Tuesday, July 31, 2007

'Holiday Romance' Debut!

This is my last 2007 TdFKAL post. I'm already looking forward to 2008! We have lots of time to dream up project ideas!

Here is 'Holiday Romance'!

I'd planned to have Jeff take some pics of me wearing my new top, but we haven't had the chance yet, so I experimented with the self timer feature on the camera. This will have to do! Sorry for the headless shot, but there wasn't room to get further back from where I was balancing the camera. Anyway, considering I didn't do hair and makeup, it is just as well ;-)

Thank you to my blog friends for your comments lately. Your kind words definitely help motivate me to keep up the effort on my knitting and cycling!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Last Day of the Tour

I spent some time weaving in yarn ends today, but still have a few more to do. Otherwise, 'Holiday Romance' is done! I've tried it on and it's pretty nice!

Jeff and I watched a recap of the last week of the Tour on CBS. Despite the scandals, we still enjoyed the race and the spectacular scenery.

This evening, Jeff and I did a 32.62 mile bike ride bringing our total for the month to 462.37 miles so far. There are still two days remaining...maybe we will try for 500, weather permitting.

I'll post pictures of Holiday Romance soon and look forward to seeing every one's completed TdFKAL knitting! Please forgive the short post tonight, I'm melting in the hot weather!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

1 Year Cycling Anniversary

4,513.66 miles

biked 209 of the 365 days


It's just a coincidence that I got back into biking during the Tour last year as I didn't follow it at all. Jeff and I just missed biking and instead of sitting around missing it, started doing it again!

It's a little embarrassing to admit it, but we had both become quite sedentary for several years due to some negatives like health trouble and various life events, but also just having interest in time consuming sedentary hobbies. It was time to become more balanced! Fortunately, we both still loved biking and since we were both out of shape, we could build up our strength together. We bought mountain bikes since that's what we were familiar with and had ridden before.

It's pleasantly surprising how quickly the body can recover from sitting around. In case you are interested, or maybe beginning some exercise of your own, I'll write a little recap of our progress. Our first rides in July and August were generally around 15 miles long, though occasionally we did as much as 25 miles. We averaged 10 mph, a little less if it was off pavement. By September, we were still doing 15 mile rides with a few longer ones, but the average speed crept up to 11-12 mph. In September, I realized that I wanted to get a road bike since most of our route options were paved. For October, I began to increase my miles and effort to 'earn' the new bike. I wanted to ride at least as many miles as dollars I would spend on the new bike! In October, I felt like I had hit a plateau in my ability. I did 15 mile routes at 11-12 mph, but I got out more days. This effort paid off in November! I really felt changes in my ability in a matter of days! Nearly all my rides were ~25 miles long and I averaged 12-14 mph. And, I rode a lot of days! We had a wonderful, warm December and I remained dedicated to my biking. I continued with the 25 mile rides and increased my average speed to 13-15 mph.

At the very end of December and in January, a friend loaned me her road bike to try. My average speed on the road bike was ~16 mph. I loved the light, fast feel of it! I got my own bike in February and to review my progress with that you can go to my 2nd Quarter Bike Stats post! Also, you can see more information under 'Some of My Ride Stats' in the sidebar.

It has taken some effort and perseverance to go from sedentary to active, but I am happy to feel fitter again! It doesn't take very long to see some really big changes. I guess the 'trick' is to find a fun way to exercise. When I am out biking, I never think 'I'd rather be doing something else'. I'm always in the moment and enjoying it. Yes, even when it's hard and I'm tired and pushing myself and feel my legs turning to jelly. Actually, that's part of of the fun! It helps that I'm pretty good at pacing myself and setting manageable goals! It may help to have a slight competitive streak, not necessarily compared to other bikers, but just the desire to beat your own best stats. The satisfaction of finishing a tough ride and the flood of happy endorphins, makes the trouble all worth it.

What are my goals for the next year of cycling? Primarily, to keep up the momentum. As far as improvements, I'm mainly interested in increasing my overall average speed. I have decided that I prefer rides lasting in the range of 20-60 miles for now. Personally speaking, there is not a lot to be gained from pushing myself at my best speeds for longer than 60 miles or so. That's not to say I won't do it occasionally, just not all the time ;-) I like to keep my time in the saddle to under 4 consecutive hours, so that works with the 20-60 mile range.

Just one more note, biking is a very 'leveling' activity that people of all sizes and ages can enjoy doing together. For me, the best part of biking is that Jeff and I can enjoy it together and improve at about the same rate, so neither of us holds the other back. I would especially recommend cycling for this reason.

Btw, Jeff biked a total of 3,462.51 miles!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Holiday Romance Update and More Cycling

Sunday afternoon, we finally got to see some televised coverage of the Tour. CBS offered a 1 hour recap of the first week. It was very exciting to finally see more than still shots or the tiny clips occasionally included in the local news sport report!

I’m keeping up with my knitting for the Tour de France KAL. The sleeves are knit as part of the back and front pieces, so it is necessary to make a series of increases at the underarm. The pattern notes suggested working into the front and back of a stitch at each end. I started doing that, but didn’t care for the way it looked. If it was increases on just the right side, it would have been fine, but doing the increases every row made it look too busy. I frogged that and decided to go with the right and left slant M1 increases. They seem to be ok. I won’t really be able to tell for sure how much I like it until I get it seamed at the very end, but it should be ok as they are mostly hidden.

Assuming I don't decide to frog and change the neckline decreases, one section is now done. After you finish with the underarm sleeve shaping, you soon begin shaping the neck opening. The pattern directs you to do the shaping on the edge stitches and the picture seems to show that. They direct you to do k2tog and p2tog regardless of the side of the neck you are on. This is what I've done for the time being. I keep thinking that there has to be a neater/directional way to do this... However it's done, it has to be possible to pick up and knit the neckband along this edge! (Perhaps I overthink the shaping, but it's really been on my mind lately and I'm at a standstill on another project over how/where to do the shaping especially as it has such an effect on the seaming later on. This seems to be the biggest hurdle in learning to knit!)

I have kept the shoulder stitches 'live' for now on holders. Later, I think it may be possible to join the shoulder seams using the three needle bind off technique. The center neckline stitches are also kept 'live' for joining to the lace edging later. Yes, that’s my bike in the background!

After watching the Tour coverage, Jeff felt a bit more daring on his bike and balanced with no hands! As stable as the road bikes are, I'm not too thrilled with this! I do not need to see a close up view of 'road rash'! My injuries from 2 mountain biking falls last summer were gross enough.

After riding in direct sun for most of the ride, it was a relief to find some shade.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Labrador = Lap Dog?

Well, Saffy believes she is a lap dog. Fortunately, she is a relatively petite lab at around 55 pounds. She loves to cuddle in the evenings.

Saffy's smile.

It gets a little hot this time of year with all the fur and panting too!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

2,017.34 And Counting

I cracked 2,000 miles for the year on my bike ride this morning! Only 1,982.66 needed to reach my goal for the year! I should be able to manage that, after all, the men of the Tour ride 2,200 miles in just 3 weeks!

Here's another picture of my cycling mad husband. He's surpassed 1,600 miles so far this year. It's a good thing we share the cycling obsession!

I'm getting better at snapping pics while pedaling. Today, Jeff pointed out that I was rolling along at 18 mph while snapping pics and I hadn't even realized it! What I will do for a blog pic ;-)

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Staying With the Peloton!

There is lots of easy stocking stitch happening on my Tour de France KAL project! I can watch television or play a movie like A Good Year to see plenty of French scenery while I knit and purl. I've used 2 balls of yarn so far. In this picture, you can see about 13.5 inches done on the back section.

Now, I can spread out the ribbing without losing stitches off the needle and show you the lace pattern! I'm really pleased with the stitch definition! The dainty little plates are Limoges porcelain.

I've been keeping up with the 5:30 *AM* bike rides. I have to admit it's agonizing to haul myself out of bed at that hour, but once I'm out on the bike, I'm happy! It is so quiet except for the birds and sound of the wind.
Here are foggy pastures near Hammersmith Farm. There is a funny collection of livestock grazing during the day: a couple of llamas, a mini donkey, mini ponies and some sheep and beltie cows.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Cycling & Knitting

For a few weeks, I get to post about two of my favorite things for the Tour de France KAL!

Today, Jeff and I got up early and were on the bikes by 5:30am to avoid riding in the hot sun later. It actually felt a little chilly as we started out which was a refreshing change from recent rides. It was great not to be slathered with sticky sunscreen too (it makes every bug stick to me).

As we made our way to the beaches, we passed this pasture with sleepy cows. There were various types of herons and water birds wading in the little cow pond.

Apparently beach goers aren't morning people. In the afternoon, you can hardly see any sand on this beach for all the people with their towels, umbrellas, coolers, etc. There was just one guy on a tractor smoothing out the sand. That's 'Hanging Rock' in the distance, a wave cut cliff.

I just like this building. It looks quite European, like many of the buildings around Newport.

When the surf is rough, this is one of the places we sometimes get splashed as we bike, but it was still and foggy this morning.

You can just see the outline of a mansion in the mist. This one looks a lot like a castle with the turrets.

Here's a pic of Jeff. We rode 25 miles.

There has been lots of time for knitting in this hot weather and I have used up one ball of yarn and completed the lace ribbing for the back section.

When I knit a little further along, I will be able to spread the ribbing out to properly show you the lace pattern.

I'm really delighted by the texture and color of the yarn. It is very evenly spun for the most part and I only had a little trouble with one yarn splice that I found *after* I had knit it into the lace and gone another row and a half! I had to frog back a little to break the yarn and leave out the fuzzy splice.

After completing the six inches of lace, you are directed to do a number of M1's across the next (knit) row. I didn't like the look of the M1's right up against the pattern stitches, so I frogged that first attempt at the increase row and then did a knit row and a purl row followed by the increase row. I think it looks better to have a little buffer of two rows between the pattern stitches and the increases. Hopefully it won't make any difference in how it seams or wears! Oh, I didn't worry about 'direction' for the M1's and just did them all the same since they hardly show.

Because I am trying to include French things in my pictures, I've pictured my knitting along with a bottle of Bordeaux that I happen to have stored in the little wine rack on my buffet. The logo for the wine is a sheep/ram's head. It's called Mouton Cadet and I use the entire bottle of it in my Boeuf Bourguignon! The recipe I use is from Barefoot Contessa in Paris. I really recommend it, but if you are experiencing hot summer weather like we are, I suggest you save this recipe for a cool autumn day.

I have visited most of the TdFKALer's blogs now and am so inspired by all the great projects underway!

Monday, July 09, 2007

Happy Dogs

Jeff doesn't even have to get up from the chair to exercise Silas! We have a red plastic gizmo that lets you pick up the slobbery tennis ball without having to touch it and then you can easily fling the ball a long way. Silas never takes his eyes off the ball!

Silas is in mid spin here as he turns to run for the ball that Jeff is flinging.

Saffy thinks all the running around is a bit much on a hot day. She is my little shadow and follows me around the yard while I look at the flowers and take pictures.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Dinner, French Style

Since I’m participating in the Tour de France KAL, I am trying to think of French things to incorporate into my daily life, like recipes. One of my favorites is for galette, a simple rustic tart that can be made savory or sweet.

The dough for this one is made with flour, cornmeal, butter, water and sour cream. I quickly combine everything in the food processor. It is a very soft dough and not the easiest to make in hot weather! I made it early in the day so it would have a long time to chill in the fridge before I tried to roll it out. The parchment paper helped a lot too.

Today, I decided to make savory galettes and filled them with mozzarella cheese and sliced Roma tomatoes. (Other times, I have made sweet ones using blueberries, raspberries or plums.) Here are the baked tarts along with some fresh oregano and sage from my garden.

The recipe is from a book called Baking With Julia.

I’m not sure what French inspired meal I will make next, but I think I have to try this soon (click on picture from BBC Good Food for recipe):

If you try it, let me know how it turns out!

Btw, the local news surprised me again with another snippet of footage from today’s racing. They showed a rather horrendous crash!

This is how hot it is today...

Silas relaxes in the doggie pool to cool off.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

My Tour de France KAL Kick Off

I have been so eager to begin my Tour de France KAL project! Finally, the day has arrived!

I began the day with a 30 mile bike ride with Jeff. We rode around Newport and enjoyed the cool, salty breezes. At Brenton Point, people were flying kites of all shapes and colors. The beaches were a blur of bright colors from all the bathers and you could hardly see any sand!

After biking and lunch, I started my TdFKAL project, a summery top called ‘Holiday Romance’. Getting started was pretty easy. The pattern didn't suggest a cast on method to use, but I could see that the one pictured was done using the cable cast on, so I went with that. In the hot weather today, I drank a lot of iced vanilla lattes, shown in the picture. The latte color kind of matches my yarn!

Later, Jeff brought home some sweets and they were packaged in this little box decorated with a chef on a unicycle!

Do you think the chef aspires to be a domestique?

Sadly, the television stations we receive do not cover the Tour, but the local news did mention it as part of the sport report and showed a tiny bit of footage from London.

Just click on the labels 'Pattern: Holiday Romance' or 'TdFKAL' below if you would like to access my previous post that contains more information about the pattern and yarn!

Sunday, July 01, 2007

2nd Quarter Bike Stats

Here's my ride data for April, May and June!

And, here is all the data so far this year. (Is it really possible that the year is half gone?!)

I seem to be on track for meeting my goal of 4000 miles for 2007. It's ok that I'm not at the halfway point of 2000 miles because there will be more riding at the end of the year than the beginning of the year due to the weather being better.

I guess I had hoped to ride a few more days each month, but it's important to keep the biking in balance with the rest of my life! I'm pretty happy with the mileage and it reflects the fact I'm going longer distances on the days I do ride. Other than keeping life in balance, weather is sometimes a constraint and other times I just need a rest day after the longer, faster rides I've been doing. The muscles need time to build up again!

I won't bore you with more tables of data, but tracking my average speed over time is motivating for me. In January and February, I was averaging ~16mph. In March and April I averaged ~17mph. In June, I was able to kick that up a notch to ~18mph! I can now cover short distances, like 10 miles, at 20-21mph. This is all dependant on terrain, of course, and long or steep climbs would slow me down a lot, but I'm feeling pretty strong on the hills we have in our area. I can sprint into the high 20's, but I think I am better at endurance than sprints. My fastest downhills have been in the low 40's and I'm not feeling too ambitious about going any faster than that at this point!

One of the best things about cycling is riding with friends. Yesterday, we had a wonderful visit with Debby and Chris! They came over to Rhode Island to ride into Newport with us to see the usual ocean views as well as the tall ships at anchor in the harbor. It was a perfect summer day!