Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Grab Your Camera, Turn On The Tunes...

Check this out! Keep in mind THIS IS NOT MY PHOTO...but rather one I ran across on this little thing we call the world wide web.

There is a whole set of these pictures which you can view on Flickr here. (There's also a short description of how the photos were made and a link to more in depth "directions".)

I bet shooting these is a blast...messy...but let's be honest, a lot of really fun things have a messy side to them. Enjoy the view!


For the love of warm hands...

I have a confession. I'm obsessed with making hand-warmers. Fingerless mitts. Whatever you call them, I just can't seem to get enough of them!

Actually this whole knitting adventure started because I wanted a pair and I figured why buy some when I could learn how to make them myself. (I'm sometimes stubborn that way.)

It started with these:

Which lead to these:

After some design changes (additions of thumb gussets and an actual row/stitch plan), I'm currently working on my 7th pair...with yarn in queue for pair number 8. (Certifiable obsession I tell you.) How can you not love em. The knit up quick, are super portable, and so cute on hands of all sizes. What's not to love?

My husband laughs at the fact that so far it seems I knit kinda like I cook. I'll often consult a recipe or two for a basic idea and then venture forward with my own little twists. I have yet to make a pair of hand-warmers using an actual pattern. Even the pair I'm working on now I've taken the liberty to make some changes to my own design. Few less rows here, few extra stitches there.(And let's not forget those accidental the random purl stitch in among some knits. Oops.) I think that's part of the reason I've become so attached to knitting to don't always have to color inside of the lines. I like that.

I do have hopes of someday actually following a pattern designed by someone else. I adore these. And I'd like to venture out from mitts to gloves, and think these might be a fun challenge.And maybe, just maybe, my mitts will become mittens and my gloves will get full fingers.



Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Birthday Girl...

No yarn or yoga talk today. Just some love for my (as of Sunday) 8-year-old.

(Who is learning to knit! There we go...I snuck in some yarn reference.)

How quickly they do grow up!


Officially 8...

Sometimes the pictures tell it best.


Sunday, September 27, 2009

Fall Sunset...

Driving to Pella last night for a night out with friends, I couldn't help but stop and take a snap of the sunset. Just one more reason I love fall here in Iowa.


Monday, September 21, 2009

An Early Birthday Celebration...

Grandma Peg and Grandpa Bob were in town this weekend, so Lexi got to celebrate her birthday a little early with them. Lunch out at our favorite birthday restaurant, Casa Margaritas, and the surprises of gifts.

This year's stash:

A new winter coat.

Much needed since she won't stop growing!


an "empthree" player! (AKA an iPod shuffle, but I couldn't resist sharing how she spelled it on the wish list she gave me earlier in the month.)

I helped Grandma and Grandpa out by charging it and putting a few of her favorite tune on it before she unwrapped it so when she took it out of the box today she could plug and play right away.

Big hugs of thanks Grandma Peg and Grandpa Bob!


Sunday, September 20, 2009

My Man...

So many years together (17 years and counting) and this smile can still make my heart skip a beat.


Saturday, September 19, 2009

Go Tigers Go...

This past week was Homecoming week here in Grinnell. Thursday evening the town gathered to celebrate with the annual Homecoming parade and pep rally downtown.

The girls are quite proud to be tigers. (In fact, after Thursday Brea has decided that for Halloween, she wants to be a tiger...grrrowl.)

This year Lexi got to enjoy the parade as a participant...twice! (This is one of the parts of the parade that I love. You see kids going through, maybe with the band, or with a team, and then at the end of the route they dash to the start to go through again another time with their other involvements. That to me is SO COOL.) Lexi's first trip through the route was on her elementary school float...

And then we ran through the park to hook her up with her new 4-H group. This will be her first year as a 4-H Clover Bud, and we are all so excited to be involved with such a fun group with so many familiar faces!


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Buggie Eyes...

I can't remember where the girls got these bug glasses...but they crack me up! I just had to share the cuteness!


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Tiny Circus, Aniboom, and The History Channel...

Tiny Circus entered an animation in a competition through Aniboom earlier this month. The competition, titled The People Speak, was sponsored by The History Channel and utilized historical words, spoken and sung, that have helped shape our nation. (You can read more about the competition here.)

The exciting news of the day...the animation submitted by Tiny Circus is one of 5 finalists who will have the next 7 weeks to polish things up to compete for $25,000 in prize money and a spot on The History Channel!

I can't tell you how exciting this is having had a small part in the creation of this particular animation (I finally have full feeling back in the tip of my right pointer finger after HOURS of exacto knifing out little paper people) AND having watched the Tiny Circus project grow and mature over the past 18 months. (Not to mention so many of the people involved are like family to me.)

Take a peek at the Tiny Circus submission...

Watch more cool animation and creative cartoons at Aniboom

And then head over to the Aniboom website to check out the competition.

Congrats Tiny Circus! My exacto knife is ready and willing to help out with stage 2!


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Bye-bye Gluten...

Health is such an interesting multifacited thing.

Is it just a headache, or is it a tumor?

Am I just tired, or have I become anemic?

Do I simply have indigestion or is it that pesky ulcer?

Admit it, your laughing because as silly as reading those worries may sound in your head, at some point and time we've all had a similar question run though our mind. It's ok...I think it's normal...I don't think I've ever met someone who hasn't "self diagnosed" themselves with some catastrophic illness/condition. (Including my physician friends.)

For the most part my family (immediate and extended) has been blessed with great health. Just like any other family, we have had our run ins with heart disease and cancer. Diabetes and obesity. But we've also been blessed with long living ancestors whose minds have stayed sharp even as their bodies have started to slow. My Great Grandma (who is in her mid-nineties mind you) recently agreed to at least move to a cottage in a retirement community. (From her 3 bedroom house on a corner lot.) A move she has resisted because those places are just filled with "old" people don't you know! (I truly hope to be so stubborn and able when I reach my mid-nineties.)

Recently, triggered by some new health annoyances, my Mom under went some testing and consultation and it has been determined that an unknown gluten intolerance (most commonly known as Celiac Disease, yet I think there are varied levels of intolerance and I don't that my Mom has "officially" been diagnosed with Celiac) has been probably exacerbating her problems. One of the comments her doctor made was to make sure we (her kids) knew of this new discovery because gluten intolerance seems to have a very strong familial link.

So like any good health obsessed individual, I hopped on the internet to see what I could find about the condition. And I kid you wasn't so much a feeling of "yes, I think that could describe my symptoms" hypercondroism (I just made up that word I think) as much as a sigh of relief that maybe, just maybe, there was an honest answer to the unshakable fatigue, the recent weight gain, the increased occurrence of annoying joint pains, the lack of muscular endurance no matter how hard I train (or don't train), and the frequent respiratory/sinus infections that have settled in and held on for weeks at a time over the past 2 years.

Gluten intolerance can be triggered by stress if you are predisposed. (Hmmm...let's think about that for a moment...)

A gluten intolerance affects how your body absorbs nutrients and often anemia and fatigue are symptoms.

A gluten intolerance triggers one's body to have a heightened inflammatory (auto immune) response which can aggravate joints and exacerbate arthritis.

People who have an intolerance to gluten often have more problems with "wet" infections...such as sinusitis. didn't take me long after reading a few bits on WebMD and Celiac support sites to decide the easiest thing for me to do was to avoid gluten for a few days and see if I noticed a difference. I figured there would be no harm done and if I didn't notice a difference I could get back on the bread train at the snap of my fingers.

And I have to say, after only 5 days I can tell a HUGE difference. Most notably in my energy level. I'm starting to feel like me again! For the past 2 years I've blamed my frequent, almost constant fatigue on the fact I exercise for a living; that I have 2 small kids in the house; that we've had crazy amounts of stress in our lives. All legit possibilities. Yet no amount of long weekends/vacation time away from it all/sleeping in really ever recharged my battery. I've been perplexed by the frequent colds and sinus infections considering I normally very rarely get sick. I figured stress had my immune system down and so I started taking some extra vitamins. I had accepted the fact that the extra joint pain was probably just a hazard of my profession and have basically ignored it except to bitch now and then when my sciatica is so bad I have to give in and take some Advil. But guess what...5 days off gluten and even that, even my sciatica, feels better!

Keep in mind I have not talked to MY doctor about all of this BUT I have plans to and am going to schedule a long over-due physical very soon. (So if your reading this Dr. Ferguson, here's a heads up.)

I will admit, making the switch is still new and there are a few adjustments that seem easy now that I'm not sure how I will deal with long term. Do you know how much pasta we eat in this house? I have a very picky vegetarian off-spring. Her diet is centered around pasta and PB&Js...of course made on whole wheat bread. And we often make waffles or pancakes not only for weekend breakfasts but for quick, easy week night dinners.

Luckily, THANKFULLY, there are already lots of gluten free products on the market in both normal grocery stores and speciality health food stores that will help ease this transition. Two of our local grocery stores have recently put in small sections devoted to gluten free products. I think it's going to take some trial and error to find what products fit our taste, lifestyle, and budget, but it's not going to be an impossible switch. And if I slip up and eat some good crusty wheat bread or indulge in a beer now and then it's not going to be the end of the world. I can handle feeling a little less than 100% once in awhile for the occasional treat.

But when you get to make a gluten free lunch like this...

I hardly consider having to use the gluten free alternatives a sacrifice! (This is Schar brand gluten free pasta...and it is DELICIOUS! I look forward to trying more of their products.)

We even made buckwheat (not a wheat even though it's in the name) pancakes this weekend so I could enjoy our big family breakfast on Sunday and I'm happy to report they got a thumbs up from everyone.

And to be honest, if it is determined that I have a gluten intolerance it will probably be good precautionary diet changes for my girlies who could, thanks to heredity, have similar sensitivities.

To think, all these years I've been a stickler for using whole wheat flour in our baking and have insisted that we always buy whole wheat bread for sandwiches/toast. And now wheat (and barley and rye) may have to become an extinct grain(s) in our kitchen.

What can I say...we only get one life to live. I plan to live mine as healthy as I am able for as long as I am blessed to be here on this Earth.


Sunday, September 13, 2009

Play Time (aka Seeing What I Could See)...

Our fall weather has been BEAUTIFUL. I love fall. It's about this time of year my creative juices (after having hibernated during the hot of the summer) start flowing again. Already I've been browsing my favorite knitting sites in preparation for winter creating. I also have fabric flowers that need to be made just as soon as we have a less than favorable weather day.

Today after running over the lawn/leaves with the mower, I treated myself to some bonding time with camera. My friend Jenny lent me her Lens Baby for the of course I had to go test it out. And since I was going out with a "play" lens, I grabbed my fish-eye lens too.

Lexi was both intrigued, and a little embarrassed, that I was laying under our laundry taking pictures. (Probably because we're still using the neighbor's clothesline since we haven't replaced ours yet.)

I love shooting trees with the fish-eye. I love how the curve of the lens welcomes the WHOLE tree into the shot and often accentuates the roundness most tree canopies (at least in Iowa) posses.

I found this old moss covered stump the other day taking the "short cut" across the backyard as we walked home from picking Lexi up at school. I adore moss. This little stump feels like a tiny magical world to me.

Can't you just picture little woodland fairies making their home in all that soft, lush green?

A Lens Baby is this funky little selective focus lens that gives the photographer some flexibility with location of the focal point and the ability to create image distortion. (For a better explanation and to see some really cool photos, visit the Lens Baby website.) Needless to say, learning how to use it takes LOTS of practice. I look probably close to 75 pictures with just the Lens Baby over the past 2 days...which has resulted in 5-6 "OK" photos. I definitely need more practice.

I have to thank my neighbor Fred and his amazing garden of a yard for most of these photos today. Last year he planted the above vine along the fence that separates our yards. It's such a lovely splash of delicate blooms here at the end of the growing season.

I've been doing some reading and practicing on using Photoshop to do more than just adjusting the "normal" light and color in my photos. The most recent trick learned, selective color de-saturation. You you can take a photo like this...

And artistically alter it to look like this...

Fun stuff. If you've ever used Photoshop you know how very many, MANY possibilities there are for altering your photos within the program. But learning even some of the basic tricks takes a bit of time when you're trying to self teach. The internet has been a great place to find info and tips from other photographers. Yea technology!

My first subjects yesterday after I mounted the Lens Baby was, of course, the girls. Unfortunately I only ended up with 1 photo worth sharing.(Focusing this particular lens when you don't know what the heck you're doing takes some time and subjects that move CONSTANTLY are probably NOT the best for the first steps of learning. Who knew?)

Getting this photo was quite by accident considering it was the FIRST one I shot. Sometimes it really is about just getting lucky!


Saturday, September 12, 2009

All in a Day's Play...

The Barbies (and any other Barbie like dolls) have been getting a lot of play time in our house lately. Maybe on occasion, a little too much play.

(Though, the Polly Pockets probably still get the most face time. It still perplexes me at times how I ended up with two GIRLS.)

Don't worry, no Barbies were harmed in the preparation of this blog.


Bride Barbie's head has been re-attached...though the fix resulted in a shorter (more realistic) neck.

Tonight when I walked in to the living room after making dinner, I was greeted by this:

According to Brea, they're waiting for the start of the dance show...followed by a movie. You the theater.

(Crap. The Barbies have a more exciting social life than I do. Nice.)


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Knitter in Training...

Last winter as I would knit away on whatever project was keeping me occupied, Lexi would sit and watch. Which would always lead her asking "When can I learn how to knit?"

After stalling her through the winter (because as a newbie myself I wasn't quite sure I was ready to teach a 7 year old), and then through the summer (because I just don't enjoy knitting as much with sweaty palms), I finally decided it was time to make time this past weekend to get her started. We ventured to the store for her very own bamboo needles and a skein of inexpensive yarn (in blue, apparently her new favorite color) and came home to cast on.

I'm very proud of how well she is doing. Despite the fact we have now cast on (and un-knit) her practice piece twice, her stitches are quite even. She simply has a bit of a problem increasing the number of loops on the needle when she turns at the end of a row. A common mistake for any beginner, regardless of age. But otherwise she's got the basics of the knit stitch down!

With as attentive as she is to detail, plus her ability to focus on one task for good chunks of time, I'm fully expecting her to be knitting circles around me by the time she reaches middle school...if it even takes that long!


Monday, September 7, 2009

A Treasure in the Weeds...

We've had a busy Labor Day weekend around the Mavin house. Yesterday we headed outside to get caught up on some yard work. My focus, I decided to fit the whole summer's worth of weeding into one day. I figure better to get some of it out of the way now rather than leave it all for fall clean up come early November. I really do need to be more diligent next year!

As I was weeding I ran across a pair of garter snakes. The one corner of the house seems to be good shelter for them and is the most common place I find them when working in the garden. Over the past 6 summers I've learned to watch for them as I work, as not to be startled, and we coexist rather peacefully. In fact a few years ago we had affectionately named one "Lucy" (because you know, naming things makes them more like pets and less like creepy crawlies that spook the girls) and enjoyed keeping watch for her until that one fateful day when she decided to wrestle with the mower. Well, you know how that ended. Not good for Lucy.

Any who...

As I was weeding along I came across the freshly (and I mean FRESHLY because it was still moist) shed skin of one of my garden buddies. Yes, I'm a bit of a science nerd. And yes, I felt the need to go grab my camera with the macro lens attached to document my discovery. And yes, I decided my treasure was worth sharing here. You know, because why write about your cute and amazing kids when you can talk about the sloughed epithelial cells of a reptile? (Brian, this one's for you baby.)

I think what intrigued me the most was how perfect the skin was. Since it was moist it was still stretchy and easy to de-tangle from its chosen shedding grounds without ripping. And the details! Oh the details. The amazing shapes and variations in color. The clarity of the areas that once covered dark, beady little eyes. The opening at the mouth through which the former inhabitant made his (or her?) escape. It was all so real that when I laid him out beside the yard stick to measure his length, and then quick ran inside to grab my camera, Brea said she would keep an eye on him so he didn't slither away. It was seriously THAT perfect.

After a good 20 minutes of examination (remember...nerd) we hung the skin to dry in a safe spot in the garage so Lexi can take it to school tomorrow to share with her class. (My little nerd in the making.) I thought maybe I could grab a picture of the former owner, but he/she had obviously grown weary of me and had found a new, quieter resting place.

Since I had the camera out, and the macro lens attached, figured I might as well walk around seeing what I could see. Having the macro lens on my camera always makes me look at things differently. Like who knew the tiny rocks in concrete could be so interesting? (Scrolled up to see what I was referring to, didn't ya? They are, aren't they?)

We have a few late fall flowers hanging on. Yesterday I discovered our wee little hydrangea bush that I planted last fall (that then this spring the bunnies decided to snack on setting its growth back so far I was afraid it wasn't going to make it) managed to bloom one little poof of flowers. Yea! Maybe there is hope for him yet!

We planted some random seeds this spring from old packets I had laying around and to our surprise, had a few actually produce flowers!

I'm a bit obsessed with the center of flowers. It's amazing to me how very often if you take the time to look a little closer, you find amazing shapes, textures, and in this case, a miniature world of blooms.

Our neighbor gave us some purple asters this summer as he was thinning his beds. They are just starting to bloom and the buds before they pop are so fun. Rich in color. Fun spiky texture. Almost better than the blooms themselves.

I added this little wire bee to my garden this spring. He was a little treasure purchased in the Amanas when Mom and Rod were here visiting. Our daisies soon swallowed him up in their abundance, but after deadheading yesterday he has been uncovered...much rustier than when he was "planted" this spring. I still think he has a happy little face. Rusty or not.