Sunday, October 18, 2015

Saturday Ride

I rode a loop starting and ending in Fairfax, which took me thorough Nicaso, Pt. Reyes Station, Olema and Lagunitas yesterday. It was cloudy and showers were in the forecast. 

I love this bridge on the Petaluma-Pt Reyes Rd. It means I'm only three miles from a morning bun from the Bovine Bakery. And those morning buns are just about perfect, crispy on the outside and not too gooey caramel-ly goodness on the inside and bottom.  After devouring a morning bun and sitting in the sun for a bit, I headed to Bear Valley Rd. followed by Olema Hill.  After Olema, a pleasant ride through the redwoods on Sir Francis Drake and dappled sunshine.

I stopped for a few minutes to wonder about this sign that is painted on the side of the Lagunitas Market.

I love finding old signs painted on brick. I'm surprised that they haven't been painted over since they usually advertised a product or company that ceased to exist a long time ago.  In the case of Lucas Valley, I wonder what happened to the dairy.  

From Lagunitas, it's almost a straight run back to Fairfax with a few rollers thrown in.  A perfect day on the bike.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Why won't you move over?

Saturday I rode the Cinderella Challenge.  A lovely ride for women only.

Not much is asked of the riders.  And those things that we are asked to do are related to safety.  Among those things:  you must wear a helmet, no ear buds or headphones, ride single file, ride as close to the right side of the road as is safe, call out when passing, make sure your bike is in good working order, etc.  You get the idea. There was also a reminder that this is not a race against others. 

What should probably have been said as well is that it isn't a social ride.  Don't get me wrong.  I have nothing against going out for a social ride.  I do have a problem with riders who think that riding single file doesn't apply to them.  And I'm not sorry if you think I'm being rude when I call out on your left or ask you to move over when you and your friends are spread out across the lane. 

Rant aside.  I had a wonderful ride.  The weather was about as prefer as you could ask for.  My average speed was about .5 mph faster than last year.  I saw cycling friends I hadn't seen in awhile and caught up with them at the lunch stop.  I saw cows rubbing their calves backs with their horns, a dead rattlesnake (I think it was a rattlesnake), enjoyed the quiet on Midway, and the thought that before the 580 was constructed, cars chugged up Altamont Pass on the same road I was riding up.  Seeing the Summit Garage always makes me happy.

Another thing that made this a great ride is that I was wearing my Giro halter bib shorts.  A year ago I took a leap and tried out bib shorts.  I resisted bib shorts for so long.  I didn't want the hassle of having to take off my jersey to use the bathroom.  It all seemed so fussy and how much more comfortable were they than regular shorts any way?  Well bibs solved a few problems, namely almost no rubbing on tender bits because the chamois stays in place.  With the Giro halter, I just have to lift the strap over my head without stripping down to my sports bra beforehand.  I've only used them on two rides; one was 65 miles and the Challenge, which my Garmin showed as 85.3 miles.  I'm sold.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

An open letter to House of Pain riders

Dear HOP riders,

Yesterday I was riding on Manning about to turn onto North Livermore when your group came by me.  One fellow yelled to me that you were a "big group." I replied don't run me off the road.  Of course, you didn't respected my request.  In fact, one of you came within inches of me nearly forcing me onto the soft shoulder. (Frankly, I've been run off the road more than once by your group in the past year--on Camino Tassajara and on Highland.)  Shortly after your group made their turn, a truck turned onto North Livermore and made it up to the back of your group in seconds.  He honked as he wanted to get past your group which was spread out across the lane.  Not one of you moved to the right so he could safely pass.  He crossed the double yellow line to get around you.

I guess the fact one of your group was killed on in December has not change your group's mentality.  You do not have the right to push other cyclists off the road just because we are not riding your pace.  We are not racing you. In fact, I am out on my training ride and have no desire to race anyone.  You are technically not racing either.  You don't have the permits, the road closed nor is it marked for a bike race. 

Believe it or not, I understand the desire to ride fast but I don't do it as if my ride is the only one that counts.  I also think that my behavior on the road can affect how drivers view all cyclists.  Your behavior goes a long way to re-enforcing the perspective that all cyclists are jerks who routinely disregard the rules of the road. 

I would love it if you would show some respect to others on the road at the same time as you.  If I am forced on to the soft shoulder or off the road by your group again or witness the type of behavior I saw yesterday, I am reporting you to the police or sheriff. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Hi, hello

I feel like I should break out in song:  Hello, it's me.  I haven't seen you for a long, long time.

I figure I needed to stop by my long neglected blog and say hello.  So what happened to me?  I landed a job--a real job.  Regular hours, paycheck and all that.  So my year of unemployment interrupted by periodic temporary work ended one year eighteen days after it began.  When not at work I've been knitting, riding my bike, reading, and doing a wee bit of travel.

Cycling is occupying most of my free time.  I'm riding between 85 and 100 miles a week.  Some of these miles have been on my own, on club ride and organized rides including the Cinderella Challenge and Wine County.  Both were milestones.  Cinderella because this year it did not rain like two years ago and I didn't get sick toward the end of my training like last year.  So I rode the Challenge.  This takes you over Patterson and Altamont Passes.  Then a month later, I rode the Wine Country Century.  My first 100 mile ride.  It was fun with only one small problem--I got a pinch flat about 2 miles away from the last rest stop.  Fortunately, I know how to change an inner tube and get the tire back on the rim.  Double fortunately, a very nice fellow stopped to help me.

Some of the weekly miles are also done on my turbo trainer and TrainerRoad.  As much as I'd like to ride my bike outside, during the week it is just not possible.  I don't get home until evening and I don't see well in low, flat light. TrainerRoad gives me structure so it's not endless pedaling with no plan.  To make it work, I listen to music or watch videos of pro races. 

As to the travel, I've done a bit for work.  Nothing too exciting--Los Angeles and Orange County.  G and I went to Boston in November and then a whirlwind trip to Madrid two weeks before Christmas.  Both trips were lovely if too short.

My knitting has been for pleasure.  I've made mistakes, like the sweater that I tried to finish before leaving for Madrid.  I ended up not liking it. I ripped it out and am knitting another sweater, which will be finished long before I can really wear it.  I also knit a pair of socks with an interesting construction, which I'd been eyeing for a long, long time.  Turns out I thought they were fun to knit but don't really care for how they fit.  The fit is a direct result of the construction.  The other thing that has been interesting is knitting up my stash.  My year of unemployment broke me of the habit and desire to constantly add to the stash.  Strangely, or not, I've no desire to go back to the days of acquiring for acquirings sake.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Oranges and other hot things

 When I was a kid, my mom always packed oranges in our lunches in the winter, both school and "ski" lunches.  She would score the peel into quarters so that they were easy to peel.  Navel oranges always remind me of those lunches, especially ski lunches.  I grew up skiing so ski lunches were not anything special.  Usually they consisted of salami, cheese, bread or crackers, oranges and sometimes a bar of chocolate.  It may not seem like much.  Eaten outdoors on a sunny Sierra winter day those lunches were wonderful.  Today my favorite way to eat salami is with good bread followed by an orange.

So what are the other hot things in the title?  Two things.

Thing one.  I made soap yesterday.  Cold process soap.  Cold process soap generates a lot of heat.  You see you start by mixing lye with water.  That produces heat, quite a bit actually, up to 200F.  Then you heat the solid fats.  Yup, heat again.  You let the lye solution and the fats cool to the same temperature, mix them together until they do that magic of turning into soap.  Then you pour the soap into a mold.  Wrap the mold in a towel or blanket and wait.  While you are busy doing other things, the soap is producing heat.  A lot of heat.  So much heat that if you peek you will see that your soap looks a bit like gel and is kind of translucent.  After about 24 hours, it looks like soap again.

Thing two.  I have a wise friend who dyes yarn and fiber for a living.  After telling her about overdyeing some yarn which continued to bleed color despite being rinsed to death, she suggested that I put it back in the pot with more citric acid to set the dye.  She hinted ever so kindly that I may not have used enough citric acid in the first place.  Today I tossed the yarn back in the dye pot with water and citric acid.  It has been gently heating for the last little while.  The water is clear so I am hoping that the color has set this time.

Oh, there is a thing three.  I really am using magic loop.  This is the sleeve of the Neckdown V Neck Shaped Cardigan by Knitting Pure & Simple.  This is the second time I've knit this pattern.  The first time was a gift for my mom using handspun merino.  This time I'm using Brown Sheep Cotton Cloud.  The color is cavern.   This is the second sweater I've knit from this yarn.  I mean that literally.  I ripped out another sweater that needed buttons.  It sat on my dresser for six months waiting for buttons.  I realized that I hadn't bothered with the buttons because I was never going to wear it.  I hope I haven't made the same mistake again.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Insurance update

Friday I had a minor meltdown over my situation with WageWorks and my medical insurance.  It all began when I received a call back from a customer service supervisor.  He told me he had good news.  His good news:  my "issue" had been referred to an account manager who would be contacting my former employee in seven to ten business days.  He even told me we were making progress in resolving my "issue."  Unfortunately for him, this wasn't good news to me.  So I asked to speak to someone with more authority.  I was told that that wasn't possible.  I would have to write a letter, not an email, a letter and that someone would get back to me seven to ten business days after WageWorks received the letter.  I used a few choice words about the lack of customer service and their inability to take my situation seriously, said good-bye and hung up.

I was tired of the fight but not done with it.  After all, I am paying for health insurance and I want what I am paying for.  So I called my former employer and told them my story. I am not blaming them for this situation.  They hired a company to handle COBRA for them.  I know that if I were in their shoes I would expect that the vendor was doing what I hired them to do.

And I did another thing.  I filed a complaint with the California Attorney General against WageWorks.

Today my former employer called me to gather a bit of information for the form that WageWorks apparently refuses to send to my health insurance provider.  They completed the form and sent it to the insurance provider and let me know that they had done so. 

This is not how I wanted this resolved.  I wanted WageWorks to handle my situation with understanding, compassion and, more importantly, action.  WageWorks has failed miserably on all counts.  They may be big and bureaucratic but they should know that you don't mess with people's health insurance or any other benefits they have been hired to handle. 

Magic Looped and an Apology

When Pyroclastic was accepted for publication by Knitty, I was thrilled. I'd written the pattern the way I prefer to knit socks--I use 5 double pointed needles and distribute the stitches so I don't have to use a lot of stitch markers. When I was contacted by the technical editor, I learned that I would have to rewrite it as what I call needle neutral. At the time I knew how to knit using two circular knits. I had never knit using magic loop. I really couldn't imagine how to write the pattern to accommodate various needle choices. In my mind, if you knit with two circular needles or magic loop you most likely had knit from patterns written with reference to double pointed needles and knew where you needed to place markers.

Pyroclastic calls for markers to keep track of the increases and decreases that shape the foot. I could visualize those regardless of needles used. What I couldn't visualize for magic loop was how one kept track of the division between the top and bottom of the foot. So I came up with what I thought was the answer. It was messy with a lot of markers, four of which were moving every two to three rounds. I knew it was messy.

When the pattern was published, I got a lot of questions from people knitting it using magic loop. I couldn't really help them much. I bought the magic loop pamphlet and read it. I just didn't try it.

I finally got around to teaching myself magic loop last year. I don't use it for socks because I like my double points too much. However, I love magic loop for working sleeves in the round. Frankly, I find double points larger than US 5 bulky and awkward. Right now, I'm knitting a sweater using Cotton Fleece. I dreaded knitting the sleeves because the body is on the heavy side and I thought I'd be moving it a lot while knitting the sleeves. With magic loop, I've figured how to work the sleeves without moving the sweater much. Plus, I didn't have to change from a 16-inch circular to double points when there were too few stitches to work comfortably on the 16-inch circ. 

To all those knitters that have struggled with Pyroclastic and it's crazy number of markers in the Knitty version, I'm really sorry I didn't learn this technique earlier.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Super Food

I emailed myself a link to this website called The Italian Dish over a year ago with the intention (intentions are good, right?) of making the mushroom bolognese recipe.  I love mushrooms.  And as you can see from the box, they are a super food.  Before you get picky, I usually buy loose mushrooms because I like to inspect them.  Yesterday the market didn't have any loose brown mushrooms so I bought them in this package.

The recipe calls for dried porcini as well.  My pantry isn't lacking in dried porcini.  But I didn't use them.  Instead, I pulled out a one ounce package of mixed dried wild mushrooms from Far West which I picked up at the Ferry Building in San Francisco on a lunchtime outing.  I intended to make the sauce last night but continuing COBRA drama interfered with my plans.  So the dried mushrooms got a good long overnight soak.  This morning my kitchen smelled a bit like wild mushroom heaven!

 This was the other ingredient that I didn't have at home.   I love the label on this bottle and thought I'd give it a try.  The wine was added to the sauteed onions, carrot, celery and garlic and allowed to cook down a bit.  By the way, the wine was a lovely dark red and looked quite drinkable.  However, it was morning and I was drinking coffee.  Somehow, the idea of even a sip of wine right after drinking coffee doesn't appeal to me.

Then the chopped fresh and reconstituted dried mushrooms were added to the pan along with crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, water, the strained mushroom soaking liquid, herbs and a touch of sugar. 

I followed the recipe with some minor changes.  I used mixed wild mushrooms instead of porcini.  I used water with a dollop of Better Than Bouillon reduced sodium vegetable base instead of beef or vegetable broth.

Now that everything is in the pan, it just has to cook down to a pleasing thickness.  It smells really good.  I'll cook up a suitable pasta shape, something with ridges that the sauce will cling to.  After all, I want all the mushroom goodness I can get.
I will sop up any sauce left in the bowl with this:  salt and pepper focaccia.  (This is one of rounds of sourdough focaccia I made a few weeks ago and put in the freezer.)