Friday, August 26, 2011

Preparing for Cooler Weather

Summer is still here but all the fall planning at work has got me thinking about the cooler weather that will be coming soon.

I have started a new knitting project. (Note: I still need to finish the grey blanket but it's too huge to have draped over me in the still warm weather. The blanket is, in a word, massive.)

It's early along, but I am enjoying the pattern. I am knitting it up in cotton for a friend who is allergic to wool. I don't do a lot of work with cotton and it's interesting to play with a new fiber. It's certainly much different than what I usually use -- much stretchier.

There have also been some advanced on the pellet stove front. The board approved our installation of the pellet stove with the stipulation that we have to exhaust it through the roof. The gentleman from the Amherst Farmers Supply came yesterday to take measurements so I can get an estimate of the increased cost for labor and parts. It should be between $600 - $800 more.

Our original plan was to install the stove in this corner. The pipe would go through the corner of our bedroom very discretely. The people at the Farmer Supply could paint it white (the pipe is normally silver) to blend in more. We do have to determine if we will need to encase the pipe in drywall -- this is a regulation for Class A pipes, like those used to vent a wood stove, however, since a pellet stove uses a PL Vent pipe, we're not sure we'll need to do this.

We had chosen the corner pictured above based on the regulation that a pellet stove has to be at least four feet from a window that opens. However, when the man from the Farmers Supply came yesterday, he told us that because we'll be venting the stove more than twenty feet away from the window, we might be able to put the stove in the other corner, seen below.

The benefit of having it in this corner is that the heat would better travel through the house, plus the stove is easier to see, a benefit because it is attractive. Installing the stove in this corner would still have the pipe go through a corner in our bedroom discretely, so that wouldn't be a factor. There would also be the benefit that since the stove is going out the roof, the pitch of the roof is lesser on the back of the house requiring us to use less parts. If we need to put sheetrock around the pipe, this corner would be better because we can be sure it wouldn't interfere with our bedroom door.

Looking forward to the stove install October 7!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Spinning Art Yarns Class

Today, I took a class at my local yarn store, Web, called Spinning Art Yarns. I have a number of books regarding spinning art yarns and admire the regularly, both in Spin-Off magazine (to which I subscribe) and in images online. I thought that taking the class would give me the motivation and information I needed to begin exploring creating my own crazy yarns. I could gather information from the instructor and see hands-on how the yarn was created and then work from the books that I have to practice.
Before the class, I had to prepare my wheel by finishing up all the spinning projects I had going on. I wound off the wool and silk sari blend singles. (They are probably under spun but oh well. An experiment. I have more to work with going forward.)
I also finished plying some merino I have been working with.

I coordinated my materials for class and was ready to go!

We began class with brief introductions and then were instructed to spin two half bobbins of singles, one with z-twist (standard for a single) and one with s-twist (usually the direction used for plying). The instructor came around and gave us tips on our spinning technique. She kept telling me that I was under spinning my singles. I will have to keep an eye out for this in the future. She also has me spinning in a more true woolen fashion with a backward draw. I usually spin with a short forward draw. Making all these adjustments required a lot of concentration but I think the results were good although still a bit under spun. I will continue to work on this -- I have found that in general spinning is much trickier than knitting to "master". I have spent much more time trying to master making a good basic yarn than I ever had to do with basic knitting.
After a break for lunch, we dove into techniques for creating art yarn. It's all about plying, hence the creation of the singles in the morning.
The first yarn we spun was a core-spun yarn. The single (z-spin) is in the center. You take unspun roving and ply it around the core single. This creates the effect seen below. While this yarn is still plied, it behaves like a single and will have bias when knit.

To give you an idea of what core spun yarn looks like when best done visit here. I have practicing to do.
Next we practiced creating boucle yarn. For this, we plied the two singles (z and s twist) that we had created in the morning. We made small loops with the s twist yarn. You can see results below.

While creating this yarn, I also practices creating coils and granny stacks. These are the things that look like slubs in the yarn above -- they are super cool looking and fun to make.

The instructor also showed us another technique where we can add fiber (other other materials -- like ribbon for example) while we ply. I didn't have a chance to try this out.

While I wish the class had taken more time to allow us to try each of the art-yarn techniques instead of spending so much of the morning spinning basic singles, I think the experience was an overall good one. First, I got some good tips about my basic spinning -- I under spin and need to focus on adding more twist to my yarn. Second, I think that I have some good ideas about how I can start exploring art yarn. I have the wonderful book, Intertwined, which covers all of the techniques (and more!) that we did in class today with images about how to create the yarn. Having seen the instructor do the process in person, I should be able to use the images to jog my memory and get me started spinning again. All in all a great experience and very exciting day!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

News on the Pellet Stove and Other Updates

The iced tea pairing of the day is Pinapple Kona Pop! and Peach Bloom Rooibos.

An update on the pellet stove situation. This requires some recap. In late March, Seth and I visited the Amherst Farmers Supply where we selected a pellet stove for installation in our condo. The pellet stove we chose was a Harmon XXV with Majolica Brown enamel finish.

We did a lot of research regarding pellet stoves as an alternate heating source for our condo. They were cheaper than the electric heat, sustainable, and, most importantly, promised a warm environment, something that our radiant ceiling electric heat was not doing.

After selecting our stove, we began negotiation with our condo board in order to seek approval to have the stove vent through the side of our unit. The venting pipe would be approximately a foot and a half in length and four inches in diameter. It would be ceramic insulated and be around 100 degrees in temperature when the stove was in operation. We figured that there would be no problems getting a speedy approval. We did not anticipate that now, in August, we would still be in discussions with the board, who wanted to do their due diligence in insuring that this installation would be appropriate for our unit and community.

Fortunately, this past Friday, we were given approval for the installation of our pellet stove with one caveat -- we must vent the stove through the roof of our home. The stove is to be installed on our ground floor, as we have a townhouse, this means that the venting pipe will need to come through the living room ceiling and travel through our bedroom (very discreetly in the corner between the nightstand and door) before venting to the outside. I have a call to the Amherst Farmers Supply (on which I am waiting a reply) inquiring about the cost and feasibility of this installation. I am fairly certain they will be able to do it but want to make sure it will be something affordable -- I am anticipating at least $500 in additional parts and labor as a result of this sort of install. I will keep you posted on how things proceed, but I am hopeful that we'll be able to have our stove this winter. At the very least, negotiations with our board have taught me something about persistence and the value of having suitable information.

An update on my exercise progress. I have been doing the TurboFire workout for a week and a half now and am quite enjoying it. While the workout is predominantly cardio, the instructor is very good about integrating resistance training and toning as well as stretching in workout program. This is good for me, as I have the tendency to not do as much resistance training and stretching as I should. Using the workout schedule that came with the DVD program is making me do more of this. The cardio is great. There are kickboxing workouts (of good intensity) with some short high intensity intervals. These workouts are perfect for my fitness level. There are also some days were you just do high intensity interval training workouts. These workouts are pretty sort, around 20 - 30 minutes, so not a problem for me although they are quite high intensity. I am eager to see how things progress as I stick with the workout schedule.

The weather has been a bit cooler this week, and Lily has been more snuggly. Here she is cozying up on the bed against Seth.

She's so happy! She loves her Daddy.

Hopefully good news on the stove to follow. If/When it finally gets installed, I promise there will be a party.

Friday, August 5, 2011


Today, I started a new workout program from Beachbody called TurboFire. As many of you know, last spring, I tried the Beachbody workout, Insanity. Insanity is basically the most intense workout you can put your body through. It's high intensity intervals with short rests -- you basically do plyometrics for forty-five minutes. While I liked Insanity, it is quite a lot of workout, and some days I just don't have that energy. I think I would have gotten great results if I was able to stick to the workout schedule, but because I like to exercise at work and Insanity was so much effort I do it a bit here and there.

TurboFire appealed to me as another workout system to try. While still quite challenging, it doesn't leave you gasping for air and as exhausted as Insanity. It is a kickboxing hybrid workout with some short intervals of higher intensity. I absolutely love kickboxing -- it's my favorite workout. A lot of kickboxing workouts have gotten a bit overdone for me, and I cannot stand Billy Blanks, the instructor of most Tae Bo (aka. cardo kickboxing) fitness movies.

TurboFire comes with ten exercise dvds and a class schedule. I am thinking that, unlike with Insanity, I might try sticking to the class schedule for a few months to see my results.

There are also four advanced dvds. My set, ordered used in like new condition off of Amazon Marketplace (for $75 -- minus my $25 gift certificate), included the advanced dvds. The set also includes the resistance band and a couple of booklets, one including dietary suggestions. I am not planning on using the diet book while using the workout dvds.

The class schedule is for twenty weeks, basically five months. I am not sure I would stick with it than long, but I certainly want to for a month or two. The workouts seem to alternate between what are called "fire" classes of varying lengths where you do mostly cardio kickboxing and then do one or two intervals of higher intensity for a minute. These classes are 30 minutes to an hours. There are some other classes around 15 to 30 minutes that are more high intensity interval classes. The intensity if up but the duration is quite short.

Today, I tried my first set of classes, the "fire" class for 30 minutes followed by a 10 minute stretch class. Because it was my first time doing these dvds, I used an option called "new to class" on the dvds. This meant that before we transitioned to each new section of workout in the overall class we'd pause and the instructor, Chalene, would breakdown the moves. This was key because the kickboxing routines are quite fast. Because of this I would say the workout overall took me an hour, but in the future it will go much more quickly of course.

As I said, kickboxing is my favorite workout, and I found TurboFire great fun. There are wonderful kickboxing combinations and the music is motivating. The instructor is good at cuing and is quite motivating. I am quite excited to continue on the class schedule tomorrow and try the next set of workouts.

I would say, for anyone considering this workout, that you should have a foundation in kickboxing and know all the common punches and kicks before doing this workout. Overall, and of course this is only judging based on one class, I would say the workout is advanced intermediate (on the scale of Insanity being very advanced and a harder Tae Bo workout being intermediate).

I'm interested to see how my results will be and if I like doing a workout at the gym at work and then doing a second one with the TurboFire dvds at home. I will keep you posted to my progress and if I keep with the program.