Fitness Firsts: In Which My Core Gets Fused

Ridiculous but true:  one of the main reasons I exercise is so that I can look all tough and hardcore to others.

That includes the adequately fit but non-athletic husband.  I love few things more than coming in from a morning run and shaking sweat off like a dog shakes after a bath, lunging around to show off what a badass I am for running, and reveling in the occasional lady grunt or breath-catching dramatics.  Some days, when I feel wimpy, I just imagine how athletically crazyfit me and my tomato-face must seem to the non-sweaty onlooker and that can be enough to make me feel better about any over-10 minute miles or other such perceived wimpery.

Last week I was getting a bit down on myself for not doing enough strength training.  Though strength training doesn’t create the rivers of sweat that I love to lord over the Husband, it does give me that “frenzied muscle machine” feeling, and it looks pretty impressive to the houseful of sweet Chinese neighbors who sit out eating chicken wings while I do all kinds of planks and leg lifts.  However, I have gotten a bit lax in the strength training department since the post-Christmas knee glitch, when I cut out any moves that would basically move my knee, and even though my knee is (knock on wood, please!) 100% fine now, I’ve kinda lost the habit.

Now, I know my shape and genetics and have resigned myself to accepting a jiggle quotient.  I mean, were I to get a rock-hard booty, I would find it difficult to walk from the cumbersome size of the boulders behind me.  But I still want a bit more definition–and, more importantly, I do NOT want to get injured.

Long preamble short:

I tried YouTube Core Fusion today.

Mind you, I’d rather eat a handful of worms in soap soup than do an exercise video, as a general rule.  I hate the studio settings, the lame music, the panning camerawork, the fake smiles of every exercise video I’ve seen.  I hate the cheeriness and gentle zen-like composure of the demonstrators/gurus, and I hate being asked to feel my energy and such nonsense.  If my leg has been pointing to the ceiling for over a minute and my butt is shaking like flan being wiggled out of the pan, the last thing I want to hear is a reminder to feel the muscle working–bitch, I KNOW it’s working, and it’s about to stop so I can turn the damn DVD off and send you off to oblivion.  If presenters must speak, I’d rather they barked and told me to feel my pain/burn.  No surprise coming from a woman who has pulled on a dentist’s tie during dental procedures;  stuff hurts and I just want to keep it real, y’all.

However, I decided to put all my deeply-rooted and ridiculous misgivings aside and try the Core Fusion because everyone is agog about it and, most importantly, plenty of 10-minute segments are available on YouTube.  Perfect!  I could  watch once, sketch out stick figures of each move, and do them independently without ever having to watch the stupid Good Chi People and their impossible abs ever again.

As I had no clue what kind of fool I’d look like doing goodness-knows-what moves,  I took over the office, closed the door, and then resigned myself to exercise video hell.  Because, you know, I have an image to keep up.

Safely locked away, I started with Core Fusion Pilates Plus, then did Body Sculpt and ended with a short Ab-Sculpt exercise (2:13 minutes of it was all youtube had for me today).

The lowdown:

I did not die.

I also did not fling the computer across the room, though I did give the instructors the finger whenever they talked about how good it felt to feel your muscles work, nor did I start laughing at the cheesiness of the video and turn the thing off.

I was not totally feeling the Pilates Plus at the beginning because I’m like a coddling mother towards my knees and didn’t appreciate the kneel-and-lean-back business, but the donkey-kick-like exercises were good, and I most definitely felt them working.

I really liked the ab exercise I found, and my arms “got got,” in Wire-speak, by the arm segment; they got got so good, in fact, that swimming might be a challenge tomorrow.

As for my legs and soon-to-be-boulder-ass, I’m sure I’ll be groaning delicately as I get up from chairs tomorrow, but I felt that way already after today’s 4-miler, so we’ll see.

The verdict:

All in all, the Core Fusion gets a B in my book.  Combined with a most excellent four mile run this morning–where I not only didn’t die, but sang to my music during the last mile!–I think my muscles are going to wonder why I decided to pay them any attention and wish I’d left them alone.  After all, it’s not like they get much attention in dresses like today’s, where they can safely hide:

Made by yours truly about a year and a half ago

Then again, what do those lazy muscles don’t know about belts and shorter hemlines? [Cue evil laugh].

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Sewing School: Picking Your First Sewing Pattern (Or, I Want THAT One!)

Note:  We interrupt the daily feed of regularly scheduled activities (eating, wearing, and shaking of my boom-ting for healthful purposes) to bring you the very first in Sewing School, a series of posts on how to start sewing.  This post features no food.  But I guarantee that, if you sew, you will get hungry and think of food.  Or eat food while wearing the stuff you sew.  Or, if you really get into it, forget to eat because you love sewing so much and can’t stop until you finish your showstopping item.

Comments and suggestions from sewers experienced, new, aspiring, or McQueen-esque are welcomed and wanted.

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I’ve been sewing for a long time, though by no means would I consider myself an expert.  Watch me attach facings or hurl expletives at the buttonhole attachment on my machine and you’ll see the kind of seamstress I really am.

However, I’ll gladly deal with facings and buttonholes if I’m making something I absolutely love–and so will you.

The trick to starting is to find a pattern for sewing something you actually like and want to wear.  It may be really easy to make a cushion cover, but unless you actually want to use it, you’re not going to feel as inspired to sew it.  Nothing against cushion covers, though–and if you do make one, make one for me too because I can’t make myself sew one.

So, onto patterns:  pick something you like and would actually wear.

You probably want to find something that isn’t too fitted to avoid dealing with finicky measurements, raising and lowering waistlines, etc.  By no means am I advocating that you make  yourself a muumuu.  Though, if you want to make yourself a muumuu, go right ahead and rock it on your own bad self–but no need to send me one.

For men, a good starting pattern might be a simple button-down shirt.  I don’t sew for men and I’ve never made anything for my man (which is why I cook with guilt), but I assume that a simple button-down shirt would be the easiest thing to make (bar buttonhonles, which would take a bit more work but are not inordinately difficult).

For ladies, I’d go with a skirt or a tunic-type top, maybe even a tunic-like dress that could be cinched at the waist.  These things don’t require lots of fussy fitting.  Basically, if it can be bought in a small, medium, large, etc. at the store, it’s a good bet it will require minimal fitting–and therefore minimal frustration for the beginning sewista.

“Pattern Suggestions, Teacher!”, I hear you ask?  But of course!

We can go with something like this skirt (Simplicity 2451)

Or this skirt (Simplicity 2606), which I admit has what appears to be an elastic waistband (that can be covered with a nice belt in these fashionable times):

Or even this gorgeous Burdastyle skirt (the Michelle skirt), which you’ve seen plenty of times on me, as here?

The good thing about all three skirt patterns here is that, even in the case of the slimmer tulip skirt (Simplicity 2451), the only place where you need to 100% ensure that it fits properly is around the waist, because they all float outwards from the waist to accommodate all shapes so you don’t have to worry about how it fits on the hips.

If you are blouse-inclined, something like Simplicity 2892 might be a good start.  Just ignore the hideous billowy main picture (unless billowy is your bag-it’s just not mine) and check out the sassy belted options, which would look adorable with a pair of shorts (if going casual) or a sharp pair of jeans or pencil skirt (for more glamour):

Or even something like this:

Of course, there’s nothing to say that you can’t go for a dress!  If you do, I’d suggest trying your hand at something with the same basic lines as the tops above, such as the Burdastyle Anda Dress or something like this:

Now, don’t let me be a bossy madam and tell you exactly what you should or shouldn’t be sewing; if you cannot live a second longer without trying to sew a fitted-body dress as your first dress, or a frothy and ruffled and flared cupcake of a blouse, by all means go right ahead.  And if you feel the need to make something with a slinky knit, more power to you (and make sure the pattern is labeled “for knits”).

But there’s a method to my madness advice.  The reason I’m pushing suggesting the looser, more forgiving patterns is that they are more loose for interpretation and more forgiving of beginner gaffes than items where you need to worry about the placement of the waist or the exact alignment of the pattern’s darts in relation to your very real, um, assets.

In all honesty, the most important things to keep in mind about the pattern you pick for your first sewing foray is that it should be something you can conceivably make, wear, and feel like the coolest girl (or man) on the block for putting together.  The easier the pattern, the more you’ll enjoy your first sewing project–and the likelier you are to sew again.

My true agenda is now revealed:  I’m out to make converts of all of y’all.

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So, ready to start looking for patterns?

  • Check out SewingPatterns.com, which is my undisputed number one, cheap pattern mecca.  It carries a HUGE variety of the  big four pattern makers (McCall’s, Butterick, Simplicity, Vogue), available for delivery by mail or–my lifesaver–by download.  Trust me, this site’s downloadable patterns are what keep me in sewing fun now that I live in Trinidad and having mail sent from abroad is impossible without having it stolen unreliable.
  • If you want to see the patterns from SewingPatterns.com in larger detail, you can always search for them on PatternReview.com (where you can buy them too, if you’re into paying a bit more than on SewingPatterns.com)
  • Of course, you can also search directly on McCall‘s, Simplicity, and Butterick‘s sites, where patterns will be full price.

Now, I don’t want anyone reading this to assume that I don’t support Vogue, Burda, or Hot Patterns, or even the beautiful and creative designs by small pattern-maker Colette.   I just find that the instructions in Simplicity, McCall’s, and Butterick are incredibly easy to follow (even when patterns aren’t marked as easy, which most of the ones I’ve picked out are) compared to the instructions provided by Vogue and Burda (the latter of which makes instructions for even the easiest of designs so complicated that it makes my eyes cross), and I haven’t yet made anything from Colette or Hot Patterns.

So, though the McCall’s/Simplicity/Butterick patterns may not be Project Runway-worthy, they will sew up nicely and provide a great base for some beautiful fabrics, which we’ll be talking about soon.  But I’ll give you an idea… think pretty, think cotton.


Playing Catch-Up

Playing catch-up is all I did at work today.  The afternoon had me cursing, shaking my fist at the computer, and dreading each and every phone call I received.  I am drained and can barely put a sentence together.

However, before my day exploded like a rotten container of yogurt inside my purse….

I had a great morning run!  It was the first time I’ve ever run two days in a row, and it only happened this way because I had to switch swim days due to work commitments.  So I did the sign of the cross equivalent for atheists, gave myself a good shake-out, and hit the road for three miles (the usual).  I made an effort to take it easy–amazing to see that my February 24 “taking it easy” is my January 11 “pushing it”!  I’m sure runners must have improvement spikes and plateaus.  I’m on the spike and LOVING it, especially since I think I’ve hit the right balance between pushing it enough and keeping myself injury-free (ish).

I wore an old favorite of a dress–H and M Dress from 2006, what would I do without you?

I also had a great office lunch, courtesy of my boss’s birthday celebration:

The spread

My picks

Clockwise from top (starting with the cup) is callalloo (Trini coconut and greens soup), vegetable samosa, fruit skewer of pineapple, plum and watermelon, sweet and spicy chicken drumstick, spicy baked fishball with yogurt cilantros sauce, lemony and garlicky shrimp and peppers skewer, saheena (a patty of chickpea flour and spinach, all beautifully spiced with curry) with mango tamarind sauce, and a dumpling for dipping into the callaloo.  Oh, and did I mention there was wine?

And peach cream cake and cherry trifle?


I was stuffed and merry after lunch–too bad the rest of the day did not live up to the magnificent lunch.

For dinner, I had a long-promised chili with soy mince and beans, with white rice and salad:

It was top-class and brought back fond memories of a snowy lunch at Chipotle with Baby Bel over Christmas… Sigh.

I’m going to foam-roll my bad day away and try to catch some ice skating on the Olympics.  Chau!