travels with chelsea

There is great benefit in being friends with fashion bloggers and stylists such as Allie at Wardrobe Oxygen, Alison of DC Celine fame, Rosana at DC Style Factory and Christen, the brains and beauty behind the Alexandria Stylebook. Aside from being lovely women inside and out, they humor my angst. When I have a fashion conundrum, I can fire off a quick text or initiate a twitter conversation and get immediate advice, affirmation, sympathy.

However, there is one topic they have all opined about extensively on which I am utterly unteachable: how to efficiently pack.

I get the mechanics. Coordinate colors and pack mix and match separates. Dress in layers. Bring fabrics that easily forgive their undistinguished position in the suitcase. Assemble outfits that can survive more than one wear. Put it all in a carryon. Channel sense of ease. Voila.

But let’s get one thing straight: I like to check my bag. It’s worth $20 to not have to drag a bag through security. It’s worth $20 to not have to worry about only bringing 3-ounce toiletries or what constitutes a liquid (eyeliner? lip gloss?). It’s worth $20 to bring more pairs of shoes than I’ll probably need.

Thus, as I make my list of what to pack for my upcoming 10-day trip to California, and as I look at my standard suitcase, I realize I need to upgrade to the bigger bag. Before you roll your eyes, check out where I’m going: San Francisco, Paso Robles, Menlo Park, San Francisco, Sonoma, San Francisco. And now check out what I’m doing in those spots: wine tasting, bachelorette party activities, pool lounging, yoga, eating out with my dad and grandmother, going out in San Francisco, attending rehearsal dinner, and fulfilling bridesmaid duties. Look at the temperatures of my destinations: 50s-60s in San Francisco and 90s in Paso Robles and Sonoma (but cool at night). And have I mentioned the wedding?

Let’s just say, there’s no packing light for me on this trip, regardless of what advice my friends offer. My goal will be to not get assessed the heavy bag fee.

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and I’m off…

A week ago, I was going to do a post on summer beauty. But I was too hot to think and realized it’s all pointless when it feels impossible to look fresh and put together in the DC heat and humidity.

Then last night I was going to write a post on packing. But let’s be honest, I suck at it. I mean, I’m good at folding and organizing and remembering everything (and I do mean everything) but I always bring one pair of shoes too many. At least this time I practically (almost willingly) left my precious hair dryer behind, but I more than made up for it, as evidenced by the grunt the driver made when loading my deceivingly small but heavy suitcase into the trunk.

Five dresses (think easy breezy, not work), four pairs of shoes (not including the travel pair), three workout outfits (maybe overly ambitious), two lipsticks (not including lip gloss) and one bathing suit (just in case) later, I’m in a car on the way to the airport.

And where am I going? I almost forgot to mention. San Francisco until Friday. Napa for the weekend. Enough said.

This trip to SF that I used to take quarterly already feels different. For starters, it’s the first time I’m not building a long weekend in wine country around a business trip in the city. Then there’s the whole not flying Virgin thing. (I’m not breaking up with you, Richard Branson… Your flights were just so much more expensive.)

The bottom line is I’m ready to get out of dodge and while Northern California apparently is not welcoming me with the cool weather embrace I crave, I’m thinking that a “heat wave” in San Francisco holds a different meaning from one here in DC.

I may have packed poorly, but I’m getting away. And I hope Napa has a lot of wine to help me drink to that.

a retrospective on packing

It’s easy to find post after post dispensing of (and displaying) advice on how to perfectly pack for your vacation. But do these writers ever follow up with how it all actually worked out?

As I repack my suitcase, I’m struck by what I used and used again and washed and used again. And all those items that I didn’t.

The losers:

Jeans. Why did I bring two pairs? Of course, I needed one for when I was in San Francisco. Two was utterly too many. I haven’t thought twice of wearing denim since leaving the mainland.

Shoes. At the last minute, I threw my super cute Kate Spade espadrille wedges into my suitcase. Where they have stayed for the entire trip with their unworn sister, a pair of camel colored Chie Mihara’s that I brought for SF and planned to use here too. With jeans. (I was wrong.)

The one-piece bathing suit. I thought I might want it for surfing or other water sports. But I committed to the bikinis and didn’t look back.

Two long-sleeved Lululemon half-zips. Granted, they came in handy in San Francisco, but the beach does not cool down at night here, and I should have shipped them home with the work clothes I had my dad send back to DC for me.

Make up. Hair dryer. A navy and white striped cotton pique dress. A stack of bangles. A bunch of condoms? What was I thinking?

What would I bring more of if I had to do it over again? Another bikini. A few more skirts that can go to the beach and transition to dinner.

And definitely, a second pair of flip flops.

leg one

I made it to San Francisco, the first stop of my  nearly three-week journey.

But about this time yesterday, it seemed improbable I would ever make it.

My Sunday morning started off nicely. Lattes with friends. Children playing quietly. But then I got a call from my bank, concerned about “unusual behavior” on my account. As in, “iTunes, $9.98. iTunes, $9.98. iTunes, $9.98.” I stopped her from reading the complete list after I heard about ten such charges. (It turned out there were 17 in all, totaling $170.) I had to make a game time call. Confirm for the bank that these were unauthorized charges and have my card canceled or eat the cost. At the time, I didn’t know if someone had stolen my iPad or Colin’s iPod touch. But it was clear that something was amiss. So I canceled my card. The day I was leaving town for 18 days.

As it turned out, some game Colin was playing was rigged so that players “buy” gold – literally. He never had to put in an iTunes password or otherwise verify a purchase. Needless to say, I immediately deleted my account information from all our Apple devices and he will never play this game again.

With all this on my mind, I still had to shower, finish the laundry, pack, clean out the refrigerator, get the cat feeding schedule straight and take out the garbage. It was in performing the last task that I realized an animal had taken up residence in my outdoor garbage can. I saw it, let out the perfunctory squeal, jumped up and down a lot, and ran inside to tell the boys. I thought it was a dead raccoon. They went to take a peek and verified it was a live possum, playing dead, of course. With the militant precision of little boys on a mission, a plan was hatched to knock the can down (nerf swords in hand in case it got fierce) and eventually, the little furry guy stopped faking his demise and scurried off.

At this point, I poured myself a drink.

I double checked the burners on the stove. Refilled the cat bowls one last time. Kissed the boys a gazillion times. And finally, got in Nancy’s car for a surprise ride to the airport. At the airport, I had more wine and took deep breaths.

The only other hitch came as my flight was landing, parallel to another plane. That was a little creepy for someone with my flying phobia, but at this point, I felt I had hit my daily quota of crazy and told myself it would be fine. Which it was. And now I’m here. Working, of course, and hoping that I remembered to lock the front door.

on bikinis and such

I’m just going to admit it.

I don’t hate myself in a bikini right now. (Thank you, Biker Barre!)

In fact, I so don’t hate myself in a bikini that I ordered five for my upcoming trip to Hawaii.

This’s not to say that I wasn’t more than slightly stressed about making these purchases. My friend Katie told me that the best bathing suit she has ever owned came from Target. I took her advice and ordered several mix and match pieces for a grand total of less than $35. I kept three interchangeable components: two bottoms and a top. Because the available sizes and colors were limited (at $6/piece, most of the stock had been snatched up) I also ended up ordering additional suits from J. Crew and Zappos. The one from Zappos was returned, as were some of the components from J. Crew, but now that I know what styles I find flattering and styles not, this whole bathing suit thing feels a whole lot easier.

But that’s not all I need for 12 days in Hawaii. While I admire how some of my friends look in shorts, I can’t carry them off with even an ounce of confidence. Rosanna totally rocks a tomboy look. DC Celine can pull off the dressy short. And Wardrobe Oxygen is so rock and roll in her cutoffs. But shorts are not in my comfort zone, whereas skirts and dresses are. Luckily, even though it’s early for resort wear, I managed to find a non-budget-breaking convertible skirt-dress combination (the tag demonstrates seven ways to wear it) at Nordstrom. I bought it in three colors. I also found a cute basic black pareo at Lands End and already own many large scarves that will perform similarly and pair nicely with the bikini colors I chose.

Now the next step is figuring out whether all my items fit in my suitcase once I add shoes (shoes, glorious shoes) and five days worth of clothes for San Francisco. Clearly it is not going to be bathing suit weather there.