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Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Bicycle-Chef Goes to The Farmers' Market and makes SALSA

Being Extrodinary!

The Bicycle-Chef's ride!
I've started teaching again, in Collingswood, at a new Adult Enrichment Center called ExtrodinaryED.  It just opened at the end of May and the basic concept is, it's a retail space, geared towards having people drop in, take a class, or shop in their store, much like one would do if they were going to a gym.  Classes are scheduled 6 days a week, from 11 am to 8 pm, and courses range from craft DIY's, Understanding your dog's behavior, motivation and focus classes for teenagers, Quieting the Monkey Brain via relaxation techniques, resume and career building.  Drop in, take a class, buy a membership, it's up to the participants to find what works best for them. The center offers "1 hour classes, 6-hour classes (broken into 3-two hour sessions) and Specialty Programs where curious people can connect with exceptional instructors to create lively and memorable learning experiences."

My offerings so far are Knife Skills and a Beat the Heat Cooking Class.  I'm hoping to add in other fun and entertaining culinary related courses.  I saw an ad on Facebook for ExtrodinaryEd that they were looking for instructors.  I submitted my resume and class proposals and voila! I was contacted to attend an instructors orientation session.  After that meeting, I wrote up a knife skills syllabus and had my class offered twice; one weeknight evening in June and again on a Saturday afternoon.  

 Today, I was asked to come to the Collingswood Farmers' Market to do a knife skills demonstration and to help promote ExtrodinaryED.  I happily obliged, knowing it would be good for business and help get more people attending my class.  Plus, I love being at the Market.  6 months living here and I'm well on my way to becoming a town regular!

Extrodinary Lauren
The Bicycle-Chef in action
We were located at the far end of the market, along with the Farmers' Market table, the big bakery, DiBartollo's, as well as near the music and entertainment area.  We didnt' meet everyone who was at the market, but we did talk to a lot of people, giving out information, bags, pens, and yoyo's! I got to demonstrate some knife skills techniques, chopping up a variety of vegetables and I made a quick salsa, utilizing the things I was chopping.  People love to eat and they love free food, so it was a good way to show off my skills and a non-cooking cooking technique.

Lobster in a Pot and a Brown Creature -
actors promoting events at the Perkins Cener for the Arts
Mr. LiveStrong

During the quieter moments, I people watched, taking in the sights and characters wandering through the Market on this gloriously sunny and humidity-free day!  I've been to the market 5 out of the last 6 weeks, and each time I always see the guy in the yellow LiveStrong ensemble.  I've talked to him once, asking him if he was a LiveStrong fundraiser and participant.  He is a cyclist, but he said he doesn't do the Armstrong ride.  I've yet to talk to him more and actually add his portrait to my collection of cyclist photos.  Didn't seem like the right time today either, I'll chat him up soon enough.

Quick Summer Salsa
I'll share my quick salsa recipe - since it was a big hit and I made it several times throughout the morning.  You can make it quickly and easily, using a handful of ingredients.  Which is good to have realized, you don't need to make a big batch, you can make enough for one meal and you don't need to breakout and use your Magic Bullet Blender (though it would be fun and I totally want one of those crazy blender thingys!) The ingredients are enough to make for 1-2 people, add more ingredients to make larger batches, or click here for my mango salsa recipe or peach salsa recipe.

Quick Salsa Ingredients:

  • 1 Plum Tomato - Seed & Small Dice
  • 1/2 Small Onion - Small Dice
  • 1/2 Small Jalapeno - Seed & Mince
  • 1/4 Red or Green Bell Pepper - Seed & Small Dice
  • 1/2 Lime - Zest and Juice
  • 1 Tablespoon (handful of) Cilantro - Rough Chop
  • 1/2 Garlic Clove - Minced (about a teaspoon)
  • Pinch of Salt and Dash of Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • 2 Dashes Hot Sauce - or to taste


  1. Wash, peel, seed vegetables and then cut, dice, mince as indicated.  
  2. As you cut the vegetables, put them into a small mixing bowl.
  3. Add in the lime zest and juice and season to taste with the salt, pepper and hot sauce; stir to combine.
  4. Refrigerate to chill and to let the flavors meld together, preferably for 1 hour.  Flavors will develop and the salsa will taste better if you let it sit for a bit, however, you can use this immediately. Serve with chips or over grilled chicken, pork, fish or tofu!
  5. Will hold for up to 3 days, covered and refrigerated.
  6. If you have fruit, like peaches, blueberries, watermellon, etc, toss it in! The salsa will be EXTRODINARY!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

If you could be anywhere in the world right now...

Friday night, June 1, 2012 - A day filled with many modes of transportation and events.  Biked with The Original Sue in the morning, leaving my house at 6 am to head to the Philly.  Started our ride at 6:40 am, completing two loops around the art museum and was at work by 8:30 am.

Biked home back to New Jersey.  Rode a total of 28 miles for the day.  Quick nap, showered, changed and headed back to Philly again for round 2: 6 pm Transformation Art Opening at Flying Kite Media 4017 Lancaster Avenue.

7 pm it was time to go back to Center City: grabbed a coupla slices at Joe's Pizza 16th and Sansom, an Espresso from Elixir Coffee so I could stay awake for the 8 pm Opening of The Opera Company of Philadelphia's Premier of DARK SISTERS.  10:30 pm Capped off the evening at Sotto Varallo for the Opera Company's after party.

It took 3 modes of transportation and some hoofing to reach 40th and Lancaster Avenue; drove my car to the NJ High Speed line (I didn't want to drive into the City, as we had one car in town already!); hopped on the EL to 15th Street/City Hall Station then took the 10 Trolley to Lancaster Avenue, where I then walked 8 blocks up to Flying Kite Media's art and office space.  I didn't realize the trolley went right by the space, so I got off it as soon as I saw Lancaster Avenue. My feet hurt because I was wearing wedge sandals, but the walk was full of great finds.  I found a few art installations as well as a few architectural gems.

As I strolled up Lancaster Avenue I took a few photos and made a mental note to bike back up to this forgotten and (to me) largely unknown area of West Philadelphia.  

Street Art installations are in abundance.  I photographed one of two I saw along 35th and 38th Streets along Lancaster.  Tied to two poles was a length of string with notes attached by clothes pins.  In the center was basket with paper, pens and extra clothes pins to use.

The basket had a question written on it that said, "If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you be?" 
Answers were pinned onto the string, varying from one-word "Israel" to more prosaic thoughts.  Most were filled with longing and wishes for loved ones to be there with them.

As I got closer to my destination, I found more fascinating art and buildings.  It feels like a secret underground of art and culture, more cutting edge than what's going on in Northern Liberties, Fishtown and Kennsington.  Those areas are hot beds of art, culture and life, always in the news; whereas what's happening in Powelton Village is much less profiled.  

Part of the reason why I was heading up to this area was to attend an art opening at Flying Kite Media's newest space.  I'm going to be involved with their online magazine, contributing articles and ideas as well has having blog be featured on their website!  I hope to have more information to share on this exciting new venture/partnership soon.  The brand I've created here on The Bicycle-Chef is a great fit with what Flying Kite Media does - highlighting the interesting and off the wall. My involvement will continue to push forward my creative finds, bicycling around Philadelphia and South Jersey along with the fun stories, interesting characters, things and places I find along my bicycle sojourns.

If the findings in Powelton Village are any indication of the stories and photos I can continue to document, I should be able to fill another blog with the  treasure trove of forgotten Philadelphia landmarks in West Philadelphia.  Places like a row of homes, at a cross roads section of Lancaster Avenue was one of the more unusual buildings I've seen in Philadelphia.  It was 3 stories high with a false top, curved, almost rounded at its center entrance. The building was ornate and embellished.  The above photo is a detail adornment on part of  a row of homes, a sort of bas relief of an Art or Neo Deco frieze.
The main building turned out to be Hawthorne Hall - 39th and Lancaster Avenue, a former lumber yard, apartment building and a one-time school building for Drexel University.
 The building is deteriorating as quickly as the days pass by; much of its ornamental detail has either been stripped away, fallen off or lost to time and vandals.  

An art collaborative has taken over another part of the building. Artists have added their own decorative elements to the facade.  I believe this is all part of the revitalization of the area.  Across the street, on the exterior of another abandoned building, some familiar Philly street artists have put their touch on the building.  Since the work is so large, I wonder if if were intentionally installed? Was it an arts request proposed to these street artists? The giant, highly detailed black and white drawing/wheat paste that looks like a Santanna album cover or a work by Gaia is the biggest I've found in Philadelphia to date.

The transformation of Powelton Village is slow but thoughtful.  Little details like this broken and reused blue glass and tile landscaping around a city tree is an effective cover that adds an artistic element to an otherwise dreary sidewalk.

Other cityscapes up here make little sense, such as poorly reusing the old West Philadelphia Title and Trust Company Building, an anchor at the crossroads of Lancaster Avenue and 40th Street.  Compared to how many billboards that use to cover this magnificent facade, this building sort of looks like it did in the early 1900's.  This old neighborhood is in dire need of an infusion of money, hope and jobs.

By the time I made it to Flying Kite Media's newest space there was already a crowd of artists, media people and friends, most of whom, especially in the case of the artist who's works are on exhibit, are all locals, living in Philadelphia's 19104 area - aka, West Philadelphia/University City/Powelton Village.  Flying Kite Media's aim is to transform an unknown or forgotten area by bringing attention to it via art, media insights and social media presence.  Their first event in October transformed a storefront on South Street into an art gallery.  The space at 4017 Lancaster is an art gallery, meeting space, offices, media hub and neighborhood outpost with the aim of bringing neighbors together.  The work that Flying Kite Media is doing is helping to bring the community together, giving the area a social and media presence. Flying Kite is also giving a voice to the people here who are doing the valuable revitalizing work to truly transform this neighborhood into something special.  It's positively inspiring!
Photo from Flying Kite Media's Facebook page, photo by Bailey Elizabeth.
Changing venues and trolley's again, I headed into Center City for the last event of the night, The Premier of DARK SISTERS.  We attended the Opera Company of Philadelphia's after-party for Dark Sisters.  Above is a  photo I snapped with my camera phone, of Nico Muly, the composer and the Wunderkind of the opera world.  Attending the premier of Dark Sisters deserves its own post, but I'll leave that up to the critics, reviewers and opera buffs of the world to dissect and discuss.  I enjoyed the opera very much, the casting and vocals of the women and leading male protagonist were well cast. The performers did a remarkable job with a difficult subject matter of polygamy - the sister wives of a cult sect of Mormons.  Our best friend, Jennifer Check, was one of the five wives, so while I am extremely biased towards her amazing performance, I'm not so enamored of the opera not to realize that it could be better - tighter, with better orchestration and transitions from one half to the other.  The review in the Wednesday edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer said better what I felt but couldn't quite put into words.  

It was a whirlwind day and night. If I could have been anywhere in the world, I still would have chosen all the places I traveled in this one day! For this day in my life, I was in all the right places at all the right times!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Another Tour de Staten Island

We went up to Staten Island over Memorial Day weekend to visit with Liz's mom, Maggie.  I brought along my bike, just in case the weather was good and if there was time for a bike ride down to the beach and the Verrazano Bridge riding trails.  Both occurred; the weather cooperated with a sunny, warm Memorial Day and I had about 2 hours to wander along the beaches and trails.  

Maggie lives at the south end of the Island,  in Great Kills.  As I've written and photographed before, this area is very close to several beach access points.  There's a seashore park and trail within five miles of the house.  I  love to ride over to this park; the biking is great, nice and flat and there are lots of places to explore.  I also love going to the various beaches because I almost always come back from an excursion with a pocket full of sea glass. 

Granted, the beaches are filthy at some of the spots where I tend to go beach combing for sea glass.  I doubt anyone wants to swim in the water or lay about on the beaches.  I think it tends to be used for no-good: drinking, carousing and whatnot.  I also think this area of beach gets a lot of trash washed upon its shores from the harbors.  It's dirty and this weekend was one of the worst trash heaps on the beach I've noticed in the two years that I've been wandering them.   

I found a lot of typical trash, old pieces of all manner of plastics; car parts; discarded sd camera cards; beer cans, booze bottles, tooth brushes.  It's gross.  You can also find a lot of broken glass, most of which has been tumbled,  worn smooth and frosted by the tides.  I tend to find a lot of sea glass, nearly all of it is "ready", that is, frosted and the edges ground down.  I also find huge pieces, the sort of stuff that you never find along the family beaches at the Jersey Shore.  In addition, I find colours that are nearly impossible to find; dark champagne bottle greens, light blues and pale greens. Of course, I find way too many common browns, greens and clear pieces too, but sometimes these are large chunks and oftentimes they have some patterns or lettering. Last year and this past visit I came home with a plastic  sandwich bag filled with beach treasure.

It's a sad commentary on the amount of debris that washes up on these beaches.  I'm not so certain that I should be happy about my finds but I do take away a measure of pleasure.  This amount of beach glass would take me years to accumulate if I were to look for it in Ocean City,  Sea Isle, New Jersey, or along the Gulf Coast in Florida.  The haul I took home this past Memorial Day equals about half of the amount I have collected over the past ten years.  Not bad for a half an hours beach combing!

After I filled my pockets with "sea change", I biked over to the boardwalk and then rode through the Verrazano Bridge trail to the old Fort Wadsworth.  Sitting under and next to the Verrazano Bridge, this is another area where I like to explore.  Usually I spend so much time at the beach that I don't have enough time to bike around the Fort.  I took a few more photos on this trip than I have on past rides, but I still didn't get to learn more about this historic site.  Most of this has been left to turn back to nature.  Old garages, greenhouses, barracks, supply houses, are all falling apart and decaying in beautiful ways.
I'd love to learn for what these out-lying buildings were once used.  From the main octagonal fort along the river are train tracks that lead out towards a building that looks like it was a supply storage house.
All of the roof is gone and a rusted skeleton remains.  This false wall facade is growing a new thatched covering of trees, weeds and climbing vines.

The giant rusted doors have an elegant beauty.  I love the texture and the multiple layer of colours in the rust.  Fort Wadsworth dates back to 1663, and was the oldest continually manned military fort in the United States.  I'm not sure that these doors date to the 1600's, My guess is that they are from the late 1800's, but still, they are marvels of man's creation.  There is style and design evident here in something so utilitarian.  Hinges, locks, and fasteners have never looked more interesting.  This reminds me of things I'd be viewing in a museum, not out in a public park preserve.  In another 50 to 100 years, I'm sure that a lot of this will still exist but Nature will have crawled and over taken much of what we can see.

Hopefully on our next mini-vacation up to the forgotten New York Borough, I'll spend more time exploring this end of Staten Island, and perhaps, I'll even bike along the Ferry and Harbor roads.  Touring via bicycle through Staten Island is a wonderful excursion.  It's a trip well worth planning a day trip to bike along during a cool morning or late afternoon.  There is a website and self-guided tour via the Tour de Staten Island and Bike NYC association. Or you can read about another great biking and writing blogger's tour here at The Bike Writer's Blog.  Check them out, or send me a question.  I can either give you tips, or if I'm there, meet you for a bike ride!