Archive | April, 2010

looking past your partner’s shortcomings as a shower-taker

29 Apr

Dear Al Gore, Aquaman, et al:

It’s true, I take epic showers. I am but a simple girl, and hot water on a cold morning is one of my primary joys in life. To atone for this despicable habit, there are a number of things I choose not to do, like:

1) Clearcutting

2) seal-clubbing

3) enlarging my bouffant with aerosol hairspray

4) heroin

So…are we cool? If so, please SHUT THE DOOR. It’s cold out there.




Strategies for Speeding Up Your Partner’s Long Shower

28 Apr

Let’s say you’re waiting to take your own shower, or possibly even waiting to get going on a nice bike ride, your clipless shoes tapping on the floor. Here are some things you might try, cracking the door of the bathroom open, and voicing into the steamy, obscuring void. I haven’t had much luck with them myself, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying them out (or from sending me your suggestions).

“Al Gore called… says he’s very, very disappointed.”

“The City of (neighboring rival municipality) called to warmly thank you for helping them win the regional water conservation challenge.”

“The City of (your town) called. They wanted to know if everything is okay.”

“Aquaman called. It sounded like a dolphin speaking, but the gist of it was: WTF?”

“Al Gore called… he’s over at Aquaman’s, and no it’s not what you think. Anyway, they were both wondering, WTF?”

“Just wanted to say, I predict you’re going to be doomed to reincarnate as a goldfish, you know, doing the circuit of your small, dirty tank, waiting for your college sophomore owner to sprinkle some ‘nutrient flakes’ your way except she keeps forgetting, because she just got a new boyfriend and has other things on her mind right now, and then you’re going to die and this time be reincarnated as a nutrient flake. Just saying.”

Zucchini, Mushroom, Pancetta & Parmigiano Pasta

26 Apr

Here’s the modified version of the recipe, as mentioned as a possibility the other day. For the most part it’s very similar, save for mushrooms, zucchini and a little extra butter to help with the added bulk (to add to your bulk, too).

So yummy!

2 – 4 oz. pancetta, sliced 1/4 inch thick

1 medium zucchini

6 – 8 mushrooms

3 Tbsp. unsalted butter

2 servings of your favorite pasta, about 4 – 6 dried ounces (today we used orecchiette)

Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

The instructions are pretty much the same as below. Once the pancetta has started to get ‘loose and translucent’ go ahead and add your veggies, so they’re nicely grilled in the cast iron, soaking up a little of the pancetta life essence. SurlyLady suggested we chop the veggies into sizes relative to the pancetta and pasta shapes; this totally worked for me as I’m a chopped salad, get a little of everything in one bite kind of guy. Which is often why I bite off more than I can chew.

Then toward the end of your almost-browning sequence, add the 3 Tbsp of unsalted butter, then stir for a minute or so; remove from heat before the butter has completely melted; it’ll soon reduce down; finish with a few stirs once off the heat; I say all of this because I don’t like to ‘reduce’ the butter all the way, try to keep it for the most part as part of a ‘fluid’ situation.

Everything else is the same, get your pasta going (tonight we used orecciette or ‘little ears’… so much better than the infamous Roman pasta ‘little noses’ or nostrumiette) and then about 5 minutes out return the pancetta, butter, zucchini and mushroom combo back to heat. Spoon out the pasta and add to your skillet, remembering it’s okay to slop a little pasta water in there, gives it that nice patina, and then throw about 5/8ths of your grated parmigiano in to thicken the plot… top with the remainder and, presto, you’re prego!

Pancetta you betta

Easy way to get some greens in your Italian stylin'

Shhh... little ears are listening...

Homemade bread...

Plus homemade butter = so good! If not so Italian, shrug.

Snohomish Bicycles

26 Apr

A kindly reader has pointed out that the URL for the bike shop I mentioned in yesterday’s post is here:

It was because the URL was such a mysteriously complex, database-driven amalgam that I wasn’t able to figure it out… cough…

And the reader mentioned a century, sponsored by the shop, coming up in late May. I think we may just join in, as going to LaConner from Snohomish sounds like it would be gorgeous! I’m thinking Skagit Valley might be a huge ‘untapped’ demographic for the Surly Twins. Here’re the details:

Snohomish Century ~ 100 mi
Saturday May 29th, 8:00am
Snohomish to La Conner, WA
Snohomish Bicycles proudly presents our first Century ride! From the Bike shop in Snohomish all the way to La Conner and back (details coming soon). If you have been itching to complete your first Century this is the perfect time to join other Snohomish riders and then brag about it to all of your friends at work.
For more information call the shop at: 360-862-8300

Full Tolt!

25 Apr

We just discovered the mostest fun and coolest ride-from-our-house loop of all time today!

It started by accident; busy week; too busy to think about what ride to do on Sunday (forecast looked good, was all we knew); too busy and tired even to invite KonaLad, because of previous point: we didn’t know what we were doing; Saturday night I Google Biked a map out to Duvall, up to Monroe, then to Snohomish, and back down to Bothell; we said hells yes let’s do it.

Today then, cruising down MLT to the Burke at LFP, then onto the Sammamish River Trail for a bit. Turned left at the road the Redhook Brewery is on and… get instantly lost. The map pdf I’d emailed myself was very confusing. So, I whipped out the iPhone and we decided to make our own new adventure! We went straight up the hill from the Redhook, past a Tully’s and a Quiznos (good to know for future reference that these are so close to Samm Trail) and up into some gorgeously shaded hills on 156th Pl NE. This turned into 145th, as we crested the hill and found ourselves in Richie Rich mansion/farm land. Then left on 168th and – holy hannah – onto the Tolt Pipeline trail!

Tolt .45

My heart was singing. My mouth was singing. My rusty chain was singing! Being from Seattle and learning how to play drums to grunge bands led to the following renditions:

1) I’m gonna break, I’m gonna break myyyy, gonna break my rusty chaaaaaaiiiiin.

2) Sweet lubed chain ain’t lubed no more… derr dur derr, derr dur derr… sweet lubed chain ain’t lubed no more… you just wait till your father get’s home… (and sees that rusty chaaaaaaiiiiin!!!!)

Nothing is better than road riding combined with dirt/gravel/mountain riding! Nothing! Okay, noshing with the Finnish bikini team in a cheesecake factory where the door prizes are free singlespeed cyclocross bikes in a milky sky blue color with Thomson components is marginally better.

I hereby declare and announce a soon-to-be-announced SurlyLad Invitational! Details to follow. Get yer knobbied road bikes ready, s’all I’m sayin’.

I just rode up that on a road bike???

We had a blast on the gravel. Got going way too fast in some spots. It was marvy seeing the incredulous look on people’s faces as we toodled by on roadie bikes… or maybe it was just my pale hairy legs that led to the incredulity:

Trying out for a western movie.

Okay, after time, things got way less Soundgarden or Mudhoney and more Elliott Smith – it was that beautiful. At the end we went down a very steep hill, too steep to ride really, and then onto what looked like a private road which in turn was incredibly steep. I honestly don’t think I’ve been so leaned back on a road bike before, leaned back to avoid tipping forward. It was nuts. Then we landed on the W Snoqualmie Valley Rd. Wow, what a trip so far! We were both pleased as punch.

The W. Snoqualmie Valley Rd, going North, has a lot of gnarly rollers; we saw a ton of bikers going the other way, downhillish, and saw only one other biker going toward Snohomish. I thought for a minute ’bout having us head over to Monroe, and then up to Snohomish, past Lord Hill park on that lovely old road, but instead we kept Northing, up Connelly, onto Broadway briefly for that breathtaking race down the hill ahead of traffic, and then the dramatic turn onto Springhetti (sp?) and onto the even more breathtaking curve looking out over the valley of the town of Snohomish. Lovely country indeed.

Shame it's so ugly up here...

Up Springhetti road then, with eager noses and tummies pointed North with hopes of Pilchuck Drive-In in mind. SurlyLady probably thought I had my cheeseburger afterburners on, but as we neared the Snohomish city limits I noticed I was rocking up and down more than usual… perhaps because my internal mental iPod shuffled to some Red Red Meat tunage regarding chains, rusty and otherwise?

No, my first thought was that I needed to change gears. Bar end shifter activated. Hmm. Nope. Still bouncing up and down. Damn! Maybe my seatpost is slipping! Double damn, because I had that sucker dialed in perfectly. Or… uh oh. Looked over to the side, like a WWI pilot inspecting undercarriage… is that rear tire looking a little poochie? All I’ve had so far are a few M&Ms… few minutes later, look over again, oh yeah, it’s poochy. By this time I had Snohomish’s 1st Ave in sight and I kicked it up a notch, hoping to make it to Pilchuck Drive-In before I went totally flat. So, raced through downtown Snohomish, up a steepish hill, raced right, booked it down about five blocks, hit a green light perfectly, turned left, careful not to lean too much or strain the tire and then rolled up to the restaurant just as the last of the air expired. Well. That can wait until after we eat.

After chow time, I got the wheel off, the tire off, and examined the tube. Hmm. Couldn’t find anything, great it’s going to be one of those mystery… Ah! While checking the tire itself I came across what looked like a carpet tack. Well, a direct hit from a carpet tack is going to dent even a Schwalbe Marathon, I’spose. So, all fixed up I pumped her up to about 40psi and we hopped down the road to a nice little bike shop, Snohomish Cycles, to borrow a floor pump. I’m glad I did because we had a lot of adventure ridin’ ahead of us! (incidentally racers, they have some sweet looking built-up Focus and Felt bikes in that shop… 1st Ave in Snohomish… couldn’t find a website).

So back down Springhetti, up those brutal Broadway hills and eventually Southed to Maltby, just outside the Maltby Cafe. If you ever want to see the most obscenely huge cinnamon roll, and also quite good, but a metaphor for all that’s wrong with this country, check this place out! Also, if you order a burger they make you sign a waiver, FYI. (We went there a couple of years ago and it took me a week to recover!).

Then another fateful choice. You have to understand, we’ve been winging it the whole way, the whole day, dependent on the iPhone and Google Map App. The road West looked kinda crummy, with no shoulder and lots of really big trucks. The road sort of South-East down past Paradise Valley looked… well, like Paradise. So we went that way. And oh yeah, it was another amazingly lovely stretch. There’s a cool mountain bike park there, BTW.

So down that Paradise Valley (no didn’t think of G’n’R… gritting teeth… not going to think of them… crappy L.A. pre-grunge… whew, the moment passed) we went. Things petered out at the Woodinville Duvall Road, which we scooted up a ways, to turn left on 194th which is a quiet slice of country ‘burb life, in order to avoid some of the thicker roads, and then we took NE 165th all the way due West, past greenbelts and protected marshlands and more gorgeous country ‘burbs until we got to Woodinville, then down some exciting forested hill roads to wind up right smack near Ooba Tooba in Woodinville, just a scant mile or so from joining the Sammamish Valley Trail, which we did.

All in all, this day and this ride rocked. Beautiful weather, that crisp early spring coolness with a pinkish sun feel, and happy bikers everywhere.

Best of all, what we learned today were two corridors from our house in MLT down to the main trails on Lake Washington, through Woodinville/North Redmond, and out into the Snoqualmie Valley. It’s kind of nice to not have to go way down south to cut over near Ames Lake. And, even bestest of all, this new mixed surface route could lead to some seriously fun cyclocross days: Tolt Pipeline trail to Duvall, onto the Skagit Valley Trail and onto Iron Horse; Tolt down and over to Monroe-ish, with a dirt detour to Lord Hill; or Tolt down to Duvall, Skagit Valley Trail to Carnation, and up to the Tolt-McDonald plateau for some 700c offroading, to offend all the suspended types.

Aw hells yeah!

Dirty panda.

grey is good

23 Apr

Yesterday, the lad and I celebrated Earth Day by driving our car to work. And it was a good thing, because halfway through the day, in the middle of a meeting that had for some reason been overrun by tiny, surprisingly opinionated and adorable people participating in Bring Your Offspring to Work Day, my stomach started getting all stabby. I ignored it, as I am wont, but an hour later the stabby had progressed to a total knife fight and my belly was pretty much putting on its own production of The Outsiders (oh Johnny, you were too good for this world). So I hobbled off to the car and the lad, thank the lord, drove me home and I am now actively ignoring the fact that I should probably give my stomach lining a break and stop drinking coffee, because when it comes to a steamy cup of perfectly bitter, acidic coffee versus no steamy cup of perfectly bitter, acidic coffee, maybe some stabs in the belly are tolerable.

Anyway, the point I forgot to make in all that is that yesterday was gorgeous, sunny and warm, and would have been a lovely day for a bike ride. Today dawned gorgeous and sunny, so my hopes were up. Which is why I ignored the first rule of spring commuting in Seattle and left my good raincoat and booties at home. Hahahaha! Apparently the earth was getting back at me for driving yesterday, because as I was waiting around for the lad after work, the clouds built up and the rain let loose and by the time we hit the streets it was slicker than spit. We sloshed along and I got to thinking about a day on our trip to Italy. My sense memories of that place are fewer and further between these days, so when they come on I make sure to indulge them. This one was from our second-to-last day on the Amalfi Coast. We’d planned to wake up early for a really long hike up and around the hillsides, but that morning it was dumping rain, super cold and so windy our hoods wouldn’t stay up. After much hemming and hawing (and brr-ing and cursing) we decided to try a different route, and headed down the hill toward the coast. It rained with a vengeance for a good couple hours, but we were determined to see as much as we could. And we saw some amazing stuff—patches of teensy, perfect purple flowers, enormous aloe plants covering the hillsides, big boulders with trail directions painted on them and tiny plants growing out of cracks in the rock. We walked on a cactus-lined trail that was almost totally overgrown, just feet away from the cliff that dropped off over the greener-than-green Mediterranean. We made our way down a zillion slippery stone steps, covered with moss and fallen walnuts. Then the sun came out and we were on the coast road, and because we had walked for hours and those freaking stone steps hurt like a mofo we were going to catch a bus into Amalfi, but it was suddenly so sunny and warm and there was no traffic so we just kept walking all the way into town. I’m so glad we saw both sides of those towns, weather-wise. The greyness made all the green so much more GREEN—the plants were every bit as striking as the art we saw in the museums in Rome, and I doubt that would have been as noticeable had it been sunny the whole time. It made a huge impression on me at the time, and it’s a good thing to remember here, now, when the clouds start to rumble and I start to grumble.


23 Apr

Sunny ride in the morning, rainy in the P.M. – very unprevailing for the usual Seattle weather pattern. On the way home, as it started raining, and as I was fully half an hour late, and as the SurlyLady was steaming mad, and steaming from the rain that had just started, we caught up with IbisLad who was on his full carbon Ibis bike – sans mudflaps because he too had thought today was looking marvy sunny. I myself had worn sunglasses in the morning, such was the confidence, and of course they weren’t too great for the preternaturally dark ride home. However, it was nice to chat with IbisLad – he’s the team captain of our commuting crew for the Group Health May Commuter Challenge, and therefore gets all the sweet freebies including beer, tchotkes, Freddy Mertz frames, and so on.

IbisLad told me about his new 29-er hardtail and that got me to thinking… swirling music and montage of bicycle websites in rapid fashion to indicate the progress of time… and somehow I found myself finding out that Kogswell bikes are no longer, and that they are selling out of their 650b frames, 56cm for instance for $250! I’m very tempted. I’d have to get new wheels. But most of the Surly parts might go. Hmm. Lower trail rake for real randonneuring, with the handlebar bag and better handling? Ah, I don’t know. I love the Trucker the way she is. Hmm.

As for the title of the post. I’ve been talking to some people at work about health stuff, and certainly that includes riding bikes. It’s been a very interesting thing. Telling people you’ve lost 100 pounds really gets their attention. It sort of ‘validates’ anything you say, or at least sets up a context that’s big or epic enough. Rather than, say, 30 pounds. So, I’ve found myself talking to people and using the word differential.

For bike commuting, there’s a huge differential potential.

If driving or busing to work is the most stressful part of your day, or one of the least favorite, imagine taking that 1 – 3 hours out of the minus column and putting them in the plus column by riding to work. Riding through fresh air. Feeling the vibration of the tires on the road. Feeling the bugs bounce off your chin. Hearing the sound of the water spraying off the inside of your fenders, that tang your chain starts to get as it gets wet, that grinding sound your rims make in the rain as they’re full of mud and grit, the feel of a worn-in leather saddle against your pants, that familiar grip on the ramps above the brake hoods, your favorite gloves with their mingled smells of grease and snot and sweat and handlebar wrap, the click of your shoes in the pedals, the freewheel of course, standing up to sprint just because you feel like it and it’s a spring day and everything feels possible, hearing the saddlebag contents swaying from side to side as you jockey the bike up a hill – all of this and a thousand times more sensory inputs. Switching those for a sneezing neighbor on the bus, or a yakkity-yakker who thinks he knows about ‘The Market’, or the guy who sits on the aisle seat and dares anyone to take the empty window seat next to him, the traffic that you get stuck in as you near downtown. I won’t even bother mentioning the car commuters and their hell. Imagine those who say live in Black Diamond and drive to Seattle, it must absolutely stink to drive through that, the pain in the right leg from all the shifting, the blathering radio, the inordinate sense that this is all too inordinate!

Anyway, imagine being able to put your commute in the plus column. It’s a huge differential shift. I actually look forward to commuting by bike; on the days I don’t, I always feel a little off. When I do, after I’ve showered and logged into email to see what kind of crap has hit the fan, I feel like I have an invisible armor protecting me from those day-to-day pains; awful emails from people clearly unhappy with their job just bounce off. Days I don’t ride? Such emails stick, and fester, because now I’m closer to that tribe of folk unhappy with the way things are. I get a little grumpier.

As I said, I’ve had a chance to speak with a few people at work. They like my story. When they get a chance to put a word in (ha!) and the conversation turns to their needs, I do have to admit a private realization: I don’t think I’d ever want to be a personal coach, or trainer. I’ve had several occasions when I’ve told my story, I’ve lost so much weight sure but better than that, I’m happy! So invincibly happy! And confident. I literally feel like I can do anything. If I can lose 100 pounds, and join a gym, and sign up for a 5-mile run, I mean, I just know I can do anything. It pays dividends all across the board. The reason why I don’t think I could coach someone is I’ll mention something like how one tactic that’s worked for me is to have goals. Ink something on the calendar that pushes me, that’s incremental, that I need to pay to do or sign up for or in some formal way commit to. Have it be sufficiently far off enough so that there’s time to prepare, and also time to elongate the training/preparing/improving arc. And every time I say this, and mention that the goal should be based on some kind of movement, because movement is the key, whether it’s kayaking or walking or biking or whatever, I often get this sort of veiled look, an uncertain, ‘Yeah, I could do that… maybe…’ – they lack the vision to see themselves in an end state, a presumably better state. I look at them and I can totally see it. And so I guess I’m saying there’s this crucial criteria for success in this sort of thing. You’ve got to really, really want it. You’ve got to be willing to suffer for it. To seek out the painful. To be embarrassed by your size (by the way, if you’re biking, all those other bikers are so self obsessed with their team kit or fancy bike they’re not even going to notice you – throw on some sunglasses, feel the wind in your face, and breeze along in virtual and splendid isolation… keep at it enough, and soon you’ll become one of those self-obssessed bikers in team kit and matching bootie covers).

Finally, like all mortals, no matter their station or size, you’ve got to admit and submit to the age-old formula, i.e. burn more calories than you eat. Period. I wish I could somehow show these folks the vision that I see in my head, the possibility. The before-and-after snapshots I can so easily transpose on to them, because I see it in the mirror every morning myself. And it’s so much more dimensional than those hipstamatic instant snaps, it’s the whole shebang too, it changes your personal culture, and those extra dimensional changes become self-perpetuating and self-reinforcing; at the start of the journey you will find many Catch 22’s that prohibit or blunt progress; past a certain hump, you’ll find that one thing you focus or improve on will in turn improve on something else, so that you create your own butterfly effect, in your own personal universe, you’ll have anti- and sympathetic self-mutual benefitizations, that self-perpetuating dynamo.

One fellow, who happens to work in the lunch room, and as such is sort of like the bartender to the guy trying to cut out the alcoholism thing, is always commenting on my progress. Constantly. We talk often. Every time I make a point of being super positive, offering suggestions sure but really just offering logical positivism (ha!). Today I asked how his hypnosis was going (and really, to vent, if you have to hypnotize yourself to effect a change, then I mean, well that’s just screwy… sorry) and he said he’d lost about 4 pounds. And that his latest thing was he was drinking one real beer at night to relax, and not three light beers. He actually used the word ‘reward.’ All apologies to beer drinkers out there… but the reward trap is a deadly one. I wish I could find a way to say, if you felt better about yourself, you wouldn’t want to drink beer after a rough day… you wouldn’t have a rough day in the first place! Or much less likely so.

For my part, I’ve noticed a dramatic change in my palette. It really kicked in with the trip to Italy, I have to say. Tonight, for instance, the way I ‘rewarded’ myself for an okay day at work but a fun bike ride home, was to (with the ‘Lady) bake a loaf of home-made bread (we made them from scratch and stored the dough in the fridge and have been making loaves all week! Why is the ‘Lady laughing so hard?) and then make our own pasta sauce (San Marzano tomatoes and butter!) and then have some nice gemelli pasta, with that wonderful sauce, with a couple of nicely chewy fresh mozzarella pieces from Whole Foods, along with a nice bite of bread we made (again, have to keep saying that). Every piece of that combo has a distinct life or entity or place in the palette. Imagine Bob Ross as an Italian chef: So you want to put a happy little bit of basil green over here, see how that goes? It’s a happy bit of basil. Now let’s give it some nice little sprinkles of pecorino, not too much… just a little bit. Just a little happy little bit.

To wrap this up! (the ‘Lady is patiently waiting… I’m lousy for the new Twitter age aren’t I)… I don’t know shit. I mess up all the time. I make mistakes every day. I have huge cookies when I shouldn’t. I don’t eat enough veggies. I don’t do this or that. But every day I keep trying. I keep honest. I have expectations, but they’re long-term ones. I don’t expect miracles, and I’ve learned through hard experience that there’s no easy fix. When I talk to some people about taking two years to lose 100 pounds I can see they immediately start to tune out… which is too bad. I make a frankly crummy inspirational speaker.

So instead, I’ll leave you with some Helprin, who’s much better at it than I… from Memoir from Antproof Case:

Even after the war, even now, when faced with something that I fear, I tend to eat spaghetti. When I eat pasta primavera, or linguine with crushed tomatoes and hot pepper, I become tranquil and melancholy…