What DID work – exercise

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(trying to take a picture of yourself on a treadmill is hard)

Since I am trying to get in better shape, I made a promise to myself that I would get down to the fitness center in my hotel (with FOUR treadmills) every morning and start the day with an hour of walking.

Okay, so I never did an hour.

And I even skipped a day.

But I was walking all over downtown and all through the Convention Center and all over my hotel and all over 3 different airports, and ended up doing over 60,000 steps during the course of my trip.  I DID go to the fitness center every day except one (I forgot my alarm doesn’t go off on weekends and barely got ready in time for the business session) and did a minimum of 30 minutes every morning.

Then I realized how spoiled I am by my treadmill at home.  Because I am so large, we had to get a very fancy model with a motor that could take my weight.  It also has some serious fans.  Even the ancient treadmills at my gym have little fans built in.  These dinky Precor models at the hotel did not, though, and I think that was what contributed to my shorter workouts more than anything else.  I did love going outside after my walk into 45 degree weather to stretch out, though. 🙂

But one of the things that made me happiest during my trip was my feeling of capability.  When I was asked to take another spin around the Hall of Exhibits, I said sure – I can do that.  When asked if I wanted to go to various parks and squares around downtown, I said sure – I can do that.  Letterboxing?  Climbing up and down stairs?  Pulling a suitcase full of swag back to the hotel?  BRING IT.

I didn’t go to the party – Saturday was very long, and I was pleasantly and mentally exhausted by the end of it.

Unfortunately, all the walking and activity really just kept pace with all the rich splurging I did at meal times.  I tried not to go overboard, but I did have pasta, a burger, beer, desserts, and mexican food.  Overall I didn’t lose, but I didn’t really gain either – which I count as a win.

So from now on, unless the adventure is hiking, backpacking, camping, or some other kind of activity – I am definitely going to be hitting the gym at every hotel I stay at.  Even if it’s just for 30 minutes because their stupid treadmills don’t have fans.  Especially on our next road trip.  Sitting for 7-11 hours with snacks at hand is gonna suck.

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Trivial Details – Shoes

Do you know what shoes you’re wearing to Convention yet?  I do.  I just got them.  I love them.  Well, I will love them, once I have them broken in. 🙂  Are YOUR shoes broken in, yet?

I have super wide feet, and they are so fat that they are really tall, too, around the arch area (but my arch is fairly normal).  Which means, I have a hard time finding shoes.  If I actually find shoes my size, they are size 9EEEE (US).  Which means, I am pretty much limited to these.  So attractive, right?  Blech. (I do have a pair of these sneakers for walking, I’m almost ready to replace them, though, they’ve already seen over 150 miles in the past couple of months)

So, I generally have to buy men’s wide shoes and hope they fit and don’t look too “manly”, or get the widest women’s shoes in a size 10 or larger, and still my feet hang over the edges.  This is why I have a purse addiction instead of a shoe addiction.  Shoe shopping is no fun when nothing fits.

But I needed something that would look nice under my navy pants, and would work for walking around a convention hall, and around downtown Salt Lake City.  I’m a Quilt Festival veteran, so I know how important wearing comfy shoes is when you go to a convention.  I would love to wear sneakers, but as I said, I want to look nice. (I’m bringing my sneakers, though – I need them for working out each morning, so I will have them as a back up.)

So the search began.  And it has been long and hard.  Finally I found something promising.  Black ankle boots.  Plain toes.  Elastic gores on each side of the ankle.  And to top it off,  when I read reviews which talk about men having to add an insert because the shoes are just too wide, my heart starts racing.  Reviews that say they feel like mature versions of Doc Marten’s.  O. M. G.  Sold!!  Look at the nice round, boxy toe.  Real leather uppers that will stretch and eventually form fit to my feet.  Lug(ish) soles for traction on slippery convention floors, or for urban hiking, or for camping with my girls.

Now I just have to break them in, an hour or so of wearing every day around the house, plus maybe 10 minutes of just walking; and they should be just perfect by Convention.

It’s not required, but . . .

that doesn’t mean I don’t want/need a jacket.  After all, it is Utah.  In October.  And I’m from Houston.  But, rather than the stupid (already returned) badly fitting structured blazer, I’m going with a DIY solution.  I’m using this pattern (which is not as easy as it looks), so try to imagine the jacket in a navy blue ponte knit.  That pretty much EXACTLY matches the pants I bought at the beginning of summer (which are gonna be a whole lot looser on me now).

Like this, only cut out and sewn together. 🙂
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The pattern is way more complicated than any pattern I have used before, because it has this weird Y-seam going on at the shoulders.  I tried really hard, but I couldn’t get it to be perfect.  I’m okay with that, because the shawl collar is gonna cover that up.  I am VERY proud of my armscyes, though.  For you non-sewers, that’s the armhole.  This was the first time I was able to produce a perfect, non-bumpy, non-gappy, set-in sleeve.   So if you see me at the Convention, you are allowed to come up and compliment me on my sleeves, but no fair lifting my collar to see the craziness going on at the shoulder seams. *grins*

Show off your pedicure!

School is out (I hate flip flops)!  Summer is here (I hate my fat feet)! Time to hit the pool (my toenails are actually cute, but no one gets to see them)!

Okay, so yeah, I have a love/hate relationship going on with summer.  I love not having to wear real shoes, or socks.  I’m a barefoot kind of gal – but that’s not allowed in stores, and kind of dangerous at pools.  So every year I start The Search.  The Search For Shoes That Will Fit.  I have extremely wide feet (WW if I can get it), fairly tall feet, but actually normal length feet (size 9ish).    Because of this, I have worn a lot of size 10s, a lot of men’s shoes, and a lot of whatever-will-fit-me instead of what-I-want.  My go-to shoe in the summer has been cheap Birkenstock knock-offs ($10 or less), which last a year, look like crap, but I can wear them long enough for the sole to wear down to fit my feet.

This year, I found AMAZING shoes, which I love – TOMS knockoffs (because women with fat feet aren’t allowed to wear TOMS).  I tried some from Avenue last year, was amazed at how comfortable they were, and nearly broke down in tears when they were falling apart after less than a week of wearing.  The Woman Within ones have been worn almost daily for the past 5 months, and are just now starting to get some holes.  But amazing as these shoes are – they don’t show off the cute pedicure I splurged on.

And what is the point of having a cute pedicure that only your family gets to see???

After several unproductive shopping trips (including one to Avenue, where the sweet saleswoman was personally mortified that she couldn’t get my feet into anything that would show off my toes), I sighed deeply and began searching the internet.  And I found THIS.  Kristen is RIGHT, these are Outrageously Comfortable AND Ridiculously Simple!    I grabbed a  pair of cheap flip flops from Joanns, a quarter of a yard of swimsuit fabric, and went to town with my mom’s help (I wanted to get the fit right, and my plus sized legs don’t fold as neatly and easily as Kristen’s do). TAH-DAH!!!

20140602-132933-48573166.jpgMy super cute new flip flops that fit!  Of course, they’re blue.  You have been here before, right?  Blue is my color. 🙂

20140602-132935-48575082.jpgLook – cute pedicure!  I know, fat feet, but cute toenails. 🙂  Look, no shoe is ever going to make my feet look like they should be in a shoe ad, but it shouldn’t be too much to ask that I can have sandals that don’t look like orthopedics.

I did make a couple of changes to Kristen’s original tutorial (watch the video, btw, makes it super clear to understand what she is doing).

  1. The swimsuit material is fairly thick and . . . um, not squishable (if that makes sense), so the knot in the front of the shoes (between the toes, and through the hole) would be too big to walk on comfortably.  Solution: taper the ends of the two sections of fabric until they are half the width, and the knot will easily slip up into the hole in the bottom of the sole.
  2. Also, my mom is a bit of a worrier, so she suggested I fill the holes with glue to add a layer of security .  But be careful what glue you use!  There is no point in filling the holes with a water soluble glue (presumably, you will wear flip slops around water – like at a pool).  Most of the shoe making resources online say that if you can’t get your hands on Shoe Goo, then Gorilla Glue will work.  Again, be careful though – Gorilla glue expands 3x, so do a sample first.  You won’t need to fill the hole with liquid Gorilla Glue!

Now I am ready for my next big adventure – our family’s summer vacation in San Antonio.  We’ll be getting the final bang out of our Annual Pass buck at Sea World and staying at a resort, where I am already booked for a new pedicure (I’m thinking blue nails this time, what d’you think?? *grins*).  And these are WAY better than the disposable foam flip flops spas give you so you don’t mess up your polish.

Delegate Wear

I have been going over and over the bazillion travel capsule wardrobe plans out there on the internet. I think they are a great idea, especially if you want to pack very lightly. But no one has really designed one for my specific need – being a Delegate at the National Girl Scout Meeting and Convention. Almost every capsule starts with the premise that you should have a foundation of black, because black goes with everything.  Many will give lip service to the idea of using other neutrals, like beige, brown, white, ivory, or navy – but they rarely show examples.  The Vivienne Files does have quite a few posts that focus on navy, as do some other sites, but many of those do not focus on formal business attire.  So, what is an adventurer to do?  Make her own.

The Rules:

  1. Navy formal business attire for Council Sessions.  Three days of them.  Don’t want to wear the same thing three days in a row.
  2. Try not to buy things I will never wear again.
  3. Must look good with the Girl Scout Scarf – so orange and red are out.  Would be anyway, since I don’t wear them.  Ever.
  4. I might get to walk around the Hall of Experiences, or do other things where I can wear casual clothes.
  5. I’m not wearing a suit on the plane.
  6. There is a Delegate Dinner and Party I would like to look pretty and non-suity for.

Here is what I came up.

Delegate Wear

Navy Suit Jacket, White Scoopneck Tank Top, Blue GSSJC Polo (I already own), white button down, Girl Scout Legacy Scarf, Navy Scoopneck Tank Top, Green to Navy Ombre Overtunic, Khakis, Navy Suit Pants (The suit pieces are from Jessica London, the polo is Land’s End, the other four shirts are from Catherines, and I haven’t gotten the khakis yet.)

  • Travel days – khakis and polo
  • Casual Activities – Khakis and polo, khakis and white shirt, khakis and navy tank and white shirt
  • Council Sessions – suit pants and white tank and jacket, suit pants and navy tank and jacket, suit pants and white shirt
  • Dinner, Party, etc. – either pants and navy tank and overtunic

I love that overtunic.  It screams Girl Scouts to me while not screaming GIRL SCOUTS, if you understand what I mean.  It’s sheer and floaty – no way to wear it without a tank underneath, but that’s okay.  The tanks are the same as one of my favorite shirts I already owned – in black.  I love the fit, the thickness of the material, the length (have I mentioned I’m really tall?), the collar, and the shoulder area.  I like that they don’t have the usual tank straps, so under a jacket it looks like I am wearing a regular shirt without all the extra fabric making me hot on my arms.  I would never feel really comfortable wearing a full business suit with long sleeve white button down shirt under a jacket – the heat would kill me!

Next, I have to sort out shoes and accessories.

My Big Girl Backpack

I am SO excited!  I just got a “real” backpack.  A couple of years ago, when preparing for my family’s trip to Orlando/Disney World/ Universal Studios, I got a Kelty Cardinal Convertible lumbar pack (fancy hiker’s fanny pack, *grins*).  It was highly recommended on a lot of sites for plus sized people planning this trip.  It gave me the option of carrying it just as a lumbar pack for most of the day, but then expanding it to a backpack once the souvenir shopping begins.  And all the straps would fit me. YAY!  Honestly, this is a great pack I used all the time for Girl Scout camping, family hiking, theme parks (both the Orlando trip and trips to Sea World).

But.

As a backpack, it is lacking.  The straps are just webbing, which make them very packable, but they hurt when you are wearing them for long.  The neckline, for lack of a better description, is not cut well, so the fabric tends to rub the back of my neck and dig in.  And it is strange looking on my back, not attractive.  This wouldn’t be a problem, except I was noticing that I was using it as a backpack more and more.

And I had Camelbak envy.

So, I took advantage of my REI dividend check and the Memorial Day Sale and got my new backpack!  It’s not for going backpacking, hiking out to a campsite and spending the night.  My physical fitness is not there, yet, but it is something I want to do eventually.  My new backpack is more along the lines of what I need now – something to hold a binder full of medical information, a fairly large first aid kit, snacks for 2-12, tools, jacket, plus whatever the girls need me to carry.  Or my kids.  Or my husband.  My husband and I trade off being pack mule.

So, what did I get?  An Osprey 22L Talon and a 100ml Camelbak reservoir.  It’s black, which is the only thing that doesn’t thrill me, but it’s okay.  At the store, you would have suggested that I look for another because there was no way that hip belt was going to close around my girth.  And this is too expensive to buy it on the assumption that “I can use it when I lose weight”.  I know you have some clothes like that in your closet.  We all do.

But I got it anyway.  Why?  Because I can sew!

I picked up some webbing at the fabric store, cut the original hip belt straps up and sewed in some new ones that are not just sized to fit me, but give me a little play.  I don’t expect to get bigger, but I don’t like having to fumble for the little bit of an end in order to cinch in a strap.

After removing one of the original straps.

New strap attached to backpack.

It was actually a really easy fix, less than an hour total for both straps.  And now I have a great new backpack – just in time for our next trip to Sea World.  I’m not sure I would survive Sea World in June without a hydration bladder. No pic of me in it, yet.  When I have a good one, I will post it. 🙂

Packing Tips for Sleeping Gear

There is so much information out there about packing for camp, but I did want to add just a few more tips. Now mind you, I camp at Council campsites with my troop – which means we have wooden bed frames, 2″ mattresses, and units (tent, cabin, or dorm) which are already set up. Also, I live in the subtropical Houston area. My sleeping bag is only rated to 30 degrees F, and most of the time I open it up and use it as a blanket. Which leads me to my first tip:

Tip #1 – A good set of sleeping gear is versatile.

Our camping weather swings from the high humid 90s to just under 30. I don’t want to buy a sleeping bag for each season for every member of my family. So with my one 30 degree bag, a fitted sheet, and a fleece blanket, I have multiple options. In very warm weather, I put the sheet on the mattress, lay my sleeping bag on top of that (for extra padding), and use my fleece blanket as a cover up or an extra pillow if I’m really hot. In medium weather (50-70), I put the sheet on the mattress, unzip my bag to make a blanket, and use my fleece blanket as a pillow. In cold weather (35-50), I zip myself into my sleeping bag and wear a hat to sleep. In REALLY cold weather, I throw my fleece blanket over my head to trap my warm breath.

Tip #2 – Pick the right sleeping bag.

So, I already mentioned that my bag is a 30 degree bag. But temperature is not the only thing you want to think about when looking at a sleeping bag. If you’re the type to get chilly easily, a mummy style bag holds in body heat much better than a rectangle bag. If you don’t want to carry a heavy bag, a mummy style bag is roughly half the size and weight of an equivalent rectangle bag, with some being MUCH less. But if you’re plus-sized like me, a mummy bag is probably not going to fit. Check the dimensions before you buy a bag and be prepared to return it if it doesn’t fit. Also, if you plan on unzipping your bag to use it as a comforter, check that the zipper goes all the way around the bottom. Some don’t, either for costs, or to increase foot warmth.

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My old laundry bag and my new compression bag.

Tip #3 – Get a good bag to carry your sleeping gear in.

In order to keep my girls from overpacking, the rule has always been that you have to be carry your own gear to the campsite. I try to set a good example by doing the same. Which means you want to try to pack everything into as few bags as possible, and choose those bags well. You could opt for a true backpacking backpack, complete with a mummy style sleeping bag, and ultralight blanket and pillow. But my girls aren’t ready for that, and frankly aren’t interested. One of my girls found the coolest laundry bag to carry her sleeping gear and personal items in. I tried getting laundry bags for our family’s gear, but they ended up being HUGE and while they will hold everything, they are a pain to carry; so again, check the dimensions. I recently got a new compression bag, since the one that came with my sleeping bag was on its last legs. I got the 31L, and I have fallen in love with it. I loved the compression bag that came with my sleeping bag, but it really only fit my sleeping bag. I can now fit my sleeping bag, my sheet, and my blanket in the compression bag, and then throw my pillow in my clothes bag. It doesn’t weight nearly as much as I thought it would (or as much as it feels like it weighs when strapped to my back).

I would like to note that since we are in the midst of camping season (with one leadership retreat  done, a major Community Campout ahead, and a volunteer training session the month after), I tend to keep my gear compressed to make it faster to pack.  I come back from camp, wash the sheets and pillowcase, and then throw it all back in the bags, hence the wrinkles everywhere.  Over the summer, my sleeping bag is uncompressed and hung to “relax”. 😉 I would also like to point out that since I am allergic to down, my bag is synthetic (which means I can keep it compressed longer than a down bag).

Some good info on these sites, too: