Friday, January 1, 2016

I Don't Make Resolutions

Happy New Year! 2015 brought a lot of changes for me, unfortunately those changes took a lot of mental energy! The beginning of a new year is a great time to review the previous year, identify things you want to change, and take steps to improve for the next year. Most people make resolutions, but I'm going to tell you why I don't make them!

Resolutions, to me, are wishes. They're "want tos" and "it would be nice ifs" and "it's okay with me if it doesn't happens". Resolutions make me feel bad about my progress before I even start! Think about the common ones people usually make -  they're vague, or set an unreasonable expectation. Please understand,  I'm all about dreaming big! But at the end of the holiday season and the beginning of the new year, I'd rather set goals - specific, measurable, completable!

The key to great goals (and this is the downfall in my mind of resolutions) is to give them a deadline. For me, you'll see that I'm spreading my goals out over the whole year.  I'm not going to attempt to do everything perfectly starting today. That's just not feasible. And because I know myself, I know that if I can't do something perfectly I won't even attempt it!

Let's reframe some common resolutions into goals (by the way, these are all goals of mine for 2016!)

RESOLUTION: "I want to lose weight" or "I want to get in better shape"

Most common resolution of all time (I think). It sends people to sign up for gyms and classes and buy workout gear. It causes a lot of feelings of guilt when the numbers on the scale just don't seem to move,  and the clothing size is the same in July as it was in January. What if,  instead of focusing on the number on the scale or the label,  we made some specific goals about strength and fitness?

GOAL 1: Complete 1 round of PiYo by February 29
GOAL 2: Compile and complete 3 month 21 Day Fix/PiYo fusion by May 31
GOAL 3: Participate in 2 5Ks by September 30

The result of achieving these goals will definitely be improved strength and flexibility, and will likely be a smaller waistline. But even if more pounds don't come off, I can still be proud of achieving the goals!

RESOLUTION: "I want to eat better" or "I want to drink more water"

Both very vague resolutions! What does that even mean? Salad everyday? Cutting out sugars? Only eating food you grow for yourself? Walking around with a cup with a straw every where you go? These resolutions are so frustrating because you have to eat every day. And many times we sign up for a plan, or buy a book or a membership so someone can teach us how to eat. And we commit to it. And the first time we are tempted by treats in the office, we feel guilty and it can derail us. "Diet" is hard to measure because there isn't an endpoint - you can't set a deadline and at the end say, "wow I met my goal, guess I'm done eating!" Instead, food and other behavior goals fall under the "every [frequency of opportunity] is a new chance to make the right choice" category! This is where a food plan like the 21 Day Fix is so helpful - every day you have a goal of getting all your containers in,  and you know that if you do that,  you're making healthy choices that fuel your body!

GOAL 1: Drink Shakeology daily
GOAL 2: Track containers in January - hit 100% containers 3 times per week. 
BONUS GOAL: If I achieve the 3 times per week in January,  increase goal to 4 times per week in February. If not,  February stays at 3.

It's okay to give yourself a break! You're living,  you have a life! The goals are to measure progress, not to make you feel guilty!

RESOLUTION: "I want to make more money" or "I want to get promoted"

This is a great resolution.  You may even be able to map out goals to achieve it.  The difficulty is that often the decision on the raise or promotion is up to someone else! You don't control it! But you do control your performance,  which contributes to your value as an employee.

GOAL 1:  Complete training certification by May 31.
GOAL 2:  Be independent of trainer by August 31.

RESOLUTION: "Personal growth"

Haven't you stated it just like this? I know I have! You know you want something inside yourself to change, or to express yourself in a new way. But it's scary to set a goal about something personal! Because if you don't achieve it,  then what? But this is where those big dreams come in. What do you want for yourself? Break that down into action steps for yourself. I like to think in seasons or quarters - 3 months is a good amount of time to make progress on something that could be a lifelong dream! Mine happens to be writing a book about my own recent "personal growth" - here's what the goals look like for this dream:

GOAL 1: By March 31 - create chapter outline
GOAL 2: By June 30 -  begin writing (remember, I'm doing a certification course in here, so I'm giving myself a little bit of a break)
GOAL 3: By September 30 -  finish first draft
GOAL 4: By December 31 -  revise first draft and share with trusted person for review

I have stitching and knitting goals as well, but I'll share those in another post. Here's to a fantastic 2016!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

7 Tips For Enjoying Holiday Food Without Quitting Your Goals

Hey everyone, I know it's the day before Thanksgiving, so if you're traveling you may have some trouble implementing these tips.  But they really work any time you are headed someplace and you aren't in control of the food!

First things first, I want to say that I LOVE Thanksgiving.  It is my favorite holiday, by far.  The only expectation is cooking tasty food, and eating it - there's no stress about shopping or finding "the perfect gift."  Just getting together and telling stories and making memories!

But for many of us who've struggled with food addiction, we have a hard time with a food-centric holiday.  If you're on a weight loss journey, you may feel like food holds you captive.  And that can make you dread food-related holidays and gatherings.  Or, even worse, give up on your goals completely during those times.

You don't have to be a slave to food!  A lot of these tips are about food, and what to eat, but the idea is to set you free from the mindset of "well, I can't have anything on the table, so I guess the food plan starts over January 2!"  No!  One meal does not have to derail you for an entire holiday season!  Try some of these ideas, let me know if they help you!

1.  If you're invited to someone's home, offer to bring a side dish that you cannot resist - then remake it to fit your plan.  Pinterest is your friend!  Try searching "21 Day Fix friendly" or "Whole 30" recipes - these terms will help you makeover almost anything.  Personally, I'm making mashed potatoes in my Crock-Pot (love this method- no draining!!!), and mixing them up with coconut oil and coconut milk to keep them dairy free.

2.  Snack!  Especially if you're travelling to your meal, pack on-plan snacks (I would do raw veggies and some hummus, or apple slices and almond butter).  Just watch portions, and time it so you're still ready to eat at meal time.

3.  Get your veggies in.  So many holiday meals are carb-heavy; try to fit in veggies in other ways.  The fiber will help keep you full so you don't overindulge at the main table, and on most plans you can eat as many veggies as you want without ruining your progress.  Watch out for veggies-that-are-actually-starches (corn, green beans, etc.) and extra sauces!

4.  Portion control is your friend.  So you're sitting at a beautiful table filled with all kinds of amazing goodness, and you really just want mashed potatoes and gravy (or maybe that's me).  You can have some!  Here are the guidelines:

  • Get the veggies first - green salad, raw veg platter, easy on anything with a sauce
  • Lean protein - white meat turkey is actually really good for you (just take the skin off - sorry).  A serving size is about the size of the palm of your hand.  Keep that in mind when counting how many servings of protein you had.
  • Fruit - if there's uncandied or not-sugared fruit, grab some.
  • Starches - mashed potatoes, stuffing/dressing, yams and sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, rolls - use the palm of your hand as a measure again.  Not literally, because that would be weird.  But as a general idea of appropriate serving size - try to stick to one potato-type and one bread-type.  Your plate should already be pretty full anyway!
  • Fats - gravy, dressings, etc. - For this, I suggest measuring with a teaspoon.  The idea is to get the flavor of the gravy without going overboard on fat.  Fats and salad dressings are the number one culprit for hidden calories - if you control it here, you will feel so much better about yourself when the meal is over!
  • Dessert - you have permission.  Enjoy one piece!

5.  Get out for a walk before or after dinner.  Collect some leaves or pine cones for a craft, see some new sights, make some new memories.

6.  Refuse leftovers.  This is more difficult if you're hosting.  I'm having visions of my children doing a Jack Sparrow impression: "But why is the gravy gone???"  But here's the deal - if you can't resist it or control portions in the days following the holiday, it's not worth keeping around.

7.  Remember that it's one meal on one day.  One meal does not have to throw you off for the entire day, weekend, trip, season....  You are more than the food you eat.  You get together with family and friends to make memories - so make some!  Let go of the guilt - it overshadows the time and takes away from your enjoyment of the actual day.

And whatever happens, you will get another chance to make healthy choices.  Even if you overindulge at Thanksgiving or Christmas, you can start over at the next opportunity.

I hope you have a safe and blessed holiday season. Happy Thanksgiving from my family to yours!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

My Weeks In Stitches

Hello everyone!  I've had a few crazy weeks with training for my job, end of school stuff and prepping for a business trip.  I'm actually typing this blog post from the airport on my way home!  I have a few photo updates for you, though!

This last weekend I started back on my socks.  I figured I should do some work on them before it officially hits 100 degrees in the Boise area!

And I've been doing a lot more cross stitch.  I finished the brown on the first set of Dorotheos.  As you can see, I decided to do a second shade of brown as the "stems" of the flowers.  I've been doing the variegated flowers on the plane this trip.

I also printed some coloring pages from Don't Eat The Paste - they were so fun to work on when we had a little down time during our trip!  If you need coloring pages for a trip, or just to help you unwind, I highly recommend her site!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Health Focus - Sometimes It Is About The Numbers

We've all heard weight loss experts encourage us by saying "when you're working out to lose weight, don't worry if your weight goes down slowly, you're building muscle, it isn't about the number on the scale."  This is true, and it's an important idea I hope everyone grasps.  When you're training to lose fat, your body weight can actually go up as your muscles get stronger.  This is normal, and healthy, and the way it's supposed to be - please don't severely restrict calories while you are strength training just because the scale isn't doing what you want.  Definitely pay more attention to inches than the scale.  Starving your hard working muscles is not the answer!

However.  There's something I want to say to you who are in the trenches with me.  I understand that the number on the scale DOES matter to you.  It matters to me, more than I'd like to admit.  The only time it didn't matter to me was when I gave up on my health, and even then it still had power to make me feel bad about myself.

Here's why it matters - for most people, it's the only way we've had to measure our health and our progress over our lifetime.  I'm going to bet that very few of us knew our waist circumference when we graduated from high school, let alone our bicep measurements.  We may have read an article in Cosmo about how to calculate BMI, to determine if we were "healthy."  Over the course of years, the one place we've gone to see "where we are" is the scale.

When I moved to Idaho, I weighed 195 pounds.  I don't know what my waist circumference or body fat percentage was.  Over the next almost 6 years, I gained nearly 30 pounds.  Those 30 pounds were not muscle.  When I started working out on my own, I was discouraged at how slowly the weight was coming off - even though I've read more and I know that muscle tissue is denser than fat, and it has to build up before it can increase my resting metabolic rate, and that eventually my strong muscles will take over the fat burning...... that number on the scale still mattered to me.

When I started the 21 Day Fix, I knew that I was already 13 pounds below my heaviest weight.  I knew that meant 17 pounds to my "move to Idaho" weight, which was about 30 pounds above my top weight for a healthy BMI.  For me, being able to watch those 17 pounds tick off on the scale was really exciting and encouraging.  Because I could see long term progress.  I started to see the drop in my measurements (I lost 11 inches on my first round of 21 Day Fix), I felt my clothes feeling looser, but now I had confirmation of a downward trend, and I knew that I was making progress with the help of proper nutrition and sustainable fitness.

So here's the bottom line - don't hang all your hopes on the scale.  Don't weigh yourself every day.  For some people, even once a week is too often.  If you're doing a set term program like the 21 Day Fix, weigh yourself at the beginning, the halfway point, and the end.  When you're strength training and building muscle, it will mess with your head to weigh yourself more often than that.

But (separate paragraph because I don't want you to miss it) DO use the scale as one of your many tracking tools.  It's like your tape measure.  It's like your BMI calculator.  It's like your perceived exertion, and that feeling that maybe you need heavier weights.  It helps to mark your progress; just don't let it be the sole indicator.  Set your milestones and realistic expectations for weight loss, and use all the tools in your bucket to see how close you are to reaching your goals!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

My Weeks In Stitches - A Finish!

Hooray, I finished the Easter sweater!  I'm really happy with it - it fits, it feels so soft, and it got lots of compliments at church LOL. People hugged me and stroked the fabric, then said, "Wow you made that?!?" followed pretty quickly by "You look amazing, by the way!"  It feels nice to have people notice my efforts!

So, sorry for the bathroom mirror selfie (laundry room, no less), but the kids were occupied when I wanted to take the pictures:

Finished twist-wrap sweater

Completed cardigan with a long front drape.

This is a little better look at the fabric and the front drape.  It can also be twisted and worn around the neck like a scarf with sleeves.  The sleeves fit perfectly, too.  I didn't have a single moment of tugging the shoulders forward.  This is awesome, because it's my first time doing sleeves this way - I've always done raglan, but these were set in.

I also did a little bit of cross stitching.  I pulled out Dorotheos (My Big Toe Designs).  This is the last progress picture I found in my gallery, so I'm pretty certain it's the last one I shared:
Work in progress of Dorotheos by My Big Toe Designs

At some point I finished the brown border of this motif, this is what I accomplished Thursday night:
Continued progress on Dorotheos by My Big Toe Designs

I'm out of the practice of taking pictures when I stop for the day.  But I did finish the blue flowers in this motif, and start the border of the next.  I'll have more to show next week!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

FitMomCreates - A New Adventure For Me

Hey everyone! I'm super excited to announce that I've become an independent Team Beachbody coach! I told you about a month and a half ago that I've been working out and following a clean eating plan. Through participating in a challenge group, losing about 25 pounds in 4 months (to make 30 pounds in a year!), and awesome conversations with my coach, it just really makes sense for me to take this step right now. I know so many women who feel stuck with their health and habits, and I can help them find a way to improve that!  Especially those of us with, umm, sedentary hobbies.

As part of taking that step, I'm consciously "re-branding" myself.  drea_dear is an online persona that I've used for years and years, but it doesn't necessarily communicate what I want to be about.  So you'll notice that the blog title has changed to FitMomCreates (the url is still the same though!)  I've also started a Facebook page called FitMomCreates, which really captures the things that are important to me, and lets you know what you can expect.  If you're on Facebook, I'd love to have you pop by and like my page (make sure you also check the box to Get Notifications and Add to Interests), and we can talk about crafty things and time management and stash hoarding and whatever else strikes my fancy!

Here's my promise to you - you come to this blog for stitching updates and project inspiration. I know that. I'm not going to change the format of my blog in any way, because honestly, fiber is still really important to me. I need my creative outlet now just as much as before. The only difference is that I have more energy for the things I love now! Oh, and when I make things  for myself,  I'm making them in smaller sizes.  I've always wanted to add more "clean eating" recipes to the blog, especially since discovering my lactose intolerance 3 years ago. So you will see more recipes and recipe reboots, and the occasional health focus post. But even with the re-branding and title change, I'm not going through a personality change, I promise! Still Drea, who loves shades of blue (especially teal and aqua right now), the sensation of thread or yarn between her fingers, and the excitement of starting something new.

Maybe you've never heard of Beachbody before, and you have no idea what I'm talking about? Here are my results after 3 rounds of a program called 21 Day Fix:

Real results from following the 21 Day Fix program

An easy-to-follow eating plan and beginner-friendly workouts combined with the accountability of a challenge group makes it easy to achieve results.  My results (so far!) are from February 9 through April 26 - about 2.5 months.  I've gone from wearing size 16 (tight! almost to 18!), XL and 1X to size L or 12/14.

Update: I am no longer a coach with Beachbody. But I'm still happy to answer questions about the 21 Day Fix, or point you in the direction of a coach if you need some additional motivation!  And you can still join me on my Facebook page for inspiration and support!

Independent Team Beachbody Coach

Monday, April 27, 2015

My Weeks In Stitches - The Easter Sweater Continues

When you are creating over 9 inches worth of stockinette, it can be hard to gauge your actual progress. The conversation in my head goes like, "This is going to be the  rest of my life, don't measure, you'll just get discouraged, okay now you can measure, holy cow only 1/2 inch left!" Yes, at the end of Friday night I only needed to knit 6 more rows on the front drape, then 4 shoulder-shaping rows, then a joining round, then 3 or 4 rows of ribbing (depending on how it looked and how tired I was) then I would be DONE.  With the body and ready to start the sleeves.

Saturday was a stay home and clean kind of day, and normally I would have the kids clean their rooms and hide in mine and knit. But this time I actually did something about the clutter I'd accumulated  (why do I keep so many plastic bags!)  I feel a little better about the state of my space - I cleared out my reading/writing/study corner again. It has to stay this way LOL  But I still managed to make progress and by Sunday afternoon I had finished the body and everything! Sunday night I started the sleeves!
knitting the sleeves for my cardigan

I really hope to wear this thing to church next Sunday - stay tuned!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Recipe Reboot - Ham and Bean Soup

Recipe Disclaimer: I'm not a chef or a nutritionist/dietitian.  I'm just a mom who loves the 21 Day Fix program, and I figure out container counts for some of my favorite foods and share them with all of you!

Ham and Bean Soup with 21 Day Fix Container Counts

One of my favorite comfort foods is ham and bean soup.  I love ham in general, it's a great way to feed your family for several meals when you're on a budget.  If you get a ham on the bone, one of your options for using up the leftovers is soup!  This soup is not traditional "diet" food (but what does that even mean on the 21 Day Fix??) - it's usually high in fat and sodium.  Canned soup uses a lot of starch, very little ham, and a lot of salt to make it taste ham-y.  All of that changes with what is about to follow!  It even passes the kid-test in my house - kids that usually don't like soup at all.

So you start with a bone-in ham.  When I made this soup and took pictures, it was a few days after Easter.  I had a large spiral-cut ham (the kind that comes with a packet of brown sugar glaze, a packet that promptly went in the garbage).  We had a delicious dinner on Easter, breakfast for dinner the night after, sandwiches... and soup!

The soup starts with soaking the beans overnight.  Or, if you're like me and forget to put beans in water overnight, it starts by covering beans with water, placing on the stove and bring them to a boil.  Let them boil for about 5 minutes, then turn the temp off, cover and let sit for an hour.  Drain, and set the beans aside.  Have your yellow container handy for later.

Now we get to the delicious smelling part  In the same pot, brown the ham-hock on all sides.  Butter is not allowed on the 21 Day Fix, but you do need a fat to brown the meat.  You want to avoid coconut oil for this, as the smoke point is too high.  You can use a small amount of olive oil (a tablespoon or less - when you divide into servings, the amount will be negligible).

Ham and Bean Soup with 21 Day Fix Container Counts

While the meat is browning, chop your veggies.  I start with the Holy Trinity of soups - onion, celery and carrot (one green box of each).  When the meat is fully browned, drop the chopped veggies in and allow them to soften.  If you're using frozen spinach, add it now.  Hold fresh greens until the end.  For the record, I love frozen chopped spinach for soups, and I always keep a box in my freezer in case I get the urge to soup something.

Ham and Bean Soup with 21 Day Fix Container Counts

When the carrots and celery are soft, add the water, seasoning, bay leaf and beans - measure them with your yellow box into the pot.  Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for an hour.

When the timer goes off, carefully remove the ham-hock from the pot and set it on a cutting board - let it cool before handling.  Check the beans to see if they are tender.  If they aren't, give them another 30 minutes of simmer time.  Mash them gently with a ricer.  When the ham is cool enough, chop it up (removing fatty parts) and measure it with your red container into the pot.

Stir in the meat, increase the heat slightly (add any fresh greens now if you want) and cook together for 15-20 more minutes.

To serve: ladle soup into your green box (per Autumn's instructions in the book).  When I measured my soup, I got 12 green boxes.  So all my calculations are done by dividing the total ingredients by 12.  I think that 2 green boxes makes a hearty soup for a main dish (see the top picture - 2 green boxes-worth in that bowl); if you're having it alongside a sandwich or salad, stick with one box. If you have 2, remember to double your container counts!

Annie was really mad that she didn't get any of this soup.  She thinks it's really unfair to have to smell ham cooking so many days and not get any.  Meanest dog-mom EVER.  Also, mean to call her over for a picture and not have a piece of ham ready.

This soup just gets better when it sits in the fridge (although if it will be more than 4 or 5 days, stick it into the freezer).  It also thickens as it stands, so add water if necessary to bring it to your preference.

Select and print this part:


Celery, chopped - 1 box
Onion, chopped - 1 box
Carrot, chopped - 1 box
Spinach (frozen chopped, or fresh) - 2 boxes worth

2 Cups white, navy or Great Northern beans - 8-9 boxes after soaking

Leftover ham-hock, browned and chopped - 12 boxes

4 cups water
1-2 tsp 21DF Multipurpose Seasoning
1 bay leaf

Prep: Overnight or 1 hour; Cook: About 2 hours

Soak beans overnight, or place beans in pot and bring to a boil; boil for 5 minutes, then turn the heat off.  Cover and let sit on burner for 1 hour.  Drain and set aside.

Brown ham-hock in 1 Tbsp olive oil.  When meat is browned on all sides, add chopped celery, onion and carrot and frozen spinach (if using fresh, hold until later).  When the veggies are soft, add water, seasoning and bay leaf.  Measure beans into pot.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour.

Remove ham-hocks and cool before handling.  If beans are not yet tender, allow to simmer for another 30 minutes.  When beans are tender, mash them slightly.  When ham is cool, chop the meat, remove fatty portions, and measure into pot.  Stir, increase heat slightly (add fresh greens if desired) and cook an additional 15-20 minutes.

Ladle soup into green box - each green box measurement gives you:
.5 green, .75 yellow, 1 red

Sunday, April 12, 2015

My Weeks In Stitches

Only one project to update this time - the Easter sweater.  I'll end the suspense right away - I didn't finish in time for Easter.  I found one in a really similar color on Amazon, which had a lacy pattern, and was on sale, and available for free Prime shipping.  It arrived the Thursday before Easter!  Shoulders properly covered - and I still plan to finish this sweater because:

Twist Pullover, the cover project from Knit.Wear Spring 2012
Look how cute!  And unique!  The long section in the front can be twisted around the neck like a scarf, too.

I had a hard time finding a pattern, until I had an e-mail from Interweave Press about magazines available for $1 - I ordered Spring and Fall 2012 of Knit.Wear (which both have beautiful patterns, and I'm really excited).  The downside was it took 10 days for the magazines to arrive.  So that left me with only 10 days before Easter.  I gave it a good go.  In 2 nights I got this far:

We had a brief power outage at work one day, and I thought maybe they would send us home, and I would get sooooo much done... and then the power came back on after about 30 minutes.  Oh well.  But that same night we had a craft night at church, so I managed to get about 4 hours of work in there:

It seemed like I got so much more accomplished that night than shows in this picture!  But at this point I'd finished the ribbing and started on the stockinette.  I worked really hard the whole next week, and managed to finish the seamless lower portion, then shape the back of the armholes and work the back up to the shoulder seam.  By the night before Easter, I'd attached a second ball of yarn and started shaping the front armholes.  But I was so happy for that back-up sweater!  It took all the stress off me, so hopefully I'll still love this one when it's done!  Here's the progress as of now - I'm working on the front drape:

Stay tuned, I will keep working on it and updating as I go!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

National Crochet Month 2015: A Guest Post from Michelle

This week, I'm so thrilled to bring you a guest post!  Michelle and I have "known" each other online since our first kids were born - we met in a parenting message board group that has stayed together, and I'm privileged to count her among my real friends, even though we've never met in person!  A couple of months ago, she began posting questions on Facebook for her "crochet friends" about a vintage afghan pattern she was trying.  As some of us looked at the pictures and googled and Pinterest-ed and questioned her sanity, she began to tell the story of why this afghan was so important to her.  Michelle is sharing with us how that story makes the struggle and the frustration (and the victory!) worth every minute - I love this story, and I hope it touches you, too.

Michelle has a blog and a Facebook page!  You can visit, like, and see more of what she's working on!

Calming.  Relaxing.  Satisfying.  Accomplishment. ......These are the words that come to mind when I think of crocheting.  I try and make sure I carve out time for myself on a regular basis to crochet - whether I'm making blankets, hats, scarves, baby booties, even cup cozies....whatever comes my way.  It is my wind-down at the end of a busy day.  It is my sanity saver.  It calms me.  It is something for "me" in a schedule busy with taxiing kids, planning lessons, and the day to day ins and outs of family life and raising 3 kids.  I enjoy the challenge as much as the finished product and the joy of sharing it with others.  However, recently I took on a project that I have found to be a challenge beyond any crochet challenges I've had before.  It has been trying, frustrating, and even aggravating at times.  So why, if crocheting is my way of relaxing, would I take this on and torture myself?  Isn't there enough stress in life already?  The answer is simple and complex all at the same time, and it is a story that comes from my childhood.

For me, this project is so much more than a pattern and some yarn.  It is sentimental, a connection to the past, and it is a work of heart.  You see, crocheting is a gift from my mom.  It is a piece of my childhood and the tangible remains of my memories.  I have many vivid memories of my mom sitting down in the evening working on a craft project of some sort.  I inherited her love for crafting - it was an innate part of growing up for me.  Among the countless, invaluable things a mother teaches her daughter, crafting wove its way into so many lessons..... patience, determination, giving... love.  There was so much to learn from her, but unfortunately time was not on our side.  At the age of rr, my mom was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of breast cancer.  Knowing each day was a gift, she made the most of every last one.  (I have so much I could say about how amazing this woman was, but that is a whole other post!)  During that time, she was always working on a project.  Throughout the last months of her life my mom went back to crocheting.  She said it helped her to keep her hands busy and it calmed her.  It was during those months that she taught me to crochet.  I completed my first project - a very basic afghan - during those months.  I treasured that time with her.  The conversations, the quiet, the company, the lessons, the memories - all of it a gift.  Crocheting was truly one of her last gifts to me and I have continued to crochet ever since.  When I became pregnant with my first child, I crocheted her baby blanket and made her Christmas stocking, as I did with each of my boys after that - just as my mom had done for my siblings and me.  Crocheting has been a connection to my mom that I cannot put into words.  It has also been a way for me to carry on a tradition that I grew up with - crafting items for my children and those I care about.  Giving from the heart.

So what does any of this have to do with a frustrating, aggravating afghan pattern that has caused me to say more than a few unlady-like words?  The afghan is a replica of one my mom made over 30 years ago.  Growing up, it sat on the back of our couch.  As a little girl I would curl up under it on a regular basis.  A little over a year ago my dad had taken it out and immediately I was flooded with memories.  At that moment I knew I had a mission.  I was determined to make what she once had made.  It took me awhile to track down the pattern.  Hers had long since disappeared.  When I finally found some tidbits of information about the pattern I learned it was no longer in print.  Still determined, the hunt continued and by chance I found a copy of it on eBay.  It was only recently I was finally able to start working on this afghan from my childhood.  The yarn had been chosen and I was ready.

Then I read the pattern and immediately I was intimidated and discouraged.  It was written a little differently than most other patterns I was used to.  There were terms I was unfamiliar with and not even a Google or YouTube search was very helpful at times!  I read, reread, searched, re-searched and even posted on Facebook for help (of which my husband was convinced I was speaking a foreign language!)  FINALLY I felt like I had the stitches figured out.  This pattern as 2 basic sections:
1) an aran pattern bordered on each side with a high ridge front stitch and knurl stitch.

... and 2) a basket weave pattern.

The last one was familiar territory - but almost every single thing about the first section was unfamiliar and a challenge.  The terminology and the description took many read throughs to be certain I understood what to do.  Then, once I thought I had the stitches and patterns figured out, working through it the first time had me second-guessing myself every step of the way.  A double chain?  Surely they must mean double crochet?  No?  Wait - what?  Could that REALLY be right?  Eventually it came together.  I learned to break it down to small familiar nuggets.  For example, the knurl really is a variation of the crab stitch.  The double chains are really a way to create a cable effect.  I began to understand the importance of how this pattern uses FLO and BLO to create a working design on the front and a smooth sc appearance on the back.  The puzzle was becoming clear piece by piece.

Now that I have finally completed the first run through of all the stitches and patterns, I feel more confident.  I also fee energized, and yes, even a little proud of myself.  I have a LONG way to go!  These two patterns will repeat several more times, but I already feel like I have conquered my own crochet version of Mt. Everrest by getting through this..... from tracking the pattern down to figuring out the unknown (mostly) on my own.  In retrospect, having worked through it, the patterns are relatively simple now.  But it certainly took more work and "research" than I would have thought, or even welcomed in most cases.  As I work on it now - finally finding some calm in this crazy pattern I am determined to get through - I feel this incredible connection to my mom.  I fell she is a part of me, that she is with me.  This afghan, when finished, will truly be a work of heart with memories and love woven in to each stitch.