Thursday, January 28, 2010

Not your mother's nuggets

Well, actually, if you're my age, these probably were your mother's equivalent of chicken nuggets.
Before there was the nugget, there was the chicken croquette, and that's what I had for dinner last night and they were fabulous!

I had a lot of leftover boiled chicken meat from the broth I  canned this weekend, and although the texture of boiled chicken limits what you can do with it, and a lot of the flavor had been extracted into the broth, it seemed a shame to throw it all away.  I picked the best bits out for me, and the fattier bits out for the dog, and ended up with about 4 cups of chicken chunks in the "for me" tupperware.  Some of it became curried chicken salad for lunch, but there's only so much chicken salad I can eat, even when it's curried and mixed with bits of home made fig preserves.  So I thought about other options, and somehow chicken croquettes came to mind.

I'll confess that I came of age in the McNugget era, and I'd actualy never eaten chicken croquettes- and the name evokes the fifties and "Continental" cuisine.  But there's an evocative description of them in Tender at the Bone, by Ruth Reichl,  my all time favorite book about food.  And they use up a lot of chicken bits, so I was in.

The recipe is fairly simple, but somewhat time consuming.

First, make a thick bechamel (white sauce) with 3tbs butter, 1/4 cup flour and 1/2 cup each of milk and broth.
I added a small minced onion and let it sweat in the butter before I added the flour.  Stir the butter (with onions) and flour until it makes a paste, and add the liquid slowly, wisking constantly to try to minimize lumpiness until the sauce is thick.

Once that has cooled a bit, mix it with 1 1/2 cups of minced cooked chicken, a squeeze of lemon, and paprika, nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste (about 1/4 tsp of each)  You could vary it to make curried croquettes, mexican croquettes etc.  So far so good.

Next you form the croquettes,  by taking ping pong ball sized lumps of chicken mixture, rolling them in cracker or bread crumbs,  then rolling that in egg wash (1 egg beaten with 3 tbs water)  then rolling it in crumbs again.  Messy, time consuming,  totally worth it if you want a crispy coating. If you have an 8 year old handy, delegate!
I pan fried them, although you could deep fry them if so inclined.  I formed some of them into flat patties,  and some of them into triangular shaped logs.  I understand that pyramids are the classic shape, but I think you would have to deep fry them, and I wasn't up for the mess tonight.

In short-  This is not a meal that a normal (sane) person would make on a Wednesday night after getting home at 8.  But I did anyway, and BOY were they tasty- crispy outer shell, shattering to reveal an oozing, rich chicken center, delicately flavored with lemon and nutmeg.
I'll never look at nuggets quite the same!

(they were pretty tasty as lunch the next day too!)

Women in motion

This morning was a bit unusual in that almost every cyclist I saw on my ride in was a woman! Two on the bike path, and two going up Cambridge street.  I saw one guy going the other way, but 5 to 1 is not the normal ratio!
I wouldn't say that  seeing other women riding is in any way unusual, but in the summer it's maybe 40% share, and in the winter, group of hard core commuters I'd guess it's about 25% share.  I was riding a bit earlier than normal, and on the bike path, but I guess it was more about coincidence than actual trend.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Back to biking

From reading blogs, it seems that a lot of people in the chic cycling community rode bikes as kids, and then stopped, re-discovering biking much later. I may be in the minority, but I've bicycled throughout my life, for which I thank my family, especially my father for setting a great example. I had a tough time learning to ride- I remember my dad patiently running behind me pushing over and over again. Once I learned, I lived on my coaster brake 20" wheel bike with the blue sparkly banana seat, riding around the small, gridded suburb we lived in -to friends' houses and just around in circles. Then I had a brief hiatus (3-4 years) after we moved to a rural area when I was growing so fast that none of my bikes ever quite fit, and I wasn't really old enough to ride the mile to the nearest subdivision on busy roads.  

Like many posters, I could easily have slipped away from bicycling.
However, my father started commuting to work (about 7 miles each way) when I was a teenager, and got both me and my brother touring bikes when we'd more or less stopped growing. We did a lot of recreational rides of 30-40 miles together through the beautiful Ozarks countryside, and I was a fair weather commuter in high school, and later to summer jobs.  

When I went to college, I didn't have a car, and it seemed natural to jump on my bike, even though Houston is not the most bicycle friendly city. I made some pretty foolhardy grocery runs, on a 4 lane arterial, with stuff strapped on my bike in some spectacularly unsafe ways. The alternative was to be trapped on campus, or begging a ride, and I valued the independence the bike gave me, just as it had when I was 8.

On an internship in Milan, the bicycle allowed me to explore neighborhoods and cover ground that no tourist would ever see. My ride home was a chance to unwind after a lot of stressful days, with a boss I was too green to realize was crazy. And it was an introduction to a new way of biking- in your normal clothes, on a simple bike with a light, a basket and a rear rack, simple gears, simple brakes, get on and go where you need to go. My dad was the stereotypical bike commuter in fluorescent spandex, and I'd always just followed suit, but no one did that in Italy and it was a revelation to me. Plus, even though traffic in Italy is the definition of chaotic, there were so many bikes and scooters, and the urban traffic was so dense, that drivers just accepted 2 wheeled vehicles- no honking, no hazing, no close passes, no right hooks. It probably helped that biking to work was almost a status symbol- that you could afford to live in the city center where you could take a short bike to work, and a lot of my fellow commuters wore Prada and Armani.

I don't even want to know how much I spent shipping my bicycle home. It was worth it though, because it's the bike I ride today, and 15 years ago, you just couldn't find that kind of city bike here.

I think that the big difference between riding as a kid and as an adult is that as kids we're not running errands and toting groceries or having to get somewhere by a specific time and looking like professional when we arrive. Kids bikes are about fun and a ration of independence, and so we enjoy them and have fun with them, but when we grow up and have to shoulder adult responsibilities, many people don't naturally think of bicycles as a way of accomplishing a grown up way of life.  

The general culture, and even the bicycle culture doesn't provide us with good tools for or images of living by bike. Many people in this country think of bicycles either as part of an elite sport, or as an extension of the fun they had when they were kids. As in, it's a lovely May day, let's pump up the tires, hunt down the helmets and go for a ride in the park. 
Interestingly the former has largely informed the latter, and most beginning or casual bikers think that they need spandex shorts in order to be comfortable for short rides, or when buying a bike are sold something that looks like a stripped down version of Lance's latest ride. Maybe after a couple of lovely excursions, they decide to try to ride to work- maybe save some on gas, get some exercise. The first problem is that they are unlikely to have a rack or a basket or something to carry their stuff, making it hard to take a change of clothes, or pick up some milk on the way home, and riding becomes impractical-something that makes life harder, not easier.
The second problem is that the techniques for safe riding on streets are completely different from riding in the park, and most riders don't know them, let along have the confidence to put them in place. Traffic is scary, and the whole process is intimidating and inconvenient and not fun, and people quickly decide it's not worth it.

It's possible, however, if you dig a bit, to find blogs like this,and this and this, and this. There's information on Xtracyles, and cargo trikes and Omafiets, and car free families, and the idea that other transportation cyclists (Yeti) are out there. It's not obvious,but if you dig a little you can find that, if properly equippped can mix the independence and fun of a kids bike with the duties and hauling capacity of an adult life.
And if you like to bike and you have kids, you can raise the next generation of cyclists, and they can realize that they don't have to leave and come back to bicycling, but can keep doing it all along.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Easing back in

I rode to work this morning, and it was a lovely day- just a few puffy white clouds and in the mid-50's.

I'm still easing back after my traffic meltdown of Monday, and decided to take the bike path along the Charles river so that there would be minimal traffic issues at least until I had to cross the river.

The ice was mostly gone at Harvard sq, but there was still an almost continuous sheet a little further down.
It was cracking and breaking in lovely geometric forms, and I had to stop myself from spending a lot of time taking pictures.

I was tempted to take the bike path home, but I'm a bit leery of biking it after dark.  I don't worry about my personal safety (other than traffic safety) at all biking in neighborhoods,  partly because in most Boston neighborhoods, there's always someone within help-screaming distance.   There's a long stretch of the bike path though that seems pretty deserted this time of year when there aren't many joggers.  Although because there aren't many joggers, a mugger might have to wait for a long time out in the cold before a potential victim arrived,  there are a fair number of marshy areas and bushes that seem like good places to hide.    Anyway,  I don't much care for riding at night in the winter from Longfellow to BU bridge.  I ended up cutting through cambridge to get back to the river (Trader Joe's run) and then I rode on the bike path from TJ to Harvard, where there are more pedestrians.  I was viscerally reminded of the dangers on riding on separated paths though, when I (fortunately) stopped to make sure I wasn't going to get right hooked if I rode into an intersection on a crosswalk.  Good thing I stopped because I would have been a hood ornament for the guy talking on his cell phone.  Different dangers,  and I think I'll take it- just have to be extra careful at the intersections.


I must be part magpie.
Whenever I see clothing in shiny silver or shiny grey, I have to touch it, and often have to try it on, much to the amusement of my shopping companions.  I had a gunmetal down coat when I first moved up to Boston that I wore until it literally fell apart.  I have a light silver light trench coat that I bought last fall for bicycling.

And now,  for the latest entry in my search for the perfect bicycling coat:

Like most people who bicycle in their regular clothes, I eschew fluorescent colored retro reflective cycling jackets.  I often have to go to meetings wearing my coat, and I'd have to bring a separate jacket to work, which kind of obviates the whole ride in your work clothes philosophy.
On the other hand, a black wool coat isn't the best thing to increase visibility when riding home after dark.  Unfortunately black goes with everything, and consequently I have a lot of black outerwear.  I compromise by wearing a retroreflective sash over black coats, but inevitably I have to shed a layer mid-ride and end up struggling with the sash and the coat all tangled up.
So a reflective grey/ silver coat would seem to be the perfect thing.  It's reasonably sober in daylight, therefore appropriate with regular clothes,  it goes with a wide variety of other colors like black does,  and when hit with a headlight's beam, it clearly is a human body.

The Scientist said when I tried it on that it looked like something from the matrix, but that it would be fine for riding in.  I like a good belted trench though, it's a classic look, which helps ground the shiny-ness (I hope).

My last silvery coat hasn't been all I hoped it would be.  I'm not crazy about the peter pan collar,the fit is kind of baggy and the lining is shredded at the sleeves already from being removed at stop lights a couple of times.  I've always meant to alter the collar and nip in the waist or belt it, but have never gotten around to it.  I'm hopeful that this one seems a little more substantial, and although it's not super warm, it seems heavier than the other one.
So far I have only two drawbacks.  The first is that it has buttons, which are hard to undo in motion.
 The second, and this is a bit of an odd thing, is that unlike a retroreflective fabric- this fabric is sort of peripherally reflective,  which means that I keep getting reflections in the corner of my eye that are caused by streetlights ahead of me bouncing off the sleeves, making me think that there's a car's headlights coming up from behind.  It happened several times that I thought someone was right behind me,  so it's a pretty strong effect.  We'll see if I get used to it.


Thanks for everyone who wrote in with support for taking some time off.
When I was walking to the T last night, the wind gusts were so strong they nearly blew me off my feet.  I saw a biker riding into it, and he was barely moving, head down with a bus lurking behind him- it really looked miserable.

On another topic though-  my giant pantry of canned goods was starting to get worn down a bit.
I have plenty of canned tomatoes (although I'm not sure I'll make it to tomato season) and canned peaches and jams,  but the "meals in a jar"  like Chili and Goulash were getting a bit thin.  It's really been enjoyable to get home on a Tuesday night and be able to pull out homemade goulash and have it ready in 5 minutes in the microwave.   It doesn't even have to defrost.

But it felt like it was time to recharge it a bit.  I made a big batch of spaghetti sauce and a big batch of broth this weekend, and hope to make some more bean soup and more goulash next weekend.

Here's a progress shot of last weekend's produce: 2 quarts, 3 pints of spaghetti sauce,  2 quarts, 4 pints of good chicken broth.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Washed out

This bike seemed oddly evocative of my mental state this morning. It's a balmy 52 degrees and everything is coated with a slick of water- half dirty slushy snowmelt, and half condensation on every surface that's been frozen for weeks.  Despite the warmth, I didn't ride today.  Partly because it's supposed to rain buckets this afternoon and partly because I just didn't have the energy.  Not physical energy, but the mental toughness needed to deal with riding in traffic.

I wish I didn't feel like riding my bike was like going into battle. It would be nice not to feel like I had to be contantly vigilant to avoid getting hit by someone on their cellphone or just not paying attention. I wish I didn't have to ride in the middle of the lane and piss massholes off in order to keep them from buzzing me.  I wish I wish I wish.....
Just couldn't face it today.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Cheap but bright

For the Roadster meeting on Saturday I had to take the DL out at dusk and would surely be returning after dark, and needed to do something about lighting.  I received a tail light for Christmas, and want to check out the new 2 watt Blaze from Planet Bike.   However, I decided I'd rather go have coffee with Filigree from Lovely Bicycle instead of trying to rush to REI (over the dreaded BU bridge) in the short time I had before the meeting.  So I improvised.

At Home Despot before Christmas I had noticed these little LED lights-  1 watt headlamps for $4.97.  I don't know if they still have them, might have to go back and pick up an extra one.  At that price, they were hard to resist, as my fancy camping headlamp is always hiding from me, and it would be good to have a spare.  When I got it home,  I was pleasantly surprised-  it had normal (pretty darn bright)  super bright, and flashing modes, was easy to open up for battery changes and had a decent headband setup.

I suppose I just could have strapped the headlight on my helmet and called it a day.  Somervillian had permanently affixed helmet lights fore and aft, and if you had as many bikes to ride as he does, it would make perfect sense.  But when I've tried that before, I haven't been happy with the aiming options and it didn't seem to work well.    So,  I cannibalized the mounting by removing the elastic headband, and then slipped a strap through the weave of the basket, and ran it through the slots where the elastic had been attached.

 Aside from first attaching it upside down at first, so that it kept slipping down to illuminate my front tire,  it was a simple solution that I thought was pretty darn bright.  Perhaps not the loveliest long term solution, although I have a slightly mangled retro light housing, and I might be able to retrofit it.

On the way out of the shop I saw an incoming rider with a very very bright front light.  I stopped him and enquired what kind of light he was running- it was the 2 watt Blaze that I'd been interested in, so I can confirm that it's the kind of bright that I've become accustomed to with my Schmidt.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Personal Mobility.

So after two nasty sleety icy days, dawn today was clear and much warmer than last week, and I shoveled a path to the bike shed and leaped on the chance to ride to work.  After just two days I was really feeling the loss of my personal mobility.  Since I do most of my shopping by bike, I tend to do it in small bursts, and run short pretty quickly if I don't have the bike for running errands.
Also the Scientist is still on Swiss time, and has been waking at 5 and conking out around 8,  and I've been getting home later than he, so I can't steal his car for some errands.  I'm afraid I've become spoiled and hate to run errands by T anymore.
Having the bike allows me to run my errands along my way home- varying my route depending on whether I need to hit the hardware store or the fish market.   I'm not sure that I would run those errands on weeknights if I had a car- because it's so hard to park in Cambridge that it would be less convenient.

If I owned an urban local business I would do all I could to encourage bicycling, because it's easier to shop at a lot of those places by bike than by car- if you run your errands by car, you're tempted to go somewhere with a big parking lot, probably a big box, probably out in the suburbs.

Sorry, no pictures today- go enjoy the ones at Lovely Bicycle of the Roadster meeting last weekend!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Called it

We had two wonderful days of 40 degrees plus this weekend.  I ran a bunch of errands on Robert Saturday, and there were tons of people on bikes out and about.  It was so warm I ended up shedding even my vest and my gloves and soaked in the sun.  I gave Robert a long-delayed bath,  and this time it was warm enough for me to actually do some scrubbing and get some of the grime out of the nooks and crevices.  I also re-adjusted the kickstand which keeps getting out of whack (probably due to the lack of a proper kickstand bridge).  Saturday I rode the DL over to Open Bicycle and met Filigree from Lovely Bicycle and Somervillian, and Luke, who I've just met, to talk about DL1's and vintage bikes in general.  It was great to put voices and faces to some people who I feel like I've "met" already through the interwebs.

Unfortunately one of the things we talked about is that the chain case which I had laboriously stripped bare of paint was not actually going to fit the DL,  so I was going to have to re-paint it, and try to sell it, and find another one that will fit.
I suppose I should put the Hockey stick back on for now,  but the chain case is really a deal breaker for me on almost any bike, as I think its an essential part of being able to jump on the bike in any clothing at any time.

I hadn't been to Open before (although I'd evidently ridden by a lot without noticing- it's kind of hidden underground).
The people were very friendly, and it was nice of them to provide space for us to hang out for hours.  They had some beautiful frames for sale-  nothing that would really work for me,  but great to ogle.
My favorite was this beauty with carbon fiber tubes with chromed lugs-  The sleek grey of the carbon is a lovely contrast to the gleam of the chrome.  If only it had been close to my size it might not have mattered that it was a diamond frame!

Sunday we cleaned the house and I had a chance to visit with an out of town friend and her son for the afternoon- it was a nice lazy day full of cups of tea, a dog on my lap, and a good book.

Well, it was too good to last.  This morning I woke up to the radio announcing 3-6 inches of heavy wet slushy snow for this morning.  Blech.  I wasn't really thinking of riding, but when the scientist came in from shoveling, he said it was especially slippery and nasty and cars were sliding around in it, and  I definitely shouldn't ride.    It was a good call, because I honestly had a hard time walking from the T to work- would have been much worse on a bike.  The snow was slippery and heavy,  devolving to slushy-newsprint colored saline puddles at intersections  and there was a howling wind that was so strong, I had to stop or be blown  over a couple of times.  Fortunately as a pedestrian, we have these nice flat pathways,  completely separated from the cars,  so that if you do happen to fall over, you're not in danger of getting run over by a multi-ton vehicle ;)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

You want you some cankles..I got your cankles right here...

I tried out my newest item in my winter riding arsenal today and they were kind of meh.
I don't know if I was too busy being a "skateboard punk rocker" to quote Michelle Shocked, or if the Flashdance thing didn't make it to rural Missouri,  but I never dressed like this in high school

I think I can say pretty certainly that that's a Good Thing.

However, as I was picking up tights at H&M, I decided to take a chance on some leg warmers.  For one thing they were a sober gray chunky knit, which seemed a bit less trendy,  and for another thing, it's been cold for a week now and I am getting tired of wearing boots with all my skirts.

So I took a chance  and I think there will be no argument that they definitely give one cankles.  They were considerably warmer than just tights, and I ended up wearing them at my desk for a couple of hours  (had to take them off quickly to go to a meeting).  However, I really want something that will be warm above the knee, and although I pulled them up that high, they refused to stay, settling just below the knee.  Not that my calves were complaining about the extra warmth,  they just weren't all I hoped they'd be, and I felt like a fashion victim, so I doubt I'll wear them much.  If I were ambitious, I'd dig out something fun from the giant stash of "future project" yarn and knit them for myself, but I've got enough projects that aren't moving forward already.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Red Riding Coat

I've started using a new coat for my daily ride.  It's a bit warmer than my silvery trench coat, and offers more coverage than my waist length soft shell.  I bought it a couple of years ago at a vintage shop and ended up not wearing it much because it wasn't terribly warm.  It's turned out to be a good weight for riding though-  relatively windproof,  and warm enough once I get going.  Even though it's not reflective,  I also like the fact that it's a bright color for a bit of extra visibility.

Today I also tried out a pair of wool blend tights that I got at H&M.  Overall it was pretty positive.  Wool tights I've had before tend to be saggy and baggy- no problem with these.  And they did seem significantly warmer than the regular tights I've been wearing the last couple of days.  I don't think I would have dared to wear mary janes (instead of boots) if I hadn't had that extra warmth.
They have a design around the ankle that I'm a bit ambivalent about.  I'm not a big flower print (or pink) girl and  it seemed a bit like they gave me cankles.  Perhaps it was partly because of the proximity with Mary Janes. Just a bit too much going on.   I still will probably go get a set in black that I can always wear with taller boots to cover the flowers if I decide they're too much.

Other than my wardrobe, it was a bit of an eventful day.
Came out of the house to find a cab double parked in the bike land in front of it.  I asked him nicely to move to the open parking spot on the other side of the road.  He refused, rudely, so I called the Cambridge Police.  They said that they could send a car, but that it probably wouldn't get there in time.  They suggested I call the cab company.  I did, and they suggested I call the licensing bureau.  I went ahead and did it, even though he had already left, and I'm skeptical that  it will really make a difference.  I was mad, though,  and it made me feel a bit better.
After that, I biked through Central on my way to work- not my favorite route- it feels like being in a video game, with trucks and buses, and pedestrians springing out from between parked cars, but that's the most convenient dry cleaner, and  I really needed to take some stuff by.
On the errand front,  I also took some knives in to be sharpened.  I try to get them professionally sharpened once a year (in January)  and often it seems that I've done it on the T and felt a little self conscious with a 8" knife in my bag.  Much easier on the bike. Although the knife place had "no bicycle parking" signs on their railing and no place to park nearby which was a bit annoying.
It was super cold this evening- maybe just because it was so windy, but it was a bit of a tough ride home.
One nice thing though was that while stopped at a light, the car next to me rolled down his window to inquire about my headlight and compliment it's brightness.  He said that coming up behind him, he thought it was a motorcycle.

Calling Betty Draper

I was in H&M yesterday picking up some wool blend tights,  and I saw these:

Someone on H&M's design staff has been watching Mad Men.
I'm not crazy about the colorways,  but I might have to get one, just for the pleasure of riding in one of those bouffant skirts!

comfort cauliflower

A friend of mine from high school was in town and we spent a lot of time  Sunday walking around in frigid weather.  After we were done walking around today in downtown boston, I biked home in the twilight, and by the time I got home I was really chilled.  I changed into warm dry clothes, had some tea,  sat and read under a blanket- nothing was helping.  It was time for comfort food!

This is a favorite of mine. The Scientist isn't as fond of cauliflower as I am, so I tend to save it for when he's away.  I got the recipe from a cookbook called 101 Sicilian American recipes you can't refuse,  but I've seen something similar in a Minimalist column.  To me it's just everything I want in comfort food- some spice, some garlic, a tiny bit bitter, but with a rich mouthfeel, brimming with umami...

Cauliflower Pesto

1 head cauliflower
1 onion chopped
3 cloves of garlic minced,
1 tsp red pepper flakes
 2 anchovies
1 tbs capers
pasta (prefereably short chunky shapes)
parmesan cheese at the table.

Bring a big pot of  salted water to boil and add the cauliflower, broken roughly into chunks.
Saute the onions in olive oil, adding the red pepper, anchovies and garlic when the onions are getting a little brown.  Mash the anchovies up with the back of a spoon until they are like a paste, and hold at lowe heat.
When the Cauliflower is cooked,  remove the florets from the water, keeping the boiling water to use for the pasta.   Add the florets to the onions, and stir to combine, adding the capers-  you might need another glug of olive oil.
When the pasta is done, toss with the cauliflower and top with the parmesan cheese.
Serves 4.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


Oh Come on!

Leave the poor bike shaped object some shred of decency, can't you?

Poor thing.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Snowy morning ride

So I caught the part of the weather report that said we would get a dusting of snow today, but I missed when it would start,  so it was a bit of a surprise when I opened the door to see small floating flakes.
The Scientist and I had run an errand together right after work, so my bike was at MIT.  On the drive there, I was trying to decide whether to take the T in from MIT, or bike in.  MIT is about the halfway point of my normal ride, and it didn't seem like it was coming down very hard, so I decided to bike it- deciding that I'd rather be riding through it, than walking through it between the T station and my office.

Within a block, I realized that I needed eye protection.  It was kind of grey and overcast, but I tried my sunglasses and they worked without making it too dark.

I saw several other bikers out- I think that the no-accumulation forecast, made people more willing to try it.  The visibility was kinda blah- I took some extra precautions like wearing my reflective sash, turning on my basket lights and my extra rear light just to make myself a little extra noticeable.

Downtown boston, over the frozen river.  My phone wasn't up to capturing the flakes fluttering around, I'm afraid, but it captures the grey morning light pretty well.

Self portrait with train.  I wonder if anyone was looking out and wondering WTF?  Even though it wasn't coming down too hard, you can see how I was accumulating snow in my scarf.  Better snow than rain, I'll have to say, although rain would help clean the snow out of the frozen bike lanes.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

further thoughts on lane taking

I was biking across the Longfellow (brrr) and wrestling with my skirt which was attempting to ride up above a decent height, when I had a further thought on taking the lane.

I was listening to Terry Gross interview John Hamm (of Mad Men)  on Fresh Air a while ago, and she was remarking that the character of Don Draper has a way of crossing his legs that says  "not only do I own the space I'm in,  I own ALL of this extra space around me"  It's just a subtly Alpha sort of thing to do- claiming territory with your body language.  Maybe you had to hear how she said it, but it completely made me think of the attitude that you have to have when you take the lane.

I'm going to skirt around the gender issues of territorial marking, and how that may or may not relate to women's and men's attitudes towards vehicular cycling.  However I think that there is an interesting parallel between body language and bike position language.  Taking the lane says "here I am, this is MY space",  whereas hugging the gutter is cringingly apologetic- "sorry I'm in your way,  I don't mean to be, oops, sorry, don't mind me."

It doesn't have to be an aggressive thing- it's more about self confidence, and the respect that self confidence engenders in others.   I get it,  I understand how and why it works, but I also can completely understand how someone beginning cycling,  perhaps a bit shaky,  perhaps a bit slow,  is not really going to have the self confidence to claim that extra space.  And although I practice vehicular cycling much of the time,  I think it's really important to have more protected facilities that will give people new to cycling a chance to get a little more comfortable with the feel of biking in the street and a sense of the rhythms of traffic- a chance to build the self confidence to take the lane.
I wasn't really looking forward to today's lunch- I was trying to clean out the fridge, and saw a recipe in the NY Times Eating for Health that had a lot of the "must Goes" in it, so I adapted it, but wasn't expecting much..
It was so good, and I was so surprised, that I thought I'd share -

1 cup cooked black eyed peas,  1 cup cooked chard,  a Tbs or so of balsamic vinagrette,  1/2 chopped red pepper and 2 tbs cotija cheese. a couple of sprigs of cilantro
I warmed the BEP and the chard just long enough to be about room temperature,  tossed in the cheese, pepper and cilantro and "dressed it" with the vinagrette.  My beans had a lot of pepper in them, so if you used canned, I would add some black pepper to the vinagrette.

Wow!  the red pepper and the chard and the smoky-peppery beans with a little smoothing from the cheese and the oil in the vinegrette-  it just all came together in a way that was more than the sum of the parts.

It's pretty too- although my camera phone doesn't do it justice.  The red of the peppers and the green of the chard compensate for the dull gray beans, with flecks of white cheese for accent.

I'm almost tempted to make it again for the Scientist for dinner,  Except there's not much chard left- maybe I'll just make it for myself again for lunch :)

taking the WHOLE lane

Especially now that Robert is back to full power,  I'm not the kind of girl who's afraid to take the lane, especially when the side of the road is a mini-glacier.
I understand why people have a hard time doing that- and I can completely sympathize with someone who doesn't feel comfortable doing it.  You have to be willing to make people wait for you- and it's tough to put yourself in front  of fast moving cars and assume that they see you and won't react angrily to you being "in their way". 

So I was riding down Broadway today in my normal position, about 2 1/2" left of the white line which normally is plenty of space to make people commit to going into the other lane to pass.  There are two lanes each way there, and traffic is really pretty light.  However,  twice today people tried to pass me WAY too close.  After the 2nd one, I moved in the to absolute middle of the lane- about 5' from the right line.   
No problems after that.  Even the obnoxious cabbie who I thought was going to give me a hard time, patiently waited and passed by going completely into the other lane.

 I guess sometimes you gotta take the WHOLE lane.

Monday, January 4, 2010

took the long way

So I decided to try to ride to work today after this weekend's storm.  Although it snowed all weekend we only got about 8", and the streets were pretty clear.  The bike lane outside my house though was a solid iceflow, and although I knew that most of my roads in Cambridge were pretty low traffic, so I could take the lane, I decided not to go my normal route.  Instead I decided to check out what I'd heard about the Charles River path and take the long way to work to see how it was in the snow.   DCR, the state agency which is in charge of the paths, the parks and actually the roads on both sides and across the Charles is not great about plowing the charles paths, and it's a real advocacy issue, especially for people who are coming in from the west and NW and who really don't have any other bike friendly ways to get downtown.
So sometimes they plow, and sometimes they "don't get around to it"  which is almost worse than not ever plowing, because there's always a chance, but you're often disappointed. DCR has had a lot of problems understanding that some people bicycle to get places, not just for fun on a sunny day.  Although I dare say they are finding it out as there has been an active bicycle advocacy voice on a couple of recent DCR projects, including the reconstruction of the dam bridges at the Museum on Science and the BU bridge overhaul.

This year a local running shoe company, New Balance, made a contribution to pay to plow the paths all the way from Watertown to the Museum of Science (about 26 miles round trip).  If anyone from the FCC is listening- yes NB provided me with  a good or service for free- the nicely plowed pathway by which I got to work!

Again, the little streets close to home were the worst- mashed up snow with the consistency of mashed potatoes.   Once I got on the river paths,  it was fairly smooth packed snow, on which I could proceed slowly but fairly steadily.  It was a beautiful morning- clear and crisp with lovely rosy light.

I only saw one set of other bike tracks,  but there were 5 or 6 runners.  And when I got to work, one of my coworkers had biked in as well.  He'd biked via the streets all the way and said it wasn't bad.

The bikes were covered in salty slush, and our office is carpeted, so we put the bikes on a big piece of cardboard and gave them a bit of a wipedown to get some of the salty grit off them.  I might have to get a bucket of water and give Robert a sluicedown one of these days soon.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Snowy ride survival

It went Ok, although my cream wool pants might not have been the best choice for Thursday's weather- they're going to need a trip to the drycleaner-hopefully that will get out the spots on the back of the legs- I'm not sure how I got spots on the BACK of my legs actually. It might have been from walking from the bike rack to the front door of Whole Foods where I stopped on my way home. The ride itself was pretty smooth- I went slowly and there was really not much traffic on the road, and most of that was being extra cautious anyway. The street my office was on was a bit dicey and I fishtailed a bit, but the heavy bike and the slow speed meant I felt reasonably in control. After that the roads were sloppy, but not terribly slick until just a couple of blocks from home where I cut across on some side streets, and those were firm packed snow- not too bad.

I was glad to get home though, and have been hunkered down for most of the rest of the weekend- fighting off the Scientist's cold and being glad not to be out in the follow up snowstorm!