Friday, December 30, 2011

Homemade Holidays

The holiday season typically causes some trepidation around here. There is the challenge of balancing Chad's and my different holiday traditions, but there's also the struggle with the consumptive aspect of the holidays.  Every year, I strive to come up with meaningful home made gifts that reflect our values and provide some alternative to mindless consumerism that seems to drive us all during this time of year.  However, I almost always plan more projects than I can handle and, faced with no better last-minute alternative, I find myself in some big box retail or mall with all of the other last minute shoppers, feeling slightly ashamed/ guilty and questioning the importance of spending significant amounts of money on largely disposable stuff.  It really comes down to a time/ values trade off that I'm not always comfortable with.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Bicycle holiday lights in Spokane

I spent a few short days in Spokane for the holidays this year, less than usual due to a job transition and a late-December start date.  For once, we left all of the gear at home- no skis, no bikes, just Chad and me and the dogs enjoying the winter stillness and the holiday warmth with loved ones. 

We did lots of walks and lots of drives (as is generally the case when we visit, as everyone lives far from each other), and while en route I noticed a ton of holiday lights with a theme dear to my heart!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The great nearby

My cousin Leif just sent me a beautiful video segment of an urban ski session in BC:

JP Auclair Street Segment (from All.I.Can.) from Sherpas Cinema on Vimeo.

What's unique to me about this video is the focus on details of place- the dripping water, the birds leaving the tree, the man riding his yellow tricycle past the bright yellow bird mural as our jibber zips by. Wide panoramas capture the cityscape on a grey day and draw focus to the brown leaves, the long, solitary fence lines, the smoke rising from factory stacks and vents in rooftops circling slowly. The skier only appears in glimpses and in the background for much of film, until finally these images of place give way to footage of a beautiful downhill run through a quiet neighborhood elegant air and stylish turns all the way down to the BC transit bus waiting to go uphill.

This film is a brilliant reminder of the beauty and potential for adventure that exists, truly, everywhere, so long as one brings an observant eye and an open heart to play.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

A Suffering Unicorn

Saturday's CX race was on Halloween weekend, so of course I had to dress up.  I have always wanted to experience what it is to be a magical unicorn.  

Photo from the Seattle Times. 

While it was great fun to get all dressed up, and I definitely felt magical in some ways, my unicorn powers certainly did not propel me to the front of the pack.  The course wasn't my type of course- fast, flat, smooth, nothing technical except those stairs. I was instantly dropped by the roadies, suffering at the back of the race with only a butterfly to keep me company.

Photo by Bikehugger.
About two laps into the race, my left unicorn leg got caught in my rear deraileur, so I stopped and spent a good minute or two getting it untangled and ditching the leggings (thanks to my friend Dan who graciously caught them as lobbed them in his general direction).  The butterfly fluttering way ahead, I spent the rest of the course suffering alone, wishing I had the power in my legs a real unicorn surely would.  Although I wished for more magical results, there was some comfort in seeing Unicorn make the Seattle Times as well as Bikehugger's Sufferfaces.  

Saturday, October 29, 2011

A Bicycle Baby Blanket

My close friends Brian and Gillian were recently blessed with a beautiful baby girl, Maia.  Maia's parents and have had many bicycle adventures together, so naturally a gift for their first baby had to have a bicycle theme!  I did a lot of searching for a pattern for a baby blanket with bikes, but I didn't find anything so I decided to design my own.  I came up with a block pattern, with a bicycle in the middle of each block:

Monday, October 24, 2011

MFG Raceway Cyclo-crash fest

This weekend's race was a tough one. The women's field started out with a crash right at the starting line- it sounded awful, that unmistakable sound of carbon hitting carbon and pedals caught in wheels.  My teammates steered clear and in fact capitalized on it- Tina took the hole shot and didn't look back.  Brianne had a really fast start, too.  Theresa got caught up a little in it but fought her way out and caught with the race leaders within the first 200 meters.  All four of us were in the top 10 for most of the first lap.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Sand at Silver Lake CX

I lined up with a better warm up then I've had at MFG- I gotta say, I really prefer the 10:15 start time to the 9:30 start MFG requires of us ladies.  Tony found me right before my race and tipped me off about riding way to the right (thanks Tony!).  I didn't get a call up, but I situated myself in the 2nd row right behind series leader Andi Z from Group Health, a strong gal with a super fast start. 

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Breaking Ground at the Rainier Beach Urban Farm

Saturday, October 1 was the official ground breaking of the Rainier Beach Urban Farm. The other FACN board members and I have been really busy over the past 8 months getting this neighborhood farm project off the ground- writing grant applications, negotiating operating agreements with Seattle Parks, and also figuring out the details of our relationship with Seattle Tilth, our fiscal sponsor.  Although there have been work parties every Saturday for most of the summer and fall, this was really our first public event.  The concept was a mini-version of the Seattle Tilth Harvest Festival, but with more of a focus on this particular farm.  We envisioned farmers market style vendors, a plethora of community organizations, tours of the farm, live music, and plenty of kids activities. We had no idea how many people were going to show up, and whether the event would be a success, but we set attendance goals that we thought were reasonable, settled on a budget, then put our heads down and got to work.  

My job was to recruit organizations to table, bands to play music, and farmers to sell produce.  Other committee members handled a ton of other details, including speaker/ elected official recruitment, volunteer coordination, event promotion, poster/ graphic design, food/ flower procurement, event logistics and layout. A lot of these jobs were new to us, but we just kept plowing through to do lists and meetings, and pretty soon it was the week of the event.  Saturday morning greeted us with rain, which fueled my anxiety that no one would show up.  Like magic, however, over 40 volunteers materialized, and got to work setting up. By 10am people started trickling in, and for most of the day we had a good sized crowd there despite the weather.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Entiat Epic

Chad and I spent Labor Day Weekend exploring the  Entiat River area of the Wenatchee National Forest.  We camped along the North Fork of the Entiat River, then headed off early Sunday morning on a mountain bike / fly fishing/ hiking adventure.  We parked the car at the North Fork Entiat River trail and took off on our mountain bikes for about 6.5 miles, just to the edge of the Glacier Peak Wilderness.  We ditched our bikes and hiked up to Fern Lake (another steep 1.5 miles) where we spent the afternoon fishing, eating lunch, and lounging.  Below is a video of our adventures at the lake and our return trip to the car.  Apologies for the rookie video footage- this is my first attempt at a video, and also my camera broke part way through the day so I used some video footage from my cell phone video cam.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Some Edibles Lately

It's been awhile since I've posted any updates on the garden.  While my work has leveled off out there for this growing season, the fruits of the plants' labor are just coming into their prime.  Here are some lovelies doing their ripening thing:

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Mountain Bike Gran Fondo at the Pass- an epic day of riding

A few weeks ago I took a last minute trip East to embark on a mountain bike adventure with my dad- an organized mountain bike Gran Fondo, or "great distance" ride.  A celebrated ride format in Europe, the Gran Fondo is just catching on over here across the pond.  This particular Gran Fondo, organized by Bicycle Sales and Service , a North Idaho bike shop, offered a number of distance options- 10 miles, 17, miles, 35 and 50- to explore the trails at 4th of July Pass, just east of Coeur d' Alene.   Dad had called me a week prior to ask if I was interested.  I said maybe, let him know I'd get back to him, but he called three days later to let me know he had signed us both up for the 35 mile option.  I had no choice but to hoof it over the mountains to join him, or face serious shaming.   

Chad and I left Seattle at about 7:30 on Friday night, putting us in to Spokane about midnight.  A night cap with buddies resulted in my staying up until about 1:30 am, leaving just four hours of sleep before dragging myself out of bed time to make it out to my dad's and meet him before the start of the race.  Eesh. I'm definitely getting too old to do long endurance rides on that short of sleep.   

We rolled into the parking lot at the top of Fourth of July Pass at about 8:15 am, which gave us plenty of time to register, eat and stretch before the official start of the ride.
A bit of a festive feel greeting us at the starting line

Dad getting his stretch on- he's gotta keep that 'ol back of his limber.

We took off for our first lap, a 10 mile warm up loop to the south of I-90, with some up and down rollers but nothing too crazy.  There were about 25 other riders opting for this distance and we left the start together then settled into our own pace.  I was amazed at the diversity- a rage of ages and lots of women represented, which was something you don't always see at mountain bike events. 

Some ladies of team REP getting ready to ride (photo borrowed from the event album).

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Averting a bee-mergency (stopping a swarm)

The other morning I was doing a routine check on the bees and I noticed that bees in Venessa's hive were clumped around the entrance, not being as active as usual, just kind of hanging out, in large numbers....  basically, showing the first signs of swarm behavior, so far as I could tell.

Yup, we're just bees, hanging out, waiting to see where the party is... (scary for the beekeep!).

Thursday, July 14, 2011

CX Bike Lust: Sweetpea Boom Boom

It's July.  And raining. Although last week was nice, this has been one of the crappiest seasons for road riding in a long time.  I've been making weekly journeys east of the mountains to just to experience any kind of real summer.  Given the weather, along with the cancellation of the Cascadia Crit series this year, I'm just not really feeling road racing right now.  You know what I am excited about, though?  Cyclocross!!!!

This weekend our team will hold its first cx clinic of the year (more than a month earlier than last year, woot!), and many of my SCCA ladies have acquired or are shopping for cx bikes. I honestly cannot wait to get dirty with these ladies!  Chad is talking about trying some races too, and I can't wait to heckle him- oops, I mean cheer for him as he gets muddy. 

I also wanted to take an opportunity to share with you the current object of my bikelust.... I present to you a little teaser... a shot up the skirt, if you will, of the Sweetpea Boom Boom.


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Buck Mountain trail ride (and a crazy coyote encounter)

We recently headed to the Methow to celebrate our friends' Morgan and Casey's wedding at Spring Creek Ranch, the same amazing venue where Chad and I got hitched. We rolled into town early Saturday morning and set up camp at Buck Lake Campground, a beautiful quiet spot about 14 miles northeast of Winthrop.
After the tent was assembled and air mattresses/ sleeping bags rolled out, we still had a few hours before the wedding.  We set off to explore Buck Mountain Loop, one of the more famed Methow Valley mountain bike rides in the area, heading out along a forest service road which followed the edge of Buck Lake.  

Friday, June 10, 2011

Bee Update (with BeeCam!)

So, despite the fact that my last blog post was about the bee install, in real time, our busy bee ladies have now been in place for nearly four weeks.  In that short amount of time, each hive has built 8-9 lovely white combs.  

Bees are coming in and out, gathering nectar and pollen.  Here's a video of the take off/ landing strip at the front of the hive one evening a few days ago:

Inside the hive, worker bees have been tending to the comb.  Here's some footage from the hive window- there are lots of bees doing the "bee dance," which is their method of communicating distance and direction of nectar and pollen sources. You can see one bee on the lower left hand part of the screen doing her bee dance over and over again.

 Other worker bees are busy filling each cell with pollen, which will be consumed by bee larvae after they hatch.  I haven't been able to see the queen yet, but the fact that workers are bringing in pollen is generally taken as a sign that the queen is in there, laying eggs. Here's a video of a worker bee depositing some pollen into one of the cells (look for the bright orange pollen, in the middle, to figure out which bee it is):

Anyhow, as you can see, I'm enamored with these bees. I find their bee life so intricate and fascinating.

In closing, a bit of bee humor for you (courtesy of co-keepers Joe and Venessa, via Abstruse Goose):


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The great (belated) Honeybee Install

With all bee preparations done, the weather holding (no rain nor wind), the moment to install the bees arrived and we got to work. 

I removed the "quilt," the insulatory part of the hive.  This box has space in the middle for a feeder, and a piece of fabric stapled to the bottom of it.  It would later be filled with wood shavings, around the edges of the feeder, to provide insulation and moisture management for the hive.
Venessa prepared her beekeeper's hat/ veil. 
The bees patiently awaited their move to a new home.  

I slid the top bars around to make room to hang the queen cage. 

I pulled out the feeder, realizing quickly that this meant the bees were on their way out too!

Phew!   I got nervous, but took a deep breath and focused on keeping calm, moving quickly but smoothly, trying to find the best way possible to transfer these bees without exciting them too much.

I poured some bees into the hive... oops!  Almost forgot about the queen.  Here's her little cage

Here's a closeup of the Queen cage (sorry it is blurry).  Her attendants are there at the top, making sure she is fed and doing well.  You can see where we stuffed a piece of marshmallow in the end, replacing the wooden cork the queen cave arrived with.  The bees will eat through the marshmallow candy and release the queen. 

 After pulling the cork and replacing it with marshmallow, we secured the queen box to one of the top bars.  We were, at this point, also supposed to check to see if the queen is alive, but there were bees crawling all over the queen cage and I chickened out, securing the queen cage in a hurry and hoping that her attendants leave my fingers alone just a few seconds longer.  I guess we'll have to figure out later of the queen is alive.   
 We poured more bees in to the hive.  It was quite incredible and also overwhelming to see so many bees all in one place.  They were not acting particularly fierce, but they were disoriented and agitated. It is easy to see how getting on the wrong side of an entire hive would have a bad ending, especially if you happen to be allergic to honeybees.  It is also astounding, though, how they know intuitively to keep together.  It is almost as though they are separate buzzing parts of one large organism rather than individual beings.

We replaced the top bars, on the hive.....  forgetting that there are still more bees to reunite with their bee sisters. 

 I tipped over the box- and  attempted to shake the bees out.  I shook gently, timidly, not wanting to hurt them.  The bees clung stubbornly to the sides of the package box, not tumbling out the way they did for the guy on the youtube video I watched in preparation. 

I shook a bit harder, then stopped to readjust my grip on the box.  The exploded into busy bomb scene of angry bees- total bee mayhem.  Disoriented bees flew through the air, trying to figure out where their queen has gone and buzzing angrily at me.  I realized I hadn't attached my veil to my helmet correctly when I saw three bees crawling up the veil, on the inside.  I stopped, stepped away, gingerly peeled my helmet and veil off, and asked for some help from Chad  and Venessa to brush off the handful of bees finding their way up into my veil. Note to self- beekeeping is an activity best done in groups of two or more.  Miracously, I had no stings, save for one little renegade bee on my thigh who decided that I was a predator and that my presence merited sacrificing her life to attack me.  I watched her back up and start to stick her stinger through my jeans, but I brushed her off quickly, feeling just a tiny poke.  No stinger left behind.... maybe that little fierce bee lived to fly another day? 

I returned for a few more shakes, then left the bee box propped up next to the hive so that the last few stragglers can make their way back to the nest. 

Phew.  Really intense, but really amazing too.  Venessa posted a great video of it all coming together.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Getting ready for our honeybees

I decided this year to get bees for our garden.  I love the idea of keeping thousands of happy pollinators around, and I'm also excited about the possibility of having gallons of sweet, fresh, local honey at the end of the season.  

I spent months researching different beekeeping methods and finally decided on the Warre method.  The Warre Method is a natural approach to beekeeping, grounded in philosophy that the bees possess inherent wisdom when it comes to best bee survival practices.  The Warre hive imitates a tree trunk- so it is smaller than normal Langstroth boxes, and square in shape.  The hives start out with two boxes, with boxes being added to the bottom of the bee hive as the colony grows and needs more space.  (Langstroths typically "super" additional boxes over the top of the existing boxes).  The theory is that the bees will start building comb and laying brood in the top boxes, then will work their way down as the season progresses.  As the brood hatches, the empty cells will be cleaned and used to store honey.  Harvesting honey, then, is relatively easy- you just take the top few boxes, as most of the bees will have moved down the hive as the summer progresses.  

Anyhow, here's a photo essay on our bee preparations..... 

Thursday, May 26, 2011

On Pedals and Petals

Lately I've been spending a lot of time in the garden, which has led me to dream up all kinds of gardening-related topics to write about. Every spring I get overtaken by this huge urge to get out in the dirt, pull some weeds, plant some seeds, and celebrate growth in my backyard. My sense of urgency to get my hands dirty is driven by the first emergence of the sunshine, the long daylight hours and by a deep desire to get seeds planted so I can enjoy the fruits of my labor during the lazy days of summer. These past two years I've struggled with how to balance my love of gardening with my love of riding bikes... especially during the springtime, when both pursuits require a high level of commitment in terms of time and money. Anyhow, as I continue to struggle with balancing these pastimes, I'm planning to chronicle my adventures in both cycling and gardening here.

I've been thinking about the similarities between riding bikes and gardening ever since asked this question by my friend Muuqi, as a part of an interview he did awhile back for his blog, Life Cycles (great blog, check it out!). Basically, it comes down to two main themes-  observation and investment.   Both acts- riding bikes and gardening- give you an opportunity to have a more intimate interaction with your natural surroundings than say, sitting on the couch or driving in a car.  These interactions help you develop keen observation skills, which I think makes you a better citizen of the world, or at least a more interesting person.  On investment- there is immediate satisfaction, from weeding a plot of land or building a trellis, or from sweeping around a perfect corner on a mountain bike, or reaching the top of a tough climb. There are also longer term rewards.  In the garden, you pick ripe fruit,  cut fresh greens, you savor the literal fruits of your labors.  Similarly, on the bike, you harvest a sense of growing strength and speed after investing in repeated workouts on the bike. 
Fruits of last  year's labors- giant lettuces

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

DIY baby Jersey (for the youngest member of our cycling team...)

Awhile ago I mentioned in a post that I made a baby jersey for my friends' / teammates' son Jaren.  I got some questions about how I made it so I figure it deserves a post all on its own.

Basically, I strategically deconstructed an adult jersey (our team's kit from 2 years ago), and used my favorite parts to sew together a side-snap-button baby jersey.  Step by step description after the jump:

Monday, April 25, 2011

Wind and Wine in Walla Walla

I did my first stage race of 2011 this past weekend, the Tour of Walla Walla.  One of the biggest regional races, this show has usually drawn a very competitive field across all categories.  This year was no exception for the Women Cat 4 field- most of the top ladies from the local races were there, along with some really fast ladies from Eastern Washington and Canada. 

Our races included a Saturday morning 9.3 mile time trial, a 25 minute criterium or "crit" in the afternoon, and the rather hilly Kellogg Hollow Road Race Sunday morning (37 miles, five moderate climbs for about 1900 feet of climbing total). I've been loosely following a training plan which has me peaking in time for July's criterium races, so I came into this race planning on using it mostly as training.

Here's a stage-by-stage account...

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Grit and Gloom- Olympic View from the back

It was 42 degrees and raining.  I was soaking wet and covered in road grime, my feet were blocks of ice, and the sunblock I'd put on my face that morning had been streaming into my eyes for the better part of two hours, adding a nice sting to my already itchy eyes, inflamed from some serious seasonal allergies which had kept me up most of the night. I was running on roughly three hours of sleep, a bowl of oatmeal, a peanut butter clif bar, and enough ibuprofin to keep the menstrual cramps at bay.  As I grunted and struggled to turn my pedals over a few more times to get to the top of the hill, the other two ladies I was chasing - Susanne from Blue Rooster and Jackie from Bikesale, both 15 years senior to me- looked over their shoulders at me from the top of the hill. 

"Meghan, let's make a pact right now.  We will wait for you, but you can't come around us at the finish and sprint to beat us, ok?  We don't want to see any front-of-the-pack tactics..."

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Bike Works Auction- People Powered Awesomeness!

Last night was the annual Bike Works auction. Bike Works, based in Columbia City, educates and empowers youth through teaching them about bikes (riding and fixing!).  They offer a wide array of adult programming too- from drop in Volunteer Repair Parties (VRP) every Thursday, where you can improve your bike mechanic skills while drinking beer and conspiring with other bike addicts, to more formal bicycle repair classes (including the ABC and DEF series), as well as some fun social bike events.  I've been a regular VRP volunteer for just over a year, and I've also assisted Bike Works staff with teaching both the ABC and DEF bike repair classes.  Last year I volunteered at the annual Bike Works auction, and I had such a blast that I volunteered to be on this year's auction committee.

The theme of this year's event was "People Powered," and the venue, Herban Feast's SODO Park, was decorated with a comic book superhero theme. "People powered" also describes the manner in which this event was pulled together.... a mighty army of Bike Works staffers, board members and volunteers put lots of time and love into making the evening fabulous.  Here are some shots of the space, and a little taste of the decor: 
Loving the lofted ceilings and old growth wood
Aren't the red, blue and yellow table linens awesome?!
Note the comic book bubbles as centerpieces... and the flaming Baked Alaska, a coveted prize during the Dessert Dash portion of the evening.  
Somehow the auction theme and colors matched perfectly with the Seattle Sugarplum elves' newest costumes, Elf Superheros!
Stripes, Calamity, Pumpkin, and me (Schprintzel)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Review: Swrve Softshell Knickers

 I'd been looking for a long time for a pair of commuting knickers that offered a comfortable, stylish alternative to my team kit for daily commuting and other urban bike adventures. It should be noted that I'm definitely not anti-lycra.  For racing and training, touring, or really any long day in the saddle, it is hard to beat the comfort afforded by a pair of cycling shorts with a well made chamois.  That being said, I don't always feel comfortable wearing my racing kit into the grocery store on my way home, nor do I enjoy wearing it to meet friends for beers on any given Saturday night.

Anyhow, my hubby gave me a pair of Swrve Softshell Knickers for my birthday.  I immediately put them to the test through a chilly and wet commuting season in January and February.  Simple one word review:  Love!!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Checking out the Chief Sealth Trail Extension

On a recent particularly sunny morning,  I took a detour from my normal commute route to check out the extension of the Chief Sealth Trail which recently opened.  It runs from Beacon Ave S. to 15th Ave S:

View Chief Sealth Bike Map extension in a larger map