Sunday, January 22, 2012

An Exciting and Productive Weekend

Seth and I have had quite an fun and productive weekend. Yesterday, we went to the local movie theater to see The Met's new opera, The Enchanted Island, live in HD. The opera is completely new this season. It is a Baroque pastiche -- in layman's terms a "mash-up" for Baroque music. The opera has music from Handel, Vivaldi, and  Rameau. The creators of the new opera, took this existing music, not often heard on the stage at the Met, and put it to new libretto with a new story. The singers who started in the opera even had involvement in the creative process and were able to suggest the inclusion of some of their favorite arias.

Just as the music was taken from a variety of artists, the story was a merger, this time of two of Shakespeare's plays, A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Tempest. The sets and costumes were absolutely amazing -- very lavish. Here are some pictures to give you the idea.

The opera was a lot of fun for Seth and me. This was the first opera we've gone to see that hadn't been a tragedy. Indeed, like with the Shakespeare plays, things turn out (relatively) happy at the end. Also, because this was a new American opera, the libretto was in English, a first for me. 

I was also very interested at the use of ballet in the opera. Since reading the book Apollo's Angels, a detailed history of ballet, I have been watching ballet on Netflix and paying close attention to the usage of ballet in any opera I see. The usage in The Enchanted Island was very traditional -- it was used to lighten the mood was the opera got "too heavy". I think that the French, who basically invented ballet, especially ballet in opera, as we know it, would be proud.

Following the opera, we headed over to our favorite nice restaurant in town, Tabellas. There we enjoyed some farm fresh food including chickpea and pumpkin fries, chicken wings, risotto with mushrooms and leeks, and chicken in an orange glaze. I had a nice glass of veltliner, a white wine. For dessert, Seth had an apple crumble and I had a dark chocolate pot 'o cream. Everything was delicious!

Today, to make up for the decadence of yesterday, we got a lot of chores done. Before lunch we had gone to the market (Seth), done two washes (me), and cleaned the house (me)! I also took the morning to finish up the last of my month one Insanity workouts. I now have one "recovery week" in which I do a non-cardio based exercise DVD and then it's on to month two. While I don't appear to have lost any weight, this is not really the goal. The Insanity workout, for me, is a challenge. I hope I am up to month two! Fortunately, my plyo mat has finally come in the mail, and it is proving quite the help -- my feet and calves feel much better when using it to cushion my landings. 

We also did a major project today: the first big clean of the pellet stove. While I scrape out the burn pot and clean the glass on the stove twice a week, after a ton or so of pellets is burned, it's time for a big clean. 

We started by powering down the stove, unplugging it, and allowing it to cool. We opened it up. There was a lot of ash, especially in the ash pan.

I removed the ash pan and emptied the cool ask into a bucket we have. The pellet stove produces very little ash since the pellets that we use have a low moisture content. We'll save our ash from the entire winter in the pail we have and then use it to fertilize our garden come the spring. 

With the ash pan removed, the stove looked like this.

Very dirty! All this dust, ash, and creosote, would overtime, build up and make the stove much less effective. Less effective mean less safe and less efficient at producing heat. We got to work fast, cleaning out the entire stove so it would run most effectively.

We scraped down all the surfaces. We opened up the burn pot and scraped that out too. We then took our ash vacuum and cleaned out the whole thing. The vacuum worked like a champion!

Now our stove looks like this. Much better.

At present, the stove is happily blowing hot air my direction making me very very happy.

I also plan this weekend to finish up the blanket I am making for my friend, Maddy. As you may recall, the blanket looks like this:

I have about a dozen more rows to do before I bind off and finish the whole thing. Exciting times!

I already have my next project picked out: a baby blanket for my sister-in-law and brother-in-law for the baby they are expecting in June. I have picked a blanket from Brooklyn Tweed. Here's a picture of the blanket from their website.

I'm planning to knit it in a superwash merino (for washability) in ice blue to match the color scheme for their nursery. I look forward to starting work next week.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Random Tuesday

I just returned from an impromptu trip to Connecticut to visit my mother following a basic operation. Good news: she's doing very well. She feels fine, is not too tired, and has no pain. The operation went well on Monday, but I am glad that I was able to see her Monday evening and today to make sure she was alright.

While down visiting Mom, I also got to go for a hike with Greg and Demo at the land trust in Woodbridge that we went to over the holidays.

Demo had a great time. When he finally got home, he was all tired out.

After slightly less than twenty-four hours in Bethany, I headed back to Amherst. I needed to complete my daily exercise. I am mid-way through week three of the Insanity workout. Things are going well. I am still experiencing a little bit of soreness, but nothing bad. I really feel like my cardio has been improving. Taking the fit test that is included with the program at the start of this week yielded improvements. 

I did go ahead and order a plyometrics mat to help me with my workouts, as my calves and feet have been somewhat tender from all the high impact activities I have been doing. After much research, I selected the Manduka BlackMatPRO. It is recommended by Beachbody for their plyo exercises. I ended up ordering it off of Amazon so that I could avail myself of free shipping and the use of my credit card points. The mat should offer extra shock absorption, which will be extra helpful for me, since I like to exercise barefoot. I anticipate its arrival in the mail in the next day and will certainly report on my experiences with it.

As per usual, Lily was happy to see me when I arrived home. She spent the evening snuggling with me on the couch.

When Lily wasn't sitting on my lap, I was able to get some work done on the blanket I am making for Maddy. As you can see, it's coming along quite well. I have only five skeins of the yarn left and should be finished with it at the end of the month.

Following the completion of Maddy's blanket, I will begin working on a baby blanket for my sister-in-law and her husband who are having a baby in about five months. I have picked out a superwash yarn and pattern for the project and just need to learn what color they would like. Can't wait!

p.s. I have become slightly obsessed with Pinterest. You can find me on Pinterest here. (E-mail me if you want an invite.)