Amsterdam Bicycle Parking near the Central Station

Too Many Bikes – I Can’t Imagine

A story has been circulating lately that has many bike advocates and people who bike wishing they had this problem – Amsterdam has run out of bike parking, and the city is contemplating building underground parking for 7,000 bikes! For the rest of us, this is unbelievable, mind blowing, a wet dream, or all of the above. I mean, the city plans to spend 200 million Euros on new bicycle infrastructure (as part of it’s long range planning)! This makes me want to cry.

Amsterdam Bicycle Parking near the Central Station

Amsterdam Bicycle Parking near the Central Station

The city is considering underground bike parking, as well as adding more floating bike parking stations, around the Central Train Station, to a whopping total of 21,500 by 2030. Construction isn’t expected to start until 2017, but I have no doubt it will happen – 43% of Amsterdam residents bike to and from work, according to the City Lab article, with over 50% biking daily.

Floating Bike Parking near Amsterdam's Central Station

Floating Bike Parking near Amsterdam’s Central Station

I have to confess, however, that my first thought was, “Well get rid of the abandoned bikes first!” When we were in Amsterdam last summer, we noticed that not only are the racks crammed full of bikes, a great number of those bikes appear to be abandoned. I’m pretty sure that flat tires, rusted or broken chains, missing parts, etc., is a good sign that a bike hasn’t been ridden in a while. And City Lab reports that Amsterdam removed 73,000 “wrongly” parked bikes in 2013, so I guess they do keep tabs on that. Copenhagen was the same way: we saw seas of parked bikes, only to get close and realize that a significant percentage were clearly not ridden on a regular basis. Apparently it’s a problem that urban planners and others in Copenhagen are just beginning to realize and recognize.

Sure, this might not be an abandoned bike. Someone may have parked it this way on purpose.

Sure, this might not be an abandoned bike. Someone may have parked it this way on purpose.

They might look rusty to us but are probably (?) well-used bikes!

They might look rusty to us but are probably (?) well-used bikes!

This story has reduced me to sighing wistfully and clicking through photos of both our visits to Amsterdam and Copenhagen. I know The Mechanic and I remarked on those trips about the sheer number of bicycles in mass bike parking lots, and how we wished we had the problem of abandoned bikes piled up on the racks. I mean, how does one cram one’s bike into an overcrowded rack?! I guess that’s part of the reason they all ride clunkers.

Where do you put your bike in this Copenhagen bike parking?!

Where do you put your bike in this Copenhagen bike parking?!

That bike on the top row of this Copenhagen bike rack is what I'd call "wrongly parked."

That bike on the top row of this Copenhagen bike rack is what I’d call “wrongly parked.”

I'm willing to bet that all these bikes in front of Copenhagen's Magasin du Nord are there just for the 50% off sale!

I’m willing to bet that all these bikes in front of Copenhagen’s Magasin du Nord are there just for the 50% off sale!

While we struggle to get adequate parking in most places in this country, we can all dream of the day when we have the Amsterdam problem of too many bikes, not enough bike parking. Someday….

I saw a car slide in this intersection as it tried to turn.

Snow and Spring and Shoes

Yesterday’s snow storm was a bit unexpected – it started earlier than anticipated and seemed to snow more than expected (maybe 4-5″?). Then it turned to rain overnight, and with the morning temperatures above freezing, it was a slushy, sloppy mess when I went for a mid-morning walk. I wanted to see how the road conditions were, to determine how I felt about getting to work Monday morning*, but I ended up just cranky. I guess I have to write at least one winter weather-related cranky post per year. SnowstormWalking through the barely cleared slushy side streets of my neighborhood was somewhat annoying because there were too many large puddles, then there’s that whole no-sidewalks thing. Of course people were walking in the street, there is nowhere else to go! I did see people out shoveling in front of their houses. I love the way civic concern ends at the edge of one’s property line. Shovel all the way to the street? Clear the curb? Not my problem.

But once I got onto a main road, I started to get really annoyed. Here Arlington is a Walk Friendly Community, and it was impossible to walk across streets. Snow had been plowed into walls along the main drag, sidewalks cleared to almost the street, and slush puddles formed at every corner. It’s no wonder I saw these two guys walking down the middle of the road. Their feet were probably drier than mine, as I attempted to make my way across the mess. Slush 13Slush 10As I struggled along, I thought about how Arlington has made news because it is clearing the bike trails this winter. This is a huge victory for bike advocates and my friends at BikeArlington, but I have to confess that it makes me sort of crabby. It’s great that the trails are cleared – but what about the bike lanes?! I mean, there are plows out on the streets already, just clear the bike lane at the same time! And by the way – how do  you expect people on bikes to get to the bike trail that has been so nicely cleared?! I don’t tend to bike after a snowstorm because I know the roads will be messy, with the snow plowed into the bike lane, and the roads icy, and I don’t trust drivers in this sort of weather while I’m trying to take the lane. If you want more people to bike in the winter and the snow, think about the connectivity of the system.

So I decided to check out the route that I usually take from home to the bike trail, if I take the trail (which I don’t, because I prefer to take the bike lanes. It’s more direct to my office. Why go out of my way? And I find the trail boring. I’d rather check out the houses and restaurants and shops I pass). As expected, pretty messy. The only section where the bike lane was totally clear was the section where it goes between a right turn lane and a through lane.

The car is actually in the bike lane, because the right turn lane is still full of snow and slush. At least the bike lane is clear?

The car is actually in the bike lane, because the right turn lane is still full of snow and slush. At least the bike lane is clear?

See that white line almost buried by the snow? That's the outer edge of the bike lane.

See that white line almost buried by the snow? That’s the outer edge of the bike lane.

Where the bike lane ends...

Where the bike lane ends…

Bike directions, yay! No visible bike lane - it's under all that snow.

Bike directions, yay! No visible bike lane – it’s under all that snow.

Please, please, please, can we think about how everyone gets around, in all kinds of weather?

Now that my rant is over, I am going to think about Spring. It will be here eventually! I’m fantasizing about warm weather and wearing skirts on bikes, and Spring shoes. I don’t know why, I’m just obsessed with pink, blush or nude shoes right now. I really love the Inglewood kiltie oxfords from Finery London, in nude with a gold kiltie, and Cole Haan has a lovely basic blush oxford as well. Orla Kiely has teamed up with Clarks to make some adorable (yet expensive) shoes, and I love the pink slipper flats (and the pale blue kindergartener t-straps, which I think would be perfect with this Spring’s newest trend, culottes). Clarks has a few other pairs of pale pink shoes that I love, like their own pale pink/nude spectator oxford and even the dressed-up fishermans sandals.

Any one of these pairs would be adorable with a circle skirt – how many more days until Spring arrives?

 *PS – Although I took the bus, the warm weather appears to have melted enough snow yesterday to clear most of the bike lane….

 

At the 2014 Forum

Prepping for the National Forum on Women & Biking

The National Bike Summit is less than three weeks away, and the National Forum on Women & Bicycling before that. I am excited that I am allowed to attend the Women & Bikes Forum again, and intrigued by the League of American Bicyclists’ theme of “Bikes + Women Leaders = Big Ideas.” Always hoping to encourage more women to take leadership roles in the world of bike advocacy, they are showcasing different women and organizations that have taken on these roles in their communities. I am always inspired by hearing these stories, even if I am myself a reluctant advocate.

At the 2014 Forum

At the 2014 Forum

One of the things I have come to value about this event is knowing that so many of the women in the industry will be in one room at one time! The newsmakers, the stylemakers, those who push the envelope and lead the way – all there. Of course, most of them I only know through social media, so I could be rubbing elbows with someone and not necessarily know it. I wish our Twitter handles were on our name tags as well! That would help identify people, and make Tweeting about the event easier. I’ve studied the agenda, and I am looking forward to hearing from representatives from all over, such as Tulsa Hub, Nuu Muu, and Multicultural Communities for Mobility, among others.

At the 2014 Forum

At the 2014 Forum

Of course, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to the pop up shops, too…. Discovering new artists and vendors is just as important to me as hearing about the amazing bicycle work being done around the country. And I’ve already started making a new garment to wear. I just realized I don’t have much time left to finish it, and since I don’t really understand the pattern instructions, I’m a bit nervous now. I’m sure it will make sense when I start moving pieces around, though. I just hope it doesn’t snow – last year’s blizzard on the day of the forum was not ideal.

Excited to see how this turns out with that black reflective fabric!

Excited to see how this turns out with that black reflective fabric!

 

Liberty Blouse 4

Dreaming of Spring Flowers and Bike Skirts

The freezing cold temperatures, crazy strong wind and predicted snowfall isn’t the only reason why I am currently dreaming of spring flowers and bike skirts. I’ve been busy with both all weekend! Well, sort of.

For starters, I made the McCalls 6794 blouse out of the Liberty of London for Target duvet cover that I’ve had waiting for me. It went together pretty quickly and I am very excited by the result. I didn’t realize how tricky it is to tie a bow behind one’s back, but I’m sure I’ll get better at it with time.

The orange reflective fabric is heavy enough that I stitched it to the seam allowance to reduce the pull on the seam itself. I love that this is so flattering, with just one big piece of fabric in the back, and the sash stitched on in the front. I love sashes.

I have always loved Liberty of London fabrics, but this spring, I am clearly not the only one obsessed with floral prints. Shops everywhere seem to have large floral print clothing!

I really love the Land’s End floral tee and will no doubt order it soon-ish. But the Land’s End Floral Pants, the Nordstrom Topshop floral pants, the Zara floral pants, and the ASOS floral pants are all wonderful and definitely make me want a pair (okay, all of them!). A suit, not so much, but I might consider a blazer. The Talbots blouse I love because it is stripes AND floral print, my two favorite patterns in one of my favorite color combinations, gray and pink, but it’s almost too corporate for my taste, so I’m not sure.  These floral prints remind me of medieval tapestries, like the Unicorn tapestries in The Cloisters in New York. That might be less “spring” than the Liberty of London print of my new top, but I appreciate the slightly more mysterious designs, especially for pants.

"The Unicorn in Captivity - Google Art Project" by Unknown - 6QHwPO4q4grNtA at Google Cultural Institute, zoom level maximum. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Unicorn_in_Captivity_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg#mediaviewer/File:The_Unicorn_in_Captivity_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg

The Unicorn in Captivity tapestry (“The Unicorn in Captivity – Google Art Project” by Unknown – 6QHwPO4q4grNtA at Google Cultural Institute, zoom level maximum. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Unicorn_in_Captivity_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg#mediaviewer/File:The_Unicorn_in_Captivity_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg)

But floral prints are not the only reason why I am fantasizing about spring and warmer weather. I recently met Lara Neece, of Forest and Fin, and talked about her new bike skirt design. An artist in Savannah, GA, she has a great collection of earth-friendly silk screened tee shirts with her own designs of birds and foxes and things. I love the Lovebirds Tee. She has also designed a bicycle wrap skirt and is in the process of having samples made and setting up her Kickstarter. Since she was visiting the DC area, we arranged to meet and chat, and I got to try on the skirt (okay, over my pants in the cafe….). It is lovely, nice and full, with some innovative details that I will let her share once her Kickstarter is launched. Lara is focusing on having the skirt made as sustainably as possible, but is still conscious of the price point, which is appreciated. I encourage you to follow her on Twitter and Instagram as well as her website and blog for updates on her skirt. It made me wish for spring and summer, because there is nothing better than biking in a skirt! A skirt, sandals, tee shirt or tank top… ah warm weather! How many days left until Spring?!

This is not the typical winter temperature here, brr! #dislike

This is not the typical winter temperature here, brr! #dislike

Oanh's a-ma-zing Belladone dress, with reflective trim!

Guest Blogger: The Return of Oanh

The first guest post by Oanh was a runaway favorite, so I’m glad I can bring you Part Two of her originally longer post. This half is about sewing. Oanh is definitely a better seamstress than I am, so I follow her blog and Instagram to see what lovely things she’s made next. She, like me, loves adding reflective details to her sewing projects; I am so happy to find a kindred spirit! And I love how her life has come full circle, first with her parents sewing for a factory, now sewing herself as well as working as a lawyer in support of such workers. This is a powerful story.

Sewing I’m sort of new-ish to, and sort of not.  I grew up in a household of ‘outworkers': my parents sewed T-shirts for a factory (through multiple middle-men down the contracting chain/network).  They were paid a pittance for their work, which was often rushed and urgent.  I remember waking many mornings to discover that my parents and older siblings had worked through the night.  I helped out, too; I folded and bundled and my smaller fingers and better eyesight meant that I threaded the machines.  My sisters and I would also use the fabric scraps to make a million scrunchies.  I made bags when I got older, and I wore clothing made from the fabric scraps when I was younger. My family very much wanted to leave all the sewing work behind; it is symbolic of the early life we led in Australia, struggling to make enough money to live on and feed so many mouths. I know my parents were prepared to work for anything at all, but my paid work now (I’m a lawyer) is striving to ensure those in a similar situation are paid fairly for their labour, have safe working conditions and their health is not damaged by the work. My parents suffered from myriad respiratory and physical complaints, many of which were directly attributable to the sewing work.  Knowing how to sew was always in my head, and I spent a lot of thinking time on how to modify my clothes because they did not fit me (too long, too tight in the thighs etc) or lacked things that I wanted (like reflective-ness and pockets..)  I rarely got around to making the modifications, however.

Here Oanh models the reflective trim she added to her vest as well as her reflective cycling cuffs. See her instructions here.

Here Oanh models the reflective trim she added to her vest as well as her reflective cycling cuffs. See her instructions here. She mentioned to me that she also made a reflective scrunchie – I see a huge market for those!

One day, after I returned to Australia from our bike trip, I decided I should stop thinking and start doing, so I bought a sewing machine.  I’ve since become obsessed and sewing is now a prime hobby (almost displacing reading …) and an unshakeable part of my life.

I’m loving making my own clothes, because I hate shopping and I don’t much like the fashion industry.  To that end, I don’t know that much about what the women’s cycling clothing market is like in Australia.  Nor the sports gear market. I am also a hiker but I really don’t know what the hiking clothing market is like, either … a bit useless, aren’t I?  I dare say: very few are designing in Australia, and even fewer are making in Australia.  Most clothing is ‘pricey’ in Australia for a variety of reasons (smaller market, value of the Aus dollar comparative, higher cost of living in Aus, cost of importation etc).  I have some major issues about the balance between the cost of clothing production (particularly workers being paid a fair price for their labour) with the cost that we as consumers are prepared to pay (or are perceived to be prepared to pay) for clothing – whether it is technical or casual or formal.  This post would become even longer if I delved into this issue but let me end with this: Cycling is my preferred mode of transport because I want to live a low-impact-on-this-earth life (simple, green, sustainable etc); making my own (and some of my partner’s) clothes ties in with that ambition.  Making my clothes exactly how I want them, for everything that I might want to do in them, is a motivating bonus!

Oanh's a-ma-zing Belladone dress, with reflective trim!

Oanh’s a-ma-zing Belladone dress, with reflective trim!

I’m in awe of someone who does so much biking, such great sewing, strives to live a low-impact life, and works to improve the lives of others. Oanh, it’s been great to have you as a guest blogger! Thank you so much for your words!

I hope you have enjoyed reading about how other women bike and sew! I hope to bring more posts like this to you throughout the year. Stay tuned!

Crystal Couture 4

Fashion Show Fun at Crystal Couture

New York’s Fashion Week starts on February 11, 2015, when hordes of models, designers, hardworking assistants and stitchers, stagehands and crew, fashion reporters and bloggers, and fashion followers descend upon to revel in the Fall/Winter 2015 fashion collections. It’s the one big event (well, two, since it happens twice a year) that I really miss about no longer working in NYC – I miss the scene and early access to trends.

Here in Arlington, VA, we are not immune to the lure of the fashion show – the Crystal City BID has hosted Crystal Couture for the last several years, several days of runway shows and shopping, right in Crystal City. I’ve never gone, but finally went this year, on the first two nights. It was so much fun! Sure, it wasn’t Zang Toi or Carmen Marc Valvo, but it was here and accessible, and just as much fun. We even saw Miss District of Columbia, so it wasn’t without celebrities, either! Crystal Couture 13 Crystal Couture 15The event was set up with booths for several dozen local boutiques and designers, with a square runway that ran through all of them. DJ Neekola, fierce in her bubble gum pink hair, spun tunes the whole night, while the runway shows were almost back to back. My friends and I had a fabulous time shopping and watching the shows, as well as doing the obligatory people watching – seeing what everyone else was wearing was just as fun as seeing the models’ outfits! I didn’t catch the names of which designer was which show, I’m afraid…

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Seriously, some of the best shoes were not on the women!

I didn’t buy much, just some jewelry.

Love my new necklace from Hush Boutique!

Love my new necklace from Hush Boutique!

The jewelry by Evelyn Brooks was my favorite, and I bought a bracelet after chatting with the designer herself. I like that it is unusual but full of meaning and culture and history. The huayruro seeds are native to Central and South America, and are said to bring good luck, love and happiness. And who can’t use a little love, luck and happiness?! Plus, the vivid red colors at her booth made me think of upcoming Valentine’s Day. I strongly encourage you to read about Evelyn on her website, because she’s not only making eco-friendly jewelry which is showcased all over the world, she aspires to be a role model by teaching jewelry classes in Spanish and English. These are the kinds of artists I’m proud to support, so I look forward to wearing my bracelet (and the two little charms) as much as possible.

Now I can’t wait for next year’s Crystal Couture event! I guess I will have to console myself in the near future by watching New York Fashion Week news. Hopefully I can survive…

And I feel like I totally scored by finding this couture banner bag, created and given away by the Crystal City BID, complete with the BID's Twitter tag on it!

And I feel like I totally scored by finding this Couture banner bag, created and given away by the Crystal City BID, complete with the BID’s Twitter tag on it!

 

 

 

 

 

Win at Shopping

A Celebration, a Book Review, and a Giveaway!

This is my 200th blog post! I’m so excited about that – I never thought I’d reach that point! It’s also almost the third anniversary of my current job, which amazes me as much as it excites me. I’ve never had a job this long, and to be starting my fourth year just blows me away. (Yes, I worked as a dresser on Broadway for 7 years, and toured with Disney on Ice for 3 years before that, but different shows = different producers = different supervisors = etc etc etc. Not the same.)

So to celebrate, I am combining a book review with my first ever Giveaway! I’m giving away the book I am reviewing! How fun is that?! But wait – what book is it, you ask? Let me show you:

Win at ShoppingIf you are a long-time regular reader of this blog, you have probably already heard me talk about my friend David Zyla and his book, The Color of Style. I’ve asked him for advice on fabrics, and even attended a fashion show at the National Arts Club that he emceed. I really love his book on color, because it helps each individual find the colors that work best on them, based on the colors in your eyes, hair, hands, etc., and for what reasons (i.e., your formal, romantic, and dramatic colors, what that means, and when to wear them). I’ve seen it in action, so I know it works. And I’ve slowly adjusted the colors of my wardrobe to fit “my” colors. I’ll review it for you someday to better explain all that.

My copy of Color Your Style, along with color chips I picked based on the book's advice

My older copy of Color Your Style, titled The Color of Style, along with color chips I picked based on the book’s advice. (Apparently they’ve redesigned it since I bought it in 2010!)

So now he has teamed up with Eila Mell, a fashion journalist who has also published a book with Heidi Klum, to create How to Win at Shopping: 297 Insider Secrets for Getting the Style You Want at the Price You Want to Pay. Sounds good to me! David is a pro shopper, too – on the few days I worked with him on “All My Children,” we were surrounded by racks and racks of things he had purchased over the years for the characters. Fun!  But having worked as a shopper for shows, I know how hard that type of work is. So when a pro offers up tips, I’m always happy to read them!

The book is small and tidy, broken down into categories, each page full of advice. The topics run from analyzing your closet to more strategically shop, shop alone (sorry girls!), proper undergarments, determining how well made a garment is, to dressing for job interviews and dates, to buying clothes for your man (I’d never even try, frankly). I would quote some but assume there are copyright laws…  Suffice it to say, even if you think you know it all, you might not – I learned some really good tips in this book! Win at Shopping ChaptersDavid told me that his best piece of advice is to look for the clues in your closet so you know what you are shopping for. My closet is a bit ADHD, since it seems all over the place! No, I can see some themes – florals, stripes, teals and raspberries mixed in with grays and blues and browns. I know that I always gravitate towards floral prints, no matter what the runways tell me are “in” patterns. I will probably never be seen in an animal print blazer. It seems like obvious advice, but at the same time, its taken me a while to embrace what I love, and not try to dress like someone I’m not.

I would love to put this book in your hands, so I am going to give it away! Here are the rules:

  1. Leave a comment on this post telling us the worst shopping advice anyone ever gave you – and how soon  you realized it was bad advice!
  2. I will take comments until midnight on Friday, February 13th. If you post after that, too late. Surely it won’t take you that long to remember bad advice.
  3. On February 14, Valentine’s Day, I will use a random number generator to pick the winning comment. (That is, if I get 8 comments, it will pick a number between 1 and 8.)
  4. Then I will let you know that you won! Yes, I will ship internationally but can’t guarantee how long it will take to arrive!)

If you are interested in fashion and shopping even slightly as enthusiastically as I am, you should play along! Help me celebrate my 200th blog post, and my friend David’s new book How to Win at Shopping, by trying to win it! Win at Shopping Dedication

 

Oanh in Montenegro - doesn't that look like perfection?!

Guest Blogger: Oanh in Australia

A special treat! A guest post from fellow bike-and-sewing blogger Oanh, from Melbourne, Australia!  Oanh and I connected over our mutual love of bikes and sewing reflective clothing, and she’s the one who helped hook me up with the super cool reflective fabric last month. I asked her to write about biking and sewing; I am always interested in what biking is like in other countries, as well as what other people who bike sew, and I hope you are too. Follow her blog, and check her out on Twitter. Here’s the first part, about biking (mostly):

I have my first guest posting gig.  I should be famous any day now.  Thank you, Tin Lizzie, for inviting me to ramble on about biking in Melbourne, Australia to your readers, wherever they are.

So, a little about me.  I’m Oanh (it is pronounced like the number one, if you have an Australian accent. Oanh, one, won are all phonemes in my ears and if they’re not for you … any variation on how you say one or won will probably make me respond.)  I blog over at www.uniqueschmuck.wordpress.com about whatever takes my fancy, and the thing that currently takes my fancy is SEWING.  But I have rather a lot of hobbies, and one of them is also RIDING MY BICYCLE, which together with sewing is how I came to find Tin Lizzie and her awesome reflective Tron dress.  I love Lizzie’s obsession with making reflective clothing because it is also my obsession.

In my mind, I’m new to cycling, but in reality I’m not.  I keep forgetting that I’m actually quite experienced.  I just counted on my fingers and I’ve been riding a bicycle as my primary and preferred mode of transport for 7 years.  Currently, I lie a little when I say the bike is my primary mode of transport, because I live in Australia and it’s a big place and my job gave me a car that I have to use to get to a number of different places in and around Melbourne which if I went by bicycle would mean that I was cycling for most of the day and still not at a site in time for a meeting (but boy, would I be having fun).  So, I drive much more than I would like but I consider the bicycle my preferred mode.  I also lived in the UK from beginning of 2007 until end of 2010, which is when I became a cyclist.  There, I pretty much rode my bicycle everywhere.  When we left the UK, my partner and I intended to ride our bikes back to Australia.  We did not quite make it – we wriggled and wended our way around Europe and Morocco for 8 months instead.  We wrote a fairly detailed blog, which if you’ve got lots of spare time, you should totally waste some of it over there: www.crazyguyonabike.com/nnocycling

Oanh in Montenegro - doesn't that look like perfection?!

Oanh in Montenegro – doesn’t that look like perfection?!- TinLizzie

Basically, I’m a travel and commuter cyclist.  I don’t race and I definitely do not do any crazy-ass downhill mountain bike riding.  Matter of fact, I’ve been known to walk my bike downhill because it’s just too scary (for me).  For my cycling purposes I have two bikes: my Santos tourer and a Trek Belleville, which is my commuter bike.  Both are actually in the same kind of ‘market’, they are built to carry STUFF, riding posture is mostly upright and both have wheels that can take most terrain (although the Santos has fat tyres which can take all terrain and I have extreme discomfort riding the Belleville on non-paved surfaces as it seems she handles them badly but it is probably the case that I was spoiled by the Santos’ excellent handling of unpaved surfaces.)  Actually, the Santos spoiled me for every other bicycle: she handles beautifully, she was fitted to shorty-pants me and she’s blue.  I bought the Belleville because I could rarely lock up the Santos and leave her.  I know she’s just a bike but I’d be devastated if someone stole her.  So now I have a bike that I can ride most places, lock up and leave and be philosophical about if anyone steals her.

I live in Melbourne in Australia, which is probably the most bike-friendly city in Australia, but that’s not saying much.  Australia is a very car-oriented culture.(see reference 1)  Unlike the UK, most adults in Australia have a driving license and probably own a car.(reference 2 and 3)  All of our infrastructure is made with driving in mind, and the distances between places, when one is not in the inner city, can be vast.  I’ve never been to the United States, but I suspect we are similar in that respect.  Where I live in Melbourne – its inner northern suburbs – is probably among Melbourne’s most bikey areas and the route that I travel to work is along a creek trail and along Melbourne’s ‘bicycle highway’ – Canning Street.

I looked it up, and lots of bike shops popped up too. I've been to Melbourne, but ages ago, and long before I was interested in bikes.

I looked it up, and lots of bike shops popped up too. I’ve been to Melbourne, but ages ago, and long before I was interested in bikes. Of course I’d love to go back! – TinLizzie

The cyclists that I see when I’m riding run the full gamut of bicycling fashion, from full lycra riding kits (some of them are even wearing bibs, for which I do hope they have a nice long ride) to lovely looking lasses in dresses and heels, and dapper lads in suits.  Each rides to their own ability, their bike and their dress, although I’ve seen any number of well-dressed-in-normal-clothes women overtake huffing and puffing lycra-clad men.

I myself tend towards a halfway house of lycra plus normal.  I’d love to wear whatever I would wear for work that day on my bike but a couple of things stop me.  Australia is often hot and I always arrive at work sweaty.  Slowing down doesn’t work for me – I ride at my pace and I like riding fast if I can (which is not to say I’m a fast rider; but the fun of a bicycle is the feeling of speed, and I’m not going to slow down to preserve my prettiness because that’s fairly low down on my priorities).  I don’t really want to ruin my work clothes because I don’t have a lot – nor do I want a lot – of clothes.  I’m notoriously good at getting fabric caught in chains, rubbing my calf against exposed metal bits and greasy bike chains and just generally getting dirty.  I cannot stand it when my clothes restrict me, so the trousers that I can happily wear at work give me knee resistance and I don’t like it.  It’s just easier if I wear bike shorts (summer) or leggings (winter*).  I need bike leggings, and I intend to make myself some but I just haven’t got around to it yet.

* We do not get truly cold in Melbourne, Aus.  As in,there is rarely frost on the ground. Cycling in winter is my favourite.  Australia’s danger is our hot summers and Melbourne has hot, dry, and extremely windy, summers.  I cycle much less in our hot season than in our cold season.

Reference 1: In 2012, “approximately 7 in 10 people (71%) aged 18 years and over travelled to work or full time study primarily by passenger vehicle, similar to 2009 (72%). This could have been either as a passenger or a driver. Only 16% of Australians used public transport, while 4% walked and 2% cycled.” See Australian Bureau of Statistics ‘CarNation’  http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/Lookup/4102.0Main+Features40July+2013 

Reference 2: At the time of the 2014 Motor Vehicle Census (MVC), there were 17.6 million motor vehicles, including Motor cycles, registered in Australia. (ABS)

 Reference 3: 30 June 2010, Australia’s population increased by 377,100 people, reaching 22,342,000. (ABS)


 

In the Thomas Jefferson Library Room is this mosaic, titled "Opportunity"

ICYMI January

How is January already over?! Or as good as – didn’t we just celebrate New Years?!

I was busy this month, despite my best efforts, and felt like I should share some non-bloggy things. You already know about our trip to NYC and my American Girl Doll adventure, but that’s not all I did this month. Here’s a breakdown:

The Mechanic and I also visited the Library of Congress, to see Magna Carta (one never says the Magna Carta, only Magna Carta, apparently). Not only was the 1215 Lincoln Cathedral Magna Carta on display, the exhibit followed the different ways Magna Carta, and its ideals, evolved over time – including popular culture! I’m really glad we made time to see that.

I love my Walnut Studiolo “Little Lifter” so much that I wrote a review of it for The Discerning Cyclist. Seriously, if you have to carry a bike up and down stairs on a regular basis, this might be just the thing you want. It makes a huge difference to me.

Staircase of Doom - thanks to my Lifter to make this easier!

Staircase of Doom – thanks to my Lifter for making this easier!

We had our first snowfall, but thankfully have dodged a major storm. I dislike biking in the snow, or more specifically, anything slippery, so I haven’t biked much with these little snowstorms. Snow 2

Our guppies had baby guppies. Lots of them. And they all seem to have survived. I wasn’t really expecting that, and as much as I’m enjoying watching them grow, my teeny 2.5 gallon tank can’t hold 16 guppies and a snail. And the possibility of more. So I’m on a fish tank redesign hunt.

Some of the baby guppies - about twice their original size now!

Some of the baby guppies – about twice their original size now!

Spectre Upside Down

Seriously, Spectre the Mystery Snail is the best pet ever – yes, he was climbing (?) down the leaf upside down!

We saw “Diner” at Signature Theatre in Shirlington, and really enjoyed it. An actor friend said she’s heard rumors that the production is Broadway bound. That would be a true triumph for the Signature! I’ll be watching for that. Diner Signature Theatre

The 2015 National Bike Summit is in March, and I’m hoping to be able to go again. This year, the first day is the women-focused day, which is nice to have it as part of the event, rather than the day before. Two of the sessions that interest me the most are “Powerbrokering for Women in Transportation and Advocacy” and “The Future of the Women’s Market.” I am also amused that one of the sessions is “How to Talk to an Engineer… and Be Persuasive.” I know it’s about bike infrastructure, but maybe it will have tips for me and The Mechanic! They’ve released an initial list of vendors for the women’s pop up shop, too. I am excited to see that Tandem NY will be there with their skirt weight, and I hope that Bikie Girl Bloomers will have her bloomers in a print I want. (For some reason, I can’t find the list of vendors on their website; I got the list in an email. Inconvenient to share.)

Bikie Girl Bloomers in Crazy Daisy (image from Bikie Girl Bloomers website)

Bikie Girl Bloomers in Crazy Daisy (image from Bikie Girl Bloomers website)

 

I was pretty happy to see that one of my blog posts inspired another bike blogger to try the reflective yarn: check out Red Riding’s projects! I hope her knee problems heal up before the nice weather arrives. (Don’t you just love her all-yellow bike?!)I’ve got a few sewing projects lined up, to keep me busy while I’m hoping for warmer, drier weather. I am ready to get out and get biking, but the cold temps and slick bike lanes/roads don’t inspire me to leave my cozy warm apartment. Maybe in February.

Happy Golden Years

Buried by Books

I’ve neglected my blog this past weekend. I was in need of some reading therapy, so I’ve been buried in the Little House on the Prairie books. I blame it on my niece.

The Mechanic and I had our 8-year-old niece over to spend the night last Saturday. It was the first time we’d ever been fully in charge of her, and had her at our house, and overnight, and I was a bit nervous. I just wanted her to have a good time, so she’d want to hang out with us again. I think we were successful.

It was fun – we took her on the Silver Line out to Tyson’s Corner Center. A suburban girl, she doesn’t get to ride trains much, and seemed fascinated by all of it, thank goodness. Our goal was the American Girl Doll store, where she wanted her doll’s ears pierced. I took my American Girl Doll too! I have the original Samantha (she’s been re-released, and is now a bit less historical than before); she was given to me by friends years ago. She’s the 1904 New York Victorian girl, for those of you who don’t know, and I have a few of her historical outfits and accessories, as well as some homemade dresses. I don’t play with her, obviously, and since I don’t have space to display her in our current apartment, she’s been in a box for a while. So she was happy to get out and see the world. Naturally I bought her a new dress at the store.

After sushi at Wasabi, the restaurant in Tyson’s with a conveyor belt of endless sushi, the Disney store, Bath & Body Works, and some ice skating at the outdoor rink at the mall, we staggered home. When we eventually got her tucked into bed, she pulled out her copy of Little House in the Big Woods, which she’s been reading. Yay, one of my favorite series of books ever! Her version is full-color, so I pulled out my decades old set with black and white illustrations, and we compared the lovely Garth Williams images for a while, before I left her to read in bed.

Then I started rereading them. And haven’t stopped.

Okay, I cut out some fabric Sunday after our niece left, and took apart my wedding dress, so I now have a few projects ready to start, huzzah! But basically all I did Sunday and then Monday night was read. Reading is my way of dealing with stress – when I’m overloaded by life, I need to bury myself in a book. And I felt a bit overloaded by the time she left; both The Mechanic and I were. Not used to being around kids much, close to 24 hours of non-stop attention on a kid overwhelmed true-introvert The Mechanic and borderline-introvert me. So I need to reread some old favorite fiction. I skimmed through The Long Winter last night, which seemed appropriate as Winter Storm/Blizzard Juno was rolling in on the Northeast. I just couldn’t manage to rouse myself from my reading stupor to write a blog post. Do you ever get like that – so overwhelmed that you need to do nothing? Or rather, bury yourself in something to take your mind off things?

This was once a Liberty of London for Target duvet cover. Now it will be a spring blouse.

This was once a Liberty of London for Target duvet cover. Now it will be a spring blouse with an orange sherbert reflective sash.

My poor wedding dress!

My poor wedding dress!

A friend is going to repurpose this. She's an amazing seamstress with two daughters - I can't wait to see what she does with it!

A friend is going to repurpose this. She’s an amazing seamstress with two daughters – I can’t wait to see what she does with it!

Now, however, I feel like I’m a bit more relaxed and I’m thinking ahead to everything I want to do this weekend – I just need to finish one last book… Happy Golden Years