Thursday, 30 July 2015


In the world of knitting and crochet we have a lovely three-letter acronym - WIP (Work In Progress) - that refers to projects started but not yet completed.

I've been quite agitated recently because I have a bunch of WIPs - not just crochet projects but all sorts of other things - like the replacing the silicone around the basin (I pulled most of it off but haven't finished the scraping that needs to be done before I can replace with new), a work project I'm excited about but haven't made any progress on and a bunch of crochet WIPs and crafty projects (damn Pinterest for its project ideas!) that I haven't event started but that I want to do.

With crochet it is easy to end up with WIPs, especially if you do big projects like making a blanket. A blanket, for me, isn't something I work on all the time so while the blankie is still a WIP, I'll complete a few smaller projects. Some become bigger and they end up as WIPs too.

On Ravelry -  a pattern/project/social sharing site for knitting and crochet - you can set up projects and add start and finish dates, include details like hook size, yarn type, how much yarn, money spent on yarn and photographs of your project. There's also a 'progress bar' where you can indicate how far you are - 10%, 30%, 85%.

I appreciate having a projects page because much of what I make is not for me and over time I forget about what I've made. This is a great way to see how I've spent my time.

On Monday night I completed a 'Sophie's Universe Crochet-A-Long' blanket that I started at the end of January. I haven't worked on it full time so in that respect it has actually gone quickly. Six months is not bad at all for a blanket of this size. She's big and heavy and lovely.

The past two weeks have been all about finishing Sophie to free me up to work on Stella's blankie and also to start a Corner-2-Corner blanket. I've got the yarn for both of these projects.

There's a distinct satisfaction in completing a WIP and on Monday night when I changed my project status on Ravelry from WIP to completed I breathed a sigh of relief.

It isn't just in crochet that I have a WIP issue. I like to think of home and work tasks of projects - displayed like my Ravelry projects - that I can monitor and gauge in terms of time, materials, cost, outcome and progress. I have a dozen home and work tasks not even begun as well as those not yet completed.

I'm on a mission to complete WIPs. Finishing a project takes it off the to do list and brings with it a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. And it frees up time and energy to start new projects.

A Google Earth challenge book

I love Google Earth. A few years ago I had a monthly challenge on my site where I'd fly around and look for a location. I'd look for something identifiable - with features-vegetation-geology that would be distinctive and aid participants in identifying the location. It was good fun.

On Tuesday I was on a mission to find birthday gifts for children. I'm practical so clothing and books or something activity-related are my top choices.

At the mall they had one of those book sales, where books are spread on tables in a big open court at the mall. I began browsing.

They had a superb selection of children's books and a better selection of children's reference books - dinosaurs, insects, space, how things are made, science, human body and the like. I picked up a lovely, thick science reference for the 10-year old. Kyla is showing good strength at school and interest in geography and biology - after my own heart.

For the seven-year old I picked up a fun sticker book and a Mr Men book.

And then I saw it. "The Great Global Puzzle Challenge with Google Earth". Only R85 (R135 on Loot).

While I have officially bought it for the seven-year old, Ruben, the reality is that I actually bought it more for myself. To do with him..

It is hardcover, a good big size, not very thick and the illustrations inside are divine.

Each double-page spread is a location - cities like London, New York, Tokyo and sites like the Great Barrier Reef, Himalayas and the Amazon.

You type in coordinates on Google Earth to go to the locations. Once there the page has interesting information on the location and a second coordinate for a specific feature / landmark to visit. There are also items to find on the book page and it is great fun searching the illustration for these as well as a historic and geographic 'misfit' - like the Leaning Tower of Pisa in the New York picture.

This book is a gem and I hope it will be a fun introduction for children to the wonders of Google Earth.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

A bunch of stuff

I'm surrounded by lists with topics for blogs that I want to write but haven't gotten around to yet... Like the fun I had planning the Big Red Barn event the weekend before last; or that FEAT tickets go online next week; or about the my first kiddies birthday party that I'm planning for Sunday (complete, unsurprisingly, with an obstacle course)... and I've been writing a bunch for FEAT and clients.

The best of all news is a WIP that I completed at midnight last night.

More on this in the days to follow.

Feeling the love from Trail Magazine

Ooohhh... how exciting is this! My blog has been featured in Trail Magazine (current issue) and included in their piece on '10 Lekker local trail blogs' in their website.

Their next issue (#16), which comes out at the end of August has a feature on trekking poles. I contributed some content for this piece.

Trail Magazine comes from the Go Multi Magazine stable (Go Multi is now no more - Trail Magazine essentially took over from it). I wrote a column for every issue of Go Multi for many years. The magazine is edited and published by Deon Braun - an avid and accomplished trail runner.

Thank you for the recognition Trail Magazine.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

First orienteering coaching conference

On Saturday we had our very first orienteering coaching conference and it was held here in Jo'burg. We've got a bunch of British Orienteering Federation Level 1 and Level 2 qualified coaches in SA (myself included for Level 2) and we've been aligning our coaching content to the British Orienteering Federation to deliver a range of coaching courses locally.

We had a good spread at our conference with our coaches from Jo'burg and Cape Town as well as our one from Polokwane. And then two teachers. The one from my schools league came with one of his students; a keen participant for a few years in the schools league. The second teacher is new to orienteering and he comes from a school in the older league; he's taking over his school's orienteering activities next year. A good bunch of people assembled.

We did a bunch of stuff during the day.

Tania (our head coach for the Federation) and coordinator of this conference, arranged for her biokineticist to talk to us about running form and injuries and what to look for in our athletes. He was really interesting.

And then a bunch of us shared training games, which we all tried. We often use games - using cones and cards and such - to teach specific skills in a controlled environment before sending our athletes into the wild yonder. They're great for warm-up activities too.

For the activity session I invented a new cone grid. I especially love cone grids for teach map orientation skills - where features in the environment are used to orientate the map. Also for thumbing - it sounds arb but it is critically important to keep your thumb on where you are. And, in this particular game, for using attackpoints (those that have been through coaching with me... these are your purple circles) to guide you into the control.

I created a circular cone grid and I was delighted to challenge myself - and all the participants - with this grid. I think this is the highest echelon in cone grids. And it is also really easy to set up.

Here is the coaching card. Enjoy!

The final session was a practical activity where we learned a great technique for bringing in challenging navigation to a small, familiar area - like a school property where the students know their school inside-and-out. This was a fabulous activity where I made a 180° error at one point. What fun!

We'll hold these gatherings every second year and I look forward to even more coaches talking and playing and learning at the next one in 2017.

Time spent is time well spent

This week I'm incredibly thankful that I've spent hundreds of [frustrating] hours on OCAD (orienteering map-drawing software) this year.

My year began with my new Checkpoint Challenge Schools League and for the four events I had to make updates to the maps - adding, amending and removing content - as well as doing all the course planning. There are load of great tutorials online so when I got stuck, I found tutorials to get me through.

I spent loads and loads of hours over the six-week period of the League and by the end I could whiz around the program far more easily.

Then, I started making a map of a primary school in Rustenburg. I created the structure of the map from a Google Earth image, a school plan with notations from my contact teacher there and a bunch of photos of the school taken at certain points by the teacher.

And then I did a site visit, walking the property to check fences, terrain and feature details.

For every hour spent walking, there's a correlation of something like 10 hours spent on OCAD to create a map. I can believe this! It took plenty of hours.

I thoroughly enjoy map-making but it is a very time-consuming process.

That said, there's value in those hours that are spent.

This coming Sunday we (Adventure Racing Club) are hosting the orienteering event out at Big Red Barn, the third event of the Bush Series. I'm doing course planning. Garry is controlling. We have the benefit of a superb map drawn last year by our clubmate, Cobus.

Garry and I spent 8.5hrs on foot at the venue on Sunday to confirm control sites and to look for map updates, which is my task to do.

I made the updates on OCAD far quicker than I expected - and only because of all of those many, many hours spent on updates and map drawing from January to June. And I could also make these updates with confidence, knowing that what I was doing added to the accuracy of the map. Making a map is definitely far more challenging and time-consuming; I had the benefit of a great map to work with too.

It isn't very often that I do course planning (I'm usually more involved on the organising and helping side) and I've enjoyed planning the courses for Sunday's event.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Appreciating aloes

Facebook is a wonderful thing. About two weeks ago I saw a post with a photo about The Aloe Farm, a nursery just past Hartebeespoort (near the elephant sanctuary).

I like aloes but I've never thought too much about them. Last weekend at the orienteering I ran past many single plants - they're abundant in the Hartees area, enjoying the burst of flower colour here and there. But I've never seen aloes like this!

If you're going to have aloes in your garden, this is so the way to do it. Plant clusters of the same for intense colour and create a bank from clusters of varieties of different height and colour. Some flower early in the season, some flower late, some maintain flowers for the season (April through to July) and some flower repeatedly throughout the year. You really can have fun with them.

The guy who started The Aloe Farm, Andy, has been breeding and crossing aloes since the early 70s. The varieties that they sell have mostly been created by them. And, as hybrids, they grow faster than the wildtypes, which means you don't have to wait decades to create your own displays.

These aloe displays are planted around the main shaded nursery, which has a wide range of their aloes for sale - large and small - as well as an abundance of regular plants.

We're nearing the end of aloe flowering season so if you want to see these, get out there in the next week or two (or visit next year).

Living in a post-antibiotic world

Sobering. Indeed.

One of the best TED talks that I've watched for a while - it is one that has you thinking and wondering for days and weeks after watching it.

We have been living in a golden age where we don't die from an infected finger nail, or a bladder infection, or a chest infection.

Going in for an operation is unlikely to be life threatening. Post-op infections can happen, but usually you're fine because the would was probably sealed with an antibiotic treatment and infections that arise later can be treated.

When you fall off your bicycle and gash your leg, you go home, apply disinfectants and sleep soundly that night.

How would our adventure-activity behaviours have to change if we didn't have this protection?

I wouldn't jump into most rivers or dams if I had a cut on my arm and, fearful of cuts, I certainly wouldn't walk into the water without shoes.

And negotiating barbed wire fences... I've been scratched a few times over the years - fortunately without infection. But this could be a risk.

Would you go slower riding your bicycle down steep hills and would your get off to push through technical sections where you'd be likely to come off? Even a little tumble and a light graze could prove deadly in a world without antibiotic protection should an infection arise.

Yes, the world would be a very different place. We'd actually need to have serious, all-the-time concern for our health.

Even though we do benefit now from protection, it is well worth being far more careful so that you don't need to take antibiotics, using them only when absolutely necessary.

Watch this.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Why you should eat lasagne

I haven't made lasagne in years. Aside from p.a.s.t.a. being a new-age five-letter swear word, making a really good lasagne from scratch takes a good effort - whether it is beef or veg.

A few weeks ago I needed a convenience meal option and, at great expense, I bought a Woolies lasagne; the one in the large foil dish that they say is for three to four people. They're delusional! There was more pasta than filling, it was maybe four-centimetres high and the amount was only really good enough for a fair portion for two people (unless you have lots of salads and veggies too).

To be fair, it was tasty and to their credit Woolies didn't drown it in cheese, which is too often the case at restaurants.

I have always loved lasagne - in every version - so it has been on my mind.

On Monday night I had a good cooking session, preparing the lasagne for dinner on Tuesday night. While there are time-saving 'cheats', I made the cheese, tomato and bolognaise sauces from scratch - each one totally delicious. I assembled and baked late Monday night as I was out most of Tuesday. From there is was easy to reheat for dinner.

A normal packet of uncooked pasta is 500g and for a pasta-and-sauce dish for two people you'd cook 250g. That's 125g of uncooked pasta per person.

One packet of uncooked lasagne sheets (250g) is more than adequate for a good-sized lasagne and I got four layers into my deep baking dish. I can't quite recall but I think there were about 12 sheets in the box. I didn't use two sheets so that's around 210g of pasta that went into the dish.

My finished dish made for very generous portions sufficient for six adults. That's only 35g of pasta per person. And for the rest you've got mince/veg/spinach, a bechamel or cheese sauce and tomato sauce. I don't add extra cheese.

There are 33g of carbohydrates per 100g of pasta. So a good portion of lasagne, with its 35g of pasta, would be around 23.5g of carbs.

And then there's another kicker...

Last year some research came out about how cooled pasta is treated by your body more like fibre than a blood-glucose-spiking carbohydrate..

"Cooking pasta and then cooling it down changes the structure of the pasta, turning it into something that is called "resistant starch". If you cook and cool pasta down then your body will treat it much more like fibre, creating a smaller glucose peak and helping feed the good bacteria that reside down in your gut. You will also absorb fewer calories, making this a win-win situation." - from an article on BBC.

But how is this... cooking, cooling and then reheating the pasta makes it into an even more 'resistant starch' - it reduces the rise in blood glucose by 50%. By doing nothing more than changing the temperature, a carb-intense meal becomes fibre-loaded.

While eating lasagne feels like you're eating a pasta dish, lo-and-behold you're consuming far less pasta than if you'd had a traditional bowl of pasta - like spaghetti bolognaise or the like. AND, if you make it the night before and reheat it the next day, you have even less carb effect.

Taking all of this into consideration, the question really is... Can we move reheated lasagne onto the banting green list?