Wednesday, April 21, 2010

another motorcycling milestone - 20,000 miles

Yesterday on my way home, on the express lanes just before the merge back to I-5 at Northgate to be precise, my bike turned over 20,000 miles. Obviously I have no way to take a picture while riding, so here is one I took this morning.

The last few months have been interesting, not least of which was due to the problems discovered with the bike in February. My ABS suddenly began having fits where it would turn off randomly, only turning back on after restarting the bike. Nothing in the users' manual provided any help, so I made an appointment to take the bike in to have them look at the computer. The morning I was to take the bike in, the auto-shutoff for my turn signals stopped working, which was even stranger. So I rolled into Ride West that afternoon, and the guys started looking at the bike to try and figure out what was wrong. A few minutes later one of the senior techs walked over, squinted at the bike, and then popped it up onto the center stand to show us what was wrong.

The back wheel had about 2" of play in it, meaning it was (a) knocking against the sensors that control the ABS and the turn signal shutoff and (b) in danger of falling off.

Needless to say, the bike stayed there that day and Chris had to come pick me up from the shop. They were able to order a new back wheel assembly, and this was easily covered under warranty so it did not cost me anything. However, they could not tell me how long the problem had occurred, just that it was probably gradual since I had not noticed a sudden change in how the bike handles.

When I got the bike back after the repair was complete, it was like night and day how it handled from when I dropped it off. Curves that I had been taking very slowly recently were now not a problem, turns no longer required hard braking, and the bike generally felt more stable. I had thought my slower curves/turns were simply due to a bit of lingering uneasiness from the getoff last July, but it turns out that I was unconsciously compensating for the changes in the bike's handling characteristics as the back wheel degraded over time. It's entirely possible that the wheel had started to degrade as far back as July, which means that while it was not the cause of my getoff on those steel plates, it is entirely possible that the reduced handling contributed to the accident. I'll never know for sure, unfortunately, but now I'm being extra paranoid about paying attention to the bike and how it's performing each and every time I ride it.

Now if I could just pop it up onto the center stand myself to check on it from time to time...unfortunately, that is simply beyond my abilities. I suppose that's why I have a husband!

Monday, April 19, 2010


I think I have mastered scones now.

That is a fresh-out-of-the-oven chocolate chip scone made with Ghiradelli milk chocolate chips. YUM. The recipe that I've written down below is from my friend Christy, but the comments and how I got them to work best in my kitchen are all from me.

Tasty Sugar/Cream Scones
2 3/4 - 3 cups all-purpose flour (I use King Arthur flour)
3 TB sugar1 TB baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
5 TB cold unsalted butter
1 cup heavy cream
~1/2 cup mix-in (chocolate chips, dried fruit, etc.)

This is way easier to do if you have a stand mixer and a clean surface for kneading. I've found that the beater blade attachment I bought for my Kitchenaid a while back works the best for getting the butter worked into the dry ingredients.

1. Put dry ingredients into mixer. I've found that I need a little less than the 3 cups of flour called for in the original recipe, so I've been going with about 2 3/4 cups and adding in extra if I need it. Mix up the dry ingredients a bit, then turn off mixer.2. Cut up cold butter straight out of the fridge, touching it as little as possible. If you're using a stick of butter, the trick Christy taught me is to cut it into 1/4" slices, then stand the stack up on end and cut the whole stack into quarters. Turn on the mixer (low speed) and add the butter a chunk at a time. Let mixer run a bit more until you get the "crumbly cornmeal" kind of look to the butter/dry mixture.
3. Add your mix-ins if you want to at this point. I'm using about a quarter-bag of chocolate chips per batch and that's coming out really nicely.
4. Get a spatula ready, measure your heavy cream, and pour it into the mixer while it is running. Quickly use the spatula to get the rest of the cream out of the measuring cup, as the mixer isn't going to run for very long once the cream gets incorporated. Stop mixer when it starts to complain, which will be soon.
5. Take the blade/whisk out of the mixer bowl and knock the dough off of it and back into the bowl. Knead the dough in the bowl as much as you can to get any remaining dry ingredients incorporated, then pull it out and knead it a bit more on the clean surface you have ready. Overall kneading needs to be minimized, especially if you don't have time to chill the scones before baking, but you also need to get dough evenly kneaded, so it's a balance.
6. When the kneading is done, shape the scones for baking. I have been happy with making a large round wedge about 3" thick, then cutting it into eighths with a knife. Once you've got your scone shapes, chill them for at least 2 hours and up to several days (if covered with wrap or in tupperware). This is important so that the butter in the scones won't melt before the baking takes place, as that causes collapsed and funky scones (they taste OK though).
7. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. I'm happiest using a baking stone, and that works best if the stone is also preheated to 425 before use. If I put the scones to be baked onto parchment paper, then I can leave the stone in place and just open the door and pop the paper onto the stone. Bake scones until light brown - I've found that 12 minutes gets me just a bit of browning while baking all the way through.

One batch makes 8 palm-size scones, unless you eat too much of the dough before you bake them. Which is understandable, as it's essentially cream/butter/sugar and it's TASTY. So here are the scones before baking:

And after baking is complete:

Super yummy! :D I am especially fond of hot chocolate chip scones eaten while the chips are still melty, that's what I've been having for dessert most nights for the last two weeks. The scones are easy to make and are done in about 15 minutes, and the hardest part is cutting up the butter into small pieces.

So now I've mastered bread and scones. Now if I could just master gluten-free versions of both, we'd be all set. Sadly my one attempt at GF scones was only good immediately out of the oven, they were not good once they cooled down. We'll see if I get brave enough to try again!

Monday, April 12, 2010

flyball weekend in Canada!

This past weekend was the third of our "Spring Series" of five tournaments in seven weeks, and was again up in Cloverdale, BC. This was also our third outing with our new trailer, and I think we're starting to get the hang of it. Of course, we had to make our lives more challenging by taking another two dogs with us - nothing is ever easy, after all!

This is Truck Norris, hauling our trailer, as we are stopped to fill up our water tanks at the Smokey Point rest stop on our way north to Canada. Notice Chris standing near the back of the trailer, a great reference point for the scale of it!

Six dogs fit nicely enough in the backseat of the truck, although there were some creative sleeping arrangements. Here you can see Ezri sleeping on Phoebe sleeping on Indigo, with Epic sitting up in the center and looking out the window.

Epic is a bit of a baby, plus he needs his feet wrapped before very race. Luckily the former tendency makes the latter requirement much easier to deal with - he thinks it's great to be flipped over and petted, even if it involves his feet being wrapped!

And of course, on our way home we had to hit the dump station...if we ever all caravan together, it'll take a lot longer since there's only three dump ports!

It was quite a successful weekend...Ezri earned her Flyball Master title, and Phoebe became our club's second Flyball Grand Champion 40k. There were four more titles earned within the group that went, including both Indigo (Flyball Master Champion) and Epic (Flyball Dog Champion Gold) who traveled with me. Now, if we could just have some warm weather to go with the dry sunshine we enjoyed last weekend.....