Running sucks.

Okay, that may be a little harsh. But I hate running, I always have. Running the mile in gym class in high school was miserable, despite being skinny and actually having the endurance of a 16-year-old. And it always seemed the running had to happen outside, in November when it’s just getting to be cold as hell in here in Michigan. After high school, I never once had the desire to run for the next several years, especially for fun.

Losing weight is a great motivator to start exercising, but for me, gym memberships never work. I sign up, go a couple of times, and continue to pay for a gym I never end up going back to. While losing weight is a great goal to have, it is easy to get caught up in the day-to-day life and make excuses for why you can’t make it to the gym. I needed a bigger goal then just simply “to lose weight” and something to hold me accountable and a way to force me to work out, even if  I didn’t want to. So I decided to sign up for a 5k.

I got the idea after going to cheer on a family member at the Detroit Free Press Marathon. Watching people cross the finish line was inspirational. These people had just ran 13 or 26 miles and didn’t die. I thought if all these thousands of people can run a half & full marathon, surely I can manage to run a measly 3.107 miles. Plus I wanted a cool medal. I figured that by signing up for a 5k would hold me accountable because I would be forced to train. Coming from a sedentary life style and not in my younger days, I can’t go from couch to 5k with no training.

To find the 5k that I was going to run, I went to the Running in the USA website to find my first 5k. I also would suggest looking to see if there is a state specific site for where you live, as there are smaller, more local races that may not be listed on the Running in the USA site. Here in Michigan, we have a site called Run Michigan that expands on the list I found on the Running in the USA site.

The most important tool to have if you are going to start running is a good pair of shoes. The way each person runs is different and there are a myriad of injuries and problems that people have that can make running difficult, which is exacerbated even more by bad shoes. I once heard a bit of advice of regarding items you should never cheap out on and that was items that separate you from the ground, i.e. shoes & mattresses. Spend the money on a good pair of running shoes if you are going to commit to running as a hobby, even more so if you plan on entering races.

I used Runner’s World shoe finder tool to help me determine a good shoe for my needs. I will stress that this is important. I tried jogging before with a cheap pair of running shoes from Payless and I have an ankle I have broken & sprained more times than I can count. I quit because my ankle would end up hurting so bad that it wasn’t worth it. I splurged on a pair of $80 shoes that were recommended for bad ankles and had no ankle issues or blisters. Also, in this same vein is moisture wicking padded running socks. Evil Husband joined me on my first 5k and wore regular tube socks and got horrible blisters because of the socks.

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My fancy running shoes

Once you’ve got the good pair of socks & shoes, the training is next. I used the Couch to 5k app “Run Double.” I actually bought the full version of the app (using my Google Rewards) since I had planned on doing more than one 5k and would be using it frequently. I started my C25k training in around November and my first 5k was in February. I was crazy to sign up for a 5k in February in Michigan, but oddly enjoyed running in the cold weather. We actually ended up having a sunny,  not bitterly cold day.

I have to admit that my criteria for choosing the 5ks I wanted to run, I dubbed the “fatty 5ks.” They all had food and/or beer at the end of the races. The first 5k we ran was the Paczki Run, which the reward was a paczki (for those not familiar is a Polish delicacy, a ginormous doughnut filled with all sorts of yummy things like custard, raspberry, etc.) and a beer.

I ran the 5k in around 45 minutes, which I didn’t consider too bad for my first go. I also stupidly tried to keep up with Evil Husband the first 1/4 mile, instead of running at my own pace, so I tired out earlier then I should have. But, I finished, and I didn’t die from exhaustion and the paczki at the end was amazing. So was the beer at 10:00 in the morning.

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Twoje zdrowie (cheers)!

We ended up signing up & running two more 5ks that year. The last race is what broke me and I lost my interest in 5ks completely. I don’t want to discourage anyone by telling this story, but it also plays into the factors you should consider when choosing a race, one of which is time of the race. This particular race was in June and it started at 6:00 in the evening. We didn’t consider the time of the race when we signed up, but figured it would cool down by then. Well, it didn’t.

The race began outside of a park and the beginning was nice and flat, and most importantly,  shaded. It was pushing 90 degrees that day and humid. So being in the shade was nice. Then, the trail went out of the park and followed the main road, and in full sun. We rounded a bend and things were okay until I noticed the huge hill I was about to run down. I wasn’t worried about going down, I noticed the first group of people heading back in our direction up the hill. Only the first two guys were actually running, kind of. Everyone else was walking up that damn hill.

Just before the halfway point, there were two tables of water for either side, coming down & going back up. I got half a Dixie cup at the bottom of the hill, and when I came back they had run out of water, which means all the people behind me, didn’t get any water at all…on a 90 degree day.  It was brutal going back up that hill. I didn’t even attempt to run and just tried walking it. About halfway up the hill, I noticed that I wasn’t feeling so great and I had stopped sweating entirely. My forehead that had previously been drenched in sweat was bone dry. I started feeling dizzy and nauseous. I realized that I was dehydrated and probably about to have a heat stroke. I went off the trail and sat in the shade under a tree. I texted Evil Husband and my cousin who had already finished by this point that I didn’t think I was going to make it.

While I was sitting in the shade, trying not to pass out, 3 older ladies came and sat down with me. They wanted to make sure I was all right, but they weren’t feeling so great either as they weren’t able to get any water at all. So I sat and chatted with them and started feeling a lot better. I was determined to finish and remembered the last part was all in the shade, so it wouldn’t be too bad. I made my way back to the finish line, and Evil Husband & my cousin had begun their way back to find me with water, and helped me cross the finish line.

I can’t say I will never do another 5k again. I honestly really enjoy doing them, as much as I hate running. The sense of accomplishment you get finishing a race is amazing, as is the excitement & adrenaline rush of race day. It is one hobby I would really like to get back into.

Greetings from….

A little over 10 years ago, I stumbled upon a site that connected people from all over the world. Not MySpace, not Facebook, but a modern day pen pal type site with an old school twist….mailing postcards. Postcrossing is a site where you can send and receive postcards all over the world. A month or so ago, I was chatting with Princess Unicorn about how neat it was to get postcards from all over the world and thought I would check out the site again to see if it was still up and running. And it is still going strong. They boast over 700,000 members from 214 countries across the globe. Pretty impressive from what I remember the site being back in 2005.

We signed up and I went on a hunt to find local postcards around where we live to mail out. In 2005, that was a fairly easy task. In 2017, not so much, unless you live in a touristy area. I found a small store that sold a few postcards for about $2 each. I only bought a couple there, but I just so happened to have a friend traveling to a vacation spot in our state and she picked up a handful for us. If you really have trouble finding some, good old Amazon has some great sets of postcards, like the “Greetings From (insert state/country)” vintage style postcards.

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My favorite postcard received so far from South Korea

So how this whole Postcrossing thing works, is you have to send postcards in order to receive any. Each address you request, which is random, is given a unique ID that needs to be written somewhere on the postcard for the receiver to register when they get it in their mailbox. Once your postcards are registered, your address will get added in to the pool to receive. I really like this system as it prevents people from scamming and only receiving postcards without having to send any out. You are only allowed to have a certain number of “traveling” postcards, which can be a bit frustrating when you’re maxed out and it has been weeks waiting for someone to register your postcard.

We sent out the first batch of 5 postcards to Russia, Hong Kong, Germany, Australia & Colorado, U.S.A. You can adjust your settings to send & receive postcards from your own country as well. We opted in as, being in the United States, we have the chance to collect postcards from all 50 states. Although, it was quite funny that the very first postcard we received was not only from the U.S., but from the state literally right below ours that we travel through every summer.  Out of the first 5 postcards we sent out, only 4 made it to their destination. If a postcard never gets registered, it expires after 60 days, and then it will no longer count against your “traveling” postcards. After one year, it will be removed completely.

Your profile consists of an “About Me” page that you can tell users a little about yourself and what type of postcards you would like to receive, like cat postcards or something. Some profiles I’ve come across are very specific as to what type of postcards they want (or don’t want) to receive. The profile page also lists all the postcards you’ve sent & received, a photo wall if you upload images of your postcard, and a nifty map that shows where all your postcards have come from and gone to. There is also stats page that breakdowns the countries you sent postcards to & from.

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Postcrossing map. Red is sent & Blue is received.
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Our breakdown of countries

The Postcrossing site gives some really great writing prompts on their blog and I’ve found some great tips & tricks on the site as well. For example, using Google’s Photoscan app to scan the postcard images for uploading instead of just taking a picture. The app actually takes 4 pictures & combines them, and also crops & removes glare.

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We received 2 postcards from 2 different users in Belarus on the same day!

 

We have received some really awesome postcards from all over the world. And a few senders have taken the time to write some very interesting stories about themselves. We got one postcard from Germany that the sender told us about traveling to East Germany after the Berlin Wall was torn down. It is a fun, somewhat inexpensive hobby that we’ve decided to continue at least until the postcard album I bought is full.

Happy Postcrossing!

 

 

 

The Game I Hate: Race for the Galaxy

I love playing board games. However, there are games we have bought and played that never really kept our interest beyond a few games. Smash Up is one I can think of that both Evil Husband and I both didn’t really enjoy. There are games that Evil Husband loves that I just have had the hardest time getting into. Race for the Galaxy is one of these games. I really didn’t want to play this game at all. But, I did say I’d play the game I hate, so I had to live up to my promise. So, I gave Race for the Galaxy another try.

I disliked Race for the Galaxy for various reasons, but the biggest one is I just didn’t get the point of it. It’s a deck building game where players are racing to build galactic civilizations, but there is something lacking that I have never really been able to put my finger on. I have to admit though, a few of the times we tried playing in the past, cocktails were involved and this is definitely not drinking and gaming type of game.  When you are presented with a double sided card on how to play and a “starter” hand, alcohol shouldn’t be involved until you really know how to play.

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Front Side
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Flip Side

Each player is given a set of cards that represent each of the phases of round and at the beginning of each round, players secretly and simultaneously select which phase they wish to play.  Players can choose to explore (draw more cards), develop (place a card on their tableau), settle (place a world card on their tableau), consume (consume powers by discarding “goods”), or produce (place a “good” on a world.) Selecting one of these phases at the beginning of every round, each player is given the chance to perform that phase’s action. Only player who has chosen the phase gets a bonus that applies only to them as shown on the Round Summary card.

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In addition to the phase cards, players are given a set of random cards consisting of settlements or developments to play on their tableau. Below are examples of various settlement cards and development cards.  The numbers indicated in the diamond or circle indicate the number of cards to be discarded in order for that card to be played in the player’s tableau.

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Midway through game play (face down cards are “goods” to be consumed.)

The game ends when either one player has 12 cards on their tableau in front of them or all of the victory point chips are gone. Victory point chips can be awarded through out game play during the “Consume” phase where players can trade in the “goods” (cards placed face down on a world) for either more cards or points.  At the end of the game, the chips are totaled up, as well as the cards laid on the tableau and each card has an assigned victory point as indicated by the smaller secondary number on each card.

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End of game. I lost.

Final verdict: Despite my protests, I played this game again with an open mind and a full cup of coffee. It really wasn’t as bad as I thought and I kind of want to try playing without the starter hand. Because I’m pretty sure that’s all we’ve ever played. If you enjoy deck building games, you will enjoy Race for the Galaxy.

My next hobby is letterboxing. It is similar to geocaching, however involves stamps and journals. If you are unfamiliar with both of these hobbies, they both are real world “treasure” hunting using GPS or compass coordinates to find a box left behind by someone.

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Carcassonne?

One of Evil Husband’s favorite ways to ask me if I’m up for board game night is to repeatedly ask me in the most awful French accent imaginable, “Dooo you want to play… Carcassonne?”  For years, it’s been a running joke in our house. But since Carcassonne was one of the first games we purchased, we slowly moved on to other games over the years. And, like many of Evil Husband’s bad jokes, we stopped playing.

That’s not to say Carcassonne is a bad game. Quite the contrary. Carcassonne is a tile placement game for 2 to 5 players, but in our opinion, it plays best with 2. An average game last around 30-45 minutes if you play with just the base game. When we decided we wanted to add Carcassonne to our collection, we purchased the big box version that contains the first two full expansions, Inns & Cathedrals and Traders & Builders, as well as 6 mini expansions. I highly recommend purchasing the Big Box as it is cheaper than buying expansions individually and it adds significant re-playability value to the game.

 

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The Big Box and the 6th Expansion

The game begins with a starter tile, or in our game, the river tiles that are included in the 6th expansion, Count, King & Robber. Each player draws a tile with a featuring a piece of southern France landscape on it. The tile may have a portion of a city, a road, a monastery, grassland or a combination of the aforementioned. Tiles must be placed adjacent to tiles that have already been played and in such a way that cities are connected to cities or roads to roads. Once a tile is placed, the player then has to decide to place one of his meeples on one of the areas on it: on the city as a knight, on the road as a robber, on a monastary as a monk, or on the grass as a farmer. When that area is complete, the meeple scores points for its player. Some meeples remain on the board until the end of the game.

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Beginning of the game (top) & Mid-way through gameplay (bottom)

Strategy is relatively simple. As some meeples, such as farmers (meeples lying down in the field,) remain on the board to the end, you must decide the optimal meeple placement. Once a city or road is complete, the points can be scored and your meeple is returned. The other strategy is how to screw over your opponent. If you notice in the above photo, the two spots open in the middle near my (red) three meeples in the field, road & city are empty because Evil Husband pulled some jerk moves early on. The odds of me pulling a tile to exactly fit in those spaces to allow me to complete the city or that road are about zero. So, I lost two of my meeples for the rest of the game and I lost points. I was not happy.

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End of game. I lost. RH: 126 EH: 149

A rematch was demanded immediately as I had now actually remembered how to play and well, I considered it a warm up game anyway. We always play with the first expansion, Inns & Cathedrals, and decided for the second game we’d add in the Traders & Builders. Each expansion adds about 15 additional minutes of gameplay, more tiles and meeples to the game. This expansion adds in the builder meeple to assist in city & road building & the pig meeple for farmer meeples. The builder allows players to draw an additional tile and the pig allows for additional points at the end of the game.

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The Builder meeple

Adding in the additional tiles and meeples adds a new element of gameplay.  Building cities become more important as there are now goods to be won for completing a city as well as additional tiles can be drawn if you are able to add to a city that the builder is in.  I’ll be honest, utilizing the builders and drawing a second tile helped me to crush Evil Husband. As we played, I was building a major city that Evil Husband had decided to pull one of his signature jerk moves, and block my city so the odds of me completing it were slim to none.

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Midway through game. My city in the upper right that was blocked off by Evil Husband’s two road tiles

Nevertheless, I continued adding on to it when I pulled random city tiles I couldn’t place anywhere else. I had scored a lot of points early on in the game, but I lost a meeple and my builder, so Evil Husband slowly closed the point gap. Until the end. I pulled one of the two remaining tiles out the bag, which ended up allowing me to complete one end of my city. Since my builder was in that city, I was able to drawn again & pull the last remaining tile…. that perfectly completed the other end of my city!

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Final game. RH: 228 EH: 169

Carcassonne is easy to learn and a lot of fun. It is also a gateway game I’d recommend for beginners as well. The scoring can get a little tricky sometimes with added expansions, but overall is relatively easy to figure out. It’s also a fantastic two player game, which is what we look for in a board game. With all the expansions available, Carcassonne offers great re-playability factor, and no game will be the same.

I’ve tried to delay the “game I hate” post for as long as I can. So next week will feature one of Evil Husband’s favorite games to play. It’s a game I have tried on several occasions to enjoy, but I just can’t.  Until next time!

 

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A Game I Love: Elder Sign

One of my favorite types of tabletop games to play are cooperative games. Co-op games are designed for players to play against the game itself and team up to beat the game. As Evil Husband and I focus on two player games, co-op games help break up the monotony of always playing against each other.  I had two choices from our collection for the “game I love,” Pandemic and Elder Sign.  Pandemic is a co-op game where you try to stop the spread of disease across a world map. It is a decent two player game, but I find it is more fun the more people you have and more roles to fill.  Elder Sign is a cooperative card and dice game that is good for 1-8 players. The theme of the game is inspired by H.P. Lovecraft’s horror stories and players take on the roles of investigators trying to prevent the return of an “Ancient One.” It may seem a bit complicated at first as there are a lot of components to the game, but it isn’t a difficult game to learn to play.

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All of the pieces and parts for the game.

The game begins by picking out your investigator roles and the Ancient One you will be trying to prevent from awakening & entering our world. Each investigator role has different abilities that will help you as you try to collect Elder Signs, investigate and battle monsters. In a two player game, each player takes on two investigator roles.

Each player takes a turn with one of their characters completing adventures by rolling several die and attempting to complete the tasks on each card. Each card has different rewards ranging from weapons cards to Elder Signs, and sometimes even bad things will happen, like a monster appearing. Failing to complete and adventure may result in loss of health & stamina, character death or a doom token added to the Ancient One’s card, resulting in the Ancient One being one step closer to awakening.

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Tonight we battled Glaaki.
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Close up of one of the Adventure cards with Elder Signs as a reward

If a player wins an Adventure, the role that completed the tasks gets the card as a reward that can be turned in for weapons or to heal. As each investigator completes a turn, the game clock moves 3 hours forward. Every time the clock strikes midnight, a card is drawn from the Mythos deck, which results in all sorts of fun (not really) things that happen.

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A midnight Mythos card. Basically we lost the ability to use any allies. Awesome.
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Midway through game play

The game ends when you collect all the required Elder Signs for the Ancient One or the doom tokens awaken the Ancient One and you have to beat it.  Each Ancient One takes a different number of Elder Signs to beat. In our case, it was 12.

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Game Over.

The game comes with 48 Adventure cards, so there is a very good replayability value as the “museum” will be different every time you play. We played with the first expansion, UnSeen Forces which adds more Adventure cards and Ancient Ones. Most games we play average about 90 minutes, sometimes longer if cocktails are involved.

One of the best sources we have used for our board gaming research is Wil Wheaton’s show, TableTop. If you’re interested in watching live game play of Elder Sign, check out the TableTop video.

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Not Your Average Board Game

I mentioned in my previous post that I was cheating a little with my hobby for this month, as board games is a hobby of both mine & Evil Husband. A few years ago, Evil Husband and I would retreat to our nightly gaming, T.V., or sleeping ritual, separately. The toll of working, parenting and generally being an adult had forced us into a routine of dinner, chores, an hour or so of quiet time after the kid went to bed, then sleep.  I remembered the days of when Evil Husband and I were dating and the nights spent playing random card games, or Euchre with friends and how much fun we had. I was looking for something we could enjoy together and stumbled across some postings about “modern” board games. I was honestly surprised at what board games are out there now.

For most people, the board games they think of are games like Monopoly, Risk, or Clue. But, there is such a vast world of board games out there nowadays, that there is literally a game out there for everyone. I will focus primarily on two player games, as that is what the majority of our collection consists of.

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Our Board Game Collection

We decided the games we pick to feature this month will be one of the following:

  • Quick & easy 2 player games
  • A game I love
  • A game I hate (But Evil Husband likes)
  • A game I haven’t played in a while

For the “quick & easy 2 player games,” I picked Jaipur. Jaipur is a card game where you are a trader and the goal is to become richer than your opponent each round.

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Each player is dealt seven cards & the goal is to sell 1 card for the lower colors: brown, green & purple. A minimum of 2 cards are required for silver, gold and ruby. For every card you sell, you get the same number of tokens. The colored tokens are highest to lowest. If you are the first player to sell your cards of any color, you get the highest valued tokens. However, the more you have of any one color, you receive a bonus token & the value is only revealed at the end.

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Midway through first round of game play

Camels are kind of the “free” cards of the game. You can take them and hoard them until the end for bonus points, or swap them during a round for better cards. There are several different strategies you can play out to earn points. But, it can really just come down to the bonus tokens at the end.

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This may not seem like a lot of points…

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Until sorted by 10s. Total of 69 points. And I got the winner’s token.

Jaipur is one of my favorite quick and easy games to play.  Each round ends fairly quickly depending on quickly tokens or draw pile is depleted. The game is over after 3 rounds, unless a player wins two rounds in a row. I didn’t take pictures of the second round we played because we were  in cut throat mode. But the final total went something like this:

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Recreational Hobbyist: 2  Evil Husband: 0

Here’s a great You Tube video  if you want to check out live game play of Jaipur. Also, this past week I have posted some really awesome lists of beginner board games to check out my Facebook & Twitter. A good majority of these games I own, have played or are on my list to buy. Next week, we will feature one of my favorite 2 player games and a party game I recommend.

 

The Last Stitch…?

My first cross stitching post, I told you all how badly I messed up. Last week, I didn’t have a real update post as I had been working on fixing all my mistakes. Basically, I had begun the frame of the owl and ended up with it being all funky looking. As I followed the pattern, I came to the very bottom to connect & I should have had five stitches across. But I only had room for two stitches.

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The right side bottom row was off by 3 stitches.

I began unstitching the entire right side of the owl up to the  eyes. I fixed where I thought I had messed up, then began working my way back down. And something was still off.  My error was actually at the very bottom where I first started. I ended up deconstructing the entire bottom part and re-stitching. And it still wasn’t right. At this point, I had made two errors I found & fixed, and I had to get a second set of eyes. Evil Husband pointed out that I had stitched in an extra row on the left side of the pattern. And so the third deconstruction began. To top it all off, in the process of fixing it all, the damn thread fell apart. The kit only has a limited supply of each color, so I had to take thread from the kit I bought for my daughter.

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Deconstructed 3 times now?
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Salvaged!

Once I was able to salvage everything and realized that this needs way more concentrating than I had given, I was moving along quite quickly. I even was able to manage different colors. I stitched in the other colors because I apparently have a problem counting empty spaces. This may not be the correct way, but it works for me. According to those I know personally that cross stitch, Evil Husband included, you’re supposed to stitch all of one color at a time. However, as I was clearly unable to figure out just the outside frame, and inside includes three different colors, I decided to do it my way.

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Multiple colors happening!

I had committed  to 4 weeks per hobby when starting this blog. I think I bit off a little more then I could chew with cross stitching. I really didn’t anticipate the mistakes that I had made would set me back this far.  By this time, I should have completed, at the minimum, the “practice kit” I bought. As of last night, I’ve made it this far…

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Almost done?

I am at a crossroads right now. I should begin my next hobby this week, but I haven’t finished cross stitching. I have decided I am going to continue on with my next scheduled hobby.  I will continue this project and update my progress until I have finished. As for the frog kit I picked up, I will work on it as time allows. As frustrated as I got, I really enjoyed cross stitching. I found it very relaxing, well, until I screwed up. It is a hobby I really recommend to someone who is looking for a crafty type hobby, but you should be decent at crafty kind of hobbies.  It isn’t hard, but requires time, patience & attentiveness.

So, what’s in store for the Recreational Hobbyist in March? Well, next month I’ll be covering a hobby that both Evil Husband and I discovered together and really enjoy. We’ve already established a pretty good library over the past few years, and we have a little bit of everything. Next month: Board Games.

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Cross-Stitching Tutorials & Free Patterns

I had a great update post planned for this week. While recovering from the seemingly endless “unstitching” that it will take to fix my epic failure, I decided I would spare you all from what would otherwise be a rant of frustration. (Also, I’d like to keep my posts safe for work and family friendly.) So for the time being, I’ve had to step away from the needle and thread. In the meantime, I thought I might post the best tutorial posts I’ve come across & some free patterns as well.

A few of these tutorials I mentioned in my post from last week, and are some the most helpful I found in beginning.

  • Storypiece is becoming one of my favorite cross stitch sites. The basic tutorial is incredibly helpful for beginners & she offers some very cute patterns for free.
  • The Crafty Mummy also offers an in depth post on how to stitch & some great tips for beginners that I never would have thought of. Like how to end a row that makes it easier to continue onto the next row.
  •  DMC has a bunch of posts that are helpful for beginners and for more advanced stitching. They also have a very in depth post on reading patterns.
  • These embroidery posts & handstitching posts look like beyond simple cross-stitching patterns.  I can’t finish a My 1st Stitch Kit, so those patterns are beyond my level of expertise.

Now when I first entertained the idea of cross-stitching, I was on Etsy and looking for Stephen King stuff for my office. I had came across an IT pattern and decided I wanted to make this for our collection. I also found out how many cross-stitching patterns are available on Etsy and searched for free patterns that I may one day want to try out, should I continue along with this hobby.

  • I just so happened to find a cross-stitching blog by Tiny Modernist and she has some adorable patterns for free.
  • Country Living has several free patterns available. They aren’t all to my taste, but there are a few cute patterns I would stitch.
  • Deviant Art is a very cool site and user Syra1974 has a Lisa Simpson pattern, and several other really awesome Disney patterns, like Bambi.
  • DMC offers a bunch of free patterns, as does Crossstitching.com. I also came across this site that has albums full of free patterns ranging from Aliens to Zodiac signs.

Of course, if you’re looking for popular culture patterns, you may have to pay for a pattern. If you don’t mind paying a few bucks:

  • For those who like a little sass and risque patterns, stephXstitch has some very “cheeky” patterns available. Naughty word warning.
  • Cuddle Up Creations has some very intricate and beautiful patterns available. I had stumbled upon a dragon pattern that I would love to be able to do some day to represent my love for Skyrim.

I have been curating tutorials & patterns on Pinterest on my cross-stitching board. Feel free to check it out for even more! Next week, I will have an update on my own stitching progress and a sneak peek of my next hobby!!

The Struggle is Real: Cross Stitching 101

One day I delved into a rabbit hole on Etsy and came across a bunch of really cool shops that had cross stitching patterns for sale & I thought to myself, “I can totally cross stitch.” So I mentioned to Evil Husband (husband requested a moniker for my blog & was of his own volition,) my desire to learn to cross stitch & of course was met with side eye. However, once my blog idea came to  fruition and I decided my first monthly hobby would be the very catalyst for this blog. Evil Husband was even on board.

We made a trip to JoAnne Fabric,  and headed to the cross stitch aisle. I grabbed a Thomas Kinkade Disney’s Little Mermaid kit.  Evil Husband gives me a raised eyebrow. He suggests I may want to start small. (Surprisingly, he actually knows how to cross stitch, so I should probably listen to him.) He grabs a “My First Stitch” kit hanging separately from the “real” cross stitching patterns. I clearly notice the theme of theses kits, “Girls Rule” are amongst the patterns and I realize these are essentially for kids. Evil Husband might have a point, after all, it’s just a practice kit. I grabbed the most “adult” looking kit I could find.

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Left: What I thought I could do. Right: What I can do.

I began my kit about a week or so ago & have been pinning up a storm on my Pinterest in preparation, so I thought i had it all figured out already. When I opened up this kit, the directions weren’t super clear. I didn’t realize until I visited this post on Storypiece that each strand were 6 pieces in one,  and I’m only supposed to use only two strands. Even Evil Husband had forgotten that the floss needs to be pulled apart. I thought I just be able to easily pull it apart in sections. Nope, it likes to knot up about half away. All said,  it took me about 20 minutes to pull apart, unknown repeatedly to separate into 3 strands. 

Evil Husband helped out with the first few stitches because I had no freaking clue where to start the first stitch. The kit wasn’t super helpful aside from showing the stitching & pattern. I also found this post from Imagine Gnats quite helpful. After the first few stitches were started, I got into the groove.

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Made some progress after two nights

I spent some time about two evenings in a row and made the above progress. It probably totaled maybe 2-3 hours. The shape is starting to take form, and seems pretty easy. I started watching iZombie on Netflix while stitching, thinking I’ve got the hang of it.  Then I realized that I screwed up.

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I messed up bigly somewhere.

So, I took out all the stitches on the right side. Then, I noticed I also screwed up the bottom part. I un-stitched it all and fixed it. Only to realize that I had messed up entirely in the beginning on the left part. And so about two hours ago, I gave up on My 1st Stitch.

Cross stitching isn’t hard. You just have to pay attention. My advice…don’t cross stitch and watch Netflix. My next few posts will be my attempt to fix my screw ups and hopefully start the “real” cross stitch pattern I picked up.

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This is supposed to be my real attempt at cross stitching.

The bottom line is that I thought this would be easy to do.  It is, as long as you pay attention to what you are doing and don’t watch Netflix.

 

For the Love of Books

I’ve been an avid reader my entire life. My earliest memories of childhood reading hundreds upon hundreds of BabySitters Club, Nancy Drew & Fear Street books. At 10 or 11, I began sneaking my mom’s Stephen King books. IT & Skeleton Crew among my first. I became a life long King fan from that moment on.

Over the years, however, my love for books and reading has occasionally been pushed to the back burner. There were years I maybe read only one or two books throughout the year. But it is the one hobby I never gave up on. And it’s because I found ways to challenge myself and make reading a little more interesting. For me, my passion for reading was reignited because of a Goodreads account.

If you don’t have a Goodreads account, make one. Every year they have an annual reading challenge where you can set the amount of books you want to read in a year. I found that setting a goal helped push me on those days I really didn’t want to read. I also joined reading challenge groups on the site that had silly “challenges,” like the “Alphabet Challenge,” where you read a book that starts with each letter of the alphabet. I also find lists from Goodreads or BookBub Blog helpful. My next reading challenge will to be to work through some of my saved lists on Pinterest.

My current reading challenge is to read through Stephen King’s entire bibliography in order of publication. I’m about 11 novels down and around 50ish to go. It’s been an interesting journey seeing King’s writing style develop over the course of time. It’s something I probably would have never noticed had I not gone back and started from the beginning. Several of his earlier books I had not read, and I’m beginning to see his characters & worlds intertwining. Reading through your favorite author’s bibliography is something I highly recommend.  I do break it up every few novels by reading something else, so I’m not entirely overwhelmed.

Another fun way to kind get back into the reading habit is book hoarding, hunting, at used book sales at local libraries. I discovered this obsession hobby of mine as we decided to begin collecting all of Stephen King’s novels, which was my inspiration for my reading challenge.

Book Sale Finder is an awesome site for finding local used book sales put on by local organizations or local libraries. Most sell hardcovers between $1-2 and paperbacks are even cheaper. We tend to hit up two of our local libraries on the weekends, and usually get in trouble by the husband for the amount of books I bring home. $10 usually goes a long way at these sales. My local library has a “red dot sale” that is $2 a bag full. I crammed 9 hardcover & paperbacks into a plastic grocery bag & even my husband was impressed. He thinks I won’t ever get around to reading them all, but he underestimates my passion.

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, said Jojen. The man who never reads lives only one.”
George R.R. Martin, A Dance with Dragons