Month: May 2015

Afternoon walk

Afternoon walk

I work in an office building and my current workspace does not have access to a window or natural lightning. While I am making the best of it by adorning my desk with plants that are tremendously difficult to kill. (I’m talking about you, wonderful Philodendron!) So I try to get out of the office for ten minutes in the middle of the afternoon for a little exercise, fresh air, and sunshine.

The campus has been relatively empty recently on account of the various end of the year commencement and convocation ceremonies. I took advantage of the peacefulness by snapping a few photos of the walk around my building.

For those who are wondering, I work on the Tempe campus of Arizona State University.

Bike Safety for Bike Month

Bike Safety for Bike Month

bikesafetyforbikemonth May is Bike Month all across the United States and in many places May 9-15 is Bike to Work Week. As a casual cyclist who has been biking to work since October 2012, I must start by saying: I love biking to work! If you are able to bike into work or to the store or just for fun around your neighborhood, I highly recommend getting a good bike and doing so.

When I began in late 2012, I lived approximately two miles from my workplace, so it was an easy four miles a day. I lost weight and gain muscle tone, and it was wonderful! Then at the beginning of 2014, I moved 4.1 miles from my workplace. At first, I continued biking there and back, for a total of 8.2 miles a day, but that ended up too much for my body to handle. (At the time, I was unaware that I was also anemic.) Since then, I have cut back to biking just the 4.1 miles to work, but my husband picks me (and my bike) up in the afternoons. Summer here in Phoenix is too hot (sometimes temperatures get over 115 degrees.) So I will wait until the cooler fall weather before adding one or two days a week to bike the full 8.2 miles again.

Since I began in 2012, I have learned a great deal about how to share the road with vehicles, sidewalk with pedestrians, follow local biking regulations, and fix a busted tire. As both a driver and a cyclist, I know the frustrations that come with both! I would like to share some basic bake safety tips to keep yourself and others safe.

For cyclists

1. Learn your city’s bike laws/regulations

As the popularity of biking continues to grow, more cities are putting bike laws into place. It is important for you to go to your city government’s web site and investigate what laws/regulations, if any, your city has.

2. Always wear a helmet

I know many will think that helmets do not look cool or will ruin your hairdo, but helmets are important for biker’s safety. If you should have a tumble, a helmet could prevent or limit head trauma. When we were kids, my older sister lost control of her bike going downhill, hit the curb hard, and flipped over the handlebars. Had she not been wearing a helmet, she would have had severe head trauma. Fortunately, besides a few bumps, bruises, and an impress scar on her elbow, she was fine.

Even if you never use a bike lane or share the road with vehicles, staying on the sidewalk does not necessarily mean you will never face the possibility of crashing or falling. Even if helmets are not required by law in your city, be safe and wear a helmet.

3. Use lights and reflectors

Make sure that your bike has reflectors and lights. You can find inexpensive light kits at many stores and these are very simple to put onto your bike. Lights are important if you ever find yourself biking after dark or in poor visibility. It is very difficult for drivers to see a biker in those conditions. If you must bike after dark or do so frequently, also consider purchasing a reflective vest to wear.

4. Obey traffic laws

I cannot stress the importance of this safety tip enough: obey traffic laws. Just because you are not a car does not mean you do not have to stop at stop signs or red lights. If the traffic light is RED or, when biking on the sidewalk, shows a DON’T WALK signal: STOP! I cannot tell you how many times I have witnessed near-accidents because someone on a bike felt that the traffic laws did not apply to them and a car, who had the right away, only narrowly missed them. Never, ever try to “sneak across” an intersection against the traffic signal. Not only are your risking your life, but you are endangering others as well. And let me tell you: in a collision between a motor-vehicle and a bike, the bike will always lose.

5. Be aware of what drivers are doing

As someone who bikes to work on a regular basis, I have come to dislike headphones and earbuds. Many cyclists listen to music or programs to block out the sounds of the road, but this can be dangerous. You need to be vigilant when sharing the road and even more vigilant when using sidewalks. You have to be always aware of the cars around you so you can make wise decisions in a split second: is that car going to turn in front of me? Does the driver of that car waiting to exist the gas station even see me? Would it be safer for me to stop and wait for the car to turn? Am I in this car’s blindspot? Is that car coming up behind me sound too close? If you are drowning out the sound of the road around you, you are not using all of your senses to keep you safe.

For drivers

1. Learn your city’s bike laws/regulations

Even if you never hop on a bike yourself, as a driver of a motor-vehicle, you need to know what the bike laws/regulations are in your city as some will apply to how drivers and cyclists interact on the road.

2. Give bikes space

Many cities have laws requiring a minimum amount of space between a bike and the passing vehicle when sharing the road, and this often falls on the driver of the vehicle. If you see a bike in your lane or in the adjacent bike lane, move as far over as you can safely or slow down some to give the bike proper space. The wind disturbance from a vehicle passing too closely or too quickly can knock a cyclist off the bike and clipping a cyclist with your side mirror can have serious, sometimes fatal consequences for the cyclist. Be courteous and give the proper space!

3. Always look for bikes before making right turns.

I cannot stress enough how many times I have almost been hit because a driver, making at right turn at an intersection, completely ignores the cyclist and pedestrians that have the right away! Whether you are turning right on a red light or have just gotten the green, always look to make sure that no bikes or pedestrians are crossing before you turn.

4. Be courteous

Whenever possible, please be courteous to bikes. You are in a vehicle that accelerates with minimal pressure from your foot. We are using our entire body to physically propel ourselves forward. Gaining momentum takes physical exertion on a bike, and when drivers cut a bike off, forcing us to break and unnecessarily disrupting our momentum, we have to start all over again. Meanwhile, you can simply break, wait perhaps a heartbeat or two, and then be on your merry way with no effort whatsoever. I could go into a rant about dozens of rude drivers I have encountered on the road, but instead I will tell you about how wonderful it is when a courteous driver politely waves you across the entrance/exit of a parking lot instead of zooming out in front of you, or quietly waits for you to cross before completing their right turn, or who give extra space (when able) as they pass you. There are hundreds of courteous drivers and your little acts do not go unnoticed.

Thank you for sharing the road!

May you have a fun but safe Bike Month and Bike to Work Week.

9 Things People with Clean Houses Do Daily

9 Things People with Clean Houses Do Daily

I read an article recently that provided a list of nine relatively simple tasks that people with clean and organized houses do on a daily basis. Now I am a semi-neat individual, but there are a few areas that I struggle with so my curiosity enticed me to click the link. Not all tasks will apply to every situation, but it does provide a simple guideline that you can use to do a better job of keeping up with the little things around a home.

The nine daily tasks include:

  1. Make the bed
  2. Empty dishwater in the morning
  3. Do a load of laundry a day
  4. Use baskets to organize
  5. Don’t procrastinate
  6. Put clothes they wore that day away before going to sleep
  7. Clean as they move about the house
  8. Never go to sleep with a dirty kitchen
  9. Plan ahead

Obviously, doing laundry everyday may not fit your lifestyle or needs. Likewise, some people may not use or own a dishwasher. However, the principle of keeping up on the laundry, dishes, etc. can help many families improve the tidiness of their homes.

As for me, I need improvement in two areas: cleaning the kitchen every night (instead of leaving it for the next morning) and getting the clean clothes from folded in the basket(s) or on the guest bed and into their proper drawer or closet.

What areas or tasks do you struggle with?

Five bean sweet potato chili

Five bean sweet potato chili

This last weekend our church’s Pathfinder Club held a fundraising event, a Pioneer Festival. It was a fun mixture of a fall festival with stations for the Pathfinders to earn and/or demonstrate various parts of the Pioneering Honor. Some of the stations included corn husk doll making, butter making, and more. We also had plenty of games like Tic-Tac-Pumpkin, tug-of-war, three-legged race, needle in a haystack (a large crochet needle) and hayride.

As for food and refreshments there was old fashion lemonade, popcorn, cornbread, three different types of chili, and funnel cakes.

I made one of the chili and was pleasantly surprised with the amount that was eaten. I was a bit nervous as I had never made this chili before, but I have to say that it was delicious! (It could have used a tad more sea salt, but I did not want to make it too salty for those guests who are watching their sodium intake.)

I decided to share my original recipe here with you.

Five Bean Sweet Potato Chili by Jacquelyn Van Sant

Gluten-free, vegan

Ingredients

1 can kidney beans (preferred organic and no salt)
1 can black beans (preferred organic and no salt)
1 can pinto beans (preferred organic and no salt)
1 can white/navy beans (preferred organic and no salt)
1 can chickpeas/garbanzo beans (preferred organic and no salt)
1 can of crushed tomatoes (28oz)
1 can tomato paste (6oz)
1 can of green chiles (4oz)
2 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
2 bell peppers
1 medium-to-large sweet potato
1 medium-to-large yellow/sweet onion
Sea Salt
Cumin
Chili powder
Paprika

Instructions

Chop the fresh vegetables (onion, bell peppers, and sweet potato) in large chunks.

Open, drain and rinse the five cans of beans and add beans to your crockpot. Rinse quinoa well in a very fine strainer and add to crockpot. Open the other cans (tomatoes, tomato paste, green chilis) and the rest of the ingredients to the crockpot. Add your spices (sea salt, cumin, chili powder and paprika) and stir until all ingredients are well mixed.

Cook chili on low for 8-10 hours or high for 5-6 hours.

Servings: A lot! You will have leftovers so enjoy your chili over the course of a week. Leftovers can be put in freezer-safe containers and frozen.


Allergy Warning

Please check all ingredients for possible allergens before preparing for someone with a food allergy or sensitivity.

The nice thing about chili is that you can so easily substitute ingredients to meet your personal taste preferences or to accommodate many food sensitivities/allergies. I intentionally avoided gluten and corn, though the canned tomatoes and chiles do contain citric acid that can be derived from corn so the chili is not guaranteed corn-free.

If I were to use fresh tomatoes and chiles instead (I had considered it but decided to save a little money), then the chili would have definitely been corn-free. If you truly want to know exactly what is in the chili, you could use dry beans instead of can, but be sure to soak them thoroughly overnight and rinse well before cooking.

I had not thought about putting a sweet potato or quinoa in chili before, but I saw both used in two different chili recipes online when I was doing a little researching, and being the daring person that I am, I decided to use both. Also, the bell peppers I used were orange so the finished chili looked quite beautiful and delicious with the bright orange of the peppers and sweet potato chunks. There were numerous compliments on the chili.

Chili is the perfect food for the crockpot. You can cook the chili on low over night or while you are at work or on high for a few hours earlier in the day and serve nice and hot for dinner.

When the chili is served, you can add more sea salt to taste and/or top with your favorite chili toppings. I like putting chili on a cup of brown rice and topping with a sprinkle of vegan cheese. Enjoy!