Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Back on two wheels

Went to walk across frozen Trout Lake, along with most of Vancouver
Hello there & happy new year! Hope your holidays were fantastic, or at least not too stressful. We did a lot of sleeping in & eating sugary stuff. We also tried to take advantage of the actual proper Canadian winter that descended on Vancouver for the last five weeks & counting.

I am an all weather, all year round cyclist, partly because I like the challenge, but also because even when it's cold or wet, it's more convenient that transit & not painful like walking (on my arthritic hip) can be for me. But. Big but. We had to seriously cut back on biking once the fluffy, somewhat dry snow transformed into packed lumpy ice alternating with slush everywhere. #VikingBiking doesn't work that well here in Vancouver's wet winters. The iciness of the roads & the lack of control & respect from drivers kept even us off our bikes for most of December.

#BikeToSchool every damn day. Almost.
If I'd looked into the long term forecast in the beginning of December & imagined how what has turned out to be the longest cold snap in my lifetime would impact me, I'd have bought studded winter tires back then. But I didn't realize they'd be necessary until it was too late & they became a scarce commodity. Lesson learned for next year--I'm still hoping to find some near the end of the season for future use.

Aaaaaaaanyway, the winter seems to be fading a bit. It's still chilly today, but we haven't had a proper dump of snow  in over a week & the ice is finally melting on most sidewalks & side streets in our area. Which means we're back to riding most places again.

Thrilled to bike (not walk) this load home
This whole experience has really driven home how much cycling keeps me happy. I don't need to tell you about exercise & endorphins & all that--just the regular physical activity is obviously good for us. Biking keeps my body weight mostly off my hip joint, unlike walking, so it means a lot less pain, which has a huge impact on my mood. Getting out of the house, into the sun (vitamin D!) is beneficial just for a change of scenery. The bakfiets also makes getting groceries a lot easier--carrying bags of groceries while walking even a few blocks is a special kind of hell.

For a family, it's also a lot cheaper than driving or taking transit. For all of us to take transit on an outing now costs about $12, which really adds up if you're doing it most days of the week. tThen there's the kids' happiness to think about. Though they can walk quite far for their ages, the 6km round trip to Linny's school is too much for either of them. He seemed to enjoy the 45 minute walk with me the first day back at school, then day two? Oh, the whining. Too far, too cold, too fast, too slippery. If I can just pop him into the bakfiets & zip him to school in 15 minutes, we're all happier.

So here's hoping we won't have another month of actual winter & we'll get back to the balmy above zero dampness we're all used to here in Vancouver. See you on the bike paths!

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Thursday, December 22, 2016

Happy holidays!

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Monday, December 19, 2016

#MyModo for the Holidays

All six of us buckled in, ready to go to VanDusen Festival of Lights in our Modo SUV
We're not frequent drivers in general, since we can walk, bike, or bus most of the time, but our Modo bill tends to be a bit higher in December. It's awesome to have the option to drive when it's cold outside, or the side roads & bike routes we prefer are too slippery. We also tend to visit family in other municipalities more often during the hoidays, often toting parcels or food.

Happy Holidays from #VanDusenFOL
This year we've made an effort to invite friends along on our holiday outings, like going to the Vancouver Christmas Market, or visiting VanDusen Festival of Lights. It's fun to be able to pile into one vehicle & of course greener to take just one vehicle. Much easier to find parking for a single car instead of two. Not to mention the rock star parking pass that all Modo vehicles get, to be used in pretty much any permit zones.

Many of our friends are Modo members too, so it's really easy to coordinate outings. This weekend, I reserved a seven-seater & added our friend J's member number to the booking, so he could drive or pick up the car. J & his son grabbed the vehicle in their neighbourhood, then headed west to pick us up on the way to VanDusen for the Festival of Lights. Linny had fun hanging out with his friend in their boosters in the back row of the SUV, while Bronte sang her own versions of "Jingle Bells" from the middle row.

This is one of my favourite things about Modo--having access to whatever kind of vehicle I need, without having to own it. We normally drive the smaller cars in the Modo fleet--Honda Fit, Mazda 2, Toyota Yaris--since they're so easy to drive & park. But when we've gone camping with another family of four, we could use an eight-seater minivan, big enough to hold all of us & our gear. Or when I bought a backyard play structure on Craigslist, I took a truck. When my friend N picked up a toddler bed we were getting rid of this weekend, he brought a little cargo van.

If you're interested in reading more about why we love Modo, I wrote a list of ten reasons we love carsharing here.

Are you a Modo member? Which vehicles do you typically drive? Have you tried out their vans or trucks?

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Monday, December 12, 2016

Fancy Oatmeal for the Holidays

My kids & I are big fans of oatmeal. We go through a few kilos a month, especially in the colder months. I love how easy it is to make--I use quick oats, so I just dump it with the water in a pot, turn on the element & then turn it off again as soon as the water comes up to a boil, stir, et voila: breakfast. Plain old oatmeal is pretty boring, though, so I get creative with the add-ins. Here are two of our current holiday favourites:

Gingerbread oatmeal
Serves four

1.5 cups oatmeal
3 cups water
1-2 tablespoons molasses
1-2 teaspoons gingerbread spice
1 tablespoon vanilla
(4 parts cinnamon, 4 parts ginger, 2 parts ground cloves, 1 part nutmeg)
1-2 tablespoons brown sugar (or other sweetener)

Plain or vanilla yogurt on top

Cook oats as you usually work & then stir in the rest. Garnish with a dollop of yogurt.

Christmas oatmeal
Serves four

1.5 cups oatmeal
3 cups water
1-2 candy canes
handful of chocolate chips (or cocoa powder if you prefer it less sweet)

Crush up candy canes (my three year old loves to do this--I give her the candy in a Ziploc & she bashes them to smithereens with the back of a heavy spoon on the cutting board. Cook the oatmeal as usual & stir in chocolate & candy cane bits.

What's your favourite add-in for oatmeal? Got any recipes to share?

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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Have Your Say on 10th Avenue Bikeway

10th Avenue Corridor Public Open Houses
The City of Vancouver wants to hear from you!

The City is improving the 10th Avenue Corridor to better accommodate people of all ages and abilities who walk, cycle, and drive.

Over the past year, the city has built on public and stakeholder feedback to develop a recommended design for the Health Precinct between Oak and Cambie Streets, and to advance potential designs for parts of 10th Ave from Quebec Street to Guelph Street and from Commercial Drive to Victoria Drive.

Public Open Houses
Join city staff and other engaged citizens at a public open house to review recommended designs as part of the city's third phase of consultation. Meetings will be drop-in open house format. City staff will be available to discuss the project, answer questions, and gather your feedback.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016, 4 PM – 7 PM
Blusson Spinal Cord Centre, 818 W 10th Avenue

Wednesday, November 23, 2016, 4 PM – 7 PM
Holy Trinity Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral, 154 E 10 Avenue

Saturday, November 26, 2016, 11 AM – 3 PM
Blusson Spinal Cord Centre, 818 W 10th Avenue

Tuesday, November 29, 2016, 4 PM – 7 PM
Croatian Cultural Centre, 3250 Commercial Drive

View display materials and complete a feedback form online at vancouver.ca/10th-avenue or click on the links below. If you can't make it to the events in person, there will be an online feedback form, available November 22nd.

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Saturday, November 12, 2016

New Bike Day: Kid Edition

It wasn't that long ago that Linnaeus learned to ride his green 16" Norco bike without training wheels, but he's already too big for it. He's had it over two years, so that's not bad in terms of longevity. It's also a single speed with coaster brakes, which is okay for learning to ride, but inadequate for commuting 4km uphill to school. So I started looking for a decent 20" commuter bike for him.

My wish list included:

  • front & rear hand brakes
  • fenders
  • rear rack
  • short reach brake levers
  • internal gear hub with at least three speeds
  • easy to shift grip shifters
  • light frame
  • dynamo lights

There are a few companies in Europe that make great kids bikes with all of the above--the German company Puky, for example--but getting one to Canada is difficult & expensive. Woom & Islabikes--both American--make some fantastic models for kids that tick most of the boxes on my wish list, but they're also quite expensive given the exchange rate & shipping.

The next best option seemed to be to get a decent light frame bike & modify it to add as many of the above features as possible. I settled on a Trek Precalibur single speed. It's fairly light, comes with front & rear hand brakes. The brake levers on it have an adjustable reach & Linnaeus can use them easily. The cranks actually have two positions for the pedals to allow for more adjustment as his legs grow. I like the full chain case too so we don't have to worry about his pant legs getting grease stains or getting caught in the chain.

Trek makes several versions of the Precalibur, but the horizontal dropouts on the single speed model we bought mean we can easily adjust chain tension by moving the rear wheel back or forward, so we can add an internal gear hub. Fenders shouldn't be too bad to find in this size & hopefully we can work out a way to attach a rear rack without having any eyelets on the rear of the frame.

It looks as if Trek is phasing out this particular version of the Precalibur, so we had to hunt a bit to find a dealer with one in stock. We picked up the bike from Cap's Westwood in Burnaby on our way home from a trip to Maplewood Farm recently (with a Modo minivan). Linny tried it out in the parking lot & I have to say, I'm glad we didn't bike train bike home with it, like I was originally planning. He rode straight into a curb & nearly crashed because he has no experience with hand brakes & tried to backpedal to stop. Happy to have the option of booking a Modo minivan whenever we need to transport things like this.

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