Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Yay, at last a ride lasting more than 10 minutes!

Gosh, it's been weeks since I've had a decent cycle. I contracted a bug on 1 December that's plagued me on and off since then, and before that we were interstate for a few days. In a nutshell my cycling muscles have gone to seed.

It was with a ton of joy I got onto Penelope Pashley today and had a forty minute ride. Half way through I was feeling it though. I'm still a bit weak from the bug I had and was coughing mightily. But with the fresh, cool, north east wind blowing on a summer's evening it was pure pleasure, even if much, much harder work than it was six weeks ago.

It's amazing how quickly one becomes unfit. I'd had a couple of rides to the shops lately and found it easy even laden with groceries. But those are mini rides, mere bagatelles. Even a forty minute ride is nothing really, but it was today.

Whatever the case, it was just flippin' fantastic to get out there and pedal. More of it tomorrow!

Just peachy... and then the oil exploded

In my pocket-sized courtyard garden I've got a veggie bed currently producing Rouge de Marmande tomatoes among other things, and it's a real delight to pick a fresh, sun-warmed tomato every day for our salad lunch. For the last few days we've also been enjoying our own peaches. I have a miniature fruit tree in a tub; while the tree is less than a metre high, it produces full-sized fruit and the flavour is soooo much better than anything bought at a shop. The tree is only young, and this year it gave me 13 peaches. We've eaten half, but here's a sample of what's left. A few marks from branches, but grub-free thanks to the EcoLure organic fruit fly destroyer I used earlier in the year.
Yum, yum, yum. But speaking of other yummy things I've been preparing recently....

Owning cats means you occasionally hear weird noises in the house often followed immediately by the sound of breaking glass, shattering china or something solid thumping to the ground. This year we've become accustomed to hearing the small Christmas tree we have fall over. I'm sure the cats think,"TimBERRRR!" as they give it a push. Last night we were sitting in the living room enjoying a re-run of Doctor Who when there was the ominous noise of breaking glass from the kitchen.

"Bloody cats!" grumbled my husband.

"Charley!!!" I yelled, for that is Birman Boycat's name and it's usually he who causes any breakages.

To our surprise no nervous cats came scattering through the kitchen door - they usually bolt from the scenes of their crimes. In fact they were both in the living room behind the sofa looking at us with mild surprise. Why were we jumping up like we'd seen a bird fly onto the fence? Had someone mentioned fish and they hadn't heard it?

In the kitchen my last bottle of Chilli and Garlic Infused Oil was in pieces. The top third of the bottle, cap intact, was on the floor. The rest of the bottle lay in splintered pieces on the bench. The oil was everywhere. All over the bench, all over the floor. The room reeked of garlic.

We came to the conclusion that the garlic - or the chilli - was actually fermenting, and had caused enough pressure during this process to make the bottle explode. I've never had that happen with my oils in previous years. I suspect the garlic clove I'd used for this bottle - which was to be my own - was a little past its prime hence the fermentation. It must have gone off like a bomb as it had knocked a plastic jar 1/4 full of honey to the floor.

Cleaning it up was a bugger. We scraped the oil from the benches into the bin, and used an astonishing amount of paper towel to mop up the remainder. Then it was time for the secret weapon. The Enjo green glove and mop.

I love Enjo. This Austrian company makes the best cleaning products ever. You can't buy them in the supermarkets, you buy them on a party plan basis where the sales rep demonstrates them and takes your order. I'd been sceptical until I bought the starter kit. Then I ordered other bits and pieces as the system is so good. All you need is the Enjo glove, water, and an old towel to dry the bench etc off with. I don't sell Enjo but I'd recommend it to anyone and everyone. Good for the environment, too: no chemicals or detergents are used when you clean with Enjo.

A couple of years ago I'd broken a bottle of olive oil on the kitchen floor and nothing could clean it properly. I tried dishwashing liquid, and floor cleaning detergent, but the floor was still slippery as ice. Then I tried my green Enjo mop and a bucket of hot water - should have thought of it first - and the floor was normal again after only one scrub at it. I was thrilled (gosh, how housewifey this sounds!), and grabbed the mop again last night to sort out the floor without mucking around with other detergents. Once again it worked a treat, straight away.

I think I'll be trying a slightly different process next time I make a batch of infused oil! :-)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Only 363 days till NEXT Christmas...

So now we're knuckling down to consuming turkey leftovers for the next few days. The cats think it's heaven and so does the dog. We had a good Christmas Day at my mother's house, where Birman Boycat amused himself by removing some of the Christmas tree decorations and batting them around the floor, then to make sure we paid attention to him jumped on the dining table. Luckily we'd finished eating. He doesn't dare jump on the table at home but takes enormous liberties at Mum's house. He simply turns those big blue eyes on her and she melts. Dog played politely with guest dog belonging to our friends and Birman Girlcat said "Bah, Humbug!", ignored everyone and slept through the day.

My ear, nose and throat bug is threatening a return, and I felt less than good yesterday. Scottish husband recommended a whisky cure last night so I had two nips followed by a hot toddy, and while I feel better today I still don't have the energy to go cycling. Which is annoying because it's stopped raining. Yes, we had a wet Christmas rather than a white one, and very grateful we were too in this droughty old land.

Never mind... I have eleventy gazillion new books to read courtesy of family and friends, which I can indulge in while my cough goes away and my ears return to normal. At the moment I'm reading a new bio of Anne Boleyn by Alison Weir, and it's riveting. The evidence points towards her well and truly being framed by Henry's cohorts and henchmen, who convince Henry she's been unfaithful and treasonous. With Jane Seymour already in his lustful sights Henry is all too willing to believe it...

Another hot toddy tonight and Penelope or Petunia should be able to have some exercise tomorrow, even if it's only a ride to the shops. Meanwhile, Tudor England beckons.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Summer's day, flowing skirt

This week t'other half and I made a pledge that no matter what we needed at the shopping centre, we were cycling there to get it. It's bedlam this time of year if you drive a car there. Harassed mothers with carsful of children wanting to see Santa Claus; equally harassed mothers pushing overladen trolleys in every direction and hanging desperately onto screaming toddlers; cars circling around and around in the heat trying to find a place. You can leave our place on two wheels and be chaining your bike up inside ten minutes, and that's cycling slowly. No traffic, no waiting around to find a park. The parking angel is always looking kindly on you when you cycle there.

I had to go down there today to get my eyes tested. I've seen a gorgeous pair of frames at half price and needed to know my prescription was still valid. It was. Not that that's relevant to this story.

Anyway, I'm a big wimp when it comes to cycling at temps above 30 celsius, and our neighbour's outdoor thermometer registered 35 when I set off on Penelope. Ugh. However... despite the helmet I stayed cool as whizzed along in the slight breeze; movement itself cooled me down, and if I sweated a little the air rushing past my damp skin did the trick. Now I'm home again I'm BOILING though - it was that last push up that last hill that did it!

Today I chose to wear a long, full skirt of fine, light cotton. I've never cycled in this one before, and it did what full skirts did and blew everywhere. Not to worry; I tucked it firmly under my backside as I sat on the saddle. I also, because nobody should be subjected to a glimpse of these thunder thighs, wore a pair of lightweight bike short-type pants underneath :-).

I usually wear an old pair of prescription RayBans when I cycle in case they fall off; they're so old it's no big deal. Today though, in honour of the pretty skirt, I wore my usual sunnies, vintage 1950s cats' eye frames with my prescription lenses. I love these frames. I bought them two years ago at a vintage clothing fair and it was clear from their condition they had never been used. They'd just sat in someone's drawer, waiting for me to find them and put them to loving use.
As you can see they have diamantes on the cats' eye edges. Gorgeous!

There's a storm outside now, so I've just got back in time. Big spots of rain are splodging against the window. Nice! Think I'll go and stand in the rain for a bit and cool down :-)

Monday, December 21, 2009

How hard can it be... (3)

Yay, one of my recalcitrant clients has finally paid me for a job I did six months ago. It's not a fortune, but I'm so delighted that I'm going to splurge a bit of it on a Basil shopper bag. I've been admiring the bags and panniers for months and thought I'd settled on something fairly quiet and tasteful, which would blend in nicely with both Penelope and Petunia, viz:

Then I got thinking. Did I really want to leave expensive panniers like this on my bike while I'm at the supermarket? I heard a horror story from the pet food shop guy today, when I walked in with my helmet still on to buy the cats a week's worth of meat. "Have you tied your bike up?" he said, and I nodded. "Good, because a few days ago a guy left his bike outside and was in here for less than a minute. His bike was gone when he went out." That's the kind of suburb we live in at the moment; if it ain't tied down it's gone, and I could just imagine someone unbuckling those rather nice panniers and bolting with them. And if I got them I'd still have to take shopping bags with me anyway into the supermarket, and then decant them into the panniers. These particular panniers take about 15 litres each.

And that's when I saw the new 2010 range for Australia on the Gazelle website. Gazelle imports the Basil range and while this year's range has been basic it's been expanded nicely for next year. The Mirte shoppers hold 16 litres and this one below just resonated with me.

It's unashamedly girly, and not at all what I was originally looking for in terms of colour for my shopping bag, but I've fallen for it. It clips neatly on and off the rear pannier rack so I can take it into the supermarket and fill it up. I usually wear a little rucksack on my shopping trip for more delicate squashable things, and I have the front basket too, so should be able to comfortably do a grocery shop with all that lot combined.

I rang Gazelle, who are the wholesalers for Australia, and was told I'd have to order it through a bike shop. I mentioned the one we go to for tyre changes and other bits and pieces, and Alex at Gazelle suggested I talk to them and order the bag through them. They have three shops, and I have seen Gazelle bikes in the metal at the biggest of the shops 8km away.

How hard can it be?

Danny, the guy at my local shop 3km away, had never heard of Gazelle or Basil when I rang him. This is a shop which sells a lot of mountain bikes and BMXs. I did see one cruiser in there last time I visited. It's a blokey sort of place though. I explained the story so far to him and that his company did retail Gazelle and Basil. Finally I persuaded him to ring the bigger store and talk to them; at this point I was thinking, "oh hell, stop trying to support the local economy, just buy one from the UK or US on eBay as you'll pay about the same and heaven only knows it'll be an easier process" and wondering if the guy on the other end of the phone did actually believe me and there was truly a brand of bike called Gazelle.

Danny rang back five minutes later, stunned and excited. Yes, the big shop did sell Gazelle and did I know how much the bikes went for? Why, there was one there for $1800; pricey eh? And that wasn't the most expensive. Which model did I want him to order for me? Again, patiently, I explained I wasn't after the bike, I was after the bag, and the Gazelle importer imported the bags as well. Deflated, he finally understood and took the model number for the Mirte bag. However, as I'd investigated Gazelle before buying Penelope Pashley I had a chat to him about the bikes and how lovely they were, if definitely out of my price range (especially the one I'd been eyeballing). He's now going to treat himself to a test ride next time he's down at the big shop.

So it was a bit of an effort, but I've ordered the bag. It should arrive in Australia in about 2 weeks' time. I hope I've done the right thing and shouldn't have got the panniers after all! But no, at the thought of having to ring up and change the order... and just in case Danny's out and I have to speak to someone else and start all over again... AARRRGHH!!! :-))

Saturday, December 19, 2009

'Tis the season and all that

Did the last, the very last, of the Christmas shopping today as well as stocking up on so-fresh goodies at the local farmers' market this morning. Not that we'll get much chance to sample them this weekend. We've been deluged with invitations to parties.

Firstly we're off to a BBQ tonight with friends I've known for about 25 years. Sadly our spaniel (below) isn't invited. She used to be when she was a puppy but then she made the awful mistake puppies make when they're a bit nervous with shrieking kids running around them and did a small puddle on their carpet. I was mortified but heck, the two kids in the house had done a lot more damage than that over the years. Anyway, poor pooch, she's on their blacklist even five years later. Even though the party is out in their backyard and there'll be other dogs there. Makes me feel a bit unwelcome as all our other friends like our dog and she certainly doesn't pee indoors any more. I guess we're a bit different as we treat our animals as family members rather than pets whose place is firmly outdoors whatever the climate and weather, which is how these particular friends view their two dogs. Our spoiled lassie sleeps on her own bed in our bedroom. Our cats sleep wherever they want - usually on our bed :-).

And then there's the shoe thing. You have to take your shoes off at their door. Makes it bloody cold in winter when you visit them, and in summer I'm confronted with bare feet en masse, and I'm not a foot person. I guess I haven't seen too much of these old friends in the last few years for these two reasons; I feel a bit uncomfortable in their house. I could understand the shoe rule if they had a posh marble floor or valuable carpets, but it's a suburban house much like ours and has polished floorboards and rugs stained with fruit juice and other stuff the kids spill.

Tomorrow we have a lunch with friends of t'other half, who have become my friends too. Dog welcome. Another BBQ. Far more relaxed than tonight's I'm thinking! These two are a bit bohemian,which suits me fine.

And tomorrow night it's another friend's birthday party. Surprise - it's a BBQ. Dog welcome as their dog enjoys the company.

By then I'll be BBQd out! We grabbed low alcohol beer and wine this morning to take along to these parties to ensure we don't end up with the hangovers from Hell come Monday. I'm on holidays from Monday so am planning plenty of cycling for next week - hurrah! The weather is forecast to be Just Perfect for most of the week.

And finally... a cheerful Christmas wish to everyone from my Birman boy cat... aka Santa Claws in this case. Corny I know - we used this pic for our own Christmas cards to family and friends this year as he has such a cheeky expression.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Marathon Man explodes again - and the good oil

T'other half has a habit of blowing his inner tubes. He'd blown both on my old MTB and I think realistically it was because he was too heavy for it. He got two punctures on his tourer before fitting it with Schwalbe Marathons - and omitting to tell the bike shop guy to put new tubes in at the same time as there were small punctures in both. So since the Marathons were fitted he has to pump the tyres up from nearly flat before each ride.

Both of us have been struck down by nasty bugs in the last few weeks and haven't ridden as much as we'd like. Marathon Man, however, decided he'd pump up his tyres last week and take his tourer for a spin around the block. He got out into the lane and BANG! With a sound like a gunshot the front inner tube exploded with such force it blew the tyre off the rim. Whoops!! We looked at it... there was a hole in the tube you could put your fist into.

So new inner tubes have now been installed on his tourer.

On checking my bikes at the weekend poor old Petunia, whom I haven't ridden in a month, has a dead flat back tyre despite her Schwalbes. I'd expect a bit of deflation but this is annoying. T'other half had 'borrowed' the valve cap from her rear tyre to put on his for a few weeks to test if it stopped the tyres deflating (the bike shop had conveniently neglected to return one of his valve caps when they fitted the tyres the first time). So I'll pump her up and see if was just a leaky valve. I'm finally feeling well enough to get back on the bikes; my ears are still full of fluid and my balance isn't great, but my stamina is returning. A few of my friends have had this bug and we've all been on antibiotics and feeling totally crap.

To keep myself amused I've been making Christmas presents. We have a tacit agreement among our friends that we try and limit spending to about $20 per person. Books fall nicely into this category, as do high quality calendars, potplants and the rest. This year most of my friends are getting plants I've propagated, and either home made marmalade or my own Chilli & Garlic oil, which is dead easy to make. The key thing is to use very good quality first pressed extra virgin olive oil - I usually buy it in a five litre tin and that lasts me ages even with decanting some of it to make gifts. The next thing is to find cheap but pretty bottles to make it in. The "$2" discount shops are a great source for such bottles. The pic below is the result - you can see the delicious and fiery chillies have floated to the top of the bottles and the garlic has sunk to the bottom; for the first couple of weeks you have to gently upend the bottle a couple of times a day. One of my girlfriends liked hers so much last year she'd gone through a bottle twice the size in six weeks! Great for BBQing, salad dressing or pan frying.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Loop frame bike in "Lilies"

My bikes are still off limits to me; I saw my doctor earlier this week who told me my inner ears were a lovely scarlet colour, put me on antibiotics and told me to spend the next few days at home preferably lying around doing not much at all. So I can't post about interesting rides I've done, or how nice it is to be out on two wheels on a summer's evening.

At the moment one of our TV stations is showing a BBC series called "Lilies", set in Liverpool, England soon after WWI. Essentially it's the story of three sisters in a struggling household. One of them, Ruby, has been filling in for the postman while he's been at war, and uses her postie cycle to go to swimming training - see her in action on the bike on YouTube (about 1 minute into the series and then again riding down the corridor in the post office about a minute later). It's a vintage men's bicycle, and she's bitter when the postie returns and gets his job and bike back.

She then applies for a job selling corsetry; she's less than impressed with the woman interviewing her and almost turns the job down until she discovers it includes a bicycle. The bike in question is a black vintage loop frame single speed bike with (I think) rod brakes and a front basket, and cream/white coat guard. Ruby rides it confidently in her long skirts and louis heeled shoes and boots. It was shown a bit in the first episode but has been absent since. You can find it here on YouTube - at about 4mins 20secs in this clip. Maybe some eagle eyed person out there can identify the make of the bike; I certainly have no idea!

The postie bike got some airtime in this week's episode with the postie giving Ruby's sister May a ride on the front rack; May sat sidesaddle and I was impressed by the ability of the rack to take her weight and the stability of the bike. I suspect, as the panning was careful not to show the postie's face when they rode off, a stunt rider was involved.

Hmm... take it easy, the doc said. YouTube beckons I reckon!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Curse this bug

I'm having a self-indulgent non-bicycle post moment, heeding the title of my blog. I've come down with a sore throat and murderous ears. I blame it on being stuck on aeroplanes with 100 other people to and from Melbourne and being cursed with a hotel room that had aircon but windows that didn't open.

I hate getting these bugs. I'm prone to sinusitis, so at the first hint of anything nasty I reach for the cold and flu tablets. They turn me into a space cadet but at least I don't feel that my sinuses are going to break through my skin, jump from my head and do a salsa on the floor. Sometimes in bad moments I just wish they would; at least it would break up the pressure in my face.

Viz... yesterday I slept all afternoon as the tablets, supposedly non-drowsy, sent me for six. I managed to get to sleep okay later in the evening but kept waking through the night and finally gave up at about 3am and crept out of bed without disturbing Other Half or cats and delved into The Portable Dorothy Parker. (Thank you, Penguin! Thank you!) I drank it in so greedily it became The Potable Dorothy Parker. Another dose of tabs sent my sinuses back to sleep and thankfully me too, but I felt wrecked this morning.

Today I had to balance the tabs with the need to drive halfway across town for a radio show taping. I help a friend out with her show on community radio, and do a "what's on" segment. While I was able to drive okay, I was very agreeable towards the other idiots on the road who usually make me shout at them behind closed windows and raise my heart rate. Maybe I should drive partially zonked a bit more often :-).

Now the whole lot has settled down to a stable ache: ears, throat and sinus. Lemon drinks with honey await me. I must have a strong masculine side as whenever I get one of these bugs I'm worse than a guy with man flu. Maybe it's just a low pain threshold.

The worst thing about getting a bug this time of year is that the weather is nice. It's gently warm, it's sunny, there's a pleasant breeze. It's cycling weather. In winter you expect to get bugs and huddle by the fire being all sniffly; usually it's raining/blowing a gale outside anyway, and dark by 4.30pm. At the moment I think if I got on Penelope, my balance is so bad thanks to my ears I'd just gracelessly hove to starboard and wind up surprised on the ground. If I had the energy to get on her.

Anyway normal service will resume as soon as possible/once I've stopped feeling wimpily sorry for myself/in about 2.5 days. Pills, please.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Melbourne, cycle city (part 2)

More ramblings around the centre of Australia's second largest city...

Here's a Kronen that was used to advertise a boutique - tethered firmly outside, it was supposed to make you want to come inside. I was more interested at looking at the bike though! I'm guessing the boutique owner used it as transport to and from work. At least I hope so; what a waste otherwise!
Below is an interesting one that you don't see every day in Australia - a Golden Pigeon. Manufactured by the Flying Pigeon company these are the premium end city bikes that they make. 3 speed Sturmey Archer, Shimano Nexus front hub. I didn't even realise these were sold in Australia, but they are and one can be yours for a princely $395 apparently. A company called Cargo Cycles has been importing them, but has chosen not to import any more. Why? Here's what they say about the bike:
"The problem? They are a design dating from the Chinese Revolution, with build quality to match. They need a "Revolutionary" approach to assembly, which may involve liberal use of a hammer, and possibly even a grinder. The bike will almost certainly require replacement parts (pedals, saddle) before it is fit to ride.
You purchase one of these Pigeons on the understanding that you are buying a project, not a working bike. You will need bike mechanic skills, tools and the aforementioned Revolutionary attitude; or an understanding and patient bike shop mechanic (and deep pockets to pay for workshop time)."
So someone with a hammer, grinder, and other tools has clearly taken the time to get his Golden Pigeon up to spec. More information is available on the Cargo Cycles website.
This pretty little bike you see below will never be ridden again unless someone puts some serious work into her. She's used to advertise a florist, and has been cruelly treated - she's been painted from top to toe, including her chain, and is destined to spend her life right here as a static display.
I can't believe they even painted the saddle!!

Aha... a Peugeot mixte, in the wild. I didn't see many mixtes around - was good to spot a Peugeot!
I do like the headlight on the Peugeot! Aside from the modern basket at the back it looks a reasonably original bike to me. I'm no expert though.
What's nice about this little pink bike? I love the rear basket, with a top that's hinged in the middle. No chance of groceries jumping out of this one when you ride over rough bits. Note in the backtround more bikes are parked across the road. And on the extreme right of the pic that's another bike tyre. How had I missed seeing bicycles on previous trips!?
The bike below appears to be a single speed with a coaster brake (quite a few of them around actually). A pretty colour, but the nicest thing about it was the fluted mudguards - see next photo for a close up.

This ladies' bike is apparently white - but the owner has decided to decorate her with all manner of stickers. She's a very utilitarian ride with that milk crate on the back!
Here are a couple of lowrider bikes I spied in a bike shop. Now these aren't my thing, but they were striking enough to take a photo of. Especially the arrangement on the front wheel which appears to be some kind of suspension.
Take a look, it's very attractive with that spiral bar. I've never seen this kind of thing before on a bike - maybe I haven't been around enough! LOL! The metal looks cheap though... you can imagine this bike will rust pretty easily.
So that's Melbourne in a nutshell. There were many more interesting bikes but for various reasons I didn't get the opportunity to use them as photographic models.