A Day or So

B&Bs 07.27.16Garden is giving so many cukes!  Yesterday I canned four quarts of bread and butter pickles.  This was my first time making sweet pickles, but the recipe for bread and butter pickles from my trusty Home Canning book by Sunset, 1975, worked very well.  I didn’t have bell peppers on hand so I used Padron peppers from the garden.  A little spice goes nicely with the sweetness.  I also placed a part of a horseradish leaf at the bottom of each jar.  Tannins in the leaves help in facto-fermented pickle crocks so they may help with vinegar pickles, too.  HC

I grew up eating my grandmother’s bread and butter pickles, so having home-made sweet pickles in the fridge is a real treat.  I like the dills I make just fine, but these pickles are a welcome walk down memory lane.  Bonus treat: I used my grandmother’s crinkle cutter.  The one with the green wood handle and flaking lead-filled paint.  Old stuff is hilarious.

Although the pickles should be shelf stable, I will store them in the fridge.  After I sealed them I noticed the pickles in a couple of the jars weren’t completely covered by the pickling liquid.  Oops.  Fridge should  them safe despite my carelessness. CTs 07.28.16

We’re keeping an extra close eye on Frida.  She’s doing very well, but a couple of evenings ago she exhibited severe tooth pain.  She was frantically pawing at her mouth on one side.  It passed in about 15 minutes, but was hard to watch.  This may mean something was stuck on the roof of her mouth, but we couldn’t find anything.  She hasn’t pawed at her mouth much since.  Just a couple of times and more casually.  She’ll see the vet next week.  Until then we’ll watch her eye for swelling and discharge (which would be signs of an active infection in a tooth).  We won’t let her live with pain, but it won’t be easy to figure that out or, if we do, sort it out.  Always something, but always rewarding.  Fingers crossed.

Enjoyed a close pass by a University of Albany bus.  Typical scenario.  Pedaling on Western.  Just three blocks on the route to the garden.  I moved left into the lane to signal to the approaching operator that the lane was too narrow to share side by side.  Message not received.  Instead of fully changing lanes to pass, the operator buzzed closely by and was seen gesturing and hollering at me to move right.  So another operator that doesn’t know the law.  Great.  I called the Director of Transportation at the University of Albany.  He was a good listener as I described for him the incident, the law and the best path forward.  He was kind and said he’d speak with the particular operator and call the CDTA to coordinate preparation of a safe passing memo with them.  Maybe this will help nudge the CDTA along.  We’re a week shy of 90 days since our face to face meeting and still no memo or word as to its progress.  As we wait, please report all close passes.  CDTA (518) 482-8822.  University of Albany (518) 442-3121.  Add the numbers to your phone and be ready to call with time, street, direction, bus #, etc.  It only takes a second and the life you save may be your own, mine, Lacey’s, etc.

The timer on the Dualit toaster I picked up at an estate sale a year or so ago is acting like it wants to stop doing its job.  I can still make toast, but I have to keep an eye on the progress since the timer slows or stops at times (leaving the elements on).  A new timer is on the way for $26 (eBay from England).  It will be easy to install and we’ll be back in well-timed toasty business.

I just finished the first of four short story collections written by Haruki Murakami, and I have the second on order at the library.  I read all of his novels in the first 6 months of 2016.  Now it looks like I have a shot at reading all of his short stories and nonfiction works in the second half.  I won’t soon forget my 2016 literary journey around Japan.

That’s plenty.  Thanks for reading.  Take care of yourselves.

Sitting Still

So humid here!  Move and inch and I sweat.  I am often moving, so I am often sweating.  Uncle!Frida 07.24.16

Dear Frida is moving too.  Still walking more than a mile a day, most days.  Today 1.2 miles.  Perhaps slower than 1 mph at this point, but I am not putting a watch to her.

She is getting pickier about food.  Happy to skip a meal or eat only a bit if we don’t make it just so.  Just so just now is brown rice and Wysong canned critter, lightly microwaved, with kibble and cheese added after.  Sometimes she’ll get a little peanut butter gravy or sesame seed paste gravy, but that hasn’t been necessary of late.  Beef stock was happening but it didn’t seem to help much and it contained onion (toxic to dogs in even small quantities) so that’s no longer in our fridge.  And we have to feed almost all of it to her by hand.  If we put the bowl down she’ll sniff it, maybe take a bite and then walk away.  From our hands, though, she eats with gusto.  Gratifying when it works.  Crushing when it doesn’t.

Frida has probably had more varieties of vegan cheese than most beings on the planet.  She’s had two or three varieties of cashew cheeses I’ve made from Miyoko’s recipes.  The stinkier the better for her.  We’ve been out of homemade for a couple of days, though, so she’s enjoyed Daiya cheddar block and mozzarella shreds, too.  Since Daiya often lists “natural vegan flavors” on their packaging, I just asked whether any of their cheeses contain onion.  Dan from Daiya replied in a couple of hours with this:

Daiya Products that DO NOT contain Garlic or Onion:

Any of our Slices

Any of our Cheesecakes

Plain and Strawberry Cream Cheese Spreads

Cheddar, Jack and Smoked Gouda Blocks

Cheddar and Mozza Shreds.

Just what I needed to hear!  Funny about the cheesecake.   I wouldn’t have thought of feeding Frida cheesecake, and I am sure Dan was just being complete, but now that I see it in the list, maybe I have my excuse to buy a Daiya cheesecake and give it a try.  For Frida.  If there is some leftover, though…

The garden is making more food than we can eat.  Just moved form the counter to the fridge 2.5 gallons of dill pickles.  Those came out good.  Sauerkraut will be next.  Still have plenty of kimchi from last year.  Might make some sweet pickles, too.  Comforting for me, since that is what I grew up with.

There is a family from Afghanistan gardening a plot in our community garden.  Another gardener volunteers with the Department of State to help them get situated here.  The husband was a farmer, so a 10 x 20 plot must be a bit cramped.  They are happy to receive donations from our plots, so today I shared collards and cukes.  Both are growing really well now.  I wonder what they’ll make?  I wish I could try it!

Biking only for transportation these days.  I want to ride further but can’t seem to escape the gravity of home.  Work, Frida and chores offer plenty of excuses to keep a tight orbit, and I’ve relaxed into it.  Lacey and I did get to a movie at a theater yesterday–Hunt for the Wilderpeople.  Highly recommend it.  Good story, good acting, funny and the New Zealand scenery is always a treat.  Pro tip–Wilderpeople is pronounced like willed, as in wildebeest, not whiled.

CDTA and their pesky close passes.  Still trying to get the message out to all drivers.  I haven’t “enjoyed” any close passes of late but I haven’t been passed by buses at all.  Lucky timing, I guess.  The CDTA rep hasn’t shared the memo that he promised to educate drivers about the dangers and illegality of close passing and directing them to change lanes fully to pass.  We met May 4.  I wrote May 29.  He said “couple of weeks.”  I wrote July 5.  Nothing.  I’ll have to write again soon.  Sigh.  If anything, I’ve amassed a good collection of emails that I’d be sad and happy to share if your loved one gets hit by a bus.  The CDTA is on notice.  Should help in a lawsuit or settlement context.  Fingers crossed that no one will be hurt.  Fingers crossed.  Ha!  What kind of world do we live in that I have to rely on that?

Hope you are managing despite the climate.  Maybe leave your car parked for a day a week?  Maybe more?

Bye.

Taking Requests

IMG_3901Garden.  Some wins.  Some losses.  Greens, beets, cukes and tomatoes are all headed in the right direction.  The shelling peas went nowhere.  Maybe ten pods, then dried up.  I pulled them out today.  The frisee went to seed really quickly this year.  Last year it produced all summer without getting bitter.  The bok choy went to seed well before the heads matured.  Now I have eight or so ratty looking heads of bok choy to prepare.  Bok choy anyone?  I have already made a saucy Chinese bok choy dish and a stir fried Chinese bok choy dish.  Today it was Korean–gochujang noodles with tofu and bok choy adapted from here.   So good!

I had bought and have been dying to use some fancy gochujang, so this dish was ticking at least a couple of boxes.  Here’s the recipe with my tweaks.

 

GOCHUJANG NOODLES

NOODLES

4 ounces dried noodles

SAUCE

2 Tbs Gochujang (recipe called for 4 Tbs—too spicy)
2 Tbs Soy Sauce
2 Tbs Sesame Oil
2 Tbs Rice Vinegar
1/2 Tbs Sugar

TOFU AND VEG

1 Pound Tofu cubed
1 Napa Cabbage quartered and chopped

GARNISH

Scallion and Peanuts chopped

INSTRUCTIONS

Cook the noodles in boiling water according to the package instructions. Strain the noodles and rinse well. Drain and set aside.

Mix the sauce ingredients together and set aside.

Fry tofu in wok with oil.  Remove from wok.  Fry veg in wok.  When done, add in noodles, tofu and sauce.  Stir well.

Top with scallion and peanuts.

Also made a quick cucumber kimchi with the first three cucumbers from the garden.  Recipe in this post.  For this I was able to use for the first time this fancy gochugaru.

This summer I’ve bicycled no further than the garden, library and store.  I want and need to get out for some longer rides, but I have a handful of excuses getting in the way.  Here’s hoping I can put aside the excuses and enjoy the amazing weather we’ve been having here.  CDTA isn’t breaking records addressing my close passing concerns.  Thought I had some momentum, but it isn’t looking good.  I’ll ping them tomorrow.

Frida is doing great.  She is still walking at 1 mph, but she covers ground–typically one to two miles.  Sorry to say she’s becoming an increasingly picky eater.  Normal for an old dog, but we’ve never seen it (our only other dog died suddenly at 10 years of age).  Frida is showing us what old dogs can do!  It is not uncommon for her to skip a meal here and there.  As a result, she’s dropped three pounds.  We ran into our vet on a walk and she said Frida shouldn’t lose more weight, so we are getting creative when putting together Frida’s meals.  Things that have helped include dog biscuits from Berben & Wolff’s, Daiya block cheese, Miyoko’s aged cheddar (that I made), low sodium beef broth and a gravy I made by mixing equal parts peanut butter and water.  One or more of these add ons, plus more often than not hand feeding, have encouraged Frida to keep the kibble and meat heading down her hole.  It’s been tough.  A meal finished is a triumph but a meal rejected or half eaten is heartbreaking.

I’ve recently completed two decidedly not epic adventures.

First, I read all of Haruki Murakami’s 14 novels in the first six months of 2016.  I’m starting his four short story collections next.  I am obsessed with his work.

Second, I ate every sandwich on the menu at Berben & Wolff’s.  I am obsessed with their work.  I’ve enjoyed ten delicious sandwiches.  Not in one sitting, but over roughly six weeks.  I’ve had a few requests for guidance.  I’m not really into ranking things (Buddhists work hard to avoid dualistic thinking–for example any this is better than that sort of thing), so I propose you read the short menu and order the sandwich that matches your mood.  Now that I’m done working through the menu, I’ll let the weather be my guide.  Hot but still need to eat?  Tempeh chickpea salad or TLT.  Cold and really hungry?  Philly, reuben or sunflower burger.  In the mood for analogs?  Cubano, wing burger, breakfast sandwich (Lacey likes that this is served with fruit rather than chips) or BBQ jackfruit.  Not in the mood for analogs?  Mushroom po’ boy is wonderful.  I think that covers it.  Oh–desserts and sides are not to be missed.

It’s the 4th of July.  Keep your dogs inside and put on their ThunderShirts.  Close the windows.  Play music.  Comfort them.  It will be over soon enough.

Take care.

 

I’ve Seen the World

Enough of it for today, anyway.  Walked Frida 1.2 miles.  IMG_3552

Mowed the lawn.  Pedaled to the garden to water, to The Orchard for lunch, and finally to the library to pick up the last two Haruki Murakami novels that I’ve yet to read.  IMG_3574

All the biking went well.  Everyone shared nicely.

Had a close pass by a CDTA bus yesterday, though.  Saw them coming in my mirror and decided to stay fully to the right for a change.  Didn’t work.  They snuggled right up.  About as close as I’ve ever been passed.  Two feet of space between their mirror and my shoulder max.  Really spooky.  No room to move left or right.  I was forced to play blue angel stunt pilot with a bus driver I’ve never met.  It was bus number 4093 on route 10.  I mention the number only because I’ve called that one in at least once before.  I remember the number!  I wonder if operators drive the same bus day after day?  No matter.  I called it in again.  The call center operator was super nice.  Supervisor is supposed to call.

The other CDTA rep that I’ve been working with hasn’t responded to my suggested text for the close passing memo.  The delay and spotty communication together suggest he isn’t as committed to fixing this as he seemed when we met face to face.

Time to try other things.  Here is my first letter to the editor of the Times Union.

It’s great that we’re spending a lot of money, federal, state and local, to make Albany a better place to bicycle.  Still, no matter how many bicycle lanes and trails are built, we still need to share lanes with motor vehicles when we are between cycling facilities.  This needn’t be a problem if all road users knew all the relevant laws, or were even consistently safe and courteous.  So many motorists do a great job of safely sharing the road with bicyclists, but too many don’t.  It is rare that I bicycle more than a mile without a close pass.  This needs to stop.

Close passes are scary, dangerous and illegal.  The current law in New York State was enacted after a bicyclist was crushed by a passing city bus in NYC.  The law and legislative history, together, require motorists to leave a minimum of three feet when passing a cyclist.  The CDTA operators manual recommends that busses leave a minimum of five feet and slow to pass.

It is important to know that the safe passing buffer doesn’t include exceptions.  No matter where the cyclist is in a lane, you need to leave three feet when passing.  Cyclists can legally leave the right hand side of the lane when there are obstructions in their path (i.e. parked cars, glass, grates and potholes), when they need to turn left and when the lane is too narrow to share side by side.  These exceptions to the stay right rule nearly swallow the rule as our gutters are pot holed and many of our lanes in town are very narrow.  Even the widest lanes are too narrow for large vehicles and bicyclists to share side by side once you factor in the safe passing buffer.

Since it is nearly impossible for a motorist to accurately gauge the distance between a bicycle and the outside of their mirror, and since bicyclists have the right to leave the right hand side of the road when necessary to be safe, the best practice for a passing motorist is to fully leave the cyclist’s lane when passing.  Motorists are allowed to cross double yellows to do so (provided there is no oncoming traffic).  If you can’t fully leave the lane because of other traffic, wait to pass.  You won’t need to wait more than 10 seconds before you can pass safely.  If the lives of your neighbors who chose to bicycle aren’t worth a 10 second delay, let us know now so we can stop building bicycle infrastructure that most bicyclists will be too scared to use.

I also dropped a note to the mayor to see if she’ll discuss the topic on her radio show (Saturday at 7:30 a.m. on 101.5 fm).  Mark my word–little by little I am going to get the word out.  We are going to share nicely!

Happy Friday to you all.  Be safe and sweet.

Why’s It Gotta Be So Hard?

How’s it go in the hifi world?  Something like this–I want to hear in my living room the best possible reproduction of the sound produced in the recording studio or the concert hall.  Just once I sat in a music room and listened to a system that brought tears to my eyes.  Happy tears.  It was gosh darned magic.  I don’t cry when I hear my system.  No happy tears, but at least no sad tears either.  Good enough sound that when I listen to a good recording, my ears aren’t fatigued trying to make sense of what is being presented.  Claps sound like claps.  A bass drum sounds like a bass drum and so on.  Sadly, my system is also good enough to make bad recordings or bad pressings sound truly awful.

Same thing in the beer world.  When I open a beer at home, I want to taste what the brewer tasted on the day they packaged the offering.  Best shot I have at that is to drink fresh beer.  Hoppy beers with average alcohol should be stored cold and consumed as fast as possible.  I mean as soon as possible.  Never longer than 90 days.  Although a three month old hoppy beer has a chance at tasting like beer, the delicate oils from the hops will have given up the ghost.  Sure, big booze offerings can be stored for longer periods, but it is summer and I want nothing to do with big beers in hot weather.

With delicate beers, bottling dates matter.  Ideally a bottler will write on the outside of the case and on each bottle and can a bottled on date in plain English.  Something like “bottled on 06.01.16.”  Julian codes might be deciphered if the numbers are arranged in a logical way.  But too many are screwed around into an undecipherable jumble.  That’s why I used to rely on freshbeeronly.com.  They did their best to post a decoder ring for each and every brewer, that is until the site was recently closed. Big loss.  Sounds like it was a matter of cash flow.  It may be an Android app now, but I am playing on, being played by, the other team.  So now when a brewer has a strange code, I have to check the brewer’s site.  Some give a decoder ring in a FAQ page, but few do.  I’ll write to them if I have the energy, but I often don’t.  Even when I do, some won’t bother writing back.

Whatever.  The folks at Oliver’s are there to help.  Name the style you want and ask which beers of that style just arrived.  Today I brought home Ballast Point Pineapple Sculpin.  They got it in this Tuesday.  If I am interpreting the julian code correctly, it was bottled on April 29, 2016.  Already roughly a month old.  Good enough for me, but I will drink one a day for a week rather than leave it sit in the fridge for months more.

By the way, have you started tipping employees when they fill your growlers?  $2 for a growler and $1 for a howler?  I’ve read this is a pretty typical expression of gratitude.  Besides, name a service provider for whom you are more thankful.  Seriously–beer!  


Speaking of which, I’m late for a double  date with Lacey, Frida and a growler of Bear Republic Racer 5.  Stop by in the next 30 minutes and I will be happy to pour you one.  Cheers!

Say There!

Frida at 15 on 06.01.16Frida turned 15 yesterday!  Lacey and I both quietly sang happy birthday to her at different times.  I like to picture Lacey singing breathily, like Marilyn Monroe to JFK, but I doubt it went down that way.  I also made Frida some biscuits, which she enjoyed.Frida's Birthday Biscuits 06.01.16

She ate three yesterday.  Seems like a lot, but I’m happy to give her as many as she wants.  She has been slow to eat her meals.  Still gets roughly 1.5 meals down the hatch each day, but that sometimes involves letting her food sit for hours until we feed her by hand.  I’m not terribly worried.  She weighs 43 pounds (a couple less than last year) and still has enough energy to walk (usually 1.2 miles a day and two miles today).  Frida walking 06.01.16

Although the timing was unfortunate, I took her to the ophthalmologist on her birthday.  Just a check up.   All went well.  She is producing tears at just under normal rates and has no corneal ulcers.

The doctor visit excepted, it was a perfect Frida birthday.  Quite and predictable, just the way she likes to spend her days.

Both literally and figuratively, I now have six of ten Berben & Wolff menu items under my belt.  All terrific!  The place was packed at lunch today.  They’ve made something that Albany understands and appreciates.  I can’t wait to see what the future brings to these fine folks.  And to the customers!

Both gardens are looking great.  I’ve already harvested herbs from the home garden (cilantro and African basil), and can start to bring home from the community garden lettuce, mustard greens and Napa cabbage as soon as I have recipes in mind.  Feels good to be back at it.

I’m not happy to say that today I witnessed a friend’s Ghisallo wooden bicycle rim explode.  Three blocks from his home, we had pulled over to check out some lawn art.   As we sat, the rim split it two, cracking along the spoke holes and letting go of the air in the tube all at once.  Like a gunshot.  Our hearts missed a beat, then saw the tire had come off the rim.  As we gathered our wits we saw the split in the rim and the spokes hanging loose.  The bike couldn’t be rolled.  He had to shoulder it three blocks to home.  Sad.  Such a pretty wheel.  The owner may have added a few too many pounds of air.  Looks like the maker recommends for this rim 4.5 bar (65 psi).  Seem as though my friend is not the only one to experience a pressure related failure.  They now  make rims with carbon fiber tire beds to permit higher pressures.  “Ultimate Optional.”  I guess if I wanted to enjoy wood rims I would consider those.  No one would have to know I was running carbon, with it neatly hidden from sight.

Meditation has been nice.  If you want thirty minutes to seem like an hour, just sit there.  Do it enough and you’ll feel you’ve doubled your life span!

Still reading Haruki Murakami–just now half way through his memoir about running.  Almost makes me want to run.  Almost.  Running was a pain as a teenager, so I can only imagine the misery I would experience today.  I’ll stick to biking.

The CDTA hadn’t been in touch about the close passing memo to operators, so I dropped a note.  They said the manager of safety is retiring and the replacement in transitioning into the post.  Said they should have a memo to share in a couple of weeks.  I saw an opportunity to steer the outcome, so I proposed the following:

Busses and bicycles can’t safely share a single lane side by side.  When passing a cyclist, fully leave the cyclist’s lane before starting the pass and don’t return to their lane until you’ve cleared the cyclist.  If you can’t fully change lanes, wait a safe distance behind the cyclist until you can.  This should apply to all passes, regardless of the number of lanes.

Sound good?  Should have also reminded drivers to slow when passing, but I don’t see that happening.  If they fully changed lanes, I’d be in heaven.

I hope you are well and enjoying summer!

Lazy Morning

Thanks to Lacey we’ve enjoyed six days of meditation first thing in the morning.  First time on the cushion in ten years!  Lacey doesn’t enjoy the Japanese aloeswood incense I have on hand (too smoky) so a box of Japanese smokeless is on the way.  Smokeless incense?   Who knew?Lilac

Friends invited us to join them at a soft opening for Berben and Wollf’s vegan delicatessen last evening.  Forever in their debt!

It’s great to again have a vegan restaurant in town.  Looks like this one is going to be the best yet.  Read my review here.  I think the joint is opening to the public this Tuesday, but check their Facebook page to be sure.  Oh–says they’ll be making puppy treats, too!  I’m wiring to them all my money now.  You’ll know where to find me for the foreseeable future!

I’m not on Facebook but have made my way there to check out Berben and Wolff’s feed.  Maybe it’s good that I’m not on FB.  Check out this comment about the excellent bread they are using.

FB

I wish HM could have resisted sharing his views on veganism.  He looks old enough to know better than to expect perfection.  Veganism for me is about love.  Rock Hill deserves praise for their work to date and encouragement to keep up the progress.

Frida has walked one point two miles each day for four days in a row!  She is a miracle wrapped in the cutest fur coat you’ve ever hoped to snuggle.

I’m halfway through Haruki Murakami’s Sputnik Sweetheart–the ninth Murakami novel I’ve read in 2016!  Guess what?  Love it!

It’s Saturday.  Work party at the community garden in three hours and a Frida to walk before then.

Hope you have a terrific day!