Friday, January 20, 2017

Planning a Capsule Travel Wardrobe

I have kicked into full blown planning mode this week. Our trip to South America looms. And I am researching climate details and sketching out lists of activities with an eye to planning my trip wardrobe. We haven't been on an adventure this extensive for years. Three and a half weeks in Argentina, and two and a half weeks in Peru. We'll be in big cities some of the time, tiny villages some of the time, and everything in between the rest of the time. We'll visit bustling Buenos Aires. See Manchu Pichu and Lake Tittikakka. Hike in Patagonia, surrounded by mountains and glaciers. And drive a scenic, narrow, and often unpaved section of the famous Ruta 40, in northern Salta Province. So I will need a flexible and... ah... diverse wardrobe. Ha. You think?

My pile of trip journals and little books of lists.
Checking out my lists from previous trips, and perusing old photos to see what I actually wore.
I've been checking out packing lists from previous trips. Like the one below from our trip to Costa Rica in 2013. As you can see, I was just as concerned about planning a first aid kit as I was about what to wear. We always carry a travel first aid kit, especially when we go camping, particularly canoe camping when we'll be in the bush far from... well... far from anything at all, actually. For our Costa Rica first aid kit, I used a great resource on the Government of Canada website.

 Planning lists for Costa Rica trip, 2013
Planning lists for Costa Rica 2013
Costa Rica was a super easy trip to plan and pack. Only two weeks. One week we spent mostly around the pool, or on a beach or a boat. And one week on the road travelling into the interior for some hiking in the cloud forest. So... swimming attire, tanks and tees, shorts, jeans, a few pieces that could double as nice-ish dinner outfits, and one hot weather hiking outfit. Most items were things I didn't mind getting sweaty or wet. What did I learn from packing for that trip? Always take my ski underwear, and a light fleece. We had one very cool night in a cabin in Santa Elena when I was happy to layer my long underwear under my sleeping attire and my fleece on top. 

enroute from Quepos Costa Rica to Monteverde
On the road between Quepos and Monteverde, Costa Rica 2013
Three weeks in Florida in 2014 and four in France in 2015 were also relatively easy as far as planning and packing went. Well, except for my initial bout of worry about what to wear in Paris. But for the most part, I wore what I would wear at home. Jeans, tees, jackets, sneakers and sandals. Most of the walking on both these trips was in cities or towns, so I left my hiking boots at home and packed two pairs of sneakers. One pair that looked cool and one that was more fitness oriented. And even though we experienced a day of cold rain and sleet in Paris, and some hot days in Provence, I could just layer up or peel off layers, and change my sneakers for sandals as warranted. 

packing lists for Florida 2014, and France 2015
Planning lists for Florida 2014, and France 2015
I checked out my France packing list against our trip pictures to see what I actually wore and what I didn't. Clearly my cropped jeans, striped long-sleeved tee, and my Stan Smith Adidas were what I reached for most often. This black Helmut Lang jacket was a great item. I wore it with jeans and sneakers walking around Paris, and out for dinner everywhere with white jeans and loafers. Similarly my red Columbia windbreaker came in very handy. I wore it every day in the north when we were touring WWI memorials, and also in sunny Provence when, even though it was warm, it was verrry windy. Next time, I'll leave my denim jacket at home. I wore it, but only because I had packed it and felt I should. It's bulky to pack and, although it provided an extra layer on cool days, a fleece would have been a more comfortable and more flexible option. Two things I learned about packing for this trip. What looks good, I'll wear... and vice versa. And always pack a scarf.

on the bridge near Notre Dame in Paris  on the beach at Saintes Maries-de-la-Mer, Provence
 Paris near Notre Dame, and the beach at Saintes Maries-de-la-Mer, Provence 2015

Many of the trips we take regularly almost seem to pack themselves. Like our semi-annual trip to L'Anse-Saint-Jean in Quebec, or our summer camping trips. I have a check list in my head and certain items I always reach for: cycling shorts, hiking boots, jeans, one decent outfit for a dinner out. Plus old shorts and a "bug shirt" for fishing and canoeing. There is a certain ease about packing for trips you've done before.

That's exactly what Rosie, who reads this blog, told me in an e-mail recently. That her "Swiss wardrobe" as she calls it, Switzerland is a frequent destination for her family, "has evolved into an easy capsule wardrobe without any intentional planning." She says she originally based the colour scheme around the colours in her favourite hat, and now most things she packs, "ski trousers, fleece, jacket, a few tees and cashmere sweaters," are black, grey, or a shade of mauve or plum. Throw in a "pair of skinny jeans, smarter black jeans, a couple of scarves and I'm sorted," she says. I asked Rosie to send me a shot of herself in her Swiss togs. Looking good Rosie. You are clearly having an awesome hair day in this shot.

mauve and white striped tee and plum cashmere sweater
Rosie in Switzerland in her mauve and white tee, and plum cashmere sweater.
Our South America trip, at six weeks, is going to be longer and more complex than the trips we've taken in recent years. More along the lines of our New Zealand-Australia trips in 2003 and 2008. Both of these adventures lasted three months. Well, the second trip was cut short because of the unexpected death of my step-father, but let's not go there now. And both trips took us from hiking in the mountains of New Zealand's south island, to sweating on the beaches of northern Australia. From activities like hiking around Uluru and King's Canyon in Australia's "red centre", to walking on Fox Glacier in New Zealand. From fishing to shopping to dining out. And that wide variety of activity, not to mention weather and temperature, required a lot of wardrobe planning for me. 

Leaning against a gorgeous gum tree in Numurakah,
 Numurakah, in Victoria, Australia 2003
I learned some good lessons from the 2003 trip. The first is that Hubby needs far fewer clothes than I originally thought. The second is to stop arguing with him over why he never wears half of his stuff. And to pack less for him, which of course, leaves more room for my stuff. Win, win. Another lesson I learned is to always bring a light toque and gloves. For our day-long trek of the Tongariro Crossing, below, I could have used real gloves and a hat that didn't fly off in the wind. It was bloody cold up there. Another lesson I learned is that if I don't love an outfit leave it at home. I bought light-weight trekking trousers specifically for the 2003 trip, a tan pair and a black pair. They were good for hiking, but I hated them. Which leads me to my last lesson: if I don't take fashion advice from Hubby at home, why oh why, would I take it from him when we travel? I bought the pants at his suggestion. And, as you can see in the shot above, spent most of the trip trying to cover them up with a jacket or sweater tied around my waist.

Tongariro Crossing, New Zealand,
Overlooking Emerald Lakes while doing the "Tongariro Crossing" in New Zealand 2003
Besides relying on my own packing experiences, I trawled the web looking for sites which feature packing advice for travellers to South America. This one is good for trekking, especially if you're camping, which we're not, phew, wipes brow with relief. This one has lots of information, and packing lists for all kinds of destinations, albeit geared to travellers a bit younger than moi. Okay, much younger. And this one, geared specifically for Argentina, is pretty useful too. Still, I find "packing lists" and "what to pack" advice interesting to read, but not that helpful when it comes time to pack my own bag. I never find one list that fits my exact needs. They usually apply to a shorter trip, with more dressy outfits than I need, and with much less diversity of activities. But, they're useful as a guideline. Especially if written by someone who's actually been on the trip. The biggest problem about these generic lists is that they don't conform to my closet. I need to be able to parlay what I already own into a decent trip wardrobe, with a few new pieces bought specifically for my destination. 

So, let's recap. South America trip wardrobe planning so far. I've done my research. I've taken note of the lessons I've learned over the years on previous trips. I've made a list of activities for which I will need outfits. And the possible temperatures and weather we will encounter. I've reminded myself of previous trips and what I wore, what I packed but didn't wear, and why. I've surveyed my closet, and drawers, and made a list of possible items I might take.

Next... comes the trying on, the keeping or casting aside, and the making of an "I still need" shopping list. Then I'll draw up my final list of items to pack and possible outfits. Oooooh... such fun. I do love to plan. 

I know it's anal. I can't help myself. 

By the way, I hope you didn't find the title of the post misleading. I'm beginning to have second thoughts about using the term "capsule wardrobe" for a trip like this... hot weather, cool weather, active wear, urban wear. Maybe two capsules would be more accurate? Cross-over capsules? Hmmm. I'll think about that. 

I also hope that you weren't expecting to see my final packing list here. That's a couple of weeks down the road yet. 

Down the road... get it? Ha. Travel pun. 

So how about you my friends? How do you go about planning a travel wardrobe?

P.S. I know I said that I don't find prescriptive packing lists helpful. But that doesn't mean I don't love to read blog posts about travel and packing. Like this one on Sue's blog and this one on Mater's. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Anyone Need a Good Role Model?

One sunny morning a couple of months ago, I was driving down the highway headed to the mall. To start my Christmas shopping, I think. And I listened to an interview, on CBC radio, with Chrystia Freeland, then Minister of International Trade in the Canadian government. She was explaining, clearly and in a way I could perfectly understand, the Canada-European Union Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) which had taken years to negotiate and which had finally and very recently been signed. And I thought, what a well spoken, impressive, confident young woman she seemed. Especially when the interviewer asked her about the possibility that the trade deal might only serve to enrich the already rich, the infamous 1% in our society... "Well, as you know that has long been an area of interest of mine," she said. "In fact I wrote a book on it," she chuckled. Not a brash or snide chuckle of bravado, more of a rueful chuckle, as if she were embarrassed that she'd been called upon to toot her own horn. And of course she knows perfectly well what she's talking about in this area. She's written two well respected books, the latest one called Plutocrats: Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else. My intention is not to go into the trade deal specifics here, or even to discuss politics. I just want to say that right then, at that moment, I kind of wished that I was fifteen again. Because, if I were fifteen again, then I could say that when I grow up I want to be just like Chrystia Freeland.

Chrystia Freeland at her swearing in as Foreign Affairs Minister at Rideau Hall
Freeland, left, at the swearing in ceremony last week at Rideau Hall. source
And so I smiled to myself again when I heard last week that Prime Minister Trudeau, in his recent cabinet shuffle, had moved Chrystia Freeland to a different portfolio: Minister of Foreign Affairs, effectively making her Canada's top diplomat. I'm pleased that this smart, savvy, Harvard and Oxford educated, former high-flying journalist, author, grandchild of Ukrainian immigrants will be in many contexts the face Canada presents to the world. What a fabulous role model she is for girls and young women in Canada. For young women anywhere, actually.

Because I think the world needs positive role models right now. In particular positive female role models. Leaders in our society who present to the world a smart, caring, compassionate face. Leaders whom we all can look up to, but most importantly leaders our young people can look up to, and hope to emulate. I mean that's the really important part, don't you think? And they're out there, folks. It's just that we haven't been focusing on them lately.

Take Jody Wilson-Raybould, for example. She's Canada's Minister of Justice and Attorney General. And she's aboriginal. A lawyer and former regional Chief of the British Columbia Assembly of First Nations. How's that for a positive role model for Canadian girls, and most especially for Canadian girls of First Nations heritage? Pretty darned cool, I'd say. 

And ironically, sitting beside Wilson-Raybould in the photo below is one of my own former role models. Kim Campbell. Oh, how I admired her back in the day. I remember when I first heard her on the radio when she was Minister of Justice back in the nineties, so cool and smart and measured in her responses to the interviewer. The first woman in parliament who I thought had it all goin' on. I still think that actually. So what if she became Prime Minister in 1993 only because she won the Progressive Conservative party leadership when the hugely unpopular Brian Mulroney resigned a few months before an election? So what if she was only Prime Minister for a few months? I remember that she was pilloried in the press during the election campaign. In particular, I recall one evening becoming incensed on her behalf when a reporter commented on the unflattering (according to him) white pants she was wearing at a rally. So what that she lost the election when the Liberals won a landslide victory? According to one source I've read, one of the reasons she lost was that her "frank honesty," in direct contrast to Mulroney's "highly polished style," got her into hot water. And the fact that she admitted to a reporter that it was unlikely that the deficit or unemployment would be much reduced "before the end of the century." No matter that that's exactly what happened. Mustn't be honest during an election campaign, Kim. Sigh. I still think she's fabulous.

Jody Wilson-Raybould and Kim Campbell at hearings held by the Committee on Justice and Human Rights
Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada with former Prime Minister Kim Campbell, herself a former Minister of Justice.
So maybe we should pause here to think about what makes someone a good role model. Certainly all these women are smart, very well educated, and highly successful in their careers even before they entered the political ring. And as far as Kim Campbell goes, successful when she exited the political fray. They all wield or have wielded considerable power. But it's how they wield this power and what they choose to do with it that matters most, I think. Being successful, or rich, or powerful alone doesn't make someone a good role model. In fact, I'm not even sure that I know what makes a good role model. I guess we all have our own definitions. For me it's always been someone who holds values and qualities to which I aspire. And who can wield power responsibly, sensibly, and with respect for others. As a young woman, I admired Kim Campbell's calm confidence and her obvious intelligence. And her ability to survive in a field dominated by men. And later I admired how she remade her life, and her career, after her crushing political defeat. 

I'm chuckling now. I can almost hear the internet trolls growling as I write this... what about when she did this, or said that, or spent this amount of taxpayers money on such and such? And I want to emulate Bugs Bunny, another one of my heroes, and say: "Ah, shaddup." Let's not split hairs. Stop talking partisan politics. And let's all agree that whether or not we like or dislike the political views of any of these women, we have to admit that they are impressive. 

But you know, you don't have to be powerful, rich, or even that successful... in the sense that these women have been successful... to be good role model.

Many years ago when I was a young teacher and was desperately trying to finagle a transfer from my job at an adult high school to what I really wanted to be doing which was teaching adolescents, I remember my principal encouraging me to keep trying. He said that I would be "a good role model for teenagers." I kind of laughed at that. Really, me? I know he probably meant that I was a lot younger than many of the high school teachers in our board at that time. Declining enrollment in our schools had slowed the hiring of young teachers to a trickle. I know he was thinking that I was lively, had a good sense of humour, loved sports, and reading, and such. But he didn't know what I knew, that I was anything but a good role model. 

I mean, hadn't I flailed about for years before I settled into teaching? Hadn't I tried numerous jobs, quit university, worked as a cosmetician, then returned to school to finish my degree, took a job I hated, then chucked it all and moved back home for a year, before I finally returned to Ottawa and settled down to the job I grew to love? Yes, I had. And who wants to emulate someone who has taken that convoluted pathway? 

Well, turns out it was all that flailing which helped me relate to kids in high school. Kids who were facing that huge question: What to do with their lives? Especially kids who were struggling with the answer. Turns out that opening up to kids, and to parents, about my own struggles was a good thing. As one friend who has sons who were flailing said to me, "Oh, Sue. I look at you and it always makes me feel better about the boys. If you turned out so well, maybe they will too." I never, never forgot that. I think that's one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me. Anyway, I guess my point here is that role models don't have to be perfect. Or have taken the direct route to success. Sometimes the scenic route can be more inspiring or comforting to kids who are plotting their own course.

I've digressed a bit from my earlier discussion about positive role models for young women. I guess the whole point of this post is that we all need to try to be positive role models for girls and young women. And not to underestimate the power of our ability to make a difference in someone's life. Whether we're parents, teachers, politicians, sales clerks, or snow plow drivers. 

I love the fact that the new snow plow operator who plows our road is a woman. Hubby says the "lady driver" is much better than the male drivers ever were. More considerate. We live at the end of a road, and after she turns the plow, as she passes by a second time, she makes a dip into our driveway to scoop out some of the pile she's just deposited there. Thus saving Hubby a heck of a lot of shoveling. Then Hubby gives her a cheery wave from the window, and she always waves back. So... considerate and friendly. 

Now, that's behaviour we all should emulate.

              Women giving women a boost.  Gif by Brooklyn illustrator Libby Vanderploeg

As I was writing this post, on one of my trips into the kitchen for a cup of tea, I asked Hubby who his role models had been when he was growing up. What an interesting discussion we had. About who each of us had admired and why. 

So now it's your turn. Want to weigh in on the power of positive role models? Who were your role models when you were growing up? 

Linking up with Thursday Favourite Things Blog Hop at Katherine's Corner, Fabulous Friday at Pocketful of Polkadots, and Saturday Share Link-up at Not Dressed As Lamb

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Of Underwear and Outerwear

 I've been shopping for underwear lately. No... not that kind of underwear. Sporty underwear. Base layers, bottoms and tops, to wear under pants and under a fleece. Light but warm layers suitable for skiing and cool weather hiking. And for travelling. I always bring ski underwear bottoms when we travel. No matter the season. Even when we're not hiking or skiing. They are perfect for wearing under jeans on a cool rainy day, and for lounging around overly air conditioned hotel rooms, even in summer. Even in France. But more on that later.

Since we are leaving for South America in four weeks and five days... but who's counting?... I've been making lists and stocking up on what I will need to pack. I bought hiking boots and a new light toque before Christmas.

Adrienne Vittadini sweater, scarf Norsdtrom, toque Bula, earrings from Magpie Jewellry
Wearing my new toque with this old Adrienne Vittadini sweater and my navy scarf
And this week, I shopped for ski underwear. Base layers, as they say. Warm light layers are winter staples for skiing here at home, and will hopefully be useful for hiking in Argentina. I specifically looked for silky, synthetic tops and bottoms. Easy to wash and dry when travelling. And easy to slide under a fleece or a pair of jeans or hiking pants. 

I found exactly what I was looking for at Bushtakah. I love that store. It's where I bought my hiking boots in December. Everything in the ski section was 30% off, and I was able to use the $20.00 coupon I received when I bought my hiking boots... so I saved big time. I went home with two "Hot Chillys" turtleneck tops and one pair of long underwear bottoms. All three are lovely and silky, without being clingy. And I promptly tucked them away for our trip.

But then I started thinking that maybe I needn't wait until the trip to wear them. Maybe I should test drive my new winter staples. Lovely, silky turtlenecks should not be languishing in a drawer in the middle of winter. 

raspberry fleece from MEC, black Hot Chillys base layer turtleneck from Bushtakah
My new black Hot Chillys turtleneck with a raspberry fleece hoodie from MEC
In keeping with a sporty-skiing theme, I pulled on my new black silky base layer, with this woolly fleece hoodie from Mountain Equipment Co-op. And I decided to see what would happen if I paired these sporty tops with a couple of my more dressy pieces. So I hauled on my black crepe Aritzia joggers. And added my Max Mara fuschia tweed coat. Who says a hoodie can't be worn with a dressy pant and coat? 

raspberry fleece from MEC, black Hot Chillys base layer turtleneck from Bushtakah, black joggers from Aritzia, black boots from Stuart Weitzman     raspberry fleece from MEC, black Hot Chillys base layer turtleneck from Bushtakah, black joggers from Aritzia, black boots from Stuart Weitzman, fuchsia tweed coat from Max Mara

What with the cuffed pants, and hiking socks, and lace-up boots... I look a bit vintage. As if I should be sipping an après-ski kirsch at Schruns, Austria in the 1920's. And chatting with Ernest Hemingway, and Hadley. Maybe I was channeling Sonja Henie from that old film "Sun Valley Serenade." Or simply inspired by the ensemble below. I found this 1936 sweater pattern in a box of old knitting and sewing patterns at my mum's last winter. I may attempt to knit one of the sweaters from this book one day. Just not this winter.

vintage knitting pattern for ski ensemble from 1936 pattern book by Monarch Yarns
Ski ensemble from Monarch Yarn pattern book 1936
Now back to base layers... I also bought a lovely fuchsia turtleneck when I was at Bushtakah. I like it here with my black Lulu Lemon zippered jacket, and my tweed coat. You know... normally I would wear black socks with these joggers and my Stuart Weitzman boots. Bu-ut... these grey hiking socks, peeking out like that, are beginning to grow on me. Still, the outfit definitely needs some sort of scarf. It's a bit boring, and maybe a teensy bit too matchy-matchy. I'll work on that. 

black zippered jacket from Lulu Lemon, pink Hot Chillys base layer turtleneck from Bushtakah, black joggers from Aritzia, black boots from Stuart Weitzman,       black zippered jacket from Lulu Lemon, pink Hot Chillys base layer turtleneck from Bushtakah, black joggers from Aritzia, black boots from Stuart Weitzman, fuchsia tweed coat from Max Mara

And speaking of working. Phew. I took a ton of pictures this morning for the post. Moved most of the furniture in the sun room around to find a place where I wasn't standing in stripes of sunlight. Then after I had uploaded all the shots to my computer realized that they were overexposed. Ever single one. So after lunch, when the light was better, I redid all the shots. But by this time Hubby was home from skating, and talking to me from the kitchen the whole time I was trying to pose. Then he was in and out of the room. "Go away, " I barked. He did. But then he came back right away because he needed to "consult" on dinner. Gad. So I ended up with one bunch of shots where I was relaxed and smiling, but the picture quality was poor. And one bunch where I had pinched lips and an exasperated expression, and looked like I really wanted to be somewhere else. Or maybe I just wanted someone else to be somewhere else. Ha. You think?

I included this overexposed shot to prove I haven't totally lost my sense of humour. And to show my snazzy new long underwear bottoms. They are so silky and smooth that my pant leg just sliiiides down over them. 

 raspberry fleece from MEC, black Hot Chillys base layer turtleneck and long underwear bottoms from Bushtakah, black joggers from Aritzia, black boots from Stuart Weitzman
See my snazzy, silky base layer bottoms?
I laughed when the sales clerk at Bushtakah said these bottoms were so pretty that I could wear them as leggings. Ha. I don't think so. But it did remind me of when Hubby and I were in France and I accidentally wore my ski underwear bottoms as ...ah ... outerwear. 

It was when we first arrived in Provence and were staying in a little cottage outside Avignon. We'd been on the go for pretty much two weeks straight and I was looking forward to a slow-down day. A late breakfast that we prepared ourselves. Maybe a walk later. A bit of grocery shopping and some time to plan the rest of our week. And so when Hubby mentioned, after breakfast, that we should check out the area he had scouted out on the map, where we might leave our car and walk into old Avignon, I said "sure." And I slipped on my sandals and sunglasses, and climbed into the car. Let me paint a picture for you at this point. An hour before this, I had rolled out of bed, washed my face, combed my hair, and pulled on a long tee shirt and my light ski-underwear bottoms that looked like verrry thin leggings. I had no intention of getting out of the car. 

But somehow it had become lost in translation that Hubby meant this to BE the day we walked into Avignon. While I meant this to be the day that we planned how we would be walking into Avignon. You know... on another day when I had make-up on and had done something (anything) with my hair. 

A day when I wasn't wearing underwear bottoms. 

Sigh. Wearing underwear as outerwear, especially with bad hair and no make-up, is not how I prefer to represent myself to the world. I won't say anymore except that I was very glad that my tee shirt was long and my sunglasses big.

So, my friends, how do you feel about underwear as outerwear? Any tales of mixing very casual pieces with somewhat more dressy ones? Or any tales at all? 

I just now realized that my post title is verrry similar to a post on Catherine Summer's blog Not Dressed As Lamb. Sorry, Catherine. You can check out Catherine's post here

You can find the Hot Chillys turtleneck base layer here and the underwear bottoms here.