Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Fit or Die

I appear to be incapable of knitting anything - even an unfitted, rectangular vest - without doing the math. And thank the knitting goddess, really. Cuz if I hadn't done a gauge swatch and an hour of recon, the Die Cut Vest would be unwearable, I'm pretty sure.

Quick detour: No, I haven't finished the Karner Wrap, the world's most boring and endless project. It seems I'll need to make this my project to knit when I'm working on other projects that I actually enjoy less. On the plus side, it's really gorgeous and I can see how it's going to be very useful. And chic. I don't think it much matters if it takes me another couple of months to finish the second half.

But back to the Die Cut Vest...
Die Cut Vest by Sara Morris
The most difficult thing about this vest is getting your head around the construction. It's knit along the vertical plane from centre front lace panel to centre front lace panel. (Well, there's a seam down the middle of the back, if you choose to follow the instructions, so technically you knit 2 halves and then join.) My point is that your vertical gauge affects your horizontal plane (width) and your horizontal gauge affects your vertical plane (length). It's a bit of a mind fuck.

What further adds to the challenge - if you don't get gauge - is that the pattern is written with a combo of length by row count and length by inches (remember, affecting width) instructions - so you can't just sub your own gauge into the equation, change the number of rows you work, and assume it's all going to be ok.

When you look at this vest, you might think - as I really, really wanted to: There's no shaping to speak of. It's perfect for winging it! 
Do not be fooled.

Reason Why You Shouldn't Wing It No. 1: Thing is, my gauge is VERY off. And from the looks of many versions I've seen, so is everyone else's. The pattern dictates 7.5 stitches and 10.25 rows per inch on a 3mm needle. Recognizing that I knit loosely, I swatched on a 2.75 mm needle and my gauge was still only 6 st and 9 rows, after blocking. That's crazy off - on a smaller needle.

In real terms, what this means is that my vest dimensions would be 6 inches wider and 4 inches longer than the pattern's had I just started knitting with my "predicted" smaller needle size. If I'd gone with the original (3 mm) needle, I can't imagine how bad the end product would have been?!

I should say that the fabric is very dense, even having only gone down one needle size. I'm loath to go down another, but it's really my best recourse. Cuz even if I go down another size, I can only hope that I'll nudge my (very off) gauge to 6.75 stitches and 9.75 rows per inch. Happily, that would allow me to achieve the exact length I want - 18.5 inches (2.5 inches longer than the pattern specifies). In terms of vertical gauge (determining width), I'd be able to cut 3 of those extra 6 inches of width. I'd deal with the remaining 3 inches by removing width from the centre back of the vest. In this case, that's as easy as cutting about 15 rows from each side of that centre seam. Gotta love less work!

Reason Why You Shouldn't Wing It No. 2: Here's the thing. I intend to make the size 32. The pattern specifies that this size refers to a full bust circumference of 32 inches. (Side Bar: As you know, I'm ok with lots of negative wearing ease, even when the garment is supposed to have none.) The ridiculous thing about this vest, however - and please review the totally confusing pattern schematic to confirm this for yourself - is that the size 32 actually knits up to a bust circumference of 41". The designer has added 9 inches of ease into the pattern and doesn't mention it anywhere??? If you want to know, you've got to dig around the schematic or read the instructions and devise a schematic of your own. I did devise my own schematic based on instructions because the one provided is really inadequate.

It's no wonder that most every Raveler's finished version (except for the one modeled in the relevant issue of Knit.Wear) looks like a sloppy, oversized mess. Even if you get gauge this thing is likely bigger than you'd want it to be. Add to that the predisposition of the average knitter to a) avoid swatching on unfitted items and b) consider only horizontal gauge when they do swatch and it's no surprise.

Stupidly, sometimes your unfitted garments require more fitting than the fitted ones.

Next up: I swatch for the second time, on the 2.5mm needle, hopefully to get gauge that will permit me to make this garment. Remember, I don't need even need to get pattern gauge. I just have to manage to gain .75 of a stitch per inch and .75 of a row per inch. This should be interesting... Oh, and wait till I tell you about the yarn I've chosen.

In the meanwhile, thoughts or feelings?

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Stash Enhancement

In truth, July has been a wash up on the crafting front. But what I've neglected in sewing, I've made up for in buying! I have a couple of gorgeous new fabrics to show:

Liberty of London Dufour Viscose Jersey
Liberty of London Tana Lawn Summer D
For starters, let me tell you that I've never bought a Liberty fabric before. We do have reasonable access to the Tana Lawn in TO, but the jersey I have never come across before. In truth, I didn't even know that Liberty made jersey (though I'm sure that admission makes me seem very provincial).

I purchased both of these at Ewe Knit. (BTW, you can purchase fabrics and yarns online if you're not in the close surroundings.) I do sense that Ewe may be better off changing its name to something like Ewe Knit and Sew because, about 6 months ago, Claudia started stocking a variety of quilting fabrics. More recently she began stocking the Liberty Tana Lawn and, just this week, she got her first shipment of Liberty jerseys. I wonder, however, how many people realize that sweet fabrics are to be found in this well known yarn store.

I'm not going to suggest that Liberty is cheap-and-cheerful anywhere, but it's competitively priced here and I love that I can take a 15 minute walk and come home with all kinds of fabric including stretch fabric, the type I prefer, sewing and knitting notions and zillions of awesome yarn options. So often, one experiences the sad closure of a store that has met all the needs (Caban, anyone?). But it's terrific that Ewe has joined the 'hood because I love the stuff they stock.

A bit on the fabrics:
  • The deliciously soft, woven (tana lawn) is an awesome, moody landscape that reminds me of a rural winter. I have no idea of what I'll do with the 2 yards I purchased, but it affected me the way no pretty floral ever could. Of course, I was recently reminded that it's a directional fabric, just to make it trickier to work with! But I know I will use it well, at some point in the future.
  • The viscose jersey is a riot of Catalan colour, but it's busy in a way that's so intense that said fabric pattern actually recedes into neutral. Gillian has been doing some great video fabric reviews lately wherein she debates the stretch properties (and other features) of her newest fabrics, which has put me in mind of describing this one to you. The Liberty jersey is not spongy but it has an excellent weight. It's got about 50 per cent stretch in the width and 25 per cent in the length. The recovery is excellent as is the drape. I mean, it should be. This stuff is 40 bucks a yard. It's a perfect weight for a knit dress. It's got enough heft and drape to skim beautifully without being so heavy that it drags. Of course, the fabric is vibrantly dyed, per its pedigree. FYI, it's quite wide (56 inches).
So, today's questions: Do you like Liberty fabric? Have you used it? Did you know that Liberty makes stretch fabric? What do you think of my choices?

Gym 1.0 (And I Promise Not to Write About This Again Anytime Soon...)

My goal today (she writes optimistically) is to post twice - as I have 2, entirely different things to talk about. If you care about the New Regime (Kristin's exercise in midlife solipsism), keep on! If this topic irritates, no worries - next up, new fabric...

OK, so today I went to the gym. As with all things one dreads, it was no where near as bad as I'd expected. Instead of going for a spin class (which might have overwhelmed me), Scott suggested that we go together and he'd show me how to work the bike, elliptical machine and rower.

First up, let me say this: I blended in entirely. Except for my tendency to use a zillion more cleaning wipes on every machine than anyone else, I seemed totally gymish - and I wore the same outfit that I had during my gym phase in the 90s. Yeah, back in the 20th century. That outfit consists of a black sports bra (though my new one is SO superior to those of yore), a black sleeveless top, black Lulu lemon short shorts (these work for everything) and my black and white Nike Air's from 1992. They're like, third generation Nikes - so hilariously in your face - but Scott swore that they do not look any different from anyone else's. And seriously, they're still in good shape!

But I know the gym is not about the outfit. I used 3 machines, as referenced above: the bike, rower and elliptical, in that order. I did each for 15 minutes. I don't remember anything about the settings but I know that Scott set them at a reasonable level.

Undoubtedly, the rower was the most fun and the elliptical was the hardest. Stationary bikes are totally boring. Without the real world going by, and the avoidance of street danger, riding a bicycle is much easier than it would otherwise be. Cranking up the gears makes your legs hurt but it doesn't reproduce the freedom, and challenge, of real cycling. I suppose a class makes it more fun cuz you follow an imaginary course and someone else's instructions.

At any rate, though I struggled not to feel sad about the hamster-like state of everyone in the gym, I was surprised to enjoy the rowing. It was meditative. And I was even more surprised to find that the elliptical machine is very good for increasing the heart rate. It was like running, skiing and stair climbing at the same time. The machine monitors your heart rate as you glide and mine was smack in the appropriate high zone for my age - so I was going at the right intensity for me.

Apparently, I can get in and out within 45 minutes (this time took an hour because of orientation).

Did I find it fun? I wouldn't say that - but it was entirely tolerable. I didn't feel overly germ-encrusted and it didn't rain! I intend to go back on Wednesday - weather depending.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The New (Fitness) Regime

In case you're wondering about the New Regime (term courtesy of fitting friend S) - though if you're  bored by my solipsism, my apologies - I have taken next steps (ha!).

A couple of days ago, I joined Scott's gym (the Y), which is to say he expanded his membership to the Family category. As he's done this 3 times (not that I've ever asked him to do so before!), he was sort of irritated but, natch, he complied. I visited the gym to learn more about how they keep things clean, available classes, machines etc. It really has it all one requires. Or far more, if one happens to be me.

My current thoughts are these:
  • I will go to the gym 1 or 2 times per week as I gain a comfort level with the environment / determine whether it is meant to be. I will do either a) spinning (Lord...) b) gravity machine class (this is kind of like a Pilates reformer but with buttons and it apparently produces a reasonable cardio component) or c) a machine session with combo of rowing and elliptical. My goal is to be in and out within an hour, but you have to sign up for the classes 30 min in advance and they don't do this online (dark ages, anyone?!). I'm going to aim to go to less busy classes which, hopefully will obviate the need to sign up more than 15 min in advance. Of course, I want to get in and out between 5:30 and 6:30 like the rest of the planet. We'll see if this is in the cards.
  • I'll do inversion and stretch-intensive yoga for 45-60 minutes 2 times per week, starting with that miserably entitled "30 Day Shred" internet class (which is 25 minutes in duration, not incl cool down, and incorporates lots of cardio/jumping).
My current plan is to do a total of 3-4 sessions a week: gym sessions lasting 45-60 min and home sessions lasting 75 min (30 of which is hard cardio). If I can't be bothered to get to the gym, I'll sub with home or vice versa (if, by some miracle, I determine that the gym isn't bad).

This will be in addition to my long-standing 60 plus minutes of walking per day (my method of transportation).

This will eat into the amount of yoga I'm doing but, as long as it doesn't impact negatively on my flexibility, I can get with this for whatever amount of time seems reasonable. I mean, I can always add extra yoga of whatever sort I'd like, if I feel the need. That'll be its own thing, however.

If this doesn't yield any results of the slimming variety - and, remember, I'm not doing this for the good of my health! - I'll have to consider adding an additional cardio experience or switching up my cardio vs strength ratios. But unless I find this fun, I don't want to do more than 6 hours per week (over 4 sessions). My hope, needless to say, isn't that cardio, by its very nature, is going to make me slim (I do realize that most of slimming - for most people - is achieved by diet) but to increase the dynamism of my waning metabolism.

As you know, I've cut out booze from Monday - Thurs and my diet (though amped up via hols) is generally healthful and moderate. I really don't want to prune it any more unless I absolutely have to because that will definitely impinge on perhaps my greatest pleasure in life - eating.

I really don't know how this is going to play out but I suspect it will have less to do with my overall motivation to sweat than my ability to get with the gym environment (and to be bothered to get to it). It would be a welcome side-benefit if I could find a way to enjoy this sort of fitness because it provided me with endorphins and a sense of physical well-being (something I've been sorely lacking for the last couple of years).

Needless to say, I haven't yet gone to the gym (the Regime just started), but my goal is to get there tomorrow. Sara, a serious gym-goer, is going to join me to help me get oriented. Of course, it's supposed to be all rain, all the time tomorrow. What else is new?

So, today's questions: Whatcha think of my crazy plan? Does it seem balanced? Do you foresee the need for tweaks? Have you worked out on one of those gravity machines? Do you like the Y? Let's talk!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Exercise and Bras and Putting Them Together (Part 2)

Let me start by saying thank you! As always, you come up with the best advice and I really appreciate your sharing your exercise and bra feedback. I absolutely intend to incorporate your suggestions into my emerging fitness plan. At the top of the current popularity heap are: going to the gym, with gloves, and working on elliptical and rowing machines and doing an online video called 30 Day Shred (could they not come up with a less unpleasant title?!) a couple of times a week (followed by my own yoga practice). 

I really loved all of your comments - which were written with such thoughtfulness. FWIW, I can see a world in which interval running might occur (at least sometimes when weather permits). I mean (see below), I've got the bra for it! Oh, and on the topic of bringing equipment into my home: I wasn't particularly clear when I suggested that I don't have the space. I cannot abide visible equipment in my midst. There is no place to put this equipment that it wouldn't be visible. That's why it can't happen.

Before we talk about bras, perhaps you'll indulge me with another couple of questions.

The Questions: How often do you work out? And for how much time in each session? If you've managed to bring fitness to your regime after a time of weight-gain due to hormonal influence (pregnancy, menopause, endometriosis, PCOS, birth control etc.), how much cardio did you have to incorporate to attain your desired benefits.

The Considerations: If you're wondering why I've been langouring over this change for some time (even as the issues, that cause me dissatisfaction, persist), let me explain:
  • I'm not reflexive about the activities I pursue. That's why it took me till I was almost 40 to take up sewing and now I am obsessed. That's why I've been doing yoga and walking regularly for 25 years. I start as I mean to go on. And, till I'm ready to do something whole-heartedly, I'm not ready.
  • I have done intense cardio at other times in my life when I felt much better, physically, than I do right now, and even then I found it unpleasant. But as I now feel physically fragile, much of the time, I'm worried about unbalancing myself and leading to new or exacerbated challenges. I'm gradually overcoming my resistance because, frankly, what I'm doing isn't working and I do know about the positive relationship between hard activity (heart rate increase) and overall well-being. Sometimes you have to take a risk.
  • I'm going to be honest here. I'm not in this for the joy of the cardio experience. (I walk and do yoga for that purpose.) My goal is not specifically fitness (I'm pretty fit, though one can always be moreso). My goal is to lose fat in a specific spot. I do recognize that fat does not leave one's preferred zone on command, though I have to hope a shake-up will produce the desired impact. My goal is to retain my former shape while, to the best of my ability, also retaining my former lifestyle. 
  • My issue isn't easily resolvable because I'm not being particularly flexible. Mind you, better to know myself and to generate a sustainable solution - even if it takes time and still-emerging motivators - than to jump in without due consideration.
  • A propos of the bullet points above, I know I need to do something that I will be inclined to continue because it meets my lifestyle. The weather here sucks for months of the year. I don't imagine I'll be dragging my ass to the gym on a crap, dark evening and there are weeks of those. I'm very concerned about germs, so I don't want to put myself into crowded classes, esp. when the weather gets bad and everyone is sick for months at a time. I have a lot of responsibilities - and pursuits - so I have to consider how I can include new exercise in my life in such a way that it doesn't eat into my evening hours overly. 
  • The one thing I can say about myself is that I work hard when I decide to work hard because I am intently self-motivated.
The Strategy: 
  • Information gather to confirm "best" activity, optimal duration and number of weekly sessions
  • Get rested and ready (inasmuch as it's possible)
  • Determine requirements and kit up
  • Just Do It and all that shit
I must continue to gather info: What activity will be most palatable? How much time should I dedicate to it, how often? How will I intersperse it with yoga? I'm a researcher by nature so I've been polling up a storm :-) My recently-ended vacation (sob) was destined to interfere with any habit-forming, so I opted to wait until after Europe to begin - even as I've worked to ensure that materials and infrastructure I may require are available. I'm going to unjetlag and get myself reacclimated to work and life this week, with an aim to finalize a direction for the cardio portion of my life rather soon).

I still need to ensure I have the appropriate gadgets and shoes (I believe I do since I've only worn the runners I got years ago a handful of times) but at least the bra is sorted:

The Sports Bra: I bought the Shock Absorber N109:

This purchase was an accident. Though I'd read about this brand for a long while, I never imagined that they'd have it at The Bay. What works even better for me is that the back size is insanely small but the cup size (at least as far as I'm concerned) is generous.  Because I could go up a band size and down a cup size, I was not sized out of the (limited though admittedly much more wide-ranging than usual) department store offerings. I take a 34 back in this style and it is as snug as I would ever want to go. I've read that many sporty-ladies go up two band sizes. Some also find it small in the cup but I think that has a lot to do with breast shape vs. volume. You can find a lot of info about this brand on A Bra That Fits.

This bra is a combo encapsulation/compression model. Its interior construction permits adequate space for a very projected breast but the rigid underband and inflexible shell fabric keep everything taut. The encapsulation comes in the form of an interior sling with cylindrical openings (not really cups) for the breasts. The compression comes from an  exceedingly strong, stretch free overlay (the part that's visible) that attaches to your body with a wide and intensely snug band.

This bra really stops bounce - like miraculously. I could distance run and nothing would move.

But here's the thing - it's designed for a seriously full-on-bottom breast. If you are full on top (or even balanced), you may find it overly large in the bottom and too closed at the top. It's not a perfect shape match for me though my breasts are less voluminous on top than they used to be. I do find it's a bit roomy at the base of the "cups" but I manage to be able to move things around to achieve a balanced spread of breast tissue. It's also designed for a narrow frame - the shoulder straps are very close set and could potentially cut into the neck area depending on how you are shaped.

I do think it's optimal to buy a sports bra having tried it on, in store. There are so many variables to consider with this sort of purchase that your likelihood of easily finding the right size and shape, online, is slim. Most brands only make one or two styles of sports bra, so you often have to try multiple brands to determine what will work. Much easier to manage that in a department store or boutique. I got lucky - but if I'd bought my regular size in this bra, online, I wouldn't have been able to do it up.

The price is right, btw, at 50 bucks. I've also heard you can find it on sale sometimes.

So, that's my sports-bra scenario. Anyone else use this bra? Thoughts about it? Remember, I'd love to hear about duration and frequency of your cardio work outs! Please do tell. And let's talk.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Exercise and Bras and Putting Them Together

So I'm home. It's raining and I'm hallucinating(ish) from tiredness. Fun times.

Let's break through post-vacation malaise with a little post about exercise and sports bras.

(No, you are not also hallucinating. I did just write the word sport before the word bra.)

As a person who chooses merely to avoid jumping as the means by which to avoid undue bounce, this isn't one of my go-to areas of expertise. But desperate times, and all. I'm gearing myself up for some sweat-inducing cardio to improve the shape of my mid-torso in this exciting phase of life.

What cardio, specifically? I have no fucking idea. Ashtanga is out of the question (I'm just not fit enough for it - and it's frankly dangerous for the middle-age practitioner, especially if she hasn't been doing it regularly since youth). Running is just too horrible to consider. I am not shaped like runners who run without injury (though, depending on who you ask, that's nobody). Gym classes seem the most suited to me, except that I am very concerned about germs and the idea of touching things at a gym is pretty unsettling. I'm also disinclined to modify my schedule to suit that of a class. That turns a 1 hour experience into a 2 hour experience, most of the time. Swimming is out of the question. Pools are like public baths. Just thinking about them makes me freak out. Yeah, I could do a video (aka some kind of web streaming thing) but my house is 125 years old and it can't handle regular impact. Cycling is a possibility, but it's totally weather-dependent for me, and the weather here basically always sucks. Not to mention, it's not my legs that need help.

So let's start this post with a little survey:

Pretend you're a 44 year old woman who doesn't much like to sweat (but is coming to terms with its necessity). You spend a fuck of a lot of time either at work or crafting. Other time you spend managing a household. Or parenting. You do Iyengar yoga regularly, though to support the need for restoration and hormonal balance, not for cardiovascular improvement. You walk 1-2 hours daily, but that's a wash from a body-mod perspective (your body is utterly adapted to it). You are, to understate it, unmotivated to touch things that are germ-covered. You don't like most weather. Your main concern is midsection fat caused by perimenopause. Alas, strengthening exercise - totally achievable with your current yoga practice - makes for strong abs and back under a layer of unappealing fat.

What exercise do you do???

If you can find anything left after that extensive list of limiters, I will buy you a chocolate bar!

But onto the more resolvable issues - what sports bra to wear when one chooses the, ahem, burn? I am in no way qualified to compare the sports bras as I am the fancy lingerie. I've had experience with the Panache (I bought it for M and it works very well for her). I've read lots of posts by lots of women with different issues when it comes to boob size and shape and sports bras.

Sports bras, as you likely know, come in two basic styles (or a combo of the two): encapsulation and compression. Different sporty ladies prefer one or the other depending on their need for bounce control. Please note - sports bras can do their thing without wires so if you don't want bounce and you don't want wires, there's choice. While I'm a strong proponent of the under wire, I draw the line at under wire when exercising. That shit is painful!

The runners seem to like the compression style best - the standard-issue boob squashers. As a person with lots of projection over a small span, I hate the feeling of my boobs being squashed together in that fashion. But it does tend to stop the bounce. The Enell is an example of a compression bra with a wide fan-base. (Note: I've never seen one of these IRL, much less tried it on. This ain't a review.)

Disclaimer: My perspective is that squashing one's breasts together for hours at a time does not lead to happy boobs. Anecdotally, women who go from wearing bras that are too-small observe an improvement in the shape of their breasts when they begin to wear bras that fit well. From my vantage-point, compression bras don't fit breasts well, even as they have an important role to play in alleviating bounce and securing the Cooper's ligaments. Take that for what it's worth, btw (and do feel free to weigh in)!

The encapsulation style seems most popular for the ladies of my shape - projected breast volume on a narrow frame. That's cuz compression really has nowhere to go on shapes like mine. I need projection! Encapsulation styles, which can still work very well without under wire, have an interior soft-cup sling often within a compression frame. Here's a photo (in a useful review) of said sling in the Freya sports bra. Note: I did try on the Freya sports bra years ago and it was a disaster. I mean it's uniformly considered to be the most hideous of the sports bras, though many women swear by it. But, on me, the wires were horrendously wide. It somehow made my boobs look way larger and wider (east-west nipples) all at the same time. I do feel that the Freya is best for a woman with a wide frame and wide roots.

Update: Of course, underwire cup models of sports bras also work on an encapsulation basis.

The challenge with pure encapsulation models is that they don't tend to resolve the bounce factor adequately for women with medium or large breasts.

Which is where the combo model comes in. The combination style gives you the best of both worlds. (Or the worst of each, depending on your vantage point.)

Next up, I'll tell you which type of sports bra I purchased, complete with a review.

Till then, please do help me to brainstorm on the exercise front. And let me know which is your fave sports bra model and why!

Friday, July 11, 2014


The grace of travel is that it's difficult so when it's time to leave the sadness can be borne.

But would that I had another week here, or a few days even. I've barely scratched the surface of this infrastructure.

Today, on our last day in Barcelona, we went to see the famed Sagrada Familia (the unfinished church, active construction of which has continued for more than 100 years). Let me assure you, it was as much a hardhat zone as a place of worship. Really, for its masterful architecture (and it has outlasted, one can argue, the religion it serves) its current format disrespects - dare I go there - its religious proposition.

In full disclosure, there are few peeps who have been raised more Catholically than me (especially in this day and age). I respect the Church enough not to go there, most of the time, because my beliefs do not align.

However, in this instance (and because I did not see it when I was in Barcelona last) I went for the architecture but I was astounded by the faith that fuels the engines. I was also astounded by the general lack of respect I observed. Where I come from, you don't take selfies directly in front of an Icelandic choir (the most beautifully composed, might I add). Moreover, you don't clap when it completes its choral exercise, but that's a whole different story... You do not wear club clothing (especially as the church rules stipulate modest dress). You do not speak in the central zone, demarcated from the rest as the meditative, prayer space. I could go on.

Um, let's interrupt this rant with some photos of the neo-Gothic (and seriously modern) marvel that is this place, shall we?

This sculpture, associated with the Passion of Christ, was beyond moving. The engraved doors, behind, were like nothing I've ever seen before.
That light is entirely created by the chromatic (and I do use this as a means by which to relate colour to music) stained glass.

There's something so Hannah Barbera about this exterior when you see it in photos. In real life, it's stunning.
Those pillars...
Have you ever seen stained glass like this? It's designed to be neither too dark nor too light because either extreme inhibits sight. This is a place of clear observation.

I know I sound like a crotchety old lady much of the time. (In truth, whenever I've played that game wherein you have to assess your "spiritual age", I have been 50 - like, since I was 5.) Righteously indignant is my natural state. I feel very strongly about how things should be and, when they fail to meet my expectations, the fire - like a dragon's breath - is unleashed.

It appears we return to the theme of Kristin's vacation: expectation.

My resilience was undermined by my kryptonite: terrible crowds, bright light and noise. Put these together and it's a recipe for my undoing. Thank God we had the foresight to book the tickets online. That meant we bypassed much of the queuing, though by no means all of it. We did have to wait in the unremitting sunlight for 15 minutes. (I forced Scott to leave our apartment with plenty of time to spare.) And then, the "pilgrim" hum, amplified by the acoustics - and at odds with audible construction - followed me ominously like a hive.

Scott swears he didn't know that a trip to the Bell Tower would be a claustrophobic horror - a descent even as an elevator drew us into the air and left us (unceremoniously) to make our way down an endless, dangerous stone staircase replete with constant opportunities to kill oneself by accident, by falling from unthinkable heights. Am I the only one who feels inclined to jump when confronted by heights? Am I the only one whose field of vision narrows (a propos of which, Lord, I was sorry to be wearing those progressives)?

I cannot begin to tell you of my thoughts during that part of the visit though a very nice Chinese woman, who walked in front of me, was kind enough to reassure me (in English) at regular intervals, saying such things as: This part is safe. Look, there's even a railing here. Yeah, to keep you from certain death.

On the way up, the elevator guide had a lively, foreign-language conversation with some other Catalan speakers. I could only pick out the words "claustrophobic", "scary" and some anecdote about people losing their shit half way through. I should have said no then and there, but Scott got all: It's going to be fine. They wouldn't let us do it if it were dangerous. Never listen to people who aren't afraid of heights.

I think it's safe to say I had a complex experience of the Sagrada Familia. And really, you must visit (despite the challenges) because it is a marvel in the truest sense of the word. Just don't go up the Bell Tower.

I drank my face off at lunch.