For many of us in Southern Ontario, the ice storm that battered the area over the last few days has been challenging. The aftermath of the storm left many without power. Road hazards include slick surface, fallen trees, large shards of ice falling from buildings, and numerous broken live power lines. I am one of the few fortunate ones without interruption to power nor property damage. I am incredibly grateful.
I ventured outside a few times but my car firmly remained in the garage. No way would I consider navigating the traffic under these circumstances. The normally short walk to grocery store was long and treacherous with the sidewalk completely covered in thick smooth ice. I could have easily lace up my ice skates and glide over. Little Brother and I tried our best to clear ice off the walkway and sidewalk in front of home. After 5 hours of relentless work, we admitted defeat and went inside for cake and hot chocolate. At first it was somewhat amusing. Ice shattered like toffee when I attacked it with a steel garden spade. But then temperature fluctuated around the freezing point and it started drizzling rain. My hard-earned territory quickly turned back to one solid piece of ice and it stopped being fun.
I never think twice about traveling solo. In fact, the reason for my excessive selfies during those two weeks in Sydney was because I was on my own the whole time. Traveling in pair can save a bundle on accommodation but the logistics of coordinating work schedule is not always feasible. When I announced my travel plan to friends, many responded in amazement for my lack of companionship. Was it really so odd I traveled solo across the globe even though I am in a committed relationship?
I have always been a ringleader among friends and the man of the house to get things done. Finding places to go, things to do, delicious bites to eat, and filling in the mundane logistic blanks come naturally to me. I enjoy the adventure that traveling to a strange city brings. And no, it is not scary at all. I missed M tremendously during my trip, of course. Whether I was climbing the iconic Harbour Bridge, skating the streets of downtown Sydney, or immersing in the sights and sounds of lively night markets, I constantly thought how much he would enjoy it too. Relationship is built upon shared experiences and I was sad that we missed the opportunity to experience Sydney together for the first time.
The hustle and bustle of the city easily drowned out any thoughts of loneliness. I was too busy taking in all that was around me to even realize I was alone. When I returned to my room at night, I was occupied with writing travel notes and uploading photos to share with friends and family back home. My world was buzzing with activities until I arrived in Glenbrook in Blue Mountains National Park for a morning of bushwalking.
I am feeling a little frazzled lately. Between training, work, cooking, and blogging, my daily life typically follows a very predictable arc. Monday my legs are tired from weekend training or racing. Tuesday I bake. Wednesday is market day. Thursday means Whole Foods. Friday is date night. Saturday alternates between spa day and sleeping in. Sunday is good for long training sessions followed by brunch with skaters. I was not joking when I call myself a creature of habit.
Since returning home from New York City, I lack motivation to cook. Cooking a batch of fresh cranberry beans felt more like pulling teeth. I only made my favourite slow cooker beef stew because I could not resist a sale for chuck steak. I baked a pan of the fluffiest and softest rye dinner roll to accompany the stew after triple-checking the recipe’s promise of quick hands-on time. All the winter squashes are still sitting patiently in the cold room because I cannot rouse myself to roast any of them.
So what was I thinking when I committed to catering my skating club’s end of season party this Friday?! Dinner for 30 people at a location 45 minutes away from my house! On a weeknight! Preferences for low carb or gluten free dishes! And a range of different tastes! Some less adventurous than others! What did I get myself into???!!!
I baked bread yesterday and I felt relieved and thankful. Relieved that the pain from the infected wound on my knee has subsided enough so I could stand for extended period of time. Thankful that the darkest hour is behind me. Contrarily to what I thought at the time, I will get healthy again (fingers crossed). I am still not out of the woods yet. Follow up assessment from my family doctor put me on another round of oral antibiotics. Hopefully the pills will continue the battle where the IV left off and win this war for good.
Yesterday I took an easy day just puttering around at home. With a whole day of free time ahead of me, I immediate looked into my vault of to-bake recipes for ideas. Rosh Hashanah was already over and I am not even Jewish but smitten kitchen’s Fig, Olive Oil, Sea Salt Challah has long tempted me. How can it not? Glossy burnished round of knotty egg bread with swirls of dried fig filling inside, all nicely balanced with flaky Maldon sea salt and savoury olive oil! It looks just complicated enough to keep me occupy for a few hours yet still simple enough for guaranteed success. Sign me up!
No pretty photos of food today as I’m battling a minor health issue. Last night I went to the emergency room for treatment and doctor decided the best course of action is intravenous antibiotic. I am not afraid of needles but getting IV is definitely a first for me. As I sat on the chair patiently waiting for the slow drip-drip-drip to be done, I kept checking my elbow thinking something was leaking. My elbow felt cold and wet. Only then did I realize the cold came from within. It was the droplet of antibiotic traveling up my vein starting from my forearm. It was a disturbing sensation.
When the nurse extracted the tubes from my body, I was surprised that she left the needle and a bunch of plastic contraptions right where they were. She quickly wrapped everything up in bandages to what you see in the photo above. Yup, I came home with needle stuck to my forearm so that I’ll be ready for a three day antibiotic treatment starting tonight. I will get to experience that cold droplet sensation all over again tonight, tomorrow night, and the night after.
Although unpleasant, I hope this will bring me back to health. Until then, cooking is not high on my priority list. For something a little light-hearted, here is my ER survival kit:
warm comfy sweater
sleeveless dress for easy access to my arm
boy shorts so I don’t need to worry about wardrobe malfunction
In 9 days I’ll drive to Montreal with two slow cookers, two massive camping coolers, and enough food to feed 27 hungry skaters for 24 hours. That’s right, it’s the annual 24 hour inline relay race at the F1 race track. And yes, I just said 27 skaters. Have I bitten off more than I can chew? I will find out soon enough.
I am not new to this culinary and logistical challenge. Last year I fed 20 skaters with enough leftovers for one week’s worth of dinner at home. I have a good idea of dishes that hold well at the paddock, food that skaters prefer during the race, and enough variety to keep things interesting. It also helps that I already have an elaborate spreadsheet to organize menu, links to recipes, shopping list, budget, inventory, and food preferences. You can say this is going to be business as usual. What is NOT usual is that I extend my meal plan service this year to a few skaters outside of my own team. Words travel quickly and that is how I end up with magic number 27. It would have been 30 if I didn’t already declined a few requests.
Specialty bakeware fascinates me. Once upon a time, I thought specialty bakeware are the fancy cake pans in the likeness of cartoon characters or cute animals. A typical home cook would only use a pan once in a lifetime (because nobody wants to make Mickey Mouse cake two years in a row). Around my neck of the woods, I can stroll into a bulk food store and rent one for the weekend at a nominal fee. It’s the best of both worlds. I get to bake my Mickey Mouse cake without the hassle of finding a permanent home for the unwieldy cake pan that doesn’t fit anywhere in the cupboard.
I have issues with single purpose kitchen gadgets and some of the specialty bakeware I see these days are absurd. When I am feeling down, I like to wander the aisles of Bed Bath & Beyond. This emporium of innovation never ceases to make me giggle. At one glance, I spotted such highly specific gems: cake pop maker, ice cream sandwich pan, whoopie pie pan, macaron baking set, éclair pan, half cupcake pan, and doughnut pan. Notice any pattern here? These are all things that can be shaped with a steady hand or detailed with a knife. Really manufacturers? I thought you have more faith in our skills. Obviously I was wrong and marketing research shows a different picture.
Last weekend I “celebrated” the one year anniversary of my first concussion. In the last twelve months, I fought hard in my rehabilitation, addressed my body alignment issues, learned to skate again, and trained to be strong once more. Then it all came crashing down with a second concussion and a still unresolved ankle cyst. That is more than enough material to inspire some soul searching.
When I started inline speed skating in 2006, my life revolved around daily workouts, annual racing calendars, and multi-year long term training goals. I was not aware of it at the time, but somewhere along the way, I transformed from physically active individual to highly disciplined athlete. Oddly enough, I did not see myself as the latter. I only thought I exercised a bit more than most people so that I could do well at races (and enjoy hearty meals yet not turning into a whale). Being competitive is fun. Achieving goals is fulfilling. I love that feeling of wanting something so badly that I force myself through fatigue and disappointment to ultimately triumph. In hindsight, that obsession is a quality shared by many athletes.
I have never been fond of diets with their lists of do’s and don’ts. For me, a balanced intake of wholesome minimally processed food has served me well over the years. Why fix something that isn’t broken? I do not lack energy and I am in good physical health saved for injuries brought on by accidents.
Unfortunately, lately, something is not right. An inflamed bursa on my ankle remains persistent even after multiple draining and steroid injection treatments. Surgery will be the last resort and I am staying completely away from any activities that may irritate the bursa. That includes skating. Right now, it is a waiting game and I am praying hard that the inflammation will subside on its own with months of rest. Aside from wishing it away, I start looking into diet changes.