Grackle & Sun

Archive for the month “September, 2012”

Office Chair Workouts: Week 8

Something new!  I’ve decided to give the workouts over at Loving Fit a try.  Why?  Because while I think the most important goal for me is to continually do better compared to what I did last week, sometimes the only way to get perspective about one’s gains is to measure them up to a clear standard.  I wanted to get a better idea of my progress by seeing where my fitness levels are using someone else’s ruler—namely a someone who is ridiculously fit.   It’s easy to feel like a hoss in your living room when you’re doing exercises that you know you can do, but it doesn’t mean you are doing all you can do.  This is my step back to take a wider view.

Tatianna at has a wealth of killer workouts on her site, as well as fantastic guides on how to choose workout schedules.  Her videos clearly explain how to properly do each exercise and how to do variations for beginner and intermediate levels.   I like that she is all about form, all about making sure you’re doing the exercises properly.   One thing that she talks about is the necessity, even with bodyweight exercises, to take a day off between full-body workouts or to break up workouts into upper and lower body splits (even then tossing in a couple days of rest). I’m going to try this approach to see if it helps my workouts.   I also really like that her site is not the boob-bomb that other sites (yeah, I mean you, Bodyrock) I used to use are, and that’s incredibly refreshing.  I just want to see the exercises.  Finally, Tatianna is amazing about responding to questions and comments on her site.  I had a question about her plank variations video, and she answered it within the hour.  Wow.   That she takes the time to acknowledge and help her viewers tells me that she cares about this, and that makes me care about her work, too.   I first heard about Loving Fit on Angry Trainer Fitness, and it was all the comments about how she took the time to answer questions that made me give her site a try.  I’m glad I did.

Because I’m doing a new schedule, I’ll be posting my Office Chair Workouts on Sundays instead of Fridays.  Wish me luck.

Monday: Lower Body Workout

I didn’t have time to do one of her full workouts today, but I did watch a lower body video and incorporate a couple of the exercises from it into my workout.  Immediately, I can say, “Whoa, she is not messing around.”  Time to ramp it up.  I will be better prepared tomorrow.

Tuesday:  Upper Body Workout

Today I did part of the upper body workout entitled Magnetic Sweat from  I didn’t feel magnetic, but I did break a sweat.   One thing I like about the way Tatianna films these workouts is that the first half is her going through the exercises at speed, and the second half is her explaining the form for each one and variations that can be done for beginners or intermediate level.  It’s helpful to see what the benchmark on speed/form is for someone who is very, very fit so that I can gauge how I’m doing.  I modified most of her exercises to be somewhere between beginner and intermediate.  It was once again very frustrating to be limited by my shoulder.  I’m really unsure how to make it stronger without jacking it up.  One thing I do know is that the “two way dive bomber” push-ups was some high comedy in my living room this morning.  :/

Wednesday:  Rest Day

One of the cool things that Tatianna does on her website is to show workout schedule variations for different levels—beginner, intermediate, and advanced.  I’m experimenting with following Intermediate Workout Plan 1 for the next several weeks to see if I achieve more gains by A) doing split workouts—upper and lower body, and B) add a rest day in the middle of the week rather than the 5 days straight followed by 2 days off that was recommended by Bodyrock TV.  One thing that I’ve noticed over the last 7 weeks on this schedule is that I had a surprising amount of muscle fatigue, and every single Monday was a bitch to get back into the groove.  We’ll see if this new schedule fixes all that.  I can tell you that after the last two days, I needed this day to recoup.

Thursday:  Lower Body Workout

Today I did the Booty Pop Siren workout at Loving Fit.  These names make me shake my head, but Tatianna is so friendly and so freaking ripped, that it doesn’t matter.  She is helpful and thoughtful and clearly serious about doing this right.  I am in awe of her impeccable form, and it gives me something to work towards.

She recommends that beginners do not do interval training.  I’ve done some in the past and did not like A) worrying about the clock and B) ending on uneven reps.  I like to finish up a side so that it’s all balanced.  So I did not do the intervals on this routine, instead opting to do 3 sets of the recommended reps.  I figured it would work out to about the same anyway.

Also, I only did ONE set of the One Leg Chair Squats instead of the FIVE MINUTES that she did them.  Why?  BECAUSE THEY ARE EVIL!  AND THEY WILL CLAIM YOUR SOUL!  Or at least your quads and glutes and possibly the rest of you if you fall off the freaking chair like I almost did.  So I did one set on each leg very, very carefully and lightly holding on to the doorjamb.  It takes a lot of muscles to do that exercise.  Muscles I apparently don’t own yet.  O.0

And lastly, I did the One Leg Bridges on a medicine ball, because I don’t own a balance ball.  I tried doing them on the couch and a chair, but both were too squishy to do them properly.  It’s really important to remember to drive through the heel on this one.  That’s the key to properly engaging the glutes and the back of the thigh instead of lifting with the quads and back.  Muy importante.  Is the difference between a lame exercise that makes you hate the world and an awesome exercise that makes you dream about the butt you might possibly have one day if you keep doing them.  I finished up the workout with a few different plank variations.

Friday:  Upper Body Workout

Today I did the Trendsetter Workout.  I picked this one, because it was not too push-up heavy, and the 2 exercises that had a push-up could be easily modified.  This workout was surprisingly challenging for balance and coordination.  I had to really concentrate on maintaining proper form and not getting sloppy.  I’ll be adding bear push-ups and walking planks/scissors to my regular rotation.  Had a bit of wrist pain on the walking planks today, though, and that sucked.  WTF wrists?  And, AND I woke up this morning to my glutes telling me exactly what they thought of yesterday’s workout.  I told you those chair squats were evil.

Saturday and Sunday:  Home renovation and lots of walking.  Since I was still sore from these new workouts, the break was welcome.  I’m excited for a new week of workouts with Loving Fit.

Autumn Nearing

The calendar says it’s autumn, but St. Louis has different ideas.  Summer lasts longer here.  Always does.  But as we move toward October, little signs of true autumn coming are starting to creep in—the light is changing, the days shortening, there is a tiny suggestion of a chill on the air at night.  I found these little acorn caps empty in the park yesterday.  They made me smile.

I love the little orange suns tucked into each cap like a little happy surprise.  Do squirrels like surprises?  They’re smart enough to notice.

I am ready to welcome autumn this year.  That’s not usually true.  Must be me getting older.

Ste. Genevieve County Vol. 3: Hickory Canyons

This place.  This place was a total surprise.  I’ve traveled all over the world, seen some of the most moving and bold landscapes ever.  And while Missouri is beautiful, it’s not beautiful in the big, super raw, punch to the solar plexus way that, say, the Rockies are or southern Utah or coastal California.  It leans toward pastoral beauty in the farmlands and rugged old beauty in the Ozarks, river beauty along the Missouri or the Mississippi.  But Hickory Canyons was different.  Somehow.  This place was altering.

It is quiet—out of the way, off some gravel road.  The feeling here is the opposite of Pickle Springs.  There are no signs, no catchy names.  Just the ground, just the trees, the water and the rocks.   How good it felt here.  There is some ground that transports you when you cross its boundaries, takes to to another place, someplace otherworldly.  That was not this ground.  This place was very… real.  It caught me off guard and then guided me along the moss-lined path.  This is a place that loosens your skin of the tautness from city life, from jobs and money and stress, that stretches you.  This is a place that beckons your bones to sink into the soil and remember the sacredness of your humanity and your connection to what is under your feet.  You know what Hickory Canyons reminded me of?  A friend.  Not the kind that is only interested in you when they need your ear or your shoulder or your stuff but never remembers your birthday.  No, this place is the friend that makes you stew on a cold day, that calls bullshit when you need it called, that will laugh with you and get angry with you, and always sings to you on your birthday.  How’s that for some geological anthropomorphization?  It’s the best I can do, because the pictures don’t do it justice.  I would walk this trail every day if I could.

Lobelia cardinalis in the sun.

I’d love it if someone could ID this one. I’ve never seen a mushroom like it before.

And there you have it.  A wonderful weekend full of geological wonders, hiking goodness, land-bonding, friends, food, drink, celebration, knitting, campfires, banana boats, and laughter.  It’s good to get out and see the world.

Ste. Genevieve County Vol. 2: Pickle Springs Natural Area

On Saturday, we went hiking through the amazing Pickle Springs Natural Area.    The state conservation website calls it a natural wonderland, and they are right.  It is absolutely fantastic—full of box canyons, glacial relict species of flora and fauna, waterfalls, and fantastic eroded formations of LaMotte sandstone.  It’s a super short hike at only 2 miles, but it makes up for it in changes in elevation and general marvelousness.

Courtesy of Google’s “My Tracks”. Awesome app.

And because there are so many gorgeous things to check out, knowing that it’s a short hike allows one to meander and pause without fear of running out of daylight.  This is special place.  It has that kind of feeling like how things did in the 1970s when I was a kid and traveling held such a magical fascination for me—everything was interesting and the challenging bits, although sometimes difficult or unsettling, were always pretty much safe.  Maybe it’s all the signs posted naming each attraction that makes it feel sort of like a woodland Disney World ride.  It’s not a bad thing at all.  Actually, it’s rather lovely—kinda mellowed by the touristyness of it, but still a magical treasure.  The forest is friendly and open, and the rocks are steady and protective.  This is the kind of place where you can go to be quiet and observant, to slow your breathing and just be.  Here is Pickle Springs in pictures.  Enjoy.

Just past the welcome sign.

The LaMotte sandstone that is so characteristic of this area has worn away to create very sandy soil. All of the paths here are either sand, stone, or beds of pine needles.

The Double Arch

Something’s hidey-hole in the knot of a tree.


A very happy Ronin of the Woods.

Funky plants growing on the wet rocks.

Up to the top.

Our path carved of stone.

In the pine-scented air.

And we’ll end with a gratuitous funky mushroom shot.

There were a some signs and a few places that I didn’t take pictures of—like the Headwater Falls which had no water, and Piney Glade right toward the end.   This is a place that I’d like to return to in each season to see how it changes.  I have the feeling it becomes more of itself in the winter time when it’s quiet and not being visited by people who just tromp through the good parts.  And leave their cigarette butts.   We’ve been here twice, and both times I’ve been surprised by the amount of trash people leave behind in this little gem.  I don’t get it.  Why would you throw trash in the very place that you just came to visit for its natural beauty?   Part of that Disney feel I was talking about.   Argh.  I feel obligated to give back to the land that I enjoy so much by being a good steward of it.  For me, this includes packing out all the trash that I find.   The spirit of a place must be respected, especially when you’re gonna walk on it’s ground.  These bones are far older than we, and will be here far longer, too.  Someday maybe we will all care for this good earth.  Until then, I’ll travel with a trash bag.

Next time, I’ll show you the fantastical Hickory Canyons.  I am excite!

Ste. Genevieve County Volume 1: Hawn State Park

This Way to Adventure!

Every September, we go camping in honor of our friend Hollie’s birthday.  You know Hollie as Kittyraja (from her awesome natural dyeing linked in my posts).  This year Hollie chose to go camping at Hawn State Park in Ste. Gen. County.  Many much fun was had.  What more can you ask for than beautiful nature, good food and drink, and fabulous friends and family to share it with?  Hollie chose well.

Some of the most beautiful and most unique places in the state of Missouri are in Ste. Genevieve County which borders the Mississippi River on one side and the beginnings of the Ozarks on the other.   It is an area full of fertile farmland, high wooded ridges, lush vineyards, and gorgeous rock formations—in particular, the Cambrian LaMotte Sandstone.   While we camped at Hawn, we did not hike any of the trails there this time.  Instead we went to nearby Pickle Springs Natural Area, which we’d been to only once before, and another area which was totally new to us called Hickory Canyons.  The links I’ve provided are short and give concise descriptions of the geological importance and the myriad of flora and fauna that are unique to each area.   They are worth a read so that you understand why these places are such amazing natural wonders.

Below is a pictorial account of the hiking we did at Hawn earlier this summer and some views of our lovely birthday celebratory weekend.   I also included a few shots of Ste. Genevieve, which is the oldest European settlement west of the Mississippi.  Enjoy.  :D

Pickle Creek (named after Mr. Pickle, not, you know, because it smells like pickles or anything).

Path through the pine-oak forest.

Many parts of this trail look down over steep ridges.

After a controlled burn.

Larger section—you can see the height to which the undergrowth and trees are burned.

Big rocks everywhere. Son is just under 5′ for scale.

Yes, he made it to the top.

View from the top of the trail.

Many gorgeous ferns along the creek, in the woods, and growing along and in the bluffs.

This hike was earlier in the summer, during the ridiculous heat and long drought. The wildflowers were few and far between and were a welcome bit of colour.

And the ones we did see were either purple or yellow. I always forget to take my Missouri wildflower guide book with me on these hikes. I’ve yet to identify these two.

We saw quite a few fallen trees. Not unusual in these areas, as it’s part of the conservation effort to leave them. What was strange was the number of them that came up with the rootball intact. We saw at least six like this, and this is not a small tree. That root mass is easily 8 or more feet across.

Many parts of Pickle Creek are lined with bluffs.

One more parting shot of the lovely Pickle Creek.

The weather was gorgeous for our camping weekend.

Beautiful sunset. We couldn’t see it for the forest, but the clouds overhead revealed it like a Maxfield Parrish painting.

And it just kept on going.

Until it was almost…


And so we started a campfire, warmed ourselves against the autumn chill, ate good food, drank good metheglin, and talked into the night.

Old old Ste Gen.

See? For America, this is pretty old.

Quaint homes.

My favorite art shop in Ste. Genevieve: Only Child Originals. She sells handcrafted jewelry and garden art and lights and cool, cool things.

All the historic houses in Ste. Gen. are marked with the original owner and the date it was built.

Very few of the homes that I could see were used as residences. Most have been turned into shops, cafes, and restaurants.

A number of the old houses in Ste. Gen. are boarded up. I hope that someone can renovate this one before it falls down.  You can tell that back in the day, she was a beauty.

Some of the historic buildings, like this one, are better kept than others. You can tell that Ste. Genevieve has had a lot of ups and downs with the economy. The main attraction for the area right now is with all the wineries. I hope that the town is able to maintain its historic treasures. Much of what we saw was in need of a fair amount of repair and a good coat of paint. But the charm is all there. It’s a neat little town.

Next time I’ll show you the amazing (even if funnily named) Pickle Springs Natural Area.   I love camping and hiking adventures!

Office Chair Workouts: Week 7

There were no Office Chair Workouts this week.   This is a week of Real World Workouts, lol.   I took the week off from my normal workouts, and I reminded myself everyday that it’s ok (even good) to do that now and again.   The reason I took the week off is because we’ve spent hours (and hours and HOURS OMG) putting new flooring in the kitchen.  We’re doing that brown paper floor thing.  It’s easy, but surprisingly labor intensive.  I don’t know if you’ve ever spent 6 hours in a full squat before, but that’s what it took to lay the first layer of the floor.   I was so sore after the first day that I felt like a truck had run over me.   A few times.  Wait.  Did I say first layer?  Yes.  That’s right.  There was a second layer, too.  And some patching.  Many hours on the floor.  I hurt.  A lot.  And all I can say is that this floor better turn out GORGEOUS.  We still have to stain and poly it.  Will post when it’s finished.

The second reason why I felt ok taking the week off is because we are spending the next few days camping and hiking at one of our favorite places—Hawn State Park.  There are miles and miles of trails up and down craggy hillside cliffs and along idyllic streams, and we will be on those trails every day.  It will be good to get out into the world and stretch my legs and breathe the pine-scented air.  Hopefully, it’ll work out all the kinks and aches from that last few days of home renovation madness.

So, I say that I took off a week, but I haven’t really.   I worked my muscles for endurance with the flooring, and hiking through the Ozarks will definitely beat anything I’ve done on a treadmill.  As long as I’m moving, it counts.  It counts.

I recently found a new site that has a lot of bodyweight training workouts, and I’m going to try them out when I get back.  This site has gotten good reviews from people, even The Angry Trainer, so I’m curious to see how I do with them.  I’ll let you know how it goes next week.  I’m excited to mix it up a little.



Office Chair Workouts: Week 6

Monday:  Back At It

Each exercise x 12 reps, except OMGLFIFD, which is 50 reps.  All x 6 sets.  By the way, Gladiators?  OMFG.

Tuesday:  Need some spinach

After warm-ups, started with 50 jumping jacks and then went straight into weights.  Dude.  A few months ago, I was hefting a 25 lb kettlebell like it was nothing.  Today, my 10 lb dumbbell was slightly challenging.  Lesson?  If you don’t use your muscles to lift heavy things, then you won’t be able to lift heavy things.  Call me Captain Duh.

First set x 10 reps          Second set x 12 reps           Third set x 15 reps

Wednesday:  Old School Century

100 jumping jacks

100 high knees (1 = both knees up)

100 heismans  (1 = jump to both sides)

100 squats

100 sit-ups (feet held by couch.  thank you, couch)

100 mt. climbers (yes, on each side—that’s how I roll)

50 inclined push-ups (on kitchen counter)  Couldn’t do the other 50.   Gotta protect my shoulder.  What I wouldn’t give to be able to bang out some full-on push ups like a total hoss.  Someday, maybe.  Until then, it’s totally girly domesticated push ups in the kitchen.  Lol.

Thursday:  Old Lady Is Old

35 minute workout, timed to see how many sets I could do.  All exercises x 10 reps (on each side, as applies).   Immediately noticed what I’d inadvertently done to myself by arranging the exercises this way—mountain climbers following the sleeper planks (both have the same starting position) and the 1/2 burpee hold following the reverse lunges (both quad killers)—basically I paired up exercises to beat the hell out of a muscle group.  And since I don’t rest more than 20 seconds between exercises within a set, this workout got hard fast.  Old lady feels old today.  I sweat my ass off and had to rest for a minute between the last 3 sets.  0.O

Pretty sure I actually did 9 sets—I think I forgot to make a tick mark when I was bent over double trying to catch my breath towards the end. But, no tally, no count. 8 it is.

Friday:  Stretchy

Exercises 1-4 were done in pyramid sets, with Unweighted Dead Lifts, Serpent Hip Spirals and Bird Dogs done on each side:  10 reps, 12 reps, 15 reps, 12 reps, 10 reps.  Total number of sets: 5   OMGLBIFD was a bonus at the end at 50 reps.  By the way, those Serpent Hip Spirals suck.  As in they’re really hard and make my muscles burn with the fire of ten thousand suns.  Which means I need to make sure they get put into rotation more frequently.  :/

On an up note, today’s post workout static stretching and cool down marks the first day that I’ve felt like I’m gaining flexibility.  I used to be pretty flexible, but I’ve noticed over the last few years (not being physically active at all) that I’d lost much of my range.  Today I stretched with significantly more ease than I have in a long, long time.  Feels good.

Wouldn’t It Be Lovely?

I’m feeling very lucky to have such kind and generous people reading my blog.   Grackle & Sun has been nominated for a One Lovely Blog Award.  I’m excited!  Thanks to Steph at Ch’I Journey for nominating me.  Steph has a wonderful blog detailing her experiences learning Chi Running.   I love learning about this style of running (which I really want to start doing), and I also love reading about her growing enthusiasm and progress.  And her post on conquering fear is awesome.  Thanks, Steph, for sharing this award with me!

The rules for acceptance for this award are as follows:

1.  Thank the blogger that nominated you and link back to their blog.  Check!

2.  Share 7 possibly unknown things about yourself…

a)  I once had a pet duck.  His name was Tagalone.

b)  I listen to a lot of old school Brazilian music.

c)  My favourite colour is brown.

d)  I love roller coasters.

e)  I’m pretty sure crochet is witchcraft.

f)  I think the vast depth of the ocean is terrifying.  I love it anyway.

g)  I use the British spelling of words like ‘colour’ and ‘favourite’ because of the synaesthesia.  The ‘u’ softens the effect of the ‘o’ next to the ‘r’.

3.  Nominate blogs that you think are lovely.  Here are a few blogs that I read regularly.  I hope that you’ll take the time to enjoy them, as well.

Food Through the Pages recreates recipes described in works of fiction.  The pictures are gorgeous and the food looks delicious.  Really fun blog.

West Coast Kayaker writes about his paddling adventures on the west coast of Canada, and his pictures show that it’s one of the most beautiful places in the world.

Getsetandgo writes beautifully detailed posts about her travels throughout Europe and Asia.  Reading her blog is like going on a wonderful vacation.

Erin rae. art.  Mad spinning and dyeing skillz and bicycle adventures.  And a seriously sweet tattoo.

Red 2 white blogs about dyeing and fibery goodness.  I’m always amazed by how gorgeous her projects are.  Inspiring.

Wendi of the Treasure always has some good botanical dyeing goodness going on.  I love her creativity and enthusiasm.

Deep in the Heart of Textiles always has the most interesting posts on so many topics—historical clothing, native plants, natural dyeing, quilting… I always learn something new on her blog!

4.  Notify the bloggers nominated.  Which I will do now.  :D

Thanks again.  I appreciate this very much.  Now share the love!

That’s Why I Call It Scientifical: Avocado Extraction Part 2

So here’s a quick addendum to the avocado extraction action going on.  First, I did the modification on the avocado pits in saltwater.  I decided, out of nothing more than pure curiousity, to modifiy the pH using washing soda rather than ammonia.  I had to add a fair amount of washing soda to get the pH up to where I wanted it—about 1.5-2 tablespoons.  That’s really quite a lot.  But we were starting at an acidic pH of 4.5.     Here’s where I messed up.  I didn’t measure the pH of my saline solution when I made it, so the long and short of it is that I have no idea if the acidity of this solution is due to the saltwater or the avocado pits.   And you know I need to know.  I did measure the pH of the leftover saline solution that I made a month ago, and it measures 8.6—just .2 lower than my tap water.  But, I don’t know that I can trust this reading, since pH can change over time.  Not unheard of.   I’m not a scientist, folks.  I know NOTHING.  But I have a lot of fun asking questions.  And playing with my pH meter.

Here’s the fun and interesting thing that happened with said avocado pit in saltwater + washing soda solution:  remember what this extraction looked like before?

Avocado pits in .9% saline solution = no colour

Well, look at what happened when we hit just over the pH 8 mark…

Chemistry. It’s funky.

I was expecting a little colour change over time.  The instant colour change was a surprise.  It’s definitely brown, but not terribly reddish.  It might end up being worthless for dyeing, but we’ll give it a month or so and see.

I also modified the extraction of avocado peels in vinegar today  I dumped out the vinegar (which was only slightly tinged brown), and I added water and ammonia.  No presto change-oh, but it will be interesting to see if any new colour will come out of the peels.  It’s bumped up to pH of 9.9 which should be good if soaking for a month in 3.4 didn’t trash them.

Finally, I’ve got a brand new batch of avocado extractions going—-this time in brown glass.  Doing a solar extraction.  One jar of pits in ammonia water, and one jar of peels in ammonia water.  Both are fresh from the restaurant last night, cleaned and chopped up.  Now we cross our fingers.

Live happy, dye happy!

Office Chair Workouts: Week 5

Monday:  Holiday = Yard Work

Took a holiday with the fam.  Did yard work with Husband.  It counts.

Tuesday:  A lot, Not as many

Today’s workout bounced back and forth between exercises I can do a lot of and exercises I can’t do as many of.  So I alternated 30 reps and 15 reps x 2 sets.  Plus, today was the official start of my challenge to learn a new yoga position every day for a week.  Claire, of the very cool Ascent Blog, had a giveaway contest which required leaving an idea for a week-long challenge in the comments, and the yoga poses thing was my suggestion for a challenge.  I figured if I can tell other people to do it, I should probably give it a go myself.  Lol.  Today’s position was bridge pose.

Wednesday:  Century and a half

For today’s workout, I did the Double Century Workout by Alfonso Moretti.  But, as I was crunched for time, I did not do the whole thing twice—instead, I did all the unilateral exercises once, and I paused the video and did both sides in one set for all of the bi-lateral exercises.  So, I’m calling it a century and a half.  I was not at all surprised at the exercises that kicked my ass—-Moretti does love his burpees.  But I was excited to see that some of the exercises were no problem for me—basically all the ones that require balance, stability and flexibility over upper body strength.  So bird dogs, one leg dead lifts, and squats were pretty simple.  Even the planks, while challenging, were doable.  But, as usual, every exercise involving push-ups had to be heavily modified to inclined push-ups, and gentle ones at that.  My shoulder is no bueno today.  Will definitely be adding “gladiators”, “t-planks”, and “v-ups” to my regular rotation!

Today’s yoga pose:  Lizard Pose

Thursday-Friday = Sick days :(

I’ve got a cold.  With a fever.  No working out for me.  So, I’m thinking that I’ll try my yoga pose challenge again next week.

Post Navigation