Monday, December 9, 2019

So What DO You Pack for a Long Trip????

8 December 2019

We're getting ready to leave for a six to eight month trip with a variety of climates and temperatures, as well as a variety of activities.  We're headed to a continent that is currently experiencing summer, but we'll also spend some time visiting another continent where it is perpetually winter. 

Yes, we're headed to South America and Antarctica!!!

My standard wardrobe is 2 or 3 pairs of slacks, possibly a pair of shorts, a skirt, maybe 8 to 10 tops that work with all the bottoms, and a couple of dresses.  Add a lightweight jacket and a rain jacket, maybe one cardigan.  No more than 3 pair of shoes - usually 2 pair of Birkenstock sandals and one pair of leather sneakers for wet or cold weather.  A swimsuit or two, a sleep shirt, normal underwear and socks.  A sunhat, a scarf or 2 that can also work as shawls.  That's it.  More than enough for most long-term travels.  I've travelled with more, but got tired of dragging all of my things in a large rolling bag.  So I streamlined what I need to pack into about 20 to 24 items (not including shoes, jackets, swim and sleep wear.)

But with Antarctica, I'll need some extra warm items.  With the cruise, I'll need to dress up a few times.  I'll still need summer clothing, but maybe some warmer items for autumn in the southern hemisphere.

What I've found works best for me is start with the clothes for the hottest part of the trip - so a pair of shorts, a skirt, cotton slacks that can roll up to capris, cropped cotton knit slacks.  Sleeveless or short sleeved tops in cotton, linen, or rayon.  A cotton sundress, and a rayon jumper.  Then add in that cardigan and maybe a pullover top for autumn or cooler climates.  A lightweight jacket and a rain jacket as well.  (I'm vacillating between the cranberry or the olive green water resistant utility jacket.  The green is lighter so packs smaller, and is more casual, so probably that one.)

And then I add a few items to turn those summer clothes into winter clothes - a cashmere sweater, lightweight but so cozy and warm.  "Base layer" tights and shirt (what we used to call long underwear) to wear under the slacks, and a longer and heavier knit pair of slacks.  A long sleeved shirt.  A packable down jacket, a few knit caps or berets, and fleece lined mittens.  Fleece lined socks, which I discovered last year.
And that really is my entire wardrobe.  For those 6 to 8 months of travel, from Buenos Aires to Antarctica to who knows where else.  

There are other tricks.  Notice how my basic pieces are black?  I look good in black, and black usually looks more formal.  It may seem redundant to have 3 pair of black slacks, but they are all different fabrics and different styles - and because they are black, every single top works with every single pair of slacks, as well as with the black skirt and black shorts.

The black jumper is a chameleon.  Really.  Over a colorful tank or tee, it looks casual and fun.  Over a black tank or tee or long sleeved top, it suddenly transforms to a basic black dress.  And those same black tops with the black skirt?  Another style black dress.  But all those separates work with other pieces, so I get twice as many outfits.  Add a shawl or scarf, and it changes the whole look.

I have a lot of high-low tops, or cropped tops, because they look better on my shape (which doesn't have much of a waist).  Those cropped tops also work OVER that black jumper, so it suddenly looks like a skirt.
Another chameleon is that black and almost grey striped sweater.  This is by Eileen Fisher, and was designed to be worn either as a cardigan, or with the buttons on the back so the front looks like a pullover.  Turns out it also works inside out, so it's almost a marled grey shadow stripe.  One sweater, worn 4 ways.  And very warm, despite being a cotton/linen blend.

I personally need a few pair of mittens and a few hats - I tend to lose a mitten here and there, or a hat.  (Why do they not make mittens for adults with that connecting string, the way they do for children?  That was so helpful when I was a kid!  I need that!!!)

This year, I'm packing 4 pair of shoes - Birk sandals, dressy black sandals that actually are Teva hiking sandals, white leather sneakers, and my little black hiking Maryjane shoes that are basically rubber and neoprene.  The sneakers are the only pair that take up much space, and with the changes in climate I thought I should have 2 closed shoes and 2 sandals.  (I learned to always have 2 pr of slacks and 2 pr of shoes - I fell in a lake on a trip once, and spent the entire weekend in wet clothing.)

This totals 26 items of clothing - I probably could pare it down even more.  For example, I'm looking at a lightweight black jacket that might take the place of the cardi and the navy linen jacket, so then I'd be down to 25 items.  But it all fits in my 22" rolling duffel.  In fact, the clothes fit in half the bag - yay for packing cubes!

Oh, and the first photo?  I managed to find fleece-lined socks with penguins around the top!!!  I'm hoping the socks help call more penguins into view!

Similar luggage - the light blue small duffel finally wore out, so I got the same thing in a darker blue.

Yes, I sketched the clothing.  Easier than taking photos of each item, cropping, lifting the background, adding each item to a larger file or photo.  Just a quick sketch, and aquarelle pencil with a quick swish of a wet paintbrush.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Bagels, Deer, Quilts, and Color

5 November 2019

Life in Bellingham continues.  Sometimes fun, sometimes just a series of medical stuff.  What can I say, we're trying to age gracefully but it takes some effort, LOL!

We have a deer family living near our hotel on the northern outskirts of Bellingham.  We've seen this doe and her two fawns over the summer, and now in autumn the babies are almost the size of mom.  Our neighborhood has development on one side, and forest on the other, with random meadows and pastures inbetween.  The deer like the pastures or meadows, as well as the large lawn directly in back of our hotel.  Mama deer kept an eye on me as her children grazed, but she seemed okay with a few photographs.

I've had to stop for the occasional deer who chooses to cross the street.  Everyone around here stops to allow the deer across, with no horns honking, everyone waiting patiently.

One morning, I even saw a young stag, with medium sized antlers, trotting down the grassy verge between the street and sidewalk.  Really, he was stepping along, ignoring traffic as we all stopped to watch him.  A grandmother and child stopped as well, and he just walked past them and turned into someone's yard to munch flowers or fallen fruit.  I was too amazed to take my camera out - this young stag was so unexpected, and so beautiful, I could only sit and watch!

It was a rather cool summer - so when temperatures warmed up in early autumn, flowers started to bloom.  Whole azalea and rhododendron bushes flowered, some roses blossomed, and in general it just makes a pretty town more colorful. 

And then, suddenly, cold.  Bellingham is 48.75 degrees north, so things cool off rapidly in autumn.  Occasional blasts of Arctic air swoop down unexpectedly.  We seem to have had a sudden frost because the trees all at once went from lush green to varying shades of yellow, gold, amber, orange, red, and even maroon.  The scenery really has turned into a deep green and fiery landscape, with fog shrouded hills and mountains fading into the distance.  Just a gorgeous season!

This has been a really good year for leaf color, partly due to those polar waves.  The other reason is that many businesses have started landscaping with deciduous trees and bushes that are known for their autumn leaves.  Oak, maple, and beech trees abound, as well as what I think might be called a burning bush - a roundish shrub with leaves that turn a brilliant red each fall.

I've had fun walking around on some of our windy days, looking at the leaves and the patterns they make against the sky, or fallen leaves on pavement making borders in parking lots and lawns.  The bright leaves contrast well with sunny blue skies, or look mysterious against stormy grey clouds.  It has been a really wonderful autumn for color!

In keeping with seasonal color, I drove down to Everett, roughly 60 miles south of Bellingham (or 100 km) to meet up with some Seattle friends.  We spent the day at the annual quilt show - not a traditional quilt show, but part of the International Quilt and Fiber Arts Festival.  This exhibit showed quilts from quilt artists around the world, and some of the pieces were phenomenal.  I took photos of a few, to share here.  And keep in mind, these really are QUILTS.  All fabric, some hand-painted or hand-dyed, but some cut from fabric to make the image.  Appliquéd, pieces, embroidered, embellished - and then the quilt top, batting (filling), and a backing are quilted together.  Really, some of the pieces look like intricately woven rugs.  Or high contrast photographs.  It always is inspiring to see what people are doing with quilts these days.  (And these definitely are not our grandmother's quilts!)

So, the quilts (usually I include a photo of the entire quilt, and then a detail photo or two). 

This first quilt is titled "Islamic Art" and is by Faiza Elmayergi from White Rock, British Columbia, Canada.  The quilt is appliqué, and is 59 x 59 inches.  Her artist's statement says:  "When I was travelling in the Middle East and North Africa I was fascinated by the Islamic designs everywhere from buildings, mosques, furniture and even pottery - which inspired me to try that design on a quilt, and here it is!  It turned out to my satisfaction."

Not only are all those colorful pieces individually cut out, edges folded under, and then they are sewed onto the blue background, the solid blue sections have designs quilted to add more depth and interest!!!  SO amazing!!!

"Red Poppy" is by Susan Nylander (and a quilting group), of Sequim, Washington, USA.  This is a pictorial quilt, 43 x 57 inches.  The statement says: "Piece entered by Sun Bonnet Sue Quilt Club.  A photo of an Oriental poppy was enlarged and divided into nine sections, which were given to artists to interpret without knowledge of the whole image or the work of each other."

This is a common art exercise, and quilting groups often will do this to create a larger quilt.  The results are somehow always greater and more interesting than if just one person made the entire quilt! 

"Dance Break Oaxaca" by Linda Anderson, La Mesa, California, USA.  This pictorial quilt is 61 x 64 inches.  "This young girl, at a Christmas festival in Oaxaca, is beguiling in her flouncy costume, innocently drinking horchata, while she takes a break from dancing.  The sunlight strikes only her as she is surrounded by dark shadows.  The juxtaposition of her innocence with the unexplained shadows added an element of possible menace.  This is what compelled me to tell this momentary story.  Raw edge appliqué, all hand painted fabric, free motion stitched, cottons, bamboo batting."

(Doesn't this look like a beautiful watercolor painting rather than a quilt?  Just wonderful!) 

"A New Phase"  by Sarah Richmond, Beaverton, Oregon, USA.  This quilt is considered to be abstract, and measures 90 x 89 inches.  "Argyle Bargello color wave was inspired by my daughter's love of red, black, and white."

This is an incredible piece of mathematical planning!  Just look at the individual pieces of fabric and how they change size to create this design!

"Crazy Eights" by Nancy Turbitt, Smithfield, Rhode Island, USA.  This fantasy quilt is 46 x 36 inches.  "The fun thing about artwork depicting a mythical figure such as a dragon is that you can be completely creative with it.  Tapping into my imagination, I created a serpent-like dragon in flight which resembles a figure eight.  From this imagery, I coined its name.  I used my skills as a doll maker to range in type, in order to add to the unusual nature of the subject matter.  And example of this thought process is the use of the border, an orange silk lining with strips of cut silk chiffon fringe sewn to it, to emulate fire.  The dragon becomes contained by his own fire."

I want to add that parts of this dragon are fabric sculpture extending from beyond the quilt!  Look at the wing and the end of the tail to see what I mean!

"Commertown" is a pictorial quilt by Margie Kennard, Camano Island, Washington, USA.  42 x 49 inches.  "A memory of my grandmother's homestead in eastern Montana, 1900."

Not only is the piecing and quilting wonderful in creating the landscape, but the actual cabin and fence look like they are made of weathered wood, not strips of fabric!

"Z is For Zinnia, C is For Cosmos" is a pictorial quilt by Kathie Kerler of Portland, Oregon, USA.  Size is 40 x 30 inches.  "My goal in designing the quilt was to give the viewer the feeling of gazing into a lush garden.  What I enjoyed about creating this quilt was that it brought together my skills and knowledge beginning with designing stylized flowers for an original design then bringing it to life with machine and hand embroidery, hand-twisted cords, and machine quilting."

"Fantasia" is a fantasy quilt by Geraldine Warner, Wenatchee, Washington, USA, size 32 x 29 inches.  "This floral fantasy with its flame-like petals was pieced from commercial and hand-dyed silk fabrics and free-motion quilted using silk threads."

For people who don't quilt, the term "free-motion quilting" means the quilting is done on a regular sewing machine, rather than either hand-quilting or using a long-arm sewing machine which is designed especially for quilting large items.  Special "feet" can be used to hold and "walk" the fabric through the feed, and the quilter needs to turn and twist the entire quilt to create the quilting in whatever design they envision.  This process is nowhere as simple or easy as it sounds!

Last quilt!  "Klimt Nouveau" is by Susan Nylander and the Sun Bonnet Sue Quilt Club of Sequim, Washington, USA.  This quilt was labelled as abstract, and is 62 x 75 inches.  "Entered by Sun Bonnet Sue Quilt Club.  Seven quilt artists each selected a favorite painting created by Gustav Klimt from which each chose the design motif as the source to create her section of the quilt.  After the sections were assembled the tree was designed in Klimt's style to integrate the quilt."

I don't know if you can see in my photos, but to replicate Klimt's use of gold, some of the quilt artists used zippers to add a metallic edge detail.  Just so creative!

I hope you enjoyed this brief visit to the quilt show.  We had a great time - one friend had a piece in the show, another also quilts, and a third is a weaver.  So we all had fun looking at the details, musing about how the quilt was created, and what we might have done differently had we been the quilter.  Basically analyzing and critiquing each quilt.  

I also spent a day in Seattle having coffee with an author who was visiting the area, and had pre-arranged coffee meetups with groups of her readers (and fans).  And brunch with a friend prior to that, just to catch up on their travels.

In between all of this, we're making vague travel plans and getting together what we need, or think we'll need.  Dealing with the whole confusing issue of Medicare supplement plans, and trying to figure out if the insurance companies deliberately made this more confusing for those of us over 65, or what.  

So in a few days, I may share what clothes I'm planning to pack.  I've improved from my first packing venture seven or so years ago, and have downsized tremendously.  I now manage to pack a capsule wardrobe of about 24-25 items of clothing (not including outerwear, underwear, shoes, and swimwear) for 8 to 10 months of travel.  I'll explain how I do this for a variety of climates and adventures in one small rolling duffel.  Stay tuned!

As always, more photos to enjoy!