Saturday, February 28, 2015

Caturnalia: Snow days

It was suggested to me once that Coda might be part "Norwegian Forest Cat." He certainly acts like one but when it comes to snow he seems to have a way of fitting right in.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Foodie Friday: Snow days are baking days

I do know what it is about a sudden day off from work that makes me want to bake but it does. When I say "off work" I really mean "working" from home. Baking is a great when I am stuck at home all day. I can bake. I can work. I can bake again. I could have gone into work yesterday but the offices were officially closed so I stayed home and made chocolate chip cookies and baked fresh loaves of cinnamon swirl bread. I do not make bread often but I simply could not help myself after everyone rushed out to buy bread only to make fun of everyone else rushing out to buy bread. 

 I have tried a lot of chocolate chip cookie recipes that claim to be the best but I think I finally found the one. If there is one question you should say yes to once in your life . . .  Do you want to try my cookie? The funny thing is we all have a different opinion on what makes a great chocolate chip cookie. Some like them crunchy while others like them soft. Some prefer a combination of the two: crisp edges with an under cooked center. Some prefer their cookies to contain chunks vs chips while others like adulterants such as cinnamon or even instant espresso. There are yellow cookies and golden brown cookies and a whole host of variations in between. Of course there are also some people who don't care at all about the cookie and just want the dough straight up. I personally prefer my chocolate chip cookies to be big, golden brown, and cooked just to the point where the chocolate chips are just thinking about melting. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Monday Motivation: False Prophets

"We search too much for false prophets. Success comes from within. It comes from consistent dedication to core principles and values. " -Amby Burfoot

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Carturnalia: Schmidt hates cats

I love Schmidt about as much as I love cats.

Silly Schmidt

Friday, February 20, 2015

Foodie Friday: King Cake

This week my culinary adventures have been about as uninspired as everything else. I sent this picture to a friend who responded "I think Smudge is unimpressed with your dinner." Well I was unimpressed with my dinner. It was 20 degrees out and after a long day the best I can do is eat cold leftovers? Ugh, I just don't do winter. 

So the crowning glory of my week was making a King Cake for Fat Tuesday. Oh excuse me, I made 3 King Cakes. I ate one of them but it still counts! King Cakes are surprisingly easy to make. The only ingredient you really need is patience. Baking isn't an art. It is a science. You need all the right ingredients and an eye to determine when you have reached the right consistency/texture. The biggest hurdle in the making of these cakes is waiting for the dough to rise and then once you have assembled the cakes you have to let them rise again. When it is below freezing and sleeting outside and you are standing in your kitchen wearing a hat, scarf, and a pair of snow boots these rising periods tend to take a bit longer than suggested. 

Last year was my first attempt at making one but I did not go all out with the sprinkles and baby you typically find on a King Cake. This year I thought I would make one for realz . . . only the sprinkles and babies I ordered at the beginning of February just arrived yesterday. Sigh. Luckily I happened upon some moderately priced sprinkles at HT. While everyone else was buying milk, bread, and bottled water I was buying purple, green, and yellow sprinkles because . . . priorities. As I was putting the finishing touches on my cakes I was thinking this would be the last time. Sprinkles are about as horrible as glitter (and more expensive) but now I have a full 2+ year's supply. Sigh.

Is there anything  creepier than this plastic bag of naked babies?

Monday, February 16, 2015

Monday's Motivation: Fear

"Have no fear of perfection. You will never reach it." 
-Salvador Dali

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Caturnalia: Valentines Day

"What greater gift than the love of a cat?" - Charles Dickens

Happy Valentines Day!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Foodie Friday: Suarez Bakery

After discovering an incredible old school bakery in Asheville I have been craving real down-to-earth baked goods that aren't all about looking fancy but tasting delicious. I keep getting duped by these amazing looking baked goods only to feel an incredible amount of disappointment.

There is a bakery by my house that I have never been to but I have heard nothing but amazing things about it. Suarez Bakery has been offering scratch made baked goods since 1992. (I love the design of their website. It is clean and simple putting all the focus on tantalizing pictures of their goods).

They make everything from doughnuts, cupcakes, cookies, cheese straws, to fancy cakes with ombré shaded icing. 

I just got a cookie. And by cookie I mean one white chocolate chip macadamia, one snicker doodle, 2 strawberry thumbprints, and 2 Danish wedding cookies. Yummy in my tummy. 

The credit for this trip goes to all the gentlemen of the Cyber Crimes Unit except DeCarlo. 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Trials and Tribulations of Visiting the Giordana Velodrome

I have only had a panic attack once in my life . . . and I was on a bike at the time. People talk about having panic attacks all the time but you don't really have one until you really have one (I can think of a few things that also fit this description). It was back in 2011 and I was in Vermont for Age Group Nationals. A group of us had just picked up our packets and were riding our bikes back to the hotel. We were meandering slowly on the sidewalk since the streets were congested with cars and compression socks when I felt this sudden panic that I was not going to be able to unclip from my bike and come to a stop. The funny thing is we were not coming to a stop and there was no indication we would be anytime soon yet for some reason this completely irrational curtain of fear and anxiety wrapped around me and I was overwhelmed by fear. As my body started shaking, my palms began sweating, and my heart rate skyrocketing my rational mind was like "Girl, you aren't even trying to stop. What is going on here?" As much as I recognized the ridiculousness of the situation there was little I could do to control it. It was absurd and indescribable. Eventually I was able to unclip and just coast along but the panic attack happened and it was very very real.

Luckily I have not had a panic attack since. I have clipped and clipped, crashed, gone down steep descents, watched other people crash . . . and yet experienced nothing like I did back in Vermont. Well that is until I visited the Giordana Velodrome in Rock Hill this past Saturday.

Let me first preface this story but saying the velodrome is pretty cool. It was my first trip and I had no idea what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised to be greeted by a (heated) welcome center that overlooks the track and outdoor seating. The track itself is a 250 meter concrete oval with an embankment that goes from 17 degrees in the straightaways to 42.5 degrees in the turns.

Most normal people are intimidated by the turns which look very much like walls. Anyone riding high on the embankment appears to be riding parallel to the ground. Me? I didn't even get that far. I was only thinking about my ability (or inability) to stop and start the track specific bikes required by velodrome riders.

If you don't know anything about track bikes let me enlighten you. Track bikes have no brakes. Track bikes have one fixed gear. If the track bike is moving, your legs are moving. If you forget this be prepared to get bucked off the bike. I prefer getting bucked off my bike on Sundays, not Saturdays, but I will have to save that story for another blog post.

Track bikes are designed to produce the safest ride possible while in a velodrome. While you might question this and long for the comfort of your front and rear brakes you do not want to even contemplate making this error. Luckily the velodrome has a sweet fleet of track ready Pinarellos you can rent. (PS I would not mind getting my hands on this particular Pinarello)

After a brief introduction to the track and the bikes everyone jumped on their designated bikes and started tooling around the infield. I, however, just stood there. Eventually I was able to talk myself into clipping in and rolling around with the others . . . but then I was asked to come to a stop. Stopping? STOPPING??

The instructor tried to coax me into stopping so I would circle around in the ridiculously slow circles mentally preparing to come to a full stop only to jump ship at the last minute and roll around in another circle.  Every time I thought about stopping I felt the panic rising in me like it did back in 2011. Eventually the instructor walked me through a stop while somewhat preparing to catch me in case it did not go well. When I did come to a stop my entire body was trembling. I felt sick to my stomach and on the verge of passing out drunk on the amount of adrenaline that just went coursing through my veins. Having this intense and completely unnecessary reaction did not help to strengthen my confidence and resolve to get back on the bike and enjoy the day.

As everyone else made their way through the certification I grew increasingly frustrated having let a completely irrational fear stymie my certification. Eventually the instructor switched out my pedals and told me to go enjoy a Saturday ride. Hahaha . . . I am pretty sure he just wanted to get rid of me and separate himself from me and the stench of failure. I did tool around a bit more but quickly got bored. Watching Ashley, AB Lerner, and Melissa roll through the rest of the certification was waaaaaay more interesting and entertaining.

My favorite picture from the day
As I getting ready to leave the track a woman rolled up to me and grabbed onto a pole. She looked at me and said, "This is how I start and stop. I don't mess with that other stuff." Looking at the stripes on her jersey indicating she was a world champion I thought to myself "Well damn, I could have done that." Next time velodrome, next time.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Monday Motivation: Attitude

"Ability is what you are capable of doing. Motivation is what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it. " - Lou Holtz

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Caturnalia: William Burroughs

"A cat's rage is beautiful, burning with pure cat flame, all its hair standing up and crackling blue sparks, eyes blazing and sputtering." -William S. Burroughs

I may have to name my next cat William Burroughs.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Foodie Friday: Plant (Asheville, NC)

I was in Asheville this past weekend and I did some amazing eating. We arrived pretty late Friday evening. I managed to get us lost several times since I kept putting Dalton St in the GPS instead of Dalton Rd. Chaos. Luckily we passed a little restaurant simply named "Plant" and I knew where we were headed for dinner. The food at Plant is any but simple. All vegan and all delicious and easily the best meal of the weekend.

I started the dinner with a glass of the Urban Orchard Cider which is a cider local to Asheville. I wish I had more time to visit the Tap Room. I will have to save that for my next trip. This cider is nothing like the more popular ciders. It lacks in sweetness but is not dry. I would call it crisp, yes, very crisp.

We started off with a round of Caramelized Jerusalem Artichokes. Until this point I had never consumed a Jerusalem Artichoke. They nothing like artichokes.

Jerusalem Artichokes are a lot like potatoes
We also ordered a round of the Beets Bergere. Somehow I neglected to take a picture of it but the horseradish mayo and crispy onion "tumbleweeds" won that dish hands down.

Too full for an entree we decided to split the Walnut Crusted Tempeh with "enlightened" Cauliflower. First of all, who am I? Since when do I share food? I caught a stomach bug earlier in the week and I did not start feeling hungry again until Friday. In that time my stomach shrank. I did not finish a meal all weekend. Not cool. I am working to stretch it out again.

Walnut Crusted Tempeh
The seating was a little cramped as there are only a handful of four-tops sprinkled across the floor but if you have a soft spot for vegetarian/vegan delights this place is a must. They do have a large patio that will be perfect in the summer months.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Goodbye Marvin

Well I finally sold my beloved bike Marvin. I thought I would never sell him. I purchased Marvin back in 2005 and he has been my constant companion since. I wish I knew more about bikes so I could explain what made Marvin so special but I don't. Maybe it will just take a little more time. I was a little shocked at the Kelly BlueBook value of Marvin. While I wasn't selling him for money his value to me was just so much greater.

To begin with Marvin is a really good looking bike. Being bright yellow he certainly stands out in a crowd. He fit me well and was super comfortable. 

He is a great climber. It is not like Marvin was super light or anything and he actually lacked a lot of the bells and whistles new bikes have but he always responded well when I needed to dig a little deeper to get to the top. We climbed to the top of Beech Mountain and Mount Mitchell and a number of other ascents throughout NC.

Together we really learned how to ride. Marvin was not my first bike. I purchased a used road bike for $75 at a garage sale when I first decided I wanted to "ride like those people in spandex." Realizing he was waaaaay to big for me I purchased a new road bike for $500. He was a tank. Probably the heaviest bike I have owed and he quickly rusted in the salty Charleston environment. Marvin and I were a perfect match and the more riding I did the more confidence I had to explore group rides. I went from joining in the Saturday-no-drop-let's-stop-every-20-minutes- group ride to the Wednesday night road racing World Championships of Charleston. Every ride I went to someone gave me a couple of pointers on how to be a better rider whether it was how not to put my wheel on backwards to how to pull of the front of a paceline. Everything I learned about cycling I learned with Marvin.

My one and only road race
So why did I decide to let him go? I  often wonder why we grow sentimental attachments to material objects. The object is just a vector for the memory. You can't sell memories or give them away; they are simply always there. Since I had not ridden Marvin in over a year his utility to me had clearly diminished yet I was holding on to him for sentimental reasons. He represents so many things including a time in my life that no longer exists. I realized, however, by selling Marvin I could give someone (preferable another lady as opposed to some super short guy) the chance to get a great bike at a great price. By hoarding Marvin at home I could potentially be denying someone the opportunity to get into cycling/triathlon and fall in love with a sport I embraced so many years ago. 

I ended up selling Marvin to a guy named Mark. I was a little disappointed at first but when I met Mark, who is super tall, I knew there had to be more to the story. He was actually buying the bike for his lady, Stephanie. Marvin would be her first road bike and she was planning to compete in her first triathlon this summer, Raleigh 70.3! How exciting is that!?! As we talked about the race her anxiety and excitement reinforced my love for this sport. I didn't think I would return to Raleigh this year I think I just might to see Marvin back in action.

As it happens sometimes even the best relationships have to come to an end. I feel good about closing that chapter and I am excited about Stephanie's and Marvin future together. But now I get to start a new book . . .  introducing Hank (although because of his coral accents he may be renamed Elton):

Just a quick test drive (photo credits: James Haycraft)

It is only on a mountain bike can one get back to the sheer joy of "playing in the woods" again.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Monday's Motivation: Life

Life is like riding a bicycle. 
To keep your balance you must keep moving 
-Albert Einstein