Saturday, October 31, 2009

Saturday morning in the park

Finally some pics of me in Penelope I can send to Kate at Steel City Cycle works for her bike gallery. All my other pics show me without the helmet that is mandatory in Australia - yes, I'm a lawbreaker!! >;-) I do hate wearing the bloody things but I do realise they help protect you from brain damage; helmets seem to be contentious topic on the net. My personal view is that they should be mandatory for children but optional for adults. Usually I'm wandering around the back streets or on bike tracks and it irks me having a hot sweaty head. If I were commuting in traffic I'd certainly wear a helmet without question. I had concussion twice during my horse riding years and would have been dead without my horse riding helmet. Horses are far less predictable than bikes though!

Proof that Penelope can go reeeeaally slow below in these pics. Greg was using my little Lumix digital which often has a lag between pressing the button and taking the photo... so there were a few that showed me disappearing out of shot. And this was on sport mode. Hmm. Anyway I dawdled along hoping he'd manage to get me in frame and these are the results.
This is in a little park about 4km from our house; typically it's the turnaround point for our usual 30 minute ride. At the moment it looks beautifully verdant courtesy of heavy rain earlier in the week, and a wet start to October. Come the middle of summer the grass will be yellowing and tired.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A bit of Pashley info

I came across this article in the UK Independent during a little search to find out more about when the Pashley Princess was designed and put into production. In a nutshell, nobody at Pashley seems to know :-)! But the article is lovely... makes you want to sit down with a nice cup of tea, a digestive biscuit, and hum "Rule Brittania".

And I'd like to think that this chap - or someone very like him - was responsible for turning Penelope from tubes of steel into a masterpiece.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Marathons get the thumbs-up

The sky was brilliant blue in spring sunshine today - a great morning to head to Sydney Olympic Park with our bikes. It was a tossup for me: I longed to take Penelope as I thoroughly enjoyed riding her there last time and she gets me fitter, but I did want to try out Petunia's new tyres, so the Mixte got put on the bike rack this time.

The Scwalbes are excellent - I had suspected they would be. They are replacing the original tyres that Petunia had when she was new 25 years ago. Realistically any tyre would be an improvement one would think, but the Marathons are great. Very quiet, very grippy. Sydney Olympic Park is mainly paved bike tracks but there are some clay/gravel tracks there too which we tried out. I felt more confident riding on the dirt tracks with the new tyres :-). They feel much more stable. They are currently inflated to 80 psi but as they can take more I'll put them up to 85 for my next ride and see how that feels.

As usual I had the camera but was so busy riding I didn't think to stop for pics. D'Oh!

Friday, October 23, 2009

And finally... the Marathons

The guys at my local bike shop put my Schwalbe Marathons on today. While they were being fitted I got chatting with a guy who has had a custom bike built for him but is paying it off weekly and can't take it home yet. It's a mountain bike with Really Ugly Welds, front suspension, disc brakes, hydraulic this and that, aluminium frame, 27 gears etc etc etc. It's costing him around $4800. I gulped. He roared with laughter when I told him my saddle and grips cost more than I paid for my bike. Little Petunia came in for quite a few questions from the shop guys; how old was she? Was that a genuine Brooks saddle and was it leather? Where did I get the bike? What else had I done to it? Initially I was told to come back in an hour for my fitted tyres but once they started asking questions they got her up on the rack straight away and set to work. She does have a certain old-fashioned charm.

The white reflective stripe gives them a bit of an old-fashioned look; while they look a little more modern than the ancient Panaracers they replaced, they don't look too out of place.
More to the point, they ride well. I've only done a really short test ride on them (had to get back to work) but if the weather holds over the weekend will try them out. Rolling resistance seems pretty low, as the manufacturer promises. They can be inflated up to 95psi too - hee hee, that should give me an extra km per hour!

So here's Petunia with stage one almost finished. Just have to find a way to mount a light and a front basket. This may mean replacing the stem and cables unless I can find a clever person who can weld me a custom bracket for the handlebars. I have something in mind.

What's stage 2? At some point in the future, when I'm feeling far more financially capable, I want to rebuild the rear wheel with an 8 speed hub gearset. My sister-in-law has done that to her Mixte, and loves it.

Also part of stage 2 will be finding fenders that fit. Now the new tyres are on I can get measuring in earnest. >;-)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

What a difference a service makes!

I had Penelope serviced late last week and have since then only really ridden her to the shops a couple of times. This morning, as it was sunny and glorious at 6.30am, I jumped out of bed (winced at my knees) and took her for a 30 minute ride. What a difference! Although I love her I confess I was feeling a bit worried about ever getting used to her as she seemed so sluggish compared to my mixte Petunia.

But the simple 30 day service, tightening everything up, checking all was bedded in correctly, made a world of difference. The little Pashley seemed so light and vigorous. For the first time I got her into top gear and pedalled happily without any effort. I've been struggling, on the same bike path, in fourth and even third. But she went like a bird. Last time I rode her up the main hill on this ride I'd had to move into low gear near the top. Today it was easy in second, I was hardly blowing. And it's not as if I've got much fitter in the last five days.

I'm really falling in love with this bike! She is a dream, a jewel. Pashleys rool. They do.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Brooks love and joy...

Yay, we picked up Petunia's Brooks saddle yesterday! It seems only a handful of high end bike shops in Sydney stock Brooks gear, and I had ordered mine fromWoolys Wheels in Paddington. This is a super shop - three stories of bikes and bike stuff. Most of the gear is aimed at the lycra crowd but there was a tantalising locked cabinet of Brooks goodies. The guys fitted the saddle for me so we headed down a couple of blocks into Centennial Park after that (we took both our bikes with us to the shop).

Centennial Park is a mecca for cyclists in Sydney's eastern suburbs. The main riding track is around 4km, mainly flat, so it's usual to see people on speedy road bikes whizz past you in a flash of lycra and skinny tyres. I prefer a more leisurely pace - we tend to average about 16-17km/h when we ride. I had to laugh at the speed signs which stated that neither cars nor cyclists must exceed 30 km/h in the park. Because I didn't take any photos - too busy keeping both hands on the bars and overtaking small children - you can find out more about Centennial Park and see some lovely pics here.

Petunia looks fab with her new, and very comfortable, Brooks B66S in antique brown. I did some tinkering when we got home and moved the saddle forward on the post a bit as I was finding myself sitting on the fork rather than the flat - as with Penelope. It's seriously comfortable to ride on.

So Petunia's transformation is nearly complete. Next come the Schwalbe tyres (next week). Finally I have to figure out a way to mount the rather lovely old-fashioned bullet light I bought AND keep a front basket. The basket I have is easily removable - it clicks onto that clunky big black thing you can see in the centre of the handlebar. However, when it's on the bike there's no room to mount a light underneath. So ideally I need to find a) a shallower, removable basket or b) a basket which CAN be removed when I want it to, which sits low enough for me to mount a light above it (and hopefully stays firm when I'm riding rather than bounce about). I've had no joy with baskets that meet this criteria to date. Most bike shops here, even the posh ones, sell basic baskets. Looks like I'll have to order in from overseas to achieve perfection or at least some way of having a basket and a light! Any suggestions? Answers on a postcard please... or simply leave a comment.
And finally, below is Petunia as she was when I bought her last year. That saddle (vinyl) was a shocker so the gel saddle she's had in the meantime has been an improvement. The handlebars were narrow and scary to ride with and lasted 48 hours before being changed. I think with her current saddle and handlebars she looks a much more inviting ride :-).

Saturday, October 17, 2009

A trip down the coast

Penelope has been for her 30-day tweaking, and it was a gorgeous drive down the coast to Thirroul yesterday. It took about 90 minutes each way. It's doable by train, and you can take your bike on the train, but it's a good two and a half hours each way from where we live... so maybe something to do another time when we are feeling less pressured and not skiving a day off work.

But the view below, from a lookout near Austinmer, was enough to relax us. Heavenly! You can see it was a bit windy - there are tons of white horses on the beach. With a cool south wind blowing nobody was in swimming anywhere we passed despite it being school holidays here.
Here's Penelope on her rack down at Austinmer beach, where we stopped to breathe in gulps of salty air.
The villages between Sydney and Wollongong offer you the opportunity to step back in time. Yes, there are lots of modern houses but lots of charming old ones too, and commercial and public buildings like these two. Here is a theatre in Thirroul which has been put to good use as commercial premises, keeping its intriguing art deco meets Tudor exterior. This area was a popular holiday spot in the first half of the 20th century. still is! Although these days it's more an extended suburb of Wollongong.
Every little town had its School of Arts back in the day, and this sweet wee one is at Clifton. Here's where ladies practiced flower arranging, art exhibitions were held, and generally the School of Arts was a focus of life in the village.
And finally, the new Sea Gate Bridge at Coalcliff, completed in 2005. The road used to run alongside the cliff, but a landslide in 2003 washed the road away and essentially cut off half the villages from using the coast road - they had to backtrack inland to get from one town to another. Read more about this bridge and see some stunning pics here. It's a remarkable drive - you are held up on pillars high above the ocean.

After all that, Penelope had some minor tweaks, tightenings and adjustments done. I did an adjustment myself today (my middle name is now Spanner) with the saddle, moving it on its runners so it sits further forward. I was finding I was riding on the front rather than the seat; I have short arms and legs. A test ride this afternoon proved much more comfortable.

I also swapped the bolt that adjusts the seat post height for an adjustable one from my MTB. This may sound terribly girly, but it means I can adjust the saddle height now for maximum comfort for each pair of shoes I choose to ride in. Ahh-!!! I found riding in my Colorado clogs a different and uncomfortable experience than riding in my Geox flats, for instance. Mmm, I love tinkering!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A gripping yarn

I was going to wait until Penelope had had her first service, but I couldn't. Those Brooks grips were calling me from the garage :-), so I had no option but to put them on at lunchtime. Measuring them against the existing grips, I realised I'd have to take a few rings out of the grips. I didn't want to mess around with putting Penelope's cables any further along; they are obviously adjusted and made to be just where they are.

I'd fitted the same grips to Petunia some months back but hadn't had to remove any of the leather rings. Well, I could have but I was a little lazy so they're about 1cm too long at the ends of the handlebars, but let's not go thre. The Brooks leaflet stated that adjusting the grips to fit your bike was a fairly easy task achieved with a screwdriver, pliers and a file. Lacking pliers and a file (our tool kit isn't huge) I decided a hacksaw would do the job just as well, and it did. It was just as easy as the leaflet promised.

I had to lose five rings from each grip.
Installing them on the bike was dead easy. Fortunately the other grips came off easily enough thanks to the technique from Bicycle Tutor, and within a couple of minutes I had the Brooks grips on and tightened up.
MUCH nicer than those black plasticky things! Penelope looks like she's itching to go out on the street and show off her new grips.
They look a little on the short side, but then I have quite small hands, so are a comfortable fit as I discovered on a test ride afterwards. I was a little worried that the five rings was one ring too many and I'd be gripping the metal rather than the leather on the edges, but no.

Mmm, Brooks. What an excellent way to use up spare saddle leather and bike spokes!

How hard can it be... (2)

... to get Schwalbe Marathon 27" x 1 1/4" kevlar tyres for Petunia here in Australia? Hard-ish, it seems. Many major bike shops have Schwalbe in stock but typically only in 26", 28" or 700c. I finally tracked some down this morning on

Petunia is shod with her original tyres (and she was built in 1984). Admittedly she was hardly ever ridden before I bought her, but rubber perishes over time. I noticed during a regular check of her tyres, brakes etc a couple of days ago that the tyres have developed little hairline cracks where the sidewall curves over to the running surface. Not ideal - I don't want a massive blowout as I'm careering down a hill.

I could get cheap tyres without kevlar at the local bike shop, but time and experience has taught me that it's best to replace broken bits with the best you can possibly afford, as you'll be happier in the long run. My husband has the cheap tyres on his bike (because the local shop, like so many others here, doesn't stock a kevlar or puncture-resistant tyre in 27") and he's happy enough, but I figure I'll spend the extra and go for the Schwalbe. I've read reviews on them, I like the tread pattern, I like the look of them, and I'm happy with their performance on Penelope.

So tyres have been ordered and should arrive early next week. I know the local bike shop has 27" tubes in stock (phew) so then all I'll be waiting on for Petunia's upgrade is the Brooks saddle, also due in next week. *does a little jig with glee*

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Postman Pat's Brooks delivery

Postman Pat knocked on our door this afternoon with a special delivery for the green lady. Penelope is finally getting pretty grips to replace the rather uncomfortable standard Pashley plastic jobbies. I was considering getting her green grips to match her pretty paintwork, but the only green grips I could find were $105 on eBay from the US, and I got these for $65 on eBay from the UK. They are honey coloured, the same as Penelope's. Delivery was super quick - I only bought these five days ago!

Charley our Birman boy gives them the seal (point) of approval. He is the inspector of everything that comes into the house. If it can be chewed, clawed or rolled on the floor it's fantastic by him and the grips meet all three criteria. They are now locked in the garage until I fit them over the weekend.
The venerable Bicycle Tutor has an excellent tutorial on how to replace your grips. I didn't realise the 'proper' way to do things when I replaced Petunia's grips - I simply cut through the old, cheap ones with a Stanley knife :-) (Looks heavenward and whistles tunelessly.) I think I should probably do things properly with Penelope.
Penelope is going back to Kate at Steel City Cycle Works on Friday for her first service. She comes with an impressive warranty but has to be serviced within, approximately, 30 days of purchase. I'm nearer 40 days but the shop is a couple of hours' drive from our place so we have to fit her service in with our work and, lately, our busy or soaking wet weekends. Kate is pretty cool though.
Petunia is getting her new Brooks saddle too, a B66S, finally. There's been a holdup as the saddles come via sea mail from the UK. The new shipment is due in this week and I've got one in Antique Brown put aside for me. I would have preferred Honey to match her grips but sadly not available here in the antipodes. Antique Brown will look just as nice with her champagne frame and anyway the grips go darker the more you use them as I've discovered.
So... a happy weekend fitting new grips to Penelope, and if I'm lucky I'll get the call before the weekend that Petunia's new saddle is in stock too. Just in time to get in the best of spring!

Mustn't speak ill...

I went to a funeral today. They're never happy events, but the departed in question was 92, so that's a good long innings, and she died of heart failure as a result of a quick onset of pneumonia. Sudden, and for all that harder for her family as they weren't prepared for her to go so quickly. Mind you if your mum was 92 you'd be on alert anyway I think.
The woman in question was my close friend's mother-in-law Alice, and you know all those mother-in-law jokes? She was the embodiment of many of them. She loathed my friend Valerie, who is one of the nicest, most genuine people I know. Alice said some awful things to Val when she and Chris first married, awful enough that Val hasn't spoken to her for 20 years and Chris for the most part hasn't either. It could and should have been a happy family from the time Val and Chris' first son was born, but by the time my godson came along they weren't on speaking terms with Chris' mother. Thankfully they made peace earlier this year, with Chris driving down the coast to visit his mum several times, and Alice coming to my godson's 21st birthday two months ago. But the peace was a little tenuous; Chris never trusted his mum not to be bitchy about Valerie.
But today I discovered something Val hadn't let on - Alice had trouble with ALL her daughters-in-law, current and ex. All three were there today out of respect to the family, but it seems that Alice was one of those mothers of sons who loathe the women they marry. No woman would be good enough for her son; you see this quite a lot and I wonder why some mothers go to the extent of trying to cause unhappiness for the child they obviously love dearly. These three daughters-in-law are also nice people, and have brought up their children to love their grandmother and value family no matter how they personally feel about a woman who has been spiteful to them to the very edge of slander.
What is it with some mothers and their sons? I know women too who think their son-in-law isn't 'good enough' for their daughter, but they are usually outnumberd by mothers of men who resent their daughter-in-law. Life's too short for not trying to get on with the people your children choose. Even if you live to 92.

Monday, October 12, 2009

the mortgage minefield

Earlier this year my husband and I bought an investment property from within our superannuation funds on the advise of a financial planner. Given the global financial crisis etc, it seemed the best type of investment and I still believe that. The GFC hasn't hit Australia as hard as it has other places and the housing market here is still pretty strong. The property we bought is in an outer suburb of Melbourne and is being built at the moment.
All was going well... but now we've received conflicting letters from the builders as to what we should be paying to whom. It's a minefield and t'tother half is groaning over a spreadsheet as I type. So much $ for the land, so much for the building construction, so much for the land transfer fees, so much for the deposit.... and suddenly it doesn't compute. We're about $20000 out of kilter. I'm not mathematically inclined at all so I'm trying to be supportive whilst nursing a mild hangover (friend's birthday yesterday.... too much red wine). I'm not much help I confess.
So now it's emails to all concerned (the bank, the builders etc) with the hope that one of these knowledgeable folk can set us straight and make the figures look like the ones we originally signed off on.
Hmm, as if Monday mornings aren't awful enough-!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

When old flames sputter and go all waxy...

More years ago than I want to count, because it's scary and I don't feel my age, I was a teenager with a crush on a guy who was a professional in a sports industry. Well, frankly, he was a jockey. I was into horses, and into pretty boys with long flowing hair. These jockeys, small men on big horses, brave and dressed in glistening polyester, were my heroes. I had crushes on a couple of apprentice jockeys, but one crush lasted ages (principally because I had a very sheltered life and didn't meet any real life fellas to take my mind off him).This particular lad - I'll call him Glue 'cos I stuck to his career like glue at the time - was a shining example of my crushdom. Big dark brown eyes, the most gorgeous smile with straight white teeth (obviously had never been hit in the face with a horse's nose) and flowing locks, well down over the collar. This was the 1970s, do remember. Most of the apprentice jockeys had long hair.

Gosh I used to fantasise over him! I had imaginary conversations every day with Glue. In my dreamworld he was intelligent and well-spoken (most jockeys aren't well-spoken, I can assure you), and read books. Dream Glue was interested in the same things I was, in other words.

I read every newspaper and racing magazine I could for news of him, and clipped photos which I sighed over. Yes, sighed over. Can you say 'tragic', children? :-)

He lived and rode interstate, but being one of the topline apprentices at the time ventured to Sydney a couple of times a year. I met him a few times at the races, exchanged a few words (in my case a nervous stammer), and I lived for those conversations and relived them over and over. When I was over the age of consent - erm, about 18, 19 and way too old for crushes - I met him at the races and he told me his marriage was on the rocks. He'd got married very young, about 19 or 20 I think. It was a vague attempt to chat me up but I'd noticed even then he'd arrived with a blonde and the stars were fading a bit from the old crush. Clearly he was a cocksman well out of my league - I was so wet behind the ears you could wring me. The vague attempt got no further; I suspect he figured innocents like me were more trouble than they were worth as rumour had it that's how he ended up married initially.

Over the years I've wondered what he's been up to. Even after my interest in horse racing itself waned, and I was into showing and jumping with my own horses, I kept an eye on the racing guide to see he was still riding. He retired from race riding about ten years ago I guess and I gather from the internet, as he popped into my mind the other day and I researched him, he's been riding work overseas and then in various parts of Australia. A track jockey these days, up at a cruel hour of the morning all year round (as jockeys are over here), riding horses in chilly winter winds before dawn, and in summer before the heat sets in. A track jockey finishes work by about 7.30am in the summer... a little later in winter - after all he starts in the dark, when the horse's breath is the biggest thing you see in front of your nose.

Part of my research took me onto Facebook and there I found him well and truly. The long flowing hair has gone. In every sense of the word - the laddie is very thin on top these days and what is left has been cropped almost to extinction. The eyes are still the same but in a face drawn and tight over the years with the need to keep weight to a cruel minimum. Somewhere along the line a horse made contact with the teeth after all; they're all there but one is brown. It was quite a shock to see that physically he'd altered so much from the fresh-faced lad I'd sighed over. You expect people to age gracefully... most of my friends have.

So. There's Teen Crush. On Facebook. What do I do? A wisp of nostalgia floated past my nose; those silly girlhood days poring over the racing guide. I wrote him a message saying I'd followed his career way back when, if that indeed was him. To my surprise and delight, he wrote back almost straight away acknowledging it was indeed himself and I got a potted life story - married twice, engaged three times and engaged to a girl half his age at the moment. A couple more messages went back between us: he sounded me out about my interests, which I gather were a bit too cerebral by then as he didn't reply and didn't offer to be my friend (sob!) *grin*. Looking at his friends, the majority are female, a good 15-20 years younger than himself. Whatever sparkle was in those brown eyes all those years ago is clearly still working. Even reading the comments from his friends, he's turned 50 and he's still Jack the Lad. Horny little devil!

But not for me. I'm glad I wrote to him. I'm glad he's alive and well and still riding horses. But the few notes we exchanged told me we have absolutely nothing in common. He's a party boy, almost illiterate, and I have a life filled with books and writing. Even if I'd succumbed to his charms it would have ended in boredom and most assuredly tears of disappointment on my part. It's a good thing to make sure that old flames that have died stay well and truly out. Happy riding, Glue, whatever and whoever you're on top of!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Kitted out for a ride to the grocery store

Curse this workload!! It's far too nice a day. I'm glad I worked a bit over the long weekend as the sun was still shining today at lunchtime - so I persuaded t'other half that we should ride to the shops to pick up a few groceries. I ride there when we only need enough things to fill a bike basket or two; one front, one rear. It's an excuse to get out in the fresh air and get some exercise, and is better than taking the car out for just one or two items. (Unless the one item is an economy pack of 16 loo rolls or something!)

Last year I bought a very useful detachable rear basket for Petunia, which looks even better on Penelope. It's plastic wicker, with a handle so you can detach it and carry it into the shops. The handle has an unfortunate habit of bouncing from the back of the basket to the front and when I'm on Petunia, whose luggage rack slopes towards the saddle, hits me on the backside.

Penelope's luggage rack is nice and flat, so the basket itself stays where you put it instead of sliding forward, and if the handle bounces my bum is well forward of it anyway.
Below is a closeup of how it attaches - you simply pull handles on each side underneath to compress the springs, and let go so it grips on. It's a neat little unit, weighs a kilo and a bit, carries quite a lot and is very stable. Sadly there's no cover on the top, so I usually put an eco shopping bag inside and tie the handles together to stop anything bouncing out.

The basket cost me $39 on eBay. I've seen them for more in the shops, even allowing for eBay postage.
Today was the first time I've needed to put the rear basket on Penelope, and she carried a good load of fruit, veg and meat back from the shops. I hardly noticed the basket was there despite the extra weight - she is so lovely to ride!

My husband doesn't have any racks on his bike - a smug 12kg road bike with no mudguards - so carries his load in a backpack as he did today. Even if we fitted racks to his bike I can't quite see him with a twee basket like mine :-). Might have to persuade him to fit racks and buy panniers, so we can shop by bike more often and do most of the grocery load that way.

Nothing like a wet weekend...

... especially when it's a long one. Three days off...and three days of rain. Sigh. Not at all conducive to getting out on the bikes, which was really annoying. We'd planned a ride in the country but instead did indoor DIY, made marmalade (batch 4... a bit thick and sticky but very flavoursome) and read books after a bookstore binge last Thursday when we picked up half a dozen more goodies on the sales table.

Now of course I'm in work mode again and the rain has stopped for the moment - not to worry, the rest of the week is forecast to be gloomy. But I took some time off this morning to take photos of my garden, which thoroughly enjoyed its spring soaking.

The pink roses are out the front, tumbling over lattice and providing amazing scent when you walk past them.

The irises and all the other photos are taken in our back courtyard garden. You'll see sorrel growing next to the irises. It likes lots of water so has gone ballistic this week; I'll have to cut some of it back to give the other herbs and the tomatoes a chance. You can make a wonderful sauce with sorrel that goes well with chicken and fish, or use the younger leaves in salads. You can blanche the leaves with spinach to pad out your veggies on the dinner table as well. The older leaves can be a bit bitter to eat raw.

The red and white flowers are salvias; in this case, Hotlips, with its big pouting lips. I love salvias - I have six different ones in my garden and another three at my mother's. Some are ornamental, like Hotlips, some are edible like sage officinalis, but with the bigger ones there's a lovely trick you can do with the flowers: pull one off carefully and suck it at the base - you'll get a hit of nectar :-). The native honeyeaters love them just as much as I do.

Lots of herbs doing their stuff now too; the borage is in bright blue flower, and apparently planting blue flowers at the ends of your veggie beds attracts the nasties away from your veggies and onto the blue flowers. The blue flowers don't seem to suffer as a result! The blue also attracts bees which apparently then buzz around your veggies and fruit. I have rosemary planted at the other end; that will soon be covered in blue flowers too. Borage flowers are a visual way to dress up your salads or put into a drink like Pimm's. They are edible; they're not a taste sensation but not unpleasant either.

I have young tomato plants in, so the next thing will be to plant some basil in between them - this helps keep fruit flies at bay. There are also some marvellous, but not cheap, products in the EcoNaturalure range which I use to control fruit flies. I use a lot of the Eco products by this manufacturer - they really are fantastic, they're organic, there are no nasty chemicals (I figure we put enough chemicals into our bodies unthinkingly, unwittingly and often without our knowledge or consent unless we are really viligent about reading packaging labels and the manufacturers are truly honest about just what goes into things).

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Philips, you're listening!

Hands up who HATES the dim light put out by low-energy lightbulbs? Thought so. It's murder to read by. We've been nice little greenies and installed them over the house over the last few years, putting up with their awful cold, weak light and doing our bit for the environment and the energy bills. Exceptions are the downlights in the kitchen and my office, and as these blow they'll be replaced by LED downlights/spotlights.

Anyway, trolling the supermarket shelves today I noticed Philips has introduced a new range of bulbs which look like the wonderful, trusty incandescent lights we know and love - and which the Australian government has now banned from sale. They use 30% less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs so while they're not as energy efficient as the low energy variety, we thought they may well give us a better light to read by.

Oh, and they do! It's dark and grey here today, and the new lightbulbs in the living room make one hell of a difference. No more squinting or having to take my specs off and bring the book close enough to read without them.

Thanks, Philips. Obviously there has been a backlash from readers everywhere demanding a decent light to read by and generally illuminate rooms to a decent level. Philips has come to the party nicely with these bulbs and no doubt other lighting manufacturers will follow suit.

I'm glad someone has listened and there IS an alternative. It's pretty clear the government officials who banned incandescent bulbs and forced the low-energy horrors on us have never tried to read a book on a cloudy day or after dark!

Friday, October 2, 2009

And before the rain gets them...

...I picked some roses from the garden this morning. I have a climbing rose out the front, which a friend gave me as a tubestock. In three years it's gone totally rampant and is sweetly scented. It's just starting to look lovely. And out the back a beautiful old-fashioned rose from the same friend; it wasn't thriving in her garden, which is surprising as she has the greenest fingers I know. Anyway it seems to like the cold winters and slightly less humid air in this part of the city and is covered in buds. It's strongly scented, too - so when you walk past this vase you whiff in the most wonderful rosy smell.

A burst of summer and an early morning ride

Whew... it was a scorcher yesterday! Temps topped the thirties and suddenly we'd gone from a mild spring to midsummer in 24 hours. The cats demanded to go out into the garden and hunt flies and other insects, and laze about in the sun. The garden burst into flower and then gasped and wilted, and we debated turning the aircon on in the house but held back. A bit silly of us as it was so muggy by bedtime we had trouble cooling down to sleep. Our house is brick veneer and cheaply built so you feel the heat and cold very quickly when the seasons change.

Thankfully we got a cool change overnight and now it's cloudy and set for the early twenties again. It's a long weekend this weekend - Labor Day - and of course rain is forecast for all three days. Well, we need it. Just WHY couldn't it hold off until next week? :-)

We both woke early this morning and decided to get the bikes out before breakfast. Inspired by how fit I felt a few days ago I took Petunia for our usual 8km ride - and absolutely flew along sooooo easily. I don't have a huge amount of stamina, I never have, so on the long 1km stretch where we usually pedal flat out by the creek I was coasting a little by the end, but was able to overtake Greg easily going up hills - which was nice :-). The little mixte felt so light :-))!! Can't wait until my Brooks saddle comes into stock though - I really notice the bumps now I've got used to the smooth ride on the Pashley.

What's funny is that when I ride Penelope I move between the first three gears. I've never got into fifth gear yet (must try it downhill sometime). On Petunia, I usually use a good range of the gears on any ride. Today, I found myself essentially using two rear gears and shifting between high and low range, and this seemed to cover most eventualities, even hills. Pleasing.

If it's not raining later this afternoon I'll take Penelope for a ride too, just to get whatever exercise I can in before the storms and showers set in. Since it's unlikely we'll get our usual long weekend ride in this week I want to make the most of my bikes.