Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Review: Bellabeat Leaf Health Tracker

I recently got the opportunity to try out the Bellabeat Leaf health tracker. I'd heard of it when the product was at the crowdfunding stage, so I was eager to see how it worked. The Leaf is essentially two things: a small wood & metal electronic device that is worn on the body, then a smart phone app to keep track of the information gathered by the device, as well as a few other things.

First off, the Leaf is great looking, the wood is lovely & very different from all the very sporty fitness trackers out there. Bellabeat calls it "smart jewellery" which is a cool concept, especially for those of us who are health conscious but don't want to look like we just walked out of an MEC catalogue. I like the weight & size of the Leaf as a pin or a necklace. I wore it as a necklace a lot initially, then started using it mainly as a pin on my shirt, which was more secure while hoisting children, etc.

The Leaf 'talks' to the app on the phone via Bluetooth. I had issues syncing nearly every time I did it--it took two tries or more--despite doing everything suggested in the troubleshooting page on their website.

The Leaf app is simple to use, & fairly intuitive, I found. The app tracks your activity, menstrual cycle, sleep, & also has a meditation feature which I didn't try much. There are various guided meditation sequences you can download & listen to within the app. I added in my cycling & other activities manually, as it doesn't track other activities than walking accurately.

I found that the Leaf worked best as necklace or clipped to my top for step counting or sleep tracking. It didn't count many steps inside the house, only the longer stride, more regular steps when walking somewhere outside or more purposely walking all the way across the house. Because I felt it wasn't giving me an accurate sense of how many steps I take in a day, I switched the 'goals' in the app to hours of activity, rather than steps taken per day. This worked better for me.

Another feature I liked is the alarms--you can set the Leaf to remind you to get up & move if you've been sitting for more than a certain length of time. You can also set an alarm to wake up from a nap or take medication. The device just vibrates for a few seconds, which will wake you up or remind you discreetly.

The Leaf's sleep detection feature was interesting--I've been wanting to work on getting more sleep, & tracking it in this way is helpful for me. It records how much you move during sleep, translating that into an estimate of how much of your rest was deep sleep. If you are just lying in bed reading a book or surfing Facebook on your phone, it may record that as sleeping, but you can edit the entry if you like.

The menstrual cycle tracking is fairly basic--if you're using a fertility awareness method for birth control or getting pregnant, you might want to try something with more details like OvuView. It is handy to have it all in one place so you don't forget Aunt Flo's imminent arrival, like I tend to.

Overall, I like the Leaf & I will probably keep using it. If you're interested in one too, you can order a Leaf online here. There are two different version, one with light wood & silver coloured metal like mine ($119), the other with dark wood & rose coloured metal ($149). The Leaf comes with a necklace & battery as well as the tool you need to open it up & replace the battery eventually. There is also a strap you can buy to wear it on your wrist ($25) & I've also seen Etsy sellers making their own beaded versions too.


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Monday, May 23, 2016

Introducing a New Member of the Spokesfamily

Couldn't keep the kids out of the filthy box
Yup, we got another bike. I'm not going to say how many bikes we own now, but I will tell you it's in the double digits if you count the kids'. But this one is different, really! It's a Bakfiets, the original two-wheeled Dutch box bike.

We originally wanted to get this type of cargo bike way back when we started thinking about it, before we even had children. It wasn't a priority until we had two kids & the family biking gear we had just wasn't cutting it for Bronte & Linnaeus together. But having a single income in this expensive city meant we started looking at longtail cargo bikes, because they're generally less expensive than the longjohns. Bakfiets are still relatively rare here so they don't come on the used market very often, plus their resale value is generally quite high, so it was still less expensive to buy a new Yuba Mundo.

After having the Yuba for nearly two years, we still wanted to have a bakfiets. Not to replace the Yuba, but in addition to it. But it was a bit of a pipe dream, as we don't have a spare $7000 lying around. Unbeknownst to me, Oliver set up a Craigslist Alert for 'bakfiets' at least a year ago. Then it came. Early one morning, he got an email notifying him that someone in Richmond was selling a Bakfiets.nl for cheap! The catch was, the bike had been in a crash & was not rideable.

Cargo bike mechanic extraordinaire: Clint
Oliver emailed the guy immediately & we crossed our fingers, but expected not to be the first people to respond to the post. We'd been third a year or two ago when we'd noticed someone selling a bakfiets on Craigslist & missed out on it. But we heard back quickly--we were first! Oli arranged to meet the seller in Richmond, biking about 40 minutes to get there. He took a good look at the bike & bargained a bit with the guy. They loaded it into the seller's truck & drove it, & Oli's bike, back home.

I was so excited to have a bakfiets just pop up like this--the 'barn find' that we had been dreaming of--though a little nervous about fixing the bike up. It had clearly been in a collision, which bent the front forks back & to the side to the point the front wheel would not turn. The rest of the bike seemed in good shape, but I was still holding my breath until we could get Clint, our bike mechanic (he owns the bike side of Tandem Bike Cafe) to look it over.

I spent at least an hour cleaning the bike on the second day we had it. It took a lot of work, sweeping, vaccuuming & wiping all the dirt, dust, grease, paint, & sawdust. Under the layers of grime, the paint job was in great shape & the box only had a couple of scrapes & a couple bits of hardware missing. Then later that day, the guy we bought the bike from stopped by with what he thought was a part of the frame lock (it wasn't--must have been from a different bike) AND A RAIN CANOPY for the bakfiets! Considering what we paid for the bike, we weren't expecting this. Rain covers usually go for $350-450, so you can imagine how thrilled we were.

Beauty shot of the Bakfiets on the way home from school
Clint came over the next day to look over our bike & managed to 'cold fit' (aka bend using a chunk of pipe) the forks back to the point that the front wheel was freed & the bakfiets was sort of rideable. I say sort of, because it is still really wobbly & not really safe. But we each rode it around the block & it was amazing! The bike feels much lighter than it looks & even with the wonky fork, the steering wasn't that bad. The shifters (internal gear hub Nexus 8 speed) seem to work fine & the brakes are functional.

Love the full chain case: I can do maxi skirts!
I googled the brand, & found the only Canadian distributor of Bakfiets.nl: Urkai, in Burlington, Ontario. After a couple of phone calls with Marc of Urkai, I ordered a fork & some rubber feet for the kickstand, as it's missing one.

A few days later, the package arrived from Urkai & I immediately started pestering Clint. He fixed up the bike just a few days later, doing a full tuneup on it, even repairing the dynamo light system, & we had a fully functional Bakfiets!

It's been just over a week, but I've ridden this bike so much--school dropoff & pickup, errands, shopping--that it feels like longer. I'm still getting used to how a longjohn rides, compared to a longtail. They are definitely different beasts. I'll probably write more on that later--a full on comparison between the Yuba & Bakfiets.

For now though, we're all really in love with the new bike. The kids haven't been on the Yuba since we got the Bakfiets, they demand to ride in it every time we go anywhere. I was hoping to gradually get used to the heavier bike up hills with both kids, but I guess we're just going whole hog. I feel like I can see my quadriceps getting bigger each day. I'm going to have massively strong legs!




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Saturday, May 21, 2016

Bronte 2.8

Spiderman hat, leopard leggings, flower sandals.
Poor second child. I forgot to do Bronte's update this past month. I think I'll sum it up with some quotes from her:


  1. "I do it myself!!" She's obsessed with doing up all her own buttons, which are always teeny on her little shirts & sweaters. Amazingly, she can do them up most of the time because she just won't give up.
  2. "Linny's home! Linny's home!" B gets genuinely excited when her brother gets home from school every single day.
  3. "Mama, I want to watch 'Puppa Pig'!" (translation: Peppa Pig)
  4. "You hear dat sound?" A very observant child, Bronte is always pointing out sounds to us.
  5. "I want to go to the Family Centre!" She loves the staff there, as well as the toys & creative activities they have. We go twice a week, but she just doesn't understand the concept of schedules & that they're not open whenever she wants to go.
  6. "Look, dere's a DOG over dere!" So obsessed with dogs, this one.
  7. "I wanna popsicle!" She'd eat five a day if she was allowed to.
  8. "Thank you, mama." I'm very proud of her politeness, especially when it's totally unprompted.
  9. "No, I want to wear dis!" Some days, we end up with some comical outfits.
  10. "Mama, I need noms!" Still demanding to breastfeed about six times a day.



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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Concussion Update

I'm ba-aaack! Thought I'd need a little more time off blogging, but screen time isn't really bothering me anymore if it's farther from my face (TV or laptop).

Quick playground stop before biking home
I'm back biking again as well, still taking it easy, but I rarely get the nausea/headache motion sickness feeling unless I'm going quite fast. It's been amazing to finally start biking home from school with Linny his own little bike. He loves to ride & has become really confident in such a short time.

I do still get tired & overwhelmed more easily than normal. That feeling of being a bit stressed & busy to the point I can barely focus & think straight is something I only used to feel when I was, say, sleep deprived from decorating a birthday cake til 1am, in the middle of my kid's birthday party with 35 guests. So I'm trying to limit the meetings, appointments, & social events that I go to. I also try to have at least a couple of hours doing something relaxing like colouring, listening to podcasts each day.

A lot of the concussion issues seem to have cleared up, but I'm not 100% yet. Happy to be back blogging again though. I have a lot of things to catch up on, including several reviews: Clug bike racks, Leaf health tracker, two new Blue Orange games--Dr. Eureka & Flip It, plus the pile of interviews with biking families that I've collected. Watch this space for some exciting stuff!


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Sunday, May 8, 2016

Bonne Fete des Meres!

Linnaeus painted me some sunflowers at school. He says it is a family of sunflowers, Mama, Papa, & him. When I asked him where Bronte was, he said she's just a tiny sprout inside the pot.



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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

On Hiatus Because Concussion

The title pretty much says it all, but here's the story: in late March, I went down a super fast playground slide (seriously, beware this thing) at Plateau Park. I came off the end on my feet running, tripped, & faceplanted. On concrete.

This gave me a concussion, unsurprisingly. Five days later, I got what I thought was a cold. After two weeks of increasingly excruciating headaches, exhaustion, nausea, light & sound hypersensitivity, most of which was spent in bed, I went to Emergency.

After blood work & a CT Scan, the doctor explained that I had an acute infection in the ethmoid & sphenoid sinuses, the ones at the back, just under my brain. He told us the symptoms to watch out for should it turn into meningitis (ack!). The nurse pumped me full of fluids, an antiinflammatory, & antibiotics via IV, then I was sent home with a handful of serious painkiller, a prescription for two weeks of antibiotics.

That was a week ago. The infection is mostly better, but the concussion (technically post-concussion syndrome) is still here. Sadly, brains are kinda hard to heal. It takes rest & time. Which sounds simple, but when you look at what that actually means, you'll understand my frustration. Here are some of the things I need to avoid:

  • Screen time. No streaming TV shows, no internet surfing, no YouTube videos, no reading blogs or news articles, no social media. Aaaugh. Just. Aaauuuughhh. I am so addicted to all this stuff.
  • Thinking too hard. I've heard it described as don't think harder than you would have to in a casual conversation. So designing & sewing a superhero costume for your kindergartener, like I did yesterday? Not advisable. Paying for that now.
  • Quick movement or travel. Car trips make me feel quite ill, as does cycling, though to a lesser degree. Even walking fast or turning a corner can give me motion sickness. Walking through a store & scanning sideways, looking for things on the shelves as you normally do while shopping? Ugh. Just can't.
  • Alcohol for six months. No beer. A summer without beer. I cry.
I just can't completely unplug from the digital world. I am trying very hard to minimize it. So my compromise will be no blogging for a while (Thank you for your patience!), but I will be on social media in short bursts most days. If you want to keep up with what I'm doing--it'll be a lot of colouring books, repetetive crafty stuff, podcasts, audio books, & walks, follow me on Instagram. If I can avoid the brain fog, I'll try to remember to use a hashtag: #ConcussionDiaries.

Here's me on Instagram if you're not already following:



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