Monday, January 18, 2010

Quiet Week, Quiet Weekend

Last week I got back on track health wise. I worked out every day, I didn't cheat on my diet once.

John and I are on kind of opposite schedules right now. He leaves the house by 7:30am, I get home at 8:30pm and he's in bed by 10:00pm. So we only see each other for about two hours a day during the week and he's working Saturdays so our weekends together have been cut short as well. And I've been trying to save money so that I can go back home in March. So as a result, I haven't been getting out much.

For the most part I stayed inside all week. On Saturday I decided it was time to get out of the house so I took a walk around the neighbourhood. I've set up my diet so that from Monday until Saturday at 1pm, I eat healthily. From Saturday afternoon to Sunday night, it's my free time to eat whatever I feel like and Sunday is my day to rest from exercising. This keeps me at a 80%/20% ratio of planned living vs. unplanned. So on Saturday afternoon I was very excited to finally be able to eat some junk food after a week of whole grains, lean proteins and veggies, and I was starving!

I walked up Yonge and surveyed my options. Pad Thai? Cheeseburger and fries? Tacos? Chinese? Cupcakes? Soda! So many choices! So I stopped for a moment and paid attention to what my body was asking for.

A bagel sandwich and a blueberry smoothie. That was what I truly wanted. I couldn't believe it. For junk food I used butter, processed ham and some cheddar cheese, but it was still a whole wheat bagel, and I still put veggies on it.

It was sort of a revelation. I know that when you eat healthily, your body adapts to it, but I didn't expect it to do a total 180 so fast! Two weeks ago, my body was in a carb and sugar addiction cycle, begging for a sugar high, crashing half an hour later and then looking for more carbs. Repeat ad infinitum. Seriously, I was pretty much living off cake and cookies. Now, after only a week, already it was just looking for fresh produce, protein and whole grains. Real food.

Awesome. This isn't going to be as hard as I thought. And John is totally pumped about getting back in shape, so I know he'll keep me motivated.

Don't get me wrong, I did eat some junk this weekend. I baked some brownies, ate some popcorn at the theatre on Sunday (we went to see Daybreakers. Great movie, terrible ending), and went out for tacos on Sunday night. But by the time this morning rolled around I was happy to get back on the healthy eating wagon. Oh, and I've lost three pounds so far. Not a bad start at all!

Hey! Remember the handbag I posted last week? It's been featured on the craft blog of the girl who designed the pattern! You can check it out here. Cool!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

New Year, New Me!

As I think most of you know, my best friend Jess is getting married this summer and she has asked me to stand at her wedding. What better motivator to get back in shape then wedding photos!

So Monday was the day.

I spent the weekend planning out my menu and my workout routines. If there's one thing I know about healthy living, it's that planning is the most important step. It's not enough to say "I want to lose weight and build muscle". You have to have specific targets and time lines. You have to know the actions it will take to get there and be dedicated to them. And you have to give yourself the tools to succeed. I plan for success and I plan for failure. I reward myself for doing well and sticking to the plan, but if I slip up, I make sure I have some relatively healthy junk food around in pre-portioned amounts so if I cheat on my diet it's maybe a piece of whole wheat banana bread instead of half a box of chocolates.

I set reasonable goals. Diet and exercise five days a week, two free days. In my experience, I can't stick to anything more strict than that for more than a few weeks, so even though I would like to tell myself that I'm going to stick it out for six days a week, I know it isn't reasonable for me and I would be setting myself up to fail.

So with all my plans and my healthy groceries and feeling fully committed, yesterday I started my new health regimen. The first step was to get on the scale. Or in this case, my shiny new Wii Fit. 156lbs. Yikes!

But that gave me a place to start. My goal is to get to 130lbs by June as I think this is the weight where I am the healthiest.

And John is on board too, which surprised me! Usually he shies away from this stuff because with his high metabolism he can usually get to his target weight by making only minor changes. He's actually signed up for a membership at a gym though because he wanted access to their squash courts, but he's been working out and taking classes there as well.

I'm two days in and so far so good. I was worried that making such drastic changes would be hard on my system and willpower, specifically my sugar addiction. But it hasn't been as hard as I thought it would! I've been eating six small meals a day and working out for 45 minutes each morning and so far I haven't felt at all deprived. And I know that in a few more days, I will start to see improvements on the scale (the Wii Fit puts it all into graphs! lol), and that will make it even easier to stay motivated. I'm also not putting a lot of pressure on myself for the first few weeks, as I think that at this point I will probably lose weight just by not eating Christmas cookies anymore. I'll step it up more in a few weeks if I start to plateau.

It's a great feeling to know that no matter what else happens in your day, you're making positive changes for yourself. Life is all about finding ways to be better!

Aunt Debbie, I know you're on board! Anyone else want to lose weight with me?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Handbag #4

I have this cold that I haven't been able to shake. Part of it is that my voice has been scratchy at best and at times has disappeared completely. So I've been pretty wimpy lately, staying indoors, wrapped up in a blanket with a cup of tea, a bag of Halls Centres and box of Kleenex whenever I'm not at work. John tells me that all the stress over the flights we took in December (I'm quite frightened of flying) probably shot my immune system and that's why it's taking so long for me to get better. I think he might be right.

But I'm not complaining. I'm kind of enjoying staying home, watching TV and being crafty. This week I made a crochet handbag using some of the yarn I bought on boxing day. This is actually my fourth handbag. First there was the grey tote bag I made in the summer, then the pink and grey knit bag I made in September. In November I made a black and purple handbag for Erin for Christmas and this week I crocheted number four.

This is by far the most complex bag I've made yet. It's the biggest thing I've ever crocheted by a long shot and I incorporated more detail into the liner then I ever have before. I made a matching change purse and most impressively, (in my opinion) I figured out how to install a zipper in the top of both of them. I've always been very intimidated by zippers so I'm really proud of this!

Here is the bag:
I made it using the Starling Handbag pattern (large size) from Futuregirl's blog. My friend Jennifer over at The Craftinista has been making bags from this pattern for ages and I've always thought I'd like to make one myself. I really like its simple shape and clean lines. The pattern was pretty simple to follow and I think it turned out pretty nice! Here is the side so you can see the width.
I didn't have any suitable fabric for the liner, so I headed over to Fabricland where they were having a sale on holiday fabrics. I found this wonderful, heavy pants fabric with shiny silver and black diamond print that was buy 1, get 2 free so I ended up getting half a meter for under $2. Actually, all in all, I think this bag cost about $10 to make, it was really cheap because I got almost everything on sale. I backed the lining with stiff interfacing (pellon 70 I believe) to give more structure to the bag.

Check out my awesome zipper installation! Rathere than attach the zipper directly to the outer shell, I put about a centimeter and a half of fabric on either side. The zipper I used is pretty heavy duty and meant for outerwear.
I decided that it was time to start signing my work, so I borrowed the idea for my name tags from Futuregirl as well. The text is hand embroidered with DMC floss on felt using a whipped backstitch. I love how smooth this style of stitching makes the letters. I sewed them into the liner using contrasting thread because I thought it looked better.

On one side of the liner I put a zipped pocket, the name tag and a credit card holder. I already knew how to do the zipped pocket from the first tote bag I ever made but the credit card holder was quite a bit more challenging.

I couldn't find any tutorials online so I ended up reverse engineering it from an old purse I found in my closet. I basically took at 9" wide strip of fabric and accordianed it a few times until I had two pockets. I sewed satin ribbon across the top of each fold for contrast. Then I sewed the back flap to the liner across the middle so that the back pocket wouldn't be so deep that you lost credit cards in it. I tucked in the two sides and the bottom, sewed around the three sides to attach it to the liner and sewed a seam up the middle to divide it in half. Voila! A six credit card holder!

I think this side looks pretty sharp! I love a lot of pockets.
I put two more pockets on the other side, again with a satin ribbon lining the top. One of the pockets lays flat against the bag and the other folds out to hold something thicker like a cell phone. I did this by accordianing the sides of the pocket and then sewing the folds down a the bottom so that only the top folds out.

Lastly, I took a metal ring, threaded a piece of ribbon through it and attached the ribbon to the bag (you can't see it, but the end of the ribbon is tucked into the seam attaching the zipper to keep everything neat), to clip on the matching change purse that I made. Here is the change purse. I had originally intended to make it striped like the bag but I ran out of black yarn after about four rows. So I switched to pink and I'm quite happy with how it turned out.

I cut some flowers out of a piece of felt (left over from making the name tag) and embroidered cherry blossom details onto them (yes Mom, those are french knots!) I sewed them onto the change purse with black thread so that you can't see it. I had originally planned to make pink flowers as well and attach them to the actual handbag, but I couldn't find a pink felt that was a close enough match to the colour of the yarn.

I attached a lobster claw clasp to the outside using a jump ring so that the change purse can be hooked into the bag.
As you can see, I lined the inside of this one as well, installed another zipper (!!!) and put in a credit card pocket and a name tag.

Here it is full of stuff so you can see how much it holds.
So that's it! All in all, I'm pretty impressed with myself. After I finished it, I took stock of all of the different techniques I used putting this bag together and realized I'm actually getting pretty good at this! It's just funny because I never set it as a goal for myself to learn how to make handbags, it just kind of happened. I made the first ones to learn the rudimentaries of sewing and knitting and I just kind of kept stepping up the liners each time. This time I was just enjoying the process of putting it together so with every detail I took my time and looked for ways to improve every aspect of the bag that I could.

And now I find that when I look at the purses I've bought over the years (right now I'm looking at my pink Soprano purse), I have a much better understanding of how they're put together and I feel like I'm not far from being able to recreate them. I just need the right materials and maybe a sewing machine that actually has a reverse stitch!

It's kind of neat to wake up and realize you've picked up a skill without meaning to. I think it just goes to show that you learn by doing and if you do anything often enough, you'll definitely see improvement.

So just to summarize, here are the skills I learned from this project:
  • how to crochet a foundation single stitch
  • how to crochet a handbag
  • how to embroider onto felt
  • how to hand sew a whip stitch
  • how to applique felt to crocheted fabric
  • how to install a zipper at the top of a bag
  • how to make a credit card holder
  • how to make a fold out pocket
My next project is going to be much simpler! I'm knitting some wrist warmers.