23 October 2010

three years with the Old Dutch [Treat] and review: schwalbe marathon plus tires.

The Old Dutch and I are celebrating our three year anniversary around this time of the year. As a bike owner, I've gone from a terrified first year grad student to a seasoned fourth year with a dissertation topic and comps committee.  I've gone from a casual campus rider to an aggressive daily city commuter.  I have even started to tackle the art of bicycle maintenance.

I have mixed feelings about the Old Dutch at this point. Don't get me wrong- I love it and have no intent to ever get rid of it. The rigor of my longer commute-- now around ten miles a day-- leaves me longing for a lighter bike. With a lock and loads of books, hauling 50+ pounds of bike up and down the hill leaves me pretty exhausted. As someone with anxiety issues who otherwise has difficulty falling asleep at night, this is not necessarily a bad thing. But it is a thing.  Additionally, that some of my components have not held up very nicely (skirt hards, chain guard, headlight, I am looking at you) leaves me a little sad. Bike shops hate working on this bike. Hauling it up narrow stairs for a year took its toll, on me and the bike. 

Still, I love my rolling bike church.  Putting new tires on it has renewed this love. Philly's streets demand a substantial tire-- there is too much broken glass and pothole-ery for anything less.  The Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires have increased the smoothness of my ride-- I now merrily bounce over bumps. The tires have great traction. The Schwalbe Marathon Plus are the urban assault tires that my bike has needed.  I am happy to say that I even installed them myself (though my roommate checked my work).  I feel confident that these tires will serve me well during the miserly winter bike commute. 

I love the clear caps on the Schwalbe tubes.

Last year's bike-a-versary here.

it's ok if you cook the sandwich in bacon grease.

I was inspired recently by this post on Big Girls, Small Kitchen about grilled cheese and mushroom melts. I have been playing around with variations on the theme this week. I brought in elements from a favorite salad at Prohibition Bar-- namely frisee, which goes lovely with mushrooms, and of course, bacon. This is a fall sandwich of no regrets. You're burning off extra calories just by staying warm, so I promise there's no harm.

Cook bacon.
Take come of your bacon grease and saute' mushrooms in it, with a bit of garlic.
Place sliced havarti on wheat bread, and pile all elements together. 
Cook sandwich in bacon grease.
Top sandwich with frisee.
Eat with fork and knife.

11 October 2010

up with joy.

from the Queen's garden at Sandringham Castle

I recently added a complete volume of e.e. cummings poems to my desk. When I need a moment of tranquility I crack it open. Here's a piece of this morning's study. I like it because it reminds me of a toast. We could all use a toast on Monday morning.

here's to opening and upward

here's to opening and upward, to leaf and to sap
and to your(in my arms flowering so new)
self whose eyes smell of the sound of rain

and here's to silent certainly mountains;and to
a disappearing poet of always,snow
and to morning;and to morning's beautiful friend
twilight(and a first dream called ocean)and

let must or if be damned with whomever's afraid
down with ought with because with every brain
which thinks it thinks,nor dares to feel(but up
with joy;and up with laughing and drunkenness)

here's to one undiscoverable guess
of whose mad skill each world of blood is made
(whose fatal songs are moving in the moon

03 October 2010

are we here for a reason?

When my school friends here in Philly met me last year, they got the impression that I was something of a patriot. We were in a class discussing an article that critiqued the Korean War Memorial and I, new blonde person from Utah, seemingly out of the blue gave a forceful defense of the monument based on my grandfather's love of the monument as a veteran of that conflict. It was an awkward moment in a conversation amongst the ivory tower bourgeois. As they got to know me, they got to know me as a member of my family-- a military family. From birth, it seems, I have been reared to see the primacy of sacrifice for country. That trip to see the travelling Vietnam Veteran's Memorial come through Tulsa, the POW-MIA sticker on the Jeep, the flagpole dominating our front yard, home, and street-- it's in my cells.

So I got teary over this article about the lady Marines serving with combat units in Afghanistan. Their sacrifice requires them to take extra steps so that they avoid official combat designation. Their sacrifice requires them to do something that isn't acknowledged by their employer- something our country pretends not to practice is their daily reality.  Congress and DoD's continued denial of the sacrifices these women are making as combat troops is an effort to pretend that out-moded traditional gender norms surrounding war are still in place. Pretending that these women, now full protectors of our country, are doing something less is shameful.  Their sacrifice is real, and policy cannot diminish it.

I am proud of these women, and I am proud of the leaders that trust them and train them as Marines, not women, to be so close to the action. Of the official line, I think the sentence that concludes the article is especially poignant: 
"In the end, she said, “They’re going to remember what we did.” 

02 October 2010

individual portions.

I love cooking for myself. 

It's not that I don't mind cooking for others. I belong to a group of food-loving foodies who celebrate food, and we cook for each other often, celebrating the strengths of that potato salad and reveling in the fact that one pound of butter really went into that pound cake. Hauling side dishes on the back of my bike brings me great joy. Talking with people about food is a daily occurrence. So much of my food life is social.

But cooking for myself, that I really love.  In an empty house, with the tunes turned up. Nobody will know the excesses of butter and salt. With my mind clear I futz with the temperature, add a little more flour. In the calm of my head I make important decisions about how I will unthaw the spinach. My family and friends are all around me, in gifted butter dishes and mixers and rubber spatulas. Individual portions fill me with intense and quiet satisfaction. In solitude I worship at the feet of proteins, fats, and carbs.

My therapist recently labelled this kind of activity "deliberate self care." I know that this kind of recreation is important for my well-being. I know that the times and seasons of my life may someday make this pursuit a rare event. But for now, in the moment, beyond all the present meaning and possibilities of the future, I delight in cooking for one.