Busy Baltimore

Do you ever read articles in the travel section which provide an itinerary for someone who is visiting a city for only a short time? I’ve always loved reading those but at the same time I was skeptical that anyone ever tried to follow those whirlwind timetables. But now I know people DO sightsee at the speed of sound, because I just did it. Here is how it came about.

Him: You need more airline miles.

Me: OK.

Him: So you need to take another trip this year. How about Baltimore? We’ve never been there, and the flight’s only $215.00.

Me: OK.

The next thing I knew I was on my way to the Charming City. Having  only recently returned from a trip to Atlanta I simply didn’t have the energy to do much of the fun research I like to do before a trip. For this adventure we would rely on our wits and our smart phones.  As soon as we checked into our  hotel near the Inner Harbor on Friday afternoon we looked at each other and said, “Let’s get going.”

That  afternoon and evening we burned up the pavement around Inner Harbor.DSC_0273 I don’t know what all we did but in such perfect fall weather it hardly matters what one does. Oh wait, now I do remember. We looked for a place to stop and have a beer while overlooking the harbor, but couldn’t quite find the vibe  we were looking for. Eventually we settled on the least touristy place we could find, Gordon Biersch, and enjoyed  appetizers and beer in the warm afternoon sun. DSC_0565Gordon Biersch was a lucky find for me, because unlike so many other beer places, it had a nice lager selection. ( For those who do not know this, my husband is Mr. I.P.A. I don’t mind going along for the ride, but I can’t drink all those  bitter, heavy beers.) Later  we ate dinner and drank  yet more beer at the Pratt Street Ale House.DSC_0575

DSC_0577The next morning as soon as we woke up we headed out on foot. What about coffee, you ask? My sweet companion got us Illy coffee from the hotel restaurant each morning. What llttle research we had done informed us that Baltimore is a city of neighborhoods. So we set off to find them, starting with  with Mount Vernon. After a brisk walk we arrived at a place my husband had found for breakfast but sadly, it was not open on Saturday.

We were undaunted though, because our next destination was the Walters Museum where we  would simply get something at their cafe. But SURPRISE!!!!! the Walters Museum along with its cafe was closed that day for a special event. By this time I was ready to start gnawing on my shoes.

But instead we crept across the street into the Cozy Corner. It was deserted.  But yes, they were open, and had a choice of an American breakfast menu or an Asian lunch menu. Aaah, a spinach omelet never tasted so good.DSC_0578

Reading on Read Street.

Reading on Read Street.

Fortified by breakfast we hiked on to our next destination: Read Street Books.  DSC_0311Ambiance can be difficult to photograph, so in case I missed the mark in mine, let me just tell you that  you will love  the charm of  this tiny slice- of- heaven bookstore. What makes this spot so enjoyable? It’s the used books, of course. It’s the Frank Sinatra channel on Pandora. It’s the green leather couch.DSC_0302 It is sweet Lisette who was working that day and made sure we knew all about the Charm City Circulator.DSC_0313 DSC_0308Our interlude there refreshed us enough to move on to some other Mount Vernon landmarks: The Basilica,DSC_0580

DSC_0586the Enoch Pratt Free Library,DSC_0587 the Women’s Industrial Exchange.Then we hoofed it over to the West Side, to see the Edgar Allen Poe Gravesite.DSC_0590 This ad for a conspiracy book  about the Catholic Church added to the sense of spookiness.DSC_0363

Exiting the graveyard we re entered the busy urban scene. But not  to relax, not yet. The day was not over. f we hurried we could still  make it to the  B. and O. Railroad Museum.

But we're never too old to play on trains!

But we’re never too old to play on trains!

I wouldn’t call myself a train lover but I did enjoy the exhibit about the part railroads played in the Civil War. We didn’t ride the steam train. but maybe you’d like to.DSC_0380

The sky threatened rain as we left the museum so it seemed a good time to stop in the Camden Pub. We rested our feet while nursing a couple of beers and  enjoyed front row entertainment by our waitress. You see, her mother, aged 92, expects her daughter to take her to do  one of her “bucket list” activities each year on her birthday. She regaled us with tales of their past exploits: riding an elephant, zip lining, rapelling.  What would they do on her next birthday? Sky dive?DSC_0615

Soon we had to either face the elements or stay there for the evening. That wouldn’t have been so bad except that we wanted to get over to Little Italy. So off we went, stopping briefly for our sweaters on our way. We strolled through little Italy at dusk, just as a beautiful carillon of bells played from a Catholic  Church.

Our destination was Heavy Seas, yes, a brew pub, but one that had a decent menu. This was important because we  hadn’t had lunch. I had some lighter beers, along with some yummy oysters, and salmon with cumin. Lovely!DSC_0618

Somehow we managed to propel our tired legs back to the hotel. Total number of steps on my firbit for that day: 23,000!

A Pearl harbor era Coast Guard vessel we passed on the way back to our hotel.

A Pearl harbor era Coast Guard vessel we passed on the way back to our hotel.

We were a little stiff the next morning after all our perambulations of the day before. But despite our sore feet we hit the road again, back over to the Walters Museum. We were the first ones there! I’m sure we walked several mies through that leviathan complex. I paid close attention to the ancient Alexandria section, since I was reading The Alexandria Quartet at the time, and to the netsuke collection, as I had so enjoyed reading The Amber Hare.  We spent hours in this massive  museum full of treasures, marveling that it is free to the public. The museum should be a true point of pride for Baltimore.


Netsuke Collection.

Netsuke Collection.

Next we headed over to the George Washington Monument, where I enjoyed seeing the little parks that surround it on all sides. DSC_0426About that time we looked at each other and allowed as how it surely would be nice to jump on the Charm City Circulator right about now. Spying a bus stop, we trudged  over and in just a few minutes we boarded the most beautiful bus we’d ever seen. Of course by this time any form of transport would have seemed exquisite beyond compare.

Our next destination was Federal Hill, which we had heard boasted of fun shopping, charming residential streets and the Hill itself which was once the site of a Civil War fort.  I was sure I needed to go in some darling shops. We looked, but lots of the places were closed. But look what we found! A place to rest our very sore feet!DSC_0431DSC_0432 This establishment was all we saw of the retail side of Federal Hill. Eventually we left and hiked over to the Hill. What a fun spot to overlook the Inner Harbor!DSC_0452 Like every other outdoor spot we visited, we could have spent the afternoon there. Then I just couldn’t resist  a stroll down some of the pleasant streets surrounding the Hill.

Neighborhood watch cat.

Neighborhood watch cat.

DSC_0446DSC_0447By then it was late afternoon. We were feeling a bit down because we knew we had to leave the next day, and we had barely scratched the surface of the city. But no one could say we didn’t try!

We didn’t want to walk far for dinner, so we settled an a fairly pedestrian place to eat that night. But it did the job for us. My companion had one last chance for crab cakes and I one last chance for Natty Boh  ( National Bohemian) beer.  We landed back in the hotel early that night to pack.  Steps for the day: 20000! We fell asleep that night with visions in our head of all the things we had managed to pack into 48 hours. Had we visited landmarks and stopped in between for beer? Or had we visited brew pubs and stopped in between for landmarks? Hmmmm. Well, either way, we were busy and beersy in Baltimore!

Can’t Stop The Fall

I just got in from the backyard, and I’ve shut the door firmly behind me. It is October 16, well into the time when summer should be “shutting down”, but judging by the some of the plant  activity, revolution is in the air.DSC_0273

This old timer carrot realizes the time has come for him to become a part of my salad. Digging in his heels will only bring him into danger of becoming flash frozen in the dirt. Who wants that?DSC_0337This elephant ear shows the color splotches he has earned during many blazing hot afternoons on a patio. We expect these signs of character by October. He has fought the good fight. The onions have turned from a foamy, lacy white to an earthy brown.DSC_0278The burning bush is showing its first red leaves.DSC_0279But while some backyard citizens are yielding gracefully to the change of season,  a younger, less mature set is just starting out in life.  They are budding, blossoming, perhaps frolicking in the headiness of youth,  as though unaware that cool temperatures and short, dark days are just around the corner.

Naive optimism? Or plain nihilism?

Some expect to produce offspring. Will they have a chance? I wouldn’t want to say.DSC_0330

This gourd has at last appeared. He is an only child. Does he think he can halt the march of nature long enough for him to reach his full growth?DSC_0276

The tomatoes are churning out more blossoms, defying the notion that they should have been turned into mulch by now.DSC_0314

And look at this poor tomatillo, newly raised from seed after my first two attempts failed. It seems he wants to take his chances.DSC_0325

Meanwhile, the four o’clocks are blooming like it is June the sixth.DSC_0278

What can they all be thinking? Have they not seen this old grandma in her nightgown, telling all it is time for a long winter’s nap?DSC_0289But the youth…. they spurn the voice of experience.

I’m hoping this dissension is not something organized. But when I see the reach of the hummingbird vine, I know that seditious ideas could easily be passed from one young bloom to another.DSC_0283DSC_0303They look innocent enough, but they would look that way, wouldn’t they?DSC_0274

Well, in case any of them are listening, I do not allow politics in my backyard. Swift action will be taken against any special interest groups which threaten the general ecosystem. I  empathize with those who find themselves unready for the march of time, who still have  big plans they will not be able to carry out when the weather changes. As an old lady who feels as spry as a cosmos bloom I too must accept that my time here is finite.
DSC_0318My message to any wannabe overthrowers in my backyard is this: No one can stop the fall.

Shall We Glide?

Now that I have thoroughly documented the universe’s unfairness toward me in the mammary department, it is time to move on to a story with a more satisfying end. It is a classic story, actually, and one that is ever evolving. From time immemorial, women have sought to drape their bodies with shimmering fabrics in which to glide by the populace as a  vision of grace and beauty. No doubt  the first garments were coarse and mean, but as our skills with weaving and sewing increased, so did the varieties of women’s clothing throughout the world.

And women noticed. At the well, at tribal gatherings, at the place of worship, I am sure every woman knew what every other woman was wearing and uttered words, such as “Hey. She’s wearing the same loosely draped toga type dress that I’m wearing!” As civilizations grew in complexity, so did norms  of what women were expected to wear. The invention of the printing press made possible the fashion magazine. With the Industrial Revolution came ready to wear clothing though many women sewed their own dresses. Styles came and went, causing the need for women to refresh their wardrobes more often. We continued to notice clothing and to see it as an extension of ourselves.  Women all over the world were united with this ubiquitous phrase: I have NOTHING to wear!

In today’s world, as a post fifty woman, I have found shopping  for clothing to  be almost as difficult as balancing a twenty pound basket of laundry on my head, walking to the river, and pounding said laundry with rocks in the  hot sun in order to have something to wear for the next day’s religious rites. I have found it as tiring as sitting in front of an industrial Singer sewing machine  in a locked factory for twelve hours a day sewing men’s shirt collars in order to buy three yards of muslin for an every day dress. It has surely been as taxing  as using the green velvet dining room curtains to make an alluring gown for Scarlett O’Hara.

I'll never be unfashionable again! Source: wtw4ever.com

I’ll never be unfashionable again!
Source: wtw4ever.com

Styles are different now. One can wear anything, except that one can’t find anything suitable. What goes with what?   Is that thing a shirt or a dress? Do people really wear shirts that show their bra straps? Are we expected to go back through the bell bottoms and maxi skirts we already wore in college?

Been there, done that. http://11even.net/2010/09/womens-fashion-1970s/kreativ/

Been there, done that.


Source: Old Pueblo Traders

Or, since I am over 40, am I relegated to the Sag Harbor department, to forever deck myself out in elastic waisted  twill pants with matching jacket? That, my friends is not what I call a vision of grace and beauty!

While I am grateful not to live in a world which requires me to appear in a blue wool suit with gloves, hat and hose, I long for some of the “go to ” stores we used to have back in my youth: Casual Corner, Franklin Simon, the Clothes Horse. Back then we had salesladies who helped us with our selections and brought us other sizes. We could buy an entire outfit, including accessories,  all at the same place. Those were the days.

But even if we still had those stores, I don’t wear junior sizes anymore. The stores we do have are largely chains, but with the rise of the Internet they don’t carry the inventory they did before. And I am not interested in wearing what everyone else wears anyway.

Clearly my style is not based on current trends!

Clearly my style is not based on current trends!

And though I long to express my magpie leanings through clothing, I am not going to pay $200, or $100, or even $75 for a shirt. I think a shirt should cost no more than  $19.99 if new. If the shirt could be found  gently used at the thrift store for $1.50, that would be preferable. I don’t need many dressy clothes. I wear casual clothes to work, but I want DIFFERENT casual clothes to wear out. Do I sound picky?

I also think I should say that although I want clothes, I don’t want to go shopping. It takes up too much of my time.  I don’t enjoy driving, especially from one store to another: too much getting in and out of the car. I further dislike trying on clothes. Too much work putting all your clothes back on to flip through the racks for the correct size.  I might do it twice in a shopping trip, but that is the limit. Then I have to go through a line, and get out my wallet and all that. Please, just boil me in oil!

For the last few years I have basically “made do” with Marshall’s, because it is close to my house. Often I have simply grabbed something and bought it without even trying it on, and either wearing it only once or twice, or not at all. Sigh. Black shirts and pants are “safe”, but how many of those does one magpie need? Internet shopping has been hit or miss, with items arriving that are either too young for me or not looking the same as in the picture.

Surely some clothing manufacturers understand that over fifty doesn't mean over the hill?

Surely some clothing manufacturers understand that over fifty doesn’t mean over the hill?

And now for the happier ending. Someone finally invented a way for me to get new clothes and ENJOY it !!!! I am passing this on not to promote the company, but because if any of us find an acceptable way to find clothes, I believe we are honor bound to share it. My new magpie find is called Stitch Fix.

My daughter told me about it. It seems you give them all your information, from your sizes, to your likes and dislikes, to your price range and they send you clothes. You keep what you like and send back what you don’t. I admit I was wary. Maybe they only catered to the young who can wear anything? But I filled out the info and I reminded them of a few things, such as that it is hot as Hades down here, so don’t send me a bunch of long sleeved shirts in the summer. Then I hit that send button to schedule my first shipment. What did I have to lose?

I’ve been a “member” for maybe five months, and girls, it has been MARVELOUS!!! Here’s how it works. First, a box arrives in the mail. Everybody knows how exciting that is. Here’s how it looks. Aren’t you excited?


Then I have this very nice card from my personal shopper. I think she really likes me.DSC_0275

Next we ( I feel as though you are all here with me, so it’s become “we”)  rip open that tissue paper and see what we  got!! Yippee!!DSC_0274

Each month there are five items. And each item has this handy card that shows us  ways that particular piece can be worn.DSC_0272

Now we  try on the clothes. We have three days to decide what we want to keep. Then we go in to Stitch Fix and tell’em what we want and what we don’t want. Whatever we don’t want we simply mail back to them in the postage paid envelope.

Here are some recent selections.

Pay no attention to the man behind the shirt.

Pay no attention to the man behind the shirt.

DSC_0279DSC_0729DSC_0735 Thanks to Stitch Fix, I’m feeling kind of sassy again. They have sent me things I might not have picked out for myself and that I haven’t seen other people wearing. The clothes are not too young for me, nor are they too old. And even if they were, I wouldn’t have to keep them. Really, Stitch Fix 2013 has replaced my long gone Casual Corner of 1976 and the other shops I used to hold so dear.

And if all that were not enough, this month’s box came with an bag for ThredUP, which buys gently worn clothing. I will get Stitch Fix credit for whatever Thredup accepts from me. What a great chance to get rid of some of the things I bought at Marshall’s just because they were on the clearance rack!DSC_0284

Well. enough gushing. Whatever you are doing in these complicated times to obtain clothing so that you can leave your home, I congratulate you. If you are finding the search to be frustrating, time wasting and morally degrading, I don’t blame you. But don’t give up. Something will work. Something will fit your style and personality. When something does work, pass it on. All of us girls want to glide by the populace, wrapped in shimmering garments! Shall we?