Back to School

Remember the anticipation of the new school year? The excitement of brand new:  school supplies,  clothes, and schedules and challenges made ending the summer endurable. New beginnings can be in September, not January. It isn't a matter of making resolutions: it is about reevaluation. We redefine ourselves.

The pace quickens in the fall. I buy an academic planner.  Although I keep a synced
calendar in my iPhone, iPad, and MacAir,
I love the visceral pleasure of a new planner and a black pen to go with it. I buy notebooks to fill: I miss the touch of crisp pages heavy with black ink, a sensual need that electronics cannot possibly fulfill.  I love the idea that I am going to get things done. It is the thrill of a plan carried out. September is full and I am already making entries in October and November as well.

Dress Muse's Back to School List:

School Supplies: I love school supplies. I stock up at my local office supply store but also have fun at sites life Present and Correct where, I confess, I go a little wild. Anything I can't use makes terrific gifts for the upcoming holidays.  Look for advice in magazines and blogs on how to make your desk more organized and prettier.
Book Bags - When I taught for many years my favorite book bag was a yellow one I bought from Cambridge Satchel, but I have a weakness for backpacks. I like the polished and modern leather ones I'm seeing on Etsy. I use a Baggu "clay" canvas one because I spend so much time on a bicycle. I am weak for the adorable cloth book bags and reading art and goods from The Book Shop

Glasses: Get your eyes checked and consider a pair of glasses from Parker Warby, a hip and ethical online eyewear company. 

Class Schedule
I schedule a writing workshop in poetic forms at a local college.  Take a class or workshop in whatever you love: Pottery, languages, city planning, art history, music...all of the things you didn't always have time to take or follow-up on in college.  Join a reading or writing group or attend fall readings and lecture series scheduled at local colleges. I'm seeing Helena Maria Viramontes next week at Our Lady of the Lake University. Their Dogs Came with Them is one of my favorite books. Learning is not a luxury: it is a need. 

Remember we would pick out a popular girl and try and mimic her style? How did she always look like that? I came to realize it was not so much how she looked. It was something more inclusive about her; it was her clothes, but also the ease in which she moved in the world. An ease that seemed like impossible at 15. Who are your popular girls? For me it is androgynous cool of  Margaret Howell, the interesting beauty of Helen Mirin, and the carefree elegance of Lauren Hutton.


Summer's End

 Time has slowed to a crawl. The days are hot and long and gloriously paused before summer breaks like a wave with the coming of September. I treasure these last couple of weeks.

The neighborhood pool is closing as children return to school. I bike around town and notice that the tourists are leaving (they'll be back soon: SA is best when the heat has broken) and it is quiet and still on city streets. 

I attended a fun end-of-summer party recently in which we all brought five pictures from recent travels and told one story. It could have turned out a bit too twee, but it didn't: It was a fun evening. It helped that the travelers, instead of smug, were passionate about travel. They were genuinely curious about other people's experiences. People told stories about camping in Colorado, about a teaching gig in Budapest, about a bicycle ride outside of Amsterdam. It was a take on "What I did on my Summer Vacation," but with wine.

I'm reading Italian writer Elena Ferrante's trilogy "Neapolitan Novels"  which includes My Brilliant Friend and The Story of a New Name, and I am awaiting Europa's translation of her third, Storia di chi fugge e di chi resta, perfect for long afternoons.  Her novel The Days of Abandonment is like scalding water.  And I just finished Haruki Marakami's new book, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his Years of Pilgrimage. I don't want to get up off the couch. 

Tea dresses are what I'm thinking about now, maybe because they are a great transition dress.  My favorite is a navy cotton with teeny white flowers scattered about and buttons down the bodice that I thrifted a couple of years ago. I wear it with my Saltwater sandals or Supergas in the summer and then with skinny flats and a vintage cardigan - '50s, embellished with a scattering of seed pearls- as the weather cools.  In the winter I'll wear it with nubby tights, ankle boots, and a thick pullover or a shrunken Pendleton wool blazer. For a funkier vibe when I'm feeling it, I'll wear a pair of  Dansko strapped shoes or clogs. This dress is one of the most versatile things I own. 

I'm wearing it barefoot now, and I'm feeling sleepy in the hottest part of the day, as I stayed up late last night, sitting on the veranda with friends drinking whisky, neat. I adjust the wood blinds, and take to my sun dried sheets with a plate of cold melon slices, a book (and a lover) for a siesta and luxuriate in these last days before we wake again to the fall! 

Goodbye summer's golden days! It all went by so quickly, didn't it?



We have a tradition of meriendas: a mid-afternoon break of pan dulce and a cafecita. 

I have been to meriendas that were elaborate: trays of dainty sandwiches, sweets, fresh fruit, breads and cheeses served with coffee poured in thin porcelain cups. They were memorable and delightful afternoons.

You may plan to meet a friend at a local coffee house (macarons and espresso are perfect!) or bistro, or you simply take a break that is honored every day at your own kitchen table or work desk with a cafecita, a cookie, ( I often have a piece of dark chocolate and  some almonds) or a slice of tea bread, and your own thoughts. I try to not to use the time to read or peruse the Internet. This small amount of time is an important ritual in my life,  because it is a moment I give as a gift to myself.   I luxuriate in the quiet.

Other countries and cultures have this ritual: the kaffee und kuchen in Germany, the British tea with bread and jam or little cakes, or le gouter, a refined version of the late afternoon snack.  
I am rested and restored to go on with a day that may be busy until midnight, and I am not starving before dinner.

Meriendas are about creating moments of grace and elegance in your life.  Taking time in a busy day to gather your thoughts, and in a culture that stresses the denial of goodies, it is a way to give yourself permission to  enjoy the childlike pleasure of eating something that makes you feel happy. Enjoy!