Thursday, December 23, 2010

Stolen bike....overdue

Back in August, I made a mistake and paid a high price.  One night, I came home and since I was feeling tired, sad and overall crummy, I decided to just lock my bike up outside of my apartment. I used a decent quality U Lock, but left it in plain view.

In the morning I came out with my pannier ready to go to work.  I also had a full size pump and some tools since I was going to help a friend with their bike after work.  However, as soon as I went outside, all of my plans changed.  At first I was confused.  It just wasn't there.  Then, I thought that I had forgotten where I had locked it...but I approached the pole and saw this:

Cut lock

The lock had been cut clean through, and my bike was gone.

Cut lock 2

At the time,  I was just stunned.  In my daze, I started to walk to the train, then turned around and went back home to file a police report.  I ended up crying between calls to my insurance company and even harbored a hope that my bike would be recovered.

I also took my old winter bike into the shop for a tune up...and I think I might have cried right in the store.

In the past several months, I moved on.  I now have a new bike, a great respect for renters insurance, and an understanding of where bikes go when they are stolen.

A few days after the bike was stolen, I participated in the monthly critical mass.  I made a helmet to match my mood:



It's supposed to be a sad stormy cloud, but it looks a little more like the FSM.

This is my new bike:

But I'll always remember my old, trusty steed:

Monday, November 29, 2010

Angry Birds....Thanksgiving Revenge

It was the November 22nd, and a frantic mother approached the Nest.

Turkey
"Please!  You have to help me!"


Yellow angry bird
"What's the problem, Goblim?"




"It's....it's my baby. She's gone."



Red angry bird
"What did you say? Damn...that makes me ANGRY! Baby stealers are the worst!"



And so, the Red and Yellow birds searched high and low...they let nothing stand in their way.  They tore through buildings and fortresses until they cornered the perpetrator...


Angry birds
"You're too late, you stupid birds....It's already been done!"

"Noooooo!!!!"

"Well...there's always Christmas....and I have an idea for a main event...."

"Yeah!"

"AAAAAaaaahhhghgh!"


And that's why ham is on the menu for Christmas dinner

Angry Birds

Pig Centerpiece
When I perform at a party, I offer to bring a premade centerpiece sculpture as a gift for the birthday child. Usually this balloon is something to go with theme of the party, or a favorite animal or cartoon of the child.  In the past, I've made Clone troopers, Spongebobs, Cars and Princesses.

A few weeks ago, I booked a party and the mother said that he daughter wanted a pig...and I thought, "Oh no!"

See, I don't make a good pig. And when kids see a cool sculpture, they often ask for the same thing when I'm making requests.   I can make a simple pig, but it looks super lame compared to the other things that I make.  Fortunately, I looked at some http://www.balloonhq.com/ pictures, came up with some ideas and here we have the pig you see above.

I'm not really sure what happened to the pig during the party, but it disappeared right away and there were no requests while line twisting for a pig.  The popular options were airplanes and fairies.

I did have one request when I posted the pig to my facebook account....that it should be green and should steal some eggs...more on that soon!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Balloon Helmets

Since I've begun twisting balloons, I've stumbled upon an interesting intersect between balloons and biking. It was one of the first things I did when I first got balloons, in fact. I create sculptures for my bike helmet and then ride around in group rides with them blowing around.

The process is fairly simple: Inflate balloons, stick the nozzles through holes in the helmet nad then tie them together.

Several years ago, these creations were pretty simple. THe balloons were inflated and tied together and that was it:

me and Zach

Bike the Drive

November CM

balloon medusa

Then I started getting a little more adventurous with my creations:

maw helmet

fish helmet

jami_lobster_hat

Then I started Making them for others:
Boyswitheyes

kidical mass


Now, it's just what I do.

LS133115

0710 CCM Underwear helmet

Pride Helmet


Essentially, at most group rides, I'm very easy to find...and if there is time, I can make some helmet flair for other riders. It's a lot of fun and usually brings a smile to the face of anyone who sees it.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Dog in a Purse...and "I wonder what that is?"

Last night I was filling in for the wonderful Smarty Pants at his weekly family night at the Wrigleyville D'Agostino's

It was a relatively busy night, but it nicely slowed down as I came to my last table.

I approached the table and wished them a good evening and let them know who I was and enquired as to what they might like for me to create. Immediately the young lady in the booth requested a "little dog in a purse."

The parents immediately questioned her choice...but I just laughed. I love it when kids know what they want...and when it isn't something that I had already made for other kids that same night.

I immediately whipped it up, and while I had never before made a "Little dog in a purse before, it turned out pretty well.

PurseDog

Since I bike most everywhere, that usually includes going to balloon gigs, I have some rather unusual things that I have to carry. Sometimes I'll take a full sculpture...other time's I'll take a bag of balloons, and of course I'll carry my inflation method. I prefer to use my trusty bright yellow Filbert Pump...seen here hanging off the back of my bike:

OT Loaded bike

When I'm biking around town, I normally just carry it slung over my shoulder, and I get lots of questions as to what in the world it could possibly be. I kind of hope that they think that it is a cannon, pressurized gas, or a flamethrower. No one really ever is able to guess.

When I went up to one of my tables, the mother asked me if I had been riding my bike on Lincoln Avenue earlier in the day. She and her daughter had had a little game of trying to guess what I was carrying...and they found out as I made her own creation.

Always fun to be memorable. Hopefully they'll see me another time!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Back from Wisconsin

Fear not, I was not lost in Wisconsin...everything went according to schedule. I am unfortunately have some technical difficulties with my internet access at home and haven't gotten a chance to summarize my amazing trip.

I definitely want to do some more touring in the near future, but am content with just biking to work and around Chicago for the time being.

In the near future I'll have posts on:
Delavan, WI-The former circus colony
Madison and its amazing bike infrastructure
The deliciousness of mustard and why it has it's own museum
The secret in the basement of the Kress Funeral Home
Baraboo Wisconsin, Hula hoops, Devil's Lake and some massive hills
Ringling Bros and the Circus Museum
Frank Lloyd Wright makes pretty houses
House on the Rock is really on a rock...plus why road side attractions aren't as much fun on a bike
If you're camping and no one is around to hear you...does your chain still break?
Cave in the Mounds...a case study for blowing more holes into the earth
Troll Capital of the World....and Jalopeno beer.
Switzerland is full of mosquitos
Stepford in Northern Illinois

I know that you are eager for these updates...and I'll do my best to get them to you soon...yes, all 2 readers o' mine.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Mermaids and bikes

Before heading out on my tour, I did a balloon delivery. It might have been biting off just a little too much, but it certainly seemed like a good idea when I agreed to the delivery.

I have my balloons so I'll be doing some sculptures on the rode. Yay for my week of adventure!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Handlebar Bag Hack

In the midst of hurriedly packing for my bike trip two weeks ago, I had a sudden urge for a handlebar bag. Previously I had looked at options, but hadn't really seen anything that made me really want to purchase it. Plus, since I use my top mounted break levers a lot, most handlebar bags don't fit my needs.

It was 6 am and I was packing my bike stuff before heading to work and I realized that I have dozens of bags of all shapes and sizes. Canvas bags for groceries, vinyl bags for toiletries, random totes from conferences and many purses that I just don't use because I ride a bike every where.

Then I spotted this beauty:

Purse front view

Normal Purse sideview

I had picked up this snappy number almost two years ago on a weekend trip to Milwaukee. While browsing a vintage store, I heard a little voice, and looked around to discover it calling my name. I loved the shape and the color is that lusious brick red. The size is great, and the whole thing expands; it carries my essentials...plus a book, and a jacket and even will hold my netbook.

Sadly, I rarely carry a purse. When I'm on my bike it just doesn't seem practical and I find that more often it's easier to strap my NPR Messenger bag over my shoulder. This handbag had been neglected for far too long.

Aha! With a ready supply of balloons and some velcro straps, a handlebar bag was born:

purse on bike front

Here you can kind of see how it is attached. There are two attachment points, the handlebar stem and then the top tube of the bike.

Bike Purse

Back of purse attachment method



I really love it. I have easy access to my camera, phone, cue sheet and various snacks while riding and I can still use my brake levers. I haven't found that it effects the handling.

For the past two weeks, I've used the bag often. It's fantastic for when I get to my destination and don't have to lug around my cumbersome panniers. Plus I think that I actually look like a girl and perhaps a little stylish.

Thank goodness for this 6 am revelation!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Oddity Tour 2010

My August bike trip is slowly falling into place and I couldn't be more excited. I have a rough outline of what I'm going to do and really just can't wait for the week to get here.

I've decided that the trip is going to be the Oddity Tour of Wisconsin, 2010. That state has tons of Kitsch and I am ready to fall in love with it all.

Some of the destinations for my ride:
Dead Pals of Sam Sanfillippo
The Mustard Museum
The House on the Rock
Former Circus Colonies
Circus World Museum
More oddities than one can shake a fist at in the Wisconsin Dells
As many breweries as I can make it to

Hopefully I can make some balloons in all of those places. Hopefully, it doesn't get me kicked out.

Since I want to see stuff while on the trip, I'm going to be keeping the mileage down, which will be useful since I'm already a little concerned about the rolling hills of Wisconsin compared to the flat gradient of Chicago.

July 31 is coming up fast. At least I have the wonderful kitschy-ness of Pierogifest to keep me sated for the weekend.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Kettle Morraine Tour

On Friday morning, I packed all of my camping gear onto my bike and headed downtown to work a half day. By 1:30, I was on the train to Harvard, IL and getting ready to bike 30 miles to Kettle Morraine State Forest in Wisconsin for a weekend camping trip with an awesome group of women.

Loaded bike

The train ride was crowded, but uneventful, but at 3:20 I was on my bike and rolling towards the Cheddar Curtain. It's always so strange to get out of the city these days. Being able to bike for miles wihout seeing a car or another person is relaxing and peaceful.

Clear Road


I knew that i had the tools on hand to fix flats, or my chain, or even to replace my brake cables. Being self-sufficient is a wonderful feeling. It was also comforting to know that I had a friend coming along in a car to meet me at the camping site.

My "new" handlebar bag made it easy to grab my camera for on-the-bike shots and quick checks of the map. or to be able to grab a handful of trailmix

Before I knew it, I crossed the state line and the hills began. Living in Chicago, it's easy to think that the Earth is indeed flat. My inexperience with hills really shows as I panted and gasped my way to the top. At least the rides down almost made it worth it. My bike felt solid and my bags were balanced.

State Line

After miles of corn and soybean field with nothing around, I made it to the town of Delavan, Wisconsin. This town was adorable...a brick main street, indepenedent store fronts, and a chance to refill on water, get a snack and to cool down before finishing up my ride. Aparently the town is a former circus colony, which would explain the Giraffe, Elephant and Lion statues by the town's water tower.

Delavan Giraffe

Delavan Lion

The Delavan break was followed by more hills, and more hills, but also very quiet roads, a solar farm, llamas, picturesque scenery and my final destination, Kettle Morraine State Forest's Whitewater recreation area.

Solar Farm 1

Smokey the Bear

Over the weekend we spent lots of time swimming, I got some reading done, tried to waterski, cooked over a campfire and all the other awesome stuff that one does while camping. I also battled mosquitoes and kind of lost.

On Sunday morning, we packed up, and repeated the trip. This time I rode with five other women back to Harvard for the train. I sent my heavier stuff back in the "team car" so I could keep pace with the others. Having the hills at the beginning of the ride was easier in some ways, but also killed my motivation a bit. However, the pressure to keep up with the group kept me going.

Part of the Group

After a lunch break, some water stops and battling a cross wind, we made it to Harvard, had a few drinks then got on the Metra.

Harvard Water Tower

Getting off at the Irving Park Metra station was very different than my weekend riding. There was traffic everywhere and cars all around. However, it was flat and I rode the 3 miles home in no time.

So, with going 200 miles out of my way, 60 of that on a bike, it certainly was going the long way home...and I can't wait to do it again.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Good Ol' Fashioned Summer Picnic

This past Sunday I hosted a picnic for my friends and any bikers that were interested in coming. Upon a recommendation, I choose a quiet corner of Montrose Harbor where we set to picnicking for a few hours.

I didn’t take any pictures because I was too busy talking to all of the wonderful people who came out.

The only pictures I have is my loaded trailer on the way to the picnic.

Picnic load

I took a Rubbermaid container with four towels, balloons, 2 kites, blanket, tools that I always take when biking, and other random stuff. On top of the Rubbermaid were 2 folding chairs, folding stool and a beach umbrella. Behind that was a six foot folding table. Not really visible was a cooler with 50 lbs of ice blocks, then a smaller cooler with some more cubed ice.

Not quite sure how many people came the picnic. At least 20 at one point…but more came and went throughout the afternoon.

It was a very good time and I’m hoping to do it again in August!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Ice Blocking

On Sunday I threw a picnic! The food was great and all, but the real star of the day was ice blocking.

Earlier that morning I went over to the giant ice machine and bought 50 lbs worth of ice blocks. Then I loaded up my trailer, with picnic supplies, towels, yadda, yadda yadda.

Ice blocking is a traditional activity for places that have very little in the way of entertainment. THe concept is simple. Take a block of ice and a towel, go find a grassy incline of some kind. Go to the top, sit on top of the ice, using the towels as a frigidity buffer. Slide down the hill.

It's fun. I promise.

anne

camphoto

race

becca

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Chain Tool

While we were biking around beautiful Peninsula State Park up in Door County, I had a pretty serious mechanical failure...my chain broke while I was shifting to go up a hill. Here in Chicago, we don't have hills, so I know my shifting technique really needs help.

Fortunately, back when I got my bike multi-tool, I asked my local bike shop, Roscoe Village Bikes to show me how to use the chain tool.

Since I had my tool with me, I set to getting that puppy fixed. I popped off the busted links, and threaded the chain back on. The hardest part was reattaching the links, but after a few tries, I got it to work.

After I finished up, I realized that I didn't document the experience but my filthy hands were certainly evidence enough.

Fixing bike things gives me such a sense of accomplishment...several times over the weekend I'd ask my big haired badass about how awesome that repair was....oh yeah....

So happy that my over-preparedness has paid off again!

Back from the trip....

Late on Monday, we got back from a long weekend trip up to Sister Bay in Door County. I haven't uploaded the pictures from my camera, but I thought that I'd start reflecting on the trip.

Beautiful Wisconsin.....

Skull Bleaching Kit


Actually, it was beautiful up there... I'll have more to say soon!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Happy Canada Day!


Most teenagers haves something over which they spend a lot of time obsessing or contemplated. Some have cars, or bands or actors. For a time, mine was Canada.

First I thought of Canada as a menace which must be appeased. They are up there in the North, going quietly about their lives…but seeming much better than the United States. They must be up to something. I figured that at some point they would swarm over the border and spread the Canuck way of life to us Yankees. I learned the O Canada, hoping that I’d be able to appease the foot soldiers, or at least confuse them with my northern knowledge.

I was never afraid of Canada, but this obsession soon turned into a desire to be Canadian. I wanted socialized health care, green spaces and a maple leaf as my national symbol. I met Tessa who shared my thoughts about Canada and together we formed a sort of Canada Fan Club at our school. We thought moose were cool and said “eh” a lot.

Eventually we even made Canadian secret agent badges out of cardboard, maple leaves and tape. I think there was a handshake in there as well..

This might explain why I never dated in high school….

Anyway, Happy Canada Day!!!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Moth

My friend Dubi Kaufman won tickets to The Moth’s Chicago Story Slam and graciously allowed me to be his guest. The Moth is a New York based organization that presents live storytelling events around the county. The premise is that the stories told at true and are all told without notes.

I first learned of the Moth from my NPR gateway show, This American Life. After I started subscribing to the Moth podcast, it quickly became went into heavy rotation. My favorite was a story told by Kira Salak about traveling alone in Africa:
“My trip to Africa had been tough, but incredible. It was the most empowering thing I’d ever done. I think many young women may experience the same thing I did before I went on that trip: underestimating their true potential, undervaluing their worth.

Her story inspired me, I immediately related and I hope that I can soon follow in her footsteps.

Last night’s Story Slam was entertaining. Perhaps in a year I can come up with a story to tell up on that stage.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Carrying stuff

While I carried a much bigger load earlier in the day, on my way to a balloon gig, I neglected to take any pictures. Fortunately, I was going to a potluck, so I stopped at Jewel to pick up a few things.

I know it’s lame to bring non-homemade things to a potluck…but it was hot and I had to work earlier in the day.

At the Jewel we picked up some simple, tasty items: Watermelon, Cider, Cookies, Chips and Salsa.

The Haul

Everything but the chips fit in my pannier. The chips went in Zach’s backpack so they wouldn’t be crushed.

In my Panniers

And away I rode…getting cheers and waves as I had kept my helmet d├ęcor on from earlier in the day ( dropped the rest of my rainbow get up, fortunately).

Pride Helmet