Sunday, January 29, 2012

Puzzle Competition

Yesterday my co-worker friends and I competed in the winter carnival puzzle competition with about 40 other teams. Being seasoned veterans, I kind of thought we had this figured and could complete it faster than last year. Well that is laughable in hindsight. The puzzle was significantly harder and just all around frustrating. The winners finished in an hour (last year it was 45 mins) and at the end of the 2 hour mark we were only this far:

We were allowed to stick around and finish it and we just put the last piece in with about 1 minute to spare at the 2.5 hour mark. Phew. Then we ripped it up and all went home. Better luck next year.

Monday, January 23, 2012

This winter bike commute post is a long time coming. I made it through all of last winter biking to work. It was my first full winter biking (the prior year I hung it up before the holidays and stayed off two wheels until spring had sprung). It was pretty crazy with all the snow we had. I basically rusted out every component on my bike (more on this later). Not a huge deal since I had switched over to an old mountain bike when the conditions got sloppy. The salt really did a number on it. Although we've had some snow and cold, this morning was the first true winter commute this season. Pretty amazing really how mild things have been.

The white line above represents the left side of this bike lane I take for a few blocks northbound. We had maybe 3+ inches here and as you can see it was already a mess.

Here is a typical residential street in Minneapolis. Less traffic to worry about in slippery conditions, but it's more like a cyclocross course with the ruts and piles of snow. Even with studded tires I was fishtailing a good amount.

I tend to only ride on the Midtown Greenway for a couple miles at night or if the streets are in really bad shape. The city keeps it pretty clean and it is nice and quiet.

Here is my trusty Nishiki steed corralled to a Dero Ultra Space Saver rack we had installed in one of the two secure bike cages at work. I say "we" because our bike commuter group I volunteer on petitioned for this second cage and the different rack options. Really I should call my bike Nishiki 3.0. My mother-in-law used it for recreational purposes in the 1990s then it sat in a garage for a while. Last year I had it tuned up and added the bar ends, rear rack, fenders and studded tires. This year I had it coverted to a single speed by our friend Adam. It had to be done. The chain, crankset, derailer, and many components had rusted into an unmovable mass by the end of our last winter. I feel a bit uneasy in weather like this and probably get white knuckles clutching to the handlebars at parts of the ride. However, this bike is the perfect companion for these conditions. And it's safe! With several lights (including two blue SpokeLits on the front wheel) and reflectors, I'm 100% sure I'll be biking straight through anything mother nature can throw at me again.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Homemade sea salt caramels

We made two batches of caramels from scratch using this recipe.

Ingredients and pan prepped and ready.

Combining the sugar and cream.

Make sure to use an accurate thermometer and stop cooking at 248 degrees F.

The cooled product before we finished cutting it up. The majority of the first batch we wrapped in reused butter wrappers we saved, an idea we got from our friend Jennifer. The caramels turned out quite well and weren't too hard or too chewy. Very delicious!

Sunday, January 01, 2012