The Expressive Creatrix (and Hobbyist)

{April 27, 2011}   A Nearly Perfect Day

Today is my birthday, and I must say, it’s been truly wonderful.  No big parties.  No surprises.  No expensive gifts.  The treasure of the day, the gift I received, was the gift of time well spent.  Really, is there anything better? 

I took the day off work.  I always take my birthday off work.  Why spend my one uniquely special day of the year at a job which, quite frankly, I don’t necessarily love?  I slept in a bit.  Not too much.  For me, early morning is the very sweetest part of the day.  I got up and hit my workout room for part one of my workout – cardio.  Today I chose rebounding.  (Yes, as it is now not cool to call “running,” “jogging,” it is no longer acceptable to call a “rebounder” a “mini trampoline.  What’s the diff?)  I didn’t have a lot of time before the family was up, and I wanted something somewhat intense.  Rebounding fit the bill.  I did Urban Rebounding Advanced, and honestly, I don’t always have fun during Urban Rebounder workouts, but today’s session did have me laughing and having fun.  Thirty-five minutes later, I had a nice sweat going, and felt pleasantly worked out, particularly in my legs and core. 

After the kids and Scott, who all greeted me with smiles and birthday wishes when they got up, left, it was back down for the second part of my workout – my beloved Metamorphosis Hipcentric muscular structure work.  I’m on day 2 of Level 7, and yeah, it’s very intense.  But, as with all things Tracy Anderson, intense doesn’t necessarily mean brutal.  I work my ass off while doing them, but Tracy’s workouts always make me feel good.  I’m feeling so much stronger since starting my Meta rotation in February. 

After a Pomegranate Strawberry Smoothie (part of my Flat Belly Diet, of course) for breakfast, a quick cruise through my on-line hangouts to check in with my buds, and a shower, I was on the road to St. Cloud (a nearby bigger city).  Just driving along the freeway with some music blaring, I was feeling really good. Am I the only one who belts out Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” at the top of her lungs when alone in a car – even when I can’t sign for crap??  I always feel like a rock start when I sing that song. 

My first stop was the LYS (knit speak for “local yarn store”).  Bonnie’s Spinning Wheel in St. Cloud is a nice, homey place.  I had only been there once before, and Bonnie, the owner, was busy with a gaggle of knitters so I didn’t get to talk to her much, but I really enjoyed browsing and touching all that gorgeous yarn!  (Plus on that first visit I picked up two skeins of Malabrigo yarn, and I didn’t even know it was considered really great yarn. I just liked it. I still have no idea what I’m going to do with it.  I’m saving it for just the right thing.)  Today, after a brief wait, I was able to spend time with Jackie, one of the employees.  Jackie very graciously helped me pick out some beautiful yarn for the summer wrap I want to start soon (some Mini Mochi sock yarn in an awesome colorway), she answered a question I had about another pattern for a project I also want to start soon, and she looked at the sock currently on my needles. I turned my first heel last night, and something ended up not quite right.  Jackie took a look, explained how I could fix it without frogging, and then gladly ripped it (frogged) it back for me to the end of the heel flap when I told her I really wanted to go back and do it again.  Partially frogging a project scares me because I can’t ever get all the stitches back on the needle.  Jackie showed me how to do it.  I will stilll have fear the next time I try, but hopefully I’ll have a bit more confidence.

So, 50-some dollars and almost two hours later (three skeins of the yarn, a set of bamboo US 7 straights, and a few little goodies), and I was on my way.  I didn’t know Jackie before, and I was grateful for the gift of her time in helping me out.  She even asked me to come back in and show her the wrap when I was done with it.  I will definitely do that.  I made a quick stop at Crafts Direct to pick up a few knitting doo-dads which I knew were cheaper there, and then it was off for lunch.

My dear friend, Christi, and I have a tradition of meeting in a town about halfway between each of our houses for lunch on or near our birthdays.  We both had the day off, so today was the day!  How fun to do it on my actual birthday.  We had a delicious lunch and Noodles & Company and spent an hour and a half visiting.  Christi gifted me with a gift certificate to Bonnie’s.  Joy!  Now I have a reason to go back!

Arriving back at home, I spent some time looking at the birthday cards I had received in the mail, and opening some presents from friends/neighbors.  I also talked on the phone to all who called to wish me a happy day, and responded to some texts. 

I then spent 35 minutes hooping, and I’m so happy to say that I returned to attempting a trick I had given up on last fall when I was still hooping intensely.  A vertical step through to the side was proving difficult for me then.  I could get it okay stepping to the right, but not at all to the left.  Today I discovered I can do it both ways!  It’s not totally smooth yet, but wow!  I’m impressed that I made progress without even working on it.  Sometimes really delightful stuff like that happens.  It made me smile.  Hooping, lately, has brought me a lot of joy.  I’m not so obsessive with it, and I think I’m just finally relaxing into it and just being with it. 

After some blissful hooping, I moved on to some feel-good yoga ((Sara Ivanhoe’s Zen Yoga from FitTV).  Ahhh, 45 minutes of work and stretch.  It was so nice. Yoga in infrequent doses is best for me.  It’s like I appreciate it more and put more of myself into it, with proportionate results.  I feel really happy and content after a yoga session now.

This evening?  I’m just spending a quiet night at home with the kids.  Scott is at a meeting, and as soon as I sign off and call my mother-in-law to wish her a happy birthday (yes, we share the same birthday – just 20 years apart!), I am going to happily curl up in my chair and knit to my heart’s content.  This time I’ll turn that heel perfectly!

So, yeah, just a really, really nice day.  Time well spent makes me happy.


Well, not outside.  The weather we’ve been having of late certainly doesn’t feel like spring, and so far the cold temps and occasional snow (yes, snow – anything is possible in Minnesota) have prevented much freshness and newness from springing forth in nature.  Hopefully we’ll have green grass, buds on the trees and flowers soon.  The birds have returned, so those other things can’t be too far behind. 

Speaking of birds, and before I get too far into this, I must share.  I came upon a cute idea in a knitting book I was reading recently and gave it a try.  I took the scrap yarn (you know, the bits and pieces you snip here and there) from my last few projects and scattered it onto the bushes outside my house.  The idea is that the birds will pick up and use the scrap yarn in the building of their nest.  Wow!  I find that such a cool idea.  I love the fact that my yarn will be lining the birds’ nests, giving them a nice soft (not to mention brightly colored!) space to hatch and care for their babies.  I’ve been watching, but so far I haven’t seen a bird actually take any yarn.  I hope they are!  I’d love to catch of glimpse of one flying away with a brightly colored piece of yarn hanging from its beak!  If only the weather were nicer.  I’d sit in my front porch rocking chair, knitting in hand and keep an eye out for birds hovering near the bushes.

Okay, back to discussing where spring has actually sprung and what actually is feeling fresh and new in my life. 

 My hooping has once again renewed, revived and re-asserted itself in my psyche!  I have fallen in love again!  This second time around, I find it’s not the all-consuming love it was for the first several months I was hooping. It’s not obsession, but it’s still passion. There’s such a world of difference. 

I’ve been hooping regularly for the past week and a half.  Not every day but whenever the mood strikes and life allows.  I am relaxed with it.  I’m just flowing, not working on anything specific, and just being with the hoop.  I’m still borrowing heavily from Sandra  for ideas and have been using the combinations from class as a springboard.  I’m finding I’m combining them in unique ways and meandering from them into other things.  I just play and when I stumble on something or something catches my attention, I may stop and work on that one particular thing for a little while.  I never beat myself up.  If something isn’t going well, I don’t judge. I just move on to something else.  It’s like I’ve gone back to the basics a little bit.  It’s very comfortable, and I feel very at ease.  I find myself smiling during my session and getting lost from time to time just in the flow and dance of things.  It’s really fabulous!  What a great attitude to have as I approach my one year “hoopiversary!”  Shall I celebrate the day (April 30) in some special way?

In other hobby news, I just got off a dishcloth jag by finishing up three dishcloths for my mother as part of a birthday gift. (I’ll be posting pictures and details by Monday.) Okay, I love knitting dishcloths.  I really do.  I love how small and quick they are, and I love how they allow me to learn new patterns and techniques without the fear of messing up something big.  HOWEVER, these last three dishcloths kind of lost appeal for me.  I think it was the pressure of getting them done and knowing they were a gift, so I wanted them to be perfect.  One actually did turn out perfect (well, as close to perfect as something made by human hands can be); but I have some issues with the other two.  I’m a tad disappointed, but I know my sweet mother.  She will be overjoyed when I give them to her tonight at her birthday party.  She’s a sucker for homemade gifts, no matter what the skill level.  Gotta’ love Mom!

I have more dishcloths I want to make, and I actually need some myself, so I will get back to them.  For now, though, I need a break.  Earlier today I picked up my sock that I started a few weeks ago and I fell in love all over again!  I’m just learning to knit with DPNs, and I had forgotten how much I was enjoying them.  When I started working with them today, it came right back to me, and I was actually beaming while I was working with them!  Seriously.  How can something so simple make me so happy?  I think it’s the slight “trickyness” of DPNs. I feel somewhat proud that I’m able to work with them and that I no longer look like I’m wrestling a porcupine (although I think no one, no matter how experienced, ever looks truly graceful while using DPNs, but I could be wrong).  I love how delicate the needles are (well, they’re size 3s, which aren’t ultra delicate but compared to the straights I’ve mostly used to-date, these seem very small), and I like the lighter, thinner  DK weight yarn I’m using.  It’s just totally a pleasure to knit on this project.  I’m going to try to remember this feeling, as I strongly suspect that once I get through the “easy” part of the ankle section of the sock and have to tackle turning the heel, I might not have such a glowy, warm fuzzy feeling! 

That’s the place I’m at right now.  Total contentment with both the hoop and the yarn.  A second, more mellow but ultimately more fulfilling honeymoon if you will.  It truly feels like spring in my soul and things are fresh and new for me!  Looking forward to really blooming with both hobbies over the summer!

{April 13, 2011}   Finding Flow

Flow is a term used in hooping (well, probably used in a lot of different areas) for how one moves with the hoop.  The movements, the dance, the tricks, the vibe – how it all comes together in an artistic form of self-expression. I’ve always struggled with finding mine in hooping, and I didn’t know it existed in knitting.  This week, I’m learning some new things.

For whatever reason, I stepped away from the hoops sometime in March.  It wasn’t a conscious decision.  I just noticed one day that I hadn’t really been hooping.  That realization, however, didn’t cause me to get back to it. I just never really felt like it.  When I thought about it, it made me sad in a way.  How could I not want to do something I’ve grown to love over the past 11 months since I started?  Was all the time, effort and money I put into hooping now a waste?  Why do I get so obsessed with something, do it to death and then drop it like it’s a bad habit infecting my life?  Why can’t I do things in moderation?

Okay, so those were the thoughts going through my head.  Over-react much, Shelley?  Finally, I said to myself, “Get a grip. You haven’t abandoned hooping forever.  You’re going through a phase.  As you yourself have  blogged, to everything there is ebb and flow.  You’re ebbing now on the hoop thing, but you’ll flow with it again.”  I gave myself permission to feel that not hooping is okay.  And it is.

A week or two ago, I felt the urge to hoop again.  However, I questioned the reason for that urge (real desire or guilt?) because although I expressed to myself a desire to hoop, I didn’t take the time to make it happen.  Was it really that important to me?  Well, since then I did pick up the hoop again.  During the first session or two, I wasn’t really feeling it.  I mean, I felt lost. I felt like I couldn’t remember have the tricks I knew how to do.  I felt like I had absolutely no flow – even “bad flow” would be preferable to no flow.  I focused on some moves and practiced, I just danced a bit.  Nothing seemed to make a spark. 

The other day I hooped for 20 minutes or so and again, I felt like I was going nowhere with it.  So, I glanced through my Hoop City class notebook and saw my page of notes for Sandra’s combinations from the Seeding 1 class.  Hmmm, it had been awhile since I practiced those.  I started with Combo 1, which only involves 5 simple moves.  However, it had been awhile. I was rusty.  I made mistakes.  So, for the next 20 minutes all I did was work on that combination.  I worked on it going to the left (my natural current) and to the right (my non-natural current).  You know what?  It started to feel really good.  Once I had a focus, I felt some flow coming back. I made mistakes, I dropped the hoop A LOT (especially considering how easy the moves are), but I felt good.  I’m going to continue until I have it (nearly) perfect and then move on to combo 2.  I think this might be a good way to get my hoop mojo back.  There’s a lot of talk in hooping about everyone needing to find their own flow, do their own thing, yada yada yada.  Sometimes it ain’t happening.  Sometimes someone else has to tell you how and where to move.  Sometimes it’s best not to leave yourself to your own devices.

First flow lesson of the week learned?  If you can’t find your own flow, borrow someone elses for awhile!

Now, how does flow apply to knitting?  Actually I had no idea that it did until the other day when I was working on the Garmin cozy for my mother-in-law, which is knit in the round on DPNs.  I still haven’t quite gotten over the thrill of being able to use DPNs, and when I was happily knitting away I noticed that I lost track of time, how I focused totally and completely on my knitting and just generally got lost in it.  I realized, I was in flow.   Wow.

Now normally if pressed to think about it, I’d think flow in knitting would be when one is very comfortable doing what they’re doing.  They’re knitting adeptly and with ease.  There isn’t a lot of conscious effort going into it, the stitches are just flying off the needles, almost as if by their own accord.  But you know what?  I don’t think that’s it.  I mean, I think that can be it.  I think you can definitely get into a “knitting zone” or Zen-type session when the needles almost seem to work themselves like magic, but what’s more probable, in my opinion, is that  knitting like that might be more like being on auto pilot.  Knitting like that probably means your mind is free to wander at will. One could watch TV, hold an in-depth conversation or do anything else with the mind or the rest of the body.  The knitting seems to be taking care of itself.

The flow I’m noticing I’m experiencing is born of not yet being totally comfortable with knitting, especially on DPNs.  When I knit, especially with DPNS, I have to focus.  Sure, I can keep one ear tuned into the TV, or I can listen to those around me talk and give short answers back, but basically the bulk of my attention has to be focused on what I’m doing with my hands, the sticks and the string.  I have to mentally tell myself whether to knit or purl.   I have to be conscious of making sure to move the working yarn in the right direction around the needle.  I have to stop to count stitches.  In short I have to be very wrapped up in what I am doing.  One would think that all this mental effort (not to mention the physical effort of moving the needles and yarn) would mean that there was no flow.  That what I was doing was more active and more like work.  I find, however, that that’s not what it is.  When I knit, my focus on it takes over.  For the most part, I forget what’s going on around me (or largely tune it out), I forget any life issues I’m dealing with or those constant nagging thoughts that always seem to run through one’s head.  I lose track of time.  All conscious thought is focused on what I am doing, and once in awhile I stop and think, “This is it.  I’m in flow.”  I find it amazing.  Flow seems like it should be a more natural state, like it should be effortless, like it should be . . . well, I don’t know . . . more flow-y.  With my knitting, though, that’s not what it is. 

I’m reading Adrienne Martini’s book, Sweater Quest (which, by the way, is fabulous, and I’m enjoying it very much), and interestingly shortly after I realized that yes, I do have a flow in knitting, I got to the part in the book where Ms. Martini discuss the very concept of knitting flow.  Her idea if is or her flow is slightly different from mine, but part of what makes up flow is that it’s different for everyone.  Yea!  Confirmation.  It’s not just me.  There really is a flow in knitting! 

Second flow lesson of the week learned?  There IS such a thing as flow in knitting, and I can now recognize mine!

Finally, a parting thought on flow and how it manifests itself.  A.  It’s different for everyone not matter what they are doing.  Part of flow is that it’s a very individual thing.  B.  For me, flow in knitting is very different from flow in hooping.  Hooping flow to me has more of that natural, organic feel.  When I find flow (whether it’s my own or someone elses) it comes easy.  I move from one trick to the next without a lot of conscious thought.  It’s like my body, while not on auto pilot because I’m definitely attuned and thinking about what I’m doing, is working the hoop of its own accord.  I’m not putting a ton of conscious thought into what should come next; things are just coming.  With knitting, there is a whole lot of conscious thought going into the process, but it’s the conscious thought that consumes me and puts me into that somewhat Zen state of “flowing” with the knitting.  I find these differences so interesting. 

Off to look at more things I do that have a flow!  The possibilities, I’m sure, are endless.

{April 5, 2011}   Mini Update

Just a quickie here.  I hope to have more time to blog later this week or this weekend.  On all fronts –

Working Out – Approaching the halfway point (tomorrow) of my Metamorphosis rotation!  Yea!  Still loving it!  I’ve decided to stop cross-posting my workout journal both here and at my Flat Belly Blog.  Please see Shelley’s Quest for a Flatter Belly (Fitness File page) for my workout reports beginning with this month and for a post there tomorrow or the next day on how I’m feeling at the mid-way point.

Hooping – Picked up my hoop and flowed for an hour yesterday.  Hmm.  Not bad.  The mojo didn’t immediately come back. Hoping it does so soon.

Knitting – Have casted on, worked, frogged, casted on again, worked, frogged, ummm, maybe 3 times by now the super simple tank top I’m using to teach myself knitting in the round on circulars.  Just re-casted on again. Hoping this time is the charm!   I just don’t have the know-how or experience to fix certain errors and so I have to rip stuff back.  Grrr.  It’s a learning process!  Attempted knitting 2-At-A-Time Socks from the cuff down yesterday.  Ummm, way too confusing.  Am going to try just one sock the old-fashioned way on DPNs first.

Reading – This is one area that’s been slipping.  Given the choice lately, I’d rather knit than read.  That’ll likely change this summer.  Can’t really knit out on the raft or on the boat in the middle of the lake!  Ahh, to everything there is a season!

Over and out!  Thanks for sticking with this totally boring blog!

{March 16, 2011}   Ebbs and Flows

I posted this at Hoop City today in my hoopDANCERS group, and I thought it would be good to post here as well.  Just random thoughts on the status of things, the weather, etc. 

I’ve been so MIA from Hoop City for the past few months, and actually, for the past few weeks, I’ve been kind of MIA from the hoop as well.  Does anyone ever have that happen?  I think I stayed away from Hoop City just to give myself some breathing space. I’m active on a few on-line forums (videofitness, the historical fiction group at and Hoop City), plus I lurk around a few other on-line discussion groups (Ravelry and some other knitting sites), and cruise some blogs here and there. I sometimes get to the point where I feel like I spend way too much time in the virtual world and not enough time being present in the real one.  You know?  I mean, often it’s almost as much fun to talk about hooping as it is to hoop, but sometimes I catch myself doing it and I wonder, “Really?  Why are you sitting here reading/talking about something you could be actually doing?”  LOL! (And yes, it is like that with all hobbies!  If I can’t actually be working out, reading, hooping or knitting, being on-line discussing or reading about those things (it seems weird that I read about reading!) is the next best thing. Plus it’s fun to have dialogue with like-minded individuals!)

 I also find I ebb and flow with things. I have many interests and some are in the front and center at times, holding my attention, and others are on the back burner.  Then something will shift them around again.  LOL!  I was obsessively hooping (especially with my minis) late last fall and earlier this winter, but in February I started a new fitness program, and I’ve been absolutely distracted and enthralled with that.  My knitting has also been holding my attention.  Hooping and reading have temporarily faded into the background. 

However, spring is in the air, and I sense a shift coming.  Soon it’ll be time to be outside – hooping and reading!  Reading is much nicer to do in the hot sun than holding wool in my lap while knitting! And I think after being constrained for a long while with my indoor hooping space, I’m starting to feel stifled. I need to get out and hoop where I have some vertical space! 

And finally, this time of year in Minnesota is not my favorite. I really dislike March.  Eveything is in limbo. It’s not quite winter anymore, but it’s not quite spring either.  Everything seems suspended in time.  Winter lingers and hems and haws about going, spring is hesitant to really spring.  Everything seems just blah.  Hard to explain, but I always feel kind of restless and a bit dissatisfied with things this time of year.  As the weather can’t make up it’s mind, I feel like I can’t make my mind up about what to do or what to let intrigue me. I feel kind of blah myself.  Soon, however, full on spring will be here.  Once the snow is gone, the grass starts perking up and the buds appear on the trees, I’ll be just fine!

So, maybe I’ll hoop tonight.  Have you ever noticed that sometimes when you’re in a hoop funk it’s best just to lay the hoop aside and not worry about, but sometimes if you just pick up the hoop and force yourself to play with it, your mood can suddenly shift?  Time permitting, I’ll give the latter option a whirl tonight!  Then again, I’ve got two new dance videos I want to check out, a new knitting book to cruise for patterns (maybe I’ll finally find a nice, easy project to use to break into knitting in the round), the new dishrag I started last night (in a “circular cloth” pattern that is completely enthralling me – it’s like a technical marvel – it’s something that I’ll knit and then go, “Whoa!  I can’t believe I actually MADE that!!!”) is practically screaming at me from home (I’m at work now) to hurry home and get back to it, and I’ve been promising myself I’d spend some time learning some more combos from either Tracy Anderson’s Dance Aerobics or Dance Cardio ’07.

Aaaargghh!  I guess another thing adding to my ebb and flow deal is TIME!  I need more of it!

{March 15, 2011}   A Trip to Arizona

Scott and I just returned from spending four days in Arizona visiting his sister Kristi and his brother-in-law Tom at their winter home just outside of Mesa.  Ahh, how nice.  We had beautiful sunny, 80-degree weather, and we spent a lot of time just relaxing in and by the pool, soaking some warmth into our winter-weary (pale) Minnesota bodies.

Well, when you’re in Arizona, you might as well take advantage of the heat and deep condition your hair!

We also had a few great meals out, we spent a morning at the world’s biggest flea market, Scott and Tom golfed one afternoon, Kristi and I headed to the spa and got wonderful massages, and we spent one afternoon and evening exploring the mountains, including stops at Canyon Lake and Tortilla Flat.

Despite all the things to do, I was able to squeeze in time to enjoy all of my hobbies on our busy trip! The highlight was meeting my dear friend Jeanne.  Jeanne is one of my on-line buddies at the Historical Fiction forum at We have posted at the forum and private messaged each other for a few years now.  Jeanne is incredibly generous and has sent me credits when I’m low and surprised me with gifts of books.  She is funny, cheeky and smart, and I’ve enjoyed our on-line friendship very much.  What fun to meet her for a couple of hours at a coffee shop near Tom and Kristi’s home.  That dear lady drove 85 miles to meet me!  Fortunately she was able to fit in a visit to her daughter and her family as well, so I didn’t feel quite as guilty for making her drive all over the state!  Here we are, and I’m holding a beautiful brand new copy of Elizabeth Chadwick’s upcoming book, To Defy A King, which sweet Jeanne gifted me at our meeting!

In addition to spending time with my fellow historical fiction loving friend, I also snuck in a bit of time to read.  I’m working on Ines of My Soul for one of the 2011 historical fiction challenges.  Unfortunately for the book, my knitting took precedence on the plane, but I managed to get a few chapters down while laying by the pool and lying in bed one night.

Ah, the knitting!  I think I knit the entire way from home to the airport (a 2-hour trip) and then most of the time on the 2+ hour flight to/from Arizona, and I also snuck in a bit of time knitting poolside.  I finished one dish cloth and got a good start on another.  Here’s one –

Arizona Dish Cloth

It’s done in a simple basket weave pattern.  The second (almost finished one) is the same, just yellow with an orange stripe.  I’m also going to try one more color variation, and then I think I’ll give the set of three to my sister-in-law to thank her for the hospitality.

Let see, I also took my travel hoop with me, and I spent just a short time one day hooping.  Of course I had big plans to hoop for an hour or so each morning by the pool when it was cool, and also to bring my hoop with me when we walked out in the desert and on our jaunt up into the mountains, but that never came to pass.  At least I was able to spend 20-30 min. hooping one afternoon –

And finally, I didn’t forget my obsession with my commitment to fitness!  I brought along some videos and got workouts in on 2 of the 4 days (one day was a scheduled rest day and the other was the day we left for home – no time to workout before we had to be at the airport at 5:45 a.m., and I was too travel weary when I got home).  I completed days 24 and 25 of my Metamorphosis rotation (Transform 1, Muscular Structure Sequence 3), did 20 minutes of Rockin’ Body: Disco Groove one day (my niece firing up the spin bike next to me and drowning out the sound from the video player put an early end to the workout!) and all of Leslie’s 4 Fast Miles (50 min.) on the other day.  The first day I worked out poolside; the second I rearranged some furniture in the living room and worked out in the house.  Working out outside sounds better than it is.  Sure the scenery (mountains and desert) is pretty, the pool is relaxing to look at and the air is fresh, but the cons far outweight the pros.  I worked out mid-morning, and it was already getting pretty warm.  I had to use my niece’s MacBook to play my videos, and I struggled with that.  The sun was quite bright, and working out with sunglasses on doesn’t work so well, not to mention all that light creates a glare on the screen.  All in all, the workout was much better (if a bit less pretty) in the house!

So, I had a great trip, I soaked up some sun and I spent a little time on each of the pastimes that give me so much joy!  A good time to be sure!

Since I’ve been so woefully negligent of this blog since starting my Flat Belly Blog, I thought I’d catch you all up on what I’ve been doing.  Rest assured, even though I’m not blogging about it, I certainly am knitting, hooping, working out and reading!  For the most part I’d rather actually DO those things rather than blog about them, so when time is limited and I’m faced with the choice, “Knit or blog?”  The knitting (or hooping, working out or reading) is going to win every time.  Sorry!

But, I’m going to take a few minutes to get you caught up on my latest creative endeavors.

First up, the hooping front.  Hooping is always going to be my first love, so that’s getting top billing.  In my regular hooping, not much has changed since my February 15 post on my mid-month progress on my February hooping goals.  I’m still working on the same things; still enjoying it.  But this past week, my regular hoop has taken a back seat to the minis.  (I tend to switch focuses between these two forms of hooping every so often.)  The minis (after a funk which involved my struggles with the 3-Beat Weave) are going great!  I’ve learned and am working on some new tricks that have re-energized my passion for the minis.

From my Hoop City lessons, I’ve been working turning with weaving – from forwards weave turning a 180 and going into the backwards weave and then turning again to go back into the forwards weave.  Just yesterday I mastered both turns, going to the right each time.  Yea!  Once I’ve got it down pat, I’ll learn the entire turn to the left.  Then I’ll move onto Sandra’s tutorial on the full 360 Turn, which is more of a continuous turn rather than making a stop halfway through before continuing to finish the full turn.  This is a really enjoyable move and very versatile.  Eventually I’d like to go from the weave in either direction to either a high or low windmill (or front/back weave) in the wall plane. 

Pam from Hoop Dee Doo has also given me some new tricks for my arsenal.  From her tutorials I recently learned the Cross-Over Turn (to the right; haven’t gotten it to the left yet) and the Split Weave (which is coming along, but is not yet very smooth, and I can’t get into it from flow).  The Split Weave is such a fabulous looking move, and I’d never seen it anywhere before.  Kudos to Pam for giving us a unique move and tutorial!  I am also working on Pam’s turn into Windmill, which I will start out from the hoops spinning fowards on my hands.  Eventually, as I mentioned above, I’d like to be able to go from a weave into a Windmill, but that’ll come.  Sandra also teaches the Windmill, so I’m hoping that between my two favorite hoop teachers, I’ll be able to get it without too much hair pulling!

I love my minis and they still bring me great joy. I still find them soothing, although I did go through a short period of frustration with them.  At that time, it was really beneficial for me to just step away from them for a while.  Sometimes we become, for whatever reason, resistant to certain things.  It’s actually necessary to move through, rather than avoid, resistance (according to Yogini Rainbeau Mars!), but I don’t think there’s any harm in stopping short of resistance and taking a breather!

Moving on, I’m learning more new tricks in other areas as well.  Last night I learned the basic crochet chain stitch!  I didn’t set out to, but a dishrag I was working on called for it, so I gave it a whirl.  Fortunately I did have a crochet hook in my knitting supplies and instructions in my Stitch & Bitch book.  It wasn’t great, and I’m still not sure how to “finish” it, but I did it!  Wow!  A simple little thing like that made me totally exhilarated!  Cool.  I don’t intend to crochet, but there are a few basic crochet stitches that a knitter needs to know, and I’ve now tackled one of them.  (Okay, that’s a lie.  I totally harbor a desire to learn to crochet, but I think I have to get more adept at the knitting thing first.  I don’t need yet another passion competing for my precious time!)

Other than the crochet stitch, I’m not setting the world on fire with my knitting progression. I’m still stuck in “dishrag and scarf” mode.  I’ve completed four dishrags, and I’m almost done with that damn Ribbed for her Pleasure scarf  I’ve been working on for a month. I really, really do want to learn how to use the DPNs or circular needles, but I need a simple project and some good instruction.  The short lesson on them in the Stitch & Bitch book is NOT cutting it.  I’ve got a few more books on reserve from the library, and I’m hoping one of them will give me a simple project or even a small swatch to learn knitting in the round.  The reason I wanted to learn to knit was because I really wanted to make two things especially – hats and socks.  Umm, guess which two things are usually knit in the round?  Yep, I’ve GOT to buckle down and learn my DPNs and circs!

Ahh, this brings me to interest number 3 – fitness!  I’m on the 9th working day of my Tracy Anderson Metamorphosis rotation, and I literally couldn’t be loving a process more.  I’ve done the exact same muscular structure sequence workout 9 times, and I am not even tired of it! I actually look forward to it every day, and if I hadn’t been slightly hung over (blushes) on my rest day, I would’ve been bummed that I couldn’t do it that day!  Today is the last day on the first sequence, and although I’ll be interested to move on to sequence 2 and try some new things, I will actually miss sequence 1.  I’m nowhere near perfect at it.  I can’t do the entire lower body from start to finish doing every rep and keeping up with Tracy, but I have noticed such an improvement over when I started.  It’s exhilarating!  If the entire 90 days is like this, I will be a very happy girl.

My back has been tolerating the work very well (a fact for which I am eternally grateful!), and beginning late last week, I added in the cardio element. I can’t do Tracy’s cardio every day (although I would love to because I really enjoy it) because the impact gets to be too much for my plantar fasciitis-prone right foot, but I’m trying to do her stuff (the Metamorphosis cardio and her other dance cardio workouts and rebounder workouts) three times per week with one of those times done on the rebounder (either the actual mini trampoline workouts from YouTube  or her Meta or Boot Camp cardio workouts). 

My other cardio workouts will be some of my other dance cardio workouts that are not so high in impact or (what I did today), Leslie Sansone!  You can’t get much different from Tracy than Leslie, and Leslie is often considered “easy” or only for the overweight/out-of-shape by many, but Leslie has some damn fine workouts!  My body responds to long, steadier state cardio, and Leslie delivers!  I often modify her workouts by making the moves tougher (skaters or side-to-side plyo jumps for her side steps; jump kicks, back kicks or side kicks for her plain kicks, etc.) or by using 3-5# weights during at least a portion of the workout (whether Leslie & Crew are using them or not).  However, my favorite way to up the ante with a Leslie workout is to use my hoop!  I alternate between core hooping (being careful to hoop in both directions for balance) and off-body hooping.  This increases the intensity of Leslie’s walks and gives additional benefits.  With on-body hooping I get the added element of core work and an increase in effort.  With off-body hooping, I get to work my arms by maneuvering my hoop.  It’s fun to try to think of different ways to use the hoop, and it’s very good practice for me to try to maintain Leslie’s leg and foot movements while core hooping.  It builds my strength with my core hooping and teaches me new and different ways to move with the hoop.  (I also work on doing things with my hands and arms.)  It’s such a win-win!  I think, if she were to see a video of me doing it, that Tracy would approve!

So yes, it’s definitely been a time of fitness fun for me!  No real visible “results” yet, but it’s early.  My body is still adjusting.  To track my progress with my diet and my Metamorphosis rotation, please visit my Flat Belly Blog!

And finally, I’ve been reading some good books!  I recently finished Lisa See’s Peony in Love, which I really enjoyed.  It’s a very different book, and it started out slow for me, but I was soon absorbed in the story.  Lots of lessons to be learned here, and plenty of food for thought.  In keeping with the Asian theme, I went directly into See’s Shanghai Girls.  I’m not even a quarter of the way through it, but I’m enjoying that one as well.  All books are for the 2011 Historical Fiction Challenge at  Right now I’m working on the “It’s a Small World” challenge, by reading one book set on each of the six continents (excluding Antarctica). 

So, there it is.  My creative life in a nutshell.  I so enjoy all that I do. My only lament is that I just don’t have enough hours in the day to really get my fill of any of my hobbies.  Sigh.  I guess that’s what retirement will be for!

Much happiness and joy to you in all of your own creative pursuits! I hope you are as blessed as I am to have hobbies, interests and passions you love!

We’re halfway through February, and I thought I reflect on the progress I’ve made on the goals I set for this month for my hooping.  I don’t often set intentional goals, but this month (with some inspiration from my chicas at the hoopDANCERS group at Hoop City), I did.  They were –

Regular Hoop

  1. Be able to execute, with good form, 5 continuous vortex jump throughs.
  2. Be able to execute, with good form, 10 regular jump throughs.
  3. Be able to execute, with good form, 5 across-the chest-passes.

All of these moves, of course, to be done in both directions.

Mini Hoops

  1. Perfect the 3-Beat Weave.
  2. Learn the Low Reel Turn (it doesn’t have to be perfect).

So, how am I doing?

Regarding the across-the-chest pass.  I’ve met my goal for the month with this move. Yea!  I’ve always been able to do this move (better going from right to left than left to right, but I could do it in both directions), but it hasn’t always been consistent, and I worried that I wasn’t doing it quite right.  So, last week I filmed myself doing it and them compared my pass to some videos of other hoopers doing it.  Yep, doing it right!  I was concerned that I was launching the hoop not really on my forearm but rather near my shoulder.  It turns out that nobody launches it so that it rolls across the first side forearm.  You pretty much have to launch it near the upper arm/shoulder.  Once I confirmed I had the right technique, I practiced.  Right to left is still better than left to right, but both are definitely passable. 

My vortex jump throughs going to the left are good.  I’ve definitely met my goal of 5 continuous that way – and I often get 10 in a row with pretty decent form.  To the right I’m not as consistant.  My feet get tangled more often, but I have done 5 in a row more than once, so this goal is pretty much met. 

I also do pretty well with the 10 consecutive regular jump throughs in both directions, but this move is actually harder for me.  Go figure.  Technically it’s an easier move. 

All in all, I can say I met my regular hooping goals, but I will continue to work on these moves the rest of the month to really make them a solid part of my routine.  I may play around with combinations incorporating them. 

In non-goal regular hoop action – I’ve  also been working on the vortex skip through.  This is a new move for me, which I learned from my Budding 1 class at Hoop City. The skip through is just slightly different from a jump through, and I struggle with doing the skip through intentionally.  The grip on the hoop is different and tighter, and the hoop, once you skip through it, ends up more in front of you in a stopped position rather than continuing around and into the other hand.  I really have to consciously THINK about doing a skip through.  The jump through is much more natural for me.

Another new-to-me move is the Eagle.  The Eagle is the opposite of the across-the-chest pass – it’s an across-the-back pass! I’ve attempted to learn this move in the past, and I just couldn’t get it, so I shelved it.  It’s in the Budding 1 class, and I watched Sandra’s lesson on it the other day, and I figured it would be good to re-visit.  I’m doing much better with it this time around!  (Another example of how sometimes it’s good to step away from a move for a lengthy period of time!)  It’s coming along very nicely from right to left.  I’m still not nailing the catch very often, but the roll across the arms and back is good.  I started working on going from left to right and that’s not great yet. The hoop often rolls at the wrong place or stops at my back.  I’m improving though, for sure.  I’m so glad I took this one back up again.  To everything there is a season, eh?

Umm, what else? I’ve also been working on what I’m calling “body rolls,” although I know Betty Lucas has a name for them that is escaping me. It’s when you spin the hoop vertically in front of you, stick your upper body inside of it, roll it around your back/shoulders once and then take it off the body with the other than – the hoop remains in its vertical rotation the entire time.  I’ve discovered I have more luck with this move using a slightly heavier hoop (my travel hoop is working well).  This was another move I learned earlier but had shelved due to lack of progress/frustration.   Again, it’s going much better this time around! 

Of course, I’m working on my breaks and reversals.  I haven’t learned anything new recently (I still have plenty of tutorials to get through in the Breaks & Reversals Hoop City class!), except Vortex Breaks, which are easy and fun and have such potential.  Breaks and reversals truly have added a new dimension to my hooping, and they’ve made it much more fun!  They open up such a world of possibilities with the hoop.  Having some in my bag of tricks is really liberating.

Yesterday I also paid a visit to my old nemesis, chest hooping.  To the left I’m doing well (again, apparently absence makes the heart grow fonder), and I am starting to be able to do a continuous arm weave.  This is a move I absolutely love to watch and it seems that every other hooper out there can do it proficiently except me.  Everything chest hooping to the right needs work!  I plan to make chest hooping a priority next month!  It’s such an integral part of hoopdance, in my opinion, and I am also anxious to work on chest hooping breaks and reversals.  I’m not going to get very far with them if I’m not proficient with chest hooping both with arms in and out in both directions!  Plus, I really want to nail the arm weaving!!

On to minis!

I will admit to being a tad neglectful of my minis as of late.  As with everything in life, there are ebbs and flows.  My interest waxes and wanes, and there is simply not enough time in the day!  I’ve focused a bit more on my regular hoop for several weeks now, which is okay. 

The best news is that earlier this month I finally nailed the 3-Beat Weave!  Well, you probably already knew that, as I blogged  a whole series of posts on conquering this beast!  It truly is exhilarating! I feel like I can conquer anything now!

Well, except the low reel turn!  This is my new nemesis.  I just cannot get this thing.  I’ve experimented with the high reel turn, and that I can get.  I just can’t practice it much because the ceilings in my hoop area are too low and cause me to have to crouch while doing it, which is uncomfortable.  The high reel turn is actually something that will have to wait until I can get back outside to hoop.  But, I digress.  I’m not sure what my problem is with the low reel turn, but I’d better get my butt in gear with it.  I only have 13 days left in the month!  What I need to do is post a video plea for help and have Pam at Hoop Dee Doo trouble shoot for me.  My computer makes uploading videos a colossal time-consuming pain, which is why I haven’t done this.  Time.  Damnit!  I need more of it!

I also admit to being distracted from the low reel turn by working on turning with weaves.  Now these I can at least get a handle on!   I’m *this close* to doing it perfectly from forwards weaving to back!  I can do the backwards to forwards turn, but I can’t go directly into the forwards weave. I need to make a few rotations around my hands to keep the hoops levelled out and to get into a forwards weave.  Both directions, though, are coming along very nicely and make me much happier than the damn low reel turn!

Other than that, I recently got a break-apart travel hoop in anticipation of mine and Scott’s trip next month.  I can’t possibly go 4 days without hooping!  And the thought of hooping next to my sister-in-law’s pool while looking at a sunrise or sunset over the bluffs of Arizona is too tempting to not take advantage of!   I picked a break-apart hoop up fairly cheaply.  It’s the same diameter as the hoop I’m currently using the most, but it’s heavier (thicker tubing) and clunkier – I can “hear”  and “feel” it when I do certain breaks – but it is proving to be good for learning certain things like the Eagle and the body rolls.  If I foresee a lot of travel in my future, I’ll invest in a Troo break-apart, but for now, this one is good enough, and it sure is pretty!  The tape job is called “butterscotch” and it’s very yummy!  I try to split my practice time evenly between my regular hoop and the travel one.  I want to be proficient with the travel hoop for my trip, but I don’t want to lose any ability with the lighter, zippier regular hoop.  Besides, I think alternating both hoops is great for me.  I definitely get more of a “workout” from the travel hoop and I can feel it a lot more in my arms.  The lighter hoop is faster, and thus I get more cardio bennies from working with that.  I also like challenging my body and mind by switching up the hoops.

All in all, I’m very happy with my progress – goals are met or are being worked on diligently, and I’m just in a good place right now with my hooping. 


I can do the 3-Beat Weave!

Yep, that’s why instead of “tackling” the beast, I say I have “tamed” it!  Woo hoo!

Exactly one month after I started, I finally feel I can confidently say I can do the 3-Beat Weave.  It’s still a little rough when I first get going, but once I’m going, I’m there.  Sure I can work on keeping my planes a bit straighter, and sure I get messed up from time to time, but really, I think I have it.

Now, I feel like a hot shot who can conquer any trick the minis throw at me.  What’s next?  As soon as I master turning with weaving, it’s on to my next nemesis, the low reel turn!  If I can do the 3BW, though, I can do anything!

Yes, my friends, there is a stinkin’ part SIX and it’s not even the one where I say, “Yea!  I got it!!”  Unfortunately, I still don’t have this down. 

I’ll admit to not working on it a whole lot for the past week or so.  I started the Breaks & Reversals class at Hoop City, and I returned to focusing more on my regular hoop.  (Let me just say here, that Breaks & Reversals are totally fabulous.  They’ve re-energized my hooping and added a whole new dimension.  I truly love them.)

Back to the 3BW.  It’s coming.  Truly, I think I’m making progress.  The progress being that I have developed a complete and thorough understanding of what I’m doing wrong!  I totally know what the problem is.  I just can’t fix it!  Now, that’s frustrating!   Minis have never frustrated me before, and when I started realizing that I was feeling it, I put the hoops aside for a bit. 

So, yesterday I made my return.  Yep, still not perfect.  Yep, still the same old problem, which is the surface switches on my left hand.  When I practice with just the left hand, I have no difficulty doing the movements properly.  It’s when I combine the left hand with the right hand that the left hand refuses to execute the necessary surface switches.  However, every once in a while, I get it, so the answer, I guess, is to keep on keepin’ on, which I fully intend to do. I will get this down!

In other mini news, yesterday I also started working on a new move, which is turning with chase weaves.  I have the mechanics down for each hand and in each direction, and I can do it with just one hoop.  With both hoops, actually, I can make the turn, I just can’t go immediately into the opposite direction weave.  Again, it’s a matter of time, patience, perseverance and practice.  This move is really a lot of fun, and I can see where it will be very useful.

I haven’t lost the joy of the minis! 🙂

et cetera