How to pack for a trip

Ladies, we have all committed the sin of over-packing for a trip.  There is an easier way to be covered for all circumstances without it resulting in heavy luggage and excess laundry.  Here’s how:

  1. Take a realistic look at where you’re going and the type of trip you’re taking.  You will not pack the same clothes for a business trip as you would for a vacation although some clothing choices will overlap.  Do not pack for activities you can not guarantee you’ll be engaging in (I’m looking at you disco-ball-club-outfit on your job interview weekend).
  2. This is not the time to experiment or wear something new (especially shoes). Wearing what you have may seem boring but hey, no-one at your destination has seen you in it.
  3. Hopefully you have developed your signature style and you’ve built your wardrobe around a neutral color.  Your suitcase will be a mini-version of your wardrobe.
  4. Wardrobe staples (dark jeans, dress pants, crisp white blouses) and solid colors combined with unique accessories (scarves, bangles, necklaces) will allow you to mix-and-match to come up with new combinations.  Keep the shoes and belts simple and to a minimum.  If needed, try on outfits ahead of time and take photos so that you’ll know what to pack and how to combine it at your destination.
  5. Pick clothing that will perform double-duty, like that cute suit jacket that can be paired with jeans for warmth and class on a night out.
  6. Choose fabrics (silk, rayon, etc.) that will dry overnight if you have to wash them in the sink overnight.  Bring two plastic hangars with clips on them to hang on the shower rod.
  7. Lay out and match up your clothes before packing.  Roll your clothes (in tissue paper if you don’t have an environmental objection to it) and pack in cubes (preferably ones that hold their shape rather than being crushed in the suitcase).
  8. Pack in a sensible order, keeping outfits together, and putting what you’ll need first on top.  Unpack when you arrive and iron anything that needs to be ironed immediately.
  9. Always pack anything that can leak in a zippered plastic bag.  In fact, pack several clean, spare bags in your suitcase for anything from new perfume to wet swimsuits.  Check the hotel website to see what amenities they offer (shampoo, conditioner, lotion, hairdryer) so that you know what you don’t need to include in your packing.
  10. If you don’t want to dirty your cubes or the inside of your suitcase, bring plastic bags for packing your dirty laundry and your shoes in.

Do you have any tried-and-true tips for packing?  Please leave them in the comments.

Casual Friday and then some

Stroll into any public place and you will see an amazing number of poorly-dressed people.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for dressing comfortably (where appropriate) but lately we seem to have become a nation of slobs.

So before you think that those pajama bottoms and that stained “nice rack” tee are appropriate for meeting your friends for coffee, consider how you’re being portrayed to the people around you.  Is that what you want them to think of you?  What if one of them was a potential boyfriend/employer/client?

What reaction are you going for?  Sort through your clothing and start building yourself a wardrobe around the impression that you want to be projecting.  Then learn to take care of what you have so that you’re not making a clothing compromise at the last minute.

I’m not saying that you need to become a fashionista or that you should be overly concerned about what others think of you.  However, if you’re searching for career advancement or a significant other, how you present yourself will hold a lot of sway over the other party and you never know when that opportunity might be showing up.

Direct from my desk – week 51

The holiday season is upon us.  If you are like most women, you’ve already done your shopping and the presents are all ready to go.  Before you give that present to your boyfriend, think carefully if it is appropriate.

Consider, for a moment, where you are in your relationship with your significant other.  If you have not been dating for a long time, do not give him a “big” present.  While you may have planned carefully to give him something fabulous or possibly you can easily afford the present – that’s not the point.  If you give him something “too much, too soon”, you’re going to scare him into thinking that you’re at two different levels of commitment.  Yes, it is sad that you would have to hold yourself back but that’s not the point either.

So what is the point?  You need to give appropriate gifts.  If you’ve only been dating for two months, get him a few cds that he really loves and has been wanting.  If you’re exclusive, feel free to buy him something more personal.  If you’ve been married for a few years, then yes, those center-court floor seat tickets are exactly the right thing to get for him.  If you want to keep him, don’t overwhelm him.

Happy Holidays!

I’m nobody! Who are you?

It is not unusual to feel a bit lost once you’re out and on your own.  You’ve been part of a couple for so long that you’ve blended your likes with theirs and in some ways, subjugated parts of your personality for the sake of harmony.  Rather than mourning the loss of your couple status, use this as a time to discover and celebrate who you are.

Start by looking back at who you were.  Read your old diaries and flip through your old yearbooks.  Look at old love letters, stories you wrote, etc.  Reminisce with old friends and family about things you did before you became one half of “us”.  Some of it may be a little painful but you’ll be able to laugh at how far you’ve come.

Then figure out who you are now.  Go shopping but don’t buy anything yet, just try on clothes that you wouldn’t have dared before.  Go to the grocery store and check out stuff that you would have never put in your cart because it was something he didn’t like.  Wander into a different section of the bookstore or library and look through books and magazines that seem completely out of character.  Push at the boundaries of who you were to discover who you are now.

Simple holiday hospitality

Holiday season can be a perfect storm of work pressure, social commitments, and entertaining.  The trick to keeping your cool will be planning and preparation.

Perform a deep clean of your house immediately.  Rake your leaves, winterize your house and garden, clean everything from the ceiling fans to the floor boards.  Then create a cleaning schedule – one room per day will make cleaning a breeze.  Finally, keep everything picked up and put back in its place.  If you have unexpected company, your house will be ready.

Keep your pantry well-stocked – coffee, tea, sugar, crackers, cookies.  Your fridge should have milk, cream, cheeses, crudites and dip.  You won’t have to make any last minute trips to the grocery store to entertain friends.  If you make holiday cookies, make an extra batch and freeze the dough in portioned shapes.  You can bake a fresh batch of cookies without having to leave your guests cooling their heels.

Get a jump on buying presents.  Buy a generic gift or two and wrap them without a name.  If you need an unexpected present in a hurry, you have one ready to go.

Take your party clothes to the dry-cleaners or buy yourself a new outfit now.  Then keep them in the closet ready to go.  Shine your shoes, polish your jewelry, practice your hair and make-up.

Make a list of everything you need to do this holiday season and then assign each task a day.  Keep to your schedule and don’t allow things to pile up.  You’ll be done before you know it.

Being fair for the holidays

Ah, the weather is changing, the clocks are changing, and the holidays are rolling in.  Plan ahead so you’re not arguing.

  • Discuss the issues ahead of time so that you’re putting on a united front.  You don’t want one person making promises the both of you can’t keep.
  • Determine a holiday schedule.  Do you visit his family on even years and yours on odd years?  Do you opt for one major holiday with his family per year and one major holiday with your family per year?  Do you give up and merely arrange phone calls on the day?
  • Build time into the holiday season to be together as a family.  Create a new tradition of your own and re-charge your batteries.
  • Fix two budgets for presents.  One as an overall budget (i.e., we’re not going to spend over X number of dollars for presents this year) and one budget for individual presents (i.e., budget for moms’ presents is X dollars each, budget for niece/nephew presents is X dollars each).  This makes shopping very easy – does the present fit in the budget?  No? Pick another present.  Buy one or two generic presents in case you’re caught short.  Do NOT feel bad if someone gives you a present and you have nothing to give them but a sincere thank you.
  • Shop early to avoid panicked buying.
  • Make a budget for entertaining if you’re hosting a holiday party.  Do not feel compelled to keep up with the Joneses, your guests are coming to visit you, not your sofa or the Christmas goose.
  • Agree on an alcohol limit AND a designated driver before you leave the house.  You really do not want to be bickering in public over a glass of eggnog.
  • Understand that not all company holiday parties are parties – sometimes they’re cleverly disguised opportunities to meet and impress the higher-ups in the company.  Dress sharp, avoid alcohol entirely, act like you’re in church.

Your single biggest weapon against a man

You have a weapon in your arsenal than can bring a man to his knees, emasculate him, and make him wonder if it’s worth getting up in the morning.  Yes, it’s that strong and for that reason, you should use it sparingly and only in the most extreme of circumstances.

It isn’t your sharp tongue.  It isn’t your tears.  It’s four simple words:  I’m disappointed in you.

It is so simple to let slide through your lips and so difficult to take back.  These words are brutal.  They will drill a hole in his heart that can never be repaired.  No man ever wants to hear these words.  Use them wisely.

Proper use:

  • He cheated.
  • He hit you.
  • He went on a three-day alcoholic bender and didn’t come home.

Improper use:

  • He bought you the wrong present.
  • He forgot to pick up milk on the way home.
  • He forgot to put down the toilet seat.

Such a pretty face

When it comes to make-up, less is more particularly as we get older.  In my totally unscientific experience, men prefer a more natural look in most settings (read: daytime hours).  Keep the dramatic make-up to evenings out.  Having said that, unless you have flawless skin, rosy lips and dark lashes you’d be best to put on the minimum amount of make-up to achieve the aforementioned “perfection”.

While some of us are quite happy to shop the pharmacy aisles for our supplies, this method can be a hit-or-miss in terms of getting the right products for our skin (or worse, we stick to the same shades year-in and year-out making us look dated).

The cosmetics department at a major retailer can offer a better experience in terms of being able to try before you buy however the drawback is that the person selling you cosmetics is usually only versed in the product line she (he?) represents.

The best option (and surprisingly affordable when you consider the education) is a make-up artist who should not only know cosmetics inside and out, know how to correct flaws/enhance features and can teach you a variety of looks (think one for daytime and one for evening).  In the long run, the make-up artist can save you money and embarrassment.

And please do not forget to remove your make-up before going to bed – good skin is the foundation for good make-up.

Shiny, happy people – part 2

The skin on your face, neck and decolletage require special care.  This is definitely a place where you’re going to want to research and choose your products carefully.  If your grandmother hasn’t told you yet, your neck is going to tell your age long before your face will, so don’t skip out on taking care of your neck.  French women are known to spend a small fortune on cremes for their decolletage because this too will betray your age.

Educate yourself on the ingredients of your creams and don’t believe the pitch given to your by salespersons – remember, their job is to sell you products.  Some drugstore products can work very well however you don’t get to try the products before you buy.  At the department store, you can try the product before you buy however the person is educated in their employer’s product line.  Spas will also sell you products but you will get a more in-depth chance to try them on your body before buying.  You may wish to visit a cosmetic dermatologist to get products for your skin type but remember, they’re also getting a commission on what is sold.  Be aware and advocate for yourself.

Shiny, happy people – part 1

You may not be thinking about it but your skin says an awful lot about your health.  Men may not be thinking, “wow, I want a really healthy chick.” but their genes are pushing them in that direction.  Healthy = fertility, even if you’re not consciously aware of it.

For your body, start with a scrub.  You could go buy expensive bath products and if that makes you happy, by all means do so.  If you prefer to go the less expensive route, use salt or sugar in the shower after you’ve soaped up but always be gentle.  I wouldn’t do this more than once or twice a week depending on your skin.  Your goal is exfoliation, not scrubbing through your skin.

Use a body moisturizer according to your skin type.  This could be anything from absolutely nothing to slathering on the olive oil before you take a shower.  Be aware of how different ingredients affect your skin and eliminate products accordingly.  We’re going for dewy soft skin but don’t believe the hype on every product bottle.

Take care of any anomalies in your skin.  Eliminate blisters, callouses, warts, etc.  Go see a dermatologist if necessary.  Use sunscreen.  Nothing will age your skin as fast as the sun except for maybe hard living and cigarettes.  Drink water, eat healthy and exercise to get a good sweat.

Your skin is an advertisement and you want him to be begging to touch you.