Category Archives: Biking

Kwik Sew K4032 fleece jacket


First, a very happy 90th birthday to HM The Queen. I love the portraits that Annie Leibowitz captured of her with her family, especially the one with Princess Anne. Just lovely!

Yet another sewing project, Kwik Sew 4032, view B. I’m not sure what possessed me to attempt sewing a zippered fleece jacket as good quality ones are fairly priced around here. I think it had something to do with making my son a blanket out of the gray fleece, which was surprisingly good quality–despite it coming from Joann Fabrics of all places–and wondering how it would look with my favorite spring green color. Thus, a fleece jacket was born.

I had nothing but trouble with this project from the beginning, mostly operator error, although for the first time I was baffled by Kwik Sew’s instructions i.e. why was I instructed to cut out three pockets instead of the two I needed? and some confusing graphics. The parts I thought would be bearish — the collar, zipper, and topstitching — ended up turning out okay, while other parts — those darn zippered pockets! the hems! — had me with a seam ripper in hand for hours. Do I need to point out how difficult it is to rip out stitches in fleece, especially stretch/zig-zag?

Despite all the challenges I had here, it turned out well enough to wear on a brisk hike or an early morning bike ride. It is cozy warm and I like how it can be zippered up around my neck to block out wind. My husband gave me the highest compliment by saying it looked store-bought. Before he could ask me to make him one, I said I was retiring from the fleece garment making business. If I sew fleece again, it will be to make blankets, or maybe a simple ski hat or mittens.

Another caution: this is a unisex pattern but duh! I forgot and cut out a size medium. It is HUGE on me. I shortened the sleeve by a good inch on the pattern but still had to take another couple inches off while sewing. I don’t mind the extra room around the shoulders and middle as I like room to layer … just a word of warning if you’re looking for a snugger fit.

We’re off to Connecticut today to spend some time with my family. Have a good weekend!



An afternoon of birdwatching


My boy heading off with his birdwatching gear

Loved the pale lavender color of these flowers — see the bee?

A long shot of my boy



O saved his pennies up for binoculars, which arrived in the mail Monday night, so on Tuesday we headed over to Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge for a bit of birdwatching.

As you can see, we didn’t spot many birds–it was about 90 degrees F so they were staying cool in their nests–but the day was beautiful and we got some good photos before biking to downtown Concord and Main Street Market for some lunch. We were starving so when our sandwiches arrived I forgot to take pictures! I had a tomato, mozzarella, and pesto panini and O enjoyed his cheeseburger, which we ate at the bar (I was kind of wanting a cold beer at this point!)

The heat and exercise tuckered us out, so when we arrived back home, I took a siesta in my air-conditioned bedroom then did a bit of knitting on my Checkerboard Scarf, a free pattern from Purl Soho. I’m using a skein of Swans Island Natural Colors in fingering weight in the color Lupine, which is a deep purplish blue, the color of the ocean up in Maine. I bought the yarn at Yarnia in Woonsocket, Rhode Island. It was a pricey splurge, but totally worth it. The yarn is a delight to knit with, and I know when I wear the scarf I’ll always think of my week off this summer.

This is the last week before school starts, so we’re busy getting clothes and classroom supplies purchased, as well as enjoying our last bit of free time together. Tomorrow we have a sleepover at our house — three boys! and they’ve told me all they want me to do is to provide food, lots of it. I have to admit I’m looking for the structure that going back to school will bring. Autumn is definitely in the air … for the last few weeks I’ve been a knitting fiend, which is a sure sign that I’m feeling cool weather in my bones. One thing I’ve been doing is finishing up a lot of WIPS. Feels good to have those projects done and ready to photograph. 🙂

Last day of June

Hard to believe that July 4 is almost upon us. I must have mentioned before that my absolute favorite holiday of the year is July 4, which puzzles a lot of people, especially those who love Thanksgiving and Christmas with a passion. For me, Independence Day is the perfect holiday — summer foods like salads and fresh veggies are abundant, parades where you get candy thrown at you, bagpipes, floats, sunshine and warmth … what’s not to love? Plus it’s my father’s birthday, so we always have a delicious cake to anticipate. July 4 always seems to be gloriously sunny and warm, unlike Thanksgiving and Christmas, which fall at the darkest and most dreary time of year.

This year, O will not be celebrating the 4th with us in Connecticut as we dropped him off at camp yesterday:


I look so much like my paternal grandmother from the side, it’s scary!


This is the second time he’s been away to camp, but it’s also the longest — a full week. At this camp, it was the last year where he could go for just a week — next year, when he’s 13, it’s a two-week stay (oh, and I hope he wants to go back. The possibility of two weeks of maternal freedom has me almost giddy!) We were lucky in that his best friend since first grade was able to join him (you can see his friend’s feet in the bottom photo) because O was not at all enthusiastic about camp until L was able to go. But the night before we left and were packing, O seemed pretty excited, and when we arrived he seemed to hit it off with a couple of the other boys in the cabin. We really liked the two counselors assigned to the cabin, one of whom is a World Cup fan. He told O he would keep him informed of all the scores and plays this week; I, on the other hand, am his Wimbledon contact, although he’ll have to wait for my letters to hear how Andy Murray and friends are faring.

When I returned home from dropping him off, my husband predicted I’d be missing O by the end of the evening. He lost. I am enjoying the quiet house immensely! I have, however, already written and posted the world’s most boring letter to O. The nice thing about camp is they don’t allow campers to bring cell phones and iPads — instead, communication with parents it through the mail (or, God forbid, an emergency call by one of the counselors).

The camp is in Connecticut, so I’ll be heading to my parents’ house on the lake Thursday night, spending the 4th with them and celebrating my father’s 75th (!!), then picking the boys up early Saturday morning and bringing them over to Grampa and Grandma’s. O wants L to meet Carolina, my youngest brother’s golden retriever, and show L how he can drive my father’s pontoon boat so Saturday will be a busy day. Let’s hope the glorious weather holds out!

I do have some finished knitting projects to show but it means dragging my dressform outside for good light. I have some interesting thrift shop finds to show you, including a crocheted blanket that I picked up for $5. I’ve also returned to biking on my two-wheeler and this week alone biked 55 miles. On Saturday I did a 30-mile trip to Cambridge and back:

Made it! Charles river, Cambridge

View of the Charles, June 28, 2014

I was beat that night and suffered a nasty headache and sunburn on my lower thighs, but I was proud that I made it, especially since just six months ago I was struggling to stand up without yelping in pain. 🙂

My goal this summer is to re-read all of Jane Austen’s novels. The first I’m tackling is Mansfield Park, which I’m enjoying immensely. I forgot how decisive Austen was in drawing these characters; her touch here was not as deft as say in Pride and Prejudice. Fanny Price’s goodness can be a bit tiresome, but I’m still enjoying the re-read and noticing things I didn’t get the first time around.

A Woodland Stroll cape

Woodland Stroll Cape

Woodland Stroll Cape

Woodland Stroll Cape

I’ve been calling this latest sewing project my Sherlotta Holmes cape.

When it was finished, O promptly renamed it The Sherlock Dench cape. 😉

I just haven’t found the energy/willpower to dress up in my self-created fashions, even though we’ve had a couple days of warmth. Today it’s back down in the 20s, our yard is still a mess with piles of dirty snow and shovels all strewn about. Who wants to see that? So I dragged my dress form downstairs and snapped a few quick shots.

The pattern comes from Liesl & Company (the women’s pattern division of Oliver & S children’s patterns). When it was released last year, I fell in love with the style and purchased it. I thought it would make the perfect light layer for fall biking.

But then my back went out and I never got around to sewing it up. It’s not really “springy,” so I’ll put it away for late September/early October, when I like to wear more autumnal colors. The wool windowpane suiting is from Fabric Mart. I lined the cape with hunter green Bemberg rayon purchased at Fabric Place Basement in Natick, MA, and I used leather toggles for the front closures. Then instead of sewing buttons/buttonholes under the arms, I sewed on concealed snaps. I figured I’d be less likely to pull off a snap than I would a button, especially while cycling.

The pattern was super simple to put together. Really, a beginner could pull this off IF they went with a solid fabric. The plaid windowpane was a little fiddly to line up; moreover the wool itself was pretty slippery … the silky rayon was actually easier to sew! If I were to sew another cape, I’d use a heavier wool without an obvious pattern/plaid just to keep things easy.

I also wish I’d interlined the cape with some cotton flannel because it’s not very warm. I’d definitely need to wear a sweater underneath, but when I do that, I start looking kind of bulky. It’s definitely a garment best worn on an autumn day with just a wee bit of nip in the air.

The most hair-raising part of sewing this up wasn’t the plaid matching, but sewing on those darn leather toggles. I had one chance to do it right because once you sew through leather, that’s it … those holes are forever. Luckily I had an extra set of toggles, so I practiced on them. My advice:

  • Use a leather needle; it will pierce the leather easier than a regular needle
  • Tape or use fabric glue to hold the toggles in place
  • Sew slowly. In fact, I mostly sewed “manually” by turning the flywheel on my sewing machine by hand and maneuvering my jacket/toggle accordingly.

I also sewed the pink turtleneck underneath. Not much to say here except that I used an OOP Kwik Sew pattern (KS 2740) along with some lightweight cotton interlock purchased years ago at Fabric Fix in Manchester, NH (sadly, closed). I sewed the size large, but I should have sized down to a medium as the shoulders hang off me … but it’s fine under heavy sweaters, which is how I typically wear turtlenecks. I also drafted cuffs; the pattern doesn’t include any, but I think a turtleneck looks better with cuffs. While I was at it, I sewed another turtleneck out of navy blue cotton interlock I picked up at the $1.99 Fabric Store in Auburn, MA, in January.

In other news:

  • I’m in a bit of a knitting slump so I’m knitting dishcloths whenever I sit down to watch TV.
  • I’ve been keeping up with the new season of BBC’s Great British Sewing Bee. Did you know they’re casting for a U.S. version? Let’s hope they don’t change the format too much and make it cutthroat competitive; I like the kinder, gentler reality tv.
  • Three more days till the official start to Spring. Can’t. Wait.
  • I’m heading to Newport, RI, this weekend to visit my brother. I’ve been to every tourist site in New England except Newport for some reason. Looking forward to it as we plan to visit some of the “authentic” Irish pubs to celebrate a belated St. Patrick’s Day.

Speaking of which: Happy St. Pats!

A trip into Cambridge

By Hand London pattern -- Anna

bike shop in Cambridge, MA

Since it was unseasonably warm day and I had a car (a rental) I drove into Cambridge to check out a sewing/knitting shop I’ve been itching to visit: Gather Here, just past Harvard University on Broadway. It was definitely worth navigating Cambridge’s traffic-clogged streets and surrendering to its pitiful 30-minute daytime parking limit to have a look-see. And as you can see above, I got my hands on a pattern I’ve been dying to possess: the Anna dress by By Hand London. This style of dress is flattering to my figure, and I’ve loved almost every version I’ve seen on the ‘net. Can’t wait to sew it!

The service was excellent at Gather Here. I was greeted as I walked into the shop and asked in a very friendly fashion if I needed some help, then I was left alone to browse. When I did need help, it was cheerfully provided–really, a perfect mix for me. And for such a small shop, they really packed a lot in there: sewing patterns by By Hand London, of course, along with independent pattern makers Colette, Megan Nielson, Sewaholic, and even UK designers Merchant & Mills! However, the M&M patterns didn’t suit my shape at all (they seemed boxy and angular, and this girl’s got curves) so I just have to admire their aesthetic from afar.

As for yarn, I was impressed with the selection, esp. all the Swans Island organic bulky and fingering weight on display. If I weren’t on a yarn diet, I would have gone nuts buying some up. But what really grabbed my eye was the large container filled with bolts of Liberty Tana lawn … there was a multicolored floral on a cream background I was salivating over, but at just over $30 a yard, I could hear my debit card begging for mercy in my wallet so I resisted. I told the young woman who cashed me out I’d be back after the hols to buy some and she put the evil idea in my head to sew up my Anna dress in some Liberty lawn. Talk about luxury! I might do it if I had a swishy summer event coming up — a wedding? — but nothing on the horizon.

When I was heading back to the car, the cheerful sight of the Broadway Bicycle School and all those bikes racked up warmed my cold suburban heart. That’s the one thing I like about Cambridge: it’s even more bike friendly than my own town 15 miles out.

As I navigated through Harvard U’s campus, I was also cheered by the realization of how far my driving confidence has come in 15 years. When I first moved to greater Boston, I was so terrified of driving anywhere near the city I avoided it at all costs, including driving to the airport, which is a fairly straightforward drive now that the Big Dig is finished. But now? I’ve whipped the rotaries into submission, and the one-way streets, crazy drivers, and narrow lanes can’t budge my blood pressure. I didn’t even need my GPS once I figured out where the shop was. That’s a huge improvement!

I think it’s the shortest day of the year, which means only one thing: the days will now start getting longer and SPRING IS ON THE WAY!!!!!! Cool

Recumbent trike update

My new trike!

Earlier this fall I decided to extend the Carless in Suburbia experiment for another year until October 1, 2014. The experiment ended up offering many unexpected benefits beyond saving money and reducing fuel consumption. I found that using my bicycle to get around during the week reduced my stress levels considerably–slowing down has helped me enjoy the process of getting from “here” to “there.” Because my in-person shopping options are limited to what I can find downtown, my impulse purchasing has gone way down; shopping is no longer something I do to kill time. Most of all, I feel happier inside. It’s kind of crazy, I know. I think it’s because I did something I didn’t think I could do (give up my car for a year), and not only did I do it, but I signed up for another year of “car freedom.”

Right after I made this new commitment, though, I landed in the hospital for three days with a herniated disc, and then a week later, developed a case of deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Biking as I knew it was out. Enter the recumbent trike, thanks to my husband’s insistence this was the bike for me. (I didn’t really buy into it until I tried it out.)

I’ve had the bike for a month, and I. Love. It. More than my Trek 700 commuter cycle. When I ride my regular cycle up a hill, it’s exhausting. Not so with my recumbent–I seem to fly up hills with only my legs feeling the stress. But when I returned home after biking on the commuter bike, I didn’t feel like I got much exercise. That’s definitely NOT the case with my recumbent. I usually feel wiped (in a good way) and I can tell that even after a few weeks of triking, my thighs and butt have lost some inches. I also can trike in colder temperatures; it used to be that I wouldn’t bike if it was under 40 degrees F, but I went triking when it was 35 degrees F and it wasn’t bad at all. I guess I’m burning more calories i.e. generating more heat!

It has been snowing here in Boston for a couple days so I’m not sure when I’ll be out on my trike again. I sure do miss it though! This weekend I was at REI, and I came close to buying a new pair of snowshoes. (My old ones slide off my boots annoyingly.) I find the key to staying happy and sane during the winter is to a. get outdoors as much as possible and b. to find outdoor activities that are enjoyable. For me, that’s triking when there’s no snow, and snowshoeing when there is.

Oh, and here’s something else that’s interesting about the switch from biking to triking: people are a LOT nicer to me, especially people in cars. I honestly didn’t have much of a problem with cars when I was biking, probably because I have the philosophy of “I might have the right-of-way here, but I’m going to be the loser in a battle with a 2,500-lb. piece of metal so best to stay out of the way.” The most irritating thing is when I walk my bike across crosswalks and drivers don’t stop–they don’t seem to understand that once I’m off my bike, I’m a pedestrian, not a cyclist.

However, when I’m on my trike at a crosswalk? People hit the brakes and very nicely wave me across before I can stand up! They also give me tons more room on the road, even though my trike is only 10 cm wider than a regular bike. It finally hit me one day: drivers think I’m disabled. I asked a couple people I know in town what they thought of my theory, and they agreed. My buddy Gerry down at the hardware store said it’s the bright orange flag I have on the back of my trike. Just what I thought!

This and that

It’s a chilly Saturday, but it’s over 40 degrees F and sunny, so I’ll soon be off on my recumbent trike for a long ride. I may even attempt triking over to Emerson Hospital in Concord for a blood test. (I have to have my blood drawn and tested every couple weeks while I’m on Coumadin. The bright spot is this will only last until January.)

All my pants are loose on me. This is good news, although I wish my appetite were a little better … it’s never a good idea to lose weight by eating too little. However, I did wake up very early this morning, hungry, so I came downstairs and had a cup of hot Ovaltine.

I’ve recently discovered streaming music (yeah, I’m late to the game) and have been creating playlists on Rdio. The one I listen to most is my classical music playlist … a little Italian opera, a lot of Bach. (I’m particularly addicted to Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto #6, first movement–its polyphonic texture delights my ears, esp. around 1:10!) At $4.95 a month, it’s a bargain and it keeps our livingroom uncluttered. I’ve rediscovered songs from my childhood and college years; even better, it’s a great way to look up music I hear in movies and on television commercials. If you can’t tell, I’m a big fan!

I saw this list called “10 Little Things…” on Habitually Chic’s blog, about things you can do to make this season a little nicer for others. It really resonated with me, esp. #2 and #3. I’m infamous for offering help, then not following through. Reading the list reminded me that I’d told a friend I’d send her a link to the bicycle light she admired on my bike. Done! As for #3, this is a peeve of mine — I bend over backwards to be nice to food service/retail folks, but certain members of my family are not. Coincidently none of these family members have ever worked in retail/food service. Perhaps I’ll send them this list. 🙂

I’m seriously thinking of knitting a vintage pattern for my next sweater project. I love love love this vintage Sirdar pattern that Subversive Femme posted this week. It would look lovely in cream fingering wool with pearl buttons. I haven’t studied the pattern at any depth, but I believe it’s actually a pullover, not a cardigan. I’ve knit three cardigans in a row and it’s time for a change.

I never thought I’d say this, but I need a better coffee mug! In a fit of housecleaning/organizing last year, I went through our kitchen and donated most all of our novelty mugs — you know, those ugly things you pick up at trade shows or on vacation. I’m thinking of a Clan MacKenzie mug; my paternal great-great grandmother was a MacKenzie:


“I Shine Not Burn” — perfect for a writer!

I also like this vintage-y Union Jack travel mug:


Decisions, decisions …

Happy birthday to me!

My new trike!

A birthday gift from my boys!

After this last stint with my back, I figured my days on a regular upright bike were numbered. My husband thought so, too, so he went to work figuring out a solution. And here it is — a recumbent trike!

I wasn’t sold on the idea at first, but one test ride converted me. That night, the bike was delivered to our driveway, and within an hour I was sailing down the trail. It’s not as fast as my upright, but I don’t bike for the speed thrill. Even better, by the time I got home, my legs were like jelly. I have a feeling by the spring I’ll have a nice set of pins to show off. 😉

Not a bad way to begin my last year in my 40s.

It’s quiet here today. O is in upstate New Hampshire on a school trip through tomorrow afternoon. His teacher called me this morning to tell me O was really missing home. I was touched that she called me to tell me, and I was glad she was urging him to wait to call home until tonight. O was stressed out by my being in the hospital, and I’m sure he’s thinking it’s my birthday today and missing me. I certainly miss him. I told DH last night the house is utterly empty feeling without him, and now I understand why empty nesters have such a hard time of it. It’s tough letting your little ones fly the coop!