Cast Iron I have

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Shutting down...

I'm not going to be posting here anymore.  My darling husband, T, has gotten my my own server space and my own domain name.  I will now be posting my life story at Bikes, The Universe and Everything:

If the link doesn't work, cut and paste this:

http://bikestheuniverseandeverything.com/

Thanks for stopping by.

Erin

Monday, June 6, 2011

Wedding bands

My wedding band and T's have gone into the safety deposit box for the summer.  I didn't trust Toddler girls not to eat/flush/hide it.  T's been worried about his since he started taking the engine apart on the tractor.  So they both went someplace safe.

Interesting, my hands are enough smaller than his that our wedding rings nest:

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There is something kind of ... romantic about that.

The down side of Gardening

I am building muscle mass lifting all those pavers and shoveling all that dirt.  It has caused a huge problem for me.  You see, I am bulking up in my hands.  My wedding ring no longer fits!

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Since I got married my wedding band has come off when I wash my hands or bake bread, but only ever for a few minutes.  I had it off for a week before Toddler girl was born.  I didn't want to, but I bowed to peer pressure.  Everyone told me my hands would swell either with late pregnancy or labour and I would need it cut off.  So I wore it on a chain around my neck.  I wanted to put it back on right after she was born, but the nurses talked me out of it.  It tried it on, it still fit, but I didn't go back to wearing it until 24 hours after she was born.

It has been feeling snug for a few days, but last night it was starting to hurt.  I had to soak in cold water and use soap to get it off.

Then, afterwards when I was massaging my hand I noticed this:

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That isn't just my skin bunching, that's my finger muscles bulging.

I think it's good that I am getting more muscle mass.... I just wish it would have been somewhere that wouldn't interfere with my wedding band.  I feel even worse about this because I was as fond of my engagement ring.  Then a couple of weeks before Christmas, the Aquamarine (we couldn't afford a diamond) fell out of the setting.  Due to excessive home repairs (and, let's be fair, my new bicycle habit) taking all our extra money, I haven't gotten it replaced.

It wasn't a priority.  I still had my wedding band.  I had always felt nervous about wearing my engagement ring to work.  It was pretty, but had lots of places for bacteria to grow.  Working in a lab, you become more aware of that.

Now.... it just feels wrong to have a naked hand.   I don't know why this bothers me so much but it does.  I'm blogging at my kitchen table with Madeline playing in the background and tears in my eyes.

Rings

Saturday, June 4, 2011

If I had $1,000,00.00

If I had unlimited budget to build a custom bike, I would want one that fit like Claire.  I would have my builder start with her as a blueprint and then make her more pretty.  A more graceful looped top tube or a swan frame.  Prettier lugs.

Then I would steam punk that baby out.  Cooper plate on the tubes, brass coated lugs.  An reproduction antique front light that was secretly powered by a dynamo hub and LEDs.  Brass plated fenders and chain guard with an ornate pattern cut out.  Leather saddle and handle bar grips.  I would want to find a way to put cream Fat Franks on it.  I would want wicker panniers.  I would have a bike that was beautiful to look at, but still had that wonderful ride quality that is so Claire.

And I would be afraid to ride it anywhere in case it got stolen.

But all that stuff is just appearances.  I have no complaints about how Claire fits or rides or handles.  At some point I may have to have her dismantled and sent away for professional powder coating, since the paint isn't as hardy. But that isn't going to change how she handles.

I really enjoy riding that bike and she is perfectly matched for riding with T.

The Nishiki on the other hand.....  is fine.  I only use about three of the speeds when it is just me, but when I have the toddler trailer or the panniers loaded, I need the extra ones.  I just don't know enough about road bikes to know if I could do better.  Or to use it to its full potential.   None the less it fits comfortably and I feel like I can go fast on it.

Either way, I have bicycle contentment.

Friday, June 3, 2011

AB's fried chicken

Just go check out the recipe.  It isn't everyday food (because you won't want to have to wash THAT many dishes everyday) but it is a good special treat.

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/fried-chicken-recipe/index.html

It's could use a little less salt, but don't go crazy it still needs more than half what is listed.  And you CAN NOT use regular salt, it has to be kosher or things just go bad....

They list the Total Time as 40 minutes, but they forgot the 30 minutes of two people frantically washing dishes at the end...

Thursday, June 2, 2011

One of those days

This morning my laptop battery failed.  It had been going for sometime, but this morning (after charging all night) my battery charge didn't even last long enough for me to check my email.  It's blustery and gross out so I drove T to work.  Toddler girl stayed home with my mom who is visiting.

On my way to the campus computer store to buy a replacement battery, I saw this:

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That's the Raleigh I had before I married T and he bought me the ill fated Giant.  It made me feel sad.  The chain is off, the saddle is torn and the fender reflector I had personally custom built for it is bent.  I also learned that it was a Colt.  So really the bike I have now is a better fit, but it made me a little sad that she isn't being treated as well I she was when I had her.  On the other hand, she is locked up with two locks.  I'm not sure what to think.

I may go back tomorrow (yes, I'm a bike stalker) and see if she is still there.

When I came home, I got Ellie and we went grocery shopping.  To Costco.  I hate that store.  Don't get me wrong, it helps our budget to be able to buy in bulk, but the crowds make me ... grumpy.

When I came home I found the basement toilet had overflowed a bit.  A quick go with the plunger solved the problem but it was still a really yucky clean up.  And trying to keep Toddlers from helping is such a problem.

We had eggs and temper tantrums for lunch.

Then I broke down and we watched TV for an hour just to calm down.

After that I unloaded and started to place the 100 lbs each pavers.  T bought another seven from a different store since the one we had been shopping at is sold out.  They look a little different, which doesn't matter, but they are also half an inch shorter on each side.  That matters.

On the long sides of the rows of pavers, I can sort of fake it and it looks OK.  On the short side, it leaves a one inch gap that is a tripping hazard.  To solve this problem I had to pull up four of the pavers I had already laid and replace them with the smaller ones.  Those seven 100 lbs pavers was actually moving eleven 100lbs pavers.

I am exhausted.  Here is an updated garden shot.

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Monday, May 30, 2011

Garden Update

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Well, that's one done and three to go!  The eventual plan is four of these planters in a square with concrete pavers running between them.  I'm laying the pavers so that the short side is always against the garden bed so that all the pathways between them will be 30 inches instead of 24 inches.

While the electrician was here, I got another 3 pavers (at 100 lbs each) down and moved 1/2 yard of dirt from the front to the garden bed.  Then I moved the garden bed that was temporarily holding the dirt to the back so it can be stained. 

T is out getting me another 1/2 yard of sand.  I kind of hope we can rush to unload it and run to get some more pavers before everything closes tonight.  I got a lot done in Toddler girl's two hour nap.  I could get more done tomorrow too.

I'm not sure if I will need another 1/2 yard of sand after this one, but I know that I will need about 50 pavers before I am done.  After moving 5000 lbs of concrete, I hope to be buff.  That's not why I'm doing this, but there have to be some benefits to being so stiff and tired I can hardly move.

It's funny how the days you can least afford to go out to a restaurant are the days you most need someone else to cook dinner.  I don't know what 2 hours of electrician time runs these days, but I would bet it's a lot.  Fortunately, my extended family is taking are of us.  Blog commentator and Auntie extraordinaire,  Lorene, is going to feed us tonight.  I can't even begin to tell you how much I appreciate that!

A Funny thing happened

I was planning on posting about biking by consent today.  I had the whole post planned out in my mind.  Then a funny thing happened and I find myself blogging about the joys of living in an older home. 

I love my older home.  The floor plan is well thought out in a way I haven't seen in newer places.  I love that it was built in a time where we didn't care about harvesting old growth forests and the 2x4 construction (which is ACTUALLY 2x4 not the new 2x4s that are now about 1 3/4 x 3 3/4) is so solid that you have to pre drill your nails holes when going into a stud.  Really, I can't even use my drill, we have to break out T's uber drill.

I love the older trees in the neighbourhood, even if we only have one old giant cedar in our yard.  The rest of our trees have died since we moved in 2003.  The birch in the front got a disease.  The two pine trees had wind damage and were threatening the house and the weird shelter belt someone had planted in the backyard was just...  wrong.  Since the big cull, we have planted a bunch of fruit trees.  They are still seedlings, but we have three dwarf sour cherry and two dwarf apple.

There are lots of parks, schools and amenities within walking distance.  It is a really nice house in a nice neighbourhood.  I would encourage anyone to buy and older home and stop urban sprawl.

However, it has some quirks.  The big one is that at some point some one had done some home brew wiring.  We have had most of the house redone.  Except the storage part of the basement.  Now the out door outlets are not working and neither is the back porch light.  They have been fine since we moved in and none of the breakers in our newly updated breaker box have tripped.

Time to call an electrician.

We have one we like.  We have had one we didn't like before we found this one.

It just seems like we are being hit with home repairs we shouldn't have to worry about lately.

Ah, the joys of home ownership.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

More Garden

I am stiff.  I unloaded the trees at the brush dump then bought and unloaded a half yard of sand today.  I also planted five bags of bulbs and laid about 700lbs of concrete pavers.  Then I went to work.

More garden pictures when the sun comes up....

The plan for tomorrow is to place the first raised bed and fill it with soil, then stain the next raised bed.  I also have five more pavers to lay.  OK, I have 30 more to lay, but I have 5 ready to go.  I will have to be strategic about how I place them since I can't buy anymore until Monday and I want to get as much as possible done tomorrow.

At some point I am going to have to move a rhubarb plant and some irises and excavate some more.  Plus it looks like I will need another half yard of sand.

Our lilacs still haven't bloomed.   I will let you know as soon as they do.

My seedlings are looking sad.  They are ready to move out of the cramped pots and into the garden.  I am definitely on a deadline here.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Garden

I have run out of Flickr space on my free account, so you will have to just be aware that some of the pictures on this blog may start to break.  At some point, when I have the bikes paid off and the home repairs paid for and when I own more than 2 pairs of pants, I plan to buy a pro account.  But that won't be for a while.

Now that the explanation is over, let's talk gardening.

I like gardening.  The food I grow tastes better and costs less than anything I could buy in a store.  My garden is in the front yard because that is the south side of the house.  This year we are trying to spruce it up a little and make it more T accessible.  We are building four raised garden beds so that he can sit in a chair to help, if he wants too.  There will be those large concrete pavers between the beds.

For now we have dirt.  Here is a picture of our dirt:

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The first thing I needed to do was move the existing topsoil out of the way.  To keep this project from getting out of hand, I built the raised beds and I'm storing the soil in them:

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Then I need to rototill the space where the garden will be and rake it flat:

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Then bring in two loads of sand and rake that flat to be the base the pavers will sit on. So far I have the first load unloaded, but not raked flat.

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Since that was all I could do yesterday, I decided to prune our cedar. You can see it in the top picture. Once I started shaping it, I found it was infested with ants. I googled ants in cedar and found that my ants look just like carpenter ants.

The cedar is right next to our neighbours rotting carport and next to our old wooden fence that is touching our wood siding. Eep.

So I aggressively pruned the cedar and also the Mountain ash that had ants too.

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Here is a picture of what is left:

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For now gardening is on hold. T has to haul away the tree and pick up another load of sand. I'm working today, tomorrow and Sunday, so no blogging or gardening until Monday or Tuesday.

I need to rush this project though, otherwise I will miss the narrow grow season we have.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The thing I like about biking

The thing I like about biking is that when I am biking I am thinking about biking.  I am keeping track of traffic and Toddler girl.  I am concentrating on shifting, especially on the Nishiki where I'm not that comfortable with all 21 gears yet.  I am watching for hazards and animals and people getting out of cars or running across the street.

I get a nice buzz from the exercise, but I also like biking because it gives me something to think about instead of having anxiety about how I'm going to pay the bills and how much that unexpected furnace repair is going to cost.  (It was $84, if you are interested).

I get to really concentrate on the now.

Since we are getting to the end of the month, let's do a big bike sum up:

Amount spent on bikes this month : about $360 which includes the Nishiki, a new saddle, some odds and ends to make it and Claire go and a new basket so I can carry stuff while I'm getting there.  This doesn't include the wacky break even trading done to swap Victoria for Claire because it was wacky but more importantly, break even.

Amount saved on gas this month: about $67.  This is hard to calculate.  Every month I buy $200 in Gas cards on pay day before the money gets spend on other things.  Sometimes (rarely) we have a little left over at the end of the month.  Mostly, I run out of gas money before I run out of month.  This month, despite record high gas prices, I have $67 dollars left on the card and my car has a full gas tank.

It is going to take a long time to break even.  Especially since Claire really needs new tires and rims that will actually let her stop.  She came with the original chrome steel rims that are notorious for making it hard to break.  I have stuff on order at the Bike Doctor, but....  That's going to easily be another $200.  For now, the Nishiki and the parts are riding around on my credit card.  When the new tires come in, they might have to join the "living on credit party."

I hate doing that.  At the rate of gas savings, I won't break even before the snow falls.  I know that as a long term thing, this will be good.  I know that biking is good for my health.  I feel stronger already.  Forgive me for whining a bit, but I am so frustrated with always dancing on the edge of bankruptcy.  We don't have a lot of debt, other than the mortgage.  We also don't have a plan to be able to pay off debt if we acquire any.

I am picking up some database work in the evenings to try to help pay for the home repairs we need.  With any luck, I should be able to make enough to pay for painting and windows.  I am working extra shifts this summer.  That will help.

And, everyday, I go ride my bike and just don't think about it for a little while.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Tuesday Nights

I used to like going to the movies.  Let me rephrase that:  I like going to the movies and I used to actually go.  Before T, I went almost weekly.  Then T and I went at least monthly.  Then we bought the house and we went once in a while.  Then Toddler girl was born and ... well, I go less than once a year now.  Life changes.  Priorities change.  That is no longer where I think my money should go.

Currently, I don't even know what is playing.  We don't have TV and the lack of trailers means I'm out of the loop.

Fortunately, I have a Tuesday night game instead.  It's free.  It's fun.  Sometime there are snacks.  Sometimes I bring the snacks.  Game night is at L's house which is about 8kms away.  This time, I rode my bike.  I took the Nishiki.

There were a lot of firsts on this ride.  My first time over railway tracks.  It was a little scary.  And my first time biking through open fields (on a path) in the dark.  I have bike lights, front and back.  I didn't have my camera.  There was wild life.  It was... creepy.

I don't know if it is a girl thing or what but, yes it was creepy.  There was a good stretch there where there aren't any houses.  There is a busy road but still....

I'm going to have to think about it before I do that again.  I can have populated areas all the way but it doubles the distance.  At 9:30 at night, I just wanted to get home.  This is stuff no one talks about when they play up living car light.  Mind you, a lot of the people who are having these discussions seem to be men, or in bigger centers with better transit options or more people around.

As an aside, after several days of biking everywhere, my leg muscles are so sore!  This has to be a good thing, right?  At least I can change it up a bit and switch to riding Claire for a while.  It amazes me how those two bikes seem to work completely different areas on my legs. 

On the other hand 8 kms in 20 minutes works out to be about 14 miles an hour.  I feel proud of that speed.  Now I just have to work to be able to sustain it.  I was tired when I got home.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

I don't talk about it....

I don't talk about work.  I don't want to blog about work.  There are lots of reasons for that.  If you are internet savvy enough to have found this blog, I'm sure you know what those reasons are.

However, I am going to say that due to some equipment upgrades at work, I am working twice as many days this pay cheque as I normally do.  It isn't much, but it means extra child care and extra complications.  And hopefully a little extra money.  Most of which will go to the on going home repairs, but I am going to splash out a little on a new saddle and a basket for my bikes.  I am very excited!  I have picked out a basket like the one that Snarkypup over at rideblog has.  It will go on Claire to get rid of the awkward panniers that don't work with the child seat.

She purchased hers from Amazon.com, but they don't ship that item here.  So, I found the cheapest place to order from that ships internationally is in the UK.... and they have a sale on Brooks saddles right now.  Less than half the local price.

I hate to do that.  I really do.  I will pay a little more to support a local business, but.... it would be a long time before I could afford a saddle at full local price and I can't get the basket locally no matter what I do.  I am consoling myself with the fact that I have tracked don't a local Soma dealer and have put them on the case of getting those replacement pedals I want for the Nishiki.

Shopping for bike parts, nice bike parts, locally is really hard or impossible.  If I just order the Soma stuff off the web, there won't be a local Soma dealer for long.  I guess that is the nice thing about long term projects.  If I start asking for parts now and it takes a year to get them, mostly it doesn't matter.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Interesting Internet stuff

Two very interesting things happened in my internet world yesterday.  First I was contacted by M, who lives in BC and reads my blog, after she had a bad experience shopping for a trike.  She wanted a pep-talk and shopping advice.  I haven't seen M in years since I lived out in her town in 2001.  She is a really nice lady and was a very kind to me when I moved there.

After a few emails back and forth, M agreed to let me post her story here and (with a few identifier changing details) on the Bikeforums.  I give the Bikeforums in general a bit of flack.  I really do think they could be MUCH better moderated.  Except for the Clydesdale/Athena section.  There is actually a area in the bike forums for cyclist who are 200lbs+.  And they have zero tolerance for rudeness.  Zero.

I don't really think about my size much.  I worry more about what I can and can't do.  Which makes it odd to me that two different sets of people in the last month have referred to me as the "token skinny friend" or the "not so bitchy skinny bitch in the room."  If you really pushed me, I would not describe myself as skinny.  Average at best.  But that is besides the point.  I think it's a little freaky that more than one person would describe me that way in such a short time, one of whom needed immediate bike advice and one who had previously asked about it.

I like biking.  I think there is a lot you can do to make a chain driven bicycle-like device that will accommodate all different sizes, shapes and abilities.  I have previously mentioned that we get T a modified trike so that he could bike with Cerebral Palsy.  I don't think I have talked about what we did to get it to work for him.

T started with a Norco Parklane because that was the only available adult trike we could find at the time.  Then we completely regeared it. When I say we, I mean the fine gentlemen at Bike Doctor.  The front gear was replaced with a bigger one with more teeth so he could go faster and the rear gears were redone so that he as one really bike cog that is about 1 - 1 gear ratio.  That means one turn of the pedals is one turn of the wheel.  This is a really, really easy gear.  He uses it for going up the steep bridges we have in town.  The other four rear cogs get him through the usual settings.

Only having rear gears is nice for non racers because it is like driving a car.  You start at one and as you speed up, you shift up to a higher gear.  The trick is remembering to shift back to first gear before you stop pedaling at a stop.

I have been completely spoiled in that until the Nishiki, all the bikes in my adult life have been internally gear hubs.  The advantage of that is you don't have a derailler, so you chain never falls off and you can instantly change the tension in the gear box.  If you are stopped and you forgot to shift down, you click the shifter and the tension changes and you are instantly in the lower gear.  I really believe once you try one, you will never go back to a derailler for commute or city style biking.

Since we bought T's trike, that internal gear system has become available for trikes too, it's even now available with a coaster brake 3 speed combination.  Coaster brakes let you stop by pedaling back, like on kids bikes.  They take a little while to break (ha!) in, but once they do, they work in rain or snow.  They don't experience the problems that caliper brakes are prone to.

Other things that have changed in trike construction since we were shopping for T are the electric assist kits are now more available.  This is a tiny engine that rides on your trike to help compensate for the extra weight of a trike compared to a bike.  In fact there is even one triker I see around town a lot who uses his electric assist most of the time to turn his trike into electric wheel chair that is easier on his pride.  When he can pedal, he does.  When he can't pedal, he doesn't have to worry about being stranded.

And where T's trike is a front half and a back half bolted together, (which is fine) there are now industrial trikes out there with a single welded frame.  This means less maintenance making sure the bolts are tight and also lets the trike carry more cargo.

So cycling is low impact and you can get trikes that are traditional upright or recumbent or half way in between,  They come in all sizes and colors.   If you need one modified for mobility requirements and are a registered person of disability with Revenue Canada, you even get a nice tax deduction if your doctor thinks it could be helpful.  Plus there is a really great support system out there for any Athena sized gals who might be thinking of taking up the sport.  Why wouldn't you give it a try?

Here it comes - the nasty side of real life.  M contacted me because her local bike shop is staffed by insensitive jerks.  Yes, I understand that no bike shop can stock all models, but the one she went to was just nasty to make her go away when she was asking intelligent questions about trikes for cuddly ladies.  There are people out there who I will only describe as door knobs because my daughters read this and I don't want to go on record for using the kind of language that is going through my head right now.

I just ... it breaks my heart and I don't understand.  In 20 minutes of internet research (and I'm not THAT good at it) I found a few trikes that would be perfect for M.   If the shop had just said they would look into it for her and let her know.  They could have ordered something in with a mark up and had a guaranteed sale.

And bikes aren't cheap.  A good bike in any category (road bike, city bike, mountain bike or trike) start at $1000 and go up depending on features.  Very cheap compared to cars, but very expensive compared to groceries.  How many bike bells would they have to sell to match the income from M coming in and saying basically "here's what I want, take my money please"?

Never mind that I am average,  so are you, and you, and you and certainly M.  There are lots of women out there in every size.  The shop COULD have ordered two and used good word of mouth to become a plus sized bicycle shop.  M is no shrinking violet, she would have been such good press for them.  Heck, the first thing she said after hearing the term Athena (and realizing that is a real category) was how much she wanted to organize a Athena ride in her city.  She has the contacts to do it, too.

So M is getting trike, although she is not sure which one.  Last I heard she was favouring this model, because it comes in a selection of colours.  She likes the lavender and is thinking of a custom silver flame paint job (sorry honey, that is just TOO girlie for me).  More power to her!

Cycling is not just for skinny bitches and don't let anyone tell you otherwise!

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In other news.  T bought me my own domain, set it up on his server and installed Wordpress.  I don't have it up and running yet and it isn't Cast Iron Kitchen.  All will be revealed.  Just be patient.  I'm so excited!

Long day Friday

My day might not seem that interesting.  The whole family got up early because all three of us had optometrist appointments at 8:30am.  It went well.  Even being among the first appointments of the day, they were already 20 minutes behind.  The last time I went Toddler girl's appointment was at 3pm and we didn't make it home for supper at 6pm.  That's a long wait when you are 18 months old.

I knew I was going to need new glasses.  My last pair got broken during ....  I don't even remember what I was doing, but there was a small person involved.  I have been wearing a old pair from 2003 for the last month.  After our appointment, T went to work.  Toddler girl and I went to a couple of Eyeglasses stores and I picked out some frames.  She was very patient.  She read Beatrix Potter (or at least looked at the pictures) on my Kindle. 

After that we went to the park to go on the swings as a reward for her being so patient.  Swings is just about her favourite thing in the world.  There was a whole daycare there.  All of the kids were bigger than she is.  No real surprise since everyone is bigger than she is.  It made her a little uncomfortable.  I once again had to realize that the kids 6 to 8 months younger than she is are as big or bigger than her.  It was be really awkward having somebody that is taller than you and beefier than you wobbling toward you, drooling everywhere, who can't talk but could knock you down and crush you if you take a hit.  There is a huge development difference between a potty trained articulate two and a half year old and a 16 - 18 month old.  Even if the 18 month old is bigger.

She still was very well behaved, even after the gaffer tried to give her a hug she didn't want.  She did cry for her Mum-mum, but she didn't push back.  I understand the feeling, once you've been manhandled by some staggering behemoth it's time to go home.  She got some swing time and I got a nice discussion with the daycare staff.  It was nice to have someone else be impressed at how articulate she is for her age.

On a side note, I expect C to out grow that Colt.  At the rate she is going, I don't think Toddler girl will.

Toddler girl was even fairly good through dropping off our paperwork at the insurance company, despite her getting tired and hungry at that point.  We stopped to have lunch at the University.   They have a melon cup that is a favourite.  Neither of us were going to make it all the way home without food.

We had a nice lunch and a good trip to the public bathroom, that was slightly unnerving for her but still productive.  She was clean and dry all day.  She fell asleep on the way home.

When we got home at 2pm, we had a second lunch and washed some laundry.  It was a normal day.

Where we did NOT use a car.  Yes, those car free people out there are scoffing at me.  But to be able to bike that far AND have Toddler girl put up for me pedaling her around!  For us, that is a huge change.  16.59 km (according to Google maps) with a Toddler on the back of a 1972 Raleigh Superbe!  With some fairly good hills in that route!  And I can still walk this morning!

I can't take a Panda shot with Toddler in the bike and since I had to carry her sleeping form into the house, I didn't get any pictures of the trip.  But I did it!  I am proud of myself and I am proud of her.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Good bye Victoria! Hello Claire!

Meet Claire.  Born 1972 in Nottingham England and given the most popular name in that county that year (according to the internet).  Poor thing has been put straight to work and I don't have any pre baby seat pictures to show.  I hate to say this, but the baby seat and the cheapo panniers have really uglified the poor girl.  But this too shall pass.  It won't be long before Toddler girl is on a tow behind half bike.

She is a dream to ride, when Toddler girl holds still and lets me drive.  When she is looking to see where we are going, the bike serves like I was DUI.  We are working on it.

I have also purchased the Nishiki.  I'm not sure I can convert it, but anyway now I have a road bike and that one would hurt less to sell if I can't upgrade later.  It is also a dream to ride.  Which means that since I started this blog with one bike that didn't fit and two part bikes, I now have two working bikes and a different part bike to restore with C.

I have come to the conclusion that one bike won't do it all for me.  Claire is amazing to ride with Toddler and T.   She keeps pace with his trike perfectly.  The Nishiki.... doesn't. He goes was to fast to ride with T on his trike, but Nishiki also will tow Toddler girl's trailer and carry two panniers full of groceries with out much trouble.

Life is good.  Especially now that work has bike racks.  I'm going to need them since I have to work some extra shifts to pay for my bike habit.

People say it's cheaper than gas, but so far it hasn't been.  Nevermind that I would really love a Onderwater family tandem or a Fr8.  Sigh.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Fussy Banana bread

Whip up 1 1/2 recipe of Alton Brown's Bananas Foster, here's the expanded version:


  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon banana liqueur
  • 3 ripe bananas, sliced in half lengthwise
  • 1/2 cup dark rum
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
Melt butter in a 10-inch heavy skillet over low heat. Add brown sugar, allspice and nutmeg and stir until sugar dissolves. Add banana liqueur and bring sauce to simmer. Add bananas and cook for 1 minute on each side, carefully spooning sauce over bananas as they are cooking. Remove bananas from pan to a serving dish. Bring sauce to a simmer and carefully add the rum. If the sauce is very hot, the alcohol will flame on its own. If not, using stick flame, carefully ignite and continue cooking until flame dies out, approximately 1 to 2 minutes.  Add orange zest and stir to combine

(OK Let's be honest here, what you REALLY want to do is make 6 banana's worth and eat three Fostered Bananas with ice cream)

Puree the bananas and sauce together and allow to cool, then add to this modified banana bread recipe:

3 bananas foster, pureed with sauce
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 ½ cup flour


1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. With a wooden spoon, mix butter into the mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl. Mix in the sugar, egg, vanilla and bourbon, then the spices. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the mixture and mix in. Add the flour last, mix. Pour mixture into a buttered 4×8 inch loaf pan. Bake for 50 minutes to one hour, or until a tester comes out clean. Cool on a rack. Remove from pan and slice to serve.

It looks like banana bread.  It looked like banana bread before we ate it all.  Sorry, this one was too good for pictures.  But trust me, the extra steps were worth it.

Now, if you really want to go crazy, try banana bread french toast sometime....

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Pictures

It's a grey overcast day and Toddler girl has taken to her bed.  That's such a Victorian phrase, but it exactly sums up what is going on.  She is in bed, in pajamas, with her 1st gen iPod touch and won't come out.  It is such a dorky iPod.  The screen is broken, it doesn't have speakers or a good battery or much storage, but it plays movies though the kiddy headphones and she loves it.

Here is a picture, courtesy of Lorene, of Ellie and I and the Mother's day camera:
After working all weekend and a busy Monday,  I'm glad for a quiet day in.

In other news, C is going to help fix up the Raleigh Colt I bought at auction a couple of months ago.  I paid $38 for it.  It has all original parts except (maybe) the saddle.   I was planning of passing it along to a gal who is 5' tall and was really wanting a vintage 3 speed.  But... she didn't want the work.  I thought it would be a good bike fix up.  I still think that.  Now C says she is going to do it  She took it for a test ride and had the stupid grin on her face the whole time.  You know the one.  The grin that says I love this bike.  All it really needs is a new saddle, new brake pads and a really good clean.
And a new portrait.

The down side of living in the middle of no where is I can NOT get the kool-stop salmon brake pads I need locally.  I need to spend some time searching for a Canadian supplier who also has an online shop.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Fondue

For supper tonight I made Alton Brown's cheese fondue recipe.  It was.... OK.  It took longer to make than I thought.  I wonder if I did something wrong because it finally got really creamy AFTER we were done eating and friend/blog commentator Lorene had left.  I wonder if this would have worked better if I had just thrown it in a crock pot and let it sit for an hour or two before serving.

Overall the flavour was good,  it was just .... sort of clumpy.  I tried adding extra lemon juice as the recipe suggested.  It didn't help.  Then after everyone had left and T turned the fondue back on to eat up the left overs, it was perfect and smooth.  I started adding cheese at 5:45pm.  The fondue was amazing at 8pm.  Maybe it was too much cider for the cheese.  I followed the directions on the website very carefully.

The comments suggest it needs more cheese or extra starch.  I didn't try that.  Maybe next time.   It was worth a next time.

In other news, the problem with having people over is that by the time Toddler girl gets used to the idea of them being here it's time for them to go.  She was all over good bye hugs and even wanted to call and make sure everyone got home OK.  While they were here she was so shy she could hardly come out of her room.  I don't know what to do about that....

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The other bike

I'm looking at this bike:

It's a approximately 1983 Nishiki International.  It is in theory a touring bike.  It has bazons for fenders, and a rack and a water bottle cage.  That's the little attached nuts that look like this:
This bike fits me really well, except I like fenders on my bikes.  Here's my problem:

No fenders.... not even space for fenders.  Why put attachment points for fenders on a bike where the wheels are too big to use them?


The thing is, I have heard of something called a 650B conversion, where you take the 700 sized tires (like this bike has) off and put on a slightly smaller size to make room for fenders.  In theory, I should be able to go to the bike forum and post my pictures and ask the question.

However, they aren't always nice on the bike forums.  In fact, just recently they have been so vile to the author of one of the blogs I read that I have pretty much stopped going to the site all together.  Yes, the internet turns people into trolls, but forums are supposed to have moderators to keep that thing to a minimum.  T's tractor forum has "friendly" in their tag line and they whole group enforces good manners.  This forum.... it almost seems like they egg each other on into ruder and ruder behavior.

OK, let's be honest, the only way I can afford this bike is on credit and that way disaster lies.  But it bothers me that there is a great resorce out there that I'm not going to use due to rude people.  Do they even think about how their being rude to one person discourages everyone else who doesn't want to be bullied from participating?  Is that the point?

I can see this bike all fixed up with deco fenders from Velo Orange and Soma bullet lights and copper pedals and a copper bottle cage with a Kleen Kanteen.  I can dream about how to fix this bike up.  I can't afford to fix this bike up, but really... I have know idea if it is even possible.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

House Paint

OK.  Here is it, my first run of pictures with my Mother's day camera.  I used it to do "before" pictures of our current house paint. 

You can see it's peeling....

More peeling.....

Still peeling..... (but with new window)


And here is an over all look at the house. You can see T and his tiny tractor with the lawn mower hooked up, getting ready for the first mow of the season.  The garden bed isn't staying there, it's just hanging out until I get the rest of the garden space organized.
I was planning on posting earlier, but there were technical difficulties...


It will likely be a month or more before I get after pictures.  I'm not in a rush, since we are still saving for the work to be done.  None the less, you can see in that top picture that there is already some water damage.....  So, it's time to get it done.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

I become a bike Troll

Warning:  I am about to say unflattering, snobbish things.  I could even become down right rude.  We shall see.

Have you ever read Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaimen?  It's a comedy about the end of the world.  If not, go buy it immediately.  I'll wait.

OK.  So there is a part in there where they talk about Newt's car.  It's called the Wasabi.  It is described thusly:
It would be a very accurate historian indeed who could pinpoint the precise day when the Japanese changed from being fiendish automatons who copied everything from the West, to becoming skilled and cunning engineers who would leave the West standing. But the Wasabi had been designed on that one confused day, and combined the traditional bad point of most Western cars with a host of innovative disasters the avoidance of which had made firms like Honda and Toyota what they were today...In vain did [Newt] point out its 823cc engine, its three-speed gearbox, its incredible safety devices like the balloons which inflated on dangerous occasions such as when you were doing 45 mph on a straight dry road but were about to crash because a huge safety balloon had just obscured the view. He'd also wax slightly lyrically about the Korean-made radio, which picked up Radio Pyongyang incredible well, and the simulated electronic voice which warned you about not wearing a seatbelt even when you were; it had been programmed by someone who not only didn't understand English, but didn't understand Japanese either. It was state of the art, he said. The art in this case was probably pottery.
With that in mind, I give you the Trek Wasabi:
First the glamour shot from the Trek Archive:

Then via my old camera:

Someone tried to make this bike pretty.  It has pink rims.  It has flower decals.  It has pretty coordinating seat and fenders.  Now let's pause for a moment and look at the construction:


Those are some of the ugliest welds I've seen on a bike!

Now, to be fair.  The bike store I saw this at actually sold one between my visit yesterday and today, so maybe most of this bike's target demographic doesn't care about things like that.  It is also only a little bit over $500.  Not a high end bike.  So part of where they save money is on construction

Let's compare to a Soma Buena Vista (images courtesy Lovely Bicycle):
Fully built up the Soma would cost twice as much as the above Trek.  But there is better quality through out.  However, that isn't the part that gets me.  Here is the joinery on a Vintage bike that can be found locally for well under $200:
 
And here are the glamour shots (again, thanks to Lovely Bicycle).

When I had $500 for a bike, I followed this advice and built up Victoria.  And I am happy how she turned out, once I finally got all the squeaks oiled and had T tighten all the bolts for me.  I started with no bike knowledge, the internet and a $5 garage sale bike.  Victoria is a solidly build frame.  I love the new components.  I had planned on getting her powder coated in the future, but it looks like she is going to a new home soon.  I would feel better spending the money they way I did than just buying something new.  Especially since it works out to be about the same amount of money anyway.

Compared to the Wasabi, Victoria has a better saddle, better rims, better tires, the same coaster brake hub and that $500 even got me lighting which this bike doesn't include at all.  That's just the widely accepted ones.  In my opinion she also has better frame and better handle bars.  All the Wasabi has is better paint.  If I had kept Victoria an extra year, you wouldn't be even able to say that.

I think someone at Trek must be on to the reference, because this year it's call the "Cruiseliner" instead.  Still, I still can't help wondering, if the original build team was asked to build something girlie and someone rebelled in choosing the name.  I can't be the only person who thinks it looks.... bad. 

Mind you, who am I to talk?  I spend time on bike forums and blogs reading about bikes I'll never be able to afford and seeing people talk smack about bikes that are nicer than anything I could ever hope to own.

If I had unlimited funds to bikes, my dream stable is a cute upright bike, like a Gazelle Popular 3 ($2000), a zippy road or touring bike like the Sam Hillborne ($3000) and a nice cargo bike like the Onderwater family tandem with the optional cargo basket ($3000).  And maybe while I'm dreaming impossible dreams, a Brompton or Origami bike would be nice too.

If I start saving now, I might just about be able to buy an Origami for Toddler girl at some point.  If I was buying kids bikes again, anyone 4 feet and up would get an Origami with a different seat tube to adjust the seat down.  It would have saved two sets of bikes for the big girls and they would still have an interesting bike at the end that will last them all through university, even if they have to hide it in their dorm room over the winter.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Wow...

Do you ever have that surreal moment when you look at your life and wonder how you got here?  Surely this isn't just me.

I don't mean that as a bad thing.  I just have somehow ended up living a completely different life than I planned.

I never expected to get married.  I had (have) a terrible relationship with my dad.  I couldn't imagine why any thinking woman would saddle herself with a husband if they were like that.  T and I worked hard to fix each other the first few years of our relationship.  Or rather we worked hard to help each other let go of our past baggage.  He taught me that men don't turn in to completely useless, clueless control freaks when you get them into a long term relationship.  The they do help out around the house, not just trash it when your back is turned.  That you can be shown love and respect by a husband.    I always thought of "wife" as a bad word.

I am so lucky to have him.  I know it.  I try very hard not to take him for granted.

I would like to think I taught him that he doesn't deserve and shouldn't expect emotional abuse.  That his disability does not make him undesirable.  That there are geeky Mac girls out there that read and play computer games and debate current events.  That I think he is important enough, that his feelings and memories and interests are important enough to drive hours out of town to spend money we don't have on a tractor we don't need because it makes him very, very happy to have that tractor that reminds him of his grandfather.

I thought I might end up as a single mom by choice, but I never thought I would be a stepmom.  I never thought I would have responsibility for teenagers who were mostly sane and actually talk to me about stuff and put up with my occasional impromptu lectures on STDs and offering to find birth control for them and their friends with no questions asked.  (I work in health care, they put up with me)

I hoped to own a house, but not one this big.  My house is 1000 square feet.  For my hypothetical life, it is too big.  For my real life.... it's OK.  I could easily go smaller if I found one with a more customized living space design, but I don't think the rest of the family could.  I still read tiny house blogs in my spare time.

I never expected to live in the prairies or in a city this big.  I wanted small mountain town.  I had even come with in six months of leaving for New Zealand when things changed and I realized I needed to stay with Tyson.  It was in my two year plan when I met him.   I had been working toward that goal for a few years before that.

I thought I would have a more established garden by now.  I didn't expect to have a partner who would encourage me to try a new garden set up each year until I get it right.  I think I have gotten it right this year.

I hadn't really ever considered that, not only would my in laws be amazing, but that I would end up "adopting"extra grandparents and aunts for my kids.  That I would have such good friends that it blurs the line between friends and family.  That my toddler would call for aunts that she has no blood relation to at all, but not care a wit because they are so close to her and loved by her that she will be shocked when she finds out how other people get aunts.

That really is the biggest unexpected, Toddler Girl.  When I made up my mind to stay with T long term, I thought I was giving up biological children.  V & C are so amazing, I .... well, OK, I wish I had more time with them.  I wish they were mine.  At that point they were only here 25% of the time.  V is now here 50% and I wish C was here that much too.  I understand that I have to share them,  but I would take them full time in a blink.  I love them fiercely with every fibre in me.  I was expecting to spend 75% of my life missing them.  At least with V here more, I get to watch her growing up to be such an incredibly interesting person.

T had the big snip in his first marriage.  I thought that was it.  But he looked into reconstruction.  It has a poor success rate.  I hoped it would work, but with a less than 50% chance, I wasn't expecting it to.  I love kids.  I would have another five if we could afford it.  If I wasn't getting too old.  I certainly wasn't expecting the big girls to adore Toddler girl the way they do.  She just worships them.

Daily I look at Toddler girl with amazement that she is mine.  How did I end up with a baby (who isn't a baby any more) that tells jokes and stretches her tiny vocabulary to the max?  Today she pointed to a  sparrow and told me it was a chicken, yum! yum!  I know she knows the difference.  But she was carefully chased it pretending to catch it for me because I mentioned I was getting hungry.  She also pointed out "chicken taste es delicious!"

I love my whole family so much.  How did I ever get so lucky as to end up here?

So, yes.  Sometimes I whine about work and money (or lack there of), but I know how lucky I am.   I know I am loved.  I hope my family knows that I love them back.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Tomato chicken bake


9 boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half*
1/8 cup capers
1/8 cup kalamata olives sliced
20 fresh basil leaves coarsely chopped
1 cup mozzarella shredded
2 Tablespoons olive oil

- Preheat oven to 350F
- Unravel the chicken thighs and lay flat in a 9x13 inch pan
- toss everything else in a bowl and pour as evenly as possible over the chicken.
- cover tightly with tin foil
- bake for 40 minutes, then remove foil
- bake another 10 -15 minutes until chicken is done and cheese is bubbly

Serve with linguine:
- boil water in your biggest pot (4 cups for every 100g (4 oz) of pasta)
- add 2 tablespoons of salt so the water tastes like saline
- cook for just under 10 minutes
- trust me on using a lot of water

and veggies and dip or salad.

I have started putting out a plate of cut veg when I start cooking for Toddler girl to snack on while I cook.  She won't EAT veg, but if she is stealing them when I'm busy.... that's different.


*if you garden, I high recommend Sweet million tomato plants.  The tiny tomatoes are so good and you really seem to get millions.  You can freeze them on a cookie sheet then transfer them to freezer bags.  They work really well added to soups or this.

More bike gossip.

I'm trying to organize a weird bicycle shell game whereby I would sell Victoria to the gal who has been after me to sell for months and use the money to buy a 1970's Raleigh Superbe and a baby bike seat that would clip to the frame.

Here's the thing: Victoria has all new parts on an old frame.  This would be an all old parts on an old frame that still could not pull the trailer, but could hold a baby seat.  What that means in practical terms is that I would at some point need to replace the rims and tires.  It has a 3 speed hub in the back and a dynamo hub in the front that would need to be laced into new alloy rims so the brakes work better.  The paint is in OK shape, there are some minor rust spots on the chrome.  It is a better bike to start with than Victoria was.  I am breaking even on the sale of Victoria (which I never thought I would) but would have to use the difference between the sale price of Victoria and the Raleigh to buy the baby bike seat.  I would end up with a bike that.... has different features.

For example, with steel rims the Raleigh would not be safe in the rain, Victoria was.  On the other hand, if Toddler girl is in an open air baby seat, we won't be biking in the rain anyway.  However, with the baby seat blocking the rack, I won't be able to go for groceries on the bike.  On Victoria, Toddler girl would go in the trailer and the groceries would go in the wald baskets.  Victoria really struggled to pull the trailer, but we could do it.  The Raleigh can't use the trailer at all and the baby seat will partially cover where the panniers would go.

But in a few years, Toddler girl will be in a trail-a-bike and the Raleigh can be fixed up at that point.  In the mean time, it would be fine for going to the park and library and the sort of stuff we do everyday.  I would just have to organize grocery shopping for in the evening when T can stay at home with Toddler girl.  That's kind of a pain because I like spending time with T in the evenings, but we could make it work.

Yes, it would be nice to have a cargo bike of some description, but since that isn't going to happen.....

In the mean time, we have cut our car use by two thirds.  Which is nice because gas prices are way up and if we didn't have a plan in place I would be completely stranded.  Many days the car just stays parked.   I wish I could say that cutting the car use has saved so much money I can afford spiffy bikes, but.... it hasn't worked that way, yet.

I still need to decide what to do with that Raleigh Colt I ended up getting stuck with.   Do I keep it for Toddler girl on the off chance that she might want to ride if for a couple of years when she is older?  That feels like hoarding.  She likely will end up too tall for it to be a forever bike for her.  It should go to someone who is petite who could use it.

What I really need to do is clean it up and take a bunch of pictures with my new camera.  There just never seems to be the time.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Thank you!

For Mother's day, Darling Husband got me a new (to me) DSLR camera with a story involved.  L had done a bunch of research and found a really nice DSLR and bought the recommended attachments for it.  Then found she was using her mid-sized camera more anyway and it was languishing.  (OK, so it was really being carefully and lovingly stored, but languishing sounds more dramatic)

It sounds like she started to feel a bit guilty about having the fabulous camera and not using it (or maybe she just felt bad for me because my affordable point and shoot wasn't cutting the mustard in terms of pictures.  Anyway she sold it to Darling Husband as such a subsidized price that it really is a gift from her family and Darling Husband.

Seriously, it is such a nice set up, I can't imagine why she would part with it.  I think I would have fallen prone to camera hoarding and not let it go even if it was just sitting there.  Mind you, I also can't imagine not using it.  Once I learn how.

I am so excited!

I am kind of intimidated.

I need to read the manual.

But hopefully, there will be pictures on the blog shortly.  I have dug out my old Crumpler Camera bag from long ago and set it up.

Way back before T and I were married, I had wanted to get into photography.  I started doing research.  I started saving up for a good camera.  Then we got engaged and the camera money went towards our rings.  Then I got pregnant and the camera money when to maternity clothes.  Then I lost my job and couldn't save.  Then I found a job and Toddler girl had so many health problems that I couldn't even think about cameras.  Then I quit my job to stay home with her and I gave up on photography as a hobby we would never be able to afford.

So really, this is such a nice gift that I am tearing up as I write this post.

Happy Mother's Day!

For Mother's Day this year, Darling Husband, Toddler girl and I are going for Dim Sum with our friends L & L and one of their moms.  Dim Sum amazes me!  The food is so good.  You eat until you are turkey dinner full and some how the bill per person is always less than a drink, fries, burger and dessert are terrible drive-thru place.  Of course on Sundays, it almost a shot gun start to get a table, but having to decide between sleeping in and Dim Sum, I choose Dim Sum.

Before Toddler Girl we would go every month.  These days it's such a treat I really look forward to it.

Speaking of which, the other thing I'm getting for Mother's day is debt.  OK, so that's a little harsh.  I'm not upset about it.  Well, a little, but......  The house needs repairs.  So we have decided to borrow some money to replace the last three window and repaint before we take more water damage.

When we were deciding which windows to replace with out tax return, we replaced the two that were obviously leaking over the winter.   What I didn't notice is that one of the non-opening windows was leaking too.  About two weeks ago now, I found where the wooden frame has started to rot.  It's an older house, I shouldn't really be that surprised that things need doing, but.....   I wasn't expecting that.

Since we don't have $4000 for new windows or $2600 for new paint.  We are going into debt.  I'm a little worried about that....  I know we have to get this fixed before winter.  We are going to wait for the end of season sale our favourite home place has every August.  I am happy to have it just done.....

But, I don't like the idea of debt.  We had to work really hard to get the mortgage reworked when it became apparent that Toddler girl was too sick for me to go back to work on more than a casual basis.  I'm trying really hard not to resent the tractor at this point, even if it is going to plow my garden for me this year.  I even know that the tractor money wouldn't have covered either the windows or the paint, but the extra few hundred dollars would help.

Darling husband had been hinting he is getting me a nice present for Mother's day.  I wonder if this is how he feels about the tractor?  I know we can't afford to do it.  I know it is going to add to the debt load.  At the same time, we don't do treats very often and it is nice to know your partner thinks you are worth spending money on.

I know there are people out there drowning in debt.  I know we aren't that bad yet.  We pinch our pennies and get by.  Some how we manage to break even every month.  I just wonder.... We don't have cable any more.  We cut our phone bill to the minimum to save there.  We turned down the thermostat all winter and I line dry diapers to save the cost of the drier. (The trick is a short fluff cycle before they hit the line otherwise they dry stiff like cardboard.)  Where is the debt repayments going to come from?

OK time to stop moping.  Time to get out of bed and go let Darling hubby make me a coffee.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

Happy Mother's day!

Now that I have some coffee and a piece of toast in me, I'm feeling less blue.  Toddler girl will be in school full time in only four years and I'll be back to work.  The debt will get paid off.  We will be fine.  In the mean time, I can spend time with my daughter.  We go to the park and she loves my bicycle.  Mostly I couldn't drive anyway since as soon as she sees it she asks "go bike, Mum-mum?"

Right now the garden is in the awful, dirty hard work stage, but in only a month plants will be starting to come up and a few weeks after that, we'll be eating radishes!  They are always the first crop of the spring.  I have a really good plan this year and I'm so looking forward to getting started.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

I disagree - update

Some how.... and I'm not sure how....  I ended up reading Life from Scratch on the kindle I got for Christmas/birthday this winter.  It isn't the kind of book I usually read.  I was struck by one part in the book when the main character talks about wanting people to read your journal,  that's why you post it on the internet.

OK.

I have to disagree with that one a little bit.

I think there are people out there that blog and think the internet is so big that no one will ever find them.  That isn't me, but I have met them.  They were really upset that I would go and read their blog after they told me where it was and what it was called.  (yeah... I don't get it, but when I tell that story other people have had the same experience) Then there are people like me that don't think my life is interesting enough to hold readers.

I have to say that until I needed help finding home for bunny I didn't really care that I had readers.  I know a few of you personally and the rest were just.... random fluctuation in the stats counter.

My issues aside, I think there are lots of reasons to have a blog other than necessarily wanting people to read your journal. The big few that immediately come to mind is my bad handwriting, that the computer is easier to just jot something down quick without having to work so hard from keeping Toddler girl from colouring in my book and the indexing system.  I also like the spell check.  I can review and rewrite easier than on paper.

Maybe this is a sign of increase digital sprawl, but I can type faster than I write.  Which explains my many of my blog posts are pretty much transcription of whatever is going through my head at the moment.  I wonder if people used to journal on typewriter like that back in the day?  NOTE TO SELF: internet research topic.

This is kind of sad, but a lot of the time I am blogging in a small window on my screen with toddler girl in my lap watching They Might be Giants videos in another window.  That kid can watch the Days of the Week video several times in a row.  It's a really fun video, but I would go nuts if I didn't have something else to do.  Blogging gives me that other focus, but we still get the nice snuggles in.

I have very mixed feeling about that song.  I am glad I stay home with Toddler girl, but...  it often feels like I'm always at work, from 11:00pm when she had night mares and want snacks and cuddles for two hours before she goes back to bed right through 6am when she woke up for the day, straight on keep working until 8pm when she goes to bed.  It isn't "no, no, I never go to work"  it's "no, no, I'm always at work."

And ultimately, maybe Toddler girl will want to read this someday.  The same could be said for that lovely paper journal I started.  So really, journalling in real life means that others can read it too.  Even if you hide it under your mattress.

In which case.... I love you so much baby girl!  Midnight snuggles are nice, even when we are both exhausted.  When I have nightmare, hubby puts up with me and gives me snuggles too.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Thank you!

Wow! I can't believe it, but  I actually had people contact me offering financial help for guest bunny!  I'm not posting the comments or the email because I'm not accepting.  I really appreciate the offers to help!  Internet social rocks!

The reason I'm not taking you up on it is guest bunny has found a forever home.  He is going to live with a vet and her family who will also arrange the surgery.  The "good with kids and other pets" was a big selling factor.  He will be an inside bunny, which makes me so happy.

I am so glad this has come to a happy conclusion.  I am too familiar with stories of bunnies who "set free" and came to no good.

Thank you all for you suggestions and support!

Bunny Update

Slipper lives in our laundry room behind a baby gate when we aren't home.  The rest of the time he has free range of the house.  We know he will go back to the laundry room to use the litter pan.

This morning, while I was out dropping T off at work, he jumped two baby gates (one in his doorway and one in the hallway) to go snuggle with the guest bunny.  We know he was a Kaninhop contender, but this is the most we have see in action.

We had pretty much resigned ourselves to giving the new bunny up for adoption, but this is making it harder.

House Guest


In the morning, some thoughts about the unnamed bunny.  He is about the right size to have been an Easter pet who "accidentally" got out when the kids went back to school and stopped taking care of him.  He is so far, really good with Toddler girl.  He doesn't know how to drink out of a water bottle and was very dehydrated when I caught him.  I suspect if we hadn't had so much rain in the last couple of days, he wouldn't have made it this long.

He is already litter trained.

Last night he and Slipper spent some time cuddling through the cage bars.

We didn't want a bunny right now.  We weren't looking for one.  He is good with animals and kids and there for more adoptable.  If we could afford to get him fixed I would keep him and this would be a good home.

But the bottom line is.... we don't have the money to get that done.

I can't say we a poor.  We are "falling through the cracks" lower middle class.  If you take our combined income and subtract the child support then divide it over the number of people who live here including averaging out the part time kids (50% for V and 25% for C - our household is 3.75 people), yes, we are pretty close to the poverty line.

But it isn't calculated like that.

And no one gets pet subsidies anyway.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Asking for help

V forgot her rubber boots here on the weekend.  Today she was at her mom's house and tomorrow at 4am she is going on a student exchange to Quebec.  I thought she wouldn't need them, so I put them in the garage so we wouldn't trip on them by the back stairs.

It turns out that she needed them after all.  She came by while we were out to pick them up, but didn't know I had moved them.  So it was that at 9pm I had to drive them over to her mom's house and drop them off.  There had been a bunny, a house bunny, that someone "set free" in the neighbourhood hanging out with the neighbours cat.

This is where I have to translate a little for you.  I have a house bunny.  I have had house bunnies for the last 24 years.  A well cared for bunny lives 8 - 10 years.  They are social and require social grooming from their people.  They litter train very easily and (with a little more effort) can be kept from eating your electrical cords.  They are very loving pets that can be leash trained and also trained to do simple tricks.  For more fun than you would expect, search for "Rabbit Show Jumping" on YouTube.  In that 24 years I have had Silky (who died of old age at age 10), Pixel (who had to be put down when her teeth failled, age 8), Emmy and Mr Vimes who were SPCA Bunnies.  We had them both at the same time and I don't know how old Emmy was.  Mr Vimes was born blind and had a chronic pastuerella infection.  He died at age 3 of kidney failure.  After he died, Emmy became very depressed and a year after he died, she stopped eating.

Three sets of bunnies, averaging an 8 year commitment each.

People aren't prepared for that.  Male bunnies make EXCELLENT pets, once you get them fixed.  Before that they go at it like... well, like bunnies.  With your laundry, slippers, books, toys, vacuum, everything really.

We currently have a mini rex called Slipper.  He is very new.  He was named by Toddler girl.  We think he is about a year old.  He was fully grown when we got him, so it is kind of hard to tell.  We got him fixed and she is very polite and snuggley.

I know bunnies.  I also know that house bunnies are from southern climes and universally freeze to death in our climate.  If they aren't hit by a cat or mauled to death by a cat or dog first.  Setting a house bunny free is sentencing it to a horrible painful death.  People would be much kinder to put a free ad in the paper or take them to the SPCA.  This one had survived for 3 days because the neighbour's cat was protecting it.  The other neighbour's cat had already been stalking it.

This one wasn't that hard to catch.  It would have been even easier if the friendly cat hadn't intervened a few times.  I have brought it home.  It is in a cage.  Slipper was male, this one still is.  That isn't a good mix.

The two bunnies are close enough in size to be a good pair of bunny friends.  They are so far grooming each other through the cage.  The unnamed bunny snuggled right into my as soon as I picked him up and nudged me for scratches.

We can't afford to get this bunny fixed.  We can't keep the bunny without getting it fixed.  Bunnies aren't subsided and a bunny neuter costs $160 at the one place in town that we know does it.

The SPCA here is really good, but intact males are not easy to adopt.  C and V are assuming we will keep him.  So I am going to do the thing I really hate to do.  I am asking for help.  It amazes me, but I apparently have 300 regular readers out there.  If you would be interested in throwing a buck or two towards a bunny surgery, let me know.

We have overspent on windows this month and we are committed to paint next month.

On the other hand, if you are local and would be willing to take on a bunny.... let me know that too.  He is very sweet.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Post election

I think Girls and bicycles summed it up best with:
"I am disappointed.

The internet is alive with talk about this now so I'll keep it simple. Let's just say that Canada is known to be expansive in land and rich in natural resources. You would think that our country, of all countries, would be setting an example for the preservation of these precious resources.

Maybe you don't know, but Canada is basically a laughing stock of the environmental world :(

I find it pretty embarrassing.

Despite my country's majority government, I am going to keep on riding."

I don't have anything else to add, really

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Oh Sh!t - the Bicycle Edition - Part 2

Today the whole family was invited to L & L's house for brunch.  They make the best bacon I have ever had.  Teenage girl V and I decided to bike.  She took the ten speed to try and I took Victoria.  We only biked to the U (about half way)  then T gave us a ride the rest of the way.  On the way back, we briefly switched bikes.

Briefly.


V is about 5'2 these days, but if you blink, I'm sure she will be taller.  Victoria was too big for her.  The 10 speed was smallish for her.  She had the seat raised about 3".  Even when I raised the seat further so that I could get good leg extension, it is to small for me.  I shelved my fear and just tried to assume the correct posture.  We were in a nice flat place with no gravel and the pavement in good repair.  In good racing posture with my body tucked in tight to the frame, the handle bars are about even with my sternum.

Too small.

On the other hand, V LOVES that bike.  She has named it after some anime character who's name I'm not even going to try to spell and is currently biking down to the local bike shop to buy some upgrades for her.  A bell, a quick release seat post, waterbottle holder.  She is tricking that bike out.

Sigh.

Oh well.  At least it fits somebody.  I would be really disappointed if no one got to ride it.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Oh Sh!t - the Bicycle Edition

Last summer the whole family spent a couple of weekends helping our friend, A, build a shed.  There was a house up the block who had a garage sale one of those weekends and there was a nice lady selling this 10 speed.  I have never ridden a 10 speed or any road bike before but I was inspired by Velouria of Lovely Bicycle who a few years ago started road biking on a Sam Hillborne

I can't afford a Sam Hillborne, and while I know there is a big difference between a touring frame and a racing frame all diamond frame bikes look almost the same to me.  I can tell if the top bar is more or less angled or straight across but that's about it.  On a bike like Victoria (a mixte or a step through bike) I have gotten pretty good at judging seat post angle and I can tell if it is one that will fit me or not.  It seems like the magic angle on an upright bike (for me) is about 70ish degrees.  Once the bike gets to 74+ degrees (so far) they haven't fit as well.

Going from a very upright cycling posture to a very aggressive racing posture was going to be challenging and I knew it.  A cheap bike would be the way to go, right?  OK.  I'll go for full disclosure here:  this bike has hearts lugged onto the underside of the bike.  That really contributed to my even asking about the price. In retrospect, maybe a bike where the top bar isn't so straight across might have been a better bike to start with.

She said make me an offer.  I said $5.  She said $3 and she threw in what ever thingy T wanted.  It was not ride-able.  So I spend the winter taking it apart and cleaning it and putting it back together with new tires, cables, handle bar tape and a bargain bin seat from the local bike store.  All in, it is now a $70ish bike.

Today I took it for a ride.

This bike scares the poop out of me!  It feels so different.  It feels too fast and out of control.  And the thing is I know that isn't the bike.  It's me not being sure how to even hold on to the handle bars on the bike.   I feel just ... different.

I am putting the bike (who I haven't named) back into the garage until after the streets are cleaned.  The gravel added a whole extra layer of scary to the ride that I wasn't prepared to handle.  In my very VERY short ride (about 5 blocks) I don't think I got a fair impression of what the bike would be like to really ride.  I am not going to just give up on it.  I suspect it would be a better bike to take to the pool in the morning.

I realize this is going to sound ridiculous but even the little 5 minute toodle around the neighbourhood was so far out of my comfort range that I am very proud that I even did that.  Next time I will go a little farther.  It will get better.

However, that is another nail in the coffin of my hopes to triathlon this spring.  I can't take Victoria to the race and I have no idea how long it will take me to get used to the Unnamed bike.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

How to explain seasonal variation to a 2 year old

OK.  So sometimes I forget that people actually read this.  I don't find my life interesting enough that I expect anyone to be interested other than my friends and family who would have to listen to all this rambling anyway.

For those of you who are just here for the food....  I'm sorry but this is another "I can't believe my 2 year old did this" post.  You've been warned.

My location is northern enough that our day length varies significantly with the season.  Today the dawn was at 4:14 am.  I checked.  Toddler girl woke up at 5:52.  The sun was shining.  The house was completely quiet.  She was soaking wet and so was her bed, AND (from her point of view) she had overslept and everyone had left for the day.

Total freak out ensued.

It took almost half an hour to get her to calm down and stop screaming and by then EVERYONE was up.

I have got to make that kid some black-out blinds.

Once she was calmed down I tried to explain to her that sun-up does NOT mean it is time to get up.  She flat out refused to believe me.  I've been really lucky about not being told "NO" by toddler girl.  Mostly because I think that is the rudest thing and we have let it be known that screaming "No" at your parents isn't acceptable behaviour.  This time however, she KNEW I was wrong and tried to articulate it beyond just no. 

"Mummum, look!" Pointing to window, "Light outside!  Wake up time!"

"In the summer the sun gets up before it's time for people to get up sweetie."

"no.   Up time!"

She still snuck the "no" in there.  I guess she felt it needed to be said.  Fair enough.

Back to the topic of today's post.... How do you explain seasonal variation to a two year old?  It's only going to get worse...

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The dilemma - ramblings

I have had a very nice lady make what appears to be a very sincere offer to buy Victoria for a fair price given the parts and effort I put into her.  If I was ever going to sell Victoria, this would be a really good opportunity.  My problem is.... that fair and reasonable offer would not be enough to buy myself a new bike.  No big surprise there really.
If I sold her, I would be well on my way to a Gazelle basic, but I would also be without a bike this summer while I saved up the rest of the money.  If I keep her, it will be a few years before I can afford a Gazelle but I would have a reasonable (if somewhat rickety) bike in the meantime.

I have been really enjoying being car free.  I've gotten some really good rides in.  I have lost 5lbs in the last couple of weeks.  I really feel healthier.  I sleep better.  It has been really good.  I don't want to give that up.

On the other hand, I don't have enough faith in my bike rebuilding skills to believe that I would be able to sell her for this much later.  This is really the right bike for a specific collector.  In a garage sale or classified ad I wouldn't even make my parts cost back.

It's a case of short term or long term benefits and I'm not sure which is which.  If I sell, would I be able to stay active and save up?  Or would the money end up going to the never ending home repairs and I would have nothing?

By the way, if you know where I can legally get $3000 to get my house exterior painted before I end up with more water damage?  But I digress.

Victoria isn't really my DREAM bike.  That's the part of this whole thing that makes me sad.  Victoria is this woman's dream bike.  In terms of looks and parts and features my dream bike would be the Superba I can't afford.  Which is a whole different problem because the bike (that I also can't afford) that would best suit my needs at the moment is likely the Radish by Xtracycle.
I think it is about the ugliest looking bike I have ever even considered owning.  It's $1000 USD.  And I have to pay in full to have the Xtracycle dealer in town bring it in.  No test rides are possible.  Pay first, try later.  Yeah, that makes me squirm too.

It could carry Toddler girl and groceries for five.  Every blog I follow that talks about their Xtracycle as a family bike loves it.  I follow a few bike blogs where they use an Xtracycle instead of a minivan.  See Here and Here and Here.


The Madsen is prettier (to me) with it's swan frame:
but I've been burned by that hybrid seat angle before.   To further confirm this is a problem for me, yesterday Victoria and I went for a couple of rides totaling over 2 hours with Toddler in the Chariot.  No problems.  Today I took V's bike (the same frame style that was causing me pain last year) to the LBS for a minor brake job.  It was less than a 30 minute round trip with a long stop in the middle and by the time I got home my knees and hips were just killing me.

Maybe I'm imagining it, but the Radish looks like a better seat angle.

I wonder if I could write a really nice letter to Miss Sarah at Girls and Bicycles to talk her into letting me test drive her Madsen.  Then I would just need to make the 5 hour trip there to give it a spin.  Mind you, in today's post she is also complaining about pain.  She thinks it's the saddle.  I hope she is right.  That was the first thing I tried changing to fix my hip pain on my former hybrid bike.  It didn't help.  The problem wasn't the seat.

Either way, would I keep using a bike like that in a couple of years when Toddler girl is big enough for a trail-a-long bike?  For groceries?   Maybe.  Pre-toddler I could buy groceries for four just by strategic pannier packing, but the teens were smaller too.

So, for now, Victoria and I are sticking together and towing Toddler girl in the chariot.  It's not an ideal situation, but it works.  I just wish there was a better way for me to manage.  That didn't cost more than I can afford.  It would be really nice to be able to do both a me bike and a practical bike.  I just can't even imagine spending that much on stuff for me.   Not when there is so much else that needs attention around here.  Despite what you make think from the recent tractor purchase, we don't have frivolous money.