A new chapter . . . and back to the car

I finished my final semester of dietetics coursework (and bike commuting to campus) in early May, and I am now one week away from working full-time outside the home for the first time in SIX years.  Six. Years.  August 1, 2012.  That feels like eons ago.

Also, while my job from December 2009 — July 2012 was full-time, it was a four-day-a-week full-time gig.  Which means it’s been over eight-and-a-half years since I’ve had a 5-day outside-the-home work week.

Needless to say, I go into these next 10 months (the length of my internship) with more than a little trepidation about what this change will mean for me and my family.  As the partner who worked part-time, from home, with fairly flexible hours, it made sense for me to take on the bulk of the household tasks for the last six years — that will have to change, but exactly how remains TBD.  It’s not like Matthew will magically have more hours in his day, as he will continue to work his full-time job.

We have talked about cutting back on the garden, at least temporarily.  We’re hoping to continue to have homemade, mostly garden-grown meals most nights, but we will also need to be flexible on this.  I thought about exploring some meal kit options over the summer, but that hasn’t happened . . . .

On the transportation front, I will once again be primarily car-bound.*  My time will be split between two sites, one that is 13-16 miles (25-30 minutes) by car and one that is 7-8 miles (20-25 minutes) by car.  The longer commute will actually be pretty similar to my previous car commute.  I hope to bike to the closer site somewhat regularly, though I need to explore shower options.

The further site is a bit less far by bike than by car — 10 miles by bike vs. 13-16 miles by car — but still, TEN miles one way.  I test rode this route over a year ago and wrote about it here.  Those 10 miles took me a bit over an hour, which means 2+ hours out of my day, round-trip.  If I didn’t have a kid to get home to, maybe, but as it is, that’s time that I can’t regularly afford.  I don’t see that time decreasing much short of getting an e-bike, and getting an e-bike for 10 months doesn’t make sense.

While the realities of this change are sobering, I am excited and grateful that I not only matched for a dietetic internship (nationwide the match rate is under 60%), but I matched with my first choice program!  I will be engaging in amazing, hands-on learning in a field I love while working with great preceptors.

These next ten months will be challenging, and I’m not expecting a great work-life balance.  What will come after May 2019 remains to be seen.  Our ideal work-life balance is probably working ~1.3 paid jobs between the two of us, leaving room for our gardening and from-scratch cooking habits.  Realistically, while it would be great to divide the paid work evenly between us, with health insurance and other benefits being tied to full-time employment, that means one of us working full-time and the other working part-time.  Once I finish my internship, secure employment, and pay off my school loans, we will see about that 1.3 jobs goal. And more consistent bike commuting!

*Any of the internships to which I applied would have required a car commute, given the distance and time to the sites, so this internship is neutral in that sense.
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Final semester

It’s hard to believe that I started the journey to becoming a registered dietitian just two-and-a-half years ago.  And what a journey it’s been!

2015 — Fall Semester
After I decided to go back to school, but before classes start, life takes a big turn when Gabriel breaks his leg.  After a rocky few weeks, he is on the road to recovery and I am once again a college student.

Sometime during the first couple of weeks of my new school commute, I bike past a property that we had had our eyes on, and notice a “For Sale” sign.  The next couple of months involve sealed bids, working with cash buyers, and lots of holding our breath.  Finally, in November, we find out that our cash buyer got the house, which meant that, eventually, we would be buying the house!

The semester ends with surgery to remove the pins from Gabriel’s leg and lots of house limbo.

2016 — Spring Semester
We do not own the house because we’re waiting for the original owner/seller to close with our cash buyer so we can buy the house in a more traditional way from the cash buyer (confused yet?).  In the meantime, we are anxious because we cannot get a clear answer on whether a) the heat is running or b) the house was winterized to protect against pipes freezing, and we’re worried about additional costs we may incur if the pipes burst and there is damage.  (The house was not winterized, but the heat was on — no burst pipes for us.)

The first sale finally happens, allowing us to proceed with buying the house in a second sale.  We take a lot of measurements, especially of the kitchen, and begin to plan our remodel / renovations.  For three months, we work as general contractors for the remodel, coordinating many moving pieces.  Finally, it is [mostly] ready, and we move in June.

2016 — Fall Semester
I’m expecting smooth sailing.  I have two semesters under my belt, including the whole home buying-renovating-moving thing.  Not so fast!  I may be used to MY routine, but Gabriel is starting a whole new school, and the transition is not easy.

There is also a lot of work going on outside the house, including a lead-remediation ordeal that it appears I never wrote about and Matthew’s work installing a big ol’ fence, plus general planning and scheming for the garden.

2017 — Spring Semester
I completed my practicum this semester, which required quite a bit of juggling my usual school, home life, paid work balance.  With the garden at our own house for the first time, this was also the first semester that I didn’t have the benefit of the “commuter garden Saturday.”  For the previous three semesters, nearly every Saturday from March through November, Matthew and Gabriel would head to my MIL’s for a day of gardening, leaving me with a nice, quiet house where I could do homework AND catch up on housework.  Losing that was a big deal.  Ultimately, I cut the hours of my paid job to make everything fit.

2017 — Fall Semester
Course-load and homework-wise, this was my most challenging semester yet.  Things were going well, but the stress finally caught up to me in mid-October, when the ear infection from hell totally knocked me on my ass.  I managed to keep swimming (figuratively, because actually swimming would be not so great for the ear issue) and made it to the end of the semester, but I only made it one week into winter break before I started having issues with my ear again.

2018 — Spring Semester
So here I am, with ear issues not fully resolved.  SIGH.  On a positive note, I’ll be carrying my lightest course-load yet this semester: one in-person class and one online class.  Things will be a bit intense until I complete and submit my dietetic internship application (mid-February at the latest; sooner if I can manage).  Then I sit and wait until match day, April 8, when I will learn my fate.

For those of you not in the field, the process of getting a dietetic internship is very competitive — nationwide, there are only spots for about half of the applicants.  You must complete a dietetic internship to be eligible to become a registered dietitian.  The application and matching process for the internship is similar to what medical students do to find a residency.  Unlike a medical residency, in almost all dietetic internships, you pay tuition for the privilege.

Lest things get boring, Matthew and I signed up to perform in our first aerial student showcase, which is in early April.  While we have built a lot of strength in the last three years, and know a decent number of tricks, the choreography and artistic aspect of performing is completely new to us, so we have a lot of work to do!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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#LoveYourLeftovers

I blinked and it’s no longer summer!  In fact, we’re almost halfway through November, which means I am one month away from finishing semester five (of six) on my journey to becoming a registered dietitian.  It’s nice to see the light at the end of the tunnel of a demanding semester!

On to leftovers!  A recent article in the Washington Post explored reasons for shifting attitudes toward leftovers:

The food historian Helen Veit has observed that regard for leftovers plummeted in the 1960s, when refrigeration and cheap food became plentiful. Although saving food had been patriotic during the World Wars, and economically necessary in the century before them, rising incomes and agricultural productivity pushed thrift out of favor.

I know my cooking and eating habits are not reflective of those of a majority of Americans, but leftovers have been a staple in our house for years.  We primarily use leftovers for weekday lunches; most mornings I pack dinner leftovers in glass containers for microwave reheating (Matthew and me) and in an insulated stainless steel jar (Gabriel).

Benefits of eating leftovers include reduced food waste, monetary savings, and, perhaps, healthier eating.  I’ll explore each of these more in future posts.

I often share pictures of my lunches on Instagram and Twitter.  After reading the article, I decided it’s time to show those lunches some extra love, so I’m starting a “Love Your Leftovers” campaign.  Whether it’s lunch at work, an easy dinner, or a savory breakfast, please join me in sharing your leftover-based meals with the hashtag #loveyourleftovers!

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Summer fun[k]

Over a month ago, I wrote a post about a mini bicycle adventure, intending it for this space, but it instead morphed into my first piece for The Savvy Cyclist blog.  After weeks of waiting, the post went live today — check it out here!

I almost had a bigger bicycle adventure to share — my first ever bike camping trip, but the weather didn’t cooperate, and the trip is on hold indefinitely.

Anyhow, the ride chronicled on The Savvy Cyclist kicked off my summer, and the weeks since have flown by, with both highs and lows along the way.

Summer Fun

  • Harvesting veggies from our own yard!
  • Picnic dinners and acro yoga jams at MOBot Whitaker Concerts
  • Shakespeare Festival to see The Winter’s Tale on a deliciously cool [almost] summer night
  • Continuing our aerial journey with our first level 3 (!) silks class
  • Fun times leading a Sunday morning social ride
  • Watching Jesus Christ Superstar at The Muny from lovely ticketed seats (and singing the songs on the bike ride home)
  • Blueberries!
  • Hosting a potluck and game night

If you’re thinking, “That sounds like a lot for parents of a young one,” you’re right!  We enjoyed an entire week where Gabriel was traveling with my MIL, which was reminiscent of our pre-child summers — fun and tiring — and we continue to benefit from regular “Baba overnights.”

Summer Funk

  • Adjusting to a new routine, i.e., summer — I get there eventually, but change is hard.
  • Remembering that “just taking one” summer class is deceptive, because it’s 16-weeks worth of work and material packed into 8 weeks.
  • Gabriel’s drama over swimming lessons (clearly I learned nothing from last summer)

I was going to put the garden on both lists, but it’s not fair to call it a “low.”  It IS, however, a ton of work, which can be overwhelming at times.  With the commuter garden located at my MIL’s, we had a lot more of her help.  Now it’s all us, and we’re working on garden-life balance.  There will ALWAYS be more work to do!  (Any volunteers???  We’ll pay you in beautiful vegetables!)

While the official season of summer has just begun, it feels like we’ve already had a full summer’s worth of stuff, but it’s not over yet — birthdays, big cats, and naked bike rides await!

 

 

Posted in Biking, Garden, My Life | 1 Comment

When your cart is bigger than your bike

Every six-to-eight weeks, I make a big stock up run to Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, which are conveniently located near each other.  They are also located relatively near a light rail stop, making them ideal for a bike + transit trip.

That said, I usually make the trip by car, trying to combine it with a time that I’ll be out and about in the car in the vicinity of said stores anyway.  Making this trip by bike poses two challenges that aren’t an issue with the car:

  1. Can I fit everything on my bike?
  2. What do I do with the groceries from the first store while I’m in the second store?

The answer to #1 is . . . maybe — more on that in a sec.  The answer to #2 is, “It depends.”  I usually hit WF first and TJ’s second because I buy frozen veg at TJ’s that I want to get back in a freezer ASAP.  For today’s trip, I went to WF first, as usual.  I fit most of my WF grocery bags into Big Blue’s side loaders, where I could conceal them fairly well with the flaps.  Sure, someone could walk off with my groceries, which would totally suck, but to make this bike thing somewhat reasonable, I counted on the decency of my fellow shoppers.  I brought the one bag I couldn’t fit into the side loaders into TJ’s with me.

Back to question #1 — I’ve made this double-store trip at least once before, and the bike was full, but it wasn’t an issue.  I don’t know what was different today, but for some reason I barely made it.

As in, barely fit all of the bags, and then, once I had everything loaded, I dropped the thing right in front of Trader Joe’s as I wheeled it from the sidewalk into the parking lot.  Yep, that was me, attempting to heave Big Blue back upright.  Fortunately, I had packed everything well enough that no bags fell off of / out of the bike, and no items fell out of bags, and a nice lady stopped to help me right the bicycle.

I knew riding it would be easier than walking it, but my confidence was a little low at that point.  I wobbled my way to the MetroLink stop, where I examined my scraped knee and took some pictures to regroup.

I wrangled the bike onto and off of the train without incident, thankful that I wasn’t actually riding the bike all that far, and wobbled home to survey my haul.

Nine bags in all (these six + three insulated bags)

Curious, and expecting a big number, I weighed all of the bags.  From the way the bike was handling, I was expecting close to 200 pounds!  The grand total?  A measly 105 pounds — whomp, whomp, wah.  On the up side, everything was fully intact despite the tip, including a number of glass jars / bottles (the nice thing about Big Blue is that she doesn’t really tip far to either side because of the metal running board rails).

I’m not sure if this load was really that much heavier than previous big loads, or if I just loaded it poorly.  I know it’s better to carry weight lower and evenly distributed on both sides.  I fit two bags in each of the side loaders, which left five bags on the cargo rack.

I’m not sure what I could have done differently.  For now, I’m thinking that if I want to do WF and TJ’s by bike, I need to divide it into two trips, unless one of the stores is truly just a few items.

Posted in Biking, Food | Tagged | 3 Comments

Welcome to our garden

It’s hard to believe that just one year ago, we were completely immersed in a rehab and preparing to move — whew!  In contrast to the spring of 2016, we’ve spent the spring of 2017 turning the yard at our new house into a garden to rival our old commuter garden.

Speaking of the old garden, it is more or less finished.  Matthew had considered continuing to use that land for low maintenance, high space needs crops, like winter squash.  For better or worse, the municipality where our commuter garden was located — let’s call it Jerkwood — squashed that plan when they decided that the chicken wire fence that kept rabbits out of the garden for YEARS was no longer acceptable.  No affordable rabbit prevention = no garden.  I started a longer post dedicated to the subject last fall, but at this point, it’s probably best to let it go . . .

. . . so here we are with our very own backyard garden!

After a few years of helping with the commuter garden, I’d largely removed myself from the garden scene — the all day Saturdays, especially in the heat of the summer, were just not working for me.  Matthew has done the majority of the work to date in our new space, but with a bit more free time now that my classes are over for the year, plus the incentive provided by the harvest, the garden is sucking me in, bit by bit.

Kale yeah!

Turns out that weeds threatening to choke out my beloved cilantro (and other yummy plants) are great motivation to weed!  Also, weeding is strangely satisfying (though having less of them to remove will also be quite satisfying).

Gabriel’s garden

Gabriel has his very own 4×4 plot.  He is most excited about his beloved ground cherries (not yet planted in the above pic).  Matthew wisely suggested radishes for a quick spring win, and Gabriel was very proud to contribute his radish harvest to our meals.

After a misguided attempt to have grass paths in between the beds (too much work!), we’ve reverted to our coffee bean bag pathways.  I’m interested in trying a biodegradable weed barrier that I read about in Mother Earth News (like this).  I assumed that it would be prohibitively expensive for the amount we’d need, but for a little over $100, we could cover almost all of our vegetable beds, and if it works, that would be money well spent!

Currently harvesting

  • Kale (a few different varieties — Red Russian is my fave!)
  • Spinach
  • Cilantro (a little bit — would love to have more)
  • A few strawberries
  • Garlic scapes
  • Lettuce
  • Arugula
  • Artichokes
  • Turnips (we like the sweet haikuri variety)
  • Rhubarb

Each of the beds is 4′ x 30′, and there are twenty-seven vegetable beds.

Coming soon (or soonish)

  • Sugar snap peas
  • Snow peas
  • Swiss chard
  • Fennel
  • Onions
  • Carrots
  • Beets
  • Broccoli and other cruciferous (if they don’t get too grumpy in the heat)

In the ground for summer harvest

  • Garlic (planted last fall)
  • Tomatoes — lots of varieties
  • Sweet peppers
  • Eggplant
  • Potatoes
  • Corn
  • Green beans
  • Basil
  • Cucumbers
  • Summer squash
  • Edamame

In the ground for fall harvest

  • Celeriac
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Winter squash
  • Peanuts

. . . and probably more than a few things I’m forgetting!  We also have blackberries, red raspberries, and black raspberries planted, plus a bunch of baby fruit trees and blueberry bushes.  The trees won’t yield much this year (and I think we’re supposed to remove any fruit that sets so the trees can put their energy into general growth), but they’ll be fun in years to come!

Stay tuned for more garden posts!

Posted in Garden, House | 5 Comments

Just when you think you’ve hit your groove

My first year of being a non-traditional student was less than typical, as it started with a child recovering from a serious injury and ended with a home purchase and renovation — not for the faint of heart!  I was looking forward to a calmer round this academic year, and Fall 2016 delivered in some ways, though it was complicated by getting used to new routines with Gabriel starting kindergarten.

I thought the fall routine was tricky, but this semester was more so, as I scrambled to rearrange things to get to a class that started at the same time as my child’s school and to meet the requirements of my practicum course.  Lots of running to and fro, and more of it than I would like to far-flung suburban destinations.

A couple of weeks ago, one of my classmates, who does not have children, but is around young kids a decent bit, commented that she doesn’t know how I do it — kid, school, etc.  Her comment echoed the thought that has gone through my head almost every Monday and Wednesday morning at 8:55am this semester, when I am somehow, miraculously, in class on time, with my assignment to hand in, having orchestrated my own and a five-year-old’s morning, including dressing, eating a wholesome breakfast, and packing lunches and snacks.  Add on the bike ride, and it feels like I’ve completed an Olympic event before I sit down for class — I don’t know how I do it week after week, either, but here I am!

Big Blue helps schlepp props for a class presentation

The above circus would not be possible (or would, at least, be more complicated and expensive) without some help getting G to school: my FIL faithfully showing up for a Monday morning breakfast date and school drop-off, and Matthew taking Wednesday morning school duty.  Meanwhile, my MIL and the handy-dandy school bus have helped free up some time in the afternoons.

After tomorrow morning’s exam (extra fun because it starts at 8:00am, an hour earlier than the regular class start time), I’ll be two-thirds of the way through the school part of this journey.  This second year, more than the first year, the doubts are rearing their heads — Was this the right choice, or was I too hasty? A responsible use of my time? A responsible financial choice? Worth going into debt for? Will I find a job a want? With an acceptable commute?  And on and on.  The answer, of course, remains to be seen . . . .

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