Thursday, May 31, 2007

#64 - Complete a knitting project that I can wear.

Some may call it cheating, but I call it making my 101 list according to my own interpretation!

I've started my knitting project that I can wear and so far it's really cute. I think I'm going to like it a lot. I found the pattern at My friend, Claire, has encouraged me to stay in the "Beginner" skill category since this is only my second knitting attempt and I'm still a bit slow. The project is a prayer shawl and it's made out of Lion Brand's Homespun collection of yarn. It's a great chunky verigated yarn that is really soft and fairly easy to work with after you've gotten the hang of it.

I am more than 1/2 way done in just over a week, so I'm certain that I'll be sitting under my shawl crossing this one off of my list in no time!

#90 - Pick strawberries and make strawberry shortcake.

I must say that so far, of all the items on my list that I've completed, I think this is my favorite by far. I'm not sure whether it was because it was a holiday weekend or because I got to take my time and be as anal about the execution as I wanted to or what, but it was GREAT fun!

Troy and went down to his family's farm over the Memorial Day weekend. He wanted to do some motorcycle maintenance and I had nothing much planned other than to work on my shawl (see # 64), which is coming along quite nicely.

It also occurred to me that since strawberry season is just starting (the season is basically Memorial Day through Father's Day), it might be a great opportunity to check #90 off of my list. I thought that I might do an online search to see if there were any U-pick fields within a short drive of the farm.

As luck would have it, Troy's sister Tricia, her husband Dennis and I went to town to pick up dinner for the gang on Sunday night and on our way back I noticed a hand-written sign for "Strawberries - Coming Soon" posted on the road leading back to the farm. When I asked Dennis and Tricia about it, they confirmed that the strawberry field was just down the road.

Well, that made things even easier and it wasn't an opportunity I wanted to pass up!

As Memorial Day Monday was turning from morning to afternoon, Dennis and Tricia and I drove the 1/2 mile or so down to the "neighbors'" strawberry field. They informed us the price for U-pick berries was $1.75 a quart, so we each grabbed a couple of quart containers and in no time at all had picked 5 quarts. Many hands make for light work, after all! While they were a bit on the small side, they were bright red and held the promise of a sweet summer!

We headed back to the house where Tricia and I got busy. While I took the ingredients for the shortcake (she had told me about a great recipe for shortcake that's on the back of the Bisquick box)over to her little house next door to the big house, she started washing and cutting the tops off of the berries.

The box of bisquick said that in addition to the mix, I would need sugar, milk and butter. These things are pretty standard in most of the kitchens I have visited, so I gathered them together and mixed up the batter. In less than 20 minutes total, we had piping hot shortcakes fresh from the oven. It couldn't have been any simpler!

I don't often do a lot of cooking. For the longest time, I didn't see the point in all of that work and effort since it was just me that I was cooking for. But there's something really great about mixing up a batch of ingredients (even if they do come in a box) and seeing it come out of the oven ready to enjoy. It's so much more fulfilling than heating up something in the microwave. At least it is for me right now.

With all of the prep work done, it was time to enjoy the fruits of our labor. After enjoying a delicious lunch prepared by Troy's mom, the true mettle of my culinary prowess would be tested. Armed with a can of whipped cream in a can, I built my masterpiece. The verdict? Well, the berries were sweet. The shortcake had just the right amount of flakiness. The whipped cream was sugary to perfection. Overall, picking strawberries and baking shortcake is definitely a great way to spend a few hours.

Let summer begin!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

#62 - Donate my hair to charity

According to, "hair is the filamentous outgrowth of the epidermis found in mammals. It is a characteristic of all mammals, though in some species hair is absent at certain stages of life." While that may be the clinical definition of hair, for women, our hair often defines us. I was a follically-challenged child and young adult. Not that I didn't have good hair. Don't get me wrong. When my hair wasn't frizzing out, it could be nearly manageable. It's just that when my mom got tired of me not letting her brush my long hair at the age of 5, she had it cut. (This is also when I was beginning to show my stout tendencies. Ugh!) Most of it was gone....all gone....and then gave she me a perm!!!! Egad! This was the first of many poor hair decisions to come.

I was always jealous of those girls with the long flowing locks and especially the ones who would fling their ponytail around as they bounded around in their cheerleading uniforms. Long hair was a sure sign that you were a girly-girl. I was not. I despised anything lacy and/or pink.

I spent most of my childhood and adolescence with hair styles ranging from practically shaved to ALMOST chin length. There was even a brief period when I was a teenager that I decided to grow it out and I think it made it almost to my shoulders before it started to feel overwhelming, so I decided to get it cut again. I cried...a lot.

So, after college, when I had started a real job, began working out and wanted to start dating, I decided that perhaps growing my hair out might be a nice change of pace.

It's now nearly 10 years later and after many trims and a couple of times where I had actually taken quite a few inches off at one time, my hair was definitely officially "long". It had reached the middle of my back. I could curl it into these long flowing spirals and bound around with it in a ponytail like those cheerleading girls of my envious dreams. But along the journey to becoming a long-haired girl, I think a lot more than my hair grew. I think I grew as a person as well.

I realized a couple of things. 1) Hair does not define the woman. 2) I am lazy. I don't enjoy spending tons of time in front of the mirror drying and curling my hair every morning only to "give in" and put it into a boring ponytail by 10 AM anyway. 3) A summer of motorcycle camping seems like a much better prospect when I don't have to spend it brushing knots out of my hair every morning.

So, I took the plunge. I called my cousin, Lori, and made the appointment. She ponytailed (the last ponytail for a while for me), measured (a minimum of 10 inches is needed) and cut it for me. Right now my lopped off ponytail sits in a plastic bag awaiting mailing to the people at Locks of Love where they will combine it with up to 5 other ponytails donated by other formerly long-haired people. That hair will help children who can't grow hair of their own feel a bit more like the other kids. Perhaps there is eve a future cheerleader out there waiting for her very own ponytail to fling as she bounds around the school yard.

A few fun facts:

* It takes 6 - 10 ponytails to make 1 hairpiece.

* The retail cost of each hairpiece is between $3,500 and $6,000.

* About 80% of the hair donations to Locks of Love come from children.

Happy Birthday Matt!

So, despite his many protests, my brother, Matt, turned 31 on Saturday. 31! Wow. It's a good thing I'm younger than him or that would be depressing! ;-)

In order to celebrate, Troy and I actually a Fort Wayne for the day. The weather had been looking less than promising and my bike is in the shop getting prepped for our next big ride in a few weeks.

Our first stop was at my parents' house where we enjoyed a lovely picnic lunch (in the comfort of Mom and Dad's kitchen, of course.) Since I had forgotten wrapping paper for Matt's gift, I took the opportunity to dig into Mom's quite substantial stash of gift wrap. I came up with some lovely black and white polka dotted paper that had stripes on the reverse. It was a great find! A simple white ribbon that I made quite complicated made the gift look very special, indeed.

After spending the afternoon with my parents, we met Matt and Tammy and the whole gang at a nice restaurant on Fort Wayne's southeast side. Actually, it's the same place we met for a surprise party for Matt last year. Perhaps we should branch out a bit.

Tammy's mom had reserved the same private room in the back of the restaurant that we had had the year before, so it was just perfect. (With the crowd of 12 - 15 that we had, it would have been difficult to get a regular table.) We enjoyed good conversation and great food (I opted for the raspberry chicken salad since I wanted to have a piece of birthday cake. YUM!)

Matt was quite blessed to receive so many cards and gifts and to be surrounded by people who care about him.

After dinner, we adjourned to a house not too far from the restaurant where Matt and Tammy had been house-sitting for the owners. We were given a tour of the sizeable home that includes a swimming pool, hottub and an underground garage that housed the owners many 1920s and 1930s roadsters. He is a big fan of the vintage cars and drives them around town or across country like we would our sedans or SUVs. As a fan of racing, he also had an extensive collection of his Indianapolis 500 ticket stubs from the last few decades.

With the tour concluded, we all headed upstairs to enjoy the cake that Mom had made for Matt. She is a great cook and has made theme cakes for the last 10 years or so. She's really great and coming up with an idea and executing it quite well. This year's cake theme was a toolbox. Matt has been setting up quite a workshop full of tools (some of my gifts to him), so it seemed an appropriate cake. She even topped it with chocolates in the shapes of various tools. Very cute.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

On weight loss....and other things not discussed...

A little background....I'm fat. Always have been. Well, actually, I think there was 15 minutes in 8th grade after puberty was in full swing that I was pretty normal sized and people constantly said, "Wow. Are you on a diet?" I always said no, I wasn't...cause I wasn't. The problem was I didn't believe them when they told me I was thin because I had always been a "stout" little girl. For the record, teapots and tree trunks should be stout. Little girls should never be told they are stout.

In high school I guess I just quit trying to be thin. Actually I think that by then I had formed such a skewed image of my body that I didn't GET that I was that fat. Instead, every time that I saw a picture of myself, I was just shocked. I thought, "THAT isn't what I look like!" After all, the camera adds 10 pounds, right? I don't think I weighed myself for at least 10 years and when I stepped on the scales in my mid-20s and saw the little red needle make its way over the 200 lb mark, I knew something had to be done. Unfortunately it wasn't because I was concerned about my health. Instead, it was because I was nearing my 30s and hadn't had a real date in over 5 years. I was simply tired of being alone. I had bought a house thinking that would fix everything and make my life just click into place (it didn't). I told myself I was a woman of the new millenium and that I didn't need a man and while that's true, I still wanted one. And since, generally speaking, men apparently don't like women who are overweight, it was up to me to fit their idea of the perfect woman.

So I joined a gym and I went religiously. I was there at 5 AM 6 days a week for nearly 2 hours a day. I found a special diet program and followed it to the tee. I passed on desserts and ate more grilled chicken and cottage cheese than one person should ever consume. 2 YEARS later, I was finally down 40 pounds. While this was a major accomplishment for me because I had never lost that much weight, it was more than a LITTLE frustrating any time I would see those infomercials touting participants who had dropped 90 lbs in 6 months. If that were it, I think I might have been able to ignore the outside pressure to lose weight faster, but at the same time, my brother, who had graduated from high school weighing 260, had shed roughly 60 lbs in a little over 2 months. By the time I next saw him, I didn't recognize the person who had once been one of my best friends. He no longer eats desserts and, subscribes to Mens Health and runs MILES on regular basis.

At the height of my weight loss glory, I met a great man that I started dating and I think I used that as an excuse to "exhale". His house was like an Eden where all of the foods that were banned from my house resided. His pantry had chips and chocolate, soda and best of cottage cheese! If I worked out every morning of the week, that meant I had to get to bed early and THAT meant I didn't get to spend time with him. Well, that didn't make any sense, did it? After all, why had I been working out if not so that I could attract this man?

Jump ahead 4 years and not only has the 40 pounds come back, but I think there is an additional 10 or so as well. LOVELY! But things are different now. I had an epiphany. With the help of looooong discussions with a professional, I figured out I'm an emotional eater! Who knew? All those Oprah episodes and I never once thought that I was one of THOSE people. I thought that I only ate when I was hungry. WRONG! A toxic cocktail of bad genes, a constant diet of comfort foods and the message that exercise is not any fun and too much work had sent me into a drunken stupor of obesity. This was compounded by the feeling that it's only 1 cookie. (For what it's worth, 1 cookie, once a day, REALLY adds up and only leads to a second or third cookie most often.)

So, to put it bluntly, I'm tired of being FAT! On the inside, I am fun and adventurous and witty and crazy. Essentially, I'm a cherry red convertible. But, on the outside (which is the only part that people seem to care about), I am an 8-year-old tan sedan with a smashed in trunk that is starting to rust with age. I'm something to be avoided (because who knows what that driver is thinking!) or worse yet, something that should be traded in on a better model. After all, what will the neighbors think?

After gaining 8 pounds in 2 1/2 months even though I was working out 3 - 4 times a week again, I got desperate. Desperate times have called for desperate measures. I visited a nutritionist during April and she put me on a fairly strict diet. I can't say it's really low-carb. It's more like low-food. It's close to a 950-calorie diet based on the servings of protein, carbohydrates and fat that I am allowed to have, but I'm allowed to have as many vegetables as I want. I guess it's a good thing I like vegetables, huh? I write down everything I eat in a day and go back to see her about once a month.

When I went back on Monday, I was a bit more than a little worried. After several months of constant weight gain even with exercise and because I hadn't done a stellar job of tracking what I had been eating, I was VERY afraid of what the scales had to say. I had noticed my pants get a bit looser, but that's happened hundreds of times in my life and can't be counted on. I was gonna need a concrete number to back it up. Needless to say I was overjoyed when I stepped on and had actually lost 7 pounds. 7 pounds! For those of you counting, 7 pounds is 24,500 calories. That is 6,125 calories per week! That's more than 34 Hershey's kisses per day for one straight month.

Now that's the kind of love I'm looking for!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Date Night #3 - Indianapolis Indians Baseball Game

"Take me out to the ball game. Take me out to the crowd!..."

For Date Night #3, I swapped weeks with Troy so that we could attend an Indianapolis Indians home game at Victory Field. Ever since we started dating (about 3 1/2 years ago), we have been saying we needed to go to a game. Well, there's no time like the present. Especially when it works so well as a date night!

After a lovely dinner, we headed downtown to Victory Field. It was a gorgeous evening and the weather was simply perfect for a baseball game. It wasn't too hot nor too cold and the skies were clear and blue as the sun started to set.

The game started at 7 PM and was over by around 10 PM. The ticket prices are reasonably priced from $9 - $13 for adults and $8 for children under 14. That's cheaper than a movie and way more fun. There were tons of activities to keep the kids busy from a basketball hoop to plenty of space to play a game of catch. The space beyond the back wall of the diamond is all grass and makes for a great place for families to bring a blanket and a picnic. The kids can run around and don't bother anyone. And you can't beat the view. The whole diamond spread out in front of you. Perhaps if we go again we will sit in the "cheap" seats on the grassy hill.

While the ticket prices were reasonable, unfortunately the same can't be said for the snack prices. Perhaps that's why the coolers and grassy cheap seats are so popular. Troy and I had already had dinner before the game, but we decided a bottle of water and a lemon chill (frozen lemonade, essentially) might be a nice little dessert choice. The total bill for those two items: $6.75. While that's not a huge sum on it's face, if we would have been buying for a family of four, the total bill could have been close to $30 if we had thrown in some nachos, a hot dog or two and a couple of sodas. Ouch!

The game was quite exciting with The Tribe leading for most of the time. In between innings there was entertainment like a jumbo inflated lottery ball presented by Hoosier Lottery. The ball was thrown up into the crowd and people were supposed to toss it around while the music was playing. When the music stopped whoever was holding it would win a prize. There was also the kissing cam. The camera would scan the crowd for couples whose picture would be shown on the jumbo screen. They would then kiss. It was very sweet and simply hilarious how people would react when the camera was on them. The obligatory 7th inning stretch was done, of course. (Around the 7th inning, if I remember right. ;-) )

Although the Tribe eventually lost to the team from Ottawa, it was quite an exciting game with several really great hits and the bases were loaded more than once!

Although we hadn't planned it, our visit fell on a night when a fireworks display was presented after the game. It was simply lovely. There was just enough breeze to blow away the smoke from the explosions and the view of downtown Indianapolis really made a spectacular backdrop to the show.

As we strolled through the streets after the game, it was great to simply soak in the evening air and thoughts of an exciting ball game. Perhaps it won't take us another 3 1/2 years to make it to the park again.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Bike to Work Day 2007

As if taking up running wasn't enough, today I participated in the Bike to Work event sponsored by the Central Indiana Bicycling Assocation. There were 8 meet-up sights around the city of Indianapolis where individuals would meet up with other riders and bike into Monument Circle in downtown Indianapolis. The distances ranged from 5 miles to 20 miles. Luckily for me, a VERY novice biker, the distance from my home to the meet-up site and then into the circle was much closer to the 5 miles than the 20 miles!

In my enthusiasm (and trepidation), I decided to recruit my friend Patrick who lives just down the street from me to join me in the ride. He is a teacher at a school not too far from the circle, so the ride made sense for him too.

We set out early with the rest of the group and after about 2 miles, I wasn't certain that I was going to make it the whole distance. Patrick is a such a good friend. He helped to calm me down, told me to forget about the rest of the pack if we couldn't keep up and we figured out what gear I was in vs what gear I should be in. That made ALL the difference in the world. (Well, that and a traffic light or two that we got to stop at.)

By the time we made it to the circle, I was actually feeling pretty good! It felt great to save gas, get in some exercise and encourage someone else to do likewise. Patrick even said that since gas is so high and he drives an SUV, he thinks he will probably continue to bike into work for the remainder of the school year, which is about two weeks.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Happy Mothers' Day!

Sunday, May 13, 2007 was Mother's Day, so Troy and I went to Fort Wayne to enjoy it with my mother. Even though the 150 miles that separate us isn't really all that much, we really don't get together often enough and I don't think we tell Mom how much we appreciate her NEARLY enough. But then again, does anyone?

After MUCH prodding to get Mom to choose a place to go to lunch, she opted for Red Lobster. However, since it was Mother's Day Sunday and Fort Wayne is always a bit limited on restaurant choices, when the rest of the gang arrived, there was at least an hour wait, so a change of plans was made and we went to a little restaurant in Fort Wayne called Cheddars. It was actually a place that my group of friends and I used to go in high school (many moons ago!), but then it burned down sometime in the mid-90s and they rebuilt it. It is much nicer now.

We had a lovely meal together where we discussed what was going on in our lives. Troy and I talked about our recent "Date Night" excursion and how we're constantly on the prowl for cheap entertainment. Matt shared his plans for building a new house. Actually, I think it will be more like a new garage with a small house attached. He has several motorcycles, a large truck and a HUGE trailer for towing the motorcycles, so he will definitely use all of the garage space!
Matt and Tammy also looked out our pictures from our recent baseball diamond date night and was fascinated by my ability to take pictures of Troy and me without the timer. I just put my arm out and press the button. Luckily it's instant gratification, so we get to see how well I did. So, Matt decided he had to try it himself and after several tries got a shot of Tammy and himself that he liked. (He's VERY thin and the first few made him look like he had a double chin because of the way he was holding the camera out. He did NOT like that!)

After lunch, I had asked mom what she would like to do as a little outting since it was Mothers' Day and she chose the Botanical Gardens in downtown Fort Wayne. They were having a special exhibit on butterflies and as an added bonus, mothers got in free! I had also done a little online searching and found a buy 1, get 1 free coupon for admission for Troy, myself and Dad. Score! A sunny afternoon for the 4 of us spent perusing the Botanical Gardens all for $8! I do love a bargain!

When we arrived at the gardens, they were only going to be open for 20 minutes, so I quickly bought the tickets and we went in.
Our first stop was in the special butterfly exhibit. It was enclosed in a specially netted room with fans blowing into the entrance so that the butterflies wouldn't escape when we walked in. There were signs up warning us to watch our feet and it's a good thing because I nearly stepped on one. These butterflies must be VERY used to people because they will get VERY close to you. Dad even became the butterfly charmer. I came around the corner after looking at a pair of butterflies on a tree branch and he was just standing there holding one in his hand. Amazing! When Mom originally put forth the idea of the gardens, he poo-pooed it, but since it was MOTHERS' Day and not FATHERS' day his vote didn't really count. Now that he was at the exhibit, he was thoroughly engrossed and it was great to see.
We moved quickly through the gardens. There are 3 different green houses set up to be different environments and showcase their own unique plant life. (The desert and rain forest exhibits were quite warm!) Our final stop was the little path that led outside to a little coy pond. This is an area where many a wedding reception is held and the big white tent was still up from the night before.
As we left, Dad commented that we will have to go back when we can spend more time. Yes, we will Dad. Yes. We will.

Northward bound!

It was quite a beautiful weekend and the weather was just perfect, so Troy and I decided that the road was calling us. We were planning to go to Fort Wayne for Mother's day for a lovely lunch and afternoon with my mom and dad and we usually just shoot straight up Interstate 69 since it's the fastest route between the two cities. However, since the day looked to be so gorgeous and we had Alphabet cities that we needed to hit, I planned a route that would take us up Indiana state road 3. It's a mostly 2 lane highway that goes through quite a few little towns along it's winding path up north, so that was perfect for our needs.

We headed out about 9 AM and our first stop was at the home of the poet, James Whitcomb Riley. He is a native Hoosier and his house was in the Abate book of places to visit in Indiana. While we were there, Troy took the opportunity to record a little recitation of "Little Orphan Annie" for his mom, but he couldn't remember much, so the recitation was short and sweet. Age is a horrible thing! If you would like to check out the entire poem, you can see it at It is actually quite disturbing!
Our next stop was just a brief 12 miles or so east on Old Highway 40. It is a glorious stretch of road with unbroken pavement for as far as the eye could see. Since it was so early on a Sunday morning, we basically had it to ourselves and I found it difficult to keep my speed under 70. (The posted speed limit is a mere 60 mph - PLEASE!) This road is what the perfect man should be like - straight, broad-shouldered and all mine!

Our destination was the letter K and Knightstown fit the bill! We stop briefly at the Knightstown Community Senior High School, which was not exactly an inviting place. Although it was basically in the middle of nowhere, it had no less than three signs which told any would-be visitor in several different way to STAY OUT! ....charming.
We snapped our pictures and hit the road again. This time we were headed for a tiny little town named Oakville. It was so tiny, in fact, that other than a few houses, a railroad track and a foundary of some sort, it's only official looking town buildings were a church and a post office. The church was packed and the post office was closed, but we don't need open buildings for our purposes, so took our pictures in front of the post office anyway. As we were preparing to mount our trusty steeds, I was apparently taking my own sweet time and Troy commented that he heard a train whistle in the distance and that if we didn't hurry we might get caught by it. I did NOT want that, so I quickly started up my bike and headed down the road. As I went over the tracks, the train was probably only 1/4 of a mile away, so we had left just in the nick of time!

On to Muncie! Now, one must understand that when I pick a route, I don't pick specific landmarks for us to stop and photograph, so sometimes it's a little hit or miss. In the case of Muncie, IN, it's a good thing that I attended Ball State University otherwise we would have missed a city sign completely. But, fortunately, I recognized McGalliard (not sure if it's boulevard or avenue) and headed us into town where we found our way to the Muncie Mall.
When we departed Muncie, we continued heading north to Hartford City. It's not a big place, but we gather from the welcome sign that the Methodist church is HUGE here. They had at least 2 placards in place compared with representing the other sponsors. Farming is also apparently quite big in this next of the woods as well. While we were trying to leave a gas station to head back for a picture of the city sign, a massive farm vehicle of some sort pulled out right in front of us and brought the line of traffic down to a speed of just 20 mph.
We had also intended to cross Z off of our list of cities with a stop in Zanesville, but we were detoured off of State Road 3 and onto State Road 1 (about 20 miles out of our way) and as we made our way through Markle, which is about 25 miles south of Fort Wayne, I spied a clock in the town square that informed me that it was 12:50 PM and we were supposed to be meeting my parents and brother for lunch at 1 PM. We weren't going to make it! We high-tailed it to the interstate and I poured on the throttle arriving fashionably late a bit after 1 PM. Oh well. I'm sure we'll get back there to pick up the remaining cities.
While it takes a bit longer, I think State Road 3 is a beautiful alternative to the mundane 75 MPH travel on I-69 and I think I may need to venture out that way again.


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