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What’s wrong with American bikes?

Posted on September 4th 2010 by Arthur in Life in America, Shopping & Stuff

A lot of things are bigger and better in America, but in my opinion bicycles are not among them. We’ve been looking around to buy a new bike, since we didn’t bring our old ones when we moved here from the Netherlands, but unfortunately bikes here are nothing like the sturdy and useful bikes that millions of Europeans use daily to shop and go to work. No wonder everyone drives a car around here!

First of all, it seems that 99% of bikes being used and new ones sold in stores are too small for adults. Only a small amount of the more expensive bikes have larger frames that seem the right size for adults, but most of the mountain, hybrid, urban and cruisers have quite low seats compared to the average European bike. Also, the steering wheel is often at the same level as the seat, causing you to be hunched forward all the time, and you can often move the steering wheel up only a tiny bit. I find it very uncomfortable to be on a small bike and leaning forward for a long time.

Sure, people here don’t use their bike for shopping and going to work. Most use their bike for exercise, so I understand that many people prefer a sportier and lighter bike. But what I don’t understand is why the bikes lack so many basic features. Here’s a typical bike you’ll find at a bike store:

American bike

As you can see, it is stripped down: there is are no lights, fenders, chain cover, lock or racks. These are accessories you can purchase, but most people don’t and leave the store with a bike that looks just like this. Why? Do people enjoy getting mud on their butt when they go through a puddle? Is it fun to get grease all over your pants from the exposed chain? I don’t get it.

Stores do have fenders, covers and racks for sale, but they seem very light and simple compared to the accessories that come standard with European bikes. And not all models can have these accessories installed. The chain covers that are sold separately are always just a simple piece of metal that doesn’t cover the entire chain, leaving the rest exposed to the elements. And most racks are tiny and can’t handle much weight.

Compare above American bike with a typical Dutch bike:

Dutch bike

On this bike, which is sold like this, the chain is completely covered, there’s a sturdy back rack that can hold a lot of weight, the tires are covered with fenders, there are lights on both sides, reflectors on the wheels and tires and a permanent lock under the seat. The steering wheel is also generally higher, making it more comfortable.

Why are there no bikes like this sold here? It seems to me that many more Americans may take their bike instead of car if bikes were more functional and more comfortable. Sigh … I wish we had imported our old bikes when we moved here.

10 Lost Designs on CafePress

Posted on March 11th 2010 by Arthur in Pop culture, Shopping & Stuff, Television

Last month, CafePress made a deal with ABC allowing people to make their own Lost designs on t-shirts and other products using names and logos from the TV show. As Lost fans we got to work and had a lot of fun making some designs. Here are ten of our Lost designs:

LOST Ajira Airlines Go Back to the Island

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Bad Experience with TomTom Go 730

Posted on May 21st 2009 by Arthur in Shopping & Stuff

We’ve had a TomTom One for several years and have been extremely happy with it. We used it intensively in Europe and here in the United States. A couple of months ago our TomTom car charger suddenly started making a high-pitched noise and a few days later it overheated and smoke (!) came out of it. We threw it away and bought a new (generic) car charger at Wal-Mart. A few days later that charger started making a high-pitched noise too. I read something about the possibility of a TomTom battery overheating from being plugged in all the time, so we concluded that our beloved TomTom had broken down. More »

Frying pan foul-up

Posted on March 7th 2009 by Amy in Shopping & Stuff

We used to like to make fries at home. In Holland we had a very nice large black pot with a wire fry basket insert and a glass lid. It was perfect to use for stove-top frying, and we loved it. So why the heck didn’t we bring it with us?! Because it was big, bulky, and breakable, and we thought it would be easily replaced. Ha!

We looked for frying pans with baskets at all our local shops (Kohl’s, Bed Bath & Beyond, Sears, Walmart, Target, etc) but they only sell electric fryers. So I had a look online. Plenty of shops sell minuscule pots of 4 quarts or less. I figured we need at least 7 quarts, but even bigger would be better (I guess our beloved old one was 9 or 10). I found one restaurant specialty shop that sold baskets and fryers separately at reasonable prices, but shipping was crazy (about the same price as the implements themselves). Then I found out that Farberware makes a 7Q fryer with a basket, and that I could purchase it from with reasonable shipping costs. Yay! I placed my order.

7Q Fryer

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Just how bad is the peanut butter recall?

Posted on February 4th 2009 by Amy in Food, Life in America, Shopping & Stuff

So bad that the United States FDA (Food and Drug Administration) website has made an embeddable search widget. You can search for which peanut butter products are included in the salmonella outbreak. OMG, really?

FDA Salmonella Typhimurium Outbreak 2009. Flash Player 9 is required.

Yep, really.

Brita Water Filter from Target

Posted on January 28th 2009 by Arthur in Shopping & Stuff

We bought two of these Brita water filter pitchers at Target the other day. They’re pink, to support breast cancer awareness, and they were marked down from $26.99 for only $13.48. I always find that tap water tastes too much like chlorine here, but with this excellent filtered pitcher our water taste great now. We no longer buy bottled water. The pitcher even has an indicator that tells you when to change the filter. The only thing I don’t like about it is the small lid in the top, it is not very secure and it keeps falling off. Otherwise it’s an excellent purchase.

I give it 4-and-a-half stars! 4.5 stars

Pink Brita water filter

We’re in People magazine

Posted on December 6th 2008 by Arthur in Personal, Shopping & Stuff

Well, not us personally, but our dog bowl is. The issue of People magazine that hit newsstands today (cover date December 15th) has a two-page spread starting on page 124 about Barack Obama collectibles titled Obamarama. One of the 10 things shown is our Poodles for Obama Dog Bowl from our democratic CafePress store Leftique. There’s a picture of our design with the text “A Dutch expat who couldn’t vote cocreated a dish to show support – 25 breeds available”. That Dutch expat they’re talking about is me! 🙂

Pages 124 and 125 of People magazine

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Our Black Friday experience

Posted on November 27th 2008 by Arthur in Life in America, Shopping & Stuff

Today was Black Friday and many stores were open very early with special sales. Some even as early as 4 o’clock! When we got up at 5:00 we turned on the news and they were already showing helicopter views of huge lines of people in front of stores and malls. Roads around big malls like Woodfield and Gurnee Mills were already jammed. Some Best Buy’s in the Chicagoland area had people camping out in front of their doors from 3pm in the afternoon the day before! Big stores like Best Buy and Target often have so-called ‘doorbusters’, which are things like laptops and big TV’s that are very cheap but they only have a few in each store. So people want to be the first in and grab these things. More »

Amazon’s Universal Wish List

Posted on August 8th 2008 by Amy in Shopping & Stuff, Websites & Tools

A few weeks ago Amazon added the Universal Wish List bookmarklet button as a new feature to their already pretty awesome Wish List. It’s great!

When you have this bookmarklet in your favorites, you can add any item from any website to your Amazon wish list! I tried it with a couple of my favorite online shops and it works like a charm.

The Amazon Universal Wish List popup on Scubadorable
The Amazon Universal Wish List popup on Scubadorable

When you see a product – on any website! – that you want to add to your Amazon Wish List, click on the bookmarklet to bring up the Wish List pop-up. When I did this on Birdorable, the product name and correct photo default in, and I was able to enter the price and a personal note. Then I clicked on Add to Wish List and – woo hoo! – there it is.

My Wish List now showing Scubadorable jacket
My Wish List now showing Scubadorable jacket


Posted on June 4th 2008 by Amy in Life in Holland, Shopping & Stuff

The Euro 2008 football (soccer) championships begin next week in Austria and Switzerland. Dutch grocery chain Albert Heijn is trying to duplicate the huge success of their Wuppie campaign of two years ago with a new cute character to collect – the Welpie. Welpies are cute little wild-haired lions meant to show support for the Dutch team. Welp is Dutch for baby lion.

We got our first Welpie on Monday and today I picked up another.

Our Welpies
Our Welpies

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