all about my cargo bike

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll notice I post a lot about biking. Switching to a more car-free lifestyle has been one of the most significant intentional changes our family has made in the past couple of years. I am a huge believer that biking or walking more instead of driving has a profoundly positive impact on one’s life. It also is a change that helps minimize your environmental footprint. Transportation is the largest contributor to C02 emissions in the US. And most of the driving comes from short trips around one’s town or neighborhood. Of course the automobile has opened up so many opportunities to us, but next time you go to jump in the car for a short trip, ask yourself if maybe you could get there by a smaller, cleaner vehicle instead. (Or a larger one with lots of people on it!)

In order to making biking your norm, you need a bike to suit your needs. Enter: the cargo bike. We bought ours two years ago, and as cheesy as it sounds, it has truly changed my life. I get a decent number of questions and comments about my bike, so I thought I’d do a little FAQ here for anyone who’s interested. Let me know if there’s anything you’re curious about that I’ve missed.

What type of bike is it?
Our bike is a Nihola 4.0.

Nihola bikes are made in Copenhagen, Denmark. Their “family” model is the most popular: it has one bench which fits two children. Our model, the 4.0 has two benches so it can fit up to 4 children with seat belts.

Where’d you get it? Is it custom?
We ordered our bike from Practical Cycle, a bike store in Sacramento, California. They import Nihola bikes from Copenhagen and have sold them to customers across the United States. The bike was shipped in a truck directly to our garage! The cost of shipping was minimal relative to the overall purchase.

Why not just use a trailer or bike seat?
We’ve used both of those bike attachments to transport our kids. But when I was pregnant with our third child, I realized I really wanted a bike that I could use in place of a car to go almost everywhere we need to go. I didn’t want to bike just for recreation or occasional use. A trailer and/or bike seat can be heavy and awkward depending on your set-up. I loved the idea of a “bucket bike” where I could just throw everything in the cargo area and not worry about attachments or the kids dropping things etc.

Why a bucket bike instead of a longtail?
Longtail bikes were some of the first cargo bikes for carrying kids available to the American market. I remember over 10 years ago I watched a video about a family using an Xtracycle for errands (they bought a tree at a nursery, haha) and seeing that lit the flame that turned into a burning desire to own a cargo bike. But later, I saw a Madsen bucket bike (basically a longtail with a cargo bin on the back) and thought that would be much better for kids. More research led us to the Nihola, and I love having the kids in front of me so we can talk and I can keep an eye on them. And I love having the ability to just throw everything inside the cargo hold and get on our way. I don’t have to think too much about adding bags or attachments. And I don’t have to worry about the kids dropping their belongings en route!

Why do you like it so much?
This might actually be the hardest question to answer, just because it’s hard to put it into words. Riding a bike gives me a feeling of freedom and excitement while simultaneously making calm and at peace with the world around me. The sensory experience of the breeze in your face and the weather all around you is truly good for one’s soul. I love getting my exercise while also getting somewhere. I like talking with the kids about the things we see around us. When I see traffic, I am gleeful that we’re not stuck in it. Riding a bike makes me feel strong and independent. The most mundane errand, is more fun when you’re biking. At least, it is to me!

When are you going to let your kids bike on their own?
When Denver has more protected bike lanes? ;) Kidding. Kind of. Willa is 7, and her biking skills are improving. Cameron is almost 5 and he’s good on a bike too. They bike on her own for recreation and in parks. But generally, the traffic and roads around our neighborhood do not feel safe for children, in my opinion. Even the large park we live near allows cars on the roads, and the drivers go too fast while looking at their phones. I wish my kids were able to bike more on their own, because I think it’s important for kids to be independent. And I’m a parent who is ok with kids taking on a bit of risk. But I also have to be honest with myself about where we live and central Denver just isn’t the best place for kids to be biking on their own at a young age. I’m hopeful the bike infrastructure will continue to improve though.

All that said, I plan to keep riding the Nihola with the kids for years to come. Often we bike to places that others would drive. This morning I took Willa to her soccer game 5 miles away. She’s not going to bike that on her own any time soon.

Is it hard to ride?
In short, no. It rides much easier than I thought it would before buying it. Even though we have the electric assist, we don’t use it all the time. The Nihola is relatively lightweight as far as cargo bikes go. The challenges with riding it are more related to navigating streets and obstacles in the city. It doesn’t clear steep curb cuts, so I have to angle the wheels to make sure the front doesn’t bottom out. It also doesn’t have the same turning radius as a two-wheeled bike, so I sometimes have to do three-point turns. Locking it up can also be tricky sometimes, depending on what types of bike locks are available.

Where do you ride it?
Pretty much everywhere! We live in central Denver, so we can get to so many places within a mile or two. We use it almost every day for school drop off and pick up, as well as trips to the grocery store, the doctor, friends’ houses, and more. I love having the cargo bike in the garage ready to go at all times, so we can just jump in it without too much rigamarole. I try not to drive unless I’m going somewhere over 5 miles. Last summer, we did swim lessons 4 days a week for 4 weeks about 45 minutes away (biking). I biked most days. It was a great way to spend time together with the kids and for them to decompress after swimming. Last year, I used the bike to bring my son’s classmate home from their preschool a couple days a week. I call it my “bike minivan:” I use it for everything!

Do the kids like it?
Yes! They’ve gotten very used to it over the past two years. They often complain now if we’re going to drive somewhere. But, just like anyone, they can get crabby if it’s hot or we’re on a long ride. They sit pretty close to each other so kicking and yelling at each other is not uncommon. But neither is singing songs or laughing. Mostly, we have a good time when we’re biking around the city.

Is it just for carrying kids?
No way. We sometimes load it up with lawn chairs and a cooler for a picnic in the park. I regularly use it for grocery shopping. Occasionally I’ll ride in it for a date night! (When we were in Copenhagen, that was commonplace!) Whatever kind of cargo you need to move around, there’s a bike for that!

How much cargo can it hold?
The bike can carry 265 pounds plus the rider. People often ask when the kids will be “too big” for it, but going by their weights, it will be a long time before we out grown it!

What about when it’s cold or rainy?
There’s a rain cover for days with inclement weather. We use it occasionally, but thankfully we don’t get too much precipitation in Denver. On days that are just cold, I have the kids bundle up with coats and blankets. The cover makes kids cozy for sure, but it’s hard to get them in and out of their seats and it’s sometimes a bit claustrophobic for them. I stay warm by using no assist and getting my heart rate up!

How much was it?
The Nihola 4.0 was $3500 and we added a BionX e-assist battery for an additionally $2000. I sometimes feel uncomfortable when people ask how much it cost, but I also remind myself and them that it was much less than a car! And we are now a one-car family, so we feel like we came out ahead! There are definitely more inexpensive cargo bikes available, but we wanted one with high-quality parts that would last for years. We are hoping to use it for many years to come.

Should I get one?
YES! I’m a big believer that everyone needs some sort of cargo bike. Even if you don’t have kids, we all have stuff we need to carry around. You’re more likely to bike places if you have a way to carry cargo (hello, grocery store!). There are so many types of cargo bikes, there’s definitely one that would suit your needs.

If you’re in the Denver area, my friend Arleigh at the Bike Shop Girl Family Cyclery in Aurora can hook you up! She is infinitely knowledgable and passionate about cargo bikes. She even has a challenge going right now where you can borrow one of her bikes for 24 hours to try it out with your kids! In other cities, search “cargo bike shops” and I’m sure you’ll find something not too too far away. They’re becoming more common all the time. I also recommend joining Cargo Bike Republic on Facebook; that community has tons of advice to offer!

my favorite lentil soups

Lentil soups are the one of my top choices when I need to make something that’s fast, healthy, hands-off, and cheap. I always keep lentils in my pantry (hey-o, zero waste!) and they can be made into a delectable soup with only a few other ingredients. And often you can throw everything in the slow cooker.

Last fall, I made so many lentil soups that they all started to blend together in my brain. When a friend asked me to send her the recipe for a soup I’d mentioned making, and I hadn’t the foggiest idea which of the myriad of lentil soups that might be.

So, to keep everything straight, for me and for you, here’s a compilation of my favorites. A few are a tad fancier and a couple are quite simple. But they’re all remarkably delicious. And easy. And healthful.

These are listed in order of easiest (or perhaps, simplest) to fanciest. But none are much work relative to many other dishes. I recommend doubling them all; they freeze remarkable well.

Moroccan Red Lentil Stew {Parents Need to Eat Too}
This comes from a cookbook and I can’t seem to find it online. It’s super simple, like most of the recipes in the book, but remarkably good for minimal effort. You put everything in the slow cooker and walk away. I highly recommend this cookbook if you are short on time but want to make healthful dishes to please a variety of palettes.

Red Lentil Soup {the kitchn}
This is one of my go-to recipes. It’s super simple as written, but you can jazz it up by adding other ingredients. I’m always amazed at how delicious it is for such little work.

Freezer Meal Detox Lentil Soup {Pinch of Yum}
Make this. And all of the freezer meals on this blog. So good. I rarely freeze the ingredients together; I usually just make the soup. It’s a good one to take to a friend who needs dinner. Healthy and yummy.

Wild Rice Bowl with Lentil Curry {The Kitchn}
This is easy and tastes great with wild rice or red rice. I add fresh tomatoes and greens at the end.

Glowing Spiced Lentil Soup {Oh She Glows}
Can’t go wrong with this one. A touch fancier than the above recipes, but still quite easy.

Healing Thai Butternut Lentil Soup {ambitious kitchen}
This recipe is a bit different than the others because of the Thai flavors, the coconut milk, and the nut butter. It’s richer but not in a bad way. In a way that is comforting after a long day. I’ve used potatoes (sweet or regular) in place of the squash on occasion and it’s worked out very well.

Spicy Red Lentil Soup with Coconut Milk and Spinach {Milk Street}
Milk Street recipes are amazing. This one is no exception. Definitely double it.

low-waste snack: popcorn

Popcorn is one of our go-tos salty snacks. It’s cheap, easy, and crowd-pleasing. I usually make it in the microwave, but recently decided to re-learn how to do it on the stovetop. The stovetop definitely produces better results, but it takes more time and attention. I need to write down the stovetop method here, so I don’t forget it. But a few friends mentioned to me that they’ve never done it in the microwave, so I’ll share that too. Get poppin’ folks!

Homemade Microwave Popcorn
one / Add 1/4c (approximately) kernels to a paper bag. I save used ones from a bakery or wherever for this purpose!

two / Fold or roll down the top of the bag to close it, but leave plenty of room inside the bag for the expanding kernels.

three / Microwave on high for 2-3 minutes, until there are several seconds between pops.

four / Season and enjoy!

Homemade Stovetop Popcorn
one / Heat 3T olive or coconut oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pan over medium high heat.

two / Once the oil is hot, add a few kernels to the oil. When those kernels pop, it’s go time.

three / Add 1/3c kernels to the pan, cover, and remove from heat. Shake it as you count to 30 (approximately 30 seconds).

four / Return pan to heat, crack the cover just a smidge, and wait for the popping to start. Shake the pan occasionally to keep things moving around.

five / Once there are a few seconds between pops, it’s done. Season and enjoy!

a go-to whole wheat bread recipe

A few years ago, my mom passed along a recipe for an easy overnight-rise yeasted bread. My mom is a fantastic cook. She is not, however, much of a baker. I’m sure she could be a great one if she wanted to be, but sweets just aren’t her thing. This bread, however, was GREAT. Really really good.

I started making it occasionally for dipping in soup or if we had friends over for dinner. But a year or so ago, when I came out of the fog of having a newborn, I started making it regularly as our only bread. I use it for sandwiches for the kids. I doubled the recipe my mom had given me, and played around with the proportions of whole wheat flour until I got it just right.

I make the dough about once a week. It makes two loaves; we usually eat most of one right when it comes out of the oven. Sometimes I freeze a few slices of bread for sandwich backup. Especially important now that school has started and making lunches is a daily occurrence!

Overnight Whole Wheat Bread

375g / 3c white all-purpose flour*
360g / 3c whole wheat flour
20g / 1t salt
1t yeast
3c room-temperature water

one / Mix all ingredients in a mixing bowl with a lid (alternatively cover with a towel or beeswax wrap). Dough will look a bit scraggy but if it’s super dry, add a tad more water.

two / Wait 12-18 hours for dough to rise, depending on how hot your kitchen is. It should have at least doubled in size.

three / Place a large dutch oven (such as a Le Creuset) in the oven and turn the heat to 450 degrees. Leave the empty pan in the oven while the oven heats, at least 30 minutes.

four / Remove dutch oven and line bottom with a small circle of parchment paper.

five / Remove lid from rising dough, and sprinkle the top with flour. Use your hands to divide roughly in half. Make a loose ball with half the dough. Drop in dutch oven on the parchment paper.

six / Bake for 25 minutes with the lid on the dutch oven. Remove lid and bake for 5 minutes longer or until the top is nicely browned. (Make sure your kids are a safe distance when you open the oven; it’ll be HOT!)

seven / Let cook for a couple of minutes, and then grab a bread knife and enjoy straight away.

*You need 6 cups of flour, total. Feel free to change the proportions if you prefer a whiter bread, or you are short on one type of flour.

What about you? Do you bake bread? Do you have a go-to recipe? Do you use the oven or a bread maker?

Melissa Colonno
make an easy switch to renewable energy (for xcel customers)

For way too long I’ve been meaning to look into ways to “green” our energy use. We’ve been limiting our air conditioning use as much as possible this summer, but that’s obviously not enough. 44% of Xcel’s energy comes from coal, so that’s something to consider. Just like where our waste “goes” it’s good to think about where our energy “comes from.”

Xcel let’s you enroll in programs through your account portal online. It’s really fast and easy!

one // sign up for “Saver Switch.”
We’ve been enrolled in this program for years. Xcel installs a small device on your air conditioning unit that can be used to limit your AC use on really hot days. It has your AC cycle on and off at 20 minute intervals and you supposedly don’t notice when it’s in effect. I never have.

two // get on the waiting list for “Renewable*Connect” solar.
This program is full, but if you’re not already on the waitlist, signing up shows Xcel how important solar energy is to its customers. Colorado has plentiful sunshine; let’s make use of it!

three // sign up for “Windsource.”
For just $1.50 extra a month, you can power all your lightbulbs with wind. If you’re able to pay $10-$15, you can get all your electricity from wind. I was originally just going to do a block or two of wind, but opted to get 100% of our energy from Windsource. Again, I think it’s important to tell Xcel what I want as a customer.

What do you think? Have you already made these changes? Will you? If you don’t have Xcel as your provider, does your energy provider have similar options? Ask them!

5 ways to make less waste when buying school supplies

Just like that, summer is almost over and “back to school” time is upon us. Well, in Colorado, at least. With heading back to school comes supply shopping. I have to be honest, I LOVED shopping for my school supplies as a kid. Picking out the perfect new notebook and a fun new set of pencils. Getting it all organized. But, still being honest, school supplies that are made of natural materials that do not end up in the landfill are infinitely more beautiful and exciting, in my opinion.

Stop for just a second and think about how many schoolchildren there are across the country. Across the world. And how many of them are buying a pack of Crayola plastic markers for school. And plastic glue sticks. And plastic folders. And plastic binders. And plastic plastic plastic. Where’s it all going to go when they’re done with it or it break? Ok, enough thinking about that, it’s depressing.

In an effort to “green up” your school supplies, here are my tips:

one // Use what you have. Scour your house for leftover paper from last year. Tear pages out of a half-used notebook and send it to school with your kid (no teacher is going to count the number of pages!). Collect some slightly used crayons to make a full set. Take the free folder you got from a work event and put a sticker on it. Don’t buy supplies unless you truly don’t have them.

two // Look for supplies at secondhand stores. I often find paper, pens, pencils, tape, binders, markers and more at Goodwill and other thrift stores. I’m not sure why they’re there or why they didn’t get used, but someone needs to use them up! It’s always better to buy used than to buy “eco-friendly.”

three // Ask around. I posted on a FB group that I was looking for 1” white binders with clear inserts on the front. Turns out someone works in a courthouse where lawyers leave tons of binders lying around after hearings. So I’m going to go “save” two binders and my daughter will be all set for 2nd grade! You never know unless you try.

four // Work together with classmates and friends! Maybe arrange a school supply swap? Or buy things in bulk quantities and split them up amongst the class. Often things are sold in sets that might be more than you need.

five // When all else fails, buy responsibly. The sustainable goods market is taking off, and it’s not as hard as it used to be to find non-plastic materials that are okay for the earth.

Check out these sites:

  • Wisdom Supply Co. - They have almost everything! markers, crayons, notebooks, folders, pencils, dry erase markers…be sure to read their descriptions of products if you have questions. Very helpful. They also have a fantastic document that shows how to swap their products for the more “traditional” ones you might see on your kid’s supply list.

  • Package Free Shop - Binders, notebooks, pencils, and crayons. Good place to shop if you also need some household items.

  • The Ultimate Green Store - Good selection of pencils, markers, and paper products. Other products too, such as backpacks and household items.

  • Onyx and Green - (Available on Amazon) Made mostly of recycled and natural material. Good middle-ground products.

What do you think? Will you give any of these products a go? Or just buy the traditional ones? Does Crayola pay schools/teachers a dividend or something?

Happy back to school, everyone! Now, if someone could just tell me what to do about the two plastic containers of Clorox wipes I’m supposed to buy…

make-ahead whole wheat + almond pancake mix

I love breakfast. I would say it’s my favorite meal of the day, but I really like lunch and dinner, too. And snacks.

But there’s something particularly special about that first morning meal when you’re hungry from fasting overnight. Ya know, breaking fast.

Here’s what I don’t love: cooking elaborate breakfasts while my tummy is grumbling and my children are clamoring for food beside me. “Can I just have a little appetizer?” they ask. Usually I throw them a banana.

Enter: pancake mix. Make your own combination with bulk ingredients. Keep it stocked in your pantry and all you have to do in the morning is add eggs and milk and then cook ‘em up.

It works especially well for camping trips. Before our recent trip, I finally found a mix recipe that was a keeper. I combined a few different recipes and the result struck just the right balance of healthy and hearty:

Make-Ahead Whole Wheat + Almond Pancake Mix

one/ Make the mix by combining all the ingredients in a jar:

3 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1 cup almond meal/flour
1/8 cup chia seeds
1/8 cup flax meal (or seeds)
1/4 cup chopped nuts
1/4 cup dried fruit (cranberries, raisins, blueberries, apricots…)
1/4 cup baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

two/ When ready to make pancakes, combine 2.5 cups of the mix with 2 eggs and 2 cups of milk of your choice.

three/ Drop approximately 1/4 cup of batter on a hot skillet with melted butter or oil. Flip over once bubbles appear on the top of the batter.

four/ Top with syrup or jam or nut butter and ENJOY.

finding nature in (or near) the denver metro

As I mentioned recently on my Instagram, my goal for the summer is to try to get the kids outside for at least 3 hours a day. Some of this will be swim lessons and other planned activities, but I’ve recently been reminded of the importance of unstructured outdoor play. I grew up doing this, on a large lot of land in northern New York, as I’m sure many people my age did. I’d spend hours playing in mud and water and setting up forts amongst the trees. But in recent years, there’s been a shift towards spending more time indoors with increase supervision. I’ve been reading “There’s No Such Thing As Bad Weather” by Linda Åkeson McGurk and she has me completely convinced of the benefits of freely playing outdoors.

We moved a couple years ago to a house with a larger backyard. We try to get the kids outside as much as possible. But lately I’ve been thinking about finding more “real” nature for them to explore. More trails and streams and mud. I reached out to some of my parent networks on Facebook, and received tons of great suggestions. I’m compiling them all here for my own purposes, and perhaps for your reference as well. I haven’t been to even half of these spots, so do let me know in the comments if you have any feedback on any of the suggestions.

Where to find nature experiences within the Denver metro area, divided by region.
Spots closest to Denver are listed first. —

NORTH

Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge // 6550 Gateway Road, Commerce City, CO 80022
There’s a driving loop for viewing wildlife, but several short walking trails as well.

Broomfield Bike Park // Zuni Street, Broomfield, CO 80023
Bike park and supposedly fantastic nature playground nearby. Free.

Sunflower Farm // 11150 Prospect Road, Longmont, CO 80504
A single-day admission ticket gives you access to this quaint farm in Longmont. Feed animals, play on swings and the treehouse playground, ride the horses or tractors. They also offer a preschool and summer camp options. Reservations required to visit.

Eldorado Canyon State Park // 65 Baldwin Cir, Eldorado Springs, CO 80025
Four trails ranging from 0.5 miles to 3.5 miles. Tip: aim to go on a weekday; weekends get very crowded.

Dirty Bismark Trail // Superior, CO - various trailheads along loop
{from the website} Dirty Bismarck Loop Trail is a 13.8 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Louisville, Colorado that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from March until October. Dogs and horses are also able to use this trail.

//

SOUTH

Washington Park // S. Downing St. & E. Louisiana Ave., Denver, CO 80210
Great walking paths, a new playground, and a creek to explore. Recent improvements have minimized car traffic inside the park.

South Platte Trail // various starting points along a ~20 mile route.
”Scenic bike ride but lots of places to stop! Get out down south by the Botanic Gardens at Chatfield.”

High Line Canal // various starting points
{from the website} At 71 miles long, the High Line Canal is one of the longest continuous urban trails in the country, twisting through the most populated area of Colorado while crossing a diverse mosaic of communities and nature. The Canal originates at Waterton Canyon in Douglas County and runs to Green Valley Ranch in Northeast Denver, falling within one mile of more than 350,000 residents.

Botanic Gardens Chatfield Farms // 8500 W Deer Creek Canyon Road, Littleton, CO 80128
{from a mom who works there}: “Amazing place to let your littles run around and explore. Farm animals, lots of birds, frogs, and beavers dams all along the creek. Most folks don't walk the full loop of the trail along the creek so miss a lot of the site.”

Chatfield State Park // 11500 North Roxborough Park Road, Littleton, CO 80125
{from their website} “Float your boat in the lake, bicycle or hike on a trail that provides scenic views of the neighboring foothills and Platte River valley, camp, ride a horse and even fly a model airplane - all at Chatfield State Park, nestled next to the foothills southwest of Denver.”

Castlewood Canyon State Park // 2989 South State Highway 83, Franktown, CO, 80116
Slightly hidden in the plains (not the mountains) which makes this park unique and sometimes less crowded than other state parks. Various hiking trails and much nature to explore.

//

EAST

Bluff Lake Nature Center // 3400 Havana Way, Denver, CO 80238
No bikes or dogs allowed. Free entry. 1.2 mile loop and several other trails and areas to observe nature.

Star K Ranch // 16002 E Smith Road, Aurora, CO 80011
They do a great nature class for kids 5 and under on Thursday mornings. Check their Facebook for details.

The Urban Farm at Stapleton // 10200 Smith Road, Denver, Colorado 80239
$5 admission for ages 2+

Cherry Creek State Park // 4201 S. Parker Road Aurora, CO 80014
{from the website} A scenic oasis in the Denver area offering a wide variety of water and land activities for outdoor enthusiasts. The 4,000-acre park and modern campground are open year-round. View birds and wildlife, recreate or relax with the majestic Rocky Mountains as a backdrop.

//

WEST

Crown Hill Park // 9357 West 26th Avenue, Wheat Ridge, CO 80033
Nice walking loop around a lake.

Anderson Park // West 44th Avenue and Field Street, Wheat Ridge, CO 80033
Access to Clear Creek. Possible water play and much to explore by the creek.

Alderfer / Three Sisters Park // 5136 South Le Masters Road, Evergreen, CO 80439
There’s also an east trailhead.

Bear Creek Lake Park // 15600 W Morrison Road, Lakewood CO 80228
When I first moved to Denver after living in places with more water, I laughed when someone told me this was a good beach. Then, a few years later, I took my kids to swim and said to friends, “this is GREAT!” It’s not the Adirondacks or Minnesota, but it’s still fun!

Lions Park // 1470 10th Street, Golden, CO 80401
Walk by the creek and play at the playground before or after. Water level varies so be cautious if there’s a high/strong flow.

Bear Creek Greenbelt // 2800 S. Estes St., Lakewood, CO 80227
{from the website} “This lovely, natural stream corridor provides a continuous trail connection and wildlife corridor from Wadsworth Boulevard west to Bear Creek Lake Park. The 379-acre preserve parallels Bear Creek and contains wetlands, fishing ponds, riparian forests and abundant wildlife viewing opportunities. Trail connections provide endless options for biking and walking along the scenic floodplain heading toward Denver or Bear Creek Lake Park and the foothills beyond.”

Lair o’ the Bear Park // 22550 State Highway 74, Idledale, CO 80453
Great walking path along a creek. Good for families and usually suitable for a stroller with large wheels.

Matthew Winters Park // 1103 County Highway 93, Golden, CO 80401
Various trails, but apparently the trailhead itself is a great place to play; a stream and some trials offer kids ample opportunity to explore nature.

North Table Mountain Trail // Access the trail via Highway 93 just north of Pine Ridge Road. (4758 Highway 93)
{from the website} North Table Mountain Trail is 1.5 miles and traverses the southwest side of North Table Mountain below the cliff band. There are excellent views of the Golden Valley. The trail is moderate to advanced in difficulty, with 300 feet elevation gain from the north and 400 feet elevation gain from the south. The trail branches left to the Golden Cliffs Trail shortly after the trailhead in the north. Stay right to keep on the North Table Mountain Trail. The trail terminates near Peary Parkway at its southern end.

Apex Park // 121 County Highway 93, Golden, CO 80401
Close to downtown Golden, this trail is nice on really hot days, it eventually follows a stream with good shade thanks to a dense forest. This trail is popular with mountain bikers, but there are “directional use” restrictions: “Bicyclists are required to ride in one direction only (uphill/west) on odd-numbered calendar days.”

make your favorite hummus at home

Hummus is one of the foods that falls into the “can’t buy without plastic” category. When I talk to others who are trying to reduce their waste, they often cite hummus as a culprit of plastic in their recycle bin. Thankfully, hummus is pretty easy to make at home, unlike some other plastic offenders (I’m looking at you, tofu!).

Easy Homemade Hummus {with optional add-in ideas}
This recipe makes enough that you can eat some that day/week and also freeze a couple jars for later. If you don’t want as much, you can easily half the recipe. Or double it! Hummus freeze well.

6 cups cooked chickpeas*
1 cup sesame paste (tahini) with some of oil
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
6 cloves garlic, peeled
juice of 1-2 lemons
salt and pepper

one/ Put chickpeas, sesame paste, olive oil, garlic, and lemon juice in a large food processor. Process until smooth, adding water from chickpeas (called “aquafaba!”) or regular water as needed. Continue processing until mixture is quite smooth.

two/ Taste and adjust seasoning, and add any of the optional “add-ins” listed below. Or any others you can think of! It’s not too hard to imitate a flavor you’ve seen in the store, or to create your own with whatever you have on hand.

Suggested flavor additions
1T cumin, smoked paprika, za'atar, or any other spice you love
citrus zest
spinach, arugula, or other greens
yogurt
jalapeño or other chiles
tomatoes
olives

*You can use canned chickpeas, but it’s also quite easy to make chickpeas (and any other bean) in the slow cooker. This way you can buy them from the bulk section and have absolutely no packaging! To cook chickpeas, add to slow cooker and cover with water. Cook on low for approximately 6 hours. If you’re making hummus with them, it doesn’t matter if they’re a bit overdone.



the simplest way to make life less stressful

I’d say I’m a relatively competent individual. I’m saying this not at all to self-aggrandize but rather because it’s relevant to the the advice I plan to give in this post. So about me: I graduated college, have a masters’ degree, have kept a few steady jobs, pay bills, usually get places on time. I make mistakes like everyone but I’m pretty good at keeping track of belongings, going to required medical appointments, making my kids’ lunches, buying groceries.

But here’s the catch: I’m a slow mover. I don’t do things very quickly. For a long time, I didn’t like this about myself. I tried to speed myself up. I hurried. I cut corners. Until more recently, when I had a revelation. Or maybe I just reminded myself of some wisdom others have been sharing forever:

Life is a journey, not a destination.

In the past year or so, I’ve made a conscious decision to slow down. And this seemingly small choice, just deciding not to rush, has decreased stress in my life dramatically.

Stress is terrible for our well-being. And I’m convinced, for me at least, there’s a direct correlation between feeling rushed and feeling stressed. When I’m feeling pressed for time I snap at my kids. I forget things. My blood pressure rises. It’s just not good all-around.

So I started telling myself to just slow down. To take my time, as has always been my nature. To do this, of course, you have to allot extra time to do things or get places. So that’s just what I do. If I need to be somewhere at 9am and I know it takes 10 minutes to get there, I leave the house at 8:30. Sure, you could say I’m wasting time by getting there early, but is stopping to breath some fresh air or check my Instagram really time "wasted?”

Of course, I recognize, this isn’t always possible. People have places to be and things to do. But whenever possible, I give myself and my family a little extra time to do what we need to do or to get where we need to be, and I think we’re all happier and more relaxed when we take this approach.

Happy weekend all! I hope you all have a moment to slow down.

kidsMelissa Colonno