Mama Camp in Charlottesville (+ packing lists)

 photo 65B5C4AB-786B-4191-B502-3C45BC07FDC3_zpsz7cg0did.jpg photo 673D12FC-9C11-4730-9E96-00629D3357E1_zps6k4j92ca.jpg photo BAA43F63-1F8F-4533-A4D6-360947972A4D_zpsbgerduog.jpg  photo C838B2AB-C302-44C3-AAD6-00702C072B68_zpsajjg9xkb.jpgAt the start of the month, I joined three of my best friends from college in our college town, Charlottesville—AKA the best city in America—because we hadn’t seen one another in way too long. The most effective way that I explained it to Mary Tobin was that it would be camp for mamas.

And I highly recommend Mama Camp! Should you find yourself packing for something similar, here are some ideas for what you might need:

    • Your cutest shirts and dresses to show off for your fashionable friends (i.e. the only two cute tops you like right now, and in my case: muumuus).
    • A selection from the huge basket of beanie babies at your mom’s house, to send home with your friends for their kids. (Side note: the new beanie babies with huge eyes are terrifying.)
    • Comfy jammies for lounging and chatting.
    • The most outrageous rental car you can find, to embarrass your friends.
    • Some ideas about what you’d like to accomplish. Our to-do list included:
      • Coffee
      • Bodo’s (the bagel place)
      • The Lawn
      • Take It Away (the sandwich place)
      • Wine
      • Chatting
      • Basil gimlet from Mas Tapas

As you see, the three essential factors we considered were food, drink, and shady, lovely spots to sit and chat. The weather was glorious. We ate two delectable dinners at Zocalo (on Charlottesville’s downtown mall) and Tavola (in Belmont), and spent a beautiful afternoon at King Family Vineyards.

We discussed:

  • Marriage
  • Parenting
  • How disgusting our dorm rooms were and how we’ve grown in the area of cleanliness.
  • Using regular clothes as maternity clothes and maternity clothes as regular clothes.
  • Birkenstocks
  • Flare jeans
  • Shows on Netflix and Amazon. My pick is Catastrophe. So so funny.
  • Beauty products
  • Schools, work, career paths, health, and many items and details that will remain in the circle of trust.

We always find our friend Anna Kate, though she often doesn’t realize it, to be a source of great recommendations: cute clothes, pajamas, Madewell jeans, dry shampoo, chic diaper bags, something to put in the carseat or stroller to keep it cool in the deathly heat (AK or SB, give us the deets on that, please!).

Our friend Ansley gets the trooper award, since she had some kind of stomach bug and was not feeling 100% all weekend. You could hardly tell since she remained her bright cheerful self, but we gave her a hard time for drinking less wine than the pregnant lady (if you lost track: that’s me).

Our friend Elizabeth is the encouraging one who will always tell you how great and cute and smart you are, and that you should write a book. She’s the one who told me to share on the blog my quick tip for packing up the family, which is simply this: I typed up our master Packing List on Evernote (but it could just be in Word on your computer) that I print out for every trip and modify for the occasion.
 photo C098993B-5792-44F5-A628-BEFD8CC22215_zpsvrdtxgmi.jpg photo 09632844-3B58-479B-A2B1-8711F1714327_zpsy3eo1f80.jpgI’m not yet a professional packer, but this way I don’t have to think through all the randomness every time we go somewhere. Some of our essentials, for example, are the girls’ special pillow cases, the noise phone, and cuddle guys. (What’s on your list?)

I think that’s all. I am a professional mama and this was an excellent professional development trip. Write it off!

Pack Light (But Pack Good)

Usually my packing represents the worst of both worlds: I bring way too much, and I still don’t have anything good to wear. But, for the past few trips I’ve made an effort to follow Ashley’s advice to pack light and rewear things. In order for that to work, though, you’ll need to bring only good clothes that you won’t hate yourself in.

It’s a cathartic process —ruthlessly evaluating one’s clothes and their wearability. As for me, I realized that I should probably just reduce my whole wardrobe to only those items that pass the trip test. But, as I said, it’s a process. It worked pretty well when I packed my favorite blue and brown tops to layer and mix with my favorite jeans (going with a single color scheme: advice from Cup of Jo), and maybe a dress or two that roll up nicely in my bag.

Other things to keep in mind:

  • Wherever you’re going, they probably use toothpaste, wear clothes, and style their hair. . . as Clark Griswold says in European Vacation, “Europeans go to the bathroom, don’t they?” So if you forget something, don’t stress. You should be able to pick it up at your destination—which will add the cultural bonus of a genuine, non-souvenir shopping experience.
  • My mom pointed out that no one knows you, so there’s no big need to worry about how you look. Feel free to experiment and take fashion risks. In Cholula, I wore a couple of scarves in a kind of French-y fashion that I wouldn’t dare to wear here. They protected my sunburned neck, and some German tourists asked me if I spoke German. European chic. (Are Germans known for that?) To me it was a WIN.
  • On the flip side of no one knowing you,  I shouldn’t be embarrassed when my dad wears his ID and wallet in a pouch around his neck, as if he’s a young child who can’t be responsible for carrying a note home to his parents. The good news is that he will NOT be pick pocketed, and perhaps someone will strike up a conversation when they see a Tennessee driver’s license. I should let it go, or like my brother said, just think of it as an homage to Flava Flav.
  • Here’s a post on packing light from the old Bonobos blog (with packing list, for dudes). They also once posted travel tips, that I can’t find, including: leave something awesome behind for your host (think: rugby shirt, scarf, glasses), and remember what the “true bottom” of your rolling bag is when you pack.
  • Finally, I recommend trying out a Turkish towel. They’re great in general, but for traveling, they take up less room and dry way more quickly than a traditional towel, and can double as a blanket. In DC, find the Turkish towel stand at the Eastern Market flea market. Salt and Sundry at Union Market carries them, too, and it’s worth visiting the store to see how well they curate everything. But, insider tip!, Salt and Sundry buys their Turkish towels from the woman at Eastern Market, so, obviously, their prices are higher. Here are some similar online.

Are you a professional packer, or what?

Happy trails.

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Tips from Ash: Copenhagen+Fall Fashion+Travel

Today I’m giddy, stressed, and highly caffeinated, because at the end of the week Israel-bear and I are going on a big adventure. Our dear friends Ashley and Tyler are living in Copenhagen for the year; i.e., living the dream and traveling all around Europe and beyond. Getting some work done, too, I’m sure. And we’re going to visit! I’m all amped up and nervous about the trip, so Ash has been talking me through things, and she’s agreed to let me share with y’all some of her hard-earned Euro travel advice—17 countries and counting!

You should check out her blog, Getting Accustomed Tuite. (Their last name is Tuite. To it. Get it? You can thank Ashley’s dad Branch for that gem!) I have absolutely loved following along in their lives this year through Ashley’s photos and writing.

So, listen in on my conversation with Ashley as we talk nordic fashion and packing, and check in tomorrow for the rest of her travel advice. (One more background item: Ashley and I call each other “homes,” as in homeslice, homey. Not sure why. Just don’t call her “Ash hole” even though that is one hilarious pun.)


Help! I have Copenhagen Fashion Anxiety. What do we need to know? Does everyone wear black? Can Israel wear a puffy vest and other preppy clothes?

Here’s the rub, homes: The Danes are far cooler than I will ever be, so I’ve kind of given up.

But, since you’re much more capable than me, here are a few fashion observations so far this fall. Most girls are wearing leggings or very skinny jeans with baggy, neutral-toned sweaters or blouses, boots, and a dramatically chunky, knit scarf. I’ve seen lots of high buns, pops of color with sassy shoes or bags, lots of ombre and color-blocking. Hipster-esque but still fashionable. No one overdoes it with a funky, bright anthro top or dress and forgettable everything else. It’s a subtle, the-whole-package type of style.

I pretty much epically fail every day. But, I can’t afford funky Danish clothes and I don’t think I have enough Nordic swag to pull it off. You, on the other hand, have blonde hair so you might just fit in.

Here are a few images via pinterest to give you an idea.

Source: via Ashley on Pinterest

Source: via Ashley on Pinterest


Another thing to keep in mind, it’s much cooler here than in the US. We’re full-fledged fall at the moment. And, the seasons are not fickle here, unlike DC. There’s virtually no chance we will have a day in the 70s, or even high 60s. I still think it’s not that cold and know you can get by on sweaters and a light jacket, but others have said I’m too used to the temperature here. So, layer up! And, bring a rain coat. It will rain. For sure.

Do not worry about the weather, by the way. It’s kind of romantic and it’s when Denmark’s magic comes out. One word: “hyggelige”.

Izzy can totally wear a puffy vest. I see lots of puffy jackets here, especially in the winter. Preppy clothes? At his own risk.

Only kidding. We had a friend walk into Christania (look it up) with a pink polo and darker pink sweater tied around his shoulders and he stood out like a sore thumb. But, no one cared. People are totally chill in good ol’ Danmark.

So glad you told me this! Let’s be real, my closet is full of the Anthro-like statement pieces you described. Shoot. I’m going to tone it down. But get ready for “aggressive” (read: bright and preppy) American fashion from Izzy.

In your vast travels this year, have you picked up any amazing tips and strategies as you pack or prepare for a trip? Like only bringing clothes in the same color palette so they’ll all mix and match? Please share your secrets.

Maybe you should be the one giving me tips here? That’s a great idea. I would definitely try that – especially for the fall when you need so many layers.

My best advice is to pack light and re-wear clothes. It’s much more enjoyable to navigate airports and metros and cab rides if you’ve packed light. Unfortunately for you, you’re bringing hair products, bags, pumpkin puree, leggings – you know, the US treasures that I need. Hopefully it won’t weigh you down too much. [TAK, for real, homes!!]

You’re welcome! But OK, I’m about to go unpack and repack my bag and try to get rid of half my clothes . . .

[conversation to be continued . . . ]