Sunday, February 28, 2021

It's Getting Real

I've been working pretty steadily on Skeeter's cosplay for the last few weeks, but it didn't seem real until my patterns came in. I don't know what about seeing the patterns for my cosplays is so anxiety-inducing, but suddenly I felt the stress of pulling off my 50th birthday photoshoot.


Both patterns will need to altered significantly, and I can't really work on either of them until May once I've lost a few more pounds. The last thing I want to do is work on all those alterations of the pattern, just to have to make more adjustments at the last minute.

The pattern on the left will be altered to be a split riding skirt, so I don't have to hike up the dress to ride my Skeeter-sus. The pattern on the right will remain similar, but will be altered to look more like General Antiope's armor.


Oy, this project scares me. I'm cranking along on Skeeter's armor, but the thought of making my own is scary chit.

Sunday, February 7, 2021

The Big 5-0 is Coming

For a couple of years now I've been trying to figure out what I wanted to do to celebrate my half-a-century mark. I don't know, it seems like kind of a big deal and I want to do something to force myself out of my comfort zone. I thought about doing boudoir photos, or completing a Tough Mudder, or, or, or. I just couldn't figure out what I wanted to do.

And then I saw a posse-mate had done a photo shoot with her horse for her birthday. It was awesome, she and her horse were dressed up as warriors and it was breath taking! I decided I wanted to do something like that for my birthday.

Ever since I got Skeeter, I'd been tossing around the idea of cosplaying with her. Mostly because I've wanted to figure out a way to turn her into a dragon or a Pegasus. Once that seed was planted, it took root and now I'm obsessed with the idea.

I'll be pushing myself way outside my comfort zone with the cosplay(s) I have planned for my birthday in July. I mean, why do anything halfway?

Not only do I plan on transforming Skeeter into a Pegasus (a Skeeter-sus, if you will), but also a War Horse. I'd initially planned on doing just one cosplay and photo shoot, but since I'll be paying for a photographer and building costumes I might as well do two. Cross your fingers that I can pull this off.

My intention is to blog the experience, though I've been pretty bad about posting on a regular basis. My hope is that by blogging it, it'll give me some accountability.

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Thunder Road Wine

 At an author signing in 2019, I bought a book called Wild Wine Making because I thought it sounded interesting. The author was a bit... well, odd, but very proud of his book. As usual, when I attend an author event, I end up spending more money on purchasing books than I make selling them. But, the book looked interesting and the author assured me it was incredibly easy, so I bought a book for myself and one for a friend.

Jay and I flipped through the book and decided to try one of the recipes for our Christmas Eve gifts. Each year, we make something different as family gifts for Christmas Eve. Last year was two different types of bacon salt; the year before that I canned homemade marinara; one year we made homemade ice cream, etc.

We discussed getting a batch started after we returned from SHOT Show, but we were slackers and didn't actually get around to buying the equipment until the shut-down in mid-March. Suddenly, it was the perfect time to get around to doing the projects we'd been putting off.

We ordered the equipment, and once it arrived we purchased the ingredients for a peach-blackberry wine. Almost immediately we realized that the "incredibly easy" wine recipes were anything but. If we had any experience at all with wine making prior to this, it might have been easy, but we were complete noobs. Luckily, the information we couldn't find in the book on how to make wine was easily found on YouTube. By cobbling the information together, we came up with a plan and turned our mudroom into a winery.

5/3/20 Day one

5/4/20 Day two

5/4/20 The yeast was definitely working

During the primary fermentation process, we stirred the nastiness (it's actually called "must") twice a day for a couple of weeks, adding sugar water as needed, until the yeast slowed down. After that, it was time to strain out the fruit and move the wine to the secondary fermentation vessel. In the book, the author says that a fermentation bag for the fruit is not necessary. Let me tell you, it might not be necessary, but it'll damn sure make your life easier. It took a very long time, and a lot of swearing to strain out the fruit. We made a huge mess, but finally got the wine moved to the secondary fermentation vessel.

Getting a large pot ready for the first straining

Removing the fruit and straining out the juice

Straining the juice again into the secondary fermentation vessel

Not having the right equipment will make the process tedious

5/14/20 Secondary fermentation started

Once it was all moved from the primary fermentation vessel (the 6-gallon bucket) into the secondary fermentation bottle (the glass bung (yes, that's its real name)), we fit it with an airlock that allowed the yeasts' gasses to escape, and covered with a cardboard box to keep it cool and dark. If we had a basement, that would have been a better option, but the cardboard box worked remarkably well.

The next day, we checked and saw the yeast were happily chugging along, doing their job.


A couple of days later we "racked" the wine, siphoned it to remove the sediment. At that stage, it was still pretty cloudy and we were still figuring out what the hell we were doing, but we got it racked.




After we racked it the first time, wine making got markedly easier. All we had to do was rack it every few weeks to remove the wine from the sediment. Racking the wine is the perfect time to taste it, and it was much better than I anticipated each time. The problem was, each time we racked it, we lost a bit of volume, so that by the second-to-last time we racked it, we'd lost a full gallon. There was nothing in the book about what to do, but we were under the impression the bung needed to be kept full to decrease the amount of oxygen the wine was exposed to. Not knowing what to do, we decided to add more sugar water to make up the volume.

The next time we racked the wine, it was much sweeter than previously. I complained that it was sweet. Jay looked at me and said, "it's a dessert wine" and thus the idea was born for a Grease-based theme for the wine.


By mid-September the wine was ready ready for bottling.



Jay put his graphic design talents to work and made us a great label. I think every year is our best Christmas Eve gift, but this one - the wine paired with Twinkies - was the best. So far.


We might not make wine as Christmas gifts again, but we'll definitely be trying again, now that we (sort of) know what we're going.

Noom Update

 You know, I think I'm getting the hang of this Noom thing. Really.

I started Noom on October 13, and am currently down 21.2#. As you know, from my whining in my first Noom post, the first few days were hard. But after that, it got easier and easier. There are days when I'm incredibly frustrated with the scale, but overall this has been fairly easy. 21.2 pounds in 15.5 weeks isn't a lot - it's just over a pound a week lost. 

My goal with Noom has always been to "make my outsides match my insides", meaning that while I felt fit and strong, I hated the way I looked. My weight was pretty steady all through the spring and summer, and I felt so fit with all of the walking and such I was doing. But I hated the way I looked in pictures.

August, 2020

Only because it was so muddy and slick that LE and I were laughing about it did I allow that full body picture of me to be taken. My insides (how I felt) definitely did not match my outside (how I looked).

And to be honest, the two don't match up yet, but they're getting there. This is a picture from a week ago, while I was on a road trip with the Shooting Hubby to go take a gun fighting class. I was pleasantly surprised when I looked at the picture.


Even with a bulky hoodie on, I look much better than I did in August. I'm even stronger now than I was then and am happy with my progress. I still have 25# to go, so probably another four months, but that's okay. As long as my insides and outside continue to line up, I'm good.

Monday, October 26, 2020

One Last Try

Years ago, I gave up trying to lose weight. Nothing seemed to work, and each time I'd lose then gain back what I lost and then some. 

I had my thyroid checked and asked my doctor to up my meds, since my numbers were creeping up. They were still in the normal zone, but my thyroid medication hadn't been adjusted in a few years. I thought I might lose a pound or two that way, but wasn't really surprised when I didn't.

I also thought I might lose a pound or two with all of the walking I was doing, but that hadn't happened, so I resigned myself to being fit/fat. I certainly don't look like I'm fit enough to do a 5k and 10k each month, but, by God, I get out there and do them. I feel so much better since I started walking. 

I had been seeing the ads for noom for a long time, but mostly blew them off. I mean, I've tried diet after diet and end up heavier than I was before. Then someone very near and dear to my heart signed up, so I followed suit the next day.

I'm not going to lie, the first few days were hard. They call it psychology. I call it a mind fuck. It's actually cognitive behavior therapy, and it seems to be working.

Food is separated into three different categories: green, yellow, and red based on caloric density. Now, I've counted calories before - who on a diet hasn't? But I've never really given any thought to caloric density. Using one of their examples, I can choose to eat 60 calories in fresh grapes, or 60 calories in raisins. The calories are the same, but because the raisins are more calorically dense, it takes more to feel full than 60 calories of grapes. You end up eating far more raisins than grapes to get the same feeling of satiety, which means you end up ingesting a ton more calories. 

Each day, there are tasks to complete in the noom app, in addition to logging every bite of food. I've done food journaling before, and hated it. I never thought that would change. Now, though, it's become something of a game to see how many greens I can eat compared to yellows and reds. Like I said, nothing is off-limits, but red category foods are ones that should be eaten with care. The bulk of the my daily calories should be greens and yellows, with a few reds. Reds are important: they're things like dried fruits, nuts, milk/cheese, but should not be the majority of the day's calories. I sometimes fail spectacularly at that.

Poor Nebalee had to listen to me whine about two days in about how calorie-restrictive noom was. It's not really that restrictive, I just had to learn to use my calorie budget wisely. In every other diet I've ever been on, especially the calorie-restrictive ones, there were foods that were forbidden. Part of the mind fuck is that I couldn't wrap my head around the fact that nothing was forbidden. I thought I'd have to give up my daily Coke and never have it again. But since I can have it if I want it, it was easy for me to stop drinking it altogether. Coke is a big ole red item and eats up most of my red calorie budget, so once I realized that, it was gone. Saturday was a "reward yourself" day, so I drank the last Coke in the fridge. I hadn't had a Coke in nine days, so I thought it would be a great reward. I loved every damn drop, but Sunday felt a craving for sugar that was hard to beat back. I'm blaming my reward Coke for that. It is comforting, though, that I can have one any time I want, that it's not off-limits.

Food journaling is only one of the daily tasks required. There are short articles to read, goals to set, and quizzes to take. It takes approximately ten minutes out of my day to complete all of the tasks in the app. Considering the amount of time I spend scrolling through FB, I was sure I could cut ten minutes from there to spend on the noom app. 

Also, each person is assigned a goal coach that checks in with them once a week. The one task that I absolutely dreaded and almost refused to do is the daily weigh-in. Fuck, I hate the scale. I cannot express how much I did not want to step on the scale, much less every day. Luckily, Jay and I left for vacation the day after I signed up for noom, and I refused to pack the scale with us. I let my goal coach know that I wouldn't be doing my daily weigh-ins while we were on our road trip. 

After the first couple of days on noom, I started to get the hang of it. Jay and I had made a goal to walk at least 1.5 miles every day while we were on the road. After all, we were headed to three different National Parks, at least there would be some beautiful places to walk. There were a couple of long driving days that we didn't quite make our 1.5 miles, but we made up for it on other days. In seven days, we walked a total of 15.87 miles, an average of 2.26 miles/day.

I began to look forward to stepping on the scale when we got home: I'd started to get a handle on my calorie budget and we'd been walking a lot. Part of me was scared, what if I stepped on the scale and nothing happened? My doc had adjusted my thyroid meds and it resulted in zero weight loss. I'd started walking pretty religiously, including virtual races each month, and that resulted in zero weight loss. I had made peace with the fact that I was going to be fit/fat. But now? I finally had hope that the scale was going to move.

In the less than two weeks I've been on noom, I'm down 9.2 pounds. I don't expect it to continue at that rate; I believe my plan has me on track to lose seven pounds a month until March, which will take me to my goal weight. They even warn you that the scale is going to be variable. Some days I'll be down, some days I'll be up. Them acknowledging that right up front, and reassuring me that it's perfectly normal, has done a lot to ease my diet and scale anxiety. Despite the scale moving in the right direction, my clothes aren't yet fitting differently, but that will come with time. (**That time came today, Monday, when I weighed in. According to the scale, I'm up a pound. Knowing that it's a normal fluctuation is helpful, but I won't lie, it's still kind of disheartening.)

Two weeks in, I know this is going to work, so then my next big question is: can I maintain it? Noom isn't a diet that you pay to be on for the rest of your life; it's training you to work within your calorie budget. I hope that in the next six months I'm able to absorb all of their "psychology" so I don't end up gaining back every pound.

Speaking of cost, one of the things that kept me from signing up in the first place is that there's no set fee scale for the program. It felt like looking at a menu with no prices listed - I just knew I wouldn't be able to afford it. It turns out, for me, it's less than a gym membership. The hard part, if you're on a budget, is that you have to pay for your entire program upfront, rather than monthly. I paid about $145 for my six month program, which works out to be about $24/month. 

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Virtual Races 2020

I've neglected this blog for so long, and I feel guilty for it. I probably don't have any readers left, and that's okay. Instead of writing for others, I'm using this as a journal of sorts.

Two years ago, I started Ease Into 5k (a Couch to 5k-type app). Copper became my running partner and we completed a couple of virtual races. Then the weather rolled in, and I hung it up.

In 2019, I thought it would be a good idea to do a cumulative race of 121 miles. I thought it would be something I could complete between February and my birthday in July. I was wrong. It actually took me 13 months to complete. I just couldn't force myself, even with using the Ease Into 5k app, to take up running on a regular basis.

At the beginning of the year, though, I decided to give it a try again. I was the most out-of-shape I've ever been. A flight of stairs defeated me, so I found more virtual races that looked interesting and signed up. I joined the community rec center and started walking on the treadmill. I didn't break out the training app, figuring I could do intervals all by myself and build up that way. Because I was so unhappy with my fitness level, I managed to make it to the rec center on a fairly regular basis and forced myself through run/walk intervals, either on the treadmill or on the 0.1 mile indoor track.

I lined up 5ks for the next few months and whined to Nebalee about how much I hated running. Poor thing had to hear it before and after every workout. She likes to do the BolderBoulder 10k for her birthday, and I knew if I was going to have a snowball's chance in hell of surviving, I needed to train. Except, when I "trained" in 2019 I started strong, then gave up. The 2019BB was awful and seriously gave me PTSD. To this day, whenever I'm faced with a 10k, she has to talk me down the day or two before.

In February, I committed to doing a 5k a month for the rest of the year. I had to do something about my fitness level. So, I found a few and signed up.

I've done 5ks in the past, so when I huffed and puffed my way through the Love Your Heart race and turned in a flat-out pathetic time that underscored exactly how unconditioned I was. It was disheartening. I kept at the walk/run intervals at the rec center between my first race and my second. In doing so, I was able to shave 15 minutes off my time, but I hated every damn moment of it. Not only did my mind hate it, but my body wasn't doing well. My feet and knees were giving me fits and after each of my 5ks I was lamed up for a day or two.

 Nebalee listened to me whine about it, then suggested that maybe I give up running and just walk. I thought she was out of her ever-loving mind. She asked me to try walking the April race to see what happened and she offered to join me.

I'll be damned if I didn't shave another four minutes off my 5k time at the next race, and we never went faster than a walk. I wasn't lamed up for days after the race, plus I'd cut time. I was sold!

Right after March virtual race, the world shut down, so I was forced to "train" outside. Luckily, the weather was good enough that I didn't freeze and once Nebalee proved to me that walking was better for me than running, I never had to talk myself into putting in the miles. My entire attitude about exercising improved.

Oscar's SCRAM! 5k


Since that April virtual race, Nebalee has been my constant race partner, always setting a good pace: one that is doable, but still challenging. I was beginning to think I might make it through the BolderBoulder, now re-named the VirtuALL 10k, since the world was still mostly locked down. Tens of thousands of people crowded into downtown Boulder wasn't a great idea, so they took the race virtual. 

We did one 5k in May, prior to the VirtuALL 10k, which was good. I was beginning to think I might be fit enough to do a 10k. And I was. We didn't turn in a great time, but I finished with minimal cussing and didn't even hate my sister for one moment, as I have in the past with the BolderBoulder. I was sore, but not lame, and decided that I would commit to not only one 5k a month for the rest of the year, but also a 10k.

Nebalee was doing a great job of encouraging me, and pushing me at every race, no matter the distance, and I had hopes to hit at sub-sixteen minute mile by the end of the year. Then, August happened and our state caught on fire. The air quality since has been hit or miss. Some days it's okay to be outside, some days it's not. I wasn't going to give up on my races, so bad air or not, on race day, we walked. We didn't want to push ourselves in bad air, so went from trying to cut time to just completing the miles. I'm trying not to be frustrated about being forced to slow down; seeing improvements in my time was the motivation I needed to keep going.

I've now completed six 10ks, though I get a bit of a panic attack a day or two before each, and Nebalee calms me down each time. I've decided that next year, I'm going to walk a half-marathon at least once. I've got races lined up for the rest of the year, and I no longer dread training for them.

I'll be posting race updates in the table below, just for easy reference for myself. 

 

2020 Date

Race name

Distance

Time

+/-

Note

February 29

Love Your Heart

5k

1:17:06

 

 

March 18

Super Grover Red Cape

5k

1:01:17

-00:15:47

Lockdown began mid-March

April 22

Oscar’s SCRAM!

5k

00:57:24

-00:19:42

Began walking instead of running

May 4

May the Fourth

5k

00:53:48

-00:23:18

 

May 25

VirtuALL

10k

1:47:03

 

Replaced BolderBoulder after lockdown

June 12

Zombie

5k

00:52:37

-00:24:39

 

June 24

Smokey the Bear

10k

1:43:07

-00:03:56

 

July 2

World UFO Day

5.1k

00:52:49

-00:24:17

 

July 17

Dragonfly

10k

1:42:37

-00:04:26

 

August 18

Ratification

10k

1:55:43

+00:08:40

Intentionally slow due to poor air quality

August 28

Wonder Woman

5k

00:55:41

-00:21:25

 

September 7

Riveter Run

10k

1:56:06

+00:09:03

Intentionally slow due to poor air quality

September 7

BoldiTUDE

10k

1:56:06

+00:09:03

Intentionally slow due to poor air quality

September 25

She Believed

5k

00:53:07

-00:23:59

 

October 10

Stranger Distances

6.7 mi

1:58:12

 

Odd distance

October 12

Jolly Jack-O-Lantern

5k

00:58:18

-00:18:48

 

October 31

Thriller

5k

00:58:56

-00:18:10

 

November 1

Day of the Dead

10k

01:45:35

-00:01:28

 

November 26

Thankful Turkey

5k

00:50:53

-00:26:13


December 5

ColderBolder

10k

 01:39:45

 -00:07:18

New PR

December 24

Smilin’ Santa

5k

 00:49:29   

 -00:27:37   

New PR

 


Sunday, February 9, 2020

RIP Speed Racer

On November 24, 2014 the sweetest kitten ever was abandoned in a cardboard box in a grocery cart in the middle of an aisle in Safeway. My boss' wife saved "her" and brought the kitten to the college, where I immediately laid claim to the tiny bundle of fur.


And then we got home and the yet-to-be-named kitten decided Jay was "her" human.


A few days later, we agreed on Abby as a name. I swore it was short for Abandonded Kitty, Jay said it was short for Abigail. We didn't have to agree on what Abby stood for, we were just happy to have a name for the kitten. Fast forward a few weeks, I was laid up in bed after another dental procedure and Digger was playing with Abby. Just as I was about to nod off, he called from the living room, "Mom, I thought you said she was a girl. These are definitely balls." When I managed to crack my eyes open and focus, there they were - a pair of fuzzy black balls. I guess "Abby" was a lot younger than we thought when we brought her.. er... him home.


Abby became Speed Racer and we loved that shitten with every bit of our cold, dead hearts. He was a ... special ... cat. His elevator didn't go all the way to the top, but everyone who met him loved him.
On November 17, 2019 he went on a walk-about. We thought we lost him forever. Speed Racer *NEVER* failed to come when called. After a couple of days, we were pretty certain that he'd gone to the Heaviside Layer, though in a small part of our formerly cold, dead hearts, we both hoped he'd show up.
Pongo was really sad and moping around that Speed Racer was gone; he became incredibly needy and went back and forth between me and Jay. He was truly despondent that his brother was gone.


After a couple of weeks of Pongo being so needy, Jay decided Pongo needed a new brother, so off to the Cat Rescue we went to adopt Pongo someone to play with. I wasn't sure I was ready to move on from Speed Racer, but Pongo was driving us absolutely bat guano with his neediness, so we brought home Chief.


Elli's text on December 16, 2019 only said, "Speed Racer!". He came back! He was in really bad shape. 


You can see the tracks he left when he came up out of the cornfield.

An optimistic estimation of his body condition score put him at 1-2. I was fairly certain that he'd come home to die, but each day he got a little stronger and stronger.  By the time we left for Vegas, his body condition score was a solid 3, headed toward 4.

Chief took it upon himself to help Speed Racer heal by cuddling with him every chance he had. He took immediately to Speed Racer and when he wasn't busy terrorizing Pongo, he was cuddled up to Speed Racer, purring away.




Where Speed Racer went, Chief went. You can see how thrilled Speed Racer was.

Speed Racer has always been an anxious cat, and despite L.E. spending time and loving on him, he dropped some weight while we were gone, but he was still a solid 3.
But the last few days, he just tanked. Monday, the only thing he would eat were cat treats. Tuesday, he turned his nose up at them, so off to the vet we went. I hoped it wouldn't be a one-way trip, but in my heart I knew.

Probably liver failure, common in formerly obese cats (he was running 17#, easy, before he went on his walk-about) who lose a lot of weight rapidly.
Speed Racer, a whole lot of people loved you and prayed for you when you went missing. Even more cheered when you came home. You're going to be missed, Good Boy.
October 2014 - February 4, 2020