Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Finally, a craft post!

I've been keeping a secret from you.

For the past several months, I have been working on embroidering/appliquéing a pillow for my new niece  who was born on October 30th. Many, many hours went into this pillow, and I am very happy with how it turned out. As it was my first attempt at embroidery or appliqué, I purchased the Welcome Baby kit from Dimensions. I was very happy with the the quality of the instructions and the materials provided. The only instructions I had to look up elsewhere were to complete the chain stitch, and only because I found it difficult to understand the illustration (which did make sense afterward).

Without further ado, here are some pictures:

Do you spy some knitting on my lap?

Immediately after finishing this project I started on a 'Montreal Canadiens' scarf for my mother-in-law. Look for details soon!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Fitness Experiment 2: "Your ass is on fire!"

There is nothing quite like having a little asian man in short shorts yelling "Your ass is on fire!" to get you moving at the gym.

Let me back up a bit.

Last night's fitness experiment brought me to a gym that I don't normally go to, taking a class that I knew very little about. The class in question? Cardio Mix-up II. According to the website, Cardio Mix-up II "spices up your workout regime with a variety of techniques." and I should "come prepared for anything from interval and hi/low aerobics to boxercise." Looking back at the description, I think they should have stressed the "come prepared for anything" part of the description.

My first indication that this wouldn't be like the majority of my classes was when the instructor came in - a little asian man in black short shorts. Immediately after he came in, he started bantering with the different men and women in the room. It was clear that his attendees were regulars, and knew him well. With his instruction, everyone began setting up different stations around the gym. They included everything from weight bars to chairs to foam mats.

The instructor was very good for giving one-on-one instruction. That said, he may have been a little bit too good. There are two instances that stand out on my mind. First,  was on the 'fire drill' station (running football-style on the spot, then falling to the floor, rolling a few feet, hopping up, and repeat the opposite direction.) He stood in front of me yelling 'Hurry, hurry you ass is on fire!'

Later I was doing another drill - he had two triangular mat stacked on top of each other to increase the angle - they were a few inches higher than my waist, and angled down to about a foot off the ground in a six-foot span. He was having us run up to them and crawl over, face down. Now, picture this. I'm in spandex running shorts and a tight-fitting top (one of those moisture-wicking ones) with my butt up in the air, and all of a sudden I hear him yell beside me, "Ohhhh yeahh!"

Umm... can you say awkward?

I guess we can say that it was one for the books - both in that the class was very humorous and that it definitely pulled me out of my comfort zone.

Thursday, November 29, 2012


I had my first game of ultimate frisbee on Saturday.

Keeping in mind that I get really anxious in new/unknown situations with new/unknown people, I was very nervous for hours before I even got to the game. I had just gotten my hair cut that afternoon, so I had no idea how to tie it back to get it out of my face - so that took awhile. Eventually I decided on just wearing a bandanna. I also took awhile to decide what shirts to wear - I wasn't comfortable wearing any of my tighter shirts, so the hunt was on for a loose shirt in both required colours. In the end I decided on my Montreal Canadiens t-shirt for red (really the only choice I had), and Gilles' 'Animal' shirt for black.

Once the attire decisions were made, I really had no excuse to trot around the house in my 'uniform' and my new cleats any more, so I packed up and headed to the field (indoor). I was near shaking with trepidation.

When I got there I had no idea where to go, having never been to the building before. It took me a bit of time to locate the appropriate parking lot, and then more time to locate my team. Luckily the friend of mine who invited me to play in the first place quickly told me where I was supposed to be, and also sat down with me to explain the rules of the game and how to play in general. I'm not sure how much of this information I actually retained, but it was very helpful in calming my nerves.

Retrospectively, the game went great and was brutal, in two different regards. On one hand, I was able to overcome my fear and actually play, when I wanted nothing more than to turn tail and run the entire time leading up to the game. On the other hand, I really need to learn how to catch a frisbee while running, and I also need to get into better 'sprinting' shape. It's amazing how different long distance running and speed running are. I lost my 'man' more than a couple times due to simply being unable to keep up. In the end, our team lost by a very large margin, and although I'm definitely to blame for several of the points, I will keep coming back - if they'll have me.

Every week I am doing a different fitness class. The intent is to get out of my shell, try new things, and overcome my fear of unfamiliar situations and talking to people that I don't know. My first class was Fitness Yoga for Beginners last week, and I will be trying Cardio Mixup II tonight. While these certainly do help me get out of my shell (it is hard to know what is required or expected for a class without talking to the other people in it), no one is relying on you. How hard you work (or not) is your own decision, and does not affect anyone in the class but you. No one cares if you are having an 'on' day, or an 'off' day. Team sports are different. You have to bring your 'A' game every time, or you let down your team. You are constantly striving to improve your skills, your fitness level, and your understanding of the game and strategies so that you can take that one step higher.

Doing a different fitness class every week is slowly getting me out of my shell, but because none of this 'extra' is required- no one cares if you are brutal at it- I wasn't and haven't ever been nearly as nervous as I was to play one game of Frisbee. Intended or not, I think Frisbee will be the biggest fitness experiment of all - maybe even the one that sticks.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Fitness Experiment 1: Beginner Yoga

Image courtesy: Journey To Myself

As promised, I took my first 'solo' fitness class today. Originally I was going to try a step class, or something more within my comfort zone for my first class. Might as well start slowly, right? Well Step didn't work into my schedule, and as my day planner started filling up for the week, it became clear that the only time I would have to add in a fitness class would be immediately after work on Thursday. I looked up the listing for the gyms that I have access to, and there was one class that fit that description: Yoga.

Now, those who know me personally know that two of my fitness... challenges...., are that I am not particularly flexible and have an utter lack of balance and/or grace. Simply put, I'm the girl who trips over her own two feet. Also, having never attempted yoga in any form, I had no idea what to expect. 

The evening started off like any other - putting on my freezing gym clothes (from sitting in my car overnight and all day), and heading up to the class. I was about fifteen minutes early... or so I thought. There was one other person in the room, laying on a yoga mat on the floor. I didn't see anything relevant to yoga around the room, so I grabbed a fitness mat from the front of the room, and started stretching. My muscles were quite sore from the night before, so the stretching did do me good. After about ten minutes of stretching though, there was no one else in the room yet, and the other girl decided that she didn't want to attend yoga any more and left. It was then that I realized that the class actually started at 5:45 and not 5:30, so I had actually arrived to the classroom a full half hour early. Yikes.

Other people started to arrive though, and pull out their yoga mats. I figured that it must mean that this was a self-equipped class. Fine with me.

As the class began to fill up, two things became apparent. One, I needed to take off my shoes, at a minimum. Everyone was barefoot. Two, as people sat down and went into what appeared to be trances, I was way out of my element.

The instructor arrived and proceeded to turn on small lamps around the room, and then turn off the lights. Oddly, it was after the lights were turned out that she noticed that there were three new people in the class; me and two other beginners. She told us that the mats we had chosen wouldn't work, and that we would have to get yoga equipment from the closet in the hall. Oops. We had disturbed the ...'yen'?

Once I had myself settled again and figured out how to position all the equipment, the class went quite well. I will admit, it was very peaceful and it was nice to take an hour to stretch our all of my muscles. That said - I am not sure I would classify it as a fitness class personally... in my mind it was more of a practice in calming the mind. 

Would I do it again?

Maybe. I can see it's purpose and how it works for other people, however it isn't something I could commit to doing regularly, at least at this point. 

All in all though, I'd say experiment 'week 1' was a success. 

What will it be next week? Who knows. I am not sure yet which day I will be experimenting next week - I may have to fit in two workouts in one day. Whatever it is though, I'm sure it will be great!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Christmas Baking

I love Christmas baking time. The smell of all the freshly baked goods almost makes me swoon, even though I can't eat most of it! This year I'm baking for both an exchange at work, as well as a baking fundraiser for our local cat shelter. My baking was spread across two different weekends, and resulted in...

Six pumpkin loaves
(I forgot to take another picture after I finished baking these... I was on a roll!)

154 pumpkin whoopie pies

48 miniature pumpkin cheesecakes

and three pans of chocolate fudge.

Monday, November 19, 2012

A delay, of sorts.

The last post that I set up was about how I'm going to go out of my comfort zone and add some more healthy living and fitness to my life by going to group classes at different gyms around the city every Tuesday.

I haven't changed my mind.

That said, I decided that I'm going to host a dinner party this Tuesday instead. 

See, I need to reduce the amount of stuff we have in our freezer by 2/3 by the end of next month, as we have to downsize when we move. So by having a bunch of friends over for supper I can legitimately cook two chickens at once and not have a bazillian pounds of leftovers (slight exaggeration, maybe.) So, instead of going to a group class on Tuesday I am cooking a big chicken, mashed potatoes, carrots, salad and stuffing meal for my friends. No, I'm not eating it myself - I have five more pounds to go before I can go off my meal plan (more on that in the next post). 

But that brings me back to the promise I made. One class per week. That's not so bad, right?

I will go on Thursday instead. This Thursday I will attend.... Beginner Fitness Yoga. Yikes! This is WAY out of my comfort zone. But that's what I wanted... right?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A Challenge

I started and restarted this post several times, and didn't come up with anything appropriate, so you get this:

Two of the biggest mental/physical challenges in my life right now are my introvertedness and my weight. I don't pretend to believe that the two are not intertwined. 

I've come up with a way to challenge myself to 'go out of my comfort zone' for both, with one fell swoop. See, six months of the year I take ballroom dance classes with my husband every Thursday and second Tuesday  For the other six, he plays hockey while I have those evenings off. Until now.

Starting next week, I will be attending a different fitness class, often at a different gym, every Tuesday night, by myself. (Somebody from the comma police come arrest me but it really did need them all to get the point across...) This will force me not only to get out of my 'fitness bubble' and try new things, but also to talk to new people. I'll start this week with... Cardio & Sculpt I. Not only is it a new class, but at a new gym! I'll let you know how it goes. :)

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Remembering our Fallen

The weekend approaching marks Remembrance Day for Canadians, and Veteran's Day for Americans. They may go by a different name and include very different decorating customs, but the purpose of the two events are the same - to remember our fallen.

In Canadian tradition, Remembrance Day is marked by a poppy, worn over one's heart. It is a mark of allegiance worn through much of October and November, and often continuing on through Christmas. But what are some other ways that you can show your tribute to our current and past troops?

Aside from the obvious (purchased poppy wreaths from veteran halls and attending your local Remembrance Day memorial), there are several great ideas out there for decorating and other ways to honour your loved ones. Here are a few of my favorites:

Oversized Poppies: The Tangled Nest

Leave flowers at graves - Photo courtesy: Legion Magazine

Bouquet of poppies - Photo courtesy: Lifework Media blog

Write a letter to the troops - Photo courtesy: Rothamel Bratton
(More information here)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Halloween 2012

Thanks to Halloween falling on a Wednesday this year, most of you have already had your Halloween parties - and I'm no exception.

Most of my design inspiration came from Dollarama, and the rest from Pinterest this year. I started decorating almost immediately after (Canadian) Thanksgiving, adding decorations here and there throughout the house...

I had pumpkin and spider lanterns hanging from the curtain rod in the living room, as well as in the dining room. I also put these great gel window stickers up in the living room:

This door hanger is a 'relic' from years ago - I bought it to decorate my apartment door for Halloween in 2009. If it looks a bit off kilter, that's because it is - originally the large pumpkin was centred with two on either side. I cut the last one off though because it didn't fit on my door!

The night before the party, a friend and I created some vampire pumpkins by cutting a hole in the side of the pumpkin, adding fangs, and adding sewing pins for eyes. We got the idea from this tutorial, found on Pinterest. It took all of 15 minutes, and the results look great. We didn't even have to gut the pumpkins!

I finally put the Fireplace Candle Holder by PartyLite to use for something other than sitting on my fireplace. The middle bowl was later filled up with gummy worms. I have chocolate jack 'o lanterns in the left bowl and chocolate eyeballs in the right.

Another candle holder by Party Lite that got some use this weekend. They advertise it around Christmas to put a wreath in usually, but it worked perfect to hold my skull shaped ring pops.

I also had a bowl full of gummy body parts, including an anatomically correct heart, severed fingers, and eyeballs. The table looks pretty scarce in this picture, but it filled up fast! The tablecloth and napkins are also from Dollarama.

This little cubby usually has four glass shelves in it, full of my trinkets. For now though, it is a spider's lair!

Guen decided that he wanted to help decorate too. He was "great" with the streamers, and got very excited about the concept of pulling on the witch's broom (just visible at the top of the photo).

See, the table really did fill up! The vampire pumpkins moved to the table, as well as chips, party snacks,and lots of alcohol.

Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Halloween for the Healthy

As Halloween approaches, my inbox has been inundated with 'tips to keep from gaining weight this halloween', 'halloween treats under 100 calories', and 'how to keep from eating all your kids' candy'. Some of the suggestions that have come in are interesting and thought provoking... others are laughable. Admittedly, as someone who is trying to lose weight and have a "lifestyle" change, I've clicked on almost every one. Some of my favorites...

Best Advice

10 Tricks to Avoid Halloween Temptations! - Web MD
Control Halloween Candy Cravings - Running & Jogging
(I'd like to add - give out something OTHER than candy, that is still acceptable, like microwave popcorn!)
20 Better-For-You Halloween Treats - fitbie
(Honestly I don't agree with a lot of their suggestions, but it gets you thinking at least)

Worst Advice (IMHO)

The Trick to Eating Treats Fearlessly - CalorieCount
(Really? Because I'd just eat the entire bowl anyway...)
Halloween Treats Calorie Calculator - Walking
(Just read the label. Then don't eat it. Already ate it? Do as much exercise as you can, don't base it on a calculator.)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Pumpkin Vases

Image courtesy: PepperWood Miniatures

One of my favorite trends this season is pumpkin vases. They have been featured in several different places, including Chatelaine magazine, Martha Stewart crafts, Country Living magazine, and several crafting blogs. They are simple to make, and make a great fall statement.

I didn't make one of my own this year due to timing, but I do have some questions for those of you who did:
- Did you put real or fake flowers in them?
- Did the water (assuming you water your flowers) affect them negatively, or did you put a different vase inside?
- Assuming you kept your pumpkin vase inside and on some sort of table (ie/ not refrigerated or cooled in any way), how long did it last?

As I mentioned before, there are several great examples of pumpkin vases to look at this year. Here are some of my favorites:

Small & Simple:
Courtesy: The Crafty Crow

Big & Elegant:

Courtesy: Better Homes & Gardens

Girly & Cute:

Courtesy: Chatelaine

Bright & Bold:
Courtesy: Shelterness

Timeless & Classic:

Courtesy: Budget Brides Guide

Did you make a pumpkin vase this year? Send in your picture to be featured on the blog!

- Hardly Martha

Welcome to Hardly Martha

Welcome to Hardly Martha!

The intention of this blog is to bring everything I love in life together. This blog will be a compilation of my craft projects, decorating, outdoor adventures, cats, personal life, and so on. To start though, I'd like to offer a big thank you for stopping by my blog, and encourage you to follow it either by checking in or adding me to your RSS feed reader. Being a new blog, I'm sure that I will be adjusting the format for a little while - please keep that in mind if you notice the design shifting and morphing, it is simply so that you will be better served by this blog.

So welcome. Welcome, and I look forward to our journey together.

- Hardly Martha