Sunday, February 27, 2011

10 Days, 2 Countries, 1 bag

Mr. Suitcase and I are off on an adventure next week. Part of the the fun for me is to see how few things I can take to wear. A couple of years ago while traveling a fellow traveler pulled me aside and said "You are the best dressed woman on this trip with the least amount of luggage." I had to laugh and tell her "Thanks, I probably have the least expensive wardrobe as well, all my clothes come from the thrift store."

I do like a challenge.

So since then her comment has become a goal. Look put together; take very little. It's not magic, here's how I do it.

10. That's the number of garments I'm packing.

2 pairs of pants
2 cardigans
3 sleeveless tops
1 pullover
1 t-shirt
1 light trench coat or other outerwear depending on the weather at the last minute.

These items are in addition to what I'll be wearing on the plane.

Now I'm not really one for shlepping around in over sized clothing and in some countries dressing a little more like the locals (which means making some effort) can get you treated noticeably better in shops and restaurants. I'll be leaving my jeans and tennis shoes at home. I may not always act like a grown up but I'll admit I enjoy dressing like one. 

Here are the rules to packing light and maintaining a sense of style:

  • Pack only neutrals.
  • Every item must be able to be worn at least 2 (but shoot for 3) ways.
  • Layer clothing to adjust to changing temps and situations.
  • Leave the bulky items at home.
  • Opt for scarves instead of jewelry.
  • Don't take anything you couldn't stand to lose.
  • As much as possible pack fabrics that dry quickly if they get wet; avoid wool and 100 % cotton.
If the power was out in your hotel and you had to get dressed in the dark, could you? Rule # 1 is any pair of pants/skirt, shirt, cardigan, and scarf should be able to be put together without anything clashing. I avoid at all costs packing anything that makes me think "If I take that I have to take this."

Every item should look great paired with any other or on its own. If you leave your hotel in the morning when it's chilly and are visiting an outdoor site in the warmth of the afternoon sun you need to be able to adjust. Plan on peeling clothes off and then adding them again in the cool of the evening or for dinner.

Add caption
Layers of thin knits are a better choice than big space consuming items. They also don't wrinkle and are comfortable. Looking great when traveling isn't worth sacrificing comfort for and I believe you can have both.

Scarves can change an outfit instantly and can be worn and used in a variety of ways. They take up little room and make security checkpoints easier to navigate. No one wants to be behind the woman who has to keep taking jewelry off and going back through the metal detector again. I do take earrings but leave them off until I reach the gate. 

Anything that goes in my bag is expendable. Nearly the entire wardrobe (with the exception of a pair of black pants from a Marshall's clearance rack) was purchased at my favorite local boutique (Goodwill) and nothing cost me more than ten dollars (those black pants). Many of the scarves I paid less than a dollar for at garage and estate sales.

You want fabrics that breathe and are comfortable. If you spill something on you or get caught in the rain, you will not want something that takes hours to dry.

Pack an over-sized scarf. You can wear it as a scarf, throw it over your head Grace Kelly style in bad weather, wrap it around your waist for a sarong by the pool, put in on over leggings to wear to dinner, , make a triangle and tie the corners over your arms and behind your back for a shrug, or tie the corners together at your neck and around your waist for an instant sexy halter.

Toss in a swim suit (just in case) and a cover up that can double as a sleep shirt, lingerie, socks in case it's cold, one (ONE) extra pair of shoes, a spirit of adventure, and you're all set! 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Pack It Up and Be On Your Way

Joy at the start
Fear in the journey

Joy in the coming home

A part of the heart

Gets lost in the learning

Somewhere along the road

~Dan Fogelberg 
I'm packing for a trip. I started by throwing everything I might want to take into a big pile on my bed. Anything was possible. I carefully started to pick out things I knew I couldn't do without, and things that maybe weren't the most glamorous pieces but that I knew would serve me well. Some things I wanted (Oh so BADLY!) but couldn't manage to fit in. Some items were appealing because I knew how they'd make me feel while wearing them but I couldn't justify adding them. Maybe next time.

While I stood there making decisions-- keep this, let that go-- I thought how much life is like packing. You start out with all the possibilities, without many constraints. Choices must be made though. Soon you begin to edit. Some choices mean that other options are off the table at least for the time being. Perhaps you can pick them up at some point along your way.

Some days our "bags" feel as if we are bursting at the seams, we've packed too much, prioritized wrong. Why did we bring that? What were we thinking? How are we supposed to drag that around? We edit. Someone tucked that thing in our bag while we were distracted. How did we become responsible for that? Time to take it out. We've neglected something important or we haven't cared for the few things we've chosen properly. Time to evaluate our baggage.

So when we travel literally or figuratively are we going to weigh ourselves down with everything under the sun or can we manage with less? There is something kind of thrilling about packing a bag with just what you think you really need for the journey and imagining the treasures you might pick up along the way. Knowing that you are not ever going to perfect the process is a helpful realization. Life is full of surprises, leave a little room for chance and a spirit of adventure to put your resourcefulness to the test. Accept the challenge of adapting to knew circumstances. Drop the cumbersome expectation that you can be prepared for everything. You CAN be prepared for a LOT, just not ALL.

Be willing to learn.

Keep an open mind.

Enjoy the journey.

In case you are wondering about what actual pieces of clothing are going in my tangible bag for this literal trip, I'm getting to that in a few days.

In case you are wondering about the song I started this post with here are the lyrics:

Along The Road
Joy at the start
Fear in the journey
Joy in the coming home
A part of the heart
Gets lost in the learning
Somewhere along the road.
Along the road
Your path may wander
A pilgrim's faith may fail
Absence makes the heart grow stronger
Darkness obscures the trail.
Cursing the quest
Courting disaster
Measureless nights forebode
Moments of rest
Glimpses of laughter
Are treasured along the road.
Along the road
Your steps may tumble
Your thoughts may start to stray
But through it all a heart held humble
Levels and lights your way.
Joy at the start
Fear in the journey
Joy in the coming home
A part of the heart
Gets lost in the learning
Somewhere along the road
Somewhere along the road
Somewhere along the road.


Saturday, February 19, 2011

Kicking the NASCAR Hornet's Nest

NASCAR isn't a sport.

There... I said it.

Let the fast and furious commenting begin!

Technically if you want to define sport as a pastime then it could qualify. Or as a diversion, okay I'll give you that one too. But when I think of sports I think of things I (being uncoordinated and lacking anything remotely resembling quickness) can't do very well. They are pretty obvious-- anything requiring--running, jumping, throwing, hitting various objects with bats/clubs/rackets, riding horses or bikes, anything on skates or skis, along with killing animals of various kinds, and any combination of the above.

Driving in a circle? I can do that.

If NASCAR is a sport, are drivers athletes? 

Now I've heard all the arguments:

"They are going a zillion miles an hour!"

Okay, they drive in a

"They lose like 20 lbs during a race!"

I'll give you that it may be a great weight loss program.

"It's on ESPN!" are poker and the National Spelling Bee.

"If you ever went to a race you'd change your mind."

Really? I'm annoyed by cars without mufflers next to me at red lights. Why would I pay for hours of noise pollution?

Since this is The South I often just sit quietly while friends comment on their love of all things NASCAR. I try to think of polite questions to ask or feign interest. If I'm feeling snarky, which of course, is hardly ever (wink) I say, "You know that's not a sport."

If you just love stirring up nests of angry hornets, I highly suggest this at your next get together. Men who can't think of one nice thing to say about their wives will argue the fine qualities of their favorite driver to their last breath.

I thought it was a male phenomenon until a 4th of July party a couple of years ago when the topic came up and a young single woman breathlessly informed me that there are Harlequin style romance series based on what goes on at the track, that she was addicted, and I would change my mind about the "sport" (there's that word again) if I read one.

Oh, somebody help me.

A formulaic romance novel combined with car racing makes me think Dante missed a level. 

But wait! There's more!

You can buy NASCAR themed lingerie (Gentleman, start your engines!) and Daytona 500 cologne (which I'm guessing smells like a mixture of motor oil and gasoline with a hint of burning rubber).

I have nothing against race cars and their drivers or their fans. I just don't think it's that difficult. Let's see them drive during the holidays, near a mall, at rush hour next to other drivers who are most likely uninsured with a cranky husband and teenagers. Throw in a barking dog while speeding and looking out for a cop with a radar gun.

Then I'll be impressed.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Case for Creative Giftwrap

Is it too late for a Christmas post?

I didn't think so.

My daughter gave her fiance a fabulous leather Fossil duffel bag for Christmas and was in a quandary about how to wrap it.

First we just wrapped in in this plaid paper (wanting something masculine) but then I noticed that the box was
nearly the size of a suitcase.

As is so often the case (pun intended) once I started I couldn't stop.

It begged for a handle. I twisted one out of brown paper. Straps I made from ribbon.

Travel stickers seemed to be in order so I made some
with winter and ski themes.

The gift tag became a luggage tag and I cut a key out of cardboard and attached them both with some twine.

I took a picture of it under the tree. Okay I'll admit I was a little proud of myself.

Before she took it to her fiance's house I gave her strict instructions NOT to allow him to pick it up.

Later I saw this.

"Why did you let him pick it up?"

"MOM! It had a handle. A handle says 'pick me up."

I must admit now being even more proud of myself. As you can see the "suitcase" endured the test.

Oh yeah, he was really happy with what was inside too.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Snorkeling and Dancing in Cozumel

My Owner and her kids and future son-in-law signed up to go snorkeling in Cozumel on the Palancar Reef made famous by Jacques Cousteau in the 1960s.

Water related activities make me anxious, a floating suitcase is never a good thing. Think end of Titanic.

 MO and her offspring were determined though. They met their group at the end of the pier and were tagged with wristbands. They boarded a boat with a friendly crew and started the hour long journey to the reef.

 On the trip over there was time for a few photos.

ONE of these people doesn't like to have pictures made as much as the other.

BOTH of these people are always camera ready.

MO didn't think to take a water proof camera (a mistake she won't make if she has the opportunity to do this again) so there are no pictures of the coral reef, schools of neon colored tropical fish, moray eel, or sea turtle that she saw.

MO isn't a very strong swimmer and was a bit nervous about going into open water so far from shore. Participants were encouraged to jump off the boat. She knew she wouldn't be doing that. She could imagine how disoriented she would be when she hit the water and her snorkle and mask were askew. The divemaster pointed out what he called "the chicken stairs" and MO breathed a sigh of relief. Her daughter, son, and FSO jumped overboard, while MO eased carefully into the water trying to get used to the fins on her feet and breathing through her mouth. She moved away from the boat and talked herself down from sheer panic. are fine. You can do this. After a couple of minutes she put her face in the water and looked down. AMAZING! Another incredible world below the surface 20-40 feet down. Clear water, great visibility. She thought momentarily how her fear (not completely gone) had nearly caused her to miss this.

She got the breathing down. Someone splashed next to her irritating her and she moved away from the other swimmers. One of the divers stayed near the back to make sure the group stayed together and every few minutes MO would look up to check where everyone else was. A whistle blew and someone who was struggling gave up and asked to be taken out. Later someone else did, MO determined that would not be her. They swam across a sandy spot with no coral and came to another deeper reef. The water cooled considerably due to it's depth. They hung around this reef for a while moving with the current. MO turned to her side and saw nothing but eternal blue. This was the "drop off" the guides had said would mark the end of the excursion. Later when MO researched this area at home the site said that the reef ends at the "abyss." Better not to have known that.

Time in the water: about an hour and fifteen minutes. 

Shivering with intense cold she and the rest of her party climbed the stairs onto the boat took off silly fins and masks got hosed down and handed margaritas as they made their way up top to warm in the sun. The shook uncontrollably for several minutes barely able to keep from spilling their drinks as the boat sped toward the beach where they would be served lunch and stay for about an hour lounging in chairs in the sand before re-boarding the boat and heading back to the ship.

 "We did it!"

They were a little proud of themselves and decided it was one of the most exciting and rewarding experiences they'd ever had.

Okay so if there is music and MO is (let's say happy) there may be dancing. This is her with Manuel, tour guide and dance partner.

At dinner when the kids showed MO's husband the pictures he asked...

"How many people were on the boat?"


"And how many were dancing?"

"Oh, just Mom."

Somehow he wasn't surprised.

For reasons that should be pretty obvious MO was oblivious to her kids taking these pictures.

Friday, February 11, 2011

I'm Melting...

Ice crystals on my windshield
Okay, I'm not but it is. The snow, I mean. The other day in anticipation of wintery precipitation my husband wanted to go out for breakfast, something we never do unless we are traveling. He used to drive by the nearest Cracker Barrel on his way to work and think how nice it would be to go to breakfast there when it snowed. So with 100% chance of snow predicted and the radar showing it just miles away we headed out.

I wore my new hat.

I also wore some socks he bought me on a recent trip to a Civil War store for reenactors. You didn't even know such a thing existed, did you? Well, it does. He brought home a pair of red and white stockings that go all the way up past my knees. Sexy 150 years ago looked  a little different. No wonder Victoria was so keen to keep that secret. 

I hadn't worn them but they seemed just the thing to wear under jeans with boots the other day as we headed out. This is how it looked.

But when I got home and was taking my boots off I realized just how Wicked Witch of the South it looked. I had to take a picture to share with you.

Wicked sock & shoe combo

Thank goodness I wasn't killed in a car crash. Can you imagine the wisecracks?

"I thought a house fell on her."

"I thought it was a twister not a snowstorm."

"If we find her broom we can sweep this mess up."

ba da bing!

We left the house.

No snow.

We arrived at said restaurant.

No snow.

We ate by the window.

No snow.

We walked across the parking lot and got back in the car.

I saw this sign and laughed. Mr. Rogers would be sad.

Oh yeah and there was still no snow.

We went home stacked a fire, lit it, I took pictures of my Wicked sock and shoe combo for y'all and put on comfortable, warm clothes.

Then... it snowed

                                  ...and snowed.

All this while my car was still warm enough for it to melt on the hood.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Cabin Fever Southern Style

Every girl needs a role model.
We have a low tolerance for being inside down here. A day or two is our limit. Here's what I've been up to.

A heated waterer for the chickens --why didn't I invest in that? Oh yeah, this is The South.

How often am I going to need it with global warming and all? So this winter, an unusually, cold, snowy, hunker down inside episode has had me boiling water in a kettle and running outside to pour it into a metal pan where it remains steaming momentarily with chickens drinking like crazy before it cools down and turns to a useless solid chunk.

Lesson learned.

I have taken to wearing a Mexican blanket wrapped around me sari style, only at home, of course over a gray cashmere robe that my daughter finds hideous. A tiny space heater has become a constant companion.

Oh yeah, and I've been eating...a lot. Whatever ancient part of the brain that kicks in when it snows and convinces me to consume copious amounts of carbs, I'd like to have lobotomized. The 4 hour documentary I watched on the Donner Party didn't help.

I've made every kind of soup imaginable. I've been to the store numerous times. I've finished books and tried to keep from whining remembering the visions of Earnest Shackleton that dance in my head.

I've baked, blogged, and bundled.

I've been reminded how much I complained last summer when it was 108*. I do hate the heat so.

What I haven't had to do this time is greet snow covered children at the door with towels, toss gloves and hats in the dryer, and park shoes by the fireplace to warm. Once the kids are grown you have to worry about how long it is going to take them to drive home from work and help them figure out if the side streets which are lonely are safer than the main streets clogged with bad drivers.

This morning as I sit here shrouded in woven colorful happiness,  my feet heated by a heater (and a beagle) the view outside is breathtaking. The sun is up and the snow is sparkling. I just saw something else that is also beautiful...


5 Day Forecast

Today Feb 10 Fri 11 Sat 12 Sun 13 Mon 14
Sunny Sunny Sunny Sunny
Sunny Sunny Sunny Sunny Sunny
30°F 40° 45° 56° 56°
High High High High High
15° 25° 36° 39° 36°
Low Low Low Low Low
Chance of Precip:
Chance of Precip:
Chance of Precip:
Chance of Precip:
Chance of Precip:

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Housewife's Southern Winter Survival Kit

This has been a winter unlike any I've seen in the South in a very long time. When people are groaning instead of excitedly saying "SNOW" then I think we've all had enough. With another storm on the way everyone is giving advice on what to put in a winter survival kit. Mine may be a little different. Here we go.

1.  First things first. You are going to need a stack of books. This is what I'm reading presently. Yes, I know it's a sickness but I think we've covered that in previous posts.

2. You are going to need a cute hat (Which reminds me I need to learn to knit).

If you are found frozen to death in your car you don't want the people who find you to wonder why you were wearing an ugly hat.

3. You are going to need whatever it is you use to make your family's favorite chili or soup. It can stay on the stove simmering all day and people can eat whenever they want, my favorite!

I like to play a little game with the empty cans and see how many I can nest  before I discard/recycle them.

Click here to read about recycling cans.

Today the limit was 3 but I could have easily fit a small tomato paste can in here.

This is the kind of thing that my children say is the reason no one reads my blog.

Really? It seems so fascinating.

4. Walking/Running shoes, fitness magazine and exercise equipment.

You aren't going to let a little thing like brutal cold stop you, are you?

5. A water bottle. I know. Not what you were expecting but it's easy to forget to drink enough water when it's cold. I try to fill this one at least twice a day.

Yes, yes, we are getting to the good stuff.

6. Coffee. To which you can add any variety of things that can warm you on a winter day. ;)

7. A really good moisturizer and don't forget sunscreen just because it's cold. All those reflective UV rays off the snow, yikes! And sunglasses for the same reason.  Okay that's 3 but they're all related.

8. The ingredients for my magic cocoa. Click here for the recipe.

9. Seed catalogs...because spring IS on the way,

isn't it?

10...and beyond.
To all of this I might add: a real wood fire (not gas--what is wrong with people?), a camera to document the fact that it SNOWED here, candles, your coziest blanket, cuddliest pet, and most comfortable slippers. Happy hibernating!

One more thing (isn't there always?) this is by no means a definitive list. Please comment and add YOUR winter necessities.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Dog Days of Winter

This place is going to the dogs...    
4 dogs trying to get as close as possible

My daughter and her fiance had a Super Bowl party and asked us to dog sit our future grand dogs. This was the scene as I tried to get some reading done.

Here we have an exhausted (from what I'm not sure) college student doing his best to keep a comfort loving beagle warm on a cold night.

Not far away we have this.

Yeah, well, things are tough all over.

Did I mention we live in a zoo? Okay, not really but sometimes it feels like it. Since the cat decided to come downstairs putting an end to her self imposed 4 year exile, she has taken up residence on our bed where
she can be found most days...and nights.

"Oh...hi Mom."

Now I have a strict rule about no dogs on the bed. But sometimes when I'm not looking the rule breakers flaunt their blatant disregard for authority...

Cat: You do see the dog on the bed, don't you?

Dog: Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!

Me: Cotton! OFF!

At which point the cat engages in diabolical feline laughter, licks her paw, curls into a ball and returns to sleep.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Eat. Pay. Leave.

I saw the movie Eat, Pray, Love recently. Good advice if you ask me though I'm not sure about the order. It reminds me of some advice my daughter gives me whenever she is aware that I'm going to lunch with friends.

"Mom, do NOT stay at your table forever. People are trying to earn a living."

"But, they always say it doesn't matter."

"Of course they SAY that! They want a nice tip but they don't want you camping there all afternoon."

She frowns on my usual one (okay, sometimes two) hour lunches but a few months ago I broke all the records with a four hour dinner. She was appalled.

"You didn't."

"Technically we were in the bar."

"Did you keep ordering drinks?"


"Doesn't count, if you weren't running up a tab."

"Well, they weren't busy. We were the last people there."

"THAT means they could have gone HOME."


I will try and do better in the future. I have an opportunity to redeem myself coming up today when I have lunch with a friend. I will chant this mantra...