Travel Lust: Doing the Laundry While On the Road

It’s still kind of hard for me to wrap my arms around the fact that I’m actually giving European travel advice — just call me Rickie Steves! I waited for many years for my European shot and it has been everything I hoped it would be. Both of my kids went to Europe twice before I got my chance — and I don’t regret sending them — but I’ve been taking advantage of being an empty nester for the last few years. Viva England and France (to mix my languages)!

I just had to show you why one doesn’t want to throw one’s laundry on the floor when one is staying in a ritzy London flat. We managed to score this fabulous apartment at the Sloane Club (wait for it to load; it’s worth it) because the studio we actually booked was being renovated and we got the duplexed one bedroom (that’s an understatement) for the same price.

This was our closet, the home of our dirty laundry. And yes, that’s a trouser press in the right corner. Gosh darn it, I love England — all I need is Jeeves.

After having been to England three times and France once in the last three years, my advice is to pack some laundry equipment.

One of the things I hate when I’m going to stay more than one night in one place is throwing my dirty clothes on the closet floor (I’m pretty sure the person before me in that room still has cooties in the carpet) or crunching them into plastic bags. I now pack a pop-up laundry basket. Genius. It works for the dirty clothes and it works when we have to do some laundry outside the hotel room or in our rental apartment. It also works if we take a picnic blanket and stuff to the beach. The pop-up mechanism means that it folds flat in my suitcase and takes up practically no room or weight. Combined with two plastic pants hangers, two plastic shirt hangers (with the hooks for camisoles), and our trusty stretch clothesline and plastic clothespins, we are able to do laundry in our hotel rooms and also hang not-quite-dry laundry from the European washer/dryer combo.

Life was all good until I found THIS. I’m tempted to give my boring hamper to someone else, and buy this hamper for myself and every other girlie I know. Who doesn’t want a little black brocade in her closet, even while on vacation?

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P.S. I would have linked up Wikipedia for the Jeeves reference, but I support the blackout. Tell your Congresspeople that SOPA isn’t the way to suppress internet crime.

P.P.S. E-mail me if you want me to hook you up with my travel agent; she may be the only full-service agent left in the United States!

P.P.P.S.  It’s amazing what WordPress doesn’t know how to spell. I’m just sayin”…

5 Days of Christmas 2011: Holiday Candelabra

Yesterday, you visited my wine bottle candelabra, and I should have rightly called it a candelabrum. The term candelabra correctly applies to a pair or group of matching candelabrum. Today I’d like to celebrate the many beautiful candelabra that are available for purchase to upgrade your holiday experience.

Since it’s Hanukkah, I thought I’d start with one of the most interesting menorahs I have ever seen. This one is covered in Swarovski crystals.

If you celebrate Christmukkah, as some of my friends do, you can buy this nifty crossover ornament at Target.

If you’re more into traditional candelabra, here’s a nice one from Victorian Trading Company. For my more modern readers, you can buy beautiful glass candelabra at CB2.

Don’t forget that drippy candles will ruin your table and your table linens, so investing in a set of bobeches is a good thing. Here’s a handy little lifesaver from Victorian Trading Company.

And what was I doing last year five days before Christmas? Going to the doctor, the same thing I’m doing today. Last year I encouraged my readers to get a colonoscopy, and this year I’m seeing the allergist to find out why my throat’s been bothering me for ten years. I guess it’s about time…

11 Days of Christmas 2011: Christmas Sweaters

Just in case you haven’t gotten the memo (or choose to ignore it) from Clinton and Stacey, Christmas sweaters are still alive and well on the internet.

There are blue sweaters.

There are green sweaters.

Closer to Christmas you might want to wear red sweaters.

Or you might be in the mood for black.

Just don’t break the Christmas photo card taboo (or bring your small animal).

Last year at this time I was ranting.

12 Days of Christmas 2011: Living Greener

In my days of amassing a basement full of “stuff,” I bought a lovely Longaberger silverware caddy basket and received a chrome plate/silverware caddy as a gift. I use both of these regularly for buffet serving on my island, but they are bulky and take up a lot of storage room in my small house.

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Although the Victorians had a specialty serving piece for just about every little job, they also knew that a beautiful mug could do many jobs, including holding flatware for a buffet. Doesn’t this photo of a reproduction carnival glass spooner just make you want to go out and buy it?

I have a collection of Christmas mugs that I often use on the buffet to hold the flatware, and I’m sure that if you rooted through all the pieces you have in the back of your cupboards, you could come up with three or four beautiful pieces that stylistically blend with each other and are about the right size.

In these days of living greener, using what we already have at Christmas is one of my favorite things. Or buy a couple of these stunning spooners. Your life might be richer for their beauty.

Sometimes things are just so simple that you can’t believe you ever did anything else.

Last year at this time, we were eagerly awaiting the birth of our grandnephew, whose first birthday is coming up next week. I’m still glad I’m not 39 weeks pregnant.

13 Days of Christmas 2011: Everybody Needs a Tiara

When I originally decided to do this series with my Victorian Trading Company catalog in hand, I chose this topic for one of my planned days. Then yesterday, I included Suzanne’s birthday story, so it must be followed today by my own tiara story.

Looking at the beautiful iridescence of Suzanne’s tiara, I wondered if one could actually buy this online. I did my normal Google Images search, and finally found one that appears to be similar.

If this is indeed the same product, this company would do itself a favor by rephotographing that tiara so that it catches the light as Suzanne’s did. Apparently Victorian Trading Company considered this in its catalog photography, since both of these tiaras are photographed alluringly. The girls are so demure that it poses the question if one can actually be demure while wearing a crown.

And then I ran across this — clearly God’s answer to my question.

Why would one want to be demure anyway? And for good measure, God also sent me this photo to brighten a very dismal work day.

At the risk of being irreverent, I have to say that this must be proof that God exists. Now I’m off to grade those essays.

Apparently one of the things I did last year was to visit Crate and Barrel and take photos of table settings. I still hope to do that this year!

17 Days of Christmas 2011: White House Christmas

Can you believe it? Seventeen days left? I finally updated my wish list and ordered some gifts. Decorating? Well, maybe later. We’ll see.

One of my personal guilty pleasures is watching the HGTV White House Christmas special every year. I used to make my students watch it, thinking they actually cared about the history and beauty of the White House. Mostly, I got comments ranging from “what a waste of money” to “the White House is a public building and shouldn’t be decorated for Christmas, which is a religious holiday.” There is a certain amount of truth in both of those statements, but for me, watching the White House transformed for the holidays is a very special treat. The year, the special is airing on HGTV on December 11; set your recording devices NOW so you don’t forget.

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Aren’t they gorgeous? In 1961, Jackie Kennedy began the current tradition of decorating the White House Christmas tree with a specific theme. First ladies since the divine Jackie have put their personal spin on the tree decorations, but most have included handmade ornaments by artists around the United States. First Lady Michelle Obama’s 2011 theme is “Shine, Give, Share.” You’ll see all this on the White House Christmas special, but this photo essay from the Daily Mail has many beautiful pictures of the White House decorated for the holidays.

You’re probably not up for creating a 400-pound marzipan White House replica, but you can cook White House style with this cookbook.

You can buy this 1899 edition of the White House Cookbook through my favorite catalog or from, but you might want to consider the centennial commemorative cookbook which was published in 1996. The 1896 recipes have been lightened up and made more appropriate for modern tastes.

My post from last year at 17 Days was about the Sing-Off which was still a December phenomenon then. It was a lot of fun to watch this year’s version again with my UR buddies; sadly our hometown guys, The Yellowjackets, didn’t win. As you can see from their web site, national exposure has made them stars. We’re pretty proud of our UR singers, including my daughter’s college a capella group, Vocal Point.

23 Days of Christmas 2011: Christmas Shoes

This post is totally based on what “I wish.” I saw these drop-dead-gorgeous shoes in my favorite catalog and since I can’t wear them, I could only imagine WHO would wear them. Cause it wouldn’t be me. Anymore.

I can remember the day that I was wearing the most fabulous shoes  that I have ever owned — purple suede and black patent leather spectator pumps with three-inch heels. It was the last time I ever wore fabulous shoes. I was at a conference in Oakbrook and at lunch I went to Naturalizer and bought sensible shoes because my feet hurt so badly I couldn’t stand it another minute. It was the beginning of the downhill slippery slope upon which I now stand — poised for nothing but boring shoes.

I hope you can buy and wear these adorable shoes. You deserve them because you too are fabulous. For my male readers, if the shoe fits… but I’m not judging.

So who should wear these shoes? The first person that came to mind was Christina Aguilera, and she’s got a fabulous Christmas album if you’d like to honor her by her music along with her fashion.

Mariah Carey came next in my fantasy singer draft for the red shoes. Although at the moment, Mariah seems busy popping out babies, her Christmas albums have been best sellers and I can totally see her wearing the red shoes when she’s not taking care of her twins. Carey’s 1994 Christmas album, Merry Christmas, was the best-selling holiday album of all time. She released two versions of “All I Want for Christmas” in music video; this one is supposed to mimic home movies.

Mariah’s now-classic addition to the secular Christmas music canon has held up well over the years. It was used in my favorite Christmas movie, Love Actually, and in the film is sung by 11-year-old Olivia Olson. While coming home from Thanksgiving celebrations in Ohio, I heard Justin Bieber’s duet with Carey which appears on his 2011 Under the Mistletoe Christmas album. We thought it was a little creepy when we heard it; it’s one thing to sing a duet with a real person in an album, but the listener can tell that they each recorded their parts separately and never worked together. I’m not criticizing The Bieb; we think he’s very talented and the Christmas album is a nice addition to your playlist. While researching this post, I also found out that the divine Amber Riley covered “All I Want” on the Glee Christmas II album. It’s pretty Mercedes-fabulous!

And finally, how could any fabulous shoes post be complete without the queen of spike heels, Miss Dolly Parton? Her 1990 album, Home for Christmas has just the right touch of down-home twang and country instrumentals while still showcasing Dolly’s amazing voice and styling.

This is part of the second annual 25 Days of Christmas series; here’s my 2010 post for December 3.

And yes, Lala, they will come in your size if you tell Santa that you want them.