Archive for December 2009
Wow, 2009 has been a crazy year for me. Well, I should say that it has been crazy, but also good. I held not just two, but three jobs, enlarged my circle of friends, reconnected with friends from long ago, and got my butt on the bike. Ah yes, it has been a really good year. A lot of not-so-great things happened, but I do feel that when I look back at 2009, I see the good happenings far outweighing the bad.
I think the most important thing that happened to me this past year has been getting off freelance work and starting a steady job (well, two of them actually). I really missed that daily routine of waking up at a consistent time, heading off to work for the day, and then heading home. Sure, jobs are sort of a killjoy when it comes to doing fun stuff during the day, but I think I finally realised that I am a Creature of Habit, and I really do need a schedule to keep me in line.
The second most important thing that has happened also has to do with the steady jobs: starting to bike commute. Since starting a job, I’ve quit running daily and have turned to biking as my daily activity (it also helps that biking makes me feel happy too). Ah, it is so very nice to be on my bike with the wind/rain/cold in my face. It makes me feel like I’m really living my life. And with the bikey life, so have come the bikey people that I’ve met both online and off, and meeting new people always seems to make me very happy.
Right… enough about that.
2010 is shaping up to be a pretty awesome year as well. I have some big personal plans for the next year. Here is a very short list of what I’d like to accomplish in the coming year.
1. Ride my bike
2. Smile at strangers everyday
3. Meet new people
4. Deepen the current worthwhile relationships
5. Pet the cat
7. Be passionate about life
8. All hail the positivity
Yeah ok, so I’m a bit vague. So sue me.
Today I met with an old college friend that I hadn’t seen in almost 10 years. It was really interesting to find that while we weren’t very good friends in college, I could see us becoming better friends since we seem to be more alike and have more similar values and ideas about life now. I hope that we might be able to give our friendship another chance if she ended up moving to the Bay Area at some point.
Our conversation also confirmed my belief that life is all about the people that you choose to surround yourself with. And yes, when it comes to friends, you do have a choice. Why spend your valuable time on non-rewarding relationships when you could spend that time creating new relationships. I guess that’s why I tend to focus my resolutions on the relationships and people I have in my life. Hell, people tend to be the main focus of any personal goals I set for myself.
It is all about the people.
I wish you all a happy, fulfilling, and wonderful 2010! It’s what you make of it, so try to make it a good one.
Around July 2009, I got a new job that was far enough from my home that I decided to start taking the train to get there. There were handy shuttle buses, but if the train was late for some reason or I missed my usual train altogether, I would miss the shuttle bus and end up having to wait up to 40 minutes for the next one. Of course, this was convenient, but also inflexible since I absolutely had to make it to the shuttle bus in order to get to and from work on time.
Then I decided to start taking my bike on the train with me. The main reason was because I didn’t like being a slave to the shuttle buses, but the secondary reason was that I didn’t like sitting at my desk for 8 hours a day and then being too tired to get a run in when I got home. Sure, I could have gotten up really early and gone running, but let’s face it, I was just going to make excuses and get lazy when the short days of winter arrived. Biking to work seemed like a much better solution, and it was a lot faster getting to/from the train station at home since I no longer had to walk the 1.5 miles.
When I started another job in a different town, I also decided to get to/from work by bike. I think it was at this point that I realised that I would be a serious cranky-pants if I didn’t get my daily exercise in, so I pretty much had to bike to work. Instead of taking the train to the stop that is 2 miles from work, I get off 4.5 miles away and bike a longer, safer route through a quiet residential area.
One of my co-workers then told me that he had been thinking about starting to bike commute, so to encourage this, we met at the train station closest to his house in the mornings and biked 4 miles together, doing the same thing at the end of the day too. After a couple of weeks, I set him loose to see if he would keep doing it on his own. I felt that if I was always picking him up in the mornings, it might become a dependent relationship; he needed to get his own butt in gear in order to stick with it.
A week or two passed and suddenly something magical happened: he started liking it.
It’s been a couple months now since he started biking on his own to work and he has since bought a bike that properly fit him and outfitted it with useful commuter gear like a rack and fenders. We occasionally discuss bikey gear and lament the rainy weather and aggressive drivers together. Biking brings people together, I tell ya.
Today he announced to me that he has officially lost 5 pounds since cycling and this made me feel really proud of him. I know 5 pounds really isn’t much weight when you think about it, but it’s a big deal when you think that this could be the start of a healthier lifestyle. Baby steps, people. He does have some health issues that could possibly disappear if he kept up the weight loss and healthy habits, so it would be pretty awesome if biking was how he got healthy.
Bikes can change lives. If you are a member of the Cult of Bike, you probably know exactly what I’m talking about.
Sometime between Monday night and Tuesday morning, my body decided I was sick, so I awoke Tuesday morning with a sore throat and a pounding headache. This is actually pretty unusual, because I do not get sick very often, but here I was so sick I didn’t want to get out of bed.
Mister was a doll and got the necessary info to call in sick to work and I left a very hoarse message for my boss informing him that I was indeed too sick to come in and to please let specific folks know I would be unavailable for meetings. I didn’t want people to think I was just a flake after all.
With that done, I promptly went back to sleep, not budging until I had slept a total of 15 hours. This sounds like a ridiculous amount of sleep (and yes it is), but apparently 15 hours of sleep is what kicks butt in the germ world. I woke up still feeling a bit stuffy, but generally all better!
Sleep does fix a lot of things, and I think I’ll probably be 100% better by tomorrow for sure.
Oh, and what did I do while I wasn’t busy sleeping at home? I started knitting a mathy hat (yes, math-y as in a hat that uses Fibonacci numbers) and also watched Angels and Demons on Blu-Ray.
By the way, when I am watching a Blu-Ray disc (BD), does it really need to have a BD ad on it to tell me to watch BD? Seriously? I am already watching a BD, so I obviously know that it’s The Best Way Ever to watch movies. Well, it will be the best way until a better way comes out and then we will all laugh at these extra-superlative adverts.
Yesterday I mixed up a batch of molasses cookies. Since I didn’t have time to bake them, the dough is sitting in the fridge right now. Leaving dough overnight in the fridge is a tried and true method of making cookies taste better. The cookies will have a better consistency and the flavours will be more intense. I haven’t actually done this before with molasses cookies, but I’m hoping it will give all the spices a chance to really infuse the dough and make the final product spicy and intense. I guess I’ll have to see when I bake them.
I am almost positive that I will be taking a completely ridiculous amount of photos of the cookies when I do end up baking them, so next post will have the photos.
Want the recipe? It’s really quite simple and a basic cookie recipe and you may already have most of these ingredients in your house (except for maybe the molasses).
Note: You may have to adjust the amount of spices in your cookies. I like mine to be pretty strong, but you may not like yours to be so spicy.
Slow as molasses cookies
3/4 c sticks butter
3/4 c white sugar
1/4 c packed brown sugar
1 large egg
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
In standard cookie making fashion, cream the sugar and butter, add the molasses and egg, and beat to combine. Then add all the dry ingredients (I usually measure them out onto a waxed paper before slowly pouring them in).
Chill the dough overnight or longer (I hear 36 hours is perfectly long enough). Alternately, you can bake them right away too if you don’t have time to wait.
Preheat the oven to 375F. Form the dough into balls and drop onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. You can roll the dough in sugar if you want a pretty top to the cookie. Bake 8-12 minutes each, cooling for a minute on the sheet before transferring to a rack.
I do not wear makeup often, with the exception of mascara. I am terrible at applying concealer, blush, foundation, or eye makeup on a daily basis. Mascara, the waterproof and rub-proof kind, is just about the only makeup I can manage to put on everyday. I have a host of complaints about applying makeup, like worrying if a) it’s rubbing off, b) it’s coming off onto my clothes, and c) I applied it to heavily and I look freakish.
That said, I’m pretty sure that I look okay without makeup.
My natural look never really seems to bother me except when I am standing in the washroom next to a woman who does wear makeup, and this is where my competitive female edge comes in. I see her red lips, her perfectly drawn eyebrows, the thin lines of eyeliner that make her eyes pop and look large and luminous.
At the sink, I typically wash my hands, dry them on a paper towel, and then use the paper towel to wipe my face off. This is a habit I have, because I like the clean feeling this does for me. Of course, if I was wearing makeup, it would undo everything in one fell swoop. While I’m busy wiping my face off on the paper towel, the other woman is probably applying lipstick or touching up her makeup in the mirror.
There is really nothing wrong with the natural look. Most women look perfectly gorgeous when they look natural. I love the natural look on most women as it gives me the feeling that they are low-maintenance and confident in their beauty and that exudes a whole other kind of beauty.
But of course, this doesn’t really help me when I am busy watching the woman next to me re-apply her lipstick. I will suddenly think my own lips look too pale, my skin is speckled with spots and is much too yellow/brown, and my eyebrows are looking spotty which gives me a surprised look. I realise that this is all part of being competitive with other women, but it doesn’t stop me from thinking it.
None of this goes through my mind when I find myself alone at the sink; that’s usually when I think that I look pretty darn good, toss myself a smile, and fluff my hair a little.
I’ve recently learned that a few of my pre-bikey life friends are complaining a bit that my life is pretty much all biking lately. And not that I have to explain anything to anyone, but… it’s just what I’ve been obsessed with lately. I like to obsess about stuff, and I’ve moved from food to knitting to photography to baking/cooking and now to biking.
I guess I should also mention the RitaPita obsession. Of course, I’ve always been rather obsessed with my cat in the very normal "my cat is the best/cutest one in the entire world!" way that furry parents tend to be, so I guess that is an additional layer over all my other obsessions. Let’s face it, she’s part of my little family and I am always excited to see her when I get home at night and when I wake up in the mornings. She’s got her little personality quirks, but I couldn’t ask for a better cat when she’s snuggled up in my lap while I knit.
Oh where was I… right, obsessions.
The nice thing about my current obsession is that it’s leading me to meet an entirely different group of people! Let’s learn about the social aspects of some of my other obsessions:
- Knitting was somewhat social when I got my ass to knitting group, but it was a mostly solitary activity that I did at home.
- Baking and cooking is pretty much the same thing since I never got around to joining a dinner club where people have a moving feast that rotates amongst the members.
- Photography is a pretty social activity since photographers like to plan meets and hang out together and shoot each other, but I still like shooting alone the best and I’ve been feeling a bit tired/bored of photography lately, so I haven’t felt like doing it as much.
- Biking has been good because it’s automatically brought me closer to people that I see everyday on my commute, especially people on the train. Plus, it’s a nice social activity that you can do with others on the weekend as long as you share a common level of fitness.
- The cat obsession really doesn’t do anything for me socially. It’s just part of my personality. Ha!
But anyway, [enter obsession here] is really awesome because I find myself delving into whatever world my obsession entails. I like meeting other people have the same obsession and I really like having all these different social circles where I have something in common with everyone. I have bike friends, knitting friends, blog friends, art/photo friends, drinking friends, and of course, regular friends that I’ve met and clicked with, even without a common hobby.
What’s even nicer is learning that some friends span more than one group. Having multiple interests with someone is no guarantee that you’ll get along, but it sure helps when it comes to spending time together. I can always ask N to go to an art gallery with me or to go out and try a new restaurant we’ve both been eyeing. Or I can talk photography with J over a strong cup of coffee and then ride our bikes around and just generally explore.
I’ve changed cities a lot in the past 10 years and somehow it’s always so comforting to know that no matter what city I move to, I immediately have an avenue for getting to know people and discover the place. A lot of it is really hit or miss, but it’s definitely a good place to start.
So I’ve quite forgotten how much I enjoy baking bread AND taking photos of the bread, so here I will dedicate one entire entry to just the bread. Yeah.
I use the 5/3 method of baking which pretty much is 5 parts flour to 3 parts liquid (usually water, milk, or some other yummy liquid like that). If I want to add honey, I will typically add some to warm water or milk so that it is included in the total liquid amount and I don’t screw up my ratio.
Using the 5/3 method makes it really simple to measure everything out. I pop the bowl onto my kitchen scale, measure out the flour by weight, and then measure out the liquid by volume. One loaf takes about 20 ounces of flour, and 12 ounces of liquid. If you want to make more or freeze some, you can simply double this recipe. Then toss in about a teaspoon of yeast and a pinch of salt per loaf and you’re all set for baking. Mix everything together and start kneading the dough
Whether you use an electric mixer or the manual method, you will know when you’re done kneading when the dough is elastic and has a nice sheen to it.
You can sorta see how the top looks smooth and shiny, right? This is what you are looking for.
Next step it to let it rise by covering it and putting it in a warm spot. What is happening is the yeast will react and create little air bubbles inside the dough. This is how the dough gets flufy and nice. The more you let it rise, the fluffier your bread will be, but watch out because if you let it rise too much, the dough may collapse upon itself and you’ll have to start over again.
I cover the dough by cutting a piece of plastic film and putting it on the countertop. I then use a oil sprayer to lightly spray the center of the top of the film and then place it directly on top of the dough so it’s in contact. The dough will then rise and the film will move with it. Alternately, you could put the film along the top edge of the bowl.
After the dough is done rising, you want to knead it lightly again to redistribute all the air bubbles and yeast and then form it and let it rise again. This rise will happen in your bread pan or on the baking sheet. You can re-use the plastic film to cover the bread during the second rise. During this rise, you will want to turn on the oven to about 50 degrees above your intended baking temperature.
When the bread grows large again, pop it into the preheated oven and lower to the correct baking temperature. I usually bake it almost until the time the recipe tells me. About 5 minutes early, I will pull the bread out and check the temperature. I use a meat thermometer that we bought for smoking meat, but you can use just about any thermometer you have around, as long as it measures around 200F.
Take the bread out of the pan and flip it upside down (don’t forget to wear gloves or something so you don’t burn yourself). Stick the temperature probe into the bottom of the bread so that you are measuring from the center. A soft bread will measure about 190F inside. A harder bread will want to be about 200-205F on the inside when it’s done. If you’ve reached the right temperature, then let the loaf cool on a wire rack before slicing. If you need more, put it back into the oven for 5 more minutes until you reach the right temperature.
You know how I was saying that photographing fresh bread is fun? Well here are a couple of the photos I took of this loaf. The cracks and stretches in the bread are so beautiful.