Friday, October 18, 2019

What I Packed and How It Worked

When I worked in insurance, I traveled a lot for my job, and after a couple of unfortunate experiences with overloaded luggage, I embraced the idea of the travel capsule.  I still try to pack clothing and accessories that all go together, with (if possible) no more than two pairs of shoes for each trip.  I can generally travel for an indefinite period with one carry on bag and a tote, as long as I can occasionally do laundry along the way.  Our recent 22-day "retirement celebration" trip, however, was a true packing challenge.

We left the Phoenix area when the temp was 110 degrees Fahrenheit; traveled to Mexico, which was even hotter, for Lee's annual dental checkup; spent a week in cold, rainy areas of Oregon and Washington; and returned by way of California, where we started in cool, foggy weather and ended with more hot and sunny days.  In addition, although all our destinations were quite casual, the style vibe in each area was very different.  In the Cascades, for instance, everyone seemed to be wearing plaid flannel shirts and blue jeans, while the parts of California we visited had a much more urban aesthetic.  So, we had to pack not only layers, but layers that could go from rustic to chic as needed.  Not so easy.

Here is the wardrobe I packed:


The bottoms I packed were black straight-leg knit pants; dark wash blue jeans; light gray denim capris; and black linen shorts.  The tops were a roll-sleeve option burgundy silk shirt; a white cotton camp shirt; a short sleeve plaid seersucker button-up shirt; a white scoopneck tee; and a black notch neck tee.

What worked: The black pants, jeans, and most of the shirts performed like troupers, shedding wrinkles and hiding dirt between washes.  They also coordinated well enough so that I always had something to wear, no matter what I'd spilled lunch on the day before.

What didn't work so well: The gray capris were so light they picked up smudges every time I helped load the car.  I should have taken a darker pair instead.  The black linen shorts, as expected, wrinkled pretty badly; in addition, we only had three days hot enough to really justify wearing them.  Next time I would pack a second pair of capris or a lightweight skirt instead.  And the white cotton camp shirt was a big disappointment.  I bought it new from Chadwick's of Boston specifically for this trip, and the first time I washed it, it wrinkled worse than any garment I've ever owned (much worse even than linen).  After that first wash I ironed it twice but never got all the wrinkles out.  It wrinkled when packed; it wrinkled when worn; it wrinkled worse every time it was washed.  The white campshirt idea was perfect for this trip, but this particular item didn't live up to its promise.  (I will be writing a stern review at the retailer's website.)


The outer layers I brought along were a burgundy faux leather moto jacket, a heavy black hoodie, a black cashmere crewneck pullover, a black cotton cardigan, a quilted black vest, and a burgundy and black ombre scarf.

What worked: The hoodie was my go-to outerwear on chilly days in rural Washington.  I wore the burgundy moto jacket on rainy days and when I needed to look a little dressier.  I wore the cashmere crewneck by itself as a top and as a third layer over one of the collared shirts when I didn't quite need a jacket.  I wore the cotton cardigan in air-conditioned restaurants and tourist attractions throughout California.

What didn't: I never wore the vest or the scarf.  Whenever it was cold enough to wear the vest by itself, I wanted additional cover for my arms as well as my torso.  I would have worn the blanket scarf by itself if we had had colder weather in California, or over my other layers if the temp in Oregon or Washington had droppped another 10 degrees, but that was not the case.  If we were to do this trip again under similar conditions, I would take the scarf along again just in case, but leave the vest at home.


For jewelry, I wore my vintage gold-tone Seiko watch with black leather band and vintage Greek reproduction earrings with cabochon garnets.  I also brought two gold necklaces - one long and one short - and a brass repouss√© cuff bracelet.  Other accessories included a white sun hat, a burgundy wool hat, burgundy wool gloves, sunglasses, folding umbrella, and a white and burgundy silk scarf that could be worn by itself or on the hat.  The two pairs of shoes I took were red faux suede ballet flats and gray Dr. Comfort sneakers with gray cotton socks.  I carried my burgundy and black leather shoulder bag and packed a gray neck pouch.

What worked: Almost everything.  Bonus points to the shoulder bag for being large enough to lug around my DSLR camera and extra lens, and to the Blunt Metro umbrella for not turning inside out in the high winds at Mt. Hood.

What didn't:  I ended up not using the wool hat and gloves because the two days cold enough to justify them were also raining sideways, and I didn't want to deal with wet wool.  I never wore the long gold necklace because we didn't go anywhere dressy enough to require it.  I also didn't need the neck pouch, which I had mainly included in case we went hiking; we didn't.  I would probably bring all these things along again, however, on a similar trip.

In case you are interested, Lee packed more clothes than I did but ended up spending most of the trip in his warmup pants or blue jeans and a tee shirt, with his navy and maroon plaid flannel shirt as a jacket.  Whatever works.

Coming up - more information on all the great stuff we saw along the way.

"Even my basic, basic wardrobe is still pathetically colour coordinated.  It just is.  That is just me."  ~Trinny Woodall

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Back Home At Last

After Lee's shoulder surgery at the beginning of June, my cat Charlie and I stayed at Lee's place for two months, until he could handle putting on shoes, basic cooking, and light laundry by himself.  We moved back to our place for the month of August, during which I worked frantically to get everything at home and in the office ready for my retirement on August 31.  This included making a slew of appointments with new doctors, since I went on Medicare at the first of the month with a Medicare Advantage plan that didn't include my old primary care group.  Then immediately after my retirement, Lee and I spent 22 days on the road, mainly seeing his friends and relatives in Washington, Oregon, and California.  (He said the plan was to get me far enough away from Arizona that no one could call me to come in to work to solve "just one last problem."  Since we were frequently in areas with no wifi and only spotty cell phone coverage, the plan worked pretty well.)

So, the next few posts will be a potpourri of different subjects (not necessarily in this order):
Well, at least one of us was having a good time!
Photo courtesy of Lee's cousin Sandy Lee.
  • What a reverse shoulder replacement is, and how the road to recovery works.
  • The challenge of selecting a travel capsule wardrobe for a trip that covered 6 different states and Mexico and weather ranging from 110 degrees Fahrenheit with very low humidity to the high 40s and low 50s in pouring rain.
  • What we saw and did during the trip, with photos.  Many photos.

"There's no time to be bored in a world as beautiful as this." ~Anonymous

Saturday, June 15, 2019

One Week and Counting

Lee does not have an Internet connection at his house, and I am hopeless at typing more than a paragraph at a time on my phone, so while Charlie and I are camping out there I will only be posting when I make brief visits home to pick up the mail, wind the grandfather clock, and feed my sourdough starter.

Ten days after surgery, Lee is doing very well.  His surgeon received ringing endorsements from all the hospital staff, and I can see why - he does joint replacements every day, and apparently has them down to a science.  The scar is much smaller and neater than I expected.  The VA hospital staff has also been very supportive.  They sent him home with an Iceman therapy machine which has done an awesome job of bringing down the swelling in that arm and hand.  After a week, they also started him on physical therapy with a Skype-like app for his Android tablet, which saves us the hassle of having to drive downtown and back for his appointments.  And, he just received a TENS unit to control pain and stimulate his muscles.

Lee was worried about being under anesthesia too long, but he was back to his old self within a couple of days.  He was also concerned about receiving opiods for pain, but he is already off everything except an occasional Tylenol; in fact, he says his shoulder already hurts less than it did before the operation.  Yay!

The last remaining hurdle is to get him to accept the PT technician's decree that he can't drive for six weeks - or get her to change her mind before he goes stir crazy.

"If you're going to have cabin fever, have a big cabin, you know." ~Joe Cocker
If you're going to have a cabin fever, have a big cabin, you know. Joe Cocker
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Saturday, June 8, 2019


Lee had his reverse shoulder replacement surgery on Wednesday.  The surgeon said his shoulder was a real mess - ALL the tendons were torn, it was full of arthritis and fluid, and the arm bone had moved partway out of the socket.  The surgery went well, though, and although he had quite a bit of pain on Thursday (it took his nurse four hours to deliver his pain pills after he asked for them), they did let him go home that evening and he has been feeling better since.  He will be in a sling for a month and has to sleep in his Craftmatic bed with the head elevated.  Charlie and I are camping out there for the time being; I am trying to keep him from doing all the things he's not supposed to, like pulling t-shirts over his head and using his right hand "just to help."  As his son said, "Let the high maintenance begin!"

"Rotator cuff tear arthropathy (arthritis with a large cuff defect) is a devastating condition that seriously compromises the comfort and function of the shoulder. This condition is characterized by the irreparable loss of the rotator cuff tendons and destruction of the normal joint surface of the shoulder. Because these tissues cannot be restored, the shoulder is often weak, painful, and unstable. Using special techniques and a reversed total shoulder design, qualified surgeons can improve the stability of the shoulder and enable the deltoid muscle to power it, even in the absence of a normal rotator cuff." ~University of Washington Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine

Sunday, June 2, 2019

The Lure of Beauty

Today I was sharing some of the items in my Poshmark closet in a "wardrobe goals" party, and I was struck by how many of descriptions say "worn once" or "only worn twice."  How could I have purchased all this clothing and jewelry, hung onto it for (in some cases) 30 years, and never used it?

I blame the Lure of Beauty.

I'll bet you know what I mean.  The color, the fabric, the design was just so amazing I had to buy whatever it was.  The feel of the soft silk!  The saturated colors in the paisley print!  The stunning asymmetrical neckline!  Then when I took it home, it didn't go with anything else I owned.  Or it was gorgeous, but not really cut right for my body.  Or, in the case of my most recent wardrobe mistake, I realized too late that I don't feel comfortable displaying my booty in maroon pants, even though they're well cut and go with most of my other things.  Beauty on the hanger or in the jewelry case doesn't always translate to wearable.

When I was an insurance executive in New York, I could afford to buy clothing and accessories I wore only occasionally (or never).  With retirement staring me in the face, that is no longer the case.  Now before I buy something, it has to pass through these filters:
  • Is it an item I really need?  Does it fill a gap in my wardrobe AND do I anticipate wearing it frequently? 
  • Do the color and style flatter me and coordinate with the rest of my things?
  • Does it fit my body really well, or can I have it tailored cost-effectively?
  • Will it be easy to maintain?  (I rarely buy "dry clean only" any more.)
  • Can I afford it?
  • Does it make me feel fabulous?  (Those maroon pants were never more than "yeah, OK.")
I actually tried to ask some of these questions in the past - particularly "does it coordinate with the rest of my things" - but then a luxurious cashmere or a particularly beautiful semiprecious stone would convince me that surely I could wear whatever it was with SOMETHING in my closet.

Oh, the lies we tell ourselves when seduced by the Lure of Beauty.  Now when I am in danger of succumbing to it, I watch a few videos by slow fashion and sustainable style blogger Alyssa Beltempo, and eventually the moment passes.

"Fashion you can buy, but style you possess. The key to style is learning who you are, which takes years. There's no how-to road map to style. It's about self expression and, above all, attitude." —Iris Apfel