Current State of Affairs

After last month’s series of five year anniversary re-introductions, I thought I’d catch everyone up on the current state of my affairs. As always, there is a lot going on, so much so that I missed my last planned anniversary re-introduction! That one was supposed to be about travel and how The Mechanic and I love to travel. Recent examples include a spontaneous rental car trip, where we attempted to go by VeloOrange in Annapolis (not open on the weekends), then drove through a powerful storm to Baltimore, arriving just as the storm ended and discovering their new ebike bikeshare system and bike lane wayfinding signs.

I’ve been sewing of course – finished the Simplicity 8166 blouse I’ve been dying to make forever, at last! It was sort of a bear. I love the tencel twill, the weight and drape of it, but maybe it was too heavy for all the rows of gathered elastic. Trying to feed it at the same time was challenging, but looks amazing in the end. I haven’t worn it yet because I had to wash it – get the chalk marks out as well as the blood – I managed to stab myself every time I sat down to sew, and didn’t realize until after I’d gotten blood on the garment. Sigh. But isn’t it gorgeous?!?

Gorgeous, but not a single bit of reflective on it!

Gorgeous, but not a single bit of reflective on it!

I *bought* a sweater and then realized I had a spring sewing theme going – a nautical theme! I was lusting after this J. Crew sweater with an Art Nouveau type floral design as well as mermaids! I love mermaids, so much so that even though this sweater is merino, and I find it terribly itchy, I had to have it. I’ve already suffered through an itchy day worn it and think it’s just the loveliest thing (well, I think the ruffled collar is a bit not my style/odd).

(sorry, I couldn't manage a better photo than this...)

(sorry, I couldn’t manage a better photo than this…)

Then I realized that my current sewing plans include some Breton striped garments – a top using some cool ammonite fabric from Spoonflower, and the cute Christine Haynes Marianne dress. nautical-sewing-plansAdding these two patterns plus my mermaid sweater to existing nautical things in my wardrobe, well, I should be headed to the seaside somewhere!

A friend and I are heading to the Philadelphia Flower Show, and I am finally making her a long-promised dress –  she had picked a lovely floral print, so of course she needs to wear it when we go. I love the fabric, although its slippery polyester and has required a lot of hand basting, which I don’t normally do. Am I the only one who tries harder on clothing not intended for me? flower-show-dress

A super cool non-sewing dress came my way last week, the Betabrand 3M reflective dress that I’d supported way last fall – it finally arrived and is really cool! It’s that stretchy nylon fabric that will be perfect for travel, with pockets, pulls on over the head, and omg reflective!!!! Seriously, it’s pretty cool. I can’t wait to wear this somewhere. Clearly not designed with 360* reflectivity, the reflective fabric is only in the front. I’m a bit disappointed by that, to be honest; it seems like a lost opportunity. I’m sorry it’s sold out on Betabrand but keep Tweeting to 3M and maybe they’ll eventually figure out there is a retail demand for reflective fabric and help out us home sewers who are desperate for it.



Speaking of reflective, have you seen Vespertine NYC’s reflective collaboration with Brompton? It’s really lovely and I wish I could get all of it, but there’s that wool thing again. I mean, I guess I could do the shoelaces, but those seem so less interested compared to the cool designs of the hat and scarf. Check them out if you haven’t yet! brompton-x-vespertine-refective-collection

I don’t know if Vespertine will be at the National Bike Summit this week, but she’s been there before, so if you are in the area, check it out!

I’m not attending the National Bike Summit this year, as I have in the past, but I’ve been watching attendees roll in (literally) on Instagram and Twitter. Bikie Girl Bloomers, Pedal Love, Bikey Face, and many other bikey ladies I know from NBS and social media are there. But speaking of bikes, Bletchley, my new vintage Raleigh, is in the process of being taken apart to be upgraded. I’ve been riding The Mechanic’s Workcycles bike to test out the hub, and we found brake levers that I really like. Slowly but surely this bike will come together. bletchley-brake-leversLastly, Gaston is a delight, and seems to be getting fluffier by the day. He’s gotten a bit snugglier and while I don’t foresee him sitting in our laps any time soon, demands and gets as much attention as we can give him. It’s a shame I can’t pet him and sew at the same time! gastonSo what else did I miss while I was reviewing the last five years of my blog life?

Baltimore and TDM

I am in Baltimore, MD, at the moment, to attend the Association for Commuter Transportation’s annual conference. Attendees from across the country network, present, and learn about a range of Transportation Demand Management (TDM) topics, such as carpool/vanpool management, marketing campaigns, public policy, innovations and so on.  

 Today we started off with an inspiring, humorous and thought-provoking presentation by Andrew Evans of National Geographic. He walked us through his bus-only trip from Washington, DC, to Tierra del Fuego, where he hopped on the NatGeo ship to Antarctica, and challenged us every step of the way to rethink public transportation. I wish our lunchtime guest speakers, the Honorable Dennis R. Schrader, Deputy Secretary of Maryland DOT, and the Honorable Nicholas Donohue, Deputy Secretary of Virgina DOT, could have heard this presentation as well.  

 I enjoy seeing friends who work in other states whom I rarely get to see. We have been busy, and I haven’t seen as much of Baltimore as I’d hoped/planned. We did tour the four historic ships in the Inner Harbour, however. And we took pictures on the block with the crazy bikes lanes – a sharrows that turns into a sort of lane on a one-way street with a bike lane going the opposite direction. ?!? I’m sure it makes sense when you use it…  


 Love the dragon boats! And love this ad on a nearby bus stop –  

  “Remind your kids to ride, respect and relax when using public transit.” Nice.

The conference will be over all too soon but the lessons and experiences will stay.  


Death by Public Transportation

A weekend in Baltimore almost killed this public transportation girl.

No, really. The Mechanic and I had planned on spending a cheap weekend in Baltimore – ride his motorcycle, hotel booked with frequent flier miles, walk all over the city to see all the ships in town for Sailabration…  Except at the last minute, the motorcycle had engine problems and we had to find another mode of transportation.

I love tall ships!

Amtrak was prohibitively expensive (almost $200 round trip per person!), the MARC train doesn’t run on weekends, since it’s a commuter-only service, the Bolt Bus doesn’t go there…. Instead of renting a car, we decided we would take public transportation all the way! After all, there are buses, subways, and light rail all the way between here and there. We guessed it would take about 2 hours from door to harbor. Boy were we wrong!

Here was our plan:

  • 2 bus from my apartment to Ballston Metro station
  • Orange line train to L’Enfant Metro station
  • Transfer to the Green line and head all the way to Greenbelt.
  • Get on the B30 express bus to BWI.
  • Jump on the Baltimore light rail the rest of the way to the Inner Harbor.

It actually worked that way on the way up, fairly smoothly too. But it took closer to 3 hours, because the 2 buses in my neighborhood don’t run very often on the weekends, so we had to leave earlier than maybe necessary. Then we padded our Metro time, just in case the trains were all screwed (as they so often are on the weekends). In addition, the B30 bus was scheduled to arrive at basically the same time that the light rail was scheduled to leave – and it only ran every 30 minutes. So we had to wait for the next light rail, which did give us time to figure out the ticketing system (sort of).

The Baltimore Light Rail train at BWI

On the way home, however…. the light rail train we were on sat for close to an hour because the train in front of us had technical problems. We got to BWI starving, so decided to eat there, but since that bus only runs every 30 minutes, we basically had to give up an hour or more there (but we ate at the DuClaw pub and it was tasty! I love the Mysterium beer; I’d tried it at the Brew at the Zoo). Then, as we crammed onto the crowded bus, the bus driver yelled at the people still waiting, “There is another bus 5 minutes behind this one!” Really? You tell us that now that we have paid the “special fare” of $6 each?!  So we stood the entire 35-40 minutes to Greenbelt. Luckily both Metro trains were just arriving when we got to each platform, but I did almost have a breakdown when we got to Ballston and there were NO taxis at the taxi stand!

Takeaways from this weekend:

  1. We tried to by the Charm Card, the Baltimore version of DC’s SmarTripcard, and asked at a few tourist information places if they knew where we could get them. Blank stares and rudeness greeted our queries. Time for some education and outreach, Baltimore!
  2. The light rail driver and the B30 bus driver need some customer service training – the light rail driver bad-mouthed the driver of the stalled train over the intercom. Not cool.
  3. Amtrak needs to be an affordable option for everyone, all the time, even last minute. $200 round trip for a 45 minute ride is not reasonable at all.
  4. The MARC trains need to run more often. The infrastructure exists for this service to benefit everyone, not just commuters on weekday mornings and evenings. I’m sure we aren’t the only people who want to take a train to Baltimore for an overnight trip.
  5. The total costs of our public transportation, not including the cab, were about $20 for each of us. The last time we rented a car, we got an SUV for $25 a day. If public transportation is to be a serious, efficient, affordable option, it needs to be easier than renting a car.

    Trying to figure out how to pre-pay our light rail tickets wasn’t as easy as it should have been. Or we are really clueless.

There is so much talk about moving away from car dependency, and the positive impact of public transportation, and yet, as we have proved, it just isn’t there yet. If neither of us had traveled, and been in other countries where we have experienced reliable, efficient, affordable transit, we could beg that whole “ignorance is bliss” thing – but we know better. It’s something I hope the authors of “Road to Nowhere: Federal Transportation Infrastructure Policy” take into account, and something I’d like Congress to remember when they are debating yet another extension on the transportation bill. People demand better transit options – how quickly can we get them?

Tall Ships and Crowds in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor







Bike Lanes in Baltimore

The Mechanic and I traveled via Amtrak to Baltimore last Saturday to partake in the Baltimore Zoo’s Brew at the Zoo, which was a weekend event of bands and beers. The bands were okay, but the beers were fun – we tried 18 different ones between the two of us!

Cheers from the Baltimore Zoo!

We also attempted to use our DC SmarTrip cards on the Baltimore system, which didn’t work so well – I single-handedly crashed at least 6 gates trying to use my card! Oops. The kind metro worker let me in, but I bought a one way fare card for the way back to the Amtrak station after we left the zoo.  The Mechanic’s SmarTrip card worked fine on our way, but not on the return, so he bought one too. Bummer! Next time I guess we’ll have to buy Charm Cards.


After our fun at the zoo, we ended up in Little Italy for dinner. Actually, we ended up in Vaccaro’s Italian Pastry Shop, a small Italian place we had stumbled upon in January when we were last in the area. The paninis are unbelievable, and how can you not love a place that offers olives and Asiago cheese as a side?! The line for cookies was too long, or we would have gotten cookies too.

Yum! Paninis from Vaccaro’s

But here is where I have to geek out a bit – there were all these cool bike lanes in Little Italy! Or at least on this one street we were on – a sharrows headed west and on the same street, an east-bound bike lane! On the same street!

Personally, I might have been a bit weirded out to bike towards oncoming traffic, even parked cars, but it’s great that they have this! I didn’t actually see anyone biking on it when we went by (come to think of it, I didn’t see anyone on a bike at all), but I hope that people actually do. It’s in a great location near the harbor, so there should be plenty of cyclists.  I guess I need to look up bicycle riding stats for Baltimore – does anyone know if there is a big bike culture there or not? I know I’ve seen other bike lanes around the harbor, but what about away from there?

There are certainly a ton of fun bike racks all over the harbor area! I hope that means they are well used. If we could get our bikes up to Baltimore on Amtrak (don’t get me started on train laws regarding bicycles around here!), I know we would use the lanes and the racks! Maybe later this summer we will have to check it out….

Crab bike rack