30 April 2013

April #everydayonabike Review

April has been the most of the challenging month to ride of the year. I predicted that we could ride to school everyday this month. That prediction couldn't have been further from the truth. The weather was unpredictable all month - with three (THREE!) snow storms that all hit in mid- to late April. Odd stuff.

And yet, there were more photos posted to #everydayonabike this month than in any of the previous months! Here are the stats:

69 photos posted // 29 posted by me // 40 posted by others // 10 contributors
27 days on the bike // 164.5 total miles // approximately $36 in savings in gas

Thanks to everyone for participating this month, including Melissa at Her Green Life

@runbobbierun // @shaggybrownie // @simplybike // @thepirpirlexicon // @emfritz
@frauwein // @cathope // @mrsweichbrodt // @allmybrush // @whatwouldanedwear

I also have some firsts this month, including riding with a bike seat. Thanks to Simply Bike for the opportunity to use an iBert! I'll write a little bit about riding with a trailer versus a bike seat soon. There are positives and negatives to both arrangements. I also completed my longest commute yet - 7 miles one way. And it only took me about 35 minutes to ride, which isn't a bad commute at all - although I was TIRED!

I rode from northeast Denver to a meeting in southwest Denver (proper). I scheduled another meeting on the way home to better utilize my commute time. It all worked out really well and I was able to ride almost exclusively in bike lanes or on streets that are designated bike routes, which makes me a much more comfortable. I did have to ditch the bike trailer when I dropped Benny off at school, which isn't ideal, but at least I could lock it up!

final April ride, just after I picked the trailer up // May #everydayonabike image

I'm looking forward to more spring-time riding. Maybe May will boost more foliage and less snow. Here's hoping. Happy riding!

29 April 2013

The Great Outdoors

Otherwise known as our yard. Or at least for this weekend, the great outdoors was our back yard. We didn't have much planned for the weekend, so Nate and I used it as an opportunity to get our yard summer ready. The kids didn't seem to mind.

This spring, we have an especially big outdoor project to prepare for: A NEW DECK!

When we bought this house, we saw all sorts of potential - with both the house and the backyard. The kitchen was big, though dated. And the backyard was also big, but in awful shape. We knew that if we worked hard enough on the house that we wouldn't regret it. We finished a kitchen remodel right before Lila was born and we're so happy that we bought a house with a kitchen larger than a postage stamp. Most of the houses in this neighborhood feature small galley kitchens, which is something that we wanted to avoid.

The transformation of the backyard has been a bit longer in the making. When we moved in, the grass was nearly dead, there was a carport attached to the garage and it took up about a third of the yard, a rose patch took up about a quarter more, and an old chain link fence provided a full view of the alley. AND an rusty corrugated metal awning covered a cracked patio off the kitchen.

In five years, we have removed a lot of concrete - both from the carport and the crumbling sidewalk, installed new turf and a sprinkler system and generally cleaned up the backyard - moving plants around and rearranging the layout. Now it looks like a completely new backyard. This year, we decided to do away with the metal awning and patio in favor of an expanded deck and pergola. In order to do that, we also need to replace the gutters and paint the trim, but those projects needed to be completed years ago as well. So, the backyard and the front of the house will be getting a face lift!

Come summer, we'll be ready for some major entertaining, so be sure to come visit.

24 April 2013

Century Ride

It baffles me that many people ride 100 miles in one day. That's a lot of miles! This month, as part of #30daysofbiking, I've been keeping track of my mileage. By April 22, Earth Day, I had hit 100 miles for the month of April. I could have and would have ridden a lot more if the weather had cooperated, but 100 miles ain't bad for just over three weeks.

Speaking of the weather, I think I can safely say that snowstorms are behind us now. The next week's forecast is sunny and in the 60s and 70s. By next Monday, the temps are supposed to be in the high 70s. Nothing like moving directly from winter to summer!

As a result of counting miles this month, I'm going to start keeping track of miles for every month. It would be nice to know how much I'm riding and then estimating a cost savings. Because, I'm planning on buying a new pair of boots come this fall and I want to be able to justify the purchase! It's always this for that in my mind!

22 April 2013

Snowy Earth Day

It's snowing in Denver. Again. On April 22. Earth Day. I did manage to ride Benny to school before the storm moved in. That just means that I'll have to pack up his bike in the car on the way home. Ah well.

In honor of Earth Day, I thought I'd post a list of things that are better to buy used. It's no secret that I'm a big fan of used items. But Earth Day and this list is are good reminders of how much money you can save and waste you can avoid by buying used items.

1. The first on the list is bikes. I was this close to buying a new bike this weekend. I have some extra money to spend at REI so I figured I'd buy a new bike there. But, I think I'm going to wait it out for a bike on Craigslist. If you know anyone who is selling a women's cyclocross, send him/her my way! Benny's bike is used - purchased from a great nonprofit bike shop in the neighborhood.

2. Textbooks are number two. I'd argue that buying any book used is best. In college, I bought almost all of my books off of a site called half.com. It's a great site to find any used book. Amazon also sells used books from sellers around the country. My book club is also going to experiment with a book exchange in the next few months. I also like the Park Hill Community Book Store - a great nonprofit in the community. Oh, and using the library is the best way to save money and enjoy a whole world full of books!

3. I rarely buy my kids' clothes new. I can count the number of times we've purchased clothes new on one hand. I make trips to Goodwill pretty regularly. I also stock up at the beginning of spring and fall at a great consignment sale called Just Between Friends. There are JBF sales all over the country. You can find great deals on clothes, shoes, toys, strollers, diaper bags, etc. This weekend I spent less than $70 to outfit Lila and Benny for spring and summer as well as some new shoes and a potty training toilet seat. Another great way to score used is to find friends and/or relatives with hand-me-downs!

Ben and Lila wear hand-me-downs or clothes from grandparents almost
exclusively, including both of their jackets in this photo.
4. Used cars are just about the best and they're number four on the list. We've never owned anything but a used car. And we won't be buying any new (to us) cars any time in the near future.

5. Although number five is a great idea, we've purchased our fair share of new appliances (excluding washers and dryers). Our oven, fridge and dishwasher were new when we bought them. And we'll probably never replace them.

6. Buying used toys (number 6) is another weakness. But we're getting better. I have purchased almost every baby cargo devise, including my Bob stroller and my Burley bike trailer.

7. I'm always amazed that people sell furniture because "it doesn't fit in their space." In our entire marriage, Nate and I have bought five pieces of furniture new. And we'll probably never buy new again. Craigslist is our best friend in this category.

8. I'm hoping to never have to buy wedding attire again. However, Nate and I were relatively smart when we  got married. My wedding dress was hand-made and Nate still wears his wedding slacks and shirt.

9. Pets. Not applicable (much to Lila's disappointment).

10. Entertainment. Also not really applicable (thanks Netflix!).

11. Buy a used house! I don't think we'd ever consider buying a new house. Ours is most definitely used. And we'll be working on it for the rest of our lives!

12 and 13. I'll combine the final two of jewels and designer duds. I don't buy jewels, so another not applicable. But designer (and all duds) are most certainly better used. At this point, my closet is probably at a 50/50 split. Goodwill is a great place to go. But for more quality, high-end items, I really love the local consignment boutique called Plum. Recently, I scored a Coach clutch and Banana Republic jacket. Both are lovely. I also have friends who clean out their closets and offer great pieces to me. One friend outfitted me for the entire winter with new sweaters, shirts and pants. Yes, I'm a lucky girl!

This great dress is from a friend of mine.
Happy Earth Day to you! I hope it's sunny and springy where you are!

Documenting the Unextraordinary (aka "the Ordinary")

Now that I'm riding my bike everyday (or almost everyday), I'm finding that the #everydayonabike challenge isn't so much of a challenge any more. The real challenge is taking a picture everyday. My trips aren't usually very noteworthy - to school, from school, to the bank, to the post office. And then, when the ride is noteworthy, I'm too caught up in the moment to document it.

Case in point: On Saturday night, Nate and I rode downtown to attend a fundraiser for the kids' preschool. The event coincided with 4/20. And in Denver, that's a big holiday. Over 80,000 people were gathered a few blocks from downtown to celebrate cannabis. As Nate and I rode closer to downtown, we found ourselves surrounded by throngs of people who were leaving the celebration. As we walked, people began running around us. It was a paranoid, group-think type of run and we weren't sure what was going on.

When we arrived at the event location, we found some bike racks, and I was ready to pose for a shot. It's not often that I wear make-up AND do my hair AND wear nice clothes, so I was hoping to document it. However, the crowd's odd behavior unsettled us. As we walked toward the restaurant, a manager ushered us in and locked the door behind us. Turns out, someone had shot three people at the park and people were fleeing. It was a somber start to the evening.

on Colfax, after Saturday's fundraiser // bike parked at school
using the bike seat as a makeshift basket // one of our many snowy rides this month

But, I digress. Obviously we're OK and the event was fantastic.

Here I am though, still stuck with this challenge of documenting the everyday. And then I review my pictures and I decide that the mundane isn't so bad. Because the collection of photos shows how much I'm riding with my family. The photos also mark the change of season. There's a bit more green showing up in photos now and sometimes I can ride without a coat or jacket. So this exercise isn't only recording my bike habits, it's a great reminder of how much we're embracing the outdoors and our (wo)man-powered ability to get ourselves from one place to another. And that's not so bad.

18 April 2013

Cheers to the Sun!

This week has been one big busy doozy of a week. And it's only Thursday. But, know what? The sun came out today! No snow! Granted, the highs will only be in the 30s, but the sun is out and the snow is melting.

The week started with the attack on the Boston Marathon, which is beyond comprehension. I mean, really, beyond. I cannot wrap my head around it. I've been thinking about my own experience running the Chicago Marathon in 2006. It seems like such a long time ago, but I can remember so many little details about it. One of my favorite memories: the fans and specifically my fans: Nate's mom was there cheering me on. Nate and his parents ran all over Chicago to watch me. After the marathon, Nate's mom gave me a big hug and told me how proud she was of me. It meant so much to me. Less than six months later, Barb died of breast cancer. So, not only am I having a hard time with the attack, but the memories are bittersweet.

The weather isn't helping. April started on such a high note - 60s for a few days. Then a big, awful storm last week that ended up stripping our peach tree of its blossoms and ruining a bunch of stuff in our spring garden. I thought the bad weather was over, but then a storm rolled in Monday that brought with it at least 10 inches of SNOW. And then more snow. We'll have some sun and decent temps for three days before another storm is predicted to roll in early next week. While I love the moisture, I wonder why we can't enjoy spring RAIN showers rather than SNOW storms.

I hate to talk about the attacks on Boston and the bad weather in the same post, but they both have left a big dark cloud over the week. Which is why the sunshine is so welcome today. It's amazing what a few rays will do for my mood.

We're ending the week on a high note: A visit from grandparents. Beer tasting on Friday night. Preschool fundraiser on Saturday night. A busy end to a busy week.

14 April 2013

Spring Cleaning/Purging/Cleansing

Spring cleaning hasn't always been a top priority for me. I have a hard enough time keeping up with regular old house cleaning, so the dust behind the couch, refrigerator, under the beds and everywhere else doesn't bother me a whole lot. I'll get to it some day.

However, this year, I've decided to actually clean out some of my cupboards. For the first time in two years. Maybe I'll actually clean under the beds and wash my windows. Between those tasks and the spring cleaning in the yard, I'll be cleaning right up until summer.

Although I'm not a big fan of the deep clean, I am a big fan of the deep purge. I've already been through the kids' toys and have a pile for Goodwill. Tomorrow, I will clean out my closet and the kids' clothes to make room for new (used) spring attire.

Finally, I'm going to try something new this spring. Cleanses seem to be all the rage. I've never really felt it necessary to take part, but this year I'm looking for something to kick my butt into gear. I'm usually pretty tired throughout the day, only be up for a couple of hours at night. So, to combat this insomnia/fatigue and also to get my body back into shape, I'm instituting a purge today. It's not so much a purge, but more of a moderation of things. Here's what I'm planning for the next two weeks:

1. Cut back on beer and wine throughout the week. (We've been involved in a lot of social stuff this winter and it always seems to involve alcoholic beverages. Although I'm all for libations, I think I could cut back.) So, no drinks at home and one drink per evening at a social event.

2. Cut back on coffee. I'm generally a two (very large) cup per day kind of gal. But, I think I can cut back to one cup in the morning and tea in the afternoon.

3. Cut back on sugars. I'd love to say I'm going to cut processed sugars out completely, but I'm not ready to make that sacrifice. I already failed at this today with a small cup of gelato (it was our first gelato of the season - I couldn't say no!).

4. Cut back on carbs. Although the previous three items will be hard enough, the carbs portion of this "cleanse" will be the most challenging. I love bread. And we make a lot of stuff around here involving some kind of grain - spaghetti, burritos. sandwiches. I do refuse to give up my morning toast with peanut butter and honey. It's the reason I get up in the morning.

So, there you have it. Hopefully by summer I'll be bounding with energy. And maybe I'll drop a few pounds in the process. Oh, and maybe I'll have a clean(ish) house by then too.

Do you cleanse? Do you purge? Do you spring clean? Do you feel an odd pressure to get "ready" for spring?

11 April 2013

Not Looking Forward, Not Looking Back

When I had newborns, kind strangers would offer this advice: "Enjoy them while they're young! They grow up so fast!" I would smile and nod. When I had newborns, I really wanted to fast forward until they could sleep through the night. Of course, I loved my babies, but I had a rough time with newborns. My mom offered really useful advice: "After the first three months, things get infinitely easier." And they did. Things did get easier, slowly but surely. Sometimes the improvement was so slow, I didn't know it was happening until I paused to realize that Wow! This parenting thing is quite enjoyable.

And now I have a five and a half year old and a two and a half year old. Sometimes I wonder How did we get here!?! Time does seem to fast forward. I have nostalgia about when my kids were younger, but I no longer look forward to the future. I like my family right now.

I love that Benny is in kindergarten and is so curious about life. I love that he rides his bike and laughs with friends and drums whenever there's a beat.

I love that Lila is in preschool and making new friends. I love that she still enjoys a good snuggle and loves to be chased and dances like no one is watching.

I love that the two of them have become playmates - friends even. Although I don't always love their shenanigans in the moment (boy oh boy, they can be loud!), it's such a pleasure to watch them make each other laugh, make up games, have conversations.

So, I find myself in a position where I don't want to look forward and I don't want to look back. I want to stay right here for awhile and absorb these phases. Because they don't last forever.

10 April 2013

Book Review: Catching Fire

I wasn't kidding when I said I was ready to read for fun again! I finished Catching Fire in near-record time. As nearly the entire world already knows, it's the second book in the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. I'm a little late to this party. 

For me, the Hunger Games trilogy isn't notable for its quality writing, seamless story line or even likable characters (although, there are some of those). It's notable because of its subject matter and its overwhelming popularity. It's about a revolution and the ability of people - no matter how repressed - to challenge the authority that is repressing them. Although we don't live in Panem, some people around the world live in conditions that are strikingly similar (and throughout history, Panem has existed almost everywhere). And throughout history, many people have risen up to take back their lives, their families, their communities.

Because the books are so popular and geared to a younger audience, they could be the beginning of some great discussions about revolutions and the importance of grassroots organizing. 

Although I've heard the third book isn't as good as the first two, I'm excited to finish up the trilogy.

09 April 2013

#everydayonabike in Iowa!

It's only appropriate that I interview S. from Simply Bike for the April #everydayonabike profile. 
I remember stumbling on S.'s blog a few years ago and was nearly instantly inspired to get back on the bike. She seamlessly transitioned from a commuter biker to a family biker (who still commutes!) and has great tips for other mamas who would like to do the same. 
I've had the privilege to meet S. and I'm looking forward to taking a few rides with her this summer when we're able to meet up again.

ss // What do you ride?

sb // I ride a 1970s Peugot mixte that I picked up on Craigslist. I made a number of upgrades to it (added a chain guard, basket, panniers, better grips and more upright handlebars as recent improvements to help with my back pain. I think the frame is the only thing actually remaining of the original Peugot bike. It's a gretle Frenkenbike - it looks like no other bike in town and it rides like butter. As of last fall, I have been hitching my Burley trailer to it for my daughter to ride along with me. Before the weather cooled, I used a front mounted bike seat (the iBert) for her ride in.

ss // How long have you been riding?

sb // I rediscovered biking as an adult about three years ago. I started out shaky and unsure of myself but before long, I was addicted. I loved the freedom, fun and exercise that riding my bike provided. Three years ago, there were only a handful of cycling blogs being written by women (most notably Dottie and Trisha's Let's Go Ride a Bike, Sarah's Girls and Bicycles and Meli's Bikes and the City). There were all a huge inspiration to me. Before stumbling across them, I didn't really think of biking something other than an activity relegated to parks and weekends. These women opened my eyes to using a bike as a daily mode of transportation.

ss // Where do you typically ride?

sb // I usually ride anywhere in town. I use my bike to get to campus (where I work), to shop for groceries, to go to the library with my daughter, or to meet friends for drinks in the evening. Once a month, I organize a community-wide ride for families and children (our own branch of Kidical Mass). It's been my first time attempt at anything akin to bicycle advocacy in my town and it's been incredibly fun.

ss // How has becoming a mother changed your riding (if at all)?

sb // It's changed my riding the way it has changed everything about my day: I now have to account for nap times, carrying extra items around with me (diaper pouch, snacks, books) and for the moods and wants of this other little person along for the ride. But we've fallen into a great rhythm together and biking together is one of my favorite things for us to do. I think my daughter would agree as she's usually pretty content to be in her bike seat or the bike trailer.

ss // Why do you ride?

sb // I ride because I always feel better after getting off my bike. Even on rainy, cold days. O don't get that feeling after stepping out of a car.

Thank you, S., for sharing a bit about biking! 
Please check out Simply Bike for great stories about biking and parenting and many other great topics!

04 April 2013

The Accidental One-Car Family

If you had asked me a year ago if we could be a one-car family, I would have laughed in your face. Before Nate and I had kids, we were happily a one-car couple. But then we had kids, we both worked and the logistics just didn't work out. Benny and Lila have always been at different daycare locations. Nate had a 15-mile commute and my 6-mile commute wouldn't work on a bike due to drop off and pick up and getting to work at a decent time.

Our 1997 Volvo, purchased when I was about 7 months preggers with Benny.

Fast forward a year. So many amazing and mundane changes have impacted our commutes (and, truthfully, our lives). Nate accepted a job downtown - a 4-mile commute. I largely work from home and can ride to almost every meeting I schedule. This week, Lila started at Benny's pre-school and it's only two blocks away from the elementary school. So, when our Volvo station wagon's battery died last week, it wasn't the end of the world. And when we couldn't fix it because we didn't have time, we just kept pushing buying a new battery back.

Yesterday, Nate suggested that we move the Volvo to the alley so we don't get any tickets when street sweeping starts. I agreed. And just like that, we're a one (working) car family. In the past week and a half, we have driven the car a total of three times. Nate has been taking the bus or riding his bike to work and I've been able to ride every single day.

I'm not sure how long this arrangement will last, but it feels good for now!

03 April 2013

Book Review: The Round House

Finally! I finally have time to read again! As soon as the quarter ended at DU, I picked up The Round House by Louise Erdrich. It's the next book club selection and I finished it just in time.

The book is good. Very good. However, I wish I had read the Afterword before I started the book. It would have created a good framework to better understand the story line.

Erdrich writes about Joe, a teenage Native American whose mother is raped in the first chapter. Essentially, the book is about justice, which is a challenge on reservations - particularly in the case of rape.

The build-up to the final chapters was superb and Erdrich created a realistic description of how a family deals with a scary and violent situation - from the mother's depression to the son's and father's helplessness. The final chapters could have been longer and included more description like the earlier chapters.

Overall, I'm just glad that I have the time to read again. I have visions of sitting with a cup of coffee on the porch and reading through summer. It's a happy thought. I've moved on to Catching Fire, the second book in the Hunger Games trilogy. I took a longggg break and I'm happy to read more about Katniss et al.

02 April 2013

So Much to Do, So Little Time

Spring break has come and gone. I had so many plans for spring break to explore Denver with the kids. And then the Volvo died on Monday, so we were stuck at home (because it was also too cold to ride our bikes). Benny and Lila seemed fine with it, but I was disappointed. We did end the day with an art activity that both of the kids really enjoyed - something as simple as coloring Easter eggs to send to grandparents.

On Wednesday we did make our way to the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, but it was packed with other spring breakers, so we headed home to have lunch and nap in the afternoon. That left Friday. Again, lots of plans, but then Nate decided to leave work early so we could drive to my parents' house. We had time to run errands and stop at the library.

Although we weren't busy, busy throughout the week, I can't tell you how nice it was to relax and have some down time with the kids. We slept in and meandered through our days. It made me long for summer vacation when I'll have both kids for two days every week. Of course we'll take lots of bike rides, but I'm also excited to discover some of the museums in Denver. Like the Clyfford Still Museum and the Denver Art Museum. I recently stumbled on a great blog from Denver, A Denver Home Companion. This week, check out the blog for a giveaway for a membership to the Clyfford Still Museum. I can't believe how cool the blog makes Denver look. I mean, I know it's cool, but A Denver Home Companion reflects it accurately. Please check it out.

01 April 2013

Hurray for April

I have a good feeling about April. The weather is obviously plays a big role in my mood, but so do blossoms and flowers and green grass. Overall, it's just pretty damn awesome. Plus, Lila starts at Benny's old pre-school three days a week. I love, love, love being at home with her, but I have enough work now that two days a week just isn't cutting it. I know that she'll love it. And, I can pick Benny up from school on Wednesdays now and have some one-on-one time with him before I pick Lila up later in the afternoon. We're having dinner with friends almost every weekend this month and the fundraising gala is in three weeks (yikes!). There's so much to look forward to.

I'm not offering a giveaway this month because I think the improved weather is enough incentive to get out and riding (at least, it is for me!). In the next few days, I'll profile a rider who has inspired me in my journey back to the bike, so stay tuned.

And, in case you missed it, #everydayonabike was featured in this month's Greater Park Hill News. Also, check out 30 Days of Biking for inspiration to ride this month. What a cool concept! I'll be participating, because, well, I'm riding anyway! Happy riding!

March #everydayonabike Review

Nothing against March, but damn, I had a hard time riding last month! The weather was the most challenging, but so was health and travel. Regardless, I still managed to ride 23/31 days - and on many days I made more than one trip by bike, so I suppose it all evens out somehow. This year, the in like a lion, out like a lamb saying certainly holds true for the month. I rode in 15 degree weather with snow on the ground earlier in the month and last night I rode in shorts and a T-shirt in 70 degree weather.

Thanks to everyone who contributed in March. I know it wasn't easy to ride anywhere (being too cold or two hot, depending on your hemisphere), so I appreciate all of the committed riders even more! Here are the stats:

53 photos tagged // 21 tagged by me // 22 tagged by others // 10 contributors

Thanks to all of the contributors this month!

@lifewithroozle // @cathope // @emfritz // @runbobbierun // @shaggybrownie
@jaynesykora // @simplybike // @ashleynicoleaddison // @familyride // @obc_benson

And congrats to @emfritz for winning The Soup Peddler! Emily lives down the street from me and is a frequent riding partner!

Also, check out #everdayonabike in the Greater Park Hill News this month! If you're in the Denver area, you can pick up a copy at any Park Hill business.