From New Orleans to New Apartment

A week again I was in New Orleans for work. The Association for Commuter Transportation held its annual conference in the Big Easy, five days of greeting industry friends, meeting new ones, learning a lot and being inspired.

One of the highlights was hearing Elizabeth Levin and LaVerne Reid talk about women in transportation and different experiences breaking into a traditionally male industry decades ago. I bought the book “Boots on the Ground, Flats in the Boardroom,” and am looking forward to reading it. Hopefully someday soon….

I didn’t do any biking while in New Orleans but saw the brilliant (and I do mean that literally!) Social Ride, with at least 20 people riding bikes almost entirely covered in lights. That was on Frenchmen Street, where we also enjoyed some local music and beverages.

One of the conference vendors was Lime Bike, a dockless bikeshare system. I love the bikes for their design, but also the solar panels in the front baskets that power the digitally-connected ring locks that unlock the bike for you. I think they mostly cater to the university transportation people at the conference. 

Upon my return from the conference, I jumped in to help The Mechanic finish our move. It sounds like everything that could possibly go wrong did, and we are only now digging out from the chaos. It will be a relief to get settled. Gaston is already quite comfortable in the new place, but then again, he is still in his same place. 

I shall be back to my regular blogging schedule but alas, I doubt I will get any sewing done. It’s just as well – nothing like moving to make me feel like I have too much stuff. I’m trying to purge as I unpacked. Do I really need 6 lipsticks in almost the same color?!?

Let me leave you with some photos from Dat Dog on Frenchmen Street. This hot dog place (yes they have vegetarian/vegan options) is being redecorated in an intergalactic style – complete with Chewbacca over the bar. I love this place. 

Maybe I’ll Give Up Biking

Yes, Dear Readers, I had this thought – maybe I should give up biking.

I am normally a pretty patient person but I was really OVER the whole bike commuting thing last week. One (or three) too many drivers cutting in front of me to get to the parallel parking on the right side of the bike lane; one (or two) too many buses speeding past me to zoom into bus stops at the right of the bike lane; and one too many pedestrians running across the road *not* in the crosswalks, then saying “watch for crazy cyclists!” Seriously?!? The selfish, unthinking, clueless, uncaring attitude is what is driving me nuts – is it really THAT HARD to look out for others?!?!?!

The next day, I saw a Tweet from Nelle Pierson, deputy director for WABA (Washington Area Bicyclists Association), saying that she knows 60 people who have been hit by drivers in cars. Sixty! I’m trying to imagine ALL of my friends having been hit by drivers, not just the few who actually have been, including The Mechanic. That same day, Rootchopper blogged and tweeted about the fact that he’s actually Number 66, since he had just been hit by a driver not paying attention. And here is my colleague’s experience after she was half-doored by a driver: Why You Should Care About Other Modes Now.

All of this was clearly the straw that broke my back – I’m so sick of having to prove to the world that biking is a perfectly reasonable, healthy, safe, green transportation option, not crazy, stupid, dangerous, or MAMIL-dominated. They do it in other countries, in quite high numbers, and without helmets! Why is it so impossible to do it here?!*

It would be just as easy to not bike, and probably easier. My alternative commute is a super easy bus route. In the morning, my bus stop is a block from our apartment, and the bus drops me a few blocks from my office. In the evening, the bus stop is in front of my office, and drops me in front of my apartment building. The bus ride takes about the same amount of time as it takes me to bike, with the added bonus of the super nice bus driver who calls me “Supermodel.” It’s nice to start the day with his friendly face and cheerful words.

Not only does the bus offer a super easy route, riding the bus means I don’t have to deal with a helmet, lock, lights, panniers, gloves, pants strap and whatever else I might need. It means that on rainy days, I get to the office comfortable, instead of mostly dry. It means I can read the news or Twitter or catch up on Instagram friends’ sewing projects. It also means I walk right past three different breakfast place options, rather than detour as I normally do, if I want to buy breakfast that day. It means not having to jockey for a spot on the bike rack, either. So there are many reasons why riding the bus to work would be SO MUCH EASIER than biking to work.

Rainy day bus stop selfie

But would I really give up biking?

I don’t know.

At least it did me some good to do some bike errands this weekend – The Mechanic and I biked to Westover where we purchased art from local artists at the Handmade Arlington craft show, then purchased potting soil and some planter boxes, so we can grow lettuce for Gaston. It was a leisurely day with minimal traffic interaction, and made me feel a bit better.

Easily transportation bags of potting soil on a Workcycles bike

Maybe I just need a break from it.

 

*I know all the reasons, but I’m tired of the excuses. Please don’t try to excuse away the behaviors, put the blame elsewhere, or whatever. I’m perfectly entitled to feel how I do.

 

 

Tulips and Bicycles in Philly

A friend and I spent a freezing cold Saturday in Philadelphia, PA, admiring all types of plants in wild, brilliant blooms, at the Philadelphia Flower Show. The theme was “Holland: Flowering the World,” and my hopes for tulips and bicycles were happily achieved – so many of the display gardens featured bicycles in some way or another. Tulips, my favorite flowers, were present everywhere. I have never been to the Pennsylvania Horticulture Society’s 188-year-old flower show, but my gardening friend and I were eager to go, and let Reston Limo to do the driving. Taking a day trip in a motorcoach from the Vienna Metro Station to the Convention Center in Philly was the perfect way to spend time with flowers, and each other (see, who needs a car?). I was expecting an exhibit hall of floral landscapes and scenes, but in fact, the show is divided up into several sections. We started with the landscapes, worked our way through the educational displays (where sustainability was on gorgeous display), then studied some of the art displays before walking through the plant competition on our way to the market place, then checked out the complimentary wine and spirits tasting. There was so much to see that we didn’t get to see it all! We also ran through the Reading Terminal Market, which was across the street, and a quick peek into The Fabric Workshop and Museum. Whew! So much to do in a day!

I loved the creative landscapes:

And I loved that so many of the landscapes included bicycles and bike parts: There was definite emphasis on how bicycles are embraced by the Dutch, as well as a sustainable form of transportation. Something I wasn’t expecting was all the cool artistic flower displays, which were really amazing:

I was inspired by all the displays about sustainability and green space, and its importance in cities, and hope that visitors had a chance to really read some of the signs and information.

It was a shame that the weather was so cold, because I had made a long-promised dress for my friend, and it was too cold for her to wear it. I guess she’ll will have to wait until the weather really is spring-like to wear her floral print spring dress! But isn’t it cute?

McCalls 6520 with modified sleeve – the perfect flower show dress, if it had been warmer!

It was so much fun getting to indulge in flowers, friendship and, as always, bicycles, for a day. I think we will add this to our annual “things to do” list! To see more and better photos of the flowers, and shots without the crowds, check out the article in the Washington Post.

Blog-iversary and Re-Introduction

February marks my five year anniversary of this blog, yay! It’s pretty amazing how my life has changed in five years – I had just started my current job, met my now-husband, and was just getting into biking and sewing. And because so much has changed, I thought it would be nice and possibly useful to do a re-introduction of who I am and what I do.  Here’s a quick summary:

  • My name is Elizabeth but I really dislike being called Liz or Lizzie. The blog name is inspired by the “Tin Lizzie”Ford Model T cars; I love vintage cars. I grew up in Sacramento, CA, started off wanting to be a costume designer, ended up touring with Disney on Ice for three years, then moved to New York City to work as a dresser or Broadway. After doing that for a while, I went to grad school and finished a Masters degree in Modern European History. I ended up in the D.C. Area after a stint working as an editor for a human rights nonprofit before finally stumbling into my current job. I promote transit benefits and sustainable transportation in Arlington County (VA). So I’ve been all over the place, figuratively and literally! 

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  • I married The Mechanic in June 2014. We met in September 2011, when I was fairly new to biking. Our second date was a bike mechanics class – he taught me how to change a tire, remove the chain, and so on. It was a marathon date that lasted all day! We couldn’t stop talking. Because of his love of taking things apart and fixing them, and his vast range of bicycle (and motorcycle and car) knowledge, he stays anonymous on the blog and other social media outlets as “The Mechanic.” He’s a civil engineer by training, and although his professional focus is water resources management, he’s personally interested in transportation and urban design and how cities can make it easier for it’s residents to walk and bike as much as possible.
We biked to our civil ceremony in Arlington, VA

We biked to our civil ceremony in Arlington, VA

  • I haven’t owned a car since I moved to New York in 1999. (Technically I’ve never *owned* a car, having driven one of my parents’ cars up until then.) I have gotten around quite easily on public transportation, on foot, by bike and by a wide range of rental vehicles. Moving to Arlington, VA, showed me how easy it was to get around by bike, and I drank the Kool-Aid, as it were, and now try to encourage others to try it as well. (Seriously, this is part of my job.) Between The Mechanic and I, we now own EIGHT bicycles – we each have a folding bike, a mountain bike and two commuter bikes. Thank goodness we recently moved into an apartment that has a bike storage room that allows us to keep them safe, protected and out of the elements.
The Mechanic's blue Workscycles bike with my new vintage Raleigh

The Mechanic’s blue Workcycles bike with my new vintage Raleigh

  • Biking revived my interest in sewing. I don’t want to ride my bike to work and then change clothes, so I started exploring ways to sew clothing that I could wear in the office, but were also bike-friendly. Basically this means “are also reflective” because just about everything I make myself has reflective fabric or trim somewhere on it.
  • I love to travel. The Mechanic and I love to travel. Sometimes we travel domestically (just got back from Disney World!) but we really love to travel internationally. We are planning on another European bike tour later this year, huzzah!

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  • We recently adopted Gaston, an extremely fuzzy 3lb lionhead rabbit, from the local shelter. Poor baby, in his almost three years of life, he had been in the shelter twice. I told him that although we couldn’t guarantee his forever home, we’d be his forever parents, wherever that takes us. He’s a naughty, smart, cautious boy with chronic runny eyes, and I couldn’t love him more. Isn’t it amazing how wonderful it is to have a pet? gaston

So that’s a summary of me and my loves. I plan to expand on these over the rest of the month, to bring you up to speed on my bikes (new bike this weekend!!!), my sewing and our travel. You can follow Gaston’s antics on my Instagram or Twitter feeds, as I tend to share photos of him there.  Instagram is where I post mostly sewing pics while Twitter is bike and work related, so pick yer poison.

I look forward to sharing more in the future, and hope to get to know you more as well! smithsonian-penny-farthing

2016 Lessons Learned

The fact that 2016 was a challenging year can’t be denied but it wasn’t all that bad either – The Mechanic and I traveled a lot and we adopted Gaston! gastonI can’t say I’m glad the year is over, but I do like new beginnings, so I’m always happy to ring in a new year. I enjoy looking back over my year and looking ahead to the new one, and I love planning, so of course I love making new plans.

There is always something to be learned from our past, even our really recent past, and 2016 is no different. I definitely learned some lessons last year, which will help feed my plans for 2017. The lessons applicable to this blog are about biking and sewing, of course!

Biking

I biked to work just about every day this year, and our new apartment gave me an extra half-mile each way. But I feel that I’ve gotten a bit lazy…

  1. Biking to work 3 miles each way every day really isn’t a workout. Combine lack of weekend/recreational biking along with my inability to get to the gym much this year, and I’m definitely out of shape. So I need to add “biking on the weekends” to my 2017 plans.
  2. I still prefer bike touring in new places. I stopped biking on the weekends mainly because I’d exhausted the trails that are easily accessible. If I can see in my head every turn and stop, I’ve done it too much and find it boring and uninteresting. But between our weekend at the Fall Foliage Bike Festival and our New Years Eve (chilly and quick 12 miles) bike ride in Purcellville, I’m reminded that I prefer new places to bike. Adding “find new places to bike” to my 2017 list.nye-wod

Sewing

Including the three garments I made last week during my Sewing Staycation, I made a whopping 29 things in 2016! Not all of it was for me, and not all of it I like and wear often, so that brings me to some lessons learned:

  1. Take time to get the fit right. Part of the reason why I don’t wear some of the things I’ve made as much is because I don’t love the fit. It’s nice to have quick, easy projects, but if I’m not pleased with the end result, then it was sort of a waste of time. Last weeks’ Sewing Staycation aside, I don’t have much time to sew, and hate the time it takes to properly fit and alter patterns, and to make muslins, but… I know I need to do it.
  2. Focus more on “corporate” things. I spend more time going to work than anything else, so to be wearable, I need to give it the “corporate meeting” test – would I wear this garment to a meeting with Very Important People? If yes, keep sewing. If no, think again.
  3. Keep working on nicer fabrics and things that coordinate. I’ve got several things that I love but don’t really go with much. It’s not a huge deal to wear the same outfit over and over, but I would prefer things to be multi-functional.

    Completed last Sewing Staycation project - complete with reflective ribbon tab on left hip, of course!

    Completed last Sewing Staycation project – complete with reflective ribbon tab on left hip, of course!

With these lessons in mind, I’ll have to work on some plans for 2017. I do so love planning! I’ve already got 8 sewing projects planned out – Spring things that hopefully will benefit from the above lessons learned. And The Mechanic and I are already talking about a mountain biking weekend – and planning a European bike tour for our big trip this year, yay!

Whether or not you make plans, resolutions or goals for the new year, I hope that you achieve all you want in 2017! Here’s to future success!

On the road to a successful 2017!

On the road to a successful 2017!

 

 

 

Blogging Blahs

I don’t know how people who blog All. The. Time find time to do it. Lately, I’ve been struggling to blog once a week and even then I feel like I don’t have anything to talk about. Or time to properly research more serious bike-related posts that I want to write. Maybe it’s because I haven’t done any fun bike events. Also, I’m not sewing these days; no time yet. Pretty much finished up the unpacking at the new apartment, so that’s one more thing off the to-do list. Maybe next weekend I can get some holiday sewing done. But other than that, what do I have to write about? I am pondering some topics:

  • Perceptions of safety while biking
  • Holiday shopping balancing environmental and social concerns
  • Sewing. Costume design? I just saw “Fantastic Beasts” and *loved loved loved* the costumes…
  • Gaston
  • Bike storage and equity

Not really sure what else there is. Do you ever get the blogging blahs? And what do you do about it?

I kinda feel like this lately - snoozing in a comfy corner. Must be the cold weather...

I kinda feel like this lately – snoozing in a comfy corner. Must be the cold weather…

 

New Apartment! More Space! Balcony! Bike Storage!

We moved!

A whole half mile from our previous place.

And yet somehow, it seemed to be a longer, more painful move. We did several loads ourselves before and after the moving company moved our furniture, and it took Friday, Saturday AND Sunday. Whew. (We purposefully planned to go back and clean the old place on Election Night. Not enough of a distraction…)

The new place is a fancy new building, opened in 2012, with much more square footage. It’s a two-bedroom, two-bath, with a walk-in closet and a *balcony* plus its shockingly quiet.

Moving Night Dinner

Moving Night Dinner – pizza and champagne!

The office is still a chaotic mess (weep, no sewing for weeks still!!!), but the rest of the place is fairly well set.

Yep, office chaos....

Yep, office chaos….

Check out the walk-in closet!

I can see all my things at once, for the first time ever!

I can see all my things at once, for the first time ever!

How cool is this? All my reflective things reflecting in the walk-in closet. <3 <3 <3

How cool is this? All my reflective things reflecting in the walk-in closet.

Gaston's Tavern, set up in the middle of the living room, with a view of the balcony

Gaston’s Tavern, set up in the middle of the living room, with a view of the balcony

Gaston has a view of the kitchen and dining room - hope he doesn't think he can critique our cooking!

Gaston has a view of the kitchen and dining room – hope he doesn’t think he can critique our cooking!

The view from our new balcony. Not many windows but this makes up for it!

The view from our new balcony. Not many windows but this makes up for it!

Enjoying the balcony from our very low camp chairs. Fun lights and taller chairs are on the list

Enjoying the balcony from our very low camp chairs. Fun lights and taller chairs are on the list…

The apartment building has a bike storage room and lots of staples around the building. The bike storage room will of course be the topic of a blog post soon, I’m sure – once I’ve had some time to properly utilize it. bikes

bike-storage-roomI did order a giant Abus Bordo lock, for the times I want to leave the bike outside. I confess that I’m a bit sad about leaving the bike outside, and won’t do it often, but getting in and out of the bike storage room in the basement of the building isn’t that ideal.

I've wanted one of these for a while, so this was a good excuse to fork out a ton of money for it.

I’ve wanted one of these for a while, so this was a good excuse to fork out a ton of money for it.

We are very happy with our new apartment and can’t wait to get the office set up so we can get back to our hobbies. I have so much sewing to do, and every weekend we are dealing with the apartment is a garment that doesn’t get made. Very sad. But the new place is soooo worth it! bikes-by-the-door

Folding Bike Date Night

Last Friday night, The Mechanic and I visited friends for dinner – friends who live in Fairfax County. We examined all the options, and finally decided that we would take Metro to East Falls Church Metro Station and bike the rest of the way. But because we needed to arrive at 7pm, and bikes are not allowed on Metro until after 7pm, we took… the folding bikes!

This turned into a fun and naturally well-photographed trip, and it was so much easier than we expected (thankfully we had no problems with Metro, either). The Mechanic made convenient carrying straps for the bikes in their folded position, so of course now I’m considering making reflective straps, especially one to hold the wheels of my Tern together. The magnets aren’t really strong enough to hold. This was an easy way to carry them and not have to worry about a giant bag once unfolded.

Folded up  and on the Metro platform around 6:30pm.

Folded up and on the Metro platform around 6:30pm.

On our way home, we again biked to the Metro, but since it was after 10pm, didn’t bother to fold the bikes up. We were both thrilled to discover how easily the tiny bikes fit in the Metro elevators! Normally, with a full sized bike, this is a Tetris-like challenge. Folding Bike in ElevatorAnother bonus of the small size of the folding bikes is that they more or less fit on the landing in front of our apartment door. With my commuter bike, I end up with it hanging off the top ledge onto the steps below, angled and still banging into the stair railing and doorway. Big win for this! Folding Bike on StairsAlthough the bikes are larger than we anticipated while folded up, and don’t easily fit into a smaller suitcase, this date night proved that even if we don’t travel with them as we’d planned, we will still get plenty of use out of them. I purchased inexpensive bike lights for mine – I still am not sure I’ll use mine enough to justify expensive lights. But these worked great in the evening on our way home. Folding Bike LIghtsKnowing that we can take the folding bikes on the Metro before 7pm with little hassle opens up a wider range of date night destinations, allowing us to get near a location and bike the rest of the way. I’m all for these sorts of multi-modal adventures!

Mmmmm.... grilled pizza! Our folding bike date night reward (thanks for suburban friends with a huge outdoor grill!)

Mmmmm…. grilled pizza! Our folding bike date night reward (thanks for suburban friends with a huge outdoor grill!)

 

Culottes Again! And Folding Bikes!

Almost a year after I made reflective culottes, I made another pair! Culottes 9

This time, I made this Vogue 9091 pattern out of navy blue tropical suiting and used some of my aurora borealis reflective ribbon from Stonemountain and Daughter Fabrics for a tux stripe. I love how comfortable they are, and how surprisingly well they fit, considering I stayed with the only alteration I made last time, dropping the crotch depth. However, the construction process did not go as smoothly as I had last time. And I really hate the way the hem looks. It looks like high school theater. Culottes 1I am also considering shortening them – I like the midi length, but maybe it’s too long? I’ll have to ask the women at work and get their thoughts.

The fabric pressed the front inverted pleat nicely, so we’ll see how long that lasts. Based on experience with the previous pair, I stitched the pleats down more, to make them easier to press. I still don’t understand the instructions on stitching the inside pleat, but whatever.

Edge stitched the front pleats - totally visible but I think it will keep the pleat better.

Edge stitched the front pleats – totally visible but I think it will keep the pleat better.

I can’t get a good photo of how the reflective ribbon looks like aurora borealis colors when it’s not reflecting – it glows purple and green, it’s really cool! You’ll have to trust me… But it reflects really well, yay!

You may have noticed that I’m riding a different bike in these photos. Good eye! The Mechanic and I now have both a Tern folding bike, and a Dahon folding bike! I’m SO EXCITED! And they both look nearly identical; what are the chances that Craigslist would work out so well?!?Culottes 3After riding the Tern (named Amsel; persona possibly Goth but I haven’t decided yet) around a bit Sunday, I’m even more excited to take these bikes on trips. They are so much lighter than our standard commuter bikes, and I love the easy step-through.

The Dahon is too new to even have a name, let alone a personality.

The Dahon is too new to even have a name, let alone a personality.

Between warmer, sunny weather, a successful-ish (just don’t look inside…) sewing project, and new bikes, it was a pretty great weekend. Too bad they can’t all be as bike-y and sew-y!

Dahon to the left of me, Tern to the right, here I am....

Dahon to the left of me, Tern to the right, here I am….

Iceland Biking and New Looxs Bag

The Mechanic and I didn’t get a chance to do any bike riding while we were in Iceland, but saw some familiar bike things in Reykjavik. And I bought a lovely new pannier!

Edgar got to bike in Reykjavik

Edgar got to bike in Reykjavik

Apparently and understandably, mountain biking is a bigger deal in Iceland than basic city bicycling. I did see a group of women geared up against the cold biking past us while we sat in Slippbarinn having lunch. We also saw a consistent number of what appeared to be bicycle commuters every time we drove through Reykjavik, and even spotted a proper European bike lane.

The guy standing in the bike lane was also taking pictures of it. I wonder if he was American too.

The guy standing in the bike lane was also taking pictures of it. I wonder if he was American too.

There were also some fun bike racks around town, along with a complicated version in several places downtown.

I did find one “urban” style bike shop, catering to the Pashley/dandy crowd. I have Americanized the name to Berlin Bike Shop (Sorry!) because the true name is a bit complicated. I ducked in quickly and admired the bicycles and accessories, but didn’t linger because The Mechanic was sick. But I did grab a new bike pannier – a New Looxs bag I’d seen in Germany during our honeymoon and regretted buying ever since.

Turns out this bag was pretty expensive, after I figured out the exchange rate. Oh well – it’s extremely versatile and I’ll get a ton of use out of it.

New purchase on the couch at Slippbarinn

New purchase on the couch at Slippbarinn

It’s a nice size that can carry a folder and water bottle, but isn’t as huge as my full size pannier. It has shoulder straps to carry like a purse, pannier hooks in the back with a Velcro flap system to cover them up when not needed, a large front pocket and a small inside pocket that perfectly fits my phone.

Having a lovely new bike bag was probably the only thing that got me through my first day back. New Looxs 8As you can see, if fits nicely on my bike, and naturally coordinates.

I normally prefer my purse in my front basket, so I have my keys and phone and Kleenex close at hand. But this bag does indeed also fit in my front basket, so the days recently when I’ve had both my large pannier and this, I just put the New Looxs bag in my front basket. It doesn’t fit perfectly but close enough. Because it’s narrow, it does fit perfectly in a Capital Bikeshare basket, something few of my bags do.

I’ve been thinking about a new purse, and had decided I don’t need a bike bag to throw in my front basket, but having the ability to do both actually makes this a brilliant option. I wish the handles were a bit more comfortable on the shoulder, but it’s not that bad.

New Looxs 9

Wearing my #memade unicorn blouse on an early spring-like day

It’s hard to find these Dutch bags here in the US, of course, so even though this was crazy expensive (about $100!), I guess I would have ended up paying a small fortune in shipping if I decided to order if from overseas. And since we don’t (yet) have firm plans to return to Europe, well, let’s just say I am glad I spent the money!