It’s Dead Jim

Yes, that is a Trek reference. It’s been a little interesting attempting to write posts for the blog the past couple of months.  My lovely ergonomic split keyboard was finally on it’s last legs. Somedays it refused to allow me to type anything, so I pronounced it dead and ordered a new one.

I actually type very fast. Last time I was tested I was at 120wpm. Whether I’m still that fast remains to be seen. But I have made the computer lag in the past. Lovely thing about newer computers is they seem to process fast enough to keep up with my flying fingers.

Generally I only type that fast when writing rough drafts. Pattern writing and editing is naturally a slower process. But anyway it goes, having the keyboard being wonky is frustrating. No matter my typing speed, I really have to take care of my hands, and having a well designed ergonomic keyboard to work at is key.

Keyboard at desk

My new keyboard came a few weeks ago and I’ve been playing catch-up.  I am really thrilled with it. This new one is split, but it is also a reverse slant. The mouse is interesting as well, it’s taller and sort of sideways, which allows a more comfortable position for my hand and wrist. Some of these changes took me a bit of getting used to. I’ve noticed after nearly a week that I’m able to type faster and more comfortably than before.

Position of Hand on Mouse

If you are like me and spend a great deal of time working at a the computer you might want to check into this keyboard from Microsoft. It’s called the “Natural Ergonomic 7000 Desktop”. You can position the keyboard a number of different ways as it has a removable lift for creating the reverse slant and pop-up legs for a more traditional position.

My favorite change from my old keyboard is that the wireless hook-up is a small USB device about the size of most thumb drives. My previous keyboard had cables that needed to be connected to the computer with a large ovoid shaped transmitter that seemed to be constantly in the way on my desk.

Of course, now I am dreaming of saving up the funds to purchase a new laptop. Something lighter weight and powerful enough to run video editing software on.

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Five Things

Often times it seems so complicated when thinking about how to keep healthy, but there are really only 5 things that you need to remember to maintain good health and avoid injury.

Listen to Your Body

Our bodies are always communicating with us if we listen. Discomfort is the body’s first voice. It is only after you ignore Discomfort  for far too long that your body resorts to Pain (its version of shouting). Of course Pain hits us at many levels…basicially the sooner you listen to your body and make changes the less Pain you have to suffer thru.

Breathe

Respiration is the one thing you really can’t stop doing. But so many of us breathe shallowly and our lungs never fully inflate. Breathing deeply through your nose sets up a wonderful chemical chain reaction that allows your body to relax and your muscles to recover from their hard work. It also promotes good digestion.

Hydrate

Our bodies are made up of approximately 98% water. I once had a client explain to me this was the reason we don’t need to drink lots of water. Quite the contrary! We lose water when we breathe, thru sweating and thru our gastrointestinal tract. If that water is not replaced frequently we can quickly find ourselves headed toward dehydration. Even mild dehydration can make you more vulnerable to injury. So be sure to drink at least 10-12 eight ounce glasses of water each day, and more if you are sweating heavily or engaged in strenuous physical activity.

Eat Well

We truly are what we eat. Our food provides the building blocks for repairs and for the energy to run all our systems.  Eating healthy, nutrient-rich foods gives you the raw materials for recovering from mild injury and preventing further injury.

Sleep

If you’ve ever experienced insomnia or staying up too late and having to function the next day, you know how a lack of sleep can impact your brain. But are you aware of how much it impacts your muscles and overall health? When our energy levels are at the low-end we are more at risk for injury. Most people need a minimum of 8 hours solid sleep to function at their best. Anything less than that is generally not adequate.

So, pay attention to these five things and you’ll have more injury-free time to enjoy crafting and the other pleasures of life.

The Hunt for Happy Skin

Many of you are aware I live in the mountains of Colorado. Which means I often have snow and freezing temperatures when it is warm weather season for everyone else in the country. One thing you might not realize is that Colorado is arid.

You see on the news about our fires and the worry about fire because of the drought conditions we are subjected to. But Colorado has always been a very arid state. Our average annual moisture level is around 18 inches, compared to the averages for places like Washington or New York states which are 38  and 40 inches.

What this means for my skin is a constant battle to keep it moisturized. Especially my hands.

These are some of the lotions and unguents that I have had the most success with.  The Shikai Borage Therapy and the Hugo Naturals All Over Lotion are the ones I use each time I wash my hands. I keep them right beside my desk. They are light and absorb quickly so don’t gunk up my yarn and hooks.

The L’Occitane Dry Skin Hand Cream I carry with me in my project bag, it is the most expensive of the 6 at $10 per .5 oz. Also absorbs quickly.

The Soothing Skin Salve is from a local shop called Rebecca’s Apothecary, and is my favorite to use on my hands right before bed. It’s especially good when I have little cuts or dry patches on my hands, and really great for helping my cuticles.

The DermaE cream and Hugo Naturals Shea Body Butter are my favorite after shower lotions, especially for elbows and heels.

All these lotions are great, but an important thing to also remember is to drink lots of water. Even being slightly dehydrated can make your skin dry and flaky. So drink up.

20 Days!

I can barely believe I’ve actually managed to blog everyday for the past 20 days (counting today of course).  I might even make it to the end of the month, though no guarantees.

One thing that makes all the writing and computer work I do go easier is my nifty ergonomic split keyboard and ergonomic mouse.  The keyboard slope and overall shape helps keep my hands relaxed as I type. Which is why I can type approximately 120 wpm.  If you are spending hours on the keyboard and finding you are experiencing pain a keyboard like this might be the solution.

Of course, no matter what keyboard and desk set-up you have, you still need to take regular breaks every 20-30 minutes to just move in a different way from the seated posture with hands on the keyboard.

Gotta Have One!

Now, now, I meant the hooks.

This is the talented Mr. Harrison Richards, founder and president of Furls Crochet and I’m here to tell you that these are some amazing hooks. He calls them the finest crochet hooks in history and he is spot on.

His company is based out of Austin, TX and each hook is handcrafted in their studio out of local and exotic woods. I was having a very difficult time picking one to bring home with me. So instead he decided I needed a custom hook.

Harrison can measure your hand and create a hook that is the perfect fit for you. Mine arrived this past Monday in the mail. It is so beautiful, I don’t know if the photograph can do it justice.  It is made from a piece of Mexican Cocobolo wood, the finishing polish is so smooth that the wood seems to glow from within.

It took a while for me to actually crochet with this hook. I was slightly hypnotized by the feel of the hook in my hands. When Harrison and I conferred about my hook I specified a size L – 8mm hook. That has been my favorite size lately to use with light worsted and worsted weight yarns, as well as fluffy mohair yarns that need a little breathing room to work up beautifully in crochet fabric.

Of course, a luscious hook like this needs some equally luscious yarn for its first test drive in my hands. So I picked a ball of gorgeous Artful Yarns “Heavenly” a novelty style yarn with fluffy mohair and sparkles that makes me happy just to look at. It was interesting crocheting with this hook. Took me a moment to get used to the feel of the hook, as it is much shorter than most of the hooks I normally work with and it doesn’t have any sort of thumbrest.

I hadn’t realized how much I actually depend upon a thumbrest for orienting my hook to my stitches. After all these years crocheting I don’t look at every stitch. Once I got a feel for the hook though I was really enjoying it. My hands felt very relaxed even working with a yarn that can be a bit tricky whether knitting or crocheting.

I think this hook may become more than a beautiful object to look at, it might  just be my new “pet” hook when I’m working with larger hook sizes.  In fact, I may have to acquire a few more of the Furls hooks in the near future.

If you think you would like a Furls hook of your own Harrison has very graciously offered a 15% discount for my wonderful readers. When you order a hook from him on the website, you can use the coupon code: M2HBlog at check-out to get your discount. This is a limited time offer though, you need to place your order by or before December 10th, 2012.

What’s in a Hook?

I’m reminded of Juliet’s soliloquy about a name. So what is in a hook, they are all the same right? Maybe not.

I’ve written articles about handle shapes and how they affect your grip.  But did you know that the shape and smoothness of the “business” end of your hook can also have an impact on the health of you hands, wrists and even neck?

Matching the hook you are using to the project and type of yarn can make a big difference in your comfort level. If your hook doesn’t work well with your yarn the adjustments you have to make while crocheting can add up to long-term pain.

There are a number of hook styles and shapes available commericially.  Here in the US hook shape debate seems to be between the “Boye” tapered style and “Bates” inline style hooks.  Now, no offense to either manufacturer, but there is far more to hooks than that.

First let’s look at the anatomy of a hook. The “business” end is the Point, Head, Throat and Shaft.

The shape of the point is key when you are looking at how easily the hook slips into a stitch. This is particullarly important if you are doing stitch work that requires a dense fabric…like amigurumis.

Another important thing to consider is the sharpness of the edge of the head in front of the throat.  When there is a sharp edge or sharp point there it can get caught on splitty yarns.

In fact, having the right hook for your project and yarn can change your mind about what types of projects and yarn you like to work with.  I used to think I didn’t like working tight stitched projects like amigurumi. Then I discovered that using the Clover Soft Touch hooks made them much easier. I now design projects like these regularly.

The Clover Soft Touch hook has a fairly tapered point that is slightly rounded.  They are also very smooth with an almost “teflon” finish that slip into snug stitches without splitting your yarn.  Unfortunately, being the visual person I am, I have never been thrilled with the color of the handles. I recently saw that Clover has come out with a new line of hooks called “Amour”. Colorful Elastomer handles with an interesting shape. Hopefully I will get my hands on some soon, and can post a product review.

Clover does have their Reflections sets too, which I think are beautiful.  These are acrylic with an elastomer inset on the thumbgrip and handle. Over the years that I have had these sets the elastomer has begun to peel and occassionally the edges between elastomer and acrylic can wear on my hands as I work.  I do wish they had these hooks in a wider range of sizes.

They have a similar shaped hook point to the Soft Touches, but the material that the hook is made of  isn’t always the best match with acrylic yarns.  Definitely not a good match for a project that requires tight stitch work.

Next hook post I’ll write about In-line versus Tapered.  This is really the debate for many American crocheters between the Boye and Bates hooks.

Reality Check

Recently I had to have some photos taken of me in Yoga clothes. Looking thru those photos was definitely a reality check.

Fact is…I’ll be celebrating my 49th birthday this year.  Most of the time I can conveniently forget that. Afterall, I don’t feel like I’m in my late forties, in many ways I feel like I’m still a 20-something with my life ahead of me.  I can mentally select what I notice in the mirror, but photos seem to make everything visible, even the aspects of my physical self that I would like to ignore.

Of course photos aren’t the only way I’m getting a reality check.  This past year more of my work involves sitting for hours in front of the computer or sitting crocheting.  Either way I’m leading a much more sedentary life than I was 2 years ago, and I am noticing the difference.  I have more aches and pains, I’m gaining weight and I’m losing muscle mass.

So that makes me wonder, is this just what happens as we age? Should I just accept that the rest of my life I’ll be living with these issues? Was my Mom right, and every thing after 50 is just “patch, patch, patch”? For those who know me well, you already know my answer.

I’m fighting back.  I’ve already been making efforts to become more active in my life, interspersing physical activity through-out my day.  I now  have a tread-mill that I walk on for at least 20 minutes each morning.  With our family adding a dog to the mix I get out and play ball with her and take her for walks as well.

I have plans for more physical activity as well, especially with summer finally arriving…hiking and swimming with my kids and yard work.

But exercise, though important, it isn’t the only change I’m making. My Chiropractor told me about a book called “The Paleo Diet” by Loren Cordain, Ph.D. that I am currently reading.  It is very interesting, discussing how our physiology isn’t really in sync with the modern diet.  The argument is we are basicially Stone-age beings living in the Space Age.

The Paleo diet consists of eating like our Stone-age ancestors; lean meats, fruits and non-starchy vegetables.  I’m very impressed by the information Dr. Cordain presents in his book. I have already discovered that I do better health-wise by eliminating wheat and gluten from my diet.

I’m a little leary about the amount of lean meat the diet recommends, but I know I’ll be happy with eating all the veggies and fruit I want.  The hardest part will be eliminating the sugars and salts I love.  His recommendations for the diet do include an occassional “cheater” meal, but I don’t know how easily I can adapt.

So I  have decided to conduct an experiment on myself.  I will be incorporating the Paleo diet into my eating life-style. Hopefully even convincing my husband and children to join me.  And I’ll be blogging about my progress as I go along.