Rowing Machine? Maybe …

With the cold, inclement months just around the corner, I’ve started thinking about how I’ll try to maintain my girlish figure (Ha!) when the weather doesn’t cooperate for outdoor exercise.

woman showing musclesFrankly, I’m not very good at sticking to a regular fitness routine, but I generally manage to get in a nice walk several times per week. I enjoy getting outside, enjoying the fresh air, greeting neighbors, etc.

In past years, though, as soon as the cold and snow show up, my weight goes up. And of course, the holiday are no help whatsoever!

Lastly, the idea of a gym membership doesn’t appeal to me at all. To be honest, I’d probably be exceptionally good at finding reasons not to go.

So, I’m looking at home exercise equipment. Based on the space we have available and my personal inclinations, I’m considering a compact rowing machine. It seems like they have a number of advantages over other devices like treadmills.

For one thing, when compared to just walking on a treadmill, rowers provide something much closer to a whole body workout. The rowing action should help build muscle in my arms and upper body, while pushing with my legs ought to provide benefits similar to walking.

Another plus is how small some rowing machine models are. They don’t take up much space when in use, and many of them will fold flat, allowing you to even store them under a bed.

And if it’s not in plain sight when idle, it can’t be used as a clothes rack! 

All in all, I’m really liking the idea of a rower. I reckon it’s time to get down to some serious shopping and see what I can find in my price range. Wish me luck!

Time for a New Canopy Tent

We’ve owned one of those pop-up canopies for many years. It’s really come in handy for picnics, backyard cookouts, camping, tailgating and more, but it’s beginning to show its age now. We have had to repair a couple of tears in the fabric, and the frame just feels a little more rickety.

On one moderately gusty day this past summer, I thought the canopy would literally end up being gone with the wind. We would have felt more secure had we followed the advice in this video:

So, I reckon it’s time to invest in a new one. Aside from the canopies showing wear and tear, our needs have started to change, as well.

For one thing, we don’t make such a big production out of tailgating anymore, nor do we camp much, so our new shelter doesn’t necessarily have to be as portable.

At the same time, we’re hoping to do more entertaining at home, so a larger one would be nice. Also, maybe something closer to an actual tent would be nice to keep out bugs and such.

With all of this in mind, then we’ve started looking at canopies with screens. Ideally, it would be big enough to fit a picnic table inside, but still not too tedious to set up.

At first, we did some searching for “party tents”, and found this helpful guide that pretty much convinced us that this was the wrong category for what we needed, as they run much larger than we need, and it’s typically a multi-person job to set one up.

After a little more digging, we found a likely option made by Clam: their Quick-Set Escape canopy. It a little pricier than we’d like, but it does appear to be ridiculously easy to set up, is large enough for our needs, and is still very portable for those time we may want to take it on the road with us.

If it weren’t for the price, we may have already bought the Clam, but we’re going to do a little more shopping around first. Wish us luck!

Mixing It Up in the Kitchen

My mother was not a “traditional” Mom. For instance, she owned and operated a successful business at a time when it was incredibly difficult for a woman to accomplish such a thing.

One way she did fit into the more common image of a mother, though, was that she loved to bake, and one of her prized possessions was her kitchen stand mixer. When it came to kneading dough for the tasty homemade bread we all enjoyed, this machine was invaluable to her.

For my part, baking didn’t hold much attraction to me until recently, when I saw this video on YouTube:

Homemade bread in just an hour? Awesome!

What got my attention in this video, though, was the stand mixer. Why? Because I don’t own one. In all honesty, there is probably very little reason for anyone to buy one of these devices unless you are a serious baker, since a relatively inexpensive electric hand mixer will do most jobs like beating eggs or preparing a cake mix easily enough.

Bottom line, though, if I want to try my hand at baking some bread, but don’t want to put in a lot of time kneading dough, I should get the proper mixer for the job.

After some digging, I found this page describing the important features to consider when choosing one.

One of the author’s recommendations was to make sure the mixer had something called “planetary mixing action”. It took me a moment to wrap my head around what that meant, but in essence, it allows the beaters to reach the edges of the bowl more effectively, resulting in a more thorough job.

Another feature mentioned is slow start. In other words, the beaters do not immediately start spinning at the selected speed, but accelerate up to it gradually so you don’t have ingredients flying all over the place. Makes sense to me!

Finally, I hadn’t considered the weight of the machine to be that important, but heavier is actually better. This will help keep the mixer from migrating along the countertop when it’s doing heavy jobs like kneading dough. After reading this, I do remember my Mom’s model doing this, and how she’d have to keep one eye on it all the time.

I’m rather excited about the prospect of baking some bread! Now it’s just a matter of picking a good, affordable stand mixer and getting started.

Welcome to My New Experiment

Hello, and welcome to the internet’s newest personal blog.

I’m your host, Val, and I’ll be sharing a lot of different things with you in my upcoming posts.

For starters, I’m really into trying new things. My everyday life is relatively mundane: work, eat, sleep, repeat. In my spare time, though, I explore a ridiculously huge range of topics, hobbies and activities.

Just some of the things I’ve tried my hand at are learning to play the piano, write poetry, and take landscape photographs. I’ve also volunteered to help maintain hiking trails in my part of the country, participated in historical reenactments, and visited over 40 of the 50 United States.

Along with all of this, I also can be very particular when it comes to spending money, and will often do detailed research before buying something. Any helpful tips or suggestions I come up with during this process will also be shared here.

Thanks for visiting Val’s Muses and Views, and we’ll see you again soon!