Thursday, December 28, 2017

A "New Year" Wish for you:

With the New Year just around the corner, let this beautiful sunrise (showcasing Whiteface Mountain near Lake Placid, NY) signify a brighter and better year ahead, for each of my readers and commenters!

 Happy New Year, everyone!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

To all my readers and commenters:

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Feliz Navidad, whatever applies in your particular situation, and I hope Santa is very good to everyone!


Friday, December 22, 2017

My new coat...and the minister at the nursing home.

My new coat finally arrived, and at last I was able to get a picture...coincidentally just before the day when I got to take a picture of the outfit I wore to answer the door (see earlier post.)   So why not take pictures of them both?  After all, girls wear coats over their dresses!

So, above is the result: a coat which fully passes muster with my wife, and fits properly, over a dress which I regularly wear around the house.  Absolutely a win-win situation!

When I went to visit Mother last Sunday, I found that the staff had wheeled her to the on-site holiday church service.   She was asleep in her wheelchair when I arrived, and much to the amusement of some of the ladies there, did not wake up when I sat down next to her.  After a few minutes I gently shook her arm, and she woke up.  The ladies loved the astonished look on her face when she saw me.

After the service was over, I wheeled her back to her room, and a short visit later, it was time to leave.  We said our farewells, and I headed down the hall.  I sensed a man walking behind me but catching up, and I heard "Oh Ma'am?"  and again, "Ma'am, were you sitting with your mother?"  OMG - it was the minister, talking to me!

Of course I responded that I was, and he told me how nice she is... I agreed, and then he said she has been at a number of his services.   I told him that it's likely he will see her again!  As we parted, he said "Merry Christmas, Ma'am."  "Merry Christmas to you and yours as well, Reverend."  And I walked on, smiling, loving that my presentation (stirrup pants, tights, a turtleneck and clogs, with purse) was actually sufficient to be accepted as a woman by the minister.

But my day wasn't done yet.  Next stop was the pharmacy, to pick up some things.  The clerk didn't know me, but chose to leave off any gender-specific forms of address.  That's fine with me.  And at the grocery store, I was "Ma'am" to two young  (20-something) female clerks.  Then at the hardware store, my cover was blown...the clerks know I'm not what I seem to be.  :-(    But at the post office, a gentleman held the door for me greeted me with "Merry Christmas, Ma'am."

You win some, you lose some!


Tuesday, December 19, 2017

"Wonder if they're still standing?", and "Answering the door..."

When I made my California sojourn in April of 2017, I came across many areas with pretty and green foothills, such as shown below.    While I can't say precisely where along the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) these pictures were taken, I can say that I wondered if the plentiful growth in the area might have a downside at some point.   And the fire events in CA over the last few weeks/months have proved to be that downside, providing plenty of dried out vegetation as fuel for the conflagration.

Do these beautiful homes still exist?  Since I can't say precisely where these are (other than along the PCH, south of Point Mugu),  I don't know.  But what I do know is that my thoughts and prayers go out to the many CA folks who have been affected in the California fires.   It is a very sobering situation...and may those affected receive all the help they need.

On a more pleasant note:   While my wife was chatting with her sister on the phone just before dinnertime the other afternoon, our doorbell rang.   She wasn't going to be able to get it.  So she motioned to me to answer...we've been getting packages delivered, and for some reason, the delivery drivers do not knock or ring the doorbell.   With all the talk about porch seems to me that if the delivery companies can't take the few seconds to knock or ring the doorbell, they should have to pay for any stolen packages.  But that will likely never happen.

Before you ask:  Here is the outfit I was wearing at the time - not at all masculine.  Quite feminine, in fact. But I was wearing no jewelry or makeup.

I opened the door, fully expecting to find a delivery driver.

Was I ever surprised (actually, shocked) to find our next-door-neighbor's wife.   I invited her in where it's warm, and she entered.  I told her that my wife was on the phone with her sister (and she could see that was true, from the foyer.)  We had been watching their house while they were gone, but they got home a day early cause her hubby had gotten sick (whatever it is, it's still going around.)   I gave her their packages, and she headed home.  But it was an amazing outing - without even trying.  And I didn't notice any strange looks or double-takes.  YAY!

This is the same neighbors who said hi to me (as Mandy) in a restaurant on the other side of the bay a couple years ago.  So, now it's even more certain to them that I wear dresses...for whatever that's worth!  And my wife didn't seem concerned about it....I'll take that as a good sign.


Sunday, December 17, 2017

Thanks to my Readers! And "Another railroad landmark gone."

I just noticed that my blog has recently reached a new milestone.   Now there are more than 100,000 visits/comments...which is a figure I never dreamed would be reached.  Thanks to each and every visitor/commenter, for helping me reach this level.  I intend to continue this blog, though life unfortunately gets in the way of making entries on a daily basis...

While recently showing my mother some old pictures of Pittsburgh, PA from years gone by, I came across the following, which are pictures taken among a group of fancy privately-owned rail passenger cars.  They were gathered at the B&O's Grant Street Station, a stub-end facility intended for local passenger train use.  I was fortunate to be able to access the station and see the equipment gathered there.

A few words about the Station: 

It was built in 1957,  for the then-still-operating Baltimore and Ohio-operated commuter trains from downtown to some of the Monongahela Valley suburbs, such as McKeesport.  And reportedly it was the last privately-owned station built in the State of PA.

It was designed as stub-end: the end of the line.  All trains departed in the opposite direction from whence they entered.  There were no through tracks.  Though there was a freight station, I understood that freight business was not particularly plentiful, as there were no through trains, and no big freight yard, mainly a few open tracks and some passenger platforms with shelters.  

All of B&O's intercity trains used the existing Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad station, which could be seen across the river.  (Which eventually became part of Station Square, now a major convention and tourist attraction in the city.) 

When the B&O finally discontinued its commuter trains, Pittsburgh's Port Authority Transit agency took over some of the runs (locals may recognize the PaTrain name), thus keeping the station in business.  But as the B&O had previously found, passenger traffic continued to dwindle due to the death of the steel industry, making the trains hugely unprofitable and a burden to the local budget.

The only exception to that was a spike in patronage during road construction on the interstate leading into town, when special trains were operated to alleviate highway congestion.  But when the construction ended, that patronage disappeared.

These pictures were taken at the station in the mid-1980's, during its declining years, when a bevy of privately-owned rail cars gathered for an event.   Note:  in the pictures you can see a number of yard tracks and adjacent buildings.  More about this later.

Very fancy cars.  All privately owned.

Elegance abounding...

A very interesting day, savoring the ambiance of times gone by...

By May of 1989 the PaTrains were gone, and the station lay dormant.    Here is what it looked like from the outside...very "mid-century modern" in style:

I had been aware that the station was disused, but recently heard that in 1998 Urban Renewal finally caught up with it.   Both the passenger and freight stations, and all the yard and tracks visible in the pictures above, fell prey to the wrecker's crane.   By going on Google Earth, I see that there is now some high rise establishment (titled "PNC First Side") located on the site.   As far as I can tell, there is nothing visible that even hints of the fact trains used to run there.

How the once-mighty have fallen!

But the bright side is that most, if not all, of the rail cars in attendance are still alive and well...unlike the station and yard areas.

"Happy Rails to You!"


Friday, December 15, 2017

Which will it be?

Pat, one of my long-time, faithful readers, commented in a recent post that in my next planned solo excursion, regarding my plan to take only one skirt:  "...there is always room for one more thing."  And, so yesterday, I tried on my red skirt.

Luckily, it fits fairly well.  Thus, I plan to wear this outfit at least once, somewhere during my excursion trip (as shown, or perhaps with a black turtleneck top):

It's also likely that I will be wearing black tights instead of pantyhose, particularly if the weather is cold.  You might also find me wearing a pair of clogs instead of flats or Mary Janes.   My clogs are comfortable enough for all-day wear.

Also, I tried on my black skirt, which hasn't seen the light of day in a long time.  While it will be worn with a gray or black turtleneck blouse instead of the short sleeve one pictured, and black tights instead of pantyhose if it's cold, the outfit is businesslike, and appropriate for travel.  I hope I can find someplace to wear it...

Incidentally, I measured both skirts, and they're precisely the same length!  (Both were hemmed by my favorite seamstress...)  And the two skirts (put together) are lighter and thinner than either one of the denim skirts I was considering.  So, I'll take both along.  Nothing like having greater flexibility, is there?  Thanks for the idea, Pat!

For anyone wondering about the how my new jacket worked out:  It's arrived, and is an absolute home run!  My wife is fine with it...and I love it.  This was a fabulous compromise between my heavy (in both weight and warmth) men's winter coat, which we bought well before I retired and have only worn a few times (typically it doesn't get that cold here on the Delmarva), and my light-weight jackets, which are only good down to about 25-30 windless degrees.   And we saved many dollars in the process.

The jacket has undeniable hints of its intended "gender."  There are snaps which "close" over the front zipper, which open on the "women's side." There is a huge collar, with "women's style" fur around the face.   And it has a bottom drawstring.  But it's much warmer than any jacket I already own, and is loose enough that I can wear a sweater underneath when the weather gets really cold.

I'll post a picture for you at some point...stand by!


Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Another visit to paradise...

The morning after our recent snowfall of a couple inches, I detoured to my little piece of paradise - carefully, in case the road was still snow covered and impassable (there's a hill leading down to the water.)  Fortunately, it was clear, so I could drive down without concern.

In  the following picture, there is some snow, and yes, the water is high...because it's high tide:

Here's a view across the inlet:

When I first drove in, lo and behold, there was already a car parked there!  (That was a first!)  An elderly gentleman was sitting in the driver's seat, enjoying his morning coffee alone in the car, and he greeted me "good morning, Ma'am."  I responded in kind, and went on about my business taking pictures.  No issues, no problems.  (However I did sense that he looked me over fairly thoroughly...)

It's nice to know that someone else has good taste in serene locations!

One of my readers observed in a recent comment that, in winter, cis-women (other than those in NYC) tend to dress in pants or leggings and tops (or a dress serving as a top.)   Following is a picture of one of my everyday outfits.  This is what I typically wear - various turtleneck tunics, stirrup leggings (in warmer weather, capris) and pantyhose or tights, with flats.  Absolutely nothing from the men's department.  And if my January trip actually comes to pass, it will be made wearing everyday outfits just like this:

However, I still plan to take one (1) skirt - just in case the opportunity to fully-dress arrives.  Unfortunately, space in my suitcase dictates ONLY ONE.    :-(     Initially, I thought I might take my mid-calf denim skirt (with flats instead of Mary Janes - which unfortunately don't fit well enough to wear all day while traveling):

But now, I'm "waffling" on that it may be this knee-length denim skirt - which you've seen in posts several times previously:

Or this red one - again, with flats for traveling:

IMHO, the front runner right now is my knee-length denim skirt.  A close second in line is the above red one.  Anyone care to offer suggestions or thoughts about my selections, or share any other thoughts on "What should I wear?"

Your ideas are welcomed...and I could be convinced to change my mind!  (Before you ask, yes, I still have that jumper dress I wore on an excursion a couple of months ago!)


Sunday, December 10, 2017


During our last excursion, I needed a bit heavier jacket than I was planning to wear.  (My men's winter coat was far too heavy and warm.)  Alas, I didn't own one.   So I made do with what I have, and fortunately it was warm enough that there was no issue.

However there is the outside possibility of a solo winter convention trip down south. (See below.)  If it happens, my men's (heavy and warm) winter coat will again be much too heavy.  And my lightweight jackets will be much too cold.   Worse yet, I won't have enough suitcase room to take the winter coat plus 3 lighter-weight layering jackets.

I asked my wife if she had an old puffer parka which I could borrow for the trip, to work with a sweater.  The one she has is the one she wears, so no luck there.  I went on line to check some of the men's shops and found nice jackets that might work (of course I'm dubious of men's sizing, having not worn men's clothes for many years), for $150 to $250.   In the women's plus-size websites, I found several that should work fine, on sale for $75 - $100.   The price difference caught my wife's immediate attention, and once I found an on-line coupon for 50% off the sale price, I got the all-clear to buy and wear a women's coat!

It's been ordered...I'll let you know if it passes muster once it arrives.

As I mentioned in the previous post, we both have been under the weather for over two weeks now, and we're just beginning to feel somewhat better.   I'm "sort of" hoping to attend a convention in mid-America in January, using my usual modes of transportation - train and rental car.  I'm not getting myself overly excited about this - as awful as the cold (or whatever it is) has been for me, and the fact that I was on antibiotics for quite a while, I'm concerned about a relapse.   That has happened before.

And even without considering that issue, the fact that Mandy will have to stay in the suitcase for most of the trip is quite depressing.  Current plan is to take only one mid-calf, winter weight denim skirt along...everything else I wear will be my usual stirrup pants and a pair of capris, with lots of turtlenecks.

More on this as (or if, or when) it develops...


Sunday, December 3, 2017

It's been a very strange week...

Now it's both my wife and I who have been under the weather for essentially the past week, with some variation of a cold - and with me to a doctor twice.   We were fortunately well enough to keep our dentist appointments near Baltimore yesterday.  Those appointments caused us to get home late in the afternoon, and after dinner we retired early, once again in separate rooms due to our colds.  No point in infecting/re-infecting each other since we both had different sets of symptoms.

And that's when the adventures began.

I got up in the middle of the night, to hit the kitchen and graze for a midnite snack.  Once there, I heard my wife's plaintive voice calling to me from the other room.  Turns out she was experiencing a nosebleed, and had been for a couple of hours.   Needless to say, this called for a trip to the ER.   So after getting dressed and piling her into the car, we pulled up in front of the entrance to the ER at about 3AM. (Fortunately, there was no traffic on the road, nor any that hour.)

To make a long story short, her cold (and frequently nose-blowing) had ruptured some small blood vessels on the septum, which wouldn't stop bleeding.  A bit of cauterizing and she was good as new...with the caution to not blow her nose for a while.   But our early morning 90 minute stint in the ER left both of us in a zombie state, and we both fell asleep as soon as we got home...

Then there was the matter of picking up the old car at the garage Saturday.   And my visit to Mom at the nursing home, who was having a bad day seems someone took her usual seat at the table.  (Note...the seats aren't assigned - anyone can sit anywhere.)  She wasn't happy about the whole thing and was making herself miserable while trying to make everyone have a bad day.  (Note: she actually was the only one having a bad day.  Everyone else was fine.)   Yes, stress.   And more stress, piled on top of the stress.

Last, but not least, was my long-anticipated afternoon appointment to get my nails done - fills on both my fingers and toes.  I've really been looking forward to that, and to the relaxation I find while I'm being a girl.  It's incredible...

The fill on my fingers went just fine, and looked pretty.   Well, there WAS this matter of a couple of phone calls from an old work buddy (whom I hadn't talked with in several months.)  I tried to ignore them, but he kept dialing me, so once I was seated in the pedi chair I finally took a chance and picked up his call.  That's right...from my nail salon!  A first!!!

Now bear in mind, that the salon treats me as Miss Mandy.  I was wearing capri pants, a turtleneck and flats.  No pantyhose.  And by that point my voice was fairly well trashed (very husky) because of my cold.  (That's probably fortunate, given the circumstance - it further muddied my actual gender.)

My buddy and I started chatting....with me apologizing to my buddy about my voice -  yes, he only knows me as a guy.  (Note: the voice apologies were mostly "window-dressing" for the benefit of the girls at the salon.)   And it was obvious that I was talking to a guy.    I think they wondered why a girl would have kept in touch with a guy....but that's a topic to analyze another day.

I projected myself into my buddy's shoes for a second. (Retired military, still wears a crew cut, walks like a police officer, etc.  He's definitely the image of a man.)  When we worked together, I had long hair and wore flats, etc.  My sartorial style didn't set off any alarm bells for him.  But I doubt he would ever be able to deal with his friend as a girl - particularly thinking of the image of a girl sitting in a pedi chair, contemplating her pretty pink finger nails and watching a nail tech paint her toe nails with pink gel...then putting them under the blue light.

No, that probably wouldn't go over well...   So it was a blessing that the techs didn't talk in foreign tongues while he was on the phone.  And it also was a blessing that neither of us is technically oriented, using Skype or whatever it's girly appearance and feminine activities would have been really hard to explain!   LOL...

I'll leave you with a picture...from the Strasburg RR last summer....

And in case you wondered, the girl in the foreground is NOT me.  (Though with her long hair, it could have been.)  Instead, I was taking this picture with a real camera, not from a phone.

Till next time...


Friday, December 1, 2017

Old cars are so exciting... Plus a note about pantyhose.

Having been very much "under the weather" the past week or so (requiring a doctor visit and lots of pills), I haven't been able to get the old car ready for its trip to the shop to have the heater core repaired.   And that is where the title of this post originates.

On both of this past summer's trips, the car ran perfectly (well, except for the leaky heater core issue, which was temporarily solved by bypassing it.)   Not bad for a 50 year old vehicle with 140K miles on the clock. After arriving home in September, I parked the car and it hasn't turned a wheel since.  In fact, I never even washed the dead bugs off the windows!

The day before taking it to the shop, I decided to start it up and make sure it was ready for the run... since the shop is in another town.   No problem with starting it up, that worked as per normal.  But as I backed down the driveway for a test drive (and toward the neighbor's truck parked on the street behind it), the brake pedal went all the way to the floorboard.  A bit un-nerving  - good for a couple of skipped heartbeats!

Fortunately the front  brakes grabbed just as I fully applied the parking brake - and together that stopped all movement.    I drove it back up into the garage, which is level, and tried pumping the brake pedal to see if things would get back to normal.  No such luck.  So I checked the brake fluid level in the master cylinder..   One of the two halves was full (i.e. the front) and the rear half was very low.  Hence no back brakes, and not safe to drive.

I topped up the brake fluid, pumped the pedal again...and it soon returned to normal.  So after letting things sit a few minutes, I checked again and found the brakes were still normal.  I backed out of the garage and took a short test drive, which was completely uneventful.  When I got back to the house, there were no puddles anywhere under the car, in the driveway, or streaks of leaking fluid on the road.  Very curious.

I'm confused as to why the brakes worked perfectly fine in September, but now in November the fluid is very low, with no tell-tale puddles under the car, and no driving.   The fluid could not have leaked elsewhere, but it was low.  I hope the mechanic has an idea or two... 

Who needs excitement like that????

An interesting "happening" during our recent trip out of town for a family wedding:  my wife commented that we needed to find a store so she could buy a pair of pantyhose - all she had in her suitcase was a pair of black tights.  The day before the wedding, when the weather was dry, we didn't go shopping at all.

Now, before lunch on the day of the wedding, it was raining...and I didn't care for the idea of going out.  Neither did she.  I pointed out the fact that we're about the same size, and offered to lend her a pair of my pantyhose.   Most surprisingly, she accepted.  I was shocked...though it may have had something to do with the fact neither of us really wanted to go out.  But the bottom line is...she wore them and they worked fine.

Let me leave you with a picture or two of the wild blue yonder...

Nice.  A beautiful contrail...with no wind to break it up.

 Wonder what the airplane was, and where it was going?  We'll never know...but it sure made a beautiful sight!