26 March 2013

The Ham Bone's Connected to the ...

Have you ever tried to buy a ham with the bone still in? It's nearly impossible to buy a bone-in ham at most grocery stores today, which is too bad because the ham bone is the keeper of mystical flavors. Luckily butchers still exist today (although they are disappearing too) and they still carry hams with bones. And luckily, my parents frequent a great butcher in Sterling, Colorado. The best ham and bacon this side of - well just about anywhere. My parents also frequently stock us up on pork products. And I love them for it.

I've made enough chicken stock to know that a cook should never through away a bone or carcass before cooking it down into stock. And ham bone is no exception. Ham bone and bean soup is incredibly easy to make. You just need a solid afternoon (5-6 hours) to boil the bone.

Ham Bone and Bean Soup


1 ham bone

2-3 cups of ham, cubed
3-4 cups of white or pinto beans (or a combination)
1 onion, diced
2-3 garlic cloves, chopped
4-5 carrots, chopped
4-5 celery ribs, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste


In a large stock pot, cover the ham bone with water and simmer for at least 2-3 hours. I used dry beans, so I added some prep time (boil, then soak over night, rinse, boil again for 30 minutes). Add the beans, ham, onions, garlic, carrots and celery to the stock. Let simmer for at least an hour. Salt and pepper to taste.

Yes, it really is that easy. And so good. Benny now requests this soup regularly. If I could find more ham bones, I'd certainly make it more often.

25 March 2013

Hyper-Localism vs. Plain Ol' Consumerism

On Friday morning, I enjoyed a lovely ride to a meeting about four miles away. Then, to lessen the sting of grading papers, I stopped off at a lovely French restaurant to read through pages and pages about various perspectives on media effects theory. When I emerged in the early afternoon, the air was crisp, but the sun was bright and the sky was blue. I had the perfect ride home... Only to ride again in the afternoon to meet a friend for a beer at a great local pub.

By the time I picked the kids up from daycare, the wind was howling and snow was beginning to fall. Just as predicted, an early spring snow storm hit Denver. On Saturday, we weren't sure what to do with ourselves, so we headed south to Ikea. In a mini-blizzard. It was actually a great trip, but I can't help but compare our experience at the big box store to our experiences at the businesses in our neighborhood this weekend.

Although plenty of snow was on the ground by Saturday afternoon, I was still able to walk a mile to our neighborhood grocery store for dinner supplies. (A big thanks to all the homeowners who had already scooped their walks by then!) On Sunday, we were all experiencing a little cabin fever, so the kids and I drove a little over a mile to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science to check out the new exhibit on Mammoths and Mastodons. Since we have a membership, we were in and out in a little over an hour - just in time to catch the second half of the Iowa State v. Ohio State basketball game at the local pub. On the way home, I dropped my bike off at one of the local bike shops while Nate picked up a few garden supplies at the local hardware store (they're in the same building!).

So, what's the difference? For everything but Ikea, we could walk or bike comfortably (although we drove some this weekend due to the weather). Ikea is a 30-minute drive in good weather. By staying hyper-local, we were able to support a variety of businesses within a 4-mile radius - all of them local and all of them offering a variety of services - including food and beverages, bicycle repair, garden supplies, groceries and a museum experience. At Ikea, our sole reason for visiting was to buy things. And in the end, we didn't even buy what we had intended to buy - we bought other stuff instead. And, we ended up talking to a wide variety of people by staying local: A lone woman out walking her dog after the snow storm, a man who reminisced about his own small children at the pub, the great waitress, the bike shop guy, the garden guy, etc. Do you know who we talked to at Ikea? No one. Not one soul. Unless you count the handful of people who witnessed Lila's total and complete meltdown at the end of our trip and nodded our way with sympathy.

Although I can't avoid big box stores completely (man, I do love Ikea), I'm starting to realize that the local scene offers all we need - and more. And, since we can bike to Stapleton now, I can largely leave the car at home. If I do have to drive, I can combine a variety of errands into one trip because so much is located within my neighborhood bubble. And very soon, I'll be able to bike for groceries with only one major street to cross.

Photos courtesy of @shaggybrownie on Instagram.

How about you, do you try to stay local, or even hyper-local? If you bike or walk for errands, has it changed your buying habits to focus more on the local?

And don't forget... Post a picture of you on your bike on Instagram (shopping locally or not) by March 31st and you'll be entered to win a copy of The Soup Peddler. Tag it #everdayonabike to be entered.

22 March 2013

First Performances and Managed Expectations

Benny performed in his first theatrical production on Wednesday night. He was cast as Razoul, a guard, in Aladdin. We worked on his lines for six weeks - which sometimes went great and sometimes was a nightmare. In the end, he did great and I am so proud of him. He got out there and remembered (most of) his lines. And, I think he had a lot of fun. And that's the most important point, after all.

Being a mom to Benny has been an exercise in managed expectations. I had no idea what to expect when I had a baby. It was hard. And then he turned into a toddler who was easy and fun and amazing. And shy. So, so shy. And really into mommy. For the first three to four years of his life. Social situations were hard because Benny was so uncomfortable around large (or even small) groups of people. He began warming up to these situations when he was started daycare. For him, I think daycare was one of the best things we could have done for his development. And although social situations were hard, daycare was never hard. He always dealt with change very well.

That was the "normal" and I had to manage my expectations about how he should act. And then, suddenly (or probably not so suddenly), he stopped being shy. He is still a bit wary of large groups, but for the most part, I would not describe him as a shy kid.

I've had to re-adjust my expectations. Benny has lots of friends, likes to play independently of his parents and rarely has shy moments (although they still happen). But, he's still five and a little boy. I didn't know what to expect for his first performance. Would he remember all of his lines? Would he project from the stage? Would he have stage fright? In the end, he did wonderfully and I'm so proud of him for performing. He was the youngest kid in the play, so it's no wonder he had more fun backstage while fooling around than while performing.

If Benny wants to continue performing, I will wholeheartedly support it. My heart exploded with pride when he performed and remembered his lines. To see him embrace the collective performance made this (former high school) actor immensely happy. After five years, he still surprises me on a daily basis. It's one of the reasons I love to be his mom.

20 March 2013

The Spring Garden

Spring is such a positive happy time. Then again, every turning of the season is a positive happy time. I love that just when I'm getting sick of the weather, it changes again. Too hot in the summer, well hello fall! Too cold in the winter, well hello spring! Of course, I could certainly live in an area with just spring and fall, but that's probably too much to ask.

When we moved into our house in the fall nearly five years ago, we didn't know what kind of surprises awaited us in the spring. Turns out that there were irises everywhere and a few tulips scattered about. In the past few years, we've completely overhauled the backyard and tried to replant the bulbs with varying success. We've also added some perennials from a neighbor and a few extra bulbs that we found on sale last fall.

In the past few weeks, the bulbs have popped up - little green stems and leaves with a promise of color very soon. Today Lila and I checked under the brown foliage all over the yard and found new green growth - even on all of the transplanted perennials from last fall.

Nate's work in the fall and winter to prepare the garden is paying off now too. The garlic bulbs are popping up and the spinach and lettuce that have been waiting for warmer temperatures to grow and producing slightly larger leaves. The strawberry plants are already green and expanding into new areas and the rhubarb we thought was dead is popping up as well.

In other spring news, I'm itching to get more runs in now that I'm well and not teaching. I took an unplanned two-month break from winter running thanks to busy scheduling and sickness. But now I'm back - just in time for perfect running weather!

Happy first day of spring! May the days get ever warmer (and less snowy).

19 March 2013

My Gender (Mom?) Gap in Biking

Recently, The Atlantic Cities, published an article about the gender gap in cycling. The article claims that men bike are likely to bike at a 2:1 ratio in the United States. This is shocking to me, considering that nearly every bike commuter I know is a woman. Then again, when I'm riding around town, I'm more likely to see more male riders than female riders. Why? Reading further in the article, I could relate to nearly every point it made.

For example, women are less likely to feel safe on a bike when there's a lot of traffic. I've used this fear to keep myself from riding in several areas of Denver, including Downtown. I also dislike riding through big intersections with lots of cars, but I've gotten over both fears by just riding and leaving the excuses at the door (while being more alert to traffic).

The article was based on a survey of female and male bikers at the Ohio State University. And while so many of the study's points were applicable to me, I couldn't help but think about the additional challenges - and worries - of riding with children. Now that Benny can ride with me, I'm extra reticent about riding through busy intersections or on busy streets. That limits our trips a bit, but not much. I'm also wary of riding with the bike trailer in situations like these.

I've never thought much about the walkable/bikeable community concept, other than I generally support it and I can't imagine living in a neighborhood that isn't pedestrian/bike friendly. My neighborhood is both. It's an older neighborhood, but the streets are wide, the sidewalks are adequate and there are plenty of local businesses to visit within a mile or so away. Benny's school is less than a mile away and Lila's daycare will soon be less than a half mile away - with no major streets to cross.

It hasn't been until I've started venturing outside of my neighborhood that the walkable/bikeable concept has become more important and much more applicable to my life. We live in a perfect area of Denver - close to Downtown and Uptown, close to Cherry Creek, close to Stapleton. If it weren't for the trek to the southern part of the city for meetings and the southwestern part of the city to the University of Denver, I could bike everywhere I need to go.

Yesterday, Lila and I rode to Stapleton, a new housing development near Park Hill with everything we could possibly need (it used to be the airport). We don't visit the area often, but I needed to stop by Goodwill to look for a items for a guard costume for Benny's first play. Walgreen's is on the way home, so we made a short pit stop to get passport photos for Lila. While riding in Park Hill is easy and feels safe, I couldn't help but appreciate the multitude of bike lanes throughout Stapleton. I didn't have to ride on any streets without a bike lane. When I'm riding with a trailer, I appreciate bike lanes even more.

Today I contemplated riding south to a meeting about 5.5 miles away. But, Google maps indicated that there weren't any convenient bike path to get there. I decided to drive the route first to get a feel for it. I can't imagine riding it without a lot of hesitation. While there were signs posted along the route to "Share the Road," it was busy, narrow and long lines of cars were parked on the sides. It wasn't welcoming at all. I'm not sure I can convince myself to ride that route ever, which is unfortunate because I have to travel to that particular area at least once a month.

Luckily, Denver is a relatively bike friendly city. I can get most places by riding side streets that are designated bike routes or on bike lanes. But, there is still an overarching car-centric mentality here. (For example, Benny nearly got doored on our way home from school a few weeks ago.) The city is considering installing a protected bike lane on one of the city's busiest streets, which a great step in the right direction. But, we need to change the mentality of drivers to ensure that everyone is comfortable on the road, whether on two feet, two (or three) wheels or four wheels. After today's experiment, I realize that the city also needs to invest in more bike lanes running north/south (there are plenty east/west) and definitely more bike trails. We don't have access to any bike trails, unless we want to ride several miles out of the way.

What keeps you from riding? Have you ever gotten over a fear of not being safe while riding?

14 March 2013

Under the Weather

I had so many positive expectations for my life on the bike this month. I thought this might be the month that I could start riding every single day. Alas, March has proven to be trickier than I could have anticipated. First, the weather has been unpredictable with five (FIVE!) snow storms mixed in with 70-degree days. Second, I have been under the weather for over a week now. I finally made myself an appointment with my doctor yesterday to make sure that I don't have a sinus infection. It's likely not a sinus infection, but I still can't quite get back to normal. That I was able to ride 9/14 days is kind of amazing with all of these challenges.

BUT, I have high hopes for the remainder of the month. It looks like the coolest temperature will be around 55, which is totally do-able (especially considering that I was riding in 15-degree weather earlier this month). Classes are finished. The sun is up an hour later. I'm not immobilized by sickness. Yes, I think mid- to late March is looking mighty fine!

Don't forget to post your GREEN photos for an extra chance to win a copy of The Soup Peddler. I finally got around to posting to that theme in the past couple of days.

10 March 2013

(Day)light at the End of the Tunnel

The long, dark tunnel of winter is behind us. Nothing but sunny days ahead (particularly sunny days with the sun up until after 7:30!). I can't really imagine living somewhere without seasons. The build up to and the anticipation of spring is at a record high at my house. We have been counting down the days until we can go on bike rides in the evening again and play outside after dinner. Those days, my friends, are upon us. And, after this week, I think that I'll be able to consistently be able to drop Benny off at school by bike. The past two months or so have been too cold to walk or bike in the morning.

Nate and I were explaining the phenomenon of Daylight Savings (can it really be considered a phenomenon since it's man-made?) at dinner this evening. He said he was excited to use the extra daylight to practice fast bike tricks, which would be welcome since he's been pedaling exxxtraaa slow lately. Lila perked up and said she was excited to ride her balance bike. Since she hasn't seemed to interested in it before, we're going to harness this enthusiasm and get her balancing!

I'm excited for my class to be over. It's been a great class with some very good students, but the evening format has been hard for me. I'm thankful to have the class as a distraction that propels me from the holidays to the onset of spring. I'm also excited for more time to run, maybe start up yoga (again) and get caught up on everything that I've neglected over the past 10 weeks.

Yes, I think this spring is going to treat us very well. Hope you all enjoyed your extra hour of daylight today!

08 March 2013

Peddling for The Soup Peddler

When I was sick this week, all I wanted was some soup. Any soup would do, really. When Benny and Lila are sick, I typically make them chicken noodle soup. I don't know if it really helps, but it sure makes me feel better! I ended up finding some locally made carrot ginger soup at Whole Foods and it was amazing. The only thing that would have made it more amazing? Delivery by bike.

And so, the giveaway for contributing to #everydayonabike in March is a copy of The Soup Peddler's Slow & Difficult Soups: Recipes & Reveries by David Ansel. The book is part memoir/part recipe book by the man who has created a soup empire in Austin, Texas. He started out with a bike and a trailer and a few quarts of soup. He (and his employees) still deliver the soup by bike. I remember hearing all about David when I lived in Austin, but I never tried his soups. We're quickly approaching the end of soup weather (yay Spring!), but with this weekend's predicted snowstorm, I have a feeling soup will feel good for a few more weeks.

If you want to play along, just take a picture of you on your bike, your bike or someone else biking with you and upload it to Instagram with the tag of #everydayonabike. For every picture you contribute, you'll be entered once. But, if you post a picture with this month's unofficial theme (GREEN!), you'll be entered twice. Want to increase your chances even more? Leave a comment on this page with the name of your favorite soup . Be careful, though. If it sounds good, I'll ask for the recipe!

Good luck!

*The Soup Peddler is not a sponsor of #everydayonabike.

Friday Never Looked So Good

I regularly "work" for the weekend. While I like my jobs and hanging out with my kids on weekdays, it's always nice to have a break and have Nate home during the day.

This all holds true for even the "easiest" week, but it's particularly relevant for this week. This week has been particularly challenging because Nate has been out of town for work and I was sick for the better part of two days. I was actually happy to be able to teach last night because it required less energy than hanging out with the kids for the evening. As awful as that sounds, it makes me realize that taking care of kids does take a lot of energy - mental and physical - and it's OK to need a break every once in awhile.

The good news is that I delivered my last lecture for class last night. Now I just get to look forward to grading final papers. Nate gets home this evening. And I'm feeling much better today. So, aside from a snow storm moving in tonight, this weekend is shaping up to be a good one.

Happy Friday to you all!

04 March 2013

#everydayonabike in Australia!

Cat Hope (@cathope) has been a regular contributor to #everydayonabike for the past two months. I long to post pictures like hers - sunny skies with lots of green foliage. Alas, she's in Australia, so she's enjoying (a very hot) summer right now.

I asked Cat to share a bit about her riding habits. And now I want to bike in Australia!

ss // What kind of bike(s) do you ride?

ch // I ride a a black Electra Amersterdam Royale. It is an 8 speed and I bought it brand new. It's like a Dutch bike meets a beach cruiser. I love it. I also still have the very old junky bike that got me back into cycling. I bought it as a test bike. A no brand, no gears, very poor back pedal braked ladies bike - I thought if I stick with that for awhile, I will earn a better bike for myself. And I did! It's now the "guests'" bike and often goes out on loan. I made sure my new one had a skirt, a chain chard and internal gears so it didn't effect what I want to wear.

ss // Where do you ride? How often?

ch // I try to ride everywhere! To and from my work most days - around 15-20 minutes each way so not that far, often accompanying my 8-year-old son to school on his bike on the way. Here in Perth it can get over 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit!) (now), not great and exertion biking. I have a lot of meetings off campus (I am an academic/composer/musician) and ride my bike to those too. I have panniers for when I need to take lots of books or music. I also use (my bike) to get around to concerts in the evenings. Riding at night in summer is my favourite time to ride.

ss // Where do you live?

ch // Inner city Perth, Western Australia.

ss // How long have you been riding?

cc // After years of cycling as a school kid, and brief spates when I lived in Europe - I didn't ride for a long time. The memories of a double cog multi gear slips, greasy chain clothes munchers, racing handlebars and heavy school bags put me off. Also, there just weren't any good "ladies'" bikes to ride for awhile here, everything was too "sporty." But now there are a lot more choices and you can choose a bike that suits what you want. for me, I like to ride at my own pace (so I can drink a coffee at the same time if I so desire) and not have to make fashion sacrifices!

Thank you, Cat, for sharing a bit about your cycling! Also check out Cat's Tumblr of the Perth Slow Riders.

01 March 2013

Bikes Are Green

We did it! We survived January and February! Every year I figure if I can survive those two months, I can survive winter. And here we are, March 1. Boy oh boy, I welcome this date with open arms.

Not all bikes are green in color. No, of course not. But all bikes are green, you know, in the carbon footprint sense. So, in this green month (new spring growth - hurrah!, St. Patrick's Day and all that jazz), the unofficial theme for #everydayonabike is GREEN! Post a bike photo with something green in it and you'll be entered TWICE for this month's drawing - yet to be announced.

I, for one, am very excited for this month. My class is over in two weeks. Daylight savings hits on March 10, which will make life infinitely easier. Mornings, while still chilly, will be bearable on bike. I have a feeling I'll be overwhelming #everydayonabike with photos just because I can! I hope to see you there too. Happy March to all of you.