Archive for June 2012

On Taking a Clothing Risk

Saturday, June 30, 2012 2:00 PM

As I browsed the rack of shirts at the Goodwill in Augusta last week, I was immediately drawn to this tunic:

And of course I was. Look at that gorgeous color, somewhere between emerald and teal. I loved the mix of geometric and floral prints. And while there are no tags other than to indicate the size and the fact that it was made in India, I could tell by feel that the fabric is silk: rustling and slippery and cool.

And yet, I hesitated to bring the tunic home. In many ways, it is all wrong for me. I don't wear much green or any orange. It goes with very few items I own. In fact, I'm now planning to buy a pair of navy leggings to wear under it — and we all know what a bad idea it usually is to buy something that requires that you then go out and buy more, right? I don't own a single other tunic, so any outfits I create with this one will be outside my comfort zone. And it's not just any tunic; it's a kameez, a garment native to South Asia. I am about the whitest person you could ever meet, so I'd like to avoid offenses of cultural appropriation.

So I spent a couple of minutes standing the store aisle, looking at and feeling this kameez. I went to the dressing room and tried it on, and spent a few more minutes pondering. And then I took it to the register and plunked down $4.71 to make it mine. I've worn it once so far, belted and bloused, with the navy pencil skirt I bought at the same Goodwill store a year ago:

I loved it, and I can't wait to find all kinds of ways to wear my new kameez. Buying it was a risk, but because I found it at a thrift store, it seemed like a small risk and a smart one to take. After all, the kameez set me back less than $5, and if it doesn't work out, I can always donate it back to Goodwill.

Thrifting has all kinds of advantages, and one of my favorites is that it lowers the bar to taking clothing risks and trying new things. Another example: I decided I wanted to try using scarves as true accessories, rather than just as a utilitarian accompaniment to a heavy coat in winter. Only I had no idea what shapes or patterns or colors would work best. But now I've built up a collection of maybe a half-dozen thrifted scarves — including a couple of designer, silk scarves — for no more than $25 total, and I really enjoy incorporating them into my outfits. If I ever want to try out a trend, a style of clothing, or a color or pattern that leaves me a bit uncertain, I will always go to a Goodwill or another thrift store first.

How to Use Six Pounds of Strawberries

Friday, June 29, 2012 11:00 AM

On Saturday, before heading to New Hampshire for a day full of visits with J's family, he and I spent about an hour at Jordan's Farm in Cape Elizabeth to pick strawberries. We were anxious to go because we don't know if we'll have another shared day off here in Maine (as opposed to next weekend, when we're going to Florida for a wedding) before strawberry season ends. When we finished picking, we thought we had about 4 pounds of berries, only for the scale to show more than 6 pounds.

So then we had to figure out what to do with that bounty. Some uses are obvious, but I had to spend some time researching online to decide on others. Six days after going berry-picking, we have only one applesauce jar* of strawberries still in our fridge. Here's what we did with the rest:

With Yogurt 

This is one of those basic, obvious uses for strawberries or pretty much any other fresh fruit. I don't like commercially available flavored yogurts, which are full of preservatives and waaaaayyy too much sugar, but I love plain yogurt with fruit and a little honey.

With Balsamic Vinegar, in a Salad

Strawberries and balsamic vinegar make a pairing almost as delicious as chocolate and peanut butter. I cut up strawberries and let them soak in vinegar for 20 minutes or so, stirring every once in a while, then used some of the strawberry-infused vinegar to make a vinaigrette. The other components of the salad were greenleaf lettuce — it was what we received in our CSA, but spinach or another darker green would have been better — and some chevre we happened to have on hand. J has very predictable taste when it comes to salads, and the only thing this one needed to make him happier would be some candied pecans.

Strawberry Freezer Jam

I don't think I have the equipment necessary for traditional canning, which I find somewhat intimidating. Freezer jam supposedly maintains the fresh-fruit taste because it's not cooked, and it was extremely easy to make. I just followed the instructions from the Sure-Jell packet.

Freezing Whole Berries

I washed, dried and hulled these berries before carefully arranging them on a cookie sheet and placing them in the freezer like this. It keeps them from freezing into a solid mass, which makes it easier to pull out a few at a time for baking, smoothies or some other such purpose.


Here I'm borrowing a traditional German method of preserving summer and fall fruits. What you do is mix two parts fruit to one part sugar (by weight), then submerge it in rum in a big jar or stoneware crock. I found this great container at the Falmouth Goodwill store and cleaned it out with boiling water.

As new fruits come into season, you just add layers of fruit, sugar and rum, ending in the fall with grapes and pears. Then you give it all a month or two more to marinate, and by Christmastime you have boozy fruit to serve over pound cake or ice cream, plus a fruity liquor to sip. 

I put this together on Tuesday night. The strawberries are floating, which means they're exposed to air, so I hope they'll sink as they soak up rum. By the next morning, the rum had leeched nearly all the color from the berries, so I have little vampire berries floating in there. The fruit won't be at its most attractive when it's time to serve it in six months, but I'm sure it will be delicious.

Strawberry Summer Cake

J and I have been eating this terrific cake for breakfast all week. The fruit makes it healthy, right? I like it with a mug of peppermint tea. The recipe is from Smitten Kitchen, here. I also considered making Deb's strawberries and cream biscuits, but the cake, rumtopf and two forms of frozen berries used up probably 4 pounds of fruit, so I didn't want to take up any more with baking. Now that we're almost out of strawberries, I'm sure we'll buy some more at the farmers market soon; the biscuits will just have to wait.

*Yes, an applesauce jar, but a salsa jar or a Mason jar will do just as well. If you haven't tried storing berries in glass, do it! I first encountered this tip a couple of years ago, and I'm still amazed at how much it increases the longevity of strawberries and other fruits. Tupperware also is better than the plastic cartons in which strawberries are sold, but glass is the best. It even helps a bit with raspberries, though in that case you need to make sure you don't stack them too deep, or they'll crush the ones on the bottom.

Still More Stripes

Thursday, June 28, 2012 10:29 PM

ThoroughlyME: red pleated midi skirt and Mary Janes

After realizing I'd unintentionally worn stripes the first three days this week, I just had to finish with this striped skirt. Please excuse the view of my slip in the photo below.

pic name ThoroughlyME: vintage pleated skirt

Sleeveless blouse, Susan Lawrence
Faux pearls, thrifted
Striped floral skirt, thrifted vintage
Mary Janes, Classified

Relative Diversity

Wednesday, June 27, 2012 11:30 PM

One of the few problems with Maine is that the state is 95 percent white, making us about even with Vermont for the least diverse in the nation. Fortunately, Portland is somewhat better: only 85 percent white, thanks in large part to the thousands of refugees and other immigrants from Africa who have settled here in the last 20 years. I won't pretend that I have a lot of interaction with that part of the community; I work in a much less-diverse part of the state, and the immigrants are not well-integrated into Maine's professional workforce.

Even so, it's evident the positive effects that the immigrants have on Portland. The public school system is considerably less white than the city as a whole, so the kids in those schools are benefitting from an environment that is incredibly diverse by Maine standards. And even for people who live in something of a bubble, like me, there are experiences like the dinner J and I had tonight. We walked just a few blocks to Asmara, an Eritrean restaurant we'd intended to try for months. We dispensed with utensils, drank miés (a honey wine) and learned a little bit from the restaurant's owners about their country of origin. It was a small thing, but I appreciated the chance to try something different.

pic name pic name

Striped top (Talbots)
Knotted necklace, Forever 21
Khaki skirt, Gap (eBay)
Red pumps, Franco Sarto (gift)

Stripes and Flowers

Tuesday, June 26, 2012 10:59 PM

Ah, that's better. Stripes and floral is a classic combination, and I'm pairing my favorite skirt with my favorite button-front shirt. Why didn't I do this sooner?

ThoroughlyME: Gap striped shirt and thrifted necklace ThoroughlyME: black and teal floral skirt

Striped shirt, Gap (thrifted)
Black necklace, thrifted
Black floral skirt, Target
Teal belt, Target
Mary Janes, Classified


Monday, June 25, 2012 11:30 PM

I'll admit that this is a fairly blah outfit. I'm still bored with pants, but my legs won't tolerate shaving often enough for me to wear skirts and dresses every day. So I had to put together a pants-based outfit this morning, and I was feeling no inspiration.

Why bother sharing it, then? Many style bloggers, including some of my favorites, don't post daily. But I feel that following that path would, ironically, put more pressure on me. Sure, on workdays when I don't post an outfit, I could wear whatever the hell I want, without worrying about putting together something new or interesting. But then wouldn't that mean that the outfits I choose to blog would really have to be special?

I don't pretend that I'm doing anything great here (at least, I hope it doesn't come off that way); I'm just trying to have fun with clothes and turn getting dressed for work into a bit of a creative outlet. So I'll have ups and downs, just like any other regular person. Today was a down, but that just means I need to shrug it off and try for something better tomorrow.

pic name pic name

Gray striped cardigan, Target
Necklace, thrifted
Bangles, Amrita Singh (via giveaway)
Pinstriped pants, LOFT
Gray pumps, Nine West (consignment)

Horseback Riding in Kentucky

Sunday, June 24, 2012 10:56 PM

Like a lot of little girls, I was crazy about horses when I was young. My family didn't have the money to actually put me on a horse, so my love for them manifested itself in lots of drawing and reading all the Black Beauty books and Marguerite Henry's novels. I did go to a weeklong horse camp once and at least one trail ride with my family, but it had been years. When J and I first started planning our trip to Mammoth Cave National Park, the first thing I told him I wanted to do was to ride a horse.

J and I took a one-hour trail ride on a piece of private property adjacent to the park. It was just the two of us and the guide. We'd left our camera battery in its charger back at the hotel (fortunately, we were only a few miles away, so we were able to retrieve it afterward), so we took pictures with J's iPhone. The phone's camera didn't handle movement too well, so a lot of our pictures came out blurry, but here are some of the best.

My horse, Patches

Our guide, Josh
J's horse was named Kicker because he needed a kick to get him going. J spent a lot of the ride way behind us.

Now for Something Completely Different

Friday, June 22, 2012 11:30 PM

ThoroughlyME: green silk kameez with navy pencil skirt

I got a couple of compliments at work today about my new top, but all J said when I got home (because he was asleep when I left for work) was, "That's different." It's definitely outside my wheelhouse in many ways, but I liked it. If J decides he doesn't, that'll be too bad for him.

ThoroughlyME: green silk kameez ThoroughlyME: green silk kameez

Green silk kameez, thrifted
Navy pencil skirt, thrifted vintage
Metallic flats, Bare Traps


Thursday, June 21, 2012 10:29 PM

ThoroughlyME: H&M red shirtdress and black brocade skirt

How do you feel about wearing two shades of a color that are just barely different? The reds of this dress and the pumps are definitely not the same, but are they close enough that it might seem I thought they were the same?

pic name ThoroughlyME: Franco Sarto red pumps

Art Deco necklace, thrifted
Red shirtdress, H&M (thrifted)
Brocade skirt, Old Navy (thrifted)
Beaded belt, thrifted
Red pumps, Franco Sarto (gift)

Like a Lion

Wednesday, June 20, 2012 10:28 PM

ThoroughlyME: houndstooth dress and turquoise jewelry

March truly came in like a lion, as the saying goes — we had a big snowstorm on the first of the month — and now summer has, too. We reached 90 degrees today, the summer solstice. That called for a breezy, sleeveless dress and a bun to get the hair off my neck.

ThoroughlyME: houndstooth dress and turquoise jewelry ThoroughlyME: black Bandolino wedges

Houndstooth dress, Target (thrifted)
Faux turquoise jewelry, thrifted
Black tank top, Target
Black wedges, Bandolino (thrifted)

Serious Question

Tuesday, June 19, 2012 11:08 PM

ThoroughlyME: pinstriped shirt and black and white scarf

Does anyone know if there exist undershirts that are curved in the front and back like shirt hems? This material of this shirt is thin enough that I have to wear a tank top underneath, and I had to choose a fairly short one so it wouldn't peek out at the sides, where the shirt hem curves upward. You can easily see where the tank top ends. Is there a solution for this?

ThoroughlyME: pinstriped shirt and black and white scarf pic name

Pinstriped shirt, Target
Black and white scarf, thrifted
Black pants, Banana Republic (eBay)
Pumps, Calvin Klein Dolly (eBay)

Purple + Hot Pink

Monday, June 18, 2012 11:06 PM

ThoroughlyME: purple and hot pink

Here's another outfit where I loved the color combination as soon as I saw it. I immediately thought that I could use this purple blouse, but it wasn't until this morning that I thought of pairing this hot pink cardigan with it. I do still want a hot pink skirt, though.

ThoroughlyME: purple and hot pink ThoroughlyME: purple and hot pink

Pink cardigan, Banana Republic (thrifted)
Purple blouse, Van Heusen (thrifted)
Purple snakeskin belt, thrifted
Gray pants, Banana Republic
Pink and orange pumps, Liz Claiborne

Mammoth Cave

Sunday, June 17, 2012 10:41 PM

When we received an invitation to Drew and Molly's wedding, just outside Nashville, J and I immediately thought about whether we could incorporate another national park into our trip. We discovered that the Smokies, all the way on the eastern end of Tennessee, are pretty far from Nashville, but Mammoth Cave is only a couple of hours away.

We had less than two full days to spend in the park but still managed to fit in a lot. Mammoth Cave is the largest cave system in the world; more than 400 miles of caves hollowed out by an underground river that has fallen to lower and lower levels over the course of thousands of years. There are several different tours you can take through different parts of the cave, with different lengths and levels of intensity.

J and I went on two cave tours, both longish ones. The first was the Grand Avenue tour, which covered four miles in 4.5 hours, including a break for lunch. We passed through some majestic caverns, narrow passageways and gorgeous formations.

The next day, we tried something a little different with the Introduction to Caving tour. We'd considered the Wild Cave tour, but it sounded like it might require more upper body strength than I have. In retrospect, I probably could have managed. We found that the National Park Service really talks up the difficulty of the cave tours, probably because it's so difficult to get someone out if they get hurt or can't handle the exertion. I'm still glad we chose the Intro to Caving tour, because the Wild Cave tour is 6.5 miles long, which would have taken too much time.

We still got to do and see some really cool things that the vast majority of visitors to Mammoth Cave don't experience. We saw some gypsum formations up close, squeezed through some truly small holes and passageways and even did a short canyon walk. We covered about two miles in three hours.

We also went on a couple of short walks on our second day in the park, killing some time between lunch and the Intro to Caving tour. First we went to Echo River Spring, where J sampled the cool, pure water emerging from the cave:

Then we walked from the Visitor Center to the Historic Entrance of Mammoth Cave and River Styx Spring. It was a long, uphill walk back from the spring on a warm day, and we stopped at the Historic Entrance again to feel the 54-degree air welling up from the cave, luxuriating in the natural air-conditioning for several minutes before continuing back to the Visitor Center.