A few weeks after we moved to Peru one of my girl friends took me to a little Italian restaurant, La Trattoria de la Esquina, for drinks.   We sipped Pisco Sours, gazed at the ruins from 400 A.D. across the street, and snacked on the most delicious bruschetta I’d ever tasted.

I only went back to La Trattoria once or twice during my year in Lima but I soon learned to recreate the tasty tomatoes in our little apartment kitchen.

Perhaps it seems odd that I fell for an Italian specialty in Peru but the always local and ripe Roma tomatoes, bundles of basil, buckets of olives, and fresh baked crusty bread are cheeeep and plentiful in Lima markets and soon became grocery list staples.

Yesterday I strolled through my garden and returned with these beauties.

With basil blooming in every bed of the garden and tomatoes ripening by the minute I needed to get chopping (and eating!).

Bruschetta actually refers to the toasted and garlic rubbed part of the equation but I am choosing to use the name loosely. 😉

This time I used a few chopped sun dried tomatoes in addition to lots of fresh ones and they added a lovely depth and richness.

I also three in a finely chopped garden cuc for crunch.

And loads of basil.

An assortment of chopped olives, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, and ample s+p finished things off.  I forgot the garlic this time!

I recommend serving this bruschetta with some fresh bread at a poolside picnic on a random Thursday afternoon.

And following it up with a little ride through the countryside on a gator.

Three Rules of Bike Commuting

The Gracefulfitness Guide to Bike Commuting

I love biking.  Soaring down hills feels close to flying and nothing gets my heart rate up faster than pedaling up even the smallest hill.  Thing is, I don’t actually like biking for exercise.  I appreciate the exercise I get from biking but my main purpose on a bike is transportation.  I guess this is why I’ve only been to 1 cycling class in my life and yet have been a dedicated bike commuter since 2003.

Bike commuting is awesome.  It often saves you time and money.  It often saves you stress and road rage.  It provides you with a little bonus exercise for the day.  It is energizing and meditative.

And in July in Virginia it is sweaty.  I got over it.  Everything is sweaty in July in Virginia (and most of the country).  I leave myself an extra few minutes to get to the clinic, get in the ac, and dry off before patients arrive.  Sweat is kind of gross, yes, but as long as I am smelling somewhat fresh it’s something I can live with.

Number one rule of bike commuting: Get yourself a good pannier.

I bought mine for around $50 several years ago.  I load it up (overload it!) with everything from groceries to computers and it shows no signs of wear and tear.  It can seem a little spendy at first but it is well worth the “splurge”.   I love how mine is all black and doesn’t scream “bike bag”, there are lots of fashionable choices out there these days if bright yellow vinyl isn’t your idea of an accessory.

Please DO NOT ride with a backpack.  At least not with any kind of regularity or weight.  As the wife of a chiropractor I have heard over and over how the weight of a backpack on your spine as you are leaning forward puts potentially damaging pressure on your disks.  A pannier is cheaper and a lot more fun than a life of messed up spinal disks.

Number two: Embrace platforms.

platform pedals, not shoes.

I am not a gear girl and so the thought of lugging around bike shoes for clipless pedels is really unappealing.  Yes, platform pedals are less efficient but for most bike commuting it’s not a big deal.  The common mistake when riding with platform pedals is ignoring the second half of the pedal rotation and going for all push, no pull.  Utilize the backs of your legs by pulling your heel towards your butt on your back leg as your front leg pushes down.  It’s certainly a little trickier with platforms than with clipless pedals and shoes but still possible and helpful with efficiency.

Number three: Hello Spanx!  Or bike shorts but compression shorts are nice for the, umm, compression factor. 😉

I love biking in skirts and dresses and happen to wear them to work everyday in the summer.  Compression shorts (Spanx-style) make getting on and off the bike carefree (ladies, you know what I mean).  Leaving them on for work is optional.

Are you a bike commuter?  What would you add to this list?