Friday, December 31, 2010

New Years Eve; A Walk in the Park Gone Awry


      It was gorgeous out this morning. Raining and thundering and lightning, but that's not bad in my book. You see, after days in the frigid teen's, the temperature had climbed to a spring-like mid 50's. The snow was melting and ponds of water in the gutter were rising up to the curb and threatening to flood parked cars.
      Since this was the last day of faux spring, (It's supposed to plummet back down to the low 20's overnight and, sadly, stay there) I took Gypsy on a walk to the lakefront.


Gypsy (A.K.A. Trouble) in front of parked bikes

     On the way, there were many parked bicycles to be seen. Had they been buried under snow so that I hadn't noticed them before, or were they merely out and about again because the weather was so mild? Hard to tell.
     Once we got to the park, Gypsy was raring to go. The park makes her so excited she prances as she walks. The harbor was still frozen over, although it was melting farther out, and seagulls swooped overhead and sat on ice flows.


     Gypsy and I went around the harbor to the bit of park that is far from the cars, beyond the bird sanctuary. We entered the green grassy area where all the snow had melted and Gypsy was straining at the leash and prancing like mad. She wanted to run so badly. My pockets were full of dog treats so that if necessary, I could call her back to me with our come command, which is "front". There wasn't a dog in sight, so I let her go. Just for a little run.
     What a mistake! She took off like a bat out of hell and it was only at that moment I saw the fat grey squirrel sitting in the middle of the field. I watched in horror as Gypsy thundered down on it. I yelled "front" at her over and over, but pockets full of treats were no match for the best squeaky toy in the world, (i.e. - a squirrel).
      By now the squirrel had started running and though it was making good speed, Gypsy caught up with it. There was a moment of flying fur and blur, and then, miraculously,  the squirrel emerged, unscathed, a grey streak heading in the opposite direction.
      It scurried up a tree with Gypsy breathing down it's bushy grey tail, jumping six feet high in her last ditch attempt to catch it. 
      My sigh of relief was cut short, however, by the realization that this particular squirrel was the dumbest squirrel in creation. (That's saying something, because squirrels are mighty stupid animals). It ran back down the tree and onto the grass, right in front of Gypsy!
     It was now running towards some other, somehow superior, tree. Gypsy was in hot pursuit. My ineffective screams of "front!" were replaced with encouraging yells of "run! run!" directed at the squirrel. Gypsy was closing in on it just as it scurried up another tree.
     Going something like 30 miles an hour, focused only on that squirrel, Gypsy wasn't paying attention to the tree and she hit it with a full frontal body plant. It was too far away for me to hear, but I'm sure there was a loud thunk. She actually bounced off the tree from the impact and landed on her behind. But, being a dog, she got back up and kept jumping for that dumb squirrel.  Luckily it stayed well out of reach this time and I was able to catch and leash Gypsy. After I checked her out to make sure the tree collision hadn't done any damage, we left the park. My heart was racing as fast as hers.
    Hopefully our new year starts out a little less stressful than our new year's eve walk ended up being. Hope everyone has a wonderful New Year's Eve!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Biking on Ice


     This post isn't about my bicycle adventures, but about the bicycle adventures of the superhero in my life, my husband. He's been biking to work every day this year, despite very cold temperatures. He loves bicycling. Commuting by bicycle allows him to be outdoors and adventuresome even though he's only going to and from downtown Chicago. He's inspired me to keep on riding my bicycle this winter.
     He took this photo of himself a few weeks ago, before the lakefront path between Navy Pier and Fullerton was closed down. It's a magical photo, with the colored lights of Navy Pier in the background. It might be hard to tell, but he and his Oma dutch bike (yes, we have the same bike), are standing on a solid sheet of ice. The waves crash up onto the path and then freeze. He's able to ride on ice with the aid of studded tires. I have no doubt that he'll keep riding all winter long. Didn't I say he was a superhero?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Red Velvet Cake for Christmas

    
     It's a family tradition in our house to have Red Velvet Cake on Christmas Day. This year it was my turn to make the cake. It came out well, although my efforts at decorating went a bit awry. There were supposed to be flames on the top of the cake, but it looks more like Psychedelic Mardi Gras than Christmas. Still, it tasted great, and that's more important than how the cake looks. Enjoy the holiday season!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Holiday Cheer on Wheels

Ain't she lovely?

     In an effort to remain cheerful in the face of these low temperatures that we've been having, in the low double digits, I decorated my Oma's front basket. It's quite festive and I've gotten a couple of honks and waves as I ride around town, which is spirit raising. It lends a certain Dickensonian flair to her, I think.
     Yes, I'm still bicycling. Last friday I visited the Museum of Contemporary Art downtown and took the lakefront path. (As far as it goes, that is. It was blocked off at Fullerton due to ice.) The Oma is outfitted with studded tires so she can tackle the ice without too much trouble, but I wasn't ready to push past the police tape and give it a try. There wasn't another bike in sight, but a couple of joggers did run past.

Empty but sunny

     The lakeside winterscape wasn't exactly lovely, but it was sunny. Staying active and on the bike in this cold is tiring, but in exchange for some crucial vitamin D, it's worth it. At the end of the journey was the Museum of Modern Art. It's a fun and unusual museum to visit. It made my friday feel like a vacation and that's always a good thing.

Lonely Oma parked out front.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Luscious Lemonade Cake

     Inspired by my first attempt at cake decoration, which is pretty much like yummy sculpture, and seeing how the holidays provide ample opportunities for cake making, I made another cake this past weekend for our karate dojo holiday party.
     The symbol decorating the top is the Seido Karate emblem, a cherry blossom. I recently created Karate Cards with the same symbol of the cherry blossom. It looks quite good on a cake, if I say so myself. Just as with my Fabulous Carrot Cake, it is delicious as well. Plus, as an added bonus, and no one will know if you don't tell them, it's a light recipe, so indulge guilt free!
     I doubled the recipe to make it a four layer cake, since the layers come out on the thin side. But it's just as good as a low cake, I just wanted more canvas to work with.
     Someone at the party questioned my use of the word Luscious to describe a cake. I don't get that. Luscious is a perfect word to describe something mouthwatering, don't you think?


Luscious Lemonade Cake

Cake:
1 1/3 cups granulated Sugar
6 tablespoons Butter, softened
1 tablespoon grated Lemon Rind
3 tablespoons thawed Lemonade Concentrate (any brand)
2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
2 large Eggs
2 large Egg Whites
2 cups all-purpose Flour
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda
1 1/4 cups fat-free Buttermilk
Cooking Spray

Frosting:
2 tablespoons Butter, softened
2 teaspoons grated Lemon Rind
2 teaspoons thawed Lemonade Concentrate
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
8 ounces 1/3-less-fat Cream Cheese
3 1/2 cups Powdered Sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

For cake: Place first 5 ingredients in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended (about 5 minutes). Add eggs and egg whites, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking soda, salt and baking powder; stir well with a whisk. Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture; beat well after each addition.

Pour batter into 2 (9-inch) round cake pans coated with cooking spray; sharply tap pans once on counter to remove air bubbles. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on rack for 10 minutes, then remove from pans and cool completely on rack.

For frosting: place 2 tablespoons butter and the next 4 ingredients  (through cream cheese) in a large bowl. Beat with a mixture at hugh speed until fluffy. Add powdered sugar, and beat at low speed until blended (don't over-beat).

Frost cake and store loosely covered in refrigerator.

Friday, December 10, 2010

A Raleigh Called Daisy

 
     Most days I run errands on my Omafeits Workcycle, but I actually own two bicycles. In the garage, hanging up, and waiting for that special occasion, is Daisy.
     Many years ago I inherited this vintage 1959 Raleigh Sports bicycle from my mother. My father gave it to her when they got engaged. I don't know why I call it Daisy. Maybe because it's black with a white stripe on the rear fender, the coloring of a cow. Somehow it took on the name Daisy, that being a quintessential cow name.

Can you believe dad still had the receipt? Notice that he bought it from a Bike and Buggy Shop.

     I've been riding it since the mid-1980's and it is without doubt my favorite bicycle. It may not be as comfortable as my Oma, but it has more sentimental value. Daisy was my mode of transport throughout college and she came with me when I relocated to that steamy jungle town of New Orleans. She's served me well.


      Recently I took Daisy on a Bike Adventure to Ragdale. It was an enjoyable ride despite the thundershowers, but it made me aware that is time for some upgrades.
      So, while visiting my parents for thanksgiving, we cannibalized a vintage 1964 Raleigh that my parents happened to have in the basement, taking off it's generator light and double kick-stand. (My parents have loads of good stuff in the basement.)


                            The generator light only casts a dim light so I probably won't end up using it. Too bad, because it's cool looking.

Looks like Modern Art

     Isn't Daisy lovely with the double kick-stand? Now she won't fall over as she was prone to do.


     I'm researching switching out the steel wheels for a set of aluminum wheels, mostly for safety's sake. In the rain, Daisy becomes virtually brakeless. It's a project for the spring, but I am looking forward to pulling her out of hibernation when the winter is over. I never thought of myself as a multiple bike woman, but I guess now I am. Anyone else have more than one bike and if so, what are your reasons?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Holiday Shopping for Myself

    Taking a break from my bike this past Sunday, I drove with a friend down to the Merchandise Mart for the One of a Kind Show. There were tons of booths housing independent artisans and we managed to hit them all. (We went row by row so we wouldn’t miss a thing.)
    The vast majority of offerings were jewelry and it was a sparkly event. The jewelry highlight for me was a collection of fantastical rings and earrings made in the shape of animals. They were of gold or other precious materials with jewel eyes.


     Here's a mouse eating a pearl. I don’t think mice eat pearls but I suppose it’s meant to represent a kernel of corn? It was adorable, but prohibitively expensive. Sometimes it’s nice to just dream about owning something.
    A fantastic collection of chairs in eclectic colorful upholstery caught my eye, but when I sat in one, that sealed the deal. So this is what a comfortable chair is supposed to feel like! Perfect size for a petite woman like myself, I leaned back into it’s cushy wonderfulness and imagined the smell the hot chocolate and the whisper of the potted palms. Really all one needs to pretend you have a fabulous library is the correct chair.


     I bought a few of these journals made out of old library books. They use books that are no longer in circulation, so the titles were all unknown to me. Swamp Cat is my favorite, mostly because the cover is cool.


     There was soap and fashion and hats. Lots of hats. All fun stuff, though I still managed to spend more on myself than on gifts for others. I think I am not the only one with this problem.


    Treats rounded out the end of our day, with the food booths offering samples of chocolate and toffee and more chocolate. Mmmm. Not a bad way to spend a Sunday, but I better get a move on real holiday shopping soon.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Doggie Daycare by Bicycle

    
      Looks like Gypsy’s having a fabulous time, doesn’t it?

video

     Yesterday I took her to doggie daycare by bicycle. I strapped her into the Burley trailer that’s actually meant to carry packages around. It’s been jerryrigged to be a dog trailer. We’ve outfitted it with a pair of strings with hooks at the end that we attach to Gypsy’s harness so she can’t get out. Not that she wants to. She's having too much fun. The fast pace lends itself to maximum squirrel spotting ability. Squirrels are her prey of choice and she's caught two, which she dropped on command. (Good dog)
       We pedaled our usual low traffic route. I held the camera behind me and videoed while pedaling. It wasn’t easy. Like patting your head while rubbing your belly at the same time. A bit of a challenge. On top of that it was below freezing. That much more of a challenge.
    Knowing that it would be extra cold while moving, I dressed as if I was about to embark on an arctic expedition. An ear wrap under my hat, clear ski goggles (nerdy, yes, but a must to stay comfortable while biking in this cold), a faux fur neck wrap and a lined winter coat.

Iditarod or Daycare?
    
     My husband saw the photo I’d taken and jokingly said I looked “burly”, a reference to a post from the Let's Go Ride a Bike blog. (You didn’t look burly at all, Dottie!)
      After a mile and a half I was sweating and unzipped my coat. Layers are the way to go. It’s a three mile ride to Dog Daycare. I dropped Gypsy off,  rode over to Kopi Cafe in Andersonville where I hung out until it was time for me to pick her up again in the afternoon. More than a six miles round trip with much of the time dragging a 45 pound dog behind me. Who needs a gym membership? I indulged in an entirely guilt-free lemon drop martini with dinner last night. I’m going to keep biking as long as I can into the winter months. I’m not the only one, though. I saw a lot of bicyclists out yesterday. Anyone else still defying the cold on their bikes? Are you ready to take on the snow?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Josh Birthday Card

It seems that paper has become my art medium of choice. The feel of it, the smell of it, everything about it. It's so old fashioned. A couple of weeks ago was my brother Josh's birthday and for the occasion I decided to make a sort of book-card.
I cut up paper to make the pages. I started with "J", then "O" then "S" then "H".  In the end it looked like this....



Oh, the fun of playing with paper and an exact-o knife!

















  
   
     I bound all the pages together with a blue cover that had J on the front side and an H on the back. I wonder if Josh will actually use his book. No matter, I had a blast making it. Does anyone else like paper as much as I do?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Fabulous Carrot Cake

     I hope everybody have a wonderful thanksgiving. Our thanksgiving involved a smoked turkey and all the traditional trimmings. It was my job to provide a dessert and I chose to make a carrot cake. This is an old recipe,  given to me by a college roommate twenty years ago and it is still the best carrot cake I have ever eaten. It’s super easy to make, too!


Best Carrot Cake Recipe
1/2 cup Oil
2 cups Sugar
2 teaspoons Cinnamon
3 Eggs
2 cups Flour
2 teaspoons Baking Soda
2 Teaspoons Vanilla
2 Teaspoons Salt
2 cups shredded Carrots
2 cups Walnuts (optional)
1 cup crushed Pineapple plus the Juice! (obviously from a can)

Bake at 350 degrees for 35-45 minutes.

Frosting (Very Important Part)
8 Oz. Cream Cheese
4 Tablespoons butter
3 cups Powdered Sugar
2 Teaspoons Vanilla

      I decorated it with a little cake decorating set that I purchased at whole foods along with some natural food coloring. Being all natural, the food coloring never did reach the bright green color I was looking for, despite my dumping almost the whole bottle in the frosting. I used very thinly sliced carrots on top and added some amaretto soaked cherries for a pop of color. The cherries turned out to taste great with the carrot cake. I feel like it has a sort of baroque look to it. Did anyone else bake something fabulous?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Bike Adventure

     Yesterday I took my bike on the Metra to Lake Forest to visit a friend doing an artist residency at Ragdale. It was the first time I’d attempted this. What an adventure!             
     I rode my 1960 Raleigh Sports because my dutch bike would have been too heavy. Glad I did because there were lots of stairs to get up to the Metra platform and also big steps to get the bike onto the train.
My Raleigh at the Lake Forest train station

    The down side to taking this bike is that it has no rack so I had to carry my computer and stuff in a backpack. Sigh. I love my panniers. Then it started to rain like crazy as I rode, thundering and lightnig. Turns out my coat, contrary to what I thought, was not waterproof. It was a cold, wet ride on the train.
   For others of you thinking of bringing a bike on the Metra, don't make the mistake I made. I didn’t realize that you need to bungee your bike in the bike area, and for a while I teetered unsteadily while I leaned against my bike during the train ride.


Luckily another bicyclist got on and insisted that I take one of his extra bungee cords so that I could secure my bike. Many thanks to the unknown biker! 
    All was well once I disembarked the train because the sun reappeared and Ragdale has dryers.
Raleigh at Ragdale

      My artist friend popped my clothes in the dryer and in half an hour I was able to change out of her borrowed sweats.
    I spent a lovely day writing with her in her studio. “Everyone needs a mini retreat sometimes,” she told me. It was awesome to have all that time to write, enjoy nature, and a good company.


    Too soon it was time for me to go. Back at the Lake Forest station this sign hung in one window,

                                   
                                             followed by this sign in the next window. Ha!



Ominously the clouds gathered once more. Sure enough, after I got on the train, the heavens opened up and it poured down all over again. My arms and legs were soon soaked, but the knowledge that I had lots of dry clothes waiting for me at home made riding in the rain, even with water dripping off the tip of my nose, fun.
My Raleigh at the charming Lake Forest station

All in all, the trip was stressful at times but I was glad I did it. Has anyone else had a bike adventure?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Gypsy and I go for a ride

     Every once in a while I decide to take Gypsy to the park or dog daycare and not use a car. Instead we go by bike. It is simply too far to get to daycare by walking. We could walk to the park, but that would mean a two hour commitment or more since it takes a half an hour to walk there and then when do we have time to actually enjoy the park?


     I’ve found a nice route to daycare that isn’t heavily trafficked, going through quiet neighborhoods. So it’s a pleasure to take her in the trailer instead of the car. 
     We hook up our Burley trailer (which is not a dog specific trailer) to my Omafeits via a connector that is attached to the rear wheel hub. Gypsy wears a harness while in the trailer, and we hook the harness to a pair of straps that are tied to the trailer so that she can’t jump out, even if she wanted to. The trailer is sturdy and handles Gypsy’s weight well. My husband did a great job of training Gypsy to like the trailer when she was a puppy and now she jumps right in and away we go!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Black Belt Karate Cards

      This past weekend four of my fellow karate-ka took their 1st degree black belt test. I was only able to catch the last hour (which is sparring) but it was still great to see. Traditionally they are given gifts or cards in honor of the occasion. I made the cards myself for the candidates and thought I’d do something a little different. The outside of the card says Osu! That means lots of different things, most literally striving with patience, but it is also a term of respect, so I thought it was appropriate.

Inside, I made a cutout of the Seido karate symbol, which is a cherry blossom that has two circles inside it. Then I stitched the two pieces together. I think they came out beautifully. I hope the candidates enjoyed getting the cards half as much as I enjoyed making them.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Ladies Who Bike and Brunch

Ladies Who Bike and Brunch

       This past sunday I met up with a group of ladies for brunch. The ladies came on all kinds of bikes and the commonality is that we all connected through a locally based blog that I follow called Let’s Go Ride A Bike. Two things that I love to do, biking and brunching, what could be better?
       It just so happens that the woman who writes the blog, Dottie, owns a dutch bike like mine. The same as mine, actually. It’s a Workcycles Omafiets (which means grandma in dutch) and I love it. It’s a work horse in bike form.
       After brunch we had our picture taken as a group by Martha, who has a blog called Bike Fancy. She had taken a picture of me for her blog a couple of weeks ago.
Me and my Oma
   

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

My, Grandma, what big teeth you have!

 
     The husband and I spent a fun evening saturday night cruising down Clark street dressed as a flapper (me) and a soldier (him), mingling with the thousands of costumed revelers. We saw six Where’s Waldos, not sure why he was so popular.
      Sunday was no less exciting, at least for Gypsy. I’d had an idea for a costume on friday and spent that afternoon going from vintage store to halloween store to find the outfits.
      So on Halloween day Gypsy and I went as Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf dressed in Grandma’s clothes. It was hilarious. I stocked my basket with treats and kept feeding Gypsy to get her to accept wearing a bonnet.
      We went to our local pet store (Kriser’s on Belmont) and  had a portrait taken. That was fun, and the really nice photographer even let my husband (who is a serious photographer in his own right) take some photos. The photographer was excellent with Gypsy and the only difficult part was keeping her from rolling over for a tummy rub in the middle of the shoot.
      Later we returned to the pet store to participate in the Pet Costume Contest and Gypsy and I won 1st prize! That was super exciting, more for me than for Gypsy. She’ll be excited later when I open up the gift basket of treats that we won.
      By the end of the day, Gypsy had learned that the bonnet meant lots of treats, and when we put our costume back on to visit a friend, she couldn’t get her head into that bonnet fast enough.
      It was an excellent Halloween.

Monday, November 1, 2010

NaNoReviseMo

     November is here and last year I participated in the National Novel Writing Month frenzy. It was quite inspiring in some ways, but this year I am going to pass. I am in the middle of revising what I wrote last November and the frenetic pace doesn't make for great work.
     What I will miss is the little counter that kept you accountable for having to write every day, so I decided to add it to my blog anyway and update it every day for myself. I may not be participating in NaNoWriMo, but I have a counter and that makes me happy. Of course the 50,000 word goal is arbitrary, but I decided to leave it there.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

French lunch

    
      My husband and I recently spent two weeks in Paris. I decided to do a sketch a day while I was there and although I didn't do one every day, I did quite a few. Here's one of a cafe across the street from where we were having lunch.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Gardening and the Story

     I finished another revision of Marcus Tuttle three weeks ago and have been having a hard time getting back into working on my next novel. That isn’t surprising, since I’m going from “edit” mode to “writing” mode and the two stories are completely different. Marcus Tuttle is a younger middle grade novel and my next novel is an upper middle grade novel. It may seem like a small difference but it's actually quite a large mental jump.
    So what have I been doing to facilitate this change in thinking and start writing again? Gardening. Yes, now that the weather is finally warm enough, living as I do in the frozen tundra wastes of Chicago, (Just kidding. Well, no, actually I’m not.) I feel compelled to get outside and dig in the dirt. I find it's helping me begin to write again. I muse to myself about the story while I’m potting, and I think about what a character might say as I weed and water. I feel that soon my story is going to start growing on it's own.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Gypsy the Gardening Dog


          Hello everybody. After an extended absence due to sickness, I am feeling much better and have decided to start blogging again.
          My mother suggested that since I haven’t been taking classes and have no drawings to post, I should post some of my older artwork.
          I think I shall but I’ll start by posting a photograph that I took of my dog Gypsy. She is currently sleeping at my feet as all idyllic dog images tell us they do, but I have the audio addition of her snoring like a pig.
          We found out this week as I planted my garden on the back porch that Gypsy is a gardening dog. She loves the smell of gardening and sticks her wide nose into anything dirt related that I happen to be working on. Then she plops down on any dirt pile she can find and naps. She’s a great dog.