What I Packed for Ireland

This feels fragile, since I’m typing before I’ve actually left the Continental 48.

With my passport arriving in the nick of time, I’m hoping that I’ll be in Dublin, Ireland, as you read this.

For this trip, I took a cue from Hitha On the Go and packed a duffel for my European trip.

Why a duffel?

A 54-minute layover at La Guardia cemented the deal to carry on, only.

What I brought, more or less:

  • This Kate Spade Saturday Weekender bag, which appears to no longer be available since the Saturday brand closed shop.

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  • Three pairs of shoes: Converse shoes for the plane and walking around, Tory Burch flats for anything slightly dressy, and running shoes.

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  • Running gear, since we’re going for a race. This is all tucked into the bottom of the bag, which has a zippered compartment.

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  • Two sweaters (one from Athleta and the other from an early Stitch Fix)

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  • A thin black Splendid sweater

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  • Two pairs of jeans (skinny, boyfriend) and a pair of printed pants from Athleta (not shown, which is a shame because they are very cute and on sale right now)

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  • Two scarves

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  • Compression socks to keep my legs fresh on the plane

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  • PJs, underwear, socks (not showing, sorry!)
  • Toiletries (here’s where I used up a lot of the samples I’ve hoarded, including a lot of single-use foil packets. This is also a great compact travel razor)

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Here’s how I’m putting the outfits together:

1. Layered outfit to travel to Ireland (jeans, a white tank, a Sundry tee, Athleta sweater, scarf, Converse shoes, necklace):

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2. Saturday for packet pickup and walking around (boyfriend jeans, blue tank, plaid shirt, Converse shoes):

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3. Saturday dinner (black tank, black sweater, printed pants, flats, fancy earrings, printed scarf, nylon crossbody bag)

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4. Sunday #1 – Race outfit (see above)

5. Sunday #2 – Pub dinner (jeans, blue tank, white sweater, flats, scarf, earrings)

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6. Monday sightseeing – Recycled outfit from Saturday night’s dinner

7. Tuesday traveling home (jeans, striped tee, Athleta sweater, Converse shoes)

Here’s a shot of almost everything that went in the duffel, minus the running stuff which was already in the bottom compartment:

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It all fit neatly into the bag with some room to spare.

I was aspiring to wear everything twice, and I might not quite get there with a couple of the pieces, but I can live with that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nick of Time

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Thank you, U.S. Department of State!

At the 11th hour, my new passport arrived.

I can’t even begin to relate the amount of relief associated with this turn of fortune.

Spouse reminded me that the State Department has a history of coming through in the clutch: a decade ago, he received a hand-delivered visa to India three hours prior to his flight departing to Delhi.

I also didn’t yet share another weird twist to this story: in my panic to get my passport, I made an emergency appointment for Friday morning at the closest U.S. Passport Agency, which is about 100 miles from our house.

When I spoke to an agent at the National Passport Information Center, he suggested making the appointment as a back-up.

So I did.

Rumor has it that the agency *can* give you an immediate passport, if circumstances dictate this course of action.

But there’s no guarantee that they will.

When you make the appointment, there’s an automated phone tree that helps you select the time and date.

They also give a list of items to bring with you.

One of them is – no surprise – a passport photo.

When I had my passport Glamour Shots recently taken at Walgreen’s, I received two identical (lousy) passport photos.

But I only needed one to send in with my application.

I knew I had the other one, but I misplaced it.

Immediately.

I went to bed on Tuesday and woke up mid-way through the night with the thought that I needed to find that second photo, just in case.

Here’s the crazy part, and I do not have a rational explanation: when I woke up Wednesday morning, the extra passport photo was sitting on our counter, smack-dab in the middle of our kitchen island.

For the record: I don’t sleepwalk.

Why was it there?

I simply cannot explain this. The most likely explanation is that one of the kids was digging through junk drawers in our kitchen and found it.

Except: I went to bed later than they did, and I don’t recall seeing the photo on the counter.

Spouse suggested that our cleaners may have found the photo on the floor and placed it on the counter.

Except: We were all home all night, after the cleaners were there in the day, and no one saw that photo.

In the end, I didn’t need Photo #2 after all, but still. How weird is that?

One more thing: the State Department’s Passport Application website completely crumped yesterday, and instead of a status update, all you could see was this:

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I am so grateful to have a valid U.S. Passport in my possession.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Razor’s Edge

For the past few weeks, I’ve been living a quiet drama that seems to be peaking as I type.

Tomorrow, I’m scheduled to fly to Ireland for the Rock’n’Roll Dublin half-marathon, a trip I’ve been planning with my friends J. and B. since last year.

I say “scheduled” because as of this minute, 4:29 A.M. on July 30th, I don’t have a passport.

I blame myself.

While I’d heard rumors of how your passport can secretly be invalid before the expiration date (how’s that for confusing?), I didn’t pay attention to them.

And then I went to a cocktail party with friends on July 10th and heard horror stories about the little-known Six Month Rule, which basically means that you can be denied entry into another country if your passport is expiring within six months of travel.

To be clear: expiring, not expired.

Argh.

Here’s an excerpt from the U.S. Department of State’s Travel.gov site:

Many international travelers may not realize that having an unexpired passport is sometimes not enough to enter certain foreign countries. U.S. citizens traveling on passports that expire in fewer than six months have increasingly been denied airline boarding or been detained upon arrival in certain foreign destinations, including popular European travel destinations in the Schengen area. This is not a new requirement, but it is only recently that the requirement has been more strictly enforced.

In case you’re wondering, the Schengen area is basically most of Europe.

Ironically, Ireland is NOT one of the Schengen countries, but that’s too late now for what’s unfolding.

After the party, I scrambled and got together all of my necessary pieces for the passport renewal, including a pretty sub-par photo taken at Walgreen’s. The associate pulled down a screen next to the employee bathroom and snapped away.

Let’s just say it was not the glamour shot that I envisioned representing me for the next decade.

I paid the expedited fees, sent it all off via overnight mail, and it arrived at the passport agency on July 14th.

Here’s where it gets dicey: the U.S. Passport Information Center says that it has a service commitment to process an expedited passport application within 8 business days, and door-to-door service within 3 weeks.

To do the math, I had 17 days.

There’s a website where you can check the status of your application, which I neurotically refreshed multiple times a day.

When the application still said it was processing on the 9th business day – and I was a week out from travel – I called the customer service line.

While the agent wasn’t impolite, there wasn’t much she could do beyond saying that she would forward a message regarding my travel date.

Monday arrived. Four days to go. The website said the passport was still in processing.

I called again.

Different agent this time. Nice guy. I asked him if there was any secret information he had that I didn’t. He laughed. He didn’t.

Tuesday. Nothing.

Quiet panic set in.

Wednesday morning. Victory! The passport website said that my passport had finished and had been mailed.

I was so happy that I took a screen shot of the message and texted it to my friends J. and B.

High five texts all around.

And then … I re-checked the passport website to get the number to call and get my overnight mail tracking number, so I could shift my checking neurosis to the US Postal Service.

The passport website now said that my application was “in the final steps of processing” and would be mailed on or about August 1st.

Come again?

Another call. Agent #3. She can’t update me on the status but was able to give me a USPS tracking number – which didn’t appear to exist when I typed it into the tracking website.

On Wednesday night, I came home from work in absolute despair.

I decided to check the USPS tracking website one more time.

And this time, it said that my passport was in Little Rock, AK, at the USPS Processing Facility.

After arriving in Little Rock at 5:52 PM, it left there at 8:55 PM.

Right now, it’s somewhere, but I’m not sure exactly where that somewhere is.

And I am absolutely praying that it makes it to Fancy Pants Ranch today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Difference Five Minutes Makes

So, a strange thing happened this weekend.

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Saturday was a beautiful day and we decided to take our boat out for a family day on the river.

After a few false starts, we finally hit the water in the early afternoon.

We tooled around for a bit and then decided to take our picnic lunch (rightfully “dinch” – a combination of dinner and lunch that is a favorite meal of Trixie’s) to a small island with a sandy beach.

Although the waterway is dotted with spots like this, picking the right one wasn’t easy, particularly since Everyone and his/her Proverbial Brother had gotten a jump on the day and was already out there.

We finally found a sliver of beach among some other boats and disembarked.

I was shaking out the picnic blanket and kicking some sand with my flip flop when I saw it: a diamond engagement ring glittering deep in the sand.

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Not this ring!

I reached down, picked it up and tucked it safely into our beach bag.

Honestly, I’m not sure what I thought I was going to do with it. 

This was obviously a treasure to someone, and while I didn’t know exactly know how to get it back to its rightful owner, it seemed better to rescue it than let it get ever buried in the sand.

We went about our afternoon, splashing in the water, eating sandy sandwiches, until finally we’d had enough sun and got ready to head home.

Trixie asked for one more spin in the inner tube (Spouse and I had been spinning her around and pushing her between us in the water, with plenty of capsizing thrown in), so we said that we’d stay for five more minutes.

When the time was up, we resumed packing.

Right then, another boat pulled up.

A couple about a decade younger got out and slowly started walking along the shoreline.

As they neared us, I had a funny feeling.

Me: “What are you looking for?”

Other Woman (choked up): “I lost my wedding ring.”

Me: “I found it.”

A chorus of thank yous, happy tears, and they were on their way.

Before they left I told them I was a big believer in karma, and I saw those fortuitous five extra minutes as a sign of good fate for us all around.

Like A Magpie: J. Crew Fall Jewelry

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This definition of a magpie in the Oxford English Dictionary made me laugh:

Used in similes or comparisons to refer to a person who collects things, especially things of little use or value, or a person who chatters idly.

Yep, sounds familiar.

On that note, J. Crew’s first fall catalog arrived in my mailbox yesterday and it contains some delightful sparkly gems that are a magnet for my magpie mind.

This crystal foliage necklace is #1 on my Just Want Now list:

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Look how great it is styled with a chambray shirt:

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Same stones, cocktail ring version:

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Two cuff bracelets (two images of the second one to show its wrap style):

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I can’t decide which bracelet I like better. Both have their charms.

Or, if you want to go in an entirely different direction, these simple and modern pieces also caught my fancy:

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Shout Out to Hitha On The Go

Deep, deep rabbit hole here: Hitha on the Go is probably my favorite new blog discovery of the year.

I stumbled upon this site – ostensibly designed for giving tips on packing fast and living better – and couldn’t come up for air.

I really dig the packing guides (this one on 10 days in Scandinavia is going to come in handy, pronto) and the generally awesome style.

I want to wear what she is wearing.

Hitha also introduced me to a new obsession: M.M. La Fleur, which is like an upscale Stitch Fix. [My own Bento Box is coming soon! Swoon].

And she re-invigorated my lust for the Lo & Sons Catalina weekender, which is currently on sale in some colors (but not the green one I am coveting).

Thank you, Hitha!

Buried Bauble

I regularly get emails from Bauble Bar, but I didn’t pay attention to this part until recently:

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Every Monday and Friday, Bauble Bar features a “Buried Bauble,” which is an item(s) reduced to $10 or $20.

The site makes it seem like a big treasure hunt, but it’s easy.

While I haven’t seen these offered as one of the mega deals, I’m hopeful they’ll be soon:

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Tassels are so in right now.