This commute

As I mentioned in my #30daysofbiking post (can’t believe it’s been TWO months since I wrote that — talk about time flying!), I’ve really enjoyed having a regular bike commute again.  The weather has been quite accommodating this fall — until this week, I’ve only driven the car to campus once (a rainy day where I had to be across town right after class).

My previous regular bike commute ended in December 2009 when I took a job in Jefferson County (promoting biking, somewhat ironically) and ditched the bike for the car.  While my current commute is a similar route to that last commute, there are some major differences that I’m dealing with this time around, including some things that I knew were nice, but didn’t fully appreciate about my last set-up.

Until now, I’ve always had a “home base” at my final destination.  For a couple of years, that was just a cubicle, which wasn’t as nice as having my own office (a rare luxury these days, I know), but even with just the cubicle, it was something — a place where I could leave my stuff and not have to lug it around with me all day (think change of clothes, rain gear, cold weather clothing, etc.).  As a non-employee student, that place to off-load is a luxury I don’t have.

During the 2.5 years that I had a private office, I had a built-in place to change clothes (rather than attempting to do so within the confines of a bathroom stall).  I was also spoiled by being able to bring my bike right into my office with me — no need for my trusty steed to have to weather the elements.  With my current commute, I’m lucky if I can cram Midnight into the partially covered bike rack on days when wet weather looms.

Similar to my previous commutes, I do have access to a locker room and shower on the other end.  I’m able to leave a padlock on a locker, so I stashed a pair of shower sandals and a bar of soap.  Unfortunately, all of the lockers are half-size, so it limits the usefulness as far as stashing gear on a daily basis (might need to get a second padlock and just claim another locker, as I’m about the only person to use the space anyway!).

I’ve used the locker room to change and freshen up a number of times, and in October I finally got around to trying the showers.  All went well the first time, but on the second occasion, there were no towels available (there had been previously, so I hadn’t brought my own), and I was forced to ditch the shower plan in favor of a less comprehensive clean-up regimen — guess I need to stash a towel there, too!

The other big difference is that on my previous commute, I had a fairly easy public transit back-up plan: a short walk to a bus that ran every 20 minutes -> bus ride to MetroLink (light rail) -> MetroLink to within a block of my office.  That meant that if the weather looked iffy later in the day (storms, heavy rain, winter weather), I could confidently bike to work, knowing I could leave my bike locked IN my office and rely on transit to get home.  And on totally rotten days, I could leave both the bike and car at home and enjoy transit (to be fair, not always a perfect experience, neither as fun nor convenient as biking, but it usually worked out well).

I haven’t even looked at my transit options for my current commute, but I know it’s nowhere near that nice, and while technically doable, it starts bordering on ridiculous when I do have access to a car.


Anyhow, that’s a snapshot of the forecast for the beginning of this week (taken on Monday).  I drove to class on Monday night and I’m car-bound today as well.  Fortunately, Thursday looks better.

I have biked in rain a few times this semester, once or twice in fairly light stuff (but you still get pretty wet after 40 minutes) and once in an all-out downpour.  Doable, but it requires hauling my wet stuff around all day (or cramming it into a half-size locker where it doesn’t really have a chance to dry), and no nice transit back-up if things get really nasty, so it’s definitely a harder sell.

We’ll have to see how the weather plays out in the new year.  January and February usually bring our worst winter weather.  Between getting myself and Gabriel where we need to go, I may need to accept being in the car more than I’d really like for the first several weeks of the spring semester.

Regardless of what the new year brings, I’m quite happy to have established this new bike commute.  I’m definitely stronger and faster than I was just a few months ago, and I’m reaping the mental health benefits of the regular physical activity as well.  At the end of the day, there’s something so rewarding about getting somewhere under my own power!


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Halloween weekend

The weather was lovely on Friday night, so we kicked off the weekend with a family bike ride to check out the neighborhood Halloween decorations.  The forecast for Saturday night looked less than ideal for trick-or-treating, so I wanted to make the most of it, and we did.  All was well, despite the fact that I didn’t realized my rear bike lights weren’t on until four blocks into the ride — oops!

Saturday dawned drizzly and gray, as promised.  We made the most of it by baking bread (Matthew) and making chickpea dumpling soup (me).  My food lab instructor mentioned chickpea flour dumplings last week in class (I was probably the only one in the room who had every actually consumed them), and I realized I’d completely forgotten about that recipe, which is quite tasty.  Fun to bring it back!

After some post-lunch quiet time, Matthew and Gabriel got into full tiger costume.


I’ve got the two cutest tigers in town, and that’s no lion!

After a quick visit to Nana and Papa’s, we returned home for dinner (something nice and healthy before all that candy!).  Despite my fears, the weather mostly cooperated for trick-or-treating.  It was damp when we headed out, but no active precipitation.  We walked a few blocks to a street that is very active in trick-or-treating.  There were some great decorations, including this kid dressed up as a creepy jester who looked like a statue until he jumped at you.  The house with what had been G’s favorite decorations added an animated werewolf for Halloween night, and it was too creepy for my little tiger.  About halfway through, it started spitting, and there was a very light drizzle just as we finished.

A couple of weeks ago, a friend shared Ellyn Satter’s recommendation for handling Halloween candy, basically putting the child in charge (at least to some degree) to help him/her learn self-regulation.  I really like a lot of Satter’s work (mentioned in my “Avoiding Pitfalls in Raising a Healthy Eater” post), so, despite some qualms about these particular recommendations, I decided to give it a try that first night.

I told G he could pick out what he wanted, and also that if he was hungry for something else (we don’t usually do a snack before bed, because bedtime is so close to dinner, but we were up late and he had done a lot of walking), he could have a piece of the [fresh-baked] bread.  In the end, G picked 4-5 pieces of candy and then asked for a piece of bread.

I’ll admit that after each piece of candy, I was wondering, “Will this piece be the last one?” and I wouldn’t have minded if he’d chosen even less candy (yes, I might have some control issues), but as a “sometimes” thing, this was not at all unreasonable.

We’re now doing a bit more direction with the candy, and I’m not going for the “as much as he wants at snack time” thing.  Mostly I feel like there’s SO MUCH candy for a 4-year-old, and I’m wishing we’d visited fewer houses, as neither Matthew nor I are particularly interested in helping consume the candy stash (we’d prefer our sugar and fat calories from our homemade treats!).  Looking ahead to next year, I think it might be more fun (and lead to less candy) if we host a Halloween party, which would include some trick-or-treating for the kids, but would also include games and Halloween-themed food items.

Saturday’s rain delayed gardening until Sunday (yes, the garden is still alive and kicking!), and my tigers worked in the garden while I stayed home and did homework.  They returned as I was finishing dinner preparations, and G happily munched on some extra kohlrabi before showing me the big ol’ kohlrabi that Matthew had just harvested.

G with kohl rabi

“Make it quick, Mom. This is heavy!”

And that’s a wrap on our weekend!  I have a number of other posts in the works, including one on my no-longer-so-new bike commute, but I also have lots of school-related writing due in the next few weeks, so no promises!


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Midterm report

It seems like just yesterday that I wrote about going back to school, but here we are, already at midterm week!

School is cool
My classes are going well, and the subject matter is most definitely something that holds my interest, which is a good sign.

So far, my decision to not buy a parking pass seems sound, as I have yet to use the car to get to school (while I’m highly motivated to bike for its own sake, my decision is also reinforced by hearing my classmates complain about how hard it is to find a spot in the parking lot).

On the bike
Speaking of biking, I broke my streak after thirty-two days.  It’s rather a shame, because other than the weekend of September 19-20, I have been on my bike almost every day.

A couple of weeks ago, after a few shorter outings on Apple Jack, we (with G’s input) decided that he/his leg was ready to make the switch from passenger on Big Blue to pedaler on Apple Jack for the school commute.  On Tuesday, I biked with Gabriel to school for the first time (Matthew has been super-bicycle dad for the past month).


G’s leg
This week also brought another check-in with the orthopedic surgeon.  (It’s always a good sign when you’re well enough to bike to a doctor appointment!)

Since starting back to school the second week of September, G has made huge progress, from more confident walking to running (but not jogging — he is very clear that he doesn’t like to jog) and jumping.  He still walks with a slight limp, but that is expected.  The doctor was pleased with the progress, and everything looked good on the x-ray.  We are tentatively scheduled to have the nails removed in early December.

Speaking of school, time to run!  Last day of classes before a little fall break :)


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The Pudla! post

What in the world is pudla? In four words: Savory chickpea flour pancake.  Pudla hails from India.

I stumbled across pudla in one of those internet rabbit holes.  It started as a search for recipes for mixed-nut nut butters, which led me to the Bonzai Aphrodite website/blog.  It felt like the author was a kindred spirit (complete with some postpartum mental health issues), so I clicked around the site, which led me to her recently opened wine bar where they serve pudla.

One look at the recipe, and I knew I had to try it — a simple recipe that comes together in a few minutes, featuring high protein chickpea flour plus fresh veggies — what’s not to love?

We have chickpea flour on hand for making farinata, which shares some characteristics with pudla.  One of the advantages of pudla is that you make it on the stove top, versus needing to use the oven for farinata (more of a factor in the summer heat than in the fall (yay, fall!) and winter).

I used Kittee’s recipe (linked above).


My pudla notes/variations:

  • While the recipe says, “one large filling pancake,” 1/2 cup of chickpea flour is two servings (see nutrition table below).  For my first attempt, I cut the recipe in half and used 1/4 cup (one serving) of chickpea flour.
  • How much water?  The recipe says, “whisk in just enough water to make a thick, pourable batter.”  In my experience, you want a little less water than chickpea flour, so for a half-cup of chickpea flour, start with a little less than 1/2 cup water.
  • Vegetables: I used the full amount of veggies (1 cup) for my half-recipe.  My initial pudla featured red peppers, onion, and cabbage, all from our garden.  In a subsequent version, I swapped Hakuri turnips (a mild, sweet turnip that is tasty eaten raw) for the cabbage.  I’m looking forward to trying a mushroom version (I will probably sauté them first).
  • Salt: I used a scant 1/8 tsp for my half recipe.
  • Oil: I used a mix of peanut and [refined] coconut oils in place of olive oil, which isn’t the best for higher heat cooking.
  • Pan: The recipe doesn’t specify a type of pan.  I was a little bit nervous about the stick risk of using cast iron, but I went for it (using Cat’s tips for making scrambled eggs in cast iron, which I need to share), and it worked fine.
  • To serve: I enjoyed my pudla with some sriracha on top.  I didn’t have avocado, but topping something with avocado never hurts!



After making pudla for myself on Friday, I was eager to share the discovery, so I whipped up another batch for our lunch on Sunday.  G was a huge fan; he polished his off and asked for seconds, but then admitted he was full.  I offered to make more for his afternoon snack, and he happily agreed.  I do so love having a child who is willing to try new foods!

Chickpea flour facts and nutrition

I buy my chickpea flour (also known as besan) at a global food store.  Bob’s Red Mill also makes it, and that may be more generally available (though also more expensive) at regular grocery stores.

Chickpea flour is ground simply finely ground chickpeas, though the nutrient content is a bit different than whole chickpeas.


The big difference is in the fiber.  I don’t know if some of the more fibrous portions are sifted out and removed when making the flour, or what, but we somehow lose a hefty 4g of fiber going from the beans to the flour (though the nutrition facts label on the Bob’s Red Mill chickpea flour reports 5g of fiber in 1/4 cup of flour, which is more consistent with the whole bean).  The whole bean also contains a bit more iron compared to the flour.

So that’s pudla!  It will definitely go on our “make regularly” list!

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Paleo fail

For my Application of Nutrition Concepts course, we were divided into groups and told to pick a weight-loss book to review.  I’ve been curious about Paleo diets, and my group agreed on this topic.  I conducted a good, old-fashioned Google search for Paleo diet books, and one of the first things that came up was Eat to Live by Joel Furhman.

Knowing nothing about the book, but seeing that copies were readily available at both the city and county libraries, I suggested the book to my group.  Everyone agreed, and we submitted the title to the instructor.  And then I started reading the book.

Dr. Fuhrman’s weight loss plan is definitely NOT Paleo.  Oops!  Eat to Live advocates a plant-based diet, which on the surface seems the exact opposite of Paleo.  However, some of the components for sound, safe weight loss are shared.  Dr. Fuhrman’s plan focuses on increasing nutrient density in the diet.  Adherents should avoid processed foods and cut out refined carbohydrates (pp. 36-39); this is an aspect that the diet shares with Paleo.

Instead of learning more about Paleo, I ended up with a book that tracks rather closely with how I already eat, except that my diet is much higher in fat than what Dr. Fuhrman advocates, which makes sense given that I am trying to maintain weight (in a body that, unlike most people’s, doesn’t hoard pounds).

Eventually, I’ll get around to reading more about Paleo diets.  I’m also fascinated by ketogenic diets, since they claim many of the same health and weight-loss benefits as a very low-fat, plant-based diet (as seen in Furhman’s book), but are at the extreme opposite end of the fat-consumption spectrum.


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Today was my 31st consecutive day on the bike.  The “official” #30daysofbiking takes place every April.  I’m not sure what year it started, but by the time I heard about it, I no longer had a “regular” bike commute, and I’ve never participated in the April challenge.  Then, a few weeks ago, I happened across a tweet about #30daysofbiking in September.  By that point, I already had 14 or 15 consecutive days on the bike (in August), which put me halfway to the 30-day point.  I decided to make thirty happen.

Over the past thirty days, I’ve made my thrice weekly commutes to school, weekly trip to Bumbershoot Aerial Arts, numerous shorter errand runs (e.g., grocery store, library), and a few weekend family rides.

I would love to say that I also had 30 consecutive car-free days, but that was not the case.  I may have come close if not for coming down with a cold a few weeks ago.  While I did get on a bike on the days I wasn’t feeling so hot (motivated by not missing a day), I kept the distances quite short and made a couple of trips by car that I would have otherwise made by bike, due to low energy levels.

Of course, the actual challenge is to bike all thirty days in September, which means I’m 17 days in.  I’m not sure I’ll actually finish out September, though the competitor and perfectionist in me is certainly tempted.


As I was riding home from class on Monday night, I realized that I’ve been a bike commuter without a commute for almost SIX years now.  It feels really good to get my bike groove back!

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Bicycle babble: Updates on our newest additions

We’ve added two (or one-and-half?) new bikes to our fleet since May, but I haven’t talked about them much here.  Time to change that!

Meet Midnight

The Kona Dew Deluxe that I purchased in early May is my primary bike these days.  While I was excited to have finally made a decision, I was concerned about ride comfort with the aluminum frame on bumpy city roads.  I also experienced some knee pain after my first few rides (despite having the bike fitted) that brought a few twinges of buyer’s regret.

I’m happy to report that the ride quality is just fine, and my knee pain seems to have resolved (maybe I just needed to get used to the position?).  The nine gears (only a single ring in front) work well for most of the riding I’m doing, though I’m not sure I could get it up a steep hill pulling a loaded trailer without a lower gear.

While it seems like a nice addition to a commuter bike, I don’t use the front basket all that much.  Putting any kind of weight up there changes the bike’s handling significantly (trickier than riding with G in front of me in the IBert), so I usually leave it empty, or reserve it for bulky but light items, like our picnic quilt.


I wasn’t really set on naming this bike, but “Midnight” popped into my head a few weeks ago, and it stuck.  I’ve been spending a lot of time on Midnight lately (#30daysofbiking post coming up next week), and I’m very glad that I’m not riding BUB for my 15-mile RT school commutes.

Meet Apple Jack

We’ve been enjoying our Burley Piccolo [trail-a-bike], recently christened “Apple Jack” by Gabriel, since mid-May.  We started out with short jaunts, but by the end of May, Matthew and Gabriel completed the 4-mile ride to G’s preschool.


It is now our child bicycle conveyance of choice for shorter trips.  On longer trips where we really want to move and plan on spending significant time on larger roads, we still turn to Big Blue, though we’ll eventually use Apple Jack for these trips too.

Matthew and I each have a bike with the Burley Moose rack (propriety rear rack to which the Piccolo attaches) mounted.  I use Midnight and Matthew uses his road bike.  Installing the racks was no easy task; it left us wishing we’d left it to the bike shop, where the installation probably would have been included with our purchase.  Live and learn, I guess!

I’ll admit to being a little bit wobbly when riding with G on Apple Jack.  I’m fine at normal cruising speeds with both hands on the handlebars, but slower speeds and signaling turns is a little shaky.  The stable handling is where Big Blue really shines.  (A tandem with a kid-sized stoker set-up would also work well.)


First post-broken leg ride

While he’s still pretty hesitant about riding independently, Gabriel loves pedaling along on Apple Jack and being part of the “bike team.”  I’m looking at this picture and realizing that we still need to get a fender for Apple Jack!

Big Blue’s new role

Between me finally getting a new bike (I had been using Big Blue for many solo trips, just because it’s a much nicer bike than BUB) and the addition of the trail-a-bike, Big Blue didn’t see much action for a couple of months.

We took her into the shop for a tune-up at the end of May, and then didn’t use her until July 4th.  A week or two after that, while installing our new Hooptie, I noticed an oily puddle under the rear tire that lined up with the internal hub.


Hooptie installed, but going nowhere due to the hub issue

Instead of hauling the entire bike into the shop, I decided to remove the rear wheel, which turned out to be no simple feat with the internal hub, but with the help of YouTube videos, Matthew prevailed.  The diagnosis was a missing o-ring (that was not replaced when the hub was serviced in May).

With some new transmission oil and the o-ring back in place, we were in business, just in time for my family’s visit, when I was planning for all of us (5 adults and 2 kids — we had just enough bikes for everyone) to ride together.  Alas, that ride would have taken place the morning after G broke his leg, so it never happened.

It was nice that the longtail was fully functional, because Gabriel was in no condition to be riding a bike for a few weeks there, so we reverted to Big Blue while Apple Jack collected dust.  Getting him onto the bike was easier than getting him into the car.


I removed half of the Hooptie and put his Yepp seat back on for the time being (the Yepp seat fits works with the full Hooptie, but this made it easier for me to lift him into place when his leg was still hurting a lot.

I think G is now at a point where we could ditch the Yepp seat and just let him ride on the rear deck with the full Hooptie in place.  I still need to make some seat pads (planning to use garden kneeling pads and heavy duty velcro to secure them to the deck.  We’re still waiting on the back-ordered U-tube footrests from Xtracycle, but for now he can stick his legs into the bags.

Future bike purchase

I know, I know, I just bought a bike, but then Surly went and released the 2016 Disc [brake] Trucker in a really lovely blue (where was this a year ago when I needed it, Surly???).  Despite the color, I’m still not set on the Disc Trucker over the Salsa Vaya (that sloped topped tube and already having integrated shifters are key points for me).  Given my new, longer commute, Matthew is really encouraging me to get one or the other.  I’m not in a huge hurry to take this step, but it will likely happen — maybe in the spring?  When it does, it will be time to find a new home for BUB,

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