Thursday, July 31, 2008

Getting Healthy & Entertained

I am so close to finishing Jack's Blanket (Ravelry link). Working that last skein has been killing me though. First I find a thinned out crumpled section in the yarn that has to get cut out then 2 rows later it's a knot. I had many profanities come to mind but since my in-laws were visiting I just sat there amazed at such a crap skein of yarn. I think I have just a couple nights of knitting left, maybe 12-14 rows. I'm glad I like working on this pattern. Not sure how I will rate the yarn overall. It's great to work with but knots are hard to approve.


Like the majority of the US population I'm overweight. My husband is doing well with his weight loss by training for triathlons. He's tracking his progress with his own blog called Clydesdale Triathlete. I'm very proud of his progress and it's good to know that he's working to improve his health.

I was an athlete in school so I never actually exercised, I practiced. I would run a 2 mile warm up before soccer practice and then have a full 2 1/2 hour practice. I would never have called myself thin - more like athletic, toned definitely not fat. I never expected losing weight gained while pregnant would be so hard. I guess I just thought it would magically melt of in the first 6 months. With my husband traveling so much it's pretty much impossible to commit to any kind of team sport. I also have a hard time committing to a gym membership when we have this:

This is technically the dining room of our house but since we have a large kitchen and eat there we turned this into our exercise space. We bought a commercial grade treadmill a few years ago because of our fat-ass size and usage. Just recently we bought the rowing machine for my husband who used to row in college. I think my son uses it now more as a toy than it gets used as an actual work out machine. I've never rowed before so it's intimidating to me - I never know if I'm doing it right.

I tried the Couch to 5K program several times. Each time I get a couple weeks in and I end up too sore to keep with it. My husband on the other hand loved it and used this program to get up to running 3 miles regularly. I don't know why but it just didn't work with me. So I'm trying something new.

I'm just walking. I need to get back in the rhythm of doing something every day but at the same time I need to not be sore because I have a kid to chase after (so needy). Walking is pretty boring and it's hard to get motivated. I'm combating this with blocking out an hour every weekday in my work calendar. I'm also listening to Lime n Violet's podcasts. I think I have over 60 downloaded from the very beginning and they're very entertaining so far. I'm hoping to get to the point where my workout time is dictated by the time of each podcast which is about 45-60 minutes so far. Right now I'm sticking with a minimum of 30 minutes until I'm not dieing after each workout. Baby steps. Any other podcasts that I should try?

I'm combining Getting Healthy with Knitting and hoping it will help me lose some of this weight. I've lost a few pounds since January by eating better but it's just a drop in the bucket. If I got with all of the assessments based on height and age I should lose about 45 pounds to get into the healthy range. I know at least Gracie will keep me company, the kitty condo is set against the window in between the treadmill and rowing machine . . .

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Blanket Calculations

I am on my fifth and final skein of yarn for Jack's Blanket and now the anxiety comes . . .

I need to end on row 12 or row 24 AND have plenty of yarn left over for 10 border rows. I have never been good at estimating yarn. I tend to run out right in the middle of the row. I'm taking the risk to go to row 24 then work the border. My measurements estimate about 8 pattern repeats plus both borders to be 90 cm. I may have more yarn left over than desired but it's better than not having enough!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

UPromise - College Savings

Here's a good one that covers two of my passions: Family & Saving Money. Let me first say that UPromise isn't paying me to say any of this. I'm just continually amazed that people don't know about this and aren't getting the same cash back (free college money) for their kids.

I first heard about UPromise when Senator Bill Bradley was trying to be the Democratic Nominee for President back in 2000. I don't know if he started the idea but that's where I heard of it. Back then I listened to every campaign speech and I really analyzed every candidate based on what they were saying and what their track record was. It's not that I don't want to do that now - I just don't have time with a 2 year old . . .

Anyway, I signed up for it as soon as I realized that it was legit. My husband and I didn't have any kids at that time so I just had him listed as the beneficiary (we later changed it to Will).

The basic idea is that you register your grocery cards and credit cards with the site. You then get cash back from retailers when you make purchases at the grocery store, participating restaurants and online purchases as long as you when from UPromise's site then to the retailer. We didn't make too much at first because we didn't have much priority on saving for college for a kid that we hadn't conceived yet :) Every 3 months the balance in your UPromise account is transferred to your kids 529 college savings account as long as you have at least $25 at the time. That never happened for us back then because we weren't earning that much and we didn't have a 529 to transfer anything to.

Once I learned I was pregnant that whole situation changed. I evaluated every purchase we made and saw that we could be getting much more free money if we just put a little thought into our purchasing process. Here's my most commonly used examples:

1. I printed out a list of participating restaurants in our area using the zip code search and just kept in it my purse for those spontaneous lunch outings with my husband. It also helped me to remember to use our debit card for those purchases since you can't get the 4-8% cash back using cash. Total savings earned to date: $36.55

2. I try to do my majority of grocery shopping at a participating store like Wegmans and only use non-participating stores like Wal-Mart for last minute items. The kicker here is that I don't change my shopping habits at all. I still use coupons and I still buy my favorite store brands. I just get savings from my normal shopping. Total savings earned to date: $17.01

3. All online purchases my family makes are researched first for a decent range of prices and then checked with UPromise to see if they have a participating retailer. I would say 75-80% of the time we can purchase through UPromise and get the cash back but there are places like Amazon that sometimes have better prices and they don't offer cash back. All Christmas presents, wedding and baby showers and birthdays start here for long distance friends and family. All regular purchases like iTunes start here as well. It's amazing to see how many retailers are listed. Total savings earned to date: $162.66

4. By far our biggest savings has been switching to the Citibank UPromise credit card. I'm not a big advocate for credit cards but you really have to have one for online purchasing and for your larger transactions like trips and household stuff. So I figure if you have to have one you should pay it in full every month and get the best rewards possible. I believe they give you a higher percentage on gas and grocery purchases but the bottom line is 1% back on all purchases. We use this card for all of our personal (vs work) purchases and we've been very happy with it. The best is getting cash back from a retailer for an online purchase AND getting another 1% back from Citibank on that same transaction. Total savings earned to date: $416.99

5. Miscellaneous items: At one time our home phone service qualified so I got $$7.60 total from SBC (we're now with Verizon). I started taking surveys through E-Rewards and got an initial $2.00 but I should be getting an additional $50 before the end of the year. I switched our energy provider just recently and for last months bill I got $3.69 back. I also have gotten gas at Mobile a few times (probably out of necessity) and got a total of $4.02 from them. You can also have friends and family sign up and contribute directly to your account. We haven't gotten much from this yet but it's worth it if you have people in your life that want to help save for your kids future.

Overall I have gotten $652.52 from UPromise transferred directly into Will's 529 college account. Since we're only able to put $100 a month into that 529 account right now that equates to almost 7 months extra savings. He just turned 2 in May so I'm hoping to take advantage of more in the future. As long as I'm not spending any more money than I intended I feel like I'm on the right track. Most of the time these vendors offer coupons or free shipping if you click through UPromise first.

They've just recently announced a couple things that I hope to take advantage of in the future:

1. Travel - My husband and I travel often for work and we have a work website dedicated to this but our personal travel could be booked through here since we normally use Orbitz anyway.

2. Auto - We will probably need to purchase a new vehicle in the next 5 years so I'm hoping we'll have a participating dealer in our area by then. It sounds like a good deal if you know exactly what you want to buy.

I hope that this helps a few people save more for college. I can't even imagine what it's going to cost for my son to go 16 years from now but I'm going to do what I can to save every penny possible to help. My husband laughed at me when we first signed up and got less than $50 in the first year. Now he's a believer and actively searches the site on his own before making any purchase. It feels good to save money on something we were going to buy anyway AND get money for Will's college account at the same time.

Monday, July 21, 2008


I'm on skein 4 out of 5 for Jack's Blanket and my next project is another baby blanket. I'm still working on finding the right pattern but I already have the peach/mango colored yarn ready to go. So when both are done I'll probably have worked on these two every day for 2-3 months. Not exactly exciting to write about. Time to change things up.

I've decided to write more about what I'm passionate about in life. It's a short list but I could probably write a post every day until Christmas and still have more to say.

1. Family
2. Knitting
3. Making/Saving Money
4. Environmental Issues
5. Getting Healthy

Everything that I really care about falls into one of these categories. Most actually relate to other items. The problem is that Getting Healthy isn't really high up on my list right now and it should be. I should lose weight so that I can play outside longer with my son, have a longer life thus knit more :)

I will still be knitting every day but be warned: I'm breaking out of my mainly "knitting only" theme. I only knit so fast on this blanket . . .

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Raising a 2 Year Old

I have to say, being a Mom is pretty cool. I get all of the cuddles now that he's in the "mommy stage" and I get to kiss all of his boo-boos. Now that Will is 2 (as of May 5th) he's communicating more than I could ever imagine. This morning we flipped through one of his picture books and he named every item, everything from a car to a parrot to stars and coins. I am so proud of him.

Since we've finally got some heat his favorite activity is to play "OUTSIDE!" and in the "POOL". I think we're going to have to move getting an above ground pool higher up on our To Do list for the house. He loves to splash and even kicks his feet as if he's swimming.

When he gets tired of the pool it's all about the "SAND!" although in Will's voice it sounds more like "SEEND!". I can't figure out this kid . . . here he standing on his head in the sand:

Oh yeah, bath time is a requirement whenever he plays in the sand and we end up finding sand everywhere! Our biggest challenge is having him keep the sand in the sandbox. I think every kid wants to just throw it especially when they just finished splashing and "throwing" the water from the pool.

He's getting bigger but his favorite play area in the house is still my cupboards. He takes all of the pots and pans out then hides inside with the door shut. We get to listen to him giggle until he slams open the door with a big smile as if to say "Hear I Am!"

Love it. Love being a Mom to Big Will. Not so sure I can handle adding any more kids to the mix. This big guy takes all I've got right now, especially with his Daddy traveling so much for work. I was an only child so maybe that's his fate as well. It's hard to think about sharing my attention with a newborn but maybe I'll change my tune as he gets older. A little sister would be nice and just think of all the cute hand knits I could make . . .

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

About Half Way There

I've been working on Jack's Blanket now as my main project pretty much every day. The only exception is if we're at camp then I don't bring it because of the smokey smell that gets on everything. I'm almost done with the third skein out of five and I'm not getting bored with this at all. It definitely helped that we went to the Jersey shore this weekend and I worked on it in the car most of the way for the 10 hour plus round trip. Here's the current length:

I'm very pleased with this pattern and I'm glad I thought about trying the shortcut for SSKs. In Arctic Lace, Donna mentions that the Inuit people found SSKs to be too many movements for just one stitch (think K2tog as one movement). By using k2tog through the back loop it's similar enough to the SSK that it works for them. I'm no expert on stitch definition but I like how the lace sections look AND it saves me time on these very long rows:

I'm also happy with purchasing my first circular needle for this blanket. I have a set of interchangeable needles but I didn't want to worry about tightening up the joins every row. I'm thinking about using my AC Moore coupons to stock up on a set of permanent circulars for larger projects like these. Wait - who am I kidding? I'll just buy a needle here and there when I need it for a project!

Monday, July 14, 2008

New Technology

I'm way behind the times when it comes to technology. I do my best to keep up but I really don't need the latest and greatest products. Maybe I'm thrifty, maybe it's just being cheap. I am a big sucker for marketing and sales though so when it came time for my "New Every 2" with Verizon I was at the store the very next day to upgrade my phone. There was absolutely nothing wrong with my current phone - I do love that Razr - but I wanted a full keyboard for text messaging. Plus we have a family plan and my Dad wanted something smaller that what he had before.

After about 5 minutes in the store we picked out this for me:

It's the LG enV2 in maroon and I really like it so far. It's a little thicker than my old Razr but it's less wide. I usually keep it in my purse so it's not that big of a deal. I love love love the maroon color. It looks just like a normal phone until you turn it to the side:

With one flip I have a full keyboard for text messaging. Text messaging is so much easier than talking when my husband is in noisy airports (often) and I just couldn't get it done quick enough for my liking with the old style keys. Here's the new way:

So cool. I've got a new age ring tone now and I think I have all of the settings done correctly. One perk that I think I'll really use is that you can automatically put a call on speakerphone just by flipping it open. That will be so useful when driving or when just dealing with our 2 year old.


Allison inspired me with this post on her blog. I added AdSense content and searching to my blog along with the Amazon link. My plan is to use Amazon for books and DVDs for Will and the any AdSense money will go into Will's college account. I'm not sure how this will work out but it's worth a try. By the time Will goes to college tuition is going to be even more ridiculous than it is now so every penny helps!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Family Charity Project

A few months ago I learned about Project Linus from one of my friends on KnittingHelp. Since my family is into craft projects and we're all over the east coast I thought we could make a blanket for each of our local chapters by knitting or crocheting squares. Those squares would be assembled at one of our family get togethers.

We had a few issues. Not everyone liked to knit and not everyone liked to crochet. The agreement was made that knit squares wouldn't look right next to crocheted ones. Then we were all introduced to the Knifty Knitter. It was quick, easy to learn and worked up a nice, warm 12 inch square. I liked the break from the challenging knit projects I was working on. We all got a Knifty Knitter set and started out with a plan. One of us picked out the colors to use while the rest got going on the squares.

We all met up and designed a beautiful blanket, it was later seamed up and a gorgeous border was crocheted on as a finishing touch. I'm sure there's mistakes here and there but it's a hand made gift and mistakes make it feel unique and loved.

I plan to contact our local chapter coordinator this afternoon and schedule a time to drop it off. We ended up with a blanket that's 4 squares by 5 squares. We used Caron's Simply Soft so it's machine washable and super snugable! I hope that it finds the right person and they know that our thoughts are with them!