Oct Travel Recap: New York City

Oh my – between travel and everything else crazy that has gone on this month, I haven’t had time to blog! But there is so much to share, so here’s the first of two recaps of October travel.

I went to New York City for four days earlier in October to fabric shop and visit friends. It was a really good trip, successful in fabric shopping, friends, art, culture and some thought-provoking museum exhibits.

Fabric shopping was on the top of my list, so after arriving on the Vamoose Bus and dropping my luggage at Schwartz Luggage Storage, I ran to the Garment District. Some friends had posted articles about the Garment District fabric stores closing, and although the large ones like Mood and my favorite B&J Fabrics don’t seem to be effected, the small, family-run stores are in danger. I found one store that advertised it was it’s last day, and everything was on clearance. Although I don’t have an immediate need for two-colored sequin fabric or brocades, well, I couldn’t beat the prices, so I purchased 2 yards of each. And a pretty knit for the McCalls 6844 sweater I’ve wanted to make for a while now.

Last day here - the owner (manager?) was very friendly and upbeat, flirted a bit, so I didn't ask about what he does next. I didn't want to remind him...

Last day here – the owner (manager?) was very friendly and upbeat, flirted a bit, so I didn’t ask about what he does next. I didn’t want to remind him…

I did buy some luxury fabrics at B&J Fabrics, to make some nice basics – a blue tencel twill for another Dressy Talk basic blouse, and a stretch gray for a Sew Over It Ultimate Pencil Skirt. Those two pieces will be nice work basics, nothing flashy, but good “uniform” pieces.

The blue is darker than I was looking for but I love the fabric. It's hard to get the color right in these photos!

The blue is darker than I was looking for but I love the fabric. It’s hard to get the color right in these photos!

Meeting up with a friend in Hoboken resulted in a stash of vintage sewing patterns. She has been cleaning out her mother’s and grandmother’s sewing stashes, and has offered me whatever I want. I made two blouses out of Liberty of London fabric she gave me a while ago. The vintage patterns were fun, especially after having attended the National Arts Club FashionSpeak Fridays talk about the collaboration between Jackie Kennedy and designer Oleg Cassini. I’m not a 1960s styles fan but seeing all the photos of Jackie’s outfits was wonderful. So I ended up with a few patterns that I might end up making.

I also went to two Broadway shows, “School of Rock” and “Something Rotten,” and loved both of them. I have friends working on both shows (wardrobe friends, so backstage, not on stage), so it was fun to see what they are up do. school-of-rock something-rottenMy visit to the Cooper Hewitt Design Museum was one of the best things I did all weekend (and I did alot of great things). I went for the Scraps: Fashion, Textiles and Creative Reuse exhibit, but found so much more. It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a museum that so thoroughly engaged my intellect as well as my creativity. cooper-hewitt_scrapsThe exhibits focused on the design element in the world around us, such as the history of design of the American police system, but also how design can improve the future, how it tackles social injustice, the affordable housing crisis, and even allowed the public to design solutions for modern social problems.

I found these statistics to be depressing as well as educational and inspiring.

I found these statistics to be depressing as well as educational and inspiring.

But the Cooper Hewitt had a really cool feature that I wish all museums would do – a digital “pen” that allowed each individual guest to “collect” the display items that they like. You match the + on the end of the pen with the + on each item display, and it downloads or links or something. With each payment you are given a unique code, and then you can log onto their website and see the things you liked. So cool! Also, then I didn’t have to take photos of everything and fill up my already overtaxed iPhone storage…

I am always pleased to have such a stimulating trip, full of ideas and concepts and thoughts as well as just simple visuals of where I have been. Between the city itself, Central Park, the new Oculus at Ground Zero, and a stroll down Fifth Avenue, I feel inspired and yearning to create and design. Now, if only I had the time! After returning from this long weekend, The Mechanic and I went away for a bike weekend in the country. Still no time to create! But that was also a lovely weekend – stay tuned for that recap coming up soon.

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First Day of School!

Arlington Public Schools starts back to school today, September 8. It seems really late this year, a whole week into September, but I can’t imagine any of the students complaining! It’s been so hot these last few days that I have to laugh at fall back-to-school things – new sweaters and fall leaves and cozy hot drinks. My mother tells me that every year, my grandmother very carefully bought me a new raincoat, rain boots and umbrella, but California in the 1970s was in the middle of a drought, and I outgrew them before getting too much use out of them.

I had my parents send me my back-to-school photos. What a hoot! My style hasn’t changed much in decades – floral dresses and oh my goodness that oh so proper outfit on my first day of First Grade! And look – my natural hair color! <ahem>

First Grade - who wears something like this in first grade?!?! How did my parents not guess at my future focus from this photo?

First Grade – who wears something like this in first grade?!?! How did my parents not guess at my future focus from this photo?

Second Grade - if you look closely you can see my "Little House on the Prairie" lunch box. And keep watching for knee socks. Apparently that was a look I really loved. I didn't crop these because I love the square photo shape, but watch how they eventually change.

Second Grade – if you look closely you can see my “Little House on the Prairie” lunch box. And keep watching for knee socks. Apparently that was a look I really loved. I didn’t crop these because I love the square photo shape, but watch how they eventually change.

Third Grade - another floral print dress! No socks this day, bet it was hot. Same lunch box too. And guess I had my hair cut off in between years.

Third Grade – another floral print dress! No socks this day, bet it was hot. Same lunch box too. And guess I had my hair cut off in between years.

Fourth Grade and the photos move outside. I'm clutching camellias from the yard, for the teacher I assume. Another floral dress and knee socks again.

Fourth Grade and the photos move outside. I’m clutching camellias from the yard, for the teacher I assume. Another floral dress and knee socks again.

Fifth Grade - yes, I am wearing a blouse that my mother embroidered. I forget the technique but I know I loved it (and still do). I assume that I slept on foam curlers to get my hair that curly.

Fifth Grade – yes, I am wearing a blouse that my mother embroidered. I forget the technique but I know I loved it (and still do). I assume that I slept on foam curlers to get my hair that curly.

Sixth Grade - look at the sudden style shift! Pants, on the first day of school! And Velcro tennis shoes. My, I was a bean pole then, wasn't I?

Sixth Grade – look at the sudden style shift! Pants, on the first day of school! And Velcro tennis shoes. My, I was a bean pole then, wasn’t I?

And also, look at a few group photos of the first day – one with my little brother, and two with my friend at the time.

Back to school fashions are much different these days, but the excitement and anxiety remains for every kid returning to school. I’ve talked to many parents recently who plan on walking and biking with their kids to school (yay!), and some who plan to drive their child because they don’t want them up too early/the traffic around the school is terrible/drivers are terrible/it’s too hilly around our school. I think that is a shame, because they are not helping their children as much as they think they are.

We all read research about the positive impacts of children biking and walking to school and know how important it is to get kids moving to beat the obesity crisis. But much more compelling arguments to me are the mental benefits. An article in the print version of Momentum Magazine (sorry, I couldn’t find it online) quotes Dr. Anne-Marie Zajdlik, a Canadian physician, who talks about the rise in anxiety and depression in adolescents and young adults, and says that children need MORE freedom, independence and exercise. The article states that children who bike and walk to school “have the opportunity” to take “small risks” every day – these risks are important, because they help children develop “resiliency and self-confidence that can be drawn upon when facing life’s challenges in later years.” Basically, children who bike and walk to school develop not only better physical health, but better abilities to handle life’s challenges as they grow up.

Jenn Savedge, in her recent article in Mother Nature Network, laments that parents spend so much time and money on enrichment activities for their offspring, whereas letting them bike and walk to school has immediate, longer-lasting impacts. She talks about a 2012 Danish study that found that children who walk or bike to school not only have better concentration than their peers who rode public transportation or were dropped off by parents, but that the concentration lasts up to four hours! More striking – the effect was greater than even having breakfast and lunch. safe_routes_to_schools_logoTo me, the “small risks,” mental alertness and emotional maturity that come from risk taking are more important than even the physical health. Helping a child build his or her own mental resilience has got to be one of the most important things an adult can do. There has been an uptick in conversation about mental health lately, and how to spot mental illnesses earlier. Let’s focus instead on how to prevent or minimize mental illness by encouraging more activities that help children cope with challenges and struggles in their lives. Hovering over a child to prevent disappointment or a sense of failure isn’t healthy; helping her build the confidence to overcome them herself is.

Taking risks and building confidence is something that will not only follow us into adulthood, but something that we continually need to call upon. The Mechanic and I joined some friends mountain biking yesterday. It was only my second time out, and I was really skittish when we started out. But I stuck it out – and eventually gained some confidence. Yes, I still walked plenty of spots, but I took some risks – and succeeded.

What you don't see in this photo is me paused in front of the creek, working up the courage to bike through. But I did it! Yep, badass!

What you don’t see in this photo is me paused in front of the creek, working up the courage to bike through. But I did it! Yep, badass!

As a society, we need to work together to encourage children to gain confidence and strength. I really can’t think of a better way than through biking and walking to school. We should all encourage the creation of cool skills parks like this one to help children develop skills safely. We should all encourage green streets and safe routes to schools. I don’t have children, but that doesn’t mean I don’t care about my community and the children growing up in it. Their mental health and emotional resilience are important to all of us. So let’s all work together to create it.

And maybe buy your kids this great Showers Pass rain jacket (there are boys and girls version in a range of colors) to get them excited about biking in the rain. I would have loved one of these when I was a kid – even if I never got to wear it….

Showers Pass Girls Rain Jacket (photo from Showers Pass website)

Showers Pass Girls Rain Jacket (photo from Showers Pass website)

(A few more things I wanted to add but this was long enough: Dr. Jennifer Rupert mentions mental benefits of walking in nature; a great video about biking and walking to school in Portland.)

New Year September Resolutions

Do you still get that back-to-school, starting a new year feeling? It’s been eight years since I finished my Master’s, the last time I was taking classes and worried about new semesters, and yet, I still get excited about resetting in September and starting again.

Which glitter notebook do I use?!

Which glitter notebook do I use?!

This fall will bring a few changes in our household, as both The Mechanic and I are going back to school! Well, sort of. We are both taking German classes. The Mechanic is taking beginner classes through Arlington County Parks & Rec, and I will be taking an intermediate level class at the Graduate School USA, located in Washington, DC. Both of our classes will be on Wednesday nights, starting in mid-September. His classes will be 2 hours long, while mine are 3, and I think there are more weeks in my class. But I’m looking forward to it! Hopefully helping The Mechanic with his homework will help reinforce some of the basics I learned a long, long time ago. I know there is some grammar I was fuzzy on even when I was somewhat fluent, so I need to focus on that. It will be fun to practice with each other.  This is the beginning of our “move to Germany/Europe someday” plan.

Four shelves of German books and I need a language refresher!

Four shelves of German books and I need a language refresher!

The other education item on my September list is to get the certified through The Center for Green Schools as a “Green Classroom Professional.” The Center for Green Schools is a part of the U. S. Green Building Council, founded in 2010, with a mission of turning all schools into green schools through what they define as three pillars – environmental impact, human health, and eco-literacy.  I’m interested in the certificate because I want to learn details, and because I am curious as to whether or not transportation is even included in the environmental impact category. Well, any of them, really. I’m pretty sure that LEED standards for buildings are more detailed or rigorous, but it isn’t a huge time commitment or cost, so why not? If nothing else, I can suggest ways to better incorporate green transportation.

New Buildings in Arlington must be Silver Level LEED, but that doesn't mean I can't learn what they consider a "green school"

New Buildings in Arlington must be Silver Level LEED, but that doesn’t mean I can’t learn what they consider a “green school”

This means that I won’t be publishing blog posts on Thursdays for a while, because I won’t be home to write them Wednesday nights. So I think I will shake things up a bit and publish on Tuesdays and Fridays. <gasp> I know, I know – a rift in the universe. But not to worry – even though I’ve added one more free time activity to my life, I will still be blogging, sewing and biking.

Speaking of sewing, the other new thing I’ll be trying this fall is to only make my clothes. Eek. I’m not sure how this is going to go, actually, between not having enough time to sew and moments of weakness where I *need* some instant gratification. Instant, sewing is not. But this is the first season I’ve honestly felt as if I don’t need new clothes. (Boots are another story.) I haven’t gotten enough wear out of what I’ve made or purchased this spring and summer, and I don’t want to buy anything. Once it gets really cold, I’ll need to invest in new sweaters, because I’m not about to try making those on top of everything else, but I want to see how much of my own wardrobe I can create. Wish me luck! Sewing TableDo you feel like the year resets in September as well? Do you set any “resolutions” for the new school year, whether or not you are in school?