Sunday, April 24, 2011

Two Tomatoes

I rode off today in the best mood. I got a very reserved, very "Mom" client to drop the f-bomb this afternoon with my new trap table workout. It is so hard and wakes up muscles in a way they've never felt before and really challenges your balance and coordination. And about 25 minutes into it, she said under her breath, "F*#k!" That, I tell you, will make any trainer's day. I should put a sign on my door that says, "Profuse sweating and outbursts of profanity much appreciated."

Anyway, I don't like to talk about my work on here much because that's not what this blog is about, but man did that feel good. She was so proud of herself when she was done and gave me a huge hug with an exclamation of "Another amazing workout, Sara." So, anyway, as I rode off that was what I was thinking about and even though it was drizzling the world felt quite sunny to me.

Actually, I think one sunny day in Portland in the spring, for me, is like one rainy day in the desert. The positive repercussions last for days. I don't care that it's drizzling, I got to wear a sundress yesterday!

I already had my workout done for the day, but I needed a couple of things to get ready for my friend to come over for a sauna party. Well, it's not really a party because it's just one person, but if you're an introvert like me having one friend over feels like a party. My plan is to make caprese salad, and since I couldn't resist enjoying the tomato I bought for it over the weekend, I needed a new one.

As I pedaled through our neighborhood, the streets shiny with rain, I was mostly thinking how much fun it is to do cheap, fun things. I feel weird about spending money on stuff. I always ask if the thing I'm buying will make me happier than what I already have. Like, "Will these sandals make me happier than my flip-flops?" Unlikely. "Will this new car with it's monthly car payments make me happier than my old car?" Definitely not. I like spending money on experiences like travel or food. I'd rather pay for a massage than a new purse. Actually, I hate purses so that's not a good example. Anyway, my point is, I just got both my bikes fixed for 10 bucks and I'm having a ball on my short little ride to the grocery store. So, it's a cheap, fun thing, and well, it makes me happy.

Anyway, 10 minutes later, I was out of the store, having forgotten my wallet, (but luckily I remembered some cash), with two bright shiny tomatoes. And, so I pedaled home, with the sun peeking out as it does so often, even on a rainy day in Portland in April, pleased with my day and my work and my life and my now functioning bike to get ready for my friend and fire up the sauna. Cheers!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Coffee, Calimari, Cookies and Chicken Taco

Peter and I take amazing walks. It's part of how we feed our natural traveler's spirit when we're in between trips. I've decided to start including a diary of our walks here on my cycling blog, because, well, it's my blog and I thought it might be fun to record and share them.

It's about a 30 minute walk to downtown from our house and just before you get to the bridge across the Willamette you walk past Water Avenue Coffee. We decided to stop in and try out the Pour Over Coffee, a very Portland experience. The barista was dressed smartly in a button down shirt, tie and apron and explained that we had two choices for our coffee, an African coffee, that was richer and had tea overtones and an El Salvador coffee that was lighter with hints of tobacco. We said, "One of each!" First, he ground the coffee and then poured hot water through the filters and into the carafes below.

Then, he took about 3.5 minutes to carefully, methodically, pour hot water through the grounds. As he poured and we watched, he explained in some detail, the intricacies of pour over coffee and the particular types of coffee that we had chosen.
When he was finished, he swirled the coffee around and poured us a cup of each. We sat down for our taste test, sipping and switching and sipping some more. We talked about how fun it would be to take my brother and his fiance here when they come to visit next month. Eventually, we decided that Peter liked the El Salvadorean coffee best and I liked the African coffee best which worked out nicely.
As we left I said, "You know, that is a characteristic I really appreciate in my fellow man," speaking of the very knowledgeable, very zealous barista. "What do you mean?" Peter asked in response. I said, "To love something that much, to be passionate, almost to the point of obsession, so that it is obvious to anyone who comes across you that you love something so." Peter said, "Yeah, it's amazing to see someone who loves what they do as much as he does."

I was very excited to be able to wear a sundress today and Peter got this nice picture of me with the river and the city in my dress. Proof of sundress weather in Portland in April. Yahoo!
"I'm really craving calamari!" Peter had announced before leaving, so after getting downtown we headed over to Berbati's Pan for a plate of fried calamari with feta, olives and green onions. We'd never had this before on our downtown walking adventures, so it was fun to try something new.
Next, we walked to the Pearl and stopped at Pearl Bakery for chocolate chunk cookies. We used to live in the Pearl District and after finishing our cookies and we talked as we wandered around the neighborhood how it was one of those things in life wear the reality didn't live up to the dream. I think people who love Europe wish that we could have what they have with long afternoons sipping espresso or drinking wine while sitting in wicker chairs around bistro tables surrounding the piazza. I know I was wishing for people young and old going for walks before dinner, or meeting up for ice cream for an afternoon snack. Unfortunately, we found that once we got to the Pearl that the sidewalks were nearly as empty as the sidewalks in the suburbs. The only people you saw out were the dog walkers. Within 9 months of moving into our loft, we were out looking for houses. We also got tired of having to pay money to sit outside. It's nice to be able to go out on the back patio to drink your coffee and eat your cereal in the morning...for free.

Continuing on with our snacking we stopped at Cha! Cha! Cha! for tacos; chicken for me and shrimp for Peter. I did a masterful job of splashing avocado salsa all over my cardigan and dress, but, for the most part, got myself all cleaned up in the bathroom. Whatever is left we'll just say is adding to the "patina" of the dress. Sure, that sounds good.
Next we wandered up to the NW 23rd area, where there are many, many more people out enjoying their neighborhood. We went up 21st, down 23rd, admiring the cherry blossoms and planning what we wanted to do about dinner. Peter had mentioned ceviche which sounded good to me. We have an agreement in our house that we must go out for ceviche. We tried to make it about 6 months ago and after eating it Peter was in such a panic about food poisoning that he very quickly set about getting both of us drunk. You know, to kill the bacteria. Reminiscing about this night we both had a good chuckle, but in the end we decided that a couple of bahn mi sandwiches sounded the best.
So, we wandered back into downtown, and over to the cart pods where we purchased 2 sandwiches for 5 bucks.
Then, we made our way back across the river, across the train tracks and back up the hill to home. I changed out of my sundress, built a fire, and we enjoyed our sandwiches to the pop and snap of a real wood fire in the backyard.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Sunny Day, Skyr, and Thoughts on Life

What a beautiful, sunny day it is today. I had an hour of cardio dance scheduled today so I knew I didn't want to go for a fitness ride (ie. hills), but a 40-min there and back ride to Whole Foods sounded like a lovely thing to do when my 10:30 had to reschedule this morning. You see, I've become a little bit hooked on Siggi's skyr. I have a thing for creamy food. I love all things dairy, especially yogurt, whipped cream, mousse, ice cream. I also love guacamole, hummus, baba ghanoush. We ate skyr two or three times a day when we were in Iceland and since we've been home I've just kept up the habit. Skyr on oatmeal for breakfast. Skyr for an afternoon snack. It's packed with protein and at just 100 calories a serving, it's the perfect food for someone who has an (ahem) slow metabolism.

Anyway, two weeks ago when I was at Whole Foods I bought so many of them that the clerk asked me if I just wanted to order cases so I could get a discount. "Sure," I said, "I'll take a peach and a vanilla." Yesterday, I got the message that they were in, so it seemed like the perfect excuse for a sunny ride to NE Portland and back on my trusty, basket-equipped commuter bike, Reilly.

Despite the dry, near perfect day, I was in something of a somber mood on my ride. My thoughts were about how life can really get hard sometimes. I have four friends who are going through some tough times right now, some harder than others. Some really, really hard. Anyway, I know what that's like because I've had some serious struggles in my life too and well, today it was just on my mind.

I have this theory that hard things we choose to go through like running a marathon or putting yourself through college or doing RAGBRAI or losing 40 pounds, these things I think can have an incredibly empowering effect on our lives. I think it's because at any time you can just choose to stop and nothing really bad will happen to you. But, if you finish that marathon even when nearly every part of you wanted to stop; when you just held on to that little part of your will that said, "You can do it! Keep running!," then you can draw on that feeling for the rest of your days. You learn that you are able to persevere.

But, I think some things, like long illnesses, like the death of a loved one, like crippling poverty or the sense of being trapped by choices that you didn't even make in your life, these things can leave us feeling vulnerable. I think it's because you're stuck. You can't get out of it, you have to just w-o-r-k t-h-r-o-u-g-h it. Some people do feel empowered by these things, I'm sure, but I think it is less likely. At least, that's my experience. It's hard to reminded that life can get really hard, really fast, with no warning and what you thought you knew about life and maybe even yourself just isn't true anymore. That's tough. Life. It can sometimes be so hard.

Of course, I was thinking about all these things as I do when I ride in that relaxing left pedal, right pedal slightly meditative state. I was heading through a bike signal by the library after having picked up my skyr when, WHOA!, a firetruck was running the red light. I had heard the siren, but hadn't quite registered it as being close because it was being blocked by the houses. I slammed on the brakes, stopping halfway into the intersection. Cycling can really be a mixed bag, sometimes. I'd love to live in a world without cars. Of course, I guess you'd still need firetrucks. And airplanes because I want to see the world.

So, I made my way home, still pensive, still pedaling, but now with two cases of my current favorite food. In fact, I think I'll go have one right now. I'm thinking vanilla. Or, maybe peach. No, definitely vanilla.