Sunday, December 30, 2007

Cold feet ?

Sunday, 30 December
Happy Birthday, Old as Dirt !

[warning: unsolicited product endorsement follows]

One of the biggest challenges for me of winter training is keeping my hands and feet warm on cold, sometimes wet, rides. I've been doing pretty well with heavy fleece socks and two pairs of booties, but I just added something new to my arsenal: Toasty Feet.

I bought these from Sahalie mainly as a way to inflate the value of my Christmas order to the minimum for free shipping. I forgot about them when the box arrived until it was time to wrap the gift inside. They went for their first bike rides this weekend.

They are inserts that replace the liners that came with your cycling shoes; they probably won't work if you have special orthotics, although the packaging says you can just put them on top of whatever you're currently using. They have a rubber layer that faces out (down) and a waffly "nanoporous" layer that keeps your body heat next to your foot. "NASA space-age insulation," "microscopic air pockets," blah blah blah. I was dubious but always eager for warmer extremities.

On Saturday's 5-hour ride, I wore them with two pairs of booties, and sometimes my feet were almost too warm. Not like overheated on a long, hot climb in the middle of July when the hotspots pop up in odd places on your feet, but just really toasty and a little sweaty. The temperature was about 37 degrees for most of the ride. Today's ride was shorter (4 hours) and marginally warmer, and I only wore one pair of booties. I could feel that the insoles warmed the bottoms of my feet while the mesh in my shoes was creating a colder draft across the tops of my feet. Microclimates, indeed. But wiggling my toes every once in a while seemed to redistribute the warmth and banish the cold.

These things are going to stay in my training shoes for the rest of the winter. At $15, they're better than buying toe warmer packets that go into the trash. I'll be curious to see how they do on a wet ride. Maybe we won't have any more of those this winter? Yeah, right! :)

Monday, December 24, 2007

Enjoying the weather ?

Friday, 28 December

I was born a short ferry ride from Seattle (not short enough for a woman in labor) and moved to the city when I was about a year old. With that Northwest Native upbringing, I'm not affected in the least by seasonal affective disorder. I almost enjoy this weather. It's soothing. It makes you enjoy things like hot spiced wine and fireplace fires and snuggly sweaters. It's how winter here is supposed to be. It's like prozac that evens out the more exciting--good and bad--weather patterns we get in Seattle. It's dreary to some but comforting to me.

I was thinking of this on a cold, wet 4-hour ride last Sunday, enjoying the subtle palette of colors in the Snohomish valley. The first few words of a Christmas carol I never learned kept popping to mind, so I went home and looked them up. They really seem to describe winter here, except that some of the layers of snow might be replaced by puddles of water.

In the bleak midwinter, frost wind made moan,
earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
in the bleak midwinter, long ago.

And really it only looks bleak if you're grumpy and think it's monochromatic and are looking for something to complain about. On a short lunchtime walk yesterday, I found bursts of color breaking up the endless shades of grey.

Lest you try to read between the lines, I assure you that I don't find riding my bike in this particularly comforting or soothing or enjoyable. But those glorious days of summer would be so much less remarkable if we didn't have bleak midwinter days for contrast.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Congrats to the happy couple !

Sunday, 23 December

Another holiday party last night.
Not the usual fare, though.
Nuptials (a surprise!) between courses.
Even the groom shed a tear.
Twas touching and exciting and beautiful.
Two special people whose lives are now joined in a new way.
Everyone should be so lucky.

A few guests knew the purpose of the occasion, but
No one gave it away to those of us in the dark.
Did I say they picked their date just six days ago?

Kisses abounded.
Embraces were warm.
None of the candles outshone the bride's beautiful glow.
No one was more sincere than the groom with his vows.
You two are now one--it's official.

Congratulations! 22 December 2007

Friday, December 21, 2007

Ho ho ho

it's still Friday, 21 December

This was a new venture for me: I've never put a pompon (no, that's not a typo--google it) on a hat before. They're a lot of work, but a necessity for this item!
On this, the longest night of the year, I made fudge, biscotti, gingerbread, dinner, glog (hot spiced wine), and soup for post-ride lunch tomorrow. And a Santa hat. Ho ho ho!


Friday, 21 December

* Too Much Excitement.

Very few people in my building came to work today, and things have been quiet--with notable exceptions. During the lunch hour, a group of brass players gathered outside the building next door for their annual holiday serenade and commenced to play their way through just about every carol in the repertory. The weird thing was that it seemed they had never heard the music before. The lead trumpet player was particularly prone to clams, and accidentals in the music usually went unobserved (even when the verse was repeated). Still, in an oddly festive sort of way, it was "real" music and almost better than having, say, the Canadian Brass playing a live Christmas concert outside your office window. I look forward to this performance every year.

My listening experience was rudely interrupted, however. Yesterday was the annual test of the building's fire alarm system. We were advised to turn off our computers (because of the switch to emergency power--you never know what might happen) but got to stay in our offices to endure the fire alarm and "this is only a test" PA announcements for a few minutes. So when the alarm went off today, the first thought was "oh, they forgot to do something yesterday." A head check out my door, though, revealed that others were being good citizens and leaving the building. I grabbed all my worldly goods (it might be hours before we get back in) and joined the group in front of our building. Turned out that somebody overcooked something in the microwave. No fire in the building, but so much smoke still in the air that I think I might have to leave early. :) We tried not to laugh when six firefighters in full gear showed up for a microwave meltdown; some of them were pretty serious but the last ones to leave were laughing with us. The offending pile of melted plastic and food has been ceremoniously placed atop the pedestal that used to house a bust of the building's namesake. No one has come forward as the offending chef.

I'm hoping my holiday baking at home tonight is not nearly as exciting.

Buses, cereal, and hats

Friday, 21 December

Today was the first bus day of the season. This morning our driveway twinkled and the street was a sheet of black ice with little rock nubbins poking out, so no bike commute for me. The bus schedule had changed since last year (imagine that!), so I was rather later to work than I expected. But nobody else was here when I got in!

Yesterday morning I got a funny surprise in my cereal box. I didn't even notice when I bought the box, but it contained a small children's book ("collect all six!"). I had a good laugh when I pulled this out. The first page says "Do YOU have a hat? Something fuzzy, warm, and red, to keep the snowflakes off your head?" Indeed, I've been working on this fuzzy one that I'll give away today, and also a red (Santa) one that gets given away tomorrow.

Happy winter solstice tomorrow! Stay warm!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Sweets and shopping

Tuesday, 18 December (again)

I did some more Christmas baking today, this time meringues to go along with the chocolate raspberry torte for Christmas dinner. They are sweet but light--just egg whites and sugar, plus orange zest in some and coffee powder in others. The orange ones are best. They might not last til Christmas. :) Instead of making freeform blobs with teaspoons, I used my pastry bag and a rosette, and they look pretty fancy!

I also made another visit to A New Yarn and really stocked up. I need to make a couple of hats this week for Christmas. The shop has a big basket of yarn that's been donated, and they give you a plastic grocery bag, you fill it up (!), and it costs $3 for the whole lot. So in addition to 4 skeins of yarn for the aforementioned hats, I got some beautiful blue Icelandic wool, some stretchy brown stuff that has inch-long wormy bits sticking out all over (it'll make great hat trim), and gobs of baby yarn. If we have any snow days, I am set!

Rejoice !

Tuesday, 18 December

Sunset today is later than it was yesterday!! That's the first step toward days getting longer. The winter solstice is this Saturday; a few days after that, sunrise will start getting earlier. You'll be able to shelve all your bike lights before you know it...well....soonish....

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Out-of-town riding

Sunday, December 16
(tomorrow is Beethoven's birthday!)

Today was the long-appointed day for a FRM women's team ride in the hometown that claims the largest number of our riders: Bainbridge Island. Last night, the weather forecast was ugly, but there was not a speck of rain today until I got in the car after the ferry ride back to Seattle. We had some blue sky, some great views of sunshine on the Olympics, and a mid-Sound treat of unrestricted views of snowclad Rainier and Baker.

Sometimes I knew where I was, mostly I didn't. We stopped for shots (espresso with milk and a tad bit of sugar) in Port Gamble, we bypassed downtown Poulsbo by riding through the parking lot next to the marina, and we had a scenic tour along Lemolo Road. We also did some of those vicious, short, steep hills that Bainbridge is famous for. It was a terrific ride with good company--and local knowledge of a super coffee shop to finish off a great day while we waited for our ship to come in.

Total miles today were 47. After yesterday's low psi ride plus a trip to the gym to lift weights yesterday afternoon, 47 was plenty. And my legs are looking forward to just sitting in my chair at work tomorrow!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

50 psi x 28 mm = not so fast

Saturday, Ides of December

I think my rear tire has a super slow leak. My team ride had to wait for me, like, 30 times today. I got dropped going down a 3% untechnical hill with a tailwind--and I was working hard. The tire was a little bouncy sometimes, although I never thought it was flat and it didn't seem to get worse. I did seem to get slower, though. :) Still, my average speed was over 15 mph for 81 miles with something like a thick layer of, well, cookie dough for a rear tire (as opposed to the spare tire of cookie dough accumulating on me!). Maybe this will make my workout on my race bike on the CycleU computrainer this week seem effortless?

Bad day for crashes. Best wishes to Richard and Andrew for speedy recoveries!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Another good cause

Tuesday, 11 December

Short version: Lisa and Friends will be signing copies of their calendar to raise funds for breast cancer charities at Third Place Books (which shares space with the Honey Bear Bakery) in Lake Forest Park shopping center (about a mile from Log Boom Park) this Friday, December 14, at 6:30. The calendar features beautiful photography and would make a great present for some on your holiday list.

Longer version: "13 women, including several who are either fighting, or have survived breast cancer, have posed nude for a calendar celebrating both women's vulnerability and strength in the face of this disease." One of those calendar girls is my teammate, Lisa Lund. "Sales of the calendar have raised about $22,000 for charity so far -- money Lund has earmarked to help pay for mammograms for uninsured, or underinsured women." More information on the calendar, the women it features, and how cycling helped Lisa get through her cancer treatment is in an article in last week's Post-Intelligencer:

Also see the photographer's website for some of the incredible images in this calendar:

I hope to see you at Third Place Books on Friday evening! (And if you didn't already sign the petition to preserve libraries in our schools, read and follow up on the posting below.)

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Save school libraries

Sunday, 9 December (another snow day)

I work in higher education and am proud to say I frequently use the biggest library in the State of Washington and rely on the expertise of its professional librarians. Unfortunately, there's a move afoot to cut libraries and librarians in our public schools, which will reduce information literacy among students and cut access to information technology for those who don't have those resources at home.

Please take a few minutes to sign a petition supporting school libraries in Washington State. The petition was started by a parent in the Spokane Schools who has witnessed how the district has cut library programs over the past few years and decided to try to change the tide. Join the over 300 Washingtonians in asking for funding for school libraries across the state. Here is what Lisa, the petition's founder, says:

"Can you take a moment to sign a petition that advocates for WA school libraries and information technology? Cuts have occurred around the state: libraries sit dark sometimes up to 3 days out of the week and new proposals for further reductions in the next school year are already emerging. A state-wide petition has been launched. It is our hope that as many WA residents as possible sign to send the message that we do not want our school libraries and information literacy compromised. This is where you come in. Can you please sign the petition and forward to as many people and organizations as possible?

"We have a chance for Washington to take a stand on what is happening around the country. Tucson's school district has just proposed eliminating librarians and replacing them with aides beginning the next school year. We are optimistic that, if this campaign is successful, WA school libraries and their programs will no longer be at risk and we can inspire other states to take a stand as well."

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

We broke it !

Wednesday, 5 December

About 3/10 of a mile from the finish of my 10K TT (how's that for mixing units of measure?) at CycleU tonight, the CompuTrainer system broke. The clock kept running, but the program stopped measuring distance, watts, and other critical data. O.A.D. and one other guy had finished; the rest of us, of course, were on pace for PR times--and you'll never be able to disprove that! :)

Before our little spin at Sand Point, I did my first holiday "baking" of the season. I'm not sure it's baking when the only thing that happened in the oven was toasting the almonds. But the end result is luscious: chocolate almond toffee. It's further proof that you can combine butter and sugar with most anything (chocolate and almonds, in this case) and have a tasty result. This is reserved for "hostess gifts" for the holiday season (not everybody gets hats!), so we definitely have to keep our hands out of the cookie tin (as if 3/4 of a pound of butter wasn't reason enough)!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Unboring weather

Tuesday, 4 December

We've had pretty extreme weather in these parts since last Saturday, with unpleasant consequences for some. But I looked out my window at work today in one of those gully-washer showers and saw this. Almost as good as the snow scenes over the weekend.

The list of roads closed in King and Snohomish counties reads like a list of where we ride every weekend. Hopefully things will dry up a little by Saturday!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

A New Yarn

Saturday, 1 December

After what was a great ride for the first day of December, in Seattle (no ice, no rain, a little sunshine), I first visited a local indulgerie (yes, it's a bakery/coffee shop, but not as, um, industrial as Starbucks and way tastier--and hence probably way more indulgent). Then, since I had put on so many clothes for the bike ride that I was not frozen despite 3+ hours on the bike in sub-40-degree temps, I decided to check out a yarn shop with a mission that I didn't even know was in my neighborhood. I hope the feature in this morning's paper brings them a lot of crafters and stitchers from north Seattle:

It's a small shop with big windows on one whole side and a big table for socializing while working on your latest project. They carry a lot of the yarns I use for hats, so I will be going back. They teased me when I said I didn't "need" any more yarn right now: yarn is sort of like bikes--never too much or too many. They had some great cotton yarn in Christmas colors, but the only thing I know how to knit with cotton is dish cloths, and who really wants a Christmas dish cloth?