Friday, February 25, 2011

Transporting Stuff Dutch Style

Post Blizzard transport of a pair of skis that needed repairs, the regular panniers and basket full, and a rug on the back rack.
     When people ask me about my bike, they often sense that it’s different from other bikes, but can’t quite put their finger on how. Many people ask “Is that an electric bike?” simply because it has an enclosed chain guard. Where do they see a motor?
    But there is a difference. My Workcycles bike is built to transport things, not just myself. The back rack hold lots of weight, as I know well, since my husband often gives me rides on the back rack of his bicycle, which is also a Workcycle. I’ve even gotten a lift from Dottie of the LGRAB blog on her Oma. You can see that in her post, Double Dutch.
     When my husband and I visited Amsterdam in June 2010, we saw everything imaginable being carried by bicycle.
    We passed one woman outside a store trying to figure out how to attach a pair of chairs to her bike. Another time, as we sat at an outdoor cafe, we watched in amazement, belgian waffles paused in middair, as a man rode by with an outboard motor strapped across the front of his bike! 
    When we acquired our own dutch bikes, it was easier to haul things around on them than we imagined.

Notice Gypsy's tongue hanging out.
    Gypsy gets carted all over in her trailer and loves every minute of it. She often goes to doggie daycare by bike and loves every minute of that as you can see in my post, Doggie Daycare by Bike. Dogs are like that.
    But surely the most innovative transportation experience was when my husband strapped his recumbent bicycle to the Oma when he had to take it in to the bike store for service. Now that's Dutch style!

The recumbent is strapped to our Burley trailer.

    We end up using our bikes for so many purposes, including grocery shopping, that we find that we hardly use our car. Does anyone else carry loads of stuff around on their bicycle? It certainly makes life much more of an everyday adventure and I mean that in the best way.

A rug taken to work so that the bike won't drip salty snow on the carpet.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Great Lamb Cook Off

     Last summer while I was on my way to the farmer's market, I ran into our downstairs neighbor and friend, Mark. During our conversation about unusual food items to be had at the market, we came up with the idea of having a Duck Egg Cook Off. Neither of us had ever cooked a duck egg, but were game to try. We would each make a duck egg dish and then come together for dinner. This would be a friendly cook off, not a hard core competition, and it was a great excuse to get together.
     It was a resounding success. (Mark poached his eggs in a variety of spices, and I made duck egg pasta from scratch topped with a duck egg carbonara!)
     It took a few months before we managed to set up the next one, but we eventually decided that the item to be cooked would be lamb. Neither of us had ever cooked lamb before.
     Another resounding success!

Mark, Nancy, and my husband.

Mark made a fabulous leg of lamb with tomatoes and bread crumbs, a la Julia Child.

At the Winter Farmer's Market, I found a free range rack of lamb!
     Everything was wonderful and it was a great feast, with Mark's leg of lamb and it's lamb gravy and my rack both turning out great. I'm sorry I didn't get a photo of Nancy's fantastic Lemon Merangue Pie that she brought for dessert, but by that time I was tipsy with all the wine and forgot to take a picture. Next time I won't miss the dessert, I promise. It was lovely looking and delicious.

     Our next Cook Off will be a little more open in terms of what get's cooked.We're planning a Seafood cookoff, with Mark perhaps cooking a lobster, which he's never done before. I'll have to put on my thinking cap, but I'm sure whatever I come up with will be fun to make and eat as well. Till the next Cook Off!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Rest Stop in the Graveyard

     On my way back from the Ladies Who Bike and Brunch get together, I stopped on the way home at Wunder's German Lutheran cemetery and Jewish Graceland cemetery. Founded in the 1850's, both are some of the oldest cemetery's in Chicago.
     Most of the time when I happen to be passing Wunder's it's closed, but I suppose they had to open it up to shovel out the snow, as the front chain link gate was open. There seemed to be only one man shoveling and he ignored me as I pushed my heavy dutch bike through the snow and up the snow covered drive.
     I admired the old monuments, their writing worn off over the years, covered in pristine snow.

     It was so quiet inside, the only sounds of the city were the soft swish swish of cars going by on Irving Park road, muffled by the snow. It was almost like being in a cemetery somewhere in the English countryside. I may even have heard birds tweeting. There wasn't a single person in the cemetery except myself, since the lone shoveler mentioned earlier was outside the cemetery shoveling the sidewalk. It was just me and lots of undisturbed snow.

     It was a relaxing stop over (dare I say restfull?) on my journey home and hopefully in the springtime I might be able to catch it when it is open and enjoy a spring or summer day away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Spring Tease at the Winter Farmer's Market

The lovely Juliet, shopping bags full of goodies.
      This past saturday morning my friend Juliet and I went to the winter farmer's market, which is in the lobby of the Peggy Notebart Nature Museum during the winter months. It was a fun and exciting visit, with all sorts of unexpected treats and a welcome bit of green.

     The market is held every two weeks during the winter months before it moves back outside in the spring. It was a lovely antidote for the winter blues, with many of the items I've come to adore still available.

Portabella yummm!

Popcorn on the cobb.

     The best honey I'd ever had was there. That alone made it worth the trip, since this winter we've had quite a few colds and I'd already used up my summer honey stock in a sea of tea.


      I loaded up the Oma with all my groceries, and headed home, walking with Juliet through the park.
Poor Oma is covered in salt.
     It was so sunny and bright inside the museum, I could imagine it was spring.  On the snowy way home, a snowman in the park even had a cheery sparkle in it's eye.

Even if I can't make spring come any earlier, now I know where to go to get a taste of it.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

German Style Pretzels

   Last Saturday my husband and I made pretzels. We mixed the dough in the bread machine but the rest of the recipe was by hand. We weren't prepared for it. The recipe was complicated and seemed to have more steps than the instructions for Julia Child's hard boiled eggs.
    Another unexpected bit of fun was that you have to boil the pretzels before you bake them. Remember that science project we did as kids, the one with the exploding volcano's?
     Take a big pot of boiling water with baking soda in it,  dunk a salt covered pretzel into it and you get a volcano! The pot bubbled over and spilled out onto the stove top and floor.
     Luckily Gypsy knows that the command "Out!" means high tail it out of the kitchen, so no person or dog was hurt in the making of these pretzels.

German Style Pretzels
Preheat oven to 475 degrees

1 1/2 cups Water
1 teaspoon Salt
1 tablespoon Dark Brown Sugar
4 cups bread flour
2 1/4 teaspoons dry yeast

     When the dough is mixed, take it out of the bread machine, roll into a 12 inch cylinder, cut into 1 inch sections, roll those out into 16 inch ropes, twist around into pretzel shape (first make a horseshoe, cross the ends and twist, then pull the ends down and through the loops).
Set finished pretzel on tray sprinkled with coarse kosher salt. 

1/2 cup baking soda added to 3 quarts of water, bring to boil, then lower to simmer. (It sounds so simple, yet it was super exciting!)

     Place pretzels in water for 2 minutes or until lightly golden, then set on wire rack over a baking pan. Sprinkle with salt. Let dry for 10 minutes. Put back on baking pans sprinkled with salt and bake for 8-10 minutes, or until brown.

P.S.- They were fun to make and tasted great, so I'd say they were worth the effort. Bon Appetit!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Ladies Who Bike and Brunch in Andersonville

     Sunday was the February Ladies Who Bike and Brunch get together. We met at Andersonville's Ann Sather's restaurant, home of the fabulously decadent swedish sweet rolls (pictured above).
     Even though we'd had a blizzard just a few days before, the main streets had been cleared and I decided that if I stuck to them,  I'd be alright. So I headed up Clark street on my Oma. In the video below,  you can see me and my bike in the windows.

Oma deep in snow in our backyard

     What a pleasure! There was hardly a car on the street. It was a slow, peaceful ride,  and it felt like I was taking a leisurely bike ride in the country.
     When I arrived, the bike parking was a bit of a problem, but it didn't stop the Ladies Who Bike and Brunch.

Julie with her bike locked to the top of a bike hoop.

     Eighteen of us turned out for the February brunch. Lovely, interesting ladies, one and all.

Too many to list!

Dottie of LGRAB blog on the left, Suzanne, Shelby, Sara of This Little Bike of Mine blog, and Danielle.

     Afterwards, Some of us visited Women and Children First, a fantastic independent bookstore. Then Dottie and I went to The Brown Elephant thrift store where I found a jeans jacket (for the spring, obviously).

The Swedish Horse in Andersonville
      In the winter, being stuck in the same place can get boring, so I'm so glad for an excuse to get out and meet other women who bike. Looking forward to the next brunch!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Blizzard in Chicago Day

     Here is the sight that greeted us this morning when we opened our back door.

      Needless to say, many hours were spent shoveling the 19 inches of snow that had fallen overnight.  My husband still had to go in to work, so after we shoveled the back stairs and yard, he strapped on a pair of snowshoes and headed to the train. He's standing in the middle of the street in this photo. Those snowshoes were a great idea!

Our street this morning
     One thing about having a dog is that you need to walk them, no matter what the weather. So Gypsy and I headed over to the school yard, which is normally off limits to dogs. But my feeling was, during a blizzard, who cares? She ran around with five other dogs whose owners had had the same idea.

The reason she's hard to see is because it was still snowing and blowing.

      On our way back from the walk we passed many cars snowed in and even stalled out and buried in snow in the middle of the street.

      Gypsy didn't mind the blizzard at all.  She ate lots of snow which meant that I had to take her out every couple of hours so she could go to the bathroom. She must have eaten gallons of water!

Notice the icicles on her mouth from all that snow eating.
When we finally got home it was time for lunch and nothing makes one feel as good on a blizzardy day as a plate full of spaghetti. I hope everyone else had as much fun as we did on our blizzard day!