Woo!

It's 06/06/06, so I felt that I should really post something, but I don't have much to say, and I'm going to MEC for a Lunch-And-Learn, so this is going to be a really short entry.

Well, that took a while.

As I mentioned previously, I'm going to head up to Balm Beach sometime in late July. This sort of worried me, since up until now, all my biking was commuting (8 km one way, 12 km the other), or going on slightly longer group rides (21 km, but only 13.6 km/h). None of these tiny rides would prepare me for a 135 km trek up to Balm Beach.

So I decided to go on one of the PWA Bike Rally training rides. Specifically, the one this morning, heading up to Musselman Lake. It ended up being almost 94 km for me, instead of the 87 km they claim it will be, but I figure most of that is my walking my bike onto and off of the TTC. Even counting those slow kilometers, though, I still managed to average 23.2 km/h, which is really quite respectible, I feel, for my first time out. And yeah, it totally wasn't a problem. I mean, I'm quite tired now, but I'm still up and walking around, and I think I could even have biked home, if I had to. Much easier to pay my $2.10 to the TTC, and let them carry me, though.

What else... I met a bunch of really friendly people, and rode in a group of two or three most of the way there and most of the way back. I've heard that it's quite different to ride alone, and I expect I'll get the chance to find out (unless someone wants to ride up north with me... ;) Oh, yeah, and it took me five hours of wall time to ride the 94 km, but only 4 hours of riding time. I wonder why the huge difference, since I didn't stop for an hour at the midpoint. Ah well, one of cyclings unexplained mysteries, I presume.

The Bike Week Group Commute

Well, that was kind of fun, but the TTC strike, instead of being the huge boon that I had hoped it would be, turned out to result in millions of cars backing their way up Yonge Street, almost all the way to Lawrence. Since we were all in a group, we couldn't (or didn't want to) filter past them on the right, so instead of half an hour, it ended up taking us 45 minutes to get from Lawrence to Bloor, by which point all the other commuters had left. By the time we got to the pancake breakfast, the line was far too long for me, and so I just went straight to work. (I should probably mention that this happened to me last time, and so I had already packed a container of Cheerios and powdered milk which I ate when I got to the office.)

An idea for next time might be to head down one of the side streets, maybe even one with a bike lane? That way it would both be a faster ride, and would show people how they might get down to work on their bikes when they didn't have police blocking traffic for them. (I wouldn't commute down Yonge street every day, so it's not really a great introduction to bike commuting in the city.)

Apart from those minor problems, it was good to meet Darren, who had twice as many people show up for his unofficial commute as I did, (two, counting himself, as opposed to one, counting myself, ;) and I got interviewed for a video of some sort. I'm afraid I didn't come off that well. I seemed to be repeating myself, and stammering a lot, but I hope whomever it was got some useful footage out of me.

In other news, ouch!

The Unofficial Pre-Group Commute North

Darren has a spectacular idea for people who don't work downtown, but still want to be part of the Bike Week Group Commute. So in a similar vein, I'ld love to be part of a Pre-Group Commute from Yonge and Davisville up to Yonge and Lawrence. I plan on leaving at about 7:00 to make it an easy ride to Yonge and Lawrence by 7:30. The route will be over to Duplex, and then up to Roehampton (just North of Eglinton), and then up Yonge to Lawrence.

I'll be wearing an orange jacket and a golden helmet, and the back of my bike will have a black pannier. Hope to see you there!

Update: If this weather holds up, I'll skip the orange jacket and just go with a black "GoldenPalace.com" t-shirt instead.

Toys for Babies

There will come a day, probably when your baby is around five or six months, that she will no longer be amused by brightly coloured or pastel coloured, hard or squishy baby toys. No matter how novel they are, your baby will somehow be able to detect that they are intended for her, and as such she will turn her little baby nose up at them, especially when you particularly want her to be quietly absorbed in something, like when you're at a restaurant or on a plane.

It is at those times that you will have to resort to baby toys that aren't. Fortunately there are plenty of them, and anyone who has had a baby for a while has a few tricks up their sleeve.

In Your Bag

Keys, of course, are classic. They jingle, there are lots of different and interesting textures, they are cold and hard on itchy teething gums, and it doesn't matter if you slobber all over them. Provided you clean them off before you give them to the baby.

Credit cards (or perhaps more sensibly, loyalty cards or something else you can easily replace) are nice too. They're a good size and weight to hold on to, and they have those interesting embossed letters on them.

Water bottles -- for some reason babies love water bottles. Both Cordelia and Delphine played with them for hours! Well, minutes, which are like hours in baby years.

In Your Kitchen

The kitchen is packed with interesting things to chew on. Wooden spoons are great -- you hardly ever see baby toys made of wood, so it's probably a new and exciting texture for your baby. Teaspoons are nice, too -- smooth and hard and shiny. Delphine really liked a silicone spatula, and Cordelia amused herself for half-an-hour the other day with a bright red silicone basting brush. It must have felt so interesting in her mouth, all those little soft silicone bristles.

Measuring cups and small bowls are fun too, especially when you drop them on the floor and they make a spectacular rang-tang-tanging noise. (Unless you have a baby who startles easily, in which case she will probably scare herself and cry and cry.)

I had a surprise hit the other day with one of those mesh bags you wash your bras in -- Cordelia sucked it, she chewed it, she stuffed it in her mouth and pulled it out again (it was like a magic trick), she found the label and chewed on that. No end of amusement!

In Your Living Room

Okay, there's not much in here -- you don't want your kid playing with your CDs or chewing your books. But there is one thing that every baby covets: the remote control. And don't try and buy one of those brightly coloured fake-o toy remotes, either, your kid is too smart for that. She wants the real thing! The only hope is to find an old remote that doesn't work any more, take out the batteries and make sure none of the bits are going to come off, and let her have it.

In Your Bedroom

Hairbrushes and combs keep Cordelia amused while I change her diaper, and sometimes when I'm desperate I give her a lotion bottle for a few moments (after checking that the lid is secure.)

Fabric is fun for babies; I have had success with a lovely pair of brightly printed silk boxer shorts (sorry Blake). Silk is especially good for a baby who is just beginning to grip, because it is incredibly light and easy to get a grip on. Cordelia seems to enjoy the texture of a wet or dry facecloth.


The bottom line is, don't feel that you have to limit your baby to baby toys. You can give her any old thing provided it's reasonably clean, and that it's not going to break up into chokeable or sharp pieces. Use your common sense, and you and your baby will be quietly amused for, well, minutes.

Lazy Man's Homemade Ice Cream

Put some frozen blueberries in a bowl. (I like Europe's Best if you can get them.) Pour in just enough whipping cream to almost cover the berries. Wait a few seconds and the berries will freeze the cream -- voila, quick frosty goodness that's almost good for you!

God's Own Chocolate Cake

This is the world's best chocolate cake recipe -- it's really easy, it always comes out moist and rich and delicious, and best of all it calls for cocoa powder, which I always have in the house, not unsweetened chocolate, which I never have. Use the leftover buttermilk to make pancakes.

Cocoa Fudge Cake
from the Betty Crocker Cookbook, 1969 Edition

1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1½ cups sugar
2/3 cup cocoa
1½ teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1½ cups buttermilk
½ cup shortening
2 eggs (1/3 to ½ cup)
1 teaspoon vanilla

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour baking pan, 13x9x2 inches, or 2 round layer pans, 8 or 9x1½ inches.

Measure all ingredients into large mixer bowl. Blend ½ minute on low speed, scraping bowl constantly. Beat 3 minutes high speed, scraping bowl occasionally. Pour into pan(s).

Bake oblong 35 to 40 minutes, layers 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in centre comes out clean. Cool.

If desired (!), frost cake.


Cocoa Butter Frosting
from the Betty Crocker Cookbook, 1969 Edition

Here's a frosting recipe I've used, with similarly excellent results.

1/3 cup soft butter
1/3 cup cocoa
2 cups confectioner's sugar
1½ teaspoons vanilla
About 2 tablespoons milk

Mix thoroughly butter and cocoa. Blend in sugar. Stir in vanilla and milk; beat until frosting is smooth and of spreading consistency.

Fills and frosts two 8- or 9-inch layers or frosts a 13x9 inch cake.

Why?

Why is it that we have three thousand different pens and pencils of varying styles and manufacturers in this house, but only two good ones? One of which is at all times attached to last week's cryptic crossword?

Urbane and Mellow

One of the things -- one of the many things -- I love about this condo is that it's right on a major street, so when I open the windows the sounds of the city come into my living room. Traffic, sirens, the "beep, beep, beep" of a truck backing up, people shouting to their friends... crazy people yelling, the odd car crash. To most people, I guess, this doesn't sound so hot, but I like the feeling of being in the middle of something without having to actually leave the house.

Today a lone saxophonist plays on the corner outside Starbucks, adding an urbane, mellow touch to the sunny afternoon soundscape.