When you work from home and have a small child, it feels like 80% of your life is spent inside your house. Especially as autumn descends. Between living in converted Victorian terrace houses, warehouses and timber-frame apartment buildings, a building with a concrete floor – good slippers are critical in my daily life. And now that I live in Germany, it is absolutely standard practice to wear Hausschuhe (literally house shoes) inside at all times. When you visit someone, they will have a basket of loaner Hausschuhe as well!
The hunt for the best slippers
You laugh, but I probably wear my slippers for more time out of the day than any pair of shoes. A good pair of inside house shoes is critical to my happiness. Sick of drugstore fuzzy landlord lady ones, cheap ones from Muji that never stay on, more expensive but equally crap ones from a department store, I decided to do some research. There had to be a solution.
These Danish felted wool beauties come in several variations – a slip-on clog shape, a slip-on shoe with heel coverage and an ankle boot, all with suede soles. The shoe version has an optional rubber sole, which is the kind I ordered. I love the thick felt, and how warm they are. The rubber sole means I can pop out my front door without worrying about ruining my slippers or finding a proper pair of shoes. And they look quite sleek – no fuzzy pompoms or bunny ears here. Not only that, these are made by workers who are paid a decent wage, and the wool is carefully sourced too.
Investment in a sustainable, responsibly made indoor shoe
They are not cheap, I know the concept of spending over $80 on slippers feels crazy, but these will last forever. I wear mine more hours out of the day than any of my shoes, so it seemed logical. I bought my pair last winter, and with daily wear they are nearly unchanged. Perfect. An update: they lasted for nearly four years, and eventually wore out the heel entirely. But most importantly, animal welfare is an important part of Glerups’ business model, as is responsible employment of their workers. Glerups slippers are made in the EU (in Romania, in fact) and you can watch a few videos on how the slippers come together. Some of the wool comes from farms in New Zealand now, but these farmers also take special care of their sheep.
I had a hilarious conversation by the bike racks at the farmers market this weekend. A woman and her family had just ridden up, and we started chatting about my Sahn helmet (but have you seen my new bike helmet that looks like a hat??), the merits of no holes in your helmet (ventilation v style and not getting rained on). She noticed my Linus pannier bag and was amazed to see a such a nice-looking bag be a pannier, and not look like a WATERPROOF RACING CYCLIST kind of bag.
I admit I have spent maybe more hours than would be strictly healthy searching out bike gear that does not look like Bike Gear, if you know what I mean. In my moments sweating up a major hill, then walking up the rest of the hill, then stopping at the top texting my husband about how I think I might throw up or something, but trying to look nonchalantly busy with an important message from a cool person about some pop-up supper club, I am deeply embarrassed about my obsession with nice-looking gear.
But then I think – what, I can’t have anything nice until I can do the Tour de France? Forget that. If I’m going to suffer trying to get up these damn hills, I’m going to have a nice jacket/pannier bag/bike basket while I do it. *stamps foot*
So now that we’re all on the same page, let’s look at some pretty pictures of nice, functional panniers that don’t look like scuba gear.
The aforementioned Linus’s The Sac. I’ve been using this one for about a month and I really like it. Fits my 13” Macbook in a sleeve while still being able to close with the powerful magnets at the top. I’ve also fit a 1lb bag of kale, a bunch of radishes, a small bag of nugget potatoes, my wallet, my make-up bag, and a package of smoked salmon. So you know, it’s flexible. Small ring and padlock included should you want to secure it to your bike.
New Swedish brand Weathergoods makes some sleek vegan leather options that look like a proper work bag, but hides secure pannier clips for your bike’s rear rack. Not only that, but the insides show the same attention to detail, with secure laptop sleeve and small pockets for phone, keys and other bits. Not surprising considering it was designed by two cycle commuting Swedish women. Vegan leather is not a cop-out here, but a great design choice, because if you’ve cycled in the rain a few times, you know your bags get absolutely soaked. You don’t want a nice leather bag going through that.
Dutch bike accessories brand Basil is a great place to start when it comes to beautiful baskets and bags. Their bike pannier options are excellent. This Bohème Carry All comes with pannier hooks under a zippered flap, and loads of space inside, with some compartments to keep your small bits contained. It’s water-resistant too. I love this black and charcoal version, but it also comes in lovely red and aquamarine versions too.
Dutch brand New Looxs makes cute, slightly sporty but quite affordable bike panniers. I love this nautical blue stripe double pannier. Rain-resistant polyester won’t hold up for mega downpours, but your stuff is safe from a shower or two. I like the rear reflective strips and the quick clip closures. Because these panniers are quite a bit cheaper than some of the other ones on this list, it would be quite fun to have these around for beach trips or picnics. There’s a single shoulder bag of the same jaunty blue stripe if you’re looking for something a bit less cargo-centric. Super cute.
If you’re looking for more storage capacity and the ability to attach panniers around a child seat, this double-bag from Basil is an excellent budget option. It’s got a 35L capacity, reflective bits to make you more visible in the dark, and a closure that allows you to lock your panniers to your bike. I love that these are so roomy, but also actually beautiful. That’s a bit of a Cinderella pannier, I have to say!
image courtesy Bike Belle
The Bike Belle MIRA Au Lait is from the Polish bike accessories brand’s Kickstarter campaign, and they kindly sent me one to try out. I love it, and when I was working in an office in Vancouver I was asked repeatedly where it came from, and when I demonstrated the built-in pannier hooks, there were gasps. It’s vegan leather, which keeps the price affordable and water resistant. I routinely packed my Macbook, a packed lunch, notebooks, pens, a cardigan, and a water bottle in there comfortably. There’s a shoulder strap included as well.
This Willex shopper can hold a whopping 13 litres of stuff, and is really, properly waterproof. It has four little knobbly feet on it, and it’s built to stay stiff, so you can set it on the ground and it won’t slump over into a puddle. Belgian brand Willex have their own special locking system which means you can be sure it’s not coming off your rear bike rack accidentally. The pattern isn’t my absolute favourite, and the other two colourways are butterflies which is really not my deal, but it looks like a very solid, practical shopper for a very reasonable price.
Image courtesy of Bike Belle
I have a deep love of satchels, and Bike Belle doesn’t disappoint with this blue and white canvas version. Water-repellant canvas with leather trim, this retro beauty has a zippered flap that covers the pannier hooks when you take it off your bike, so you won’t catch it on your clothing. It also comes in cherry red. There’s a shoulder strap tucked in there too.
Bike helmets. I know lots of people don’t like them, question their efficacy, and chafe against helmet laws. And while I appreciate how annoying they can be, I have also known a couple people who have avoided serious brain injury by wearing one. When you have a child and ride with them a lot, it is just easier to wear one than constantly argue about why they have to and why you don’t.
So – I’m going to wear a helmet, why not find a way not to hate it?
Bandbox is a small millinery/helmeterie (?) based on the east coast of the United States, and they make beautiful custom covers that fit over their bike helmets. I had been lusting over them for awhile, but let myself be deterred by cranky people on the Internet saying they looked weird. Why do I listen to these people? I will never know.
Changing hat covers is easy. Inside the hat is a drawstring-like arrangement, you just undo the cord and pop off your cover.
I love my Bandbox helmets, but the main downside is the cost. A helmet and cover will set you back 150 USD, and the covers on their own run from 50 – 80 USD. I started out with one summer and one winter cover, and only invested in two more a year later. Of course, once you own the helmet, you’re good. Could you just buy a big hat and put it on there…? Well, not really. I think you would need some millinery skills to fit it to the helmet, and affix the drawstring arrangement properly. The covers are all handmade.
For me, as someone who cycles every day and wears a helmet every day, I feel like my lovely helmet that looks like a hat was worth it.
I’ve been keeping my eye on this German start-up for awhile now. I love the concept – shoes with a heel you can switch out from high to low. Much less bulky than bringing an entirely separate pair with you (and what do you do with your other pair even if a pair of flats can roll up small, your other shoes won’t!). Mime et Moi make some incredibly cool convertible sandals, from heels to flats.
Up until recently, you couldn’t get these shipped outside of Europe, but now Mime et Moi have a Kickstarter up and you can get them shipped anywhere! I particularly love the block heel options.
I’ve got my eye on some practical black Nappa leather ones, though my heart is clamouring for the dalmatian spot ones.
Before I travel somewhere (or move there!), I like to get myself in the mood, atmospherically. This may seem excessive to some, but I read a lot, so transitioning my reading list to focus more on where I’m going adds a lot to my trip.
I have a few history books in my list, but not guidebooks. This is all about getting the feel for a place.
[amazon_image id=”B00358VI2I” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Treasure Chest: Unexpected Reunion and Other Stories (Penguin Classics)[/amazon_image]
Imagine Reader’s Digest-type stories from the early 19th century, but all centred on the southwest corner of Germany. The Treasure Chest is a collection of Hebel’s fables originally written to accompany a Lutheran calendar sold in the region. Some are funny, some are clearly meant to impart a moral, and some are just ridiculous, but it’s an easy read that brings to life some of these Black Forest villages you see out the train window.
[amazon_image id=”B00LGUF0F8″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Red Love: The Story of an East German Family[/amazon_image]
This is a very personal story of East Germany, and how different family members managed their relationship to the state. The author digs back in his own family’s history to pull apart the narratives of his socialist hero grandfather, his journalist mother, and his artist father. It’s the first book I’ve read that really conveys the feeling of building a new world that infused the early days of the GDR after the war, and it’s fascinating to watch it go to pieces through the prism of these small stories.
[amazon_image id=”014044503X” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Sorrows of Young Werther[/amazon_image]
You’re going to Germany, you have to read some Goethe. I kind of love Young Werther for all its moping around, hand-on-forehead draping moodiness. The landscape descriptions are lovely, and give you a real sense of the pastoral scenes Germans of the 18th century were so enamoured with. Goethe loved the ruins of my local schloss in Heidelberg, so I admit I have a fondness for him no matter what.
[amazon_image id=”0006511260″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Royal Flash (The Flashman Papers, Book 2)[/amazon_image]
Now I recommend Flashman books with a very huge caveat, which is that while they are enjoyable to a certain extent, the average woman’s role in these books is terrible. Fraser wrote the screenplay for Octopussy, so that should give you an idea of what I’m trying to get at. However, this one covers Flashman’s mixup with Bismarck and delves into some interesting North German and Danish history.
[amazon_image id=”0312680686″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Germania: In Wayward Pursuit of Germans and Their History[/amazon_image]
This rambling sort-of history is a good overview of the different regions in Germany, and some of the history that makes the country what it is today. I found the author’s occasionally smug, self-important Britishness a bit much sometimes, but he is quite funny. It’s clear, particularly by the end of the book, that he has a great fondness for the country.
This one is a great for kids coming along on a German adventure. The Brothers Grimm collected folklore in the early 19th century, and grew up in southwestern Germany. They were influenced by Johann Peter Hebel’s stories, and you can see the parallels in their description of little villages, naughty cobblers, recalcitrant blacksmiths, and so on.
I’ve made you a lovely image, so you can pin this post for later.
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