"Those who have experienced Paris have advantage over those who have not. We are the ones who have glimpsed a little bit of heaven, down here on earth." - Deirdre Kelly

Friday, October 14, 2016

Traveling SistahDiva Style (2016 edition). Part 1: What to Wear, What to Pack

"Traveling - it leaves you speechless, 
then it turns you into a storyteller." 
- Ibn Battuta

Sadly, tragically, I've been caught in the throes of a long travel draught. Well, no more of that! My recent adventures in Montreal, the Gold Coast, and my desire to expand my search for 'all things Parisian,' have inspired me. Time for me to dust off my suitcases. Of course any and all successful travel adventures begin with planning and research (love the internets!). I decided to take my own advice - I consulted my Travel SistahDiva Style 5-part series (first published, here, in 2011). Wow! What a difference 5 years makes! In the interim I've seen, experienced, learned, discovered so many new aspects of travel (wonk, fashion, gadgets) that, before I knew it, I was extensively updating the 1st entry. So much so, I've decided to publish a 2016 edition. 

Thus, without further ado...

"There is no moment of delight in any pilgrimage 
like the beginning of it." - Charles Dudley Warner

I LOVE to travel, every moment of it - from deciding where you're going, to the ride home from the airport. Packing and 'getting there' are their own mini trips, particular adventures. 

There's nothing more tiring and annoying than lugging a huge, packed to the gills, heavy suitcase for what seems like 5 miles through an airport. And you always wear only a third of what you packed and still don't have the things you need [oye]! There's nothing more irksome and nerve-racking then sitting in a tiny airplane seat: bored to tears and uncomfortable to boot [sigh]. 

Over the past 30 years I've traveled in everyway a person can: by plane, train, bus, car, sailboat and motorized yacht. I've traveled in almost every incarnation: child, college student, single, married, married with children, and married with children, an elder, and a dog! And, though it took me several attempts and failures, I've realized that: a) you don't need to bring a lot to look fabulous and be comfortable while traveling; and b) you can have a relaxing diva-luxurious in-flight experience - yes you can!

Paris with the entire entourage ;-)

For the sake of length and detail, I'm dividing this series into 5 posts (I'll add a link to all 5 at the end of every entry). You know me, so you know where I'm going to start - what to wear. Believe it or not, how you dress for travel is an essential component to a positive travel experience.

"I get ideas about what's essential 
when packing my suitcase." 
- Diane Von Furstenberg

Travel Ensemble:

Note: I'm assuming that you're traveling somewhere where the temperature low is 40, the high 80. I don't ever go anywhere 'winter-cold' on purpose - I live in the midwest for goodness sake.

Your ensemble should be soft and comfortable; have layers you can easily add, remove, and stow; wrinkles very little, and looks effortlesslly chic. Just because your schleping halfway across the world doesn't mean that you can't look and feel fantabulous while you're doing it! 

You should have one outfit that you wear going and coming, but not during your actual trip. As soon as you arrive at your final destination, go to the laundrymat or send it out if you're staying in a hotel (@$10-$20 - it's worth it), then hang it up and don't touch it 'til the day you leave. You won't have to worry about if you've got enough room in your suitcase. And you'll have a crisp clean gorgeous and comfortable outfit all ready and waiting = no worries ;-)

Your travel outfit should be very simple, neutral colors: black, grey, mauve, sage, khaki (the color not the clothes), brown, creme/tan; with dashes of color (a brilliantly colored scarf, some red lipstick...) - the goal is classic elegance. Travel is a wonderful experience - even if you're going to Canton, Ohio for the weekend. It's about fantasy, romance and adventure - even if you're going to a sales meeting. So why not look and feel like it? These are my favorite pieces...

Hankercheif Linen Pj Pants ($80) 
- also available in winter weight fabric(s)

Sandmaiden Sleepwear

Circle Wrap w/ Kilt Pin ($75) - Sandmaiden

I know, you're thinking "Pj pants in public?" To that I answer "Oh yes!" Amanda Boyd (Sandmaiden) hand makes these pants to order in a variety of beautiful colors, in several luxurious materials (linen, cotton, and light wool - all organic). She can make them drawstring or foldover top (soft and non-binding - essential comfort while in a tiny airplane seat for 3+ hours). Her cardigans are so decadent I can't find the words. Amanda's clothes are of the highest quality and there's something wonderful about having a few outfits that have literally been handmade for you. Also, they fold up very small - easy to put in your carry-on - and so pretty!  

Wanna kick it up an extra diva notch? 
Check out Marcella Moda

Marcella Moda 
Minimalist clothing, effortless, elegant, edgy.

Finespun Slash V-Neck Tee ($25) - J.Crew
Get these in as many colors as you can.

J.Crew's tees are phenomenal. They're roomy enough to hide my baby-belly-paunch, yet fitted and feminine enough so that I don't look like I'm wearing one of Mr. Gorgeous' tees. They come in about a dozen colors (your flash of brilliance) and last forever  



J.Crew's Cashmere Collection is simply the best on the planet. 10 different styles that, come in 2 dozen colors (with more colors added steadily); you can wear them alone but they easily fit over a short-sleeved tee (go one size up) and under a cardigan. Yeah, they're costly - they're permenently on my Christmas, Birthday, and Anniversary lists, I've got 20. And NO I didn't pay full price for most of them. J.Crew always has them on sale ($75 to $100) and you can always find them at Ebay for 65%+ off (I regularly get them there for $50). The only downside to Ebay is that you have to constantly keep and eye out for your size and the colors are limited - still they're so worth the extra time and effort to find at a reasonable price. They're gorgeous, decadently soft, and last forever.

I know that a Sandmaiden/Marcella Moda/J.Crew travel ensemble is not cheap, especially if you buy a set each for fall/winter and spring/summer colors. They're an investment, that you'll wear forever, and are well worth it. Just make sure to use Woolite, the delicate cycle on the washing machine, and the delicate cycle on your dryer (or hang dry). 

"A woman is never sexier than when 
she is comfortable in her clothes."
- Vera Wang

Still, there are less expensive, slightly lesser quality options:

Beach Linen Pant ($35) - Victoria's Secret

V-Neck Sleep Tee ($18) - Victoria's Secret
Get these in as many colors as you can.

Cotton & Cashmere Cardigan ($40) - Victoria's Secret

Victoria's Secret has several types of drawstring pants, tees, and cardigans - in several beautiful colors. The downside is that the quality is average and their items don't wear well over time - for travel. Though, if you commit to Woolite, the delicate cycle and hang-dry, you'll get a respectable amount of wear. And Victoria's Secret's clothes and shoes make up a large part of my everyday wardrobe (love their cargo pants).

It's isn't the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out;
it's the pebble in your shoe." - Muhammad Ali

Dansko @ $100 at Amazon.com

Perhaps the most important part of your travel wardrobe is your everyday shoe. You're going to be schlepping through airports (there and back); and walk several miles a day. Leave the impractical shoes at home and go for comfort. Believe me, there's nothing worse than going into hour 2 of your 4 hour walk with sore feet! I bought my first pair of Dansko clogs 15 years ago and just bought my second pair 2 months ago. These amazing shoes easily tread over any and all street surfaces and come in a dizzying array of colors, patterns, and finishes. Don't let the photos fool you, these look fabulous on and are so comfortable. 

Anniel Ballerina Flats ($150 USD)

In my humble estimation, Ballet Flats are the perfect Spring/Summer shoe for travel (heck, they're perfect any and everywhere!) They're the perfect blend of elegant and practical; and go with everything (from dresses to a pair of jeans)  I'm in love with these Ballerinas from Anniel. Currently they're available in 14 shades (Black, Navy, several shades of nude, pinks and grays). Yes, at $150 USD they are a splurge, but keep in mind these beauties will see a lot of wear. Your feet will thank you.

Sidebar: American travelers PLEASE don't wear gym shoes! Everyone who sees you will laugh at you and talk about you behind your back. They are NEVER stylish - EVER! Dansko clogs come in men's sizes and man-sandals are always cool and timeless. See - manly, comfortable and stylish too.

There are two more essential travel pieces:

Sweater Coat from Etsy.com

Sweater coats are awesome! They're essential - cashmere tees and cardigans easily fit beneath it and they're small enough to fit in an overhead bin. Again, they come in all colors, materials and patterns. I get all of mine on Etsy.com and Ebay - from Boho Chic to Stella McCartney, at all price points. Go take a look, you'll fall in love with them too.

Wraps/Shawls are my most favorite wardrobe item - period. They come in a-gazillion colors, patterns and materials and they are always so chic and elegant - effortless style. They're easy and light to pack (even the winter weight ones). Pair with a cashmere tee and/or a cardigan and you're toasty warm in most cold weather and the dreaded indoor air conditioning. And they also make great blankets and pillows - when you miss your connecting flight and have to stretch out on a few chairs to nap; they're lifesavers when the weather turns unexpectedly cold (I've also used them as stroller blankets, an emergency diaper changing station, and a Coco pillow - but that's for another post). You can find them everywhere but my favorite, reliably reasonably priced places are: Target, Overstock.com, Smartbargins.com, Ebay.com and Amazon.com. They're a must have - you won't be sorry.

Check out my post dedicated to sweater-coat-love here

"Clothes mean nothing until someone lives in them."
- Marc Jacobs

What to Pack (all of the above +)
Over the years, I've put together a travel wardrobe - my specific go to pieces whenever/where ever I travel. Of course you'll wear this stuff in your everday/home life. The idea is to not have to scramble or spend a lot of wardrobe money on a specific trip; to be able to grab your suitcase, pack quickly and efficiently and go. 

In addition to Tees and Cashmere...

Pixie Pants (ankle): they come in a gazillion colors 
[your dash of color?(@ $35, Old Navy)]

Gap's 'Sexy Boot' Jeans  (($60). 

We American girls love our jeans!

Express 'Barely Boot' Jeans ($80)

Mr. G and me (Paris 2012)

Pencil skirts are my favorite type of skirt. They elongate the torso and legs, are sexy and elegant. But they have to fit your individual form. For years I've been looking for the perfect one for me. I finally decided to splurge and have one handmade for me in Paris. If you find a Pencil Skirt you love (that comes in a variety of colors) let me know and I'll post it here.


I've recently discovered the joy and many treasures to be found in high end consignment boutiques (I'll post about this at length in a few) Finally! I've been able to not only fully explore and indulge in my love for pretty dresses, I now always add them to my suitcase. Timeless, effortless, romantic, easily packable chic. Pair it with your Ballerinas and a wrap - so fabulous! From a museum tour straight to dinner.

"I firmly believe that 
with the right footwear 
one can rule the world." 
- Bette Midler

Honey, it's the Shoes!
Yeah, practical shoes for a traveling SistahDiva are a must. But a gir'ls still gotta have a super diva shoe...

Cork Wedge Sandals @ Boston Proper - 4" with a 1" platform

'Cyntia' Wedge Ankle Boot, Jessica Simpson ($119 USD)

Of course you'll need a dress-up shoe while on your travels. But who wants to walk over cobblestoned streets, gravel, etc. in the dark, eat and drink plenty, then shake their booty on a dance floor in stiletto heels? Ouch! La solution? It's all about the Wedge. They cover the entire foot, giving even shock absorbing comfortable support. 1-2 inches are platform, so 4 inches become 2 or 3 - all the advantages of a high heel without the discomfort.  They're the secret to fashionable diva strolling comfort. I've tip-toed over cobblestoned Paris streets at 2 in the morning in these, in total comfort, and lived to tell the tale. 

Sparkle Plenty

Rising Jewel Collection  ($8 each set)

As for jewelry, keep it simple, inexpensive but most of all elegantly fun. I'm seriously feeling Charming Charlie's 'Rising Jewels Collection.'  It comes in every jewel and pastel tone you can think of. Charming Charlie's also has a dizzying selection of inexpensive rings, bracelets, and necklaces. As for fabulous statement pieces? What better way to memorialize your trip than to buy a few fabulous pieces of jewelry?

"Pack up all my care and woe. Here I go, singing low..." 
- Henderson/Dixon (1926) 

The Right Tools for the Job

"It's best to have your tools with you." - Stephen King

During my travels I've discovered four essential tools that absolutely need to always be in every SistahDiva's suitcase. No matter how carefully or gently you pack your clothes, most every piece is going to be wrinkled/creased by the time you reach your final destination. Sending out, via your hotel or local laundry/cleaners is expensive and time consuming (and next day service is a substantial up-charge). But I have the perfect solution for your cares and woes...

Pure Enrichment Fabric Steamer (Amazon $30)

The Pure Enrichment Fabric Steamer is small but mighty. Hang your article of clothing, pour in a cup of tap water, wait 2-3 minutes til it starts to steam and you're good to go.

Just in case:
3M/Command Plastic Damage Free Removable Hooks
6 /$6 USD @ Target, Walgreens, & Amazon

Steamer magic works best when the article you're de-wrinkling is first slightly dampened. Spritzing with plain water will get the job done; but spritzing with a softly scented spray keeps your clothes fresh smelling,  even after one or two wears (it's a very good thing). My favorite:

Pecksniff's Fresh Linen Spray (16oz $22 @ Amazon)
Comes in several gorgeous scents
Just make sure to pack it in your suitcase...

Explore! Dream! Discover!


Tuesday, October 04, 2016

from rue Cler to the Gridiron

"I wish I could go to Paris right now." - Emily Proctor

Since 2009, the months of September or October have been mes Paris mois - 8 weeks, 2 of which I annually reserve to pack up my family and Coco and visit our beloved city. Sadly my and Mr. G's careers, coupled with 2 teens and one tweener's school and sports schedules, have necessitated a Paris-hiatus :-{ But there's a silver lining. My camera lens have moved from the streets of Paris to the Gridiron...

"Anyone who's just driven 90 yards against huge men trying to kill them has earned the right to do Jazz hands." 
- Craig Ferguson

Photographing youth sports was never an aspiration. One early fall afternoon, 7 years ago, Mr. G had a business meeting that ran late and asked me to take our eldest to football practice. Five minutes in, I was forever hooked. I was fascinated by the movement, rhythm, color and emotion of the game. Next practice I brought my cameras and asked the coaches if they'd mind if I wandered the field. They said yes. Next thing I knew I was roaming up and down the sidelines, at every game, snapping away.

The first thing I learned is: photographing 11 bodies, simultaneously moving in 11 directions - fast - while I'm moving at the same time and shooting through a telephoto lens, is incredibly difficult. Through observation, trial and error I learned that the players (as a group and individually) have their own distinct rhythm. The challenge is to sync with it. But when you do...

The Black, White & Gold  
Glenbard North High School 
Freshman Football Team (Fall, 2016)

"To me a photograph is a page from life, 
and that being the case, it must be real." 
- Weegee

My favorite part is that I get to photograph my son...

#4 Rory Hills - Wide Receiver & Corner
Glenbard North High School Freshman Football

What I love most about photography is that a photo (or series of photos) tell(s) a story, conveys a mood,  an emotion, the innate beauty of a moment (and that innate beauty comes in all sizes, shapes, colors, ages and situations). I've found this to be is true whether I'm shooting the gardens of the Tuileries, a model walking the runway, or a group of 14 year old footballers. Photography feeds my creative soul in ways I could never have imagined when I first walked onto the gridiron all those years ago. While I was composing this post, I learned/realized another thing. Shooting football perfectly prepared me to photograph Paris. Prepared me to look for the unexpected in a sensory sea of images, trust my gut to see the thread of a visual story, point my camera at it and...shoot.

Vivre! Rire! Aimer!


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