Category: Everything Else

back to school, back to blogging

sailboat

The calendar tells me that there are still a few more weeks of summer, but when two big yellow buses pulled up to the driveway this week and whisked our two oldest children off to school, it felt like summer came to a halt and fall took over.

I thought I would blog a lot during the summer, but good ideas and good intentions don’t guarantee good blogging, do they? The past few months were full of projects, adventures, and activities to keep our family occupied and happy, and there were so many things I wanted to share on the blog, but I didn’t carve out any time to sit down and write. I didn’t even post all that much on Instagram, even though I took about a million pictures with my iPhone.

But last night I sat down and freshened up a few things here in my corner of the internet, and now I’m feeling ready to add new content to this space. I’m also working on creating project galleries to make it MUCH easier for visitors to discover older posts that are still just as good as the newer ones. I’ll be sure to let you know when they’re up and running.

During the summer, I unsubscribed from a bunch of blogs that no longer inspire me, and I’m looking for a few new ones to fill the gaps. Do you have any favorites you would recommend? (Maybe it’s yours — don’t be shy!)

P.S. to moms!  You still have a few days to log any books you’ve read for the Beyond Board Books summer reading program. We have two remaining prizes in the prize box, and one more weekly winner to be chosen. Maybe it will be you!

three things I’m looking forward to

It’s always fun to have something to look forward to, isn’t it? Here are three things I’m looking forward to right now.

#1: an open weekend that does not involve hosting a 40th birthday party, going to New York City, or spending the weekend in the mountains with a bunch of friends. The past three weekends have been absolutely great, but now I’m craving a regular weekend at home. Maybe I’ll even find time to sew up this stack of denim rectangles that is waiting patiently next to my sewing machine.

stack of denim rectangles

#2: the arrival of a shipment from Amazon. It’s not scheduled to arrive on my doorstep until Thursday, but I wouldn’t be upset if it showed up early… especially since a few of the items are for a big creative project that I’m getting ready for.

waiting for an Amazon shipment

#3: burning a homemade candle. I finally did something this evening that I’ve been wanting to do for a long time, and now three homemade soy wax candles are cooling on the counter. I think my process may need to be tweaked just a bit, but I can’t wait to tell you more about it.

making homemade candles in a crockpot

So those are three good things on the horizon in my life. What are you looking forward to? I’d love to know.

weekends

Heading into another weekend, I’m amazed at how different one weekend can be from the next. Last Friday I told you that I was anticipating a weekend that included a little sewing, a little reading, a little spray painting, and a little adventure.

OK, a big adventure. Last weekend’s epic adventure deserves a post of its own, but this is where we spent the day on Saturday.

Manhattan at night

The rest of the weekend was less exciting, but no less wonderful. I read, I hemmed a gingham tablecloth, I taught our Sunday School class, and I spent some quality time with my rotary cutter and a pile of old jeans.

Olive Kitteridge and a gingham tablecloth

The weekend ahead of us looks completely different — with the exception of Olive Kitteridge. I’m planning a whole pile of Minute to Win It games and can’t wait for s’mores and apple cider.

What are you looking forward to this weekend? Whatever you do, I hope it’s a good one.

this September weekend

It’s Friday evening. The pizza dough is rising, the sun is heading toward the horizon, and there are still two lingering items on today’s list of things to do. I probably won’t cross off both of them.

I’ve designated September 2012 as the month for finally doing things that I’ve been wanting to do “someday,” but progress has been slower than I hoped. However, I did host a pretty fun 40th birthday party last weekend, so at least I have a good excuse.

September 14: finally doing things

Now that the month is almost half over, I’m hoping this September weekend includes a little sewing, a little reading, a little spray painting, and a little adventure. Are you “finally” doing something this weekend that you’ve been wanting to do for a long time? I’d love to hear what you’re up to.

thirty somedays

September: the month of "finally" doing things

A few months ago, I decided to stop using the word “finally” whenever I could help it. I avoided using it in emails and blog posts, because writing the word “finally” always felt like a confession that I had procrastinated and was doing something too late. It may have been true, but calling attention to it only made me feel worse about having delayed it for so long.

Of course, there can be lots of good reasons for putting something off ’til later. It might even mean that I’m doing a good job of prioritizing the many things I could do! It’s impossible to do everything right away. Some things just have to sit on my “to do someday” list and wait patiently for their time to come.

But every day has the potential to be “someday,” and so my goal is to make September 2012 a month of “finally” doing things that I’ve been wanting/needing to do. I wrote up a list (of course!) and will be eager to see how many things I can “finally” do during September. I’ll be sure to tell you about the ones that are interesting, and I’ll update this post with a list as I go. I kicked off the month with a big one — I’m finally blogging at my own domain!

So here’s the list of things I’ve “finally” done in September:

  1. blog at my own domain
  2. sew a new ironing board cover
  3. show you our summer vacation journals
  4. print and frame photos from our vacation
  5. post some of those photos on Facebook
  6. hem a 9-ft. gingham tablecloth (exactly like the magenta one we used at our summer party)
  7. put a quote in the frame on the piano
  8. started working on a denim comforter
  9. made homemade candles

What have you been planning to do someday? Maybe this can be the month when you finally do that thing.

new digs

new blog announcement // rachelswartley.com

I’m so delighted to announce that my blog has moved to a lovely new home at www.rachelswartley.com! I’ve been working on designing it and getting it set up for the past month, and it feels really good to be up and running! I feel like I’m still unpacking a bit, and there are still things that I want to tweak, but I’m really excited to finally go ahead and host friends and visitors in this new space.

Now for a little housekeeping…

If you’re following along via Google Reader, be sure to subscribe to the new blog feed so you can keep up with all future posts.

If you’ve been receiving email notifications about new posts, you should soon receive an email asking you to confirm your subscription to the new blog. Updates will arrive daily via Feedburner.

If you arrived via a link to my old blog (r8chel.wordpress.com), you should have been seamlessly redirected to my new blog. However, if you have my old site listed in your blogroll, I’d love it if you could take a moment to update the link.

Lastly, if you see something that looks totally out of whack, please let me know. Nobody wants to walk around with broccoli in their teeth or toilet paper stuck to their shoe.

Thanks so much for following along as I create a life I love. I’m so glad you’re here!

finding our basil

Gardening with a five-year-old is fun.

Last evening Hayden helped me plant some hostas that we brought back with us from Maryland on Sunday. He wanted to use the “little shovel” (otherwise known as a trowel!) while I used the big shovel, but mostly he just had fun finding lots of worms.

Afterwards, while I was filling up the watering can so we could water the basil and tomato plants, he told me, “I’m gonna go see if there are any tomatoes or basil.” Oh man. I didn’t think basil was something we had to look and hope for! But to remove all doubt about whether there’s any basil, I’ve now added a little chalkboard garden stake that the kids gave me for Mother’s Day.

The basil is good, but I can’t wait until Hayden checks for tomatoes… and finds some!

perpetual calendar micro-journal

The beginning of a new year is a perfect time to start a new daily project, especially one that involves both a calendar and a journal. Over the holidays I spent some quality time with 366 index cards and a Sharpie pen to create this perpetual calendar micro-journal.

My perpetual calendar micro-journal was directly inspired by a very similar project I saw on Design*Sponge more than a year ago. At the top of each index card, I wrote the month and day, and then each day I write one line about something I did or thought that day. A year from now, it will be fun to look back and remember what I was thinking and doing a year earlier. By the time the cards are filled up, I will have recorded a decade of memories.

It’s tempting to wish I had significant things to write each day, but for now I’m really enjoying jotting down simple notes about everyday activities. It’s helping me to notice the small things, and I’m intrigued by the opportunity to record moments that would otherwise slip away and be forgotten.

While I certainly can’t capture much depth or detail, right now this micro-journal is a good format for me. It only takes a moment to jot down a memory before I crawl into bed each night.

What about you? Do you keep a daily journal or diary? Is it handwritten? Electronic? Do you leave it on your nightstand, or keep it under lock and key? I’d love to know.

five favorites of 2011

Happy New Year, friends. The beginning of a brand new year always feels so refreshing and invigorating, but before I turn my full attention to 2012, I’d like to look back at a few projects I shared with you during the past year. Out of 101 posts, these are my five favorites.

Without a doubt, my favorite creative project of 2011 was opening {rachel+paper}, my online paper goods shop. It’s so much fun to turn a dream into a lovely little reality.

{rachel+paper} fall 2011 preview

Visiting the American Girl Place in New York City in October inspired me to sew more doll clothing and accessories, and the flannel nightgown I made was my favorite sewing project of the year. The soft pink flannel with tiny stars was the perfect fabric for a little nightgown.

Something about these tiny packets of paper heart confetti made me really happy back in February. It might have had something to do with the fact that I gave them all away to unsuspecting friends when I was in Virginia for the weekend.

The birthday photoshoot with the large number 8 turned out even better than I hoped, and the birthday girl loved it as much as I did. Number 9 will need sparkles, I think.

My final favorite post of 2011 was actually a whole series of posts about Zippy, our Elf on the Shelf. The kids loved looking for him each morning, and I heard the most delightful giggles when they found him.

Thanks so much for joining me here during 2011. I can’t wait to see what 2012 will bring!

FREE shipping on Friday, December 16

Along with 2,000 other merchants, {rachel+paper} is participating in Free Shipping Day tomorrow — Friday, December 16. Just use the code FREESHIP2011 at checkout, and your order will ship for FREE!

This offer is limited to orders shipped within the United States.

 

handmade IZZE notepad winner

Yesterday I paid a little visit to random.org, plugged in my digits, and discovered that the winner of the handmade IZZE notepad is…

Congrats, Erica! I’ll contact you via email to get your mailing address. I hope you enjoy using the little notepad for your clinicals.

Also, I got all excited when I read Cathy’s comment that grapefruit IZZE reminds her of Ting, a delicious Jamaican grapefruit soda. The first time I tasted grapefruit IZZE, that’s exactly what I thought too!

ooh, shiny!

I’ve had an extra burst of creativity over the past few days, so I’ve been having fun making all kinds of things. Tonight’s accidental theme: SHINY!

First this:

Then this:

What about you? Did you make anything today?

fishing for a necklace

You’ll never read about this in Field and Stream, but here’s how I acquired my newest necklace… in five easy steps.

1. Find a blank wall. (I recommend the one inside your bathroom linen closet, if you’re lucky enough to have one.)

2. Hang some jewelry hooks. (This is just a plain set of hooks from Target, but if you want to catch a necklace, you should probably call them jewelry hooks.)

3. Put out a few necklaces as bait. (I used some of my favorites, but others would probably work just as well.)

4. Hang up all of your necklaces. (Even the ones you don’t like and never wear!)

4.1 Gotothestoreandbuyanewnecklacewithagiftcardyougotlastyear.

5. And… look at that! I caught a new necklace on my jewelry hook!

Here’s a closeup shot of the necklace I caught. {I mean, bought.}

And here’s the go-outside-and-hold-the-camera-at-arm’s-length self-portrait.

It feels really nice to have a place to hang my necklaces again, since my jewelry hooks at the house I sold last summer were part of a built-in cabinet. And of course it’s fun to have a new necklace.

I never feel like I have enough necklaces, or the right one to go with a certain outfit, but I have a hard time finding necklaces I like for a reasonable price. What about you? What’s your favorite necklace you own? And where is your favorite place to buy necklaces?

a little bar stool makeover

Once upon a time, I bought a bar stool. I was a teenage college student, and I guess I wanted to provide some additional seating for friends who stopped by my dorm room. The dark green metal looked fine in the mid ’90s, but it’s not exactly a trendy color these days, so I haven’t used the stool in many years.

Last fall, I decided to spray paint it white, but after the first coat, it just didn’t seem right, so I set the project aside for a while. Today I grabbed a can of fast-drying metallic spray paint from the garage, turned the bar stool a nice silvery aluminum color, and completed my little bar stool makeover.

I’m still not sure where it will end up in our home, but at least now it’s a viable candidate for a plant stand in some out-of-the-way corner.

the great closet purge of 2011

This afternoon I stuffed 50 articles of clothing from my closet into bags and hauled them off to the local thrift store.

It felt really, really good.

I got rid of anything that I no longer wear because it is old, outdated, not my style, or too big. In addition to these two stacks of clothes, I set aside a number of pairs of jeans that are also too big. Most of them are still nice enough that I could have donated them too, but I’m planning to make a denim comforter out of them. I’m still deciding on a design for the comforter, but I’m pretty sure I’ll need more jeans for the project, so if you have any you’re wanting to get rid of, I’d be glad to take them.

Have any of you ever sewn a denim comforter? Is there anything you learned while making it that you wish you would have known before you started?

30 miles

A week ago, I was beginning to doubt that I would meet my goal of running 30 miles during the month of May, since I still had 15.6 miles to go. But I pushed myself during the days since then, and this morning I ran the final 2.75 miles to reach my goal.

I had already run 3.5 miles before I started using the Nike+GPS app on my iPhone, but if you add those miles to the 26.51 miles tracked by the app, I’m at 30 miles.

As you can see, I’m not very fast, but my only goal was distance, not speed. However, I ran my fastest mile on this past Friday, so I guess I’m gradually picking up the pace. Regardless, it feels good to have reached my goal — and with a day to spare!

sabotaged but stubborn

Last week’s rainy weather tried hard to sabotage my goal of running 30 miles in the month of May. By Monday the 16th, I had run a total of 13.1 miles, which means I was already behind schedule. In the eight days since then, I’ve managed to run only twice.

I realized this morning that I only had eight more days to run 15.6 miles. Uh-oh. I briefly considered giving up on my goal and blaming the weather, but fortunately my stubborn streak kicked in and I knocked out 3.25 miles this morning… which is farther than I have ever run. In. My. Life.

Rachel: 1
Thunderstorms: 0

half marathon

Last fall, I did the nine week Couch to 5K running program. I wrote about it before I started, I wrote about the iPhone app I used, I wrote about it during the final week, and I wrote about it when I had reached my goal.

And then I didn’t run again for five months.

I continued to exercise, but I didn’t do any running… until Friday, April 15, when I suddenly decided to run again. I ran three more times that month, and when May 1 rolled around, I set a goal of running a total of 30 miles during the month of May. As of today, I’ve run the equivalent of a half marathon — 13.1 miles spread out over half a month. I’ve “only” been running about a mile or a mile and a half at a time, but that’s enough for me for now.

Back when I was doing the Couch to 5K training program and posting my progress updates on Facebook three times a week, several people saw those updates and were inspired to start running themselves. So if any of you are thinking of running, maybe this little post will be just the inspiration you need to lace up those running shoes and get started. If so, good luck — and I’d love to hear how it goes!

Helvetica

I just spent the past 80 minutes listening to a bunch of men with European accents talk about fonts. Sounds exciting, right?

The documentary film “Helvetica” was released in 2007, and it really is a movie about a font.

[image source]

The film tells the life story of the typeface Helvetica, and shows many, many instances of the font in contemporary culture. Target, Crate & Barrel, Greyhound, JCPenney, AmericanAirlines, 3M, and Jeep all feature the font prominently. Helvetica appears on New York City subway signage, IRS tax forms, and the space shuttle. It’s everywhere. The film is also full of interviews of designers (lots of men, and just two women), some of whom think Helvetica is brilliant (modernists), and others who think Helvetica is basically boring and overused (postmodernists).

I happen to love Helvetica. It’s sleek, clean, legible, confident, and classic. Do I think everything should be written in Helvetica? Of course not. But I’m a bit of a font snob, which means I think Helvetica should be used more and Comic Sans should be used never.

Speaking of which, on April Fools Day this year, if you googled the word “Helvetica,” the entire results page was in Comic Sans. I love Google’s sense of humor.

thankful but unoriginal

My blog host, WordPress, makes it possible for me to see what search terms people use to find my blog. Yesterday 28 people visited my blog because they apparently weren’t feeling creative enough to come up with an original Thanksgiving-related status update for Facebook. Although it makes no mention of Thanksgiving, my post from a couple years ago about fun facebook status sequences was on the second page of results when googling “thanksgiving facebook status.”

Here are the search terms on that theme that people used to find my blog yesterday:

thanksgiving facebook status – 9
facebook thanksgiving status – 4
thanksgiving facebook statuses – 2
thanksgiving status facebook – 1
thanksgiving facebook status about indians – 1
thanksgiving statues for facebook – 1
profound thanksgiving facebook statuses – 1
facebook status about thanksgiving – 1
thanksgiving facebook status type – 1
thanksgiving military facebook status – 1
unique thanksgiving status for facebook – 1
nice thanksgiving statues for facebook – 1
http://www.thanksgiving statuses on facebook.com/ – 1
unique thanksgiving words for a status update – 1
snarky thanksgiving facebook status – 1
thanksgiving statuses for facebook – 1

For those of you who clicked through to my blog via these searches, I’m sorry you didn’t find a blog post full of Thanksgiving facebook statuses. Or statues.

the evil birthday card

When I left the house to run some errands this morning, my shopping list for Target included such essential items as toilet paper, mouse traps (unfortunately!), and a birthday card for my nephew who’s turning six. However, before I got to Target, my phone rang and my plans came to a screeching halt. I decided that I could wait until next week to pick up most of the items on my list, but the phone call meant that I could go ahead and scratch “birthday card” off my shopping list. Instead, I’d be making a card at home while tending to my sick daughter.

I wasn’t feeling very creative this afternoon, so I thought I’d just make a card that featured the age that Neil is turning — six. I decided to do a cut-out of the number six, but that seemed a little boring, so I somehow came up with the idea of making an accordion card.

Like this:


[source]

I imagined a whole row of number sixes unfolding in front of Neil when he opened the card. Fun, right? But wait. I didn’t have any paper that was big enough. Should I tape/glue some paper together? For some reason I didn’t want to go that route, so I decided to scale back my idea to just five digits. I sketched a number six and cut out a template. I soon realized that unless I wanted the card to be miniscule, I’d have to scale it back to just three digits, meaning it was really just going to be a Z-fold card. Lame. I laid my template onto the cardstock and traced around it, then flipped it over and traced around it again, making sure to overlap it just a little with each previous tracing so that I could fold it.

When I looked at the pencil tracing marks on the cardstock, I was horrified. There was no way I could send my nephew a birthday card that said 666.

As you can see, I went ahead and cut it out as planned, but as soon as I took a picture, I lopped off one of the sixes with my x-acto knife.

Boring is good.

the final day of Couch-to-5K

A couple months ago, I would have assumed that any woman who would run 3.1 miles on a chilly Saturday morning in November would be doing it because she enjoyed running.

But now, I know better — because this morning I was that woman, and I was not enjoying it.

For 30 minutes, I ran laps at the park to fulfill a commitment I made to myself nine weeks ago. For 30 minutes, I pounded the pavement to prove to myself that I’m capable of running a 5K. For 30 minutes, I looked forward to the moment when I could say…

I DID IT!

I loved the feeling of elation when I was finished, even though I had already run 5K in 30 minutes yesterday. Now I just need to sign up for an actual 5K event… and then run.

crossing the elusive finish line

I’ve been looking forward to this week for the past two months, and now that it’s here (and almost over, actually), I’ve found it to be rather anti-climactic.

Running a 5K is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, and a couple months ago, I decided that it was time to start training. Since then, I’ve been diligently following the Couch to 5K Running Plan, and I’m now in the ninth and final week. Only one more workout to go!

You’d think I’d be excited — and I am. But it’s also very anticlimactic. Here’s why. The running program is set up so that each week’s three workouts are the same, so instead of reaching my goal on the very last day of the running plan, I was already there on Week 9 Day 1.

Well, sort of.

On Wednesday, I ran for 30 minutes, which is the overall goal according to the iPhone app I’ve been using. However, according to the official running plan, I’m supposed to be running 5K, not just however far I can run in 30 minutes. The official plan does indicate approximately how long that should take, since they know some people will run for time and some for distance during their training. I’ve been using an iPhone app that gives me only time prompts and doesn’t track distance, so I haven’t focused much on speed. During each of my workouts, as long as I ran for the correct amount of time, it didn’t matter how fast I was running.

Running doesn’t come easily to me, so I haven’t been pushing myself on my speed very much. So on Wednesday, I ran 30 minutes, which was the goal. However, it was somewhat of a letdown, because (a) I wasn’t running far enough yet, and (b) I still had two more days to go. So while I had technically achieved my goal, it wasn’t exactly the right goal to be striving for.

Today was a lot more exciting — I ran for 30 minutes, and I’m pretty sure I ran about 3.1 miles. But it was STILL anti-climactic because I’m STILL not finished with the training program. I know, I could quit right now, but I only have one official workout left, so I’m obviously going to see this through to the end. Besides, I don’t plan to suddenly stop running as soon as I finish the training program. After all, even if I run 3.1 miles tomorrow, I haven’t run in a 5K event yet, and I need to stay in shape for that (and hopefully improve my speed in the process).

I don’t expect to run in a 5K event until next spring, so I’m going to have to keep training over the winter. Good thing we have a treadmill downstairs!

Meanwhile, there’s still one more official 30-minute run standing between me and a significant sense of accomplishment.

Bring it.

virtual vanity plate collection

Back when I lived in Virginia, I loved keeping my eyes peeled for creative vanity plates. I still do, of course, but there just don’t seem to be as many personalized license plates here in Pennsylvania. This evening I did some googling and found a couple articles that confirmed that my perceptions are accurate. According to this article from 2007, Virginia is the state with the highest percentage of “vanitized” vehicles, at just over 16 percent. (Pennsylvania wasn’t even in the top ten.) Another article indicated that 10 percent of all the vanity plates in the U.S. are in Virginia, and speculated on some of the reasons for that.

A number of years ago, I started keeping a list of some of the most creative vanity plates I had seen, and the list is up to 59 by now. Of course, the more plates I see, the more I realize that some of the earlier plates on my list weren’t as creative as I thought they were. My actual favorites list would be much shorter than that.

Over time, I’ve discovered that my favorite types of plates are ones that abbreviate a phrase that is surprisingly lengthy (PCNQUI8, CYAWL8R, G7XGG3X), or that are especially clever (SHISHKA), or that form a group (SOXWON, 2004SOX, 2007SOX all in the same driveway).

However, about a year ago, I decided that I needed to take my virtual vanity plate collection to a whole new level. Since finding interesting vanity plates was fairly easy, I thought photographing the best ones would present much more of a challenge. And it has. In the past year, I’ve collected just seven. I’m not finished taking pictures, of course, but I thought I’d go ahead and post the ones I have.

This is either the coolest post ever or the dorkiest post ever — I’m not quite sure. But here it is: my virtual vanity plate collection.

PHOTOGRAPHER’S NOTE: I don’t recommend taking photos while driving. For the record, most of these were taken at stoplights, but I have to admit that a couple were taken on the highway.

this is what I’m talking about

One morning last week, a small miracle happened and both kids were totally ready for the day a whopping 15 minutes before Magen’s bus was scheduled to arrive. They wanted to go ahead and wait for the bus outside, so I grabbed my camera and Magen’s camera and we headed down the driveway. As we walked, both kids snapped photos of whatever they saw — tree stumps, decaying leaves, and my butt. Yeah. I was walking in front of Hayden, and he told me that he had taken a picture or two of my back, but I didn’t look at the pictures until last night. There were FIVE that featured my backside. Yikes.

Hayden took 41 photos outside and another 18 inside the car on the way to preschool. There would have been more, but I had him turn off the camera for a while. When I scrolled through the photos last night, I found one that perfectly captured some of the clutter that was strewn around the backseat prior to my cleanup efforts.

I love you, Hayden, even if you do leave half-eaten Ritz crackers in the car.

2 sneakers, 30 minutes, and 1 iPhone app

Three weeks ago, I wasn’t running at all, and this morning I ran a total of 16 minutes.

Nobody could be more surprised than I am. I’m not a runner, nor do I gravitate towards activities that are hard, unpleasant, and totally optional. But three weeks ago, my spirit of determination and perseverance kicked into overdrive, and I now find myself in Week 4 of the Couch to 5K running program.

It’s hard, but I’m doing it. During each of my workouts, my legs get tired and I feel a bit winded, but when the workout is over, I feel more or less invincible.

Which isn’t a bad deal.

Three days a week I put on my sneakers, strap my iPhone to my arm, and head outside for another Couch to 5K workout. So far, each 30-minute workout involves a 5-minute warm-up walk, followed by alternating periods of running and walking, and then a 5-minute cool-down walk. (You can see the full nine-week plan over HERE.) Today was Day 1 of Week 4, which means I’m now running 5 minutes at a time, up from last week’s maximum of 3 minutes at a time.

I’m sure I wouldn’t be running at all if it weren’t for a little $2.99 iPhone app. The C25K app makes it possible for me to do the Couch to 5K running program without looking at my watch every 5 seconds to see if it’s time to stop running yet. Because seriously, that’s what I’d be doing. Instead, a nice man inside my phone tells me when to switch between jogging and walking.

The whole experience goes something like this. (Images are from a workout I did last week.)

I fire up the app and find that it already knows what I’m supposed to be doing today. I press the GO button.

I then slide the “Start” button and begin walking.

During the workout, whenever it’s time to switch between running and walking, I hear a series of three dings, and then the man inside my phone says, “Run.” Not a happy, enthusiastic “Run!” Just a very plain “Run.” Meanwhile the screen tells me how long each walking or running segment is, and how many there are. Oh, and halfway through the workout, there’s a shimmery magic wand sound, followed by four beautiful words: “You are halfway done.”

When I finish the workout, the man inside my phone simply says, “Workout complete.” There is no cheering or applause.

See that little blue Facebook icon up there? Every time I finish another workout, I click that icon and tell my 550 Facebook friends how my run went. I’ve posted 10 updates so far, and I think I’ve gotten a comment on every single one. People are so encouraging! And interestingly, the comments tend to come from people who are far more athletic than I am — avid cyclists, people who run marathons or half marathons, etc.

Next I take a moment to make some notes in the app about how I felt and what the weather and the terrain were like. I also type in a few notes about how the run went — usually much more detailed than what I post on Facebook.

Finally I hit the blue SAVE button, and then press a little black “Done” button. And because I’m still surprised that I’m doing this, I always click over to my Workout History screen, just to prove to myself that this is really happening. It is.

So there you have it. Oh, and while all this is going on, I’m either listening to music or to an episode of This American Life.

I’m only in Week 4, which means I haven’t run a 5K yet, but buying this app was the single most important thing I could have done to make this goal a reality.

my thoughts on cardboard

two months of being wrong

If you’re a new reader of this blog and don’t know me personally, you might wonder why the things I write about bear very little resemblance to the self-description on my “About Me” page.

SHORT STORY: It was accurate until July. Then everything changed.

SLIGHTLY LONGER STORY: Up until July, I was living in Virginia, where I worked as the Assistant Registrar at a university that happens to be my alma mater. I lived downtown in a cute house that I bought in 2003. Then, in the span of a few weeks, I sold my house (which had been under contract since March), quit my job, moved to Pennsylvania, married an amazing man, became a stepmom to two wonderful kids, changed my last name, and began adjusting to a new community. Whew!

Today marks two months since I married Mr. Right, which means my “About Me” page has been wrong for, oh, two months.

And I like being right.

So I just overhauled my old “About Me” page…

… and made it a lot more accurate. Check it out. And have a great weekend!

Couch to 5K: still on the couch

I’ve been wanting to be able to run a 5K for a long time. I don’t know why exactly — it’s just one of those things that I feel like I should be able to do. I’m young, I’m healthy, and I’m totally not fit enough to run a 5K. I don’t know how far I could run if I put on my sneakers this morning and just started running, but there’s no way it would be 3.1 miles.

After I achieved my little fitness goal last week, I starting thinking about what my next fitness goal should be. Now, before you mistake me for some kind of athlete or fitness fanatic, let me just say that fitness and exercise goals are a brand new thing for me. I think the first time I set a tangible fitness goal was back in April, when I participated in a challenge to walk an average of 10,000 steps a day for one week. My most typical exercise “routine” is to walk four miles in one hour, but I’ve been so out of my routine during the past six months (and especially the past two months) that I set a mini fitness goal a few weeks ago just to get myself back on track a bit. But now that I’ve met that goal, I needed a new goal to keep myself motivated.

Enter Couch to 5K.

Couch to 5K is a running plan designed to enable couch potatoes to work up to running a 5K in just nine weeks. I’m not exactly a couch potato, but I’m also definitely not a runner, so I like the idea of working up to it gradually by alternating walking and jogging. I’ve been familiar with the Couch to 5K program for years, but I’ve always decided against it because it seemed too complicated. For example, for three days during the first week, you’re supposed to alternate 60 seconds of jogging and 90 seconds of walking for 20 minutes. I’m sure I’d spend most of the 20 minutes looking at my watch, instead of using the time to just clear my head.

However, I discovered last week that there are several applications available for the iPhone that would provide audible prompts for persons doing the Couch to 5K program, telling them when to stop running and start walking or vice versa. I never listen to music while I exercise, but as long as you’re using iOS4 (the newest operating system for the iPhone which allows multitasking), you can also listen to music while the Couch to 5K app runs in the background and provides occasional prompts. I just upgraded last week, so I’m set.

There are at least three Couch to 5K apps for the iPhone, and I’m close to making a decision about which one I want to use. And during the past few days, I’ve finally been working at importing my CDs into iTunes (I’ve been a little busy since iJoined the iWorld back in March), so the verbal prompts won’t be the only things I’m listening to as I exercise. Oh, and Tim and I stopped in at Five Below on the way home from a get-together with friends on Saturday to buy a five-dollar elastic/velcro arm band with a special iPhone case. I know, it seems like a store with cheap junk that appeals to teenagers, but they also sell a lot of inexpensive iPhone cases.

Now that I’ve written this, I don’t even want to post it, because once I go “public” with my decision to run a 5K, I actually have to do it. And it’s going to be hard. And I’m probably going to want to give up. Every day.

But I’m going to do it!

the good thing about dirty socks

I know I haven’t been exercising enough when I do a load of white laundry that contains exactly zero Hanes Her Way athletic socks. That realization hit me a few weeks ago when I was folding laundry, and I decided on the spot that I needed to get off my butt and start getting more exercise again.

I’ve been working on mastering the art and skill of setting goals (and achieving them!), so I decided to set an exercise goal that was specific, measurable, and realistic. My goal was quite simple and straightforward: Get 30 minutes of exercise 3 times a week for the next 3 weeks (August 21-September 4). It wasn’t a lofty goal by any means, but I wanted to set myself up for success.

Today is Thursday of the third week, so the end of the three weeks is still a couple days away, but I’m pleased to announce that I have already met my little goal. Usually I walked on the streets near our house, but once I walked laps at the park, and another time I walked on the treadmill in the basement after the kids went to bed. (Don’t feel sorry for me — I watched TV while I walked.) Every time I finished my 30 minutes of walking, I would track my progress on my Projects page. I’d be surprised if anyone even knew I was doing this, but it was a good way to keep myself accountable.

So now that I’ve achieved my three-week exercise goal, I should probably set a new fitness goal to keep myself on track. I’m already kicking around a few ideas in my head, so stay tuned for a post about what these sneakers will be up to next!