Chicken Stew

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I’m a big fan of stews and braises as they’re cheap and easy to make and can be quite nutritious and flavorful. This chicken stew was made with half a bottle of cheap red wine, a fairly inexpensive “stewing hen” from my local food co-op, a couple handfuls of cheap veggies, and a whole bunch of tarragon and garlic.

Brown the chicken on the stove in a 50/50 mixture of olive oil and butter. Pour off the excess fat once you’re done browning the chicken. Drown the bird (mine was quartered) in wine topped off with enough water or chicken stock to cover the chicken, throw in the garlic and tarragon and shove it in a 250 degree oven for 2.5 hours. At the 2.5 hour mark add veggies that have been lightly sautéed in some of the excess chicken drippings, shove it back in the oven for another half an hour. At the 3 hour mark pull the chicken meat off the bones and skin and skim the excess fat from the broth. Eat.

If you’re like me and your human engine powers most of mobility, you need good quality food like this to properly power that engine. A stew like this just couldn’t get any simpler or be more tasty and it’s a great source of fuel for your engine.

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Dressed for success

 

This is what dressing for success for a 1.5 hour recreational ride at 15 degrees looks like (I have no idea who’s ugly toes those are ;-)).

Continuing with the Getting Around Using pedals theme. I really hate the term “weather wimp” some people just don’t like being cold. However, there do seem to be a number “cold curious” people out there and living somewhere where the winters are long and cold I think looking at “cold positive” attire is warranted. And, of course, once you get the clothes right your not cold anyway.

Foreward…

Just a quick note to start things off, wearing layers and clothing that wicks moisture is key here. There are lots of good options here and tons of info on the web about this, so I’m not going to rehash it here.

Starting on the left. Lightly insulated cycling boots and wool ski socks to keep the feet warm. Those boots are actually made for temps that are a little warmer than 15 degrees, but they’re fine for an hour or two of riding where there are plenty of places that you can stop for a warm-up if you do get too cold. If I was going out in the boonies I would have worn insulated hiking boots instead. Cross-country ski boots aren’t ideal for riding, but they’ll work in a pinch.

On the lower half I’ve got wool bib-knickers (about the same warmth as medium weight long underwear) that overlap with my ski socks and a fairly windproof wool stretch tight over the knickers. On this afternoon’s ride that was perfect, neither to hot or too cold and since I was wearing wool with some breathability to it I didn’t get sweaty.

Moving up I had a lightweight long underwear top with a hoodie, which I wore under the bib-knickers. I love these “hoodie shirts” they help block the wind from getting next to your neck, which will cool you really fast, without being bulky. Hoodie shirts are also great as depending on how cold you are you can wear the hood under a hat, just your hat, or just your hoodie A heavy-ish weight bike jersey goes over the top of the hoodie shirt and bib-knickers. The jacket I was wearing is bike specific, but any of the lighter weight quilted jackets that outdoor clothing companies are making would work just fine. Over the top of it all goes a windproof shell. Like everything else that shell, which doesn’t appear to be made any more (drat!), is a bike specific jacket that works just fine for other things, but you could do it the other way around as well. On the faster and cooler sections of the ride my torso would get a little chilled, but it’s just a little chill not like your getting hypothermia or anything and after a couple minutes I’d be working harder, getting warmer, and starting to unzip my shell to cool off a bit. This set up worked really well.

On my head I went for a lightweight wool beanie with my hoodie under it and a bike helmet on top of everything. At first I thought I might have gone too light on my hat choice, but my head heated up in a couple of minutes and was fine for the rest of the ride.

For my hands I went with a windproof and lightly insulated pair of gloves with liners underneath them. These were just barely warm enough, if it was a longer ride or had gotten colder I would have needed a warmer glove. But, it’s not like I would have lost a finger to the cold or anything, I would just have had hands that were a little cold. And, again, I was riding in the city with all sorts of places to warm up and get a bite to eat if had started to get too cold.

The key here is heat management. You never want to be so cold that the cold is a problem or really miserable, but you don’t want to get so warm on the climbs and places where you’re working hard and start to “sweat out.”

 

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Picked Mustard Seeds

fullsizeoutput_6705I’m a big fan of uncomplicated cooking and pickling, which can be summed up as: Vinegar, salt, sugar, soak, is pretty darn uncomplicated.

Pickled mustard seeds have a lovely sharp and bright flavor that helps get me though the long and cold winters around here. I usually use it as condiment with meats or on sandwiches, but do your own thing and what you like best.

There are all sorts of recipes for pickled mustard seeds on the web. The one in the picture came from Food52.com and uses honey and turmeric giving the mustard seeds a warm North African taste.

 

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Let’s Talk About Gloves

IMG_3724Since there are a ton a resources about selecting a bike for yourself out there I’m going to skip over that part of Getting Around Using Pedals. I do want to talk about some of the kit that could come in handy whilst Getting Around Using Pedals, however. So, Gloves.

Note: I cross-country ski and use these same gloves while skiing.

If your goals for Getting Using Pedals are fairly modest, say a 4 mile round trip to the library and coffee shop in good weather with temps above about the mid-50’s you really don’t need any gloves. However, I find that I get a better grip on my bars with gloves on and gloves have saved me from a few cuts, scrapes, and pokes over the years so I almost always wear them. If you’re going on longer rides gloves do help with comfort, grip and help keep the sun off. I recommend wearng them.

For temps over the mid-50’s the lightweight gloves in the upper right of the photo (Giro D&D) work grand. Look for good straight stiching, seams that aren’t poky, a light leather palm and breathable back. I wear these in all but the hottest weather. These sorts of gloves make a good general purpose outdoors glove as long as you’re not doing anything too aggressive. General purpose outdoors gloves from manufacturers like Outdoor Research work just fine for these conditions as well and tend to be a little more rugged.

If things get a little cooler or it starts to rain below about the low 60’s, you’re probably going to be better off with gloves even on short trips, unless you’re fairly exothermic in these conditions you’re going to want a glove that blocks the wind completely and is waterproof. If you tend to have cold hands you might want a lightly insulated glove. Low 60’s and rain or high 50’s and dry conditions I go with Cross Point gloves from Showers Pass  (2nd from left of top) which have a wind and waterproof barrier fabric and lightweight insulation. I’ll wear these gloves down to around the freezing mark. I have longish, thin fingers so I can easily fit liner gloves (Bottom right in photo) on under my regular gloves. On cold days I’ll put liner gloves on under the Cross Points for a little extra warmth. Note the longish “gauntlet” on the wrist of the Cross Points. Gauntlet’s are super important for sealing with your jacket and locking wind and rain. Make sure whatever cool or cold weather glove you get can seal well with your jackets.

Next up we have freezing to a little above zero degree conditions, with the right kit rides up to about 5 miles one way with a warm destination at both ends are easy and fun in these condations. For these you’re going to want a windproof and well insulated glove with a long gauntlet that seals well with your jacket. For these I go with the Cross Points neighbor to the right. However, the gloves I have don’t have a long enough gauntlet for me and I tend to have issues with air leaks. If I’m going on a longer ride I either wear the lighter weight Cross Points with liners or switch to the warmer still lobster claws. If it’s a short ride I’ve found the air leaks aren’t that big of a deal, but I do plan of replacing these gloves in the future.

For conditions that are a little above zero to OMFG IT’S COLD! ARE YOU INSANE? I’ll go with heavily insulated lobster claws (bottom right). The lobster claw works similar to a mitten, but it’s split design allows you to work the brakes and gears on a bicycle. They go quite a way over my wrists and the gauntlet is insulated. Lobster Claw gloves also work well while cross-country skiing. I wear liner gloves in these conditions so that I can sweat into the liner glove not the main glove. If my hands “sweat out” I can just swap liner gloves and keep my lobster claws drier. Liner gloves also help keep your hands a little warm if you have to take the lobster claws off  (in my case usually taking a picture). If you have to fiddle with something the liner gloves protect you from directly touching cold metal and leaving a little gift to the gods on the metal when you pull your finger away. I’ll go out for short jaunts down to about -15 degrees (Eau Claire’s one of the coldest cities in the continental U.S.), but below zero I don’t ride very far and stick to walking and cross country skiing at anything below -5. It’s pretty cool (heh) knowing that you can get around under your own power at -15.

 

 

 

 

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In Through The Out Door

Lots of out of towner’s around this weekend as it’s graduation day at the University today. Which means lots of people walking in the bike paths, people (driving) using entrances as exits and exits as entrances, and just generally not being used to being around so many people on bikes. It’s not a big deal or a problem, but you do have to be a little more aware of what’s going on around you.

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Getting Around Using Pedals: To The Grocery Store

The grocery store a stones throw away from my apartment is undergoing a change in ownership and is currently closed. So, for the time being most of my groceries are fetched from stores 2.5 & 4.5 miles away. In my neighborhood there’s a little co-op that sells things like yummy eggs from local small farmers and a corner store where I pick up apples and bananas, but for all my bigger trips I bike it out of my neighborhood.

I checked the time before heading home from the store 2.5 miles from me with 4 big bags of groceries this morning; the trip took me 13-14 minutes. Cycling was at an easy, non-sweaty pace and, other than crossing one busy arterial (zero cars on it this morning), was on neighborhood streets with little traffic. Clothing wise, I was just wearing normal street clothes (50 degrees out) with the addition of full finger cycling gloves and a helmet.

For 4 bags of groceries you need more than just a backpack and handlebars to hang sacks from. I have a smallish set of panniers for my bike’s rear rack and a small front basket. The groceries filled all of it, but were easy to balance and weren’t a problem to get home.

For this size of trip you do need to make a little bit of an investment in bike racks and bags, but this sort of trip is easily doable and at sub 15 minutes each way the time investment isn’t a big deal.

Rating: with a small investment in gear, easily doable.

 

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Getting Around Using Pedals: to the library

Getting around on foot and bicycle will be a recurring theme on this blog. I’m interested in talking about what’s feasible and do-able for most of us as far as getting around. I know that people move refrigerators, couches, and entire apartments via bicycles, and I think that’s fantastic. But, what I’m interested in is the more mundane everyday stuff and what’s doable for average folks that happen to have a bike or want to walk, not what the Super Cyclists are doing.

For this post I also wanted to figure out how to post pictures, so there they are.

Anyway, two trips to the library, call it 11-13 minutes travel time, in mid-30 degree weather. Doable? Absolutely. No need to fire up the car for this trip. My pace for both of these was casual, no sweating or heavy breathing required. Cargo wise a handful of library books is easy to transport requiring no specialized gear. Staying warm and comfortable while biking in mid 30’s temperatures is easy, anything that will keep you warm walking in these temps will also keep you warm on your bike, but you do have to think about the extra wind from biking, so gloves and some sort of jacket that will block the wind are needed and you might want to keep your ears covered up.

 

Rating: easily doable with no extra gear needed.

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How I ended up in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

 

When I first moved to Eau Claire I had some of my neighbors in the Third Ward a bit puzzled. Was I connected to the university? No. Did I have family in the area? No. Did I move here for a specific job. No. Was I part of a witness protection program? I, actually, had multiple people ask me this and when I answered “no” they always gave me a skeptical look. My neighbors couldn’t believe that a person from the Seattle area, where apparently everyone on the planet wants to live, would move to a small city in Wisconsin, that western Wisconsin might be preferable to western Washington was a completely alien thought. I thought this first post would be a good chance explain how I got here and why.

In 2013 I was living outside of Seattle and caring for my father who was terminally ill. I was also realizing that someone like myself with a pretty whopping dose of Seasonal Affective Disorder and severe mold allergies living in the darkest, moldiest part of America wasn’t really the best of options. I figured after my dad past away I’d take a cross country road trip and check out a few different places to live.

First I had to figure out the parameters of where a good place for me would be. The first parameter was light. I did a little research and discovered that there were rankings of cities based on the amount of light they receive and as long as I wasn’t in one of the ten darkest areas in America I’d probably be fine. The second parameter was cost of living.  I wouldn’t have a job for a bit and I didn’t know if this experiment was going to end in total disaster or if I’d end up moving more than once, so cost of living had to fairly low. Third: Crime. I’m not that great about locking stuff up and since I do a lot of getting around by bicycle and don’t want my bike to get ripped off or things stolen off of it a lower crime rate was a must. The fourth parameter was outdoor recreation, was there easy access to hiking, paddling, biking, maybe some skiing. Last, but not least, bicycles. Could I do most of my getting around on a bicycle.

Blogs were read. Google maps was consulted. I spent several evenings on Craig’s List looking at apartment prices in different cities around the country. Much to my surprise places in the Midwest kept cropping up. I started making a list of places to visit and it ran heavy on the upper midwest.  Then I picked up a newish Kathleen Edwards CD and read a few interviews with her and it turns out that most of the songs were written and recorded in someplace called Eau Claire, Wisconsin. She raved about the place in a couple interviews. Looking up Eau Claire online I found great biking, low crime, a low cost of living, a river running right through town, and cross country skiing right outside of town. I had front runner.

My dad passed away at the beginning of July in 2013 and later that year headed out on my cross country trip. I drove a zig-zagging course taking me all over the country, but while driving from Dubuque, Iowa to Eau Claire though the Driftless Area I figured I’d probably found my new home.  The Driftless Area is just crazy pretty. I camped at Lake Wissota State Park for a couple of days and rode my bike down the Chippewa Trail to Chippewa Falls and Eau Claire. I got off the trail on the UWEC campus and explored the Third Ward a bit and that was pretty much the end of my search. I loved the old homes and the big trees. I loved the river and the ease of getting around on my bike and everyone I saw seemed open and friendly, a big change from the more private and passive aggressive Pacific Northwest.

My trip lasted another month or so and took me all over New England and the South East, but I knew the whole time that I’d be swinging though Eau Claire on my way back to the Pacific Northwest and making things final in Eau Claire. Everyone else can have Seattle. I’ll take Eau Claire with its whisky bright winter mornings, air that I can actually breathe, ever changing river, and some of the friendliest people that you’ll ever meet.

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