Season Mixing

A spring-to-summer dress saved just so I could wear it at least once in late Fall accompanied by leggings and my new red sweater. Not much more to say other than how much I like wearing dresses at this time of year. All that's needed for a blend of comfort and warmth is a good pair of leggings, a pop of seasonal color in the way of a warm sweater, and then the dress can shine!

I am wearing much appreciated yoga jewelry given in celebration of my 200-hour yoga teacher training graduation in June 2016 – the earrings from my daughter-in-law, son and their children; the necklace from my friend and fellow yoga teacher Stephanie, who strongly urged me to pursue my yoga studies.

Stay tuned for tomorrow's post – it's the outfit I've been building to, newly purchased just this summer and not yet worn!

Autumn Colors

This outfit received many complements on Monday, and you might be able to tell from my smiles just how comfortable and pleased I felt to be wearing it. Everything felt perfect, from the textures to the lengths to the colors to the drape of the dress. My wonderfully kind husband, who has been taking the vast majority of the pictures of me for this blog, smiled when I asked for a second picture: The boots have to be included!

I have worn all of these pieces before, and they have each been mentioned in a blog post sometime in the past. Suffice it to say that the dress is a delightful reminder of a road trip taken to Montréal a few summers ago with my friend Ann. 

The wearing of a dress for the month of November, at least for the days that I teach, is all part of celebrating my birthday month. There was a slight glitch last week, however, with no photos because I didn't wear any dresses. And I didn't wear any dresses because I didn't go to school! 

A week ago Saturday I woke up with a rash on my front torso. Figuring it might have been bug bites (spider bites), I dealt with the discomfort, knowing that on Monday I would be heading to the doctor for my annual physical. During the physical I gave Dr George a heads up so she wouldn't be surprised when examining me. Lo and behold, not a split second after mentioning the rash, she told me it was not a bunch of bug bites; rather, I had shingles!

Further, after letting the school nurse know my diagnosis, it turned out I was not permitted to return to school till the rash had healed because there are several students who are unvaccinated. Shingles is contagious to anyone who is not vaccinated and pregnant women. In both cases, the exposure could cause chicken pox. Home I remained until this past Saturday, when Dr George gave me an all-clear and I returned to school yesterday. So there you have it, the explanation for why no dress posts from last week.

Now onwards and upwards to my birthday!

Burnt Sienna of Autumn

My favorite Crayola crayon color was burnt sienna, and this sweater – purchased years ago in a no-longer existent Eddie Bauer store in Manhattan – caught my eye purely for the color. It has been a stalwart, go-to sweater every fall, being warm, easy to wear and easy to wash. 

The dress is another purchase from years ago, this time from J.Jill, purchased for the fall colors, leaf pattern, super soft cotton, ease of wear and ease of care. This is the second in my November campaign of wearing a dress each day that I am at school, at least till my birthday, though likely will continue through the entire month. I even managed a dress today, though Friday is my day off, but since I plan on reprising the outfit on Wednesday will wait till then for a photo.

Lots of jewelry with this outfit so may as well identify the pieces. The orange earrings are dried seeds from Ecuador; necklace was made by my next-door-neighbor's daughter; orange-black-gold bracelet on my right wrist also made by my neighbor's daughter; lighter beaded bracelet on my left wrist was my Mom's, and the darker, multi-hued wood bracelet is from Peru. (Jewelry from Ecuador and Peru were gifts from my daughter-in-law's family.) And yup, those are the fabulously artsy and comfortable new boots from Baltimore, Hampden to be specific. 

And not to be left out, on the counter are two light sculptures made by my husband!

Red accents

November is my birthday month, and I have decided to wear a dress every work day up till and including on my birthday! This is a Gap favorite that I always keep out thru as much of Autumn as possible. It is short sleeved so there's a blue tee shirt underneath, paired with leggings and a new red sweater (from LLBean's Signature collection). Coupled with my red hush puppies and, for outer wear, red gloves and a Land's End red hat, and there you have the red accents!

The hat has been a long time favorite, with the red crocheted flower being added about three years ago. It was a gift from a colleague, her mom made it for her to give to me. The red flower represents the celebration of St George's Day in Spain. My friend and her family are from Barcelona, and they would always stroll the markets to buy books and flowers, hence the red flower.

Linking up with Judith at Style Crone to join in the hat sharing fun, and because I find her writing and the photographs inspirational.

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. :-)