October Travel Recap: Biking in Shenandoah

My second “catch up” blog post from the traveling I’ve done this month! Soon I should be back on track – at least a bit…

I’ve wanted to go to the Shenandoah Fall Foliage Bike Festival for a few years now – biking through the Shenadoah Valley in October = fall colors, farms, exploring new places, stretching the bike legs. Also, it’s proximity to the Frontier Culture Museum was a huge lure; that’s a museum I’ve wanted to go to for a while. This year, The Mechanic and I blocked the weekend and made sure to go. staunton-welcomes-cyclists-sign

Admittedly, blocking the weekend did not equal being prepared. We registered late, which made it more expensive, and were madly throwing anything and everything together the day we left. We planned to camp, since the Festival offers cheap camping on the soccer field at the middle school headquarters. Yep, not really prepared to camp. But that’s okay, because we had a great time!

I was so impressed about the way the host town of Staunton, VA welcomed the festival and how organized everything was. There were signs everywhere welcoming cyclists, and stores in the historic downtown area all had signs welcoming cyclists; some offered discounts. The hostess at one restaurant told us that the Saturday night of the Festival is their busiest night *of the year*. Still don’t believe in the economic power of people on bikes? staunton-welcomes-cyclists

I was highly impressed by the festival booklet that everyone received. The booklet contained cue sheets for every single ride of the two days, in tear-out pages. Each page included the map, cues, the “need help” phone number, and a QR code if you wanted to download it. The booklet also contained the full Festival schedule, Friday, October 14- Sunday, October 16th, a map of this historic downtown, information on local shops and Festival sponsors, driving directions to the remote start locations, and a recap of how the Festival put our registration dollars to work, donating to local charities and initiatives. I guess after 26 years of organizing this event, they know what they are doing, but I am still impressed by all this. cue-sheet-booklet

Part of our non-preparation (I kept thinking of Rootchopper’s No Wrong Plan Trip) meant that we arrived at registration Friday night after dark. That meant setting up the tent in the dark. After we went to find dinner. Sorry, other bike campers! We took our commuter bikes, since we sold our road bikes, which meant a more comfortable weekend. I never even wore my padded bike shorts, which I took. In fact, we pretty much stood out as the only cyclists *not* wearing cycling kit. If we’d done longer rides, of course it would have been a different story. But I enjoyed our leisurely approach to the Festival.

Another part of our non-preparation meant that instead of doing the 34-mile loop that we’d planned to do, we did the short 13-mile “family ride.” We were too exhausted from the week to get up early, and wanted to get in some area sightseeing as well. No big deal – the 13 mile loop, which started from Natural Chimneys park, which had once been renown for jousting, was lovely and we were quite happy with our laziness. Sunday we were more on the ball and got a reasonable start to the 20-mile farm loop, which included stops at three farms. Well, one was a bushel of apples set out for cyclists at an orchard, one was a pickling farm stop, and the last, official stop was Polyface Farms, famous for “radical” farming ideas that include healing the earth and being sustainable. We had hoped for an educational component to that stop, to learn more about their mission and values and techniques, but had to settle for hot dogs and “switchel” offered by polite middle school students. (I was happy to see friendly bunnies, even though I know they are being raised for their meat…) farm-ridefields

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We ate well in several downtown Staunton restaurants and cafes (more vegetarian options in this tiny 10-block town than in all of the DC area!), enjoyed the Frontier Culture Museum, and had absolutely perfect weather!

We are definitely adding this bike weekend to our schedule for next year. There is still more in the area that we haven’t explored, and with so many route options, we know we will see new things. And maybe be a bit better prepared for the camping….

Fields of Gold in Shenadoah

Fields of Gold in Shenadoah

 

Summer Book Reading – Bikes Included!

It’s officially summer, and that means it’s officially summer vacation time! And that always seems to mean “What’s on your summer reading list?”

My reading list is season-less, and never-ending and ever-growing. As much as I value my reading time (the only truly relaxing activity I do), as with so many other adults, I rarely get or make time to do it. So, books sit half-read waiting for some down time. Others just pile up, although since I try to limit myself to e-books these days, I can’t really see them stacked up. Maybe that’s the problem!

Someday I will finish reading The Conquest of Nature, by David Blackbourn. I’ve been working on it a while now, but it’s serious reading, and I need dedicated time to concentrate on it. Sadly, I suspect that by the time I finish it, I will have forgotten the beginning. This is a huge book, so it will not be something I take on a flight to read in the plane. The Conquest of NatureOne history book I did recently finish is Brave Companions: Portraits in History, by David McCullough. This is a great travel book because it’s a collection of short stories about men and women who had an impact on the world. Alexander von Humboldt, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Harry Caudill, Francis P. Valentine…. some are familiar names, some are new to me. It’s inspiring to me, to read about the challenges and triumphs of these people, as well as to consider how lucky we are to benefit from their experiences. Brave CompanionsStill in the history genre, I recently received the latest bulletin from the German Historical Institute. The essays in the bulletins tend to be more modern German history so when one arrives that has something late 19th century related, I get very excited – this one is about post-1848 popular press, a topic that I researched for my Master’s Thesis. It’s long and intellectual, so it will require an evening dedicated to reading, but I’m pretty excited. I miss getting to do research, and I loved my topic, so anything that keeps it fresh makes me happy. GHI BulletinThe Mechanic and I are in the early planning stages for a trip to Iceland next February or March, so I have collected a stack of tourism books. Our only goal for the trip is to see the Aurora Borealis (fingers crossed!), but there is plenty of other stuff to do as well. I don’t know how much hiking I’ll want to do in the winter, but there are museums, cooking classes, the Blue Lagoon, whale watching tours, and a bridge across the Continental Divide! Iceland BooksIf you haven’t yet read Bikeyface’s Bike There book, I strongly encourage it – it’s not very long, and in her famous and beloved cartoon style. If you have friends who are interested but concerned, this would be a great gift as well. I wish I could get dozens of copies and hand them out to people on my bike rides. Bike There Bikeyface book BikeyFace BookI am hoping that this summer I’ll finally get around to reading the rest of Bikenomics, by Elly Blue. As much as I love biking, I find it hard to read “industry” books in my free time. But this is a classic and I need to finish it. BikenomicsI would much rather read books about biking that are history, fiction, fictionalized, or children’s books. I found some fun ones on A Mighty Girl’s website. Tillie the Terrible Swede, about a woman who sews and bikes; Bicycle Madness, about a girl and a suffragette in the late 1800s; the sweet story of The Girl and The Bicycle; and one I’ve wanted to read for a while now, Wheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom. I know there are more like this out there, but these should keep me busy for a while. Wheels of Change

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.

Touristing Through NYC Without Bikes

The Mechanic and I took advantage of a long weekend to spend some time in New York City. I really wanted to see the Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibit, Death Becomes Her, and it had been almost a year since I last went up. The Mechanic had technically been once before but he and his buddies didn’t do much sight seeing in the two days they were there. I had a good time planning some sightseeing for him. On the Town The Last ShipWe crammed many activities into a very short period of time. We took the Bolt Bus up on Friday afternoon, and dropped off bags at my best friend’s theater before picking up our Today Tix to see “The Last Ship,” the Broadway musical Sting wrote and was starring in (it closes January 24th, alas; it was really good). A different theater friend was working it, so we stopped backstage after the show to say hi. I’m sure she arranged to have Sting walk past us while we were standing there. Using the fabulous new Today Tix app, we decided to buy tickets to a Sunday night performance of “On the Town,” as well, which we totally enjoyed.

Saturday was a true whirlwind – according to the health tracker app on my phone, we walked over 22,000 steps. The temperature never made it to freezing, either, it was miserably cold. We started off on the Brooklyn Heights promenade, where I pointed out my former Wall Street office, then jumped on a subway to Wall Street itself. I hadn’t been to the 9/11 Memorial before; the pools are so peaceful and reflective. Then we walked past City Hall to Little Italy, where we had pastries, then through SoHo, where I popped into All Saints. I can’t afford the clothing there, but I love the old sewing machine decorations! Then on to the West Village, Murray’s Cheese Shop, Sockerbit, a Swedish candy store, the Meatpacking District, the High Line, the across 23rd Street to Fish’s Eddy, ABC Home, and finally to Rolf’s German Restaurant for dinner with friends. Rolf’s was still decorated for Christmas – my goodness was that overwhelming! This place is famous for it’s over-the-top decorations, and I’m glad I finally experienced it. Photos do not do it credit. After dinner, we went back to ABC Kitchen, and had a lovely glass of wine after saying hi to my friend’s niece, who is a pastry chef there. The desserts we got were lovely! Yum.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It rained all day Sunday. We tried to be inside as much as possible. We started at Grand Central Station, then quickly toured the Main Library. I dragged The Mechanic up 5th Avenue so I could window shop (I did buy this cool blush colored moto jacket and floral tee shirt at Joe Fresh, huzzah!). Once we got past Rockefeller Center, however, I gave up and we took a bus the rest of the way to the Met Museum. I took The Mechanic to the Temple of Dendur, then we split up to see what we wanted.

The Death Becomes Her exhibit was not large, but well presented. I’ve been interested in mourning clothing for a long time, and it was wonderful to see the clothing in person. Even a mourning gown worn by Queen Victoria was on display! I can tell you truthfully that she was tiny and stout. The photos and caricatures don’t lie.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Monday we just hung out with my best friend, who is soon getting married and moving to Dallas, TX. Much more low key, and less stressful on the feet!

The view from Brooklyn Heights

The view from Brooklyn Heights

As The Mechanic and I were headed back to the Bolt Bus to return home, we realized that not only had we not ridden CitiBikes (too cold! too wet!), we hadn’t taken photos of anything bike related! How very unlike us! We saw plenty of bicycles worthy of our admiration, including several Linuses and Gazelles in Brooklyn Heights. Bike lanes, bike racks, people on bike – we were too cold or wet to take our hands out of our pockets to take photos. Oh well – next time we’ll try the Big Apple when the weather is at least warmer. Then we’ll do the bikey thing! MTA card

Downton Abbey at Work

There are many reasons why I think I have a really cool job, and PBS is one of them. I have spent the last almost three years working with the HR manager at PBS on active transportation and wellness benefits and amenities, and getting to go to the corporate headquarters always seems like a treat. I’ve been a PBS fan from early on, and that’s pretty much the only TV I watch these days. It’s just the best programming, and I’m not saying that because I work with the company. Not only are the hallways full of Big Bird and Mystery! series posters, but the lobby often has fun extras, like the “Call the Midwife” vintage bicycle a while ago, or the TV Christmas tree I saw today. PBS TV Christmas Tree_TLCurrently, PBS is promoting the upcoming Season 5 launch of Downton Abbey, and in a BIG way. PBS Lady Mary and Me_TLYep, right there on the side of their building is Lady Mary! PBS and the Crystal City BID teamed up to put up this huge image, and are encouraging the public to Tweet their Lady Mary selfies to #DowntonPBS – so naturally I did! Fun! I can’t wait to start the next season in a few weeks! (yes, you Brits who get to see it earlier than us have an advantage – don’t give anything away!)

My contact at PBS gave my colleague and me Downton Abbey goodies as we left – a tea bag and coaster promoting the show. You better believe I will be taking a #BIGsip with #DowntonPBS on January 4th! PBS DowntonAbbeyTea_TLAdmittedly, I mostly love the costumes, but over the four seasons, I have definitely been sucked into the drama as well. What will happen next? Weeks of torture to slowly find out… Is anyone else as excited about the series as I am?!

Books for Girls, Not Necessarily Bike-Related

One of the fun perks of being married is that now I have a niece. I’ve known her for several years already, of course, and watching her change to the very grown-up age of eight has been fun. Of course, having always wanted to be an aunt, I get very excited around Christmas, because I can think of all kinds of fun things to get her, and it gives me an excuse to buy stuff at the American Girl Doll store (I can’t really justify buying clothes for my American Girl Doll, so this is a good substitute). However, I want to make sure she gets some smart, thinking-girl gifts as well.

Conveniently, my boss recently recommended A Mighty Girl, a website billed as “The world’s largest collection of books, toys and movies for smart, confident and courageous girls.” What a wonderful find! I love all the stuff, and not only does it makes me want some of the fun science kits, my reading wish list has just grown out of control. I continually strive to be a smart, confident and courageous girl, so even I find their recommendations inspiring.

A Mighty Girl, one of my new favorite websites! (Image from the website)

A Mighty Girl, one of my new favorite websites! (Image from the website)

My favorite books span my decades, and I still return to them when I’m feeling stressed. Their challenges and triumphs remind me that even though they and their challenges are fictional, they overcome their challenges with strength and humor and grace. Frances Hodgson Burnett’s book A Little Princess was my childhood comfort story, and no, I have not seen any movie adaption, because I don’t to ruin my mental images of the story (I also remain terribly loyal to the illustrations of my 1975 copy). Sara Crewe’s story is definitely one that few of us can directly relate to (diamond mines – I wish!), but the fact remains that she stayed gracious and positive and creative throughout her personal struggles. I think we can all learn lessons from that. Robin McKinley’s book The Blue Sword captured my early adulthood fantasies the way that no other book had, not even The Lord of the Rings. Harry Crewe, the woman warrior destined to wield the Blue Sword, was tall, blonde and independent, and the story of her birthright inspired me to be strong and athletic and powerful. And discovered maybe a decade ago by my mother, Elizabeth Peters’ character Amelia Peabody was not only a Victorian Egyptologist and lived part of the year in Egypt, but also over the course of several books and several decades, she solved murder mysteries, was thrown into at least one dire circumstance per book, was married to an eminent Egyptologist, raised a mysterious (yet sexy!) son, and strong-armed everyone she met into doing what she wished them to do. And in the best possible humor, whether intended or not!

These books may not seem very “grown up” to some people, but I love creative, well-written stories with strong female characters. I’m also looking forward to reading a new book, The Number 7, by new author Jessica Lidh. Written for teen readers, the book’s mystery, Holocaust past, and Swedish history during World War II make it of interest to me. It also helps that Jessica Lidh is my friend April’s sister! April has told me in the past about the book, and I’ve been awaiting its publication – this month! I haven’t read it yet, but it was on my list to Santa, so hopefully that will be next month’s reading. I can’t wait! The Number 7I don’t know if my niece will end up with the same love of books that I have, but I will do my best to make sure she at least gets exposure to strong girl stories. There are so many out there, all collected onto one website, that there is no way she should be at a loss for good role models as she gets older. One of her Christmas presents is a book listed on A Mighty Girl’s website. It isn’t Bicycle Madness, but if anyone wants a gift hint, well, here’s the link!

Do any of you have favorite “mighty girl” books or stories? Where did you get your inspiration from when you were young? Or did you find your might later in life? And what tips would you offer to an aunt of a young girl?

Only one of several packed bookcases - I can't help it, I love books!

Only one of several packed bookcases – I can’t help it, I love books!

Why I Think We Need Bike Fashion

In the November/December 2014 issue of Momentum Magazine, Editor-in-Chief Mia Kohout asks the question, “Do we need bike fashion?” For a magazine dedicated to making biking-as-transportation “Fun, smart, stylish and sexy,” it might seem like a surprising question – bike fashion fills many of its pages. Mia answered her own question by saying that of course anyone can bike in whatever is in their closet, and that well-made, expensive bike fashion pieces are, like any other expensive wardrobe investment, just that, an investment piece. “Well-designed and well-made clothing can be expensive, whether for riding a bike or not,” she states. I agree – I could buy a knit wrap dress anywhere, but I still aspire to an original Diane von Furstenberg.

Diane von Furstenberg's iconic wrap dress

Ooh…. Diane von Furstenberg’s iconic wrap dress (photo courtesy of DvF website)

Regular readers of my blog know that I am obsessed interested in bike fashion, and started making my own clothing that is both office-appropriate and bike-appropriate. Fashion is not only important to me, it is important to all of us, whether we like it or not. In The Encyclopedia of Fashion, by Georgina O’Hara, the author writes, “Fashion is a mobile, changing reflection of the way we are and the times in which we live.” Michael and Ariane Batterberry write, in their massive Fashion: The Mirror of History, “To our minds, clothes have traditionally served four basic functions: to protect the body, to exalt the ego, to arouse emotions in others, and to communicate by means of symbols.” We may not need fashion, but we do need to be covered, to protect our bodies, and that need combines with the need for self expression, which then becomes fashion. The need to be covered, protect myself, and express myself results in my reflective bike fashionFashion Books

Mia’s question made me return to Lauren Steinhardt, the designer who designed the REI Novara dress I bought earlier this year, and gave us some insights to the bike clothing world (be sure to read Part 1 and Part 2 of her interview). For her MS in Design and Human Environment, Lauren’s thesis, titled “Women’s Commuter Cycling Apparel: Functional Design Process to Product,” spends a lot of time considering the different elements of bike commuting, and what women want to wear. Lauren interviewed women bike commuters in Portland, OR, to get feedback on what they want in bike commuting clothing, and then designed a small collection based on that feedback.

Lauren’s background research initially explored identity and apparel as group membership – anyone can relate to high school cliques, uniforms, the “roadie” look of a full Lycra kit, the “Kate Middleton” effect, and so on. We dress in ways that express not only who we are, but with whom we wish to be identified. However, as Lauren points out, “the cyclist who uses the bicycle primarily as a form of transportation may not wish to identify in the role of recreational or professional cyclist” (pg. 17). The women whom Lauren interviewed did not identify as “cyclists,” but as professionals, and chose their clothing based on that, rather than cycling function.

In evaluating her research, Lauren used research done in 1992 by J.M. Lamb and M. J. Kallal, “A conceptual framework for apparel design,” (Clothing and Textiles Research Journal 10 (2), 42-47). Lamb and Kallal developed a design process that considered the functional needs, expressive needs, and aesthetic needs of the clothing consumer. Functional needs includes fit, mobility, comfort, protection, and donning/doffing of the garment. Expressive needs includes values, roles, status and self-esteem of the consumer. Aesthetic needs include art elements, design principles, and body/garment relationships. I’ve never seen this breakdown before, but it was the perfect format for Lauren’s research, and makes sense to me.

The FEA (Functional-Expressive-Aesthetic) model of consumer needs, but Lamb & Kalla, 1992

The FEA (Functional-Expressive-Aesthetic) model of consumer needs, by Lamb & Kalla, 1992 (Scanned from Lauren’s thesis)

Based on the interviews of women commuter cyclists and an analysis of cycling clothing companies that existed at the time, Lauren determined that most women’s cycling clothing, even that intended to be for bike commuters, did not fulfill the expressive or aesthetic needs. Regardless of how “fashion forward” each participant may or may not have been, each apparently expressed a dislike of traditional bike clothing and accessories, and rejected clothing that could have been more functional because it was not expressive or aesthetically pleasing, and didn’t fulfill the need to be office-appropriate. The majority said that they wanted to be able to walk into their offices looking professional, and that since many of them participate in social events or run errands afterwards, they wanted clothing to wear that was socially appropriate for those situations. Some of the women also owned “bike gear,” such as padded bike shorts, but were dismissive of wearing bike-specific clothing on their commutes, and didn’t see the point in buying clothes (such as by Trek or Pearl Izumi) at bike shops.

Apparel Needs Model for Female Bicycle Consumers, by Lauren Steinhardt

Apparel Needs Model for Female Bicycle Consumers, by Lauren Steinhardt (Scanned from Lauren’s thesis)

Lauren’s thesis is full of more and better detail, and I definitely recommend the section where she designed 6 garments and prototyped a pair of pants. But for the purpose of this blog post, I want to focus on the functional, expressive and aesthetic needs reported by her research. The reason why we need bike fashion is because there are those of us who do not want to buy or wear bike sports clothing, ie, jerseys covered in brands and logos, padded bike shorts, clipless shoes, and so on, because although it fulfills our functional needs (keeps clothing out of gears, keeps us warm, functions better with a road bike perhaps), it doesn’t appeal to our expressive or aesthetic needs. For example, I do not identify as a “roadie” or “cyclist,” so I don’t want to wear a hi viz yellow jacket or anything Lycra. I identify as a professional (or fashion designer, haha!), and as such, wish to look like one on my way to and from work. Hi viz pink and yellow definitely do not fulfill my aesthetic needs; they are colors I look terrible in (frankly, no one looks good dressed like a highlighter). I want to wear teal and gray and rose and leaf green. I want to be able to lock up my bike at work and walk into my office ready for meetings, or at least looking professional enough that I am not embarrassed on my way to the restroom to change and apply makeup!

This is a rather long way of saying that we need bike fashion such as the designs by Iladora, Vespertine, Ligne 8, Iva Jean, and more because they tend to fulfill our expressive, aesthetic AND functional needs better than other, more readily available commercial clothing lines. They might not yet fulfill all of our needs equally, and I will always find a way to fit Piperlime and Ann Taylor Loft into my bike wardrobe, but we need bike fashion companies to help us identify us as people who are fun, smart, stylish and sexy – and ride bikes for transportation.

Ladies biking in Arlington for fun - smart, stylish and sexy!

Ladies biking in Arlington for fun – smart, stylish and sexy!

 

Making the World Our Own

As much as I hate to admit this, Pinterest has been my wedding crutch. Although the ratio of things Pinned to things being used is pretty slim, I did one DIY Pinterest project that I’m actually really excited with. I changed the world.

Our wedding theme is travel, so there are flags and maps and globes throughout out the invitations, program, website, decorations, and so on. When I found this Pin and blog post about a chalkboard globe, I got really excited about what a great sign this could be as part of our reception. However, I already knew how expensive globes are to buy (at least in the DC metro region). “Pick up a cheap globe” must work better in other parts of the country. So until my Matron of Honor mentioned that they inherited an old globe with their new house, I didn’t think I’d be able to do this.

The globe they inherited must be from the early 1990s – Germany is one country, but the USSR still exists. I felt a bit sad about covering up that history, but did it anyway!

Although the author of the blog painted her globe with a paint brush, The Mechanic said that spray paint would be easier and more cost-effective. What would we do with a whole can of chalkboard paint in a rental apartment? Good point. So I bought Rust-Oleum Chalkboard Flat Black Spray and a primer. Then I waited for a weekend when it wasn’t too humid, nor too windy, so I could set up “shop” by our dumpster and do some spray painting.

I was really pleased with the way this project turned out! The globe looks amazing, and the acrylic stand that I initially didn’t like, looks so chic with the black matte globe. Although I had said we could offer it to The Mechanic’s niece, I want to keep it for myself!

You’ll have to wait another week to see it in action, but trust me, it looks really fun. I can’t wait for our wedding guests to see it!

Seriously, I Have a Book-Addiction Problem

I am so excited! I just got a new book, one I’ve wanted to read for a long time. By German historian David Blackbourn, The Conquest of Nature: Water, Landscape, and the Making of Modern Germany finally arrived in the mail!

It's a bit bigger than I was expecting - only 363 pages, plus another 100 for notes, bibliography, etc.

It’s a bit bigger than I was expecting – only 363 pages, plus another 100 for notes, bibliography, etc.

I’ve been wanting to read this for so long that as soon as I busted it loose from it’s Amazon box, I flipped to the introduction and started reading.

Mind you, I am also currently reading Paris Reborn: Napoleon III, Baron Haussmann, and the Quest to Build a Modern City, by Stephane Kirkland. It’s a fascinating tale of how Paris was literally rebuilt in the mid-1800s. I can’t put it down. Paris Reborn

And I have a stack of books waiting anxiously for me to pick them up and start them as well. Several are from work, one is in German, one I’ve technically finished but need to go back and take some notes on, and then there are the Nook books I’ve downloaded, which are mostly easy, fun fiction.

Oh yeah, and a travel book.

Oh yeah, and a travel book.

I’ve been feeling a bit uninspired on the sewing front lately, and craving intellectual stimulation, hence the mad need to read everything *right now*. I love being exposed to  new ideas, and seeing how things all fit together. It stimulates my little grey cells, as Hercule Poirot calls them (yes, I’ve read those books too). I love getting new ideas and researching things to learn more, and find more, and on and on. I often think that I could easily be an academic and do nothing but read and write all day long.

I’m sort of in the research and write mode right now. On the first page of the introduction, in the first paragraph, Blackbourn mentions Wilhelm Boelsche, a writer, poet, and social reformer in early 20th century Germany who was also involved in the “Garden City” movement that “promoted more green space”* in German cities. What?! A green space movement in early 1900s Germany?! I need to know more about this – especially as we, a century later, are going through such a movement.

I’ve already found some really fascinating stuff online. There are a few recent academic sources, such as this PhD dissertation on the Columbia University Academic Commons website, a paper on the CUNY Baruch website, a Wikipedia entry (of course) that talks mostly about the British roots of the movement but lists Buckingham in Arlington, VA, as an example of a garden city. (Wait a minute! That’s near me! Now I will need to walk around this area and examine it more closely – how much of it still exists the way architect Henry Wright intended? This also explains alot about why I love my neighborhood.)

Buckingham Villages Preservation Plan; image taken from Arlington County Newsroom

Buckingham Villages Preservation Plan, 2007; image taken from Arlington County Newsroom

See? I’ve found out some really great stuff in a short amount of time. I can’t wait to read more, both about the Garden City Movement in Germany, and Blackbourn’s book itself. And I want to continue with Paris Reborn, because I think there are probably many parallels between the two, as well as many lessons to be learned. And adding green spaces into cities, to give citizens places to play, and relax, and be in nature, feeds right back into my interest about children in nature and brain development.

But really – there just is NOT enough time in the day to get all this reading done! What makes me think I can do this, as well as everything else? I must have a problem. It’s like a shopping addiction, or a chocolate addiction, I guess – I want MORE!!! I really wish I could write academic papers again, but I guess I can’t, so I’ll have to satisfy myself with a blog post down the road about how I see these two books fitting together. It will give me a good excuse to dust off some of my thesis research as well, something I’ve wanted to do for a while.  I suppose I won’t get much sewing done until after the wedding anyway, so I might as well make use of this more portable hobby, and get some reading done!

 

 

*Blackbourn, David. The Conquest of Nature: Water, Landscape, and the Making of Modern Germany. W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2006. Page 3.

 

 

In Praise of Public Parks

In 1990, after graduating high school, two friends and I set off on a five-week adventure through Europe. It was my first time overseas, and changed my life (as does all travel, really). As with many trips, there were ups and downs; one of the downs was the day we spent in Paris. Yes, just a day, and not just any day – Bastille Day. And a Saturday. Exhausted from the overnight ferry from Britain, we really only had the energy to wander through the Musee d’Orsay before napping on the lawn under the Eiffel Tower.

Bastille Day, under the Eiffel Tower, in 1990

Bastille Day, under the Eiffel Tower, in 1990

I haven’t been back to Paris, or France, since, but I still remember that day in the park in Paris.

Parks play a large roll in the world of smart growth, where the TDM industry tends to finds itself. So much has been written about the importance of parks, and green space, and trails, and their impact on our physical and mental health.  The EPA just yesterday recognized seven communities as Smart Growth Achievement Award winners, with Atlanta’s BeltLine winning the Overal Excellence in Smart Growth Award, for its re-purposing of old train lines into 22 miles of public parks and green space.

Green space in San Antonio

Green space in San Antonio

Recent news stories provide evidence of the importance of nature, including one from Windsor, Ontario, where schools are beginning to encourage unstructured play in nature, and a recent study by the University of Exeter Medical School , which showed that mental health improvements from living near nature followed study participants long after they moved away from greener areas where they had lived. The importance of green public space, and playing in nature, is becoming a louder and louder conversation.

And yet, it is not a new concept. I started reading Paris Reborn: Napoleon III, Baron Haussmann, and the Quest to Build a Modern City, by Stephane Kirkland, last night, and was struck by some background information Kirkland was sharing as a set-up to his story. I am familiar with the restructuring of Paris by Haussmann from my grad school days, and encouraged The Mechanic to buy the book so I can read it while he finishes his last semester of civil engineering.  I was not familiar, however, with Count Claude-Philibert Barthelot de Rambuteau, an “aristocrat from Burgundy,” who was prefect of the Seine in 1833-1848, and began modernizing Paris to make it more hygenic and modern.

Claude Philibert Barthelot Count of Rambuteau

Claude Philibert Barthelot Count of Rambuteau

Paris by the 1830s was, by accounts I’ve read in this book and elsewhere, a big mudpit of a broken, divided city, disgusting to locals and visitors alike. Rambuteau created the new street that carries his name today, Rue Rambuteau, but more importantly, added sidewalks, gas lamps, trees and public gardens.

Rue Rambuteau, Paris; Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Creative Commons

Rue Rambuteau, Paris; Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Creative Commons

According to the author of Paris Reborn, Paris had almost no trees in it before Rambuteau, and prior to the opening of his first public garden in 1844, the only parks were privately owned, and not all were accessible to the public. Because of his love of trees, Rambuteau planted them “generously” throughout the city. I can only imagine what a difference this must have made to the inhabitants of the city!

In my fantasy life, I spent almost every evening in a place like this. Photo, Shawn Lipowski, Wikimedia Commons

In my fantasy life, I spend almost every evening in a place like this. Photo, Shawn Lipowski, Wikimedia Commons

Of course, we all know how the story of Paris ends, famous for parks and gardens and lawns and people mingling, canoodling, living life. We all want to be Parisians, and enjoy fresh pastries and cheese (and not get fat!) while we sit and watch fashionable-dressed others wander past our envying eyes. This is something else the Europeans clearly have figured out a bit earlier than us Americans – the importance of green space. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they are more creative, having grown up playing in large, aristocratic parks, or less stressed, because they get to walk through bits of nature every day, but I’m willing to be it has something to do with that European flair we all some of us long for.

Until I get the opportunity to live in Europe, I plan to always live in an area like Washington, DC, with tons of public parks, gorgeous Arlington neighborhoods with giant trees, National Parks such as the C&O Canal, and plenty of place to walk and bike that are surrounded by rivers and trees and wild growing spaces.  I feel better after enjoying even tiny bits of nature, and I know it’s not just me.

100_7780