Sunday, December 29, 2013

Three Islands, new Game, and a Pedicure

Our son, who lives in the Mid-west, spent Christmas week with us. We had a great time, and a very good holiday with him.  The weather was perfect, and there were no travel problems.

One day after Christmas, we were preparing to go out and about, and my wife decided that since I was carrying my new purse, she wouldn't need to take hers along.  She gave me her driver's license and house key to carry for her.  "That way you get to deal with everything today."   Later, I heard a couple of comments about how nice it was to not have to worry about her purse.   Will it happen again?  Time will tell.

The three of us took a long drive to Hoopers Island, in reality a three-island chain (two of which are reachable by auto - the bridge to the third washed out in the 1930's and it is uninhabited), situated between the Honga River and the Chesapeake Bay, in Dorchester County, MD.  Dating back to the mid-seventeenth century, Henry Hooper found it a good place for a tobacco plantation.

The islands lose about 24 acres of land a year to erosion and rising water levels.  And over the years, the focus has changed from agriculture to the fishing industry.  That was fine, and provided a good living for the hardy residents, until the latter half of the 20th century, when pollution as well as rising water levels caused a decline in productivity.

The islands are still very much nautical -  boats and 4WD vehicles are everywhere.  Marshes, reeds and standing water are in almost every low-lying spot, and there are a number of abandoned buildings, probably due to lack of jobs and/or money.   The residents seem very friendly - everyone waves at you, whether they know you or not.  Traffic (the bane of my existence) was nil, a wonderful treat on a busy after-Christmas shopping day.  (Of course, there aren't a lot of commercial establishments out there...)

 Below are a few pictures...

 The causeway to Hooper's Island

 Standing water...

The local hardware store...certainly not a lot of business to be had...

We had just been seated for lunch at the restaurant en route home, when an elderly man and his daughter came in and were ushered to the next booth.  As he approached, he could plainly see our son from the back (with his long hair tied in a ponytail), as well as both my wife and long-nailed-and-long-haired androgynous me, from the front.  After greeting the three of us "Merry Christmas ladies" he asked us if we had a good Holiday.  Fortunately, my wife spoke for all of us, responded that we had, and wished him a Happy New Year as he sat down.  Very friendly sort...and nary a comment from either of my dining companions, who had much more important things to talk about.  Waitstaff simply omitted any gender-identifying terms...oh, well!  At least I didn't get that un-wanted "Sir-prise."

After arriving home, our son pulled out his box containing the board game Settlers of Catan, which he and his girlfriend have been playing a lot. We'd never heard of it, but he helped us learn the rules, and yours truly ended up being the winner for the day.  It was fun!  Wonder if this is one of the games played at "Games Nights" some of the girls on here attend? 

And Saturday, after our son had headed home, I went to the nail salon for my shellac pedicure.  Women were everywhere - all 4 pedi chairs were full - three of us women, and one little girl getting her kiddie pedicure (she was SO excited to be just like the big girls!)  The techs took care of us all, with no problems.  It was wonderful to be accepted - even the little girl was fine with my being stares or anything inappropriate.  She was perfectly behaved.  (Maybe she "miss-identified" me?)  And I enjoyed being included in the discussion about Nantucket as a wonderful vacation spot. (Now I want to visit there someday.)

When I asked the lady two chairs down from me (mother of the little girl) why she had chosen 5 bottles of different red nail polishes, she explained that she wanted the tech to paint one nail on one hand with each color before she made her final decision. But subsequently her plan collapsed, when her little girl told her which color would be best. The lady simply told the tech to just go ahead and follow her daughter's advice.

The newest tech (working at the adjacent chair) looked really cute wearing her knee-length dress in a dark floral pattern, over black tights (unusual attire, in that pants are their usual uniform.)  It was a delightful little outfit, something I'd certainly wear if I owned it...   But it's tough for techs doing a pedicure to remain perfectly modest all the time while wearing a dress or skirt - at least occasionally it's more comfortable to sit with their legs apart. I'd made no effort to hide my plainly-visible french acrylic nails.  Obviously, she didn't consider me (sitting in the adjacent chair) to be "mixed company."  Why would she?  Guys don't have long hair and long french acrylic fingernails!  Women are all too familiar with the many benefits (and yes, even a couple of hazards) from wearing dresses.  And, anyhow, guys certainly wouldn't be getting their toe nails "prettied up." 

I respectfully didn't look at her during my pedicure, only up at the telly on the wall...  When it was time to get up from my chair, there was no way to avoid looking down - I had to lower my pant legs and get my silver-nailed feet into the stirrups, then slip into my flats.  She obviously felt no need to close her legs, as her tights helped protect her modesty.  She continued working on her client, only looking up at me to smile and wish me a  "Happy New Year, Ma'am" as I left.   And yes, I love being "a member of their team!"

Note to cold and windy weather, wear my tights (black, or maybe tan, depending on the outfit) under my skirts and it will help - particularly in a "Marilyn Monroe" moment!

Ladies, it's been a fun week.


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Quickie - Ferroequinology again...and my new shoes.

Found a few minutes this morning before everyone is up, for a quick post.   Hope everyone has finished their holiday shopping...

Ferroequinology time:  The first picture is of an excursion train behind two restored E-unit diesel locomotives, on a former PRR line, parked in the town of Renovo, PA in October of 2006.  We were passengers on this train, which was a fall foliage special.  It brought us to the town's Flaming Foliage festival and parade.  Notice all the locals with their chairs, mingling with passengers who came in on the train.   Everyone had a great time, and yours truly enjoyed the train ride!

Below are a couple of pictures from September of 2002, on the Stewartstown Railroad.  In the first picture, the train was heading west toward New Freedom, PA (the current location of "Steam into History" and their replica of an antique steam train).  You can see my prior post on "Steam into History" including pictures, in "Girl time again..." which was posted last October 10.  The second picture is upon arrival at the interchange with PRR's Northern Central in New Freedom.  The PRR depot is in the background.

Unfortunately the owner of the SRR passed away, and the railroad ceased operating in 2004.  Then the property became embroiled in an estate issue over a gift, or loan (depending on who you talked with) of a substantial amount of money, and that battle dragged on into the present.  With the railroad currently dormant, the little center-cab diesel is being used as a spare locomotive by "Steam into History."

Per the Stewartstown website, it is said that the estate issues has been settled, paving the way for  renewed rail operations in 2014.  No wonder they call it "The railroad that refuses to die."  But there remains a lot of work to be done first...

Once they begin operating again, the SRR will be high on my short list of "must see properties."

Our son is home for Christmas - we picked him up at the airport yesterday.  It's wonderful to see him again, and he started to bring us up to date on his girlfriend.  That pretty much occupied most of the talk on Monday.

But one thing I noticed as we were walking out of the restaurant where the three of us grabbed a quick lunch - a woman alone, wearing the same Clarks "Recent Duchess" flats as I was, in the exact same color.  She glanced down at my feet, and up at my face, where our eyes met and we both smiled at each other, just like two women.  My family was ahead of me, so they didn't notice.  For some odd reason, I thought this would only happen if I was wearing true ballet flats - you know, the ones with cute little bows on the vamps.  (That's a style which has so far eluded me, because they generally don't fit me well.)  I obviously was wrong!

My exact shoes have been sold on the shopping channel, and now, so soon after buying them, I've met a woman wearing them.  It's inevitable - one of these days a woman and I are going to end up reviewing the merits and comfort of our identical shoes.  I can only hope that it happens when I'm alone...for obvious wifely reasons.

Happy Holidays...


Sunday, December 22, 2013

Quickie - Lunch out, and a Holiday Party

Happy Winter - though in Maryland, the temperatures in the upper 60's/low 70's Saturday belie the calendar date, and Sunday may be even warmer if the rain stays away!  No white Christmas here, they say!

At lunch Friday, we ate at a nice restaurant about 20 miles from home, which is often frequented by local ladies for their solo and group lunches. 

Of the 25 diners present, there were 4 men (including myself), and they were with their ladies   All the rest of the diners were female.  I was in androgynous mode, and was hoping to "not" receive a hearty "Sir-prise."   That particular hope was fully realized...nary a "Sir"was spoken.  However, both the hostess and server chose to omit "Sir" or "Ma'am" when dealing with both of us.   The server asked if we wanted one check or two,  took my order first, and at the end of the meal, put our check in-between us...all as though we were two ladies sharing a lunchtime.   It's the first time my wife, who was wearing what looked like men's slacks but otherwise  recognizable as female, wasn't addressed as "Ma'am." Very strange...though my wife said nothing about it.   If she noticed,  I may find out her opinion later...

But we probably won't be returning there...

As for my new purse, it works very well and was a good choice.  My wife told me that it looks comfortable and easy to carry, a good casual purse.  I look forward to many travels with it in the future...what more can I say?

A bunch of folks in our neighborhood pulled together a party at a local venue Saturday night, with a DJ who was spinning the real thing - old vinyl 45's of music from the 50's and 60's.   Most of us were of the age group to be able to enjoy it, and there was even dancing.  I can't begin to guess how many years it's been since we've been out dancing to 50's music...and it was a definitely a first, particularly for me in androgynous mode - shoulder-strap wallet purse, stirrup pants, tights, women's polo and my new flats.  Nobody gave my attire so much as a second ideal situation. 

At one point, the neighbor lady from a few doors down the street moved shoulder-to-shoulder with me, and we started singing some of the lyrics together.  This was in spite of the facts that:  it wasn't karaoke; we could only be heard for a few feet around us; and we didn't have the little screen with the bouncing ball to guide us.  We both knew the words, and didn't sound half bad least my wife and her husband didn't tell us to stop embarrassing them (or ourselves).   (Or maybe they both realized it would be futile?)

So the next time there's a karaoke night, N and I promised we'll be singing a duet...  If we end up making total fools of ourselves, at least we'll be doing it together! (And someone else can share the spotlight with me, since it'll be my first time.)  Chances are that everyone will be "feeling no pain" anyway, so it won't really matter.  And speaking of embarrassing themselves, last night some of the folks were in the process of doing exactly that, trying to do the limbo...  I stayed away from that circus!

But everyone definitely had a good time!

Our son will arrive home Monday for the holiday week,  thus you won't find me on line very much for a while.  Here's hoping that everyone has a Happy Holiday Season...

Friday, December 20, 2013

Quickie - my new purse!

It's taken a lot of looking, but as of today, I finally have another new purse to carry.  It's a bit smaller than my others, and has a much thinner and more feminine strap, but everything fits...   And the best part is - my wife is OK with it.  That's an accomplishment.

Lots of pockets, and I actually can hear my phone ring with this purse!

A couple of pictures of the purse are above, and a couple with me wearing one of my house dresses.  I haven't worn these dresses away from home yet, but neighbors may have seen me looking like this, while bringing packages in from the car, doing things in the garage, or working in the backyard on occasion.

Not sure if a winter outfit like this would be suitable to wear on the street.  What do you ladies think?  Or, maybe a jumper dress with turtleneck blouse (instead of the heavy sweater), taupe pantyhose instead of tights, and my black Mary Janes?  In the winter, a sweater could be worn over the jumper, if needed.  In warmer weather, a light t-shirt underneath would be perfect, or, better yet, why not just go sleeveless?  Bare legs and arms under a cool jumper, with flip-flops displaying a fresh pedicure, not only look totally feminine, and in addition, they announce the girl's presence everywhere she walks....flip-flop, flip-flop, flip-flop.  

What do you think?  Should I be wearing a jumper outfit out-and-about?

 My Pink and White nails certainly stand out against my black dress...

The only thing about wearing jumpers...once I've made myself up in the morning and dressed, my jumper is what I'll be wearing all day, until returning to a safe place to change that evening.  There is absolutely no "safety factor" of being able to slip out of it in the car, and go back to androgynous mode, like I can with a skirt and heels.  And no chance of getting away with using men's restrooms. But maybe that's just what the doctor ordered...and given the right circumstances, I could handle it.  That is, if my outfit options above are basically presentable.

I'll be carrying my new purse in public tomorrow for the first time (in androgynous mode), and my wife and I will go out for lunch.  I'm looking forward to it!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Quickie - Nail Time and a holiday visitor...

Yesterday was another appointment for my acrylic fingernails to be filled.

Judy was pleased with the way they've grown since my last fill (at which she decided to shorten them - her decision.)  I really didn't object...because even the little she removed was enough to let me use my credit card at the gas station without a latex exam glove.  "But now,  just fills for you.  Your nails are finally getting long enough to look pretty." 


Overall now, 1" long.  The goal for least 1-1/4".  Only about 5/16" to go!

"You'll soon start noticing changes in the way you have to use your hands to do things.  But that happens to every woman with long nails, and you'll adapt too.   Meanwhile, I'll keep advancing you toward the goal of a minimum of 1-1/4" overall length, with up to 5/8" of clean, bright white on the tips.  Since your clothes don't have pockets to keep your hands in, you won't be able to hide your nails.  Even if you paint them all one color (bright red is your best color, in case you're interested), they're still going to be very long.   So, you're going to have ladies (and even a few men) make a fuss over them.  Everyone will agree that they look professional, attractive, and very feminine."

I didn't tell her that I'm already enjoying that benefit - many female cashiers have very positive comments, even when the wife and I are out-and-about together.  (Though the wife doesn't get manicures, she's been letting hers grow longer lately...can't imagine why???)  As my nails lengthen, and Judy makes my white ends proportionally bigger, comments should increase, which is fine with me.   I just hope any comments from guys happen when I'm alone - I tend to blush like a shy schoolgirl, and don't need that around the wife.

I wonder about that credit-card-in-the-gas-pump issue from a while back...will I eventually need to carry a needle-nose plier in my purse?   Maybe I'm going to need a bigger, not smaller, purse?  Speaking of purses, I'm in the market for a new one....and girls just love to shop!  Will post a pic when I get one...

Christmas is just around the corner.  The house is decorated, and the lights are lit.  Our son will be coming home for a visit most of next week.  We're looking forward to his stay, since it's been a once-or-twice-a-year thing for several years now due to his job...  (And yes, he knows about my androgynous style.)  We always have a good time when he comes home...even if there is a short list of things we need done (mostly computer-related.)

Happy Holidays to you all...


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Quickie: Follow-up to "It Happened..."

Several weeks ago, our neighbors - the ones who may (or may not) have noticed my skirt when we met at the restaurant (see prior post from November 13 titled "It Happened...") invited us to an Army/Navy football party at their place.  Without any other plans, we accepted their invitation.  But, I began to silently wonder (or maybe worry is a better word) whether there was a reason or motive behind why they "thought of us..."

The invitation told us that the colors of the day were navy blue and gold...and that all would be expected to cheer on the Navy.  (He's an ex-Navy retiree.) This was fine with us...the Navy typically wins anyway, and since Annapolis isn't all that far away, why not cheer on the home team?  (And yes, they won again this year...)

Our area was not in the "snow area" of the winter storm affecting so many folks on game day.  I stepped into my navy blue stirrup pants, black tights, a gold polo shirt, and my still-new-looking women's flats.  The better half also had a navy-and-gold outfit, but her pants were less feminine than mine.  We finished dressing as the pre-game began.  I grabbed my purse and we walked over to the neighbors' house, where we were welcomed into a rather small group - two other couples we knew only casually, the neighbors, and ourselves.   

It was actually a wonderful get-acquainted party.  I ended up talking with everyone, but as usual, women more than men, who tended to watch the game while we girls chatted.  K (his wife) talked to me about the restaurant being one of their favorites and we both discussed how we learned about it...  T wanted to know more about our vacation.  And N wanted to know when and from where I retired. There was no mention of my skirt outfit the night "It Happened", by either K, or E (her husband.)  And fortunately, there was no hint whatsoever that the topic was "the elephant in the room."  They actually may not have seen it...

The take-away from this issue is: that I need to be selective of where I go in a skirt, and now, to always check my itinerary against the bus tour schedule in our own area before planning an outing.  Normally, National Harbor would have been an extremely safe venue, as far away as it is, because it's Convention-oriented and the only people we saw that we knew were 40 neighbors from the bus tour.  Plus the one so-very-obvious caveat:  I need to stay away from theaters (which is not a problem) and that one particular restaurant!  

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

National Harbor...

Time for the current version of the pre-holiday overnight sightseeing jaunt the wife and I take each year.  This year, we put a visit to the Gaylord Resort and Convention Center on the Potomac, at National Harbor in Maryland, in our plans.

Yes, it's immense, and upscale.  (When the casino goes in "somewhere down there", it should be world-class.)  Since everything is pricey, we've been waiting for a "deal" to show up, covering a time frame when we could enjoy it.  Several months ago, it did - mid week, between Turkey Day and Christmas.  So she made our reservations.

Enroute, traffic was - well, not so good.  Yours truly hates I-95 and I-495 to begin with, and traffic reports were for lots of it.  (Meg probably understands the futility of driving on them.)  So we headed for National Harbor from the east, after traveling the scenic route through the countryside...

Workmen at closed-for-the-season Cove Point Lighthouse who were driving in, accommodated the "lady who wanted a picture without the gate in the way" by leaving the gate open long enough for me to snap a couple of pics.

Finally, after a lunch visit to Solomon's Island, and then a long ride on Maryland 5/US 301 (but the reward was - only a few miles on I-495), we were there.  The hotel entry driveway was a complete zoo.  Door attendants and valets kept telling me "Lady, please pull your car up there" and moving me out of the way, while the better half checked in.  Finally the better half came back, room keys in hand, and we were on our way to the self-park lot...  (I don't like giving the car keys to a valet.)

The Atrium at the Gaylord is certainly huge, not the biggest I've seen but right up there, in the top 5.

And they were presenting a seasonal show called "Ice!"   It features predominantly holiday-themed ice sculptures, all displayed in a large, insulated tent kept at 9 degrees Fahrenheit.  A bit brisk, to be sure, but they provided parkas so nobody would freeze.  The Statue of Liberty wearing a sweater was one of the cutest of the New York-themed displays.  (Being from NYC, Marian may appreciate that!)

As we walked around, some of our neighbors  recognized us (my long hair apparently stands out in a crowd), and came over to talk.  Turns out that there was a day-trip bus from our town that day, and about 40 ladies from our neighborhood were wandering around the joint...good thing I wasn't wearing a skirt this time!

The better half noted (and the girls later confirmed) that that the entire group was female, and they all came down on the bus.  They plan to do this again next year, and specifically invited us to come along..."Yes, you too, sweetie!")  Guess I'll be their honorary "queen for a day."  The better half wants to plan on us going.  But you can bet that even if she agreed to my wearing a dress, (which she won't), my attire would have to be jean or stirrup leggings and flats or Keds - none of the girls from our area wore a dress, skirt or high heels.  I'll want to look as much like them as possible, so I blend in!

Holiday decorations were extensive, and pretty - a huge suspended Christmas Tree, and lots of lights, including sparkling strands hung from the ceiling, with twinkling lights therein to simulate snow falling.  (We were told that at times they actually dropped simulated snow, but we missed that display.)  The kiddies had a kiddie train to ride, and there were lots of other activities for folks to partake of...a very nice (if not inexpensive) day out for those so inclined!

They even provided a small-scale "dancing waters" show, certainly NOT on the scale of the Bellagio in Vegas but nice nonetheless...   And, once the sun set, the atrium was ablaze with holiday lights and music. 


We took our evening meal at one of the restaurants in the hotel.  I was dressed androgynously, and wearing a fresh spray of CK Obsession for women as my perfume (yes, the better half knows I like Obsession.)   The ladies (in short skirts and high heels) at the desk by the door addressed us appropriately, and led us to our table.

Then the waiter appeared...and I got the dreaded 'Sir-prise."  You win some, you lose some.  In fairness, he couldn't  see my purse, shoes or nails - it was quite dark in there (I even had to discreetly get my flashlight out of my purse to check the menu.)  But as I've said before, my feminine presentation (including voice) still needs a lot of work, thus I'm just happy to be addressed as a woman whenever it occurs.   And fortunately, it's more often than not.

We'd previously checked prices and pre-planned our meals before we went in...  As you might expect, everything was Ala Carte,  and every bit as upscale as the rest of the venue.   Want a New York Strip steak or the like?  $48 to $55.  Want an appetizer? Add $10 and up. Want a salad?  Add $10 and up.  Want a veggie?  Add $8.   Want a dessert?  Add $12.  (The flat-iron steak with potatoes was not as big or glamorous, but more reasonably priced, and delicious - we both enjoyed our meal.)

The five people at the next table went whole-hog, including one bottle of fancy wine for the ladies (which they put a serious dent in before we finished up) and two rounds of drinks made with Makers Mark whisky (for each of the guys.)   Since they had drinks, appetizers, steaks, salads, and veggies, plus dessert, their tab was most likely upwards of $500 for the 5 of them.  We cringed at paying $4 each for our ginger ales and $38 each for our meals.  But the atmosphere was worth it.  No way we could afford a meal like theirs, at least not unless someone else was paying...

During daylight hours, we hiked around town a bit.  Very nice...very new. For warmer weather, there's a very inviting walkway along the Potomac.  And even the Outlet Stores nearby were attractive and new.  The following pix should give you an idea about the downtown area...

Next time we visit, we may try the Cadillac Ranch for a meal....wonder if there are any antique cars inside???

As we were getting ready to leave, the better half grudgingly agreed to take the following picture, to save me from having to bring out the tripod...

And then it was a long drive home, using my least-favored I-95/I-495 (among others).  Wouldn't you know, we even got stuck in a small jam-up that cost us about 20 minutes.  I guess we were quite fortunate that it wasn't worse!

I hope that's the last I'll see of my least-favorite highway for a while...

Happy Holidays, everyone.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A quickie: Tis the season...

To wish each of my old well as the new ones I haven't met yet, a happy Holiday Season.   Regardless of the way you dress, what your religion, beliefs, or country of residence may be, or the specific holidays you celebrate - may peace and friendship find and be with you!


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Shoe Shopping Saga Update

My shipment containing two new pair of shoes from the website arrived yesterday...and the winner is this style of flat called "Recent Duchess" by Clarks.  I did a quick photo shoot while the better half, who knows I bought them, was visiting the grocery store, so I could post some pictures of  them on here as quickly as possible.

The above 3 pictures are my new purchase from Clarks, and I plan to start wearing them tomorrow, just in case they need to be "broken in."

The better half was OK with them.  She relayed that they're definitely cute, and they look like they fit well - no gapping.  Girls are wearing "somewhat pointed toes" right now, and the accents on the vamp are plainly feminine, so "you're going to look even more like a girl than you already do.  Most folks on our trips to Cape Cod and Delaware mistook us for two women.  But I'm just thankful you didn't buy those Mary Janes you tried on in Delaware...they really were over the top in femininity."

Unfortunately, the second pair I mail ordered, in a different style (called Concert Choir) but the same size (12), did not fit at all.  Much too big.  Such is life...they go back.

But I'll definitely make sure that the following pair of Mary Janes:

is under wraps for a long time to come!!!  From Payless, they're the Kimmie style, and I can wear them for over 6 hours with no problems...definitely a keeper!

So, for those of us gals equipped with size 12 feet, all is not lost.  It's been a long-running, and sometimes discouraging, effort.  But let me assure you that shoes which fit can be found.  And not always at Payless...

Friday, November 15, 2013

Shoe Shopping Saga

This round of shoe-shopping started when a pair of my everyday ballerina flats developed big holes in the one-piece soles/heels during our vacation.  I realized there was a problem when I started noticing small stones in the carpets, and hearing clicking from my rubber heels on the kitchen floor.  I removed quite a handful of stones from each shoe before realizing that they had basically hollow heels which "wore open", and were full of stones.  My shoe repair shop confirmed that the one piece bottoms can't be replaced.

So my quest to find a new pair began at the outlets in Delaware, with the better half's initial concurrence.    As I mentioned in my previous post, there were no least until after she entered the Naturalizer store looking for me, and found me sporting a pair of really cute Mary Jane flats.   The sales woman was addressing me and treating me just like "one of the girls," bringing me other shoes to try on.  The better half stayed there with me, like a girlfriend would, but I suspect it was to hurry me up, not out of encouragement for her "girlfriend."   I left there with no new shoes, even though the Mary Janes were cute as a button.  They just didn't fit well enough to justify a price tag with three digits to the left of the decimal point.  And the better half reminded me that she didn't like the fact I wear womens' shoes, let alone Mary Janes.

Then she took off shopping on her own again, while I tried two other nearby shoe stores.  (For her, Christmas shops are irresistable.)  My luck at the shoe stores was nil - due once again to the size 12 issue, though I had also started trying size 11's as well, at the suggestion of the Naturalizer clerk.  The better half found things to buy...I didn't.

Then last Wednesday, an old friend who left my company about 5 years ago, and moved south, was in town. I joined him (and a third party, our former supervisor, now retired) for lunch in Baltimore.  We had a wonderful time talking about "the good old days!"  I was as masculine as possible (not very...) and nothing was said about my attire.  But I know my friend noticed (the supervisor has seen me before.)  Not sure where that will lead...since we don't visit much any more.  But on the way home, I stopped at a couple more womens' shoe stores that I drove by.  While they both had some really cute flats, that I'd wear in a heartbeat.,.such as:

...there were no size 12's (or 11's, either).   And my luck with mail order has been considerably less than 30 percent - requiring strict adherence to buying only from sites with free shipping and return shipping.  Thus my concentration on finding shoes locally...

The next day, I had some errands to run after visiting Mother at the nursing home.  My better half apparently had mellowed regarding my preference for womens' shoes...she reminded me of two shoe stores near Mom's.  I hadn't even known that they existed!   The first store was a waste of time, as usual.   But the second, may have been a good find...they had one pair of this cute style in stock, size 11:

I like it...should be perfect with skirts or dresses, but also look OK with jeans and capri pants.  They're a bit snug, but I bought them anyway - since the pair was over $30 less than on the website. Strangely, the better half is OK with them as well.   Subsequently I ordered a size 12 in this style and a size 12 flat in another style from the manufacturer's website...with a 20% discount from a coupon. 

If any one of the 3 pairs fit best, they will become my newest shoes.  The others will be returned...  I'll update once things are settled...

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

"It" happened. And, "I'd rather be wearing a skirt!"

Recently, we received a letter from one of our "hotel card" accounts that our points (enough for one free room night) would expire during November.  So we took a mid-week jaunt to Delaware to use the room, before we lose it.  Why give them back a "free night?"

First stop was Lewes.  There is so much history we didn't know about this area.

In 1609, Henry Hudson sailed into the Delaware Bay in search for a Northwest Passage to China. His voyages contributed to the establishment of European colonies in North America. One of these, called New Netherland, was established by the Dutch. New Netherland included present day New York, New Jersey, and Delaware. The Delaware River, known as the South River in the seventeenth century, formed the southern boundary of New Netherland.

The area was permanently settled by the Dutch in 1658 when they set up a new trading post called Sekonnessinck. Another colony was established by a group of Mennonites under Peter Cornelis Plockhoy in 1663. The Plockhoy Colony was destroyed by the English a year later.  The Dutch reclaimed the area in 1673, but just six months later surrendered it back to the English for good. The territory which is now Delaware was conveyed to William Penn in 1682. including the town named Zwaanendael or Swaanendael. It was built in 1631. The name is archaic Dutch for "swan valley." The site of the settlement later became the town of Lewes, Delaware, named such by William Penn, in honor of a town by that name in Sussex County, England.

Zwaanendael History Museum, in Lewes, built in 1931 in a style reminiscent of Dutch architecture.

Second stop was at Fenwick Island, Delaware, the barrier island on which Rehoboth and Bethany Beach are located.  The island protects the mainland coast from storms, and contains the Fenwick Island light with its two "keepers' houses," one for the keeper and one for the assistant.  (Both are now private residences.)   The light is 87 feet tall, brick, with a central cast iron spiral staircase, equipped with a third-order Fresnel lens, and was built on what was then a field, the highest point on the island.  It was automated in 1940, decommissioned in 1978 after much area growth (putting it in a residential area), and dark for several years.

A public movement to save the lighthouse resulted in ownership of the lighthouse being transferred to the State of Delaware, and the lighthouse was relit in 1982. In 1997,  the rapidly aging lighthouse underwent a full restoration and was rededicated in July 1998.

Fenwick Island Light

From there, we went to our hotel, checked in, and started our shopping expedition at some of the outlet stores within walking distance.  While we were shopping, the better half knew I was searching for a new pair of ballerina flats, since our vacation chewed up one pair pretty badly.  She handled it well, at least initially.

Our delicious dinner was at an Outback steak house, where the staff addressed us as "ladies" throughout our meal.  This netted the female server a nice tip.  When we finished up, we returned to the shopping routine.  Every place we shopped, including women's shoe stores, I was addressed as a female.

The better half commented to me that she wished her husband wasn't buying womens' shoes.  This backpedaling began right after she came into the Naturalizer store looking for me, and I was walking around in a pair of really cute Mary Jane flats.   The sales woman was treating me just like "one of the girls," bringing me other shoes to try on.  The better half stayed there with me, like a girlfriend would, but I suspect it was to try to hurry me up, not out of encouragement for her "girlfriend."  At least she didn't play the "husband" card.  She probably figured doing that would have embarrassed herself - and the clerk - much more than me!  (And if she was having trouble with my wearing Mary Janes,  it certainly doesn't give me a warm, fuzzy feeling about her eventually seeing me fully dressed, say in a skirt, top, and heels.  But that's a concern for another day...the present was too much fun!)

I really, REALLY wanted to buy some shoes from that sales woman, because she worked hard on my behalf, but I can't justify paying big dollars for something that's not right...none fit well enough to take home.  That size 12 curse was with me - again.  And as it turned out, the better half ended up being the successful shopper that day.

Next day's trip home was quite uneventful, after being addressed as "ladies" by the hotel staff at breakfast and check out...but no comment from the better half.

Just a few days later, Mandy was out and about again, alone for a couple days "across the bridge" in Baltimore, running errands en-femme the first day, with a rail yard tour the second.  I applied my makeup at home (minus blusher and eye shadow...) as I now do with some regularity.  Once I drove away through the cornfields, I slipped into a skirt and out of my stirrup pants right there in the car, and put on Mary Jane heels, earrings, engagement ring and lipstick.  I recall thinking to myself, "Wow, that feels more natural!"

My first two stops were a couple of stores.   At the membership-only big box place, I was to be added to the better half's membership, so in the future, I can shop there alone - I end up soloing across the bridge several times a year.  It took me a while to convince the store to actually do it (not sure what their problem was), but since I had an invitation form from the chain, and had brought the better half's card along, finally they signed me up, and addressed me as female. The pic they put on my card appropriately appears to be that of a female.

Second store visit was a normal store visit for a lady...the pharmacy.  No issues whatsoever.   I followed that up with lunch at Subway, where I felt confident enough to use the ladies' room.  It would have looked and felt funny to use the men's room while wearing a skirt.  And it didn't stir up any reaction from the kids eating nearby, which was a pleasant surprise.

Then it was off to the Baltimore Museum of Industry, a wonderful representation of industry in Baltimore, from just before the industrial revolution to the present.  Because it's located on the waterfront, skyline views from their docks are commanding - as you can see from my pic below.

As I was preparing to leave the museum, I decided I'd better use the restroom.  Judging from the number of men making that same decision (a private party was gathering at the venue, and guys were all "going" before it started), I felt it would be less disruptive for everyone, if I simply used the women's room.  No need to risk arguments with guys about using the "wrong restroom."

Good choice...the women's room was empty when I went in.  Right after I locked my stall door, two women came in, and occupied stalls further down the row.  As I sat there, I thought to myself "Welcome to the ways of a woman!"  Taking my time, I progressed slowly (there were several layers of clothes over and under my skirt). The girls finished up, washed their hands and left, while I was still adjusting my layers in the stall.  It was my first day ever, to use only women's rooms, hopefully the first of many such days!  But I cheerfully admit to breathing a silent sigh of relief when I exited without issues - alarm bells didn't ring, security didn't haul me away, the police didn't chase me, nor did the world stop turning.

Mandy on the waterfront at Baltimore's Museum of Industry

The soda fountain display at BMI.

From the front yard of the museum...

After finishing up, I drove around the corner and down the street a mile or so, to Fort McHenry.  The winter sun angle (quite low in the sky), cast a very photogenic light on the Fort.  Unfortunately the wind was so strong that it made my little tripod unstable, precluding selfies, and it pushed my skirt between my legs, so my skirt looked like rather "strange-looking shorts."  I took a couple pix just to make sure, but none were usable...darn.

The girl in the walkway is not me.  But she was attractive - I can only hope that someday, I'll look that nice!

Hand-held Fort pics were all well and good, but shadows were getting long, and the temperature was now falling as sunset approached.  My legs were fine because of my tights, but my jacket was too thin, and I was getting chilly.  So I hiked back to the car and set off for the motel...where I freshened up my makeup, and headed for dinner. 

With a bunch of events in the Baltimore and Annapolis areas at that time, there were lines at just about every decent restaurant (and I was not in the mood for belly-blaster-burgers.)  The recession is definitely over - people are out spending money!  So I headed for a little place I knew about from the good old days, a hole-in-the-wall in a shopping mall.

And this is when "It" occurred.  I knew "It" was bound to happen some day, but truly never dreamed "some day" would be "today!"   The hostess seated me quickly, and I was busy concentrating on my dinner choices from the menu.  And, guess who walked by my booth?  That's right, none other than our current next-door neighbor!  He (or maybe it was his wife, who was still back at their table) recognized me, and he spoke my name as he passed.  What a total surprise (maybe shock is a more appropriate word - remember, this was some 60+ miles from our current home!)  Not exactly where you would expect to run into a neighbor, who just 3 weeks before, had been laid up in the hospital for surgery. And by now it was well after dark, meaning they still had a long drive home...

Fortunately, the restaurant was dimly lit,  and as he paused to talk, neither my skirt nor earrings were plainly visible - particularly to an unobservant male.  My head was turned, so the nearest earring was hidden under my hair.  He couldn't see the other side of my face since I was seated in a booth, rather than at a table and my bracelet was hidden under the sleeve of my sweater.  My nails and necklace were visible, of course, but that's nothing new.  My black-tights-clad legs and heels were safely tucked under the dim light. 

As we finished talking and he continued toward the men's room, I looked in the direction from which he came.  His wife and I exchanged smiles and waves - all in a very normal manner.  Turns out that from where they were seated, he and/or his wife "could" have seen my top half as I walked in (if they were looking),  and if she was looking as the hostess seated me, his wife "could" have seen my skirt, tights and Mary Jane heels.  But once I was in the booth, my back was toward them. 

OK, now for the question.  Was "It" an unmitigated disaster?

While certainly not a desirable event, only time will tell if it becomes a major issue.  At this point, more than three days out, I think "not so much."  If those same neighbors are near their windows, they can see into our house.  We sit in front of a large window for our meals, and frequently the blinds are open.  I'm almost always wearing a comfortable house dress or jumper - the American version, not the English.)  The better half has been tolerant of those for many years, and remains so.
Several times, that neighbor and I have chatted in the back yard,  he on his deck in a "preppy" men's outfit and boat shoes,  and me in the grass below, barefooted (with silver toe nails if he noticed),  in a short pink sun dress over white capris.  Certainly not "preppy," but very cool, comfortable and feminine.  I've been wearing that outfit a few times, over the better half's objection, on hot afternoons when I either ended up on our own deck, or outside watering the lawn and adjusting the lawn sprinkler.

In contrast, the neighbors have never seen me in anything more masculine than capri or stirrup pants and ballerina flats, including to community social events.  Today's skirt outfit is/was only a small step beyond what they've already seen.  So, there's no real surprise factor.

Caller ID has proved that so far, my better half has received no phone calls from inquisitive neighbors...and weather is no longer conducive to outdoor sidewalk gabfests.   Since the Medevac helicopter hauled someone from a few doors down the street to the hospital yesterday morning, there's obviously something much more vital to discuss, beyond "me in a skirt and heels!"  As I see it, my outfit might stir a short burst of gossip, but that should be the worst of it.

Of course, my amateur analysis is not guaranteed...I could always be wrong. 

Bright side is: things could have been even worse.  No, I mean LOTS worse.  The hostess "could" have seated me at a table right next to my neighbors, who were in what was the evening's open section.  But fortunately, I asked for a booth, and they honored that request, in spite of the booth section being closed.  I think you'll agree, putting me at a table WOULD have been an unmitigated disaster!  Can you imagine the three of us having to carry on generic, non-descript conversation, without questions being asked?  My complete feminine outfit and appearance would have been plainly visible to them, thus "the elephant in the room."  If such an issue was destined to occur that day, I was certainly blessed that it happened exactly the way it did.

Though I don't plan to curtail my dressing on the "other side of the bridge," you can be sure there's one mall, and one restaurant, that I won't return to en-femme in the future! (They shared that both are their favorites and they come often.)   Never fear...there are lots of other places to shop - Baltimore is a big city!

The following day dawned sunny, a beautiful day for a railroad shop and yard tour.  I went back into androgynous mode, since I was around people from the sponsoring group, whom I know.  And had a wonderful time!  See picture below, in hard hat, work boots and safety glasses - ugh.  Though I'm not sure what my old motto is, perhaps my new one should be:   "I'd rather be wearing a skirt!"

Mandy dressed for a rail yard tour...

On the way home, I stopped at another mall, to look for some ballerina flats at nearby stores.  But the mall was so incredibly crowded that I couldn't get face-time with sales associates...too many women were ahead of me!   The girls were fine with me standing there elbow-to-elbow with them, looking at shoes...they all just wanted to be the one who got that cute pair first!  Little did they realize, that I was not their competition...size 12's which actually fit well,  are hard to come by.)

One thing I noticed as I walked the length of the mall, with mostly female shoppers out that day:  every peddler (predominantly male) in every kiosk was out there "in our faces."  "Ma'am, here is a free sample..." or "Ma'am, let me show you this..." directed at every woman who walked by.  Including yours truly.  But this lassie has learned to say "No thank you" and keep going.  Little did they realize that when they said "Have a nice day" to me after my "No thank you," that I truly WAS having a nice day!

These trips served as my "grand fully-femme-finale" for's unlikely that I'll be dressing completely for several months.  So Mandy retreats into her suitcase...and will be out only in androgynous mode, perhaps with makeup, earrings, engagement ring and lipstick.

But I'm sure I'll find something to blog about...

PS: yesterday (Tuesday) afternoon, the neighborhood gossip walked by when I was outside, and we talked briefly.  There was no hint of anything about the restaurant incident. That's a really good sign!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Vacation 7 Finale: "Hey, It's the Train Lady!"

You may recall that ever since a cas show last spring, my antique car had carburetor issues.  Getting them repaired was a major task, since most of today’s mechanics are trained on fuel injection systems and computer controls.  Being a 1967, mine has neither, and to complicate matters, it also has an intact prehistoric California smog control system . Fuel-injection and computer emission training is useless on old-fashioned antiques.  

And trying to make a 1,200-mile trip in a freshly-repaired car, without some significant shakedown runs, would be a "real fool's errand."  Thus I decided to take the daily driver on this trip, and extend our agenda exponentially.  What started out to be a simple antique car tour for my better half and myself, with a bunch of friends, ended up being anepic vacation.  We were gone for so long (two full weeks) that it was easy to lose track of time!

With my love of ferroeqinology, I had been wanting to visit the Saratoga & North Creek, a tourist line which recently began running on the formerly abandoned Delaware & Hudson line in upstate NY, between its namesake towns. With some friends, I had visited the line during its abandonment and wanted to ride now that it was back in operation. This vacation seemed a perfect chance to do so. But the better half preferred not to spend most of the day on a train, or be stuck in a small town near the Gore Mountain ski resort during the layover  So, we compromised - I would ride the train if I could find a motel that would let her go into downtown Saratoga for shopping local sightseeing.  And I did.  So, with that, Saratoga was added to our vacation itinerary.

The day was to be cold and windy, so I pulled out the denim jean leggings I’d worn a couple times earlier in the vacation, with a turtleneck, pantyhose and flats.  I wore my new makeup – all except the eyebrow shaper, eye shadow and blusher, and thought it once again covered my beard shadow well.  So, off I went, into the unknown.

No issues at the Saratoga Springs Amtrak station...

 You can see the train I rode, on the far right edge of the picture, waiting for an Amtrak train to clear the station before boarding passengers.

When the excursion train boarding time arrived, staff used the appropriate pronouns and addressed me as a female.  My seating was in first class, so they directed me into the dome car.  There were 3 people already seated at my table (one guy, two gals, all related), and I became the fourth.  We introduced ourselves, by first names (I used my regular first name, which is now used by females), and I softened my normal voice, but only a little, in hopes of being able to stay consistent all day.  From that point on, my table mates presumed (or at least treated me as though) I was female.

They asked me to take a picture of them with their camera, which I did, and one of the girls reciprocated for me.  They continued to treat me as a woman through the entire trip.  After brunch, when one of the girls wanted to take pictures from the rear vestibule, she asked me to join her...which I gladly did.

Mandy in the dome car on the excursion train...

On the dome car, the women and men each had separate restrooms.  However, shortly after departure they took the women’s room out of service, so everyone used the men’s room.  And there were unisex restrooms on the rest of the train.  I had to use them several times to reapply my lipstick and powder my nose.  (Sound familiar, girls?)  Unfortunately most of the other women – including my table mates, weren’t wearing makeup, thus I didn’t get invited to join them in the restroom!

Upon arrival in North Creek, there was a bus waiting to take us to a local shop or two, that were too far out of town to reach on foot.  When we got back into town, everyone started visiting the local merchants.  (Where, when I needed a restroom, I was directed to the women’s room.  Which I used.)

Some folks came away from their shopping with lots of “finds.”  Others, like yours truly, bought little or nothing.  A number of women chatted with me while we were waiting to re-board the excursion train.  Their husbands also treated me as a female, and one of them even gave me the seat next to his wife in the station, “so you girls can talk.”  Wow - that's a first!

I actually ran into one person I sort-of knew from attending a past conference, now working in the staff at the railroad.  He acted totally normal toward me, but obviously noted my femininity as he was careful to not use any gender-related words.  We talked for a few minutes, then he had to move on.  (I wonder what repercussions will eventually come from that?)

Vintage E-units, and vintage Mandy, at the rail yard in North Creek, NY...

Waiting for boarding at the station in North Creek, NY...
Our return train departed on time, and since my new friends, including the girl with the camera, wanted to be near a dutch door or clear window for taking pictures of tthe sights, they elected to move to one of the almost-empty coaches - with sparkling windows.  Needless to say, after some hot soup in the dome, (to warm up after walking all afternoon in the cold), I joined them.  And we had a fun ride back...our new little traveling group!  After a toast to a fine day with my new friends (who know me only as a woman – a big first for me), the girl with the camera and I kept running to the open dutch doors in the vestibule and amassed many pretty pictures, since the sun had finally come out.  

Relaxing on the train, after an afternoon shopping...

Before you ask, no, I'm not naive enough to believe my traveling companions (and also some, if not all, of the folks I interacted with) didn't realize that I was a CD'er or TG.  That would be a huge stretch of the imagination.  But it was wonderful to realize that so many people could be so accepting and caring. 

When I got back to the motel after the excursion,  the better half and I decided that dinner was in order.  My makeup still looked fairly good (with just a bit of touch up),  since it was dark outside.  As we walked toward the lobby on the balcony by the pool, I was shocked to hear “Hey, it’s the Train Lady!!  Hi there (insert my real but feminine first name here)“ from the ground floor below.   I looked down, amazed, and recognized her so I waved back and said “Hi!  Didn’t realize you were staying here! Looks like this is a great motel for us train riders!” as we headed for the door - the better half and I were both hungry.  “Gotta run.  So have a wonderful evening!”  “You too...” And we moved on, looking like two ladies heading out for shopping.  The better half again made no comment. 

Absolutely nothing was said about the exchange during dinner, which really was just a recount of each of our activities during our busy day, quite ordinary discussion-wise.  I just "neglected to mention" that I had somehow managed to be accepted as female all day, without wearing a dress or seriously feminizing my voice, and she didn’t ask me about it.  (Maybe it's a domestic version of "Don’t ask, Don’t tell"????)   

And, to add icing to the cake, both the greeter and server at dinner addressed us as “ladies.” The server asked if we wanted separate checks, which the better half declined.  When our server brought the check, she placed it on the table so that one of us would actively have to reach for it, instead of handing it to “the gentleman” – since there obviously wasn’t one present!

A perfectly fitting ending to a fabulous well as a picture-perfect vacation – that I think even pleased the better half.  And I may have just helped myself “kick the closet door open” a bit wider for public events...   The most important take-away:  as Marian has pointed out,  I don’t necessarily have to wear a dress or skirt in order to be recognized as female – and that’s good, since cold weather typically cuts down on numbers of females in dresses.

I’m certainly finding myself feeling more confident as a woman...and that’s a good thing!   I've corresponded by email with all 3 of the folks, since returning home.  Perhaps we will meet again someday?  

I hope so, but time will tell.