Wednesday, May 21, 2014

How to Find the Best Cupcakes in Charlotte

by the Little Italian

I have a commute to work that takes approximately 6 minutes every morning. In the month since we moved to Center City, not once has my commute home taken less than two hours. I don't know what happens.  I watch my place whiz past and I just keep riding.

What am I riding? Well I prefer to ask who am I riding..... because she not only has a name but also feelings and a clear predelicton for ice cream and cake, based on where she takes me.  Her name is Katrinka.

My two-wheeled wonder.

Yesterday I was in the mood for a cupcake. Not just any cupcake, mind you, but the most truly fine cupcake Charlotte (nay, North Carolina) has to offer. There is only one place to find a cupcake like this, and that is Polka Dot Bake Shop in the Park Road shopping center.

There are rules though.  One cannot drive to a cupcake shop on a Tuesday morning for no discernible reason other than one is secretly 3 years old deep down inside, and then drive back, and then eat the cupcake alone in one's posh, air-conditioned abode. This seems all wrong.  No, a cupcake must be earned and eaten on a park bench in the sunshine.  Here's how you do it:

The trolley trail in Southend is marvelous and provides a wonderfully lovely, inefficient bridge to Dilworth. Let me explain: if you want to get somewhere efficiently on your cruiser you are riding it wrong. You might as well wear your bike as a hat and walk backwards. Efficiency is not our goal here so all rides pretty much start and end on the trolley trail.

The Trolley Trail: You won't get there fast, but you'll enjoy the ride.

Eventually, you'll pop off the trolley trail, cross South Blvd., and hop onto Worthington, which will take you through a charming neighborhood of tree lined streets and fancypants multimillion dollar ranch homes. They are quite pleasant to look at, though something in my head doesn't understand spending the equivalent of a small country's GNP on a 800 square foot home. But maybe that's just me.

One you hit East Boulevard you will come face to face with Menchi's.  Do not look directly at it.  It is full of ice cream and the wee tasty bits you exuberantly fling throughout your ice cream bowl, like a metabolically deranged Jackson Pollock.  You will come here another day. Just keep pedaling until you hit Freedom Park, and then hop on the Carolina Thread Trail.

Menchi's is best experienced with the kind of friend who loves you enough to pry the Heath Bar bits ladle out of your hand.

The Carolina Thread Trail will take you through Freedom Park and down toward Park Road, with lots of pretty spots and artwork and interesting people along the way. You will see little old ladies with large sun hats walking small, impossibly cute dogs. There will be women pushing in giant strollers children who by all accounts seem to be at least 8 years old, but what do I know about mothering. I woke up this morning and found my cat licking dried lentil soup off the heater element of my crock pot.  I'm no expert.

The Carolina Thread Trail. 

From here, it's just a very short death-defying Frogger-hop across 5 lanes of terrifying and complicated traffic and here we are, Polka Dot Bake shop.

Monday is lemon blueberry cobbler day. Let's talk about this for a minute. Lemon cupcake of unimaginable lightness and sweetness, with a little dash of blueberries inside and on top. The frosting seems to be some kind of lemon-cream-cheese-who knows what, and atop that is a a sprinkling of cobbler topping.

Om. Nom. Nom.

Now go find yourself a nice little shady spot under a tree, preferably next to a babbly little brook and enjoy your cupcake. And by enjoy, I mean, be one with the cupcake. By no means should you scarf it down in 3 seconds and then wonder "Who the hell stole my cupcake?" I do have a solution for this problem though, should it arise. It's called Second Cupcake. This is a measure not to be taken lightly, but I strongly believe in being prepared. I was a Girl Scout.

Now it's time to go home. Chances are you've just eaten 800 calories of sugar and fat so I strongly advise you take the longest, hilliest ride home possible. I'm not sure to what degree this ride will absolve you of the matter but for what it's worth since I have started riding my bike everywhere
instead of driving, I seem to have become some kind of superhuman calorie smashing, fat-burning machine with an almost unlimited capacity to metabolize baked goods.

As a fitness professional I'm sure I'm supposed to have a conviction about moderating dietary sugar and fat even when highly physically active. But here's the way I see it: Cupcakes = delicious. Bicycle = greatest invention ever. My bottom = every bit as fabulous as it ever was. You know what we call that, people? Science.  It's a beautiful thing.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Much Too Much Part II

How much stuff do you need?  How much do you REALLY need?  That is a pretty important question right there.  I am sure there are other questions of more pressing concern but they are few and far between.  Is William Shatner still alive?  Why is Cindy Crawford marketing budget furniture?  Do you know where I left my pants?  Like I said, few and far between.  Certainly still important.  That's why I'm here.  To ask the tough questions.

I had too much.  I had far too much and it was starting to drain me.  As I looked around my over-sized apartment in the suburbs all I saw was stuff with more stuff around it.  And then there was stuff behind that. Somewhere in mid-January The Little Italian and I both snapped.  We had simply had enough.  We had too much stuff in too much space with too many cars and not enough free time because we were busy cleaning all of our stuff and neatly arranging it in our cavernous space.  According to 50% of the people currently participating in my marriage we also had too many cats.  If only I could have talked some sense into the other 50%.  The only other option would have been to take on a second wife to help sway the vote in my favor but then I would have had too many wives and that would have only added to my problem of having too much stuff.  Besides, polygamy is currently illegal in North Carolina.  At least I think it is.  Maybe I should I look into that.

So there we were, sitting in our big apartment with nothing but our stuff and a mission.  The mission was quite simple.  Get rid of it.  Get rid of what exactly?  All of it.  Or at least most of it.  We still needed essentials like underwear and spatulas but for the most part we could live without most of what we had.  Like the majority of Americans we had consumed to excess with little regard to whether or not we actually needed all that we had.  The list of things we got rid of was lengthy.  
  • The fancy dining room set for all the dinner parties we never had because we don't like dinner parties.
  • The extra couch for all of that extra sitting we were doing when we weren't sitting on our other couch.
  • The four fake trees.  Four.  Fake. Trees.  Seriously.  Because real trees are scary?  Because real trees are hard to find?  Because Charlotte is in the desert?  
  • Two bowling balls.  One for each of the times I have gone bowling in the past decade.
  • A marble cheese slicer.  Must have been a wedding gift from someone who was at the wrong wedding.  Lactose intolerance is no laughing matter people. 
  • A 2005 Toyota Corolla S.  Did I mention I had four fake trees?  Four.  That is at least four more fake trees than any human under the age of dead really needs.
I was sneaky with that last one.  See how I did that?  Threw the car in there and then distracted you with that tree bit.  I should probably work for the government.  They don't make you pass a drug test, do they?
Yes, my car was amazeballs.  No, I have not missed it even once since I sold it. But I will say she and I had many great adventures.

Damn she looked sexy from behind.

I'll save you a little time here and not continue on with the list.  When I jotted it down in my notebook I went through enough paper to kill at least one of my fake trees.  But that is how it goes. The list gets long but you don't even notice.  We had so much stuff that we made five separate trips to Goodwill and could barely tell the difference when we looked around the apartment.  The final few days before our move we got ruthless.  We were getting rid of things so quickly that it was hard to keep track.  But we did it.  We reduced our material possessions to such a small number of things that the moving company had us packed up in thirty minutes.  The boys didn't even break a sweat.  That made me angry so I splashed water on them to make it look like they were working hard.  I don't think I need to tell you how they responded to that.  I guess movers can't take a joke.

That is the beginning, not the end of this story.  The Little Italian and I have now been living in our small apartment in the city for a full month.  We dropped 450 square feet of space and yet did not fill our new home with the belongings we moved.  We have so little stuff that our apartment looks spacious rather than cluttered.  Thanks to an ultra-convenient location we are both able to walk to work every day saving giant piles of money on gas, car repairs and anti-depressants while greatly improving our quality of life. I know what you are thinking.  But the Davemobile, what about the Davemobile?

We are now a one car household and go days on end without driving the car we share. It gets us to the grocery store when we need to stock up on bacon and out to the mountain bike trail but that is about it.  So the car we share......

Bitchin Yaris?  Isn't that the name of a song?

Imagine for just a moment spending all of your road time in a go-cart that can go 75 miles per hour while carrying your bicycle.  Do know what you are imagining right now?  Awesome.  You are imagining Awesome.

I have also discovered in recent weeks that there is more than one way to get to the trailhead and certainly more than one way to shred singletrack.  Remember my BMX bike?

Sold It!

I'm sure you remember my rocket ship of a road bike as well.

Sold that one too!

I decided to get something a tad more versatile in an effort to downsize my bike fleet a bit and get more use out of what I had between my legs. In a two-wheeled sense of course.  For the first time since 1998 I actually paid the full retail price for a bicycle.  She's not light.  She's not fancy.  But this is the most fun I've had on a bike in years.  Allow me to introduce the newest member of my family.....

You can stop complaining about the lack of bike content in my blog now.
I told you good things were coming your way.

Steel.  Singlespeed.  Cyclocross.  Tastiness.  Let a tear slide down your cheek.  I don't judge.

So begins my urban lifestyle experiment.  Living in the center of the 17th largest city in the country with a handful of bikes and a pocket full of fruit snacks.  Many stories of two-wheeled adventures are coming your way along with a host of pointless observations of life in the city. Trust me, it'll be fun for all of us.