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.

13 in ’13

First came 43 by 43, and now 13 in ’13. That is, I’ve set 13 goals that I intend to pursue in the year 2013. A few of these goals are a continuation of my 43 by 43 efforts. But there are some new ones already penetrating my psyche. And because I can think of no better way to hold myself accountable, I share them all with you. I expect badgering, welcome participation and hope for encouragement.

In no particular order:

1. Get spin certified. You know I love my Biker Barre. I’m not expecting to attain a level of awesomeness that will allow me to teach there. (That might have to be a 2014 goal.)  But every time I hear a song I  like, I imagine what I’d do along to it on a bike. In that regard, spinning is as close of a sport to cheerleading as I’ve managed to get in my adult life. Just harder and sweatier.

2. Learn a new wine region. I know my California wines, but it’s time to branch out. And  I know nothing about Italian wines. Bring on the Barolo, Amarone and Brunello.

3.  Host (at least) quarterly dinner parties. I love to cook, but I don’t do it enough for my friends. Just understand if you’re invited to a Chelsea feast, I’m going to cook Italian so I can practice the skills attained in the advanced pasta making class I’m taking from Hill’s Kitchen. And I’m going to multitask by serving Italian wine (see goal #2).

4. Save money for college. Or get the kids discovered. But I don’t feel like I’d make a good stage mom, so saving is probably easier (though not on my shoe budget).

5.& 6. Travel. I promised the kids I’d take them to Hawaii. And I want to go to Italy. To drink obscure Italian wines (see goal #2) of course. It’s listed here as two goals because it’s two trips.

7. Make iconic fashion purchase. I dream of Chanel. And Cartier. But I may have to set my sights lower. I’m sure I will agonize in this very forum over any potential purchase.

8. Open my heart to relationship opportunity. I’m a dating disaster. I tried Match for 24 hours before canceling the membership. I went on zero dates after six months of e-harmony. Set ups are few and far between. After my divorce, dating wasn’t a priority. However, I’m now at a point where I’d like to share my crazy, drama-prone life with another (hopefully calmer and less dramatic) person.

9. Sign new clients. I have this hot new job. It’s time to exceed my potential with some great new clients whom I can help navigate the tricky world that is the U.S. Congress.

10. Publish the sequel to My Night with George Clooney. This is the only goal that has a very specific deadline. Which would be by the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in late April. If you read my first story, you know why this date is significant.

11. Refinance my house. It’s time. That is all.

12. Finish home improvement projects. That means have a deck built, fix up the yard and install window boxes. Maybe build a wine cellar. Some things the Warriors can help me do. Some I will have to contract to have done. And maybe I can bribe my talented brother to come down to Maine for a week of intense help.

13. Live life to the fullest. I know this particular goal will be difficult to measure. But I will know it when I’m feeling it, and those who are close to me will call me on it when I’m not.

There you have it. 13 goals. 11 months left to achieve them. Wish me success.

Mahalo, Hawaii

Images of HawaiiThank you, Hawaii. And goodbye. (For real, this time.)

Some of you hid me from your Facebook feed these last 2 weeks (admit it) and one of you (Tim) even jokingly asked how many more months I planned to be here. So you’ll be glad to hear that after the unexpected one-day delay, I’m heading home. Home to unseasonably warm DC weather, Christmas planning, my job, and of course, two cute little boys.

I’m going to miss the Maui Onion flavored chips we ate daily, the Kailua Passions we drank on multiple occasions, sunrise walks/runs on the beach, and the laid back attitude of island life. I’m going to miss wearing flip flops and beachwear all day (and night) long. I’m going to miss fresh Ahi, apple bananas, Shave Ice, the most amazing pineapple ever and the Spam aisle at the Foodland.

I’m going to miss having a new experience everyday. Paddle surfing. (Have I mentioned that I’m a goddess at paddle surfing?) Watching the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing competition on Sunset Beach. Hiking to incredible vistas.

There’s a lot waiting for me back home though. The kids, of course. The Harry Potter Yule Ball my friends are hosting on Saturday. Biker Barre. (Oh, do I need some ass kicking by my friends at Biker Barre.) And George Clooney has already been shipped back to the East Coast where he patiently awaits my return.

The best vacations are those you are bittersweet about ending. You want it to continue – because it’s awesome – but you are eager to go back to your life. Because your kids are amazing and you have seen this entire trip through their eyes.

Except the parts that involved copious fruity cocktails, of course.

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.

Month of Chelsea

Photo by chelseachronicl

I have designated November to be Month of Chelsea. I’ve had enough of tears, frustration, bad weather, illness and death. I’ve had enough of sleepless nights, back pain, and wondering when things will turn around. There’s no sense in waiting for change. It’s time to make it for myself.

I had this epiphany exactly yesterday, on day one. And what did I do on this day? I early voted. It took a five-hour split shift on a rainy day to get it done, but it was important to me to fulfill this civic duty. In between line waiting, I spent some quality time with my hairdresser and dropped by the kids’ school where I had a nice chat with the principal about my kids’ education.

So far day two has found me breakfasting with one of my favorite people in DC and receiving this unexpected gift in the mail from my friend Kassie. It’s my very favorite shoe of all time, the Treat by Bettye Muller, custom dyed in a gorgeous coral-orange shade. Later today, I hope to make it to Biker Barre and after, to visit with my old boss to discuss an idea I have to return civility to Washington, DC. Yes, I am thinking big this month.

On tap for day three I have Weekend Warriors, one of my favorite days of the month. Other goodies in the Chelsea queue include: publishing at long last my story; heading to Michigan for Election Day to campaign for the Michigan Energy Michigan Jobs ballot initiative; and later this month, I head to San Francisco for Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday. And then there is my upcoming vacation to Hawaii.

How can November not be month of Chelsea when I’m spending seven days of it in Hawaii?

I won’t torture you with daily updates, but did want to share my newfound energy, enthusiasm and purpose. If we all decide that November is going to be our month and we all made the most of these 30 days, wouldn’t all that positive energy result in a vast amount of goodness?

I’m not saying that this is the solution to all the world’s problems, but at least for one month, I promise to not let the negative get in the way and to live each day with the promise it deserves.

on growing up

Kids will be kids. Until they aren’t. And when does that process begin? Each milestone from their first giggles and steps to riding a bike and everything in between prepares our children for the path to independence, and eventually (or rather, inevitably) adulthood.

On Saturday, Jack flew to San Francisco to spend a week with his grandfather. This trip was born out of a teary declaration he made several months ago that went something like this:

Jack: Mommy (sob, hiccup) I’m an adventurous spirit (sob, hiccup) and (sob, hiccup) I just realized (sob, hiccup) I’m never going to get to slay a dragon.

(Yes, the poor child inherited my flare for the dramatic.)

Dragons might not be real, but cross country flights are, so I quickly arranged with my dad for Jack to fly out to San Francisco the last week of summer vacation. (Yes, we start school on August 20th.) At the time, the trip seemed so far off. But before I knew it, I was driving him to the airport and watching him as he pulled his own suitcase through the terminal. As if that weren’t grown up behavior enough, as we waited out the delay, he asked if he could have a decaf coffee. It felt like a landmark moment, sitting there at the Starbucks drinking our lattes. For the record, I now have a decaf vanilla latte with whip fanatic on my hands.

If he was scared or nervous, he didn’t show it, but I was roiled inside. All my own flying angst was multiplied by infinity, but I knew I couldn’t show it. I was light. I was airy. We joked. We bought extra books just in case he finishes Lord of the Rings. An hour and a half after our schedule departure time came the call to board unaccompanied minors. He gave me one last hug and walked away with the gate attendant without looking back once.

Me? I collapsed in a heap of tears for the next 45 minutes while waiting (as I was required to do) for his plane to be in the air.

Was I scared his plane would crash? Oddly, no. Was I afraid he wasn’t going to have a good time or that my dad wouldn’t take care of him? Absolutely not. But more than how I expect I will feel with his first shave, first love, or the deepening of his voice, watching my little boy march bravely toward an adventure without me struck a chord deep inside my mommy core.

He’s always going to be my baby, but he’s growing into such a little man.