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Traveling Light

The 21" Roll-Aboard. The only bag I pack.

It has been really hard for me to learn to travel light, mostly because I have a vivid imagination.

Wherever I’m traveling, I’m really taking two trips: the actual trip and the imaginary one.  For instance, my real trip to Paris, on my honeymoon, was mostly spent sweating and dripping falafel juice on myself.  The imaginary trip was one in which my husband begins to talk like Cary Grant, reveals that his name is actually Peter Joshua and I have to run from Walter Matthau in my clickety-clack heels and without wrinkling my Givenchy.  (Charade? Anybody?  You can actually stay in Peter Joshua’s hotel in Paris, but that’s a story for another time.)

You see, overpacking is the result of actually believing that anything is possible on your vacation.  It’s possible that you will end up being invited onto a Kennedy’s private yacht, so you had better pack the giant hat and Jackie-O sunglasses.  It’s possible that you will find that you have spontaneously learned to ski, like in the matrix, so you’d better pack your snow gear.  It’s possible that you will find yourself at the opening of La Boheme at the Met, so you had better pack that burgundy velvet dress Cher wore in Moonstruck.

But it’s probable that if you pack your fantasy Hepburn shift dress, that you will cover it irrevocably in falafel juice.

You can get advice on packing light for a business trip from flight attendant Heather Poole here.  She packs way more for a ten day trip than I do, but maybe she’s meeting up with Ewan in L.A.

As usual, Rick Steves has some great tips on packing light on his website.  He even enlists a female coworker to come up with a women’s packing list.

My tips for packing light:

  1. Carry-on. Just commit to packing everything in a carry-on.  It seems impossible at first, but if you lug too much stuff through, say, the hilltowns of Tuscany in 100 degree heat, it starts to become much more possible.  I suggest getting a carry-on bag that expands.  That way, you can travel light but still pick up some treats on your trip and then check your bag on the way home.
  2. Roll. Like Heather Poole above, I am a big fan of rolling clothes, rather than folding them.  It saves space and reduces wrinkles.  It also helps you see hidden spaces in your luggage.  Suddenly you see that you can fit a t-shirt into the space between two shoes.
  3. Cube. I also really like to use packing cubes.  I put all of my shirts in one cube, all of my pants/shorts/skirts in another, all my unmentionables in another.  I don’t know if it saves space but it keeps me honest.  If I can’t fit another shirt in that cube, it stays home.  Also, it keeps some semblance of order inside your luggage which is especially helpful on a trip where you are moving around a lot.
  4. Ladies, pack one dress, made of jersey. It never wrinkles and takes up no space.  Jersey can dress down or way up, making it versatile enough to do double duty.  It also breathes in the heat.  You might be able to get away with jersey if you suddenly find your having an audience with the queen.
  5. Try to pack for the actual trip. Like I said above, try to keep your travel dreams grounded enough so that you don’t end up carrying chaps or tap shoes through Andalucia.  Another dangerous part of the fantasy trip is imagining that you will become someone else on vacation.  If you can’t get through wearing heels on your commute, what makes you think that you will be able to wear them on the Campo de’ Fiori? Travel can change us, give us new habits, teach us lessons about ourselves – but rarely when our toes are bleeding.

It’s been hard to learn to pack light – to learn to pack for the trip I am actually going on, rather than the trip I might have.  But honestly, if I do end up running into Ewan MacGregor and he invites me to hop on the back of his motor bike for a round the world trip I can always purchase a leather jacket and a rucksack.  Or I can remember that I am happily married – and that that is the trip I’m on.


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I know I haven’t posted anything in a while.  I hope to get back in the swing of things soon.  In the meantime, you can check out my other adventure in the blogosphere.  My new job (real job) has me blogging and writing stories about arts and culture in South Carolina for the State Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism.  I know, it’s confusing; another Amy working for Parks and Recreation.  To keep it straight remember that I don’t hang out with Rob Lowe.

Check it out here: Arts and Culture Insider

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This has been a big week as we roll, roll, roll on to Thanksgiving.  Our initial goal, moving in by tech week for my show is officially dead.  New goal to be in the house for Thanksgiving, still possible, but only for dreamers.  Kermit the frog and I still are keeping the faith!

First, there was painting...Craft White and Apple Green from the Eddie Bauer Home, Arts and Crafts Collection.

Then the installation of the floating, cork floor. Dali from Lisbon Cork at Lumber Liquidators. Vic's intolerance of small ridges at the seams and my intolerance for side-by-side color variations made this a very laborious process, as you can see.

Time for Cabinets. IKEA's cabinets are easy to put together - but the uneven walls, floor, ceiling made leveling a...challenge.

Light at the end of the tunnel! Now all we need is countertops, for the plumber to come on Thursday to finish the sink hookups, and doors on those shelves, range hood...well, there's a lot left to do, but doesn't it look more like a kitchen? The fridge is even plugged in with our Thanksgiving turkey in the freezer!

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The gas line inside the wall, where it belongs.

Victor and I were both the type of student who would write a paper the day before it was due.  We, apparently work the same way as renovators.  We finished the bathroom remodel in Seattle, swept up, and then got in the car to pick my parents up at the train station for the wedding.  Our goal was to have the kitchen remodel done, the stripping/staining in the rest of the house done, and the popcorn ceilings removed and painted by the time my parents got here for Thanksgiving.  Which is now a week from Sunday.  Eek.  We’re chugging along, though…


Wall studs up


Victor exploring old-timey wiring shortly after the sparks flew out of the wall. (Don't worry, the electricity to the house was off by this point.)


The new subfloor in the kitchen. Vic leveled the floor using felt tarp, usually used for roofing. Soon, we will actually be installing our new floating cork floor!


Some of Vic's electrical handywork. The electrician's originally wired this outlet outside of the wall, since it would be hidden by cabinetry. Then we realized that there would actually be a drawer there - banging on the cord. So Vic moved this guy back into the wall.


Here's the after, with the beadboard patched and the juice flowing.


A major crack in the plaster ceiling. This is apparently why we have popcorn ceilings. Some previous owners saw the crack, did shoddy repairs, then said the hell with it and sprayed away. (The popcorn, thankfully, does not have any asbestos in it, and Vic is a lightening fast de-popcorner!)


Vic with actual walls! (They are now taped and mudded too...sanding and priming on Wednesday, painting on Thursday.)


Our old dryer had a problem. It wouldn't stop drying. So, we now have a new, beautiful dryer! (thanks mom & dad!)


And of course there has been more heat gun stripping. Two rooms down, and just a couple of windows in the livingroom to go! The stripping did reveal this sweet artifact - "David's" height, a day before my first birthday. How did I know the avocado green paint layer was from the 70's?

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Our New Home

Vic with the keys

Vic with the keys

We became homeowners on September 15th!  The house is a brick craftsman-style bungalow that was built in 1930.  Three bedrooms, one bath, three fireplaces – none of which work, so don’t get too excited.  Victor and I have jumped into renovation with typical mad abandon armed with little else but some tools in a giant rubbermaid, a Home Depot 1-2-3 book and the internet.  We thought some of you might be interested in seeing what the heck we’ve been doing to the place this past month…

Our very Southern porch swing

Our very Southern porch swing. So far it hasn't collapsed under our weight.

There’s a lot of work to be done and in the past month the kitchen has gone from this…


Home Depot vinyl tile, creaky, non-functioning cabinets, Kelvinator fridge.

To this…goodbye tile, hello plywood subfloor #1!


To this!  Goodbye plywood subfloor #1, Hello linoleum tile and plywood subfloor #2!  Goodbye closet turned fridge cubby!  Goodbye…uhm, walls…tearing out the plaster and lathe there will allow the electricians and the plumber access.  And we’re rebuilding the wall in that section anyway so that the wall’s depth will be the same down the length of the counter, so it’s no skin off our noses.  Except a little off Victor’s since he tore most of it down.


We also got rid of the wallpaper.  Funny – the wallpaper was French blue with little white flowers and covered wallpaper that was…French blue without the flowers.  That wallpaper covered paint that was…French Blue.

Here’s some more pictures of the demolition that we have wrought on this kitchen!  It’s very Old Testament right now in our kitchen.

Wood floors under part of the cheapo vinyl tiles made us think that there might be wood floors throughout.  Guess again.  Instead - linoleum.

Wood floors under part of the cheapo vinyl tiles made us think that there might be wood floors throughout. Guess again. Instead - linoleum.

The plumbing for the old sink - no need for an end cap when you have a plastic grocery bag and a rubber band!

The plumbing for the old sink - no need for an end cap when you have a plastic grocery bag and a rubber band!

And behind the fridge we found this Romex electrical cable.  Yes, it's live, and yes, it was just taped and shoved behind the fridge.

And behind the fridge we found this Romex electrical cable. Yes, it's live, and yes, it was just taped and shoved behind the fridge.

Elsewhere…my project: using a heat gun to strip years of paint (pinky-beige, off-white, green, off-white, tan, white) off of the excellent woodwork in the front rooms.  The Living Room is done – except for the tall parts Vic has to get – and I’m on to the Dining Room.  I’ve only been slightly slowed down by a pretty intense burn I got from scraping my arm against the heat gun.  Don’t try this at home.

Living Room



Middle...After is a little ways off!

The house is full of surprises, as you’ve probably gathered.  For instance, the sconces about the fireplaces in the living room and bedroom.  They are electrical fixtures, but the Previous Owners had stuck candles in them (complete with wrapper!).  I took them down today and found this:


Our kitchen cabinets and appliances await – they are feeling a little out of place in the bedroom.  Next up – the electrician and gas pipe plumber are coming to add some outlets and stuff this mess into the wall:


That’s all for now!

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Cynthia Davis, State Representative from Missouri

The first problem I have with Cynthia Davis is her name.  When I read her name, my mind, trying to place the name, starts spinning with images from Sex and the City. My brain throws up pictures of Cynthia Nixon and Kristen Davis in Jimmy Choos.  “Is this who you’re talking about?” my brain desperately mutters.  Finally, after ensuring that the theme song to that show is stuck in my head for the next ten days, my brain shrugs.  “I’ve got nothing.”

Yeah, brain, that’s cause we’ve never heard of her.  She’s a state rep from Missouri who weaseled her way into my mind grapes  today by stating that we shouldn’t subsidize hungry children’s lunches during the summer because:

“Hunger can be a positive motivator.”

Watch Colbert skewer her here.

He does a better job of skewering her than I would.  But I do want to point out that when I worked in an office, most of the people who worked there couldn’t make it from 1:00 p.m.-5:00 without a handful of pistachios from their drawer, a grande skim latte, and a piece of whatsit’s leftover b-day cake from the coffee room.  But kids, sure, they can skip lunch.  It’s summer!  Remember summer’s when you were a kid?  Riding your bike, swimming in the pool, fasting together.  Ahh, memories.

If you are interested in getting kids more and better things to eat rather than, you know, starving them, check out Slow Food’s Time to Eat Campaign here.

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I’m in New York this week, an exercise in living in the moment because the moment that I start to look into the future when I am thrust back into the Dante-inspired heat of South Carolina, I begin to fret and wallow.  Fret and wallow actually sounds like a catchy blog name or perhaps a good title for an autobio.  Or a sixties dance craze.  I digress.

Last night I met up with two of my gorgeous bridesmaids** for drinks and dinner in Noho at an organic eatery called Quartino Bottega Organica.   The name is a bit of a mouthful and they are cash only – I thought in NY everyone just waved their iPhones over bar codes to pay by now – but the wines by the glass are actually by the “quartino,” in a little milk-bottle-ish carafe, which means the “glass” of wine is more like the epic portions I pour at home than the frugal (read: stingy) pours at most wine bars.

The ladies and I began with a bottle of organic prosecco which J commented, rightfully, was like sparkling apple cider, “in a good way.”  She had to add the “good way” because despite the warm, tiny, hole-in-the-wall, trattoria atmosphere, the staff seemed a bit surly and detached.   (Was it something I said?)  But that hardly mattered after quite a few glasses of champagne and five minutes with my delightfully jaded New York lady friends.  You might notice an uncharacteristic lack of photos for this entry, a result of the fact that I, in true only child style, talked basically non-stop the entire night.   It was clear that I totally hogged the conversation when I was the last to finish my entree and wine.  This never happens. 

The food at Quartino is organic and pescatarian and the pasta is all whole wheat.  When J read that on the menu she may as well have said “what you talkin’ ’bout Willis?”  I was dubious as well, but it was very good if self-consciously good for you.  I ordered the Fettucine Quartino which was whole wheat pasta with avocado and cherry tomatoes, otherwise known as guacamole.  It was really tasty but left me questioning whether this is what I really want in an eat-out establishment.  I left feeling healthy and good about myself but when I’m dropping $50+ on a meal what I really want to feel is like a happy little piggie.    See, in my new world, where eating out is becoming a rare, rare luxury, like a ride to work on the back of a unicorn type luxury, I’m thinking that in the future I may have to forgo my whole foods morality and “splurge” for some white flour.   I sincerely admire the ethos of this place – organic, fresh, simple ingredients – and it’s done well.  But despite my admiration I found myself a little disappointed when I order something I could so easily have made at home, even though it was delicious.

The thing that never disappoints, however, are my girlfriends.  What a treat.

**For the record, my bridesmaids were all gorgeous, professional actresses with amazing figures and personalities to match.  I must have been crazy  an amazingly secure bride to surround myself with them on my “special day.”

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