Packing for Italy and the Inevitable

On a recent weekend trip to Las Vegas, I was talked into taking a cheap flight instead of road-tripping it by a girlfriend whose status is now in question. I was assured that the price of the ticket more than compensated for gas, traffic, parking hassles, and speeding tickets. That a leisurely stroll through the airport sipping Starbucks was a better use of our time.

After clicking the “Purchase” button, my e-receipt popped up and with it came the fine print….for another three pages. Turns out, this airline is cheap for a reason and deviating from their rules comes with penalties. You may only bring onboard a single personal bag that fits inside exact measurements below your seat. A carry-on option can be purchased for an additional fee of $30. One-way.

“Oh, we’re just going for the weekend!” said my girlfriend, “How much do we need? I just take my little backpack.”

She showed up with her backpack and her purse. I raised an eyebrow. I had taken no chances and fit everything into a single tote, using magical Sherpa powers. Let’s just say that for all I was going to Vegas, I am not a gambler.

Six tops in a gallon ziplock, capris, shorts, two dresses…and I still didn’t wear half of it.

She went up to the gate-keeper just before we boarded and asked about her “two” bags. The man, well trained as a prison guard, attempted to charge her $65. There was an additional fee for waiting till the last minute to break the rules. She came back panicked.

I suggested she put all of her clothing on in layers and wear it onboard.

Instead, she jammed her purse into the top 3” of backpack airspace and called it a single bag.

Mission accomplished. With a little side-eye at the guard as he scanned our tickets.

My point is, that when one travels, one never knows what ludicrous situation will arise in which you wish fervently that you had packed with more efficiency. Our return flight, for example.

We arrived at the departure gate from Las Vegas to San Diego with plenty of time to get our last Starbucks of the weekend and lounge by the windows. We watched planes coming and going and discussed the merits of what age and what color one should get their hair dyed (the minute you start going gray and whatever you do, don’t end up “tweed”) when the loudspeaker announced our flight’s “final departure call”.

In a puff of smoke, my girlfriend disappeared. I stood up, torn by the decision to tidy up our table or take off after her, racing for our gate.

To whoever had to clean up behind us: I’m sorry.

To whoever watched our epic airport dash, flip-flops flapping, bulging bags bouncing, and gray hairs flying: You’re welcome.

Even my little bag felt extra-heavy during that sprint and I’m sitting here pondering a trip to Italy for September and asking myself, “Self, exactly how much baggage do you want to lug with you on planes, trains, and gondolas? Can you justify bringing a flatiron across the planet? Can you trudge along the cobblestones in flat, sensible shoes while the native beauties sashay by in stilettos?”

This is where my Self reminds me that probably they won’t. Probably stilettos get caught in the cobblestones, and I feel slightly better.


I took exactly one pair of sandals to Vegas. They went with everything and we walked for miles without a blister. But Italy is Olympic-size traveling.  I’m gonna need a bigger shoe. And a sparkly shoe.  And a high-heel shoe. And a sprinting shoe.

And a smaller bag.

Which Self will win? The Sensible Sherpa or the “Roman Holiday” Romantic?

I’ve been perusing travel websites, searching for a way to have my cannoli and eat it too, but I’d love to hear some advice in the Comment box!


5K On the Bay

There’s a brand new piece of bling in my jewelry box and my earrings are trying to make friends, but the string of pearls won’t even make eye contact.

All silky ribbon and gilt-edged beauty, this little sparkler was coveted from afar, hard won, and brands me forever as a LEGEND.

Read it and weep…

“Just try it,” said my sister, “it’s fun!”

This is not the first time that I have been duped into doing an activity that was clearly designed to kill me, but cleverly disguised as a mentoring opportunity. It is, however, the first time I’ve been awarded a medal for it.

If you’ve never participated in a 5K, let me set the scene:

A 5K is a “small” run, usually connected to a “larger” run such as a half-marathon or 800 meter leopard chase. My sister, and many others, collects 5Ks like bubblegum wrappers. She is running one a month for a year and is halfway through her goal.

Every 5K has a “theme” with swag (party favors that include a water bottle, towel, T-shirt, and coupons for a free beard trim). Today’s run was themed “San Diego Legends” and it included major sports celebrity guests and Hank Bauer as MC.

You can run in costume to show your theme spirit, you can run with a team and wear matching comrade shirts, or you can show up in your finest athletic garb and rock those warm-up stretches like a pro. If your Olympic-level outfit makes you look like a giant asparagus, it will only be overlooked if you come in first place. Otherwise, film will be rolled.

And there are certain things that should never be photographed.

Like this.

I decided that bull-riding easily qualifies as a warm-up activity, especially if combined with free-style on the swings and followed with a couple of fast slides into the sandbox.

Once you’re warmed up, you squeeze into the cattle chute with everyone else and wait for the gunshot. You check your shoelaces and your bib and tighten your cap a little. People are hopping up and down. There is just enough time to wonder whether you are about to make a terrible mistake when the gun goes off.

A lady in front of us, startled, dropped her keys, and had one nanosecond to scrabble for them.

We found our place in the herd and I put my head down and focussed on following my sister’s jacket. This is why I didn’t notice the double-wide stroller trying to pass me at the corner. Whining from the vehicle alerted me to a fiercely driving dad as I jumped to safety.

“I don’t want to run a race!” cried a toddler, “I want to stop!”

We plugged along after them, not sure who to commiserate with.

5Ks are held in various locations but you are not supposed to know exactly where it will take you until you are actually running, because surprises make your adrenaline pump faster.

We came to Nimitz Bridge, up and over and back we went, circled the USS Recruit, and zigzagged between views of San Diego Bay and Liberty Station Park. We went around a fallen seven-year-old with skinned knees, a napping residence-challenged person, and a lizard on the sidewalk doing push-ups.

The last sprint to the finish line was epic. We had a record to beat, and my sis was going to PR by less than a minute if we fumbled. Gasping for air on the other side, we realized that the timer was set to the gun, not to our bibs.

In 37 minutes and 45 seconds, we became San Diego Legends.

Placing our bling reverently around our necks, we circled the camp to take in our Hero’s Welcome: apples, bananas, water, Gatorade, free Fair tickets, and Healthy Veggie Chocolate Cake samples.

We were the only major sports celebrities there, as the advertised guests had never arrived. They dropped from Legends to Myths.

We looked around for the asparagus but she had left the party.

Hopefully, she wasn’t in the chocolate cake.

Lone Stars in her eyes, my sister insists that we could become San Antonio Legends next month.

I know a trap when I hear one.

I wonder if I could squeeze a Texas-sized bling in my box?

To see us on real, live TV, click here. The asparagus is ahead of us, of course. Veggies are overachievers. We follow, 30 seconds into the video.

Paint By Number

Good morning everyone, and welcome to Jolie’s first and last ever painting class. Grab your apron and let’s get started!

Choose your seat wisely. It’s probably not a grand plan to sit next to a sister-in-law who can paint like Michelangelo. You want to focus on the lady to your right, who is wearing more paint on her face than you will use on your canvas. She knows what’s up.

For this session, you will need a blank canvas, three paintbrushes and several random puddles of paint on a paper plate. We did not name the colors because art cannot be restrained by labels.

I’m gonna need a bigger glass…….

In honor of our adulting activity, here is your wine. Keep that vino flowing and don’t mix up your wine glass with your paintbrush cleaning glass or you will have a VERY interesting painting at the end of this hour.

I know what you’re saying: “But Jolie, I have the artistic abilities of a rhino with a cottonball on the end of his snout. I can’t even paint my living room walls…with only one color to choose from!”

I’m here for you. Buckle up.

Let’s do this.

  1. Choose your large brush and dip it into the tidy hot pink paint puddle. Then double-dip it into the tidy cobalt puddle. Mix these two colors and form a little Secret Sauce, then smear it across the top of your canvas.
  2. Lower your bar. Set your expectations to kindergarten refrigerator art level, and we don’t mean kid #1 level, we mean kid #4 level.
  3. Don’t panic. We all make happy little accidents. To paint an orange streak across a purple sky, you must allow the sky to dry first. You must keep the orange streak thick enough to not let the purple show through. You must blend, blend, blend the orange into the red next to it, and the red must still be wet enough to be friendly at the border but not abdicate entirely and – horse pucky! – don’t let the purple show through the red; now look what you’ve done.
  4. Drink more whine wine.
  5. Use a hairdryer to speed-dry your sky and begin again by painting over the whole muck with a fresh layer of Secret Sauce. Move on to your grass.
  6. Choose your medium brush and wonder why we don’t just skip straight into finger-painting as you boldly wipe your hand onto your apron because this is someone else’s laundry.
  7. Using the citron and cerulean paint puddles, create a shade of green that you will never be able to replicate. Start spreading Pesto with wild abandon over the middle of the canvas. Moving quickly, blend the shades of green until you run out of cerulean (is the sky dry YET?) and tell yourself that grass can be Lemony if it wants to.
  8. The lady to your right is enjoying her third glass of wine. She has painted a rocket ship.
  9. Go back to your sky. Your sunset looks like a nuclear blast that stopped just shy of due north and we are not going to argue with it. Choose your small brush and let’s add some far-away cloudlets for depth. (Note to self: these are not little sheep floating in the Gamma rays. Do not give them legs.)
  10. Go back to your grass. All of the puddles on your paper plate palette have become a single quagmire of uncertain hue. Swipe that nasty across the bottom of your canvas. Call it “Ominous Shadow”.
  11. Make Ominous trees at the horizon; drop some Ominous blobs into your grass.
  12. Ask for fresh paint.
  13. Ask for fresh wine.
  14. Ask the art teacher to stop rolling her eyes behind your back.
  15. Make bluebonnets. Or blue pinecones. Blue hand grenades? Whatever. Mutter something about thumbprints.
This one’s going on my Mom’s fridge. She has to. It’s the rules.

Use a hairdryer to dry your sweaty bangs set the paint. Sign and date your canvas so that your great-grandvarmints can laugh at their ancestor’s artwork sell it for millions when you’re famous.

If Grandma Moses can do it, so can you.

I hope you enjoyed your artistic venture as much as I did! Be sure to hang your painting in a prominent place in your home, like over the commode, or perhaps in the garage next to the mounted bass that sings Christmas carols.

Join us next week as my sister-in-law drags us once again, where we have no business going.