Cast Iron I have

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Oh Sh!t - the Bicycle Edition

Last summer the whole family spent a couple of weekends helping our friend, A, build a shed.  There was a house up the block who had a garage sale one of those weekends and there was a nice lady selling this 10 speed.  I have never ridden a 10 speed or any road bike before but I was inspired by Velouria of Lovely Bicycle who a few years ago started road biking on a Sam Hillborne

I can't afford a Sam Hillborne, and while I know there is a big difference between a touring frame and a racing frame all diamond frame bikes look almost the same to me.  I can tell if the top bar is more or less angled or straight across but that's about it.  On a bike like Victoria (a mixte or a step through bike) I have gotten pretty good at judging seat post angle and I can tell if it is one that will fit me or not.  It seems like the magic angle on an upright bike (for me) is about 70ish degrees.  Once the bike gets to 74+ degrees (so far) they haven't fit as well.

Going from a very upright cycling posture to a very aggressive racing posture was going to be challenging and I knew it.  A cheap bike would be the way to go, right?  OK.  I'll go for full disclosure here:  this bike has hearts lugged onto the underside of the bike.  That really contributed to my even asking about the price. In retrospect, maybe a bike where the top bar isn't so straight across might have been a better bike to start with.

She said make me an offer.  I said $5.  She said $3 and she threw in what ever thingy T wanted.  It was not ride-able.  So I spend the winter taking it apart and cleaning it and putting it back together with new tires, cables, handle bar tape and a bargain bin seat from the local bike store.  All in, it is now a $70ish bike.

Today I took it for a ride.

This bike scares the poop out of me!  It feels so different.  It feels too fast and out of control.  And the thing is I know that isn't the bike.  It's me not being sure how to even hold on to the handle bars on the bike.   I feel just ... different.

I am putting the bike (who I haven't named) back into the garage until after the streets are cleaned.  The gravel added a whole extra layer of scary to the ride that I wasn't prepared to handle.  In my very VERY short ride (about 5 blocks) I don't think I got a fair impression of what the bike would be like to really ride.  I am not going to just give up on it.  I suspect it would be a better bike to take to the pool in the morning.

I realize this is going to sound ridiculous but even the little 5 minute toodle around the neighbourhood was so far out of my comfort range that I am very proud that I even did that.  Next time I will go a little farther.  It will get better.

However, that is another nail in the coffin of my hopes to triathlon this spring.  I can't take Victoria to the race and I have no idea how long it will take me to get used to the Unnamed bike.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

How to explain seasonal variation to a 2 year old

OK.  So sometimes I forget that people actually read this.  I don't find my life interesting enough that I expect anyone to be interested other than my friends and family who would have to listen to all this rambling anyway.

For those of you who are just here for the food....  I'm sorry but this is another "I can't believe my 2 year old did this" post.  You've been warned.

My location is northern enough that our day length varies significantly with the season.  Today the dawn was at 4:14 am.  I checked.  Toddler girl woke up at 5:52.  The sun was shining.  The house was completely quiet.  She was soaking wet and so was her bed, AND (from her point of view) she had overslept and everyone had left for the day.

Total freak out ensued.

It took almost half an hour to get her to calm down and stop screaming and by then EVERYONE was up.

I have got to make that kid some black-out blinds.

Once she was calmed down I tried to explain to her that sun-up does NOT mean it is time to get up.  She flat out refused to believe me.  I've been really lucky about not being told "NO" by toddler girl.  Mostly because I think that is the rudest thing and we have let it be known that screaming "No" at your parents isn't acceptable behaviour.  This time however, she KNEW I was wrong and tried to articulate it beyond just no. 

"Mummum, look!" Pointing to window, "Light outside!  Wake up time!"

"In the summer the sun gets up before it's time for people to get up sweetie."

"no.   Up time!"

She still snuck the "no" in there.  I guess she felt it needed to be said.  Fair enough.

Back to the topic of today's post.... How do you explain seasonal variation to a two year old?  It's only going to get worse...

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The dilemma - ramblings

I have had a very nice lady make what appears to be a very sincere offer to buy Victoria for a fair price given the parts and effort I put into her.  If I was ever going to sell Victoria, this would be a really good opportunity.  My problem is.... that fair and reasonable offer would not be enough to buy myself a new bike.  No big surprise there really.
If I sold her, I would be well on my way to a Gazelle basic, but I would also be without a bike this summer while I saved up the rest of the money.  If I keep her, it will be a few years before I can afford a Gazelle but I would have a reasonable (if somewhat rickety) bike in the meantime.

I have been really enjoying being car free.  I've gotten some really good rides in.  I have lost 5lbs in the last couple of weeks.  I really feel healthier.  I sleep better.  It has been really good.  I don't want to give that up.

On the other hand, I don't have enough faith in my bike rebuilding skills to believe that I would be able to sell her for this much later.  This is really the right bike for a specific collector.  In a garage sale or classified ad I wouldn't even make my parts cost back.

It's a case of short term or long term benefits and I'm not sure which is which.  If I sell, would I be able to stay active and save up?  Or would the money end up going to the never ending home repairs and I would have nothing?

By the way, if you know where I can legally get $3000 to get my house exterior painted before I end up with more water damage?  But I digress.

Victoria isn't really my DREAM bike.  That's the part of this whole thing that makes me sad.  Victoria is this woman's dream bike.  In terms of looks and parts and features my dream bike would be the Superba I can't afford.  Which is a whole different problem because the bike (that I also can't afford) that would best suit my needs at the moment is likely the Radish by Xtracycle.
I think it is about the ugliest looking bike I have ever even considered owning.  It's $1000 USD.  And I have to pay in full to have the Xtracycle dealer in town bring it in.  No test rides are possible.  Pay first, try later.  Yeah, that makes me squirm too.

It could carry Toddler girl and groceries for five.  Every blog I follow that talks about their Xtracycle as a family bike loves it.  I follow a few bike blogs where they use an Xtracycle instead of a minivan.  See Here and Here and Here.

The Madsen is prettier (to me) with it's swan frame:
but I've been burned by that hybrid seat angle before.   To further confirm this is a problem for me, yesterday Victoria and I went for a couple of rides totaling over 2 hours with Toddler in the Chariot.  No problems.  Today I took V's bike (the same frame style that was causing me pain last year) to the LBS for a minor brake job.  It was less than a 30 minute round trip with a long stop in the middle and by the time I got home my knees and hips were just killing me.

Maybe I'm imagining it, but the Radish looks like a better seat angle.

I wonder if I could write a really nice letter to Miss Sarah at Girls and Bicycles to talk her into letting me test drive her Madsen.  Then I would just need to make the 5 hour trip there to give it a spin.  Mind you, in today's post she is also complaining about pain.  She thinks it's the saddle.  I hope she is right.  That was the first thing I tried changing to fix my hip pain on my former hybrid bike.  It didn't help.  The problem wasn't the seat.

Either way, would I keep using a bike like that in a couple of years when Toddler girl is big enough for a trail-a-long bike?  For groceries?   Maybe.  Pre-toddler I could buy groceries for four just by strategic pannier packing, but the teens were smaller too.

So, for now, Victoria and I are sticking together and towing Toddler girl in the chariot.  It's not an ideal situation, but it works.  I just wish there was a better way for me to manage.  That didn't cost more than I can afford.  It would be really nice to be able to do both a me bike and a practical bike.  I just can't even imagine spending that much on stuff for me.   Not when there is so much else that needs attention around here.  Despite what you make think from the recent tractor purchase, we don't have frivolous money.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Small town vs City life

Simply Bike recently wrote a post recently where she lamented the smallish college town she is living in and tries to come to terms with being there.  She wishes for a bigger city.  The irony is that her small college town likely isn't that much smaller than the "city" I live in.

I have to confess I know how she feels.  Don't get me wrong.  I have no desire to move to Edmonton or Vancouver.  I am not a big city girl.  No.  I wish I was in a smaller town.  With more trees.  At the same time, because I'm big enough to admit the contradiction in my tastes, I also long to be closer to a big city.  I don't want to live in one, but it would be nice to have one about 2 - 3 hours away.  Five hours to Edmonton is just too far for a nice weekend visit.  Especially with toddler girl.  She can just about manage two and a half hours to Regina, but there is no way we could drive to Edmonton without having a shrieking kidlet in the back seat for the last couple hours of that drive.

Saskatoon gives me that odd mix where by it is too small to have great shopping while at the same time being too big to bike across easily.  Or easily for me anyway.  The bike trails are too broken up.  The grocery stores are too.... megamart for me.  There aren't enough trees and there isn't enough green.  The river valley is nice, but the trails aren't a short jaunt away.  I have to cross two major six lane intersections to get to them.

The bottom line is that I would not have chosen to live here.  I wasn't here before I met T and the girls.  I thought I was moving to town for a couple of years to go to school.  I wasn't planning on staying.  I'm here because family is what makes this place home.  Beyond the amenities,  the shopping, the restaurants, the trees and terrain, I am here because my family is here.  And I couldn't have found a better family if I had been looking for one.

At the same time I miss Pemberton.  Not really the wacky political stuff that was happening in the health region at the time, but the people, the setting and the community.  I wasn't there for long, but somehow it still feels the most like home to me.  I know you can never go back.  I just sometime wonder why I left.   The only way to answer that is that if I hadn't left I never would have met T and toddler girl would never have happened.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Start your Turkeys NOW!

Since I wasn't that organized for Easter this year, I just found out my parents are coming up from the south of the province for Easter dinner.   I wasn't organized enough to get a nice ham from the local supplier and (after letting them spoil me) I can't imagine paying more for a worse tasting store brand one.

I flat out admidt this post is total plagiarism from Alton Brown.  If they send me a take down notice, I will.   There isn't really anything I could do to make this any better.  Really.   BEST.  TURKEY.  EVER.  Try it.  You will never go back.

The original recipe says to start brining the night before.  I always buy a fresh turkey from Costco, and I figure that if I'm going to have turkey sitting in my fridge, it might as well be marinading in flavour.

15 lb turkey, fresh or thawed
1 cup kosher salt
½ cup brown sugar
8 cups vegetable stock
1 tablespoon peppercorns
1 ½ teaspoons whole allspice
2 teaspoons candied ginger, chopped
1 apple, sliced
½ onion, sliced
1 cinnamon stick
4 sprigs rosemary
6 leaves sage
½ cup canola oil
sprinkle paprika

1. Combine the vegetable stock, salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, allspice berries, and candied ginger in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally to dissolve sugar and salt.   Bring to a boil. Then remove the brine from the heat, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate, in large bucket with turkey, breast side down

WARNING:  This is a two stage roasting recipe.  If your mom, like my mom, always put the turkey in as soon as you got home from mass, this may seem like you are waiting too long to start.  Trust the recipe.  The first time I tried this we ended up with the bird done at 4pm because I couldn't imagine not starting supper until 2:30.  So I started cooking at 1pm and the bird was done before I had even started anything else.

2. 3 1/2 hours before you are ready to eat:  Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F, allow at least 30 minute to come up to temperature. Remove the bird from brine and rinse inside and out with cold water. Discard the brine.

3. Place the bird on roasting rack inside a roaster and pat dry with towel. (Original recipe says half sheet, but it is too juicy and will overflow and start an oven fire)

4. Combine the apple, onion, cinnamon stick, and 1 cup of water in a microwave safe dish and microwave on high for 5 minutes. Add steeped aromatics to the turkey's cavity along with the rosemary and sage. Tuck the wings underneath the bird and coat the skin liberally with canola oil. Sprinkle with paprika

5. Roast the turkey on lowest level of the oven at 500 degrees F for 30 minutes. Insert a probe thermometer into thickest part of the breast and reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Set the thermometer alarm (if available) to 161 degrees F. A 14 to 16 pound bird should require a total of 2 to 2 1/2 hours of roasting. Let the turkey rest, loosely covered with foil or a large mixing bowl for 15 minutes before carving.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Triathlon update

I honestly can't see how I'm going to be able to participate in a triathlon this spring.  Even a short one.  Bike training is going great.  I'm training with the trailer and on race day without it will be so much easier!  Running is.... going.  I'm getting better.  I'm not really a jogger yet, but I can see progress.

Swimming is completely stalled.  I am so much better than I was when I started.  In fact, I am as good of a swimmer as I ever have been.  That's the problem.  I have never been a swimmer.  I am not completely exhausted after swimming.  I am getting stronger that way.  But I still flounder and drown too much to participate in a race.  What I need is professional help in the form of stroke improvement classes or adult swimming lessons or something.

Except there aren't any that I could take and finish and still have time to practice before the race.  I have to admit, I am really disappointed in myself.

I really wanted to do this.

I knew the swimming was going to be a problem, but I thought I would keep getting better.  I didn't expect to keep getting better as fast as I did in the beginning, but ...  I didn't expect to still be this bad.  I even added extra swim days to the training plan to help make up for my lack of skill.

I know it's not about the weight, which is a good thing because I haven't lost any.  I think my muscles are starting to show.  I feel better.  All in all, it has been a really good experience.  And still.... I am disappointed in myself.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Bike hoarding

I acquired this mini Raleigh for not much money (out of my pocket but less than half my grocery budget for the week) for a nice lady I met on the internet who lives near Edmonton.  Now she has stopped returning my emails.  Amazingly, I'm not too stressed about that.  I found out via the other nice people on the internet that is is a Raleigh Colt.  It was purpose built for tweens and people between 4'5 and about 5'.  As near as I can tell based on serial number placement this one is an early 1970's model.  The big girls are likely already too big for this bike, but Toddler girl isn't.  Having a few years to really clean it up and make it sparkle will be fun.  It seems to be a really well build bike and runs nicer than my CCM.  Aside from my knees coming up over the handle bars as I pedal.

If she doesn't want it when she grows to that size, I can sell it then.  If she does want one and I sell it now, they are only going to get harder to find.  I could sell it right now, since I have already have someone who wants it for parts.  I just hate turning a functioning bike into a non-functioning bike.  To me, I would always rather have that equation work in reverse.  Especially since the only problem I can is some minor surface rust on the fenders and chain guard.  I really believe that a little clean would be all it takes to fix that.  The chrome is perfect.

On one hand, I would NOT have bought this for myself.  On the other, now that I have it.... It is growing on me.  Let me know when I become a bike hoarder, OK?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Snow! Again!

I don't know why this bothers me.  As a single person I used to bike or walk in the snow all the time.  I think it's the snow suit.  Not my snowsuit, toddler girl's snowsuit.  You know the one.  You try to get the kid to pee.  She swears she doesn't have to.  You put on the snow pants, the mittens, the coat, hat and scarf.  You stuff on her boats.  Then after five minutes outside, she has to pee RIGHT NOW!  Sometimes if you run (and are lucky) you can get all those clothes off in time to get to the potty.  If you don't quite make it in time.... you spend the rest of the day doing laundry and you aren't going anywhere.

It becomes easier to just take the car.  There is a lot less outerwear involved in a car trip.

I don't really like taking the car more than I have to.  This is why we spend most of the winter in the house getting cabin fever.

Before toddler girl, I would have considered just getting a Pugsley.   However, I have found that once you adds kids to the mix, all those "go bike, go!" tips fall apart.  This winter I went to a winter cycling workshop.  It talked about staying warm, being visible, traveling with a cell phone and cab fare in case of sudden snow storm.  When I asked about winter biking with kids, the presenters started responding as if I had said "teenagers."  When I clarified that I meant toddlers, there was an uncomfortable silence before everyone on the panel slowly admitted they had no ideas.

In a room full of people who had drunk the bike everywhere cool aid, no one wanted to say you can't bike in the snow with tiny people.  Or at least that's what it felt like.  No one said it isn't safe.  The people in the audience said, watch out for your trailer tipping.  Don't let the kid go to sleep in case they get hypothermia.  (How do you keep a kid in a trailer from falling asleep?  Toddler girls naps every time.)  They said stop every few minutes to check the kid for cold spots.  The list of safety things to keep in mind made it unrealistic to bike for transport with a toddler in the winter.

Once they are on their own bike or even a tow behind half bike, you can do it.  But for littles in the snow......  take the bus.

Ha!  Ever tried minding a toddler and enough groceries for a family of five on the bus?  I know there are people who do it, but it is REALLY hard.  Especially when you have to walk several blocks from the bus stop and the toddler wants to be carried and you are already at load capacity for the bags of groceries.  Plus people don't always shovel and if I slipped while carrying her I could crush her.

I think I may have to go change my goals to account for snow.

The snow didn't last, but I stayed inside and painted the bathroom anyway.  Two coats of paint and three loads of laundry made for a full day.   I wish Peg Bracken was available on the Kindle....

Thursday, April 14, 2011


I think I have picked a very bad day indeed to start trying to be car free.

My main bathroom has some drywall damage that has finally gotten repaired and is ready to paint.  I need to get some primer.  I think I will just use the left over paint from C's room.  It's a nice juicy green colour that will co-ordinate with the unfortunately mushroom coloured bathroom suite.  Plus the bathroom is only about 8 x 6 so it won't take very much paint to cover.

I really need to prime first.  When we bought the house, the last owners had painted just before we got it.  They went from oil to latex without priming.  About a week after we moved in the paint started peeling off the walls.

Yes, as much as I hate to admit it, my house has mange. I have sanded and primed and repainted the hallway previously.  It's a tiny hallway and it still took me a whole week of hard work.  The living room, kitchen and dining room have most of the problem areas behind the furniture.  The bathroom was pretty bad but we had to open the walls in there to fix plumbing problems and I wasn't in a rush to deal with it.

We've been in the house since 2003.  We have replaced the furnace, gutted the basement, added a basement suite, replaced half the windows and replaced all the appliances.  Last year, Tyson's parents bought us new shingles.   Previously we had to dig up both lawns because the house came with tumbleweeds growing in the lawn.  It has been a non stop reno since we are doing the work as money becomes available.  We bought the worst house on the best block we could afford and have been slowly making it better.

We are the po white trash on the block.  Or at least the social climbers.  It isn't even all that fancy of a block.  It's mostly small starter homes from the 1960's and most of the people in them are eldery types who never managed to get beyond the starter home.  I expect we won't be any different.  The house is around a 1000 sq feet, three bedrooms, 1 1/2 baths up and we have added legal bedroom #4 and a full bath in the basement.  The girls live upstairs, we live down.  I am very proud of all the work we have done with very little debt being accrued.

Sorry?  What was I talking about?

Oh yes.  So today I had to buy a gallon of paint on my bike.  And I did it, with Ellie in tow.

I really want to get the bathroom finished being painted before the exchange students come on Sunday.  Saturday is the big Easter Tea I want to be able to attend, so painting has to happen NOW.

I am procrastinating by blogging about it.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Biking goals

I have withdrawn my application from the Lovely Bicycle contest.  I didn't really think it was fair to be applying for a bike contest for women in need when I just voluntarily spent almost a Belle Ciao on my husband.  I had meant to do that as soon as I got home, but E came home from gramma's house with a tummy bug, and I have spent the day running loads of laundry.

Based on my new "work with what I have" philosophy I have decided to set some bicycle goals.  Yeah, cheesy huh?

1. Try to work two extra shifts at the clinic so I can afford a Velo Orange saddle.  Yes, a Brooks saddle would be nice, but that's almost a week of extra shifts and it isn't realistic to think I could get that much child care organized for free.  Or that there would be that many shifts available.  And, yes, I also know this isn't strictly speaking "working with what I have" but a new seat is a lot less than a new bike

2. I want to learn a more graceful dismount technique.  I have to get the new saddle first because when I tried it with my current cracked and falling apart synthetic saddle I just slid off and fell over.  (Interesting, my current saddle is a Brooks.  It's just a Brooks for the times of troubles when Brooks was making bad vinyl saddles)

3.  I want to learn to start my bike the way Dottie does over at Let's go Ride a Bike.

4.  I want to organize my life so that I only use the car one day week.  I'm going to choose Tuesdays, since that's game night and also discount day at the local grocery store.  I want to stick to this transportation plan until snow at least.

5.  I want to find out what other good biking techniques I have somehow missed learning and learn them.

6.  I want to either trade in the Chariot on a toddler seat or have a garage sale or something to fund one.  The chariot can be towed by anyone in the family for recreation rides, but it is really hard to park at the grocery store.  Plus, someone suggested that it might be causing the problems I've been having with the CCM (aka Victoria) and a little comparative testing has so far indicated I don't have problems with the old girl when toddler girl isn't in tow.  Since a child seat would attach to my rear rack and prevent me from using rear baskets, I would also need a front basket and front wheel stabilizer to be able to bring groceries home or carry a toddler survival pack or whatever.  I'm not even really sure Victoria can even carry a toddler seat, but I'm going to look into it.

7.  I want to go out there and have T tighten up everything on Victoria so she stops rattling so badly.

Not strictly bicycle related but up and coming in my life, I need to start planning the garden.  I always grow one to supplement our groceries in the summer.  This year I want to try square foot gardening.  Whatever configuration I plant in, I need to get some seeds started.

Last year, I biked home from the farmers market with E in the trailer and 10 kg of peaches strapped to my back rack on more than one occasion.  We are almost out of peach preserves and I will miss them when they are gone.  It really makes me glad that I have some old fashioned skills.  Those skills will get us through times of old bikes better than new bikes would get us through times of having to pay for ready made food.


I was quite amazed to view my stats page and learn that I have readers from around the world.  Personally, I suspect this is due to Google misdirects since I don't find my blog all that interesting.

With this in mind, however, I decided not to post about our trip until we got back.

I know that I whine (a lot) about the sad state of my bike.  I also know that this story make cause you to doubt the sincerity of my desire to upgrade or repair my sad vintage Victoria.  I can assure you, that is NOT the case.

I had just about saved up to be able to buy a Gazelle Basic.  It took over a year.  Now I have gone and spent that money on my husband.  It isn't that I don't desperately want a new bicycle, it just that I love my husband more.  I saved up once.  I can do it again.

T's grandfather was a John Deere dealer.  When T was little he and his granpa would work on a 1960's JD garden tractor together.  Granpa would take him for rides on it.  They would fix it up together.  It is one of T's happiest memories of his granpa, who I suspect wasn't every sure what to do with a grandson who couldn't walk before his surgery at age 7 and can't walk well even after.  Men born in 1910 just were never taught skills to interact with a diverse population.  T and I call it the "able bodied male syndrome."  The whole "never complain, never explain" and certainly never admit you can't do anything mentality.

T's granpa died when T was in high school and T's dad inherited the little tractor.  It was parked in the backyard.  That was over 20 years ago.  It has sat there rusting to pieces ever since.

For the last ten or so years that T and I have been together we have tried to get T's dad to let us restore it, or at least move it into shelter to keep it from getting worse.  Dad keeps saying he'll get to it.

The thing is, it wasn't HIS granpa's tractor.  Dad has no emotion attachment to it.  Taking care of it is not a priority for Dad.  And in the mean time it is crumbling to dust.  When we first started talking about fixing it up, there was still a chance that we could.  Now..... there is barely anything left to save.

T is heartbroken.

I have been watching the classified ads daily for a vintage bike since shortly after E was born and about a couple of weeks ago I saw an ad for the same model of tractor for sale.  These tractors occasionally come up for sale in the US where there were lots of them, but there were not that many in Canada.   In the over a year (almost two) that I had been watching ads and saving my pennies this was the first one I saw that wasn't all tricked out and being sold as a museum piece for $5000+ .  It runs.  It needs work.  It costs more than a Gazelle Basic and by the time you factor in driving to go get it and a hotel because it is a 10 hour drive away, it is almost as much as a Gazelle Toer Populair.  But it may be our one chance to get one of these tractors and if we miss it, I don't think we will get another.

I couldn't even do a gift of the magi for him and just spend my bike money on it, I didn't have enough.

In a completely fool hardy move, we spent my bike money and his tax refund and just got the darn tractor.  It took a two day trip.  We took Dad's truck.  We are both exhausted.  He is so happy it make my heart swell to see it.

It will like be another couple of years to save up for the Gazelle, but I am going to stop whining about my grungy of bicycle now.  I made my choice.  I will live with it.   Gazelles will still be there to purchase in another two years.  The chance to buy a JD 110 garden tractor wouldn't have been.

I just really hope we don't have cause to regret it.  In the mean time, we have parked the car.  T is biking to work.  I am biking for everything.  We are saving the gas money for other things. like a better bike and the never ending project of replacing the windows on our house.

That's the thing that has me worried.  Money in a bank account that could eventually become a bike could also become windows if we had problems.  Money in a tractor (or a bike for that matter) is a lot harder to get at if something comes up.  We never buy frivolous things, certainly nothing this big.  We never go on vacation.  It feels weird to finally have something like that.  Especially since we still are pinching our pennies everywhere else.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Bike vs car

Ellie and I just took the bike to the grocery store.  On our way back we were involved in a hit and run.  

Fortunately no damage, but still.... it's the principle of the thing.  The guy swerved in front of me and made a high speed right turn while I was in it's turning radius and clipped my front tire.  Then while I was picking myself up out of the gravel, the guy yelled "learn how to drive" at me.


Right back at you bub.

Didn't get his plate.  Didn't have my cell to call the cops.  Note to self: no biking without cell phone from now on. 

The ride home was ... even more clonky than before.  I think it's just that the chain guard just came loose again when I bailed.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Cowboy style baked beans

I have adapted this recipe from  It was very good as written.   I like the extra smokey flavor and zip that the Bull's Eye sauce gives.  Plus my local grocery store sells white beans in a 907g bag, which conveniently is about 4 cups.  If you need extra protein slicing in a couple of BBQ bratwursts is a nice addition.

An informal facebook poll suggested serving with corn bread and greens.  Personally, if I'm stressing everyone's GI tract with beans, adding a dark green and leafy seems awfully risky when there are more people than toilets in this house.  Buns or bannock and fresh fruit like muskmelon work well.

  • 4 cups white (navy) beans
  • 1 pound bacon
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup  (or slightly more) table molasses
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 cup Bull's Eye BBQ Sauce
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 oz Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  1. Soak beans overnight
  2. Chop bacon into 2 inch long pieces, pan fry in a No. 6 cast iron frying pan. Remove with tongs to plate covered with a paper towel to soak up some of the bacon fat
  3. Drain most of the grease but leave a little to saute the onion
  4. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).  
  5. Drain and rinse beans.
  6. Add the beans, onion and bacon in a 5 quart glazed dutch oven
  7. In a saucepan, combine molasses, salt, spices, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, BBQ suace and brown sugar.  Bring to a simmer and drizzle over beans. 
  8. Put dutch oven on the burner on Medium and bring to a simmer.
  9. Cover with a lid, place in preheated oven
  10. Bake for 5 or 6 hours, until beans are done.  Soft not crunchy and the sauce is a rich thick brown. Stir halfway through cooking, and add more liquid if necessary to prevent drying out.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Bike rebuilding

So.... I have removed the rear wheel and re- installed it with the best chain tension I could manage.  I re-installed the cable for the IGH and tensioned it properly to shift correctly.  I tightened the screws the hold the chain guard in place.

That took care of the rattle and the shifting and the losing power.  I still had the clonk from the BB.  I have had to face up to the fact that this is the bike I have and I will just have to live with the clonk.  The mechanic says it is fine to ride, it just clonks because it is old and a little worn.

Then I got to bike today.  It was glorious.  I had to stop several times to retighten the screws on the chain guard and the rear nuts on the axel?  Spindle?  Thingy.   I'm not too proud to admit I need to get T to use those manly muscles to tighten everything more than I can.

I biked to the library for story time (3 kms each direction), then had lunch and biked to the post office and back (2kms each direction) to pick up my  package.  Since the sweater didn't fit, I biked back to the post office to send it back.  Then I biked to the grocery story to buy buns for dinner.  Total bike distance for today: approximately 16km.  Not far compared to people who are race training, but I towed a baby trailer and was riding a heavy vintage steel bicycle.

So far my muscle aren't sore, but I think I have saddle sores.  Lovely Bicycle had done a few article on bike saddles lately.  I think I have to start saving.  I'm not sure what to think of the idea that my saddle could be worth more that the whole rest of my bicycle.

Toddler girl took this all in stride.  She is turning into a potty rock star.  She even took herself to the full sized toilet when I nodded off during afternoon movie between the first and second trip to the post office.  I woke up to a half naked kidlet carrying her pants and a well used unflushed toilet.

I can't even begin to tell you how proud and glad I am that she made it.  I would not have wanted to clean that out of a cloth diaper.  You know you are potty training when you travel with a chamber pot in your bike basket. (Pictured right next to my purse.  It's blue.)

As I uploaded the picture, I noticed you can still see the last of the snow in the background.

Training.... no, the other kind.

Tuesday night toddler girl didn't sleep.  This is NOT usual for her, usually, she tucks in between 7 and 8pm and sleeps a good 12 hours.  Tuesday she fussed in her room until 11pm and did not go to sleep.  Then she woke up wet and crabby at 12:30am.  It took a little while for me to get her settled again.  Then she was up just after 4 am and T sat up with her for 2 hours before she went back to sleep.  Just in time for everyone else to have to get up to get ready for work and school.  All told, the whole lot of us got around 4 hours of sleep that night.

T went to work, V went to school and I got toddler girl up for the day at about 9am.  It was tempting to let her sleep, but then we would just further mess up her sleep patterns.  She cried from 9am until 11am when we had early lunch and I let her have a nap from noon until 2.  When I got her up she screamed like a banshee for an hour and a half.  I was sure the neighbors were going to report me.

Here's the thing.  Despite being more crabby than I can recall seeing her ever be before, she still only had two little dribble accidents and managed to get eleven pees on the potty!  Including a puddle jumping trip to the park where everything got wet except her undies!

I think we are getting trained!  Yay!

Last night she slept really well.

I missed putting her to bed since some really generous and understanding friends took me out for dinner and drinks after Day of the Screaming Toddler.  That's like Night of the Living Dead, but with more potties and fewer decapitations.  Mind you, Barbie may never be the same.

So a great big THANK YOU to Toddler girl's Aunts for helping me regain some sanity, and introducing me to Better Off Ted.   Which, amazingly, is available on Canadian Netflix.  And also a big THANK YOU to T for taking over the "parent in charge" role as soon as he got home.  My nerves were just shot.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


I have to confess, waffles are one of those "I have miscalculated my food budget, how to I stretch to the end of the month without buying anything expensive" foods. I am embarrassed to admit that this happens every once in a while when unexpected expenses come up and I have to "borrow" the money from somewhere.  Fortunately I found this great recipe from Average Betty and my family hasn't noticed I'm feeding them on the cheap.  In fact, they ask for waffles as a special "breakfast at dinner" treat.

I can't take credit for this recipe.  The only thing I have changed is the cream of tarter which works its magic to make fluffy, yet crisp waffles that are the sought after texture around here.

There is a lot of cooking gear that I have inherited from my Gran, but the copper bowl I use here was found at Sally Ann for $0.99.  Best Sally Ann purchase I have ever made.  It also works great as a double boiler for lemon curd.

1 ¾ cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 ½ tablespoons sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ¾ cups milk
2 egg
½ cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon cream of tarter

1. 1. Separate egg whites from yolks
2. In the copper bowl, using the small mixer, beat the egg whites and cream of tarter until stiff peaks. Set aside until step 7
3. In a large mixer bowl combine milk, egg yolks, canola oil and vanilla.
4. Slowly add flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Remember speed kills
5. Mix gently, just until combined. Batter will be lumpy.
6. Plug in waffle iron and pre heat to level 3 until green light goes off.
7. Using a spoon, fold stiffened egg whites into mixture. Batter will be really lumpy.
8. Pour batter into preheated waffle iron. Bake 5 minutes


Since things feel like they have come off the rails, I think it's time to restate my goals.  Or at least state my goals, since I'm not really sure I have done that here.

When I started this blog I wanted a place to post the recipes I use in a search-able archive that my girls could access.  And since I was publishing about food, I wanted to post some entries about my belief that "good" and "bad" being irrelevant terms when it comes to food.   Food is just food.  Like anything else, it's all about moderation.

C, who is diabetic has (I think) a fairly good grasp of this.  She can eat anything as long as she watches her portions, balances her exercise and is careful with her activity level.  Eating out of balance (or disordered eating) as it is sometimes called has IMMEDIATE repercussions for her.  The rest of us can justify eating a six pack of donuts because, we don't do it everyday and we will make up for it later.  Then we don't.  She knows that kind of binge eating will make her feel awful right now, so she doesn't do it.

V, well.... some times I worry about you darling.  You talk about food using morality terms, chocolate bunnies as bad.  Well, OK, so eating an entire one as part of your regular diet might be a problem, but it isn't the bunny's fault.  I worry when you come out with statements like "I HATE butter."  I worry that you hide food in your room to be  able to eating things that Candice would have to be careful with.  I'm glad you aren't eating an entire bag of peach candy in front of her, but I worry that the food choices available to you are so unappealing that you would choose to eat an entire bag of peach candy.

And I have no idea how to talk to you about food without making you even more neurotic.  I have the usual food issues that North American women pick up along the way.  I am hoping that by providing a good example and healthy foods for you to choose from that you will find your way.  Or at least be able to counter balance the mixed messages out there.

Then I wanted to find away to be more active.  The CCM might be a right off, but I got into the swimming pool for the first time in two weeks.  It was.... good to be back.  I'm not any worse than I was the last time I was there.  I wish I was better.  I may have to see about saving up for some stroke improvement lessons or something.

I have to keep in mind that the bike as a car alternative was the means not the end.  If I can walk and focus on keeping Toddler girl active during the day, I can juggle cars and run errands in the evenings after T gets home.  Yes, having a practical city bike would help alot, but....  let's just wait and see on that one.  Maybe I'll win the Superba,  maybe I'll find something at a garage sale this summer.

In the mean time, I'll just keep doing what I do.

Waffle recipe to follow.

Now what?

Did I mention I'm stubborn much?  At this point I wish I had just left the darn CCM in the junk heap it came from.  I wish I hadn't spent the money for parts thinking I could fix it.  I wish the frame wasn't so comfortable.  I wish I had put the parts money into a saving account for a new bike.

I still wouldn't have a bike, but I would be closer to being able to buy one.  I got sucked in by the idea of a fixed up vintage bike.  Of saving a bike from the land fill.  Of getting a comfortable bike on the cheap.  All those months of the back ordered parts was just the universe trying to give me a hint that it wasn't meant to be.

All the enjoyment I got out of playing bike repair person is completely ruined by learning I will never be able to ride the bike I put all that work into.  That the two fabulous trips I got out of it were the most expensive bike rides I will ever take.  It was really comfortable.

Now what?

More stubborn.  More at home repairs.  More frustration.  More trying to solve my bike's problems while Toddler Girl doesn't nap.

Maybe I'm looking at this the wrong way.  Maybe I should give up on fixing the CCM for a while and just ....  But that's just it....  just what?

The library is a 5 minute drive away, or 15 minutes by bike, or 30 - 40 minutes on foot.  Or (and this is a kicker) 75 minutes and three transfers by bus.  No.  I am not making that up.  The return trip by bus is faster.  It's only 55 minutes and two transfers.   Toddler girl can't walk that far.  I could put her in the carrier or stroller, but an hour long hike to attend a 30 minute toddler program is .... impractical?  It would be the only thing we could do all morning.  She would sleep in the stroller and be all hyper when we got home.

Neither one of us is keen to spend time on the bus or in the car.  Not after being trapped inside all winter.  And, as previously mentioned, the car isn't a practical option most days.

There is a park that is only a 5 minute walk from home.  I hope snow melts and the mud dries up soon so we can go play there without getting cold and wet.

I don't mind cold, but I can't handle cold and wet.  Muddy washes.  That's the least of my worries.  Kids are made to get muddy, sticky and covered in grime.  It's part of life.  Cleaning them up is what moms (and dads) are for.  Mud made of ice crystals is a special kind of nasty though.  It's hypothermia that sneaks up on you.

Monday, April 4, 2011


I don't have the car today.  I don't really feel safe taking the bike for a ride when darling husband is at work and can't come rescue me if I run into problems.  I know I'm not any more trapped at home than I usually am, but it feels worse since it is spring out there and I had been getting some biking in before the failure yesterday.  In the mean time.... what do I do?

If I risk taking the bike, I have to face the chance that I will be miles from home with a broken bike and have to push it and the baby trailer all the way home with an unhappy kidlet in the back.  Again.  It might be fine.  I think I fixed the problem.  If I'm wrong... the negatives out weigh the positives of getting out of the house.

Gosh, I hope I win the bike from Lovely Bicycle.  Yes, I could get a x-mart special for about $150.  It's just that after all the problems I had with the last bargain bike causing me hip pain, I'm not in a rush to get another mountain bike type and try to use it for something that frame wasn't designed for.  The CCM may be a junker, but she was build to be a city bike.  I can tell the difference.  It doesn't hurt to ride.  It is just frustrating when the old girl shows her age.

If it were just me, I would go.  I would be OK with the prospect of having to do road side repairs.  With a toddler along, I have to plan my ride based on never being more that 5 minutes from a public toilet (we are potty learning right now).  Add to that the possibility of having to spend 20 minutes doing emergency repairs and it just isn't feasible right now.  I need to wait until someone can stay with toddler girl and I can go for a test drive.

I was going to pop over to Car Free Family and ask how they deal with potty learning and biking, but I chickened out.  How do you ask total strangers about potty learning without sounding like some internet creep?

UPDATE:  Took the CCM out for a test ride while Hubby stayed in with toddler girl.  It is still non-functional.  I couldn't even make it to the property line.  The only way I can afford to take it for repairs is if I raid the home repairs account.  That money is committed to replacing the windows I already ordered.  Bike vs windows that don't leak.  It's an obvious choice.  I can't put my need for convenient transportation ahead of my family's need for housing. I just wish I had other options.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Argh! happiness is taking your bike for a ride with your daughter on a beautiful spring morning, then sadness is having the bike become non-functional at the furthest point in your ride.  I think I just need to re-tension my IGH cable, but the walk home pushing the bike and the trailer while toddler girl begged me to bike was very demoralizing.

UPDATE: I have tightened the cable, but I haven't had a chance to test drive it yet.  I was hoping to post about how I was trying a pedaling technique I read about on Lovely Bicycle where you kind of push back against the saddle as you peddle uphill.  It worked great!  Until my bike failed.

I can't find the post I read it in any more.  It was while I was reading the back episodes that I found a quick two line throw away tip.   I made a mental note to try that, but now I can't even go back and post a thank you since I have no idea where it was.

I really like that blog and others with biking tips written by women.  Now I just need to find a good beginner swimming blog.  I'm missing my pool time tomorrow to take the car in for maintenance at 8am tomorrow and I will miss lane swim completely.  I hope tomorrow is one of the last car days of the summer.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Baked potato and bacon soup

4 large Baker Potato , Baked, peeled
1 pound low sodium Bacon, chopped, fried, drained
3 stalk Celery, chopped
1 medium Sweet Onion, chopped
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 tablespoon butter
6 cups low sodium chicken broth
2 cups milk
2 cups sour cream and onion dip
1 cup cheddar cheese, shreeded

(to bake potatoes, wash, rub with olive oil, prick with fork at bake on cookie sheet at 350F for about 2 hours)

1. In 6 quart Dutch oven over medium heat, cook the bacon until crisp.
2. Remove bacon to paper towels to drain and pour the bacon drippings into a cup. Put 2 tablespoons of bacon drippings back into the pan along with the butter, chopped onion, and celery. Cook, stirring, until vegetables are tender.
3. Stir in the flour until blended. Stir in chicken broth; cover and continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the mixture is thickened and vegetables are very tender.
4. Stir in milk, scooped out potato, salt, pepper, and cheese. Continue cooking until cheese is melted.
5. Blend about half of the soup in batches until smooth. Add the blended soup back to the pot and add sour cream. Cook, stirring constantly, until soup is hot. Serve the soup garnished with bacon.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Back in the game

It was +8C today!  The sun was shining!  Despite having a cold AND working out of the home, I still got in a really nice walk.

The guys on the bike forums tell me my bike is betamaxing.  Apparently the bad bottom bracket is a big deal.  I'm going to fiddle with it tomorrow and see if I can't make it a little better anyway.

Spring makes everything seem better!