Fortune Cookie Cat Toy

I was looking for something cheap and crafty to do while enjoying a little Star Trek: The Next Generation season 2 marathon today when I came across Lion Brand Yarn’s free crochet pattern collection.

It turns out that they have a slew of quick and easy amigurumi (cute crocheted or knitted plush toys) patterns available for download. By quick, I mean that most of the patterns take less than an hour or two to complete, even for a very occasional yarn tinkerer like me.

Here it is–my very first catnip-stuffed fortune cookie cat toy made of yarn.

Fortune cookie!

Neville even gave it his official snuffle of approval. (He looked like he had a case of Velcro cookie paw for a while due to the unique magnetic attraction between cheap acrylic Ghetto-Mart yarn and razor-sharp kitty claws that are a bit overdue for clipping.)
Neville's cookie

For more cute (and easy) crochet cat toys and stuffed amigurumi patterns, visit the Lion Brand site and register for free to view and download the patterns: Lion Brand Yarn Free Amigurumi patterns

If you don’t know how to crochet or need a refresher like I did, some great video tutorials can be found here: Amigurumi Tutorial at Hook & Needles

M&F W2D4: Back on the Bench

And I mean that in a good way.

This is a happy day, for I am back on the bench and pressing up some iron again!

I have been allowing my neck to recover from Saturday’s trip to Rebounderz for the past few days, which means that I haven’t lifted since Saturday afternoon when I did the first leg/glute workout from the Muscle and Fitness program. Since then, my whiplashed sternomastoid muscles have been complaining every time I had to turn or lift my head. I came off of one of the rebounding walls laterally when I was first trying out the trampolines and landed sideways. I remember thinking at the time, “Crap…hope I didn’t mess up my back or neck just now.”

I’ve literally been bracing my skull with one or both hands and slowly rolling over to my side in order to get out of bed in the mornings instead of sitting upright as usual. Sunday night when I popped in the NYC Ballet Workout 2 DVD, I had to give up at the floor work section because I couldn’t lift my neck and shoulders off the floor to do crunches without pain. I’ve cut my last 3 scheduled lifting workouts and replaced any planned high-impact interval runs with lower impact options like Hip Hop Abs, stationary bike, walking, and inline skating.

Fun times. 😛

On the positive side, my lower back has been surprisingly trouble-free for the past few weeks.

I woke up this morning feeling pretty good (i.e. I didn’t have to roll over TOO slowly in order to get out of bed), and decided to get back on the program with a chest/shoulders/triceps workout. I managed to get through the entire workout with minimal twinges from my neck and even increased reps and/or weights in all of the exercises, so I should be fine from this point on as long as I keep my cardio low-impact for the next week, do only standing ab work (Hello Hip Hop Abs!), and take care on any prone lifts.

Lessons Learned:

1. Grown-ups shouldn’t try to rebound from trampoline walls sideways like a six-year-old and expect to escape unscathed from injury.

2. Sometimes rest really IS necessary to avoid making an injury worse.

3. My head is really heavy!

1. 1.5 c. Honey Bunches of Oats cereal, 1/2 c. light soy milk, 4 egg whites
2. 1 banana, 1/2 c. 1% cottage cheese, 1 T. cocoa powder, 1 packet Splenda, 1 t. chocolate chips
3. 3/4 c. brown rice, 1 c. veggie, 3 oz. spicy chicken breast stir-fry
4. 1/2 WW pita, 2 slices turkey breast, 1 slice Swiss cheese, 30g baby carrots
5. 3 egg whites, 1 whole egg, 1 c. asparagus veggie mix, 5 slices jalapeno peppers, 1 apple
6. 1 plum, 4 oz. shrimp, 1 c. veggie stir-fry

Water: 16 cups
Supplements: multivitamin, calcium 600+D

* Chest/Shoulders/Triceps (55 min)
* Walk (15 min)
* HHA Cardio (30 min)

My Year of Fitness ADD

I seem to be suffering from fitness ADD this year. I’ll start a program with the pep of a 5-year-old at Disney World, follow the plan balls to the wall (figuratively speaking) for 3-4 weeks, then lose interest, usually when it’s time to swap out exercises and change things up again. I have been so busy with travel, work, and other interests since last fall that I can’t seem to work up any enthusiasm for learning a new lift that involves balancing on one foot while performing bent-over dumbbell rows, you know?

Running, which has long been my staple cardio exercise despite my ineptitude at it, is now the very last thing I want to do when I go to the gym, effectiveness at fat-burning be damned.

Does this happen to everyone that has been working out steadily for a few years?

If so, how do you get over it?

Objectively, I know that a big part of the problem for me is that I’ve already done this before–the getting into shape via diet, strength training, and intervals things, that is. I love the challenge of learning and mastering something new, but once I have successfully completed a project, I want to move on to another one that will test me in different ways. The issue I’ve been having over the past two years is that nearly all of the programs I have tried have been exactly the same as Body for Life with only some minor differences in the selection of resistance exercises.

There is no intellectual or physical challenge in doing yet another 3 days of lifting/3 days of interval cardio program, no matter what you choose to name it.

And on the nutrition front, things aren’t much better. You can nitpick for the rest of your life over whether carbohydrate/protein/fat macronutrient ratios at at 50/30/20, 40/30/30, or 40/40/20 are better, but given a baseline quantity of protein, it still boils down to how much you are taking in and burning off each day, and the differences really aren’t that significant because you are still choosing from the same list of clean foods.

In a last ditch effort to bring back the RAWR attitude for 2008 and break out of this funk, I’m going to give a 12-week program that I’ve always wanted to try from one of the final issues of Muscle and Fitness Hers (R.I.P.) a shot for the next three months. It features a three days on, one day off lifting split that varies sets and reps of the same exercises every 4 weeks so I won’t have to deal with perfecting my form on a whole new set of exercises just when I start to get into a good groove with the ones I have already learned. The most important part of the program is that it will force me to go to the gym at least six days out of every seven because I can’t perform the lifting workouts at home.

The fact that cardio is limited to one short 15-20 minute HIIT session on one of the lifting days and 45 minutes of lower-intensity steady state on the off days doesn’t hurt, either. I figure that I can mix things up on the off days with gym cardio, swimming, walking, Forza, 10-Minute Trainer workouts, Yourself Fitness, NYC Ballet, and Hip Hop Abs.

Here is the basic schedule:

Day 1: Chest/Shoulders/Triceps (60 min); (Optional) Hip Hop Abs or other home cardio (30 min)
Day 2: Back/Biceps/Abs (60 min); HIIT Run (20 min)
Day 3: Lower Body (60 min); (Optional) NYC Ballet Workout or yoga (45 min)
Day 4: HIIT Run (20 min); LISS Cardio (40 min)

1. 1.5 c. Honey Bunches of Oats cereal, 1/2 c. light soy milk, 3 egg whites
2. 1 banana, 1/2 c. 1% cottage cheese, 1 T. cocoa powder, 1 packet Splenda
3. 3 egg whites, 1 whole egg, 1 c. asparagus veggie mix, 5 slices jalapeno peppers, 1 apple
4. 2 unsalted rice cakes, 1 T. all-natural peanut butter
5. 1/2 WW pita, 2 slices turkey breast, 1 slice Swiss cheese, 30g baby carrots
6. 1 plum + TBD (Dinner provided by company for late night)

Water: 16 cups
Supplements: multivitamin, calcium 600+D

* 10-Minute Trainer Cardio and Lower Body (20 min)
* Forza (30min)
* YF Cardio (60 min)

NROLFW Workout Log Debugging Help Needed

To those of you who have downloaded my Excel workout logs and diet calculator for The New Rules of Lifting for Women in the past and encountered problems with the file crashing Excel, could you do me a huge favor and post in comments:

1. What version of Excel you are using (or if you are using that)

2. Which version of Windows you are running?

3. How much RAM do you have?

4. What you were doing with the file when it crashed? (e.g. Printing, entering numbers, switching tabs, saving, etc.)

I created the file in a combination of OpenOffice at home and Excel 2007 at work, so there may be some unforeseen compatibility issues. I’d like to narrow down the reasons the file might be crashing, whether it’s the .XLS format I chose to save in (Excel 97-2000 I believe), the file size, the use of form elements (checkboxes), or something else.

Thanks for your help! Hopefully I’ll be able to upload a more stable version in the near future.

Boingy-Boingy Fun: Rebounderz Planet Jump Review

Rebounderz Planet Jump

Rebounderz Planet Jump, 480 S. Ronald Reagan Blvd., Longwood, Florida 32750
Phone (407) 499-4797

This last Saturday, my husband and I trekked out to Rebounderz Planet Jump in Longwood, Florida for a friendly game of trampoline dodgeball with about a dozen of our closest (and sportiest) friends. It was Chris’s 34th birthday, and he wanted to do something a bit more creative than the requisite grown-up birthday dinner, barbecue, or surprise party.

Rebounderz is a newly-opened indoor trampoline gym in the Longwood, Florida area. Besides 6,700 square feet of wall-to-wall (literally–the entire perimeter of their custom-built jumping court is lined with trampolines set at a 60 degree angle so you can bounce off of the walls as well as the floor) trampolines, the 11,000 square feet facility features a snack bar, mini-arcade, and TV lounge.

The $10 fee covers helmet and shoe rental plus the first hour of jump time. Additional time can be purchased for $8/hour, but trust me, one hour of jumping is PLENTY for anyone over the age of 5.

Our group arrived around 6 PM on that soggy Saturday evening to find that, contrary to the assurances of their group coordinator that 5-7 PM was their dead time, the entire building was packed with tweens whose parents had decided that dropping their kiddies off at Rebounderz with a dozen or more referees and no way to spend money was preferable to ditching them at the mall unsupervised.

In the end, only about 11 of the 15 or so confirmed group members actually showed up, but we were given the discounted $8/person rate anyway, probably because the place was so busy that it was impossible to keep track of everyone coming in and out. We scooted over to the helmet and shoe rental area with our receipts and were fitted for cute lightweight red and black jump shoes and some decidedly UN-cute padded foam helmets to protect our delicate noggins. While most of the females had no trouble getting the right size of shoe, some of the guys with size 10 or larger feet had to wear their own athletic shoes to jump since the larger sizes were limited. The shoes were sized in youth/men’s numbers, so I wound up in size 6 (I normally wear an 8 in women’s). The helmets were available in 4 sizes.

Update: Jo from Rebounderz has let me know that they just got a shipment of larger size shoes today, so all of you fellows with big feet should be easily accommodated going forward.

Our stylish headgear…

Once we were properly outfitted, we were led to the neon green and blue jumper court and given safety lessons in falling, jumping, and flipping (for those so inclined). When the referees were confident that we wouldn’t injure ourselves or take out any of the half-pints pinging around the room like excited water molecules in a pressure cooker, we were allowed to bounce on our own.

This plyometrics stuff is easy on a trampoline!

Let me tell you–it may look easy, but jumping is hard work! We had a blast bounding around the court and trying out tricks…for about 10 minutes. Then most of us had to have a sit down for a minute or two before jumping back into the fray.

Apparently Rebounderz offers fitness classes during the week. I could definitely see that being a kick ass workout with a lot more novelty than spinning or kickboxing for the jaded workout diva.

By the end of our hour (we never did get to play dodgeball because the court was too crowded), all of us were completely drenched in sweat, exhausted, and more than ready for dinner at TGI Friday’s nearby.

What else could you ask for in a birthday outing?

If you are ever in the Orlando area and want a break from the theme park madness, give Rebounderz a try, with or without the kiddos. It’s just as much fun for grown ups as it is for the under 18 set. And be ready for some major booty DOMS in about 2 days. 😉

Birthday Boy

Happy Saturday folks, and happy birthday to my husband today!

Chris is now 34, so I had to find him something appropriate for his dignified, mature new stage in life.


Chris (Shaking the box): “This looks like a Guitar Hero box…”

Me (Smirking): “Why would I get you another guitar? We already have two.”

Chris: “That’s true. Hmm.”

Chris: **GASP** “OMG!!!! No WAY!”

Chris: “It’s a P-90!”

Chris: “I wuv you, my pweciouuuuuuuuuuussssss…”


Yeah, DH was as giddy as a little boy over his brand-new, replica P-90 (just like the rifles they use on Stargate SG-1) Airsoft BB gun. He started putting it together right away and firing into the net target in our dining room. I had to kick him outside to the patio to fire it for the next half hour.

One can only imagine his joy later today when we go to Rebounderz with 15 of his closest playmates–er, I mean associates–for trampoline dodgeball.

A review of Rebounderz Planet Jump and more pics to follow…

2008 Pink Dumbbells/John Stone Fitness Cruise Redux

Hello, hello!

I am back from the 3 day Bahamas cruise I took with fellow fitness bloggers and Pink Dumbbells members Kyra, Irene, and Cathy as well as a crew of 10 from the John Stone Fitness forums, including the illustrious Mr. John Stone himself. While I have yet to organize and tag the photos from my camera, I can tell you that everyone looked fabulous, and much laughing, talking, eating, and merrymaking was enjoyed by all.

The festivities really began last Thursday when several of us from the PDB boards met up at Royal Thai for a pre-cruise dinner. Kyra and her husband weren’t able to make it, but Meghan/Megnut3636 was able to make it to the chow down.

The next morning, Chris, Cathy (who bunked down in our spare bedroom and had to make frequent check-in calls to her assistant at home to reassure her that we weren’t crazy ax murderers), and I motored out to the airport hotels to pick up Kyra, Chris, Irene, and Michael. We wound up making a last minute stop at Target for such sundries as a hoodie for Cathy, snacks, and a workout outfit for my husband, then visited the local Chipotle for a quick bite to eat before heading out to Port Canaveral.

Once we got on the ship, we wandered up to deck 11 where there was a bon voyage party in full swing by the pool. There, we met up with the JSF fellows and gals for drinks on the upper pool deck. This was made much easier by Phillydude’s day-glo orange and green cruise ensemble, which was visible from 2 miles away.

Josh (jk0), Lisa Stone, Phil (Phillydude), and John Stone

The Official Husbands of Pink Dumbbells booty line up!

Our ship, the Royal Caribbean Sovereign of the Seas

Some of the JSF guys (Roger, John, Adam, George, and Josh)

After the party, it was off to our staterooms to finish unpacking, and then up to deck 6 where John, Lisa, Kyra, Chris, Roger, and Tanisha were eagerly sampling the free rum next to the shops. I stayed away from the rum, but did snag a cheap $10 sun hat from the Downtown Jewelry store.

Chris checks out the stateroom bed

Kyra and Roger hang out by the free liquor tasting table.

Saturday was spent at the port of Nassau, Bahamas. Alas, Chris and I opted to stay on board the ship since we’d been there before. We didn’t take any pictures by the ship’s pool, but we did get slightly browner all over and much redder on our chests…which we somehow forgot to smother with with sunscreen. D’oh!

I was feeling kind of sluggish at this point, and I knew I had to get in some exercise minutes for my Ultimate Challenge team during the weekend, so I wandered over to the gym to participate in their Sunset Stretch class. When I walked in, about eight guests were being tortured with dizzying array of step aerobics moves by the South African RC fitness instructor. I had to turn away from the carnage and warm up with a 10 minute interval run on one of the treadmills. The stretch class was a nice diversion after my intervals, and I felt peppy enough to do a quick strength training workout right afterwards.

Saturday night was the formal dinner and captain’s reception. Dinner the night before had been casual dress, but this one required cocktail dresses for the ladies and suits for the men. How spiffed up were we?

John and Lisa Stone at the Captain’s formal reception (where more free drinks were provided)

The PDB crowd on formal night (Clockwise from back left: Michael, Irene, Kyra, Chris, Cathy, Chris, and Maggie)

Oh hey! John Stone’s posse can dress up, too! (Clockwise from back left: Adam, Grace, John, Lisa, Matt, Phil, Josh, Roger, Tanisha, and George)

Sunday we docked at Royal Caribbean’s private tropical island, CocoCay, where it felt like a hundred degrees out on the beach. I started the day with a climb up the rock wall at the back of the ship and a Turbulence Training dumbbell/bodyweight fusion workout in the gym, then went back to the room to kick Chris out of bed and go to breakfast.

The island was beautiful, but Chris and I didn’t have a chance to explore much of it because we had signed up for a sea kayaking tour and snorkeling. Our tender (fancy term for hopping on a little ferry boat from the cruise ship and motoring to the island instead of docking directly at a port) was a bit later than expected, so we had to jog over to the kayak tour’s departure point, scrawl our names on the accident waivers, and paddle like maniacs to catch up with the rest of the tour group. Whilst we were flailing away, the rest of the group was chilling and resting for about 10 minutes.

Of course, as soon as Chris and I arrived, the leader signals everyone to move out.

Sigh. At least I got in a work out.

We kayaked to a deserted part of the island, dragged the kayaks on to the shore, and got to hang out at the beach (with several large sting rays) for a bit before heading back. Now we were an hour late picking up our snorkeling gear, but the staff at the Snorkel Shack graciously let us redeem our pre-paid snorkeling tickets for masks, vests, and snorkels anyway.

We swam out to take a look at the underwater ship, airplane, and miscellaneous rocks and coral reefs near the island and saw many, many fish that could have been extras from Finding Nemo. I would post some photos here, but, well, I didn’t have an underwater camera kit. Sorry!

At this point we were pretty hungry and pooped out, so we opted to grab some food at the free BBQ buffet at the center of the island and catch a ride back to the ship to climb the rock wall again and take the stretch class before dinner. Again.

Yes, we did a lot of eating during the cruise. 😉

CocoCay, Bahamas

So after many meals, tons of sun, lots of chatter, plenty of drinks with umbrellas in them, and a fair share of cheesy shows, I have to say that this was a fabulous group vacation that MUST be repeated next year.

Signing out from the Bahamas…hope you can all make it next year!

For a few other random shots, check out my Picasa album below: