Friday, March 30, 2012

Making, Reading, and Being Green, Installment #2

An update before I disappear for the weekend...


Here's a shot of my Hey, Teach sweater blocking on beach towels on my bed. This has been an awesome knit and I really do think it's going to look very cute when it's finished, so I strongly recommend it. The pattern, by Helene Rush, is available for free at (linked above). At that price, I don't know how anyone can resist knitting this!

You might be wondering, If this is such a fast, fun, awesome knit, why has it taken her so long to get to this point? The answer to that question is sheer paranoia. I avoided blocking this for a very long time because I was absolutely convinced that the yarn was going to grow madly as soon as the thing touched water. I was sure that by the time I was done, my cute little cardigan would become a duster knit to the specifications of a stilt walker. This is because I've used this same yarn before (KnitPicks Shine Worsted) for a skullcap that ended up a snood.  But now that I've conquered my fear, soaked, and blocked, I have to admit that the whole snood debacle must have been my fault. There's nothing wrong with this yarn. I really should have checked gauge on the hat. Also, it might have been helpful if I had not tried to block a skullcap on a dinner plate. Clearly, I think my brain is much larger than it is.

I've taken a break from my Folded Tweed Bag due to my complete inability to pick up the correct number of stitches along the sides for the border. I've double-checked three times that I knit the correct number of rows and that I am religiously following the pattern, but I'm still coming up 20 stitches over. So I've set it aside until I can figure out what I'm doing wrong. I swear it's going to be an awesome weekend bag when it's done, but right now I need a break. The pattern, by Kathy Merrick, is available in Interweave Presents: Knitted Gifts; I am knitting in four shades of KnitPicks Wool of the Andes Tweed.

Taking a break from one project, of course, means another becomes a priority. In this case, it's a little project called Chiara Scarf. I bought two balls of Lana Grossa Chiara in a beautiful shade of celery the last time I visited Woolbearers in Mount Holly, NJ. As it turns out, the purchase entitled me to a free scarf pattern and as soon as I started knitting it, I knew who this scarf was for. Now to get it done in time!


I really don't have time to talk to you about books right now because I'm reading Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games and must get back to it immediately!

Being Green

5 Things You Can Try This Weekend to Be a Little Greener:
  1. Remember your reusable bags when you go grocery shopping. Most of us have them, but frequently forget to take them with us. I keep mine by the door as a visual reminder to take them with me.
  2. Got an errand in town? Walk or bike to it. You'll save on gas, produce fewer emissions, and get a little exercise too!
  3. Carpool to distant family events. Even if everyone has to drive a few miles to meet up somewhere, loading up one car with five people is way better than taking five cars the whole distance. Plus, you'll spend a little extra quality time with those in the car with you.
  4. Take a train or bus to the city or the mall. Public transportation is yet another great way to conserve gasoline and support lower-emission travel. If your destination is beyond a comfortable walking distance, check train and bus schedules before you decide to drive. It may take longer, but it'll be far more relaxing to read or listen to music than it would be to battle traffic on your own.
  5. Check out a farmer's market for fresh, locally grown produce. It tastes better, has more nutritional impact, and it didn't travel on two airplanes and a cargo ship to reach you!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Going Bananas

When you are an event planner, going to a big party that you didn't plan can be an experience. It's not that you mean to be critical - you just can't help it. You notice all kinds of things that ordinary party-goers don't. Does the venue decor clash with the event decor? Is station placement logical, with a steady flow? Is someone there to assist guests with anything that isn't automatically apparent?

Last Sunday, I left Elvis Weekend in Wildwood, NJ to make the trip to Washington Crossing, PA for JQ's baby shower. I had done nothing for the party, and was feeling kind of bad about it. Especially since I had done so much for JQ's sister, LittleT, when she was expecting her first child just a few years earlier.

But LittleT and her mom had given me a heads up in advance and knew about the weekend conflict. Getting to the shower wasn't an issue, but being available in the days beforehand to prepare, collect, deliver, etc. wasn't going to be possible. So there I was, an ordinary guest at a party with no insight into what could be expected.

Kudos to LittleT - you have a career in event planning if you ever get sick of teaching music! (As if that would ever happen!)

The venue, the Martha's Vineyard room at the Washington Crossing Inn, was pretty great overall. Onsite catering created a Sunday Brunch menu that was varied and interesting, with several lower-calorie options available to prevent the buffet from becoming a dieter's dilemma. Everything tasted fresh and bright and even the baked goods (which I'm pretty sure were prepared by a local bakery, not onsite) still had the day-of aroma and texture. The room itself was a little tight for the 40-person party it claims to service and was heavily decorated - plants, clocks, fireplace, fans, pictures, candles. This can be a problem, but LittleT and my aunt set it to their advantage, enlisting just a touch of fun, simple party decorations that gave the whole space a cozy, party-in-someone's-living-room feel.

Monkeys were key. JQ and hubby had chosen monkeys as a theme for the nursery, so monkeys combined with various shades of green in the linens and balloons to make a sweet little jungle.

The cake, which was made by a friend, was absolutely adorable and used fondant appropriately. (It's decoration, people. Just because it's edible doesn't mean it's tasty!) Hand-cut fondant monkeys peeked out around the cake and bounced around the topper, which read "Let's Go Bananas... (JQ)'s Having a Baby Boy!" I wasn't supposed to eat any cake, but I had a few bites of Mom's and it was a delicious, moist, devil's food. (Layer 2 was orange pound cake. Party-goers gave it great reviews, but I didn't get the chance to taste it.)

Games were all written and served as excellent icebreakers. My favorite was coming up with a boy's name for each letter of the alphabet, which resulted in awesomely rediculous suggestions like Nostradamus and Renquist. This is especially funny since the couple have not yet come up with a name (they swear they aren't just withholding), so even the most absurd suggestions seem somehow possible...

A traditional ladies-only shower allowed for a huge cross-section of JQ's life to be present with her despite the 40 max guest list, and it was wonderful to see so many friends show up to share the day with her.

And of course, family! All of the aunts, cousins, and mothers were there - even our cousin Funnyman's fiancee, whose wedding we'll all be attending this summer. (This girl is awesome and I need to come up with a nickname for her pronto, because I have a feeling she's going to factor in our lives in a big way from now on. You can sort of see her in the top picture of the collage, helping JQ and hubby hold up her gift - a clothesline filled with beautiful new baby clothes.)

All in all, a huge success, a ton of fun, and the little snugamuffin made out like a bandit!

Congrats, cousin!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

I'm Out of Focus

It's been a week since I last posted. A full week that passed in an absolute blur. It's pretty rare that this happens to me, since I'm pretty good about budgeting time to fit in all the stuff I want to do. But although I know that I knit, I'm showing no progress on projects. I know that I cooked, but can't remember a single recipe to share. I know that I read, but don't feel like I made much progress there. And to top it all off, I'm pretty sure that I completely forgot to exercise all week, so weigh-in should be fun!

I'm feeling a bit like that scene in Deconstructing Harry where the actor - not the lens, not the foreground or background, but the actor - is out of focus.

I can tell you, at least, that I know what happened. There were three major contributing factors:
  • The Return of Netflix - Now that Westley has finished ME3 (and yes, he was ticked about the ending, too), the television is back and we've been making up for all the streaming we haven't done all month. I'm not usually a TV junkie, but when it's been a while, I find myself zombified. Now that the novelty has worn off, I fully expect to return to my regularly scheduled programming.
  • Elvis Weekend - Westley and I joined our good friends Joker & Red at Summer Nites in Wildwood, NJ for the annual March Elvis Weekend. There was sangria-infused hottubbing, a rousing round of Truth or Dare, a trip to Gateway (a legendary arcade - Westley won me a Yetti!), and an intimate performance from Keith "King" Gipson. It's a great time, with lots of dancing and Red playing Ann-Margret. But between packing for the weekend and all of the alcohol consumed during, it's really no wonder that I've got a few over-taxed or outright dead brain cells.
  • Baby Shower Extraordinaire - I hitched a ride on Sunday all the way from Wildwood, NJ to Washington Crossing, PA for JQ's baby shower. I don't have the pics from that yet, though, so I'll have to write more about it later. But for now, let's say that the buffet, the cake, the mimosas, and the gifts were all quite decadent...
In any case, it's time to recommit and get moving again. I'm working on my shopping list and I've got some really great plans for this week that I'm looking forward to sharing, so I hope you'll all check in with me again soon!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Quarterly Report

Some people make New Year's Resolutions. They say things like "I will not smoke in the new year!" or "I'm going to eat healthy this year!" or "I will get married this year!" Never mind that cold turkey is only a successful smoking cessation program for about 10% of smokers, that no American I've ever met can get through 365 days without a few seriously decadent desserts, and that the institution of marraige requires at least two people to agree to engage in it... we make these inflexible promises to ourselves and promptly break them. If we're smart, we know that they're bullocks from the minute the hangover wears off and we don't take much notice of them. It's not that it's a bad tradition - it's just that it's all about self-improvement, and that is a gradual process. No one gets smarter / thinner / healthier / happier overnight. And no matter how hard you might try to change others, the only behavior you can control in the end is your own.
Google's uplifting tribute to Spring!

A few years ago, I started making year-long personal goals at the New Year instead - things that will foster better habits for my future, that I can work on over time, and that I won't automatically fail to carry out because I had a bad day.

As today's Google Doodle reminds us - we've hit the Spring Equinox. The warmer, brighter days are coming quickly. It's time for The Quarterly Report!

Goal #1: 18 NEW books in 2012!

Having looked back at the previous decade, I had realized that reading - which was once one of my greatest joys - had fallen almost entirely off my radar. Although my book collection is formidable and I was already the happy owner of a Kindle, I frequently found myself re-reading things I already knew I liked, rather than checking out things that I had never read before. So I challenged myself to finish reading or listening to 18 titles new to me by December 31st.

Progress: So far, I've finished 6 books - so I'm ahead of schedule!
Interested? I should soon have reviews up on my account at; just search for DMluvsPrufrock!

Goal #2: Finish 12 Knitting (or other Making) Projects in 2012!

If I didn't have such a severe and chronic case of Startitis, completion of this goal would not be the formidable challenge that it is. Sure, I could just go through and complete 1/2 the projects I've almost finished, but that would take valuable time away from casting on new projects and (gasp!) contemplating other crafty endeavors! But not finishing things I set out to do is kind of a chronic problem for me, so I'm hoping that if I start here, I can learn to have a little more follow through where it really counts. (Plus, I don't want Westley to ever leave me because he fears drowning in WIPs!)

Progress: Also ahead of schedule, but just barely. I've finished a hat/scarf set for Westley, one for my friend T, a cowl for me, and the platter I posted last Friday. (Sadly, I've had to rip out a good deal of the sweater AND the bag I'm working on, thanks to late-night math errors.)
Interested? I should soon have pics up on my account at; just search for DMluvsPrufrock!

Goal #3: Increase Personal Savings by 100%!

I don't have a lot of money to spare, but I've never been good about saving what I do have. This truth came into sharp focus when I was unable to help my parents rebuild after Hurricane Irene demolished the first two floors of their home. I'm a good daughter and I love my parents and that experience really made me feel helpless and a bit like a loser. I started thinking not just about what they were going to have to spend to rebuild the house, but also about the other expenses that are probably not terribly far off in their lives. Things like in-home nursing assistance, which can get very expensive and may not be covered under anyone's insurance. So since my personal savings wasn't much to begin with, I decided that it shouldn't be too hard to double it, and that's what I'm working on. :)

Progress: I'm doing better at thinking of savings as long-term, rather than just stocking up enough for a new whatchamacallit, but I'm still behind schedule. In Q2, I'm going to have to come up with ways to increase how much gets into that account in the first place...
Interested? Too bad - finances are personal! LOL But I promise that if I find some great tips, I will pass them along...

Goal #4: Weigh 30 lbs. Less on December 31st!

This is really just about maintaining my weight loss program and not letting the holidays mess with all my hard work. Easier than it sounds, but this is still a very realistic goal. The key is that I'm not on a diet - I'm changing my lifestyle. Being conscious of my food consumption and activity levels (and acknowledging how crummy I feel when I slack) really does keep me on track.

Progress: I've lost the 'holiday weight' again, but not much further, so I'm technically behind. But I'm not worried because warm weather months, in my opinion, are the best and easiest time to lose weight. I'm looking forward to my weekly walks to the Collingswood Farmer's Market, where I will be able to get fantastic local fruits and vegetables so delicious that my mouth waters thinking of it. Plus, exercising is easier to squeeze into your life when it's fun, and it won't be long before Collingswood opens the community pool! 
Interested? If you need a great program to help you lose weight and get healthy, I strongly recommend Weight Watchers.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Making, Reading, and Being Green

Made: Springtime Serving Platter

An update before I disappear for the weekend...


Happy to announce that I have a MADE object to show off this week, though it isn't knitting and it only took a few hours, so it's not as impressive as I'd like. This Springtime Serving Platter came about as a result of being 'widowed' by the 3/6/2012 release of Mass Effect 3, which had Westley so excited that he was literally dreaming about it for at least a year in advance. I relented my favorite knitting chair (which also happens to be his favorite gaming chair) for the night and took myself out to a super-cool pottery painting studio called All Fired Up! ( A week later, I stopped back in and picked up my beautifully fired platter. I love it. It's colorful and manages to go with the hodgepodge of kitchen stuff I've already got. And doesn't it just look like the perfect resting place for an Easter ham?

As far as knitting goes, I have five WIPs at the moment, but I'm hoping to be at least one down by the end of the weekend. I'm VERY close to finishing both my Hey, Teach sweater (pattern by Helene Rush, available at; I am knitting in KnitPicks Shine Worsted Sky) and my Folded Tweed Bag (pattern by Kathy Merrick, available in Interweave Presents: Knitted Gifts; I am knitting in four shades of KnitPicks Wool of the Andes Tweed). Hopefully, I will soon have progress pictures and updates up on my profile at - I'm DMluvsPrufrock there, as well. :)


I have a LOT of books and audiobooks going at the moment, but the one I plan to finish ASAP is Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt.

This is one of so many books that I have wanted to read for years, but could never 'find time' to do it. I remember the huge impact it had on its initial wave of readers, particularly within the Irish-American community. I think every woman in my family read this book back in 1996. (The men in my family, for some reason or another, didn't read much back then.) I also remember going to see the 1999 film when it was out in the theatres, though I can't for the life of me remember a single scene. I can't decide if this means I should watch it again or assume that it bore virtually no resemblance to the book and move on.

In any case, I am enjoying it so far, though I'm taken aback by the juxtaposition of hardship and a really queer sense of humor. Frankie is clearly a wit. My Kindle tells me I'm at 84%, so I'm looking forward to finishing this weekend in honor of St. Patrick's Day.

Being Green

In honor of St. Patrick's Day, I'm going to say that this week's Being Green challenge is to learn a little bit about the dangers of our current state of agriculture and specifically about the fast-food-feuled propensity toward monoculture. Why? Because it killed around 1 million people in Ireland in the 1840s. It's true. There are five thousand varieties of potato, but only one variety was introduced to Ireland. When Phytophthora infestans infected the crop, therefore, everything died. We know this today as the Great Famine.

So learn, then go out and have some green beer or something!

Happy St. Patrick's Day!!!!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Thursday Theory: Why Salad Is Bad for Me (and Brussels Sprouts Might Be Bad for You...)

To get myself writing a little more frequently, I've decided to give myself themes to share and ponder for each day of the week. Not that I'll post daily, but that the type of post I'll make will be determined by the day, so to speak. I certainly can't take credit for the idea, as I blatantly stole it from Stephanie Pearl McPhee's incredible knitting blog,, where she features such recurring posts as "Random Wednesday".

So Thursdays are now set aside for "Thursday Theories", the point of which will be to share some lessons that I've learned (or that I'm still learning) in this transformative process of growing up. Some will probably be a bit obscure, but for this first "Thursday Theory", I've chosen a topic very close to my heart that I feel is also quite universal: dieting advice.

I know that there is a huge community of people of all ages who are struggling with their weight. I know this not only because I am involved with many of them, but also because the statistics regarding obesity in America are absolutely staggering. For example, while in 1991, no state had obesity levels over 15%, as of 2011, 38 states had obesity levels over 25%! And just for the sake of argument, we are talking about clinical obesity, which is a measurable metric defined as "having a body weight more than 20% greater than recommended for the relevant height and thus at risk from several serious illnesses, including diabetes and heart disease." (Visit for more information on obesity in America.)

A little more than a year ago, Westley and I finally accepted that we were, in fact, members of this obese community. At the time, I was carrying 243 lbs (110 kg) on my 5'4" (1.6 m) frame. I won't reveal Westley's starting weight, but suffice it to say he was also feeling many negative effects. Despite the fact that we had both quit smoking a year prior, neither of us could climb a standard flight of stairs without pausing for breath. We were involved in community theatre and both feeling the recurring sting of our body weight dictating what roles we could (in his case) and couldn't (in my case) play. Even without the added weight, our fast-food-huge-portions-high-sugar-low-vitamin-no-water diets were literally making us sick. With a poorly feuled immune system, I caught every cold and flu that ventured anywhere near South Jersey. I frequently ate so much in an evening that I would wake up in the middle of the night to vomit; not intentionally, but because my body simply could not process the amount of food I was consuming! Westley and I were in love and we realized we were killing ourselves. We wanted a long and happy life together and we knew, just as we had when we had decided to quit smoking together,  that it was time to get serious about losing weight.

Now, I could go on for a very long time about our journey over the last year. There were triumphs, disappointments, setbacks, and celebrations aplenty. I could tell you about our early experiences with meetings (we joined Weight Watchers - a responsible, healthful program that I'm happy to suggest to others), struggling with portion control, blowing out my knee the first time I tried to exercise... I could also tell you about great stuff - like the fact that we no longer snore or get sick easily, that last Summer was the first Summer of my adult life that I weighed less than 200 lbs (90.72 kg), or that between the two of us we've lost 140 lbs (63.5 kg)! But the reason I'm really writing this is to share with you one of the most important things I've learned in this process.

Don't eat food you don't like!

Each of us has healthy foods that we can't stand. I think quinoa is disgusting. Okra makes me sick. And frankly - and I know this is generic - I don't like salad. (There's actually one exception - but that's for another day.) When I started my weight-loss program, I was convinced that the only way I was going to manage to consume my fruit-and-veggie requirements, stay full, and stay within my Points (for non-Weight-Watchers, think calories or food rations) was to eat a huge salad every day.

Gross! As The West Wing's Toby once said of his salad " can cover this thing in barbecue sauce and it'd still taste like the ground". Exactly. I would choke down these huge meals of raw lettuce and carrots and other assorted weeds and all I could taste was mud. Adding dressing, croutons, and bacon upped the Points values and, so I thought, defeated the purpose. Not to mention when I tried I found myself wanted to drown the blasted vegetation in the stuff.

For months I struggled with this. I would eat these huge disgusting salads, feel full, but still have intense cravings for all the stuff that I was trying to avoid. Walking by the work vending machine without buying Doritos or Hostess - even when I was packed to the gills with romaine - required an act of divine intervention. I was miserable, struggling not with hunger but with cravings every single minute of every single day. I gave in from time to time. I didn't feel like I could help it. I beat myself up about it. I kept eating those damn salads. I kept craving the crap. And though I initially lost a bit of water weight, the subsequent weekly losses were pathetically under par.

One day, I was sharing some of my frustration with my cousin, LittleT, and she said the simplest thing. "If you don't like salad, don't eat it."

It's true. Eating food you enjoy leaves you feeling not just full, but emotionally satisfied. That means it fends off cravings, which are every dieter's true downfall. And just as we all have healthy foods we hate, we ALL have healthy foods we enjoy! Strawberries, clementines, nectarines, green beans, spinach, zucchini, and dozens of other nutrition-packed yummies are on my list. I'm not saying I don't still indulge in a Ben & Jerry's Half Baked binge every now and then, but the desire is much less frequent and I'm capable of saying no if I know I don't have the room in my diet.

On the contrary, eating food you hate feels like punishment, which reminds you that you've been bad to yourself by becoming overweight in the first place, which increases your self-loathing, which kills any self-esteem that early-morning walk might have bought you, which leaves you vulnerable to give in to cravings, which makes you want to punish yourself, which restarts the cycle and ultimately sets you up to fail. But what might be the worst part is that even food you hate is still food! It still has mass and it still has calories - even if it is 0 Points. Add that to everything I've already mentioned and it turns out that eating food you hate can actually contribute to weight gain!!!

And that, my friends, is why salad is bad for me and why brussels sprouts (or cabbage or broccoli or whatever food generally considered 'healthy', but which you absolutely despise) are bad for you.

Now, I've still got a ways to go to meet my goal, but I'm losing steadily again, week by week.

Well, except for over the holidays. That was a disaster.

But I'm back on the horse, so to speak, and so is Westley. We're doing well. We're keeping the kitchen stocked with healthy, low- and 0-Point things we both love. We're happy. We're getting healthy. And we're eating stuff we like. :)