Monday, May 31, 2010

The Zen of French Toast . . .

French Toast is something I have a passion for, because when it's done right, it's like a little bit a nirvana right there in your mouth.  The trick is, it isn't something you just whip up in a jiffy.  After all, it's toast, NOT popcorn!  Like with good Fried Rice, at the absolute minimum, you need to start the day before.  Really.  Doesn't matter if you are starting with homemade bread, or stuff from the store, you need to pick the number of slices you're going to want, and place them on the rack in a cold oven and walk away.  Thats right, just close the door, forget about it and walk away.  Because I'm telling on the most over looked part of really good french toast is the bread.

Secret Number one:  Stale bread.

It's such and easy part that folks overlook it.  Heck, I don't even know how many people know that French Toast was, is, like Fried Rice, a way to get more life out of left overs.  Day old bread is vital to good French toast.  So if you leave it overnight in the oven and let it get all dried out and hard, it makes much better French toast.  In fact if it's close to ready be turned into bread crumbs, then it's ready to be French toast.

Secret Number two:  Foam!

Whatever you use in terms of ingredients you need to whip it up into a foam.  Can't just mix it up so the ingredients are stirred.  Well I suppose you can, but it works better if you really work it up onto a lather.  Be it with a fork, or a whisk, really beat that batter into a foam.  Put some energy into it, because the friction and motion causes the ingredients to mix better, and the proteins to bond.  Foaming ot, does a better job of breaking the ingredients down so they can bond.

Secret Number three:  Don't cook it too fast.

Starting with the dried break and letting it really soak up the mixture, means you need to heat it properly so that the mixture gets properly cooked all the way through.  Keep in mind that undercooked eggs can be terribly unhealthy.  So if the pan is too hot, the outside is going to burn before the inside is fully cooked.

So it's like meditation, mindfulness, taking the slow, deliberate approach to making French Toast.  Putting the love into the food like my Mom always did.  And that's how you get the truly amazing Mouthgasm French Toast.  That's the Zen of French Toast.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Two months so far . . .

Two months ago today I picked up Serenity.  I was going to take it easy, start slowly, and make my way back into serious riding.  Between weather issues, and trying to take things easy, I've only put a hundred miles on Serenity.  Tuesday, I opened up my local park route and turned in 10 miles on the day.  It. was. wonderful.  High 80s in temp, high humidity, and a high dew point, meant I was certain to get soaking wet.  I really didn't care.  So I lit it up, and got good and soaked.  It was wonderful.  I even managed something I'd not done in 25 years that I can think of.

Now if you may recall, on my first lap around Winton Lake back on April 27th, I fell over once, and had to stop several times because I'd have fallen over if I hadn't.  Had to catch up with myself, had to rest, because that day it was more than I could do to make it all the way around the lake even once.

Tuesday was a very different day.  Pulled a couple of quick seemless laps around the lake without stopping and on one lap as I was flying down hill I sat back in the saddle and gently took my hands off the controls, confident I'd keep flying down the hill.  Brought my arms up and out to my sides, palms down, just flying like I used to. Means I'm getting my mojo back, and am tuning into Serenity more.  Balance, timing, the feel of Serenity beneath me, flying, it's just wonderful.  Having things down and a relationship with my mount that allows me to  just sit back and really fly like a bird, my wings fully extended was breath taking.  I was just there in the moment, soaring like a bird, the wind in my wings, with just minor instinctive movements of my entire body keeping the front wheel tracking and on course.  No horrible crash, just the pleasure of finally having bonded enough with my mount and reconnected to myself enough to let go of the handle bars and really fly.

It. was. glorious!  And I managed to do it without falling over or otherwise crashing.  Pretty spiffy that.

So far, in just sixty days, I've covered 103 miles and burned over 8000 calories.  My weight hasn't changed one bit, I mean literally, not so much as a tenth of a pound.  But I'm loving my bike, and loving getting out on her flying through the country side.  Fresh air, sunshine, serious amounts of movement and exercise and the scenery.  Damn, I should have gotten back on a bike years ago!  Two months so far, but the rest of my life to enjoy cycling?  Oh yeah, so worth it!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Wearing underwear in public . . .

I know, it's been a while since I posted, but I've been busy with life and such.  Okay, not really busy so much as distracted.  I've been cycling my tush off.  Or trying to.  Plus getting adjusted to changes to my view of life and some deeply held notions.  Like not wearing underwear out in public.

Did she say "not wearing underwear out in public?"

Yes, she did.

So as you all know, I'm back in the saddle.  Mainly because I wanted the feelings and freedom associated with cycling again.  So I bought the new bike, and that has lead to other purchases.  Like gloves, a helmet, and even bike shorts.  The gloves were "Pro Gell" fingerless gloves, the gell in the palms there to cut down on pressure while riding.  Specifically the Ulnar nerve in the palms that causes, at least in my case, my hands and arm to go numb.  So the gloves were a great investment.  It's taken a little time to get used to how the bike feels in my hands, but it's a welcome change from having my hands go numb in the first couple of miles.  So the fifteen dollars I spent on the gloves, WELL worth it!  Now I go miles and miles without my hands going numb.  I love it.

A helmet, didn't want to get one.  I've never been much on hats or head cover of anykind.  Either they'd make my head hotter, mess up my hair (yeah, I know, lame right?) or both.  I also didn't want to look stupid, and well I thought having this bulky thing on my head making me hotter, messing up my hair AND making me look stupid?  Well it was a bad idea all the way around no?  Or is it?

"What do you call someone who rides without a helmet?  Organ Donor!"  -- David Perry

So I did the research and found a helmet that was well reviewed.  I'd found a bunch of online reivews, including some on youtube, and it is a Consumer Product Safety Comisson approved helmet.  When everything else is said and done you can spend big bucks on some facy multi-hundred dollar helmet, or you can get one for under thirty bucks. I chose that route, because I couldn't see spending all the money on something hopefully I'd never have to use.  Mind you, riding without one wasn't really a choice, at least not a smart one.  Some would argue the chances of hitting your head after coming up off a bike were very slim.  In fact my downstair neighbor after seeing me come flying in the driveway came out and said he thought a Teenage Ninja Turtle was lurking around.  So yeah, stupid looking?  Maybe.  But the chances of landing on one's head?  Well I've been there, done that once.  Really.  Got hit by a truck, on my bike, over twenty years ago.  So I'd already been there, done that once.  I was amazingly lucky then, a head full of stiches from where I'd landed on my head, without a helmet.  I KNOW from personal experience that lightening CAN in fact strike twice in the same place, so I wasn't willing to tempt fate again.

Plus I just didn't feel confident riding on the streets without head cover.  The way some people drive?  I mean come on, really.  So I bought a helmet from Giro, one of THE names in cycling helmets.  Basic black to go with my bike.  Nothing fancy, but nice and adjustable, well reviewed and CSPC approved.  It was designed to keep one's head cool and safe.  Okay, so it's a good helmet and under 30 dollars.  Now it was just a matter of getting used to it.  Everything I'd read said you wouldn't really notice it, and the ventilation would keep your head cool enough that you would not feel it.

After I got it adjusted for my head, out to the streets on my first test of the new Giro Indicator helmet I bought I went.  Oddly enough, my head felt cooler than riding without proper head cover, but since it was designed to channel the air and move it off your head while you ride, it made some sense.  So it was just a matter of getting used to it.  True to the reviews, after a few moments of riding with it, I didn't really notice it there anymore, and the absorbant pads in the helmet do in fact keep sweat out of your eyes.  So that was a real, practical, using it now advantage.  So, I'm now wearing my helmet when I'm riding.  Despite my neighbor joking about me looking like a teenage mutant ninja turtle, I'm not really bothered by the head cover anymore.

Then came the bike shorts.  Bought them a little before the gloves or the helmet, but hadn't brought myself to use them either.  Why?  Because it felt to me like going out of the house in my underwear.  You see actual riding shorts are specially designed with extra padding and moisture wicking to keep one from getting wet, chaffed, and rubbed raw by seams on long rides.  They are designed to help take pressure of sensitive parts of one's anatomy, and make contact with the saddle easier on one's body.  Waering underwaer with them however is counter productive.  Underwear will just absorb moisture and keep it close to your skin, the seams and elastic will rub and chaffe the skin, and basically totally defeat the purposes of the riding shorts.

But my Mom always raised me to leave the house clean, and wearing clean underwear.  And she also taught me not to run around in public in just my underwear.  So if I'm wearing bike shorts and nothing else, then I'm in essence running around in my undies as far as my screwed up mind worked out the logic.  I even went so far as to buy regular casual wear "bike shorts" to wear over the actual bike shorts so that I wouldn't feel like I'm running around in my undies.

Yesterday I broke down, decided I was going to get over my stupid internal foolishness, and set out for a ride wearing ONLY my bike shorts.  Well I was the sight.  Black and grey riding gloves, black helmet, and black and grey bike shorts with Velo printed on them on a black bike withpurple trim and a purple blouse.  I was quite the sight, all tricked out in riding gear, turning laps around the neighborhood.  Got all hot and sweaty and by the end of the five miles I must have looked quite the sight.  I was soaked.

Which once upon a time would have bothered me greatly.  I mean being soaking wet, all hot sweaty and gross in public?  Oh no, so not going to to do that!  Or at least once upon a time I wouldn't, let alone in public in skin tight clothes.  Well that was then I guess, because after five miles in 88 degree temps with 50% humidity, I looked like I'd just stepped out of a shower.  And you know what, it didn't bother me.  Hair soaking wet in a pony tail, clothes soaked, wearing my "undies" and a helmet.  Oh but I felt so good!

And you know, that's what it's about.  Feeling good, like I'd just accomplished something important.  And of course the rush of natural, perfectly legal drugs flowing through my body?  Well damn!  All these years and I finally am addicted to something.  Cycling!  And in my underwear no less.  Though I've fit it into my view of the 'verse like a bathing suit. When one goes swimming, one doesn't wear underwear, just a bathing suit.  So I'm looking at bike shorts in the same general context.  I'm out cycling.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Thanks Mom Revisited . . .

I needed to run to the store for a few things.  Nothing major, but just a few necessities and some more soup.  So I started making a list, and assembling coupons in my purse, matching everything up.  And that's when it hit me.  I really had grown up to become my Mother...

When I was young, I was my Mothers shadow.  Almost a mini-me of her.  I watched everything she did, asked her endless questions, and filed it all away in my head.

We were not poor growing up.  But my Mom, a daughter of depression era parents, was always on top of coupons.  She had a filing system for her coupons, both at home and in her wallet.  Coupons where sorted by type, product, expiration date and more.  And she kept track of them.  Whenever it was time to go to the store, she had this almost ritual of making a list, then checking what she had coupons for, and when we got to there, we'd set off in an orderly fashion to collect everything on the list.

So then I'm finally read to check out, and I've got my reusable bags ready, my coupons ready, and I'm waiting for the front self checkout register to open up.  One behind it opened and "Little Grey" noticed me waiting and she said you know this one is open.  ["Little Grey" isn't actually her name, but she looks so much like the actress who play's Grey on "Grey's Anatomy" that I call her that.]  So I smiled and said thanks, but the one by her console was about to open and I was waiting for that because I had a stack of coupons.  She said not to worry that she didn't mind walking the few feet.  I smiled and said I had A LOT of coupons.

An the whole time I couldn't help but think of my Mom.

So I scanned everything in, totaled it up, hit pay now and it asked if I had any coupons and I just couldn't help but laugh.  Before coupons the total was $45 and change.  After all the coupons had been subtracted and the ordered totaled again $28 and some change.  That's $17 dollars I kept in my pocket on stuff I was going to buy anyway.  $17 dollars of basically free stuff because I kept coupons handy and used them.  $17 dollars my Mom saved me by answering the endless stream of questions coming out of her special little girl.

I know I didn't say anything on Mother's day, but I honestly don't need a special day to force me to remember and honor my Mom.  Because I live that way.  Most of who I am, what I do, and why I do it is, in effect, a living Memorial to my Mom.  And though she's not been corporeally focused in a long, long time, not a day goes by that I don't think of her.  And how much I've grown up to be just like her.  Thanks Mom, I miss you!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Cadence finally makes sense . . .

I am not now, nor have I ever been the most technical rider on the planet.  Frankly I've spent more on riding in the last two months than in my entire life up until April combined and multiplied by a factor of 100.  Up until now, Cadence was one of those things that other people worried about who were racing or whatever.

Recently it just clicked in my head.  The light bulb went on!

Obviously, I'm still getting to know Serenity.  She's still in the break in period, and because she's a brand new, never before ridden ride, and of a type I've never had before I'm still learning.  Or re-learning, things I knew, things I never really thought about.

Like the difference between spinning or grinding.

In some of my early rides with Serenity I was making better speed up some hills and it seemed like my legs were having an easier time of it.  Recently the same hills seemed like I'd lost ground, going up them slower, pushing my legs harder, getting less cardio out of the hills than I was.  Couldn't make sense of it, why where they harder now than when I first started riding again.  Which is when it hit me.  Cadence.

I'd been reading some articles on the subject, and my recent issues just clicked finally.  Some of those earlier rides where done with the middle chainring because using the larger one kept causing the chain to come off.  I've long since had that issue fixed, so I've gone back to powering through the hills.  Just pushing my legs to make it, using only the rear gears to get there.  21 available gears and I'm only using 7?  Well that's just silly no?  So yeah, I've not changed, the gears I was using changed.

So when on the morrow I'm taking that hill, I'll remember to downshift.

From a technical standpoint as I'm starting to understand it, I'll get better use of my muscles, less build up of lactic acid, faster recovery and it will be better for my whole body.  In my floating around the net reading, and learning, I've found even Lance Armstrong has radically changed his riding and training style to favor "spinning" over "grinding."  Or simply put using a lower, easier gear to do the same job done.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Share The Road . . .

. . .not just in May because it's National Bike Month in the US (Who knew?) but all year long.  And the doesn't just mean with cyclists either.  Bikers (Motorcycles) and Pedestrians have a right to be there as do joggers and cars.

I've been reading articles about the subject as I'm about to head out and start riding on the roads too.  Well as soon as my helmet and gloves get here Thursday I will.  It's something I've always been careful about, then again I'm very careful when in the car in general.  Which I suppose is why I've managed to avoid getting tickets for so many years.  Then again I'm the brunt of jokes because I'm told I drive like the proverbial little old lady from Pasadena.  I think it has as much to do with not wanting to being in a rush, as it does with obeying the law.  I'm allergic to rushing.  Really, I'll break out in a rash.

Anyway, rushing not withstanding, it's as much about respect as it is about safety, and does have to do with rushing as well as law.  And not just with cyclists.  Bike riders are every bit as much in danger as cyclists and for the same reasons.  People who drive cars think they OWN the road.  In fact KTAR-FM guest host on an Arizona radio station said:

"The roads were made for cars. And bicyclists share the road, but sometimes they think they own the road."

The historical reality is that roads as we know them today started out because of wait for it... Cyclists!  Back before cars even existed dirt roads were fine for horse drawn vehicles.  Riding bikes however on dirt roads, especially in the rain?  Not such a good plan.  Cobblestones gave way to asphalt and or concrete.  Mind you it wasn't the only reason, but it was one of the reasons, and cars didn't even exist yet.  It started in Europe long, long before here.

And the irony?  Horses don't like cyclists!  Why?  Because they dart in and out, don't follow the rules, have no respect for horses...  Sound familiar?

So not only is the claim roads were created for cars ignorant, it's also historically inaccurate.

So we have that.

There is also the fact that trucks have no respect for cars, and so on.  Folks claim size matters, and it an age old problem, and it's not just limited to cars and two wheelers.  Respect is in great demand and amazingly short supply, and the supply is getting shorter. 

And the law, doesn't really care.  As a cyclist I can be arrested for DWI on a bike and it will carry the same impact on my license as if I was driving a car.  And of course don't even get me started on big rigs.  We all have to follow the same laws.

So let's ALL share the roads.  Drive defensively, consider everyone as you do regardless of what you drive.  And please keep in mind if your big rigs hits one of our "four wheelers" airbags aren't going to save us.  If your driving a four wheel vehicles, please keep in mind we don't have airbags to say the very least.

So everyone be more careful, more respectful of anyone you share the roads with.