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I was watching the news while getting ready this morning, and the story on yesterday’s 100th anniversary celebration at Fenway Park got me all misty-eyed.

Celebrating 100 years of Fenway Park
It started with Varitek and Wakefield wheeling Pesky and Doerr onto the field, but what really got me was Terry Francona (lovable, loyal, unflappable Tito) touching his heart and waving to the cheering crowds. If it hadn’t been for the amusing image of Pedro Martinez and Kevin Millar (two of the biggest hams I have ever seen in my life) leading the toast from atop the dugout, the tears might have actually spilled over. The history and nostalgia of Fenway is so wonderful, and it’s another reason I love living in Boston.

Then, in keeping with the sentimental start to the day, I heard a song from the musical Elegies, called “14 Dwight Ave, Natick, Massachusetts”. (I often listen to the Emerson College radio station, WERS, on the weekends for their programs Standing Room Only – all musicals – and All A Cappella.) The song first caught my attention because I drive through Natick every day on my commute and wondered how the town ended up in a musical. But the song is a beautiful piece about a life well-lived and the friendships many women share. (The video below is the best one I could find on YouTube, but it actually features two songs from Elegies, so don’t be put off by the 10 minute length.)

My last sentimental moment of the day requires a little more in the way of explanation. I once had a hedgehog for a pet, an African Pygmy Hedgehog to be precise. I find them ridiculously cute, so I am a little obsessed.
Anyway, because of my fascination with hedgehogs, another song on WERS (this time on All A Cappella) snagged my attention with the lyrics “He’s a hedge pig.” I honestly never thought I would come across a rock/pop song with something about a hedgehog in the lyrics, and it turns out the hedgehog is a central feature of the song. It took some internet sleuthing when I got home, but I finally discovered that the song is “Benjamin” by Midnight Youth, and beyond the hedgehog bit, it’s a really fun song.

Of course, as with anything hedgehog related, the song reminded me of my hedgie, Percy, who sadly died in 2005.
Percy
But the song still makes me smile. Especially the “prickly little porker” line which has a really nice rhythm to it.  I have to admit, though, that I have no clue what the song means.  My best guess is that it’s about a dream or a drug trip or something.

I love my neighborhood.  I live in Jamaica Plain, more commonly referred to by locals as JP, a neighborhood in Boston that has a bit of a small town feel, which really appeals to me, since I am not really a city girl.  It has a main street with shops and restaurants, quiet streets with historic homes, and lovely green spaces.  When I first moved here in 2006, the restaurant options were fine, but not much to write home about.  There were some respectable ethnic eateries, a few pizza joints, and some Irish pubs.  The notable exception was Ten Tables, which I discovered after its vegetarian tasting menu was featured in Boston Magazine as a best value. My older brother, who is a vegetarian, and I decided to check it out and I fell in love with the restaurant. I still remember the main course from that first vegetarian tasting meal, which was a supremely comforting and flavorful dish of polenta with mushroom gravy and a poached egg.

Since that meal, Ten Tables has been my favorite Boston restaurant. I could go on and on, but this post isn’t really about Ten Tables. In recent years, Ten Tables’ proprietor, Krista Kranyak, has opened outposts in Cambridge and Provincetown, along with a bar expansion of the original JP location. Her latest venture, though, is not another Ten Tables branch.

Blue Devil and truffle parm fries

Recently in JP, Kranyak opened Grass Fed, a counter service burger place. I love a good burger, so I was eager to try it out, but the first week or so they were open the place was chock full, and I like to be able to sit and relish my burgers. Finally the crowds thinned a bit, so on a sunny Saturday, I headed in. Grass Fed is only three doors down from Ten Tables, and they have some things in common: small size, brick walls, blackboard menus around the top of the walls. The menu has a number of beef burgers, of course, but also a chickpea burger and a chicken burger.

I ordered the Blue Devil, which is a beef burger topped with stilton, bacon, fried onion strings, and aioli (but I skipped the aioli, since it seemed decadent enough without.) Continuing the decadent trend, I also ordered truffle-parm fries and a glass of red wine. Then I grabbed a stool at one of the counters that line the walls and are stocked with condiments (housemade ketchup, mustard, and A10 sauce, which is Kranyak’s version of steak sauce.) It wasn’t long before my food arrived. You can see it in the photo above. Man, it was delicious. They seem to cook the burgers to medium to medium-well, and I was worried that would be too done, but the burger was still juicy and flavorful. The bun was buttered and grilled and the bacon, onions, and stilton added saltiness, crispiness, and more flavor. I think my only quibble was that the bleu cheese flavor didn’t come out as much as I would have liked.

Meanwhile, I could smell the truffle oil on the fries, before I even picked one up. Yum! The fries had the crispy, golden exterior and light, smooth interior of perfectly cooked french fries. In addition to the truffle-parm fries, you can get regular fries, spicy, or beet fries, plus poutine with traditional or mushroom gravy, onion rings, or housemade potato chips. My first meal at Grass Fed was so yummy that I went back less than a week later.

Cheeseburger and beet fries

This time I decided to try the beet fries (aren’t they gorgeous?), and I got a burger with cheddar and grilled onions, which I topped with some of the A10 sauce. Even without the punch of bacon and bleu cheese, there was plenty of flavor. The beet fries were a nice change from plain old roasted or boiled beets, but don’t go there if you don’t like beets. I found they were quite good with a little mustard, and I bet honey mustard would be really nice. Or maybe if I get them again I will try them with the cilantro lime aioli on the menu.

Besides the burgers, the menu includes soup, salads, and a few other sandwiches. Plus, there are milkshakes, both traditional and “adult”. I am dying to try those! So you know I will be back.

I’d say Kranyak has opened another great place, and I am glad to have a burger joint in the neighborhood. Life in JP just seems to get better and better.

plaid tunic and leggings

I wore this outfit to have brunch with an awesome friend who has been going through some real crap lately. We noshed on pancakes and french toast while catching up on each other’s lives in a trendy restaurant, and I felt comfortable and cute.

This outfit might look simple and casual, nothing groundbreaking, but it shows how I have branched out when it comes to fashion recently. Starting from the bottom up, I used to dislike tall boots. I started to change my mind when the variety of styles increased, along with the availability of styles that actually fit my wide calves. I got these almost equestrian looking boots for a steal, and I love them. Another item I used to dislike? Leggings. I thought they looked cute on others but wouldn’t work on my short, curvy frame. Much like the boots, I have done a complete 180, and I wear leggings quite a bit now. Mostly I wear them with dresses, but I am starting to find the occasional long cardigan or tunic that works with leggings, too. It’s nice to step away from the advice of those style experts who say that tapered pants are unflattering to curvy ladies, and I have to say that I actually like the way I look in this silhouette.

Tunics. Another item I never thought I would wear. With straighter pants such a long shirt might make me look stumpy, but somehow that doesn’t happen with the slim leggings. This particular tunic is a button down, a style of top that has long been the bane of my existence. The classic oxford shirt looks so crisp, classic, and professional on other women, but they nearly always look boxy, boyish, or bunchy on me, plus I hate ironing. But this one is in a sturdy flannel that is soft and cozy and doesn’t wrinkle, and that formfitting nipped in waist fits and flatters. If I could have this shirt in several colors and patterns, I would live in it all fall and winter long. One of the downsides to thrifting is that you very rarely get to buy an item you love in multiples.  I can’t even find anything about the brand online (the tag says “Freeshirt” and “U gotta be kiddin me” below), so it seems like this top is not going to have any competition in my wardrobe.

Let’s see, what other surprising outfit elements are there? Well, if you look closely you might be able to tell that while my leggings are black, that tunic is turquoise and navy. I hear that all neutrals can be worn together, and I am getting more comfortable with mixing a lighter neutral with a darker one (like the black of the pants with the lighter taupe of the boots), but I still can’t really get behind black and navy together. I’ve seen others pair them in a way that looks fashionable and intentional, but I worry it makes it look like I got dressed in the dark, you know? Luckily, I think that the darker blue in the top just reads as black when paired with the black pants. Of course, I just revealed the truth to the internet.

Last, but not least, I’ve actually got a little bit of pattern mixing going on in this outfit. The scarf that I am wearing as a headband has a lovely swirly pattern of different shades of blue. Even in person it’s kind of subtle, but baby steps still count, right? Pattern mixing is another trend that can look haphazard, in my opinion, so I am starting small.

big fish, little fish

In case you have read this far and are still wondering abut this post’s title, the rather grainy photo above should help. It’s hard to see, but the shorter, smaller necklace is a fish, too. I’ve been accumulating pendant style necklaces to layer like this, and it amused me to pair these two, since it kind of looks like the big fish is going to eat the little one.

Outfit details:
silk scarf: gift from a friend
necklaces: little fish, Forever 21 (I think?); big fish, Van Heusen
plaid tunic: Freeshirt, thrifted
ponte leggings: Van Heusen
leather boots: Ros Hommerson via 6pm.com

Hoo boy, at this rate I won’t finish my London posts until summer.  Eek!  Sorry for the slow pace, but life (and a sometimes slow internet connection, grr) gets in the way of blogging sometimes.  Day three of my London trip was jam packed, so this may get long, but this day had my favorite sights.

My first stop of the day was Portobello Road Market.

Portobello Road Market
storefront sewing machines
Portobello Road
sign shop
Continue Reading »

I like to think that I am an optimistic realist, but sometimes something crops us that shows that deep down, on a visceral level, I am an idealist. I try to keep this blog pretty light, but I am not going to hide the fact that some things that happen in the world are just plain wrong, so I am interrupting my usual perky ramblings with some much more serious fare.

Lately, between the Treyvon Martin situation and Hunger Games fans with racist views commenting on the movie’s casting, I have been saddened and disgusted by the racist attitudes that persist in our culture. Let me point out that I am aware that I am extremely privileged to have the luxury of being mostly unaware of these racist attitudes to this point. I mean, I have known that our society is by no means perfect when it comes to race, but I get to live my life as a fair-skinned person without worrying about the message my skin color sends about me or whether I will be considered equally for a job (even as a woman, I don’t have to worry about this, since my profession is almost entirely female.) I suspect that people of color may not be as shocked and disappointed about these stories as I am. Angry, yes. Frustrated, absolutely. Marching and protesting. But they butt up against these racial attitudes day after day, and that’s much more sad than my disappointment that people still can’t see each other as people – more alike than we are different.

These racial attitudes are horribly insidious, and I am not immune. I catch myself being wary of dark-skinned men more often than lighter-skinned ones or having thoughts about families I encounter that tie into stereotypes. And I am sure there are thoughts and behaviors I have that I am not even aware of. So, I try to educate myself, catch those patterns of thought and behavior and change them. I try to step out of my cocoon of privilege. And with these things in the news, I am taking the opportunity to spread the word here. Racism is alive and well in America, in case you hadn’t noticed. I’d love to hear thoughts on ways that we can all work to undercut those views. I don’t expect a lot of disagreement with this post, but I encourage discussion, as long as everyone keeps things civil. Any comments that are disrespectful, threatening, etc. will be deleted.

While just reading style blogs, I never realized how much work goes into them. Doing my own outfit posts has shown me that it isn’t easy to do it well. You need a decent camera and/or a conspirator to take photos. You need to get comfortable in front of the camera and practice poses. You have to keep track of where your clothes come from. Not to mention come up with titles and a few pithy paragraphs to go with the photos. I respect style bloggers way more since dipping my toe into this stuff, and am pretty sure that I will never really be one. But I still hope to occasionally post my outfits and thrifting finds here, and I hope you folks enjoy them. If not, maybe someday my kids or grandkids will come across these posts and enjoy or laugh at my ensembles.

DSC01281

This is my St. Patrick’s Day outfit. I know not everyone feels the need to wear green on March 17th, and that’s cool. But working with kids and a bunch of proudly Irish folk, I end up in green to some degree or another every year, to fit in and avoid getting pinched. Plus, I love green and have a lot of it in my wardrobe.

DSC01276

Almost every bit of this outfit is thrifted. I’ve only worn the green, cabled sweater a couple times, and it may end up being a dud. I really love the color, and I am a fan of cable knits, so those are pluses. I’ve incorporated a number of long cardigans into my wardrobe with success in recent years (which I partly attribute to inspiration from Sally at Already Pretty who rocks those long over lean looks regularly), but I think this one might just be too long or too bulky to be quite flattering. But it’s also warm and comfy, so I may keep it around because sometimes comfort trumps a becoming silhouette.

Other than a bit of green, comfort was my main goal in this outfit, since I have a lazy Saturday planned. Reading (I am diving back into The Hunger Games before the movie comes out), blogging, maybe updating my online dating profile, and generally lounging about. I plan to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day tonight by staying in the house (Boston, being a hub of both college students and folks of Irish descent, tends to get pretty crazy on St. Patty’s Day), drinking some hard cider (or Bailey’s, mmm), and watching a movie. Perhaps I will even make some soda bread. I am such a homebody. :)

Outfit details:
Striped top: Gap, thrifted
Long, cable knit sweater: New York & Co., thrifted
Slim ponte pants: New York & Co., thrifted
Skinny wrap belt: Gap Outlet
Converse sneakers: Target (kids size, which saved me about 10 bucks)
Earrings: mall store (don’t remember which)
Necklace: Lavishy (It’s reversible! The other side has a khaki colored background and simple tree branch design)

My second day in London was largely spent wandering the turrets, keeps, and walls of the Tower of London.

jumble of towers

While it may not be the most charming fortress, it has so much history and drama that it was a must-see for me.  My first order of business was one of the guided tours by a Yeoman Warder. The Yeomen Warders, also known as Beefeaters, mostly serve as ceremonial guards and tour guides and live on the Tower grounds. The Warders give a tour that hits the high points of the Tower’s history, and the tour is the only way to gain access to the Royal Chapel of the Tower, St. Peter ad Vincula.

Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula

The chapel, built around 1520 during Henry VIII’s reign, is a pretty little space, but you aren’t allowed to take photos. Several famous Tower prisoners are buried in the chapel, including Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard, Lady Jane Grey, and Thomas More, and during a renovation in the Victorian era approximately 1500 unidentified remains were found under the chapel floor. Yikes.

After the Warder tour, I spent quite a while wandering on my own. First I checked out the Crown Jewels, which are housed in the Waterloo Block and, of course, carefully guarded.

Waterloo Block
guard

I didn’t expect to be as interested in the Crown Jewels as I was. For one thing, I was amazed at the size of some of the stones, like the Cullinan I in the Scepter with the Cross, which, at 530 carats, is the second largest diamond in the world. It was also neat to see the ways the style of crowns has evolved over the centuries.

After viewing the jewels, I headed to the White Tower, which was built by Williams the Conqueror in the late 11th century and is the oldest part of the Tower of London.

White Tower
corner tower

The outside of the White Tower is distinctive with the light stone trim around the windows and architectural details. It was designed to be defensible, so the entrance is on the second floor, reached by wooden stairs that could be knocked down so that attackers could not reach the door.

White Tower

Inside the tower, there was a big exhibit of arms and armor. I got to see several sets of Henry VIII’s armor, horse armor, ceremonial armor for a child, etc. The variety of the armor was really impressive and interesting, and many had gorgeous inlay, engraving, and other decorations. My favorite pieces were the child’s helmet with a little dragon on top and a very intricate ivory saddle.

articulated armor
intricate armor decorations
Henry VIII's armor
dragon helm
ivory saddle

After seeing the White Tower, I wandered the grounds, walls, and several of the towers.

grounds

The Tower is home to a number of ravens, and legend has it that the kingdom is only safe so long as the ravens remain at the Tower. Until I saw them, I wasn’t really sure I could tell the difference between a raven and a crow, but there’s something regal and mysterious about the ravens. But it could just seem that way because crows are more familiar.

Tower raven

In addition to ravens, the Tower of London has had many creatures in residence in its long history, and an exhibit called Royal Beasts gave some intriguing facts about them. Lions were kept at the Tower for over 600 years, and James I designed a bottle nipple for feeding sick cubs. The royal menageries also included tigers, kangaroos, elephants, and even a polar bear. Apparently, the polar bear belonging to Henry III was tied to a rope, so it could swim and fish in the Thames. And I also spotted a couple more fantastical creatures around the Tower.

Gargoyle

In various structures there are placards and displays relating to some of the stories from the Tower’s history. The Beauchamp Tower has carved graffiti left by prisoners, who were kept in the Tower in varying degrees of comfort. In the Bloody Tower there are interactive exhibits on the mystery of the Little Princes. In the Wakefield Tower you can see torture devices. And in the Medieval Palace you can see the royal living spaces built for Edward I.

private chapel
chapel stained glass
Chapel

As you can tell, there was plenty to see! I think I spent over six hours at the Tower. Before I left, I visited the gift shop and snagged a wee, silver Tower for my charm bracelet. Then I headed out to Tower Wharf, where there are lovely views of Tower Bridge and London’s South Bank area.

Tower Bridge illuminated
South Bank

That could have been enough for one day, and I was pretty tired, but I was determined to have authentic fish and chips while in London. I had read that one of the best places for fish and chips is the Golden Hinde. So, after wandering a bit through the streets of the City of London (including the eerily lovely garden of St. Dunstan in the East, which grows among the ruins of a Wren church that was bombed in the Blitz), I headed to Marylebone for dinner.

fish and chips!

Yum! I enjoyed my crispy, flaky fish and rested my feet a bit before hitting the streets again, this time to take in the lights and do some shopping.

holiday lights

Without meaning to, I ended up at the Liberty of London store, which was beautiful, inside and out, from the window displays to the merchandising.

Liberty of London
Liberty window display
fabrics for sale
rug room

As I recall, I pretty much fell into bed that night, happy and exhausted from a full day of drinking in London’s past and present.

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