Friday, January 30, 2009



The bike-washing fest last weekend. I've noticed the brakes don't squeal any more :)

Citizen of the Month

Nimue had a happy surprise this morning -- she won a citizen of the month award at school. Parents were warned ahead of time via email, so we could go spy.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Poor Tired Ma, Tortured by Nim Yet Again

I did my traditional early season timed climb up Old La Honda Road this morning, and not too surprisingly, was rather slow. About 7 minutes off my normal in-shape time, to be precise. It put me squarely in what Stephan refers to as the "bowling league" of times, at noticeably over 30 minutes. Argh. My only consolation is that I was actually trying to avoid my normal habit of maximizing suffering on this hill -- i.e. some of the snail-like pace was on purpose.

So where's the torture? After warming up with a hot shower and eating lunch, I went to pick up Nimue, and she decided to be a speed demon, setting a new all-time record for the ride home from school. The diabolically fast creature averaged 9.9 mph over the whole ride home, on her own bike! I've seen bursts of speed from her at that rate, but never anything quite as extended as this. I was on my heavy mountain bike with heavy tired legs, still slightly hungry, doggedly trying to keep up despite my desire to ride at a gentle walking pace.

An amusing graph of her average riding speed over the last ~3 years, since I have way too much data from my bike computer...
Note the big jump in speed after she got the bigger bike for her birthday. She's getting faster; I'm getting slower. One suspects she is a speed vampire...

Saturday, January 24, 2009

First skiing of the season

We headed up to Downieville last weekend to visit Chad's mom, relax, and play in the snow. Luckily, there was still snow to play in on the higher north-facing slopes, despite the unseasonably warm temperatures earlier in the week.

Chad got in his first graceful-as-usual tele turns in, Nimue showed herself to be quite competent on her little cross-country skis, and I once again struggled against my downhill skiing muscle memory in a vain attempt to make the free-heel skiing thing work.

Nimue's the cutest, so she gets the airtime.

If you can't hear Nimue's comments in the background, the gist is: "What a nice day. I don't have any sit-on-butts. I'm having super fun today. I want to do it again tomorrow!"

My "real" (i.e. downhill) skiing commences during ski week in February. We're also spending some time in and around Downieville that week; I've resolved to rent A/T gear so I can actually ski in the backcountry rather than flailing on tele gear :)

Friday, January 23, 2009

Mixed Vegetable Carnage

What to make for dinner? Hmmm.... let's rummage through the fridge. At 4pm yesterday, there was no meat thawed. Argh. There was however, an assortment of vegetables left from the box (we get an excellent box of fresh local veggies delivered to the door every Friday from an outfit called Planet Organics) This time of year, there are a lot of root vegetables -- I was left with turnips, beets, potatoes, carrots, and leeks, so the obvious choice was vegetable soup. And I found a delightful-looking recipe for a spiced Moroccan vegetable stew that had an ingredient list that vaguely approximated what I was trying to get rid of. If one actually followed the recipe, it was supposed to take about 30 minutes. So far, so good.

However, I must've been inadvertantly channelling the "let's make everything difficult" chef vibe. Instead of using the boxed stock that was in the pantry, I decided it was finally time to get rid of the frozen turkey carcass that's been falling out of the freezer on my head since Thanksgiving. At 4 pm I got a pot of stock going. Homemade stock is not an unusual thing in our household as I like to get as much out of a piece of meat as I can -- but I'm still getting used to the kingly new stock pot we got as a wedding gift. It's larger than my old one. Much larger. The beast is an excellent heavyweight 16-quart pot about 12" in diameter and 12" tall, and I need to remember that it does not need to be filled all the way -- or even halfway -- up for normal use. With a lot of water, the frozen carcass, and a handful of stock vegetables, this naturally took forever to boil.

I figured it was going to take a while, so instead of just chopping the vegetables into a rough dice, I decided to experiment with the mandoline slicer I got for Christmas. I really got this device for slicing and julienning things, but hadn't had a chance to try it out yet. It also has a dicing option that seemed dubious, but since I was killing time waiting for the stock to boil, I thought I'd try it out on the soup veggies just for jollies.

Never, ever try the most difficult use of a new tool on the first attempt to use it. Especially one with attachments that look like rows of shark's teeth pointing up at you when you're holding slippery lumpy things. And the cat is meowing underfoot. Once I figured out that I was pushing too hard, it got better, but my take on the dicing option is that it cuts a little too deep, leaving some residual cuts from the previous layer that turn into little shreddie bits on the next layer unless you happen to have rotated your potato, beet, or turnip by exactly 90 degrees on each pass. You all know my accuracy isn't generally that good... By the time I got to the carrots, I was annoyed and switched over to the julienne blade, which blessedly worked just like a charm.

The upshot -- the device is very good for slicing and julienning; dicing takes just the right touch, which I lack. One very large bowl of shredded turnips, beets, and potatoes, with assorted beet carnage everywhere (the cookbook now looks bloodstained, though no actual fingers were maimed). One very satisfying tidy pile of uniform carrot strips.

Back to the pot o' stock. Now it needed to be strained. My big strainer fell apart a couple of months ago due to sheer the amount of use, and the remaining strainer in the house is about 4" in diameter and has a broken handle. Clearly wasn't going to work no matter the excellence of my improvisational skills. Fortunately the things that needed to be strained out were big, so I just put my big ugly plastic colander in a large metal bowl. Now all I had to do was dump the stock in. Out of a very large, very hot, very heavy pot. And the volume of stock in the pot exceeded that of the bowl, plus that of a second bowl. The cat is still meowing wildly underfoot.

I did manage to get it all out with a relatively minor amount of splooshing, but now the counter was covered in bowls of turkey stock and collateral spillage in addition to the vegetable shreds and board of tidy carrot strips. I miraculously managed not to get anything on the cooling racks of cookies that Nimue and I made earlier in the afternoon. Home free, right?

So it seemed. I was back on track to just follow the recipe, and got everything happily burbling away. That cat got fed and stopped meowing. Yummy spicy soupy smells filled the house. At this point it was after 6:00, so I nixed the cheese quickbread that I had been planning on making to go with it, and turned the oven on and tossed a couple of tortillas figuring they'd crisp up nicely into something we could dip in the soup. At this point, Chad got home.

Note to self: 400F is too hot for crisping tortillas unless you're in the room watching them. Shortly after arriving home, Chad said, "I smell something burning". I hadn't noticed yet, being a few feet further from the kitchen at that point. Sure enough, those pesky tortillas had decided to self-incinerate while I dared walk out of the kitchen. I'm sure they were just waiting for me to step away. "Mua ha ha ha! We can add to the general chaos of the simple turnip soup." A big black cloud of smoke billowed out of the oven, revealing glossy, carbonized, formerly-but-no-longer edible tortillas. Very crispy. Who needs it? For the first time, I felt the need to use the super-duper kitchen fan that sucks all air straight out the roof.

Enough smoke had wafted over to the living room that Chad got to point out the flow visualization patterns visible in the smoke wafting over the lamp to Nimue while I set the table and gently warmed the remaining tortillas. The time now? 7:00. The state of the kitchen? Complete vegetable carnage. Covered in vegetable bits, stock, blackened tortilla debris and dirty bowls. For what in my head was a simple soup dinner.

The upside: after all that, the soup was indeed delicious, and the shreds gave it a unanticipated delightful texture. The gigantic pot is still sitting dirty on the stove glaring balefully at me this morning, but all the bowls and mandoline parts have all gone back to their hiding places, awaiting their next chance.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Six Blue Shirts

So anyone who has seen me knows I have mutant shoulders. Giant mutant shoulders that make finding shirts that simultaneously fit both my shoulders and the rest of me difficult.

Note: I like my mutant shoulders. My reach is extended, they balance other parts of my body, and there are many backpack positions available.

Back to the shirts. I received six knit shirts from various parties for Christmas. Six lovely blue shirts. (Well, one of them was green, but the phrase "Five Blue Shirts Plus a Green Rogue" didn't have quite the same ring to it... or maybe it does.) Five slightly different shades of blue, but the shirt pile in the closet is now rather monochromatic.

Don't get me wrong -- I like blue shirts. I quite like all of these blue shirts. Now there are plenty to last for years.

As parties in the know know I wear size medium to fit my mutant shoulders, I could actually move my arms in each and every one of them. Yay! However, it seems that every year, the mid-section of the size medium shirts in stores gets a bit bigger, leaving a perfectly fitting shirt through the shoulders billowing in the wind everywhere else.

As there is finally a properly functioning sewing machine in the house, there was a happy solution -- I had an entertaining and oddly satisfying morning taking in and reshaping said blue shirts until they fit. Cozy, comfy, soft, cottony, me-shaped shirts :) The flexible new LED light attached to the top of the machine made it much easier to see what I was doing too. Thank you all.

(Yes, the weirdest group thank you note ever...)

Monday, January 5, 2009

Sugar plum fairy on ice!

Nimue ice skating (our first ever video clip on the blog!) She was being the sugar plum fairy at the time.