Windsor bike

secondhand Windsor bike

Meet my new secondhand bike. It's not a red Peugeot but a gray Windsor kissed with red. It was actually a Christmas gift from my roommate bought off a (short) friend of his who wanted to upgrade his two wheels. Though it's nothing fancy or rare or even colorful, at least it's a dropped-handlebar ten-speed road bike that fits. (Finding a small men's bike isn't easy.) And because it's not valuable, it shouldn't be a glaring draw for bike theft. Plus, it's not made in China but in Mexico. And it's a men's bike.

Windsor label: Hecho en Mexico

I figured out long ago that any products gender-engineered specifically for men will be of better quality than what's made for women, whether we're talking bikes, clothes, or razors. For bikes, the triangle of a men's frame is inherently stronger than a women's dipped frame, which was tweaked to accommodate skirts.

Windsor bike frame detail

Unlike the deep white frozen hell over on the East Coast this month, Portland, Oregon, has been enjoying record-breaking highs. So Jeff (the housemate) tuned up the bike for me last weekend, cleaning and oiling it and pumping up the tires. He also scrounged up a spare helmet. And then we went on a six-mile (or eight-mile?) round-trip ride along the Trolley Trail that parallels McLoughlin/99E from Gladstone up near downtown Milwaukie, where we encountered a few joggers, a few bikers, some families strolling with young children, and several ducks floating in the canal. Why not take advantage of this strange February sun, so different from last year?

Windsor bike, rider's view

Windsor bike gears

Windsor bike with hanging helmet

We still need to install the bike lock holder I thrifted a couple years ago for a dollar, as well as the back carrier rack Jeff found for me last month at Goodwill. But that can wait. This afternoon, we're off for a sunny, if brisk, ride along the Clackamas River on the Clackamette Cove and River Access Trails, where we will probably see geese trailing V's in the water and overhead.* For the record, I still think bike helmets are uncomfortable and look stupid—and if Europeans don't bother with them, why should we?—but I'm told their use is better than risking scrambled brains.**

*We also saw a sea lion sun-basking on a dock south of Clackamette Park! Who knew they would swim all this way upstream from the coast, following the salmon run?

**Oh, and my wearing a bike helmet meant I couldn't wear a sun hat, which meant that despite my daily SPF30 sunscreen, I got a light sunburn across the bottom half of my face, which for someone with rosacea, is a big no-no. Thanks, bike helmet.


beating the February blues

for sale: thrifted box of blue glass Anthropologie knobs

When I was a child, my favorite color was yellow, probably because I wanted to be happier. Now it's turquoise for about the same reason—calm contentment—the color of the Mediterranean sea, of school-room earth globes, of Native American silver jewelry, and of my two blue thundereggs. That said, I usually surround myself with neutrals and select only punctuations of bright color like turquoise, fuchsia, or orange, not wanting to live inside a box of crayons. Nature, not a paint brush, can color my world seasonally with its trees, blossoms, water, sky, rocks, grasses, and flowers. So while dreaming of sun and summer, I offer more ways (mostly escapist distractions) to curl up, relax (or get busy), and kick the February blues:

  • watching Gillian Anderson in Netflix's series, The Fall while eating popcorn (to combat the serial-killer subject matter—because it's hard to feel scared or depressed while eating popcorn) 
  • reading Emily St. John Mandel's lauded, can't-put-it-down novel, Station 11
  • journaling (because most venting sessions and pity parties are better kept to oneself)
  • watching Frances McDormand in HBO's Olive Kitteridge (or just read Elizabeth Strout's Pulitzer Prize-winning book)
  • watching anything (or listening to audiobooks) while knitting—or crocheting or whittling or whatever—to feel doubly productive 
  • wondering whether the English language really does sound like snakes . . .
  • cooking on Sundays for the week ahead (e.g., prepping vegetables, making soup)
  • replacing or experimenting with different body care products, makeup, bedsheets, towels, spices, undergarments, or anything that could benefit from a good refresh (for me with skincare, this is anything but frivolous)
  • tuning up one's bike in preparation for spring rides
  • watching Essie Davis and crew in The Slap (esteemed Australian miniseries available on Netflix) 

But don't worry, February's a blink-and-you-miss-it kind of month—at least in the good, non-flu years, and this one's almost half over already. (How did that happen?)


winter citrus

ruby grapefruit half in vintage Heath Ceramics bowl

I hadn't been checking the weather forecast the last couple of days, so the return of Portland's rain and gloom after a period of sun took me by surprise this morning—and dampened my mood since it's as if the sky overhead were covered once again with a gray wool blanket. So I turn to the power of citrus in winter, mandarins in a bowl (as here and here), as well as ruby grapefruit halves for breakfast, snack, or dessert.

Things as simple as bright-colored fruit can help get us through the doldrums of winter, reminders of warmer, sunnier climes and even, for me, of books. For example, Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of the classic Little House books, wrote of plain, cherished gifts out on the 19th-century American prairie, such as receiving a peppermint stick, a homemade rag doll, a single penny, or an orange for Christmas. Citrus is no longer so precious or rare as in the past, thanks to modern transportation methods, but still welcome and almost necessary at this monochrome time of year up north. 

mandarin oranges in vintage Heath Ceramics medium serving bowl

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