What a difference six months makes. The last time I visited Winnipesaukee 70 degrees seemed cool. This time, 18 felt warm.
roughly the same vantage point…August/ March
Still, there’s something cozy about a lake house in the middle of winter. A roaring fire, accompanied by a bourbon cocktail. Homemade chili on the stove. Cuddling with friends on couches under a mountain of blankets. The exceptional air that a moment takes when someone pulls out a guitar and starts strumming. We lost an hour that night, so that we could “spring forward.” The next morning, I woke up to this.
Skiing was in the plan, but mediocre conditions and expensive lift tickets made us think again. So we headed to Alton Bay to watch the planes come into the only ice runway in the lower 48.
I haven’t spent much time on ice, and if I’m honest, the whole thing freaks me out a bit. Growing up, I regularly heard stories about people falling through the ice on the river that ran through my town. Sometimes they made it, often they didn’t. It was drilled into me from a very young age that ice was something best avoided. So I couldn’t help but think the guys on snow mobiles I saw out in the middle of the lake Saturday fell somewhere between crazy, brave, and stupid. It took a deep breath before I went out onto the ice at Alton Bay, despite watching trucks drive onto it. And then, as I stood there, a plane landed on the ice in front of me.
We ate lunch overlooking the frozen airport and then headed back onto the lake to tour the ice fishing village that pops up there each winter. If you know me, you know that I love fishing. Ice fishing, however, is something I have never, ever had a desire to do. First, the idea of sitting out on the ice, freezing, and waiting for a bite seems miserable. Second, I think fresh water fish mostly tastes terrible, and if I’m not going to eat it, I have no desire to catch it. But the guys on Alton Bay may have swayed me a bit.
Anyone can put out an ice house, so long as you write your phone number on the outside, so folks can call you if it has trouble. The houses range in size and style. Some have propane heaters. Some have beds. Some are built on skis, some have wheels.
It took about six minutes of walking around before B and I were handed Bud Lights by some guys and invited into their ice house. We talked about fishing, and hunting, but mostly fishing. They swore they’d caught fish the day before, but had nothing that day (of course!).
But there was a nice sense of community out there. All these guys (and a few girls) are out there every weekend. They keep one another company, help each other out, and keep each other entertained. One guy was towing his kids in a sled behind his snowmobile, another was on a four-wheeler pulling his friend on a snowboard. He offered to tow me on my skis, but alas, I’d left my boots at the house.
That sense of community is ultimately what led me to conclude that maybe ice fishing isn’t so bad. This winter has been a doozie, but getting outside with friends for a good time seems like the best strategy for not letting the dreary days and frigid temperatures get to you. It’s why I’ve skied so much this winter, and have continued to show up for November Project at least once a week.
Of course, when the weather is like this, my body craves the comforts of long cooked stews and warm breads. Poutin seems an appropriate apres ski snack, and of course one needs a beer to go with it. After a weekend of this, my body needs a reset on Mondays, something that’s substantial, but also good for me. This kale salad is a bit of both.
I discovered it a couple of weeks ago at the Whole Foods salad bar when I was in search of a snack. I liked it so much that I snapped a photo of the ingredients and vowed to make it at home. The kale provides fiber and vitamins to nurture your body, but the dressing is flavorful enough that it still feels like a hearty dish, especially for a salad. Nuts, avocados, or pepitas would bump this up a notch, but it’s pretty darn good like this.
Kale salad with garlicky dressing
serves 4-6 as a side
1 bunch kale, cut into chiffonade and massaged
1/2 cup tahini
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1 Tb garlic powder
2 Tb soy sauce (tamari or liquid amines can be substituted)
2 Tb lemon juice
2 Tb apple cider vinegar
1/4 to 1/2 cup water
Put kale into a large salad bowl and set aside. Combine tahini, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, soy sauce, lemon juice, and vinegar in a blender and whirl until smooth. Add 1/4 cup of water. If consistency is pourable, you’re good. If it’s still too thick add more water. You want something that’s pourable so it coats the kale, but isn’t too soupy. Adjust flavors to taste (you may like more lemon or garlic). When you reach desired consistency, pour 1/2 cup over the kale salad and toss well. Add dressing until the salad is dressed to your liking. You will likely have leftover dressing, which is fine as I’m sure you’ll want to eat this salad again. Store leftover dressing in a mason jar and refrigerate.
Kale is hearty enough that any salad leftovers can be kept and eaten the following day. It will start to get soggy after two days.
So, we had a bit of snow here in Boston.
It’s sort of amazing to me that with all the technological advances of the 21st century, things still come to a screeching halt for Mother Nature. Of course, thanks to some of those technological advances, Tuesday was a sort of work day anyway. In addition to job stuff, I spent a couple of hours shoveling. That was real work. I’m glad I train for life.
I hunkered down with some friends Monday night. There was wine and stories. A guitar singalong. Sledding down streets. The usual urban adventures.
Times like this lend themselves well to slow cooked meals that stick to the ribs, so I made a fabada right before the storm hit. A fabada is a Spanish bean stew filled with pork parts. Traditionally, a pig trotter and ear are thrown in, but I wasn’t about to make a special trip to the grocery store before #snowmageddon, so I used what was on hand: pancetta, pork loin, chorizo, and pork belly. Pancetta was the only non-traditional ingredient, but it worked.
This is a meal best cooked overnight and then allowed to sit for a day, as the beans soak up more flavor as time goes on. But if time is short you can always eat it right away; it’s still pretty delicious straight out of the oven.
1 lb white or navy beans
1 onion, diced
5 cloves garlic
6 cups chicken stock
1 lb chorizo sausage, sliced into 1-inch pieces
1 to 2 lbs pork loin, cut into 1-inch pieces
8 oz pancetta
8 oz pork belly, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 Tb paprika
salt to taste
balsamic vinegar/glaze (optional)
Combine beans, onion, garlic, and stock in a large dutch oven and bring to a boil over high-heat. Reduce heat and let simmer for an hour. Heat oven to 250. Add meats, paprika, and salt to the beans and put the pot in the oven (if you need more liquid, add water to cover the beans). Cook six to eight hours, until beans are tender. Remove from oven and let cool. If you can wait a day to eat it, do. Serve drizzled with a bit of balsamic, or balsamic glaze.
So this is the new year. After a whirlwind two weeks of travel (Vermont, England, and Madrid), I’m just now registering that 2015 is in full swing. With that, some reflection into the past year is probably due.
I started 2014 by signing up for a half ironman, a goal that largely defined my year. Over eight months of preparation, I rediscovered my love of biking and swimming, trained in locales near and far, braved the elements, and built some great friendships. Ultimately, it was that journey, not the race itself, that made the experience so worthwhile. I had a lot of fun training for that race, even if the end result wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for.
While I spent a good amount of time training, I made time for fun as well. I skied regularly for the first time in more than a decade. I mountain biked in California, whale watched in Nova Scotia, hiked in New Hampshire, and swam in rivers in North Carolina. I made new friends, had dinner parties, baked cakes, and even fished a little. It was a pretty full, and awesome, year.
That said, my life looks a bit different than it did a year ago, and if things go well, there are some changes on the horizon. I’m hesitant to set outright goals for myself, since I’m not 100 percent sure what life will look like in six months. It may not be reasonable to commit to another half iron race, but I do want to leave the option on the table. That said, here’s a few things I’m aspiring to in 2015:
– Run 50 miles a month. This is a big deal, as I haven’t done more than 50 miles a month since July, but it averages out to less than 15 miles a week. My hip has been feeling pretty good, and if I’m consistent with stretching and training, I can do it.
– Do at least three olympic distance triathlons. I love tris, and the olympic is a distance I’m confident I can train for even if other aspects of life need more attention. This will also encourage me to keep biking and swimming, which I love.
– Break two hours in the half-marathon. I’m looking at a late spring race.
– Complete a Presi traverse. I love hiking, and I’d like to do a lot more of it this year.
– Bike the Kancamangus. This seems like it would be really pretty. Hard, but pretty.
– Record the good. There’s a lot to be said for focusing on the positives in life. That’s why I’m doing a “rememberlutions” jar again.
This isn’t everything I want to do in 2015, but financial and career goals aren’t as interesting to talk about, so I won’t bore you with them here.