Monday, July 13, 2015

Cycle The Erie Canal

I haven't posted my Take Five in a few weeks.  Things have been a tad hectic at work and I've been traveling quite extensively.  I have a week or so off before I leave town again.

I was reminded of an amazing trip I took last year - Cycle the Erie Canal trail.  You start in Buffalo and end in Albany and average about 50 or so miles per day.  Most of the cycling is on the Erie Canal Trail but some is on roads because the trail is not complete across the state.  This is the largest fundraiser of the year for Parks and Trails New York.  It is also intended to serve as an awareness campaign of the trail itself.  Many places, as I mentioned, are incomplete or are in bad shape.  I would love to see a completed trail and would do the trip again in a second.

The 2015 event kicked off yesterday.  The cyclists would have started this morning from Medina, New York on their way to the next stop in Pittsford, New York.

I want to note my five favorite memories and photos from last year.  Amy Moritz, Bona alumna,  Buffalo News sports writer, blogger ( - byline to the finish line), former wellness coach, and friend enjoyed the trip with me.  She wrote an excellent piece for The Buffalo News Refresh section this past Saturday.  We are also planning something for summer 2016 so stay tuned for that!

The one and only time I have been hosed down
On our third day it was pouring rain at the start of the day.  Pouring rain.  We had to cycle anyway because you have to get to the next point.  Unless there is a thunderstorm, you suffer through.  At first I was pissed that we had to struggle in the rain.  Then I embraced it.  It became my favorite day of the ride.  You got to see the canal and the canal trail in a very different way.  You had to figure out how to maneuver through mud and yuck on the trail.  I wore a white rain jacket as you can see below.  It was sparkling clean throughout.  Someone asked me how it stayed so clean when the rest of me didn't?  I have no damn idea.

At one of our rest stops a gentleman was manning a hose to wash some of the dirt off of our bikes to ungunk our gears and chain, etc.  He looked at me and asked me if I wanted him to hose me off.  To be fair, he asked everyone so I wasn't special.  Um, yes, please.

Each night we camped and each morning we packed up.  I dubbed our "tent city," BonaTenture because Amy and I are both Bona alumnae.  Comfy Campers is a God-send.  We paid extra for someone else to set up our tent each day and take it down each morning.  Brilliant business model.  After a day of cycling and sightseeing, the last thing we wanted to do was set up a tent.  It came with air mattresses, which they inflated and deflated each day, and coffee each morning.  Cheers!

We also met a couple of other Bona alumnae.  We aren't the only two who are crazy!  And it shows the Power of a Bonnie.  We are everywhere.  We run the world.

New York State is incredibly beautiful
Everywhere you turned (literally) you could see idyllic settings.  Barns and farms, fields of crops, former locks now overgrown with greenery, the trail itself, the smooth as glass water.  All are worth the trip.  All photos taken from the Erie Canal trail.

Sense of Humor and History
One of the highlights of the trip was a stop in Seneca Falls.  I was brought to tears as we toured the Women's History Museum.  To think about the battles our ancestors fought to ensure we have the liberties and freedoms we have is moving.  The fight is far from over, but the trip reminded us that we have come a long way and we have what is required to continue the fight.

With Amy Moritz at the Women's History Museum.

The Erie Canal is teeming with history.  While some visits were serious as above, some were tongue-in-cheek.  The picture below is at the Canal Museum in Syracuse.  I thought I would see what this guy is looking at.  It's the museum itself.

The Finish
I was exhausted by the end but also exhilarated.  I biked across New York State.  That's pretty damn good!  And I'd do it again.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Gnocchi and Mushrooms

I purchased some mushrooms last weekend thinking I would use them with a steak we grilled but we did not.

I didn't want them to go to waste so I thought I would whip something up. I had some gnocchi also and Googled recipes to include both.  I then combined several recipes to call my own to great fanfare.  The fanfare was mine, my husband wasn't as excited.  That means that I have some leftovers that will become lunch today.

How I did it:
1 package gnocchi (I use the vacuum-packed fresh gnocchi not dried - in the future I will make my own)
2 containers of mushrooms - your choice. I used shiitake and portobello
1 clove garlic
1 shallot
olive oil
Meyer lemon olive oil (I got a small sample of this in a gift basket I recently received.  I think you could use lemon juice.)
1 T butter
1 t dried basil
1 t dried oregano
White wine
Chicken broth
2 T tomato paste
1 T parsley
1/2 cup parmesan cheese

Boil the gnocchi according to package directions.

Heat olive oil in a large pan - I used about 4 T.  Slice garlic and shallot and add to pan.  Cook until fragrant and soft.  Add 1 T Meyer lemon olive oil.  Add the mushrooms and cook until soft.  Add butter and stir until melted.  Add basil and oregano and stir until blended.  Add white wine and chicken broth, stir to blend and cook about 5 minutes.  Add the tomato paste and stir until blended.
Drain gnocchi and add to the pan.  Stir to coat.  Add cheese and parsley and stir until blended.


Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Take Five - Five Exercises you need to do to Farm

This Take Five is two days late.  Why?  I was gardening on Sunday and that is some hard work!  My back hurt, my ass hurt, my arms hurt, my legs hurt.

Now you can attribute that to the fact that I am grossly out of shape, old and fat, or it could be because I didn't "train" appropriately.

Five exercises you must do in order to garden with out pain (keep in mind that I've not tried this but my Spidey senses tell me it is true).

One: Squats.  You are squatting down to pull weeds or squatting down to plant seeds, or plants.  Squats are necessary for your legs and butt.

Two: Push-ups.  This may seem odd, but if you think about raking and hoeing, the push-up action makes sense.

Three: Squat Thrusts (I think they are called Burpees now.  We called them Squat Thrusts in the day.).  In addition to squats, these are the next step in digging, weeding, planting.

Four: Bicep curls. This works for lifting soil, mulch, compost, water buckets, heavy plants (not sure what plant is so heavy it would require bicep curls, but a flat of plants might).

Five: Corpse Pose.  There is nothing better than finishing your yard work, taking a shower and laying on your back.  This can be on the grass, on the floor, on the bed, in a hammock.  You choose.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Looky Loo

Well, the upstairs loo is nearly complete.  I am not bothered that we don't have trim around the window or floorboards.  We have a toilet, shower, sink, shelves.

It took nearly 11 months.

I thought, we could have had a baby in that time (we won't ever).  What else could have given birth, you ask?  A quick Google search yields:

  • dolphin
  • horse
  • premature giraffe, black rhino, walrus
  • llama
  • whale
  • zebra
All of the above animals could have spawned young in the time it took to redo our bathroom.

That said, I am so excited at how it turned out!  Below please find before and after shots of the eleven month loo.

Full frontal.  This is what the bathroom looked like when we moved in.
Carpet, toilet straight on, sink to the left, tub surround to the left.

Closer picture of the tub surround and toilet.

Sink in its own little nook.  Notice how wonderful the wallpaper is.
We had a fight over keeping it or not. Puleeze.
Dangle ball lights scream "contemporary."

 After.  Brace yourself, it's quite a difference.

New loo straight on.  Notice that the shower is now against the back wall (no tub).
The toilet is to the left.  The sink is to the left in the same spot as the old one.
No carpeting, no wallpaper.
Notice to the right the doors to the built in drawer/shelf.
With the shower curtain open so that you may see our tile work. White subway tile with a line of brownish glass along the top third.
We put a shampoo nook in the shower backed by the brownish glass tile we used.
No hanging ball lights. Replaced vanity. Added a nice mirror.
Changed the wall color to add a splash.

My brother and master carpenter made this built in shelf with drawers. 

When we removed the wallpaper and as we got down to the original plaster walls, we found this wallpaper.
It was too cool to abandon so I saved a piece and had it framed.  Pretty fragile stuff.

Side-by-side of the before and after for effect:

Certainly, the loo didn't come together without some problems that still need attention.  For example, Jamie hooked the toilet up to the hot water rather than the cold water.  He needs to go to the basement to fix that.  In the meantime, going to the loo at 3 am is nice.  When you lean back, the toilet is warm.

When we were painting the walls, Jamie said to me, "You're lucky I let you paint these wild colors."  My reply, "Aren't you cute thinking you have a choice."

I have wanted a floor with those little white and black tiles forever.  I think they look awesome in a bathroom and I'm right.  They look fabulous in this room.  It took some time to convince Jamie but he came around.  He agreed.  They were actually easier to install than either of us expected.

Jamie did the bulk of the work on the front end.  I helped gut the room but he had to do the plumbing and electrical (with friends who are experts including a licensed electrician), flooring, and walls.  I became the tile master.  I could wield a trowel to spread the mastic like nobody's business.  I was very level-headed making sure everything was uniform.  (That was supposed to be funny because I manned a level when installing the tiles.)

The two of us designed the loo.  Jamie is an engineer and I am a pain-in-the-ass.  My mantra for him, "less thinking, more doing."  Let's get a move on and get the shit done.  Eleven months, man, for a small loo.

Oddly, we didn't fight when we were in this little space working together.  We knew what we needed and wanted to accomplish and did just that.  I am so happy and proud of us.

Vanity, subway tile, brownish tile (discontinued), floor tile, toilet, ceramic tub base all from Lowes. Paint color: Valspar La Fonda Teal.

We have used quite a few of the La Fonda colors offered by Valspar.  For whatever reason, we gravitate to them.  One of these days we will have to visit this house as the colors are based on an historic house in Santa Fe, NM. And it's alleged to be haunted.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Take Five - Five things that when taken out of context.....

Are REALLY Risque

1. "Don't pull the snake too hard.  You'll hurt it."  Said to my husband as he wrestled with a milk snake this weekend.  Turns out we have a giant crack in our back patio that is attractive to snakes.  Cocoa sniffed it out and we tried to dislodge it.  Jamie managed to do so and took it up into the weeds.  We think it came back - or there are multiple snakes in the crack.  We plan to demolish the concrete in that spot.  When Jamie said that we might have a snake problem and they might get into the house, that was enough for me.  I like snakes and know they are good to have (keep rodents in check), but I don't want to find one in the kitchen before I've had coffee.  Or after.

2.  That's a hell of a crack.  This is a follow up to the above.  We do have a hell of a crack in our deck.  I'll try to get a photo of it with the snake present.  That's key.

3.  "Give me some more goo."  We made some amazing progress on our bathroom this weekend.  I became the tile master.  I was in charge of tiling the shower and the floor.  This requires some sort of tile glue.  I think it may be called mortar, but I have no idea.  I called it goo.  So I said to Jamie, give me some more goo.  I was on a ladder and needed additional tile glue to get a tile to stick.

4.  "You're gonna need those knee pads."  Turns out when you tile a floor you really do need those knee pads!  Here is a photo of me with my work clothes on and the knee pads.  "How do I get me some of that, " said no one ever.

5. "Please tell XXX to stop trying to get me pregnant!"  This was said several years ago after I had just gotten married.  A close friend - noted as XXX in the quote - kept asking me when I was going to have children knowing full well that I had no intention of doing so.  It was a running joke.  One day I said this in a meeting.  It was beyond comical.  A better way to have phrased the statement:  "Please tell XXX that I am not ever having children and to shut up about it."

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Take Five - Commencement Edition

I am late in getting this post out.  This past weekend was commencement on campus.  It is a whirlwind of busyness.

We had a wonderful commencement speaker this year, Tim Brown, president and CEO of Nestle Waters North America.  Commencement weekend always makes me think, what if I gave a commencement speech?  What would I say?  Then I said, "what would the best commencement speeches consist of?"  I came up with the five things I would love to hear a commencement speaker say.  That is this week's Take Five.

1. I am going to stand up here and read the menu for the local bar and grill because no one is paying any damn attention to me.

2.  You almost graduates don't give a rip what I have to say because you all know everything!  You have a liberal arts degree.

3.  Some of you will go on to great success.  Some of you will live in your parents' basement and never kiss anybody because you are losers.

4.  I lied and cheated my way to the top.  Meet me in the lobby after the ceremony and I'll tell you how you may do the same thing.

5.  Everything you learned, you learned in kindergarten so kudos to you for spending a bazillion dollars on an education.  See number 3.

The above are written tongue-in-cheek.  I teach at a liberal arts university and take great pride in my job and in our students.  We have some of the best students.  I just think that if anyone said any of the above, you would have the attention of the audience to be sure.  And you would make me laugh.

I also think it's safe to say that I won't be on anyone's commencement speaker short list any time soon.

Cheers!  And congratulations to our St. Bonaventure University graduates - now alumni!  We are all proud!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Take Five - Mother's Day Edition - Pearls of Wisdom

I haven't posted many Pearls of Wisdom lately so I think I'm due.  Today is mother's day and I am grateful for such a wonderful mother.  We have certainly had our moments, but I admire and love Pearl more than anything.

Below are five things I learned from Pearl.

Pearl of Wisdom 1:  Cooking.  Pearl is the world's worst cook.  I love to hear stories about women who learned to cook from their mother's because they would cook together on a Sunday afternoon and make wonderful five course feasts.  I learned to cook in spite of Pearl.  Examples:

  • Fresh baked bread has flavor.  Who knew?
  • The only time corned beef needs to be in a pot for the entire day is if it's a crock pot.  And corned beef is pink, not white, when it's finished.  Ditto sauerkraut.  Actually, sauerkraut in a pot all day, crock or not, is overkill.  And it shouldn't be pink ever.  Unless you cook it with beets.
  • Beef does not have to taste like shoe leather.  Oh, it also doesn't need to cut like shoe leather.
  • Seafood may be cooked in pans other than cast iron.  It also tastes very good.
To be fair, Pearl did have two things she did well:  soup and mac n cheese - and I'm not talking that crappy glow-in-the dark mac n cheese, but the real homemade stuff.  And her split pea and bean soups were amazing!

My brother and I told her a few years ago that her cooking sucked.  Her reply, "well you kids survived."  True statement, Pearl.  Another true statement - I was skinny growing up.

Pearl of Wisdom 2:  Recycling.  I often hated that mom would dust the house with some Pledge and dad's old underwear, or whatever other cloth she had that was no longer in use for its original purpose.  Now I find myself salvaging stuff I didn't think I would.  Hey, reuse and recycle.  I do draw the line at underwear.  I use old washcloths, dishcloths, towels, etc.

Pearl of Wisdom 3:  Gardening.  Truth be told, Pearl can garden. She has a wonderfully green thumb.  And she likes it.  She helped me when I still lived in Alden and we had these amazing flower gardens.  I hope to have her help me down here in Franklinville.  

I will confess this - my brother and I had a good laugh one day when we saw a bunch of sticks planted in a row.  I think Pearl saw them laying on the ground and thought she should plant them and trees would sprout up.  They didn't grow, in case you were wondering.  I find myself laughing because Jamie and I planted some hummingbird plants that are actually sticks.  I keep thinking that I see buds on the sticks.  Alas, I don't think so.  I'm giving them another week or so.

Pearl of Wisdom 4: Laughing.  Life is too damn short to be so serious all the time.  Laugh!  Mostly at yourself. Sometimes at others if they do something really stupid.  Usually at your husband.

Pearl of Wisdom 5:  Multitasking.  Pearl is nothing if not efficient.  In fact, she used to mow the lawn topless.  That may be the norm in Europe, but in Marilla, not so much.  Her reasoning?  I don't want tan lines, there are no neighbors (and there weren't), the sun is out and the grass needs to get cut.  Why not mow the lawn and tan?

Now, I am not a proponent of tanning so I can't say that I agree with that, but can you argue with her logic?  I should point out that Pearl also taught me to love my body and myself.  Topless?  It's only boobs.  Everyone has seen boobs so who cares?  If you are comfortable, it doesn't much matter what others think.  

Thank you, Pearl, for such valuable life lessons.  You are a blessing!  Happy Mother's Day.