A week away, beginning in PA

During the week of August 5-12 our daughter-in-law's sister, her husband and their two children (ages 7 and 4) came to visit from their home in Quito, Ecuador. To make room for their reunion (it had been a year and a half since they all last saw one another) Fred and I took a week long road trip to visit family, beginning with his younger brother Steve in West Chester, PA.

Steve has a lovely garden in the front of his home, though sometimes the "long legged rats" (as he calls the deer) chomp their way into the vegetation. He is also a wooden puzzle collector.

We did a mini-shop in Pete's, the local farm stand and had a chuckle over their silly sign.

That wasn't the only fun sign we saw, with this one being in the restaurant where we had lunch one afternoon after Steve drove us around western Chester County, an area Fred was keen to see. Besides driving thru some familiar places we also saw the many roads that Steve used to cycle during his avid cycling days.

And of course, we spent plenty of time at the Quarry just minutes from his home. The first full view is from the perspective of Steve and Fred (nope, not a weird colored sky, just my finger!), and the second view is at the entrance looking to the far side, where they are lounging.

We also took numerous walks in Oakbourne Park, just down the block from Steve's house. It's a great place to walk, jog, exercise dogs, play on the playground, make use of the playing fields or admire the raised community gardens tended by individual gardeners. There is an old stone house, the Oakbourne Mansion, that was once a residence and now houses offices and rental spaces, as well as the old water tower that used to service the house. As for the tree, I liked the leaf shape of this Japanese Maple.

This was proving to be a relaxing week! And one evening we had dinner at the Baan Thai Sabaidee Restaurant about 10 minutes drive from Steve's. The pants were my new acquisition from The Gap just a day before we left on this trip; I was looking for wide-legged pants that would keep me warm in air conditioning yet also allow for air flow on these hot, hot days. My inspiration for wide-legged pants comes from reading Sheila's blog and seeing how she has embraced the look. Couldn't resist aligning my colors with the colors of the restaurant's doors.

Fred's next older brother, Jon (who we would visit at the end of the week) is a big fan of Thai food and often bemoans the fact that his newly adopted town of Lewes, DE does not have a decent Thai restaurant. So, we had no recourse but to text him pictures of our meal!

Wednesday was our final morning with Steve and it was marked by the masked marvels, who by request unmasked themselves. Fred hung his latest outdoor sculpture, completely protected against the elements by a coating of polyurethane, and I couldn't resist a picture of the debonair "Black Bart", Steve's BMW that doesn't see nearly enough road time but does make a good hat rack for my hat (actually it's Fred's but I have commandeered it. :-))

Mamma Mia!

Loved the first Mamma Mia! so much that I purchased the DVD ten years ago and have watched it multiple times since. It's a great pick-me-up in winter or whenever a dose of positive energy is needed!

Watching Meryl Streep do the wide angle jump on the bed accompanied by Christine Baranski and Julie Waters is priceless, especially  as they belt out Dancing Queen along with a huge cast of others all dance-cascading down the hill to the water's edge.

Earlier this week my friend Ann and I gathered to see Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again. What's not to like! As with the first film, I'm a fan of the music, the dancing, the always-uplifting-ending (to both movies), and filled with ticklish awe this time round watching Cher gracefully glide and powerfully sing!

It would be a luscious delight to dance and sing with tens upon tens of others, all synchronized to the choreography and accompanied by music outdoors in some breathtakingly gorgeous location! Since that is not happening anytime soon, I'll have a vicarious thrill from the movies. :-)

[Update August 17, 2018  - So Ann and I, along with her husband Ave, returned to the theatre to see Crazy Rich Asians (which we all liked) and Ave took this picture of us, because, after all, why not!]

Untermeyer Gardens Conservatory

Over the years awareness of Untermeyer Gardens Conservatory has floated in and out of my consciousness, making its way to the "things to see before one day leaving Westchester" list and remaining there till this morning, when my older son, his children and I made the 30 minute ride cross county. The Conservatory is well worth a visit, regardless of where in Westchester (or New York City) you are coming from! Our visit was enhanced, no doubt, by this being one of the first relatively cool, clean-air, humidity-free days in awhile!

Untermeyer is filled with gardens and walking paths, places to picnic, views of the Hudson River, and places of sun, shade and water. Thanks to the City of Yonkers, admission is free and if you drive and arrive early (it opens at 7:00 in the morning) you will likely be able to park in one of the 30 or so free spaces next to the community center within the grounds.

You can read about the history of the Gardens here and here, and scope out the many gardens here. We walked through most of the gardens, heading first to the Walled Garden, then walking down the Vista steps to the Overlook before making our way to the Lion & Unicorn Gate, then along the Carriage Trail, and up a wooded path to the Temple of Love.

The Vista is a long sequence of stairs, gently sloped down to an Overlook of the Hudson River. On our way down we encountered a jogger making his way gracefully and gradually up the steps! (Years and years and years ago my parents traveled to Italy and stayed at the Villa D'Este in Italy, the model for the steps of the Vista.)

The views of the Hudson from along the Carriage Trail were impressive, and I finally chose this one from the several taken. Those are the Palisades of New Jersey on the opposite side.

We spent a bit of time at the Temple of Love as there is much to capitivate the imagination and senses. On the west side of the Temple is the waterfall. (Digression to mention am wearing my souvenir sneakers from our trip out West. They proved to be marvelously comfortable and light weight.)

Taking the climb to the top of the Temple brings you to the temple dome, and I had the urge to lie down and take a picture looking directly up at the underside of the dome.

On the way down from the dome we encountered this striking rock formation, whittled, no doubt, by years of water cascading down.

With one last look back at the Temple of Love…

A Very British Tea

This afternoon I attended a surprise (de)parting party for a friend who is relocating continents. The invitation will give you a sense of the festivities.

The table was set for the quintessential English tea with all the requisite savories and sweets, a number of which had not yet been placed on the table when these photos were taken.

And because the invitation said "Mad Hatter" I had no recourse but to wear this lovely pink hat that was my Mom's, and for which I have long been wondering if I would ever have an occasion to don! Tickled to have this hat in a photo to include in the Style Crone's July Hat Attack.

Thanks to Jamie for the pictures on our front steps, and for admonishing me to "don't just stand there, move!" Apparently I do not mind hamming it up for the camera. ;-) (For a history of the magnificent floral dress check out this post.)


RENEW. Multiple possible meanings and interpretations. Friends (picture posted with their permission) and I renewed our friendship last Saturday, catching up since we last saw each other several weeks ago. Eileen Fisher Renew welcomes the return of items no longer being worn and donates them or turns them into reusable clothing, an ecologically sound and interesting business approach, about which you can read more here. What else to do but renew at Renew!  [UPDATE Read more about Renew and similar efforts by other companies in the September 3, 2018 Washington Post article Eileen Fisher wants those clothes back when you're done.]

I was determined to look nice for the outing, switching out of my typical shorts and tee shirt for a nicer looking Land's End Art T-shirt, a Gap polka-dot sweater (I love this sweater because of the polka-dots and the background being a neutral gray, which means I can pair it with patterns or solids, a fun styling approach I learned from Sheila), and new-to-me *hand-me-down incredibly comfortable and soft pants by Ann Taylor Signature. (*A colleague at school gave to another colleague two bags of clothing that she and her daughter were no longer wearing. That colleague kept what she liked and then passed the rest on to me and another colleague.)

The website showed the store opening at 10:00 a.m. though the hours on the storefront stated 11:00 a.m. Off we went around the corner to enjoy a mid-morning snack at red barn bakery, a small gem down the hill from Renew and up the hill from the Irvington Metro North train station. Besides the entry area viewed in the photo below, there is a comfortable seating area up a few steps in the direction from which this photo was taken. We each indulged in a different delight (mine was hot cocoa) and whiled away almost an hour talking about life and family.

With our appetites renewed, we spent about two hours browsing and trying on clothing, and I wound up purchasing three sweaters (one for my daughter-in-law) and two dresses. The green sweater appears to be never worn but with a small snag on the outer side of one sleeve. The label states it is made of Italian yarn. Judging by the state of the other label, the linen rust sweater looks to be gently worn.

Both dresses are mostly rayon with a little lycra. The black dress replaces a longer one I had years ago that was a go-to and perfect for travel. This one is above the knee and can double as a tunic. What makes it interesting is the pleating on the front. 

The orange dress was chosen by my friend (on the right in the photo); she insisted it would be perfect for me. While I liked the color, upper shading effect and back peephole, I was dubious about the length but once it was tried on I loved the look and figured it could be cut down and hemmed to tunic length. The fun twist to that idea was my husband loved it on me, as is! I have a smashing pair of shoes to wear with this dress. Both dresses will wind up back on the blog when they are styled and worn.

There was a particular reason we chose to spend our shopping outing at Renew, as it kept our wallets not exactly renewed but definitely not depleted! Samples were $5 and everything else was $10. This isn't always the pricing; periodically the store offers special pricing events and this was one of them. (This is where it pays to be on their email list, which is how our friend found out about the event.) In addition, there were gently used items as well as never-worn items. Dressing rooms are communal and I enjoyed meeting other women and hearing their stories.

One lovely woman was bemoaning the fact that it is very difficult and frustrating to find stylish, colorful clothing in her size. Another woman was telling us that she stopped wearing a bra years ago and we all agreed with her none-too-positive assessment of the bra industry. I was intrigued that she doesn't wear a bra to work; as a teacher I cannot imagine going braless, though I have spent the bulk of this summer doing just that (and it is SOOOOOO comfortable, especially on hot days!)

Afterwards the friend in the left in the photo, who is quite knowledgable about the area, was eager for us to see the revitalized Irvington waterfront. She led us on a park stroll where, on such a glorious weathered-day as we had, the view of the new Tappan Zee Bridge (renamed the Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge after a much loved NY Governor and father of our current Governor) was super! You can see video of the bridge removal process and read about the new bridge here.

The Flavour of Shopping Well

While in Victoria we were treated to a shopping experience at Flavour Upstairs, one of the second-hand clothing shops frequented by Sheila. (More about our wonderful time with Sheila here.) I had asked if she might be able to include a shopping stop along the way, as there is no better second-hand shopping experience than to visit second-hand stores with a pro!

I found this swirly, lined Club Monaco pleated skirt with a wide waist band for (to the best of my recollection) $12 Canadien (about $9 U.S.) The lining has some wear and tear but nothing to prevent a comfortable wearing of the skirt. It is exactly the style I had hoped to find, and in a color that I quite like wearing – a perfect souvenir of our visit with Sheila and our time in Victoria.

While I don't have any particular reason to wear the skirt at the moment, it being smack dab in the middle of the summer when I tend to spend most of my time in shorts and tee shirts, I could not resist attempting a style just for the fun of it this afternoon. The process caused me to return to the front hall closet and retrieve my last few summer tops, mostly saved for the warm fall and the return to school. I found the perfect patterned top and added a pair of green sandals. A little gold jewelry is all that would be needed to dress this up for an outing, along with a gold bag of my Mom's, and a sweater or shawl, but I'll save those accents for another post.

Behind me, in the second photo, is a mass of tomatoes planted by Fred, who also kindly took the pictures!

And so the adventure winds down

Almost three weeks ago we began the last part of our Pacific Northwest adventure. Starting in Vancouver, BC, we drove south towards Seattle, WA. Our initial plan was to spend the day in Seattle, then drive our son back to his home in Olympia before returning north to SeaTac for our overnight flight home. However, our son remarked that it would be a lot of sitting for us and therefore insisted he see if a friend could meet him at the airport. (Thank you to the wonderful roommate who did just that!)

Realizing that we had all been to Seattle, we opted for another adventure to explore areas we had never been. Our Canadien trip began with the ferry from Port Angeles to Victoria, and concluded with our drive south towards Whidbey Island, complete with an hour's plus wait (!) to drive through customs at the border. None of us had been to the San Juan Islands and our drive south would quench our curiosity. 

No pictures to share, though we did stop for lunch at the Bastion Brewing Company in Anacortes, WA. The meal was okay but the highlight was dining in the taproom where the beer is brewed.

Eventually, after a short ferry ride from Clinton to Mukilteo, we found ourselves back at SeaTac. The return of our Enterprise car rental went as efficiently and speedily as the initial rental process, and we settled in for a final set of fun photos, some of which are below. Yup, we look quite jubilant. Yup, we look well fed. Yup, we look tired. We were all of those plus a bit sad to be parting.

[Addendum August 13, 2018: While on vacation this week to visit family, Fred retold a story that should be included about our meal at SeaTac.]

After our son was picked up by his kind and most helpful roommate, we took the shuttle to the airport and found a restaurant where we could sit down to have a light meal before our flight. Already seated at the table next to us was a young woman with an appealing looking meal in front of her. I turned to her to inquire what she was eating, she told me the name of the dish, we probably wished each other a nice trip, and that was the extent of our conversation. 

I ordered the same dish, a little while later the woman finished her meal and left, and about 20 minutes later Fred and I were ready for our check. The waitress told us that our meal had been paid for by the young woman sitting next to us! We were agog. I inquired about the tip, and the waitress said that, too, had been taken care of. She further explained that the woman had called her over earlier, when paying her own check, and asked that the waitress not say a word to us until the woman had long since left the restaurant; she wanted to pay for our meal. The waitress thought that the woman was paying forward a kindness that she had received. We were appreciative, looked around and realized we would never find the woman to thank her in person, and concluded that the best thanks was for us to eventually pay it forward as well. 

Truly a special trip with our son, capped off by the kindness and generosity of a stranger, followed by a JetBlue flight where the pilot tells us to prepare for some turbulence as we neared New York and then flies us in with skillful calm. Ahhh…

And so this adventure has wound down, but there will be more adventures to come! Our son doesn't know it yet (but he will when he reads this!), we are already contemplating renting a house on Vancouver Island…

Meanwhile, the map Fred first drafted many months ago in the dark of winter when we were starting to dream about this trip, and the cover of Fred's journal, which he drew at the start.


The big red pin marks the start of our day; the red arrows show our multiple destinations…

Our son had numerous places in Vancouver that he wanted to share with us, as this was his second visit to the city. Heading out in the morning for one conservatory we wound up first at VanDusen Botanical Garden where the welcoming message on the entry doors echoed the Museum of Anthropology message of "Everything depends on everything else." that we viewed the day before.

Our destination was the Bloedel Conservatory, located amid the colorful gardens of Queen Elizabeth Park, the "city of Vancouver's highest point." We walked one of the many paths leading uphill to the Conservatory, a domed paradise of flowers, fauna and colorful birds, some the likes of which we had never seen before.

On our way to the next location we stopped at Granville Island, a place Fred had discovered while doing research about Vancouver. This is a vibrant area of activity, blending outdoor entertainment with stores of indigenous arts, the Granville Public Market where vendors sell fresh fruits and vegetables, desserts, and locally made products such as hats, soaps and jewelry. We lunched in the Market, then sat ourselves outdoors to enjoy a folk singer before wandering through the many shops.

For a taste of what was to come at our final location we drove around Stanley Park and then headed to Capilano Suspension Bridge Park for an astonishing bit of walking! First it was the suspension bridge, a 450 foot long bridge that moves and grooves with the people who walk across it, sometimes swaying sideways and sometimes seeming still. I do not remember much of the scenery below us but the scenery around us was striking and we would soon find ourselves up in the magnificent trees!

Traversing the suspension bridge brings its own satisfaction which is enhanced by what comes next: walking the Treetops. Ahh, to be up high among the trees, the air pure, the knees just a tad wobbly! We had no recourse but to cap off our walk with a snack before returning over the suspension bridge to begin our third and final walk.

The Cliffwalk is a marvel of engineering "stretching its way 700 feet along Capilano Canyon." It's also billed as "not for the faint of heart." Both descriptions are one-hundred percent accurate! The photo below barely does it any justice so I highly recommend you view the site's pictures to get some sense of the walk's majesty. Thankfully our son and Fred were both able to enjoy the view in all directions; I was more focused on looking straight ahead (most of the time)!

Our day's outing was capped off by a return to Stanley Park and dinner at The Teahouse in Stanley Park where we savored a salmon dinner as fine as the one we enjoyed at Anthony's Hearthfire Grill in Olympia, WA on the second evening of our Pacific Northwest adventure. Arriving a bit early we took advantage of the waterside paths to stroll the shore and enjoy the scenery. Equally striking, for different reasons, were the oil tankers waiting in the harbor and the open access to a beach, ample and wide cycling and walking paths, and proximity to the coast. The flowers were our table's centerpiece and a fitting statement to a most colorful, exhilarating, enjoyable day!

University of British Columbia - it's own mini-city!

Our adventure's last lodging was the Carey Centre, a retreat house on the extensive University of British Columbia campus. Circled on the map are a few of the places on campus where we walked during our two-night stay at the Carey Centre (the yellow circle).

After arriving and checking-in we strolled the area to find a location for lunch, then continued our walk to visit the Museum of Anthropology, a repository of "world arts and cultures with a special emphasis on the First Nations peoples and other cultural communities of British Columbia, Canada."

Entering the great hall filled me with a sense of awe and a wave of spirituality. The wooden carvings framed by floor to ceiling windows against an outdoor backdrop conjured a place of calm, respect and contemplation. Throughout the museum are extensive galleries of physical and digital collections, a researcher's paradise!

Our day was filled was much walking and exploring, which necessitated some resting before heading off again for dinner on campus followed by more walking and exploring. We spent a bit of time scoping out the many soccer games taking place on the fields, and of course our son brought his soccer ball along just in case we found a spot for a family scrimmage! I was smitten by the labyrinth near our lodging; walking it had a similar impact as when entering the great hall of the museum. 

Enroute to Vancouver

Our final morning on Vancouver Island began with a scrumptious breakfast at the Hawley Place Bed & Breakfast followed by a relatively quick drive to Departure Bay in Nanaimo. From there we took the ferry across to Horseshoe Bay in Vancouver. Yet another glorious day, another exhilarating ferry ride, another adventure awaiting! When not relaxing in a chair, we had bundles of laughter at the bow of the ferry, taking in the scene thru wind-blown hair before arriving almost two and a half hours later in Horseshoe Bay. The ferry ride seemed to fly by, perhaps because we were relaxed and having fun!

When we were in Victoria, Sheila pointed out the oft-photographed start of the Trans-Canada Highway. It's easy to tell the start because of the large sign stating just that. To be non-touristy, I did not take a photo, but should have because we actually drove more of the highway, which included the ferry across the Strait of Georgia to Vancouver. After our arrival we had a long, semi-winding scenic drive to our destination, the Carey Centre on the University of British Columbia campus.