Stylocycle’s Blog

Away, and Home again…
September 29, 2009, 6:00 pm
Filed under: Get outta town!

We ran away from home for the week-end so that I could present a paper at the Society for Medical Anthropology at Yale, in New Haven. Dear Spouse and I rarely get away together, so this was an especially cherished conference jaunt. I did a fair amount of work, intaking the wisdom of several plenary presentations, being choosy in attending sessions, connecting with new folks and re-connecting with colleagues from long ago.
There will be loads of developments that arise out of the week-end, no doubt.
However, I’m first going to have to get over the flu that I seem to have picked up from the coughing jerk on the plane. I had to leave my grad students to their own devices with a film and email comments yesterday while I tried to sleep off much of the fever, hacking, sniffling etc. Thanks mister.
[Side note: I am so grateful I do not live somewhere that the desperation levels are so saturating the general population that purchasing cold medication requires handing over my passport and having my purchase logged onto my passport.]
Anyway, it was a great trip. We flew into Newark and rented a car (because it was cheaper and gave more freedom for two people than if we had just taken the shuttle to New Haven). We drove along the coast on Saturday and got in some time on the seaside, and a stop at a roadside clam-shack. We also did a little shopping and I was delighted to get a new Dooney & Bourke canvas tote. I’ve nearly worn my old one out; it’s threadbare at all the edges.
We had some really horrific food on the night we landed. It was one of those situations in which you pick what’s close to the hotel. It was a step back into the heyday of 1970’s steak and seafood. An iceberg wedge with Ranch dressing was part of the meal!
Far better were the deep fried clams up the coast.
In town, however, for the duration of the conference we did manage to get well acquainted with a Yale institution: Claire’s Cornercopia, a vegetarian café. Claire’s was great, though I’d say that it still adheres to the general principle that everything in the US needs to be bigger, sweeter and/or saltier. I’m thinking of getting some Claire’s recipe books, but if I do, I’ll cut the sugar and the salt by half.
We had dinner with colleagues at Thali Too, a lovely Indian restaurant behind the Yale bookstore. I think, however, that I’d have been less likely to get hit with the flu if we’d not been sitting outside on a fairly chilly night.
Finally, Dear Spouse and I had dinner at a little place on the Green called ‘Zinc’. Zinc restored my faith in tortellini. Neither tough nor mushy, the tortellini were filled with savoury local cheeses, and served with a parsley and walnut pesto that was divinely flavourful. And astringent braised plum, with frozen plum mousse and fried pastry crême was a lovely desert for us to share. I was only disappointed by the wine selections — mostly middle-range and predictable wines from France, California and Italy. I love all those regions, but I want to have the good stuff with a good meal. I also think that Canada produces some gorgeous wines now, and there wasn’t a single one on a list that was 2 pages long.
Anyway, I enclose some photos from the trip, including one of an Electra outside Claire’s. Dear Spouse thought the Electra pretty adorable, and I admit it’s got a very cute styling to it, so even though I don’t generally find the Electra’s worth the money (IMHO, they are overly pricey bicycle-shaped objects, built for visual appeal rather than the long haul). On the upside, at least *someone* in New Haven is riding a commuter bike instead of driving everywhere. And that’s my last observation from our trip: it’s nearly impossible to get from a-to-b by foot or by bike in many US cities — even if they are short distances apart. Expressways cut off pedestrian routes, sidewalks may be completely absent, and public transit is made marginal in the grand ideology of the middle-class. New Haven has the potential to be a beautiful walking-city and cycling city, but for now, it isn’t.


K-W bicycle summit
September 23, 2009, 3:40 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Apparently even though I am afraid of driving and have no desire to learn how to do it, I do not  belong to the 60% of Canadians who are afraid to go out on the streets on their bikes. I hope that every day that I am out there I am among those that inspire others to thing about hopping on their own bikes.

Meanwhile, others are working at a more practial policy and development level to make things better for cyclists in the region. You can read about it here at :“Take the Lane”

You may also like to know that the University of Waterloo is launching a bike rental programme on campus for folks who need short-term bikes for around town.

September 23, 2009, 3:32 am
Filed under: around town

In our old ‘neighbourhood’ I used to say that every time we drove or entered through the gates into the subdivision a little piece of my soul would crystallize, break off, and fall into the cavern of my chest cavity. By contrast, in my new neighbourhood, I feel that even if I’ve had a challenging day (and today was challenging), that my soul receives a transfusion each day. I was able to start out today by walking about 15 minutes to arrive at my favourite patisserie (Sablétine) to get a rustic fruit tart and a café-au-lait to go before hopping on the bus for short ride to campus. I landed on campus secure with my tart as a mid-day snack, and with a coffee that was just right temperature-wise for drinking. I didn’t bike to work today because I had to meet someone else later for meetings on the edge of town. Bleh.
On the way home this evening, feeling a little overwhelmed by the meeting, I met dear spouse uptown and we had an Italian hot chocolate at the Princess Café, stopped in to see our friend Al (who owns LOOP clothing), and then (inspired by the aromas at the café) stopped in at the Seven Shores café to pick up some of their organic, local produce: red peppers, a collection of yellow and red grape tomatoes, and onions. Today was customer appreciation day at Seven Shores — which we didn’t realise until we got there — so they had all kinds of free food, coffee, tea, and live music. People of all ages were gathered there, infants to the very elderly, listening to music, and enjoying good company. It was a really lovely and gentle, if lively, place to be.
Once at home, I tossed all those vegies into the oven along with a nice little zucchini and some left-over raosted potato-squash, tossed in oil and lots of garlic and fresh herbs from my planters. I roasted it all until it was soft, threw in some crispy bacon pieces and sautéed shitake mushrooms and then tossed the whole thing with some pasta and topped with some freshly grated Parmegiano Regiano. FANTASTIC.

But the real highlight of my day was that while I was outside using the manual push mower to finish up the grass, yet another neighbour stopped to welcome us (!!!) to the neighbourhood. We chatted for about 10 minutes, and it just made me feel so delighted. Everyone we meeet knows about our house because it was on the market for a while and had a few open houses… so I accept that a lot of neighbours have been through the place, and they also have a good idea of what we paid for it.  So they comment on how pretty our place is inside. “Yes,” I agree with them,”but the best part is the neighbourhood.”

And I mean it.

Also, when I ride past men down here, they say things like “Holy Moly!!”. Oddly, it makes me smile just as much as when strangers smile as I go by on the Blue Beauty.

I keep misplacing the camera-cable, but when I locate it again, I’ll upload pictures of local Hallowe’en decorations. Living by a cemetery really ups the ante.

Meerkat riding
September 21, 2009, 12:30 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

I was described the other day as appearing rather like a meerkat in the upright position as I ride along on the Blue Beauty. I’ll take that!

Yesterday I and dear Spouse sneaked in a visit to the art gallery in the middle of the day. It’s lovely to live so close to *everything*.

Finally! We’re home again.
September 13, 2009, 2:31 am
Filed under: around town

OK… long absence. We’ve been moving. It’s been about 6 weeks of complete chaos, first as we filled and piled boxes, and then moved them to the new house where they were unpacked and piled outside. OK… I’m fudging things.  Truth is: we have over 200 boxes, so we are not finished unpacking or breaking them down, or giving them to our immediate neighbours who are moving to Victoria at the end of the month. But we are getting there. OUr office is now functional. Our kitchen has become the centre of our social activity again; the living room is comfortable for sitting around; the back patio is a calm and quiet location to relax after work. I think we probably still have about 30 boxes to go (books, mostly). We also have suitcases yet to unpack because having moved from a 4 bedroom condo with walk-ins and 4 bathrooms to a century home with 3 bedrooms, 3 wee closets and 1.5 baths presents some challenges. It also asks us to consider whether we *really* need that many selection in personal toiletries. Furthermore, my shoe collection is looking a little bit indulgent. No new boots for me this fall… no matter how lovely the soft over-the-knee leathers are looking this year. Not only do we not have the space, my budget can’t handle it. We had to purchase wardrobes for the mudroom in order to get the linens out of our son’s dresser. We’ve had to purchase seating for the patio, all the appliances for the house, and have various workers come to install things like: a no-salt water conditioner and purifier, a gas water heater, and our gas range. Also, the cat became ill in August with pancreatitis and there were big vet bills to get her on the road to recovery. I have a conference at Yale in a few weeks and airfare to deal with for that… so yeah: no new shoes for me!

OK! So… the neighbourhood. We adore being ‘downtown’. Here in Kitchener-Waterloo the people who live in Waterloo (where we used to be) tend to be pretty self-satisfied and uppity about not being in Kitchener. Silly people. I won’t get into the kinds of ethnocentrism and racism involved in the silliness; suffice it to say that it’s a strong subtext. We never should have lived in Waterloo, in a 20 year-old suburb, in an area without adequate bus service, or community gathering places, or reasonable spaces for youth to socialise. We spent 9 years there in totoal, trying to make it work (for the sake of family who were really adamant that it was the only place to raise our son, and who made their modest but crucial financial support for our first home purchase contingent on their choice of neighbourhood).  Lesson: do not compromise about where you want to live. If it means waiting to buy a house, or having a smaller down-payment, so be it.

So, here we are in Kitchener. Being 20 minutes closer to Toronto makes our week-ends more pleasant, but more important is the fact that our neighbourhood has real people in it (not just working drones), and they talk to us! They say things like, “Welcome to the area!” OUr immediate back-yard neighbours (we’re on a corner) will come over soon for an evening gathering. We’ve met people from up and down the street. We can hear people living their lives…. playing with their kids, going for walks, heading out to uptown and downtown… and yet at night it’s blissfully quiet. There’s very little traffic noise, and in the morning we are awakened by the Church ringing matins at 7:30. We no longer have an alarm clock and I no longer feel the dread of hearing the “enh-enh-enh-enh-enh” of an electronic alarm in the morning.

My bike commute to work now takes about 20 minutes and is punctuated with a stop-off from the Sablétine bakery for a café-au-lait and a croissant on the days when I go in for the morning. I generally ride through the mid-town cemetery, stop at the bakery, then wind my way through the side-streets of Uptown, through Waterloo Park and past Silver Lake to get to work. It’s wonderful! If I need to do errands (like drop off dry-cleaning, or pick up wine for dinner, or something from the grocery) everything is between home and work, on my bicycle route.

If I have time in the middle of the day, I can still come home, and I can choose to take the bus to and from if I’m too tired for a second bike commute for the later return to campus. we can walk to the revue cinema and to all our favourite places both Uptown and Downtown. I wish we’d always lived here! It’s a perfect place to be a cyclist, and a walker and a people-watcher.

I’m enclosing some pictures, and you have to promise to remember that we are still unpacking.

our home Our 105 year-old, new home

foie gras: grilled with caramelized apples and served with Chardonnay jelly from the Niagara region.

Foie-gras: the last meal at the old home

Prepping the first dinner in the new home

Prepping the first dinner in the new home

first meal: grilled chicken, baby carrots, fingerling potatoes. All local.

first meal: grilled chicken, baby carrots, fingerling potatoes. All local.

moving is chaos