Tag Archives: beautiful bikes

Roll Models: Melissa! Queen of the Suburbs

Today’s “Roll Model” is a familiar face here at LGRAB, our friend Melissa. This is a very special profile for me to post, not only because we’ve been friends since 3rd grade, but also because I feel a tiny bit responsible for putting this woman on the road. I gave her a vintage Bridgestone Kabuki (“Smurfette”) and talked endlessly about how much I love riding my bike. Then she started riding to work! She lives in the far suburbs (exurbs) of Chicago, so riding a bike around town is no easy feat.

Melissa and her bicycle

Describe your bicycling style in three words.

Defensive, chill, fun!

How long have you been riding your bike?

I’ve been commuting for about 2 years, off and on. But, you know, I had a bike when I was a kid. Aw, those days when we would just ride nowhere…

Why did you start riding your bike?

I first started when I was going to college. It was down the street and I rode my then-fiance’s bike there. I hadn’t ridden much since then, but I am a runner and I love pushing myself, so I thought that riding a bike would be good on my off-days. I bought a crappy Wal-Mart bike, but it started doing something weird and I didn’t know how to fix it. I freecycled it to someone, but it left me without a bike. Dot had an extra bike, so it was mine for my “19th” birthday.

I used to have this horrible commute on the highway. It was so boring and restricting (especially in the spring and fall) but we moved closer to my work, so the commute wasn’t as bad. I decided to start bike commuting because I wanted to be outside more, especially after reading one of Dot or Trisha’s blog posts – it looked so nice to start your day outside!

Melissa riding in a skirt

How does the bicycle fit into your life?

I love Smurfette. I love her because she is unique and I am unique. I love standing out from the crowd and Smurfette does that for me. In my area, there are mostly mass produced bikes or Lance Armstrong wanna-be bikes. Also, I like that Smurfette isn’t too complicated. I know some bikes have complicated gears or something but Smurfette is simple!

How long is your commute and what is the route like?

My commute is about 6 miles, a good mix of trail and street. I start on the trail, which is good because I can wake up slowly. Then I get on the street. There is a tricky part Where the Sidewalk Ends, with no shoulder and a curve, so it makes it hard for the cars to see me. That is the part that I repeat my little mantra, “I have a right to be here.” On some parts of the route, I am too scared to ride in the street, so I ride on the opposite side of the cars on the empty sidewalk.

How do you manage the clothing situation?

I sweat a lot, so I wear shorts or skorts and a t-shirt for my commute and change into my work clothes. I usually pack what I’m going to wear the next day and store it in my back basket. It’s tricky to pack the night before because I am moody, so I don’t always love an outfit I picked out the night before. Or sometimes the outfit didn’t look as good as I thought it did 11pm the night before. To smell fresh throughout the day, I have a whole bag of toiletries to help!

On the trail

What are people’s (friends, family, co-workers) reactions to you riding your bike?

Well, at first my fiance was against it because he thinks it’s dangerous. I don’t think it helps that I am a klutz in general: I fell down on my first commute this year. But he is starting to come around. He bought a bike and rides with me more. The other day, he proclaimed that he wants to try to ride to places more. I am definitely testing that!

My family is cool with it, too. They know I’m crazy and see this as another crazy endeavor. Funny story, when I was visiting my dad in Colorado, he mentioned that a lot people are all starting to ride their bikes now. He is a big Ford truck man, so I knew he wasn’t saying it in support. But I just said, “Join the revolution, Dad.” An awkward silence followed.

When my coworkers found out that I ride to work, they were really surprised. They think I’m crazy and that’s okay. During Ride Your Bike to Work Week, I sent an email out about it. I actually got a response from someone and we’re going to meet up on our commute soon!

You started a Facebook page to advocate for more bike lanes in your town, Aurora. What are the riding conditions like there and do you think it will improve?

Aurora riding conditions are not for commuting. We are lucky enough to have a bike trail, but that is really for recreation. It doesn’t go anywhere in town. There is one bike lane that lasts about ½ a mile. I still can’t figure out what the purpose of it is. It doesn’t go anywhere and it starts and stops randomly.

I am fairly confident that it will improve. I was interviewed by our local paper and the woman said that the mayor wants to add bike lanes but finds it hard to get support. I am thinking about planning a bike ride for some of us to ride in the streets. Maybe if we annoy the drivers enough, they will want a lane for us.

Aurora Commute Scenery

What do you like best about riding your bike?

There is so much to like, I can’t pick one favorite! I like the physical exertion, I like that I am lessening my global footprint, I like the wind in my hair on a hot day, I like seeing deer on my commute, I like high fiving the trees, whistling while I ride…

What do you like least about riding your bike?

I hate that it’s so dependent on the weather because the weather is so weird here. I also don’t like the lack of support from drivers. They can be such buggers! Lastly, I don’t like that the infrastructure of my town makes it difficult to ride into town.

Describe your dream bicycle outfit and destination.

I like to wear longer dresses that don’t fly up in the wind. I think it’d be cool to ride in New York City. I’d probably get in an accident watching all the other cyclists!

What advice would you give someone new to bicycling, especially women?

You just have to get out there and do it. You’ll figure out what works for you. Also, plan plan plan. You have to plan how you’re going because it sucks getting lost on your bike.

Have fun with it. You aren’t in a race, so don’t hesitate to stop and smell the flowers. For women especially, don’t flip off anyone that honks at you. You don’t know why they’re honking or who they are.

Also, learn how to work on your bike.

Smurfette - Melissa's loyal Bridgestone Kabuki

How did you get so awesome?

This is a silly question, Dottie! But I shall amuse you.

When a strict man and free-spirited woman love each other, they make a strictly free spirited baby. Haha!

I just try my best to be who I am. I have really great friends and family that amuse my whims. They are all really supportive of me and I’m really lucky. I haven’t had a friend who puts down any of my silly attempts to do something different and that’s really great because if they did, they’d be out anyway! Mostly, my fiance is my biggest fan. He’s the one who holds me when I cry and claps when I dance. If it weren’t for him, I’d be a lazy, chain-smoking slob. (Love you, boo. Can’t wait to be your wife.)

Pop quiz: I was with you the only time before adulthood I fell off my bike. What were we doing at the time?

Riding our bikes! Hehe. Honestly, I don’t remember. I remember when you fell but I can’t recall what we were doing. I know that my first memory of when I first fell off my bike, I lost my big toenail. [Editor's Note: we were selling Girl Scout cookies!]

Melissa and her bicycle

Thanks, Melissa! You’re an inspiration to all – living and riding with class, style, humor and fun. :)

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Bicycle Picnic in the City

On Monday (hooray for holiday weekends) I rode a few miles, set up my blanket under a big tree by the lake, laid out my spread of fizzy drink and fresh berries, and read a novel for a couple of hours. Although the local news warned that because of the 90 degree temps everyone should stay in the air conditioning (sigh) the day was beautiful in the shade with the legendary Chicago wind keeping things cool.


The gorgeous location, so private and quiet, was amazing for a city as big as Chicago. The city has so many lovely spots for those who put forth the small effort to find them.

This is going down as an event for the Summer Games, go on a picnic by bicycle. Bicycle picnic was the first event I came up with when Trisha and I started planning the Games. I’m excited that it’s finally come around and I hope others take the opportunity to have a bicycle picnic of their own :)

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Smile at the Bicycles

Today there were so many bicyclists along my route, everywhere, becoming a real force in the movement of the city – it was beautiful. I found myself smiling the whole way home.

There are many more bicyclists this summer than last summer, and especially more people dressed in regular clothes. I’m bad at numbers, but I must have seen nearly 100 other bicyclists during my commute. On the way home I rode behind a guy in a suit (jackpot!), a woman in a skirt and another woman in stylish khakis and a button-down with pink flowers on her basket.

I hope people who don’t ride notice all of the bicycles, too. They must! Seems impossible to miss such a dynamic new part of the cityscape. I’m pretty sure I saw some smiles on the faces of pedestrians. Who can resist a smile at the bicycles? Especially those with wicker baskets, flowers, skirts and suits? :)

Have you noticed more bicyclists where you live? Or is it your first summer riding a bike? I’m really curious to hear what others’ experiences have been.

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Flowers for the Tour de Fat

On Saturday I attended the Tour de Fat, an annual bike festival by New Belgium Brewing, where I ran into several people I know, including frequent commenter Scott and his girlfriend with their gorgeous Velorbis and Pashley bikes (pictured below). Chicago was the first stop on a nation-wide tour. You can read, see and watch more about the Tour de Fat at my write-up from last year.

Before heading out, I decided to decorate my bike. The flowers came from a thrift store wreath and were already strung together. I simply zip-tied each end to the top of my basket and voila – bike basket beauty.

I also decorated my hair. :) This is going down as an event in the Summer Games, “Decorate your bike.”

All bike baskets should be adorned with flowers and/or ribbon!

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Beautiful Bicycles: Pashley Sonnet Bliss (yes, again)

Today I stopped by Boulevard Bikes to visit the Pashley Sonnet Bliss. Lucky for me, one of the very few Pashley retailers in the U.S. is in Chicago. My love for Pashleys is no secret and I hope to own a Pashley one day. Of course, I also hope to own a bakfiets cargo bike, Brompton folding bike, ANT Light Roadster and Sweet Pea Little Black Dress, so… we’ll see.

Two years ago I seriously considered buying Pashley Princess Sovereign. I decided to buy my Dutch bike instead, but now I think owning both would not be too crazy.

A year ago, I rode and reviewed the Pashley Sonnet Bliss and fell in love. You can read all about the bike at the original review.

This is going down as “test ride a different type of bike than you normally ride” for the Summer Games. I swear the Pashley is different enough from my Oma to count! ;)

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I {Heart} My Bicycle

I love my Rivendell Betty Foy for her steel strength, smooth ride, quickness, lightness, easy step-through and good looks. Most of all, I love that she loves me back. It’s obvious!

Feel free to say what bike you ride and what you love, even if you’ve said it before. Let’s get some Friday good bike vibes going :)

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Carry a Load on Your Bike!

On the way home from work today, I met Mr. Dottie for a bulk food run. We were fresh out of the huge jar of fancy olives! We usually don’t grocery shop by bike because we live a block from a nice store, but we will go out of our way for a great deal on peanut butter: that’s where Costco comes in.

Bulk Grocery Run

The magnitude of this trip did not come close to our last haul with the bakfiets. Since we don’t own a bakfiets, most of our trips involve a basket, panniers and a few select bulk products. Our acquisitions today included 24 bottles of Two Brothers local craft brew (on Greg’s back rack), 4 lbs of organic strawberries, 6 lbs of yogurt, 4 lbs of raw nuts, 3 lbs of chicken sausage and 2 lbs of hummus. Yummy!

Beer Rack

The bikes handled the loads perfectly. A good test ride for the bike-camping trip we’re going on with Melissa and Chanh this weekend!

This is going down as a Summer Games, Part II Learning Experience: Carry a load on your bike.

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A Peek at the Batavus BUB

The Summer Games are getting really exciting, especially now that the prize-winning has begun! The Batavus BUB is our grand prize, very generously offered by Fourth Floor Distribution. I have several BUB photos that I’ll post periodically to keep you all motivated. Here, Mr. Dottie checks out a diamond frame BUB.

Mr. Dottie on the BuB

{Note that this is not the actual grand prize BUB, just one from the floor at Copenhagen Cyclery. The prize BUB is coming straight from Fourth Floor .}

Too bad Mr. Dottie is not allowed to win prizes – he and the BUB look pretty good together. Good luck to everyone else!

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Tolstoy in the Park

Unless I’m riding my bike or spending time with friends, you can bet that I’d rather be reading a novel. Especially Russian novels, which I studied in college to earn a degree in Russian literature.

Reading in the Park

My attachment to Russian literature began as quickly and simply as my attachment to bicycling. During my junior year of high school, I randomly grabbed a book off the library shelf – The Death of Ivan Ilych and Other Stories by Leo Tolstoy. This Tolstoy guy was like nothing I’d read before. His direct approach to life’s most important questions through perfectly executed plot and vivid characters swept me away. This Tolstoy guy wasn’t fucking around.

The Death of Ivan Ilych and Other Stories

My first semester of college, I enrolled in a Russian language course and almost immediately decided to major in Russian literature, instead of my vague plan for American literature.

Now I’m a lawyer, but I fill my free time as much as possible with reading novels. That is, when I’m not riding my bike, taking pictures or blogging. Sometimes, like today, I combine all four activities.

Bike, book, camera

Recently I finished reading War and Peace for the first time.

Voina i Mir- Po Russki

No, not in Russian! In English.

War and Peace: Epilogue, Part II

There is a reason War and Peace is called the greatest novel ever written: it is the greatest novel ever written.

War and Peace: Best. Novel. Ever.

Now I am reading – for the fourth time – Anna Karenina. I decided to leave behind my much-marked-up copy from college (how I marked my books up! instead of relaxing and letting the words flow over me) for the new translation by husband-wife duo Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky.

Anna Karenina - New Translation

My Old Marked Copy: Anna's Decision

Pevear and Volokhonsky are the masters of Russian translation (I’ve also read their versions of W&P and Dostoevsky’s Demons and The Adolescent). Take this pivotal passage from Anna Karenina.

The Norton Critical Edition translation by Gibian:

That for which nearly a year had been Vronsky’s sole and exclusive desire, supplanting all his former desires: that which for Anna had been an impossible, dreadful, but all the more bewitching dream of happiness, had come to pass. Pale with trembling lower jaw, he stood over her, entreating her to be calm, himself not knowing why or how.

The Pevear and Volokhonsky translation:

That which for almost a year had constituted the one exclusive desire of Vronsky’s life, replacing all former desires; that which for Anna had been an impossible, horrible, but all the more enchanting dream of happiness – this desire had been satisfied. Pale, his lower jaw trembling, he stood over her and pleaded with her to be calm, himself not knowing why or how.

A Perfect Afternoon

So what are you waiting for? Get your paws on some Tolstoy!

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Bicycling and Self Esteem

As Trisha discussed on Sunday, last week the women of Academichic hosted Dress Your Best Week, an event that encouraged readers to dress to highlight their best features in lieu of the usual dressing to minimize real or perceived “figure flaws.”  The discussion in the comments section about whether biking has created any “best” body parts was both funny and inspiring.  Strong legs and backside, toned arms (for those climbers) and waist, healthy lungs with fewer asthma problems – all of these benefits were listed by more than one person.  The consensus is that bicycling makes one feel better physically – no surprise there! – but also feel better about themselves.

In our bipolar society, where the most obese population in the world is inundated with dangerous images of “beauty” by the media and where “fit” people drive to the gym to run on the treadmill, millions are locked in a struggle with their bodies.  Even healthy and otherwise happy young women waste immeasurable time fixated on perceived flaws and self-loathing.  For evidence of this, read Courtney Martin’s Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters, on the frightening new normalcy of hating your body.

Dressing my best means fun and comfortable clothes that make me happy

The solution is a lifestyle change that favors simplicity over excess and regards the human body as a tool rather than merely a decoration. A big part of such a lifestyle is active transportation, especially cycling. Riding a bicycle as daily transportation can radically shift both how you feel and how you feel about yourself. The benefits are the same that make sports so good for adolescents, especially girls.  Transportation bicycling is even better than sports, as there is no competition or pressure to perform, and cycling fits seamlessly into every day life. Free of the need to carve out time in your day to work out, you are simultaneously free of the self-loathing that accompanies the failure to do so.

When your body carries you several miles to and from work every day, you appreciate your body as a tool and a workhorse. When your lungs fill with air and your heart pumps energetically, you know your body is good, without having to examine it in the mirror, searching for flaws. If society declares that your body is not ideal because you are not skinny enough or muscular enough, or your hips or thighs are too big, you know that society is wrong because your body works for you admirably every day.

Bicycling is not a wonder drug or a total solution to the deeply entrenched problem of body image and self-esteem, but it is a small change that individuals can make to live a healthier and happier life. Plus, riding a bike is fun!

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Beautiful Bicycles: De Fietsfabriek Oma

I recently test rode the De Fietsfabriek Oma for three days and thirty miles. De Fietsfabriek is a Dutch bike company and the U.S. distributor is a lovely shop along my daily commute route, owned and run by Jon Lind. (A great interview with Jon is here.)

This is the first bicycle I have tested that matches the quality of my WorkCycles Azor Oma and has features that I wish my Oma had. In fact, my Oma has now been slightly altered to incorporate one of the De Fietsfabriek’s accessories – more on that later.

I’m not saying that this bike is a rival for my love, but I wouldn’t kick her out of bed for eating crackers.

Before I begin to discuss all of the components, I must point out the design touches that make this bike extra special. As shown below (the “FF” stands for “Fietsfabriek”) lettering can be die cast into the frame, between the top and bottom tubes. You can choose to spell your name or anything else you want. Now I totally want “Dottie” on my Oma!

Continue reading

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Go Green Go Dutch Go Bike!

On Saturday morning, I participated in a group ride along the Lakefront Trail, Go Green Go Dutch Go Bike, put on by Active Trans and the Dutch Consulate in Chicago. The event did not attract a huge amount of people outside the Dutch bike community, possibly because of the threatening skies and mid 40’s temperature, but the fact that we have a Dutch bike community is pretty cool. Socializing among ourselves was fun, including groups from each of the city’s three Dutch/Danish bike shops, Copenhagen Cyclery, De Fietsfabriek and Dutch Bike Co. Chicago is the mecca of beautiful bike shopping in America.

I rode an Oma bike from De Fietsfabriek (full review soon) and my husband finally rode my WorkCycles Oma. Once he stopped trying to launch off, he caught on well to the Dutch bike riding style.

The Copenhagen Cyclery crew.

Continue reading

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Bicycling – A Best Kept Secret

Today was one of those perfect bike commuting days. The sky was crisp and clear, the sun shone brilliantly and the temperature was chilly enough to prevent sweating. I relished my ride along the Lakefront Trail, pedaling slowly and listening to the sweet jams of She & Him. Refreshing!

Also, I’ve had extra fun running into a few different people I know through this blog (howdy! you know who you are :))

On days like these, I can’t imagine why everyone does not ride a bicycle everywhere. This is like the best kept secret ever!

If you’re searching for some extra (not so secret) joy this weekend and live in Santa Barbara, check out this lovely Cycle Chic Fashion Show via Bike by the Sea. If you’re in Chicago, maybe I’ll see you at the Go Dutch Go Bike ride on Saturday with the Bicycle Goddess Brigade. Email if you’re interested in meeting up to ride together.

{I took all of these photos in Chicago’s Millennium Park, which I described in detail here.}

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Party Dress Ride

Ruffles? Check. High heels? Check. Bicycle? Hell yeah!

Anyone who knows Trisha would expect no less than for her to arrive at her birthday bash on Peugeot, looking perfectly chic and elegant. In the midst of the torrential downpours and flooding in Nashville this weekend, the sky cleared long enough to make this moment possible.

Girl can ride in heels like nobody’s business, and she is fast. No one should try to tell her that it’s silly or impractical to ride while dressed up. Nothing could be more simple, stylish and fun – plus, it’s much easier than walking in those heels!

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Spring Wind in the Windy City

In Chicago much of the weather depends on the wind. In these photos you can see the sun, but you can’t see the WIND, which made the 50 degree temps pretty chilly. The 20 mph sustained wind was my friend this morning, pushing me all the way downtown. In the evening the wind was up to no good, but in fairness I had turned against her, not the other way around. Betty Foy was definitely the bicycle of choice today, as she’s much lighter and more aerodynamic than my Dutch bike.

Overall, a pretty good day. :) Chicago is the windy city, so I’ve come to terms with this extra challenge – a fair exchange for totally flat geometry. Does anyone else deal with such fierce wind as a daily variable?

p.s. Two lovely blogs are making me so happy with bike loveliness lately – Evoluer (how have I never discovered this site before?!) and Lulu Letty (a fave fashion blogger who recently acquired a vintage beauty). Definitely check out these happy places!

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Pop and Culture

I rode my bike 15 miles on Saturday, wearing a dress and boots, naturally. The rain stayed away for my ride, although the fog and wind were quite harsh.  I pumped myself up by pulling out my iPod on the bike path. The thumping beats of Lady Gaga and Kate Nash made me push myself harder and I accidentally got quite a workout.  I cooled down comfortably after five minutes of sitting on a park bench among the falling cherry blossoms.

My destination was the Art Institute of Chicago downtown. I met up with Melissa, who took the train from the suburbs, to see the temporary Matisse exhibit. Six rooms of Matisse was pure joy! I love Matisse. The exhibit was especially fun with such a cool friend, up for games such as, “Which do you like better?” and “Was he mad at his wife when he painted that portrait?”

Melissa the Muse

A little bit of pop, a little bit of culture, a whole lot of biking – that’s my kind of day.

More awesome rainy city adventures today, but that story will have to wait. I hope everyone else is having a good weekend!

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Deep Breaths

Riding in Chicago rush hour traffic can really raise my blood pressure, especially when it seems that every person drives a huge SUV while fiddling with a blackberry and passing within inches of me. Even after two years of daily riding, this still gets to me a bit too much sometimes. Today during my evening commute, I had to pull over for some deep breaths and springtime appreciation.

A few minutes later I returned to the road feeling calm and refreshed. I can’t control how others drive and I can’t control the appalling lack of bicycle infrastructure, but I can control my own moods. Sometimes I literally have to stop to smell the flowers.

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How To: Bike Commuting in a Suit

The need to look professional is an excuse I hear often for not bike commuting. Please. Don’t try that one with me! As a lawyer, I often wear business suits to work and – yes – I ride my bike dressed up. Riding a bike in a suit is quite easy, especially if the weather is mild and the distance is not very great.  I have only a few tips:

  1. If the weather is hot, leave your tie, hosiery, jacket at work.
  2. If the weather is freezing, layer sensibly as I discuss here.
  3. If you wear pants, secure your cuff from hungry chains and crank arms, unless you want your fine Brooks Brothers suit ripped (sob).
  4. If you get hot while riding and want to remove your jacket, roll it before placing it in your pannier or basket to prevent wrinkling.
  5. Take it slow and steady.  No need to race the yoga-pant and lycra crowd.

If you follow these simple tips, riding in a suit will be a practical and simple course of action.  As a bonus, you’ll find yourself sitting up straighter and feeling super dapper.

Sure, you will definitely stand out, but is that a bad thing?  Drivers will pay more attention, while pedestrians and other cyclists smile at you more than usual.  Public perception is far from acknowledging biking in business suits as normal behavior, but that’s all the more reason to do it :)

An example of public perception: I attended my company’s Wellness Committee meeting this week to propose that we participate in Chicago’s Bike to Work Week (hosted by the Active Transportation Alliance) for the first time. (Challenge accepted, and I’m the Team Leader!) I passed around a flier advertising the ride and one of the young women immediately saw the picture below and cried out: “He’s riding a bike in a suit! Ha!” General tittering followed. I piped up that I often ride in suits.  “Really?”  “Yup.”  End of story.

Now at least all of us here know that riding a bike in a suit is not at all silly.  If you want to try riding in your work clothes, have at it!

Does anyone else out there ride in a suit, at least occasionally? Any other tips?  I almost never see other cyclists in suits.  I’ve appreciated the dapper/ladylike eye candy on the few occasions I have seen suits out there :)

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Cherry Blossom Garden

I love spring because everything is fresh and new. Colors pop from all corners, chirping “hello!” and “well done!” after a long winter. The cherry blossom tree encapsulates everything that is magical about spring, a burst of breezy energy between the icy winter and the sweltering summer.

All of these trees hid in plain sight in the garden where I often sit and read during my lunch break. I did not realize that they were cherry blossom trees until I approached the park on Friday to see millions of tiny blossoms smiling at me. Two days before there was nothing – then, everything. My heart hurt when I realized that I did not have my camera, so I returned during lunch today to capture the beauty that is already drifting off the limbs.

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Fashionable Sunday

Today I biked downtown to attend a fashion show for the Chicago Haute Couture Club, featuring the creations of a friend from work.  I am so impressed by creative people and her designs were so chic and beautiful.  I wish I had been more interested in my mom’s sewing as a girl, but I’ve never been at all crafty.

My work friends were totally unfazed by the fact that I rode my bike. Dottie riding her bike is perfectly normal to them by now, after six months of knowing me. I love that :)

{P.S. The picture above shows how I wait at red lights on Oma. Instead of dismounting, I simply put one pointed toe down. My legs are fully extended when pedaling, but I’m still able to reach a toe down while on my saddle. I’ve gotten this question a few times, so there you are.}

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