Photo Friday | Still Lafayette Strong

It's been one hell of a summer around here, and I'm definitely ready for some cooler weather and a change in the seasons.

I haven't been able to ride my bike as much as I would have liked lately, but I'm working on dodging the random rain showers to get out a little more. Last weekend, I enjoyed a nice little solo ride, complete with music and my super styling bike helmet.



There's so much peace I find in bike riding, even with the dangers of city traffic. For a short trip to visit hang out with my parents, it was much more enjoyable to hit play on my phone's music and hop on my bike, instead of getting in my car. You notice your surroundings more, and just feel less isolated than you do inside a vehicle.

I've been enjoying my Schwinn Candis bike for its quiet and comfortable ride. Plus, it's a happy shade of sky blue!

With all of the summer storms that pop up around town, it's been refreshing to see a bunch of rainbows this summer. Not only do they remind me of our trips to Hawaii, but they make me smile just a little bigger.


This coming Sunday marks two years since one of Lafayette's darker days, and while I was on a bike ride last weekend, I came up to a rainbow over the Grand. Still Lafayette Strong, indeed. After that day, and the flood last year, we've certainly dealt with a lot, but we still come back strong.

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What's In My Bag

Isn't there a saying about what's in a woman's purse tells a lot about her personality? Whether there is or not, my own purse certainly does express my personality pretty closely!

Because I like to use my own journey as an example when sharing ways you can go greener, I'm sharing the items I carry in my bag all the time. Not everything in my purse is eco-friendly, but these are my most important staples.


The purse

First things first, my everyday purse is not inherently eco-friendly. It's from TJ Maxx, but it's more than four years old and I plan to use it until it's literally falling apart (and it's starting to get there). Staying honest to show y'all that even I still have a ways to go on my sustainability journey. I don't intend to replace it until it really needs it and I find an eco-friendly option.

On the flipside, my "small purse" that I use on occasion is a secondhand find from my great aunt's closet. I love it for the crossbody style and the fact I can't shove too much stuff in it.


Wallet

My wallet is actually a recent replacement of an older, recycled-material wallet. Thanks to Natalie at Sustainably Chic, I discovered this vegan cork wallet from Friluk. Of course, I love anything that reminds me of wine corks, so I was excited to pick up this wallet for myself. I seriously needed a replacement, and the longer size felt like a more grown-up option than my previous bi-fold wallet.


My older wallet was a six-year-old recycled billboard style from Plywood People. It held up well over the years of being banged around in my purses, which is understandable given billboard vinyl's durability. The cloth edging was starting to fray, and it was starting to feel a bit young for me. I do love that I've had some form of eco-friendly wallet for a few years now.


Makeup bag

My makeup pouch is probably about four or five years old and is from GAIA Empowered Women. The style itself is no longer available, but there are plenty of other cute ones! GAIA is based in Dallas, Texas, and the items are handmade by refugee women resettled in the city. They use vintage, artisan-made, and sustainable materials. They aim to empower refugee women through employment, encouragement, and dedication to their long-term success in local communities.

I usually keep my chapstick, lipstick, mints, hand sanitizer and any medicines or vitamins in this pouch, and it makes the transfer from my large purse to small purse pretty easy.

Cell phone

My phone is almost always nearby, for better or for worse. However, I love my iPhone 7+, and don't tell my husband that I really don't regret jumping ship from Android to iPhone.


When I got this phone last December, I looked around for eco-friendly phone cases, and chose this wood style from Carved. It's held up really well to all of my abuse! The ridged edges are so useful, and the wood is very durable - I haven't noticed spots or stains from my hand being in the same place, or from water hitting it. Although I got a plain wood style, there are tons of gorgeous designs and patterns. Plus, the cases are made in Indiana before being shipped out.(Get a 10% discount code here!)


Chapstick

True story. I'm addicted to lip balms. I always have at least one in my purse, and although the brands sometimes rotate, I mainly stick with Burt's Bees. They score well on the EWG chart for their ingredients, which is a good thing for how much I use them.

Reusable straws

I try to always remember to keep at least one reusable straw in my purse at all times. The key is remember to move them from the sink or dishwasher back into my purse. I've also been working on sewing a small carrying pouch (out of some scrap fabric) to hold my straws...for about the past three months. So if anyone wants to send me some motivation to finish that project, I would appreciate it!

Also, this is a reminder that I need to be better at carrying a cloth napkin too.

Essential oils

I carry a travel container of essential oils all the time, but sometimes I start to collect the full-size bottles too. I try to keep the ones I need on-the-go, like peppermint for headaches or On Guard for the sniffles.

This summer, I've also been carrying my essential oil bug spray, just in case! This one comes from a local shop, Aromatic Infusions.

Eco Cajun business cards

You never know when you might need to give one out! Okay...it's rare that I actually do, but they're always in my purse, next to my actual work business cards.


Sunglasses

Although my TOMS sunglasses aren't necessarily made with recycled or sustainable materials, they do help contribute to TOMS giving back to communities in need.

Reusable Mug

No, they don't go in my purse, but one of them is always with me. I should really look into a purse with a built-in cup holder...


Although not everything I have in my bag is eco-friendly, these items make the majority of my most frequently used items. And as I need to replace things, then I can make the switch if I haven't already!
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Photo Friday | Skipping the Straw at Lunch

I almost feel like my own 2017 is turning into the Year of the Straw, but I suppose that's not a bad thing! Spending seven dollars on my set of reusable straws has absolutely been a good investment, and although not perfect, I've been able to save a lot of straws from the landfill or litter.


Today at lunch, I enjoyed using my reusable straw because the paper ones were available for those who want them - not given out automatically. This is definitely a benefit to restaurants where you can fix your own drink; they're the easiest place to transition to skipping straws.
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Zero Waste 101

This month is known as Plastic Free July, and my column in this week's Times of Acadiana focuses on the basic principles of a zero-waste lifestyle.

The thought of living a truly zero-waste lifestyle can be very overwhelming. Even I think so! While there are many people and bloggers who successfully live by generating only a mason jar's worth of trash in one year, it can be a daunting and unrealistic goal for others.

I won’t judge you if you’re not at a level of “I can fit my entire family’s year of trash into a mason jar.” I’m not at that level either! I'm not an expert by any means, but I try to stay conscious every day of the packaging I use or purchase, and my household has definitely been able to reduce the trash we put out on the curb each week.


The key is simply becoming more aware of the waste you generate, and the mindset behind what you use and what you throw away. If you can become aware of your unnecessary waste and take a few actions to cut down on that waste, then you're already working toward a zero-waste lifestyle.


“It’s not about perfection. It’s about making better choices.”
- Going Zero Waste blogger Kathryn Kellogg


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Photo Friday | Plastic Free July

Yes, I know it's July 7, but it's never too late to start participating in the Plastic Free July challenge!

Joining the challenge is quite simple...choose to refuse single-use plastic during July. Plastic Free July aims to raise awareness of the problems with single-use disposable plastic and challenges people to do something about it. ​You’ll be joining a million+ people world-wide from 130 countries in making a difference. 



Next week, I'll be publishing a more in-depth post on the basics of transitioning to a zero-waste lifestyle, and my column for next week's Times of Acadiana will also cover the topic.
 

This weekend, I'll challenge you to look around your home and see where most of your plastic waste comes from. Is it in your kitchen? Bathroom? Once you can identify the source of most of your waste, then we can start to figure out how you can shift to wasting less.


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Photo Friday | Happy Fourth of July

Raise your hand if you're ready for a long weekend! *raises hand*


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Ways to Go Paperless in Your Everyday Life

First things first, I'm excited to debut Eco Cajun's new website look! I had a lot of fun giving this site a fun little facelift, and I love how it turned out. I'll refresh the featured blog posts in the top slider on the homepage every so often so it keeps things updated a bit more.

Second piece of housekeeping, if there's a topic you're interested in learning more about on the blog, leave a comment and let me know. I've been in somewhat of a rut, creativity-wise, so I'm open to ideas to add to my content schedule!

I definitely talk a lot about how to reduce waste through reusable mugs, cloth bags, and stainless steel straws. But there's another way I try to reduce paper in my everyday life - by going paperless with my phone!

I'm already on my phone pretty often, whether for personal use, blog-related things, and work-related social media. So it's pretty natural for me to find paperless options for different parts of my day-to-day routine.



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Photo Friday | International Yoga Day

While the biggest news around Louisiana this week was Tropical Storm Cindy, this past Wednesday was also International Yoga Day. I love my own yoga practice for the intense workout that it gives me, but this year for International Yoga Day I focused more on the mental benefits of yoga and the peace it's brought to me over the past couple years. 


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Eco-Friendly Swimwear

Last week I shared the staple contents of my waste-free beach bag, and mentioned my swimsuit partially made of recycled nylon. This week, let's talk more about that eco-friendly swimwear. (Although, if you live in South Louisiana, with this incoming tropical storm, swimwear may be the last thing on your mind...or we'll all be wearing it by Friday.)

So typically, one does not spend part of their September and October obsessing over finding a new swimsuit. But when you're about to get married, and your honeymoon is in Hawaii over the Christmas holidays, then you find yourself in that situation.


The swimsuits I had were a few years old (and had already been to Hawaii), so I was jonesing for something new, but I didn't want to pick up yet another cheap, ill-fitting suit from Target. I decided that Hawaii would be a good reason to do some research and find eco-friendly swimwear companies.

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Photo Friday | Celebrating Recycling Successes

We can tend to be a little pessimistic in Acadiana about recycling services, especially with the change last year that we could no longer recycle glass. But we do have a lot to cheer about in terms of recycling progress!

Two dedicated Lafayette ladies/mothers took the initiative during the 2015/2016 school year to evaluate recycling programs and make the case for Lafayette Parish public schools to adopt recycling programs. I wrote about this campaign on the blog last summer, and contacted the school board members to express my support for teaching children about the importance of recycling. (As I always say, I learned at a young age and look where I am now.)


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What's In My Eco-Friendly Beach Bag

Although I tend to call it my beach bag, let's face it, my bag doesn't see the beach very often. Somehow, "pool bag" doesn't have quite the same ring, so I just go with it.

This summer, I'm trying to get out and enjoy the water as much as I can, even if I can't get to a beach anytime soon. (Fingers crossed for a trip back to Hawaii later this year!) So, I'm pretty much left with the pool at my gym and at a friend's house.

I love my gym, although it's not exactly an eco-friendly haven, with the mountains of Styrofoam cups for water, the surely massive utility bill, and the giant chlorine pools, but it is a space where I can be an eco-friendly, waste-free individual, and hopefully an example to others.

Every time I go to the pool for a little sun or just to cool off in the water, I make sure to pack an eco-friendly beach bag. Pool bag. Bag of crap. Whatever we want to call it.


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Photo Friday | The Importance of Doing Something

I love this quote from polar explorer Robert Swan, and I think it's an especially important sentiment to remember.

I focus my blog on things that people can do as individuals to make a positive impact on the environment. Although there are much bigger pictures to look at in the grand scheme of environmentalism, all positive change starts at a singular level.

What can you do to make a difference? That's what I try to answer through my blog posts, in combination with sharing what I personally do. And even if you're not sure yet what you can do, that's okay. Just know that doing something is the important part.

This is our only planet, and it can't wait for us to sit around expecting someone else to do something.


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What I Want for My Birthday

Anyone ever been actually excited to turn 32? I mean, I'm definitely grateful to have another year to make good things happen for the environment, but 32 is quite the underwhelming number.

Eco-friendly push pop confetti found at Hattie Sparks

As a child, I remember always being so excited for my birthday, and working diligently on my list with enough time for my parents to go shopping. My Barbie collection was fierce, y'all. Growing older, I have less of a desire for material birthday gifts and appreciate quality time with my loved ones more. (Is this what #adulting is?)

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Photo Friday | Be the Change

Today, and every day.


Time for me to hit refresh and renew my spirit on making our world a better place!

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Welcome to Summertime

Here in Louisiana, school is out, the temperatures have permanently shifted to the warmer end, the summer showers are right on schedule, and hurricane season kicks off today. We're definitely in the summer season, even if it officially doesn't start for another three weeks.

Last year, I published a blog post on making your hurricane supply kit more sustainable, so in the spirit (and dread) of the season starting today, take some time to read up and start making plans for your kit.

In many ways, summer is my least favorite time of year. My hair does not agree with this heat and humidity, and it's almost physically unbearable (a feeling that climate change ensures is only going to get worse...) I mean, we still have to dress professionally for work, whether it's comfortable or not! The best parts are that June is my birthday month, and the days seem to move at a slightly more relaxed pace (although, as I get older, I feel like this is less true.)


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Photo Friday | Making Secondhand Your Own

This past weekend, one of our neighbors was holding a garage sale, so I decided to walk over, say hello, and see what they had still available.

I may not be proud of the fact I found six items of clothing in 15 minutes, but I'm also pumped because it cost me six dollars total. The best kind of secondhand - cute clothing, practical cardigans, and an adorable pair of green wedges - for a dollar each. Yes and please!


I loved finding this lightweight, delicate, polka-dot dress in my size, but when I tried it on at home, I realized I did not like the neck ruffle detailing. A little too Victorian for my usual tastes, but it didn't deter me from keeping the dress, since the rest of it was fabulous.

So, I pulled out my sewing kit and got to work on that collar. In about 30 minutes, I had customized the dress to be more my style by sewing the ruffle on the inside. Instead of simply cutting it off, which could have destroyed the dress, this option hides the ruffle, but could be undone in the future.

I'm not the greatest sewer, and my detail on this project is not perfect, but I was proud of taking a little time to make this $1 dress more my own.

If you've got a long weekend for Memorial Day, I hope you have an enjoyable one. Remember the reason for the day off, and celebrate your freedom. If you have a gathering, don't forget to be sustainable - minimize your single-waste items and recycle what you can!

See y'all back here next week.
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Eliminating Waste In Your Mailbox

I'm a big fan of getting fun things in the mail, but more often than not, our daily mail consists of junk mail only. It's such a waste to open the mailbox and find a stack of papers that are going to go straight into the recycling bin.

We also have a tendency to let the junk mail stack up, but I do get some enjoyment out of going through through the stack and sorting the recyclables from the trash, and seeing a clear mail table in the living room.


As a general rule, I always rip off our names and address, and shred any credit card applications, instead of throwing all of that intact into the recycling bin. Any overly waxy envelopes also go into the trash (thank you, credit card companies, for using non-recyclable paper!)


But, it's still frustrating to see stacks of paper get thrown out or tossed into the recycling bin, when it's unwanted mail in the first place. Isn't it better to stop it from being printed and mailed in the first place?
 
Yes, yes it is! And it takes a little leg work on your end, but you do have the power to reduce the amount of junk mail you receive.

Inspired by my friend Liv's quest to live a waste-free life, I recently took the time to cut down on my own household's level of junk mail using the links below, and I can't wait to start seeing the results.


If you're like me, the worst junk mail offender is credit card applications and offers. There is one website, known as Opt Out Prescreen, that will remove you from the mailing list database for unsolicited credit card offers. (I believe there's also an 800 number you can call to get on the Opt Out list.)

One afternoon recently, as I was going through our junk mail, I noticed one of the credit card offers had small print on the bottom with a referral to Opt Out Prescreen, so it is a legitimate source. Choose to opt out for five years or permanently.

To opt out of general unsolicited marketing mail, visit DMA Choice.

To opt out of all Yellow Page books in your local area, visit Yellow Pages Opt Out. There is nothing more frustrating than when we receive a Yellow Pages on our door step, and it takes about 3 seconds before it's in our recycling bin. The last time I used a Yellow Pages was probably when I was 12, and even then, what did I really need it for? Stop the delivery in the first place by opting out online.

I had opted out of Yellow Pages in one of my apartments many years ago, and it did actually work, although I would end up forgetting the next couple of times I moved.

And my least favorite junk mail of all, the RedPlum pack of sales papers. They do offer an opt out page on their website, with the warning that it takes 5-6 weeks for the request to be effective (as they do print in advance.) This was another service I opted out of in my apartment, but had not gotten around to at our house. I recently added our address to the opt out list, and am curious to see if we continue to receive the mailer after the time passes.

The problem I have noticed with our RedPlum deliveries is that most weeks, the one we receive does not have our address on it; rather, it's the address of a neighbor. If I notice the deliveries continue, it may be a point of leaving a note for our postmaster that we have opted out and should not be receiving a copy. (Knowing that most likely it means an extra copy will get thrown in the trash by someone else.)

Beyond the unsolicited mail, you can also eliminate paper mail for bills and statements. I've elected paperless mail for all of the bills I'm responsible for, and instead, I receive email notifications.

In addition, you can tell companies how you prefer your marketing mail to be delivered - snail mail or email. I've set my AT&T and Cox Communications preferences to be email only (or even not at all) in order to cut down on the ridiculous amount of mail they send what feels like weekly. Since we're already customers, it's completely useless to send so much direct mail, so I put a stop to it.

Visit the websites for all of the companies you're a customer with, log in, and look in your account settings. There should always be an option for bill delivery preferences and marketing preferences.



In the end, we might have an empty mailbox more often than not, but I'd rather have an empty mailbox and save trees, than always have something inside that goes straight into the trash or recycling bin.
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Photo Friday | Birthday Time

My brain and I will be back in force next week, but for today, I'm dedicating Photo Friday to my favorite person on his birthday!


I'm forever grateful to have my husband by my side in life, for everything he's taught me, and in all the ways he's supported me over our five and a half years together. We've both grown so much, and here's to another year around the sun, especially with my own birthday coming up in a few weeks.



He's also my favorite bike-riding partner, and I still absolutely love our engagement photos with our bicycles from last fall (on a very hot and humid afternoon.)





Happy birthday, Phillip! I love you to the moon and back.
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Bicycle Safety Festival Time!

Make your plans to come on out this Saturday for Lafayette's second annual Bicycle Safety Festival!

Last year, the festival was held the first Saturday in June (right before a mega-rainstorm, I remember), but this year, it's happening during National Bike Month at Parc Sans Souci in Downtown Lafayette.

From 9am to noon, there will be free bike registration, a bike safety course, helmet giveaways, bike lights, food, drinks and live music.

https://www.facebook.com/events/1234996506619445/


The festival is free to attend, and great for families, especially when you can pick up a bike helmet and register your bike for free. 

And this year, starting at noon, there will be a bike lane cleanup, although I'm not exactly sure which bike lanes will be canvassed. Lafayette's bike lanes definitely tend to be a catch-all for litter and other road debris, and Mountain Bike Lafayette is gathering volunteers willing to help pick up trash and sweep debris from the bike lanes so that they can be better enjoyed.

https://www.facebook.com/events/201532603692667/

These events are a great way to celebrate National Bike Month and get involved in the local bicycling community. I had a great time volunteering at last year's festival, and although this year I may just be a visitor, I encourage you to stop by and learn a little about bicycle safety!



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Happy Mother's Day!

Today's a day to celebrate all moms, grandmothers, stepmoms, expecting moms, adoptive moms, and mother figures!

But let's not forget one more important mom in the list: Mother Nature.

Our moms taught us to clean up after ourselves, put things away when we're done, and treat others the way we want to be treated. And our moms have tirelessly provided for us over the years, giving us what we need to survive, often without any recognition or thanks.

Can't we say the same for Mother Nature? Let's treat the environment the way we want to be treated - with kindness, compassion, and the decency not to leave it a total mess. The earth gives us the resources we need to survive, and we shouldn't frivolously waste them.


Let's give Mama Nature the respect she deserves, not just on Mother's Day, or Earth Day, but every day of the year.


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Photo Friday | Happy Mother's Day Weekend

Is today a very Monday-ish Friday for anyone else? I am definitely ready for this weekend and a short break!

I hope all of you moms out there have a very happy Mother's Day, including my own mom and mothers in law!

Here are some virtual flowers to share a little love this weekend from me to all of you.


Fancy bouquets are beautiful, but there's something so sweet about simple backyard flowers, even wildflowers. 



The roses from our backyard rose bush do not always look this beautiful, but when they bloom, it's magical!


I don't even watch The Bachelorette, and yet I feel like one of the contestants holding this rose my husband picked off the rose bush one day for me.



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My Favorite Bicycle Accessories

So, technically you only need a bicycle to go for a ride, but equipping yourself with the right accessories can make your trip more safe, more efficient, and more fun.

Continuing in my National Bike Month Series, I'll share a few of my favorite accessories I've used over the past few years. Comment on the post and tell me what your favorite bicycle accessory is!

The Necessities - Lights!

Nothing frustrates me more than seeing people riding in the dark with no lights. Although lights really aren't accessories, since every single bicyclist should have them, the kinds available vary widely. Basic lights are not expensive (enough so that I wish I could buy a box full and give them to riders I see who need them).

But I've got two lights that have become my favorites in my husband's and my collection. This Schwinn headlight is a 300 lumen removable flashlight, and it has high beam, low beam, and flashing modes. It is the brightest headlight I've ever had, and I absolutely love it. Phillip and I each have one, and when we ride home at night, we're lighting up street signs four blocks away. It's also USB rechargeable, saving me from realizing we never have the right size batteries in stock at home.




I got this Portland Design Works tail light for Phillip a few years ago and was jealous of how well it worked, so I ended up getting one for myself. It's got three blinking modes, one of which is a random pattern, so it grabs more attention, which is extremely important.


I've also been known to use string lights on my basket and fairy lights wrapped around my bike frame for an extra festive touch! Battery-operated LED lights can come in handy.

Helmets

Helmets are another very important accessory, even if they sometimes make you feel dorky. This blue one is from Schwinn and is designed for ladies, because it has a cutaway in the back that allows you to wear your hair up while riding.


You might feel dorky wearing a helmet, but it's better to be safe!

Phillip's helmet, although I don't have a photo of it, has a built in flashing light, which I absolutely love. And his comes with the gear sizing adjustment, which is great to get that perfect fit. (I'm probably going to steal his helmet sometimes.)

Baskets

I love having a basket on my bike - part of not being able to travel light! The basket especially comes in handy for Mardi Gras when hauling beads back home, but the downside to the basket is that it makes steering more difficult when it's full.



My new bikes are basket-free, which I've been enjoying because it's an easier ride, and I'll wear a backpack if I have gear to carry. 

But sometimes, I would still wish I had SOMETHING to hold at least my phone, so enter my newest favorite accessory:

Bike Pouches

This handy bike pouch from Schwinn holds both my phone and my keys or anything else small I might need. I especially love this now that I go on more rides around the neighborhood, when I would like to ride free, but still have my necessities on me. 

PS, this pouch fits an iPhone 7+. The one thing I need to work around is that the haptic home button doesn't respond when you push through the plastic. (Technology...)


But it's perfect for keeping my phone in easy reach in case I would need it during a ride.

 

Bells and Horns

Bike bells are just a classic accessory and are fun to have. I love the sunshine yellow of my bell, and it makes a pleasant sound.

 

And although I don't have one of these for myself, the Loud Bicycle horn is still one of my favorite gifts I ever got for Phillip. I wrote a blog post about it two years back, and he still uses it on his cruiser and it still works when it needs to. It adds a very necessary element of safety to our bike rides, and it's a fun toy for my husband, who loves to abuse the honking privileges.


With these accessories, we're definitely equipped for enjoyable and safe rides!

And although this is not technically an accessory for my bicycle, I just kind of have to include these bicycle bottle openers that were our wedding favors. (I need a matching bicycle wine cork to satisfy my wino self...)


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