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Saturday, May 31, 2008

Party Time

We had our first soiree of the season this evening - a swell gathering out on our patio complete with great friends, good food & beverages and tiki torches. I made an assortment of nibbles and we bought a lot of beer and wine and found a good reason to mix up my Limoncello Mint Mojitos. Mmm yummy and oh so strong! Yes - it is possible to serve healthy and low-fat food that tastes great; however, it doesn't seem possible these days to do so on a modest budget. Luckily we enjoy entertaining and the added expense of doing so is just a by-product of having a good time. Oy, too good of a time. I think I indulged in one or perhaps 3 or more too many of said limoncello mint mojitos, a few beers, and I think, a sip of an amazingly good and fun bottle of Sailor Jerry Rum. One might think that at my age, 41, I'd have learned how to drink responsibly and hold my liquor. As Agnes Gooch said in Auntie Mame - "I LIVED!" A little too much, at this moment, I am trying to find the equilibrium of sobriety while I post this entry. Even several hours later, having been woken up out of a dead drunk sleep I still am feeling the after affects of the party. Yikes! Yep, I'd say there is a large element of regret and hangover now that the sunlight is up.

In years past I would have been itching to to dancing to keep the party going, and ending the night at an all-night greasy spoon. Sensibly, our party did not end on the dance floor. No trips to the discotech or Woody's this time - but given another round of drinks, who knows what shenanigans I might have convinced myself and guest to partake!

Bailey and our dog, Hamlet enjoying a moment together.



Mrs. Christine Nass-Phillips - Opps! I caught ya!

Those were some tasty nibbles!

Liz and Astrid. It looks like Liz is conducting.


Liz, Astrid and Susan - a lovely gathering of ladies.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Strawberries with Balsamic

So much for posting a recipe a day for the Memorial Day picnic weekend. I got too busy biking, shopping and enjoying the gorgeous weather to think about recipes and blogging. Instead - I'm offering this mea culpa and quick idea for a seasonal dessert. Once again, it's a recipe so easy and slightly different that your guests will think you are a culinary whiz. Or at least that's what I tell myself!

Get the local strawberries while they are here. We have been fortunate this season to have some fantastic New Jersey strawberries that are not only gorgeous but taste like a strawberry should - juicy, sweet, plump and succulent. You won't need much or any sugar to make a syrup, just a few tablespoons of a good, preferably aged balsamic vinegar. Rinse, hull and slice the strawberries. Put them into a bowl and sprinkle 2-3 Tablespoons of Balsamic Vinegar over the strawberries; toss to combine and cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. If you don't have balsamic vinegar another alternative would be, Rum or Vodka with a bit of sugar sprinkled. Chambord, Gran Marnier or some other sweet liqueur, hold the sugar. Allow the strawberries to macerate (fruit macerates, savory foods marinate). Serve the strawberries over lady fingers or a decent but low-fat cake. Don't use those little short-cake hockey pucks you find in the produce aisle. They have a chemical taste and feels like a dry sponge. For whipped cream, Redi-whipped cream is pretty low-cal, not low fat, but you don't need a lot. Spoon some of the syrup over the cream, lady fingers and strawberries and enjoy. The whole thing takes about 10 minutes to make and about 20 minutes to macerate.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Health Slaw

Memorial Day Weekend is about to begin, and so is the start of the movie & barbecue season. Over the next few days, I'll be posting a few healthier versions of picnic and barbecue favorite recipes, with lighter and decidedly more veggie friendly ingredients. I love the side salads almost as much as I love the hamburgers, hot dogs, ribs, barbecue chicken and grilled steaks. The problem with all of this kind of food is that it's fattening, full of bad for you stuff and packs on the carbs. I often feel bloated and carb over-loaded, leaving me with a food-hangover and craving more.


This recipe is nothing too new or difficult. Another one of those "Why didn't I think of this before?" kinds of recipes, with infinite variations. My particular version is a quick Asian Style Health Slaw - nearly fat free and oh so tasty. For an even simplier version, use a pre-cut bag of coleslaw and a good bottle of fat-free or light salad dressing. Paul Newman has a light Sesame Dressing that is out of this world! Feel free to chop your own cabbage - like a nice Napa or softer Asian style cabbage, as opposed to the crisper heavier bowling ball heads of white or pale green cabbages. Or buy the pre-cut/shredded coleslaw mixtures found in the produce aisle near the bagged salads. The pre-cut cabbage mix is quick and easy and cheap - words and foods I like!


Ingredients:


  • 1 Large Bag (8 ounces) Pre-Cut Coleslaw Mix (with shredded carrots)

  • 1/2 Cup Rice Vinegar or Mirin

  • 2 Tablespoons Low Sodium Soy Sauce

  • 2 Tablespoons Lime Juice

  • 3-4 Dashes Hot Sauce - such as Tabasco (use more or less according to how spicy you would like the vinaigrette to be)

  • 1 Garlic Clove - minced

  • 1/2 Tablespoon Ginger - minced

  • 1/4 Teaspoon Freshly Ground Pepper

  • 2 Tablespoons Sesame Oil

  • 1/4 Cup Sesame Seeds - Toasted


Directions:


  1. Put coleslaw mixture into a large bowl or container.

  2. In a mixing bowl or cup, combine the vinegar through the freshly ground black pepper, and whisk thoroughly.

  3. In a slow steady stream, whisk in the sesame oil.

  4. Pour the mixture over the coleslaw mix and toss to combine.

  5. Sprinkle the sesame seeds into the coleslaw and toss to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding more vinegar, soy, pepper, etc. Keep in mind the coleslaw will release some water as it sits - so use salt or soy sauce sparingly when adding more to the mix.

  6. Refrigerate at least 20 minutes to overnight. When ready to serve, toss well. Serves 8 as a side salad.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Ride of Silence

Today was the 3rd Annual Ride of Silence in Philadelphia, sponsored by the Bicycle Coalition of Philadelphia. It is an event where cyclists worldwide ride in a silent slow-paced ride (max. 12 mph/20 kph) in honor of those who have been injured or killed while cycling on public roadways. I've seen the procession once before have never participated. This was my first time and it was truly awe-inspiring. Those of you who know me well, you know that I'm hardly ever silent - not even when I sleep - I've been told I'm quite the loud snorer. You'd be proud - I kept quiet throughout the entire 8 mile ride in Center City, Old City, University City and back to the Art Museum where the ride began and ended.
The weather was brisk and breezy, and it was more than the wind giving me the chills. Riding with about 300 other cyclists, in complete silence was mind boggling. Major streets were temporarily closed as we proceeded along the route. Since it wasn't rush hour, the traffic sounds and snarls weren't too overt. Buses, pedestrians, even other cyclists stood along the streets, mouths agape, wondering what what the heck this mass bike ride was. The loudest sounds I heard other than the ambient sounds of traffic and building mechanicals were camera phones snapping photos of the riders. Occasionally I over-heard a cellphone conversation while the person walked along in complete oblivion to his or her surroundings. The neatest sound of the ride occurred at a stop between 5th and 6th Street on Spruce. Because the street gets narrow we created a bottleneck of a bicycle traffic jam. The police escort probably also had to stop the cross traffic, and we wre paused for five minutes. As everyone started to peddle again, you could hear gears shifting and the click clap clop of several hundred pairs of bike cleats clicking into their respective bike peddle clips. Kind of like urban horse hooves on city streets.

Here are a few of the photos along the ride. Ghost Bike that led the ride throughout Philadelphia. A Ghost Bike is bike painted white and placed in memoriam to cyclists killed at the location where they died. I spotted one in Brookly during the Bike New York 5 Boro Ride.Child's Ghost Bike, in memoriam, at the Art Museum Steps. The procession of riders as we headed down the Parkway on "Rolling Closed" Streets. I think there were about 300 Cyclists who participated.

Bicycle Traffic along 6th & Spruce Streets. Share the Road.

Riding down Chestnut Street with the Skyline in front of us - Drexel University 33rd & Chestnut.

Heading back towards the Art Museum and to the famous steps, where we raised our bikes for 45 seconds in honor of those riders we lost in the past year, and in victory of our ride.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Limoncello Mint Mojitos


It's warmer weather and I'm feeling nostalgic for all things Italian and Spoleto. This time last year, we were hoping and wondering if a Spoleto trip was going to happen for the summer. By Memorial Day, or within a few days after, we got the great news, Donald Nally's American Chorus was invited to the Spoleto Festival. Liz was very busy helping to plan the trip, get folks lined up for the chorus, and I just got to tag along and enjoy every exciting moment leading up to and during the three glorious weeks we spent from June 24rd to July 12th in Italy. What's this got to do with my post and photo? A lot! Besides the indulging in so many fantastic Italian meals, gelato's, espressos, pastries, and wines, there were a few aperitifs that are also quintessentially Italian - Limoncello. It is sinfully easy to make on your own, and no trattoria, osteria, ristorante or train stazionne is without their own homemade bottle. One night this past February we dined at one of our favorite South Philadelphia Italian Restaurants, Paradiso, on Passyunk Avenue. At the end of the meal, the owner bought us a round of limoncellos, prompting sighs and remembrances of summers past. It also inspired me to make my own batch, which is what is in the photograph. Not a science specimen jar full of alien worm creatures, but a batch of 100 proof vodka and the peels from about 10 Meyer Lemons. It takes about a week to infuse the vodka with the lemon essence. The vodka begins to turn yellow within a few hours. After a week, the vodka is fully infused and you're ready to mix it with a simple syrup and begin enjoying a causal sip whenever you desire. I made a lot of limoncello, and actually, while it is good, it's really strong. I've had the jar in the refrigerator since February and have only now just begun to enjoy it. What finally prompted me to break out the bottle was having a guest over to dinner this past weekend. Realizing that the limoncello was too powerful, I thought about another way to serve it and tame its bitter punch. I thought about a cocktail I could make that would be tasty and not too sweet. Mint came to mind, I have a lot growing wild in my garden. Mint and lemon is a beautiful combination and voila! An Italian version of a Mojito was born. The mint, some additional fresh lemon peel and juice, a touch of sugar and a splash of seltzer water is the perfect balance of bitter, sweet and sour all at once. Here are the recipes for making your own batch of lemon sunshine and my version of a Lemon and Mint Mojito.
For the Limoncello:
  • Step 1 Ingredients:
  • 1 - 750 ml Bottle 100 Proof Vodka or Evercleer (which is harder to find in Pennsylvania)
  • 10 - 15 Lemons - unblemished, free of dyes, wax or pesticides
  • 1 large Glass Bottle or Jar that can hold 8 Cups of Liquid - scrupulously washed and dried
Step 2 Ingredients
  • 1 Cup Sugar
  • 1 Cup Water
  • 1 Sauce Pan
Directions:
  1. Wash and pat dry the lemons.
  2. Peel the lemons with a very sharp paring knife or a good vegetable peeler. Try to get only the yellow skins of the lemons and not any of the white pith underneath the surface. Use the whole lemons for another use, or juice them and freeze the lemon juice.
  3. Put all the lemon peels in the glass jar.
  4. Cover the lemon peels with 100 proof vodka or if you are able to find it, Evercleer (Moonshine/Grain Alcohol). Feel free to use an inexpensive vodka, as you will be infusing it with lemon oils and sweetening it with sugar. There really is no need to spend big bucks on a bottle of Stoly, Absolute, Grey Goose or Belevdeer. I looked into to this a great deal, and almost all the recipes I found used the cheapest vodka! I compromised, and bought Smirnoff, which has been taste rated higher than the popular expensive brands. Plus, it was easier to find 100 proof Smirnoff than any other brand at the PA State Stores.
  5. Seal, close and store the jar of vodka and lemon peels in a cool, dark, dry place - such as a cabinet away from any heat sources.
  6. Let the vodka sit for at least one week or up to 3 months.
  7. Occasionally check on the bottle, and give it a shake from time to time. The vodka will begin to turn yellow from the oils in the lemon peels within a few hours. Honestly, the vodka will be sufficiently infused within 10 days. However, some folks like to let it sit for months. It's entirely up to you!
Step 2 - Making the Limoncello Sweet and Ready to Drink:
  1. Once the vodka has infused with the lemon peels essence, it's time to strain out the peels and add in some sugar.
  2. Use a fine mesh strainer and carefully strain out the lemon peels, pouring the vodka into a clean container. Press on the lemon peels to extract all of the liquid. At this point the lemon peels have given up all of their oils and essence. You can either throw them away, or reserve them for another use - such as finely mincing them or pureeing them in a food processor with sugar and using the limoncello sugar in a cake, ice cream, sorbet or other dessert recipe.
  3. In a small sauce pan, add one cup of sugar and one cup of water and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Swirl the pan a little and let the sugar dissolve completely in the water. Do not boil! Once the sugar has completely dissolved, turn off the heat and let this mixture cool. This is your simple sugar syrup.
  4. After the simple syrup has completely cooled, you can add it to the vodka. Pour the vodka into clean glass jars and shake to combine the syrup. Refrigerate or freeze until ready to serve. Enjoy the limoncello icy cold, straight up or in my version of a Mojito.
Italian Mint Limoncello Mojitos
Ingredients:
  • 1/4 Cup Mint Leaves- loosely packed
  • 1 Tablespoon Sugar
  • Peels of 1 Medium Lemon - yellow only, no white pith
  • Juice of 1 Lemon
  • 1 Cup Limoncello
  • Ice
  • Mint Springs for Garnish - optional
  • Seltzer water - to top off drinks
Equipment Needed:
  • Cocktail Shaker with Strainer
  • Wooden Spoon or Muddler
  • 4 Martini, Champagne Glasses or Fluted Style Wine Glasses
Directions:
  1. Add the mint leaves, sugar, lemon peel and lemon juice to a cocktail shaker and muddle it with a mint muddler or the handle of a wooden spoon. This helps to release the oils from the mint and lemon, and will also help the sugar to dissolve.
  2. Add enough ice to the shaker to fill it completely.
  3. Pour in the limoncello, close the shaker tightly and shake vigorously.
  4. Strain the cocktail into 4 glasses, filling each 1/4 to 1/2 way and top with seltzer water and a spring of mint. Serves 4.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Super Quick Pasta, Vegetable Tomato Protein Goodness

Here's a Super Quick and Good for you pasta meal: Sauteed Zucchini, Squash, Bell Pepper, Chick Pea/Garbanzo Beans and Diced Tomatoes over whole wheat rotinni pasta. Add low-fat, or fat free shredded cheddar or mozzarella or a few gratings of Parmesan cheese. This is not an original recipe, I'm sure I've seen versions of it in various cooking magazines such as Everyday Food or even while I've been perusing the Better Homes and Garden Magazines while waiting in the supermarket check out line. Make 10 Man Pleasing Meals in 10 Minutes for under a Dollar! Or - Yes! You can make these adorable matching housecoats, curtains, and doll clothes for you, you daughter and cat from only one old tablecloth remnant!



I get tired of eating the same vegetables and need to find new ways to enjoy squash and zucchini. Slices, bias cuts, fun shapes, julienne, or dicing the veggies just isn't cutting it anymore. I'm getting bored with alternating between grilling, sauteing and baking. I don't want all of my meals turning into Mexican, Italian or Asian versions of chili either. So - I pulled out a couple of cans from the pantry and made a lot of something out of a few ingredients. It's great for lunch or a side dish, and packs in all the essentials - good carbs from the whole wheat pasta. Lycopene in the tomatoes. Two portions of vegetables - tomatoes and squash. Protein combining - garbanzo beans and the whole wheat pasta. It's low fat and has a lot of taste and makes enough sauce to not be dry and need extra olive oil, but not too much sauce that you feel like you are eating another bowl of spaghetti. And it comes together in about 15 minutes.



Ingredients:


  • 1/2 Pound Uncooked Whole Wheat Rotinni

  • 2 Large Zucchini - large dice or bias cut

  • 1 Large Yellow Squash - large dice or bias cut

  • 1 Large Red Bell Pepper - large julienne slices

  • 1 Can (14-16 ounces) Garbanzo Beans - Drained and Rinsed

  • 1 Can (14-16 ounces) Diced Tomatoes

  • 1 Tablespoon Italian Seasoning

  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil - divided

  • Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper to taste


Directions:


  1. Cook pasta in a large pot of salted water until al dente. When pasta is done, drain, but don't rinse the pasta and set aside to keep warm.

  2. While the pasta is cooking, heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a medium or large non-stick saute pan over medium-high heat until the oil shimmers. Add in half of the cut veggies and saute for 5 minutes or until the veggies begin to soften and take on a hint of color. Remove veggies from the pan and set aside. Repeat with the remaining vegetables, sauteing the over medium high heat.

  3. Remove the vegetables from the pan and add to the first sauteed batch.

  4. In the same pan, add in the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and heat it until it shimmers - about 30 seconds. Add the tablespoon of Italian seasoning to the pan and toast for a few seconds. Next, add in the garbanzo beans and saute for 1 minute. Add in the can of diced tomato and stir to combine. Bring mixture just to a boil and then add back in the squash and zucchini. Stir to thoroughly combine. Heat the mixture through for about 5 to 8 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

  5. Add the vegetable/garbanzo bean/tomato mixture to the cooked pasta. Serve hot immediately with low-fat or fat-free cheddar or mozzarella or grated Parmesan cheese.

Friday, May 9, 2008

A Weekend in New York

I realize now that it's been almost a week since I wrote about my big biking weekend in New York City for the Commerce Bank 5 Boro Tour New York. It was an amazing and exhilarating weekend. I made it through all 45 miles (42 to the Festival and 3 more to the Staten Island Ferry). I commuted several times to Brooklyn, where I was graciously put up by friends, Maureen and Michael. I walked through Manhattan, from Mid-town down through the East Village, The Bowery, Chelsea, through the West Village and back uptown again. Discovered beautiful hidden and off the beaten path gardens, a 19th Century Cemetery, a lot of street art, delightful cafes and loads of famous sights that I've wanted to see. And then there was the 30,000 plus people riding through the streets of New York and beyond riding from 6:30 in the morning until close to 5 pm. What an experience! I met so many friendly people, all of us out to enjoy the day and share the camaraderie of cycling.
The morning started out cold, damp and dreary, with rain poised to pour down and wash out the ride. I was prepared for the weather's worst and was surprised by the fact that it did not rain, and that it cleared up. The sun came out as I was heading past the Brooklyn Bridge to ride along the river thoroughfare towards the Veranzano Narrows Bridge. The day wasn't without its problems though; there were many delays, bicycle traffic jams and bottlenecks. The start of the ride was delayed for those of us waiting in the second or third section of the riders. We waited for well over an hour, closer to an hour and a half, at the holding area in front of Ground Zero/World Trade Center area at Trinity and Liberty Streets. Allowing 30,000 riders to start riding at 8 am is a massive undertaking. Once we were able to take off we made excellent time riding up the Avenue of the Americas until we were then held off at 53rd street before we could progress into and around Central Park. Other traffic standstills where I had to literally walk my bike for blocks on end were at bridge and highway ramp entrances and along Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. Overall I think I lost about 2 hours of time, which delayed me getting to the festival in Staten Island. I was so worried about my travel time to the Ferry, into lower Manhattan, back to Brooklyn to my friends' apartment to pick up my gear before turning around and heading back to Manhattan to catch my 7 pm train home; I completely missed the festival. I was unable to enjoy any of the fun, food and goodies at the end of the ride. I reached Maureen and Michael's apartment around 5 pm, exhausted, hungry and in near tears. Luckily, Michael is a calm and rational guy. He set out a bowl of chili and a glass of water and made sure I sat and ate before running out again. Turns out I did have enough time, about 50 minutes to spare, but during the finish of the ride, I just didn't know what the what was - timing felt so critical. There weren't enough signs indicating that there were 3 more miles to go before you reached the ferry, bike rental returns, and a few more waits before cyclists could continue along the car-free streets for safe travel. There were long lines of people waiting at the Festival stands. It was crowded and I was out of gas. I needed a cold drink, some protein and a shot of carbs to aid in my recovery. Riding the ferry gave me a bit of time to relax. Just having a half hour to sit and not move was a bit of a help. Even though I had the stamina for the entire ride, I just didn't allow myself time to relax and get enough to eat at the end of the day. Next time - I'll have to prepare and conserve for the end of the ride.
Over-all the ride was a lot of fun. I met some very nice people at the beginning of the ride - MacKenzie, her father Phil, and her relatives Mary and Scott. Unfortunately, I lost them somewhere around 55th Street, when I made a pit stop at Starbucks for a morning jolt. I thought I might catch up with them again somewhere along the ride, but with a crowd of 10's of thousands in front and behind me, it was nearly impossible to see the same folks more than once. I chatted with some other folks through Central Park - families who were sporting bike jersey's from the Philadelphia and Bucks County area. Met a few more local folks in Harlem - two guys calling themselves Frick and Frack - Rick and Frank.
During the ride I tried not to get caught up with trying to go too fast or worrying about having lost my new riding buddies. Mostly I just allowed myself to enjoy the scenery. It was cool to see so many parts of New York that I would have otherwise never visited. Riding into Harlem was a real thrill - it's so beautiful there now, not at all the abandoned land I remember from twenty years ago. Williamsburg is charming. Multi-national and generational families were standing along their apartment high rises and promenades waving and cheering to the riders. It was an interesting ride through DUMBO, to see where the old warehouses and factories are either being razed or converted into condos. Next time I probably get to this area, it will be completely developed. Lofts, stores, restaurants will be along the riverfront and it won't look like what I saw during my ride. The ride through Staten Island, was charming and bucolic. There were tree-lined streets bursting with spring pink and green. The beach-town smells of the ocean and river were blowing at my face. There is a real feeling of small-town All-American Patriotism in Staten Island. It truly was a high-point of the day.
My entire weekend was filled with the unexpected. New York offers itself like a treasure chest ready to be opened to the visitor willing investigate. There are delights hidden in plain sight. I found several quiet gardens tucked behind iron gates and 19th Century Brick and Marble walls. Every time I looked up I would see great graffiti or signage of a bygone eras that still tells a tale of a city vital in its past and still energized in the present. When I reached Philadelphia, I was able to really appreciate the buzz and zing of New York in comparison to the sleepy gentility of my quiet city. Philadelphia is the perfect place to come home to and decompress from an adventure filled-weekend.
Spring in Madison Square Park -
23rd Street - 5th Avenue and Madison Avenue, near the Flat Iron Building
New York Marble Cemetery - a hidden garden along 2nd Avenue. You walk down a short alley way, and into an open grass area, which is surrounded all around by buildings and a few high rises. The walls along the cemetery are inlaid with marble grave markers, indicating who is buried beneath in vaults.
Crumpler - a hand-made bag store -
maker of cool bike messenger bags. I liked the logo and the BIKE! Message.
Vesuvio Bakery - 160 Prince Street in the Village.
It's one of my favorite spots in New York City.
The Artist - Invader, and one of his street art mosaics. Green Street at Hudson. My friend, Michael Osman, who lives in Paris, has many photos of Invader's work that he has discovered along the boulevards and Rue Des Paris. I've been wanting to discover Invader's art for myself for a while now, and was pleased to document my first treasure!
Junior's, a Landmark Restaurant in Brooklyn. I've only been there once, but it was such a good meal and a great dinner, the restaurant is a must-see destination in Brooklyn.
Bikers on a tandem ride - one of many I spotted along the tour. This is at Battery Park, before the start of the ride, around 7:15 am.
The cheering section along the Avenue of Americas. These two guys were full of jokes and bad puns. Nothing like a couple of queens in drag on tricycles cheering on 30,000 bicyclists.

One of several spots where we had to walk, rather than ride, our bikes along a bicycle jammed street. This is entering upper Manhattan after a brief visit into the Bronx.


Rest stop with the Skyline behind us and across the river.

My riding companions - Mary, from Littleton Colorado, MacKenzie, who lives in Brooklyn, and her husband's cousin, Scott. Her father, Phil, was somewhere else and missed out on having his photo taken. In the background, is the construction sight of the World Trade Center. It was an eerie place in the morning, with mist and fog shrouding the sight. At one point during the long wait, I looked down at the ground and up at the buildings and was just awestruck at what it must have been like at this spot seven years ago. Ghostly.

Businessman statue at Trinity and Liberty Streets.

A bit incongruous with all the bicycles around it.

Making it to the end of the line - Festival at Staten Island.

One of several fun signs I spotted in and around New York

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Loading up the bike and heading on the road


This is the big 5 Borough Ride in New York City. I'm so excited about my first big ride, with 30,000 people through 42 miles of the streets of New York - Manhattan, Harlem, The Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island. I'll be heading up on Saturday morning, taking the train, and the ride is on Sunday morning. I am not actually taking this bike in the photo, or even the bike I ride on a regular basis - I've opted to rent a bike so I don't have to deal with the hassle of hauling a bike on trains and subways through Philadelphia and New York.

My training for the triathlon and general weight loss are definitely giving me a fitness edge. Last week I rode 30 plus miles home from Paoli and I wasn't exhausted. This week I worked out four times, swimming, weight training, running and biking at the gym. Friday I rode 27 miles (including my 4 mile round trip commute to work). The NYC 42 mile ride could be a breeze - I HOPE! Butt fatigue and possibly getting too wet from the potential rain forecast might be my biggest personal obstacles.

Riding, or any physical activity lately feels so good, though not necessarily easier; I can push myself a little harder and go a lot further. Hills aren't taking all the wind out of my lungs. My legs can handle inclines without the lactic acid burn building in my muscles. There's a subtle toning and definition happening to my body - especially in my arms. It's cool, and I am truly enjoying getting into the work outs and liking my routines. It's been helping my moods and helping me to really like myself in a whole new way. My energy levels are higher and I'm not having the crash and burn mood swings I used to experience before that were most likely brought on by sugar, a bad diet and lack of sleep. Why didn't I discover this joyful feeling years ago? At least I'm enjoying it now. When I return home, I'll post photos and stories about the experience. New York, here I come!