As in love, so goes in falafel

I’ve hit a bit of a rough patch lately, romantically-speaking (Okay, who am I kidding? It’s been more of an extended rough patchwork quilt.), so I tried be kind to myself this Valentine’s Day. I passed no judgment on the three brownies I ate over the course of the afternoon; I posted a photo in which I looked really good, along with a funny caption; and I tried to make myself a nice dinner. But as in life and love, cooking does not always go as I intend it to.

I was so excited when a dear friend sent me a delicious-looking falafel recipe a few weeks back. Crispy, light, flavorful; exactly what I wanted to fight the mid-winter doldrums and the Hallmark holiday-induced blues. This recipe appeared to be a match made in gastrointestinal heaven.

Despite my initial excitement, life got in the way and a couple of weeks passed before I could actually make the meal of my dreams. Over the course of those weeks, I pulled up the recipe from time to time, admiring the well-lit photos and re-reading the ingredient list with building anticipation for what this falafel could be. However, as is often the case with a chronically delayed date, the longer I waited, the less in love with the idea of this falafel I became. Yet, the little voice in the back of my head prodded me to give this recipe a chance, because, you never know, it might be The One.

Now, I’ve tried falafel recipes before, and I’ve been burned, both literally and figuratively. I’d get excited about the prospect of crisp, nutty goodness, but usually ended up with a mushy, oily, burnt, inedible mess. A lot of effort and emotional investment on my part with approximately zero reward. Still, I was willing to give it a chance, because maybe this time it’d be a recipe I could commit to.

This foray into falafel-making started off on the wrong foot. I had canned garbanzo beans, rather than the dried beans specified by the recipe and had the wrong oil for frying it in. Despite the fundamental shortcomings in temperament and character of my substitutions, I decided I was just having a little rom-com meet-cute and that it would be best to forge on. Classic let’s-force-this-square-peg-into-a-round-hole stuff that always works out well for all involved because, yes, we can change other people’s personalities and habits. And also make canned beans behave like dried beans.

I also messed up all of the spices, due to my own neglect. Fearing that I would end up alone and meal-less, I zealously overcorrected. Would my falafel mixture understand that my adding far too much coriander and salt was my way of showing that I just wanted things to work out? Would it get that smothering everything in cumin was just a clumsy attempt at affection?

That burst of attention seemed to do the trick for a little while, at least. I felt like I was really getting into the groove and things were beginning to click as I processed all the ingredients. But just as I was shaping perfect, golf ball-sized chickpea rounds, self-doubt struck. Was I really doing this? Is this what pre-cooked falafel is supposed to look like? After so many failures, would love finally work out for me? Do I really deserve such a tasty meal?

But, as with all my relationships, just when I thought it was going great, that’s when it all fell apart. I dropped the falafel balls into the hot oil simmering in the cast iron skillet, and rather than the jazzy sizzle I was hoping for, they made a rather half-hearted hiss. The oil was heating up, but my meal was losing steam.

I grew impatient and was fearful that if I wasn’t attentive enough, the falafel would burn. Overeager, I flipped them too early. What were once perfectly shaped patties now became amorphous, disintegrating piles of mush. I worked quickly to try to reshape them, leaning in to my tendency of believing that if I cling to something strongly enough, the outcome might change. (Pro tip from the perpetually single and hungry: This does not work.)

The situation became more hopeless by the minute. In a last ditch effort to save both my meal and my love life, I changed tactics and threw the whole mess into the oven. At this point, I was in a culinary free-fall; I have no idea how to care for these sad, little excuses for a Middle Eastern staple. They came out somehow both simultaneously over- and undercooked. The only option I had was to throw it all out.

Much like the end of every relationship, I ended up hungry and unfulfilled. All I had to show for my time and painstaking hard work was a smoky kitchen that stinks of burnt garlic and a sink full of dirty dishes. And much like the fallout from every relationship, I spent an excessive amount of time overanalyzing my actions, trying to pinpoint exactly where I went wrong and lamenting all of the ways I could have fixed everything. (Never mind all of the things that were out of my control, like the sloping floors in my apartment or the old oven with questionable temperature controls. I was the only one at fault here.) And though I was disappointed and frustrated, I knew I couldn’t stay this way for long; I’d starve to death.

So, I picked myself up off my kitchen floor, dusted off the crumbs, dried my tears, and threw the whole, crusty mess into the trash. I washed all my dishes and found a snack to curb some of my hunger. Yes, I was bummed, sad even, about the disastrous falafel incident. But, in time, this memory will fade. Before I know it, I’ll come across a new falafel recipe that will intrigue me. I’ll pull down my food processor and open up another can of chickpeas. Maybe, just maybe, next time it’ll be love.

[Editor’s Note: Classic Vegan Falafel recipe]


I Love New York: Bike Commuting

I commute by bicycle in New York City for all the reasons you might suspect — First, it is the most efficient and direct way to get from Point A to Point B; rather than walking from my home to the subway, waiting for the train, and then walking from the subway to my destination, I can go door to door by one mode of transportation and minimal dwell time. Second, I don’t have the patience for public transit most of the time. If you haven’t heard, the New York City subway system is currently an underfunded mess, and I don’t want to spend my morning stuck under the East River with my face smooshed into a stranger’s armpit. third, it is a great way to explore the city. If I didn’t bike, I would have never found my favorite Turkish bakery (in Sheepshead Bay, get the poğaça) or my secret beach spot (fuck if I’m telling you). All good, practical reasons, but not why I chose to bike from Clinton Hill to the West Village in 19 degree weather on Sunday morning for brunch. (This is possibly the most insufferable sentence I have ever written.)

No, I ride in New York City, in all temperatures and all traffic because it makes me feel empowered and invincible. I subject myself to riding the gauntlet against two-ton metal boxes on wheels every day because it allows me to express facets of my personality that I don’t often let others see because, society ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

Adjectives often used to describe me by people with whom I have at least a cursory acquaintanceship include: level-headed, thoughtful, reserved, agreeable, hardworking. Now, there is nothing wrong with these descriptors, and I don’t mind most of them, but they don’t paint the full picture of me, they fail to capture what’s really going on in the ol’ noggin. (Sorry.) I’m pretty good at suppressing my baser tendencies and presenting competency to the world, but it is often just that — presenting. This is obviously rooted in my innate nature as a people-pleaser who wants to do right by others.

But, when I’m on a bike on the mean streets of New York, weaving through buses, delivery trucks, garbage trucks, cars, Ubers, taxi cabs, cyclists, delivery cyclists, pedestrians, pedestrians with animals and/or unwieldy packages, and tourists, I am invigorated; I feel more alert and alive than virtually any other time in my life. I feel in touch with my id and free to let her shine.

When I’m on a bike, I am reckless and impulsive (sorry, Mom) (also, within my risk-averse parameters). I will run red lights when the coast is clear, I will cut people off. I make decisions instinctually, rather than in my normal, calculated, analytical method. I don’t have time to think things through if I don’t want to be roadkill, so I make the risky decisions I am classically not known for.

When I’m in the saddle, I am aggressive. As a woman, I’ve been socialized to be polite and to not take up too much space. Fuck that. On a bike, I’m taking the whole damn lane if I need it, thankyouverymuch. Yesterday, I was cut off when a car with Jersey plates pulled over in the bike lane on Prince Street. As the driver exited the car, I swerved just out of his way and hiss-yelled “Not a parking spot!” and then zipped away.

When I’m pedaling, I am loud and foul-mouthed. (Okay, sometimes I’m foul-mouthed in real life, too.) This morning, a guy tried to turn right across a whole lane of traffic plus the bike lane in which I was traveling. Nothing gave me greater satisfaction than yelling “Hey!” so loudly that the construction workers across the street stopped to stare and giving the driver a truly dirty death stare before asserting my space on the road. Okay, okay, a loud “Fuck you!” to a driver is more satisfying, but generally not advisable. (Best to keep the cussing under your breath, lest you provoke someone driving a giant killing machine.)

When I’m riding, I feel like a total badass. ‘Why yes, I did ride here, and yes, it is 23 degrees outside.’ Taking on the twin evils of New York City drivers and New York City weather makes me feel like like a boss bitch.

So, yes, I ride for all the practical, time- and money-saving reasons folks like to tout in favor of bike commuting. But the real reason I choose to be out in the heat and the wind and the rain and the cold (not quite up to the sleet or the snow yet — I’m not the goddamn postal service) is because it makes me feel strong and powerful in a world that is often hellbent on crushing these feelings. I love that, on my bike, I can be unabashedly angry and aggressive, two emotions not afforded to women. I respect that urban riding forces me to confront my own mortality regularly and to consider how I relate to the greater city fabric. I embrace the fear and the feelings that I so often lock away in polite society. Riding in New York City is both a break from my presenting self and a celebration of my whole self.


I Love New York: West Harlem

The subway platform is oppressively hot, so still it feels solid. Beads of sweat form and slide gracelessly between my shoulder blades the second I step out of the air-conditioned train car. I’m propelled forward by the crowd and the instinctual desire for fresh air, wading through the thick air and the crush of people, toward the promise of easier breathing above.

The humid summer air washes over and improbably refreshes me as I climb out of the station and into the warm night. It smells of garbage juice and day-old doughnuts and a laundromat, with a hint of salty sea air. At this late hour, most of the stores, including the tiny aisle of a liquor shop, are closed, lights off and grilles pulled down tight. The exception, of course, is the bodega, shining like a beacon in the distance. The day may be done, but the streets are anything but quite.

As I turn down my block, the only giveaway that it is the dead of night is the fat moon hanging low in the dark sky above. Transit workers chat idly and chain-smoke outside the aptly named Bus Stop Diner. A group of teenagers cluster around a hookah on the stoop of a six-story apartment building, blowing smoke rings, laughing loudly, and calling each other out. A little further down, someone has pulled a card table onto the sidewalk; not one of those little, collapsible, metal ones, but a big wooden, felt-topped table like you’d find in a casino. Bachata music blares as a group of men, ranging in age from 25 to 75, crowd around the table, throwing down poker chips, dealing cards at lightning speed, and joking loudly in Spanish.

When I reach my building, I say hello to the group of mothers who are sipping Coronas out of a plastic grocery bag full of ice. They return my greeting politely and yell at their children to stay out of the street. The building lobby is quiet and still. The front door shuts behind me, blocking out the activity just on the other side.

I climb the marble stairs to my third-floor apartment and slide my key into the lock, opening the door with a click. Th thrum of the window AC unit drifts down the hall, but none of the cool air follows suit. I quietly creep down the dark passage, so as to not wake my sleeping roommates. I grab a beer from the fridge, throw open the front window, and clamber out onto the fire escape. The metal is warm on my bare legs after baking in the sun all day.

Laughter and music drift up from the street below. A sweet-smelling breeze whispers in off the Hudson. From this vantage point, I can see that someone around the corner broke open the fire hydrant this afternoon, sending a river gushing down the street. Only a few lights are on in the giant housing bloc that looms over the apartments across the street, inviting speculation about what their inhabitants might be doing up at this hour. One by one, my neighbors pack up the party and head home for the night.

I take a long pull from my beer. I’ve only been in this city a few short months — but on this night, I know I am home.


On Sunday night I woke in a cold sweat, jolted out of a nightmare. I am terrible remembering my dreams; the one thing I remember about this one was Steve Bannon sitting behind an ornate desk. Suffice to say, imagery of Bannon in a position of power is enough to qualify as a nightmare in itself.

On Monday night, acting Attorney General Sally Yates was fired for acting as an independent check on executive branch excesses. In the middle of night, I woke with a start. I didn’t know what triggered this, but I was terrified that the president had gone on a noctural rampage and fired the entire Justice Department and all of the state Attorney Generals, including New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who has been a vocal and vociferous opponent of the president (I later remembered that state AGs are elected at the state level, so the president doesn’t technically have the power to hire and fire.).

Needless to say, my anxiety about the state of our nation approached an unhealthy level this week (Fueled by too much internet, I’m sure.).

But on Tuesday night, after a lovely dinner with friends and Trump’s final rose ceremony announcement of of Neil Gorsuch as his SCOTUS pick, I was tired, frustrated, fearful, but mostly angry. It was 11 pm, I was two beers deep, and I felt the overwhelming need to do something. So I pulled out a pen and paper and began to write. I wrote letters to my liberal, progressive Members of Congress, thanking them for their vocal opposition to Bannon’s horribly oppressive and offensive Muslim ban (let’s call a spade a spade here), but also urging them to translate these words into actions on the Congress floor. I wrote Paul Ryan a rainbow-striped postcard, in which I implored him to resume consulting his moral compass at any time he felt was convenient in the near future. I also wrote a rather lengthy letter to our new president in which I told him he was ‘shitting on the Constitution’ and discussed his casual erosion of our democratic institutions. I held little back. Then I went to bed, and for the first time in three days, I slept like a baby.

It’s been trying times lately. But Tuesday night reminded me of how important writing is to my processing process. It’s something that has fallen by the wayside in graduate school; I spend a majority of my ‘professional’ time writing, so more writing is the last thing I want to do at the end of the day. But writing is the way that I work through my feelings and puzzle out my questions. It’s also where I find humor and beauty and grace. So my month-late resolution is to write (and blog) more. I’m hoping that everything I write won’t be explicitly political in nature, that I’ll find funny or quiet things to write about, but I’m studying policy and politics and they’re what I’m planning to devote my life to professionally, so no promises. Regardless, this has felt good and I want to continue down this path.

Her zaman yorgunum.

Hello, dear readers. Sorry for the lack of updates on my bike riding life. I’m having fun and really enjoying the adventure. We left Ohio what feels like ages ago, but was really only a few weeks ago. Left the rain in Ohio, as well. Made our way across the flat states of Indiana and Illinois. Saw my parents in West Lafayette, IN (Boiler up!). Crossed the Mississippi River! Currently tackling the rolling hills of Iowa. Iowa is really beautiful and Iowans are very courteous drivers. So far, two thumbs up for Iowa.

As a result of all this fun and mayhem, I am constantly exhausted, so writing blog posts has fallen pretty far down my list of desirable evening activities… Sorry (but not really)

If you want to hear all about my Fourth (and other P2S adventures), mosey on over to the P2S15 blog. It is updated far more regularly than my own blog:

As I’ve been spending many miles in the saddle, I’ve been percolating a few blog ideas. Look back for stories soon. That is, if I can rustle up the energy to actually write something.


Perhaps we were getting too cocky. After conquering the hills of Connecticut, New York, and Pennsylvania, we were all looking forward to the flat farmland of the Midwest. Ohio will be a breeze, we thought, we’ll be able to coast right through. 

After two weeks in the saddle, we had become overly confident.  Too big for our chamois, if you will.

The Bike and Build gods frown on this kind of hubris. The gods wanted us to remember that we still had much to learn. That the journey is not all naps and snacks and descents. There are also early mornings and bonking and climbs.

At the unimpressive Ohio state line.

As we crossed over the Ohio state line, with egos inflated too large for our helmets, the Bike and Build gods decided to knock us down a gear or two. Thus, the seven plagues of Ohio:


Trekking through all the mud on our way to Gambier (Photo: Z.O.).


  1. Potholes – Ohioans refuse to pave their roads properly, preferring them riddled with potholes that just invite flat tires and bent derailleurs.
  2. Angry drivers – Of all the states we bike through, I expected New York to have the most aggressive drivers. But no, that award goes to Ohio. I guess I would be angry too if I were forced to drive through Ohio day in and day out.
  3. Humidity – A 7 o’clock in the morning, 1 o’clock in the afternoon, 9 o’clock at night. It doesn’t matter the time, the still air hangs heavy and damp when the dew point is upwards of 85%.
  4. Rain – You would think that rain would offer respite from the heat and humidity, and it would if you were not sitting on a bike in the pouring rain for 8+ hours. In this case, it’s a little bit miserable and cold; i just had to accept my fate – wet.
  5. Mud – Relentless rain turns dirt bike paths into quagmires that are nearly impossible to bike on. Mud coats tires and brakes, thereby complicating the slowing and stopping process. Thick mud and puddles are traps just waiting to ensnare hapless riders and tip them over. Mud is also exhausting to pedal through.
  6. Mosquitoes – Rain also means stagnant, standing water, or the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes.  Ohioan mosquitoes are particularly persistent, leaving their victims covered in red, itchy welts.
  7. Mennonite country roads – Mennonite country is beautiful and the Mennonites are kind and lovely people. But Mennonites drive horses and buggies. And horses poop a lot. This brings another level of complication to navigating shared roadways.


Buggy wash on a rainy day. in Fredericksburg.

But the Bike and Build gods are not malevolent gods. Although the Ohioan plagues reaffirmed my stance that Ohio is the state that I would vote out of the Union, the gods did offer some redemption.


Trailside snacks on the way to Dayton.

After days of rain and humidity and red-faced motorists and equine feces, we were no longer so bold as to think we could conquer Ohio so easily. We submitted to the Bike and Build gods and they granted us with a few gloriously sunny days, full of wheat fields, paved bike paths, and a rescued kitten. They also gave us ice cream – sweet, creamy, delicious ice cream from Jeni’s and Handel’s. And finally, they gave us a blessed day off, with nothing to do but sleep late, eat brunch, and drink cold beers.


Rolling deep at Handel’s Ice Cream in Youngstown.

Ohio may not be my favorite state (in fact, it may rank 50 out of 50), but during my sojourn here, the Bike and Build gods have taught me much: Stay humble. Ride through the puddles and avoid the mud. Bikes are faster than horse-drawn buggies. Eat ice cream every day, if possible. Ohio does have a few things going for it.

Enjoying a day off in Columbus.



One of my favorite things about Bike and Build is the opportunity to meet people along the road. In our matching jerseys and on our bikes, we attract a lot of attention. Once people find out that we’re biking across the country, they are usually curious and impresses, though some are thoroughly nonplussed. Many people are interested in hearing our stories. However, I have been impressed by how many people are willing to share their own stories. It only seems right to pass these stories on. 


Trudy is the proprietor of Trudy’s Secondhand Shop, located on some forgettable stretch of backroad between Ithaca and Savona, NY. The shop is full of little odds and ends and clothes, all dating from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s. Trudy has been running her shop for more than twenty years and loves her little project. However, her husband got ill about five years back, so the two of them are downsizing, which means closing down the shop. Trudy was truly devastated to have to abandon her labor of love. We bought a few funny trucker hats from her at half price. She then sent us in our way with a prayer and a blessing. 


I actually don’t know RC’s name, but I do know he is a 60-year-old electrician and retired firefighter from Corning, NY, on the NY-PA state line. We came across RC while he and his friend John were flying RC model airplanes early on a Saturday morning (No, they wouldn’t let us have a go.).

RC told us all about his long battle with Lyme’s disease. He had it for nearly five years — he put on a ton of weight, couldn’t walk or see, and fell into depression. After a while, he came to a conclusion that the prescription drugs from the doctor weren’t working for him. He researched the disease to find out what it fed on and used natural remedies to starve out the disease. These days, he’s Lyme’s free, 70 pounds lighter, and quite happy. RC has cut prescription drugs out of his life completely, relying solely on natural remedies. 


Unfortunately, this little fellow couldn’t tell us his story.

MaryEllen and Sam

MaryElln and Sam are two avid cyclists from Bradford, PA. Every summer, they hop on their tandem bicycle and join up with their kids, grandkids, and 3000 other people for a cycling tour of Ohio. 

A couple of years ago, MaryEllen came across the P2S riders eating lunch outside the Bradford Regional Airport, where she worked. After chatting with the riders, she and Sam decided they wanted to do slime thing for Bike and Build. Unfortunately, they were on their Ohio tour when P2S rolled through last year. However, the stars aligned this year and MaryEllen and Sam provided us with a delicious cookout for lunch at Mile 38 of 67, complete with ice cream sandwiches!

Debbie’s sister

I don’t know this woman’s name, but I do know her sister’s name is Debbie. She works at the Corky’s II Pizza and Ice Cream in Pleasantville, PA. After a rainy morning, she provided all 29 of us with free frozen treats. In exchange, she asked that we dedicate our ride to her sister Debbie, who had recently passed away. The 62.5 miles from Warren to Franklin, PA were for Debbie. 

It’s been a fascinating journey. The scenery is magnificent, but I would argue that the people we meet and the stories we hear are even more interesting. 

The kindness of strangers. 

Here on Bike and Build we depend a lot on the kindness of strangers. Every place we spend the night allows us to stay for free. They usually provide dinner and often ever cook us breakfast. The folks we have come upon along the route have gifted to us soda, ice cream, and not one, but two birdhouses! After life in the Seattle Freeze (I exaggerate), I have been bowled over by the generosity of people we will never see again. 

On our notorious 70-mile ride from Poughkeepsie to Roscoe, New York, we met some folks who really went above and beyond anything I could have imagined. 

C.K.L. and I were sweeping that day, which rant we rode in the back to make sure everyone got in to the host site by the end of the day. It was a long, challenging ride. 

We joined up with E.F. and J.C., both of whom had suffered some mechanical issues earlier in the day, just I time to conquer the infamous Hunter Road, which went over one of the tallest and steepest mountains in the Catskills. It was late in the day and we were tired and sore, but we made it over!

However, we still had more than 20 miles to go and some ominous clouds were rolling in. Suddenly, thunder crashes overhead and the heavens opened up on us. The Rafa got slick, our brakes got wet, and the sky got dark. Visibility was next to nothing. The J.C. got a flat tire. We were in a very bad way, to say the least. 

As E.F. and I helped J.C. change her flat, C.K.L. rode ahead to seek out shelter. As the storm picked up in intensity, I grew more worried, unt, out of nowhere, a Kia Soul appeared. The man behind the wheel said that he lived up the road and C.K.L. was waiting on his porch. He promptly loaded J.C.’s bike into his trunk, while E.F. and I rode on toward our refuge. 


When we arrived, our savior’ wife was waiting with warm, dry towels. It was heavenly. 

As we dried off, our savior asked us what we needed. “Water? Warm Gatorade? I’m afraid the only cold beverage I have is beer. You want a beer?” That last offer was tempting, but we declined. Instead, his wife brought us steaming mugs of blueberry tea. Then, a plate of cheese and crackers appeared as if out of thin air. 

As I sat wrapped in a dry towel, sipping on hot tea, and munching on cheese, while the lightning flagged and the rain poured down around us, I was floored by the generosity of these complete strangers. I didn’t know their names, nor did they ask for ours, but they opened up their home to us and gave us what they had. They also gave me a little piece of hope. 

In a world where we only seem to hear the bad news, it was soul-filling to see that there are good, kind, helpful people out there to lend a hand. 

A day in the life.

6:00 am: Wake up; get dressed; pack up our gear

6:30 am: Pack up the trailer with everyone’s bags and our food bins; fill up the coolers; clean up the host site

7:00 am: Breakfast — either provided by the host or cereal/fruit/pastries/leftovers

7:30 am: Clean up breakfast; ABC check on the bikes (air pressure, brakes, chain); route meeting — go over the plan for the day, share facts about our next town, receive cue sheets with turn-by-turn directions

8:00 am: Roll out

The day is ours to ride and explore. We take in the scenery, stop for food/coffee/ice cream/thrift shops, explore parks/towns/monuments, and just enjoy America at 15 miles per hour.

One team leader drives the van each day, hauling all our gear and food and helping out in times of need. They are responsible for setting up the lunch spot and making sure the day goes smoothly.

Lunch is approximately halfway through the ride and usually consists of PB&J, fruit, chips, and leftovers. On days that are 90+-mile rides and/or over 90 degrees, we get two lunches at the one-thirds and two-thirds mark.

4:00 pm: Arrive at the host; unload the trailer; clean bikes; take showers and get settled for the night

6:00 pm: Dinner — either provided by the host or prepared by us

7:00 pm: Clean up from dinner; free time — read, write, sleep, hang out, explore the town

11:00 pm: Lights out.

Sleep. wake up. Repeat until one day begins to blend into the next.


Update from P2S15. We’ve had two days of orientation in Providence, a build day in Providence, and two days on the road. TL;DR: New England is awesome. It has approximately one million giant hills. I am tired. This is the best.

 After two days we have ridden 100.2 miles, eaten lunch in two cute New England towns, crossed one state line, been fed and housed by two awesome  churches, climbed countless hills, gotten one free yoga class and one free bag of popcorn, and have gotten lost on more than one occasion. Despite this hills between them, Providence, RI, Pomfret, CT, and Granby, CT have been super kind to us.  It has been a blast. It’s been two days and I’m in love with everything about B&B.

I want to write something more substantial, but I want to sleep even more. So, if you want to find out more, check out our team tracker page/blog:
Peace, love, and P2S. 

Brake for shakes!