Sunday, March 20, 2011

Happy Spring, Everybody!

Today is the Vernal Equinox, the first official day of Spring. While it's likely that we in Denver will be seeing a few more cold days before warm weather is here to stay, it's still a good time to celebrate.

Yesterday while C. was off at the Phoenix Asylum working on some paintings, the kids and I spent some time outside. While I cleaned up the flower beds a bit, F. sang a little song calling for the plants and animals to wake up from their Winter sleep. I was excited to see that we have crocus already in bloom and daffodils soon to follow suit.

After lunch, we went to the craft store to get some supplies to make decorations for our Spring-time celebration. I felt like we were channeling my mother's spirit while we built bird nests and painted little wooden eggs. My mother was an amazing home-maker, and loved to make decorations for every season of the year.

This morning we attended a birthday party at the Butterfly Pavilion (what could be more Springy than butterflies?). After we got home, it was time for my long-awaited ritual shaving of the Winter beard. I started growing it out around the Solstice back in December, and it did a good job of helping me stay warm while snowshoeing and commuting to work on my bike. But it feels great to have a smooth face once again.

Goodbye, Winter beard.

It's good to have my face back.

While C. was preparing our meal, the kids and I went out in the back yard and played for a while.

M. making a funny face

F. showing me a "moon rock."

Our Equinox dinner was delicious! We had broccoli and quinoa frittata, steamed asparagus, roasted root vegetables, and an awesome rabbit-shaped carrot cake. I'm going to have a tough time trying not to over-do it on the leftovers for the next couple of days.
Mmm, carrot cake. Great job, C!
So here's wishing you and yours a beautiful, fruitful Spring.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Bike fitting

Last week I went and got a professional bike fitting for my Motobecane Immortal Force. I've had the bike for a year, and while the setup wasn't bad, there were a few things that I felt could be better. Based on the recommendation from a couple of coworkers, I scheduled an appointment with Annie at Integrated Cycle Fit in Lyons, Colorado. Now that I've had several training sessions, I can say with certainty that I'm pleased with the result.

Integrated Cycle Fit is a small outfit, so you don't get the ultra-fancy computerized video analysis system which you see in some of the larger bike shops. Instead what you get is a couple of hours in a quiet atmosphere with someone who has a ton of knowledge and experience with cycling and biomechanics. Annie is, after all, a physical therapist and former road racer. And since she isn't selling bike components, I would have taken any suggested part replacements seriously. Fortunately, she didn't think I really need to replace anything.

She spent plenty of time examining me both on and off the bike. After talking about my background and goals for the season, we tested the flexibility and strength in my legs, arms, and back. Then we looked at my form on the bike. From there we worked to determine not only how the bike and shoes can be adjusted to fit me better, but how I improve how I use my body on the bike.

So Integrated Cycle Fit has my resounding endorsement. If you don't feel like your current bike setup is optimal, send Annie an email and see what she can do for you.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Delicious Things

While I've always been capable of it, I never used to spend much time cooking. Recently, though, my obsession with eating (or more accurately: fueling the rest of my life) has turned into a series of hacking sessions, trying to optimize great food on the nutritional dimension. And it develops good will from the wife, who doesn't mind letting me prepare some meals from time to time.

I've been enjoying a few really tasty things lately that I thought I'd share.


I started drinking more tea when I decided to cut back to 3 cups of (caffeinated) coffee per day. I've really gotten hooked on Celestial Seasonings Bengal Spice tea. It's one of the few teas that my desensitized taste buds can appreciate with no additional sweeteners or flavorings. However, a few minor additions really puts it over the top.

I put an ounce or so of skim milk in the bottom of the cup along with a dash each of cayenne pepper powder and allspice, and a few drops of stevia extract sweetener. Then put in the tea bag and hot water. (Douglas Adams teaches us that you should put the milk in first.) It's really spicy and makes a great after-dinner drink.


I've tried two very good soups recently. The first was an Avocado and Broccoli puree, which I made straight from the recipe, more or less. I halved the recipe, since I didn't expect anyone else in my family would eat it (wife is allergic to avocado; daughter is a really picky eater; it turned out a little too spicy for my son.) I did use vegetable broth instead of chicken stock. And I used cayenne pepper powder instead of chipotle (it's what I had on hand). For a garnish, I used roasted red and yellow bell peppers. The result was an incredibly creamy soup (with no cream), and the green, red, and yellow colors were just lovely. I had no trouble eating the whole thing by myself.

The second soup that I made was a variation on Gena's Roasted Cauliflower and Parsnip Soup. By the way, Choosing Raw is quickly becoming one of my favorite food blogs. Check it out.

The changes that I made (aside from halving the recipe) were that I used a large turnip instead of parsnips; pearl onions instead of shallots; basil instead of thyme. Again, that's just what I had on hand. And since I'm not vegan, I used plain fat-free yogurt instead of rice milk. Three out of four family members enjoyed this one (like I said: daughter is really picky.). That's a pretty good result in my books.


Liquid breakfast is a good way to go before an early-morning workout, or if you just want to supplement normal breakfast with something that tastes like a milk shake. There isn't much to it. I've been having fun just dumping lots of things into the blender and hoping that I don't wake anyone else up at 5:30.

I bought a bunch of over-ripe bananas at a discount, peeled them, and stuck them in a freezer bag. We also chopped and froze some strawberries. So this morning's version went something like this:

  • 1 frozen banana, chopped
  • 3 frozen strawberries, chopped
  • 1/4 cup fat-free vanilla yogurt
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • 1 tablespoon organic peanut butter*
  • 1 tablespoon dark chocolate cocoa
  • 1 packet of stevia-based granulated sweetener (I've been using Truvia brand).
* I'm not trying to be snobby by specifying "organic" here. But when I compare the ingredients of "normal" peanut butter to an organic/natural variety, I feel a lot better about the latter.

The result was almost like soft-serve chocolate ice cream, thick enough to eat out of a bowl with a spoon. I put a little bit of cereal on top for texture.

I frequently do something more fruity. Maybe half of a banana, and a half-a-handful of every type of berry we have on hand (blueberries, raspberries, grapes, etc.). When I do this, I usually throw in some baby spinach, just for fun.

These smoothies are something that the whole family enjoys. The boy gets his cut with some extra milk so he can draw it through a sippy cup.