Grammy Fashion for the Grammyish Set

I don’t know about you, but I’m addicted to watching the red carpet at the awards shows. I love fashion and live vicariously through these telecasts, knowing that I won’t ever be invited to an event requiring a designer gown and being way past my prom dress days. But I have to say that I am just a little bit bored by all the cleavage that seems to be so in vogue this season.

madonna-bum-flash-grammy-awards-2015-1423478898-view-0And I am more than a  little bit horrified by the ways some older women who should know better persist in thinking that anyone wants to see their derrieres (I’m looking, or rather not looking at you, Madonna). Yes, many of us over fifties work out, hope to have a great yoga butt and strong thighs, blah blah blah… but really? It just strikes me as a bit pathetic to feel that this is necessary/acceptable/interesting/whatever.

Mind you, I’m not suggesting that “mature” attendees need to dress in “mother of the bride dresses.” Jane Fonda certainly showed off her toned body in this amazing grammys-2015-jane-fondagreen jumpsuit.  (I’m pretty sure she’s had some work done, and I’m not crazy about the helmet hair, but props to the queen of workout videos for keeping it classy).

But after all, especially at the music award shows, it is often about sexy and edgy rather than Met gala or society wedding. Nonetheless, in my book, the coolest, sexiest lady of them all this year was Annie Lennox, who gave an incredible performance, first on the red carpet when she eschewed the hype and then … in her characteristic style… when she let her talent rather than her boobs or butt do the talking on stage. At age 60 she is one hot tamale! Let her “put a spell on you”:

How to be Your Own Travel Agent

Planning a travel adventure isn’t the mysterious process it used to be before the Internet made a wealth of information available to anyone with connectivity. Ideally, your planning should happen roughly four months before your trip to reap the best deals and guarantee availability. Here are my tips and tricks for getting the most out of your next trip, broken down into parts. I recommend that you read them in order, but feel free to skip ahead.

  • Step One: Establish your vacation vision / travel personality
  • Step Two: Purchase airline tickets
  • Step Three: If required, acquire visas / inoculations/medications
  • Step Four: Refine the pace/scope of your travel
  • Step Five: Research transportation at and between destinations
  • Step Six: Book your accommodations
  • Step Seven: Explore sightseeing/day trip opportunities and book ahead where necessary
  • Step Eight: Figure out what to pack

Continue reading

What I’m Packing (carry on only) for Three Weeks in Italy

Mr. D and I are off to Milan, Bellagio, Venice, Bologna, Florence and finally a one week yoga retreat in a villa in Tuscany.  Having successfully navigated three weeks in Asia this past spring carry on only, we are committed to avoiding the baggage carousel.

Osprey 40L backpack

Using my trusty packing cubes and my Osprey 40L backpack I was able to fit in:

  • 4 elbow length Adea tops in black, grey, light and dark blue
  • 1 short sleeve Adea top in white
  • 1 cotton tee shirt for sleeping
  • 2 sleeveless Adea tops in pale peach and pale yellow
  • 1 dressy black button front blouse
  • 2 Prana camisoles for yoga and for under the dressy black blouse, black and  white
  • 1 J Crew pale peach lighweight merino pullover
  • 1 off white lightweight merino cardigan
  • 1 grey and black striped Merona pullover
  • My awesome grey travel pants from Lululemon (see my Asia post)
  • 1 pair dark blue skinnyjeans
  • 2 pair yoga capris
  • 6 pair ExOfficio undies
  • 1 bra
  • 1 reversible Athleta knee length dress in blue
  • 1 black Athleta below the knee skirt
  • 2 silk scarves from Cambodia
  • 2 necklaces from Cambodia
  • Patagonia black ballet flats
  • Black sandals
  • Black Naturalizer tennies
  • 4 pairs merino socks, really three are “sockettes”
  • 2 pairs tights, black and grey
  • Patagonia Nanopuff
  • Yoga towel
  • 1 quart bag of non-liquid junk like bandaids, soap, etc.

Cinched and ready to go! Travel yoga mat included.

Cinched and ready to go, travel yoga mat included. I know, right!  How the heck did I get all that stuff in?  I’m telling you, packing cubes and really smart brands like Adea, Athleta, ExOfficio, Patagonia, and Prana make it possible.

I’m also taking a black Longchamps large bag with a zipper that expands its size:

Longchamps large bag with zipper to expand.

I don’t need to open the zipper for the trip over, but who knows, perhaps on the way back after a bit of shopping. The bag is very lightweight, sturdy and can function as a carry all or a purse.  It will hold my Canon Rebel camera, my iPad, my packable black trench, charging gear, my 1 quart liquid bag, my deflated neck pillow and compression socks and, if need be to get past the airline regs, this:

Baggallini cross body bag

Most of the time toodling around, this Baggalini cross body bag will be all that I will need.  For the flight it holds my passport in its RFID case, boarding pass, iPhone, Canon s110 pocket camera, RFID wallet, small comb and brush and some wipes. Once through security it will also have some small makeup articles from the quart bag.

Its kind of amazing that I can take all of this in such a small space! In fact, I’m kind of thinking I have packed too much … but Italians are very fashionable and I don’t want to look like a frump or have to do much laundry. Everything can dry overnight that needs to be washed in a hotel sink. That’s key.

On the plane I’ll be wearing black leggings (not yoga pants but more stylish so I can wear them out to dinner), a black merino knee length cardigan, a merino shell, a scarf, and Sam Edelman black booties.

Some things are different tech wise this trip. (You can see what I did tech wise last time here). Mr. D and I have added Viber to our phone apps so that we don’t have to bother with an Italian sim card or a later model phone.  I’ve ditched the tripod and the telephoto, both of which I did not use and which took up valuable weight and real estate. I just don’t think my iPhone cuts it in low light situations like a dinner out and I hate that I can’t shoot raw with it or do much editing. So, I’ve gotten the tiny Canon s110 to carry in my Baggallini when we go out and I don’t want to lug the big Canon.

So that’s it!  Ciao! I’ll let you know how it goes!

“Reboot” … for Shannon Whitworth

IMG_1238Twenty plus years ago I found a pair of red cowboy boots in a consignment store that just had to be mine.  As a teacher in a relatively conservative private school with a strict dress code (also then attended by my preteen and early teen fashion forward and highly constrained daughters) I was supposed to be setting an example, acting as a role model. I did that by wearing Laura Ashley dresses, pearls and those red cowboy boots. They actually seemed just right with everything, and I lived in them until they finally died quite a few years later. I had forgotten about them until about a year ago. A former student of mine (who also happens to be the daughter of my headmaster at the time of my none too subtle rebellious statement of anti-authoritarian individualism) was playing a gig at a local music venue. I hadn’t seen her in at least 15 years, but I had supported her Kickstarter project to fund an album. When she saw me, we shared a hug and the first thing she said after “You look fabulous” was “those red cowboy boots! I’ll never forget them!” When I saw these red Ariat boots on special online while looking for discounted booties for my upcoming trip to Italy, I knew I had to have them. They are so comfy, so indestructible, so ME that they might just be going to Italy instead of the staid black booties I also purchased. After all, they go with everything, especially my gioia di vivere, or joie de vivre in Italian. Thanks Shannon, for reminding me how much I loved those boots and for sharing your beauty and talent with the world.

You can sample Shannon’s amazing, sultry, gorgeous voice here. Better yet, go to iTunes and download some of her stuff, and tell her I sent you 😉

This is What Medicare Looks Like

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My Medicare card just arrived in the mail, sparking a variety of responses. Relief that soon I will no longer be paying my very expensive monthly COBRA bill. Delight that I will now be able to rejoin Kaiser Permanente after a seven-year stint elsewhere. Anxiety over the fact that I am now officially considered to be an old person.

Aging gracefully is an art. Women (and men) who try too hard to look like they did twenty years earlier strike me as foolish. Men (and women) who want their partners to look like they did twenty or thirty years ago strike me as despicable/disposable. (See this wonderful article by Robin Korth in the Huffington Post about this very topic.)

My goal is to remain elegant, strong, hale and hearty. Serendipity brought me good genes. I supplement my good fortune with a commitment to a rigorous physical fitness regimen and a healthy lifestyle. Nonetheless, no number of crunches or warrior twos will keep my fair skin from losing some of its tautness, but well chosen clothing and a continued zest for living can give me the radiance that came so naturally in my younger years.

I’m actually in better shape now than I was in my forties and fifties, brought about by a bout four years ago with piriformis syndrome, an excruciatingly painful condition that I vowed never again to experience. Once I could get up off the floor and walk more than a few paces without Advil and curse words, I went to a rehab specialist/personal trainer, who “fixed” me. In the process he got me addicted to working out and doing yoga; if I go three days without either a gym session or a vinyasa class I feel physically and spiritually depleted.

Every time I think about cancelling my once a week sessions with my trainer I remind myself that our workouts are the best insurance policy I have against future injury, frailty and loss of mobility. He tells me that I am in the top one half of one percent of fitness for my age, and that makes me feel better than saving the almost $300 a month would. And, thanks to him and to my awesome yoga teachers, looking in the mirror feels really good as long as I don’t glance above the neck. (And, of course, Nora Ephron had the last word on that subject).

Sometimes, when I do catch a glimpse of myself without makeup in the morning, I wonder who the hell that old hag staring at me is. I don’t have a wattle, or jowls, or flaccid shoulders, but the dark circles never seem to go away no matter how rested I am and the parentheses around my mouth are much more pronounced than they used to be. I’m still blonde, but I do get highlights now to blend in the darker, muddier, not quite blonde not quite grey hairs. I accept the lines on my face as evidence that I have seen a full range of human experience and chosen to persevere in the face of personal challenges. I have no interest in Botox or fillers, no desire for a tummy tuck or a knee lift. Concealer, a bit of mascara and I’m ready for the real secret to staying young: finding the daily balance between savoring the moment and continuing to set goals for myself.

My yoga practice keeps me robust and graceful, and more importantly centered. It has become a cliché that it’s not about the destination but the journey. For me, the journey takes me back to the “aha” moment I experienced shooting a bucket of balls into the lacrosse net for hours on end until I could target particular gridlines in the net. Or the split second burst of nirvana in midair knowing that I was going to nail the entry on my pike with a half twist low board dive. Achieving a new yoga asana through a combination of athleticism, determination, proprioception and practice, practice, practice fills me with gratitude for the breath that each new day brings. Knowing that I can count on my body to hold me up frees the rest of me to reach for improvement in other ways; I’m working on being more patient, more loving, more forgiving.

When it comes right down to it, I am lucky to be “old,” let alone in fine fettle. With luck I will grow to be as ancient as my 94-year-old father, inspirational as he is setting new physical goals for himself each day as he recovers from a recent medical crisis. As he put it, “As long as I keep improving, I am happy to be alive.” Word.

 

What Worked and What Didn’t on Our SE Asia Trip

Overall, I think the research I did and the fabulous advice I found from so many smart travelers helped me to have a stress free carry on only trip.  So here is the round up:

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1)  My Osprey backpack was terrific.  I carried it on my back easily, hoisted it up into the airplane bin easily, packed and repacked it easily, and never had it weighed after the first flight with Turkish Airlines.  I think the people at the check-in counters just figured that a tiny little old lady with a backpack probably couldn’t carry more than the allotted 7 or 8 kgs.

2) Packing cubes are the bomb. ‘Nuf said.  Or perhaps I should phrase that differently for security personnel ;-0

3) The luggage scale was indispensable at home because it made me ditch lots of things which I never really missed anyway.  Admittedly, we never used it after we left home.

4) My three smartwool shirts (one short sleeve black and two bright colored tanks) worked as advertised, although I must say that the black tee was the most useful.  The weather was unseasonably chilly in both Hong Kong and Hanoi and that shirt got one heck of a lot of wear. And I never washed it.  And it never smelled.  And it didn’t itch. The tanks . . . meh. Once we hit warm sunny places I actually wanted more coverage and didn’t wear tank tops at all. So, bottom line, I just ordered another Icebreaker short sleeve tee in grey from Moosejaw (on sale, natch) and a super lightweight 3/4 sleeve merino v-neck in ballet pink from J Crew (also at a steal).  I’m totally convinced that merino wool in a fine gauge works for both hot and cold temps and packs and wears like a dream.

5) The rayon long sleeve T was a lifesaver, mostly because of the chilly temps early in the trip, but if I had it to do again I would take the new J Crew merino instead.  The button up tunic blouse, not so much. I really didn’t use it.  The Coolibar sarong was a great idea, and would be more useful if we had done more beach time.  So, no regrets, but it didn’t get as much use as I thought it would. My bathing suits worked out fine, but we didn’t swim as much as we thought we might on this particular trip.

6) Most worn item:  the Adea white tee shirt.  Loved it.  Cool, non-smelly, great coverage but stylish fit, washed that sucker out day after day and it was dry in a matter of hours with no wrinkles.  I immediately ordered four 3/4 sleeve shirts when I got home, only two of which were on sale, which tells you how much I love the brand since I hardly ever pay full price for anything.  The feel of this fabric on the skin is to die for, the fit is oh so Italian designer, and the care is easy peasy.  I could do an infomercial on this brand!

7) Pants: the Lululemon travel/bike-to-work/dry-quick grey pants were AWESOME.  Wore them constantly in heat or cold. The Athleta taupey haremish pants were perfect, but I am a little concerned that they won’t last. Only wore the Kuhl shorts one or twice, but they were comfy and fit great. I much preferred wearing the yoga cropped tights out in public in warm weather places. I only wore a skirt once in Cambodia.

8) My hat was a great success, and totally necessary once we left Hanoi. Best part–it smushed down in whatever shape to fit into my pack and then could be reformed (the wire in the brim meant it didn’t flop). And, it fit my rather small head and stayed on even in gusts. And of course, sunglasses both prescription and regular, were essential.

9) I really didn’t need the Prana yoga top.

10) All of the shoe choices were great.  No blisters. Lots of walking in each pair. Felt stylish and not clunky. Win.

11) Ex Officio underwear is everything everyone says it is.  I bought two more pair on sale when I got home as I have discovered they are the best for yoga and the gym too–no panty line and (ahem) no stink. Plus they dry in an instant.

12) My Patagonia Nanopuff jacket was indispensable.  Not only for the chilly times, but wadded up as a pillow on the plane (we took nine flights in all). And it took up no space in either my purse or my backpack.

13) The Athleta SPF50 white ruched v neck coverup and my  Blockshop Textiles scarf were the most used items, providing layers, sun or wind protection, style, all the while keeping me cool when that was important, skin cancer free we hope, or warm when necesary. I can’t say enough about either one.

14) Tech-wise, I never used the new camera tripod.  It was bulky and I hadn’t practiced before the trip. We didn’t need the voltage converter because all of our electronics did that themselves.  Those two items were heavy.  We never bothered to get phones in Vietnam, but I will get a new iPhone 5 or 6 before our next international trip so we can use SIM cards. Best tech tip:  Get Tunnelbear. I never felt compromised using public wifi in hotels or cafes or airports. It’s worth it and very reliable. My RFID tiny wallet was also great for peace of mind.

15) TSA was fine with my scissors — both the small kid ones and the sewing kit ones.  Hong Kong balked at the kid ones, measured them and let me pass. Danang security took the sewing scissors. No one cared about liquids. Sometimes I had to take my shoes off, sometimes I didn’t.  Moral of the story: you never know. Every checkpoint is different.

16) My J Crew purse was terrific for flights because I could stuff so much into it (camera, liquid 1 quart bag, guidebook, IPad, chargers). Outside of Hong Kong I didn’t carry it but instead used a fabric carryall that folded into a tiny pouch.  Why? Best not to be carrying an expensive leather bag in places where that seems first-world extravagant.

I have a lot to say about toiletries, cosmetics, medications, etc. but I’ll save that for the next post.

The snow is gone and thoughts of summer beckon . . . .

I’ve always loved the iconic Unikko Marimekko fabric, first sold in 1964 and still going strong (see Crate and Barrel’s new version).  Perhaps my favorite is the  pink/red . . . or maybe blues

Marimekko Cotton Fabrics                       Marimekko Unikko Periwinkle/Mint Throw Pillow - Click to enlarge

I’m also currently coveting these converses:

Marimekko Pink/Orange Unikko Converse Shoes - Click to enlarge

And these wool blankets for the guest room twinsMarimekko Unikko Raspberry Blanket - Click to enlargeMarimekko Unikko Black/Grey Blanket - Click to enlarge

I really like the raspberry for that room, and the black and grey for . . . well, that dream NYC pied a terre, sigh.

But what I already have, and got as part of that sweet Marshall’s haul a few months back, is this (minus the chick inside it):

Image

And after yesterday’s snow and today’s melt, I can’t wait to wear it!

Developing a Personal Brand

I’m inspired by Fixing it Fancy’s 60 pieces of clothing challenge, which you can read about here. (I know, kind of ironic after my previous post about scoring big at Marshalls). And, another blogger who is working on minimalism, Kathleen of Jeremy and Kathleen just traveled to the Alt Conference with only a cute backpack with three outfits in it.  But, with the consolidation of Mr. D’s stuff with my stuff, and with my imminent move from working where I have to dress up every day to blogging in my bathrobe, I am also motivated to weed, weed, weed. I spent most of Sunday reorganizing my clothes in the one bureau I have allowed myself.  A bit of Container Store and Homegoods magic helped:  drawer organizers and nice new drawer liners with a verbena scent made this a pleasurable event. One big goodwill bag later I felt so much better.  The new rule is that each time a new thing comes into my wardrobe an old thing goes out.  And NOTHING remains that doesn’t express who I am right now, not who I have to be to please anyone else. Now that my new camera has arrived, I hope soon to show pics of my choices!