Monday, February 26, 2007

Fun Weekend Things

Saturday, Jeff and I spent the day in Connecticut visiting with Debby and Chris. We met up for lunch at Mystic Pizza. It was too cold out for more than a quick look at the ice glazed harbor and the surrounding old homes, but there were plenty of indoor things to do. After lunch, Debby and I went to the Mystic River Yarns shop. I fell in love with the
Rowan Kidsilk Night
in 'Oberon' (named for the King of the Fairies, I guess). I can't get a decent picture of it and this one does it no justice whatsoever. It's a gorgeous, soft slate blue with a silvery metallic thread running through it. I'm planning to use it to make the wrap from the book, Exquisite Little Knits. It's blue, which would be good for Project Spectrum this month, but I won't get to it for awhile. I could still make it for Project Spectrum later this year when 'metallics' is one of the categories!

Worried that the guys might be getting a bit bored, we joined them again and all headed to the Mystic Cycle Center. Jeff bought some new gloves and I treated myself to the Pearl Izumi Barrier Jacket. It's advertised as being wind resistant which is just what I need. I hate to feel the wind chill blowing right through my coat when we go +/-30mph downhill! BRRRR!!!

I was pleased that it matches the skully I bought a couple of weeks ago. I already had a black one, but I think the blue one looks a little less 'gangster style' on me!

We're all crazy for books and went to the Borders for a couple of hours of browsing and had coffee and sugary things at the cafe. Jeff and I bought the
cycle training book
that Debby and Chris are following, so we can try some of the same workouts on our rides this spring. Even though we hadn't biked to work up an appetite, we were still hungry for dinner later and ended our day out with dinner at Ruby Tuesday.

Sunday, Jeff and I did a 24 mile NBW club ride. Finally, the weather was warmer, about 40 degrees, so we weren't frozen by the end of the ride! About 40 people turned out for the ride and we even had the local police helping us to cross the busy roads at the beginning of the ride! After we biked out of the little town, we were on quiet country roads. There were actually still a number of working farms and lots of 19th century buildings. It was a hilly ride and there was even a fire tower at the top of one of the hills. Using my new Garmin GPS, I could see that some of the grades were as steep as 12%! Even with the hills, we managed an average speed of 16.1mph! And, my new jacket was great!

Now you can see why the pics I took today are all a bit dark...we are getting snow! Here is the arbor bench in the backyard. It's certainly not an inviting place to sit this time of year!

Saffy and Silas played like wild dogs this morning.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Project Spectrum: Shades of Gray

Sunday was a 32 degree, gray day, but Jeff and I went for a bike ride with the club. This 18th century Quaker Meeting House caught my eye and I returned to it in the warm truck after the ride to snap a pic. The meeting house overlooks the frozen stream shown in the other pic.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

My Latest Cycling Accessory

Monitoring your ride with a cyclocomputer is motivational and fun. When I recently purchased my new Cannondale road bike, I decided I wanted to accessorize it with the Garmin Edge 305 with Heart Rate and Cadence.

There is a wide range of cyclocomputers on the market, so it can be hard to decide what to buy. I don't consider myself a very 'techie' girl, but I'll admit that I am a little obsessive about keeping track of my ride stats. Although I don't have a great track record with being able to program so much as a digital sport watch, I very much wanted a cyclocomputer that went beyond tracking time, mileage and average speed. I particularly wanted one with a built in heart rate monitor and cadence meter. I also hoped to be able to upload my data to my home computer to be able to store my rides and compare them over time.

The Garmin version is relatively affordable, had caught my eye in adverts last summer and had me completely hooked when I saw one in person that a friend had. It appears that everyone who buys one of these becomes a bit fanatical about it! In addition to the basic features, it uses GPS to map your route and provides elevation data.

In the box, you get the main unit, heart rate band, sensor to mount on your chain stay, and magnets for the crank and a spoke.

I'm happy to say that the manual is very well written and there was also a page with 'quick start' instructions for those of us who are a little impatient and want to get right to the fun part before wading through the details.

There was a CD with the Training Center software, a USB cable for uploading the data to the PC, and the 'wall wart' for charging the battery in the main unit.

When you get the Garmin, the unit will need three hours on the charger before you can turn it on. So plug it in first, and use that time to install the sensor and magnets on your bike! My first task was to remove the labradors from the vicinity as they tend to gobble up anything that drops to the floor without thinking. Then I could get started.

I set about loosely placing the sensor and magnets, so I could triple check their placement before tightening the wire ties. I placed the speed/cadence sensor on the chain stay (side away from the chain). I screwed the spoke magnet - where else - to a spoke, and made sure it was in line with the sensor on the chain stay. Then I glued and wire tied the pedal magnet to the crank. When you are through placing these items, and before you fully tighten the wire ties, you can test your setup by pressing the test button on the sensor and looking for the indicator light. A red light illuminates when it detects the pedal magnet and a green light is visible when it detects the spoke magnet. If you see the lights, tighten the wire ties and trim the ends. That's it for the sensor installation!

Next you must decide where to place the computer mount. You have a choice of the stem or your handlebars, but it is recommended that you use the stem for more security. So, it's a simple matter of placing the mount and again tightening the wire ties. I was done with these tasks long before the Garmin was through charging.

Once my Garmin was charged, I turned it on and got started with setting it up. The instructions are very clear for this, so I won't reiterate them here. I found it quite intuitive and was navigating through the screens right away. Basically, you first customize the settings to yourself by entering your age, gender, weight, etc. Then you might like to customize the main screen to show the data you are most interested in.

The weather was too cold for me to run outside with it to locate the satellites, but it found some anyway and I walked up and down the stairs to watch the elevation change, see the % of slope of our stairway and see my heart rate go up as I moved around.

Interestingly, the main unit detected my heart rate strap and 'paired' with it, so it will only communicate with that one in future, unless I reset it. Likewise it detected the cadence sensor and paired. That way, when riding with other folks who have their own sensors, my Garmin will not pay attention to those.

The Garmin comes with the Training Center software program. After a quick install and plugging in the USB cable, the software detects the unit and automatically performs the upload of your workout. The software shows the data in both table and graph form. You can change the axis labels on the graph and color and style of the lines to customize the graph. Not only can you upload data from completed workouts from the unit, but you can create workout plans which you download to the unit, so it can guide your workout, by telling you when to change your cadence, etc. You can create multiple workouts and even organize them on a calendar.

After you've familiarized yourself with the Training Center, you will want to open a free account at MotionBased. This enables you to see your ride map overlaid on a google map as well as many more graphs like the elevation profile of your ride.

These are the basics for operating the Garmin and I hope I've been able to help you choose a cyclocomputer for your bike. If you'd like to read more about the Garmin, visit Suitcase of Courage. Or, if you feel you don't need the GPS features at this time, visit She Cycles by the Seashore to read about the CatEye cyclocomputer.

While the Garmin covers all the basics that you would want in a bike computer, the extra info you get from having a GPS based device really gives you that 'big picture' view of your workout. It's one thing to know your average speed. It's quite another to be able to play back your ride and see where the fast and slow parts were. Personally, when I'm climbing a tough hill, I love knowing its slope while cranking up it, and seeing the elevation when I get to the top. The added dimension of getting the heart rate data lets you get total control over your workout. Finally, having the unit take you through your workout plan makes it a morale boosting training partner.

Happy Cycling!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Show & Tell: Old Valentines

My Great Aunt saved these Valentine cards (c.1920's) in a red, cloth covered box and I was lucky to inherit them. Here's a pic of all the cards stacked up in the box. Then, I'll show you some of the cards more clearly in the following pics.

A trio of embossed cards with colorful images on the front and line images and text inside.

Heart shaped cards with portraits of little girls.

This girl 'walks' when you turn a wheel with extra feet on the back.

Finally, these are among my favorites. They are articulated so you can make the characters roll their eyes.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Monday, February 12, 2007

I'm *Trying* to Like Winter

I've been out biking in below freezing temperatures three days in a row! Yesterday, we joined a local club ride with other die-hard bikers. Setting off on the 15 mile route, feeling smothered by my parka, I started to think about Project Spectrum colors to distract myself from the cold. I wondered, would I see any shades of blue other than my beautiful bike frame and possibly my cold, blue toes at the end of the ride? You have to look a little harder to find colors in winter. Bright blues in summer flower gardens seem like a distant memory. Winter blues are muted. On the other hand, gray is one of the Project Spectrum colors and that's pretty much everywhere! So, I was mainly going to look for blues.

The sky was a weak, pale shade and was basically all the blue I could see as we started off on our ride following lanes through bare, brown and gray forests. Finally, biking along a hillside, I looked down into the hollow of the valley and saw some blues. First, the sky reflection in the ice of a small, frozen pond. Then, the bright blue coats of a few figures playing ice hockey. And a short way off, a pair of horses watching curiously, wearing their dark blue winter rugs. What a perfect little scene! It was like looking down into a delicate figural music box, or like a miniature winter scene built for a model railroad set. I actually forgot I was so bundled up that my arms wanted to snap out to my sides from the bulk of my sleeves. My distraction tactics were working and I was even somewhat warm!

A little further along the ride, I spotted a web of bright blue hoses running between the maple trees in a sugar bush. Was I excited to see blue hoses? Well, not really, I think the galvanized buckets are so much more romantic looking. But, they were something blue for Project Spectrum and, more importantly, a sign of coming spring that the sap is flowing in the trees!

Today, I completed a 20 mile solo bike ride. The views were coastal with some directions looking across a bay and others looking straight out to the Atlantic. The land across the bay was a steel blue, a lighter shade than the steel blue hulls of industrial ships slowly navigating down the bay and out into the open waters. Again, I saw lots of ice reflecting the sky. Skaters had discovered a flooded clearing in a woods and a family was gracefully gliding together. The best view today was at the point by the lighthouse where the sea was deep, dark blue and the wave crests were shining white and the closest waves were crashing over rocks frosted with frozen seapray that looked starkly white against the wet, black rocks. Even feeling the blast of icy wind, I had to slow and take in the view.

Am I crazy to be out in this weather?! Probably most people would think so. Sometimes *I* think so! However, home and warm again, I'm glad I made the effort to go out in the winter and take in the sights. There were a few other kindred spirits outside, a woman splitting some wood for her fireplace and a few solitary walkers on the causeway by the beach. The biggest bunch of people I saw were outside a cafe, bundled up and rushing from their warm cars to the warm cafe for coffee. And, coffee sounds like a *very* good idea to me and it's a treat I will enjoy a little more for having spent some time taking in the winter.

Oh, you want to know where the pictures are, don't you! Well, I had enough weight and bulk from my coat and couldn't bear to add the camera to all that. Besides, the camera lens motor slows down and groans in these low temperatures. You'll have to use your imagination!!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Cycling Things

I recently joined the new Cycling Knitters Webring (see sidebar) and am trying to brainstorm a button idea to submit. So far, my idea has been to put yarn and needles in the water bottle cage.

Obviously, I need to work on it a lot! It's too cold to take pics outside, so I've been trying to get one inside that is bright enough and against a neutral backdrop too. Although, it may actually look better as a sketch.

What are your button ideas so far?

It's really been a biking weekend. Since I tend to pick up all sorts of things in my tires like roofing nails and glass, I put together a patch kit for my new bike yesterday. I have a multi-tool, Park patches, CO2 inflator, extra CO2 cartridge, tire levers and a spare tube. Hopefully I won't have to use this stuff!

Jeff and I went out for a 10 mile bike ride yesterday and we are going to a NBW club ride today!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Silas Is 4!

Silas has a birthday this month, but we are not sure of the actual day. The day we brought him home, we were not expecting to get a new puppy at all! Jeff and I were on a regular trip to a Petsmart store to pick up dog food for Saffy. At the store, I took the cart to get the food and lost track of where Jeff was. I figured he would be looking at the birds and fish, or something. Well, I soon spotted him, grinning like a little kid, in the middle of a large litter of tiny black puppies that had been dropped off at the store. He was clutching a puppy to him and when he looked up at me I knew we were in trouble as he was giving me the 'can we keep him' look! I knew I would be the main puppy trainer and caretaker, so it was really up to me and I'd just gotten Saffy to a point where she knew the routine and was easy. Jeff put the puppy on the floor and it galloped over to me, skidding out on the slippery linoleum floor, slid up to my foot, opened its mouth wide and bit my sneaker and hung on.

Well, Saffy was used to us returning from the pet store with her food and perhaps a soft toy or new bone. She was not expecting a puppy! She's a very easy going dog, so her first reaction was surprise, but also excitement. Then, Silas saw her feet and ran over to her and started nipping her toes! Poor Saffy was frantically dancing about trying to keep all her feet out of reach at once! Silas definitely had a thing for feet and he still does to this day, although at least he doesn't bite them anymore. He licks them or lays his face on your feet. Silas wasn't shy and basically claimed as much as he could for his own...Saffy's toys, Saffy's bed and Saffy's treats. We had to give Saffy a lot of extra special attention! She was very good with him, but I worried that she might resent him and like it if he would leave, but anytime we separated them, she would look for him.

Silas didn't really know what to think of Bandit. He sniffed him and sneezed at all the cat hair. Then Bandit discovered Silas had a long wiry puppy tail and used it as a toy to pounce on and sometimes nip! So, Silas was wary of the cat, who was actually the same size as him at the time! They get along well now, although they sometimes challenge each other on the pecking order a bit.

Saffy is a very quiet dog, but Silas we learned from the start was going to be vocal. Not barking. Just all sorts of peculiar whines, whimpers, moans, sighs and blowing noises. When he was just a tiny thing and we took him for walks, he would make a little grunt or squeak with every alternate step. He sounded like a wonky box spring. There was some snow soon after we got him and he would sit on my feet and squeak at me until I would pick him up. He really wanted to be a lap dog and still does. He doesn't understand that he is huge now!

Silas is a very strong, athletic dog. He loves to chase the laser pointer dot around the yard in the evenings. It's certainly an easy way to exercise him since all I have to do is stand there holding the laser pointer! He also likes a made up game of Doggie Croquet. He drops a tennis ball in front of me and I kick it toward him trying to get it to pass between all his feet while he tries to block it. He never gets tired of this. He also loves to jump high, as you saw in the snow pictures from a few posts ago. He'll jump for snowballs, toys or treats. He's a very intense, energetic dog, so he keeps us busy trying to tire him out! Fortunately he and Saffy like to play together too, so they've developed their own games.

Oh, speaking of dog birthdays, there is a very funny, comedy series of 10 minute shows called Posh Nosh and one of the episodes, "Torta di Castagne e Cioccolata", includes a dog birthday party. It's so hilarious if you love dogs and spoofs of cooking shows! I've seen most of the episodes on PBS lately.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

A Few Random Things

Here is a progress view of the sleeves for the RYC lace top. I should be able finish them pretty soon now that I am in the decrease rows shaping the sleeve cap.

I had a nice visit with my grandmother on Sunday and she gave me this little print. I have to hang it up still. I'm thinking about where it will look best.

I got these markers on sale at Michael's and I feel absurdly happy having them! My plan is to sketch out my garden design ideas in color this year.

I've been trying to get a pic of Lara to show you, but it is dark blue and I can't get it to look like anything other than a dark blob. I know I could take one outside, but it is too cold for that today!

Monday, February 05, 2007

Rowan 41

I just ordered this! I'd like to escape today's cold weather and visit all the warm sunny places pictured in it. You can see some of the patterns featured here. I'm looking forward to reading the directions and picking some to make.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

New Bike Debut!

I am so excited to be able to show you our new bikes! Today, I brought mine home. Jeff has had his for a few weeks, but I have waited to debut them on the blog together.

Here I am riding my new Cannondale Optimo 2 with feminine geometry. And look, it is in Project Spectrum colors: blue, white and gray!

Jeff's bike is a Cannondale CAAD8.

We both opted for the clip in pedals and bike shoes with stiff carbon fiber soles. Here are my blue and silver Nikes. Jeff's are the men's version in black.
I'm sure I will post a lot about our bike riding adventures! We're planning fun rides with Debby and C. I can't wait for the weather to warm up. It was a cold 31 degrees out today.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Blogger (Silent) Poetry Reading and Knitting Update

My Contribution to the Blogger Poetry reading:

On this gray, wintery day, I am dreaming of spring, of seeds sprouting and of trees turning green. This poem reflects my thoughts best. And, fittingly for Groundhog Day, even mentions the woodchuck.

Spring Oak
Above the quiet valley and unrippled lake
While woodchucks burrowed new holes, and birds sang,
And radicles began downward and shoots
Committed themselves to the spring
And entered with tiny industrious earthquakes,
A dry-rooted, winter-twisted oak
Revealed itself slowly. And one morning
When the valley underneath was still sleeping
It shook itself and was all green.

By Galway Kinnell

Information about Blogger Poetry Reading.
I found out about it when I read Ride.Knit.Read's contribution earlier.

Knitting Update:

Lara is seamed and all the yarn tails have been woven in. I'm just waiting for it to finish blocking so I can take a pic. The fronts of the shrug are completed and seamed at the shoulders to the back section. I'm currently working on the ribbing of the shrug and still have to finish seaming the Drops cardi.

I must confess that I have begun a project with the RYC Cashcotton I recently purchased even though I have these other projects on the needles! I am making a lace top that was published in Simply Knitting, but is also to be found in RYC Classic Summer. I started with the sleeves, probably the easiest bits. I am doing both at once, so they are squished on the needle, but you may be able to see that I am starting to cast off for the armhole shaping.

The 'wrong side' of this makes me think of weathered sea urchin shells on the beach with the spines worn off. I'm really enjoying the summery color and texture of the yarn and am looking forward to the more complex parts of the pattern.

The February Simply Knitting was available at the bookstore last night and I got a copy. I like the lace top on the cover and might try making it at some point. This issue came with some pretty blue heart stitch markers too.

Dogs in the Snow!

The dogs are so thrilled by the snow. There was much cavorting, sniffing, snowplowing with noses, rolling and snorting. I had to make countless snowballs to throw into the air for them to jump and catch.

Someone tends to get too close to the camera.

Silas can fly. Well, sometimes it seems like he can when he's leaping high for snowballs.

Saffy shatters a snowball in mid-air.

Running thru the snow.

A face-off.

Wintery Scenes

Old seed pods in the garden.

A birdbath full of snow.

The sticky snow is coating the trees.

The view of farmlands from our west property line.