28 June 2012

In a Local State of Mind

Happy belated Bike to Work Day! Did anyone bike to work yesterday? Yeah, I didn't either. Then again, I didn't really go to work yesterday. I did feel a tinge of guilt when I didn't bike with Benny to school. To be fair, the heat here is nearly unbearable in the afternoon, so I didn't want to be stuck riding to get Benny in 100 degree weather. Lila and I did walk to pick Benny up, however, since a storm moved in and cooled the temperature down. We even had to use a sheet last night to cover up! Brrrr.

So, I this afternoon I pretended that today was yesterday and I could bike to my heart's content (it's only 90 degrees today!). Lila, Benny and I rode to school. I had some errands to run this afternoon. Lo and behold, they were all to businesses in the neighborhood. I rode to the bike store for a bike lock and helmet. I only walked out with a bike lock, but it's a start (now Benny and I won't have to share). I rode to the new outdoor store to find a messenger bag. I walked out empty handed (not too much selection at the neighborhood outdoor store - go figure). And then I rode to the bank to deposit a check.

It occurred to me (again) that Nate and I were very smart when we chose where to buy a house. Not only are we in a good school district, but we are close to so many fun and cool things in addition to many businesses that we need day-to-day, like the bank, the dry cleaner, the grocery store, etc. Many of these businesses are walkable and all of them are bikeable. It makes me love my neighborhood more and more every day.

Oh, and I left my bike and the trailer out in the backyard today. The clouds are looking ominous and I'm hoping that, by leaving the bike and trailer out, the weather gods will unleash some much needed rain in this area. Not only is the temperature too hot to handle, but these wildfires are scary!

27 June 2012

City Park Jazz

Today I'm guest posting on Simply Bike about a recent bike ride to City Park Jazz. Check it out! Also check Simply Bike out for great writing and perspective on lots of things!

26 June 2012

The News

Sorry for the prolonged suspense. I didn't anticipate that this process would take so long. I had to wait until Nate had contract in hand and two weeks submitted before I could report that he has been offered - and has accepted - a new job! He'll be working in the same industry for a larger consulting firm. I'm so proud of him!

The move will be a bit bittersweet. We moved to Denver so that he could work at his current firm. It's been a good four and a half years for him, but it was time to move on. The new firm is downtown, which cuts his commute in more than half. It also means that he can ride the bus or ride his bike. He'll have more responsibility, which he's been craving. Oh, and the salary is higher too.

Everything seems to be coming together lately. With my increased flexibility, I can drop the kids off and pick them up so that he can use public transportation or bike. And since I'm working from home, I can do the same. I'm also looking forward to lunch dates. His current office is too far away for a quick lunch.

Way to go, Nate!

24 June 2012

Heat Wave

Fair warning: I'm going to be complaining about the heat for the next 60 days or so - or until we get a break from it. It's been in the 90s for the past few weeks. And it's not going to get any better.

I ran the Slacker Half Marathon near Georgetown this weekend. Even in the mountains, the heat was nearly unbearable. Couple that with running 13.1 miles, and it didn't make for a spectacular race. I did manage to run it in 2 hours 50 seconds, which isn't too bad. I was hoping for -2 hours. What with the heat and having to walk the first half mile, I'm pretty happy with my time. Plus, I wasn't training for time, so I didn't do any timed runs. The highlight of the entire race? Seeing the kids and Nate at mile 12.5, cheering me on with big smiles of their faces and giving me high fives. Benny yelled after me "Mom, are you tired?" Yes, Benny. I was very tired :).

After the race and post-race festivities (Benny and Lila eating my post-race goodies), we headed to the mountains by Winter Park and set up camp. It was hot there too. And sunny. With no shade in the camp ground. We tried, and failed, to give the kids a nap in our tent. The fire ban prevented us from grilling brats and corn on the cob. Instead, we opted for burgers in town. The kids were amazing - and all sorts of tired. We caught a band across the street from the restaurant for a few songs. Back at the campground, we wrestled Lila to bed (literally having to hold the wild child down to get her to slow down). Benny, on the other hand, is a camping pro. He crawled into the tent and passed out in his "cocoon." Nate and I enjoyed a beer and each other for an hour before we both fell asleep.

All the complaints about the heat aside, we had a fantastic time. The kids had their moments, but they were consistently fun. Great campers. And we beat the heat in our house for 24 hours or so.

21 June 2012

Introducing ... Recipes!

I'm shaking things up a little here. I've created a Recipes tab up top to organize the recipes I've included on Life's a Bear. I started posting recipes to have them handy when I'm cooking. The list of recipes was getting a little overwhelming, so I organized them by dish. I hope to include more and more recipes now that I have a bit more time to cook. Check it out. If you make something, let me know what you think!

 Some of my favorite recipes so far...

Super Baby Food
Scrumptious Pumpkin Bread
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins
Cocoa Crackles
Basic Quiche
Is it a coincidence that most of my favorites are filed under Sweet Treats? I think not. I've also included a link to Struckman Consulting under My Biz. Check it out if you haven't already.

P.S. I'm sorry to keep everyone waiting on the BIG news. Trust me, as soon as everything is in place, I will share on the interweb. Until then, hang tight. Hopefully I'll be able to share the news tomorrow... Monday at the latest.

19 June 2012

Sitting Pretty

For the first time in, well, my adult life, I (we) are sitting pretty in terms of finances. And by sitting pretty, I mean that we're able to live relatively comfortably AND save some money. And I'm not even 35. What a deal.

I'm not making hand over fist with Struckman Consulting, but I'm making a respectable amount of money and working less, which means that daycare costs and commuting costs have been reduced significantly. We just refinanced the house and are saving nearly $250/month on our mortgage bill. We don't have credit card bills or car payments. And we only have one student loan to pay off (Nate's). All in all, it feels very good to come out ahead every month and save to make improvements on the house, pay for a new car in cash and have some money on hand for emergencies.

That's not to say that we are going to be able to actually save significant amounts of money for traveling (something I'd really like to do some day) any time soon. The house will be a money pit for the foreseeable future: improving the front yard, repairing the garage and garage door, painting the outside trim and installing new gutters, hanging new windows, replacing the carpet and painting the entire basement, buying a new washer and dryer... The projects seem never ending.

The good news is that when we finally finish with all of these projects, we will be able to take a break from the house and truly enjoy it until we find that it's time to move.

Book Review: The Family Fang

Now that I'm not reading for classes, I have a surprising amount of time. I guess I didn't realize how much time I spent preparing for class. Pretty much every spare minute.

The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson was a great way to ease back into recreational reading. My book club chose it from the 2011 Summer Book List on NPR. Why not the 2012 book list, you ask. Because the books from 2011 are now a year old and can be purchased used for cheap.

Anyhoooo... The Family Fang is a story about a family of performance artists. They are dysfunctional and weird but tied together by their art - even if the kids wanted to leave the art behind. The ending was a little rushed and unexpected but expected. But it was an easy, fast read. There's a reason it was on a summer book list.

Turns out that the book is being adapted to a movie with Nicole Kidman (as the mom).

18 June 2012

No News Is ...

... good news. Or I hope so anyway. We're still waiting for confirmation about our BIG news. As soon as we have everything in place, I'll report it. I promise!

17 June 2012


I found the perfect Hallmark card for Nate today:

To my darling:
I love to watch you with the kids-
I get to see your inner child
come out to play...
They light up 
when you're around...
You listen to them,
spend time with them, and
love them.

Happy Father's Day, my love.

And Happy Father's Day to my own daddy-o, otherwise known around here as "Papa."

15 June 2012

Best. Damn. Chicken. Ever.

The crock pot is slowly becoming one of my most used kitchen accessories. Knowing that summer heat is here to stay and the oven is not comfortable to use for the next two months or so (no A/C in this here house), I've been collecting crock pot and other oven-less recipes to get us through the hot months. I've made this chicken recipe several times over the past few months and I'll make it again tonight.


2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon thyme
½ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon cayenne (red) pepper
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 onion
1 large chicken


Combine the dried spices in a small bowl. Loosely chop the onion and place it in the bottom of the slow cooker. Remove any giblets from the chicken and then rub the spice mixture all over. Put prepared chicken on top of the onions in the slow cooker, cover it, and turn it on to high. There is no need to add any liquid. Cook for 4 – 5 hours (for a 3 or 4 pound chicken) or until the chicken is falling off the bone. Don’t forget to make your homemade chicken stock! I made stock for the first time last time I made this dish. It lasted me several rice and orzo dishes and it freezes fabulously.

In the Bike Lane

I'm going to be 35 in a few short months. Officially mid-thirties. What surprises me most about this birthday isn't how thirtysomething that sounds, but how much I've been changing - for the good - over the past few months. I think working full-time, in a cubicle may have curbed my creativity and willingness to try new things a bit.

First case in point: I attended my very first networking happy hour last night. For an organization I didn't know much about. By myself. I've been to networking functions before, but they were usually associated with a conference or a job and I ALWAYS knew people. Last night I did invite my new friend from the Denver VOICE and she joined me. But, we've only met once. And you know what, I talked to people, gathered business cards and generally enjoyed myself. Way to go, me!

Second case in point: I commuted by bike for the first time since moving to Denver. I scheduled a lunch about four miles from my house today. I've been scheduling all of my meetings within biking distance, but I've always had an excuse not to ride my bike. Mostly I was just uncomfortable with the new situation and biking outside of my 'hood. Today I nearly backed out again. Here's my inner dialogue - convincing me to drive, convincing me to bike:

DRIVE: Well, crap, you gave your shoulder bag to Goodwill. How will you ever transport your wallet and phone?

BIKE: You have pockets.

DRIVE: Yeah, but they're shallow and stuff will fall out. And it's hot out.

BIKE: Ridiculous. Find that free nap sack from the Sierra Club. Yes, the same one you ridiculed when it came in the mail. And it's not that hot outside.

My biking voice won out in the end and I'm so glad it did. I had a GREAT bike ride. It felt so good to get on the road and to park for free. I even felt a small (OK, maybe relatively large) superiority to my fellow car commuters. Mostly because I was getting a workout while commuting.

However, I've decided that I need a few things to make my future bike commuting trips successful. A cute helmet (safety first - I didn't wear a helmet today GASP) and a cute bike bag. Yes, it's petty, but I don't feel very cute or hip or stylish with my nap sack. I just don't.

My goal throughout the summer is to schedule meetings within a four or five mile radius so I can ride my bike AND to ride my bike to the next networking happy hour. Here's to aging, making friends and riding bikes!

12 June 2012

BIG News

It's killing me, but I can't share the big news yet. Our family received it today and I'm giddy with excitement. Stay tuned!

10 June 2012

Run on, Slacker!

This morning I woke up at 6:30 to run my final LONG run (11 miles!) for my training for the Slacker Half-Marathon in two weeks. Next week I'll be tapering and run a manageable six miles. I'd like to say that I'm ready, but judging from today's run, it's going to be a challenge. Although I finished the 11 miles, it wasn't easy. Sometimes I can run longer distances and lose myself in the sights and sounds of a run. I don't run with music because I prefer to take everything in. However, music would have been a nice distraction today.

I did run around two beautiful city parks, through uptown, and through several gorgeous neighborhoods. It helped that the air was chilly and traffic was light. It didn't help that I was up until 12:30 a.m. because the church next to our house was holding a late night sing-along (long story).

The Slacker race is perfect because it's all downhill, it starts at 9 a.m. and we're going camping following the run. Post-race recap in two weeks!

06 June 2012

Mad Greens

The garden is in full swing now - especially with the hot weather we've had since, oh, mid-March. It's one of my favorite phases of the garden - the first loot of spring. Lettuce, spinach, arugula, radishes and sweet peas. Tonight we're having quiche with garden spinach (recipe to follow) and a salad of fresh greens (ditto on the recipe) from our significant green patch. Oh, and there's a bit of lavender in the patch too.


I've  been using my Better Homes and Gardens quiche recipe for years. I just use it as a base. I typically throw in whatever we have in the fridge, including carrots, zucchini, prosciutto, broccoli - you get the picture. Tonight we happened to have some ham and fresh spinach.

Crust Ingredients
1 1/4 cups of white flour
1/3 cup shortening
5 tbsp. water

Mix the flour and shortening with a pastry blender, then add the water one tablespoon as a time. Roll it out and bake it at 425 degrees for eight minutes. Set it aside.

Base Quiche Ingredients
8 eggs
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup cheddar cheese (or your favorite cheese)
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese (or your favorite cheese)

Pour into the pie crust and bake it at 325 degrees for 50 minutes, or until it is set up. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Fresh Greens Salad

1:1 salt and pepper
1:1 olive oil and balsamic vinegar
1-2 tomatoes, sliced
1/2 red onion, sliced

Cover the bottom of a medium bowl with a light layer of salt and pepper (very light if you don't like things salty). Then put in a 1:1 ration of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. The amount will depend on the amount of lettuce you use. Throw in the sliced tomatoes and onions and let sit for 30 minutes at room temperature. Cover with lettuce and toss when ready to serve.

I learned how to make this salad when I studied abroad in Tours, France, and lived with a host family. We ate this salad regularly. Now it's a staple of our summer diet and my signature dish at BBQs in the early summer!

Sleeping Cutie

Summer mornings are hard on Benny. He plays so hard during the day and in the evening. He's in the kindergarten room at daycare now, so he's getting prepped for the fall. As soon as we get home in the evening, he straps on his helmet, grabs his bike and rides around the neighborhood with his friends from down the street (with a parent escort, of course). By the time he gets home, it's usually time put on pjs, read some stories and go to bed.

This morning he slept until 8:30 and was ready to sleep some more! Too bad Lila woke up at 6 and was ready to party. Some day they'll sleep in together again. Someday...

05 June 2012

Style Review

My May Style Experiment was a partial success. Here are the highlights:

Bright, Happy Color
New Lipstick Color
Around the World
Used to Scare You
Classic White Shirt
New 'Do

Although I only participated in about 10 of the total challenge days, it was fun to shake things up a little and wear things I wouldn't normally wear or wear things I wouldn't normally wear together. And, I've discovered that I love the sock bun, I don't mind lipstick and mixing patterns is actually kind of fun. However, for the time being, I'm finished with the self-portraits and the styling.

04 June 2012

Class of '96

My mom brought me a box from high school this weekend. Whoa. So many memories. There were corsages from dances, party favors from proms, a Bible from my confirmation and various other items that 18-year-old Sara felt important to save. I ended up donating most of the glassware from prom to Goodwill and I threw away my corsages, but they did take me back.

The box of memories also reminded me about how I finally embraced being a speech nerd my junior and senior years and was never happier. The medals are for state championships in one act plays, duet acting and entertainment speeches.

Senior Prom 1996 - I'm the girl sitting in the front on the left.

I went to prom with Adam Gengenbach, my high school boyfriend. He was late to pick me up because he was at a rodeo competing in steer riding. I dated a cowboy!