So. Much. Cycling.

I just calculated my bicycle mileage for the past nine days — 126 miles! This was high for me due to two high mileage days while preparing for and teaching CyclingSavvy.  I briefly considered giving myself a break on Monday, but the weather was beautiful, I don’t have to worry about where I’ll park the car when I bike, and it’s just habit.

The first half of October is all about the bicycling, as I signed up to teach not one, but two, CyclingSavvy workshops within a two-week period.  Also in that two week period — attending the American Bicycling Education Association’s “I Am Traffic” conference.

(Someone please remind me that teaching two classes and attending a conference in a two-week time period is not the best for the whole “life balance” thing.  Our house is already a wreck!  Made worse by some recent home improvement projects . . . )

Anyhow, despite the work involved, I’m looking forward to the next teaching opportunity, as well as the chance to connect with fellow bikey peeps from across the country at the I Am Traffic conference.

In other news, my regular commuting is much more pleasant now that things are cooling off a bit.  Those first few weeks of the “fall” semester (which occur in summer, of course) were pretty brutal, as one of my classes has me commuting smack in the middle of the day — full heat, full sun, both directions.

That got old really fast.  I stuck with the biking for the most part, but I was dragging myself to my bike when it was time to leave home. Milder temperatures make such a big difference!

 

 

Posted in Biking | Tagged | Leave a comment

Three month house-iversary

This Saturday marks three months living in our house.  I am happy to report that, as of last week, all of the boxes are unpacked (at least all of the boxes that are intended to be unpacked vs. used for storage in the basement).  There are still some homeless items here and there, as we finish some storage-related work in the kitchen and closets, but things feel pretty settled.

14086408_10102238655827627_2175679519948922678_o

The third iteration of the front room seems to be the charm.  We’re still working on window treatments in that room and a few others.

Over the past three months, we’ve discovered answers to some burning questions, such as, “What weather conditions created those water stains on our basement walls?”

Answer: >3 inches of rain in a 24-hour period does the trick.  Five+ inches of rain in less than 24-hours creates the really cool effect of our basement window wells looking like mini aquariums — just add fish!

Fortunately, the water is rather well behaved, and by luck or good design proceeds nicely through the crawl space, down the basement walls, and into the floor drain.  Also, I took those water stains into account when I was organizing the basement, and kept anything that could be damaged by water in safer spots.

So, the general pattern is, we get a shitload of rain in a short period (which seems to be the new norm — thanks, climate change!), the window wells fill with water, water trickles into the basement and runs to the floor drain, the dehumidifier works overtime, and all is good until the next Crazy Rain Event.  We’re considering options to remedy this, but it doesn’t seem all that urgent.

More troublesome is the answer to the question, “How bad is the traffic noise (that a realtor friend who used to live on the same street warned us about)?”

Answer: For me, it’s usually a background thing, not that big of a deal.  For Matthew, who gets migraines and is sensitive to such things — kind of a big deal.

A big enough deal that if we don’t find some form of effective, affordable sound barrier, this house, the house that we hunted for for seven years, and planned to live in for a really long time (defined as five years by G, but we were more thinking add a zero to the end of that number), might be a time-limited proposition.

Whomp, whomp, wah.

We’ve started looking into options for sound barriers, as our planned privacy hedge won’t do much on the noise-reduction front.  Matthew found a material called AcoustiBlok that can be attached to a chain link fence, but he’s having trouble getting straight answers about longevity from the company.  We need some answers because, despite being billed as “economical,” the cost climbs quickly when you have a big yard.

I’m wondering if we could do some kind of wall with insulated concrete forms, or some other kind of concrete wall sound barrier, but I haven’t found any great information on this yet.

Until we know if we can get the traffic noise down to a level that makes this house happily livable for all members, discretionary projects are on hold, including plans for solar panels and a sun porch addition.

Although it wouldn’t really make sense to put in the effort to establish a big garden if our time here is limited, we’re probably proceeding with that, if for no other reason than we’ve killed all of the grass, so we have to do something.  And if we can make this house, in this location, work, it really is ideal for us in many ways.

I’ve mostly gotten over the initial impact of this maybe NOT being our forever house (because you really never know, right?), but the uncertainty, the waiting to move forward with planned projects, is tough.

 

 

Posted in House | 7 Comments

Transitions

I’ve heard it takes between four to six weeks to adjust to something new, in which case, today is a really big hump day — 2.5 weeks into my semester and 2 weeks into G’s school year (cue Bon Jovi, “Ooooh, we’re halfway theeeere . . . “).

Kindergarten
G’s transition from half-day Montessori preschool (with grandma as one of his teachers) to full-on, conventional kindergarten has been a little rough, made rougher by the fact that we found out the day before school started that his supposed teacher resigned (two days before school started), which left his class without a dedicated classroom teacher for the first four days of school.  The school principal, teachers, and other staff did their best to fill the void, but it definitely made things extra rocky.

Overall, I think G is settling in and will be fine, but goodbyes in the morning are always a sad time.  He tears up pretty much every single day, rubbing his eyes and fighting back the tears while blowing me sad-faced kisses as his class walks into the building.  I held it together until the fifth day of school, when I also broke down.

I think he might actually be better off if I just dropped him off and left, except that he refuses to engage with any of the other kids on the playground, which makes me feel like he’s not ready for this step.

Instead, I stand there with him clinging to me in the hot, hot sun (his school starts on the later side and we are on the east side of the building — SO. MUCH. SUN.), staring at my phone and hoping that NOW is the time they will blow the whistle for the kids to line up and go inside.

No matter how late I push our morning departure time, or how many errands we run ahead of time, we have yet to achieve my goal of arriving exactly as the kids are lining up.  Always early!

Anyhow, I changed things up yesterday, and instead of just blowing a kiss to G as his class walked by my post near the door, I made a funny face: tongue out, fingers waggling at ears, eyes crossed — going all out and making a complete fool of myself (in front of the few parents who were actually still there) to get a smile out of that kid.  And it worked!

Time
Don’t be fooled by the fact that we are arriving early — time is NOT on my side these days.  For the past two years, I was spoiled by G’s school schedule and our transportation arrangements.  Matthew took G to school most days, and in order for the timing to work, they usually left the house by eight o’clock.  That meant my day — the chunk of time I had to do school work, paid work, and house stuff — effectively started at 8.

These days, by the time I get home from G’s school drop-off, it’s almost 9:30 a.m.  It’s like I’ve lost an hour-and-a-half every. single. weekday.  Add another 30-40 minutes to that on the days I’m also picking him up in the afternoons, and, it’s two hours a day, poof!  Gone!

Anyway, I’m slowly adjusting, figuring out ways I can at least squeeze in some housework and/or errands in the mornings before school, which helps a bit.

On the bike
Between G’s school transportation and getting to my own classes, I’m racking up quite the mileage, despite the heat.  Did I mention it is hot?  So hot?  (Actually, it could be hotter, but I don’t want to think about that.)

One of my classes meets in the afternoon, which means I am biking both to and from class during the sunniest and hottest times of the day — not super fun for this heat-phobic vampire!

Biking with G has been good overall, though as he continues getting heavier (and the difference between his weight and my weight gets smaller), using the tag-a-long bike is becoming more challenging, both from a general balance perspective and for getting up the hills.  I’ve taken to using a longer route to/from school to avoid one particular hill, at least when he is in tow.

——————————–

So, there you have it!  A couple more weeks, and we should all be pros at this new normal.  Moving toward cooler weather (if slowly in StL), doesn’t hurt, either!

Posted in My Life | Tagged | 1 Comment

Hello from the other side of summer

I’m not sure how I feel about being on the other side of summer, but I am happy to be on the other side of the move!  Between unpacking and cleaning, cleaning and unpacking, a variety of house projects, a five-year-old birthday, a visit from my family, a short getaway, and a semester-long class packed into 6 weeks (also, unpacking and cleaning), the summer flew by!

On Monday, I began the second of three years of part-time coursework that I need for my didactic program in dietetics (DPD) verification.  I have this feeling that I’m going to blink and I’ll be sitting here a year from now starting my final year of the program — oof!

My first day of class almost didn’t happen due to a a power outage on campus, but we managed to get in a shortened class after a delayed start.

I’ll be getting back into shape again with a thrice weekly commute to campus (weather permitting — I’ve already tried out my public transit back-up route).  I’m already looking forward to feeling cool fall breezes on that commute, but those are more than a few weeks away!

I’m not the only one back to school this week — Gabriel starts kindergarten today!  For the past two years, Matthew was the primary child transporter (along with my MIL, who did p.m. transportation), biking Gabriel to preschool almost every morning, first on Big Blue, then on the trail-a-bike.  The timing of Gabriel’s new school means that school drop-off and pick-up will fall to me most days, and I’m looking forward to this new routine (though again, it will be more fun when it’s not so darn hot!).

In addition to the new transportation routine, we’re going to need a new plan for lunches.  For the past two years, I’ve been able to pack Gabriel a lunch based on dinner leftovers (i.e., the same thing Matthew and I eat for lunch) that school staff or my MIL reheated and served.  He won’t have the luxury of heating his food anymore (as far as I know), and while some dishes are okay chilled or room temp, I’ll likely have to rethink others.  I’m browsing the school lunches over at Bonzai Aphrodite (and wishing she could just make G’s lunches every day).

Two days in, I’m already feeling a bit overwhelmed by all of the moving pieces, but I survived last fall and spring — I’ve got this!

 

Posted in My Life | Leave a comment

Meaty Monday

We don’t do a lot of faux meat, or “meat alternatives,” around these parts.  I prefer to get protein from whole foods including legumes, nuts, and whole grains.  These minimally processed foods don’t have complicated ingredient lists, are better environmentally (less energy and water into processing and less packaging), and are easier on the budget.

We do eat tempeh and tofu a few times a month (tempeh is less processed than tofu), and I enjoy Field Roast sausages, though I buy them only rarely.  Ever since a Boca burger left me feeling funky several years ago, I’ve avoided premade veggie burgers, instead making my own bean and veggie burger creations (though I did have a decent store bought veggie burger at a 4th of July party over the summer).

That said, meat alternatives have come a long way since I stopped eating meat (11 1/2 years ago!).  During my brief internship with Lighter (a company with a plant-based meal planning app) this spring, recipes using a number of new-to-me meat alternatives piqued my curiosity, and a few weeks ago, I finally bought a couple of items to try: Upton’s Seitan Bacon and Beyond Meat Chicken Strips.

The Bacon
20160809_094323

The bacon looks pretty realistic.  For my first tasting, I cooked two strips in our smallest cast iron pan . . .

20160809_094426

. . . and crumbled them over eggs.

20160809_095442

I enjoyed the flavor of this product.  I was able to get a bit of crunch on the edges, but overall the texture reminded my more of beef jerky (which I enjoyed, back in the day) than bacon.

Now that we finally have tomatoes coming in, I want to try a BLT using the Upton’s bacon.  I do find it annoying that tomatoes and lettuce are not really in season at the same time — the heat that tomatoes need pretty much ruins lettuce — though I guess now we might be getting close to fall lettuce.  (A year ago, I had a craving for BLTs that I have yet to satisfy.  I actually considered purchasing a small amount of nice, locally raised pork bacon, but never took the plunge.  We’ll see how the vegetarian version works out.)

The Chicken

20160809_174742

Looks A LOT like the real thing.

The package of the Beyond Chicken Grilled Strips said it served four, but I decided to stretch it a bit, using half of the container for a fajita recipe.

20160809_181043

I sauteed the strips with onion, green pepper, shredded cabbage, thinly sliced kohlrabi, and cumin and chili powder.

20160809_182203

Served on whole wheat tortillas topped with lime juice, sour cream, and diced tomatoes.

Like real chicken, these strips don’t have much flavor on their own.  (I under-salted the dish, expecting the strips to have plenty of salt already, which they don’t — the brand does offer preseasoned products.)

As a vegetarian, I found the strips’ texture to be creepily similar to real chicken (I’m not alone in this reaction).  While it was an interesting addition to the meal, I would have been just as happy having an all-vegetable fajita with a side of beans.  I’m not particularly motivated to use the other half of the box.  After many years of vegetarian cooking, it’s like, what the heck would I do with chicken?

Verdict
I can see buying the bacon again / having it around sometimes (it can be frozen, as can the Beyond Chicken product), but probably not the chicken — I’d just as soon eat tofu or tempeh.  I may eventually try some of the other Beyond Meat products, but I’m not in a big hurry.

These products could be useful for omnivores who are thinking about becoming vegetarian or who want to eat less meat, but are not sure how to cook without meat.  For long-time vegetarians who are used to cooking well-rounded meals without meat alternatives, you’re not missing much other than novelty.

Note: All opinions are my own. This post was not sponsored in any way.

Posted in Food | 3 Comments

Kitchen conundrums

Overall, I think we did a great job on our kitchen design — maximizing a relatively small space, staying within budget, and working around multiple doorways and a large window (lovely for natural light, but does limit options).  However, a few things have come up as we’re settling into the space.

Where to put the dish drainer
Despite having a dishwasher (which we enjoy!), there are a number of things I hand wash, including pots and pans, the plastic lids to our glass Pyrex containers (trying to baby them), our water bottles, etc.  In addition to holding these items, our dish drainer houses dishes that don’t get fully dry in the dish washer and our Neti pots and the jars we use to heat our Neti water.  For us, it’s been something that is always out.

At our apartment, our sink was placed diagonally in a corner, and our dish drainer fit perfectly into what would have otherwise been dead space between the sink and the wall.  But now our sink is on an island, and the dish drainer is hogging valuable space, including what will be part of the counter for our bar-style seating.

20160713_124444

Note: That is the clearest (i.e., least cluttered) the island has been since we moved in!

Back to what to do about the dish drainer . . . .

  1. Live with it
  2. Get a slightly smaller model and live with it
  3. Buy a dish drainer that hangs across the sink (trade-off here is less usable sink space)
  4. ??? — I’d love to hear other suggestions here.

While it’s not the end of the world, this issue makes me wish we’d flip-flopped things, putting the sink against the wall and locating the stove on the island (though that may have presented other issues), but this is what we’ve got.

Related note: We now have barstools!  I found a set of three basic wooden stools on Craigslist for thirty dollars — score!

Faucet spacing issue
Our counter tops were a bit of a splurge, and a bit of a gamble on the color (which we love).  We were told to have our faucet of choice ready on installation day.  Along with the faucet, we provided a spigot for our water filter (we bought the under-sink retrofit kit for the filter we’ve been using for several years).

On the day of the installation, neither Matthew nor I were on-site.  We left the installers a note specifying that the water filter should be installed to the left of the main water faucet, and the sprayer should be installed to the right of the main water faucet. 

The installers called Matthew at work to inquire about the spacing for the faucet and sprayer.  Not being there to see, and not being the professional installer, Matthew asked what was standard, and they replied, “Four inches.”  So they installed them with four-inch spacing . . .

20160713_124227

. . . which, it turns out, was not really enough.  It kind of works, if you put the sprayer back in just so (i.e., facing perfectly forward) and/or don’t turn the water on all the way.  This picture was actually taken after they came back out and adjusted things slightly, pushing the main faucet a bit closer to the filtered water supply and the sprayer a bit more toward the outside.

The adjustment that was already made is basically as good as it gets without ordering a whole new slab of quartz for the island.  On one hand, this seems wasteful.  On the other hand, this was installer error, and we plan to have these counters for a long time.  Having it not right is frustrating.

If this was your kitchen, what would you do?  Live with it, or request they make it right?

To pegboard, or not to pegboard
I got the idea of pegboard for kitchen storage from reading about Julia Child’s kitchenI wasn’t sure it would work in our space, but I tagged the idea for consideration.

20160713_124517

Fast forward to our almost-finished kitchen, and we have a wall space where pegboard would be an option.  For durability, I would use metal pegboard, rather than the fiberboard material.

We have already ordered a couple of utensil-hanging rails, so the current plan is to install those and wait and see on the pegboard, which would be the pricier option, once we buy both the metal pegboard and the accessories.  Pegboard provides lots of versatility, so that might still happen someday.

Clothesline options
This is not really kitchen-related, but I’m tossing it in here anyway.  In general, I prefer hanging laundry in the basement — because I’m a vampire, and because the sun fades things, and pollen, etc. — but we don’t have a ton of space in our basement, especially right now.  An option for outdoor clothes drying would be great.

Anyone have any favorite out-door clothesline set-ups?


Posted in House | 7 Comments

Because #BlackLivesMatter

Looking at my Facebook feed, filled with posts from my social justice-oriented friends, it is easy to sit back, to feel like everything has been said.  That anything I say would be preaching to the choir.  But the protest posters that read “Silence = Complicity” and “White Silence = Violence” speak truth.

I wish I wasn’t writing this post.  Again.  But there is clearly still work to do.

Work has been done, by many groups and individuals, including the Ferguson Commission and Black Lives Matter (Campaign Zero recommendations), but much, much more is needed.  In the meantime, injustices based on skin color continue across our country.

If you see an American flag today (or have noticed in the past few days), you will see that it is flying at half-staff, to honor the victims of the shootings in Dallas.  And those deaths were a tragedy.

As were the deaths of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling.

Which got me to thinking . . . I don’t know the criteria for ordering the flag lowered to half-staff, but something was nagging, so I visited halfstaff.org.  Browsing through recent months, it seems that on a national level, the flag is rarely lowered for one single death unless the deceased was politically important (e.g., Antonin Scalia).  Okay, fair enough.

My search also revealed that President Obama has ordered flags to half-staff more than any other U.S. president.  Okay.

What was bugging me, what I wanted to know, was, what about June 2015?  What about the nine dead men and women, including state senator Clementa Pinckney, in a terrorist attack in Charleston, SC?  What happened with the flag then?

So I scrolled backward chronologically through the months:

  • July 2016 — Dallas (5 killed — police officers)
  • June 2016 — Orlando (49 killed)
  • March 2016 — Brussels terrorist attack (32 killed)
  • Dec. 2015 — San Bernadino (14 killed)
  • Nov. 2015 — Paris attack (130 killed)
  • Oct. 2015 — Roseburg, OR (9 killed)
  • July 2015 — Chattanooga, TN (5 killed — Navy reservists)
  • June 2015 — NOTHING

I went to May 2015, then back forward to June 2015.  Still nothing.

So I did a bit more digging on each of the shootings/attacks in question.  Number killed, whether the deceased included police/fire/military personnel, etc.

Because maybe there was a logical explanation — a reason for not lowering the flag to half-staff for the nine BLACK men and women killed in Charleston, SC.  The number of deceased in Charleston matches that in Roseburg, OR, where eight students and one professor were killed.

And I could stick my head in the sand and pretend this means nothing.  Is indicative of nothing.  But that would be horribly ignorant at this point.

Until the 9 people killed in Charleston, SC are worth as much as the 9 people killed in Roseburg, OR, until those 9 people get the same respect, we need to keep raising our voices.

——————————————–

For more on racism at work, from people who live it every day, please watch this short video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NwdJj8InkNc

BLM

Posted in Other | Tagged | 2 Comments