Nikki’s Favorite Things: 2014 Fashion Accessories (Fall/Winter/Spring)

With weight restrictions on checked luggage, it’s hard to travel light and be fashionable.  I used to be the girl with 2 suitcases and a carry-on…for a 7 day trip.  Why?  Because I needed options and apparently thought I’d be doing outfit changes every few hours like Scarlett (of the O’Hara clan).  So young.  So naive.  Now that I am wearing my Big Girl Panties, I’ve learned that all I need is one suitcase and a backpack.

It was hard in the beginning but you learn the critical items you need…and where to find a laundromat.  The last thing you want to deal with while traveling to different countries is a lot of luggage.  Most metro systems in European cities do not have escalators or elevators so you are stuck carrying your suitcase up and down steps.  By the time you finally reach your destination, you are cursing the name Louboutin and wondering why in the world you needed to bring 5 pair of stilettos when you can’t walk in them on cobbled streets.  The struggle is real.

With space limitations, you have to figure out how to make 1 outfit work more than once. How do I accomplish this?  With my favorite fashion accessory…SCARVES!  I like to wear a lot of black because I have put on quite a few pounds it’s fashionable.  Wearing  black also allows you to accessorize with lots of different colors.  While I love to shop for scarves in the cities I visit, I always bring a few with me from home to be safe.

Forget the big chain retail stores and support small businesses.  I love Etsy!  How I got addicted to the app is baffling to me.  All I know is that I browse the online shops at least 3 times a week looking for unique accessories that I won’t see on 10 other women at the airport.  The items I highlight below were all purchased by me with no compensation from the owners.  This is just my opinion and recommendation of fabulous shops that you might want to check out on Etsy.

Right now, my favorite shops are:

DottieQ — She has a collection of amazingly funky knit scarves in a vast array of colors, offers super fast shipping and is a dream to buy from!  I love this rope scarf!!

This rope scarf is everything to me!!!

This rope scarf is everything to me!!!

Bo Peep’s Bonnets – I am in LOVE with the Chunky Knit Cowls I purchased from her.  She is super responsive and offers a great selection of colors.  Can’t wait for my slouchy hat to arrive so I can wear it on my trip to Iceland in January!

This modern take on "Little Red Riding Hood" is fab.u.lous!

This modern take on “Little Red Riding Hood” is fab.u.lous!

Scarf Arts – This store has a huge collection of beautiful silk scarves in lovely solids & prints.  The scarves are super soft and wash really well.  This (and a pink print) are my “go to” scarves year round!  You can dress it up or down.

This scarf is amazing!  I can wear it all seasons and get tons of compliments!

This scarf is amazing! I can wear it all seasons and get tons of compliments!

Zojanka – The designer/craftsman is located in Poland and she has a ton of funky/edgy scarves like the one pictured below.  I love that I can wear the bracelet alone or as part of the scarf!  Multi-purpose and great for travel!!

In LOVE!  This linen scarf comes with a gladiator-style bracelet that gives it a little edge.  I've not seen anyone else with this type of scarf since I've been wearing it.

In LOVE! This linen scarf comes with a gladiator-style bracelet that gives it a little edge. I’ve not seen anyone else with this type of scarf since I’ve worn it.

Verbosity – This shop specializes in upcycled t-shirt scarves.  Originally, I had ordered a custom-made scarf representing my college alma mater, Indiana University.  Then, I saw she had a Star Wars scarf and was like, “I need this in my life immediately.”


Love this fabulous Star Wars scarf by Verbosity. Rocked it in London during a trip in March 2013. The Force was strong with me that day 🙂

Essentials for Stress Free Travel


If you have read my blog post on What to Wear When Travelling Abroad, then you know I am a sucker for travel accessories…seriously. Magellan’s? Yep. ExOfficio? I should have stock. Is it all necessary? Nope. But, with the right essentials, your trip can go from stressful to stress free! To help you save a little time & money, I’m going to tell you my favorite travel finds. I have not been paid to endorse any products. With the exception of one item (which was provided to me free of charge to use & review), all products I list below were paid for by me.

Packing Essentials:

La Fresh wipes

La Fresh wipes

  1. La Fresh Travel Wipes – Okay, these little packets are genius! La Fresh wipes can easily fit into your cosmetic bag & your purse while on the road. There are several “collections” but I like the Travel Wipes for Her collection that includes make-up remover wipes, anti-bacterial wipes, nail polish remover pads, hydrating lotion wipes, female hygiene & lens cleaning wipes. I even bought the canine wipes for my dog! You can buy them here.
  2. Packing cubes – I never travel without my packing cubes from Magellan’s. I’ve used the Stow-Away Collection since 2010 and love it! I had tried many different combinations to pack as much into my suitcase and keep clothes wrinkle-free. That is tough. And when the airlines started charging baggage fees, it became necessary to pack smarter. So, as I was browsing through the Magellan’s catalog, I came across these packing cubes and thought I’d give it a try…and it was worth the money. I use these cubes even for overnight trips because it allows me to organize everything in compartments and the Stow-Away Cinch Folders help to prevent wrinkles.
  3. Travel-size Febreeze, Downy Wrinkle-Release, & Lint Brush– I do not travel without these 3 items. Especially if you plan to wear an article of clothing more than once. I like to spray the Febreeze in my shoes and on my coat after each day of travel. While the packing cubes help with wrinkles, it doesn’t prevent them. The Downy Wrinkle-Release is my insurance that I have a way to get rid of wrinkles if I happen to be staying at a hotel that doesn’t have irons/ironing boards (that has happened too many times to mention). A small lint brush is insurance as well. You never know when you will need it. For example, during a trip to London back in 2008, I decided to buy a travel blanket for the flight. It seemed like such a great idea because it was heavier than the standard tissue blankets that they normally give you in coach. I was wearing a black cotton ensemble with a black wool coat. It wasn’t until I landed that I realized I was covered in green fur from the travel blanket (that I had washed thinking it would prevent this type of thing). So, I ended up spending the first evening in London at Tesco’s buying masking tape to remove the fur since I couldn’t find a lint brush. While you may never use it, I figure it is less stressful to have it than to spend your vacation looking for duct tape. You can pick up these items at your local grocery store, Target, Wal-Mart or drug store/pharmacy.
  4. Laundry Bag – I used to put my dirty clothes in the plastic laundry bags provided by the hotels. But, as I started taking trips that had me at multiple hotels in different cities, I felt like the plastic bags weren’t going to keep my suitcase “fresh”. So, I got the Magellan’s Bed Bug Laundry Bag in 2011. I like that it is lined on the inside so it doesn’t matter if you need to pack wet clothes & it contains any odors. This laundry bag folds up small so it doesn’t take up much room in the beginning and I’ve been able to put 2 weeks worth of clothes inside.
  5. Disposable panties & cloths – On a trip to Morocco in 2012, I packed disposable underwear and InstaCloths. It was my first time using either but as we were limited to one medium-sized bag for 10 days, I thought throwing out underwear during the trip would make room for all of my purchases. The disposable underwear worked pretty well. I even hand washed them once and they held together & were dry within a couple of hours. While they are not sexy, they are comfortable in a “granny panty” way. The InstaCloths worked well as a face towel for me and lasted several days (plus they start out the size of a nickel and expand into a full-size wash cloth once you add water). I didn’t use it as a wash cloth but my Mom did and said it didn’t last that long. So, I only recommend it for washing your face & removing make-up.
  6. Adaptors – When travelling out of the country, I always use Brookstone’s 6-Piece Adapter Kit with Snap-On Plugs. It’s a lightweight set of interchangeable adaptors that work for most countries. I’ve not had any issues with this since I started using it in 2010.
  7. Collapsible tote – One of the very best items you can pack on international trips! I got mine from Samsonite back in 2008. It folds up nice & neat and lays flat at the bottom of my suitcase. Then, while I’m travelling and buying souvenirs, I don’t have to worry about fitting it into my suitcase as I can use my tote as a carry on during my flight back.
My pink & green collapsible tote!  A must-have travel item.

My pink & green collapsible tote! A must-have travel item.

Looking Fab & Safe on the Road: I go into detail about what to wear when travelling overseas in the blog post linked above so I won’t cover the same material here. However, I do want to include a few more items that I’ve fallen in love with since I wrote that article.

  1. Jersey fabric – This is the “must have” fabric to wear en-route to your destination. It is wrinkle-free and there are so many stylish outfits made of this fabric that you will look fresh & fabulous even stepping off a plane 10 hours later. I usually shop at White House Black Market, Magellan’s or Travel Smith.
  2. Yoga active wear – If you are looking to travel in comfort, I suggest yoga pants, a cute tank top & cardigan. This is usually my go-to outfit for international flights as I like to be comfortable & it allows me to layer. I usually purchase my favorite items at Athleta & Old Navy.
  3. ExOfficio Sweater Jacket – I absolutely love this waterproof jacket! It is so soft & very warm! I wore it in December while in Europe and felt completely warm & toasty. It packs up very small and converts into a neck roll if you want to bring it on the plane with you. I also love that it’s stylish as well & has a lot of safety pockets where you can store your money, keys & phone without worrying about being pick-pocketed.
  4. Clarks shoes – I must admit…Clarks makes a great shoe that keeps your feet cushioned from the harsh cobblestones you encounter while sightseeing in Europe. You can be on your feet all day in these stylish shoes. A couple of my favorites are the Wave.Cruise Mary Jane shoe that can be worn both casual & dressy; and the Haley Falcon which seems to replace the black Privo that I have worn. I like that it molds to your foot while providing great cushion to your soles.
  5. FreestyleXtreme – This is the only item that I have received for free. A representative from FreestyleXtreme contacted me after reading my article referenced above. She asked if I would review an item from their company (which offers a wide range of clothing & accessories for men and women). I have been trying to find a stylish flip-flop to wear on cobblestones so I thought I’d try the Volcom Black Happy Me shoe. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but I’ve worn them for the past couple of weeks and am in love! They are so comfortable & cute! I like that they don’t “flap” against the bottom of my foot making a loud sound as I walk. Also, the cushion is pretty solid since I can walk around in them for hours and not experience foot fatigue. I’m excited to take them to Italy & try them out on the cobblestones!
Volcom Black Be Happy flip-flop from FreestyleXtreme.

Volcom Black Be Happy flip-flop from FreestyleXtreme.

Go-To Gadgets: I like to travel light…which means I rely heavily on my iPad (and more recently my new Macbook Air). The following 3 items make travelling with my electronics simple.

My fabulous Erin Condren iPad Folio along with a delicious mimosa & travel guides!

My fabulous Erin Condren iPad Folio along with a delicious mimosa & travel guides!

  1. iPad Folio – I love products from Erin Condren. You can purchase personalized stationary, life planners, cards & iPad folios. Mine has my name & an inspirational quote on the front with a picture of my dog on the inside. It’s nice to have reminders of home while on the road!
  2. Apple adaptors – I have an iPad 2 and when I decided to stop travelling with a laptop, I needed a way to transfer pictures from my camera & iPhone to my iPad…which is where the Apple iPad Digital Camera Connector Kit comes in. You can plug the adaptor into your iPhone to easily transfer pictures or plug your SD card into the adaptor and load your favorite photos from your camera onto your iPad.
  3. Power Up I use my iPhone a lot while I’m on the road…between taking pictures & responding to emails/texts, the battery doesn’t last long. Getting to a power outlet is not always possible so I started travelling with extra power-up packs. I’ve tested out quite a few items so far and there are 2 that I prefer:  The first one is the 2600 mAh Universal Power Bank Charger that I purchased from Nomorerack on sale. The second is the Portable Travel Charger from Fat Cat Power.  Both work pretty well and charge my phone fully. They don’t take a lot of time to charge & both are small enough to fit in my purse without taking up valuable space.

What are your favorite travel essentials? Is there anything I am missing out on? Let me know!

Race Series: A Letter from Heaven…Cuz that’s Where I’m at After the Warrior Dash

Old Nikki…unaware of what is about to happen.

The Warrior Dash is billed as “The World’s Largest Running Series”.  Not sure what type of process they had to go thru for this “certification”.  The race is 3.2 miles of running & obstacles (swimming, climbing over shit, crawling thru mud with some glass & hypodermic needles thrown in [I may have made that last part up], and running thru hot fiyah).  My colleague, Jeff, talked me into doing this and after reviewing the information and “obstacles” listed on the website, I wasn’t all that worried.  I’m training for a marathon so this couldn’t be that hard, right?  WRONG.  See me in the picture there on the left?  Looking all clean and smiling because I didn’t know that I would have to run thru the bowels of hell?  Yeah, I miss her.  I think I lost her at mile 1.5.

Fake obstacle course…maybe that’s the first obstacle. To fool you into thinking it’s not that hard.

The race was being held in north Georgia (close to the South Carolina state line) in Mountain City.  I picked up Jeff and we headed north to meet up with Glenn, another work colleague.  Which…I’m just going to put this out there.  Clearly all 3 of us don’t have good decision-making abilities.  But, I digress.  Jeff is worried that the paramedics will have to airlift him to a hospital during the race.  I laugh (or Old Nikki in the photo above laughed…she’s dead now).  I had studied the obstacle course (which I have provided for your viewing pleasure) like it was a treasure map.  I was confident in what to expect.  Like I had read What To Expect When You are Expecting (To Run an Obstacle Course).  I figured that it wouldn’t be that difficult.  I mean, it’s only 3.2 miles and 13 obstacles.  I even had a strategy.  I know!  I thought I was prepared.  Spoiler alert — I was not.

On our way to the race, Jeff and I speculate about how many other people of color we would see.  His response?  “I think I’m looking at it.”  Now, normally you don’t see black folks crawling in mud and trudging across a lake for sport…there needs to be a good reason (like life or death).  That’s not what we do.  But, it’s 2012.  Obama is POTUS.  Anything is possible, people.  Change we can believe in, y’all.  I held out hope that I wouldn’t be the only brown person there.  Luckily, I saw a few others.  There weren’t many…but change starts small.  See?  I’m spreading the word now.  So to my black people…go out and do this race!  Don’t worry about the title and how I said I died.  You may live!

Apparently this is the pre-party/race area.

After we park, there is a shuttle that takes you to the actual event.  Once we arrive at the venue, we notice an ambulance speeding away with sirens blaring (Clue #1).  As we are walking up a hill (Clue #2 because I hadn’t even considered hills would be involved) we pass people who had completed the race and they looked a hot, sizzling mess (Clue #3).  Before we get to the registration desk, we see a girl laid out on a freaking STRETCHER and she WAS.NOT.MOVING. (Clue #4).  By this time, Jeff has started providing statistics of our chances of getting injured (which did not calm me one bit).  I tried to divert our attention by looking at the costumes.  Because most folks dressed up as something.  We saw Sesame Street characters, Borat (and trust me that a man running in a thong is not cute), a lady wearing a wedding gown…pretty much everything you could think of.  Which should have been Clue #5 but I didn’t realize it at the time.  That lulled me into a sense of calm…like it couldn’t be that bad.  I’m looking at crazy but I don’t recognize the crazy.  I’m part of it.

Before I get into the details of actually running this race, I do need to give Leap Frog Events some praise.  They had the Warrior Dash event organized like a well-oiled machine (except for when it came time to claim my free beer but I’m not going to deal with that now).  The race starts in 30 minute waves.  But, while you may register for a 4pm wave, it seemed like you could run in any wave throughout the day.  Registration was fast and easy.  Race swag includes a cotton t-shirt, medal, 1 free beer and a fuzzy warrior helmet (I will be wearing it this winter so get ready).  There is also a huge party at the finish line (complete with a DJ and folks doing the “Wobble”…I kid you not).  It was awesome.

Starting line…these fools have no idea what is about to happen. Unless they are repeat fools (folks that do this every year…someone I’m about to be).

The Race

We line up towards the back of the wave so we don’t have to deal with the Bruce Jenners trying to actually race.  It starts out with a pretty easy 1/2 mile run slightly uphill.  Now, my strategy was based on the obstacle course map above where the water obstacles were at the end. In my mind, this was great because I wouldn’t have to run in water-logged shoes.  I should’ve known that made too much sense to be real.

Obstacles 1-3

So, when I see the first obstacle is crossing a muddy LAKE by either walking (in water that at some points is higher than me) or swimming, I immediately was like, “this wasn’t in the marketing materials!”  I end up behind some guys dressed as KISS (and using their inflatable guitars as flotation devices…genius.  I’m totally going as Prince next year).  We finally make it across the lake (all while I’m praying there aren’t any flesh-eating bacteria in there).  And as soon as we exit the lake, we have to crawl through mud (and what I am going to assume was mixed with glass because my elbows and knees are scraped to hell) under barbed wire for a bit, then go thru some mesh.  Then it’s time to run some more.  It’s an easy run (which I knew was too good to last).

Obstacle 4

Another freaking lake?  WTF?  Why the hell wasn’t this on the map?  I walk out to the pier, jump into the lake, sink to the bottom to my death (then back up to the top to my resurrection which I am sure will be short-lived).  We had to swim out to a floating obstacle…with shoes weighing you down.  This is where things get dicey.  I realize that my upper body strength training didn’t work a damn as I couldn’t get my big ass on that buoy.  So, Jeff has to pull me up while some poor soul is either helping me by lifting my ass or just copping a feel (which…really?  Don’t you see I’m in a life or death situation?).  After crossing over the floating obstacles, we have to jump right back into the muddy lake and swim to shore.  I got water in my nose and what I thought was my lungs.  I’m running and snorting water thinking “I now have water cancer.”  Don’t judge me…that could be real.  Then it’s time for a new obstacle.

Obstacle 5

Rope climbing.  This obstacle was actually on the map and I was dreading it.  Now that I know that I have the upper strength of a toddler (or that my arms can’t handle the weight from my hips and thighs…there really isn’t a comforting answer to any of this), I just drop my head.  But I’m not a quitter.  My Mom read The Little Engine That Could to me when I was little.  But I’m pretty sure that Little Engine never had to climb ropes.  He only had to climb a mountain and he had the help of an engine so I call cheating.  Aaaannnyyyway, I square my shoulders, grab the rope and start climbing…then stop.  WTF?  Why am I so freaking heavy?  And why are other folks climbing over this wall like monkeys?  Is my rope defective?  So I climb down and try a new one (water cancer causes dementia).  Same thing.  After what feels like 45 minutes, I finally make it to the top.  But now it’s time to actually go over the wall.  And The Count from Sesame Street is trying to get on the rope.  I’m not finished, buddy.  Count the seconds until you see me hit the ground.  Finally, I make it over and climb down.  Then it’s time to run thru a MUDDY FOREST!  Over snakes and tree trunks.  Lord help me.  This goes on for another 1/2 mile.

New Resurrected Nikki rocking the fuzzy warrior helmet…part of the Fall 2012 Mental Illness Line.

Obstacle 6

I don’t even know what this obstacle is called.  You have to climb a wall where the little ledges are spaced about 6 feet apart.  It was at this point that I seriously considered skipping it like so many others that had bypassed obstacles that looked too hard.  But I refused to quit (and I knew I’d never hear the end of it from my colleagues).  Instead, I made a call.  It went like this, “Are you there God?  It’s me, Nikki.  Um, help please?”  Somehow, someway, I made it to the top only to find out that I would have to slide down a pole (which was a good distance from the wall).  WTH??  The race attendant had to talk me down like I was suicidal.  Our conversation went a little like this:

Me:  “WTF is this, John?” (I don’t know if that was his name but water cancer makes you want to re-name folks…it also makes you have anger management issues).

John?:  “Just lean forward and wrap your legs around the pole.”

Me:  “Do I look like a stripper?  I don’t know how to do this!”

John?:  “Just lean into the pole, it will be okay.”

Me:  “This doesn’t look safe.  Has this obstacle been certified by a safety inspector?”

John?: *blank stare*

Me:  “If I die, I’m totally coming back to haunt your ass.”

I did as he instructed, made it down the pole and promptly hurt my hip because I landed too fast.  John, you mutherfucker!  This is going to worsen my water cancer.  I think I’m now Stage 3 at this point.  And as it’s time to run again, I see a mile marker sign that says “1.5 miles completed.”  MUTHERFUCKER!  I’m not even halfway done with this yet?  OMG!  That’s when Old Nikki died.  Right there at the 1.5 mile marker.  Apparently, the water cancer was more aggressive than I first thought.  Out of her ashes, New Nikki arose.  And she was PISSED that she had to run 1.7 more miles of obstacles.

Obstacles…I don’t even care

Seriously?  I climbed over waist-high walls, under more barbed wire, slid down a water slide made of trash bags, climbed over crashed up cars, hurdled over some hot fire and crawled thru mud under more barbed wire (seriously with the barbed wire?  Are they a sponsor or something?).  Finally, there is the finish line…I almost thought it was another obstacle.  Like, “PSYCHE!  YOU AIN’T DONE YET.  THAT WAS ANOTHER OBSTACLE…A MENTAL ONE.  GET TO RUNNING, BITCH!”  But, it turned out to be real.  And as soon as I was done, I proclaimed that I would NEVA EVA do that again.

Then, as we are listening to The Humpty Dance (yes, you read that right), we decided to put together a team to do Tough Mudder.  Which is almost the same except it’s 12 miles instead of 3.2 and the barbed wire is electrified with 10,000 volts of electricity.  You know you want to do this too!  Clearly I suffer from some sort of mental illness…maybe the water cancer is back?

After we pick up our items from bag check, I ask the lady where the showers are (as I know there has to be a place to wash all the mud off).  She points in a vague direction and says, “you just wash off in the lake.”  I gave her the side-eye then trudged to the lake (my 3rd of the day) to wash up like my name is Laura Ingalls and this creek is my way of getting clean before Pa asks me why I flipped Almonzo off at the 2 mile marker while yelling “WHY THE HELL DID YOU LET ME DO THIS?”

Overall, this race was actually awesome.  I know I complained (and died of water cancer)…it’s hard!  But, it was also fun.  And, the after party is a riot.  It was a good time.  If you read this, then you should now be prepared to be a warrior.  So, register (and then join me for Tough Mudder in  2013)!

P.S.  I had to fly to Oregon on business the next freaking day.  I travel ALL THE TIME and never forget to pack major items.  But, when I start to get dressed for work the next morning, I realized that I had forgotten to pack my bras.  Not only am I apparently out of water cancer remission, I now suffer from Warrior Dash PTSD.  Lord help me.

All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m Ready for My Close-Up

To quote the 1950 film, Sunset Boulevard, “All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.”  What woman doesn’t want to do a boudoir photo shoot and be all glam & sexy?  I started out buying this package with the intent to lose all this weight and be like, “BAM! How you like me now?”…but, that didn’t quite work out.  Ha!  Rather than reschedule the shoot (again) until I can look like Skeletor from HeMan, I realized that I was focused on the wrong thing.  I have historically taken a Nation of Islam approach to weight loss…by any means necessary.  Be it Atkins (staying in Phase 1 forever), starvation, weight loss pills, being a workout fiend…you name it, I was doing it.  The problem was I couldn’t maintain the “extreme measures lifestyle”.  Even when I lost a lot of weight (and in some cases, maybe too much), I was never satisfied.  I always found something I needed to improve.  Something that was imperfect.  What I saw in the mirror wasn’t what other people in reality saw when they looked at me.  All I saw were all of my failures, insecurities, baggage, failed relationships, bad decisions, etc.

When I told my best friend that I thought the leather seats in my car needed Botox because they were cracked from all of my weight sitting on it, she told me to put the crack pipe down.  If only.  I mean, couldn’t she see that if I was on crack then I’d be skinny?  Now, I may be trying to steal her dvd player for a “weight loss hit” but I’d still be thin!

I have been caught up in the “industry” standard of beauty for so long, I can’t remember a time when I was ever satisfied in my own skin.  I felt I looked more like Ursula the Sea Witch from The Little Mermaid than Princess Tiana from Princess & the Frog.   I would covet the figures on magazine covers that sold me a faux reality based heavily on airbrush & illusions.  I thought, “If I eat 3 beans a day, I can look like that!”  But it never happened because I’m just not built that way and there came a point when my sanity broke thru the haze of phentermine & 2-a-day workouts & I realized I was miserable AND hungry. I wanted a biscuit and could care less about skinny jeans.

Then it hit me…it’s okay to be “imperfect.” I figure that if God created me this way, then I am perfect in His eyes and that is all that matters.  Now, am I trying to look like Precious and run off with a bucket of chicken?  No (although some chicken does sound good…focus Nikki).  I am just taking a smarter approach to weight loss and changing my mindset.  I eat what I want in moderation and workout.  I am focusing on pushing myself beyond my preconceived limits (both mentally, physically and emotionally).  In the here and now, I decided to strip myself bare & accept myself as I am.  By allowing myself to be photographed like this, I am telling myself that it is okay to be me.

I’m not Naomi Campbell thin (and my iPhone 4 cost too much to throw at someone…they can get my old Motorola).  I’ve never had the figure of a supermodel and I want a bowl of ice cream just thinking about being a size 0.  The only way I will ever be that size is to smoke crack and meth with a side of smack.  Healthy for me is being a size 8/10 and having a some junk in the trunk…to keep me warm in the winter.  I have decided to define beauty for myself as I strive to get back to that size.  I am committing myself to living a healthy lifestyle and seeing how far I can push myself in certain physical endeavors (i.e. marathons & triathlons).

Honestly, I’m just trying to be happy with myself.  To that end, I figured I’d release my poorly hidden diva (because y’all know I am the first one to jump in front of a camera) and get my photo shoot on. I can pick out plenty of things I need to work on but I choose to see someone who doesn’t look half bad.  So, I’m not going to make excuses and say the camera added 20 pounds, because as Shakira would say “hips don’t lie.”  I’m just going to continue on my journey and look as fabulous as I can until I reach my destination!

I know this has felt like a “Dear Diary” entry but there is a key difference…Holly Hobby isn’t on the cover and my brother isn’t trying to crack the code to spill everything to my parents during dinner.  Special shout out to Sarah at Sarah Esther Photography who handled the shoot.  She is FAB-U-LOUS! I really cannot say enough great things about her.  Sarah is so creative & her work is phenomenal!  In fact, she is photographing my brother’s wedding this summer.  Girl’s got skills!  She’s also running another boudoir photo special so definitely check her out!

Without further ado, here are a few pics from the shoot (which were shot at the W Hotel in Buckhead).  Thanks for listening to me share my hangups and entertaining my vanity!

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What to Wear When Travelling Abroad

Coco1One of the most popular questions asked when getting ready for a trip overseas is “What should I wear?”  I always suggest researching what the locals are wearing (with a few exceptions notated below).  Not solely for aesthetic reasons, but also for safety.  Most pickpockets target tourists.  Looking like you belong goes a long way.  Here are a few suggestions to help you look like a local on your travels abroad.

1.       Dress for the Country/Culture.  Each country has its own style.  Some countries are more lax (the U.S., England, Ireland, Scotland) while others take their fashion seriously (France & Italy).  With the exceptions that I have noted below, you can usually get away with a nice pair of jeans/black pants/skirt and plain shirts/sweaters.  Don’t wear anything outrageous or loud (leave the catsuit at home).

  • Middle East/Egypt/Morocco (& other Islamic countries) = First and foremost, you want to respect the culture of the country you are visiting.  Which means no Daisy Dukes while visiting the Pyramids of Giza in Cairo (and, yes, I have seen it).  Make sure you dress conservatively (covering most of your skin).  Yeah, it may be hot, but you can find breathable and dry-wick fabrics pretty easily.  Trust me; you do not want to stand out in a conservative country.  Women from western countries are viewed as being “loose”, which can invite sexual harassment from the local male population.  By keeping your goodies covered up, you take the attention off of you (and your valuables).  In Morocco, most women (and quite a few men) wear djellabas (a hooded robe).  These can be either heavy or light weight in fabric (according to season).  I didn’t wear one when I was there, but it is definitely an option which will reduce the amount of stares you get.  I tend to buy breathable tunics from Old Navy (most are 3/4 length sleeves), long flowing skirts, loose capris and convertible cargo pants.
  • France/Italy = These 2 fabulous countries are homes to the most famous fashion houses around.  This means they take their fashion seriously.  While the Italians are a bit more accepting, the French will turn their nose up if you walk past them wearing any of the items listed below in #3.
  • You can never go wrong with basic black.  It’s easy to coordinate and you can interchange with stylish accessories (like a scarf or costume jewelry).
  • The French love black, navy and brown.  I suggest using those as your base colors.  You will notice that most of the French will pair up their dark wardrobe with a colorful scarf.  Don’t have one?  Buy one when you get there…it’s a souvenir & fashion accessory all in one.
  • The Italians love color and you can get away with a lot more.  Most of all, it is attitude.
  • Quick everyday tip = Get your clothes tailored.  I noticed that many people look better in clothes that are altered to fit their shape.  I picked this tip up while visiting Paris.  Everybody there looks like a million bucks (or euros) and it really is because their clothes fit impeccably.
  • Spain = The Spanish love color & flowing maxi dresses/skirts.  I also noticed some ladies wearing cowboy boots with shorts but we will pretend like I didn’t see that because I don’t think that’s a good look personally (I like to call that seasonal dyslexia).
  • England/Ireland/Scotland/Holland/Czech Republic/Switzerland/Scandinavia = Pretty much anything goes.  I can’t say that I have seen a huge difference in what they wear vs. the U.S. (with the exception of the “don’ts” listed below).  A popular look during the summer of 2011 was shorts with tights & Chuck Taylors (*shudders*).  Don’t emulate that.  Hopefully that was a 1 season only look.LBD

2.      Dress for the Season.  Be sure to check the weather before you go.  Weather Underground is a good resource.  I have typically found that you will need to dress in layers no matter when you travel abroad.  A light jacket, colorful scarves, stylish cardigans/sweater coats are a must for spring, summer & fall.  Going in the winter?  Bring along a warm coat, some snazzy boots & a cute hat/scarf/glove combo.   I had left my puffer coat at home during a winter trip to Milan…only to realize that everybody (and I do mean everybody) was wearing one.  First and foremost, you want to be warm.  Don’t take an unlined peacoat when visiting Finland in the dead of winter.  Your health trumps fashion.  Plus, you will stand out as not knowing how to dress properly for cold weather 🙂  ExOfficio is now offering a snazzy sweater jacket that doubles as a travel pillow when folded.  This jacket is so cozy & warm!  I recently wore it during a winter trip and fell in love with it.  The jacket packs very easily, is super soft AND rain-resistant as well as keeping you warm & toasty.  This is now my go-to jacket both here and abroad!


3.       DO NOT WEAR…

  • Baseball caps!  If you want to protect your head & face from the harsh sun, opt for a stylish wide-brimmed hat (during the summer) or cloche/fedora (during the winter). Baseball caps scream tourist. Don’t bring your favorite sporting team to France unless you are actually on the team, k?
  • Baseball/Football Jerseys, High School/College T-shirts, etc.  Do I really even to explain why wearing a baseball or football jersey is a no-no? Again, you don’t want to stand out as a tourist for pickpockets. T-shirts are fine if they are plain or have a cool graphic. Bottom line, you want to look nice…not like you are getting ready to workout. If you just don’t think you can survive without wearing sporting apparel, buy a soccer/rugby jersey. You can fit in and it will be a conversation starter.
  • Fanny-packs!  Seriously…just no.  It’s not cute.  Tell your mother to leave it at home with the rest of the 80’s attire.  I don’t even know how this item became popular.  Never carry your money and valuables in a waist contraption that is easily seen.  You are begging a pickpocket to take a knife, cut the strap and steal it from you.  Use a money belt instead.  It’s similar to your beloved fanny-pack; it just goes under your shirt/waist of your pants instead so it will not be seen.  This protects your valuables from curious onlookers.
  • Expensive jewelry/bags!  A pickpocket will tackle you to steal your Rolex or Louis Vuitton.  Leave your valuables at home.
  • White sneakers???  I have actually seen quite a few locals wearing sneakers (though not usually white) around London & Paris.  My preference is to bring a pair of running shoes (as I like to workout during my trips abroad…even running races like the Paris-Versailles 10K) as well as a comfortable & stylish walking shoe (i.e. Hush Puppies, Mephisto, Clarks) that can transition into an evening shoe. I highly recommend walking shoes that have a rubber sole to minimize the impact of walking on cobblestones.  I love the Hush Puppies Sonnet flat which you can buy at Macy’s for almost half of what it retails for at other locations as well as the Makena Ballerina shoe.  Bottom line is to wear a shoe that you will be comfortable walking in for hours at a time.


4.       Must Haves.

  • Light jacket/cardigan/wrap = If you plan to wear tanks or sleeveless tops during the summer, be sure to bring something to cover your shoulders when visiting a place of worship.  You will not be allowed to enter with shoulders (and sometimes legs) exposed.  I bought Magellan’s Sun Protection Wrap for my recent trip to Morocco and fell in love.  So soft and it provides the necessary protection (both arms and head) when you enter places of worship.  I even wear it around at home.
  • Secure purse/money belt = I have been using a PacSafe purse (stylish & secure) to carry around my valuables, guidebook, umbrella & bottled water for a couple of years now and it is awesome.  Highly recommend!  The shoulder straps are reinforced with steel so it cannot be cut and the zippers lock into place.  It will take a pickpocket a few minutes to figure out how to gain access to your valuables.
  • Comfortable walking shoes = As I stated above, cobblestones can be harsh on your feet.  A stylish rubber-soled shoe will save your tootsies!
  • Dark colored pants & skirt = Use these as your base pieces.  Dark colors camouflage stains & are great to pair with funky accessories.


5.     Handy resources.  Here are a few websites that focus on travel-related items:  While ExOfficio & Magellans offer stylish options, you can certainly find great travel clothing from cheaper stores (i.e. Old Navy, Target, etc.).

While these tips may not prevent you from being identified as a tourist, it will keep your bag lighter and you safer.  Hope it helps!  Safe travels.  Do you have any travel fashion tips?  If so, please comment as I’m always looking for a fresh perspective!

Also check out my posts on Nikki’s Favorite Things: Fashion Accessories and Essentials for Stress-Free Travel.