Hampden, MD

A little over a year ago our son and his family relocated to Hampden, Maryland, a funky neighborhood in northern Baltimore. WikipediaHampden Village Merchants Association and Live Baltimore provide an eye into this colorful town. (Last two links thanks to Brenda at Hanging On A Whim, described below.)

During the school year, we visit every other month. While visiting, our focus is entirely on our family, especially our grandchildren. We have been in Hampden for their annual Miracle on 34th Street lights, a sight to behold. My pictures from last December hardly do the street justice, but perhaps they suffice to give you an idea of the magnitude of the display. The entire block is aglow!

The main street of Hampden is called "The Avenue", and it houses the vast majority of the neighborhood's stores and restaurants. Our two favorite eateries are The Charmery, bastion of Charm City's homemade ice cream, including Maryland Mud and usually three vegan options, and The Golden West Cafe, best spot we've found for delectable breakfasts, including vegan choices, and our grandson is a fan of their decor.

All of our visits to The Avenue have always included our grandchildren. On our most recent visit we arrived while they were still at school and took the opportunity to stroll the street, walking along one side and then the other, with the other half of the block awaiting another visit. Well, it wasn't exactly serendipitous – I had been planning this stroll for several weeks! My destination?

Ma Petite Shoe is one of several shops in a cluster of colorful row houses, long since transformed to stores. Their sign has always caught my attention: Shoes & Chocolate. Seriously, what better combination! And of course, I had to go inside. And, for those who know me, it will come as no surprise that I had to try on something. I actually tried on two somethings, and purchased one of them, a brand completely new to me, L'Artiste.

We arrived home Sunday; I wore them to school on Monday. Turned out to be much warmer than anticipated, but still worth the wearing!

Another shop next door, which caught my husband's eye, is Hanging On A Whim, an artist-owned store and gallery of custom painted furniture and objects. I was immediately attracted to the whimsy and color of the furniture, some of it children's size but other pieces accommodating to grownups. I left Brenda's shop imagining a screened porch decorated with some of her furniture or a few surprise accents dispersed around corners in a future home.

There is also a yoga studio across the street from the shoe store. I will check this out on some future visit, and leave you for now with the aptly crafted exterior building art on the second floor of the studio.


Fred's Choice

On Tuesday morning it was Fred's suggestion we get a picture for the blog!

Probably difficult to discern in the morning light, but I'm wearing a black short-sleeve top under the jean jacket (Gap). The black top has sentimental value; it was my Mom's, and has alternating diagonal cutouts down the middle and along the sides. Pants H&M, scarf a souvenir purchased in Brugges, Brussels, shoes Hush Puppy (gift from my daughter-in-law and her mom). Jean jackets, especially ones not overly frayed and worn, up the ante of just about any outfit, and black and cream make a classy combination. I guess it all worked because Fred insisted we get a picture for the blog. :-)

Color x2

Last week there were two outfits I wore to school that made me feel comfortable and upbeat. Each consists of a pair of pants that I enjoy wearing when not wearing jeans, and each consists of a favored top, the colours of which always make me smile. 

Red pants and red belt are from the Gap, top is Land's End, sandals are Earth Origins by earth.

Cream khakis are H&M, top is from modcloth, scarf from Brussels, a gift from my daughter-in-law's mother. Earrings a souvenir from a  Montréal road trip a few years ago. Do not recall if I was wearing my Danskos (red sandals) or my red hush puppies (Mary Janes) from Belgium, both comfortable and favorite pairs of shoes.

I purposely wore clothing that cheers me, as it was a tough week at school. Being used to spending my days with children and colleagues, due to a second year division head who has changed the rules of engagement for those in integrator roles (which includes me), I now have to follow protocols (that were nonexistent prior to his arrival) that have slowed down the spontaneity of what I do. Coupled with another new initiative the division head has instituted, massive testing (where before it was minimal) for Fountas & Pinnell literacy levels, the entire first month (and now edging into the start of the second month) of school has been focused on assessment (to soon be followed by Math assessment), which has also slowed down the rate of engagement and interaction with children. 

I have typically looked at my "job" as getting up in the morning to play with children and colleagues, so it was a stultifying September. I had barely any time with children, other than assisting with two sessions in each of the three third, fourth and fifth grade classes to introduce students to their Chromebooks so they could log in and set up passwords. My Makerspace colleague and I have turned our space into an amazing place with the introduction of new workbenches we have built and an array of improved organization. However, spiffying up a space does not provide the satisfaction that being with children provides. Hence, the need for cheering. It is going to be awhile before schedules permit the joy of learning and exploring to begin in earnest. Sigh.

Yard Sculptures

I've surely mentioned the colorful, whimsical yard sculptures that grace our front yard and greet me daily as I return home from my day's outings. My husband has created them all, the 3D sculptures that sit atop wood poles, each one a silent flowering among the flower beds, and the twinkling sculptures that combine wood and 3D pieces, responding to breezes as they float suspended in air from the branches of trees. There is one additional pole sculpture in a flower bed further to the right, but I forgot to take a picture of it.

I have taken many pictures of these, yet most have been taken on sunny days, making it difficult to get any sense of them in the photos. The set below were taken later in the day, when the lighting worked to highlight the sculptures. Still, the images do not do the sculptures justice, as nature takes precedence. :-) But just to give you an idea…

Homemade Desserts…Yum!

Our daughter-in-law is a natural cook. She enjoys the chemistry of cooking, the way ingredients interact, how spices impact flavor, how the method of cooking impacts the outcome. Even more, she enjoys baking. I have stated several times that if ever she wanted to open a small bakery or, even nicer to my mind, a dessert cafe, I would happily help fund her. Okay, maybe that's just a gustatory dream of mine. ;-)

The first dessert made by her that I ever had was a phenomenal Chocolate Almond Raspberry Torte from Miyoko Nishimoto Schinner's The New Now and Zen Epicure. This was made for my son's birthday in 2011, when they were living in Brussels. I was visiting and had the delight of assisting (in a very small manner!) with the preparation and the delight of eating (in a not quite as small manner!) Alas, I could not locate the picture I took of the finished torte. However, it was more radiant than the one below, which comes from the cookbook.

Fast forward a few years to our granddaughter's first birthday. Having moved from Brussels to Ecuador, they were visiting us for two weeks in the summer. Nobody expected much to be eaten by a not-quite-one-year old, but the occasion did provide opportunity to experiment with making a cake out of favored vegetables… tomato and avocado. This cake was the result not of a recipe but of an interest in trying out an idea, from a baker who was, and continues to be, inspired by curiosity and a willingness to try come what may.

Eventually the family moved from Ecuador to New York, and then to Maryland. Along the way, either at our home or theirs, birthdays and holidays were celebrated together. Keeping in mind that all desserts have tended to be vegan (our son is vegan) or at least have vegan components, and that the most recent dessert was also gluten free to accommodate a relative who cannot eat gluten, and you will likely understand that to our baker daughter-in-law these just provided room for further inspiration. Plus she always takes birthday-cake requests from her children.

Cake for our son's 32nd birthday. 

It's not just about the food, it's also about the presentation, especially when children are the recipients! These are the requested cupcakes for our grandson's first birthday. Some were vegan and some were not.

For my 62nd birthday, knowing that I am a chocolate lover, and with November and December holidays just around the corner…

Then came the family Christmas that included my daughter-in-law's parents as well as her sister and her sister's children. A full house, 11 people, 4 of whom were children. So of course, that meant hot cocoa, but not just any hot cocoa. This came from a recipe which was altered to include vegan chocolate and marshmallows, plus a cookie bottom. Just imagine it with the hot almond milk added, chocolate starting to melt, the chocolate cookie underneath starting to get appropriately soaked…

More recently, in April of this year our grandson turned 2. You might notice a theme here – he likes cupcakes.

And finally, this past September, when our granddaughter turned 5. She is a big fan of ice cream. The cake and ice cream are home made and are vegan gluten-free. And none of it came from a recipe or style book. 

I didn't want to forget any of these desserts; to me they are akin to an artist's paintings. And they were delicious. Okay, perhaps the avocado and tomato cake wasn't exactly delicious, but it represents a willingness to experiment, to try something new and see what happens. And I admire that entrepreneurial spirit in the kitchen. I had a similar delight when watching our other son and his girlfriend make pizza in our kitchen this past summer. Hmm, maybe I simply like homemade food and spending time with family. :-)


Grace Farms

About two years ago my cousin told us about a place in New Caanan, CT where it was lovely to walk around and, more interestingly for him and his wife, where they had gone to share a community dinner that takes place once a month. Fred and I have had it on our calendar to visit and kept pushing it off till yesterday, the second day of a a 4-day weekend, when the weather provided a sunny, windy 80+ degrees and we were eager to finally make the visit. After lunch we made the approximately 45 minute drive north and inland, and arrived for two hours of calming, walking the River plus a longer path around a pond, picture taking, and relaxing.

Grace Farms speaks for itself on its website, and the image of the River (a building) and their physical site is highlighted in the opening images. Nonetheless, below are our photos. [PS My husband was curious to learn more about the people behind Grace Farms. A little web searching led to Grace Community Church. On our visit to Grace Farms we were told that a church had a long term contract to use the auditorium. You can read more about the association between the building of Grace Farms and the Grace Community Church on the our history page for the Church.]

And of course, I always like to take a selfie of the two of us!

Most impressive to us was the inside of the 700 seat auditorium. The seats are perfectly aligned in a gentle downward sloping curve. Turns out that not only is each set of chair legs bolted to the floor, but depending upon where a chair is in a row its legs are customized to fit the location, i.e. curve and position in the row. Amazing. And the views from the auditorium's windows, the curved glass for which came from Spain, are quite intriguing.

Afterwards we ambled thru the town of New Caanan, stopping at a wood shop that sold various items made of wood as well as wood-like items made from recyclables. I can just picture my grandchildren (and all of the adults in my family!) playing with this elaborately crafted marble run. To complete our outing we had dinner at Farmer's Table (a cup of mushroom soup and 1.5 servings of the Beet Salad for me; a cup of crab/lobster bisque and Chicken Quesadilla for Fred.)

Pictures for School

Last week all faculty were invited to submit a photo of themselves on the first day of school, ideally from a lower school grade (also known as elementary school). Our lower school covers Pre-K through Grade 5, so I submitted a photo of me at age 10, which was in 1964. The picture is actually of me and my brother, but since students would have no idea who my brother is I cropped the photo to be just me. 

We were also asked, by a different teacher, to submit a picture of ourselves that we subtitle by completing the statement: I am… Submitting the first picture was fun; submitting the second picture required me (and 9 other faculty) being sent a second and third email, the last one reminding us that we were the only ones who had not submitted a picture and surely we did not want to be left out of the slide show. I succumbed and took this picture in the Makerspace, which is where I spend a large portion of my time. And my statement: I am playful.

A delightful little art museum

This past Friday afternoon we went to the Brandywine River Museum of Art in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. This was a planned visit, as we were spending the weekend with my brother-in-law who lives in West Chester, PA, and then with him visiting family in Baltimore for the day on Saturday.

That's my husband, me and my brother-in-law draping ourselves over a bronze pig on the museum grounds after having walked through all the interior exhibits.

The Brandywine is a small, easy and comfortable museum to navigate, situated in an old mill overlooking the Brandywine River. We were interested in seeing the Andrew Wyeth retrospective. I was only familiar with one of his paintings, the one that is perhaps his most iconic, named Christina's World. The exhibit provided extensive background information on Wyeth, his family of prolific artists (beginning with his father), and the story of Christina. Early on in the exhibit I learned that, for the most part, Andrew Wyeth's paintings are deeply personal studies. And my response to the vast majority, in fact almost all of those paintings is they are dull, drab, and often sad. That's not to say that Wyeth didn't have amazing technique, for he surely did, it's just that his topics and how he saw those topics never resonated with me and my life experience or outlook on life. Nonetheless, since I had a response to his paintings, that alone speaks to his artistry and his ability to provoke and share via paintings. 

I enjoyed having the time to browse the galleries on my own time and my own terms, to read descriptions or not, to pause and linger or not, to be moved or to question or to appreciate or nod in understanding or disagreement. A testament to the power of art. 

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Back in January 2016 I completed the first #Make30Photos Challenge with Emma Davies. She is running another online class and over the summer posted a new set of challenges – 30 Days of Composition. I may (or may not) eventually post them all on one page, but for now am just sharing them as they happen. In this case, these pictures were taken at the museum, and while most of them appear to focus on patterns, shadows and reflections, they could meet any number of the proposed challenges. The fun for me is being prodded to pause, and to look at something with a non-typical perspective.


First Day of School

Back to school on a sunny day in the high 80s – a gentle reminder that summer hasn't left us yet! My school has a comfortable dress code, meaning faculty may wear jeans, shorts, leggings and tunics, pretty much anything that counts as appropriately modest, clean and neat. 

I did not have any classes today, and actually will not have any for at least a week since my role as an Integrator means there have to be projects that lend themselves to STEAM integration. Since the first two weeks of school are given to assessments and getting routines established, those of us with the title of Integrator use the time to prep spaces and attend meetings.

I looked forward to wearing this outfit because it is the first wearing of one of the two tops purchased from ModCloth. Ever since Sheila (of the blog Ephemera) extolled the delights of pattern mixing, I have been a BIG fan, as you will see with the top and the shorts.

The top was quite comfortable, is made of soft, light weight material that does not bulk up when tucked in, and has a longer hem so it can also be worn untucked over leggings. The shorts are my favorite, oldies from the Gap, same for the orange sweater; belt is probably from the Gap or LL Bean many, many years ago. Sandals from Lands End. Earrings, of seeds, made in Ecuador and gifted by the sister of my daughter-in-law. I felt springy and comfortable all day long.