Being a Tourist on Your Home Turf

I’ve often felt as if I give the city I live in (ok, 10 miles outside of) short shrift. Traveling around the world I photograph and explore, but I often forget or choose not to take my camera when I’m in D.C.  Or at least I used to, until I got a tiny but mighty pocket camera that is no bigger than an iPhone and much higher quality, my trusty Canon S110, purchased for about $250 after the newer  S120 came out recently at twice the price.  It’s now my constant companion.

This weekend has seen Indian Summer  weather in the nation’s capitol.  Mr. D and I decided to do an urban explore without any particular destination in mind.  We took the new silver line metro to the Eastern Market stop and just walked.  We were both truly surprised by the gentrification around the Marine Barracks / Eastern Market / 8th Street area, which is now filled with outdoor cafes and stores catering to young families and hip singles. After browsing through the outdoor stalls and the indoor market itself and getting pizza and beer at Seventh Hill, we sauntered down Pennsylvania Avenue past the Library of Congress

IMG_0979to the Tidal Basin.

IMG_0984I hadn’t strolled here for years, and I didn’t remember what a glorious view it was looking up toward the capitol.

IMG_0987I hadn’t  ever paid attention to the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial on the west side of the capitol. On the south side is the infantry

IMG_0985facing a tableau of the cavalry on the left

IMG_0988with General Grant in the middle.

IMG_0986After stopping briefly at the National Gallery’s East Wing too close to closing time for anything other than a pee break

IMG_0990we walked past the Museum of Natural History on our way back to the metro.  I couldn’t resist photographing the beautiful prehistoric looking plantings outside.

What a fun way to spend an afternoon.  I have to remember to sightsee near home more often!

What I’m Packing (carry on only) for Three Weeks in Italy

Mr. D and I are off to Milan, Bellagio, Venice, Bologna, Florence and finally a one week yoga retreat in a villa in Tuscany.  Having successfully navigated three weeks in Asia this past spring carry on only, we are committed to avoiding the baggage carousel.

Osprey 40L backpack

Using my trusty packing cubes and my Osprey 40L backpack I was able to fit in:

  • 4 elbow length Adea tops in black, grey, light and dark blue
  • 1 short sleeve Adea top in white
  • 1 cotton tee shirt for sleeping
  • 2 sleeveless Adea tops in pale peach and pale yellow
  • 1 dressy black button front blouse
  • 2 Prana camisoles for yoga and for under the dressy black blouse, black and  white
  • 1 J Crew pale peach lighweight merino pullover
  • 1 off white lightweight merino cardigan
  • 1 grey and black striped Merona pullover
  • My awesome grey travel pants from Lululemon (see my Asia post)
  • 1 pair dark blue skinnyjeans
  • 2 pair yoga capris
  • 6 pair ExOfficio undies
  • 1 bra
  • 1 reversible Athleta knee length dress in blue
  • 1 black Athleta below the knee skirt
  • 2 silk scarves from Cambodia
  • 2 necklaces from Cambodia
  • Patagonia black ballet flats
  • Black sandals
  • Black Naturalizer tennies
  • 4 pairs merino socks, really three are “sockettes”
  • 2 pairs tights, black and grey
  • Patagonia Nanopuff
  • Yoga towel
  • 1 quart bag of non-liquid junk like bandaids, soap, etc.

Cinched and ready to go! Travel yoga mat included.

Cinched and ready to go, travel yoga mat included. I know, right!  How the heck did I get all that stuff in?  I’m telling you, packing cubes and really smart brands like Adea, Athleta, ExOfficio, Patagonia, and Prana make it possible.

I’m also taking a black Longchamps large bag with a zipper that expands its size:

Longchamps large bag with zipper to expand.

I don’t need to open the zipper for the trip over, but who knows, perhaps on the way back after a bit of shopping. The bag is very lightweight, sturdy and can function as a carry all or a purse.  It will hold my Canon Rebel camera, my iPad, my packable black trench, charging gear, my 1 quart liquid bag, my deflated neck pillow and compression socks and, if need be to get past the airline regs, this:

Baggallini cross body bag

Most of the time toodling around, this Baggalini cross body bag will be all that I will need.  For the flight it holds my passport in its RFID case, boarding pass, iPhone, Canon s110 pocket camera, RFID wallet, small comb and brush and some wipes. Once through security it will also have some small makeup articles from the quart bag.

Its kind of amazing that I can take all of this in such a small space! In fact, I’m kind of thinking I have packed too much … but Italians are very fashionable and I don’t want to look like a frump or have to do much laundry. Everything can dry overnight that needs to be washed in a hotel sink. That’s key.

On the plane I’ll be wearing black leggings (not yoga pants but more stylish so I can wear them out to dinner), a black merino knee length cardigan, a merino shell, a scarf, and Sam Edelman black booties.

Some things are different tech wise this trip. (You can see what I did tech wise last time here). Mr. D and I have added Viber to our phone apps so that we don’t have to bother with an Italian sim card or a later model phone.  I’ve ditched the tripod and the telephoto, both of which I did not use and which took up valuable weight and real estate. I just don’t think my iPhone cuts it in low light situations like a dinner out and I hate that I can’t shoot raw with it or do much editing. So, I’ve gotten the tiny Canon s110 to carry in my Baggallini when we go out and I don’t want to lug the big Canon.

So that’s it!  Ciao! I’ll let you know how it goes!

The Year in Review

It’s been a year since my retirement after nearly thirty years of classroom teaching and school administration. While this last weekend in June may not be New Year’s Day, it is nonetheless time for taking stock and setting goals for the coming year. Nearly all of my friends and acquaintances advised me to take a year off, to just chill out, before setting big goals and expecting to chip away at my bucket list, but I didn’t believe them. I think the karma gods figured out right away that I was now available for all sorts of unplanned speed bumps on the road to a new life phase; let’s just say that it’s been an eventful year. Let the record show that those who warned me were right and I was wrong!

So what have I learned?

1) Just because I don’t have to get up at o’dark thirty to go to work doesn’t mean my animals think I should sleep in, even though I don’t go to bed at 9:30 anymore.

2) It’s a lot easier to eat well and to exercise well and often without the daily grind of working full time.

3) As an introvert, I sometimes have to remember to get outside of my own head and interact with people other than my partner, and then I have to do something about it, which I mostly have, but there is room for improvement.

4) I don’t seem to have much in common with a lot of the people my own age. I am the oldest person in most of the new adventures I’m involved with, and that’s just fine.

5) While I miss the actual act of teaching — interacting with kids, thinking up new ways to present material, mentoring students and younger colleagues — there are big parts of being a K-12 teacher that became more and more onerous in recent years. I am delighted to never again have to:

o   Write another report card comment

o   Explain in person or on some idiotic online form that no one ever reads “how I’ve developed myself professionally this year”

o   Sit through another faculty meeting

o   Post an assignment in yet another format on yet another piece of crap software

o   Endure being told that I am blunt and intimidating because I have decades of experience and am not afraid to say what I think

6) Maybe I just need some space, but the book I wanted to write about the state of contemporary American education is the furthest thing from my mind right now.

7) Finally, having the time to deal with all the junk I’ve accumulated — both physical and virtual — doesn’t mean it’s actually any fun to sift through it and, as they say, “deaccession” (except for most of the work clothes, which went to Goodwill immediately).

So what have been the best things to happen during this first year?

1) Traveling, from planning a trip to actually doing it, has enriched my life and my relationship beyond measure. Mr. D and I have spent months away from home, visiting the West Coast, Asia, New York and Rehoboth. We’ve become a well-oiled partnership on the road, and it has brought us closer. We’ve met some seriously inspirational new people on our travels, almost all of them adventurous and younger than we are, because we don’t ever stay in impersonal and/or expensive places. We’ve had quality time with friends and family during times other than school vacations, and we’ve been able to take leisurely trips to places known and unknown rather than freaking out over how many days we have until we go back to work. I know, most people think, “teachers have all summer off, what’s the problem,” but let me tell you, I used to work my butt off during the summer catching up on household chores, planning for new courses and making “old” ones fresh.

2) I’ve taken two classes that have seriously changed my life. Getting started on learning to really use my DSLR camera enabled me to see the world anew. I wish it weren’t such a pain to transfer these photos in real time to Instagram! Even more importantly, the short story semester class I took with the renowned author and professor Mary Gordon gave me the jumpstart I needed for my own writing. The reading list was challenging, her lectures were riveting, and the comments I received on the five papers I had to write for the course renewed my confidence in my ability. I nearly cried tears of joy when she wrote that she was “blown away” by the “depth and elegance” of my thought and prose. I really needed that as I began to get serious about committing to the next step in my intellectual life.

3) Serendipity brought me a forum to test my authorial wings, and also gave me the opportunity to share with three women who have become my writing touchstone. Kate and I met at the first meeting of an author’s group at our local library, but decided independently that the group just wasn’t for us. She took the initiative to start a group and before we knew it we had four committed women ranging in age from twenties to sixties and several others who came and went sporadically. We meet every two weeks to share work with no restrictions as to genre. Pieces must not exceed 1200 words and must include a word drawn at random the previous session. After one school year so far (not including vacations) we have by my count met sixteen times. The support and critical acuity of my co-members has emboldened me to write deep from the gut, enabled me to hone pieces after receiving excellent criticism, and given me a sense of community and grounding in what can be a lonely or overly narcissistic endeavor.

What have been the biggest challenges of this first year of retirement?

1) Without question, health issues have been major stressors, even though none of them have been my own:

o   My father’s wife’s death after an arduous battle with ovarian cancer

o   My father’s own frailty and ultimate health crisis and recovery

o   Mr. D’s very unexpected pacemaker implantation

o   My brother’s bout with colon cancer

o   My sweet elder dog Sydney’s cancer recurrence and consequent euthanasia

o   My feisty middle aged terrier’s thyroid cancer surgery

Can I tell you how much I loathe cancer?

2) It’s taken a long time to let go of the goals I set for the first year (blogging on two separate blogs every week, accomplishing a number of home improvements, consolidating and perhaps getting rid of all of my electronic and physical teaching materials, becoming a better person, blah blah blah). I’m now choosing to focus on how much I have really accomplished rather than how much is still left to do.

3) It was very hard to adjust to not earning money. This was not so much a financial hardship as a change of self-definition. I continued to do some tutoring, but in effect was, for the first time in decades, not receiving a paycheck per se. I’ve gone from being not just employed but also having at least one freelance situation on the side to being retired. I have no plans or desires to return to the workforce and feel fine now, but those first few months were anxiety producing.

So what’s next?

I’m much less future oriented and much more present in the now than I used to be. My goals are simpler. I want to

o   Be able to hold a handstand in the middle of the room by my birthday

o   Work through the tutorials on the photography program Lightroom5

o   Spend quality time with my remaining terrier now that I have a sense of her mortality

o   Freeze fresh sweet corn and can fresh tomatoes

o   Post on my blogs at least once every two weeks

o   Clean out the garage and the carriage house

o   Get the tile and floor jobs done, preferably by paying someone else to do them

o   Read more

This past year has been one of the best of my life, even though the challenges have been many. I’m looking forward to each day as it comes, and I can honestly say that retiring when I did was one of the best decisions I have ever made!

Technology for My Trip to SE Asia

So, its two hours until I leave for the airport and six hours until takeoff. I’ve packed, repacked, weighed my luggage, stuffed my purse, and printed out all of my documents. I’ve cleaned the house (I hate coming home to a place that feels icky) filled the cat feeders, done the laundry, paid the bills and fired off some last minute work stuff. I’ve taken a nice long soak and gotten into my travel clothes.

I have just enough time to write this post about what technology I am taking. So here goes:

Canon Rebel Eos Rebel XS DSLR camera with the kit lens (18mm – 55 mm) and a Canon telephoto (55mm – 250mm). This camera is an oldie but a goodie, and all I need as an amateur.

Joby SLR GorillaPod tripod with ball head

Canon battery charger

3 8GB Sandisk SDHC cards (I like the smaller ones because I don’t reuse them but keep them as backup after downloading into Lightroom 5)

1 card reader to IPad connector

IPad 4 with retina display, 16GB

IPhone 4

Chargers for the IPad and IPhone

Eagle Creek kit containing worldwide universal adaptors for any and all circumstances

Earbuds ( I don’t have fancy headphones, although I’d like to)

RFID passport cover and wallet (these protect against folks scanning electronic data while merely walking past)

Tunnelbear VPN (virtual private network software) to be used on the Iphone and the Ipad.

Sewing kit

Eyeglasses repair kit

Rhodia 5 X 7 notebook with pocket


Lock for my backpack

I think that’s it!! You can follow my journey here and on Instagram @farmhousebythefalls

Bon Voyage!!

A bit of before and after in the backyard. While we had a lot of beautiful orange and red this year, sometimes I think the more subtle shifts seen in these photos are more beautiful, kind of like the difference between a well tailored basic black and a bold floral print. Maybe its just my mood today, craving a bit of serenity after a hectic few weeks.


“I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree.”Joyce Kilmer

ImageTrees.  They pose in the forest in all of the states of aging, sometimes graceful and sometimes in a tangle of sudden felling.

ImageDuring a lovely long hike in the park this cold, raw March afternoon I saw this:

ImageAnd this:

ImageAnd this:

ImageAnd wondered.

Did these trees consent to be tattooed? Did it hurt?

I learned this about bark:

“Each year a tree essentially grows a new “coat of wood” over the older wood. The outside layer of the tree is dead bark which provides protection from the environment. The inner bark layer is composed of live tissue that transports food downward. Between the bark and wood is the cambium layer which is responsible for increases in tree diameter (by creating annual rings) and responds to injury by producing callus tissue.”

I’m guessing that the bite of the knives that carved these mementos, or messages, or signs of personal ego was not stronger than the bark.

But what of the scars brought about by quick, unexpected bolts of lightening? Or of the slow and steady, chronic irritation inflicted by woodpeckers and tiny insects invading the cambium?

ImageWhen I do a tree pose next I will think about, not my precarious balance, but the strength of my cambium, which has been so tested by the lightening bolt of marital infidelity, the steady irritation of a thousand tiny bangs and cuts and sappings of energy brought about by daily life in the forest of humanity.

No sapling I, may the gnarls of time make me as majestic as this:

ImageAnd when I am cut down by time, may my fall be heard . . . and respected.


Gearing Up

I just ordered a brand new (to me, it’s actually used and hopefully won’t come with p,b, & j stains and such) Canon DSLR camera to really ramp up the pics on this blog.  I’m starting to actually get serious. Stay tuned for reports of my learning curve as I haven’t used an SLR since the pre-digital era. F-stop anyone?