Cyclin on the Praries

Wednesday, August 30

Last weekend was a test of endurance in so many ways that I think it'll take a few weeks to recover. Friday night of course found me at what has become the summer hang out, Black Dog pub on Whyte Ave looking to cheap beer. For once I had to limit myself to only two because I knew the next day was going to be trying. Jodie and I rolled out of bed at 8am and after a quick breakfast geared up for a marathon bike ride to her Dad's place near Sangudo. I did feel like I was slightly tricked into the trip as evertime I asked the distance and estimated time it would take kept getting longer. But I was committed and with since my friend Sando left me his cheap bike when he moved last week I had a sweet set of wheels. After pumping up our tires and fixing my broken brakes we headed out, Jodie on her old school one speed and me on a bike I wasn't sure was going to make it out of the city let alone Sangudo.

We got out of the city quickly and hit highway 16A heading for Jasper. The first few hours flew by as we discussed cycling and Jodie went on various rants about how people have to get used to having bikes on the road. While I agree I don't think the highway is the best place to try to teach drivers a lesson. We stopped at a gas station to fill our bottles and had a nice break behind the fountain at a golf course before putting in our Ipods for a little pickme up for the last few km's. As we turned off the highway and hit the back roads towards her Dad's house we started to fade and I totally died at the top of what felt like a mountain. We picked our selves up and finally turned on to the gravel road that headed out to the farm. Luckily Hilda had a huge meal with buffalo steaks waiting for us when we walked in the door and I eat more than I thought I was capable of.

As we talked it came out that the rodeo was on and lucky for us there was a rodeo dance that night. Jodie's Dad generously lent me the keys to their diesel Volkswagen golf and off we went to see some bull riding and dance up a storm with some true cowboys. I broke out my best 2-steppin moves and wowed them all as I ran into people and crushed Jodie's feet. After hours of excitement and me almost falling asleep in a chair we managed to find the car nuzzled in between two giant trucks and head home exhausted and laughing with shimmering northern lights over the prairies guiding us.

The next day was spent playing with the dogs on the farm. A border collie that played fetch for hours without tiring and a mini-doberman who just wanted to cuddle. We walking around seeing cows, elk and the places where Jodie grew up. It was a true prairie weekend for me and I guess I am an mostly an urban boy even though I beg to differ sometimes.

nicholas, 2:17 PM | link | 1 comments |

Chai Talk - Discovering A True Chai Stand Master

Wednesday, August 16

Location: Casa de Nicholas
Rating: *****/5

This is a big day in chai talk. As far as I can remember this is the first ever five star rating received by a chai and definitely the first in North America. I've wandered the world from the home of chai in Kolkata to the largest commercial purveyor of chai in Seattle and finally this weekend a five star chai has been discovered.

It came from an unassuming young man who I met in India. He cut his chai teeth on the mean streets of Chandigarh and honed his skills while traveling from one end of India to another and then perfected his technique back home in Canada.

I knew I was going to be receiving this rising star in the chai world and picked him up at the bus station in downtown Edmonton last Friday afternoon. After catching up, Kent was put to work putting our house back together now that our renovations are complete. We had to clear the kitchen so there would be room to make chai but that would have to wait, first was vodka and beer. A night of dancing later Kent stumbled to our apartment and unfazed by a lack of sleep, headed straight for the kitchen. Together we tackled omelette's for ourselves and the other four occupants of our house that night who slowly emerged.

With breakfast out of the way it was time for chai. My current living conditions do not provide many facilities for chai production but luckily Kent came prepared as any good chai chef would. He brought his tea, cardamon, ginger and strainer with him. He set to work making chai for three of us. I watched carefully and had a brief in-service myself as my chai making skills have been notably rusty of late. As the tea boiled on the stove memories of chai stands all over India came flooding back. The milk swirled in with the black tea and foamed up almost to the top before Kent's skillful hands lifted the pot off the stove stopping the blizzard of chai before it could bubble onto the burner. Such chai is not for the faint of heart as it takes time to thicken and Kent was in no hurry. We bantered while the tea did it's tantalizing dance with spices, milk and sugar.

Finally the chai was ready and Kent skillfully strained the now earthy mixture into our waiting cups. The aroma was intoxicating but not overpowering. As I swirled, the layers of spices came through and licked at my senses. I took a sip and knew instantly, this is chai stand chai. In case you are unaware this is the highest compliment that can be paid to a chai.

Our second taster, Jodie, was a virgin to real chai but agreed that this was something special. You could tell by the warm afterglow that rose to her face after a first sip that there would be no more Starbucks chai in her future. As if that wasn't enough Kent went on to prove his chai mastery with another two batches including one for Jodie's mom. All this after spending a night with me and some of my friends. A special experience for anyone and as Kent saw and I thought it might throw him off his form but true as a champion must be he rose to the challenge.

Such consistent performance under pressure and in difficult conditions are the mark of a true chai stand master and I think Kent is a rising star we should all be watching. I for one can't wait to taste another drop of what amounts to liquid bliss. Sadly the chai master is off to Egypt leaving us to boil for ourselves once again. A loss for Canada and a gain for Cairo. If you're in Egypt be sure to look Kent up for a chai.

*A video of Chai Stand Master Kent creating his five star chai will be available soon on youtube. Check this blog for updates.
nicholas, 6:36 PM | link | 3 comments |

Manual Labor and Killer Muffins

Thursday, August 10

So it's been a long time. I've been neglecting my blog of late because I've been busy. I know it's no excuse but my computer has been unhooked and set back up twice in the last week while we ripped out carpet and prepared for the wood laminate flooring I'm now sitting on. I think this weekend will be the end of the endless renovation...

So, funny story to share. I was laying around with a friend of mine when she pointed out I have calluses on my hands. Needless to say I was a little surprised as I'm not big into physical labor. I have my nice guitar calluses but these were a little more hardcore than tough finger tips. We thought about it and decided that maybe all the painting and ripping up carpet and throwing it around and carrying a billion pounds a laminate has given me worker hands. Masculine, callused, worker hands.

Could be. However the next morning as I was mixing up the batter for my muffins at work using a huge wooden spoon I was like, hey my hands hurt. That's when I realized where my calluses are from. I'm unsure if I should let this little truth out or stick with my manly worker story. It might sounds better than, "I have callused hands from mixing muffin batter in a bakery I work in. Yep, it's killer making muffins." Luckily I know a girl who thinks that's hot, haha!

So this week I'll be moisturizing.

nicholas, 9:37 PM | link | 0 comments |