Cast Iron I have

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Falling off the wagon

I haven't been training in a week now.  Toddler girl was really crabby the last few days.  Keeping her from screaming until I wanted to join in became the only thing I could accomplish in a day.  The family lived on batch cooked meals out of the fridge.  It was .... one of the more challenging aspects of motherhood that somethimes come up.

Now I know what was going on with her.  I think she was sick.   And now I have it.  I am nauseous and cranky and I can't sleep.  And as a completely random symptom, I also have leg cramps.

I am taking a couple of days off and I may need a kick in the pants to get going again next week.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Feeling blue - graditude post.

It's -8C outside.  It's snowing.  I think my bike is breaking again.  The BRAKES are fine.  It turns out coaster brakes work much better when you aren't on sheer ice.  Who knew?

The part that has me worried is the bottom bracket, again.  It is clonking as I pedal.  It is very discouraging.

In the mean time, I entered a bike give away.  Lovely Bicycle is giving away my dream bike.  If I had $1500 dollars....  OK, Let's be fair, if I had $1500, I have windows that need replacing.  But let's pretend my house was all fixed up and I had some money to spend, THIS is the bike I would get.

However the contest has gone viral and I've never won much more than a free coffee.  So, not much real hope there.  I am not well off, but there are lots of people that are worse off than me.

My house is very small, but we can pay our mortgages.  Lots of people can't.  My kids aren't healthy, but no one has anything fatal.  I think we manage C's diabetes fairly well when she is here with us.   E gets a lot of colds, but they don't usually last too long.  We only have one car but it can comfortably hold the whole family and isn't too big that we can't afford to put gas in it.  My husband loves me and lets me know it.  AND he does the dishes.

I have wonderful supportive parents and parents-in-law. I have wonderful friends that keep me company and organize a game night every week, so I'm not completely socially deprived.  Toddler girl E gives the nicest hugs and says "luv vu mum mum" and is so sweet and cute it brings tears to my eyes.

I will be ok without a bike, if it turns out that this one completely fails.  I just really hope it doesn't.

UPDATE:  I posted my tale of woe to bike forums and have been told not to ride my bike as is.  Victoria is benched until I can take her to the Doctor.  In the mean time, the very nice lady (and I mean that in the true sense of the word, not in the condescending way that irritates feminists) at Lovely Bicycle has sent me a "Thank you for your entry" email.  The winner is being announced in May, but it was really nice to hear my letter at least made it past her spam filter.  I hope this all works out some how.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Weather dependant

We have had more snow.  Lots of snow and very cold temperatures.  Spring seems so far away when it is -25C outside this morning.

Last week I got a bike ride in.  On the snow.  On my fixed up bike......  The coaster brakes scare the pants off me, especially on ice.  Yes, I started blogging about food, then went off about triathlon, now you have to read bout bikes?  Yup.

So.... I had a bike that I LOVED. SO. MUCH.  My husband bought it for me sort of as a wedding present.   I adored that bike.  I rode it to work everyday.  Then I dislocated my knee cap at work.  I didn't bike much that summer.  Then I got pregnant and had hip complications.  I didn't bike much that summer.  Then baby was too little to ride in a bike trailer without getting shaken baby syndrome.  So, I didn't ride much that summer either.

Last summer, for the first time in three years, I got to ride my bike.  It was uncomfortable right from the start.  I thought I was horribly out of shape and I persisted.  It didn't get better, it got worse.  By the end of the summer it hurt to even climb onto the saddle.  After doing extensive research, I discovered that this is a problem some people have with that type of frame.  Ironically, the "comfort" bike is the most uncomfortable frame for some people.  What with one thing and another, I had become one of those people.

Some people might not care that their bike had become unridable.  After three years of being benched, you might wonder why I care.  I care because up until that fateful knee injury, I rode my bike all summer.  The car would pretty much sit and collect dust.  I'm not even joking about that part, I would have to dust the dashboard before I could drive it in the winter.

So, last fall I found a couple of really old bike frames in garage sales and what not and bought them for $3 - $5.  Then I spend the winter cleaning and rebuilding them.  The 10 speed.... well, it hasn't been out yet.  I know it is too icey for those narrow tyres.

The other one is a CCM mixte.  I have.... reservations about that bike.  It was the more expensive one to fix up.  It needed new everything.  $400 of new everything.  In the end I have a bike that is an absolute joy to ride.  But it only has a rear coaster brake.  To be fair, the one I would buy (if I could afford it) has a rear coaster brake, but it has front brakes too.  That would help the skidding to one side when you try to stop.

That really is the problem.  It is so much fun to ride.  It's just the stopping that is a problem, and the rust, and the hard time getting parts, and the lack of cargo options on the CCM (I've named her Victoria).  She is almost a good bike.  Ok, no, she is a grungy bike that happens to have the right frame geometry to cradle my bones without causing me pain.  After last year, I don't want to give that up.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


It looked like it was going to be spring for the last week or so.  It was so close.  Snow was melting, the sun was shining.  Sure, the sidewalk was so icey that it was completely ridiculous to think you run on it and the streets were not good for biking, but you could see that it was close.

Now we've had another 5 cm of snow.

I feel completely bummed.

Part of it is my project bike.  I have been dreaming about getting it fixed up and taking it for a ride for months.  I am almost there.  I just need to find a rear rack that fits it and holds my wald baskets.  But I have spent so much time clean and fussing with the darn thing, I'm just sick of it.  It is really frustrating, but I know that even with all the work I've put into it, it still will only be an OK bike.  Not a great bike.  And in the mean time, it HAS been a lot of work and I haven't been able to ride it anywhere yet.

I have the "winter is too long" blues

Monday, March 21, 2011

Oh the horror!

Ok.  So it wasn't that bad, but shopping for swimsuits is on of the trials of womanhood.  Nevermind the tiny change rooms, or the bad lighting or the bizarre sizing or the problems of needing a one piece when your tops and bottom are different sizes.  The swimsuit industry has tried really hard to correct that if your are looking for a, well, let's call it a beach suit.

However, if you are planning on being in the pool 2-3 times a week and your don't want a "wardrobe malfunction" when you try to do an in pool turn (fail, btw)...  It's a whole different matter.

I consider myself a fairly average North American Mom.  I'm about 20 pounds over my high school weight, but some of that is post baby belly and I didn't really get boobs until college.  The rest is a gentle, all over coating with a couple of extra layers on my hips.  At 5'4", I am sort of on the line between normal clothing and petit, but I usually take a petit through the torso.

They don't offer petit sizes in "competitive" swimwear in my city.  I tried.  I went to every sporting goods store I could think of and several department stores that have swimwear sections.   Which meant my choices are to buy one that fits in the bum and have the crotch hangs about an inch or so too long.  Not socially acceptable.  Or I buy on that is too tight, get the sausage effect around the back strap and the waist and have the lack of coverage drag the crotch up to an acceptable level.

I don't really like either option.

But neither does anything to address the the problem of... the shelf bra!  Oh man, the shelf bra.  I don't know about you, but for me there should be horror music playing as I type that.  The Shelf Bra (da da DA!)

What were they thinking when they build the shelf bra?  Yes, I understand the idea the well endowed women could use it for cleavage support.  But really, chesty women are not going to get enough support from a stupid little piece of elastic.  They have their own horrors of the swimsuit store.  Personally, I always wonder why the hell it always, ALWAYS, hits me right below the ribcage.  I've breast feed a baby for two years and my boobs still aren't that low.  Never mind that even if they hung down that far, that they certainly wouldn't be getting any support from an elastic way down there.

I've always understood that the bottom of your bra strap, in a properly fit bra should be about half way between your elbow and your shoulder.  So why do swimsuits put the shelf bra even with my elbow?

But if you look for a swimsuit that is fully lined with out a shelf bra, you get a choice of... two.  The black one or the other black one.

I chose the black one.  It's OK.  It doesn't fit all that well.  I will avoid looking in the mirror while I wear it.  But it is the least uncomfortable of the 50+ suits I tried on Saturday.

Nothing is more demoralizing than shopping for swimsuits.  Seriously, having a herd of six interns check out my peritoneum after my daughter was born and one of them saying I was so bruised I looked like I have been kicked wasn't nearly as bad.  Even when they all poked at my stitches.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Crazy much?

I can't believe I am saying this, but I am really looking forward to swimming this morning.  It is icey and gross outside for biking and running, but swimming is warm and toddler free.  Even if I have to get up at crack of pre dawn.

I'm even anticipating finding out if today is better than last week.  I hope so.  I have been working hard, despite missing a few workouts this week.  I know the weather will be nicer in a few weeks but right now I occasionally think about just dropping the triathlon and just going with swimming.

I mean really, what I am I doing?  Triathlon at my age with small kids?

Then the stubborn kicks in and I remember that all the reasons I signed up for this thing are still there and more pool time isn't going to solve anything.  With any luck, I'll be able to post a after swim update, but that all depends on if the toddler is up yet when I get home.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

St Paddy's day

In honour of St Patrick's day,  I managed to prove I am not Irish by making Irish stew from a recipe I found on the internet.  I will post the recipe, but first I'll just send you to All Recipes UK:

Irish Stew with Parsnips

Fortunately the stew turned out really well.  I started in my 5 quart Kitchen aid dutch oven, but it quickly became apparent that it just wasn't big enough.  So I switched to the monster that was too big.  At some point I hope to have an in between size, but for now the beast works just fine.

I did change a few things,  I tripled the veg, used baby potatoes and ended up adding some cornstarch to thicken it at the end.   And because I hate leaving the stove on with a free range toddler in the house, I baked it in the oven at 300F.  So here is my version, in case I want to remember what I did later on.

Irish stew -
1 tablespoon olive oil
1000g lamb shoulder, bone out
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 large onion, quartered
1 lb baby carrots from a bag
parsnips, peeled and cut into large chunks
4 cups water
25 baby potatoes, halved
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary (optional)
1 leek, green part only, rinsed and coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon cornstarch in a little cold water to avoid lumps
Preheat oven to 300F

Heat oil over medium heat in a large stockpot or casserole pot. Add lamb pieces and cook, stirring gently, until evenly browned. Season with salt and pepper.
Add the onion, carrots and parsnips and cook gently alongside the meat for a few minutes. Stir in the water. Cover and bring to a boil before turning the heat down to low. Simmer in oven for 2 hours.
Stir in potatoes and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes before adding leeks and rosemary. Continue to simmer uncovered until potatoes are tender but still whole. Remove from oven and add cornstarch.  Simmer on stove top to thicken.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Not quite yet.

Saturday was a scheduled day off on the training plan.  Sunday was my Gramma's 98th birthday.  It was a three hour drive each way to get to her party.  Monday was a scheduled swim day, but lane swim is only really available to me at 6:30am.  I was too tired from the trip and I slept right through the alarm.  Tuesday was a scheduled day off.

So, it's been four days off since my last workout.  It feels like I have completely fallen off the wagon.  today is a 35 minute bike ride day.  In theory, that is my favourite workout day.  And the weather is so nice out, it's melting.  These last couple of days have been the first nice days of the season.  I should be itching to get out and enjoy it.

In real life, the first few days of spring thaw just make the streets and sidewalks so icey that it is hard to even walk, let alone jog or bike.

I don't really want to go out.  I really don't want to give up either.  I guess that as much as I have been waiting for spring, I am going to have to wait for T to get home from work and stay with the toddler.  I'll have to have a go at the stationary bike.  Again.

I'm itching for spring.  It looks like spring.  I just have to come to terms with the fact that it really isn't spring yet.

Friday, March 11, 2011

She was right

Last week at my first training day in the pool, I talked to a nice lady who said that swimming got easier fairly quickly.

She was right.

Let's be honest here, I am NOT instantly a GOOD swimmer.  I am still just barely a non-drowner.  But today I am a noticeably better (to me) at not drowning.  Although, I'm not sure the lifeguard would notice the difference.   My first time in the pool I could not swim from one end to the other without stopping.  I could flail my way across the pool and cough and sputter to the other side, but it was only swimming in the most vague sense of the word.

The difference it that today I had an easier time managing my breathing an was able to actually give some thought to my stroke.  The nose plugs helped a little but not as much as I had hoped.  I am used to exhaling through my nose as I swim and the first pull when I tried that I was so shocked that it didn't work that I lost track of what I was doing and gulped water and crashed.   Fortunately, I was in the shallow end and just stood up coughing and sputtering and spraying water all over the place.

Yeah.  I'm THAT kind of graceful.

On the up side, the part that IS better is that I can get all the way across the pool to the other side with our putting my feet down.  The first day I couldn't.  AND when I get there I just need a minute to get my self sorted out into the next lane for the return trip.  Monday, I had to stop at the far end to pant.  Now I can make it to the far end and back (one lap) before I have to stop and pant.  I am still the worst swimmer in the pool by a long shot, but I am better than I was.

I still wonder what the heck I'm doing in there.

I'm still too stubborn to give up.

I know swimming is going to be my weakness on race day.  I know I'm not going to place in the top 97%, my goal is just to finish.  What scares me is that if I can't swim the distance, I can't just stop for a breather.

The worst part is I already have swimming baggage from lessions as a kid.  For those of you familiar with the Red Cross swim program of the early 1980's, I made it to level Red and worked my butt off to pass so I wouldn't be in the same class as my little sister.  I did pass the first try, but the instructor said I may have passed but I "wasn't ready" to advance to the next level.  I've never been sure what that meant to her.  Occationally, I wonder if there was a height requirement or something since I was the shortest in my class.  What it meant to me was that when I tried to talk my mom into letting me move on to the next class, I was repeatedly told I wasn't good enough yet.  How do you argue with that when you are 10?  All my (taller) friends were at least at the next level or even two or three ahead of me.  I felt like I would never catch up, so I just quit trying.  I took level Red two more times until my little sister passed and was allowed to move up, but by then I was two to four years older than anyone else in the class and really didn't want to be there.

I know that I will say small thoughtless things to my girls that will be their baggage for life.  I'm not sure you can avoid that no matter how carefully you parent.  I just hope that when they try to talk to me about it, I can actually listen to what they are saying.  Part of what motivates me now is that absolute hatred and despair that all forms of gym class caused me a child.  I don't want to be the victim of bad physical education anymore.  I don't want the label of "small weak kid" to be stuck in my head anymore.  I want to be able to do these things to be able to support my girls if they want to do them.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Pot roast and biking

It is getting easier, but some of that might be that I haven't had another swimming day yet.  Biking today went so well, I accidentally went twice as far as I had scheduled.  I am still very frustrated by the way my bike fits.... or doesn't fit.  But it is too icey out for me to try the newly spiffed up 10 speed.  I think I HATE "comfort" bikes.  It was fine when I bought it;  I loved it.  But at the time I was just recreationally biking and I wasn't towing a bike trailer or going up step freeway overpasses.

I have to find a different general purpose bike.

I am craving protien like never before.  Or at least like never since I stopped breast feeding.

EDIT:  March 22, 2011 After some discussion with friends about slow cooker safety, I have considered pulling this recipe.  However, since this blog is primary for ME to keep track of cooking tricks that have worked, I am leaving it here with some added discussion.  My low on my slow cooker heats to 75 to 80 C.  Bacteria in milk is traditionally Pasteurized at this 71C.  (New ultra high heat Pasteurization is hotter, but that isn't where I'm going with this. )  The theory behind what makes this roast so good is that at this temperature the connective tissue gelatinizes and THAT is what makes the roast so yummy.  It comes out completely cooked with no pink and a safe internal temperature.

However, before you trying this, you really have to know how hot your slow cooker is.  A little research has taught me that "low" is not as low as it used to be.  It can now be as high as 93C.  At that temp your roast is done in about 12 - 18  hours depending on the size.  And it isn't as tender. I suspect this is to avoid lawsuits or something from people trying to cook on low and giving up too soon then eating under cooked food.  I don't want to get sued either, so if you try this, you accept responsibility for making sure you are safe.   

Now a word about the sauce.  The other thing that makes this roast so nice is that you are basically cooking it in rehydration fluid.   The apple juice provide the sweet and the hoisin and montreal steak spice provide the salt.  The trick is to get the sauce to the salty-ness of saline.  This allows the meat to uptake the sauce better, I suspect via osmosis, but I can't prove it.

The goal from all of this is to get a roast that tastes like Granny has been stewing it since yesterday, but on a slow cooker since leaving a stove on that long, especially with at toddler at home, is not advised.  Incidentally, have you ever noticed that slow cookers come with the warning to not leave them unattended?  I thought leaving them unattended was the whole point of a slow cooker.

So, I give you my "Good things come to those who wait" Pot roast:

3 lbs. beef roast
½ cup hoisin sauce
1 cup apple juice
1 spinkle montreal steak spice

1. 36 hours before dinner
2. - brown outside of roast
3. - mix together sauce, juice and spices
4. - place roast into slow cooker and drizzle with sauce mixture
5. - set slow cooker to low and LEAVE it!
6. - after 24 hours the smell with be nearly irresistible, but if you wait you will be rewarded.  You should peek and turn the roast
7. - 20 minute before you are ready to serve, check the temperature with a meat thermometer Make sure you have an minimum internal temperature of 71C before eating beef, cut the power and just let it rest.

Monday, March 7, 2011


I wish I could write about how excited I am to be training.  But I'm not.

Today's plan included 20 minutes of swimming and 20 minutes of run/walking.  The only time I could get the swim in was 6am.  The weather was -34C.  My garage door is broken so the car had been parked out all night and my hands froze to the steering wheel.  The pool was busy and I managed to get a complete sinus rinse during my second lap.

The whole thing felt like a prolonged drowning rather than a swim.

However, I did do better than I did on Friday.

I hope the nose plug I ordered with my swim cap will help.

I really need a nap, but my 2 year old isn't going to let me have one.

It will get better. 

I just wish I could afford better gear.  I found a great deal on a triathlon bike for $200.  I don't have $200.  So, I'm off to the basement to spend some time fixing up the $5 special I have almost ready to go in my basement.  I miss being a two income house.

As for the wine, that will have to wait until after I work the evening shift tonight.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

When it's not about the weight

I am 5'4.  I weigh between 140 and 145 lbs depending on the day.  I wear a size 6 Levi's and a 32D bra.  I wish I was a little smaller, but only in the way that north americian culture has messed with women's heads in such a way that we all want to be smaller.  I am not dissatisfied with my shape enough that I have ever actually wanted to put in the effort to change my life style.

But some time lifestyle has to change and body shape gets dragged along for the ride.  There has been lots written about how poverty = weight gain.  How cheap food is often calorie dense nutritionally vacant.  I don't even pay much attention to nutritional information in the media and even I am aware of these things.  I have reached the point where my lifestyle has to change do to financial circumstance and it is going to change my body.

We can no longer afford to be a two car family.  Since my husband will need the car to go to work, I will be the main car free person.  Staying at home, really at home, not going anywhere with a toddler is not an option I can live with, but I will either have to stay at home or walk/bike everywhere.   Either option will change my shape whether I want it to or not.

I like biking.  We have a trailer for my toddler.  My bike isn't really great but I have a old fixer upper 10 speed that I hope to be able to use in the summer.

The problem is....  I can't bike very far.  I am not the fit, well toned person I was five years ago before I dislocated my knee cap.  I need to exercise not to lose weight but to adapt to my new car light existence.

My friend N has been involved with a program to help women go from sedentary to sprint length triathlon for a number of years.  I like biking; I like swimming;  I used to run with my rowing team.  I'm not currently any good at any of those things.  I thought it would be great, I could sign up and work out with her and a bunch of ladies who are in the same fitness boat as I am.

But.... I can't afford the entrance fee and (while I don't work very much) some of the training days conflict with my work schedule.  So I found a free online training plan.  I have a city pool pass that is still good for a few months.  The local bike store is taking pity on me and helping fix up my $3 garage sale 1970's era road bike for a very reasonable amount.  There is a sprint length triathlon in June that they sponsor.

I'm going to try to do it on my own.

I am scared.

I am stubborn.

I am going to follow the training plan and see what happens.

I hope to be able to participate in the triathlon.  Right now that seems impossible.

So far, I have had one swimming session for 30 minutes.  I could not swim the whole time.  It was a combination of swimming and water walking, but I put in the time and gave it my best effort and was tired and out of breathe at the end.  This morning my muscles are.... not exactly sore, but I can tell I used them last night.  The gal in the lane next to me says it gets easier everytime you go.

I am digging in my heels.  I am going to do this.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Hogfather Pie

My family first saw the Hogfather movie years after I had read and enjoyed the book.   The girls liked it and we wanted to incorporate some of the hogfather traditions into our December.  I had never made or eaten a pork pie before my middle girls asked me to make one.  So we went to the internet and discovered three things:
1. no one in the family likes cold pork pies with jellied bit in them
2. I need to try a lot of different recipes before I find one that everyone likes and in the mean time the family eats a lot of pie
3. sometimes it's ok to randomly copy ingredients from 8 or 9 different recipes to get something you like.

Hogfather pie
1 lb. lean ground pork
⅔ cup oatmeal
2 tablespoons McCormick mixed spice (contains ginger, allspice, cinnamon, coriander, mustard, bayleaf, cloves and  black pepper)
1 each egg
2 tablespoons anchovy paste
1 medium onion, shreaded
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 pie crust, top and bottom crust

1. - preheat oven to 350F
2. - over medium heat saute grated onion in oil until clear
3. - add ground pork and cook quickly for 5 minutes, stirring continuously
4. - remove from heat, pour into large mixing bowl and allow to cool
5. - when meat is at room temperature, add egg, oatmeal, anchovy paste, spices and mix thoroughly
6. - place raw pie crust into a pie plan
7. - add meat mixture to raw pie crust
8. - top with raw crust and cut vents into top
9. - seal edges of crust with either a fork or your fingers
10. - bake for about an hour or until meat thermometer reads as done (170F)