On the bike: Driver behavior — start ’em young!

Cute little bikey story from a couple of weeks ago . . .

Gabriel and I were headed home on Big Blue.  We were on a one-way neighborhood street with parked cars on both sides, leaving a rather narrow effective travel lane.  I was headed uphill and moving none too fast.  There was a car behind us, and after crossing an intersection, I moved over to facilitate a pass (they ended up turning on the cross street — isn’t that always the way?).

I noticed quite a bit of broken glass in our path (as is common toward the edge of the road), and I commented on it to Gabriel as we re-established our position in the debris-free portion of the street.

I couldn’t help but use it as a teaching opportunity to talk about why we don’t drive our bike on the edge of the roadway: more debris = more flats (not to mention other dangers).  It wasn’t the first time we’d talked about lane position on the bike, and he picked up right away, remembering a time we’d been in the car and seen some other bicyclists.

Gabriel: “Yeah, remember that time we were going to Baba’s and we saw those bicyclists riding on the very edge of the road?  That was NOT good!”

I agreed.  He went on, “It made me so angry my brown eyes turned black!”  Wowza, that’s angry!

We talked a little bit more, about how we didn’t want to be angry with them, we were just concerned for their safety.  I recounted the story to Matthew when we got home, and he said this had come up in a conversation he’d had with Gabriel a week earlier.  It’s rewarding to see him picking up on these things, and it helped reinforce my decision to go by bike, even on a really hot day!

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Black-eyed pea potato salad for a picnic

Last summer we made is to less then one Wednesday night Whitaker Music Festival (I didn’t say “zero” because we picnicked with G and some friends one night, but left before music started in order to get someone home to bed).*  We’re set to remedy that abysmal count this summer, with standing Wednesday night childcare (by which I mean grandma).

Whitaker nights mean picnics and picnic food.  Last week I whipped up a pasta salad full of veggies, including scapes, kale, and fennel from the garden, plus sides of pickled beets and artichokes.


On Sunday, I cooked the very last of our garden potatoes.  We ate some for lunch, and I turned the rest into this potato salad.  While I usually cook in large batches, the remaining potatoes dictated the size of this recipe.  You could, of course, scale it up.


Recipe by Melissa
Serves 2-3

5-6 egg-sized potatoes
2 T finely diced onion
2 T finely diced garlic scapes (or 1-2 t minced garlic)
1/3 c. chopped bell pepper (I used frozen)
1/8 c. finely diced celery
2/3 c. cooked, drained black-eyed peas
1-2 T olive oil
1 T mayonnaise
1 t dijon mustard
2 T plain yogurt
1 t white wine vinegar
S&P to taste
Fresh herbs**



Clean the potatoes.  Then place whole, skin-on potatoes in salted water.  Bring to a boil, and boil for 10-12 minutes until tender, but not over-cooked.  Cool, then cut into bite-sized pieces.

Prep your veggies.  Toss potatoes, beans, veggies and all of the other ingredients in a bowl to mix.  Keep chilled until ready to serve.

**Fresh dill would be great here, but our fresh dill is at the garden, which is miles away.  So.


I’m rounding out tonight’s meal with some leftover kale-quinoa quiche (which is great at room temp).  Artichokes will also make another appearance — they’re somewhat time-consuming to eat, which makes them not-so-great for meals with little ones, but perfect for relaxed, open-air dining.

Here’s a quick peek at our standard picnic gear.


Clockwise from top left: Mason jar wine glass, water bottle, s&p, cloth napkins, cloth utensil holder, and our fancy “plates.”  Not pictured — an insulated bag to keep everything cool in the 90-degree heat!

Our go-to picnic plates consist of the top and bottom of a large take-out container.  This option is perfect for picnics (or potlucks) — one person uses the container and the other uses the lid.  This system requires no on-site clean-up; when the meal is over, just put the lid on for no-mess transportation.  (I saw some people washing dishes in the restrooms last week, and, while I appreciated their attempts to avoid disposable options, the remaining bits of food and oils were clogging the sinks.)

Sadly, after years picnic and potluck use, our plastic container-plate is getting more than a little worn.  I’d like to find something similar, but made out of stainless steel, as a replacement.

I’ve been wanting to make a “chicken” salad (using chickpeas), and I’m having fun thinking of other picnic food ideas.  What’s your go-to food for a picnic?

**Check out the Garden’s “Hit a Green Note” challenge/pledge for sustainable picnicking :)

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What color is my parachute???

As I mentioned in my PA school post, I spent some time with a career coach, as well as Richard Bolles’ What Color is Your Parachute? this spring.

I looked into paid career coaching services, but a friend recommended checking out what was available to university alumni at no charge.  I settled on that route as a first try — the only thing I had to lose was a bit of time.

The first meeting with the career counselor was rather free-form, bringing her up to speed with my career path to date: training, responsibilities, work settings, likes and dislikes, etc.

Before our second meeting, I completed the Strong Interest Inventory and shared the results of a previous Myers-Briggs test, and we discussed the results in our second meeting.

My Myers-Briggs type: ISFJ.  I am VERY strong for I (introvert vs. extrovert) and J (judging vs. perceiving), somewhat strong for S (sensing vs. intuition), and moderate for F (feeling vs. thinking).  These results are from several years ago, but your Myers-Briggs type tends to hold fairly steady.

New to me was the Strong Interest Inventory®, which has six “themes.”  The Strong Inventory defines themes as “broad interest patterns that can be used to describe your work personality.”  Your interests can change over time, so results here could vary between time points (in contrast to the Myers-Briggs).

My three highest “themes”: Investigative (moderately high), Realistic (moderate), Conventional (moderate).  Artistic and Social were also moderate, just a bit lower than the others.  “Enterprising” was my one “low” theme (so opening my own business would likely not be a good choice unless I had a business partner who ranked high for this).

Interestingly, I had a lot of “moderate” on the Strong Interest Inventory, and very little that was truly “strong.”  I’m not quite sure what to make of that . . . .

The program then uses your highest two or three interests to suggest occupations that are traditionally high in those interest areas.

My Top 10 “Strong” Occupations:

  1. Health Information Specialist
  2. Computer and IS Manager
  3. Dietician
  4. Production Worker
  5. Dentist
  6. Pharmacist*
  7. Respiratory Therapist
  8. EMT
  9. Vocational Agriculture Teacher
  10. Farmer/Rancher

So, there’s a clear bent toward something health and/or medical (1, 3, and 5-8) with some other random things thrown in there (vocational ag teacher???).

In addition to meeting with the career counselor, I also worked through some of the exercises in the Parachute book, which led to the creation of the petals for my flower (I’m still unclear on how, exactly, a parachute is involved; maybe it was used in place of the flower in a previous edition of the book?).  Anyhow . . .


My Parachute Flower

**If you have any ideas that pop into your head when looking at my flower, as far as career options that I may not have considered, please feel free to share!**

So.  I guess I’m at the “What Now?” point.  I’ve done all of the paper and pencil stuff, all of the research that can be done from the comfort of my own home — time to get up and out and talk to and shadow some people — but who?

I think my ideal occupation would be a health/wellness coach located IN a physician’s office/medical practice.  Someone to whom physicians refer patients.  Unfortunately, there is really no set-up for this in our current medical/health insurance model.  A dietician in a medical practice is probably the closest I could come in our current system.

Dietetics IS a strong contender.  To become a registered dietician (RD), I’d have to complete some additional nutrition/dietetics coursework as well as a year long dietetic internship (I explored this route when I started grad school 10 years ago, and I think it would be around 10 classes; I already have all of the science prereqs, as well as enough nutrition coursework to qualify for many “nutritionist” positions).

I’m also wondering if I should look at epidemiology.  It would use a lot of my existing public health training and knowledge, and I could probably take a few more classes and try to find an entry-level job.

In looking at the “top ten” list from the Strong Inventory, the other thing that might be worth exploring is respiratory therapy.  It’s not something I’ve ever considered, and my gut reaction is that it’s not quite what I want, but I also only have a vague idea of what would be involved.

So that’s that.  I’ve done a decent bit of work, but there’s still more to do before investing time and money in a specific path.

 *My mom always said she thought pharmacy would be a cool career; she’s probably saying, “I told you so,” right now — mother knows best???


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Have knives and cast iron, will travel

Over the past few years, we’ve stayed at a number of places with full kitchens while traveling, from time share units to VRBO places.  We’ve come to realize that not all “full” kitchens are created equal, and even those that are technically fully equipped may be sorely lacking in the quality department.

A good knife is one of the most important pieces of kitchen equipment you can have if you actually want to cook from scratch.  We’ve started bringing our paring knife and our chef’s knife with us on almost every trip.  A couple of knives take up minimal space, whether you’re traveling by car or by plane (of course they have to be in checked luggage!) — knife guard highly recommend to protect you and the rest of your stuff.


The kitchens at the resort in Destin feature non-stick skillets.  Though I do try to minimize use of non-stick skillets to avoid ingesting the chemicals in the coating, I’m not completely opposed to them (I have yet to figure out how to successfully make scrambled eggs in a cast iron skillet) IF the coating is in good shape.  Unfortunately, this is rarely the case for pans I’ve encountered in vacation rentals, so this year, our cast iron came along for the ride.


While the pan is a bit heavy, it doesn’t take up all that much room.  When packing, I stuck the pan in a paper bag to prevent oils from rubbing off on anything else, then put other kitchen stuff inside the pan.  Next time, I’d also bring our baby cast iron (6″ diameter), which is perfect for making one or two fried eggs.

On the implements and tools side, I also added a small fine mesh strainer, after learning that hard way that it’s pretty much impossible to rinse quinoa without said implement.

Dry goods and pantry items — I tried not to go too crazy here, there are grocery stores in Destin after all.  I focused on items that are hard to find and/or items that I can get a much better price buying from bulk food bins (I may be able to skip this step in future trips, as Destin is about to get a Whole Foods — then it will have ALL THE STORES (well, not TJ’s, but almost all the stores)).

  • natural, organic peanut butter
  • almonds and peanuts
  • organic raisins and cranberries (for oatmeal and snacking)
  • quinoa
  • brown rice
  • steel cut and rolled oats
  • [locally grown] black beans
  • lentils
  • organic canola oil
  • granulated onion and garlic
  • an herb blend

Plus some garden goods . . .

  • garlic scapes (enough that we didn’t need to buy garlic all week)
  • radishes
  • a bit of lettuce and spinach
  • a few turnips
  • a bit of broccoli and asparagus

On the trip from Atlanta to Destin, we stopped at a fruit stand and picked up some farm fresh eggs, peaches, and tomatoes.  And boiled peanuts!

After a couple of days on the road (during which time we actually ate a decent bit of food we’d packed/prepared ahead of time), I was ready to get back in the kitchen (said no one else at the resort).  I walked to the nearest grocery store (a Winn Dixie — do any of my southern readers have an opinion on which is better, Winn Dixie or Publix?), list and bags in hand, and stocked up for the week.

  • 2-lb bag of carrots
  • 1 bunch of broccoli
  • 1 head of red cabbage
  • 3 onions
  • 1 bunch of bananas (a vacation treat and prebiotics!)
  • 1 loaf of 100% whole grain bread
  • 1/2 gallon of organic milk
  • butter
  • cheese
  • mayo
  • mustard
  • all-fruit strawberry and apricot jams
  • 2 boxes of whole wheat pasta
  • 1 bag of breakfast cereal
  • 1 bag of chickpeas
  • 1 bag of black-eyed peas
  • 1 bottle of salad dressing
  • 1 bottle of barbeque sauce
  • 1 jar of dill pickles
  • 1 jar of pasta sauce
  • 1 bag each of frozen corn, peas, and green beans
  • 2 pints of Ben and Jerry’s :)

I’m sure I forgot something, but it was a relatively short list, which was good when it was time to me to play pack mule and walk back to our place.

I did a lot of cooking at the beginning of the week, which allowed us to coast later on, enjoying the leftovers and a couple of restaurant meals.


Some of my vacation meal creations:

  • BBQ black beans and sauteed veg over rice
  • Pasta with broccoli, carrots, and red sauce
  • Quinoa pilaf with corn and garlic scapes, with black-eyed peas on the side
  • Fritatta with scapes, potato, spinach and mushrooms
  • Pasta salad with peas, scapes, and red cabbage

It seems like there should be more, but that might be about it.  I’m pretty sure I beat out everyone else at the resort for “most time spent cooking,” but that was fine with me — I needed the breaks from the sun.  We had more leftovers than expected, because my MIL supplemented her meals with seafood from some local places she likes.

Our first meal out was at Thai Delights.  G requested a dish with noodles, broccoli, tofu, mushrooms, carrots, and tomato sauce.  He got everything but the tomato sauce — we ordered the “Drunken Noodles” and added mushrooms.  Matthew ordered the Pad See-Iw, and we shared the two dishes.  We enjoyed our meal so much that we returned three nights later for a reprise.  Same two entrees as the first time, plus we added a masaman curry.

On Friday night, we ordered a carry-out pizza from Mellow Mushroom to round out the odds and ends we needed to finish from the fridge.

For the drive home, we kept it simple with sandwiches for lunch.  For dinner, we ate the pasta salad I made in Destin.  We had a hard time finding a rest stop, so we ended up pulling over at one of those “Truck Rest Areas,” basically a place for truckers to stop along the interstate, with bare bones facilities.  It was not the most picturesque setting, but at least there was a picnic table.  To sweeten the deal, we found $50 cash — true story!

So, what are your must-haves if you’ll have access to a kitchen while traveling — those kitchen implements or special ingredients that you won’t leave home without?


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On beach time

We spent last week in Destin, Florida.  I intended to post here while we were gone, but it just didn’t happen.  I’m almost caught up on laundry for the trip, so here’s a recap before it’s totally irrelevant (and before I forget everything!).

A bit of background — my MIL has a timeshare at a beachfront resort in Destin, FL.  Her unit is a studio, and, while I’d made the trip with Matthew and his mom a time or two before G was born, three adults and a baby/toddler crammed into one small studio was not my idea of fun (also, I’m not really a beach person).  For the past two years, I sat out this trip and enjoyed some much-needed solo time.  However, after two years of seeing pictures of G enjoying the beach, I gave in to Matthew’s urging and joined them this year (to preserve everyone’s sanity, we rented a second studio unit).

Prior to the trip, I did find myself wishing that I’d gone last year instead, when G was a bit more easy-going, but that’s hindsight for ya!  I was also a bit worried about making the trip at all, given G’s ongoing cough, but by our departure day, things seemed headed in the right direction, if not completely resolved.

Day 1 (Friday, May 22)
We drove from St. Louis to Atlanta, GA — not the most direct route to Destin, but my MIL wanted to take G to the Georgia Aquarium to see the whale sharks.  We got on the road about an hour later than planned because someone couldn’t drag himself away from the garden.  This put us on target to hit Nashville around 4pm, which I hoped was early enough to beat rush hour traffic.  Of course, it was not.  We lost a lot of time in Nashville and didn’t arrive in Atlanta until 10pm (though that was losing an hour to the time change, so not crazy late for Central time).


While we missed Sprawl-lanta’s infamous rush hour, traffic heading into downtown on Friday night was still pretty crazy.  At one point, I noticed an interstate message board warning that there had been over 400 deaths on Georgia roads in the first five months of 2015.  I’m not sure how that compares to other states, but it seemed quite high to me, and also rather understandable given the driving displayed by other motorists.  (I saw in the paper the next morning that it was the weekend of the Indy 500 — seemed like some of our fellow motorists forgot they were not on a racetrack.)

G fell asleep in the car, but woke when we exited the interstate in downtown Atlanta.  He was disoriented and crying, as well as coughing a lot (to the point I thought he might vomit as we were trying to unload and figure out parking at the hotel) — so, basically a hot mess.  We managed to get him settled in the room, before turning in ourselves.

Day 2
Even with the time change, we woke bright and early on the day of our aquarium visit.  In my head, the aquarium was going to be similar to a zoo: outside displays, lots of ground to cover, and sunny and hot, but with fish instead of animals.  Maybe I was thinking about Sea World?


Anyway, in reality, the Georgia Aquarium is a large indoor structure (could have left the sunscreen in the car), and we easily saw most of it in under two hours (we skipped the dolphin show because G didn’t feel like waiting in line).  The whale sharks were pretty cool, as were the large sting rays that shared that tank.


The aquarium has a new beluga whale calf, but they’re giving mama and baby some bonding time (maternity leave?), so the tank was completely curtained off.  Totally understandable, though I was a bit bummed to miss the chance to see baby beluga (when I started singing the Raffi song at the aquarium, I swear that G gave me a “Mom, please, you’re embarrassing me” look).

We also overlooked/missed a hands-on kids area that would have been nice for G.  All-in-all, it was a nice visit, but at almost $40 per person, not something I’d repeat anytime soon.

We grabbed lunch on the way out of Atlanta and made tracks for Destin, though not nearly fast enough for G.  When we were about two hours away from our destination, he announced, “I had planned to be at the beach right now.  When are we going to be there?”  It was a long two hours.

Days 3-8
Beach time!  We had pretty great weather overall.  Temps never climbed higher than 85°F — with cloud cover and beach breezes, that was pretty ideal for my vampire ways.


The water temperature was nice.  We had red flag days all week — great for body boarding in the waves, not so great for little ones playing in the ocean (also not so great for my beloved prescription sunglasses, which are somewhere in Gulf of Mexico right now).  Unlike previous years, G stuck to the sand and the swimming pool, where he pretended he was a mermaid.  (“Merman, Pop! Merman.”  Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)



I got in on some of the body boarding action, though with my sun-dodging ways, not to nearly the same extent as Matthew.  (Unfortunately, he has a large number of itchy welts — we suspect an allergic reaction to either a specific jellyfish or seaweed.  For whatever reason, I escaped this affliction.)


G’s favorite indoor activity was rolling around on the floor (ick!) saying, “I’m a kitten. I’m sick, and I need a paramedic.”  At which point any adults present were expected to grab some medical tools (i.e., co-opted cooking ware) and help the kitten.  More fun the first time than the fiftieth . . . .

The units have full(ish) kitchens, and we mostly ate in — I’m working on a vacation food post for later this week.  Also, G’s cough completely resolved while we were gone!

Day 9
On Saturday, we all piled back into my MIL’s Camry for the long drive home.  It’s worth noting here that the only way that three adults, one child, and gear for a week at the beach fit comfortably in a Camry was with the addition of a roof-top bag, which, childhood memories notwithstanding, worked great!

We left Destin at 7:30am on Saturday.  Less than three hours into our 13 hour (plus stops) drive, G announced that he was ready to get out of the car.  His statement did not bode well for the rest of the day, but things actually went rather well.  G eventually took a nap, which gave all of us a nice break, and then fell asleep for the final two hours.

Matthew’s mom dropped us off at home just before 10:30pm that night, and once in his own bed, my sweet sleepy boy curled up and went right back to sleep while we finished unloading the car.

I spent Sunday morning in a complete daze.  It felt like I had jet lag, despite the lack of a jet, or even changing time zones.  My back was also none too happy about all of that car time!

All in all, it was a nice vacation.  Having my MIL with us meant that Matthew and I got some breaks.  I don’t think I’ll join them every year, but it was nice to experience with G (though I wish we’d been able to get him into the ocean a bit more).

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To the doctor, again

Our current pediatrician practices out of an office that’s about seven miles away.  Due to timing, distance, and route options, we have never made the trip by bicycle.  Every time we take G to this doctor, we pass by a pediatric practice that is less than two miles from us, an easy and lovely bike ride.

I really like our pediatrician (and I’m hesitant to change horses midstream), but if someone had told me back in December that we would be making six visits in just over four months (including four visits in the last 5 weeks alone), I might have switched to  the closer practice!

Our mid-April visit (trip 3 of 6 in 2015) resulted in an allergy diagnosis.  Claritin seemed to clear up those symptoms, and we enjoyed a week or so of health, and then a cough popped up, followed by a fever and a pneumonia diagnosis (trip 4 of 6).  The antibiotic seemed to really do its job — the fever disappeared almost immediately (surprisingly quickly, according to the doctor) and the cough was knocked way back . . . for awhile.

Last Wednesday (10 days after the diagnosis), we went back for a standard follow-up (trip 5 of 6) to make sure that his lungs were clear.  They were, and there had been no recurrence of fever, but I had a nagging feeling even then that his cough was headed in the wrong direction.

He had a lot of nasal drainage and a clearly worsening cough over the weekend, and then on Sunday afternoon, he spiked a fever again.  So yesterday we headed to the doctor YET AGAIN (trip 6 of 6), concerned about antibiotic-resistant pneumonia.

The doctor took a really good listen to G’s lungs, and, despite the coughing, said his lungs still sounded clear.  The doctor’s best guess is that G now has a respiratory virus of some type.  This means no antibiotics, which is a good thing (in terms of antibiotic resistance and not having to deal with the side effects of another drug), but it also means no quick fix.

I’m hoping that this virus resolves quickly, with no secondary infections, so we can have a reprieve from the all-too-familiar drive to the doctor (and also a reprieve from sleepless nights — SO tired).

In the meantime, I’m torn, but I may investigate the closer pediatric practice.  We actually interviewed one doctor there before G was born.  We weren’t impressed with this individual (felt rushed and unimportant during the consultation), but there are other providers in the practice.  Trading a twenty-five minute car ride for a twelve-minute bike trip is tempting.

What would you do?



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Wet weather biking with kids (and preschool peer pressure)

When we first got Big Blue, my plan was to make G a rain cover, a la Lindsay’s instructions.  I already had the clip-off umbrella stroller sunshade and a big rain cover from our jogging stroller.  I purchased the PVC, zip ties, and heavy duty Velcro, thinking it would be an easy project (I also liked that fact that it would double as a sun shade).  I played around with it a bit, but I didn’t find it quite as easy to set up on the Yepp child seat as it seemed to be on Lindsay’s Peanut Shell child seat, plus, it was summer and there just wasn’t all that much rain (though the sun shade would have been nice).

Since then, it seems like most of the days when it’s raining and we need to transport Gabriel, it’s really raining (with heavy winds and/or lightning and thunder in the mix), and we’ve opted to take the car.

One drizzly day in March, I realized that the adult-sized poncho we bought at Crater Lake (when someone neglected to bring her raincoat on the hike (also, the hike where we almost got struck by lightning)) would make an ideal rain cover for G and his seat.


Photo op while waiting for a looooooong train

The poncho solution is as simple as securing the kid in the seat, then placing the poncho (with the child’s arms INSIDE, not sticking out), and topping with the helmet.  To keep it from blowing around, I rolled the edges and secured them with a couple of clothes pins (you can see one near the bottom of the photo, behind G’s foot).

We weren’t using the poncho’s hood on this day, because it was just a little drizzly, and cool enough that he was wearing other head covering anyway, but in heavier rain, the hood could be worn underneath his helmet, for head to almost-toe coverage (again, if it has really been coming down, he would have had his rain boots on here.  We’ve used this successfully on a couple of wet days now.

Yesterday morning was just such a day.  It was sprinkling a bit as we all prepared to leave (me to a dentist appointment; M and G to school/work).  As I was leaving for my early appointment, Gabriel was angling for taking the car, and starting to work into a bit of a lather (apparently he was sad that they weren’t leaving at the exact same time as me).

When I asked Matthew about it last night, part of the story was that G didn’t want to wear the poncho on the bike because he “didn’t want kids at school to laugh at him.”

I was floored.  Really?!?  My 3-year-old has to worry that other freaking 3-year-olds will MAKE FUN OF HIM???  At preschool???

My heart hurt for my sweet, sensitive little guy, and my mama bear instincts definitely kicked in — WHO, exactly, was going to laugh at him, because so help me, I was going to find that little punk . . . .

The truth is, this stuff will happen.  Not to condone it, but short of home-schooling my kid and never leaving the house, we’ll have to deal with this.  Preschool seems a little early, but I guess it’s time to start practicing how we deal with these things.

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