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.”

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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 🙂

The Cookie Monster Coat

All I wanted was a fabulous new coat.  Why did that have to turn into The Biggest Loser audition?  Seriously?  Ugh.

I’m working on a new blog post updating “What to Wear When Travelling Abroad” with some cool new & beautiful finds from small retailers (scarves, coats, accessories, etc.).  I’m so excited!!!  So, one of the items I recently attempted to purchase was a beautiful coat. Like all purchases, I picked my size (going up a bit so I could wear bulky sweaters and not look like the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man).  Once I submitted my order, I receive an email from the supplier asking me for my measurements so she could verify that the size I selected was appropriate.

This coat was the business, y'all.  Unfortunately, it only comes in sizes preemie to 3T.

This coat was the business, y’all. Unfortunately, it only comes in sizes preemie to 3T.

Isn’t it fab?  This coat gives me life!  Do you know how fierce I’d look walking around Paris rocking this baby?  I had dreams!  I had accessories!  But, after a couple of weeks, what I didn’t have was a coat.  So, I follow-up asking about the status of my order…only to receive this email:

Dear Customer:  This coat does not fit you. We have given you a refund. Please check your account.  Thank you.

Wait.  Whut? Return to Sender cuz I know this ain’t meant for me.  O__o  <—– that is me giving her the side-eye because this is a hot bed of foolery (and yes, I said “whut” because “what” will not accurately capture my feelings at this moment).  The coat doesn’t fit?  Are you serious?  Ma’am, I rebuke you and your shenanigans.  Sigh.  Now I gotta write a response back to her.

Apparently, this is how the coat would fit me and my Precious-sized self. #smh

Apparently, this is how the coat would fit me and my Precious-sized self. #smh

Dear Coat Voldemort,

Why does this coat not fit?  Is it made for toddlers?  I am an averaged size woman.  I do realize that I may look the size of Godzilla since you all are so tiny in China…but trust me when I say that I am not planning to wear this coat while hanging off the side of a building kidnapping a woman and asking her which diet works best for her.  I need details about why this coat (which is offered in sizes S, M, L, XL and XXL) will not fit me.

Did seeing my measurements make you bust out into a verse from “Brickhouse” by The Commodores?  No, I am not a size 2…but I am not a body double for the Kool-Aid Man either.

So, ma’am, I’m gonna need some answers because you have messed up my Fierceness of Fall plans behind this.  If you have to sew 2 coats together to fit my supersized ass, then get to sewing because I need this coat in my life and you ain’t taking it from me.  On second thought, forget it…I will take my business someplace else where they won’t smack the cookies out of my mouth while making my coat.

Thanks,

Gone With the Wind Fabulous

Dealing with my feelings.

Dealing with my feelings.

Too much?  Sometimes I can’t help myself.  When I read her email, I was like, “no she didn’t.”  How am I too fat for a coat?  Y’all…iCant.  She basically remixed Beyonce’s “Ego” song and said, “you’re too big, it won’t fit, lose weight…you gotta a big bootay….a big, big bootay”.  #devastated

Essentials for Stress Free Travel

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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!

Roaming Thru Rome

[This is the post that started it all…my very first trip overseas!  I sent this email to friends & family in June 2007.  It still cracks me up.]

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Hello, everybody!  I have been in Rome less than 48 hours and so far, my trip has been like a Greek tragedy.

Act 1 “Getting to Rome”

I was booked on an US Air flight (from now on, I’ll be referring to them as Beelzebub Airlines, i.e. the Devil, or just B for short because it’s easier).  Anyway, I had a B flight from Atlanta to Philly with just 1 hour for a layover before my connecting flight to Rome.  Now, I knew it would be cutting it close should there be a delay but there wasn’t anything I could do.  So, the flight from Atlanta gets delayed because there was too much “air traffic” in Philly.  How long is the delay?  One hour.  Yes, I said 1 hour.  The exact time I had between connections.  So, the B pilot (I’m just gonna call him “Cooter”) tells us that B always pads the flight duration times so we will arrive at 5:15pm.  I had a 6:05pm connecting flight.  As Cooter is flying the plane he starts talking about altitude and the sunshine and other things I don’t really care about.  I care about him increasing the speed on that jet so I could catch my flight.  A 7-year-old girl looks at her watch (apparently the watch that Cooter doesn’t own) and announces that it is 5:25pm and we haven’t even begun to descend from the sky.  I ask the flight attendant about options to hold my connecting flight by a few minutes.  Of course, they can’t promise that but did say they would have an electric cart waiting to drive me over to the next concourse.

We finally land and I get off the plane around 5:45pm.  Was there an electric cart waiting?  I think you know the answer.  My Mom calls to let me know that they’ve already boarded the flight and I need to get there now because they are about to close the door.  So, I’m running like OJ thru the airport (without the knife or a Bronco) because there was no electric cart.  I get to the gate and the less-than-friendly gate agent says, “We gave your seat away.”  I responded with “Oh, so I’m flying first class now, right?”  She said, “As of right now, you don’t even have a seat on the plane.”  I just looked at her and thought to myself “Hmm, I’m gonna be on this flight if I have to sit with the pilot” and then wondered what kind of in-flight service he received because I’m sure he’s eating better than coach.  She eventually finds a seat for me and I am able to board.

Act II “Arrival to Rome”

I arrive in Rome and guess who doesn’t have their bags?  If you guessed me, then you are correct.  I don’t have one article of clothing because I packed everything except for toiletries.  I report my luggage as lost and started with my day.  Rome is BEAUTIFUL.  The experience of being here is hard to explain.  However, I will share with you a few tidbits on the craziness that’s happened to me.

Since I don’t have any clothes, I had to go shopping.  Now, something I didn’t know about Rome is that they apparently hate fat people.  And, by fat people, that would be anybody that wears a U.S. size 6 and above.  I go to a store and pull a couple of dresses off the rack to try on.  I select a medium and a large (thinking that they might run a little small).  A saleswoman (I’m calling her “Nunya” because she was all in my business without needing to be) walks up and looks over my shoulder at the sizes I picked up and says loudly (because apparently fat people are deaf too) “Jeeww need an EXTRA EXTRA LARGE”.  I looked around thinking that maybe she was talking to someone else but she was all up in my face.  So, I was like, “Um, I don’t wear that large of a size.  This will be fine.” and go about my business of browsing the new “Crack/Smack” summer collection (because wasn’t nobody gonna fit them clothes unless they hit the pipe).  So, Nunya disappears to what I thought was to mind her business.  I was wrong.  She comes out of the back room with an XXL size dress (I guess they leave the fat clothes in a special “Baby Got Back Room” or something) and then announces to the entire store “NOOO, JEEWWW NEED DIS EXTRA EXTRA LARGE.  IT STRETCHES SO IT HELPS YO HIPS!”  Um, what?  My mind is screaming, “I know she ain’t talking to me.”  I refuse to buy a size that I spent a year of hard dieting to leave behind.  I wish I would by an XXL!  I wear small and medium.  I don’t care if America is lying to me about my size.  Lie to me, America.  I don’t want to know the truth.  Clearly, I can’t handle the truth.  So, I take the Jabba-the-Hut-sized dress and decided to try it on to prove to her that it was too big.  Game on, sister!  Well, to my surprise…that sucker barely fit.  So, um…game off.  My face was TIGHT!  I was like, “oh hecks naw.”  When did I become an XXL?   Oh my God.  I’m the light-skinned Precious!  As I’m having my meltdown, Nunya says, “See, the fab-er-ic stret-chas fo jeww.”  I just had to leave the store because my nerves were shot.

As I left the store and fumed all the way up the street, I started wishing I had some gelato to ease the pain of being called fat.  Eventually, I find another store, and pick out a couple of outfits.  But since the clothes are sized different, I wasn’t sure which size was appropriate.  The sales guy (let’s call him “Antonio”) told me that I wear a 2.  I was like “Is that a fat girl size?  Because I ain’t buying a fat girl size.”  At this point, my Mom is just looking away and laughing because other people in the store are looking at me like I’m crazy.  Whatever.  I was serious.  NO FAT GIRL CLOTHES!  My experience with Nunya had scarred me and I needed someone to talk me down and it was Antonio’s job to do it.  He turned on the Italian charm and I finally found an outfit that fit then paid an astronomical amount because everything is expensive.  If any of you are looking to do an outreach ministry, consider donating to me.  Thanks!

Act III “Fat Brownie does Rome”

I thought my bags would arrive the next day…they didn’t.  Thanks, Beelzebub Airlines!  So, I had to go thru the shopping process all over again but decided to check out a different area.  During my second sojourn into the trials and tribulations of being a big girl, I noticed something else…they don’t sell underwear.  Well, they sell it sparingly and for a small fortune…like it is illegal or something.  I asked at least 3 or 4 women where I could find underwear.  At one store (I’ll call it “Skelewear” because you had to be a skeleton to fit the clothes), nobody spoke English.  I know very limited Italian and used it up ordering a sandwich (big girls gotta eat).  So, the lady says “yesa, I speaka a leetle englese.”  I ask if she knew of anyplace that sold underwear.  Her response?  “Yes.  No.  No.  Grazie” and she walks away.  Yes, no, no, grazie?  The hell?  After walking around to a few stores, I finally found a pair of underwear.  One pair costs $25 euro (since it wasn’t Spanx and that is apparently what I need to wear some clothes around here, I just passed)!  I thought about finding Fabrizio on the corner and asking him if he could get me some Hanes off the black market for $5 euro.  Somebody has to have the hook-up around here.  I tried on more clothes, of which nothing fit.  By now, my nerves are shot, I’m joining Weight Watchers online and looking for an Italian Lane Bryant.  I end up borrowing clothes from my mother and other people on the tour.  Because I’m too fat for Rome and have no luggage.  How about that?

Act IV “My Daddy”

We went to see the Trevi Fountain and there was a guy that was dressed up kind of like the Statue of Liberty — faced painted gray with a gray robe holding a torch.  I then realized it was an actual person…not a statue.  So, I say discreetly to my father, “Dad, watch your step because you are about to back up on that guy.”  He looks around and says loudly to the entire group of 37 people “HEY!!!  THAT’S AN ACTUAL GUY.  I THOUGHT IT WAS A STATUE!  BRENDA, GET ME THE CAMERA SO I CAN TAKE A PICTURE.”  All up in the man’s face.  I was like, “What didn’t you understand about me being discreet?”

All in all, Italy really has been an amazing experience — 10,000 Miles by Air, 700 Miles by Bus, and 100 Miles by Foot (well, that may be a slight exaggeration).  Seeing the ruins up close is something I really can’t describe.

Here are my favorites:

The Roman Forum — All Roads Lead to Rome

    

The Fonatana di Trevi was created by Nicola Salvi in 1762 and is Rome’s largest and most famous fountain.  You can see the central figure is Neptune and he is flanked by two Tritons (one trying to master an unruly seahorse and the other leading a quieter beast).  This is supposed to symbolize the contrasting moods of the sea.  It’s estimated that each day 22 million gallons of water flow thru the fountain.  This is the original site of the Aqua Virgo aqueduct built by Agrippa in 19 BC to channel water to Rome’s new bath complexes.  It may have been named for a girl named, Trivia, who is said to have first shown the spring to thirsty Roman soldiers.  Legend has it that if you toss a coin into the fountain, you are guaranteed to return to Rome.  I’ve been back to Rome twice since that time.

 

The Spanish Steps (aka Piazza di Spagna) is the most famous square in Rome and takes its name from the Palazzo di Spagna, built in the 17th century to house the Spanish embassy to the Holy See.

The Colosseum is known as Rome’s greatest amphitheater.  It was commissioned by Emperor Vespasian in AD 72.  In this theater, up to 55,000 spectators could watch gladiators fight each other or wild animals.  During the inaugural games in AD 80, approximately 9,000 wild animals were killed.  Slaves could gain their freedom by fighting men or wild animals to the death.  I guess you fight for freedom or die trying.

  

The Pantheon is also known as the Roman “temple of all the gods.  It’s the best preserved ancient building in Rome.  It was built (and possibly designed) by Emperor Hadrian in AD 118.  It’s interesting in that during the 7th century, permission was granted to turn the temple into a church when Christians claimed by be plagued by demons as they passed by the building.  Today, it’s lined with tombs and holds the bodies of Italian monarchs.

 

Other than the clothing situation, things have been wonderful.  The men are absolutely gorgeous and I’ve had several people say that I look like I’m 18.  Which is great since I’m just a couple of years older than that 🙂  Please pray for me that I receive my luggage soon.  Otherwise, no telling what you might see on CNN.  I might be in the studio with Sir Mix-a-lot working on the Italian version of “Baby Got Back”!  Ha!  Until then…ciao!