’ll do another one, but am not completely dead set against the idea if I can work on my strength and endurance a bit more to fix whatever is going on with my legs. The physical and mental control required nearly beat me, but only nearly.
I made a thing. Here it is:
It uses a relatively standard pattern for a men’s button-up shirt. Taylor picked the pattern on a whim, and the lady at the sewing store was very helpful in making sure I got enough fabric and iron-on fusible interfacing. That’s good, because all the numbers on the back of the pattern were gobbledegook to me.
I have a complicated attitude toward clothes. In my youth I shopped almost exclusively at thrift stores, where $20 would get you 5 pieces of clothing. Once I got married, Taylor became increasingly uncomfortable with shopping at thrift stores.
“Someone probably died in that,” he would say. (Perhaps it helped that my primary interest at thrift stores was the kind of men’s trousers preferred by the elderly.)
So I moved up to JC Penney’s. Extravagance! I know. That worked well when I was in my 20s and fashion prefered women with curves. That is not the case right now. The oversized burlap sack on leggings look turns me into a walking pillow.
So why a shirt for Taylor? I always do better work when sewing for someone else, for one thing. Plus, well, he seemed excited about it.
I will begin by admitting that I grew up in a house with a lot of home sewing, but I also had virtually no patience for it. I attribute this to my learning style, which is very much a “follow the directions” route, not meshing with my Mom’s teaching style. Our sewing machines were always second hand, so we never had an instruction manual. So when the bobbin needed to be replaced or the needles rethreaded, all work ceased until Mom could fix it.
The two most important tools for this project were the sewing machine and the internet. Despite being labeled as “Easy,” the pattern still contained a lot if jargon I didn’t know: nap, shelvage, slipstich… I was able to look at the internet for video tutorials and at my sewing machine manual for further hints and tips.
I also bought my first iron. No looking back now.
What didn’t work:
I made a few mistakes on this shirt, but none probably as consequential as the last: I forgot to take into account seam allowance when sewing my buttonholes and ended up putting them too far from the edge. Now the fabric sort of flaps over, and will probably wave jauntily in the breeze. I am trying to come up with some way to fix this, but I’m concerned that anything I try will make it more obvious.
Another challenge was the material. Taylor chose a knit, which, of course, led to stretching issues. I know knits can be a pain, but I want to work with old tshirts, so this was good practice. I took things slowly and relied heavily on stay stitches (this was a new term).
Other than that, I just need to practice my slipstitch work — the tedious stuff that’s all done by hand.
I’ve got a pattern for a wrap dress, so I’m trying that next. A nice, summery dress — I might even finish it before autumn.
Surprise action shot!
Today I set out on my weekly long run for my hood to coast training plan. Normally I do the long runs on a Saturday, but this Saturday we are helping Team Snout with their WarTron dry run. So I moved my schedule all around and ended up with an 8 mile run in the middle of the week. Normally I have a day of break between my last run, seeing my trainer, and the big run. This time I was running the day after training and running a small run yesterday. I was running with Maria and the dog at the beginning and Maria said, “one year ago you were running your first 5K”. I hadn’t thought about it, but she was right. 1 year ago I ran the first 5K I successfully finished. I ran it with my friend Katie and did run walk intervals for the duration. I had runkeeper on and have a track of it here. I did that run when I was nearly all the way through couch to 5k and it shows, I wasn’t ready for a run of that size yet. Compare that to today’s run which was done at my training, not racing, pace. It’s amazing what a difference a year can make.