Are you sharing an elevator with an arachnophobe?

The most difficult part of commuting by bicycle isn’t traffic, or pedestrians wandering off the sidewalks, or squirrels darting under my wheels or the weather. It’s getting an elevator in my apartment building with my bike. The apartment building has the worst elevator service I’ve ever enjoyed in my renting life: slow, often one is broken and out of service, the freight elevator is usually busy, and they are rather small in size. I can handle drivers who haven’t mastered the concept of signalling turns and I wear layers of cottonless clothing on chilly damp days to avoid hypothermia but waiting for an elevator is agony.

Last week I had a new and unique elevator experience. I was waiting with my bike in the lobby for an elevator along with a woman and her chihuahua doggie. It was a cute little doggie and she was wearing a rather fetching (ha! — oops corny joke, sorry) pink and grey argyle sweater with matching leash. I cooed at the dog for a moment but returned to the important task of staring at the elevator doors, coaxing it to the lobby.

When the elevator arrived, the door opened to reveal a middle aged woman holding a shopping bag. The dog lady and her dog were about to board  when the shopping lady screamed in shock and horror. I flinched. The dog lady flinched. Heck, the chihuahua flinched. The shopping lady hid in the far corner of the elevator until the dog lady decided to wait for another elevator. I got on with my bike and spent the next few seconds standing awkwardly with the cowering shopping lady. Considering the large number of dogs who live in our building, it must be sheer hell for this woman to get on an elevator and I felt bad for her, the dogs and the dog owners. I can’t imagine how awful it is standing in the elevator and hoping that a dog, even a tiny sweater wearing chihuahua, won’t get on the elevator.

I guess shopping lady felt the awkwardness and decided to break the silence and ask me some questions about my bike. Yes, I commute with my bike nearly everyday. It’s a lot more fun than riding the TTC. I have clothes for cold days, wet days, and sweaty humid days too. I think helmets are great too. Yup, my lights are bright and shiny.

Then she apologized for  screaming and panicking when the dog got on the elevator. I told her it was okay and I understood  she is afraid of dogs. She said a dog bit her badly as a girl and has never gotten over it. I made comforting sounds and asked her if she liked cats. No, but she does like birds and has a pair of finches. I cooed appreciatively.

I should have ended it right there. It was a good moment for the two of us and I absolutely wrecked it. The next thing out of my mouth was “At least she wasn’t walking a huge hairy spider on a leash” with a big grin. That drove the poor woman into a state of twitches and she slapped her hand over her mouth to stifle a scream. I’m guessing huge hairy arachnids are far worse because she was still twitching when I got off at my floor.

I guess that’s why people I know come to me last when they need solace, comfort and advice. I drive everyone to the therapist’s couch.

Here is a photo of some cookies I baked this weekend.

Choco-Oat Nugget Cookies

I made these tasty nugget shaped cookies from whole wheat flour, oatmeal flakes, sunflower seeds, coconut flakes, cocoa powder, and a crumbled 70% dark chocolate bar. I save them to eat on my bike rides instead of granola bars or energy bars. Super tasty and cheap to make.

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A Windy Day Bike Rider Deserves Lunch

Yes I did. It was a cloudy, windy Saturday in Toronto and I wanted something different for lunch than coffee and a cookie at Starbucks.

I decided to head to Charles Street between Yonge Street and Bay Street for a plate of okinomiyaki at the Okinomiyaki House.

I’ve never had it before but passed the restaurant plenty of times over the past 20 years. Today was the day I ate okinomiyaki.

Okinomiyaki and a Coke

Okinomiyaki is a savoury pancake filled with chopped onion and cabbage. I ordered beef so my pancake also had sliced pieces of fried beef too. On top a sweet and tangy barbeque sauce is spread along with a dollop of mayonnaise. It was delicious and only cost $10.00 Canadian with a can of Coke and tip.

Then I pedalled against the wind to get home. Ugh. So tired now.

Tomorrow is supposed to be sunny and chilly so my bike ride will take me to Soma chocolate shop in the Distillery district for Mexican hot chocolate. No, I’m not bringing you a sample. Go there yourself and enjoy the spicy elixir.

I should’ve eaten the Cajun Squirrel flavour instead

I had a fun Good Friday. Lunch at Swatow’s, iced Doubleshot at Starbucks’ (or Starbies as I like to call it — I’ve spent enough money there to feel like I’m entitled to give the place a nickname), then a quick streetcar ride to the Beaches where I bought the worst tasting bag of chips I’ve ever eaten.

The SBC (Sweet Baby Cat — again, he’s my favourite person on the planet, I feel I can refer to him with my very own special nickname) stopped into the Nutty Chocolatier on Queen East to look around and breath in the heady chocolate fumes. The  shop also stocks plenty of British brands of snacks, chocolate bars, biscuits, baked beans, and crisps (chips to the average North American. Just to be confusing, the Brits refer to french fries as chips. I don’t know what french fries mean to the British — sunburned French people? Naw, I hear there’s not enough sunshine in England for a sunburn.). Unwisely, I decided to buy a bag of crisps that were on display. Unwisely only because the flavours on sale were part of some contest being held by Walkers’, so there was not a single bag of cheese and onion — how cruel. 

I picked this out of the lot:

How can I describe the flavour? Some chips had a malt vinegar and salt flavour (well, duh) and others were fried fish tasting (again, duh), but the off putting chips were the ones that tasted like batter. The problem was on their own the chips flavoured crisps were good, the fish flavoured crisps were a bit too fishy but not unexpected, it was the bland batter crisps that added a weird tone that overwhelmed me since there seemed so much more of them than either the chips or fish flavours. It was like eating a bag of cold batter. 

During and after sharing the crisps with SBC all I could think was “I should’ve bought the Cajun Squirrel flavour”. At least I have no idea what squirrel tastes like, and Cajun would probably have been the dominate seasoning anyway, and I like Cajun. Next time, squirrel.

Here’s a bonus photo of Toronto yesterday. It’s Old City Hall taken behind the rink/fountain at Nathan Philips’ Square (or new city hall — but no one calls it that).

Aw heck, here’s a photo of Nathan Philips Square I also took  yesterday. Just so you can compare it to Old City Hall above. The architecture is quite different, yet the size of the square sets NPS off to the side and above it so you don’t sit there and go “huh, they don’t look alike or match”. This way the two styles don’t mock one another and we’re constantly comparing them. 

Now, go enjoy your Easter weekend. Eat chocolate and don’t touch the fish and chips flavoured crisps. Think cajun squirrel!!

Happy Easter


So this is the first batch of Easter eggs I’ve ever dyed. And I mean on my own, rather than say the eggs I dyed as a kid with supervision from a mature adult.

They’re not bad. I am missing some kind of dying trick because they are rather pale eggs. I followed the directions on the box of dyes and this is what I got. I did check Martha Stewart’s site but I have to admit that decoupaging my eggs held no attraction. Neither did wrapping up the eggs in lace before dropping them in dye. Or onion skins. And I definitely don’t have the patience to go the hot wax and stylus route.

Nope, simple swim in the dye it was.

Still, I’m impressed with myself.

Fresh Baked Flatbreads

Today I felt like eating warm, home baked bread. I also wanted the bread to be soft and fluffy, but flat similar to a pita so I can save the rest of the uneaten bread for lunch.

I made this:

Bread is easy to make. I started with 1 cup of warm water, 1 teaspoon of yeast, 1 teaspoon of honey, and 1 cup of flour (I used a blend of whole wheat and white). Stir all together in a bowl. Let sit for half an hour. I let my handy dandy Kitchenaid mixer to do the hard work for me. I use this spare time to fan myself and drink Tom Collins.

So, I put the mixing bowl onto the Kitchenaid and added 1 teaspoon of salt, another cup of flour, and started the mixer. When the flour is incorporated I turn off the spinning dough hook (very important if you want to unbroken fingers) and check to see how wet the dough is so far. I wanted a moist dough so the bread would have a rustic holey kind of texture. The dough was sticky and wet — too sticky and wet so I added 1/4 cup of flour and turned the dough hook on again. Now and then I’ll check the dough to see if it’s the way I want, and add an extra 1/4 of flour. Basically it’s still sticky but elastic. If I was making pizza dough I would add more flour until the dough was smooth and elastic. 

I prepared a bowl to hold the dough while it rises. I rubbed a teaspoon of olive oil inside the bowl and flopped in the dough, then covered it with some plastic wrap. I left it for about a couple of hours.

Two hours later I punched down the puffy dough with my flour covered hands and took the dough to my clean kitchen counter. The counter has 1/4 cup of flour on it and I knead the dough with my hands for about 10 minutes, adding extra flour to make kneading easier. I then cut the dough into quarters, flattened the chunks until the circle measured about 5 to 6 inches across. With plenty of flour on both sides of the circles I let them rest for another 30 minutes. 

Pre heat the oven to 500 fahrenheit and spend the next 30 minutes scrapping up all of the leftover flour, washing the mixing bowl, putting away the mixer, wondering why the devil I just don’t buy bread like normal people, and why I didn’t start the clean up two and a half hours earlier. I calm down and put the circles on a baking sheet and put it in the oven. 

Cooking takes about 10 to 15 minutes. The loaves puff up and turn golden brown. I flip them over so they turn colour some more after the tops look golden. Take the beauties out of the oven and let them cool. But I usually tear into the first victim armed with butter. It was so delicious it brought tears to my eyes!

And they make excellent rolls for a hearty lunch. 

I split the dough into 4 large 5 inch or so in diameter and that makes rather puffy loaves. You can make one large flat loaf, or split the dough into 6s or 8s and stretch the dough into thinner circles. I wouldn’t try using this recipe for a traditional bread loaf because the density makes the bread rather chewy. Think jaw cramping. But damn tasty!

The Only Jello (ick) Approved by vingada.com

picture-1

Make the Jello jiggle.

But don’t put any of it in your mouth. It’s made out of boiled hooves and tendons.

Oh, and spammers? Do you really think I’m going to approve your crappy comments? Your ridiculous insurances offers and jibberish only make me want to send your details to other scammers. If you do then I have a couple of bridges and some prime property on Mars for you. But this is a time limited offer!

My Christmas Tree

christmas-tree-2008
Go on, laugh.

Feel better?

Story regarding tree starts now:

So my apartment is a small two room plus kitchen, bathroom, and a few closets. Not miniature by any stretch, but it’s a challenge to fit a full sized Christmas tree (whether it’s real or plastic) for the season, as well as to store decorations and the tree (if it’s the fake kind) for the other 11 1/2 months.

I went with my imagination and made this tree out of squares of felt I sewed together in a Christmas tree-like shape. The ornaments I bought at the dollar store with the exception of the pewter wolf and pewter cat. I purchased those at the recent One of A Kind Craft Show and Sale a couple of weeks ago. I’m hoping to add a small and interesting ornament each year, but I have to be careful not to buy anything really delicate like glass balls or fragile wire creations.

I got a kick out of making the Christmas tree. It’s a little out of the ordinary and easy to change each year. Next year I’m going to pick up some LED lights to brighten up the room. I still need a tree topper but haven’t had much luck finding or making something that I really like. I found a few craft books that had instructions on how to make angels out of clothespins and tulle, or stars out of styrofoam and glitter paint. But none of them hit that happy craft spot. I’ll just save that spot on the top of the tree until I see something I love.

As far as gift giving goes I limit it to those nearest and dearest. My best friend is getting some treats and so is my mom. The Sweet Baby Cat and I decided to buy a 32Gb Ipod Touch for each of us when the Apple Store had their Black Friday sale in November. Ahhh! No puffy sweaters! Life is good.

Oh, the Ipod Touch is excellent. I love being able to listen to music, watch videos, have my favourite photos, and my contacts, calendar (oh disorganization, I’ll best you yet), and get to play games, roam the internet, have free apps galore (my current fav is VeganYumYum’s recipe collection – free! Go look!) and not have to pay for the accompanying cell phone costs when compared to the Iphone.

I’m tolerating the snowfall and cold weather with as much good cheer as a summer worshipper possibly can. I don’t like riding in snow and ice so my bike has slowly turned into a glorified coat rack. Geez, I feel guilty typing that out. I’m going to clean up my bike as soon as I sign off. But once Christmas passes I’ll be back to my winter whining. In the meantime I have to stave off the winter fat (and burn off the stubborn fat) by swimming, assaulting the walk/run track and the gym at the nearby communty centre. I’m already salivating at the thought of conquering the hill on Poplar Plains Road this spring!

Had a great Facebook reunion yesterday!

 

I had a great day with Tracy wandering about Kensington Market yesterday. We managed a quick catch up on 20 years of missed experiences, had lunch, pie, and took photos of a car filled with plants and dirt and a couple of cats. We both posted photos to our Facebook pages and the conclusion I’ve come up with is we are still the same nutjobs we were in grade 8. Happy day!

 

It was a gorgeous day and Kensington Market had loads of people shopping and sightseeing. We visited a bike store (because I have a bike addiction), store that sold hats and purses (because Tracy has a purse addiction), Courage My Love to try on my hats and 1940s style gloves (and I tried on a lucha libre wrestling mask. It was surprisingly comfortable), a chocolate store (both of us are addicted) and then we settled with a couple of slices of pie on the patio of Wanda’s Pie in the Sky.

 

A really good use for a car

A really good use for a car

 

Bubbles! Gotta love bubbles!

Bubbles! Gotta love bubbles!

 

 

I had the chocolate pecan pie, Tracy had the mango cheesecake.

I had the chocolate pecan pie, Tracy had the mango cheesecake.

 

The pies never had a chance.

The pies never had a chance.

 

Cats are great sunworshippers. I can watch them for hours.

Cats are great sunworshippers. I can watch them for hours.

 

 

 

 

Another sunworshipper

Another sunworshipper

NRG Bars Remix

Yesterday I rode my bike 36.5 km. What a painful ride! It’s definitely not the longest bike ride I’ve ever had, but it was the toughest. And I have no clue why. Okay, maybe I do. Probably the last two lazy ride weeks have not helped my endurance. Most of the rides the last couple of weeks have been short, maybe 8 or 12 km longs. Far short of the 25-30 km a day goal I set for myself a few months ago. The rides have also been on familiar and comfortable terrain — the grocery store, Mount Pleasant Cemetery, the Beltline. None are too challenging and they are all very familiar routes. I know exactly when to push myself and when I can coast. And I have to admit I’ve done a lot more coasting recently. I can’t even blame the hot humid weather because there hasn’t been much of it. Fresh rainy mornings, overcast mild afternoons, and few sunny and hot sticky days. Not stressful, not straining.

Well, enough of that! How am I going to complete a metric century this season with that kind of lacklustre performance? Foot, meet backside. Alright, I’ve given myself a whoomp on the butt. Time to push myself forward on the training path.

To help encourage and feed my enthusiasm on my bike, I’m trying a new energy bar recipe I found in issue 34 of Momentum Magazine. I’ve adjusted it to suit my sweet tooth.

 

NRG Bars Remix

NRG Bars Remix

I used:

4 1/2 cups Kashi Go Lean! Crunch cereal 

3 cups sesame seeds

1 cup medium shred unsweetened coconut

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1/2 cups of roasted almonds, lightly crushed

1 heaping tablespoon finely ground coffee beans

1 cup crunchy natural peanut butter

2 cans (600ml) of sweetened condensed milk

Preheat your oven at 300 F

Mix the the dry ingredients except for the coffee beans in a large mixing bowl.

In another mixing bowl carefully combine the peanut butter and 2 cans of sweetened condensed milk, then add the ground coffee beans.

Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and combine completely. This will be sticky and the sesame seeds have a tendency to fall to the bottom of the bowl so definitely keep stirring from the bottom to the top. Use to spoons if you have to. 

On a 11X17 inch pain place a sheet of parchment paper. Butter or spray the parchment. Then press the mixture onto the pan. It’s very sticky so I spooned the mix first onto the parchment then pressed it down, evening out the mixture on the pan.

Place in 300 F oven and leave it for 20 minutes.

Take out of oven. Let cool completely before cutting into squares. I wrapped mine in clingwrap because that’s what I had in the cupboard. It made 30 generous sized squares. 

The total cost was approximately $15.00. 

These are tasty! Sweet, chewy, with a nutty chocolate burst of flavour. Dang, they are yummy. The next batch I’ll make I’m going to up the coffee beans amount. I’m thinking 2 tablespoons. I’ll also add a scoop of chocolate protein powder. I wonder if I can substitute something for the second can of sweetened condensed milk? More research!

I hope you’ll give these a try. You can use lots of different ingredients in exchange of the coconut, almonds, and chocolate. I’m not a big fan of dried fruit, but the original recipe called for banana chips and raisins. I bet dried apples, cranberries, nutmeg, dried apricots, and even trying flavoured coffee beans like hazlenut would make tasty energy bars. If you are allergic to peanuts try sunflower seed butter if you can. And switch the Kashi Go Lean cereal for granola or toasted oatmeal flakes. It’s an easy recipe to personalize.

I have absolutely no idea what the calorie count is or have any nutritional information about the recipe. It won’t trim your waistline on it’s own, that’s for sure. But I’m hoping it’ll give me that little bit of oomph in the energy department when I am approaching kilometre 70 of my metric century!

High Falutin’ Jello

 

By now you know how much I loathe jello. Be it cherry, grape, lemon, or lime flavoured in bright hues, with or without fruit, shaped like a fish aquarium, eyeballs, or Canada’s flag, I hate it. It’s rubbery chewy texture sickens me and I can’t stand the weird over-sweet chemically taste. I cheerfully make do without jello for dessert. 

 

Imagine the shock and awe when I was flipping through a cook book and I noticed a recipe for eggs and vegetables in aspic. Oh. Ewww. It resembled a transparent bundt cake, but it was made from evenly distributed peeled hard boiled eggs, cooked veggies and covered (COVERED) in transparent jello. My eyes hurt and some bile bubbled up into my nose right there in the cook book section of Indigo. I don’t think I’m going to recover from that image for quite a while. 

 

So, aspic. It’s made from cooked down bones and gristle (head and feet are some choice bits of critter). It’s a thick liquid when hot but turns into edible rubber once it’s chilled. Pretty much any kind of  meat, eggs, and veggies can be cocooned within it’s clear clutches (some choice ingredients I found when I googled were veal, pigs trotters, pheasant, eel (you know, snakey fish), pig skin, cow skin, ox tongue).

 

Jellied Eels. Good for somebody else.

 

I thought I hit aspic gold when I read “Larks Tongue in Aspic” because that’s at least a 10 on the Vomit Scale, but it turned out to be 70s prog rock band King Crimson song title:

Can you imagine trying to catch the larks, then pulling out their little tongues, and then prepping them in aspic? This would definitely be a tedious afternoon chore. And any icky one.

Video Spoiler: There are no larks!