Sunday, 20 December 2015

The Bike to Work project

​Now is a good time to tell you about my New Years resolution - from last year. I set myself the challenge of riding the bike to work 50 times in 2015.

I work four days a week, and it's a very long ride. I CAN ride all the way there and back, but I'm slow and it's a long way (26km each way). So, I have number of ways I can do it, and still get a good work day:
  • Some days I rode all the way in, and got a lift home (we have two learner drivers, so they fought for the chance to drive us in on school holidays).
  • Some days, Jeff and I put the bikes on the car rack, and drove half way, then rode in and back (12km each way, very nice).
  • Some days took the bike on the train for part of the trip home.
  • We moved offices, from Collingwood to the city, so now I can also ride to my choice of bike cage (Bicycle Victoria is installing fantastic bike cages at railway stations), lock up there, and train into the city.
There have been challenges.
  • Any option that involved the car needed MY car, the one that fits the bike rack. But that's the one Catriona drives too, and she often has evening commitments. So I didn't ride some days.
  • In winter it gets dark really early, so some options don't work.
  • I don't mind riding in the warm or the cold, and I can manage drizzle and breezes, but rain, extreme heat and strong wind make it too dangerous for me.
  • A few days I had early meetings.
  • And the odd sick day, and bike-getting-repaired day, cuts out some rides too.
So, it has taken some effort to get to the fifty rides. I've been keeping a spreadsheet.

And I'm pleased to say, I'm nearly there. I've hit 49 rides, and I have just two work days left.


Post script. I made it. The next day. Wasn't that hard really!

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Come and meet the new queen!

The queen I refer to, of course, is "Kougin-amann", pronounced "Queen Amann". It's a pastry, and it's from Brittany (and that's a region of France).

I learned the name of it when I was looking up another recipe entirely, and decided I had to try it. It's made of a dough just like croissant dough, but with sugar added between some of the layers along with the block of butter. The various recipes I've read disagree in just how to do this, so for now, my method is to sprinkle sugar generously over the dough just before it gets folded the last time.

And the result? Oh, goodness me, delicious. Here's one from the batch I took to a Christmas party. The kids had some too, and they didn't last long.

So today, I tried the very same recipe, same methods, and one difference - using sourdough in place of yeast. It certainly needed longer to rise, but that's no surprise. Hey, it's Sunday, we have all day.  After that, I handled it the same. 

Here's our pastries before baking:
See, it's just a simple corners-to-the-middle fold. Those couple that are trying to unfold are splitting along the layer where the sugar was added. So, that'll be why there are different methods around. The next try, I'll be blending sugar into the butter, then making a butter block from that.

And here is one of my sourdough Kouign-Amanns. I am pretty much thrilled with that!

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Seasonal baking tip

Adding ground cinnamon to your baked sweet treats can add a festive touch. Ground cumin, not so much.

Friday, 4 December 2015

Coffee quest part 4 - gosh, we settle quickly

Our first visit to "In a Rush" was completely satisfying, and, we couldn't help noticing, they have several varieties of coffee for us to try. Combined with a convenient location, we visited them again (we have a loyalty card now, AND they like filling my reusable cup.)

And so, our quest to find an excellent coffee shop seemed to be at an end.

And then this...
I discovered there's ANOTHER "In a Rush". Gasp! Because, I may not have mentioned, the unwritten rule of this game is, no big chains. Gloria Jeans make a fine coffee in a food court, but we were looking for the best of city life.

Oh well, maybe the In a Rush folks were just so good at making coffees, they decided to open a second store.

Then another twenty seven.

Turns out, there are a lot of them. They grew from the soup place (you know the one, selling yummy soup from big pots, before that was a thing).

So, is the coffee quest still on? Are we going to abandon a nice welcoming cafe, just because they are good at what they do?

Obviously not.

But then, one afternoon, sitting at my desk, puzzling out the latest Python program I'm working on, a delicious aroma walked past. I had to look up, and it was my colleague Ben, drinking from his big Google mug. I demanded to know what he was drinking - it smelled amazing! 

Turns out he'd made the coffee in an Aeropress (latest fashionable coffee maker, quite low tech) from beans he'd just ground by hand in the kitchen. And he'd bought the beans from...

Code Black!

What will happen next? Will we go back to Code Black? Will the twisty stairs be too much for us? Are we too old for somewhere so fashionable? Or will the aroma work its magic? 

There may be more episodes, but who knows? We are in the process of getting the coffee machine installed again. Nobody thinks it makes the best coffee, but it's pretty convenient.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Want to see my new bike bag?

Our friends at Topeak make some really good bike bags - they are expensive, but they work really well. I've given you a link to the bag I own - it can hold your day's goodies and clothes for a ride-to-work day, or some groceries for a chores day, or plenty of picnic for a day off.

To use a Topeak bag, you need a special carrier on your bike. But once you have the special carrier, you can slide ANY matching bag onto it.

So, what happened was, I managed to tear my older Topeak bag (it was a bit less cool than the one in the link). I repaired for a bit with duct tape, but it was pretty torn. I replaced it with the cool one I have now. I finally decided the torn one had to be retired. But first, I took it apart (as you do). And discovered that the whole mechanism that clips onto the special carrier was just fine!

So, I bought a pretty canvas bag at a local op shop, and here is my new bike bag!