blk: (braids)
This week, having finished projects, costumes, college application, and the time of daylight saving, I briefly reached a point of feeling Caught Up On Life. It was glorious. Ways I used up my fleeting free time included:

- braiding my hair! I've been craving yarn braids for several months now, but I wanted to wait until after the super sweaty season and also until I had a full day or two to spare, as although I've gotten the process fairly efficient through practice, it was still about 8-9 hours of work. But I love having them, it's so much fun. I have so much hair! Well, "hair." I used the variegated color "Artist Print" and I like how the colors look. I suppose it's more spring than autumn, but oh well. I did have the very odd experience of going into work with it newly braided and getting zero reactions on it. None. No comments, no raised eyebrows, no nods of acknowledgement that something was different, nothing. I guess I have enough of a reputation of doing weird hair stuff that nobody thinks it's anything out of the ordinary now?

- biking! Beyond my enjoyable expanded daily commute, I also went on my first Weekend Hills ride since, oh, sometime last year when I almost swore off it forever because I was so frustrated. Specifically, since before I made some big diet improvements, so this was a reasonable comparison. Biiiiig difference. I could actually mostly keep up with the group, which meant it was finally the socially enjoyable experience I kept hoping for instead of just an exercise in managing anxiety (along with being a tiring workout). I also ran errands on bike yesterday, which made it really easy to stop by a bike shop and see if the techs could figure out an annoying tinking noise that just started (probably bad wheel bearings. grn).

- cooking! My officemate gifted me with a few frozen deer shoulders that he didn't want, so I put in my first attempt at making venison stew. Turned out very nice, got compliments from guests, leftovers are still tasty. Will make again.

- yardwork! In the last few weekends I've managed to collect 10 bags worth of (mostly) dead leaves. The city yard waste pickup is next Saturday, and thanks to the end of DST no more after work yardwork is happening so I'm considering myself done. Of course next week when the other half of the leaves fall everything will be covered again, but maybe slightly less so. And I can put the family to work clearing off more in a few weeks.

- reading! I've started a habit that whenever I see someone whose opinions I respect recommend a book, I check the library to see if it's available in ebook format, then check it out (or put myself on the hold list). Eventually I read it. This year, I've finished Lilith's Brood (trilogy) by Octavia Butler, The Inheritance (trilogy) by N. K. Jemisin, Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, and am currently working on Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie. (I also reread the three main B5 trilogies, just because.) I thoroughly enjoyed all of the above. I have another dozen books in my queue, which should keep me busy for quite a while (since I sometimes go for weeks without picking up my book). I plan to get to several over the next few months of darkness.


My week of peace and quiet ended tonight when younger kid showed me an infected abscess on his leg, so I elected to have it seen at the just-opened, conveniently-located emergency clinic down the road. Sigh. Seems like it should be fine in a few days, at least. And the front counter staff person had a nice sense of humor and agreed that I could sell them my kid in lieu of payment for services.

Then for the next couple weeks I get to bear down and attempt to do some serious house cleaning and meal planning in preparation for at invasion of thanksgiving week turkeys, ah, I mean visitors, as well as replace our apparently missing car registration. But first, a bit more reading.
blk: (fall)

It's definitely fall. Leaves are turning, rain is more frequent, temperatures are dropping, days are dimming, college applications are starting to be due.

I'm extremely happy to be finished with the Sidewalk Project; I have plenty of other things to spend my time on.  I did the first apple sweep in a long time, after ignoring them for about a month, and got another 10 lbs to turn into sauce.  I'm pretty sure this is the latest in the season I've gottten good apples.  I'm starting to fill leaf bags in preparation for the almost useless single fall yard waste pickup. I may as well get what I can out there.   After the sun sets, I've been reading, prepping my halloween (and later, arisia) costume(s), helping out the kid with his first college application, and trying to use up my farm share.

My foot, which got irritated (probably re-fractured) by the Great Race, has been hurting minorly all month, despite me not doing any running at all.  I suspect that the work of digging and walking around uneven ground of the Sidewalk Project stressed it out and delayed healing, as since I've been done with that, it's been finally starting to feel better.  Which is good, because I really miss running.  I also miss not wanting to kill people.  I don't really have a good substitute for a long slow run.  Although I have been biking a little more, as my new peaceful route into work is a little longer and hillier.  So my legs are still getting some workout at least.

Unfortunately, my legs are also annoying me, mostly at night, with a frustrating indescribable soreness that makes me wiggle and need to stretch out.  I.e., Restless Leg Syndrome, I'm pretty sure.  I've had periods of it off and on all my life, but it hasn't been major enough to be  a problem, or interrupt my sleep, until recently.  I'm currently loosely experimenting with some variables, such as making sure I eat well, take a multivit, less alcohol, more hydration before bed, etc, but  not having much luck finding definitive correlations yet.  It doesn't seem to be genetic for me, and I haven't ruled out low iron, although I haven't had other symptoms of that in many years.  Normally I would go run more to wear myself (and my legs) out more, but, well, still waiting for the foot to finish healing.  I suppose a doctor visit will happen if this doesn't resolve soon. 

Starting real soon now I'll be working to prep the house for omg thanksgiving visitors.  Goal is to (finally) get my bedroom into something more liveable.  Wish me luck.

blk: (feet)
[livejournal.com profile] xuth and I went hiking in Laurel Hill State Park last weekend and it was fun. Cold, but fun.

Before the trip, I looked into possible things I could do to make my feet less sore when I hike, since basically the bottoms of my feet seem like they are always the limiting factor on how far I want to walk, even when I'm wearing supposedly decent shoes. They usually start getting sore within a few miles, although I can ignore it and go much further when I want to. Teh googles suggested different insoles for my shoes. Having never (ok maybe once) bought separate insoles, I decided I wanted advice, so I took advantage of a friend's trip to REI to visit the footware dept and see what they suggested.

The first associate put me in some high arch (green) Superfeet and had me walk around for a bit. I came back to report that it felt fine, but not a lot of difference, and being a newb, I wasn't really sure what I should be looking for. Another associate had me stand up just on an insole and reported "Well that's why you can't feel much. The arch of the insole isn't even close to touching the arch of your foot." Oh. Huh. So then he had me try the high arch Sof Sole and OH HEY there was something actually touching my entire foot. Weird. I walked around in some borrowed Keen hiking shoes for a bit and nothing felt uncomfortable, so decided to give them a shot.

I've figured for a while that I have a slightly-higher-than-average foot arch, although mostly just from looking at my footprints. But I've never noticed any negative side effects that come with that. I mean, sure I get sore from standing for like 20 minutes, but doesn't everybody? Slowly walking around museums is torturous, but that's probably just because I have no art appreciation ability. I always wear my sandals on the loosest setting, but I don't recall any not fitting. My multiple metatarsal stress fractures are probably just because I trained poorly. And my knee problems and lower back pain were already determined to be more likely related to my hip flexors. So, um, no, no issues at all. Hrm.

OK fine, I'll try out this ridiculously high arched insole. The first day I wore it to go walk around for a few miles running errands with some new (Keen) hiking shoes. I ended up with very mild strain on the outside of my ankles, which google said was normal. I rested a day, then took two days to wear them in my casual shoes (also Keens) around work and school, with no discomfort. Finally we went on our trip. The first day was expected to be wet and muddy so I put them in my mud/camping boots (still Keen; there's a trend here) and instantly the boots felt like they were hugging my feet affectionately, moreso than ever before. Hiking was good. By the homestretch my feet were still pretty sore, which was a little disappointing, until I got back and did measurements and realized we'd gone 8+ miles, which I'm pretty sure is an improvement. And the soreness went away immediately upon stopping, and my knees were mostly fine, despite a fair amount of downhill, and the next day everything felt fine. The next day we went another 4ish miles, this time in my hiking shoes, and I had no soreness at all.

Well that's pretty cool. Of course, now I'm wondering how much of the annoying pain in the rest of my life could have been fixed with something small like this. How many pairs of awesome boots did I give away because they weren't comfortable (I figured they just weren't broken in properly)? How many day outings did I not enjoy because I was just thinking about where I could sit down next? If this is really an answer, I want to keep it. I went ahead and ordered a different pair to try out and compare, and I'm thinking I will probably also see about putting something in my running shoes.

Oh, and here's a picture of the Jones Mill Run Dam.
dam )
blk: (fall)
the leaves fall like snow
wind knocks clumps from the tree's eaves
frozen curls drop

the snow falls like leaves
fluffy powder gently blown
dancing circles down

red orange peeks through white
yellow flurries drift to earth
in colored snow-fall


We had a very rare early snowfall last night, with light, fluffy accumulation on everything, up to a couple inches in places. Usually Pittsburgh doesn't get measurable snow that actually sticks around until actual winter. It was very fun and interesting to bike in this morning and see everything covered in white - while most trees still had many of their fall foliage.
blk: (house)
After a rather large amount of rain a couple months ago, my neighbor's retaining wall that keeps his yard from sliding into my yard finally crumbled and fell down. This was bad, as it meant the annoying business of replacing it needed to happen on a more immediate timeframe. On the other hand, it was good, because that damn wall had been leaning and slowly crumbling ever since I moved in 5+ years ago, and this past summer it had cracked so much we deemed it too unstable for small children to play near. (You can see the lean in the small part still standing in this picture.)

As a result, for about October there was a bunch of minor construction from my yard, and at the end of the month they finally finished. It's a lovely new wall! The crew even did a reasonable job of cleaning up my yard, although there are a lot of dead spots where things were piled, which I expected. Unfortunately the stubborn fennel is NOT one of the things that died. Oh well.

In the course of all this digging, the construction crew finished up with a small pile of extra topsoil, which, as a result of some conversation I wasn't part of and don't remember much of, ended up left on an 8x10-ish tarp in a corner of our yard, to use in some useful way. That much topsoil doesn't seem like a whole lot, until it's sitting on a part of the lawn I DIDN'T want to die, and needs to be moved. Kind of like just ONE apple tree doesn't seem like a terribly awful amount of apples, until they all fall. Urgh.

I started digging at it last weekend, putting some in a large bin, only to realize that I then couldn't move the bin. Further realizations were that a) this needed to get moved somehow if I wanted that grass to have any hope, and that would take effort and time, b) not only that, but I still had cleanup to do in the garden to close out the year, c) also the lawn needed another mowing, if just to get some of the leaves, d) the last city yard waste pickup day for this year was in a week, and e) I was completely out of daylight hours before then, as it's near dark when I get home after work now. I did some math with my work calendar and decided it would be worth it to take a day off work to tackle some of this, which I did today.

With the help of a cheap wagon acquired this week, I succeeded in spreading some of the dirt around to other parts of the yards, and the rest of it moved to a new pile in a place where I didn't mind it sitting for a while. Between all the trips and the bin I used, I estimate it was somewhere between 15 and 20 cubic feet of dirt, not counting all the rocks and concrete bits and roots (and glass) I dug out of it. The googles tell me that a single cubic foot of topsoil can be estimated around 100 lbs. Sheesh. I, um, might be sore tomorrow.

BUT I got all the gardens cleaned up, and the lawn mowed, and when the jboys came home they helped me stuff three bags full of leaves for pickup tomorrow AND I made myself process a bunch of the apples that have been sitting out there for way too long AND I did a shopping trip and made three meals and cuddled a cat. (And stayed mostly off of social media since it's been making me vaguely unhappy lately.) I feel productive and accomplished. The list of things to do tomorrow is still reasonably long, but it's all much easier stuff. Also doing stuff helps motivate me to do more stuff. It's a nice loop, that.
blk: (tree)
While everybody's attention is focused on this gigantic troublemaker of a storm on this coast, I am going to revisit a small camping vacation [livejournal.com profile] xuth and I took a couple weeks ago, Oct 13-14.

We had one of those rare weekends without the kids, and I wanted to go somewhere relaxing that didn't involve a whole lot of work (or money). After doing some looking to see what was available at the last minute (not much), I found a cabin available in Kooser State Park, about an hour east of Pittsburgh. The park itself was pretty tiny, but it is practically right next door to several other state parks, as well as Roaring Run Natural Area (pdf) and a stretch of the 70 mile Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail.

hiking details )

Overall it was a good weekend out, and perked up more of my interest in hunting for this year's winter vacation spot. In previous years we've gone to Germany Valley, WV and Hocking Hills, OH. Our ideal is a comfortable, relatively inexpensive place in the middle of nowhere, in easy driving distance from Pittsburgh, with indoor plumbing and heating and at least minimal food prep abilities, with nearby trails for hiking, and no kids around.

Another thing we've been hoping for is company. Would you be interested in spending a few days with us sometime between Dec 22-31, with snow hiking during the day, and quiet board games and tea in the evenings (or maybe a book and a wood stove)? We haven't decided on location or time yet, and can be flexible. The vast majority of our friends already have holiday plans with family or traveling, but in case you don't and are interested in joining, let us know!
blk: (fall)
And fall it is now, even though this week has been full of mostly Pittsburgh summer weather. I challenge myself to take time to take stock, give thanks, and find balance.

My joys this summer have been full of the wonders of rediscovering various ways of how to enjoy both myself and other people. I've gardened and cooked. I've run and climbed. I've visited and had visitors. I sadly got no apples this year, but plenty of tomatoes instead. I have the internet in my pocket and I'm not afraid to use it. I've done a lot of awesome things, and I'm not at all done yet.

The boys are back in school, and I'm happy with the schedule that it gives us. I'm working early hours and taking the bus to and from campus, which I'm finding I like a lot. This may mean that even in the dark of winter I'll still be outside for a short amount of daylight. [livejournal.com profile] mj2q is off on business, so life has been on the all parenting all the time channel lately. I'm rather quietly proud of myself that I've managed over a week so far, with attempting to stay on top of school, soccer, teacher conferences, soccer, homework, and soccer, and still managing to occasionally cook dinner, throw parties, see friends, and not kill anybody.

I'm very aware of the diminishing sunlight from the summer. The days are at a precarious balance now - I still wake up with the morning sun, but it is only dim light these days. The sun goes down about as we are starting to settle in for the evening, but every day cuts off more minutes that should be used playing outside. Every summer I spend these last six months recharging my internal solar powered batteries, and hope that I have stored enough to last me through the next six, when I will wake up in darkness and fight against the cold.

And so as usual, I watch the sunset with a feeling of urgency, of needing to race the days to get in everything I want, see everybody I want to see, and still maintain myself in the way that I need. And as usual in this month, I feel I have not enough time, but I know that as cycles around the sun go, this is just another, and things will slow in time, at which point I will probably ache for them to start moving again.
blk: (fall)
[Yeah yeah, I've missed the equinox by several days now. At first my excuse was that I was busy driving back from near DC, and then too tired to do much but unpack the car, but the rest of the week was just sheer laziness.]

Fall begins! We've turned the corner into the winter, darkness will be longer than daylight for almost another 6 months, and it is, according to some calendars, either the beginning or the midpoint of the year.

Autumn, to me, makes me think of tying up loose ends and of finding balances.

Read more... )

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