Friday, April 18, 2014

What Does 'Feminine Cycling' Mean?

There's been an interesting conversation happening online about feminine cycling. Elly Blue, of Taking the Lane & Elly Blue Publishing is reputed to have started it with a tweet:

“What does "feminine" mean? I'm serious. It keeps coming up in the context of things women can do to feel that way on a bike, + I'm confused.”

This article on Atlantic Cities with a wide variety of interesting perspectives on what feminine cycling means to them here. This is an interesting topic for me as a female cyclist, a biking advocate, & a mother. I could go on forever about what 'feminine' means, but I think for today there's enough to talk about if I just stick with the more or less mainstream idea of feminine appearance: dresses, skirts, makeup, jewellery/accessories & impractical footwear.

"Dressed down" but still in clipless shoes & gloves!
When I started riding for transportation about 15 years ago (as opposed to for recreation, like I did as a kid) I don't remember thinking much about femininity in relation to riding my bike. I got really into the then relatively androgynous world of technical gear. Women's cycling clothing was very sporty, & very similar to men's, just a few darts here & there at the waist, basically. I wasn't particularly interested in feminine gear, because at that time 'feminine gear' was usually floral &/or pink. Not that into either one, myself. I just wanted it to fit.

This was back in the days before I reproduced, when I commuted to work by bike. I was a gear head & kitted myself out in top to toe spandex, goretex, clipless pedals, cycling gloves, dorky wraparound shades, panniers, even cycling specific socks. This made sense on the rainy days or the really hot ones, but most of the time I could have just worn my work clothes. Especially since work was downhill from where I lived--I didn't even break much of a sweat en route.

Travelling to Amsterdam was probably the beginning of the erosion of my gearhead road warrior image. There I saw men, women & children of all ages (seriously--from newborns to the white-haired) on Dutch Oma fietsen (heavy, upright step through frame city bikes) wearing normal clothes. I also noticed what seemed normal for them was a little more fashionable than what I usually saw at home, particularly for middle-aged & older women. Women would sometimes ride in what most people would call "feminine" clothes: skirts, dresses, bright scarves, purses, sometimes heels.

Could I look more like a tourist?!?
I'd brought my yellow reflective striped cycling jacket on this trip, partly because we were planning on cycling, but also because it was waterproof, small & easy to pack for a month of backpacking in four countries. When I wore it cycling over the canals & along the cycle tracks of Amsterdam, I stuck out like a sore thumb & felt a bit of a dork.

Nowadays when I ride, femininity isn't something I think about either, any more than you would when you drive somewhere. It's just the best option for getting from point A to point B. However, gone are the days of padded shorts + jerseys with pockets in the back. I just wear what I'd normally wear: jeans & tee shirt or occasionally a dress/skirt in the summer, plus flats. That's not to say I don't ever think about my appearance, but more a factor of not having time to think about it. I've got two little kids--I rarely have time to put much effort into my appearance no matter how I'm getting to where I'm going.

When I thought of my most feminine ride of the past year, this immediately came to mind:

Heading home from the Mount Pleasant Farmers Market with Linnaeus in the iBert & Bronte in my belly.

Riding a bike in a dress & sandals, (with a purse, even) at 39 weeks pregnant, with my other child on the bike too. No mistaking me for a man in that outfit... so it's feminine, I guess?

I do think about cycling & style a bit more when I'm off the bike, because of the recent trend that's seen bicycles creep into fashion shoots, because of Cycle Chic & the now fabulous selection of bike-friendly but not sporty gear like Po Campo bags. But femininity isn't generally how I frame it in my head. I don't care that much about what everyone wears on their bikes or if women are feminine or not--I just want to see more people riding.

To answer Elly's question (I know, took me long enough, right?), I think 'feminine cycling' is what you make of it. Dress, heels & floppy hat or fuchsia floral print spandex, what's really important is that you are biking.

What do you think? What does 'feminine cycling' mean to you?

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

WIN $2500 from Blurb

Make a Book About Your Favorite Person and You Could Win $2,500 from Blurb

Did you know that Blurb might give you $2,500 to read about your favorite person? All you have to do is make a book about a loved one filled with all sorts of kind words, creativity and insight, and if selected, you could win the grand prize! For every book you make (there are seven different categories, so seven different chances to win) you will receive a 30% discount on the printed product. Go to Blurb to check out the details of the contest to see what the categories are and when the entries are due. The 30% discount on My Favorite books will be applied at checkout when you use the promo code: MYFAVORITE. (And, even if you don't enter, you can still get 30% off on all My Favorite books or save 15% on all printed orders through April 30th!)

Not sure what to write about? Take a look at what some of the people at Blurb say about their favorite people.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links & I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. Thanks for supporting Spokesmama!

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Wordless Wednesday

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Friday, April 11, 2014

Grocery Showcase West; or, Food Sample-a-thon 2014

When I got the invite to Grocery Showcase West, I wasn't immediately thrilled. It sounded a bit like grocery shopping--how exciting could it be? But the promise of free samples at an insider-only tradeshow was enough to get me in the door.

There were tons of exhibitors there--over a hundred, I guess--many of whose products aren't things I'd typically put on the table at home. But there were also quite a few things that caught my eye, or rather, my tastebuds.

Phillips Soda Works makes delicious pop!
One of the booths I searched for right away was Phillips. You may know this company as a craft brewery based in Victoria & you'd be right. The brewers at Phillips have recently turned their hand to making sodas, producing two: Captain Electro's Intergalactic Root Beer & Sparkmouth Ginger Ale. Phillips has taken just as much care in the brewing of these two pops as they do with their beautiful beers. Made of all-natural ingredients, free of packaged syrups, artificial colours, both are flavourful & very drinkable. The ginger beer is nicely gingery but not enough that it would be too spicy for kids. The root beer was my favourite, blended with a half dozen herbs, including licorice, sarsaparilla & vanilla. More at

A surprise find at the show was the Wonderful booth. They make Pom juices, Fiji water & most importantly to me, roasted nuts. We all love nuts around here & they're a great source of healthy fats & protein, particularly good for Linnaeus when we're on the go. What makes Wonderful's offering unique is that they produce roasted unsalted almonds. I generally try to avoid foods really high in sodium, which is tough here: it seems everything is salted to within an inch of its life, especially nuts. Silly, because almonds are delicious just roasted plain. I'll definitely be buying these for snack food in future. See their site at

Another item I wasn't expecting at GSW was from Nature Valley. You probably have seen their granola bars at the grocery store. They're a nice treat--but most of their varieties have more sugar than I'd like. However, they have a new bar coming out soon, called the Schoolhouse Chocolate Chip Fibre Bar. It's designed for kids' lunches I gather from the name & the fact that it's totally nut-free. It's also fairly low in sugar, with only 4g per bar, plus 5g of fibre. Even though it's less sweet, it has a sprinkling of mini chocolate chips in it, so your kids will still dig it. Here's their website, though you won't find any info about the Schoolhouse bars just yet--remember, you heard it here first. ;)

All in all, I'm glad I went to Grocery Showcase West. It was interesting to get a peek into the world of food marketing & there weren't any samples I tried that I didn't like. I felt like there is a trend toward making products with fewer artificial sweeteners & less sugar in general, which is good. I saw a lot of individually packaged products, however, so I think we have a long way to go when it comes to the environmental impact of what is on the grocery shelves.

Disclaimer: I received free samples at Grocery Showcase West, but was not specifically asked to review any one product, or compensated in any way to write this post. All words & opinions above are my own.

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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Linnaeus 3.8

Baby led weaning for penguins!
I love watching my little boy work things out through play. This past month has been all about food & introducing foods to Brontë. Unsurprisingly, Linnaeus is doing a lot of food-related play. One day, he took his wooden shape sorter box & put Brontë's penguin stuffie into it, feet out the holes in the front like Brontë's high chair, rested a puzzle box lid on top as a tray & proceeded to feed the penguin kale, a mushroom, half an orange, half a cucumber & an ice cream cone.

Though he's apparently excited to feed his penguin, Linnaeus' appetite is inconsistent these days. Sometimes he'll eat more oatmeal for breakfast than me (like half a litre of the stuff!) or the other night he ate about 15 pieces of sushi. He often doesn't eat much of his lunch at preschool & maybe half the time he turns up his nose at most of dinner. It's never one particular food that he doesn't like, at least, it just seems to be a varying appetite.

One thing I've been enjoying lately is the terms he's been coining for things, as well as some funny new mispronunciations he's now using, along the non-linear path of language development. A few that come to mind are umpartments, honkted house, bwefixt, ding dong house, flower trees. Can you guess what they all mean?

This past month hasn't been all fun & games, of course. The most challenging thing has been Linnaeus' bad behaviour on the playground, specifically pushing & hitting other kids. I decided to do something similar to what they've been doing at preschool when he pushes someone in a potentially dangerous situation like at the top of the stairs. If he does it a the park, we immediately go home. I've had to round him up & leave three times now. I've been reminding him before & during the outings what will happen, phrasing it as his choice: be gentle with the other kids & he can stay at the park; hit or push & we go home. He talks about not wanting to push the other kids & I think it's starting to sink in that he shouldn't do it.

That about sums up the month. I'll leave you with a quick video demonstrating his budding acting skills:

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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Normal-Term Breastfeeding, or, "Mama, can I have noms?"

Old enough to ride a bike & still breastfeeding
If you've been reading my blog more than a year, you might know how long I breastfed my son: 29 months. That is a lot longer than average here in Canada, but I'm not looking for a prize or anything. I want to write about it to get all the other moms who are breastfeeding toddlers out of the closet. I want to encourage the moms who have 11-month-olds to just keep going & let their kids decide when they're done--as long as mom is still willing too. I hope that the moms who are going back to work know that they don't need to wean at that point, their babies will adjust & they can keep breastfeeding around a full-time work schedule.

Though not necessarily the average here in North America, breastfeeding past two years of age is normal for humans. Despite what the knee-jerk naysayers will tell you, or the trolls commenting on articles like the Time Magazine cover from last year with the woman breastfeeding her three-&-a-half-year-old, the worldwide norm for weaning is between two & seven years old. The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding until at least two years of age. There are countless studies showing that breastfeeding confers benefits on children's immune systems, cognitive development, & more.

But you might have heard all that. Maybe you've even been to a La Leche League Meeting. Maybe you're breastfeeding right now as you read this. So I'll just tell you my story, since that's more what Spokesmama is about.

With Linnaeus, I breastfed him when he was just a few minutes old, giving him a bit of help to wriggle his way up my belly to find my nipple. Though that was natural & things seemed to get off to a pretty good start, I was devastated to discover that he wasn't gaining weight properly in his first few weeks. I've already written fairly extensively about my difficulties with breastfeeding & low milk supply, so I'll spare you the exhaustive details.

Suffice it to say, Linnaeus was one of those babies who needed formula. We did get some donated milk from the BC Women's Milk bank, but nowhere near as much as he needed over the 10 months that we supplemented my own milk supply. Informal milk sharing wasn't really as big a thing as it is now back in 2010, so that didn't really cross my mind.

I wanted very much to breastfeed & was extremely frustrated that it just wasn't working despite fairly heroic measures. My goals in the first month were to get through each day. Then to make it to three months, then six.

Once we'd hit that six month mark & I'd done everything I could to increase my milk production, we settled into a routine of breastfeeding about six times throughout the day & adding in a couple of small bottles of formula each evening. After Linnaeus started solids, we gradually weaned him off the formula supplements so I was just breastfeeding him, on top of three squares a day, by ten months old.

Breastfeeding was a lovely bonding ritual, once we got past the stress of the early months & the brief phase of biting around when he got his first teeth. I nursed Linnaeus to nap & to bed at night--getting him to sleep was easy with the magic boob. He eventually grew out of this, though breastfeeding was still part of the bedtime ritual, he didn't fall asleep that way anymore by about 15 months old.

Breastfeeding also helped calm him if he was upset from a bump on the head or his vaccinations. It was also how we started our day--he'd wake up, I'd go get him from his crib & once he was talking, he'd ask for "noms". Once he'd had enough from one side, he'd say, "I want 'nother side noms'" & switch. When I was in school & he was at daycare one or two days a week, breastfeeding was how we reconnected when I picked him up.

Two years came & went. Linnaeus had gradually reduced how many times he was breastfeeding down to about once or twice a day. Somewhere along the way I stopped nursing him before bed & Papa took over all of the bedtime routine. Few people would have known I was still breastfeeding as he only wanted "noms" first thing in the morning, so unlike many of my friends, I wasn't nursing a toddler in public.

In December in 2012, when he was getting close to two & a half, Linnaeus started skipping days. Around Christmas, he didn't ask to nurse at all for three or four days & I thought we might be finished. It was a false alarm: he started up again every day or two, asking for "noms" when he'd wake up, run to our room & climb under the covers with me.

By mid January, I decided to give him a bit of a nudge to wean. I was getting very sore nipples because I was about six weeks pregnant with his little sister. I stopped offering to breastfeed & he really never asked & that was it. 29 months.

Determined to get more photos breastfeeding this time.
Fast forward nine months & I found myself mired in the same breastfeeding issues with my daughter Brontë. Sigh. I did a few things differently--I was more proactive about medication, herbal supplements, I had a double pump & a phone app to track things--but we were back to the formula supplementing again. Things went a little more smoothly the second time around, however, so by about three months, Brontë was getting exclusively breastmilk. Because I'd been on the low-milk supply rollercoaster before & exited the ride breastfeeding nearly two & a half years, my goals were not so short term this time around.

With Brontë, I want to get past two years again, but it's all up to wee girl herself to decide when we're done. Being the second--& I'm fairly sure last--child I'll have, there will be no pregnancy to make me want to wean her. Though Brontë began with the same rocky start to breastfeeding as her brother, she nurses a lot more frequently than he did at her age, so I predict I'll be nursing a walking, talking toddler for quite a while to come.

I wanted to share my breastfeeding story with you today to join up with some other bloggers & breastfeeding advocates that I know. The focus is on normal-term breastfeeding--aka, nursing beyond the point that they can walk up & ask for it. Please visit Hillary With Two Ls , Lilahbility , One Crazy Kid
Apartment Baby to read more stories. If you've got a story about breastfeeding a toddler to share on your blog, share the link with us! If you're not a blogger, you're more than welcome to share in the comments below!

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