Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Experiments in the Slow Lane - MAF, Moose and I Hit the Woods

I've started my flirtation with the MAF/low heart rate training I mentioned last time.  I don't know if it's going to be a magic bullet, but it does seem like a very nice step off my roller coaster of get injured/go hard/get injured.  And the leg that I think is slightly wonky feels totally fine when tooling around with my heart rate monitor on.  My MAF zone is 124-134.  yes, that's low.  Which means that it's slow, and theoretically, as someone who likes to work hard,  I should hate this. But you know what - I don't.  At least not yet.  So far I just toodle around, smell the roses and enjoy the idea that I'm hopefully gaining some aerobic strength, but at least I'm not hurting myself.  And I think the reason this works for people is that you're going at a low effort, so you can go long - I don't think anyone ever got a fabulous aerobic system by running in their MAF zone for 20 miles a week.  And maybe I'll get there, which would be novel and interesting and fun, for the time being I'm just toodling happily along for a bit and then calling it a day.

Among other things, it gives me a good excuse to take Moose out in the woods and play.  And take pictures of the frozen creek.  And hike up the big hills while still in my heart rate zone!  I am WALKING, and playing with the dog, and still in my heart rate zone?  Ok, I'll take it.

One fly in the ointment - Maffetone reallllly doesn't like anything anaerobic during the aerobic phase, and he includes any sort of body weight training in his definition.  Which means Chisel would definitely not work for him.

Brooke took this picture of me at Chisel a couple of weeks ago.  I think mainly to document my awesome purple pants.  $20 on sale at Target.  Eat your heart out Lululemon.

And the lower leg has felt sort of iffy after Chisel the last couple of times, so maybe I'll take a small Chisel hiatus.  He's fine with regular Pilates though, which is good because no way am I giving that up, so maybe I'll just add an extra mat class instead.

But today, I actually haven't done much of anything, because we're on an unexpected snow day.  Here's the family walk we took earlier.

Unexpected snow days - doesn't get much better than that.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Time to Slow Down. Literally.

Today was one of those days where Sam was SO HOPING for no school - but alas only got a 2 hour delay, which is sort of funny since the roads were completely dry.  It is freezing, though (8 degrees, which for around here is COLD), so probably that alone was worth a 2 hour delay - otherwise there would have been kidcicles at the bus stops.

The 2 hour delay always gets my morning off to a wonky start - this morning I was going to swim Masters at the Y at 5:30, but I have a rule (learned the hard way), that I don't set my alarm for 5am if there's a chance of snow and ice in the forecast - because getting up at 5 to discover the roads are bad or the pool is closed is a quick recipe to bitterness and resentment.  Strong emotions, yes, but 5 is an early and cranky hour.

The timing was also good because I'm doing a bit of evaluating on the training front (exercise front?  I'm not sure what I've been doing lately could actually be called training.)  Last year, coming of a 2 year  (2 YEAR) foot injury, I eased myself back into it, and then started doing the FIRST training - and I will say it seemed to be working well for a while.  But I've had a few niggles here and there, and then in November I cramped up my calf in a track workout, and just haven't seemed able to get over it.  No doubt aided by the fact that when my leg didn't want to run I just rode my uni, and rode my uni and rode my uni - and when it got sort of boring I went to the woods with the uni, which for me means a lot of off and on, and I mount the uni off of my left leg (the one with the bum calf.)  The mount didn't seem to hurt the calf at all, so I didn't think much of it, but now the my whole lower left leg seems kind of tired and strained.  Bummer.  Which made me think, maybe what I really need to do is take a big step back and start at the beginning.  I like training hard, so that's what I gravitate towards - but I think I keep doing the stuff that should be the icing on the cake, when I have no cake.  I think the solution should probably be to take a big step back and build a base - which is something, in truth, I've probably *never* had.  Speed and strength have never been my limiter - I mean, I went to college running hurdles for heaven's sake, which is pretty much the most speed + strength event out there.  But I have no endurance base at all - which is evident in lots of ways, most particularly  my struggle with nutrition/reliance on a million gels in longer rides/runs, and my ability to hold a crazy high heart rate for a long time - which probably, if I was aerobically efficient, wouldn't really be so necessary.

Sooooo, I think I'm about to take a big step back and commit to MAF training for a block -MAF being a system in which you calculate your ideal aerobic heart rate and stay under it, no matter what.  According to the formula, and my recent injury status, my heart range will be 125-135.  I foresee a lot of walking on hills.  But what the hell, I've tried most everything else with frustrating results.  Of course, I finally found my heart rate monitor strap today and discovered that it's dead - not even a new battery revived it.  I'm trying not to take that as an omen.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

How to Kill Your Etsy Traffic

How to kill your Etsy traffic, in one easy step. . . it turns out I'm now an expert!

It's kind of a long story -but it all starts here.   Remember how I streamlined my Etsy shop, because it had gotten out of control with multiple listings for the same pieces?  The problem was some of the pieces were ready to ship, and some were in the regular made to order section, and lots of them were identical.  It felt like some many-tentacled urchin creature that was slowly taking over my Etsy shop (and maybe also my life.)  So I (brilliantly!) decided to streamline everything, and pull down all of the listings except for what was ready to ship.  And truly, I do love the simplicity of having everything ready to go out the door after it's ordered, and also of having slightly fewer listings.

But. . . what I didn't really take into account was that some of those listings were really popular.  And if I wasn't going to keep fully stocked inventory of every single one of those pieces, I was going to lose a *lot* of traffic.  Because some of these pieces had a lot of favorites and Facebook likes.  Here's my favorite example:

Yes, the listing for this rose bangle was down for a while.  And if you look closely -

That bangle has been favorited 3561 times.  Which means when it's down, that's three THOUSAND fewer people who can click on their favorites and see it.  Holy shit.   Now combine that by 20 or 30 more listings - granted most don't have as many favorites, but it's the same basic idea.  Problem.

So it seems I had two choices - either put everything back up as made to order (which is problematic for gift shoppers, who usually need something rightthisminute), or I could just stock everything in inventory and make sure it's all ready to go out the door.  The second option definitely seems like the best - so that's what I'm in the process of doing now.  Building up the inventory so the listings go back up - and it's working.  Not too surprisingly, as more listings go back up, the traffic comes back.  Lighbulb moment, folks.  So. . . I suppose the moral of the story is, if it ain't broke don't fix it.  Although I'm hoping the Etsy shop ends up similar but BETTER than it was before - with everything ready to be shipped ASAP.  It turns out that it just takes a little time to end up with that new and improved version, since the holidays weren't conducive to immediately producing 200 ready to ship pieces.  But now I'm back into the swing of it and making progress.

And by the way, I do remember that I offered to answer a few "how to sell on Etsy" questions, and I do realize that this greatly reduces my credibility.  But just think, now this is one less mistake you'll have to make!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Adventures in Resin

The last few days have been rather adventuresome in the world of resin.  For years I've used a basic epoxy resin - and I've gotten very familiar with it.  We're like old friends, or possibly a quarrelsome but basically content married couple.  Resin is quirky - that's the nicest way to put it.  If I'm not feeling so generous, I'd say it's maddening - just when you think you have it totally figured out it'll turn on you.  Teeny little weird bubbles.  Giant obnoxious obvious bubbles.  Strangely inexplicably halfway full of bubbles.  Basically, lots of bubbles.

To combat this, I control everything that's possible to control - temperature, curing time, mixing time etc.  In other words, I parsed the resin directions like I was getting ready for a law school exam.  And then I did actual experiments and took notes and tried a zillion different combinations until I had a fairly predictable system.  (Yes, after all of that, the resin is still only *fairly* predictable.)

So it would kind of make you think that I'd *never* change the type of resin I use, right? That seems reasonable.

But… I keep hearing about bio-resins.  And their attributes sound pretty compelling.  I mean, look at this:

Who wouldn't want to reduce environmental impact and significantly reduce carbon footprint?  I know, I do too.

So I ordered a bunch of it and have started experimenting.  Experiment being the optimal word - because does it behave exactly like the other epoxy resin I have studied in such minute detail?  Of course not.  After all, it's resin - and resin doesn't make anything easy.  So now I'm back to the beginning - keeping notes, running experiments, controlling all of the variables.  Which also means that about 30 new pieces I meant to have up in my Etsy shop are not in my Etsy shop at all - they're sitting in a box marked "oops".  But I think I'm gaining on it, because the last batch looked beautiful.  So I'm soldiering forth with this bio-resin idea, and will report back once it's fully operational.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Of Swimming Pools and Magazine Editors

There's nothing more flattering than a swim cap.
I did it. This morning I set my alarm for the ungodly hour of 5:05 am, and then woke up at 3:30, 4:15, 4:20 and 4:50 in anticipation of having to get up so freaking early.  And then I slunk out to my freezing cold car (10 degrees according to the thermometer those reliable Swedes put in my old Volvo), and drove to the Y and forced my somewhat sleepy/somewhat disbelieving body into the swimming pool.  And then, for the first time in a couple of years, I actually did a masters swim workout.  And it was good - I liked the coach, I made it through a couple thousand yards, I felt super accomplished for having finished some exercise by 6:30 in the morning.  Of course later in the morning I felt like a zombie, I kept desperately sucking down coffee, and at one point I was so out if I almost took a header down the stairs.  But still, I'm sure in the long run I'm going to be happy to be back in the pool, so I'm going to keep it up at least a couple times a week.

And when I got back and sat down at my computer, I found an exciting message in my Etsy convos.  A message from a magazine editor interested in one of my necklaces for a story on bridesmaid gifts.  Perfect! Except that he needed a hi-res copy of the picture.  Not perfect! Because the camera I take my product shots with is not hi-res.  In fact, to be honest, I'm not even exactly sure what hi-res means, even after spending some quality time on google.  But fortunately I have a neighbor (and friend of 23 years - seriously we met on the first day of college) that I thought might be able to help.

So I called and woke her up, and then went over to her house where she is currently trying to integrate her new fiancĂ©'s house full of stuff into her house full of stuff, and we dug through boxes and bags and the hooks in her mudroom, and a few kitchen drawers, and finally found all of the components to her extremely fancy camera.  That's a good friend.  And at the last minute she also gave me her point and shoot that she thought might work.  And thank god for the last minute addition of the point and shoot, because it turns out I have No Idea how to operate the fancy camera, and I couldn't make myself go back over there and ask her for a lesson when she's trying to dig out from all of that stuff and hadn't  had any coffee yet.  But the point and shoot did much higher resolution pictures than my camera, so I just ran with it and hoped for the best.

Here's what I ended up with.  Hopefully it works?  I sent them off to the editor, and fingers are crossed I hear something back in the positive.  Or even the negative if it's just about the quality of the pictures, because I'm not above bothering Leslie on another day for a tutorial on the super fancy camera.

Soooo, let's hope for the best on the magazine.  Seriously, bridesmaids love ferns!

Monday, January 6, 2014

The Power of Handmade

This is a repost from my Facebook Page today.  With all of the post-holiday flurry I have had one (ONE!!!) actual workday since December 20  - between Christmas break and snow days, Sam has been home every day but one since then.  Now I LOVE having him around, but it is not exactly a productivity enhancer.  So I've been feeling behind on work and a little on the stressed side, which meant this was such nice reminder of one of the coolest parts of what I do:

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Happy Saturday

Pretty great Saturday around here.  Started with. . . Chisel.  I'm a creature of habit, and my Saturdays almost always start with Chisel.  I was smart this time, though, and swore off anything that made my SI joint open up (at least that's how I think of it.)  So, no fire hydrant-ish stuff, no hurdleish stuff. But still a lot of other stuff.  Here we are in all of our sweaty glory.

Want a fun workout in AVL?  That will leave you unable to sit the first 2 or 14 times you do it?  I'll hook you up.

And then while I walked home I took some pictures of street art in downtown Asheville.

And then I was all, "oh right, I have a ton of work to do!"  And I sanded a bunch of bangles I poured yesterday - in fact here's the group right before I poured:

But then, instead of continuing my diligent work-ish ways, we picked Sam up from a friend's house where he spent the night, and then I played with my Facebook Ads (which I seriously think I'm about to figure out!  Joy! Or at least satisfaction!), and then I went to the mall (I know, WTF?), and then I went and picked up Moose from *his* play date, and then it was 7 pm and we ate dinner and watched Breaking Bad, and now it's now and I never got any more work done.  Oops.  But it is Saturday, so I guess I'll let it go.

I'll leave you with Moose and his sister (host of his play date.)

Moose (L) and his sister Betty Grable (R.)  They're from the same litter, and Betty lives with my Dad.  They meet up for play dates on a regular basis, and carouse around like maniacs.  They love each other.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Social Mania

My first day back on the job (no husband no kid in the house) is winding down, and I'm supposed to be making jewelry right now.  Instead I've been watching a webinar on how to best use Pinterest, and fixing the shop on my Facebook page.  Oops.  My social media might've become social mania.  I've been using Facebook forever, and dipping my toe into doing more than lurking on twitter, but now I've got the bug and I've been playing with Instagram today too.  I'm sure there's a happy medium, some sweet spot where I'm having fun interacting with people, but not turning all of my work time into internet time.  Today I have clearly failed that test - no sweet spot for me.

But, in addition to all of my internet playing, I did manage to make a new batch of molds today (super shiny new bracelets heading your way!), and then headed out to Carrier Park for a little bit of uni.  The river was quite high.

This is from the Carrier Park side looking over at the Biltmore Estate.
Also this pic is brought to you by Instagram - today's boondoggle of choice. If you'd like to see more, come find me over there - and then I'll find you back!

Uni at Carrier Park was about all I had in me today.  Yesterday I did the "Pop-Up Chisel"  at Clasique.  Which I love, but which turned out to be just like regular Chisel, except it meant I had done it three times in five days, and thus the only thing popping was my lower back when I went into a hurdle position.  Apparently my body decided it was chiseled enough.  So today I very leisurely rode Thor around Carrier Park for 30 minutes, and then went to the chiropractor and had my lower back returned to its normal position, and that seemed like plenty.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Almost Back At It

It's a New Year, and I'm ready to get going with it.  We've had the loveliest of holidays, but I'm beginning to get that itch to be back in my routine.  Clark and Sam go back to work and school tomorrow, and I'll very quietly whisper aloud that it's kind of ok with me.  Not because I don't like having them home - I do! - it's just that they're too tempting when they're here.  If there's a pool tournament going on downstairs I don't want to miss it!  If there's a Walking Dead marathon - ok, I don't mind missing that one.

But I thrive in a routine, and that requires an absence of fun distractions to really put into play.  I'm also excited about a lot of new ideas for my business in 2014, and have a (dauntingly long) list of articles I want to read, and new designs to try, and analysis to compile from last year.  I suppose the downtime is good, because without it I'd still be feeling a bit sleep deprived and bedraggled, but now I'm ready to go!

Among the many ideas floating around in my head for the new year is this one - it's a big (2"?) round disc set onto a channel bead so that it slides on the wire.  I've been wearing it for a few weeks and am excited to add it to my Etsy collection in 2014.

One other idea I've got for the new year is to add some Etsy "How To's".  I get lots of questions about how to sell on Etsy, so I'm going to start covering a few of the topics and posting them on here.  If you've got any specific questions let me know, and I'll move them to the top of my list.

I'm wishing everyone a happy and joyful New Year, filled with people you love and work that inspires you.  This is your life - make the most of it!