Monday, January 31, 2011

well, at least I got ONE day

Rode into work today for the first time in what felt like forever (about 2 weeks). I had an appointment first thing, and rode a little loop around cambridge before I headed in.

I was a little nervous, because I haven't ridden in so long, and felt like I'd lost a bit of my traffic nerve. Partly it was because I was riding at off peak, but there weren't really any issues (aside from the bike lane being completely buried everywhere).

 The worst part was that there wasn't really a way to cross the giant iceburg at the temporary "bike crossing" at the entrance to the Longfellow, so had to go on the regular car onramp-  this would have been tough at rush hour- likely would have had some massholes breathing down my fender in their hurry to race over the bridge at illegal speeds, but luckily I had it to myself.   A gold star and all my love to DCR for having the best cleared bike lane I've seen since Christmas- the bridge lane was absolutely clear all the way to the curb.   Hooray DCR- I'll have to email them my thanks.

 Other than the onramp mess, things were pretty chill (literally)- it was surprisingly cold this morning- felt like it was in the teens when I was first heading out,  and it was 23 when I arrived at work.

I saw an amazing number of bikes out- maybe it was because I was riding a bit later than usual.   I think that a lot of people, like me looked at the forecast and decided this was likely their only chance for another week or so.  Yes, we're expected to get another 14 to 20" in the next 48 hours.   I literally don't know where I'm going to put it- I guess I'll have to lift it over the 4' fence and drop it in the yard.

Dreaming of warmer climes....

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Reunited, and it feels so good!

Gilbert was stranded all last week, after I left him in the underground garage at the Scientist's office. Actually the Scientist has left his car there pretty much all week too- parking being such a challenge in the snow.
  I saw a lot of entitled parking behavior today- people parked 8', 9' away from the curb,  taking up all of a travel lane.  Given that there are also a lot of pedestrians forced to walk in the street, and the bike lane isn't plowed, it doesn't seem fair to further complicate the situation by parking carelessly.  I guess the City of Cambridge agrees, because they've been going around making unplowed parking spots as "no parking- tow zone."  Haven't seen any tow trucks yet though.

Anyway, I rode Gilbert home Friday night after his week of absence.  I was worried, and it was slippery, and I had a couple of OMG moments (and not in a good way).  I made it home though (the worst moments were on an almost completely unplowed back street near home).    This is "Boston Bike stand" (aka the 3' snow bank in my front yard.

Another "Boston bike stand"  I just wedged the back wheel in a snowbank, and it stood up just fine- who needs a kickstand when you have a giant pile of snow?

I had to shovel out a path to the backyard bike shed to put Gilbert away for the night,  but I was thinking about how much easier it was than digging out a car!

On Saturday I ran all my errands by bike- Grocery shopping,  taking away the compost, the library,  the hardware store, the dry cleaners', a sandwich place and a coffeeshop.  A full load coming home:
1369 Coffee in Central square wins a big gold shiny star for having completely shoveled out the bike racks in front of their fine establishment.  It was SO nice after a day of improv parking to have a normal bike rack experience.  I ran into a woman from my defunct book group, and we commiserated about snow parking.

I tried out my new grocery sack pannier, and so far so good.

  My chainstay and fender stay are doing a good job of keeping it from getting into the spokes,  and it folds down nicely.  It obviously doesn't have much structure.

The idea wasn't that it was going to be a utility pannier,  but just a bag that could stay folded up in my main bag every day, and I think it will do fine for that.   I added some velcro on the handles to use both as a tie strap when it's rolled up and to keep the handles from flopping around on the bike.    However, I am thinking that I would like a more utility pannier, and may try to convert my lousy no-latches grocery pannier with ortlieb hardware too.

It's great to have Gilbert back home!  I feel like I've regained all the independence that the snow had taken away.  The Scientist is going away for a couple of days, so it will be nice to have options outside the T on these snowy days.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Friday Funny

Via Bike Portland,

A really amusing video that likens forgetting bike lights to forgetting to wear your pants.

Strategies for Getting Around Without Bike Lights (or Pants) from BICYCLE TRANSPORTATION ALLIANCE on Vimeo.

I think that the analogy of how silly forgetting either would be isn't made quite explicit enough for this to be a general public PSA,  but it's pretty darn funny.

Kudos to the guy who was brave enough to model his tightie whities!

Bikes in the media- digital and dead tree

I had an interesting exchange in the digital media recently.

There was a story on Universal Hub,  a local news aggregator about delays in bus service due to the cold and snow.  The original story was a lament from an unfortunate bus rider, who was waiting for 40 minutes for a bus in the 14 degree temps, and not happy about it.  She mentioned that it was 3 miles to work,  and several people commented that she could easily bike 3 miles.  (whether she would want to on a snowy frigid day is another question entirely)

Someone posted an inquiry about riding to work, saying that he'd done it in his grad school days, but didn't want to show up at work sweaty and dishevelled, and actually asked for advice, so perhaps naively I gave him some.  
I posted about my typical commute, gear and clothing, and pointed him to some sites that feature transportational cycling in normal clothing.   I said that I go slow, and that I don't get sweaty or gross.
And that hijacked the post completely.   

First someone posted to tell me  that I was stinky and that people talk about me behind my back.  This obviously got me mad, and I replied that I most definitely was NOT stinky! Someone else chimed in to say that if you ride 3 miles you definitely need to shower.  I  said- come on- unless you're sprinting, there's no way you need to shower, people are thinking that this is harder than it actually is.  

I was feeling pretty put upon- like everyone was attacking me online.  After a short period though, others started to chime in- to say they have a co-worker who bikes in and doesn't smell.  To say that they bike and don't smell, to say that biking is safe and fun and simple. So many general online forums are so full of anti- bike vitriol,  so it was nice to feel that despite the initial hassling, there was a community of bikers, even on a site not dedicated to biking.

In a less digital medium, I'm just read "No History", a recent book by William Gibson,  the father of cyberpunk.  This book is more of a thriller about corporate espionage and a caper gone wrong.  The subtext for most of it  is marketing and branding, and how iconic certain ideosyncratic brands are.  A character wears a International Klein Blue suit for example.  I perked up when a character need to build a "getaway" bike,  and starts with a Hetchins frame, and is going on about the curly lugwork (although he calls them "curly stays", which might be a British locution).   It's true that knowing some  of these niche brands makes you feel a kinship with someone else who knows about them, because they're both interesting and relatively unknown, so the other person must have some specialized knowledge of the subject if they're familiar with them.  It's like a secret handshake that we're in the same group.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

3rd Annual Boston Bikes Update

EDITED- to correct the time- I was looking at the times for a street talk in May, not this event-oops!

This Thursday at the Main Boston public library, Nichole Freedman - aka the Bike Czar- will give her "State of the (biking) Union talk with updates on what happened this year, and what's planned for 2011.
More info here,

The Rabb Lecture hall is in the ugly Phillip Johnson addition, up the soulless monumental stair-(is my opinion clear enough?) on the 2nd floor with the moldy HVAC vents and acoustic tiles.  I wonder what we'd have to do to rate one of the public spaces in the McKim Mead and White building?   Sorry- can't help grousing about a building I don't care much for.

It's definitely worth a trip downtown if you can make it. 6:30 Pm to 8:30Pm.   Hope to see you there!  If people want to meet up before or after, leave comments and we'll find a place.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Awfully cold to be riding

 The super cold air that's been making its way east is finally here!
I had a bunch of errands to run, in locations that would be tough T connections, and all in Boston/Brookline where parking would also be tough,  so I broke through the new 8" of snow to the bike shed, pumped up Gilbert's tires (I know you're supposed to run low tires in icy conditions, but these were getting ridiculous) and set out:

Because of all the talk about the cold, even though it was "only" 24, I dressed really warmly.  Thick corduroy pants,  shearling boots, wool socks, a thin cashmere sweater, topped with my warmest heaviest wool sweater (a JCrew men's rollneck sweater- which I highly recommend as an extremely warm layer- it's so dense that it's water repellant).  Over that a mid- weight softshell jacket,  ski gloves with liners,  a nice warm chenille scarf,  Pod ear warmers, and a winter (no holes) Bern helmet.  I finally caved in and wore my plastic safety glasses-I still think they look dorky, but it was too cold not to wear something to protect my eyes.

By the time I got to my first destination, the Scientist's office  I was broiling! I took off the rollneck sweater, and stuffed it into my basket, where it lived for the rest of the day.  I headed down the Vassar street cycle track, which was mostly bare pavement, cut over into Cambridgeport through the park,  and then over the BU bridge to the Brookline REI.

I don't know why it is that retailers are convinced that they need to get spring fashions into stores in January.  Have they not looked outside? Do the people who make these decisions live in Miami?  It's one thing for Banana Republic to do that,  but REI?  EMS? places that are supposed to be preparing you for outdoor activities?  Don't they understand that it will still be winter for another month and a half around here, and that people might want to buy warm clothing suitable for going outside?   The selection of jackets and gloves was ridiculously picked over and poor, so it was a pretty frustrating morning.

After 2 hours of riding around between spring-stocked stores,  I headed to the South End where I had been invited by Chic Cyclist Charlotte to an afternoon of crafting (Crafternoon)  with some of her friends.  It was a great chance to chat and finish up some of those projects that are always lingering.  For my first project I made a backup grocery pannier- something I've been planning for months.  I wanted an extra grocery bag that I could roll up and keep with me (on the bike, or in my bag) for those days when the contents of my basket exceeds the capacity of my everyday pannier.

I started with a regular tyvek type grocery store "reusable" bag.  I used a set of Ortlieb QL2 hardware,  (my rack's tubing is too big for the QL1) and  bolted the hardware to the stiffener through the bag.

 I'm not sure how it will work in practice- I think I'm going to have to add more stiffeners either to the bottom edge or the whole bottom, but I'm trying to keep it light and roll-able.

 I also took apart an LED light for a potential extra headlight,  and did a little crocheting.  People were laughing at me that my "Craft" involved vise grips and tin snips.  I traded Charlotte a set of The Ortlieb QL1 hooks that are too small for my rack for some retroreflective fabric tape,  so more projects for both of us!

After a couple of hours of chatting, crafting and eating delicious treats (the Brown Butter Rice Krispie treats were amazing).  I bundled back up and headed back across the river.  The temperature had dropped at this point to about 16, and the wind was pretty fierce.  I was more or less OK when I was riding, but once I stopped I got really really cold.  I was shivering uncontrollably in the grocery store, and was all too happy to ride home in the Scientist's car with its heated seats.  We made a tasty Mole Amarillo from a new Rick Bayless cookbook that he got for Christmas, which was a great way to warm up!

It sounds like the  REALLY cold day is going to be tomorrow, with a high predicted to be 14.  I don't think I'm going to ride into work.   While it was OK to ride around on a Sunday,  I'm still a bit nervous about braving the icy verge with rush hour traffic on my tail.  I hit  couple of slippery spots, and just don't think it's worth doing that with a SUV trying to close pass me, when it's 6 degrees and windy.

When I used to run, I would say,  I was happy to run in cold, dark or wet, but not in all three.  I think  this is a useful rule for biking too with the slight substitution of bitter cold, icy, and dark (on the way home).   If you were one of the 8 or 9 other bikers I saw today, will you be riding tomorrow too?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Challenges in bike parking

Walking along the sidewalks on major roads, there's a 2 to 3 foot high snowbank between the sidewalk and the street,  about 5' wide at the base, and 18" wide at the top.  It makes crossing the street as a pedestrian challenging.

Unfortunately it occupies the space that most signs, parking meters and bike racks occupy as well- can you see the top of the bike rack in the photo below?

I saw this bike, parked in defiance of the snow- on TOP of the bank.  Makes sense I guess.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and Gilbert

Yesterday's combination of snow/ freezing rain/ rain-  charmingly known in local parlance as "wintry mix" left giant puddles of slush at every intersection, and this morning a thin film of very slippery ice on everything.  I nearly fell twice as I walked to the train in vibram soled boots.

Today I was down at a site on the cape all day- a long day of driving down and back. A highlight was a late lunch at Pain d'Avignon,  a cute little cafe' oddly nestled up against the Barnstable airport. I'm a bit of a french bread fanatic, and theirs in the real deal- definitely worth tracking down if you're down there.

I bought an extra loaf for dinner, but didn't really have anything to eat with it,  so despite a bit of drizzly rain, I coaxed Gilbert out from the bike shed and set off to the store for some pate', and salad fixings.  It's not terribly cold, and the rain was more like heavy mist. Despite taking the short route, which is narrow, heavily trafficked and pothole infested, it was really nice to be on the bike, even for just a mile each way.

I doubt that the riding conditions will get much better in the next days.  The rain is supposed to turn to snow tonight, leaving us with an inch of slush,  and then Friday we're supposed to get a couple more inches.  Blech!

Oh well,  I'm glad I got at least a short ride in-  now off to dinner and an early bed after a long day. After a couple of days off the bike, a short damp ride is better than no ride at all!

I remember about 3 years ago when I started commuting regularly to work (after breaking my hip!) reading some kind of old  bike page that started off something like "imagine it's a cold rainy night, and you decide you want some milk,  You happily jump on your bike and bike the mile to the store and get it"  It was a meditation on lighting or good raingear or something like that, and google is not bringing it back to me.    At the time, I thought, "yeah, right"  but now, I'm realizing that that's just exactly what I did, without a second thought.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Cabin Fever

I didn't end up riding to work today, although I thought about it for a good long minute.

I walked to the Scientist's building last night, retrieved Gilbert, and headed home, but it was still really gnarly riding, and I even fell over once (admittedly on a piece of unpaved path).  The Vassar street cycletrack was beautifully clear and wonderful to ride down,  especially compared to the gnarly icy streets.

One of my co-workers rode in today and was regretting it and planning on taking the train home.  He said he nearly wiped out twice, and it just didn't feel safe.

I'm afraid it's going to get worse before it gets better- predictions of freezing rain/ slush/ snow tomorrow doesn't sound like biking weather to me (nor like driving weather truth be told).

There's a chance it will warm up a bit and we'll get real rain on Wednesday,  so we'll see if that helps a bit.
Until then, I'm just going to have to resign myself to cabin fever..

Sunday, January 16, 2011

snowed in bikes

Lots of snowed in bikes everywhere I go:

It's a little sad to see so many snow bound bikes, but it's also lovely how the snow outlines every line of the frame and curve of the wheel.

Digging out

I dug a little path to the bike shed yesterday to take Gilbert out for the first time since Wednesday's blizzard.  Lots easier than digging out a car, I have to say!  I loaded up with two panniers, stuff I needed to return at Target, grocery bags, two bags of compost,  and a pair of slippers I needed to exchange for the Scientist, and set out.

The roads were pretty lousy.  The weather has been so cold since the snow, that there's really been no melting at all.   Even the middle of the street, in the tire tracks there are all these ice plateaus- ranging in size from 4" x 4" x 2" bumps to 4' x 10' ice floes.  They're not super slippery, but they're a hazard, and I wouldn't feel comfortable riding fast over them.   I would say that the roads are 80% clear,  but I would expect them to be 100% clear by now.  The bike paths and shoulders are, not surprisingly an impassible mess.  This is sad, because I'm ready to start biking around again, but it just doesn't feel safe to me,  especially riding fast in traffic.  It's supposed to warm up a bit and maybe rain on Tuesday, we'll see what that does to the roads and re-evaluate.

I ended up deciding not to do my in-town errands by bike.  It just felt too precarious on the roads.   I needed to do two errands out in the 'burbs, and had arranged to pick up the Scientist's car for those, so I just drove for all my trips.

In the evening, after a lot of errands, my conclusion was that it's not actually any easier to run errands in town by car than it is by bike.  The advantage of not having to worry about how to carry everything, is offset by the challenge of finding parking at each destination.  It didn't help that somehow I didn't find time to eat lunch, so I was pretty tired and cranky by the end of it.

So I settled in with season 3 of Mad Men, and an appropriately retro dinner:  Shrimp cocktail, and iceburg lettuce wedges with blue cheese dressing.  For dessert, I made cream puffs filled with almond flavored whipped cream.  YUM!  Cream puffs are so easy, and so dramatic.  I used a 1972 "Joy of Cooking" recipe to stay almost period correct.

The recipe is simple but  unusual- it's not like normal cooking, or like normal baking, but a hybrid of the two:
Preheat the oven to 350
Bring 1/2 cup water and 1/4 cup butter to a boil in a quart saucepan, add a pinch of salt and a teaspoon of sugar.
Dump in 1/2 cup of all purpose flour, and start to stir frantically.  The dough will be "rough" and chunky, and then will magically turn smooth and silky and shiny, and pull away from the sides of the pan.    Turn off the heat and let the dough cool for 2 minutes.
Add 1 egg, and stir it in until it's thoroughly mixed in and is smooth and silky again.  Repeat with a second egg.
Drop by tablespoon-fulls on an ungreased baking sheet,  and bake for 25  minutes at 350.    Pierce the puffs with the tip of a knife in an unobtrusive spot to release steam.  Recipe makes about 12 puffs
The little golden irregular lumps  (the French name for this type of dough is Pate Choux - Cabbage paste)  are hollow and can be filled with anything you can pipe through a pastry bag-  whipped cream,  salmon mousse,  vanilla pudding.  You can also cut them in half and fill them with slightly more solid fillings like ice cream.  I don't actually own a pastry bag, but I find a ziplock bag with one corner clipped off works great.  A great fancy dessert without much effort,  and a traditional favorite, worth reviving.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A hardy Soul

I didn't see anyone biking, and the police car spinning out in front of my house didn't exactly encourage me to saddle up.
The Scientist forwarded this photo, snapped I think a bit west of Harvard Sq.

The snow is still coming hard and horizontal- it was really wet and slushy too. The end of my ponytail was dripping wet where it hung out of my hat while I was shoveling. 
It's lovely on all the trees, but I saw a lot of branches down and bowed over evergreens. I'm crossing my fingers about all our giant backyard trees.
Going over the Longfellow bridge on the empty train (no, I didn't get the day off- does that make me an essential employee?)  you could barely see the other side of the river- the snow was coming down so hard,  and you couldn't see the downtown buildings at all.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Not snowing yet

But there was an ominous hush on the city as I took the dog for an evening walk around Harvard square.
Oddly, the air smelled like roasting coffee,  and there were more bikers than pedestrians.  Like me riding home, they were getting one last ride in before tomorrow's blizzard.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Chilly Companionship

Had a long day at work.  The new year has been all about putting out fires, and it was another tough day.
The Scientist was at an event, so I had the duty of releasing the hound,  and I kind of blew it.  I was checking a window schedule after the phone finally stopped ringing, when I realized I was supposed to be home in 10 minutes !!!
I jumped on my bike, barely pausing to save my files,  and headed out,  only to encounter in the 3rd block a biker wearing a neon vest and a shrek helmet cover.  I pulled up and asked him about it.
It turned out it was his 9 year old grandson's (honestly, he didn't look old enough to be a grandfather- biking must keep you looking young!)  He boasted that he was giving his grandson VC lessons,  and that they had biked to school every day until the snow fell.  What a lucky kid to have someone in his life encouraging cycling like that!
We rode down Cambridge street, and over the Longfellow, taking advantage of the light traffic to ride abreast most of the way.  We chatted about generator wheels - I recommended the VO ones, he shared gossip about problems with VO stuff.   He was using a Bern helmet with helmet liner - I can't find my helmet liner and worry that it was lost in the flood, etc etc.  It's amazing how quickly time flies when you have a pleasant chatting companion.  Right before I split off along my new route through Central to Green street,  I asked him if we could stop so I could take his picture.
Unfortunately I didn't have my "real" camera, and the camera phone shots are pretty lousy- the reflective stuff on his gear kept throwing off the meter.   I photoshopped out the worst of the glare, but there's no real saving them. The helmet was really lots of fun,  in a nicely irreverent way, but unfortunately the shots don't do justice to the pink fenders and berry colored bike- a great combo.

Dave,  it was sure nice to meet you- hope we can ride together again sometime!  Next time I'll bring a proper camera and get real photos!

Sunday, January 9, 2011


Not what you normally expect to see tethered to the bike rack at the grocery store.
I guess it's one less car....

Thursday, January 6, 2011

A day in the biking life

I headed away from work this morning to an early appointment.  I was riding along the path, almost to my destination, and looked away for a moment to check my watch.  I heard a gasp and a "look out"  and then I hit a wire stretched across the road and heard a yelp.   Fortunately I wasn't going very fast and stopped almost immediately (in less than 5')  A woman was walking her dog, and the retractable part of the leash was strung across the path, almost invisible, and I had hit it.  Fortunately for both me and the dog, she'd let go of the leash, so we both got jerked a bit, but neither got flung through the air.  My Dad complains about this a lot- those leashes are a particular hazards to recumbent riders because they're often at their face level.

Anyway, I scratched the dog behind the ears, and handed the lady her leash back (she had been walking on the opposite side of a snowbank, which is why I didn't realize that she was a hazard), and continued on.  Poor little dog!

On the way back to work, I passed home, and decided to go in and  upgrade a few key parts of my wardrobe.  My regular tights just weren't quite warm enough and I needed warmer gloves, and hadn't had time to find them before my appointment.
This is what I looked like as I left the house again at 10AM.

 With my wool tights and shearling gloves, I was so toasty on the way in, that I had to stop, take off my coat and cardigan, and put the coat back on and the cardigan in the basket.

I stopped a couple of times to admire the cool patterns in the ice on the Charles. I'm guessing that the swirls were snowdrifts that were absorbed into the ice through melt/thaw cycles.

Can it be coincidence that the curves of the ice mirror those of the bridge?  I don't know how, but it MUST be related.

Some ducks huddling on the edge of a floe next to the open water by the MIT dock- most of the docks have something that keeps the water too agitated to freeze right at the dock- Ice is hell on fixed structures.  And I think it would be tough being a duck in this climate, no matter how much fatty insulation they have.

After a longish day of work, I made one of my least favorite commutes home- though Kenmore square to REI and then over the BU bridge.   This is kind of a gnarly piece of vehicular cycling in several points.  I sometimes stay on Tremont and Charles Street, but tonight I just cut through the Common- didn't feel up to dodging busses and potholes on Tremont and drag racers on the 4 lanes wide Charles Street. From the SW corner of the Common,  I merged onto Beacon,  which is much wider than it needs to be, so people race from stoplight to stoplight.  Luckily the right hand lane is generally empty with occasional double parked cars serving as bollards.  Today the right hand lane was 6' wide because of cars parked out in the lane because of the snow- a luxuriously wide bike lane.  I've learned a shortcut that avoids the worst of Kenmore square (where 2 1/2 major streets meet at acute angles- full of cabs and buses).  If you turn left on Charlesgate, but don't go up onto the overpass that takes you to the Fens,  there's a funny little extension of Newbury street (Boston's fancy shopping street in other blocks)  with rowhouses on one side, and the pike on the other.
This connects to Brookline just past Kenmore, and delivers you past Fenway park and down to REI.

At REI,  I bought some Earbags.  Charlotte of Chic Cyclists RAVES about these, and I finally decided to try them.  I wanted to buy a pair for The Scientist, who needs to keep his ears warm post ear-infection,  but they didn't have extra large.  I tried a pair on the way home, and I'll have to add my raves too. They're warm, comfortable, and stayed on surprisingly well!  They're on sale at REI- may have to buy a couple of pairs, because I forsee losing some.

Then I have to go over the pike again and through the BU bridge interchange, which is a scary intersection to drive through, with some people going straight, some turning right, and most (including me) turning left.  Then over the BU bridge as fast as I can with someone right on my tail, through the roundabout, and finally to the relative tranquility of the bike path.
I stopped at Trader Joe's to pick up some salad fixings, and saw a guy with a lime green messenger bag, and a slick fixie with lime green rims, lime green bar tape and lime green pedals.  I wish I had pulled out my camera while I chatted with him, because it was pretty impressive.
Home to a late supper of steak salad (the lime juice and olive oil dressing must have been good- the Scientist practically licked his plate clean).   That's a typical day!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Canning and Planning

We're getting close to a long anticipated remodel of our 1980's vintage- lousy layout-no windows-no counterspace kitchen.  YEA!

We're hoping though good planning and the hiring of a "real contractor" (as opposed my my nights and weekends) to get the project done with less than a month of not being able to use the kitchen.

But during that time, what to eat for dinner?  Our budgets and waistlines (and frankly our palates) would prefer that we not eat out every night for several weeks.
We have a kitchenette in the basement with  a sink, microwave and mini-fridge, so we're able to re-heat stuff, make salads,  maybe make some pasta.  But since we'll have limited fridge/ freezer space, we can't just freeze a month of provisions.  So I've been canning some meals in preparation:

The first two batches-  something I grew up calling "chalupas" which is a pinto bean and pork stew with chiles and cumin,  served over fritos ala "frito pie."  It's a favorite, and one of the few things that picky me is willing to eat several meals in a row.  The second batch was four quarts of spaghetti sauce,  also a standby- we'll just have to get a hot plate for cooking the pasta.

I'm going to make a big batch of chili this weekend.  I'm thinking I'll make both a pot of red and a pot of white chili to provide some variety.  I'll probably need some more options though.

Anyone have suggestions of  family favorites that I can put away for our time of need?  I can pressure can just about anything that you could make in the slow cooker- the only caveats are no pasta, rice, grains or flours and no dairy products or eggs.


Two stories in the news recently about "fake cops" harassing motorists.  Just an FYI because if you're "pulled over" on a bike by someone with bad intentions you have less of a physical barrier.  
If a cop, or someone you think may be a cop indicates that you should pull over, remember to do so in a well lit public place if possible, and remember that you have a right to see a badge, and can call 911 to verify that it's a real cop if they're plainclothes.  Unfortunately there have been stories of people with a power complex that use flashing lights and sirens to intimidate and harass (and possibly harm) people,  and on a bike you're a little more visible and vulnerable.   So be careful out there!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Bike Traffic in Winter

After a unseasonably warm weekend (highs at almost 50!) melted away some but not all of the snowbanks,  it was back to a crisp 29 degrees when I set out this morning,  and the edges of the road glittered with frozen melt puddles.  But immediately I found myself in "bike traffic"  and had to wait to merge into the bike lane while two people passed.

In total I saw 15 other bikers on my commute in this morning- three on the Longfellow alone.  So much for "no one will ride in the winter".  If there were three bikes every 5 minutes for an hour between 8 and 9 that would be 60 bikes an hour,  not too shabby for January.

Amazing! Warms the cockles of my heart. Now if it could just warm my toes, which were a little chilly-should have worn my wool tights.

Something to get even more excited about- the days are appreciably getting longer.  I'm still biking home in the dark, but at least it's not dark at 4pm anymore...  It's all uphill from the solstice!

A Southern New Years Feast

Happy 2011 Everyone

I'm still getting back into the rhythms of the "real world"  after the Holidays.  We spent most of the long new year's weekend at home- The Scientist still battling an ear infection,  I busying myself with some "advanced Ikea"  assembling a new wardrobe with glass doors.

I don't have a ton of Southern food traditions that I cling to- but two that I do hold dear are Grits, and Black Eyed Peas at New Years.    The Scientist introduced me to his family tradition of Cheese Grits,  and this year I took them up a notch with "fancy"  Anson Mills stone ground grits.  These are grits with character- whole grains and all-  you have to soak them overnight and cook them for an hour,  and at the end they're toothsome and luscious.   I made them "two ways"  half as Garlic Cheese grits (with the addition of Garlic, cheese, an egg, tabasco and butter) and the rest as as Shrimp and Grits.

While Garlic Cheese Grits are a fairly standard "special treat" breakfast for us, I hadn't ever made Shrimp and Grits myself, although I'd enjoyed it lots of times.  I made it with local, winter season Maine shrimp which were small and sweet.  It took a long time to make the shrimp stock, but it was worth it- lovely flavor that soaked into the grits.  YUM

For dinner we had Black eyed peas and greens.  Both are traditional in the South for New Years, supposedly to bring luck or money or something.  For me, they at least brought a tasty dinner.  My Mom used to grow black eyed peas, and I have fond memories of shelling them with her.    For the greens I went creative, since you can't usually find collards here, and I actually don't really care for collards.  I used a mix of swiss chard and fresh spinach, which ends up a lovely mix of red and green.  Good bacon doesn't hurt either.

Happy New Years everyone!