Better Training (take 2)

This past fall I ran my first half marathon, The Middle Half in Murfreesboro, TN, on a bit of a whim. I registered for the race for many reasons: I needed some motivation to stick to a running routine and run longer distances; I’ve never run a real race before and always wanted to; I was on the tail end of a pretty rough two years and needed something to get excited about; but mostly because of my crippling FOMO. I have 6 siblings and almost as many in-laws. 5 of them were signing up.

My brother sent me the training plan for, “experienced runners” provided by the race and I kinda sorta followed it. I’d never really trained for anything before. I’ve always been a pretty active person – fairly consistently running, practicing yoga, and climbing when I can – but always just for fun/my own peace of mind. So, sticking to a training schedule was a new experience for me and it taught me a few things. For example: it is important to wear a shoe large enough to accommodate your unusually large toes and the swelling of your feet – elsewise you’ll lose a toenail (or three); cheap Chinese takeout is not a suitable meal the night before your weekly long run; chafing is a real thing that happens and should not be taken lightly; and drinking coffee before a run is awesome and can provide a great energy boost but must be timed just right or things will get real sketchy around mile 3.

The training plan involved running three times during the week, cross-training once, and going for a long run every weekend. Honestly, I was lucky if I got in all three runs during the week and I rarely (if ever) got to the cross-training but I always made the long weekend runs. After several weeks of trial and error and two pairs of running shoes – I figured out what worked best for me. I’m proud to say I finished the race next to my brother in under two hours. The photos are heinous. I always thought I had pretty good form, but crossing the finish line I looked more like this. I will try to be more prepared for the paps at the next race…

Now, I’m training for my second race – The Country Music Half Marathon. At first, I was really hesitant. The race is on April 27th – that is RIGHT at the start of sandal season and my toes are just now recovering from the damage done training for the race in October. I decided to go for it anyway and am training with my brother again and a group of our fellow UT alumni. The second time around I am striving to be more diligent about following the training plan, though getting to the cross-training is still not so much happening as it is not happening. I like to think that since most of my mid-week runs alternate between me fighting Emmett (my 50lb pit mix) when he decides to sprint and pulling him along when he decides to sniff everything in sight that I am somehow getting an extra-tough workout and therefore need the cross-training less. Plus, I sit on an exercise ball most of the time at work so… don’t worry about it.

My basic running day routine is as follows:

Wake up an hour(ish) before I will be running and have an english muffin with peanut butter (maybe a tablespoon), a cup of coffee, and some water. I used to wake up with just enough time to scarf a banana, run, shower, and get to work but it’s been really nice to have the extra buffer to allow myself to fully wake up, do some reading, and enjoy a good digestion before going for a run.

running breakfast: i live life better than you

Then, I run.  The mileage varies during the week from 2 and 3 towards the beginning of the plan to 5 and 7 towards the end. I’ve tried a few different shoes (New Balance, Nike Free, Saucony, etc.) with mixed results and finally found my soul-shoe: the Brooks Pure Cadence 2. They are perfect for me – the perfect amount of support and a sock-like upper which is exactly what my toes need. Fingers-crossed my feet won’t be too wrecked after the race and I’ll be able to wear sandals with minimal shame. I also recently purchased my first running watch, the Garmin Forerunner 10, to keep track of my pace and have been really happy with it – it’s a rather basic model but it covers all the action I need.Half Marathon Training: i live life better than you

When I get back from the run, I stretch for about 15 minutes, and make this green smoothie to enjoy on the way to work.

Better Green Smoothie: i live life better than you

For dinner, I’ve been eating a lot of pastas and generally making sure to get a lot of protein and carbs – mostly carbs. This is really no different from my usual diet. If I could bake pasta into garlic bread, I would. In fact, I’ve seen it on pinterest and have every intention of trying it someday very soon. Every Friday night, in preparation for the long run on Saturday, we make this very fancy dish: Cheesy Rice and Beans.

Cheesy Rice and Beans: i live life better than you

Here’s what you’ll need:

Cheesy Rice and Beans: i live life better than you

  • 6 eggs
  • 1.5 cups brown rice (dry)
  • an avocado
  • 1 can cannellini beans (or great northerns if you can’t find cannellinis) rinsed and drained
  • 3/4 C (ish) shredded Mexican-blend cheese
  • A dash or so of garlic, salt, and pepper
  • Tapatío to taste

Make the rice according to package instructions – a few minutes before the rice is done, get ready to fry the eggs.

Prepare the eggs over easy, sprinkle with salt and pepper, set aside and keep warm.

Stir the beans and cheese into the rice – add garlic powder to taste.

Cube the avocado.

Divide rice and bean mixture between two bowls, add avocado cubes, top with three eggs per bowl and as many dashes of Tapatío as your heart desires.

The beans and eggs provide plenty of protein and fiber while the rice gives you a solid amount of healthy carbs. The avocado is great for those omega-3s that are so good for your brain and the cheese and Tapatío are just delicious. I try to eat this as late as possible the night before a long run. It might be all in my head – but so far, it is the best night-before meal I have tried to date. So much so that I don’t even bother branching out anymore. Maybe I’ll consider it for the pasta-stuffed garlic bread…

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Better Glitter Shoe How-To

glitter shoe how-to : i live life betterI bought this amazing pair of shoes from Mod Cloth over a year ago. I didn’t actually note the height of the heel when making the purchase, not that that would have changed my mind, but they are a hot 5.5″ – making me a good 6’1″ when I wear them. So, they aren’t what you’d call, “work appropriate” or anything, but I love them. Look, they’re amazing.

glitter shoe how-to : i live life betterNot only are they amazing, they are surprisingly comfortable due to that platform there. Which is why I felt it would be a good idea to wear them out last New Year’s Eve to kiss 2011 good-bye. I completely forgot that the establishment we’d chosen for the evening had a gravel floor – that or, in a fog of shoe hubris, I insisted I could flawlessly walk and dance on gravel in 5.5″ suede heels. Who remembers? The moral of the story is that I did some damage to my fabulous shoes. See?

repairing shoes with glitter : i live life betterIt’s awful, I know. So, I looked at a shoe-glittering tutorial or two and got to work. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • a busted up old pair of shoes (or just shoes you want to put glitter on)
  • glitter
  • Mod Podge
  • popsicle sticks
  • a bowl you don’t mind having glitter in forever
  • a paint brush
  • a drop cloth of some kind – I used cheap wrapping paper leftover from Christmas/the celebration of the birth of Mithras

glitter shoe how-to : i live life better

One of the tutorials I read said that you should mix the Mod Podge and the glitter in a bowl and paint in on the shoes to avoid a big glittery, Liberace mess. I thought it was a great idea, until I saw the result:

glitter glue on shoe : i live life betterI mean, that is some bullshit, right? Not nearly enough glitter. So, I decided to go with the more sensible approach of covering a small area with Mod Podge and then pouring the glitter all over it. Which, creates a much bigger mess but is also much more effective. Observe:

glitter shoe how-to: i live life betterThen, you just keep going; painting and pouring, painting and pouring, until you have as much of the shoes covered in glitter as you want. All you have to do then is let them sit and dry. I don’t really know how long. I painted mine in the morning and they were ready to wear out that night. I DID leave a trail of glitter behind me everywhere I went, but I’d like to think I do that all the time – with my personality. HA! VOMIT! Seriously, though – there is still quite a bit of gold glitter on the floor of our car but it was just the excess – the shoes are still sufficiently covered. I will probably have to do touch-ups every now and then, but that’s OK.

glitter shoe how-to : i live life better

Better Lentil Soup

Simple Slow Cooker Lentil Soup : ilivelifebetter

I’ve really been craving a lot of warm, hearty foods lately. I can’t imagine why – it’s been so lovely out. Anyway, one of my favorite foods of this variety is lentil soup. Mostly because it is a vehicle for crusty bread but also because it is healthy (I think, I really can’t back that up – but it sounds right) and delicious. My friend, Christine, makes the most amazing lentil soup I have ever had. This soup recipe is not as good as hers – but it is a bit less labor-intensive and quite tasty if I do say so myself. The thing about lentils is that they aren’t so easy on your digestive system – which is why they make you so gassy. You, not me – I don’t fart. Supposedly, if you cook or soak them for a really long time they are easier to digest. So, I thought soaking them overnight and cooking them in a crock pot all day should do the trick. I looked on the world wide web to figure out a basic fluid:lentil ratio for slow-cooking and here is what I came up with:

  • 2 Cups dried lentils (soaked overnight)
  • 4 cloves garlic (at least) – minced
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (do not drain)
  • 3 carrots – chopped
  • 2 boxes low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 onion – chopped

Instructions:

  • Throw all ingredients in slow cooker (I do not know what size – whatever size the one in the picture appears to be…)
  • Set to low and let cook all day
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste
  • Take your immersion blender and immersion blend the shit out of all that action
  • Serve with very large slices of crusty bread

Simple Slow Cooker Lentil Soup: ilivelifebetterUpon further review, I think you could use a little less fluid to avoid the overflowage in the crock pot. I mean, it wasn’t THAT serious of an overflow but, it could be averted. Also, parmesan cheese never hurt anybody. Let me know what you think!

Better Breakfast Smoothies

As I’ve mentioned before, I intend to do a cleanse many times a year. Seasonally, I will get the urge to detox, get distracted by something sparkly (and/or a doughnut), and move on. The urge to cleanse is strongest around this time of year; with all the rich foods, booze, sweets, booze, cheese, booze, etc., I feel like I need to spend a few days in a sweat lodge consuming nothing but water and wheatgrass juice to get rid of all the poison. I could practice moderation and not buy a half-gallon thing of peppermint ice cream knowing I’ll eat it all. I could also avoid the white fudge covered Oreos entirely but I’m obviously not going to because they are LIMITED EDITION and who knows when they’ll ever be sold again?! I could even pass on the various cheese balls, logs, plates, and so forth but, come on, cheese is delicious – it is the number one reason I gave up being vegan long ago. That and hot dogs. Anyway, my point is – holiday food is super-tasty and I am going to eat it all and wash it down with a poinsettia so I need to do something daily(ish) to counteract the abnormally high levels of shit I’ll have in my system between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve.

Enter green smoothies, hot yoga, and apple cider vinegar drink.

Green smoothies are amazing for all kinds of reasons – mostly because you get a huge serving of nature’s little scrub brushes into one quick drink hidden beneath the taste of yogurt, fruit, honey, and whatever else you decide to throw in. Lately, I’ve really been enjoying the following combination:

1 cup (ish) packed baby spinach
1 cup (ish) frozen blueberries
1 cup green tea (brew 1 tea bag in 1/2 cup boiling water for 5 minutes, remove tea bag and add ice)
1/4-1/2 cup plain Kefir
Local Honey to taste
before
I blend all this up using an immersion blender (the most amazing kitchen appliance EVER – thank you Mom and Dad!) and it is ready to go in minutes with minimal effort and clean up required. Greens are good for everything – they are rich in iron, potassium, phytonutrients, and vitamins E, C, and K which means they improve your skin, your immune system, your heart, your bones, and they help get things moving through your digestive system so you can make room for more artery-clogging cheeses. I used spinach because it’s what we’ve had around the house lately, but you can use any dark, leafy, green you like. The blueberries are rich in fiber, vitamin C, and magical antioxidants which fight free-radicals, help you age gracefully, and prevent various diseases. Allegedly. The green tea does all those wonderful things PLUS it gives you a pleasant little caffeine boost to help get rid of any hang-over related head-aches you may have. The kefir (I really wish they’d change that name) contains lots of friendly bacteria and yeast to help balance and maintain a healthy environment in your colon. It can even, supposedly, help reduce flatulence. Although, drinking it in combination with lots of fruits and veggies probably won’t have that effect. Local honey not only helps sweeten this delicious dish, it helps strengthen your immune system, too.
after
It turned our more purple than green, but that’s OK. As magical as green/purple smoothies are, they aren’t going to handle all the nasty business of cleansing my system of holiday funk alone. So, I started going to hot yoga again after many, many months off and it is even more amazing than I remember. After class, I feel like my body has been completely wrung out. I’m sure the rest of the class feels that way, too – I sweat even more than one might expect while doing yoga in a 100+ degree room. It really is almost alarming. But, when class is over, I feel clean inside and out. Granted, everything is sore and I’ve been walking funny as a result, but that will pass.

Finally, the apple cider vinegar drink. Not as delicious as the green smoothie. Not even close. BUT it does all these wonderful things and then some for your body. So, I’ve been mixing one shot (2 Tbsp) of the good stuff in my 32oz water bottle and drinking it over the course of the day. There are many other recipes online for more delicious apple cider vinegar tonics using honey or maple syrup, but I’m keeping it simple for now. It’s tart, but I’ve grown to like it.

It might just be a placebo effect, but it’s working for now.

Not Even Kind of a Better Move

WE MOVED!!! It’s finally over!!! Well, not over – we are still living among the boxes BUT we are here which, at one point, seemed like it might never happen.

Moving, in general, is a gigantic pain in the ass. The only upside to moving is that it provides you with an opportunity to get rid of all the shit you don’t really need. There is a nice clean feeling that comes along with moving – a fresh start and all that good stuff but holy bajolies does it suck.

The drive from Raleigh, NC to Nashville, TN typically takes somewhere between 9 and 10 hours – the entirety of which is spent on the oh-so-exciting I-40. It is pretty for about 3 of those hours while you’re going through the Appalachian Mountains. The other 7ish hours, on the other hand, are boring and a little depressing except, of course, the part where you round the corner, see the Nashville skyline, and realize not all hope is lost. Our trip took 18 hours.

We were all packed – everything organized in boxes and labeled nicely. We were actually ready for the movers this time as opposed to our usual style of franticly packing whilst the movers load up the truck at a ridiculous speed as if to mock our inability to get our shit together. J went to pick up the truck while I waited at home cleaning things up and waiting for the movers to arrive. A short while later, I got a text from J explaining that Penske would be renting us a much larger truck at no additional cost because all of the other trucks in the lot were reserved. Apparently, the reservation we made weeks in advance for a 17-foot truck was not as important as the other reservations and we’d just have to deal with a 26-footer. How nice of them not to charge us extra for fucking up our reservation! He arrived back at the apartment with the behemoth vehicle towing our Saturn on a “tow-dolly” which, as we learned when we almost tore the wheel off the axel, cannot go in reverse, because that makes perfect sense. No one ever needs to go in reverse. It’s a ridiculous gear.

The movers arrived just after J and I got the truck settled and made pretty quick work of our 2 bedroom apt. Then, after a half-assed cleaning of the apartment which I am almost certain will result in the loss of some of our deposit, we got on the road at about 2:30 pm Raleigh (ET) time. We were so excited to be moving back to Nashville and to be done with Raleigh (nothing against Raleigh, the two years we spent there just happened to be particularly difficult) that we didn’t care that we’d be getting in super late, or that we could only stop at creepy truck stops because we lacked the capacity to go in reverse, or that we would be spending a fortune on gas for the comically large truck we were driving that was half-full – we were just happy.

We’d given into peer pressure and downloaded The Hunger Games to listen to on the road. We were about two chapters in when I noticed some odd movement in the car next to us. So, I looked over and wouldn’t you know – the man driving the SUV alongside us was masturbating. Delightful. Nothing like being forced to be a part of a stranger’s sexual experience while you’re just trying to enjoy a book about teenagers killing each other. This is actually the second time this has happened to me which could get me started on a whole tirade about street harassment and rape culture and how disgusted I am by a good bit of the male population but that would take a while and this fantastic article by my sister-in-law pretty much sums it up. Anyway, I ducked out of the creeper’s line of vision and told J what was going on. His reaction was to lean over to give the guy a dirty look and some choice words. The perv then slowed down, got behind us, and passed us on the left. At least he obeyed passing etiquette. J then flipped the guy the bird and I took down his license plate number. NC Plate BBJ 8700, in case you were wondering. Then, in an effort to get some highway justice, we called information to get the number for the local police department. After being transferred a time or two, I was put in touch with a dispatcher for the Davie County Sherriff’s Department who was awesome. When this happened to me in college, I called the Knoxville PD who showed up and basically said, “shit happens” and were more concerned about the car illegally parked across the street from my house than with catching the peeping Tom who’d been spying on me while I studied in my back yard. The Davie Country dispatcher took down our whereabouts, and got a few deputies in the area to post up several exits ahead of us to try to catch the guy. The problem is that we were in the ridiculously large truck, which topped out at about 65 MPH, and the asshole in the SUV was going quite a bit faster. At any rate, the dispatcher stayed on the phone with me for some time, until I could no longer see the creeper’s vehicle and we’d passed a deputy or two that had been waiting with no luck yet. A few minutes after I got off the phone, we saw flashing blue lights up ahead. Highway justice! Or so we thought. As we got closer, we realized they had pulled over an SUV that very closely matched the description we gave but was definitely not the same vehicle. Hopefully they didn’t grill him too hard about indecent exposure since the license plate didn’t match…

UGH. Anyway, we were not about to let some degenerate ruin our trip so we resumed the audio book and pressed on. Then we got to Knoxville, which is the first sign of home on the long trip. We went to college there, we started dating there, and despite the ickiness of a certain aforementioned experience, the city always brings about a wistful feeling for us. We passed through the city, catching a glimpse of the Sunsphere (which really is full of wigs) and were coming up on the long stretch of nothing between Knoxville and Crossville when the truck made some loud, strange noises and slowed WAY down to about 40 MPH. We pulled off at the next exit around 11 pm (ET), called the 24/hr emergency roadside assistance number and didn’t even make it off the exit ramp before the truck completely stopped moving. The roadside assistance folks told us it was a computer glitch not entirely uncommon in the model we were driving and talked J through how to reset the computer. He did and it worked. So, we pulled into the closest truck stop to get gas where a rather large fellow asked J if he was “PCF-ing” to which J replied, “I don’t know what that means.” and walked/ran back to the truck. According to Google, PCF could mean anything from “Positive Cash Flow” to “Post-Coital Flatus” so; god only knows what the trucker meant.

We got back to the highway and didn’t even make it to the next exit before the same thing happened. Loud noises, truck slowing down, etc. We pulled over, reset the computer again and moved forward. Again, it happened. So, we pulled off at the next exit, which, thankfully, had two truck stops and called the 24/hr emergency roadside assistance number. 20 minutes later, we got a person on the phone who found a mechanic in our area and said he’d be there within the hour. Exactly an hour later, Rick arrived. Rick’s stature and facial hair were not unlike that of Yosemite Sam – only Rick’s beard was grey and curly. He jumped down from his truck smoking a cigarette, wearing a neon green reflective vest and a baseball cap sporting the Jamaican flag adorned with a Jamaican flag pin. We sat on the curb watching Rick work on the truck hoping he would magically fix it in a matter of minutes and we’d be on our way. A while later, he said he couldn’t find anything in particular wrong with the vehicle. He instructed us to get back on the road, he’d follow us about 10 miles and, if it happened again we were to pull over. We didn’t even make it to the interstate before it happened again and Rick had us pull into the other truck stop across the street while he called Penske to give them a status report. Then, Rick told us that he’d done all he could do and Penske would be giving us a call to figure out our next move.

Back on the phone with Penske, they gave us a few options. 1 – They could attempt to locate another truck in the area and movers to transfer all of our worldly belongings from the POS truck to the new one and we could continue on our trip OR 2 – they could hire a tow truck to take us all the way to Nashville. We chose option 2. So, they called Rick back. He could do it but he needed to go get his other truck capable of towing the monstrous vehicle we’d been given in error, which would take about an hour and 15 minutes. At this point, it was 1:15 am (ET). So, we waited. Around 3:00 am (ET), Rick finally showed up in a semi-truck with a towing device on the back. We removed the Saturn from the tow-dolly and put some gas in it, happy to be driving it the rest of the way instead of the truck. We were at the pump when a portly young hippie in a newsboy cap approached us and asked if we had to tow our moving truck all the way to our destination. When we replied in the affirmative, he asked if Ryder was going to take care of us. We just said yes, not bothering to point out that fact that our truck read “PENSKE” in big, bold letters on the side. He then said, “Look, I don’t know what you guys are into, but…” and opened his hand to reveal what appeared to be a couple of pills and a bud of weed. Excellent. Just what I wanted: a sweaty palm-full of pills and weed. But then he finished his thought. Apparently, he was not holding a variety of drugs in his hand; it was gemstones. He explained that he’s a Christian and he carries these particular gemstones around because they are the same ones that Moses wore on his breastplate into battle and they are known to provide strength and luck. He continued to explain that he carries extras of these gemstones and likes to give them to people who appear to be having a hard time. I guess our misery was pretty obvious. Delirious and confused, we just said, “Thanks” and offered to buy him a cup of coffee.

At exactly 5:12 am (ET) the truck was finally all hooked up and we were back on the road to Nashville. We started out following Rick, but he could only go about 50 MPH and the hazard lights flashing through the fog threatened to lull us to sleep as we approached being awake for more than 24 hours. We confirmed that Rick knew where he was going and sped past him finally arriving at J’s parents’ house at 7:30 am (CT). My peach of a mother-in-law had a Bloody Mary waiting for me but I was too tired to do anything but send my family a text to let them know we’d arrived safely and pass directly out.

We woke back up around noon, relived the whole night over breakfast with J’s parents and promptly got a move on. See what I did there? A good chunk of my family (two of my brothers, my dad, my two nephews, and my mom) along with J’s parents all came to help us unload the truck. J and I walked onto our new patio and, I shit you not, there was a small white heart painted on one of the trees. This, for whatever reason, made me cry happy tears. We then entered the apartment and for the first time ever it looked exactly as pictured on the website. It is amazing and adorable and perfect and I love it so much. It is also 300 sq ft smaller than our previous place so you can expect some future posts about making the most of a small space.

It’s taken us a whole week to recover from the nonsense and even just writing it all down makes me feel like I need a stiff drink and a nap. BUT it’s over and we’re finally home. And that’s all there is – there isn’t anymore.

Better Boozy Pops

On account of the ungodly heat we’ve been experiencing (seriously, it makes me feel like THIS), I’ve been craving frozen treats like the chubby 12-year-old I really am. When we were little, my mom would make use popsicles out of various fruit juices and the molds she used were amazing. I think they were Tupperware and the sticks were yellow and had a little straw attached so as the popsicle melted you didn’t miss out on any of the drippy deliciousness. I, perhaps naively, assumed there would be a luscious bounty of popsicle molds in every grocery and convenience store below the Mason-Dixon but sadly there was not. I searched high and low – and by that I mean I want to Harris Teeter and Target – before deciding I would have to purchase my molds off the ole interwebs. I found these Tovolo molds on Amazon and was sold as soon as I read the reviews. Everyone loved them but complained that they are just too big. Seeing the considerable size as a pro and not a con, I ordered them post-haste.

After being disappointed by my first popsicle attempt – green tea, honey, cream, and blueberries – I decided to go with something more fun. I had cilantro and lime in the fridge for another recipe and decided to use it to make a flavored simple syrup and combine it with Vernor’s Ginger Ale and Gosling’s Dark Rum for a Dark ‘n Stormy-esque treat for the chubby 12-year-old inside who also may or may not be a lush.

My math is not what I would call “great” and certainly not what my engineer dad would call “accurate” so the measurements in the recipe that follows are close approximations at best. Each pop-mold holds about 1/2 cup of liquid so, keeping that in mind, I went with the following action:

Step 1: Cut a hole in a box.

Step 2: Heat the juice of a really juicy lime, a big handful of chopped cilantro, 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water until the sugar is dissolved and the syrup tastes lime-y and cilantro-y to your liking.

Step 3: Combine 1 1/3 C Vernor’s Ginger Ale – NO OTHER KIND WILL DO, except maybe Gosling’s Ginger Beer, absolutely not some Seagrams or Canada Dry nonsense – 1/3 C cilantro-lime simple syrup and 1 T Goslings Dark Rum in a large measuring cup.

Step 4: Pour mixture into molds and freeze overnight.

This makes 4 pops because I also just happened to have some grapefruit italian soda and silver tequila lying around and I thought they might combine well with the cilantro-lime simple syrup for a Paloma-esque popsicle. Turns out I was right. The recipe for the Palomita Pops is exaclty the same as the recipe for the Dark ‘N Stormy-ish pops just substitute the Vernors for Grapefruit soda and the rum for silver tequila (I like THIS kind) and boom – delicious adult popsicles for a blazingly hot summer.

Better DIY

I have giant hands. Not necessarily of the man variety, but giant nonetheless. Yet, I insist on attempting tasks meant for dainty, little, lady hands. Such as my latest DIY interest: sewing. I decided to take up sewing because shopping for clothes is the worst. THE WORST – I never seem to find exactly what I’m looking for, if I do find something halfway decent it is either out of my price range, too small, too big, or stained with some fool’s bronzer, and, to make matters worse, my blood sugar always seems to drop just as I’m making progress and I need to go home for a snack and some quiet time. So, after watching ole girl win Project Runway with minimal sewing experience I thought surely I can make a damn skirt or two.

My mom brought me her sewing machine – a bad-ass Husqvarna Viking– when she came to visit this past Fall and taught me the basics of the machine and reading a pattern. Since Winter was upon us, I decided to make a lovely little wrap sweater thingy. I don’t know why I thought sewing something with sleeves and a hood would be a good idea for my first attempt, but my mom seemed to think it’d be ok so I went with it. As I was pinning the pattern to the fabric I stuck the bejeezus out of one of my digits. “Shit!” I yelped, squeezing my index finger. “Are you bleeding?” my mom asked. I nodded, sucking on the wound. Without hesitation she responded, “Good, you’re supposed to bleed on your first sewing project.”

A few weeks and a lot of profanity later, I finally finished the damn thing. The seams weren’t exactly straight, the corners were messy, and the sleeves were a good two inches too short. So, I gave it to a friend of mine who’s just tall enough to not be legally considered a little person. I decided to try a few up-cycle/re-fashion projects before committing to another serious garment so that I could practice measuring, sewing in a straight line, and making even hems. In nerding around on Whole Living’s website, I found this Oxford Napkin idea and decided to give it a shot with one of J’s old shirts. 

First order of business was to take the shirt apart. At first, I sat down with a glass of wine, an episode of The Daily Show, and my seam rippers only to discover that it would take me the length of Jessica Simpson’s pregnancy to do it that way. So, I grabbed my Ginghers and made quick work of it.

Then, I took the back of the shirt and cut out four, ten-inch squares. Martha says to cut out 12 inch squares, but J is a rather svelte man so the shirt didn’t provide THAT much fabric.

This is where it gets tricky – for me anyway. I can’t seem to sew a hem in a straight line so what I have to do is iron the edge over a book, pin it down, then sew. Like sew: (see what I did there?)

Since I used a 10-inch square rather than the 12-inch square a portly gentleman’s shirt would have provided, these turned out more like pocket squares and less like napkins. But that’s ok – I don’t really use napkins anyway…