Mountain biking men's club

Greg (and Schrader) came to dinner on Saturday, and I sent him home with a disk of photos from past mountain biking trips (Moab, Hood River, Tee Lake, Bend). I made a copy for Bernie, too... He's putting together photos for the upcoming 20th anniversary of the first men's trip—the start of it all. The day trips to ride trails in the area gradually grew into weekend getaways, usually crashing at friend's houses or cabins. Any place with great mountain biking trails was a potential target, and they tried them all: Manastash Ridge, Tahuya Forest, Lake Wenatchee, and Crow Creek were favorites. Eventually, each year's ride list expanded to include places like Hood River, Moab, Lake Tahoe, Bend, Whistler B.C., and Park City, Utah.

I was pleased to be included as an honorary men's club member, and happily went along on a lot of their trips. There's nothing quite like being the only female in the company of a bunch of friendly, rowdy mountain bikers, both on the trails and afterwards. And I rode in some amazing places:  Moab and Mt. Bachelor near Bend are probably my favorites. But other than talking about where we rode, my lips are sealed… no details will every be provided outside the magic circle of the men's club. It was the condition of membership (they all know I keep a journal), and I will always honor it.

It was fun to sort through photos and pick out those that best illustrated these happy years of biking. The group went to a lot of scenic places, and a lot of pictures were taken. But my favorites are those of groups of riders in those scenic spots year after year, showing how everyone (and their bikes) changed through the years. They went from simple inexpensive hardtail bikes to sophisticated full suspension bikes, from basic pedals to toe straps to clipless pedals, from basketball shorts to padded Lycra shorts to baggy padded shorts, from water bottles to Camelbacks. And as much as the bikes and gear changed over the years, the riders changed the most. They went from shaggy hair to shaved heads, full heads of hair to bald heads, dark hair to gray hair.


The Hand That Feeds

Our friend, Greg, adopted a dog a couple of years ago. Shrader is always welcome to come to our house with Greg, but we've learned you can't leave anything on the table or counter with this guy, as he can easily stand on his hind legs and reach anything.

Greg tells the tale of fixing a pizza for dinner one night, and falling asleep in front of the television, part way through the second piece. Not only did the dog polish off the rest of the pizza from the kitchen counter, he also removed the piece from Greg's hand, and ate that, too!


Green handles

Two of my favorite things come together in the kitchen. I love to cook in my 1920's farmhouse. The kitchen is a big open room, with one brick wall and a big oak library table in the middle, and an 1860s sideboard and 1940s jelly cupboard to provide extra storage. It's not a modern, glitzy kitchen with granite countertops and maple cabinets. But it works, and it's mine.

My antique house led me to another passion: collecting old kitchen utensils and tools. Because I have a thing about not owning anything I can't use, I've test-driven all of them. In the process, I discovered that many of these 1930s-1940s utensils work circles around their modern counterparts.

I got a rolling pin as a wedding shower gift. No matter how much I dusted it with flour, my pie dough always stuck. Years later, I got a marble rolling pin for Christmas. Same story. The weight was nice for pastry, but everything stuck to it. This beautiful 1940s green-handled rolling pin cost a couple of bucks, and nothing sticks to the hard maple roller. I like it so much, I bought another one for the cabin, and a red-handled one just for fun.

I rarely need a sifter, but when I do, this is the one I choose. It has two pieces: the bowl where you put the flour, and a wire handle that ends in a loop of wire next to the screen of the bowl. All you have to do is grab the handle and shake the bowl back and forth, and the wire loop sifts the flour for you.

This little jar opener is probably my favorite kitchen utensil. Always on the lookout for green-handled kitchen stuff, Dave bought this for me. It was one of many "I've never seen one of these before" finds. This little guy is called the 'Top-Off,' and I've never found the bottle cap or jar top it can't remove with little effort. If you're tired of handing a jar to someone else to open, you need one of these.

Some kitchen tools go out of style (when was the last time you julienned carrots?). Some justifiably get replaced by a better model. But time and time again, I find something my basket of 60-year-old tools that will never lose its place in my kitchen. Sometimes, older is better.


Should Cats Have Web Pages?

I've given this a lot of thought lately, as I see more and more cats (and dogs and horses) with their own facebook pages. What sort of animal would qualify for such an honor? I decided to tell you about my own cat and let you decide.

We've always shared our home with at least one cat. And in all the years, and with all the cats who've come and gone, this one is very special for one simple reason: she is the perfect house cat.

James is a huge American Shorthair. And contrary to what you might think, James is a girl. She started out as Jamie, because when she first started hanging around the farmhouse, my favorite singer was Jamie O'Neil. Both had the same gorgeous blond hair, so it seemed to fit. Before long we were calling her James for short, and it suits her.

James is a rather large presence in our lives, but she doesn't have any particular skills. She sleeps quite well, but not on my lap... ever. She runs for the bedroom whenever anyone walks in that general direction, and hops up on the bed hoping for a tummy rub (this gets her locked in the bedroom on a regular basis).

James has her own basket of soft toys, and will help herself when she wants to play. A small ball with long feathers is one of her favorites; I step on it quite often because although James can fetch her own toys, she is incapable of putting them back in the basket. (I don't know of any cats who are, so this should not be held against her.)

Although James won't sit on my lap, she does beg to sit on the arm of my favorite chair, where she leans her entire weight against me, looks up at me with her eyes half open, and purrs loudly enough to be heard in the next room. She can stay there for hours, or until my arm goes to sleep. James is not what you'd call an athletic cat. Jumping up on the furniture is a challenge, so I bought a footstool that she can step up onto. She'll sit there until she's invited to curl up on the chair. Impeccible manners.

Unlike most cats who scream and howl at the mere sight of a car, James loves to ride in the car. As soon as we're on the road, I let her out of her crate, and she'll sit on my lap and look out the window. I'm not sure what she sees out there, but it keeps her occupied.

James has never killed a mouse or a Christmas tree ornament. She doesn't scratch furniture or rugs... or me. She doesn't walk across the computer keyboard while I'm working, or bite me when I'm not paying enough attention to her. She eats and sleeps just like all the other cats in the world. But it's how she does what she does that makes her unique.