Tuesday
Jul222014

multisport

Back in 2011, I decided that I should start doing triathlons.  Nevermind that I had just had a baby in February and was slowly adjusting to that new reality.  I had to add in even more challenge and signed up for my first sprint distance event for that July.  I chose the SeaFair triathlon since a co-worker at the time said it was a good course and pretty friendly atmosphere.  The sprint course is a half mile swim, 12 mile bike and 5K (3.1 mile) run.  I worked in some training in the evenings (timing my workouts in between nursing sessions) and my main goal was to simply finish the event.  It felt good to have a goal and to get some time back to myself back in the days when my baby had constant needs.  I still remember the first time I went swimming while Nick carried Jonas around the neighborhood in a carrier -- I would look up after every lap just to make sure that Nick hadn't brought a screaming baby back to me.  

The SeaFair Triathlon was indeed a great event (mostly flat with a few killer hills for good measure, an opportunity to bike across the I-90 bridge in the express lanes, mostly friendly group of people getting up very early to push their bodies a little) and this year was my fourth year participating.  Except this year I decided to step it up a little and do the Olympic Challenge course, which is almost double the Sprint course (1 mile swim, 20 mile bike, 10K run). 

For some people, I'm sure the idea of swimming then biking then running sounds like too much to tackle at once, but here is why I really like doing multisport events. 

  • Just as you're getting bored/fatigued/tired of drinking lake water, you find yourself finishing one sport and on the next.
  • People of all shapes/ages/abilities do triathlons.  I fancy myself pretty fit until I get out there and get smoked by a muscular 65 year-old lady.  It makes me strive to be stronger and work harder. 
  • It gets me out of the winter doldrums and into training mode around March and motivates me to exercise as much as I can fit in to my day.
  • I like that Jonas gets to see me work hard for something and challenge myself physically. 

Now for a little recap of the past 4 years:

2011 -- Sprint

Six month old baby, not yet sleeping through the night and nursing almost exclusively -- what was I thinking? Excited to survive my first event and not have my boobs explode from being engorged. 

Finished in 1 hour 55 minutes. 541 overall place. 

2012 -- Sprint

No longer nursing and closer to my pre-partum self.  Jonas is wondering why mommy has a strange cap on her head.

Finished in 1 hour 44 minues.  526 overall place.

2013 - Sprint

Lighter, stronger, more rested. Jonas gets a kick out of my wetsuit. 

Finished in 1 hour 41 minutes -- 487 overall. 

2014 - Olympic

Not quite sure if I was in over my head or not.  Jonas didn't make it out to the course this year and I missed seeing him and having him cheer me on.  But I was happy to have him away for the rest of the day so I could rest and recuperate. 

Finished in 3 hours 20 minutes -- 346 of 401 finishers. 

This year the swim felt the hardest for me as I struggled to get into a good rhythm.  I trained the most on the running, since 6 miles is a long distance for me.  Overall I felt pretty well prepared (although the morning of, I'm sure everyone feels like they could have trained more) for the day. 

I would encourage anyone I know to try out a triathlon at least once in their life.  My goal for next year is to do the Olympic in under 3 hours.  I own a wetsuit now, so I'm into this triathlon thing for the next five years, al least.

 

Monday
Jun302014

a little green: my favorite quilt

I made this quilt in the months before I gave birth to my son, Jonas in 2011.  It is a variation of the (Sort of) Crazy Quilt from Joelle Hoverson's book Last Minute Patchwork Gifts.   Although I love the glow of the pink and yellow of the original quilt, I wanted to create something cool and relaxing instead -- a veritable ocean to calm and soothe a child.  As I took my leave from work a week before his due date, I sat and hand-quilted the top of the quilt until my fingers could no longer stand it.  He was born in winter and every day I spent a little time under the warmth of the quilt, slowing quilting all of the squares and thinking about giving birth and what having a child would be like.  Lucky for me, he was nearly 2 weeks past his due date, so I was actually able to finish most of the stitching before he arrived. My quilt is not nearly as stunning as the original, but my Jonas and I love to lie in his room and gaze up at it, letting our eye wander through the colors and shapes.  Certainly not your traditional baby quilt, it was a labor of love not unlike the daily labor in raising a child. 

The quilt was made mostly with Kona cotton solids and a few scraps from other projects.  If I were to make a similar quilt, I would take more care with the stitching and try to achieve a tighter look in the squares.  I definitely became more skilled as a quilter while finishing this quilt, although I think I will stick to machine quilting for now, as life is too busy to afford the luxury of hand quilting these days. 

The name of the quilt, A Little Green, refers to one of my favorite Joni Mitchell songs and for me speaks to the joyous heartache of parenthood. 

Sunday
May182014

big island: hilo

I expected Hilo to be wetter than Kona, but was not quite prepared for the monsoon of rain that greeted us the evening we arrived.  We wove our way up-country to the little hideaway we were renting -- another find from VRBO.  It was tucked away in some farmlands and had its own menagerie as well.  The property was very quiet and cozy with a full kitchen and a lanai with several affectionate cats.  I say it was quiet, that was until the coqui frogs start up in the night and roosters in the early, early morning. There were also some mosquitoes to contend with, but nothing too unbearable.  Jonas loved all petting all the animals and even got to feed the pregnant goat, Heidi. It is a great rental for familes and the owner Nora was very friendly and welcoming. 

My dad and his wife joined us on this leg of the trip (clearly we have come to realize that inviting grandparents on a trip = a more relaxing vacation for parents).  They were looking for our rental in the same torrential downpour and arrived looking pretty soggy.  I think we were all cheered to see the clouds had lifted by morning and the day looked bright and inviting.  Our first day we wanted to get up to visit Kilauea and do some volcano exploring. 

Kilauea is active right now and you can't really get anywhere near the crater.  The best view of lava (or lava-glow) is from the Jagger Museum in the park.   We spent the early part of the day exploring the crater of Kilauea Iki. Luckily the winds were in our favor and we weren't subjected to any sulfuric gasses during our hike.  The hike meanders along the rim of the crater through some rainforest growth and the descends down into the crater proper where you can find steam vents, crackled crust and interesting plants. 

Kilauea Iki erupted in the 1950's and it was interesting to see the varied landscape left after an eruption cools.  Jonas loved piling up rocks to add on the many cairns that marked the trail through the crater.

After the hike we drove the Chain of Craters road all the way down to the ocean to check out the cliffs and some old lava flows.  There are also some great petroglyphs down a small trail.  When we finished exploring it was nearing dusk, so we headed back up to watch the crater take on its evening glow.  It was cold and windy at the museum, but we managed to stay long enough to get a few nice views of the caldara.

The next few days we spent our time looking for good snorkeling spots, relaxing and making some really good guacamole with local avocados. We found the pools at Kapoho to be an excellent area for snorkeling and found some pretty amazing reef without having to go out too far from the shore.   Nick made a valiant attempt to walk up Mauna Loa (which doesn't look like much, but is pretty HUGE), but turned around on the trail to make it home before dark.  On one of our days together, we set out to take in some waterfalls one morning and despite the occasional burst of rain, had great weather. 

 The waterfall pictured above is Akaka Falls and lies north of the Hilo area.  After we visited the falls we drove Old Onomea Road to get a great smoothie at What's Shakin'? (my dad had visited before and implored that it was worth a side trip to get one).  We also stopped at a roadside stand that made fresh Taro chips and that was run by a Laotian woman who could wield a machete like a pro.  While on the Onomea road we decided to stop at the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden.  It was also well worth the visit and has miles of paths through some amazing plant life.  The Botanical Garden was the pet project of a couple who turned an overgrown ravine into a lush area for teaching and exploring.  We saw orchids, monkeypod trees with huge canopies, plants with leaves bigger than Jonas and met a macaw who could say "Aloha." 

The garden extends all the way down to the ocean and has a fun blowhole at the end.  Jonas did a ton of walking in the garden, helped along by his newly purchased surfboard car.   We learned how helpful a new toy could be when traveling with a toddler who really misses playing with all of his trains and cars.   This orange car gave us hours of entertainment. 

Since our time with grandparents was drawing near, Nick and I decided to take advantage and head out for a long day of hiking in the Wai'pio Valley.  This valley is very close to the Pololu we hiked before, but the valleys are not easy to get through on foot, so you have to drive around the whole island to get to Wai'pio.  The entrance is near the town of Honokaa, where a college friend grew up, and it was fun to get out to that part of the island. 

We set out to do a pretty adventurous day hike to Waimanu and back, and it turned in to quite the adventure indeed.  I'm not going to go into a lot of detail here, but it was a very memorable experience and we got to see what Wai'pio looks like in the morning mist. The black sand of Wai'pio beach is amazingly soft and light and the area is worth visiting the the steep hike down. 

Although Hilo isn't as glossy as Kona, I really enjoyed exploring the town and areas just as much.  Hilo is defintiely more of an aging beach town, but the feels more authentic than the giant resorts of Kona.  But I don't think anyone can argue about the beauty of the Kona beaches, especially in contrast with the black volcanic flows.  I would say we enjoyed every part of the island and could have stayed to explore longer.  But in some ways, it's good to leave some things to see the next time. 

Thursday
May082014

big island: kona

Every year, the gray skies of March seem to beat our spirits into the ground.  However, this year we planned ahead and scheduled a trip to the big island of Hawai'i to get some much needed sunshine.  We were not disappointed. 

We split our two-week vacation in two halves to give us a real feel for the whole island.  Our first week was spent in Kona and a good choice for starting the vacation.  Kona is sunnier and beachier and was a perfect fit to shake off the cold, wet blanket of the Pacific Northwest winter.  We found a great rental through VRBO slightly north and up-country from Kona town.  The rental was the bottom floor of a large house with a completely private entrance, private pool and outdoor kitchen.  Cooking breakfast in an outdoor kitchen in Hawaii was a revelation and we enjoyed watching the geckos scurry about in the evening after dinner. Sandra, the owner, lives upstairs and was very welcoming and accomodating.  She even traded toaster ovens with us when ours stopped working. 

The first full day of our vacation was a bit overcast and we headed out to hike a cindercone called Pu'u Wa'a wa'a.   The cindercone is in a small state park and is also a wildlife refuge.  When we were hiking, the hills were full of wild goats and sheep.  We ran into a local who told us that hunting season was starting in a few weeks, so our timing was perfect.  Jonas loved running up to the flocks of animals to watch them scamper away up the hill.  We carried him for the first part of the hike while he napped, but he climbed up the cindercone himself.  True to form, we forgot to put on sunscreen until it was more or less too late and we all got the worst sunburn of the trip that afternoon. 

My mom joined us for several days and we spent time driving around the West side of the Island and having some small adventures. 

Highlights were smoothies in Hawi on the way to hike Pololu Valley (and shave ice and ice cream after getting ourselves back up the steep hill to our car), mexican food in Waimea and enjoying the up-country vibe (and amazing sunset on our way back down the island) and the great Saturday farmer's market in Kona. 

We also spent a good amount of time exploring beaches on the Kona side and found some great Keiki (kid) beaches.  Jonas was not that interested in swimming, but we were able to find a great sheltered pool where you could see the tropical fish from the surface of the water.  This was Kukio Bay, and definitely a hidden gem. Another great beach was Kua Bay. Both are situated just north of the Kona airport and fairly easy to access. 

While Jonas, my mom and I were enjoying some beach time, Nick hiked up Mauna Kea.  Even though you can also just hop in the car and drive to the top of the volcano, there was a lot to enjoy by taking the long way up. Plus he got to check out the observatory on the top at the mid-point of the hike. 

 

Nick and I had a chance to explore on our own one afternoon and walked the old lava rock walls and trails of Kaloko. 

My mom and Jonas waited at one of the old fishtraps and watched some locals catch fish and even spotted a few flying fish.  Earlier while exploring the fishtraps, we stumbled upon a sea turtle resting in a shady corner.  No pictures of the large creature as we decided not to call attention to it and give the animal some peace. The tourists really pile up around the sea turtles and I'm glad they have a few places to hide out on the island.

Jonas also loved roaming about our rental house where starfruit, papaya, pineapple and avocados grew.  And the fact that the owner of the rental had a stash of trains and wooden tracks pretty much made the vacation for him. He was very patient with us when we wanted to go to places like the coffee plantation.  Luckily, they had a few toys to play with and a number of cats and chickens to observe.  The coffee tour was interesting, but limited to coffee roasting and selection (you have to pay pretty heavily to go out to the actual plants).  Overall it was a nice way to spend a cool morning and to load up on coffee, one tiny cup at a time. 

Our time flew by in Kona and soon we headed around the south side of the island over to stormy Hilo and volcano territory.  On the way we stopped at Punalu'u to see the black sand beach.  The beach was hot and sunny (and full of sunbathing turtles and tourists) so we opted to picnic in the grass next to the beach.  It was a nice way-point in our trip over to Hilo and the last burst of sun before we entered a torrential downpour. 

Next up, adventures on the Hilo side: stormy weather, active volcanoes and amazing plants.

Thursday
May082014

tova

I've been sewing clothes for myself for several years now, but with every new pattern and fabric, I learn more and become a little more confident.  Right now there are so many great designers of patterns and fabric -- the world of garment sewing is really opening up.  The latest piece of clothing I put together was this top from Wikstein called Tova.  I made it in a lovely voile designed by Rashida Coleman and I'm not sure I can ever go back to sewing clothes with quilting cotton.  The drape and feel of the fabric is lovely and I really love the colors popping out of the gray background. 

As for the pattern, this is my second go-around with the Tova and I really loved the results, both times in fact.  I cut the "large" size for all of the pieces, except for the sleeves, which I made in 'extra large' since I have rather burly arms.  It was slightly tricky to fit the sleeve cap in the shoulder, but with some patience, everything worked out nicely.   I don't own a serger, so I finished the seams with a simple zig-zag finish.  My first Tova was the "dress" length, which for me turned into more of a long tunic or minidress.  I made that version in a double gauze and the heavier weight works well for spring or fall wearing.  If I truly wanted a dress in this pattern, I think I would need to lengthen the pattern by a good 2 inches.  I might also lengthen the sleeve just a bit, since it hits me right at the elbow instead of the forearm.

Shortly after I made this Tova, I took a sewing class at Made studio in Seattle on making a shirt from knit fabric.  Talk about sewing worlds exploding!  Now I'm on a quest for some nice knit fabric and some time to make another Renfrew top and this new one from Deer and Doe.