My Edmonton Story.

August 29, 2009

I've been keeping track of how my bike video is doing in the Edmonton Stories contest (with a grand prize that includes dinner on a vintage street car). It's not looking good.

I'm 5th in 15 videos, which isn't bad. I'm not close enough to 1st place for my liking. It's not the winning that is really the biggest issue for me, it's the other stories I'm up against. Some of them are cute because they feature kids with high pitched voices reaping in the delights of summer and West Edmonton Mall. Others seem like Edmonton marketing videos. Yes, I enjoy all the various festivals and the variety Edmonton offers, but when I read the brief for the contest I suppose my interpretation of what constituted an Edmonton story differed from others.

I thought the point was to capture MY unique and specific Edmonton story. Fact is, several years ago Don and I were going to move to Toronto. I was planning on hopefully teaching music there, or maybe slumming it and interning at a magazine for a while (our friend was working as an editor at OWL, so cool). Don was looking at a possible position in marketing and business development with University newspapers.

That is actually how we decided to get engaged. Amongst all this talk of moving was also the talk of real estate, what we would do with our properties (I was living in a duplex, he was in a loft downtown), and how we would consolidate the proceeds from the sale of our Edmonton properties to buy a wicked condo/loft in Toronto. The lure of the 'big city' was largely the urban lifestyle of not needing to own a car, being able to walk to get groceries, taking the train or street car to meet friends for drinks... all that good stuff you see in movies where everybody is so attractive, fit, and stylish because of their active lifestyles. That's what we wanted, minus the movie-drama with interpersonal relationships.

We realized that moving and buying property together meant that our relationship had reached a maturity date without us even noticing. Long story short. We decided to get engaged, and subsequently get married. This is not so much a tale of love as it is a tale of property and lifestyle. Since we decided to get married, the possibility of having kids together one day also surfaced. Edmonton has one of the best public school systems in North America. Also, back when this was all happening our purchasing power in Edmonton was far greater than in Toronto. Instead of getting a condo or loft, we could own a wicked bungalow here. Plus, both of our families live here and we're all about free dinners and babysitting.

We figured the urban living in Edmonton was something we could work on. You know that saying where you should be the change you want to see? That's what Don and I are about.

The one caveat of staying in Edmonton was that we were going to try to make this place better. Fast forward several years and Don is now a city councillor. He's got his business up in all sorts of things, but his game is largely environmental. We're all about trains, busses, walking, and bikes. Enter Sarah Chan, the girl who scrunched up her nose at cycling because all the bikes she saw were ugly and unsuitable for the urban lifestyle she coveted so greatly.

You all know what happened after that. Lots of research. Buying the right bike. Riding it. Falling in love again with cycling (it really makes you feel like a kid - so happy)!

That's what I was trying to get at with my Edmonton story. Don and I stayed here to try and have the best of many worlds. Family. Real estate. Good schools and a great place for raising kids. Less driving. Active living. My bike story isn't merely, "look at me, I ride a bike in high heels!" It's a statement on how Edmonton can be lovely, engaging, educational, and social. The whole point of this blog is to show regular people that biking not only looks fantastic, but more importantly, it makes you feel fantastic. I ultimately hope that I can encourage more people to bike too, then I can have lots of bike friends join me out on those Edmonton streets. The reason Don and I do all this now, is because when Dexter is older I want him to be proud not only to have grown up here, but to perhaps continue living here. I want it to be a cool city where he can take the train or ride his bike because it makes more sense than driving.

The day on a bike depicted in my story isn't some weird scripted thing. Those are places I ride to/past several times a week. It isn't a festival or a marketing thing, it's my every day life.

So the disappointing thing to me is based on the votes, people seem to be identifying with the lowest common denominator. Edmonton is known for its big mall, summer festivals (which I attend on bike, might I add), and its river valley. Funny, my sister got a "welcome to Edmonton" brochure from her speech pathology orientation this week. We opened it up and there they were... Edmonton attractions such as the mall, the zoo, the festivals, etc). I suppose for a lot of people that's what Edmonton is for them. A list of attractions. I suppose my being different doesn't necessarily mean my being popular.

Point is, I suppose it's not likely for my video to win now. But there's still 2ish weeks of voting left and it's not over until it's over. I like a challenge. You can help me conquer by voting daily! Shout outs on your various networks might be pretty wicked too:)

How about a naked picture of Dexter as reciprocation?

Friends With Cameras.

August 23, 2009

If you want to see more beautiful pictures of girls on bikes, go visit Wade Kelly's uploads from the dinner party the other night.

Raffaella Loro also has some more offerings from that evening. I love this photo where my bike saddle is poking into my butt. Anyone who rides a bike knows that weird little move where your bum is sort of propping up the bike while you're stopped, so the bike won't fall down? Am I crazy or do other people do this too?

This is Raffaella's picture of my shadow.

And here you can also see my extensive collection of fiesta ware.

It's so nice having friends who are handy with cameras. Makes blogging so easy!

Dinner Party.

August 20, 2009

My best friend Richard is back in town for a visit so I had a bunch of people over for dinner last night. Friends. Food. Games. Visiting. Drinks. Dexter. We had a great evening! Best of all, we had a few girls over that love bicycles!

This is Lisa, who I've blogged about before.

She got a beautiful new dress that is grey jersey on top and bright orange silk bottom! It's gorgeous. Paired with some charcoal pumps and her basket, she's ready to go everywhere in super style.

Here is Carmen, more of a triathlon road bike kind of girl. She's posing with one of my bikes, the buttercream aluminum Amsterdam sport, and looking so happy. Carmen and I are the same height and also have similar proportions (this was more the case before I had Dexter). It means she can ride any of my bikes without changing anything!

And Miss Emma Hooper! She has her own silver Dahon in Bath, England, where she resides. What a happy coincidence that she is also back in Edmonton visiting the same week as Richard! Emma is beyond fabulous. She is a member of the folk rock band, The Cedar, and tours around Europe playing music. She also teaches music like me, and is also a writer. Emma has been a bicycle girl long before I ever was and she rides faithfully in the UK, doing the whole folding bike on and off the train thing too!

This impromptu photo shoot of sorts was not staged. Just so happened that all these lovely girls were at my place and I was going to take Lisa's picture... then I just got the other girls to come out too. I'm not the only girl who rides a bike in a dress!

If you're curious about what I was wearing you can check out the photos of Raffaella Loro, a new friend and actual photographer. She's posted some of her shots of the girls' ride around the neighbourhood.

Another new friend, Wade Kelly, also took some photos that he gave to me. I'll post those soon so you can see us ladies through his lens.

I am sad that summer is quickly wrapping up! 3 months with a baby has flown by and these leisurely days will soon be coming to an end with school and teaching picking up again in the fall. Life and bikes... so much momentum.

She Wore Pants.

August 18, 2009

I'm wearing pants!

Of course they're wide legged. And as you can see, light coloured. When you have a chain guard, bike grease all over your precious clothes isn't an issue (unless your chain guard is covered with dirt).

Don and I went to check out a few plays at the Edmonton Fringe Festival the other night. The days are still lovely and warm but the evenings are cold. Single digit cold. I had to bring a jacket out with me for the ride home.

Here I am on the phone with my mom getting a baby update before we set out.

Still on the phone, but getting ready to go. Don't worry, I wasn't chatting on my cell phone while I was riding all over the city! If you're one of those people who loves to point out all the things I don't do perfectly, I would like to go on record saying that I do not intentionally try to endanger my life or the lives of others while riding, nor do I try to blacken the name of bicycle commuting with my cavalier ways. I sometimes get flack for not wearing a helmet or not coming to a full stop at a 4-way stop (somebody noted that I blasted through a 4-way in my biking video). Sigh... I was riding behind a car with somebody filming... they stopped at the 4-way and there were no cars, I shoulder checked! No, it wasn't entirely perfect. Yes, it was entirely safe that specific time. No, it might not always be safe at that intersection at all times.

I do think it's necessary that we all endeavor to follow traffic rules. However, I don't think cycling is going to be attractive if those of us who are more experienced with the nuances of bicycle commuting criticize in a manner that can be perceived as patronizing, negative, and alienating. I'm sure all the criticism I get is issued with the best of intensions. I really want people to see that cycling can be joyful and healthy. No, I don't think that means I should be careless and hazardous. I think we're all on the same team here. What I want is for more people to start biking and for nobody to get run over by cars. Apologies for any unintended slights to the cause! I guess you can say that I don't get particularly worked up about the details and don't necessarily see everything in black and white.

I try to lead by example, and although I'm not perfect or ideal in any way, I will continue to promote cycling as positively and safely as I can.

Video rentals in my basket, to drop off on the way to the fringe grounds.

Coasting and chillin' on a lovely evening out.

Continued happy riding to all! Enjoy these last days of summer...

Shameless Promotion.

August 12, 2009

I entered a local contest for Edmonton Stories. You're supposed to write or make a video of your own Edmonton experience... so Don and Leanne and I got a camera and went filming me on the Pashley for an afternoon!

Check it out. If you like what you see, please vote for me! You're also allowed to vote daily and I am quite determined to win. The last part of the previous sentence was a hint for you to vote several times. The grand prize includes dinner for 6 on a street car! Those of you who know me by now must understand that I covet and enjoy things that are old-timey. Dinner in a street car is too cool.

View. Vote. Then vote again. And again.

Miss Sarah. Sport Makeover.

August 10, 2009

OMG. That's right. I wore "gear" to bike down to the Edmonton Folk Music Festival this past weekend. Rode the road bike for the following reasons:

1. Our folk festival is located in the river valley, so it's hills both going and coming home. Road bike is my lightest bike, and fast.
2. It's a very casual setting and you're outside ALL DAY. Plus, the main stage is on a very steep hill. Combine that with heat, the beer gardens, and the hiking required to get from stage to stage... heels would be very foolish (especially when the grass is wet and dewy).
3. I was wearing my camping back pack. No hand bag.
4. Don rode the mountain bike with a cargo trailer attached, so he brought the chairs and cooler (no need for me to carry any of the cargo)
5. I haven't ridden the road bike for over a year and it's been in my shed, sorely neglected.
6. Everybody has dirty crusted feet and is covered in suncreen and sweat so being "fresh" really wasn't a priority.

I rode the Pashley last year and it was by no means a chore. Actually, on that bike I was able to bring snacks, all my gear including the chair on the rear rack, and it was still a lovely ride. I just figured when in Rome...

Things of note on the road bike:

1. It IS lighter and faster, and therefore scarier. Going head first down a hill at crazy speeds feels more life threatening than just coasting along while sitting upright!
2. It is so light that at times I noticed I was coasting comfortably, even going uphill.
3. The hills are easier.
4. People who "know" about bikes compliment me on the bike. They all think it's a fixie.
5. My dress gets caught in the spokes when I'm going fast. Dirty new dress = sadness.
6. I also get bike grease on my leg.

It was really fun! If one has the luxury of having a garage and doesn't have to store multiple bikes in, or haul multiple bikes up to an apartment (or worry about security issues), having a stable full of different bikes is really nice.

So here I am. On my road bike. Sporty!

Helmet with holes for ventilation.

Bike shoes with clips for special pedals.

Honey Brooks saddle.

Gloves. On the first day I rode I didn't wear these. Ow, my hands. Ow, my elbows. Ew, the sweat. That purple wrist band was my special four-day pass! The dress is from the craft tent, from what I assume is a local designer? I took off the tags and wore it right after I bought it without really looking at the name.

Dexter came out with us on Wed night and Friday night. Don's parents babysat for one of the evenings and over the weekend Dexter went to stay with my mom & dad. It went really well! He didn't have to sweat and swelter on the hill with the rest of us, and it meant I didn't have to carry nearly as much gear. Mom & Dad also got their fix of the baby too. Everybody wins!

It was brought to my attention again by my mother, that Dexter is a very sleepy baby. He loves sleep. Here he is at my capital health mom group on picture day. Everybody is squirming, cooing, pooing, crying... whatever. And here Dexter is sleeping almost the entire time. Note the aforementioned cloth diapers! I don't even bother with pants since it's summertime.

Laying next to a cute girl, but too sleepy to notice.

Still snoozing.


August 6, 2009

Best friend Crystal and I have an annual birthday dinner tradition. I take her out to some place fancy when it's her birthday and vice versa when it's mine. This year we missed hers in May because our plans had to get cancelled due to the early arrival of baby Dexter. We doubled up last weekend and finally got the chance to meet up for a fine supper. We've frequented many of the yummier establishments in the city, but Wildflower Grill is one we haven't had a chance to check out.

Lovely biking distance from my place. Located on a quiet, downtown street. Nice space, good service, tasty food, decent prices for the quality you get. I will definitely go again.

I hesitate wearing this dress because I don't want people to mistake me for still being pregnant. However, I like it because it's so deconstructed and comfortable. I figure feeling confident about my post pregnant body can manifest itself in wearing something that doesn't necessarily show off every excavated curve. No need for overcompensation. I have a tendency to gravitate towards fashions that are either whimsical and sort of nostalgic, or a little avant garde. This dress is great on a bike. It flows behind me but there is this one seam at the bottom ruffle/hem that prevents it from flying right up and over my face when I'm riding.

These earrings are gorgeous. They're super long and I keep confusing them for my hair flying around. Leanne got them for me for my birthday and I think they are grand! I am lucky to have friends that know me well enough to buy me shoulder skimming feather earrings by Myrtle and Pearls, a local designer.

I love riding the Pashley at night because of the lights on both the front and back. Makes me feel like a real vehicle.

I realize that it has been months since I've written or posted anything about poor poor Dougal. Yes, we have a baby and he is wonderful and time consuming. Yes, I've been recovering well and enjoying the hell out of my summer on the bike when Dexter is being taken care of by others. No, Dougal hasn't been getting the same regimented lifestyle he was once accustomed to (being walked at relatively the same time every day). It's hard for me to keep a rigid schedule and to walk him 2-3 times a day like I used to. The first few days after the baby came home he just sort of pretended like Dexter was a temporary household installment. Now he realizes the baby is permanent. He is very sweet and licks the baby's feet. He is, however, acting out in adorable passive aggressive ways. For example, I sometimes find him perched on prohibited furniture that he knows he's not supposed to be on. No strange revolt in the form of peeing and pooing in the house, though!

We have had a lot of visitors since Dexter's arrival so Dougal gets to reap the rewards of lots of love from our friends and family. Don and I have also started taking him on bike rides instead of just walking. He can get tons of exercise crammed into a shorter amount of time! Don goes off leash and into the river valley on the mountain bike. I go on leash through the neighbourhood. Tip: coaster breaks are key for holding a leash and still being able to use the brakes on your bike with less probability of bailing out.

A lovely new friend of mine knit this fabulous old man 'smoking jacket' sweater for Dexter. It is dripping with character and Dexter looks absolutely dignified in it. The other day when my mom was visiting she saw the sweater draped over a chair in the living room and noted that it was cute. Next thing I knew I was putting it onto the dog. Don't ask me why, I was just curious about whether it would fit. I laughed so hard I cried. Observe below. Poor Dougal. He must hate me.

Market Day

August 2, 2009

Don was home for the afternoon fixing up things around the house. No reason why the modern man can't accomplish his domestic duties AND look after the baby for a few hours.

Sable has never been to the city market and I'm basically addicted to it during the summer months when I'm free to go. I thought it was time to introduce my little sister to the lovely world of Edmonton street market so we took the bikes. I usually take the train because Dexter comes with me, but Don doing 'mom' duty was a great excuse to ride bikes. We stocked up on lots of fruits and veggies, then went to run some other errands. A few blocks over to The Artworks (local floral/card/gift store) to pick up some cards for a wedding we had that night. And Bosom Babies to pick up a whole bunch of bum genius cloth diapers for Dexter.

I rode a bike with pannier full of groceries, and then 15 cloth diapers in a big paper bag lashed to the rear rack. Still had the basket free for my shoulder bag! Didn't even have to wear it or put it on the handlebars. Chowed on some bison cheeseburgers for lunch, then on the way home we had some gelato in the gloriously air conditioned Da Capo caffe.

By the way, cloth diapers are the bomb! A lot of the moms from the school I worked at gawked at the mention of cloth diapers (gross because you have to potentially touch poo, time consuming, non portable, adds to laundry). Cloth diapers have come a LONG way since the stone ages, or even a decade ago. They have all sorts of really cute ones, and the bum genius one-size ones Dexter uses fit babies weighing 8-35 pounds. So he'll basically get to wear them until he is potty trained. Super easy to use. Super easy to do the laundry and such. Edmonton has a remarkable waste and water treatment plant.

FYI, it takes a disposable diaper a century to decompose. If you know anything of new babies and the sheer mass of diapers they go through... it's just really disgusting to think of land fills piled high with human waste. I think that is truly what is gross. Also, if the thought of dealing with pee and poo is totally repulsive... don't have kids. A good habit of thorough hand washing does the trick to qualm any issues I might have with grossness.

We had a diaper service (it was fantastic) for the first couple of months but now we're making the transition to cloth at home because Dexter's inner workings have established relative stability. Anyway, if you're looking for a way to deal with your baby's waste, consider cloth diapers. I am not a hippie. Trust me.

Also, it's been a while since you've seen the Dexter. Here's the little dude!

Sitting in his bumbo chair. It's supposed to help strengthen his neck muscles. I put him in it often. The stronger his neck, the sooner he can ride in our bike trailer!

Here he is casting an evil spell.

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