Wednesday, February 28, 2007

HRIDE: Week 3 Training Report

As my coaches have reminded me, "As of Saturday, ALL our training sessions will be outside, on our bikes. There are no more spin classes!" February and the days of indoor training have come to an end, but we sure went out with a bang.

This week's spin classes were absolutely grueling. Because we are preparing for the Tahoe course, and because we are getting into shape where we need to maximize the hour class, we have been training hills, and hard. I'm talking - as much resistance as you can handle, climbing uphill for an hour - hard. We've talked about heart rate and maximizing effort, but that sure goes out the window when all you're doing is climbing. My coach's Thursday night class was hard, but Saturday's was taught by a pro spin instructor and what I remember most is her yelling, "Come on! If you've got more to give, TURN IT UP!"

Also in the week's news is the purchase of my new road bike! I don't have it yet, hopefully it's being built up as I type this post, but I went shopping to two different bike shops and consulted one of my coaches, who is also a pro fitter, on the purchase. I also have pedals, shoes and other equipment on the way, but that'll be in next week's update. Check back soon, photos to come!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

HRIDE: Week 2 Training Report

There's not much to tell in these early weeks of training. The schedule is light and the mileage is low - I call it confidence boosting. After 2 weeks, the 15 miles or so that we log in spin class twice a week is starting to feel easy. 100 miles is long way away but I am starting to see that I might actually work my way up to it.

During team riding my coaches' focus was on cadence - pacing ourselves for distance and using our energy and muscles efficiently. This week I also added some padded knickers to the routine. You might think that bike shorts looks like diapers, well the FEEL like diapers. I was truly unprepared for how uncomfortable and unflattering the things were, but on the bike none of that matters. A little cushion goes a long way.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Country House Dream

Recently Brad and I have spent a lot of time talking about what we would like to do if we could just discipline ourselves to save some of the money we make. Having acknowledged that we are rooted here in Brooklyn enough to stay a while, we have put off our fantasies of returning to New Mexico. The thing we now dream of most, to give us an escape and an outlet to the outdoors, is a vacation house in upstate New York.

This past weekend a friend, who recently purchased a similar dream, invited us to enjoy a taste of the great upstate at her cabin in the Catskills. Brad and I gladly made the drive and of course it fueled our own desires. It was a relaxing getaway and also the first chance we have had to take our car for a road trip since we purchased it this past fall (it handled wonderfully on the snowy country roads). We went for just one night and had a homemade pizza party while we watched movies and kept ourselves warm with whiskey. We spent lots of time playing in the snow and, as you might guess, Francine had the most fun of all. She also gave us the greatest surprise of all.

It seems our little Francine is a wealth of untapped talent. We had no idea that she too, is an artist. I think you'll be as impressed as we were at the likeness she achieved in this work she created. We call it, 'Self portrait in snow'.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Soon to be Mrs. Green Clean

Yesterday a new stove was installed in my kitchen. (Sadly, the old one was never the same after it was serviced to save Thanksgiving dinner. ) The delivery crew of four arrived while I was walking the dog. In my absence they moved all of our furniture out of the way and started walking back and forth from the truck outside, through the snow and all over the apartment, in boots.

When the crew and my landlords finally departed the wreckage was aweful. The foyer and living room had been turned upside down. The kitchen was full of packing and other trash, and the beautiful wood floors throughout our apartment were a see of muddy bootprints. I had not planned on spending my afternoon cleaning the apartment, but I had no choice.

Around 2pm I finally sat down to work. Everthing was back in it's place and the floors were sparkling with murphy's oil soap, the smell of cleaning products filled the air. The first email I saw was from Brad, containing
this article (that's your cue, read it now!). Funny timing as I sat inhaling the scent of chemical clean.

We already use eco-friendly dish soap and toilet paper. Our laundry detergent is perfume and die-free, but cleaning the bathroom is a toxic experience of bleach and steam. I use the kitchen so heavily that Brad and I are always spraying and wiping counters with Fantastic - in fact, I dare to say we couldn't clean without it. But maybe this is not so good for us and it is time for a change.

A while back an article in Dwell magazine provided some sources for non-toxic cleaning products, including this site. I am personally not a fan of seventh generation products, but I intend to start searching for a Fantastic replacement. Two brands I am considering are Mrs. Meyer's and Earth Friendly, whose dish soap I recommend. If you find yourself inspired to consider what you clean your living environment with I am curious to know what works for you. There is never any harm in living a little bit greener.

Monday, February 12, 2007

HRIDE: Week 1 Training Report

I passed one of the biggest obstacles on the H˚RIDE this week - finding the courage to sign up for the challenge! I have been working my way towards committing to TNT for weeks and now I've done it.

I also attended my first spin class. We hit the road, weather permitting, March 3rd and until then we'll be building our endurance and general bike knowledge in team spin classes at a cycle studio on the Upper West Side. During the class I was introduced to proper bike gripping positions and clipping my shoes into the petals. We practiced a few hill climbs and rode for nearly an hour. Afterwards my legs were tired and soar, it is definitely a long road ahead.

I will be facing this eventually, so I might as well start preparing myself mentally now. Check out the Altitude map for the Tahoe course:

The Long Road Ahead

I am proud (and a little bit terrified) to announce that I have made a very big and very important commitment to a cause. As of last Wednesday, February 7th, I am officially a member of the NYC Team in Training Program to benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. What does that mean? Over the next 3.5 months I will embark on a vigorous training program in preparation for a 100-mile Century bike ride around Lake Tahoe on June 7th!

Last summer my friend Lauren's father was diagnosed with Leukemia and in an effort to be proactive in her support of him and others like him, she joined the Team in Training program for a Century Ride in Tuscon, Arizona where
collectively all of the Team in Training chapters raised over $2.5 Million for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society on that ride alone. This season I have decided to join her in her cause. Lauren and I met each other 10 years ago when we attended The New Jersey Governor's School of the Arts as dancers. Once again we'll slip into some spandex (this time they're padded, although I hope still pink!), and train to cross the finish line in Nevada this coming June.

As a member of TNT I have a personal fund raising goal of $5,000 for Tahoe that I will be asking for your support to meet during my training period. In addition to supporting the cause of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, part of the fund raising for Team in Training goes to support the athletes and help them complete their endurance sporting event of choice. As a part of my cycling team I now have 4 expert coaches with a training plan to whip our team of 60+ into shape for Tahoe. TNT also host clinics throughout the season to familiarize us with the gear, fitness, nutrition, and injury prevention knowledge we'll need to complete the ride, as well as making the necessary arrangements and accommodations needed for us to take part in race day.

Over the next 14 weeks we will train as a team 3 times a week in addition to daily fitness maintenance. I know I'll be grateful to stretch in my yoga classes after 60 mile training rides. This routine involves me participating in a weekly 6am ride in my own Prospect Park (6am! Have you ever seen me in the morning?) as well as group rides throughout the tri-state area as we work our way up in weekly mileage. Half of my team is training for a Century Ride in Montauk, Long Island and the rest of us will continue on to Tahoe. However, the Tahoe contingency will be completing The Montauk Century ride as well. For us this will be just another training ride because it's not only distance but altitude and terrain that we will battle in Nevada this June.

I will be sending more detailed information about how to support me on my ride to all of you friends and family in the near future, but if you're eager to donate, you don't have to wait - you can visit my TNT donation home page now. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Because I Think Everyone Can Cook

My friend Alexis can't cook, or so he says. He eats dinner with Brad and I often and I think the majority of his meals come from restaurants or kitchens of friends if he's not eating instant oatmeal. On the rare occasions where he has been inspired to cook and shared the experiences with me, he has described the food he makes (and eats) as terrible, awful, and at times, inedible.

The other day, after many work hours, Alexis joined Brad and I for a quick weeknight pasta dinner. This pasta is so easy that I think even the most terrible and incapable cook could do it justice and it only takes about 20 minutes. But don't get me wrong, this aint no poor man's pasta - I could eat this all the time because it is delicious. So, go ahead. Give it a try.

Pasta with
Sausage, Garlic and Greens

1 lb box pasta (penne, rigatoni, farfalle, or campanelle all work great)
1lb spicy Italian sausage, casings removed
3-4 Tbls olive oil
1 Tbls hot pepper flakes (give or take depending on your taste, I like mine spicy)
4 cloves garlic sliced
1 bunch kale, swiss chard or broccoli rabe, coarse stems removed and cut up into 1-inch pieces
1/2 cup chicken broth (or water)
salt and pepper
fresh grated parmesan for serving

1. Heat a pot of boiling water. Cook pasta to al dente and drain.

2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet heat oil and brown the sausage, breaking it up as it cooks - about 3-5 minutes. Add the garlic and hot pepper flakes, stirring until fragrant (about 1 minute more).

3. Add the greens and toss/stir until the color brightens and they are all wilted (about 2 minutes). Stir in the broth or water and cover. Allow to steam about 3-5 minutes more, until greens are tender.

4. Uncover and season with salt and pepper. Stir in the pasta and distribute to bowls. Garnish with parmesan cheese and serve.

You can do it!

Monday, February 05, 2007

Very Potlucky Indeed

This is Brad's interpretation of potluck, sent to friends as inspiration along with an invitation titled "Do ya feel potlucky, punks? Well, . . . do ya?" to join us for a birthday dinner party this past Saturday:

And this is what actually happened:

Not bad, huh? Not bad at all.

Now I know what you're thinking, "Yummy, where are the recipes?" This little appetizer is not featured above, but it sure was a hit and I highly recommend it for your next food gathering:

Brad and Heather's Salmon Corn Cakes

Corn Cakes:
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1/4 cup flour
pinch baking soda
generous pinch of salt
2 Tbls cream cheese
1 egg
3 Tbls buttermilk
4 Tbls fresh or frozen corn kernels
canola oil for frying

4oz fresh smoked salmon
créme fraiche (or sour cream)
small handful of chives, chopped

1. Mix cornmeal, flour, baking soda and salt in bowl. Crumble cream cheese in another bowl and beat in egg and buttermilk. Stir this into the cornmeal mixture and add corn. The batter will be stiff.

2. Heat 1-2 Tbls oil in a frying pan and drop tablespoonfuls of batter, flattening them with the back of a wet spoon to form silver dollar sized rounds. Fry 2-3 minutes per side until golden.

3. Transfer the cakes to a platter. Slice the salmon into 1"x3" strips and fold on top of cakes. Top the salmon with a dollop of créme and sprinkle with chives. Serve to your happy guests!

Friday, February 02, 2007

Today's Forecast Is Cloudy, But Happy

You'll have to pardon me. I'm suffering from a food hangover this morning, never mind all that wine . . .

Yesterday I celebrated my 27th birthday, and what a day it was -
appropriately sprinkled with lots of birthday wishes, including 2 flower deliveries from both my family and Brad's and even an ecard from my Allstate agent!

Both Brad and I took the day off from work and all things practical, and started it off with blueberry pancakes.
After a leisurely morning we made our way over the the Brooklyn Museum for the Ron Mueck show. In the evening Brad took me out for an awesome birthday date. We walked over to one of my favorite girly boutiques in the neighborhood where I got a new dress after trying on many. And then . . . we went to dinner for a meal that can only be described as epic.

Al Di La is one of our neighborhood favorites that we save for special occasions and last night's 4 course Italian extravagnanza was nothing short of amazing. We had wine paired to each course and the menu included truffle ravioli and cuttlefish risotto with squid ink to mention just a few. I hope every year's aging will taste so good.

And did I mention the fun hasn't ended? We're hosting a birthday potluck dinner party on Saturday night. What a great occasion for a fancy new dress.