Travel Tips for Packing Light

Last post about Ireland; non-travel-related posts will resume next week!

When we took a 9 day trip (including 2 travel days) for a friend’s wedding I packed entirely into a carry-on suitcase and a handbag. Here are some of the tricks I used to pack light and still have room for possible thrifted treasures and many thank-you gifts.

  1. Do laundry. Whether you’re visiting family/friends and can use their washer and drier, staying at an AirBnB with laundry facilities, in a hotel with in-house laundry services, or just using the sink in a hostel, washing mid-trip is the best way to halve the amount of clothing you bring. Some folks opt for a travel steamer but with space considerations and the voltage change I opted to forego it. We stayed in 3 AirBnBs and one bed and breakfast and made sure at least one had laundry (no dryer, but we were there 3 nights so air drying was no problem).
  2. Fold KonMari style. You may not be into the “magic” in your regular life, but this technique – even my lazy approximation of it – saves space in your bag and makes it easy to see everything once you arrive. (Nothing like packing super carefully only to dig through your suitcase for something… and then having to re-pack it the next day.)
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    Source of these rad visuals
    It’s also wrinkle-reducing – my floor-length dress unrolled after a week of resting in KonMari with nary a crease!
  3. Stuff your underwear and socks into your shoes. Unless they’re collapsible, your shoes are going to take up a certain amount of room no matter what. Why not make use of it? (If the idea of your underwear coming into contact with naked foot territory weirdos you out, tuck them in a plastic or cloth bag first.)
  4. Wear your heaviest layer. Leave that bulky sweater or coat out of the bag and use it as a pillow or a blanket in transit. It can be tied around your waist or tucked on top of your carryon handle while you wander through terminals or train stations.
  5. Travel in your pajamas.  Obviously this depends on what type of pjs you wear (no nightgowns please), but if you wear leggings or a t-shirt to bed you can easily wear these in transit. If you don’t sweat through you’ll still be okay for sleep and you’ll save a fresh outfit for your destination while not bulking up your baggage with your long johns.
    Sporting my PJ shirt and leggings (under jeans) in Dublin:
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  6. Use a kid’s toothbrush. This makes the most difference for a backpacker or someone who’s counting every ounce of weight, but even a conventional traveler will save a little space this way. Bonus: the bristles are super soft so your dentist won’t accuse you of scrubbing off your gums.
  7. Pack travel versions of your essential cosmetics. Duh. But the emphasis here is on the “essential.” You likely do not need every cream and applicator you use in the course of a year (or even a normal week) while traveling. Usually use one lotion for face moisturizer and another for your body? See if one can pull double duty. Normally use two different brushes to get just the right do? See if a comb can stand in the breach. Sharpen that eye or lip liner before you go so you don’t have to take the sharpener.
  8. Bubble wrap. I mix my own face toner and oil moisturizer and keep them in small glass spray jars. To keep them from breaking in transit, I slip them into little bubble wrap sleeves (either the ones they shipped in or ones I make out of bubble wrap from other packages). Then into the quart ziplock bag they go:IMG_4917
  9. Exfoliate with a baby washcloth.  These suckers are super thin, kind of micro-fiber-y, and dry easily overnight. Unlike packing your clarisonic, you’ll never even know it’s in your suitcase but your skin will thank you. (Cutting up a microfiber cloth meant for dusting computer screens works too.)
  10. Save those soap nubbins. You know when your soap dwindles to such a small size it’s annoyingly impossible to get a good lather? Save these and melt them into one slightly larger nubbin (yeesh, even that word is annoying) or just take one nubbin and be slightly annoyed for the week but don’t worry about taking a soap case with you. We weren’t staying in hotels and couldn’t guarantee free toiletries so I took along the end of my savon de Marseille bar in my toothpaste curl tin: IMG_4914 (one curl = one brush; less waste and none of the chemicals of regular toothpaste. Yes I’m a hippie.)
  11. Binder clip your headphones. If you’re like me and still haven’t gotten on the noise-canceling headphone bandwagon, keep track of your spaghetti-like ear bud cords with binder clip. This will save you inordinate amounts of frustration, preserving your sanity for figuring out an unfamiliar transit system or converting temperatures. Just make sure the cords go through the triangle and aren’t pinched by the black part of the clip, which could damage them:IMG_4918
  12. Take clothes you can toss. We packed, wore, then tossed: socks with holes, a ratty undershirt, a bra long past the end of its life cycle, and my crapped out running shoes.  So many caveats to this last one… like being a runner, being near the end of your shoes’ life but not so near it you’ll injure yourself, and finding a place to donate or recycle your old pair. But if it works out, you’ll save a bundle of room on your return trip.

What are your travel-light packing tips? Scroll down to comment!

 

Ireland: What I Wore & Where We Went

If you’re not sick of Ireland posts yet, here’s how I put together outfits from my carry-on suitcase over 9 days (including travel) and everything from tourist sites to hiking to wedding festivities.  Buckle your seatbelt, we gotta lotta pictures in this post!

 

Day one – Dublin

My traveling/wandering-around-Dublin-on-no-sleep outfit, in front of the Táin Mural near Nassau street (hey Queen Maeve!):

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To save suitcase room and travel comfortably, I flew and toured the first day in my pj shirt and pj leggings (not shown under my jeans).  If you’re wondering, that’s Hope and Will, the mascots of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta where I was a chaplain resident.IMG_20170225_054730

We ate breakfast at Hatch & Sons, a cozy and charming restaurant that feels like eating at your grandma’s (if she lived in a plastered thatched roof cottage):

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Vegetarian Irish breakfast was very reasonable at €5 and eminently tasty. The full version is pictured here:efea29d91b41b1ed5836bc1d88c30239
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We wandered around and took silly pictures with the statue of Oscar Wilde in Merrion Park until it was time to  check in at our Air BnB.  Our host Aoife was absolutely lovely and as a food writer gave us all the downlow on good vegetarian and pescatarian restaurants as well as ideas on things to visit (this is how we found out about the Dublin Flea Market).

That expression on Oscar’s face is priceless.

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Then it was time to meet Joe, our host for City of a Thousand Welcomes.  This free program is genius: if you are a first-time visitor to Dublin, all you have to do is sign up for a date/time and tell a little bit about yourself, and you are magically whisked off by a native Dubliner for a free pint (or tea/coffee) while they regale you with stories about Irish history and recommendations for Dublin places/events/activities that fit your interests.

I neglected to get a picture of Joe, who charmingly brought us guide materials in a TJ Maxx bag from his last visit to see his sister in California because he thought it would make us feel welcome!  But here is the Merrion hotel, where he took us for pints:

merrionhoteldublin imageSource, source.

Quite fancy, no?

When you’ve done the City of a Thousand Welcomes, admission to the Little Museum, which sponsors the programs, is also free!  And you also get 10% off your bill at Hatch (if only we’d known).  I’m telling you, this is the best and cheapest way to start off any trip to Dublin.

The tour at the Little Museum was a lively 30 minutes and gave us a great overview of Dublin’s history from the 1916 Rising on.  Everything inside was donated by Dubliners, including the current exhibit on U2.  Super fascinating!

Room 2 of the tour:tour-back-room-1Source

We spent the rest of the day wandering the picturesque streets.  The signs are all in Irish, then English:IMG_4933

Lots of design shops where all the contents are by Irish designers:IMG_4956

Christchurch Cathedral:IMG_4958IMG_4959

A taste of at least one political view:IMG_4962

Abandoned church for sale:IMG_4969

Busty Molly Malone and a piper:IMG_4968 IMG_4971
Heh heh.

Dinner that night was at a vegan restaurant called Sova Vegan Butcher which had some tasty points but also some not-very-well-seasoned bits, and thus felt a bit pricey for the fare.  Afterwards we walked down the street to Devitts where people our age or younger were in charge of the traditional music (flutes, concertina, guitars) and no one was shy about dancing. We may have ended up with a tile from the floor of the pub kicked loose by a drunken Irishman who insisted we take it home to America as a souvenir from an “authentic” Irish pub…

Day 2 – DublinIMG_4935

In the morning we hit up the Dublin Flea Market (pictures/writeup here) before wandering lots more through the streets and taking care of a few thank-you presents for folks back at home.

After a delicious and affordable falafel lunch at Umi, we popped over to Trinity College to see the Book of Kells (no photos allowed). While that was quite interesting, I think the price of admission was a bit steep.  Good thing it included the Long Room right above the Book of Kells: IMG_4963

I wish I could somehow share with you the smell… the whole place was infused with the aroma of old books.  Glorious!  200,000 books from the 14th through 18th centuries are stacked in those two-story alcoves.  One of the security officials was quite a ham and teased us when we asked when it stopped being an active library and became a museum: “I didn’t get the memo!” Turns out you can still take books out, albeit just into a special reading room.IMG_4964

Oh hey, it’s the harp that became the symbol of Ireland! Cs5HckxVUAAdhtb
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And an original printing of the 1916 proclamation declaring Ireland a free country:

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Dinner that night was at an Indian restaurant called Pickle, with quite spicy and tasty dishes – I got a veggie mix with asparagus in it, which was fun, and the Spouse went a little more classic with chana masala and puri.  A bit expensive; the marquee-sized Bollywood posters were great fun.

Day 3 – Glendalough

We took a day trip down to Glendalough, a valley in the Wicklow Mountains that is home to a 6th century abbey started by St. Kevin (don’t you just love that there is a St. Kevin?) and to numerous walking and hiking trails.

First up, the awkward outfit shot with the spouse cropped out:
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I layered my silk long john shirt and my bamboo tech shirt under my rain jacket and my leggings under my jeans.  The jeans got a bit muddy but luckily we had laundry facilities at our next accommodations.

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Drunken tombstones:IMG_4993

Ruins of the cathedral:IMG_4985 IMG_4980On the right is the bell/defense tower, where the monks would ring the bells for prayers but also hole up inside if invaders approached.

We made a quick pit stop…

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And then got hiking. I thought the little sprinkling of white was some kind of lichen…but no, it’s snow.  (It snowed for a few moments while we hiked!)

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An abandoned mine is tucked back in that valley:IMG_5037

I expected to see a hobbit pop out at any time.IMG_5050 IMG_5051 IMG_5063IMG_5039

It was stark and so beautiful, almost tundra-like.  We picnicked with bread, cheese, and apples at the top of the boardwalk-style path above and felt on top of the world.  Waterfalls little and big were everywhere, and every time we turned a corner there was some new astounding view…  Since we took a wrong turn and hiked on a timber road for half the journey, we had the forest all to ourselves for a good while.  It was such a different landscape from what I see at home and what I expected from Ireland.  This was probably my favorite thing (tied with the Burren) we did all trip.

Day 4 – Galway

That outfit pose where you’re trying to look awake! And excited! This is the navy blue turtleneck under the polkadot vest paired with my cream corduroys and navy Puma sneaks (and yes I’m still wearing leggings underneath): IMG_5066

We ate at Hooked for dinner after our late arrival the night before:IMG_5070

Thatched roof cottages!IMG_5073

The beach right next to the park commemorating all who sailed away from Ireland via Galway during the height of the Potato Famine:IMG_5086

A local harvesting mollusks of some kind:IMG_5090

A side branch of the River Corrib, and schoolgirls who thought it’d be funny to pose in our tourist photo (it was):IMG_5099

Houses on the Long Walk:IMG_5100

Our AirBnB host Rosemary was a treat, inviting us to share Pancake Tuesday (aka Mardi Gras) with her friends, meeting us out for a pint, and giving us more great restaurant recs including the best meal (in my opinion) we had in Ireland at the Quay Street Kitchen (pr. “Key Street” for all you Americans – or maybe just me? – tempted to say “kway”).

She also explained all the ribbons tied on the Wolfe Tone bridge over the River Corrib – they had just popped up in the last few weeks as a sort of Pont des Arts love locks thing, with people writing messages on over a hundred ribbons flying in the wind:IMG_5105

That copper dome in the middle is Galway Cathedral, which we visited next.  Built in the 1960s on the site of the city’s former jail, it was such a beautiful combination of stone and wood, classical architecture and modern stained glass, and light play:IMG_5133IMG_5134IMG_5118

My spouse was totally into Jesus’ rainbow comet trails due to stained glass:IMG_5117

So on the left is Pádraig Pearse, one of the Easter Rising martyrs and an Irish nationalist, and JFK is on the right.  Y’know, just chilling, praying to Jesus in an Irish cathedral.  (JFK was EVERYWHERE in Ireland.  Those people are seriously proud of the first U.S. Irish-American president.)IMG_5135

Father P(eter?) Rabbitte has an office here:IMG_5136

Then more wandering…
…into Irish design shops – this time some lovely jewelry:IMG_5137 IMG_5138 IMG_5139 IMG_5140

…past a random medieval castle turned into a bank:IMG_5142

…and ending with some pretty solid buskers whose music we enjoyed with a cup of delicious hot chocolate and some cappuccino:IMG_5148

Day 5 – Galway

I wore the same clothes as Day 4 so we could wash and air dry stuff that was dirty.  No judgment.

This was Ash Wednesday so we started off with an intimate service at St. Nicholas Collegiate Church, where the parishioners were very welcoming and didn’t mind us peering over their shoulders to share prayer books. Then we sat in on part of a tour being given to local students and learned a thing or two about the church’s history and architecture.  St. Nicholas is the largest still-functioning parish church (aka non-cathedral) in Ireland and was built by Galway’s powerful merchant families (one of whom, the Lynches, owned the castle above) in the middle ages.

I loved the yellow walls and ceilings which made the inside glow like the daffodils decorating the church:

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Like many churches in Ireland, you can see evidence of Cromwell’s soldiers’ destruction of all human-like images, considered by the overzealous Puritans of the 17th century to be idolatrous:  IMG_5166

Ironically, the church is now Church of Ireland (meaning Protestant, not Catholic) – so I guess Cromwell got his way?

The Church of Ireland shares space with two Orthodox congregations, who have marked off sacred space with an altar screen featuring lovely icons:

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A beautifully ecumenical thumb in the eye of Cromwell, who probably would have hated these as well even though icons aren’t seen as graven images in Eastern churches.

A little thank-you-gift hunting at O’Maille – they have a great online store full of luscious Irish yarn and woven/knit garments.  Look at the colors on this Donegal tweed blanket! I die.

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And at Wooden Heart, three delightfully narrow stories full of wooden and hands-on toys tucked into a 440-year-old building:IMG_5171

Then lunch at Ard Bia in another ancient edifice:IMG_5161

And off to the (free!) Galway city museum, which featured exhibits on archaeology, the city’s fishing industry, Galwegians in WWI, and the Easter Rising, both historical and in contemporary art.  One of the coolest things was this set of interactive maps of the city from various eras, each with blue dots marking famous sights which you could pull up in contemporary images or vintage postcards:IMG_5173

The sword and scepter of Galway given by the English monarch, which William Randolph Hearst just *happened* to own for years and then returned to the city (imagine that guy’s attic):IMG_5176

Old glass bottles:IMG_5177

A hooker, the classic Galwegian fishing vessel (it says “Galway” in Irish):IMG_5180

Somewhere in there we stopped by Gourmet Tart Co. for delicious raspberry & custard tarts:IMG_5181

Wandered some more, noticing fun window displays:IMG_5182 IMG_5183
It’s a shoe shop.  Go figure.

We stopped for a flight of Irish whiskeys at Tigh Neachtain, and spent an hour gabbing with our AirBnB host who had come there with a book to read.  Thus we learned that in Ireland pubs are basically coffee shops.  IMG_5186

This was the night we ate at Quay Street Kitchen, just across the street.  Afterwards we caught a free singer-songwriter (well, two were bands) showcase at Roisin Dubh (pr. “Ruh-SHEEN Dove”), a famous music club with (of course) a pub attached.  Loud but lively!

 

Day 6- Drive through the Burren to Spanish Point

This outfit is exactly the same as Day 4 (and 5) but with a camel sweater.  And yes, I did change underwear.  And yes, I did get these cream pants quite dirty by the end of the trip.  But they washed clean!IMG_5210

Dunguaire (pr. dhoon-GOO-irra) Castle in Kinvara.  Y’know, when there are just random castles on the side of the road…IMG_5188

A stroll around the castle:
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Next we drove through the Burren, more of which will be pictured below since it was raining this day. We stopped at The Burren Perfumery which makes all of its perfumes/soaps/lotions/etc. from local botanicals through processes that preserve the fragile Burren ecosystem.  They also have a free tea room where you can sample their herbal teas (and where we ate our supermarket picnic with soda bread, smoked salmon, local cheese, and apples. Yum!):IMG_5207

Children who had come to the tea room drew charming pictures representing their visit:IMG_5203

As did Tom, aged 26:
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Day 7 – Cliffs of Moher and a Wedding in Spanish Point

The weather didn’t mess around Day 7 and neither did I – silk undershirt, tech shirt, and the thickest sweater I’d brought (and had not yet worn) prepared me for a rainy, windy morning at the Cliffs.IMG_5212

Here’s a sneak peek of the weather as we drove through Lahinch, a renowned surfing spot, on our way to the cliffs.  Impressively several surfers were out braving the 40 degree temps and the sizable waves: IMG_5218

The cliffs in their misty, 700+ feet glory:IMG_5219IMG_5229

O’Brien’s tower, built for tourists in the 1800s:IMG_5231

Accurate signs:IMG_5236IMG_5241

We made it back just in time to shower and dress for the wedding.  I’m a goober and didn’t take any pics (I was busy officiating, okay?!), but here’s a pic of my outfit in terrible lighting:
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I’m making the W for our alma mater.

Here’s the dress in better light, a pic from when I first bought it as a possibility for another wedding:

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Day 8 – Lahinch, Hike in the Burren, drive back to Dublin

It was cold enough that this, plus jeans, is all I showed to the world.  I wore the same leopard-print sweater underneath.  Apologies for disembodied spousal hand:

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We returned to Lahinch in better weather on our meandering drive back to Dublin:

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Particularly to get my sister a gift from a woman-owned, designed, and printed T-shirt shop:IMG_5260

Her screen printing setup:  IMG_5245

I took a class on screen printing in highschool and was madly impressed with the intricacy, color, and cleanness of her prints.  You can see/order them here.

What a difference a day makes – this is the same beach as before:IMG_5261

Surfing spectators.  There was definitely a surfing subculture going on here that I would never have associated with Ireland – which shows you how little I know about surfing, particularly in colder climes!IMG_5257

We stocked up for lunch at a small grocery shop and headed back to the Burren to enjoy a day hike in much better weather than when we first drove through.  First though some obstacles in the road:IMG_5265

The views!IMG_5268

 

Below is where our 3-mile walk began.  The seemingly barren limestone landscape is called karst and was created in large part due to humans overgrazing livestock in the Stone Age.  Ironically this now-tundra-like environment is home to a fragile ecosystem full of rare wildflowers (hence why the Burren Perfumery set up shop there) for which there is a considerable conservation effort. Human influence on the world around us is so complicated…

PS check out that limestone wall:IMG_5276

Hazel trees:IMG_5292

Cows in dramatic lighting: IMG_5294

More ancient walls:IMG_5296IMG_5303

Karst, worn away by wind and rain, up close:

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We walked around a turlough, a kind of seasonal lake that occurs when the karst can’t drain rainwater fast enough:IMG_5336

Cow with attitude:IMG_5357

Overgrown walls (I’m sensing a bovine/wall theme here):IMG_5369

Did I mention we had canine companions herding us for the entire 3 miles?  No nipping, just gentle herding whenever I stopped too long to take a picture (which was frequently):IMG_5374

Informative signs:IMG_5377

One of the karst hills in stark contrast to neighboring green fields:IMG_5393

A cow we surprised when we had to pull onto the verge to let another car squeak past (driving on narrow-to-the-point-of-one-lane Irish country roads is not for the faint of heart!):IMG_5399

Stream next to Dunguaire, which we passed again on our way back to Galway/the highway:IMG_5412

And that’s the end!  We drove three hours back to Dublin, scarfed some Pakistani takeout, and crashed into our final AirBnB before getting up at the crack of dawn to catch our flight back to the States.  What a grand adventure!

Gold star if you made it to the end.  I hope you enjoyed looking through the photos as much as I enjoyed taking them. :)

 

Street Style: Ireland

Inspired by Janice of The Vivienne Files and Susan of Une Femme, I was determined to capture some street style shots for you on our trip to Ireland.

First up, this woman in the Newark airport en route to Dublin was wearing the chicest version of overalls I have ever seen:IMG_4922

The slim cut, the suspender-like straps, and the color paired with simple black (and boots that tie up the back!) were quite striking.  I only ever saw the outfit from the back but that was enough to convince me.

There was another woman in the airport sporting a super chic ensemble (I’m going to be using “chic” a lot in this post…) that I didn’t get a snap of, but it looked something like the photo below. Color the tunic sweater camel and chop the cowl collar in favor of a very structured white dress shirt collar peeping through; then morph the pale messily-coiffed white woman into a woman of Asian descent with an elegant updo.  I was struck by how structurally elegant but also livable the look was; and by how the pants were not skinny pants (as often seen in tunics-over pants looks), but more trouser-like.  Her ensemble stood out in a sea of business travelers.

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Now on to Ireland itself.

Maybe it’s because I owned an Old Navy track jacket in similar colors in college, but I couldn’t resist this jacket with corals/greens/browns and hummingbird/flower applique, spotted at the Dublin Flea Market:

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This woman was a chaperone on a high school field trip to Glendalough which involved a good bit of walking in some cold, muddy-ish conditions.  Yet her ensemble, with its bright colors and details like pompons and red gloves, was eminently cheery and stylish:

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Well done, Teach!

 

I saw quite a few of these plaid blanket-style capes, worn both inside and outside to add extra warmth:

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Our waitress at Ard Bia in Galway (where we had the most delicious poached eggs and avocado on toast) wore this great mix of chambray/washed out denim in two shades plus a marled cardigan in a muted red over a soft white tee that hit “late winter/early spring by the sea” so perfectly:

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It also worked really well in the airy, light, almost minimalist interior of the restaurant.
Here’s a very luxe neutral coat – look at that popped collar! – with a punch of flame via her bag:

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A shot of the boots (get it?):

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Overall I noticed a lot of joggers on young men; shorter skirts over tights on young women; and dark or neutral colors when it came to outerwear – I definitely stood out in my red wool coat.  I also would’ve stood out if anyone had known I was wearing leggings under warm corduroy pants – clearly everyone was more accustomed to cold weather than I was!

Ah, and I almost forgot – I was the only woman (besides the nun with whom I co-officiated, and she had her own headgear) to miss the memo on wearing fascinators at the wedding we attended.  I’d previously attended a wedding in Europe that involved hats so I shouldn’t have been surprised that all the Irish women had head attire, but even the American women had all figured it out. From vintage emerald green velvet pillboxes to flapper-style feathered headbands to more sculptural numbers, they were stunning.  I’ll just have to deal with my disappointment by reassuring myself that my job was to keep all the attention on the bride – who looked absolutely stunning!

Congrats Ashley & Dave, and many blessings on your married life ahead!

 

 

Friday ReBlog: Decluttering by Color

Janice over at The Vivienne Files is doing a two-parter on decluttering, and her first method is based on color. (No surprise given she’s a master at building capsule wardrobes based on color palette!)

It’s worth the read-through on your own, but a few highlights that caught my interest:

“You’ve got to WANT to accomplish something – your own personal something – when you plunge into this process. If you’re currently perfectly happy with your wardrobe as it is, don’t do this; there’s nothing to be gained!”

I think where the impact lies in this great insight is not avoiding a cleanout when you’re happy with your wardrobe, but defining your “personal something” when you’re unhappy with your closet but don’t know why. No one wants to spend a lot of time and effort decluttering according to someone else’s rules or approach only to still be unsatisfied with the results!  Take a few minutes to write down (or talk through, or Pinterest, depending on your style of learning) what you’d like to achieve from a closet makeover: a consistent color palette, a style refresh, to end up with only clothes you thrill to wear, etc.

That brings us to her second observation I want to engage:

“With all the respect in the world to Marie Kondo, I’m NEVER going to feel joy from a black tee shirt, but having a handful of them is really important to being well dressed, in my life.”

I don’t particularly care about defending Marie Kondo, but I do think (depending on your personality and style) that it’s possible to have an entire wardrobe composed ONLY of things you love – right down to your knickers. (Maybe underwear’s especially important in this category since only you will see it, but it can brighten up your whole mood to know you’ve got Animal underpants on under an otherwise somber or formal ensemble!)

An undershirt I thrifted at one point comes to mind. No one was ever going to see it, since it was designed to be worn as a base layer.  But it was made of the softest Pima cotton, and it felt luxurious every time I put it on.

My point isn’t to be dissatisfied with your wardrobe if your really practical pieces don’t “spark joy,” but to encourage you not to settle if you feel rather “blah” about a practical piece – it’s scratchy, worn out, cheap, doesn’t fit quite right… There’s likely an alternative out there just waiting to be thrifted that will give you, if not joy, a little more pleasure when getting dressed.

 

What are your thoughts on making sure you have figured out your raison d’être before decluttering, or about having your mundane pieces “spark joy”?  Scroll down to comment!

 

Thrift Shops in Ireland…and Why I Gave Up Thrift Shopping for Lent

Our trip to Ireland last week was glorious – a great mix of wandering city streets in Dublin and Galway, hiking in Glendalough and the Burren, and celebrating in pubs and at the wedding of a dear friend.  But in between, of course, I made time to stop in pretty much every thrift shop (“charity shop” in that part of the world) we passed – for the first half of the week, anyway. More on that in a second.

My spouse was a willing accomplice since he was looking for a tweed sport coat.  I’m sure it didn’t hurt that I soon realized there were dozens of such shops and I would have to be quick in each one if I wanted to see things like, say, Trinity College.

First up, the Dublin Flea Market, held in Newmarket Square on the last Sunday of the month (we had grand timing!).  They had indoor and outdoor stalls with everything from secondhand clothes to LPs to furniture to Guinness signs and handmade jewelry, original prints, and cactus stained glass.

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Oh hi Beatles record in great shape for €10.  You can’t find that stuff in the US.
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Tweed candidate…alas, too big:IMG_4946IMG_4947

Original Dublin prints by the lovely lady below:

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Did I mention the croissants and the falafel?

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Ingenious method for brewing multiple artisanal coffees in one go.

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More on various Dublin flea markets here.

Bonus – the Dublin Flea Market is right next door to the Teeling Whiskey Distillery if you fancy a tour and a nip (we did; it was delicious and very informative about the distilling process and the Irish whiskey industry, including the time an entire whiskey warehouse went up in flames and the Dublin fire brigade put it out with manure):

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In Dublin we also poked our heads into an Oxfam shop. (Thanks Eimear for the heads up on good streets for charity shops in Dublin.  It’s very handy that they seem to all cluster together!)

First up, Vincent’s, the savvy branding for a St. Vincent De Paul shop:

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A nice blend between a Chanel-style blazer and a moto jacket:

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Someone please explain that brand tag to me?

RIGHT next door (so convenient), an Oxfam shop:

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We walked past a few Enable Ireland shops as well but they were closed when we happened to spot them.

After those first two shops I realized I was going to have an entirely different thrift store experience from the States.  The shops were much, much smaller than your typical Goodwill or Sally; more comparable in size to family-owned small town thrift shops I’ve visited.  The selection was therefore much narrower, featuring mainly inexpensive brands with a few high street and vintage pieces thrown in.

My spouse and I talked about why this was with our Air BnB host.  The Spouse and I contributed hypotheses that rent for urban shop locations would be higher per square foot than a big box-size store in suburbia, and that Americans buy a TON of clothes; but when I did some research it appears that the average Irish adult spends just as much, often more, on clothing every year compared to the average American.  Scrap that idea.  Then our host Aoife (pronounce EE-fah) mentioned the climate as a common reason for lower inventory: clothes stored in Irish attics are prone to moisture damage because it’s so wet.  I can see that as a reason for low vintage stock (bye, Granny’s gorgeous wool coat from the 50s!) but am not sure how often this affects newer clothing stored just during the off season.  Can anyone in a wet climate weigh in?

 

Next stop was Galway.  Our first outing (apart from scarfing fresh fish and some Galway Hooker at Hooked – yum) involved a wander through Salthill and 2 more charity shops.

As Good as New:

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Oh Dorothy Perkins, I was dreaming of charity shops full of your sassy floral prints, but this one Chanel-esque blazer is all I found:

IMG_5077Lovely, but not my colors/size.

Gorta:

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I almost got that hedgehog scarf but then didn’t – although it was quite endearing, I decided it was a little too cute for my personal style. This brought my total thrift purchases in Ireland to a grand total of: 0.  Shock!

The Spouse, however, had forgotten his hat and figured a secondhand shop would be the perfect place to pick one up:

IMG_5096See how it sort of ties together at the top?  Subtle yet unique (or at least that’s what I told him!). The Gourmet Tart Co. was lunch on our first full day in Galway.

Also in Salthill we perused a secondhand bookstore where I scored my dad some books about Irish railroads:IMG_5080

And where I failed to convince my spouse to buy either the Public Enemy or the Peter Gabriel LPs, both just €10, because he was afraid they would crack in our carry-ons on the way back home.  :(IMG_5081

All this secondhand goodness in a charming neighborhood right next to the sea and happily dotted with pubs and traditional music:

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Later in the afternoon we wandered into a mall built around a medieval wall:

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Complete with tower for sale:

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And concealing a lovely little consignment shop where I wish I’d had room in my suitcase (and wallet – it was €50) for this felted wool number:

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Lovely floral dresses:IMG_5147

Our second full day in Galway was Ash Wednesday, and as I had decided to give up clothes shopping for Lent, I determined to avert my gaze from all further charity shops encountered on our trip.  I was almost successful; still hunting for a present for my sister, I did stop into one next to the Aldi where we went grocery shopping on our last morning in Galway.  (Aldi in Ireland is magically twice the size and has 4 times the wine section of Aldi at home.)  No luck for a funky little present, though, and I managed not to even look at the clothes.  High fives.

Why did I give up thrift shopping? (For clothes for me, at any rate – clothes for my kiddo or husband or friends and books/homewares are still fair game.)  I realized I had been too often thinking of my free time in terms of how I might fit in a run to the thrift store – as opposed to a run through my neighborhood or a run after my kid as the “tickle monster.”  Like a goldfish (or maybe an invasive plant?) my highly enjoyable habit had slowly grown to take over as much time as I allotted it – and sometimes more.  During Lent I want more time for spiritual habits like prayer, contemplation, reading theological and ministry-related books, and generally doing things that ground me (e.g. spending time with my family).  I knew thrifting would cut into all of that.

I also realized that although I’m rather satisfied with my current cool weather wardrobe and have MORE than enough for spring/summer, I’ve kept shopping. And more often than not, I kept finding something I just “couldn’t” leave on the rack.  If I’m shopping with a friend or my spouse, trying to help them find the perfect secondhand find, I can be totally disinterested in clothes for me.  But if I’m just popping in by myself to check things out, I have a harder time saying no to something I really like – even if I know I already have a surfeit of clothes in my sartorial stash.

Frequent shopping is part of successful thrifting – if you don’t look often, you won’t find the gems.  But my wardrobe, and my inner life, can go 6 weeks without more clothes to clog them up.

No worries for all you readers, though – I have plenty of post ideas and plan to spend more time writing about how I’ve styled what I already have, something you all have asked for.  Also check back in the next few weeks for posts about outfits I wore in Ireland out of my carry-on suitcase; packing tips; Irish street style snaps; and, if you’d be interested, a post on our favorite (non-thrifting) things we did on our trip.

Sláinte, and for those who observe it, have a meaningful Lent!

 

Happy International Women’s Day – Supporting a Women-Owned Clothing Business

Hey all – Happy International Women’s Day!

If you’re like me and haven’t been active enough on (American) social media to realize there was a whole “wear red, strike” movement going on, I’d like to encourage you to do something else awesome today – support a woman-owned business by making a Kiva loan.

Kiva is a non-pofit that takes loans as small as $25 from regular people like you and me and uses them to create microloans that fund entrepreneurs all over the world – often women entrepreneurs.  Today they’re doubling the impact of your microloan so it’s a great day to give!  If you can spare $25 (or more) for the length of the loan, it’ll be returned to you and you can then reinvest it to another entrepreneur or put it back in your wallet.  You can browse hundreds of women-owned business’ profiles to decide which you’d like to support.

I’m funding Hawa, a 32-year-old woman who represents the Abahuje Cb Group, a Rwandan small business collective whose members sell secondhand clothing.  Can’t think of a better match for this blog!

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Source: first link below

Click here if you’d like to join me in funding Hawa and her group, or click here if you’d like to browse other entrepreneurs’ profiles.

However you choose to celebrate/protest/invest/support today, cheers!  The future, as they say, is female.

 

How to Wear Culottes in Real Life

Today, a look at how to wear culottes, the newest in pant leg silhouettes. I was not sold on this trend (for me, or anyone) until I saw the following two women work it. One is a more wintry look while the other shouts summer; what do they have in common?

A defined waist.

Sure, you can wear culottes with something baggy or oversize, but to me the look becomes very “fashion” or off-duty model – architectural and statement-making rather than style I want to live in. In my opinion a closer cut on top balances the bloom of the pant legs below.

Here is Lee of Style Bee rocking a striking silhouette and an even more striking color palette, with boots for cooler weather:

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Her blog features several more ways to style these kind of pants – one of her wardrobe staples – as well as a review on the Everlane (read: responsibly made) version of these pants, pictured below. This top has a little more give but still highlights the waist:

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Even this blousier top is tucked in, keeping the waist the focal point of the outfit:

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Thanks to Lee I had this silhouette kicking around my brain as a style possibility, but still one pulled off by a style blogger who is supposed to have an edgier look than the rest of us.

And then I saw a random woman wearing culottes in a bookstore. She was working in a nearby office, proving real people wear these to real jobs; and I’d guess she was in her 50s or 60s, proving that this trend is not just for the young folk.

I’m still not sold on this trend for me, but if I *were* going to hop on the bandwagon, I would do it exactly the way she did – a little sailor chic, a little Audrey Hepburn:

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I have that shirt, that red pant in a different cut, and those shoes. Bam.

PS check out the buttons on that fly!
PPS sorry I cut off the bottom of the pants in the second photo. :/ Unbeknownst to me, my finger was in the way as I tried to surreptitiously capture her fabulous style.

 

What do you think of the culotte look? Are you convinced by these takes on it the way I was?

 

My Secret for the Perfect Blazer & a Blue Blazer Cage Match

I admit it, that title is a bit dramatic.  But since I’ve already used “A Tale of Two Blazers,” I went with it.  Also, it’s not really a cage match as I right now I plan to keep both of my new finds (below)… but depending on which I reach for more, one may eventually win a permanent place in my closet.

First, though, let’s start with my revelation vis-a-vis the perfect blazer. After many false starts and fitting-room frowns, I realized that I like lapels that are long and narrow, not wide and curvy:

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Love the tweed, though!

In general I prefer a silhouette without a lot of curve.  My blouses tend to be a little loose, not fitted, so they can fall in a straight-ish line from my shoulders to hips.  I don’t do form-fitting on the bottom, either – my go-to pant is slim, not skinny. Even my sheath dresses, which do follow the form of my body, don’t do much curving – because I ain’t got a lotta curves.

And I already knew I didn’t like jackets with too much of an hourglass shape.  So I don’t know why it took me so long to figure out that a key part of my loving a blazer is having lapels that elongate my look instead of adding width/curve.  This “aha” moment made it that much easier to flip through a rack of blazers and sift out good candidates.

I got a chance to put this epiphany into action last week while thrifting for a special occasion dress. You may recall that I was not happy with my navy wool blazer of yore because it picked up every fuzzy lint ball and stray cat hair and when I washed it (THAT was dumb) it didn’t reform back to the silhouette I liked.

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So I was on the lookout for a replacement blue blazer – and found two.

The first was this navy number by Charlotte Russe:

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Please ignore horrid yellow lighting.

The inverted lapels are unexpected and create that long line I love.  The decorative buttons are a great detail and in a nice neutral palette, and the permanently scrunched sleeves at my favorite length mean I can look chic without having to shove them up my arms all the time.

Since Charlotte Russe is super fast fashion, I am skeptical about how this will hold up.  Surprisingly, though, it is much less rumpled than most of the unlined jackets I find in thrift stores, even from significantly higher pricepoints.   I actually like the fact that it’s unlined as it makes a nice finishing layer without adding a ton of bulk/warmth, since I tend to wear blazers in spring/fall when a fully lined wool jacket in Atlanta = sweat.

 

The next day I found this medium blue baby by H&M:

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I LOVE the color – it’s hard to find blue blazers that aren’t navy (and often a severe shade of it).  I also love the ponte fabric and the satin-y finish on the top line of the pockets.  I’m a little iffy on the pointiness of the lapel notch and the topstitch detail, but the long/lean line is in effect and that’s what I value most.  The fit also runs nicely along my torso.

I was *not* in love with the large silver buttons (I don’t wear silver jewelry and the tops ones hit right at bust level), so I removed them.  You can see where they were stitched on; it’s not as obvious when I’m wearing it and the ponte may bounce back over time.  I’m definitely going to sew a button back on to the only non-decorative spot in the middle; if the other spots are still noticeable in a week or two I’ll find some gold/bronze buttons and resew them as well.

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Obviously H&M is also fast fashion.  I’ve noticed that as far as blazers go, people tend to hold onto well made ones and not donate them ’til they’ve gone out of style (which is why you lots of blazers from the 80s and 90s at the thrift store).  Most often cuts and styles that feel more current are of the fast fashion variety because it’s a lot easier to donate something that cost you $30 vs. $200.  There are occasional exceptions but I’m not holding my breath to find them.  I’ll keep you updated on how these two hold up.

 

What do you think of my finds and my impromptu blazer surgery?  What’s most important to you in a blazer or a jacket? Scroll down to comment!

 

A Structured Dress Coat; or, in Which I Take a Page from the Duchess of Cambridge

Catherine is a big fan of the coat dress, or the dress coat (sometimes it’s not clear which is which):

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Source, sourcesource.

I had never entertained the thought of wearing such a garment myself until a super-soft, structured number by Tahari by Arthur S. Levine jumped off the coat rack section and into my hands all by itself.  I loved its sleek, tailored lines and the drama of the collar:

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Check out the contrast stitching and those chic pockets:
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My first thought was “this is a great piece and it would look great on someone else who wears coat dress/dress coats.”

My second thought was, “Why can’t *I* be that person?”

So into the dressing room it went!  A la the Duchess of Cambridge, I think it works well over dresses, either open or closed:

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This will be great for scarves, I can see it now.

It makes a more dressed up, grown up alternative to a long cardigan, and nips in just a touch at the waist:

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Here it is with a fun plaid scarf I picked up:

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I’ve learned from experience (and other bloggers) that adding an outside-your-comfort-zone piece to your wardrobe is best done when it’s paired with other favorites and it’s inside your comfort zone in some other way – e.g. the color matches your palette, it’s a familiar cut, etc.  So it helped that this dress coat was a gentle shade of navy (color palette – check) and that it looked great with the dressy corduroys and neutral top I was wearing (plays well with wardrobe staples – check).  It made it easy to focus on the fresh vibe this new silhouette added to by repertoire instead of trying to imagine whether it would work.

Here it is on its first official engagement (yes, on yet another thrifting expedition):

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Sleek, no?  Chic, feminine, Dr. Who-esque, yes?  

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Metallic top: Pull & Bear, thrifted
Dress coat: Tahari by Arthur S. Levine, thrifted
Cream corduroys: Lauren by Ralph Lauren, thrifted & tailored

Socks: Target, retail
Shoes: hand-me-downs from my mother-in-law, repainted
Necklace: DIY from Goodwill finds

I rate this outside-my-style-comfort-zone experiment a success.  What do you think?  When have you gone outside your style comfort zone and had it work?  When not?  Scroll down to share!

 

What I’m Packing to Ireland – in a Carry On

As you read this I will be heading out to Ireland to co-officiate my college BFF’s wedding.  It’s also the first time the spouse and I have ever taken a vacation together that does not involve family or friends.  Whoopie!

We’ll travel light to expedite connecting flights and hauling our stuff around the country. So what’s in my carry on?

Specs
First up, let’s do the numbers.  We’ll be gone for 8 days; right now the forecast is calling for rain (not a surprise, but blech) and highs in the high 40s/low 50s, so I’m looking at warm layers and rain-resistant outerwear.  3 out of 4 of the accommodations we’ll stay in are Air BnBs with laundry facilities so I plan to wash things halfway through.  Our activities will hopefully include a day hike (weather allowing), a few morning runs, lots of walking, and a wedding.  Most things will be pretty versatile except that wedding outfit – which I might be able to turn into a nice dinner outfit, but we’ll see.

 

In the bag
As usual, everything is thrifted unless noted otherwise.

Pants:

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Jeans: Banana Republic; corduroy: Lauren by Ralph Lauren

 

Tops:

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Gap; J. Crew; Loft; French Connection

 

Layers/outerwear:

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J. Crew; Kelty (gift from my spouse lo these many years ago – image source); navy polka dot vest from Savile Row Co.; no label gloves/hat; buffalo check scarf no label (image source).

 

Running/hiking/sleeping/keeping my legs warm under my pants:

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x2 leggings by American Apparel (responsibly made) – one in black, one in navy; gifts; source. Silk running shirt by Winter Silks; bamboo tech shirt by Tasc Performance.

 

Shoes

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Puma for walking; Champion for running/hiking – retail; source.

 

Wedding outfit

The wedding colors are navy and grey, so I’m going with a floor-length navy velvet dress you may remember as a runner-up for another wedding outfit. I kept it around thinking it would be great for another formal event, and voilà, it is.

Enjoy this outfit pic in which I a) pose ridiculously b) have much shorter hair than now and c) appear to have only one foot:

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Wrap from my mama:

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Shoes by Talbots:

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All this plus underwear, socks, bras, and toiletries packed into my suitcase:

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Those little Konmari bundles are deceiving – they’ll squish a lot more, making enough room for a few thrift finds and some gifts for those keeping the home fires burning. (Thanks family!)

 

I’ll report back in two weeks with any last minute changes, outfit pics, and what I wore/what stayed in the suitcase/what I wish I’d brought instead.  Wish me luck!