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

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

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?

     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?