move it or lose it: how to get moving in the office and how to make your office move 

lifestyle, Small business, travel August 11, 2015

**** update: I have been using the laptop stand and mini elliptical described below for a couple of weeks now. The set up is perfect for me. The movement helps me stay focused and my legs are sore after I put in some billable hours.   I highly recommend this as a relatively inexpensive way to get out of that office chair. Here’s my set up:  

***

I am building a small law practice and want to keep the overhead low. My area of law requires few client meetings trips to court, so I can keep it home based or road based, allowing me to have a mobile office if I so desire. 

Additionally, sometime a few years back, studies began to emerge showing extended periods of sitting to be extremely harmful to your health. The market, ever quick to react, responded with standing desks, treadmill desks, bicycle desks etc.  This active office equipment can run into the thousands, but there are more economical ways to keep moving at the office. 
Here is what I am working with:  As you can see, I have been using the shelf as a standing desk. I actually used to work on the countertops at my old home because I do find writing in particular is good on your feet!  

However, ergonomics are important, a standing desk should be at or just below your shoulders in order to allow you to stand up straight, counteracting the slumped shoulders that are the bane of office life. Since I obviously have only traditional desks, I have opted for a highly adjustable Laptop stand  to place on top of the desks. I tend to spread out and like to move from one surface to another as I switch from researching to writing to administrative tasks. This way I can move between either of my desks and the bookshelf.  Or even elsewhere in the house and beyond.  Perhaps one of the captains chairs in my van?

Standing all day isn’t great either. Varicose veins and swollen feet can result as well as any number of other aches and pains. When I sit, I have long been a proponent of a yoga ball or stability ball. I bounced through my first pregnancy in the office, easing the back pain of pregnancy and keeping my core active. You can buy a yoga ball chair, but these are significantly more expensive than the ball itself. 

Another standing option to help balance and core strength that also helps strengthen ankles is a wobble board. These run around $20-$30 and are apparently fun and challenging, though I have yet to try one. A new company has created The Level, a beautiful but expensive device in a similar vein. 

Great, but what about the cardiovascular system? I am ever a fan of efficient use of time, so the treadmill desk is quite intriguing. But beside being expensive, it is huge and unnatractive. If you have a bike already, there are a number of desks available to dock your bike so you can pedal while working like this beautiful but expensive option, the Pit In.  

Sadly, I sold my road bike when I moved to narrow dirt roads and pot holes, so moving on.  There is the  Fit Desk, which is relatively compact, but at $300 still more than I can spend right now.  I settled on a mini- elliptical machine, The Stamina InMotion Compact Strider. This can be used either sitting at a traditional desk or a standing desk. It is small, quiet, and at $100 was more within my budget. I will update on how productive I am with this machine as I begin to use it. 
These are my picks for an active office.

Movement helps blood flow and oxygen move throughout your body, and blood to the brain has to be a good thing when you’re engaged in intense concentration.  Burning a few extra calories and gently building muscles are perks few of us can complain about and the benefits to overall mental and physical health are backed up by numerous studies that I leave for you to google on your own. 

I would like to add a few items that can help your office itself become mobile. My husband and I have tried to craft a life that lets us be outdoors as much as possible. His landscaping business requires no standing desks or extra efforts to get outside, but as a lawyer I am somewhat stuck.  However, my plan is to take my office with me when needed or wanted on road trips and vacations. As a lawyer on the cusp of generation x and the millennials, I am comfortable with digital office management. My case files will be cloud based and accessible by my iPhone or laptop. I need a couple of important items of equipment to make that possible.

 A scanner is all important. This one is both compact and has a document feeder. Both crucial to my needs.  It also scans to either Pdf or word files. Very convenient for working off old pleadings. 

This printer is wireless, compact, and cloud compatible. I don’t need fancy color or photo options, just need to print s document, sign it, scan it, and file it. 

 I will be using a MacBook Air. These are tiny and lightweight and have a solid state drive so are durable.   Also, for simple web browsing and word processing, plenty powerful with long battery life. Finally, a refurbished 11″ MacBook Air runs around $750. This is relatively affordable for an apple.  

Digital storage seems to ever be an issue. The MacBook Air isn’t huge (but I’m doing cloudbased office management anyway). However, I’d like to combine some photo and music storage with my office set up.  Two terabytes are easy to come by these days, and this mobile drive is wifi enabled with an SD card for photos. 

Eventually, we will be installing an awning on the van. There I will sit, working happily away in the great out of doors while my husband takes the boys on a hike.   

So that’s it. My recipe for a mobile office. I’ve tried to keep the costs down, and if you compare it to renting an office space, buying furniture and equipment, paying utilities, paying for staff, and hospital bills for health conditions resulting from sitting in an ugly office all day, this is a steal. Of course I’m not going to get rich. But I don’t want to spend all my time sitting hunched over inside and miss out on good times outdoors with my family. 

destination: heron lake, nm

Camping, travel August 4, 2015

The plans were finalized and the great reunion of 2015 was underway.  10 adults and 7 children were to relive memories from the 80s and 90s by descending on Heron Lake en masse and with a new generation in tow. We reserved two campsites ahead of time (each allowing for two vehicles according to the website), and made plans to meet up. 

When we went way back when, there were no online reservations of course, no reservations at all. We had a go-to spot and met up there for good old fashioned primitive camping sans outhouses, picnic tables, and trash cans. Alas times have changed and so have the preferences of our group. My protests were overruled and we elected to remain at our civilized reserved sites instead of the wild shoreline I had sniffed out at the far end of the lake. (Pictured above)

(For those whose tastes align with mine:  follow the road until you cross the river, wind back around to the lake and take the last park marked right. This will take you on a pretty rough road through some nice tree’d camping spots in the hills above the lake and finally down to a wide open shoreline with plenty of room for primitive camping.  Be forewarned that the receding water line has given way to scratchy weeds that have taken root where the water used to be.)

For those who prefer modern amenities such as tables, grills, and outhouses, the reserved spots of ‘brushy point’ and ‘island view’offer all that plus tidy parking spaces and some potential views.   The sites are in the piñon trees, offer some privacy, and are about a ten minute walk to the shore.  

 

The lake is low. So much lower than before thanks to drought and a thirsty Albuquerque.  However, the area is as beautiful as ever and the drive is stunning.  A ways after  the reserved spots, there are some easily accessible primitive shore spots that we may try next time. There will always be a next time for Heron Lake. 

minimizing the schlep: yet another camper van setup 

Camping, travel July 6, 2015

  
My entire approach to outfitting the family for adventures can be expressed by the mantra “minimizing the schlep”.  In line with that, we celebrated the 4th of July by finally trying to put together the bed/storage platform for the van. The end goal is to have two sleep in the van and two sleep on top in a tent for an easy sleep set up for long road trips.  Many google searches, build threads, trips to the hardware store, and minor marital squabbles later, we have come up with a system that I think will meet our needs. They are:

1.  This is a daily driver and we have two kids in car seats, so the bed has to allow for that and must be easily removable. 

2.  We don’t want to have to remove the car seats to set up the bed. 

3.  Must allow for easy access to gear. 

4. Must be something I can put in the van myself (with a baby and a toddler “assisting”) because I often pack the car for camping trips while my the man is at work. 

5.  We wanted something modular, so we can keep some of our gear organized in the van for quick day trips without having to pack. (Raft, fishing gear, small grill, etc). 

6.  Minimal carpentry because ain’t nobody with two small children got time for that. 

It is not sophisticated, but after mulling over many alternatives, we decided to err on the side of extreme simplicity. 

We bought three pre-glued panels of aspen (more expensive than plywood, but also more attractive and less formaldehyde); and a bunch of 1/2 “x 12” threaded plumbing nipples and floor flanges (can be steel or pvc); and rubber caps.  The flanges are screwed into the panels and this enables us to have removeable legs for easy stacking for transport.   

Now we can use one as just a shelf for the cargo area for day to day use, and throw the two remaining hinged together panels, which form a 48×48″ square, in the van when we are ready for or a trip. We are going to attach the panels with slide bolts on the edges to make a sturdy platform.  This is also beautiful because the single panel is the perfect table height for our low camping chairs if removed from the van. If it stays in the van, it provides a surface at a convenient height for cooking or changing diapers. (Not at the same time)  

These feet belong to a guy who is 6’1″.   

***update:

We spent a couple of days camping this weekend and our setup performed beautifully. Our companions admired our organization and I slept like a baby with the baby inside the van. (Inspite of a bunch of drunk archers roaming the campsite for an archery convention). Double plus bonus for the modular set up because we had an extra unexpected passenger on the way home. I unscrewed the legs off the center panel and back panels and stacked the remaining panel on top of those two. This enabled me to pull up the single stow and go seat, store something in the newly opened up cargo space, and then put my shelving on top of that, retaining the organization afforded by the shelving while seating my third row passenger comfortably enough for him to take a long nap on the way home. 

destination cabresto lake, nm

Camping, travel July 6, 2015

There is so little information out there about destinations in northern New Mexico, so I am going to try to do my part and write up our experiences in these ‘destination’ posts. 

Cabresto lake is a beautiful mountain lake at the end of a 2 mile switchback road that sometimes resembles a riverbed.   If you head into Questa on the way to Red River, there is a clearly marked sign for the turn off to Cabresto.  This road takes you through a residential neighborhood and onto a mountain dirt road for a few miles until the again clearly marked turn off to the climb to the lake.  Incidentally, if you ignore the turn to Cabresto and keep going there are some nice campsites along the river on the left.  

 Further along, there is a turn off to a pretty intense drive to Red River on another one -lane switchback that climbs up and up for breathtaking views and rough going for some vehicles.  

Back to the lake. Our awd minivan handled the road to Cabresto fine but I was relieved when we were done because the engine did not love it and it was slow going.   There was an old Honda sedan at the top amongst the jeeps and huge trucks, so patience and careful driving should get most vehicles up the road just fine with good road conditions.   We were however, the only minivan drivers.  I am missing the xterra pro4x right now. 

Once at the top, there are two or three tent sites near the road and parking lot- not secluded enough for our tastes, so we went back down to find a spot after visiting the lake. But the views are glorious. The parking lot features a single porta potty and a couple of picnic tables.  You have to walk down to the lake shore and the sides are pretty sloped. This is great unless you have a busily crawling 10 month old with limited balance!  We had fun anyway because the lake is clear and beautiful.  

 There were a lot of people fishing, mostly near the dam and there was plenty of tree lined shore for us to find our own spot. The boy and I paddled to the far side of the lake enjoying the lake as the only watercraft.   There is a trail that goes up to another lake I believe, but I’ll have to wait until the boys are older to experiment with that.  We might try to do an overnight sometime mid-week to avoid the surprising crowds, but all in all it was a lovely adventure and definitely worth the trip. The scenery along the enchanted circle, is unsurprisingly beautiful and getting that high up into the mountain air is always rewarding. 

tenkara fly fishing

Camping, lifestyle, travel July 2, 2015

  My husband grew up fishing in the many lakes of Michigan and I have enjoyed it here and there throughout my life, but neither of us have ever really fly fished and we are basically clueless. I did read ‘A River Runs Through It’ at some point and developed a long lingering desire to fly fish.   The romance, the meditation, the skill, and the trout. With our outdoor adventures often involving lakes and streamsit seems a natural endeavor to take on. However like so many other outdoor activities, fly fishing seems particularly burdened by the need for expensive gear and training.   
I recently stumbled across Tenkara fly fishing,  which is simply the traditional Japanese style.  Like many other traditional Japanese things it is minimal from a gear standpoint. You have a rod, a line, a fly.  It is also apparently ideal for fishing small mountain streams, much like those we have in great abundance within 20 miles in any direction of our home. I have been reading Tenkara: Radically Simple, Ultralight Fly Fishing and while we have yet to catch a trout, we have had fun messing around with casting in the rivers and streams we come across.  The simplicity of the set up means that (like our sweet packraft), our fishing gear just stays in the van and is ready to pull out at a moment’s notice or a riverside rest stop.  The spare set up also means that the financial investment is relatively small, from what I can tell, you can have a reasonable set up for less than $100.  We went for the Wetfly Tenkara Package when it went on sale on BackCountry.com, and are so far pleased because it has everything we need. 

I am thoroughly enjoying the book. It is sprinkled with quotes from the likes of Mark Twain and Thoreau and uses appropriately spare prose.  Underlyinb the instruction is a gentle reverence for the spiritual gains of spending time out doors, and I am learning the basics of casting, fly choice, where to look for fish and other such details.  You don’t have to “know what you are doing” to enjoy something and the learning process can start almost anywhere as long as you have the desire and the time.  Things like fly fishing can be intimidating (to me anyway) because of the knowledge and skill possessed by experts, but like everything else, you have to start somewhere.  When I was a prosecutor right out of law school,  I often squared off against men who had been practicing law as long as I had been alive, I always had to remind myself that everyone has to start somewhere and that my inexperience was just that.  This type of fishing offers an elegant and simple starting point for the inexperienced.   So far Tenkara has really added to our enjoyment of the outdoors, and I’m sure our experience will really deepen if we ever actually hook a fish.  As for now my three year son thinks holding the rod from the river bank is about the best thing next to ice cream. 

the best boat is the one that is with you 

lifestyle, travel June 28, 2015

We woke up this morning, and after a leisurely breakfast, decided that we wanted to take the boys fishing. We have a baby and a toddler, which means that just getting to the grocery store can be challenging.  After everyone is dressed, fed, brushed, changed, and packed, it is almost time for another nap or meal.   The pull of the couch can be powerful for even those who aren’t responsible for tiny dictators with lots of accessories. So anything you can do to streamline and simplify getting out the door to go out of doors is invaluable.  I grew up paddling around mountain lakes on windsurfing boards, and the desire to get out on the water has been nagging at me all summer. We decided on the Advanced Elements Packlite Inflatable Kayak to get our family on the water.  We wanted something easy, something that could fit atleast one adult and one child, and something that we wouldn’t have to sell one of the kids for.  (Like an Alpackaraft , which I would love to have) This is kind of a tall order, but this boat is perfect. In fact, I think that I am now a fervent believer in pack rafts in general.  

We drove up to the lake, grilled up some hotdogs and inflated the boat with the foot pump advanced elements sells for it. (Just a couple of minutes). We could actually carry the baby and all of our picnic items, as well as the boat and life jackets in one trip.   That is four hands.  On the way home we discussed just packing up a backpack with the boat, fishing stuff, a couple of chairs, picnic blanket etc. and leaving it in the car for impromptu day trips. 

We wanted to avoid the crowds at the dock, so it was a bit of a walk to reach the shore. But it was no problem with this boat. My husband and I took turns paddling around with our elated toddler. So fun. The mountains, the water, the swans and ducks, the strain in your arms, the sound of the paddle dipping into the lack, the joy of an almost three year old. It would be no problem to load up two boats with a few picnic items and take small trips. (I believe our time to be more limited by the small passengers more than the boat).   So that’s that. I considered numerous water craft options (fantasized about portages in a gorgeous wooden canoe, looked into SUPs to relive my childhood, love the Orukayak but couldn’t afford it). This  wound up being the most affordable and it turns amount, most convenient way to get out there.  Not only do we not need to heave the thing onto our car, but we can fit it in my diaper bag. Apparently these boats are also serviceable on a mellow river run.   We may even go again tomorrow. And as I said, I want another. Yesterday.  Happy paddling and find a mountain lake and packraft as soon as you can.  

Update:  I love this boat. Took it on another day trip to Cabresto Lake- 4 miles up a steep switchback, was glad to not have anything on our roof. Once again, the shoreline wasn’t close to our car, so we hiked a ways to a nice private spot and paddled away. We will hit up every lake in the southern Rockies until the snow falls.  

 

John Muir

Uncategorized June 24, 2015

Few places in the world are more dangerous than home. Fear not, therefore, to try the mountain passes.  They kill care, save you from deadly apathy, set you free, and call forth every faculty into vigorous, enthusiastic action. -John Muir

 

a step in any direction 

lifestyle, Uncategorized June 15, 2015

“Until one is committed, there is a hesitancy, the chance to draw back. The moment one definitely commits oneself then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would otherwise never have occurred. Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.JOHANN WOLFGANG VON GOETHE”  For months I have been lost. Dissatisfied with my situation, and yet unable to pinpoint any changes that could be made to remedy it. I felt trapped. Recently though I have persuaded myself to take small sluggish steps in various directions, grasping at straws and hoping that wherever I ended up was where I needed to be.  Like a reluctant runner who needs only to make it as far as the front door with shoes on before the miles fall away at my feet, those few steps have led me out of my confusion and helplessness.   Just the other day in the midst of my newly gathered momentum, I uttered the wish that a certain government job I enjoyed as an attorney would allow for part time work. Then as if providence was indeed lending me a hand, I received a call from a friend in said area of employment asking me if I was interested in some part time work in his office. Here’s to taking any steps at all and keeping the faith.  

the poor man’s (kind of) vanagon

Camping, parenting, travel May 15, 2015

The Euro Van is the most recent incarnation of the Westfalia (available in the U.S. atleast, there is a cruelly named ‘California’ available in Europe). And they are sweet. They represent freedom. They capture the spirit of the adventurous American, our grand National Parks, and long highways. You can picture one adorned with surfboards and bicycles and parked on a beach, I’m sure of it. If not, see Pinterest. My stepmother still speaks wistfully about the Westfalia she had when her boys were young, her eyes lose focus as they follow memories of rising early and driving off down empty roads to new adventures. She also remembers it as her mobile office, a private retreat reserved for her dissertation away from the hubbub of motherhood. The only problem with Westfalias is that they are old, some show their age better than others, and they are expensive because of the demand. She also tells me that they’ll break your heart when they break down as hers inevitably would. Eurovans went out of production more recently, and are in better shape but that comes with a price. Repairs can be costly, and for my family atleast, having a vehicle (expensive or not) expressly dedicated to camping is out of our budget. We are trying to make do as is with one family car and one work truck. There has to be another way.

And there is I think.

We went for it and bought a Toyota Sienna minivan. It is not hip like a Westfalia. Understatement, I know. It is reasonably fuel efficient, has all wheel drive, and has a spacious interior. As a daily driver with camper tendencies, is actually affordable. Ever since we got it I have been busy trying to transform it into my version of a camper van for some epic road trips that I have planned. We do face the issue of having two small children and therefore cannot remove all the seats (plus it being a daily driver is what makes it affordable). Additionally, we need to keep enough room to have two huge ass car seats as well as enough sleeping space for 4 people. I also must have the pull over and be asleep in minutes effect of the euro van/ Westfalia. No pitching tents. No leveling trailers, just sleep. So, while my plan isn’t exactly revolutionary, it is precise and I think I’ve worked out all of the details. Here they are:

Priority: ready made bedding for four and easy food prep.

Need:

1xToyota Sienna, 2011 and up has sliding captains seats which is crucial to my plan of keeping our car seats latched in at night. (I also considered the Chevy Astro, but didn’t find a suitable one in our area, consequently I am unsure as to how the measurements break down.)
***you may be questioning the expense of a relatively new Sienna vs. a Westfalia, but think of this: gas mileage, dependability, comfort of interior for long distances of travel (the Sienna seats are spacious and comfortable, the captains chairs even have retractable foot rests), AWD, and the fact that a Sienna is a daily driver. Also, the beds on this set up are more roomy than those in the Westfalia.

1 cooler

1 Camp Chef Sherpa containing camp kitchen supplies (including small camp stove)

1 Nemo Helio camp shower, and some sort of sink vessel (we have the fold up backpacking type). The Helio provides pressurized warm water. I will be writing a separate review of it in a camp kitchen post, because it is awesome.

1 roof top tent (James Baroud or Autohome due to fastest set up) I like the James Baroud Horizon as written up here by expedition portal. It is light, low profile, pretty large, and less expensive than the other quick set up tents. They are available on adventure-ready.com

IMG_4014

It would be awesome to have a hitch mounted stow away cargo rack to hold the camp chef Sherpa and cooler (they fit perfectly, I measured) for an easy access kitchen and making room for the bedding the van. But, that may come in a couple of seasons. In the meantime we will move the Sherpa and cooler to front seat for nights. Also, you may want to reserve the hitch mount for a bike rack.

So, roof top tent goes on top of course with bedding. The captain seats remain in the car with the car seats. When they are pushed forward as far as they go, you have a full 72 inches in the back for sleeping (with bench seat folded down, obviously). The back holds one partially inflated sleeping pad and one cot already assembled (because that’s what we have, but a folded futon could work too) and bedding, folded in half, as well as the cooler, Sherpa, the water, our clothes and the toilet. Pull over, pop roof top tent, slide seats forward, flatten out the van bedding, throw the cooking stuff in the front seat, and sleep.
Here is the bedding, assembled for travel and with ample room for the rest of our gear as well as the full extension of leg room for passenger seating.

Processed with VSCOcam with m5 preset

Here is all the bedding and tent that we will no longer need to pack:

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Here is the assembled bed, after a couple of minutes setup.

Processed with VSCOcam with m5 presetThe cot fits my 6’1” husband comfortably, and the slightly folded sleeping mat will be perfect for one of the boys for many years to come. Without car seats, this could comfortably accommodate two adults around 6 feet.

All we need now is the roof top tent and a road map.

a year of greenhouse gardening

Uncategorized May 10, 2015

It snowed yesterday, and I am grateful as ever that I have a couple of tomatoes plants, some squash, a leftover winter lettuce, a lemon tree, ridiculously happy perennial herbs and a grapevine with grapes on the vine. We have had the dome built for almost a year. It still isn’t up to its full potential, but I give myself a break on that because I did have a baby. It remains a pleasure and a challenge. We installed some drip irrigation and built beds around the perimeter to plant with mint and sunflowers and hops on the south side for shade.

Anyway, now that spring has fully sprung (sort of), we have the happily conflicting desires to spend the free days gardening and or adventuring. So I am partially grateful our weekend camping trip got interrupted by snow, because now my husband can make good on his Mother’s Day promise to plant me a tree. The boys and I will wander in and out of the greenhouse while he digs and we will still spend the day outside, just as cultivators rather than visitors. Happy Mother’s Day.