Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

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
(more…)

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

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)

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

In the late fall, I decided I needed a vacation. Work had been crazy, friends were having rough times, and so on. At first, I thought I would just take a week off from work, but stay in town. With the help of an airfare voucher and an ad for good fares to London, though, my vacation plan got much more grand. I had been to London once before, my senior year of college, but the visit had been cut very short. It was 1997, and I was supposed to fly from Boston to England on April 1st for about four days in London and a long weekend in Chichester, where a friend was getting married. Alas, April fooled us big time with a blizzard that delayed my trip three days. So, I spent less than 48 hours in London that trip, which made me eager to go back.

St. Pancras exterior

So, 15 years later, I got to actually spend my four days in London, in early December, and it was awesome.  I packed a lot into the days, but left knowing there was so much more I could have done.  I arrived in the morning, a little bleary from the long, overnight flight, but eager to get exploring.  After leaving my luggage at the hostel, I headed to King’s Cross/St. Pancras.  This is a transportation hub and shopping area, with two stations right next to each other.  King’s Cross is sleek and modern, while St. Pancras is ornate and Victorian.  Both house rail platforms, restaurants and shops.  St. Pancras is, at least to me, more picturesque, so it bore the brunt of my shutterbugging.

St. Pancras Station

ornate

Everywhere I looked there were lovely decorative elements, inside and out. And on the upper level of the station I stumbled upon the Olympic rings and a huge sculpture that I found charming and perfectly suited to such a busy place of departure and arrival.

Olympic rings at St. Pancras

statue

Honestly, one of my main reasons for visiting King’s Cross/St. Pancras was to check out Eat St., which is a spot where a variety of food trucks and vendors gather at lunchtime a few days a week. There were so many delicious sounding items that it took me a while to decide on my lunch. I finally settled on a pork taco from Buen Provecho and a noodle soup from Yum Bun.

pork taco

soup

After lunch I headed around the corner to the British Library. I think this was the only attraction I visited on both my trips to London, which isn’t really surprising, since I am an avid reader and majored in English. The Library, though, is rather different from what I remembered since it’s current site (created to bring together the parts of the collection that had been scattered around London) opened in 1997, but after my visit. My romantic side kind of prefers the old look, with the glass cases of manuscripts surrounded by two stories of shelves, but I have to admit that the new galleries are better organized and more informative. I found it thrilling to see the original manuscripts of books and authors I love, Austen, Bronte, Shakespeare, along with letters to and from royalty and other historical figures. This time I also really enjoyed the impressive collection of religious texts, many gorgeously illustrated, from all sorts of faiths. One of the temporary exhibits was on Dickens and his historical context, from which I learned a lot. Well, truly I retained only a little, but I have notes. (Yes, I am such a nerd that I take notes on vacation.)

British Library passageway

My final tourist stop of the day, though I was nearly falling down tired, was the Wellcome Collection. This place is a quirky museum that began with the personal collection of Sir Henry Wellcome and has expanded to include art and other exhibits that relate to health and medicine. Seriously, quirky. The main collection ranges from chastity belts and fertility charms to amputation saws and prosthetic limbs. There are rotating exhibits, as well. I was particularly taken with the Mexican votives in the Miracles and Charms exhibit. The votives, or miracle paintings, are painted on tin roof tiles or other small plaques and created in gratitude to God for deliverance from illness, accident, or some other difficulty. There were dozens of these works, and they were somehow both uniform (standard size and some very common compositions and motifs) and diverse (folksy to sophisticated and all sorts of stories from bandits to electrocution.) Fascinating stuff.

By then it was evening and, not having gotten much sleep on the flight the night before, I was exhausted. So after heading back to the hostel, I had no trouble at all going to sleep, even though it was only afternoon back home.

Read Full Post »

Web gems

If, like me, you are chilling at home on a rainy Sunday, you might enjoy some of these links that caught my eye recently:

These Steampunk Softies are just about the cutest, geekiest craft project I have ever seen.

I’ve got a Project Runway post in the works (those who know me in real life know that I have long been a huge fan.) This season, I am also following Project Project Runway, also from Craftzine, where folks play along with the PR challenges by making outfits for dolls. Maybe next season I will join in, though it would be a big time commitment.

I am also a huge Boston Red Sox fan (Jason Varitek and Dustin Pedroia being my particular favorites.)  A friend recently sent me the link to Bill Simmons’ entertaining take on this season’s Sox.

WanderMonster is a blog where a dad chronicles the creative collaboration between himself and his son. Dad gives the kid a paper with a drawing prompt with his lunch and posts the prompts and the subsequent drawings. I love this blog so much, and I especially loved the recent post about an imagined argument.

I adore these stunning National Park posters by Charley Harper. And some are available for a steal at the U. S. Government Bookstore.

I only recently discovered the style blog, Closet Confections, but she definitely had me with her Sassy sundress that is evocative of a Dr. Seuss book. Sounds silly, but it’s actually fabulous.

Let me know if you’ve stumbled upon any fabulous links lately.

Read Full Post »

Yikes, it has been over a month since I posted here!  Sorry for the long absence, but life was kind of keeping me busy.  I had a big event at work to plan.  My car got totalled while parked on the street, so I got to spend a lot of time doing insurance paperwork and car shopping.  I went to visit my parents after my dad had major surgery.  And I went to Chicago for a conference.  So, yeah, I am very ready for a fun and relaxing summer!  Hopefully I’ll manage the balance of adventures and free time to have some regular posts here.

While I was in Chicago for the conference, I was in sessions all day and the weather was mostly cold and rainy, so I didn’t get to do too much exploring.  I did make sure to have some culinary adventures, though.  The first, and best, was a visit to Rick Bayless’s Frontera Grill.  What with the car mess, I hadn’t had time to research restaurants before the trip, but once I arrived and consulted Chowhound I discovered that Frontera Grill was walking distance from my hotel. That was all the encouragement I needed. I figured that getting a table on a weekend night was out of the question, so I just headed over on the early side and snagged a seat at the bar right away.


Argh, sorry for the stinky photo! It was dim in the bar, and I didn’t want to be all conspicuous with my flash. As it was, the couple sitting next to me saw me taking photos and asked if I was a blogger. 🙂

This was only my second experience at a celebrity chef restaurant (I got to eat at Morimoto in Philly years ago, and Chef Morimoto even came to our table and asked how our dinner was!), and it did not disappoint. My only regret is that since I went alone, I only got to try a few dishes. I maximized my tasting by getting two appetizers and dessert, and a wonderful margarita, of course. 🙂 The Coctel de Atun Tropical was simple and divine: juicy chunks of raw tuna, creamy guacamole, and sweet mango. I have a thing for any raw tuna dish, so I have tasted many, and this one ranks among the best. The Sopes Rancheros, little cups of crispy masa filled with juicy, shredded beef and topped with avocado, roasted tomato sauce, and crumbled queso, were insanely good. I wanted to lick the plate, it was such a lovely combination of savory, rich, fresh flavors. And for dessert, my memory is failing me a bit, but as I recall it was a rhubarb tart with pumpkinseed ice cream. I definitely remember that it was delicious, and the pepita ice cream was the star. Traditional pumpkin ice cream is a perennial fave of mine, but this ice cream was purely flavored by the seeds and was nutty and not overly sweet, which made a perfectly sophisticated pairing with the tart-sweet rhubarb tart. Just talking about the meal makes me want to go back, though if I do get a chance to return, I will probably try one of Frontera’s siblings, Tobolobampo or XOCO.

Chowhound also inspired me to try an authentic Chicago-style hot dog, so after some research, I decided on Portillo’s. Apparently a Chicago dog is topped with just about everything but the kitchen sink: relish, tomato, pickled peppers, onions, mustard, and a pickle spear on a poppy seed bun. It was a little spicy for me, but definitely tasty, and it was fun to taste a Chicago tradition.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »