Friday, October 30, 2009

I'm Movin' On Up!

I'm telling my family tonight that I am moving out. I am taking up residence at my new health club.

Because I have much joint pain from my autoimmune disease, I can't walk on the treadmill. Heck, I can't even take a casual walk around my neighborhood on a gorgeous fall morning without hurting for days. I have decided that the answer is water. I can walk in water. I can do water aerobics.

Thus began the quest for the perfect health club with a pool. I thought we found it last weekend when we explored Schaumburg Water Works. It's nice. There's the lap pool. A diving pool. A fun, zero-depth pool with a kids' playground and water slides. It was clean and pleasant. Very kid-oriented.

Then I remembered Lifetime Fitness. The club's been in the area for a long time. But it had the reputation of being expensive. I crunched the numbers and it actually comes out pretty even with the other club because the classes are included in the cost. So I joined.

I was completely overwhelmed when I walked into the doors of this huge building. My previous health club experiences have been with Women's Workout World and the local park district club. WWW closed and neither that nor the park district club have a pool. Both were/are nice clubs, but small.

Lifetime is HUGE! The front counter is about the size of the park district fitness room. There's a salon (manicures, pedicures, hair cut and coloring, makeup application, and massages). There's a small restaurant (today I tried the Mango/Pineapple Smoothie) where the calorie and nutritional information are listed for each item.

The second floor is all exercise equipment. The salesperson who gave me the tour told me there are 500 pieces of equipment up there. Rows and rows and rows of treadmills, elliptical machines, stair steppers, weight machines and a free weight area. There are two gleaming studios.

Downstairs there are two basketball courts, racquetball courts, a gigantic climbing wall. The children's center has computers, tvs amd a kid's basketball court.

But it's the magical land also known as the women's locker room that has me considering sending in the change of address card. When I got the tour the woman joked that sometimes moms drop their kids off at the children's center and then go sit in the lounge area for a couple of hours. Instantly, I flashed into the summer months when I want to hide from Aaron and can't. But I could drop him at the children's center...and go to the locker room lounge area and enjoy the leather furniture, big screen tv, and free phone. No dirty clothes lying around. No barking dogs. No fighting kids. No game system cords to trip over.

Frankly, after seeing the lounge area I was in the salesman's pocket. He should have started the tour with that and we would have been done!

Today I took a water aerobics class in the warm water pool. There are two pools. The lap pool (which I guess is cold!) and the zero-depth pool with two water slides. (There is also an outdoor pool with water slides, but seeing as how it's late October, I've not experienced that.)

After the class I returned to the women's locker room (aka Paradise) and said in passing that I was cold. Seriously, I might not have actually spoken the words aloud. Maybe I shivered a little dramatically. Instantly the locker room attendant asked if I would like a warm towel.

A warm towel! Sheesh. I got a warm blanket when they MRIed my brain. I got warm blankets and a warm table when I got a massage. But a warm towel at the gym?! An actual towel that wasn't warm because I just yanked it from the dryer and was folding it?! That was the deciding moment.

I'm moving in.

It's a 24-hour club. There's a restaurant with healthy food. I can sleep in the lounge. Shower in the locker room. Relax in the sauna--I believe I would prefer the wet eucalyptus sauna in the locker room to the dry sauna in the pool area. I won't go into a public hot tub/jacuzzi no matter how many times the salesman assured me they were completely drained and cleaned. I worked at the Y...I saw how dirty and gross a hot tub can get. I sometimes get a rash from toothpaste! Can you imagine what I'd get a hot tub?! ugh

I'll still visit my family. And we could always get a family membership so they could visit me.

But seeing as how I am still living on Norman (Bates) Lane (in honor of Halloween, of course!) I think I'll go find a towel for tomorrow. Too bad it won't still be warm by the time I need it!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Let's Talk Food...Cupboard Soup

Ever have those nights where you need something for dinner, but not much? It happened Friday after the twins and I had lunch with Jim at Gino's East pizza. We were stuffed after lunch and didn't want or need a full dinner. Aaron was eating at a friends, so anything was fair game.

Voila! Cupboard soup was born! I'm calling it that because I had everything in my cupboard. Oh, and some in the freezer!

3 cans beef broth
1 large can diced tomatoes seasoned with sea salt
1 can dark kidney beans
1 cup frozen corn
1 cup frozen green beans
1 cup baby carrots
4 cups water
4 beef bouillon cubes
1.2 pound tri-colored bow-tie pasta

Toss everything except the pasta into a large soup pot and cook on high until it boils. Reduce to a simmer and cook for approximately an hour. Raise cooking temperature to bring soup back to a rolling boil and add pasta. Cook until tender.

This would be great with a nice, crusty bread. I think it would also be a great way to use up those little bits of left over vegetables we have sometimes.

If you try this, let me know what you think!

(I just made a ham glaze with Catalina dressing, brown sugar, and diet cranberry Sierra Mist. I'll let you know how it works out!)

Happy Cooking!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Evil Scarf Revealed...

it's to pretty to keep calling it evil! But it sure was a bitch to knit!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Knitting Knightmares

I am being defeated by hand-dyed silk ribbon and seed beads. Seriously, I thought I was stronger than this, but I am seriously mistaken. I've survived divorce, death, teenage twins (well, so far!), a precocious 10-year old, and it will be the hand-dyed silk ribbon and seed beads that finally get me!


This all started about a month ago, the Sunday of Labor Day weekend. Kelly and I detour to Richmond, Illinois, on our way to Lake Geneva. We are set on making one last try at this elusive yarn shop. It's been closed on all of the many other times we've gone there. I have, on more than one occasion, declared Wool, Warp & Wheel and the town of Richmond, dead to me.

But, to my pleasant surprise, the shop is open. It's a warm, cozy shop. There's a dog for petting, a bird for oohing, and an angora rabbit that did nothing for me because it was hiding in it's cage. Beautiful samples are hung and draped everywhere. It's a petter's paradise and I was tactically enthralled at all the different things to touch and caress--samples, yarn, ribbon, roving (that's the fiber for spinning). Yum!

Then my eyes fell upon this half-knit sample of a simple scarf. Oooo! Soft and shiny! The edges are scalloped with beads. The beads run through the length of the scarf. It's gorgeous and it's calling my name. And I buy it.

Let me start by saying that at this point, for my aggravation and pain, it would have been better for me to just buy a finished one. Seriously, even if it cost twice as much finished, it would have been worth the snarling, crying and bad words this scarf has brought out of me.

The hand-dyed silk ribbon is an array of luscious colors: emerald green, lime green, purple, deep blues. The colors meander along the smooth, silk strands. It feels good, it looks good.

It is evil. There. I've said it. I have purchased and am working with evil yarn! It saw me coming, muhahaha-ed to itself and sucked me in.

I started by putting the first hank of seed beads onto the silk. I didn't realize you should first wind the hank of yarn around the provided cardboard spool. (Yes, there was a small label suggesting you wind it around the cardboard, but no where was there a Surgeon General's warning that you must wind the silk around the cardboard!)

I start winding. Oops, some beads popped off! There they go rolling across the laminate flooring, under the furniture. Luckily the boys are home and they hop to retrieving the errant beads. I continue winding.

I am still unclear as to how I ended up with a hand-dyed silk ribbon gnarled mess. One minute I was winding, and the next it had all wrapped itself upon itself. Twists and Tangles. Tangles and Twists. I keep working at it. Then I put it aside...I need a break.

I show my tangled mess to Kelly. We sit in The Studio (aka the garage) for over an hour, untangling the yarn. I had to resort to cutting it in places. So the one-piece hank ends up in about 50 pieces. Kelly announces she cannot spend the night and must get home to her family. I think I silently sobbed as I watched her leave.

Jim comes home to me and the snarling ribbon sitting on the chair. Tentatively, he asks what I am making. I know I was a little snarly when I said, "A babushka!" and draped the snarling, evil ribbon yarn over me head. We chuckled. I thought about killing myself to end my misery.

I do get the ribbon untangled that evening and happily start knitting. Knit, knit, slide some beads, knit, knit. Oops! I didn't notice I came to the end of a piece of the once-whole ribbon and some seed beads went flying. Tinkling over the laminate, rolling under the furniture, kids scrambling after it. What fun ribbon and seed bead knitting is!

The scarf of knit in two sections, from end to middle on both pieces. I finish the one end and am slightly concerned that it is very short. I am a short, but rather plump person, so I require more than 24 inches in a scarf. I ignore my feelings of distress and knit on. I transfer the second hand of seed beads to the ribbon. Knit, knit, slide some beads, knit, knit.

I do encounter problems when I come to the ends of pieces, because I have beads where they shouldn't be. I surgically transfer them from ribbon piece to ribbon piece with a floss threader. (Thank you Dr Karas, my beloved dentist for these samples!) It's tedious, but it gets the job done. I only lose a few of the beads. But now when the beads tinkle across the floor no one eagerly jumps up to get them. There are snarls and grumbles from the boys.

I finish knitting the beads on the second half, as just as I suspected, the scarf is nearly Barbie-sized. I decide I will just knit the rest. I contemplate a complicated lace-stitch, slap myself upside the head and knit on.

Yesterday, I finished the second half! It was done! It's gorgeous. If you don't look too closely you will not see the yarn joins. I only have to join the two pieces using a three-needle bind off. I search through my knitting books to find the instructions (the actual instructions that came with the kit are long gone, having been disposed of during a rabid living-room clean up where I assumed all loose papers on the floor were the boys). I finally find it in a Stitch & Bitch Nation book. It looks simple enough.

A half hour later, after dropping and retrieving stitches numerous times, I am tearing my hair out. How could something that looked so simple on paper be so freakin' difficult?! It's got to be the evil, devil-spawn hand-dyed silk ribbon. I put the separate pieces away, yes, with some seed beads flying! I greet Jim, tell the boys what to do for dinner, and go sit in front of my computer and sob.

Yes, two hanks of iridescent seed beads and a hank hand-dyed silk ribbon have reduced me to tears. To sobs. Real tears! Mascara smearing, racoon eye making, red-eye inducing tears. Luckily my family does not notice this because there's no way they would understand why I was crying over knitting a scarf. (Honestly, though, I am a little concerned that I was crying at the desk and no one noticed....are they freakin' blind?!)

I swore when I was done that I was DONE! No more knitting that scarf. I don't care if it cost a great fraction of the grocery budget for a week. I don't care that I have worked on it for a month. I don't care that it's gorgeous (oh, is it gorgeous...and it even feels good!). I just want it gone. Out of here!

And everywhere I go, there are lone seed beads mocking me. In the powder room (which has been swept and scrubbed numerous times in the last week) there's one. On the stairs going up to the second floor, there's one...and another. They are taunting me. Teasing me. I hate the freakin' seed beads!

But during the night I came up with a way to salvage it. I will use a big-eyed needle...and some scrap yarn...I'll lose a few rows, but it'll be worth it! There will be pictures...