Sunday, September 20, 2009

Babes in Bikeland III

Originally uploaded by deplaqer
This is me in my Fat Cyclist jersey at the after party for Babes in Bikeland III, an all female alleycat race held annually in Minneapolis, MN. Alleycat races are basically scavenger hunts on bikes. You are given a manifest with a list of 10 or so stops to make, and the route you pick is entirely up to you. Speed is important, but not the only factor. Some stops require you to simply gather a stamp to document that you went there, but sometimes you have to write something down, answer trivia questions, complete a pick up/drop off, etc. There can be time penalties for incorrect info or missing a stop, so accuracy is critical as well.

This isn't necessarily the most flattering photo of me, but I used it because up until very recently I was too fat to wear my Fat Cyclist jersey. How sad is that? Too fat for a jersey that has the WORD fat on it. For those who don't know, Fatty is Elden Nelson, the author of the Fat Cyclist blog. Fatty writes really well, and I enjoy both his humorous posts and the ones he's written to document his late wife Susan's battle with breast cancer. I highly encourage you to click over and read more from him.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Robert Reich Explains Public Option

This guy explains things so that everyone can understand. No scare tactics, no shenanigans. Please take less than 3 minutes out of your busy day and watch this video, then share it with someone else.

If you disagree AFTER you have completely and accurately informed yourself in a responsible manner, fine...but PLEASE...DON'T LET THE RIGHT WING UBER CONSERVATIVE HACKS WIN WITH DELIBERATE LIES AND MISINFORMATION.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Tonic Sol Fa ...Best A Cappella group evarrr

Amy with Tonic Sol Fa
Originally uploaded by deplaqer
My friend Justine turned me on to these guys recently, and we were lucky enough to see/hear them at the Leinie's Lodge Bandshell at the MN State Fair this year. I bought their latest album there, and this pic shows them each signing the cover.

Click HERE to read their blog.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Wear your helmets CORRECTLY, people. Your life depends on it.

This mother of 4 was killed in a freak bicycle accident in Minneapolis today. She was riding into a tunnel on a popular bike path & crashed head on into another cyclist who was coming out of the tunnel. Her helmet flew off (so it likely wasn't being worn correctly) & she hit her head on the ground, killing her. RIP, Lisa Roden.

It isn't enough to simply wear a helmet, people. It has to fit AND be worn correctly on your head, not just slapped on the back so as not to muss your 80's style puffy bangs. If you can touch your forehead to the wall without your helmet hitting the wall first, that's a big clue.

Click HERE to read about how to properly fit/wear your bicycle helmet.

Click HERE to read about when you should replace your helmet.

I'm going right now to check the chin strap on mine. I'm pretty sure it's too loose.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Bad example, President Obama

While I love the fact that the Obama family went for a bike ride together as they vacation on Martha's Vineyard, I am NOT happy about how the President AND the Secret Service were not wearing helmets. See this article from the Washington Post.

Don't get me wrong...I loves me some Barack Obama...but whatever happened to setting a good example?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

UPDATE: Surly Big Dummy Custom Paint Job

Some of you may recall this post from March of this year, asking for your input on what color I should have my Surly Big Dummy painted. It only comes in a yucky Olive Drab Green, and as I said before, a Navy vet simply can't ride an Army Green bike. I've noticed on my Stat Counter that a lot of people are searching on the subject of custom paint jobs for Big Dummy frames, so I figured it was time for an update.

Anyway, the folks at Powder Coating Technologies in Plymouth, MN were really great to me and have lots of experience in painting all kinds of stuff, including plenty of bike frames. Sadly, they didn't have the Bass Boat Purple that I was hoping for, but they DID have just enough powder left from a Harley Davidson dealership's custom color order to really make this bike pop.

Sparkle Copper Metallic:

I've been riding it all summer long, and it's AWESOME. I can take Rocky to the dog park (seen here, ready to roll), haul 4 bags of groceries, and even my hockey bag. I also love the fact that somewhere out there is a HOG that is the same color as the Pretty Dummy.

Big thanks again to Uber Hubby for making this year's birthday prezzie a truly great one.

THIS is why you wear a helmet and use lights at night.

An excerpt from a Mankato Free Press story about a local douchebag who was riding his bike at night on the sidewalk, with no helmet and no lights:

"Joshua Kuck remembers getting on his bike and heading home from work Monday night.

He recalls taking his usual route home, then seeing a car pull in front of him as his Huffy mountain bike zipped across Mulberry Street. He’s pretty sure he at least thought about taking evasive action.

After that, everything is a blur until he woke up strapped to a backboard at Immanuel St. Joseph’s Hospital. The nurses told him he was lucky, the crash with a 1992 Buick could have been much worse."

Click HERE to read the full story.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Suburban Housewife - NSFW (or kids)

There are certain people I know who need to see this video. WARNING - It's super funny, but NOT safe for work or watching in front of your kids due to language.

Props to my friend Shelly for sending this to me in the first place.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Best Wedding Entrance Video EVER

Even better, this happened at a church in St Paul, Minnesota.

I'd never heard this song before, but the lyrics fit beautifully. I just wish I had been this creative at my own wedding, though it probably would have pushed my mother over the edge. She barely got past the chocolate wedding cake with chocolate icing.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Weight Loss Photo Update

Ok...So it's been 7 weeks on Weight Watchers, and I've lost 13.6 lbs since I started. Counting from the original high weight of 195 from January 2008, I've lost 21 lbs so far. I thought it might be time for a review of the weight loss pix. #1 is from Jan 2008, #2 is from Oct 2008, and #3 was taken today, 17 July 2009:

Ok...First off, despite what this looks like, my height hasn't changed. What HAS changed, apparently, is the size of "the girls". My jog bras actually fit again, as opposed to having flesh squishing out all around like before. I think my legs look a little better too, and I've dropped a pants size. I also think my torso isn't as squishy as it was before. I'm now getting regular measurements taken at the Y, and in the first 5 weeks of my Strength Circuit Training class I lost 8 inches in various areas of my body. More to come on that as the weeks go by.

For anyone who is considering a weight loss program, I HIGHLY recommend Weight Watchers. It's the most livable, realistic program I've ever tried. I can truly see myself living this way for the rest of my life, because WW teaches you how to live in the real world and plan for the occasional treat without totally derailing your healthy lifestyle.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Switched weight loss plans, having success

Ok...So I've been feeling for a while now that Seattle Sutton's Healthy Eating just wasn't doing it for me, so a week and a half ago I switched to Weight Watchers. I looked back at my weight stats, and when I quit SSHE I weighed exactly the same as I did when I started a little over a year ago.

Was it too many carbs, or was I just not following the plan properly. Personally, I think it was a little from Column A and ALOT from Column B. I found myself cheating more and more frequently, plus we were out of town often enough in hotels without access to fridge & microwave that I was buying the SSHE food and then not eating it. What a waste of money to live that way.

Don't get me wrong...I think SSHE can be good for people in the right situation. It certainly brought my cholesterol under control, and for the most part the food was tasty. I just started to feel like I needed a change, hence the switch to Weight Watchers and their Momentum Plan. Now I'm going to meetings once a week, I'm using their online tracker tools (which are making me want my Blackberry WAY sooner than August, but I have to wait), and I'm excited about meal planning and cooking again.

WW is also teaching me how to eat in the real world. I'm going to dinner with hockey friends tonight, and I've already checked out the restaurant menu online to figure out what I can have. I'm going to a BBQ tomorrow night, and I'm taking spicy black bean veggie burgers to put on the grill. The wife of the family we'll be with is doing WW with me (helps to have local buddies), so I'm taking some for her to try as well. We've already talked, and there will be guacamole with veggies to dip and some fruit salad, so I'm not worried at all.

I lost 4.2 lbs the first week, and I'm on track to lose at least 3 more before my weigh in next Wednesday night. This plan is SO working for me right now. It's nice to have a little success to keep you going. The only down side is that I miss my friend Rita, the SSHE lady in Faribault.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Birthday, Minnesota: May 11, 1858

We ARE the State of Hockey, after all. Watch the end to see a cool time lapse video of a pond through the fall and into winter as it freezes and becomes a hockey rink. :-)

An excerpt from the Library of Congress entry on Minnesota's statehood:

"On May 11, 1858, Minnesota became the 32nd state admitted into the Union. Minnesota's application for statehood was submitted to President James Buchanan in January, but became entangled with the controversial issue of Kansas statehood, delaying it for several months until it was finally approved by Congress.

Known as the "Land of 10,000 Lakes," or "Star of the North," Minnesota is the northern terminus of the Mississippi River's traffic and the westernmost point of an inland waterway which extends through the Great Lakes and, with the St. Lawrence Seaway, to the Atlantic Ocean."

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Vegas, Grand Canyon pix now uploaded

Originally uploaded by GnomeCrossing
Took lots of great pix during our Vegas vacation this past week, but the highlight was our side trip to the Grand Canyon, especially the new Skywalk on the Hualapai Reservation. As you can see, it's a glass bridge that juts out over the canyon rim.

The full photo set can be seen by clicking HERE.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Car vs. Bike...Guess who won?

The unlucky cyclist was almost me today. Another girl passed me in downtown Mankato early this evening, wearing headphones but no helmet. Not 30 seconds later, I arrived at the next intersection and saw her crumpled on the ground, having been struck by a minivan whose driver didn't see fit to obey the stop sign posted for her traffic direction. Apparently the parking spot she saw across the way was more important. 911 was already being called, so I stopped to sit with the cyclist, get her stuff out of the street, and offer a phone call to get her a ride home. The cops arrived soon after, and I didn't see any reason to stick around since I hadn't actually witnessed the accident itself. I rode away thinking...I kid you not..."There, but for the grace of God, go I." Cliche, I know, but very true in this case. I was 30 seconds away from being this girl.

Reminds me of the even nearer miss I had back in my Minneapolis bike commuter days, when yet another car driver decided not to obey a stop sign. My choice was to either broadside her or swerve into what would have been oncoming traffic had a school bus not had that direction stopped. That car came within 6 inches of my back tire, and its driver likely needed a change of underwear once she got wherever she was going. I was left in the intersection, screaming the most sailor-like obscenities I could come up with. I made it the last few blocks to work and upstairs to my office before I lost it completely during my "check in" phone call with hubby. It was only the first or second day I had ever ridden that far to work, especially so early on a winter morning, and it's a wonder I ever did it again after that. Being who he is, uber-hubby developed a habit of heading my way after he got done with school so that he could ride home with me. He never said that was why, but I always appreciated the company.

MEMO TO 4 WHEELED VEHICLE DRIVERS: Please obey traffic laws and be aware of bikes and motorcycles that are sharing the road with you. At the end of the day, the Law of Gross Tonnage is on your side, regardless of who really had the right of way.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Custom Paint Job for Surly Big Dummy Cargo Bike - VOTE HERE

Ok...Uber Hubby and I decided that we had saved up enough money to finally order the frame for my Surly Big Dummy Cargo Bike. Click the link to see what a typical complete bike looks like, but most people seem to just order the frame only & then outfit it with their components of choice. Since we were up in Minneapolis yesterday anyway and I wanted to strike while the iron was hot (i.e. UH was in the mood to spend), we stopped by to meet my new BFFs at Hiawatha Cyclery to get the ball rolling.

Here's the thing...If you click on the Big Dummy link (above), you'll note that it only comes in that horrific military olive drab green color. Sorry, that's just one crap-tastic color for a bike, and I'm not spending this kind of money on a custom bike only to have it be the ugliest color I've ever seen. Thankfully, the folks at Hiawatha had contact info for a local powder coat shop where my problem can be easily remedied. I'm calling Powder Coating Technologies first thing tomorrow morning.

The color options/possibilities appear to be endless. I'm going to have the bike frame and rims done, but I'm not sure if I want everything the same or if I want the rims to have some kind of shocking contrast to the frame. Should it be Candy Apple Red, or perhaps Bass Boat Purple (complete with silver metallic flecks)? I just don't know.

I've checked out Xtracycle's Flickr page, another site called, and various other photo sources, but I'm disappointed at the lack of imagination there. All the Big Dummies I've seen, with VERY few exceptions, are all the same awful Army green color. As a Navy veteran, I simply can't be seen riding an Army green bike.

THAT'S WHERE YOU COME IN....Please come up with something groovy, creative, or just plain different and leave your comment here to vote on how you think I should have this bike painted. I'm hoping to meet with the paint guy next weekend or on March 20th at the latest, so there's not a lot of time here. I'll be sure to keep you updated on what I decide, with final photos once it's all done.

8-28-09 Update: Click HERE to see the outcome.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Virtually Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail

In January, my "best Mankato friend" Jenny and I participated in an exercise jumpstart event at our local YMCA called the Amazing Fitness Race. We had to track our mileage and complete various "road block" challenges in order to move our little foot shaped marker along the path. Jenny & I finished 3rd, I believe. In February, it was Health Promotion Month in the Mankato Area Public Schools, and we tracked mileage in a similar fashion (final results still TBD), using a map of the Pacific Crest Trail as a visual guide.

Since all of that is pretty much over, I decided to continue tracking my own mileage on the PCT using one of many interactive maps that are available online. You can see the basic overview map over there to the left. I'm starting at the southern terminus down there on the Mexican border, and as I move north I will provide updates at each checkpoint. One of the better maps I found is on, and each update will include a link to the pertinent section of their interactive map.

As it turns out, using the mileage I recorded for the January and February events, I've already traveled 242 miles this year. That means I've completed the 110.6 mile section from the Mexican border to Warner Springs, CA and another 101.4 miles from there to the San Gorgonio Pass. As I start March, I'm 30 miles into the next segment, heading toward Cajon Pass, so my current location is right about here:

I'm currently in the Southern California section of the interactive guide, which can be viewed by clicking HERE, though unfortunately you apparently have to pay for some kind of membership to get beyond the most basic overview info. Bummer on that, but the map is still good. Anyway, monthly updates to follow.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

One (relatively) Junk Food Free Week

Ok...So I've earned 6 sparkly smiley stickers in a row now. That means I've stayed away from the snack cabinet in the teachers' lounge at school, I haven't been to any fast food places, I haven't bought crap at any convenience stores, and on the two occasions I went to a coffee shop I got a light beverage and had no pastries. I did bring home a major haul of Valentine's candy thanks to the kids in the 5 classes I deal with at the elementary school, but I gave a lot of it to Uber-Hubby and only let myself have a couple of small pieces each day. It's all gone now, so that's done. The main point is that I was able to successfully avoid all of my major trouble spots.

We drove up to Minneapolis to pick up my step-daughter (some completely invented excuse from her mother about why she couldn't bring her to us as agreed, but that's another issue). I had my SSHE breakfast and wasn't worried about lunch since we were supposed to be home before then, but after discovering the aforementioned lie from SD's mother, UH and I were so upset that we felt the need for some "walk it off" exercise at Mall of America. I suspect that UH was just using that as an excuse to check out the Shoe Extravaganza at Nordstrom's Rack, but there you go. Anyway, by the time we concluded our little retail therapy session, everyone was hungry for lunch and we were nowhere near the SSHE meal safely ensconced in my fridge at home.

What to do? Well, UH had a hankering for sushi, which (shockingly...not) isn't available here in the booming metropolis of Mankato. We decided to check out Tiger Sushi right there at the MOA. I'm not a big fan of sushi, being that they don't seem to be willing/able to make it without that nasty tasting seaweed wrapping stuff. I'm okay with the guts of most of the rolls, but I always end up burping up the taste of that seaweed for hours afterward. I made do with some grilled meat appetizers and a few pieces of Philly roll, but wasn't even remotely satisfied from a hunger perspective.

Enter my new BFF...The local Kwik Trip store. I know, it's a convenience store, but they also have a pretty decent selection of fresh fruit and salads. I actually walked in there all alone, no hubby to keep me from looking longingly at all the donuts and such, and managed to come out with bottled water, a garden salad, and a banana.

Hooray for me. Future road trip food will now consist of stops at Subway and Kwik Trip instead of McDonalds. I don't know that I've lost much weight this week, but I feel better about the choices I've made.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Self Sabotage

As anyone who has done any research on weight loss knows, many people fall into the trap of self sabotage. Most of them have deep seated emotional issues that are blocking them from true success, and all their efforts at losing weight will be for naught until they figure out what the real problem is. You've seen it on The Biggest Loser...Jillian yells at people in the gym (usually women) until they cry, at which point their real issues come to the surface, they talk about it, and the person seems to turn a corner and get on with the business of working out and losing weight.

I don't think my problem is THAT deep seated. I don't harbor hidden angst regarding my parents, I've already got a pretty strong personality, people generally don't take advantage of me or make me a doormat, etc. I do, however, have a serious issue with junk food. I spend a lot of time on my own, driving around town running errands, going to/from the Twin Cities for hockey, or making the trip to/from Faribault to get my Seattle Sutton's Healthy Eating (SSHE) food. There is nobody (but me) who will know if I stop for an oatmeal creme pie at the Kwik Trip or if I whip through the McDonald's drive thru for a biscuit, despite having just finished my SSHE breakfast. I can always stop for gas or something and ditch the evidence before I get home, so the hubster will never know exactly what I've been eating. Well, he will now that I've posted it here, but you get my drift.

There's only so much I can do to separate myself from temptation. I have no junk food in the house (those bomb pops in the freezer belong to hubby and for some reason don't tempt me at all, so I don't count them) and I've asked him to get his own lotto tickets so I don't have that as an excuse to visit the Kwik Trip yet again. He thinks that's the lamest thing in the world...that I should be able to walk into a store and buy a lotto ticket without buying the candy bars that in my mind seem to go with entering the building. Well, my response is that you wouldn't send a drug addict into a crack house to buy a Powerball ticket, so don't ask me to get you one at the Kwik Trip. Granted, most crack houses probably aren't lotto retailers, but you get the idea.

Oddly, I don't seem to have these issues when shopping at the grocery store or Target. Seems to be convenience stores and well placed fast food drive thrus that are undoing all the killer exercise I've been getting lately. Seriously...I KNOW what to eat, I KNOW I need to plan ahead for snacks, and I KNOW that this crap is terrible for me, but lately none of that seems to stop me from killing myself from the inside out. I don't get it. I've been successful at weight loss before, my husband isn't threatening to leave if I don't get skinny, and otherwise my life is pretty good. He's beginning to talk about some kind of counseling, but I wouldn't even know who to go to, because I don't think this is really something that merits the expense of a no kidding Psychologist or whatever.

I have reached out to an online friend who recently became certified as a Life Coach and needs people to practice on, so for now we'll see where that goes. Embarrassingly, I have also gone back to my old system of giving myself a cute little sticker on the calendar for every day that I avoid junk/fast food. Very Kindergarten, I know, but it has worked in the past. Today's date is currently sporting a very nice, sparkly, red happy face.

If anyone else has any insight on this particular form of self sabotage, I would love to hear it.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

My Cousin, the Ape Lady

This is my cousin, Sally Coxe, who runs a nonprofit organization working to save the Bonobo Apes in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The video is a clip from one of the Obama Inauguration events that focused on environmental conservation efforts around the world. She's actually my Dad's cousin, so I guess that makes her my 2nd cousin. Either that or my 1st cousin once removed...I can't ever get that straight, no matter how many times Cousin Whit explains it to me. :-)

In other news...Hot Flash, my women's hockey team, is doing well again this season. We're currently 11-3 and temporarily in 2nd place in our division standings, but the team we've been flip-flopping with all season plays this afternoon and will be on top by one point again if they win today. This is actually right where we like to be, because the top 6 teams go to the state tournament, but your team is forced to move up a division next season if you win the whole thing 2 years in a row. We don't want to move up, so that tempers our bitterness at getting robbed out of the state championship by a referee error last year. If that hadn't happened and we win it this year, we would have been forced to move up next season, and the next division involves A LOT more travel around the state.

Not a lot of improvement in the weight department, unfortunately. I'm back in the gym on a regular basis thanks in part to my friend Jenny, who has agreed to be my partner in any workout challenges that the Y or our school system come up with. Since I haven't been able to ride outdoors lately because the city of Mankato isn't as good as Minneapolis about clearing road shoulders and bike paths, I've taken up indoor spin classes 3 days a week at the Y. I also recently redesigned my half marathon training plan, so unless I get super bad news at the orthopedist in 2 weeks I'm still planning on doing the New Prague Half Marathon in early May. Despite all that, I'm still departing from the Seattle Sutton's food plan a little too often and my doctor doesn't want me on thyroid meds yet, so my weight hasn't changed much since Thanksgiving. Oh well...I'm happy to at least be back on the right track with exercise. It's the best stress management tool I know of.

Stay tuned...Uber Hubby and I start ballroom dance classes this Tuesday!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Why I like my 2nd graders

Originally uploaded by GnomeCrossing
I'm a part time Title 1 Paraprofessional at Washington Elementary School in Mankato, MN. I work with Kindergarteners and 2nd graders who need extra help in reading and math. This week is Paraprofessional Appreciation Week, and some of the kids have been busy making thank you notes for the Paras that come into their classrooms.

This is just one of the notes I received today. Jessica has maybe said one word out loud to me all year long. She will point to the right answer or write it down, but pretty much never says anything in words. That makes this particular note all the more special to me. I'm the one with the orange hair, by the way.

Click to my Flickr to see the others. Moments like this are why people stay in teaching despite the crappy pay.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Obama's First Dance at the Neighborhood Ball.

I'm sorry...That's just the coolest song ever. I love the fact that Beyonce performed it so wonderfully for the President & First Lady's dance at the Neighborhood Ball last night. He is one smooth dude, and I can't wait to see how this country flourishes under his leadership.

Uber Hubby and I danced to this song at our wedding reception nearly 4 years ago, and it still gets me whenever I hear it. Aretha, that was a nice church hat you wore yesterday, but you've got NOTHING on Etta James.

President Obama, your day has finally arrived. At Last, indeed.