Friday, March 3

Winter cycling - a bit late!

I can't believe it's March already, and I haven't yet written my "Winter Cycling" post...... possibly the following explains why:

Early February - down to Devon to help look after new granddaughter (while Marines daddy is away) for 11 days.
Back home for 3.
Back down for 3.

All these 3 journeys by train - I love going on the train but don't often have reason to. I got quite excited while waiting at Swindon and hearing them announce the arrival of the "Devon Express"! The first time I went down, as we approached Exmouth I was looking out of one side of the train and then turned to the other side and thought - oh!! there's the sea! I haven't seen it for some time. I took a book with me called Slow Travel by Dan Kieran which I read in quiet moments over the 11 days.

Back home then with car packed to the hilt with me, daughter, 4 week old baby - and Molly the cocker spaniel in the boot! The journey went well, with one stop at Gordano services to feed baby, walk dog, and top up with refreshments. I breathed a sigh of relief when we finally reached our other daughter's in Wantage, where mother and baby stayed for 4 days before coming here. Original plans for daughter and baby (and Molly the dog - who has gone on holiday in a nearby village) to stay elsewhere had fallen through, hence them coming here.

And here is the cause of the blog post delay! Lovely baby Emmie, sozzled after a feed! One bundle of cuddliness........

Her 14 month old cousin Lily loves her, and is learning to be gentle with her.

So - the winter cycling!

This winter I was aiming to try to keep cycling throughout the winter, and I have indeed managed it, although to be honest the weather has not been particularly wintery.  The coldest day I cycled was actually on January 21st, when it was frosty to start with but then lovely and sunny. What with one thing and another happening most of my riding has just been the usual shopping trips, of 8 or 9 miles, but I also managed to add extra miles onto these trips sometimes, increasing them to perhaps 15 miles, and also a couple of jaunts of 20 miles or so. Although the miles only added up to 109.4 (very important that point 4!) compared to last January when I didn't cycle once that is a massive improvement!

What one wears when cycling in the winter is a good topic for discussion. Like many other cyclists I don't believe that you necessarily need special clothing for cycling, but sometimes the right garment helps immensely. I think the two most valuable items for me are merino wool long sleeved tops underneath everything, and my Primaloft jacket - I was going to put a link to mine, which is made by Vulpine, but I am flabberghasted to see that they aren't doing them anymore. Oh well, other makes are available..... This jacket was expensive but it was money well spent. Under this jacket, and over the merino top, I wear any old thing. My fleece lined Buff keeps my neck lovely and toasty.

Legwear is either Craghopper trousers or my favourite altered-to-fit-me charity shop jeans that have plenty of stretch in them. Either of these are fine for the length of rides I've been doing, but I did think that maybe cycling tights might be more comfortable for longer rides, and I bought a pair of these Altura Women's Cruisers choosing them for their price and the fact that they didn't look too tight. I haven't had a chance to try them out yet - I'll try and remember to report back when I have.

I don't have any problems with my body and feet staying warm (Husband gets cold feet when cycling) but another thing I knew I'd need for the winter would be good gloves. I bought these Pearl Izumi Elite Softshell Gel gloves. I actually got men's ones, and in a medium, and I still find the thumbs a bit short! And no I haven't got huge hands, just longish fingers perhaps. I bought these gloves on the recommendation of my cycling Elder Son, who wears his with a pair of merino liners underneath when the weather is extremely cold. Verdict? I couldn't have kept cycling in the winter without them, as my other Bontrager lighter weight ones wouldn't have been warm enough. However, I did find that on that coldest ride in January my fingers were pretty cold for the first few miles of the ride, until the sun came out. Temperatures that day were probably just above freezing. Comfort wise they are great.

Several weeks ago I noticed that I was getting discomfort with the gripshift on my bike, and I asked Husband to have a look at it, as I thought it was just stiff. He did, and lubricated here and there, and it was slightly better. However I think it's me that's got the problem. I've noticed slight discomfort in the joint that's involved when I turn the shifter towards me. Because of this I want to change the shifters to the rapidfire type, which should solve the problem.

I have entered my first sportive! It's the Childrey Spring Classic and I am going to do the 30 mile ride. I'm looking forward to the bacon rolls afterwards. I know some of the people who have also entered, but they will be doing the 60 mile trip. When they see me they'll probably think "Eh? what's she doing here, on that heavy bike, in those ordinary clothes, and her being a grandmother and all.....". I'll show 'em.......!!!!

Here's my bike loaded up with shopping a while ago, and charity shop curtains on the back rack.

Happy cycling! The days are getting longer - hurrah!


Friday, January 27

Another baby! and new sewing space

I have been hanging on to write this post until our second expected grandchild arrived, which she did last Friday, just a few days late. She is our elder daughter's first, and is called Emmie, and weighed 7lbs 2 1/2oz , and was born in a birthing pool. So we now have two granddaughters, 13 months apart. I made more cot pockets - my daughter chose the fabric, and as they live by the sea it's very appropriate.

With a small piece of leftover fabric I also made a little quilted picture (one of the boats) and I also made a large drawstring toy bag out of different fabric, but stupidly neglected to take a pic of either! I think my brain was in baby's-coming-soon mode and even though I usually take pics of everything I make I just forgot. I will do so if I remember when I go and visit in a week or so.

Our now 13 month old granddaughter, Lily, got to the stage a little while ago of pulling her toys out of her cot pockets and taking great delight in throwing them onto the floor. Her daddy sent us a pic of her standing up in her cot, having done this, with a look on her face that said "It wasn't me, Daddy - honest!"

While we're on the subject of babies - I have now moved my sewing stuff to the smallest bedroom. What's that got to do with babies I hear you ask........ Well, when we lived in this house over 32 years ago, the room I am now sewing in was our eldest's bedroom (we didn't use the word nursery - is it just me or are more parents these days using that word? In my day only the upper classes had nurseries!). This is a much younger me drying him after a bath; in the corner where this blue table was my black Singer 201 now resides, in its table.

Note the Stork margarine pots used for top and tailing.....

And by the way I hadn't realized how incredibly useful it is to have your machine set into a table (if you're not using a free arm that is) which gives you that extra flat space. Still not enough to start making big quilts, but big enough for what I do.

I found that having my sewing machine etc downstairs in the sitting room didn't really work very well after all. I had thought before we came to this house that I just couldn't stand the thought of working upstairs, because in our old house I used to feel very cut off upstairs. However, I have found that here I can see what's going on in the neighbourhood even better than from the sitting room downstairs. This may be a small hamlet but even here stuff happens - occasionally!

Also, one of the problems of working in the main thoroughfare, as it were, is of having one's other half going in and out and asking me things and generally disturbing me!!!! Having my own little room out of the way upstairs is much better. And I don't have to clear up, tidy up, or whatever in order to keep up with Husband's standards........

I worked out that the table on the right would fit in nicely, with my Bernina on it, and that I could have the Singer to the left.

I did have a problem with storage though. Nothing that I had used in our old house had been suitable so I haunted our newest charity shop in Wantage which has lots of cheap furniture, and also another secondhand furniture place locally, for weeks to try and get something. In the end I got so frustrated that I couldn't organise all my sewing stuff properly that I decided that I'd have to buy something new, which I don't really like doing, partly due to expense and partly because I just don't like buying new when there is so much good secondhand stuff to be had. But in the end I just had to bite the bullet, and I went for these Ikea Kallax units. I wouldn't normally even consider flat packed furniture, as it's often so shoddy, but I'd had a look at some of these units that a friend across the road had, so I knew they were pretty sturdy and would suit my needs. You can choose whether to have drawers, doors, baskets or boxes in the gaps, or just leave them open. Husband had fun putting it together (at least I think he did....) with a little help from me. 

The blue spined Reader's Digest "Sewing and Knitting" book is one of the best sewing books I have come across - get it if you see it! Guess how much I paid? 20p. Yes, you read that right - 20p! that was once again in my local favourite charity shop, where all books are 20p, or, wait for it, £1 for 5! Excuse me a minute while I do some arithmetic...... hang on, 5 x 20p = £1. Must have a word with the staff.

So, this tiny room works well as my sewing room, but I still needed some extra table space for cutting out. Thinks - "There's some space in our bedroom at the end of the bed, and if I were to have a gateleg table there, I could have it against the wall and have one flap out when I need it". So, charity shop came up trumps again - quickly this time -  with this for £15 (the sun was shining well and truly in when I took the photo) so that's my cutting out space. Maybe not as big as I'd like ideally, but you can't have everything. 

I am always interested to see other people's workspaces so I hope this has been an interesting tour for you, dear reader. 

The next post will be about my winter biking. And on the reading front, I have just got to read this book, Knit 1 Bike 1, written by Janet Renouf-Miller, about her "woolly cycle journey around Scotland" on her Brompton bike. I hope to get some hints on how I might combine sewing with cycling!!

Till then


Sunday, November 20

Coffeeneuring #7 - at White Horse Hill

Today's was another Coffee without Walls trip. It almost felt like cheating to squeeze 5, 6 and 7 in on the last 3 days (it wasn't though!) but I knew that to feel I'd really met the Coffeeneuring challenge there was only one place to cycle for #7, and that was White Horse Hill, near Uffington. The weather forecast was rather grim and there was a conversation in my head between me and my weaker side which basically went

"Do I really need to cycle all the way up there?"


"But surely there's somewhere else I could cycle which would be equally valid but which wouldn't involve all that climbing?"

"Don't be such a woos - on yer bike to White Horse Hill!"

So I did. I've never actually cycled up there before. I took a route which meant less of the very windy and narrow B road that passes by the hill, but which meant more elevation.

Once up there (and I confess to having had to push up the final steep road to the Hill) I sat in the car park and ate my provisions and drank tea from a flask.

More of the soda bread muffins, peanut butter on the left and apple jam on the right

Not much demand for the one picnic bench today
 When I make tea at home, though I say it myself, it is excellent (Yorkshire Hard Water loose leaf) but poured into a flask and drunk an hour or so later it is yuck! However it was hot and vaguely tea-like so I drank most of it.

The weather was indeed grim but at least the rain had cleared off to the east by then. It was grey, cold and quite windy.  

You can just make out the Horse in the distance if you squint....

This pic is looking north to Faringdon Folly. 

I got somebody to take this pic later when I cycled from the car park up onto the actual hill.

After cycling back down I was going to just pootle off home but by then I felt up for a bit more of a ride, so I headed off towards Shrivenham, and ended up doing about 21 miles. It was very tough going and I was very glad to get home, but these last three rides have made me realize that cycling can be very enjoyable even in this sort of weather! Better than being in a tin box on wheels!

And now, I shall submit my 7 rides to the appropriate person and get my badge, shown here, which I shall proudly stitch to my jacket!