Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Boulder's Best Parks: CAVE PARK [Arapahoe Ridge Park]

Even though the first time I visited "Cave Park" was about 15 years ago, it wasn't until this morning that I learned the real name of the park is Arapahoe Ridge Park. Cave Park as we so lovingly call it, is one of the most unique parks we've ever been to. In complete contrast to modern synthetic playgrounds, the focal point of Cave Park has a beautiful flagstone play structure complete with tunnels and mazes, built right into the landscape. Cave Park provides such a unique experience for kids, as it's so completely different than the usual playground experience. It's a great way for kids of all ages to develop climbing skills, comfort level with dark and tight spaces, and a real sense of independence! There's really no hand holding through the tunnels, kids must explore on their own.

There are other components of Cave Park, but they are dated. There's a shiny metal merry go round (warning, it gets dangerously hot in the sun), a very small toddler sized structure which is a great distraction for the littles not ready to explore the cave, and a few of those bouncy wire animals!

There's also a shaded picnic structure with a grill. There's a beautiful field adjacent to the park, so remember to bring a kite, frisbee, or soccer ball!

Toddler friendly: Yes
Big Kid Awesome: Yes
Bathrooms: No
Picnic Shelters: Yes
Cycling/Scooter friendly: Yes, there are many paths that surround the park! 
Features: cave/maze structure, large grassy field, neighboring tennis courts and baseball field at Eisenhower Elementary. 

Arapahoe Ridge Park
Boulder, CO 80303

Local Tip: Head east on Kellogg Circle from Eisenhower Drive and park at the end of the cul de sac. From there you can walk down the path to the park!


Friday, July 26, 2013

Boulder's Best Parks For Kids! Foothills Community Park (w/Photos)

Boulder is known for it's Open Space and Mountain Parks, but it's a bit of a hunt to find the playgrounds that are true gems. Through a series of posts, I am going to highlight some of our favorite parks to help cut out the legwork for anyone looking to go on a playground adventure, be it a local or just a visitor passing through! 

Toddler friendly: Yes
Big Kid Awesome: Yes
Bathrooms: Yes
Picnic Shelters: Yes
Cycling/Scooter friendly: Yes
Features, rock climbing, bouldering to slide down a big slide, neighboring community gardens

Foothills Community Park is a park complex in North Boulder, west of Broadway off of Cherry Avenue. The highlights of this post are from the playground that is featured off of 7th Avenue and can be tucked away from the Community Gardens portion of the Foothills Community Park (related, I couldn't find the playground until we went off searching on foot). 

There truly is something for everyone at this park! The toddler park is in a different section closer to the community gardens on 8th and Cherry. The "big kid" playground had so much variety for my daughters who are 9 and 6 years old. There are trail systems connected to this park as well, so bringing your bikes or scooters would work great! 

Foothills Community Park
Boulder, CO 80304


Monday, July 15, 2013

On My Bicycle, I Just Feel Free

My legs are long and dominate my physique, but come in handy as I gracefully throw the right one over the top tube of my Surly. My feet nonchalantly slip into the toe clips on my pedals and those dominating legs get to work. There really isn't much settling in when I hop on a bicycle, I feel at home. My hands gently squeeze the brakes when I am moving too swiftly down a hill. On a rare occasion, I let myself feel what it's like to just let it rip without touching the brakes. The wind passes through my helmet, I unknowingly crack a smile maintaining tight lips, fearing bugs would ruin my triumphant moment. My right hand doesn't have to wait for a message from my legs sent through my brain to adjust the gears on a climb, it just opens up the lever and the release is immediately felt. I love climbing, which may be rather strange to admit, but for some reason I enjoy hushing up all the tiny whispers that tell me I can't do it. When I climb, I can.

For all the cumulative moments I feel awkward in my daily life, I never feel awkward in the saddle.

On my bicycle, I just feel free.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Sharing A Laptop? That Was Easy!

Kids and computers. Computers and kids. The topic seems to be popping up more frequently in our home. After the girls are in bed we sometimes watch a movie, leisurely lounging on the sofa we talk about our day and quite honestly discuss things we save for when we aren't in the company of the girls. For us, there is no set age as to when a child is ready for a tablet, computer, or cell phone. We tend to air on the conservative side, as many children we know already have their own devices, but we definitely value the role technology has in our lives and want the girls to enrich their lives with it as well. We take a bit of a balanced approach and don't limit "screen time" to a set number of minutes, but we value being active outside, gardening, reading for 20 minutes a day, writing in our journals, and being crafty in addition to allowing time on the computer. It works for us and my general rule of thumb in regards to parenting is not for me to judge others, but recognize what works for some, may not work for others. I personally love engaging in conversations about technology with other moms and gain insight and tips that may work for us as well.

Back to the computer talk between Josh and I, it typically sounds like this. Do you think they are ready? Well, they easily navigate our device, of course they are ready. But... will it create a divide, do you think they can share a laptop? It would be nice for them to have their own computer. Yes, their own computer means hands off our computers! 

Now of course a decision like allowing the girls access to a computer, not to mention one they would use primarily as their own, does not come lightly for us. We sat down and had a long conversation with the girls about it. I never want a device to become a behavioral modifier with false threats of having it taken away in order to get them to do something we need them to do. Time on the computer is closely monitored and I've taken time to bookmark our favorite educational websites. There is something wonderful about savvy educational sites that allow the girls to believe they are playing when really they are growing their skills in a particular subject area, like math for example. Eventually I see them editing short movies, writing papers for school, completing research, and making slideshow presentations to compliment whatever they are currently studying. The laptop has also proven to be a great learning tool for personal discipline and sharing, developing their sense of give and take. More times than not I've found the girls engaged together with the laptop, which doesn't come as a total surprise to me, but delights me none the less.

Onto the laptop that we chose for the girls. I partnered with Staples in the process and we chose a Toshiba laptop. One of the highlights of our decision was for us to all become more comfortable with the Windows8 operating system. The laptop was ready to go when I removed it from the box, I created a MS account, and connected it to the internet in a snap. It was a bit of a learning curve learning where all the menus are located and how to access them, but I was amazed at how quickly the girls got right down to business. It's really no secret that we have a deep rooted love for all things Apple in our home, but let's be honest the majority of the world operates on PC's. Being well versed in both operating systems is a huge bonus for our entire family (I use a PC for my part time job). Plus, I need to know exactly what my blog looks like from Internet Explorer, teehee. Another part of the process was that I learned a lot through the Staples website, browsing various models and what they come loaded with versus what you have to buy after market. They always seem to have a sale going on, which is a total plus for me (I'm a bargain hunter) especially with Back To School just around the corner! We will go into the store when we shop for school supplies, as my girls are the ones that like to touch everything before buying.

There's a funny part to this story. One day last week a Staples truck pulled up out front of our house and the driver stepped out to hand us a small package (clearly not the laptop). The package contained our very own Easy Button. Yes, as you would imagine, when you press it "That was easy" comes joyfully out. My 6 year old in particular has become quite fond of the easy button and she presses it at the funniest times, like for example when I call her to eat a meal that I prepared and all she has to do is sit down and enjoy it. If you need to lighten up the mood in your house, I suggest making your way to Staples for your own easy button.

 Staples' Laptops (selection and sales always changing)

Disclosure, Staples provided me with a Toshiba Laptop and Easy Button for my review. All words and content ideas in this post are my own. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Reading Food Labels, Do Americans Have The Right That Consumers Have In 64 Countries? Labeling GMO's, A Debate.

This is a great informative news segment: My favorite part of the video is when the representative of the grocery industry says consumers don't need to know if a product contains GMO's because they are safe and it's just a confusing label (as we would assume that makes them unsafe). I will follow up his statement with this, why as consumers do we need to know juice comes from concentrate? That's a label that is in place, do we assume concentrate is bad for our health?

Personally I want to know if the food I was about to eat was injected with foreign proteins in a laboratory and treated with high levels of toxic chemicals. Let's not confuse our RIGHT TO KNOW with chemical companies bottom line or their ability to buy elections and legislation. Currently our system puts corporations before people and the lack of information available to consumers leaves us feeling confused. While we believe the USDA is protecting us, it's appalling to find out that they don't even conduct tests on the safety of GMO's, but rather allow companies to submit their own tests. WHAT? Let that rattle your brain a bit.

A label is not a burden, but rather a tool to best educate us as a consumer. Why is a label such a threat to the chemical companies that produce our food? That seems to be the multimillion dollar question that our generation is facing.


Monday, July 1, 2013

How Many? Just One, At The Bar. Dining Solo at Pizzeria Locale Boulder.

Rather foolishly I assumed Pizzeria Locale wouldn't be crowded on a Sunday evening. I had barely thrown the parking brake in the truck, when the crowd loitering on the sidewalk in front of Locale caught my eye. A beautiful sign of summer is seeing the patio door fully retracted, allowing the most magical wafts of the union of dough, sauce, and cheese from their glorious wood fired oven outside, gracing the passersby. I may have stepped off of the sidewalk to avoid kids on bicycles, a few leashed dogs, and adults chatting away, gathered along the iron railing before arriving at the front door. I immediately scanned the bar to see if there was any space available before the host could even welcome me.

Good Evening, how many? 

Just one. I'll take the pizza bar. 

Tonight I was drawn to the pizza bar seating, one piece of glass separating production from consumption, work from pleasure. Tap water filled my glass, my first Limoncello Spritz arrived shortly after, followed by the Mercato (seasonal salad), and the Maiale with a second Limoncello Spritz. Menu here. My eyes were busy watching the chefs at work. Effortless movements of the pizzaiolo's hands back and forth gently opens the dough before it reaches the marble counter, another chef evenly fills a spoonful of sauce onto each perfected round dough, another set of hands brings in the cheese, toppings, and  a simple twirl of olive oil.  The flow is almost rhythmic as the same hands work together to swiftly place the dough on a wooden peel, while his other half gently moves it into the hot Steffano Ferrara, first in front almost like a gentle coaxing, then in back to the hottest point with a 180 flip in between, then it's removed to a small rounded shelf just outside the oven opening, but the pie isn't quite ready to be served, it's swooped up on a metal peel and floated inside the oven for one last touch of perfection. It's those small details, like the swift return to the oven that make Locale brilliant. From hands on the dough to the pie being placed on the counter for pick up is simply a matter of minutes. Tonight I make no attempts at conversation with the pizzaiolo, as the restaurant is bustling, although I do allow my eyes and smile to convey my gratitude. The music is loud enough that no one can hear my audible moan, it happens every time. There's just something about their Neapolitan pies that make me swoon. Every time I walk through the door at Locale, I seem to be swept away to another world. 

I rarely dine alone, but when I do, I enjoy every moment of a leisurely meal at Pizzeria Locale.