Saturday, January 22, 2011

The taco train

It's been one full week now since I've moved my bike from its perch, screwed into my trainer and propped up atop the yellow pages, in front of my dresser/ad hoc movie theater.

Oh the joy that is winter in New England. Life could be worse though. In my absence, the school gym received a little bit of a makeover, so rotating between there and my trainer station has helped to keep me sane. Plus, the movie collection in my new house is impressive to say the least, so in-flight entertainment has helped keep me going as well. It's not ideal, but I'll do what it takes to stay on track while I have to.

On a more exciting front, week one in the house and back at school has been everything I hoped. Naturally, I'm not thrilled about the start of classes, and I happily would have taken an extra week, or two, of just living back at Tufts with nothing to do but loaf around the house, workout, and cook. But, no. C'est la vie.

Our kitchen has been undergoing a remodeling of its own all week long, and as of today it is finally done. With new cabinets, added counter space, a dishwasher, and new microwave practically the size of an oven, I'm excited for all the new culinary possibilities. Last night I served up wine-braised chicken and onions with a spinach and pasta salad. But, to christen the finished galley, tonight Jose and I teamed up for taco night. Mmmm. Corn tortillas, spicy peppers and onions, spiced shredded chicken, black beans, and homemade guac and tortilla chips. At the very least, it looks like we'll be eating well this semester.

Monday, January 17, 2011

I'm a big kid now

That's certainly what it feels like at the moment. As of yesterday, I'm finally living in my own house with five friends up at Tufts, where I'll be staying for the next year and a half, through graduation. After a day-plus of building adult Legos (ie. Ikea), my room is all put together and I'm complete moved in. After living abroad for four months in the fall, it's an incredible feeling to have a place that I can really call home, especially now that I am in my own house rather than a cramped and sterile dorm room.

A lot of things and a lot of emotions have been packed into the past two days, so I think they will be best captured in pictures, rather than a mini novella about the moving process. So here they are.

The car on the way up.

A victory beer after the Jets' glorious dethroning of the Pats.

My bed and desk after moving in.

The first meal I cooked in the new house: sauteed potatoes, roast chicken with roast tomato gravy, and green beans.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Is it a little stuffy in here?

When all your belongings will not fit into the folded-down trunk space of a Honda Pilot, you probably have a bit too much stuff. I guess I'm guilty as charged.

As I'm heading back up to Boston on Friday, finally going back to Tufts for the first time in eight months, I decided that today, Friday, might be a good time to start packing. So, at around 4pm, after a ride and a late lunch, I started loading pieces of boxed Ikea furniture into the back of my car. I'd like to add here that were it not for the fact that I have a completely barren bedroom to furnish, I would have no trouble squeezing all the contents of my life into the trunk (if you count the bike rack as part of the trunk). But, I'm not really keen on sleeping on the floor or doing my work at the kitchen table, so Dad's trunk space will have to share the load. It's a good thing he's coming along. Thanks Dad.

I'm not trying to deny the truth, though. I really do have a lot of stuff. I admit it and embrace it. It's not that I'm materialistic, as I honestly feel that I am anything but. The way I see it, I have a few very specific interests about which I am rabidly passionate: namely, cycling and cooking, both of which require quite a lot of stuff to pursue. More to the point, they require quite a lot of big stuff. So, additional trunk space is going to be required to haul all of my cycling and cooking stuff, along with the normal stuff like clothing and bedding plus the aforementioned furniture (stuff) needed to make my life for the next year and a half more commodious in my new house.

I would take a picture of all this stuff, but at the moment it is still scattered about the house. Maybe on Sunday as I stuff my stuff into the trunks of the cars, I'll try to capture the moment.

At least all that stuff is mostly out of the way now, so I can enjoy my last day at home tomorrow before moving into my new one at school. Thanks to Wednesday's snowfall, I was off the roads until today's ride, but I found good ways to occupy my time. Thursday was another humbling day on the cross country ski trails. And after Wednesday morning's shovel session, the fourth of the season, I headed to Roger's house for a lactate balance point test. The results were interesting, and helped to confirm my progress and that the zones we thought I should be training were, in fact, what we thought. It's always reassuring to know you are doing things right, and it was fun, in a sick sort of way, to ride progressively harder for an hour while having my finger pricked.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A matter of pride

I have to say, I was a little shocked when, last evening, our local schools called to preemptively announce a snow day today. Not that it affects me in any way, only my eight-year old brother and my mom, who has to keep him entertained for the day, but I still found it ridiculous. At 8am today, the streets were already plowed, no more than a half-foot or so of snow had fallen, and no more was coming down. Jumping the gun? I would say so. It's not like we've never seen snow before.

After breakfast and a hot cup of joe, I suited up and grabbed my shovel to go outside and free the cars from our annoyingly long driveway. Working with my step-dad, the job took no more then half an hour. Though it was, I believe, the fourth time I've had to rescue my driveway from a blanket of white and fluffy in the past month, and though I would never go so far as so to say I enjoy doing it, I decided that shoveling one's driveway really is, and should be a matter of pride.

Unless you are over a certain age, which in my opinion should be about when you start receiving social security checks, or have a certified physical ailment that prevents you from doing so, you should be outside shoveling your own driveway every time it snows. I don't care how rich and how lazy you are. If you are physically cable of picking up a shovel and pushing, hauling, lifting, or by any means removing the snow from your premises, you should. In fact, you must. There are lots of people out there who physically cannot do so but also probably cannot afford to pay for it to be done for them. But the much-needed services of the snow removal professionals are often reserved only for the wealthy and lazy. So you have a two-mile-long driveway? Tough. No one forced you to live on your own private street. If you were rich enough to buy said property, you can probably afford a day off to shovel it yourself.

On a less serious note, I took full advantage of the last day before the new snowfall yesterday by putting in five hours on the still-clear roads. It was a little on the chilly side, never quite cracking 30 degrees, but it easily could have been much worse. The obligatory pancakes ensued, though not until 3:30 in the afternoon. When lunch is that late, and you've been on the road since 10am, I think it's a sign that you've been riding long enough. My appetite not yet satisfied, I journeyed off to the supermarket to pick up provisions for dinner. On last nights menu: oven-roasted chicken and carrots in a garlicky sauce of roasted cherry tomatoes and chicken jus, served with a side of beer-braised broccoli and all on a bed of linguini.

Until next time,
A proud driveway shoveler.

Friday, January 7, 2011

And that's a wrap

Sandwiched between snow days, this past week has been one of the best I've had. On break with not very much to do as most people have already headed back to school, I have more than ample time for riding and post-ride cooking. So, in the seven days before today's latest dumping of snow, I compiled 26 hours in the saddle and 450 miles. And that's not to mention the 18 pancakes consumed, three per day except for Sunday. That's a whole lot of flapjacks, so I would say that I'm pretty proficient at the griddle now.

Normally, I wouldn't be exactly thrilled by a fresh dusting, but today's could not have come at a better time. I was more than ready for a day off, and I have no issue with heading to the slopes tomorrow in lieu of riding. If everything is clear by Sunday or Monday, I can go at it again and call it a block.

As the saying goes, "All work and no play makes Johnny a dull boy." And though I by no means consider riding my bike work, something has to get you through the last hour of a long winter day. So, as my mind has started to wander and sugar levels have started to drop, dinner menu planning has kicked in and gotten me home hungry but happy. Here are some of the highlights from this week's cooking.

Coq au vin with roasted potatoes and green beans.

Whole wheat pancakes with apple butter. (We ran out of syrup.)

Mushroom bourguignon (with fettucini)

Monday, January 3, 2011

On the road again

Last week was sort of a mixed bag back here on the East Coast. After Sunday's snowy ride, the roads were anything but safe from Monday on, as we were pounded by a foot and a half of snow. Shoveling out of the way, the recent dumping made for perfect conditions for my new favorite winter activity: cross country skiing.

Despite having just two days on the trails under my belt from our trip to Montana, I excitedly joined Roger, our resident expert on skis (he did grow up doing it) in Cold Spring, NY for cross training (hahaha, I made a pun). Judging by the fact that I only went down once in two hours of skiing on Thursday, I would say it went pretty well.

Though I loved skiing and absolutely plan to do more of it in the coming years, as well as this year if conditions allow, and demand, but I was more than happy to trade in my fiberglass for rubber on Friday. And with the exception of yesterday's dreary fog and drizzle, things have been nothing short of excellent since. Many, many pancakes have been burned and earned, and judging by the forecast, there are many more to come. So far, this new year is getting off on the right foot.

On another note, with my extra long vacation in comparison to most of my friends, I have quite a lot of time to kill. And since I can only ride so much, much of the rest of my time is spent in the kitchen. Tonight, I am making a soba noodle salad with a soy-honey dressing. Tomorrow night is a foray into classical French cooking with coq au vin, courtesy of Julia Child. There will be liquor, and yes, it will be lit on fire.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Ski trip

Sorry for the unannounced hiatus from blogging. Just a few days after settling back in at home, I was on a plane again for a week-long ski trip in Montana with my dad and sister. I hope that inches of powder and a total lack of lift lines will suffice as passable excuses for the absence.

Rarely on a ski trip are we so fortunate as to get fresh snow from day one. Usually, we seem to get one good dumping towards the end of the trip. This, time, however, it snowed for the first two days and nights. One of the greatest aspects of Big Sky, Montana is that it is near essentially nothing. While most ski resorts in Colorado are in driving range of Denver, or most in Utah of Salt Lake City, Big Sky is about as remote as it gets. For the powder obsessed, "no lift lines" are words to die for. There are no friends on a powder day.

As great as the skiing was, after day three we decided to try a new activity to break up our seven-day stay: cross country skiing. Having never ventured into this realm of snow-related antics before, we signed up for a morning lesson at the local Nordic center. In surprisingly little time, we were off and skating, and spent the rest of the day exploring some of the 100 km of trails the center had to offer. While by no means experts, and certainly not yet Olympians, we had it down well enough to enjoy a hard day of aerobically taxing adventures. Excessive amounts of pizza were in order.

The rest of the trip went much of the same way. Two more days of downhill on our still-deserted mountain, followed by one more day of cross country out in West Yellowstone on Friday, where we once again flogged ourselves for hours as we explored one of the nation's most prized national parks. After a 16 km ski, we had built up quite the appetite. While burgers and pulled pork did the job of satiating or hunger pangs, the highlight of the day was undoubtedly this:

The Lone Peak Brewery sampler. A beer rack built of two sawed-off skis, the sampler consists of 10 4 oz. samples of the beer currently on tap at the brewery, which brews all of its own, well, brews on site. From left to right you have: 1) Nordic Blonde 2) Headplant Pale Ale 3) Hellroaring ESB 4) Lone Peak IPA 5) Buck Snort Porter 6) Hippy Highway Oatmeal Stout 7) Swiftwater Pilsner 8) Wit's End Belgian White Ale 9) Steep n' Deep Winter Ale 10) Bourbon Barrel Stout.
The favorites were numbers 4, 6, 9, and 10. The oatmeal stout and bourbon stout were particularly interesting, and by the time we got half way through the bourbon stout, it tasted a whole lot more like bourbon than it did stout.

Back home now, I am literally snowed in. I got in a ride this morning before and during the start of the the massive snowstorm that has now delivered well more than a half foot of white and fluffy to our doorstep, but I have a feeling that will be the last for a least a few days as the storm rages on tomorrow. Forecasts have projected as much as a foot and half. Sadly, that probably means hitting the trainer for the first time since June, when I got all the practice I will ever need at getting through indoor workouts. Let the Food Network marathon commence.