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What’s in a Name?
“Don’t say ‘old!’”

One afternoon when my husband, Joe, picked me up from the journaling class I was leading, he found me glum, undone, outdone.

I’d been sure the journaling women would dismiss my doubts about the name of this blog, that they’d say, “Change it? You must be kidding! Stylish Ole Woman’s terrific.” But they didn’t. Not uniformly, at least.

My friend Sharon had already objected to it. She’d emailed me, “Old doesn’t attract. It repels.” I’d wondered if her opinion was suspiciously vociferous, reflecting perhaps a neurosis peculiar to her.

But Joe’s youngest sister also thought the name was a turn off. As a replacement, she offered an acronym that spelled Style. But I considered the words that made up the acronym cumbersome, freighted, and somehow sad.

Sharon and my sister-in-law were on either side of 50.

I remembered talking about it to a woman named Ruth, right after a movement and strength class at the gym.

“No!” she’d actually yelled. “That’s a bad name! Don’t say ‘old.’ Call it something else!”

I thought she reacted like that because she really is old—around 90, I figured.

My friend Ava liked the name. But she’s a realist. And she’s only 45. She might be spooked by aging, too, once she slides from her mid-forties into her late forties.


Fear and repulsion about aging never occurred to me when I excitedly came up with the idea for this blog. I mean, is it that bad, that terrifying, to be old? As I approached 50, did I try to suppress some alarm about aging? If I did, it would have been over all I hadn’t accomplished in my life, rather than about the potential of a failing body, which was unimaginable to me at the time.

Keeping Aging a Secret
Later, I came to resent the fact that aging was so secretive. The truth about it was suppressed by the most important female influences in my life. They wouldn’t talk to me about it, so as I hit my forties, fifties, and sixties, I knew not what to expect. No one told me my lashes and brows would thin unevenly, so that they no longer matched without the aid of deftly applied eye makeup. Nor that I’d mostly descend from high heels to flats, or that a toe would act up.

Menopause was a dirty word. The older women in my life denied experiencing any troublesome symptoms. But my mother dissembled. She had night sweats—I recall her coming downstairs in the morning looking flushed, her pajama shirt open and askew. Patting her upper chest, she would say, “I can’t stand anything near my neck.”

A woman in the journaling class remembered the same about her mother. Another made us laugh when she told us she remembered that her aunts had cardigans draped over the backs of chairs all over the house.

I considered my Stylish Ole Woman posts about growing older a warning. What I didn’t realize is that, unlike me, few women wanted to be warned. They hoped age would slip up on them silently (or not at all, of course), and that they’d suddenly find themselves at age 80, more or less as they had been decades earlier, without aches or pains, or unreliable vision and sketchy hearing.

Only around 10% of Stylish Ole Woman blog posts have anything to do with age. But that’s the devious power of labels; the content doesn’t matter if people have trouble getting past the name.


Please share your views in a Comment.

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Just click on the link below to register for this free workshop. Hope to see you there!
- Lynette

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Margy Rydzynski and I have been colleagues and friends for years. When I met her for coffee last June, she had an unexpected question for me. Would I be her NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) coach? The worldwide NaNoWriMo challenge is held every November, but Margy was going to do hers in July.

I knew Margy had been writing a novel. And I was aware that she had put it aside to take care of some other major demands in her life. So I was thrilled to know she was going to resume work on her manuscript, and happy to have a chance to help out.

After Margy completed the challenge, I asked her to tell my blog visitors about her experience. The first thing I wanted to know was why 20,000 – 30,000 words? Here are her answers to that and to my other questions.
- Lynette

Margy Rydzynski

Margy Rydzynski

Why that many words? I had already completed 50,000 words of my novel and didn’t think it would take another 50,000 to finish it. The 50,000 word count is provided by NaNoWriMo as part of their November writing challenge. I wasn’t sure how many more words my novel needed to be completed, so I just wrote until I was done! Lynette tells me I wrote well over an additional 32,000 words of the novel in July.

How did I prepare for an effort of this magnitude and what did I give up? I work as a freelance consultant and teacher. My working life is therefore unpredictable, but summer is generally a bit slower. Normally, I use the time to catch up on my own work and plan new projects. In order to produce the amount of writing on my novel as I did, I decided to put all but the most time-critical work on the back burner and treat the writing as my highest priority. I had to be available for current clients, but I didn’t take on anything new.

What was the most difficult part? Getting started! It took me a while to get back into the swing of things. I hadn’t worked on this novel in quite some time and had to read over a lot of my notes to pick up the thread. Fortunately, I’ve kept a blog with possible plot progressions, characters, etc. I spent a good deal of time thinking about the story and writing down ideas, many of which came to me while I was in the shower!

Did I achieve my goal? Yes, although the first draft is very rough. At least it’s done, though. Editing will be a lot easier (I hope)!

My advice to those considering doing NaNoWriMo: You need to jump into it completely, not just dip your toes in. Life can and will get in the way, so you have to look at the big picture and organize your time accordingly. You have to write when you don’t feel like writing and just go on with the story. Above all, DO NOT EDIT YOUR WORK as you’re writing. The goal is to produce a lot of words, and editing as you go will bog you down.

What support did I have to for my July NaNoWriMo challenge? I knew I’d need someone to keep my feet to the fire, since my life is so unpredictable. I immediately thought of my friend Lynette, who’s a writing instructor and coach. I hired her to be my official “nudge” and, I have to say, I got my money’s worth! She sent me daily quotes for inspiration, met me in person from time to time to see how I was doing—and more. I had to send her my word count and writing for each day. There was no way I could slack off with her as my task manager.

Have you participated in NaNoWriMo? Got any tips you care to share?

Want help making real progress on your writing? Use the Contact tab at the top of this page to get in touch with me.

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A while back I published a list of Life’s Little Infuriations, and followed that with a request that site visitors contribute their own nagging annoyances. (Check the comments on those posts to see what’s irritating others.)

Now, here are some of my latest infuriations. Enjoy the flowers, which have nothing to do with this post, except that they help to keep me more or less sane.

- Jackets without pockets. Where to put gloves? A tissue?

- Ice cold restaurant salads. Ice cold, brick hard restaurant butter.

- Food stores (supermarket, take out joints, etc.) charging the same or higher price for a smaller amount of food.

- Websites with useful or entertaining information, but no Share buttons.

- Websites that require your email address before they show you anything at all. My experience has been with mostly, but not only, home decorating sites. How on earth do you know if those sites will offer anything of interest to you?

- Road sings covered by foliage 3 seasons a year.

- Left turning motorists who don’t use their signals, so you’re stuck behind them when you could have gone about your business in the right lane.

- Tiny score boxes on televised baseball games; our screens get larger, their writing smaller.

- While I’m on the subject of sports: The constant chatter by broadcasters on topics unrelated to the game being aired. Also, the intense crushes they and the sports media get on some players. The hapless players seldom live up to all the hype. (Think recent Red Sox rookies, whose last names begin with “B.”)

- Top bed sheets marked “queen size” that are patently too small. They are the same size as those made for a double bed.

Elm Bank Formal Floral Row

Elm Bank Formal Floral Row

Leave a comment if you can relate to these. Or, share your own.

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BLUE-OUTFIT BRACELET e1379112195127-225x300

When I asked a poet/memoirist in the journaling class I lead what she’d like to see discussed on a fashion blog for women 50 and older, at first she demurred, saying that although she’s generally outspoken, she’s timid in her approach to dressing. Finally, though, she offered the following questions.

- What type of dresser are you? Why?
- Have you always been this way?
- What do shopping, buying, wearing clothes, jewelry do for you?
- How do you see yourself in clothes? Has it changed through the years? Why?

When she was dressed up, my mother was the most stylish woman I ever saw in New York, a major fashion capital, where we lived. She didn’t try to dress just neatly or safely. She armed herself with fashion. Her taste and fashion daring outshone those of all other women I saw in downtown Manhattan, strutting along outside Saks 5th Avenue and Bergdof Goodman. It was in those two stores, among a few others, that my mother bought herself knock-out outfits on layaway every few years.

Can Style = Approval?
From my earliest years, I recall people stopping us on the street to admire our clothing, especially the clothes my mother knitted or sewed for my older sister and me. So dressing fabulously was deeply ingrained and deeply rewarding. My mother praised me for my sense of style, and little else (except my ability to entertain. In her rare good moods, she referred to me as “the personality kid”).

Can Style = Connection?
Only recently have I realized that clothes connect(ed) me with my disapproving mother, who was profoundly critical. When I was a desultory college student, she approved of my using my part-time job salary to buy quietly gorgeous clothes on layaway in pricey East Side boutiques, explaining that one good dress was better than five shabby ones. She’d turn garments inside out to finger the neatly finished seams or point out the tiny clear buttons backing those that showed on the front. She appreciated elegance and details in classic clothing—the perfectly placed pleat, the surprise trim on a suit’s back belt. Thus I developed my fondness for elegance with an edge. (I don’t want to look so outré that I attract stares. A compliment will do).

Green Sweater

Appreciation of Stylishness
The visual stimulation of seeing a well put-together outfit is so overwhelming to me that I have to restrain myself from racing to enthusiastically embrace creatively dressed strangers.

Impossible as it seems to me, I understand that some people don’t notice fashion. One outfit is the same as any other to them. Sort of like those—also incomprehensible to me—who eat because they must, not because they savor the rich joys of food.

I’m not advocating spending a lot of hard earned money on clothes. If someone can’t buy whole new outfits or expensive items, I hope they’ll save up for that one cherish-able, emphatic scarf, pair of shoes, piece of jewelry, like a uniquely-designed necklace that would look stunning, even worn with nightclothes. The other day, I gasped over a beautiful beaded necklace. The woman wearing it said she got it for less than ten dollars at an outdoor festival.

But . . . the Shopping for Clothes
I become overwhelmed by clothes tangled on hangers, or clumped in slippery piles on the floor, or even neatly organized, in large stores. I get tired, digging for the item I want. I prefer small stores: boutiques, discount department stores, like Marshall’s and TJMaxx, or hole-in-the-wall consignment and thrift shops.

Red Crossover

What does dressing stylishly, creatively, mean for you?

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Here is the second part of our guest post by Abby Forstall, wardrobe and interior design consultant. So you don’t miss any of Abby’s advice, I hope you’ll read Part 1.
- Lynette

Abby Forstall, Wardrobe and Interior Design Consultant

Abby Forstall

Your Style
Personal style is something you develop. Life hurries along and before we know it we are adults, caught up in jobs and kids, soccer and insurance, TV and too much news. Personal style is something that sets you apart from the rest of the world, and makes you feel special. Feeling good when you walk out the door every day gives you a leg up to take on the kids, that promotion, and the world.

Your individual style is based on what you like and what works for you and your life. People often have their own style, but it may not be what flatters their figure or their personality.

“I don’t try to change people’s individual style; I help refine it.”

Dressing Women 50 and Older
When asked about dressing women 50 and over, I want to scream! Forget the number. I think it was Michelle Pfeiffer, the stunning actress, who said something like when she turned 50 she no longer wore skin-tight jeans; they made her feel like a “sausage.” At a certain point we realize that it’s time to re-assess what we own, how we wear it, even whether or not to wear it. Leave trends with shorter skirts and skin-tight anything out of the mix. Part with them so you’re not tempted to wear them.

We know women’s bodies change as they age. Heck, even doctors will tell you that after menopause women tend to gain around the middle.

So, now what?

You can dress beautifully no matter what your age or figure. I think of aging as acquiring a better understanding of who you are. It usually means tweaking—not a complete overhaul.

Abby is available to help women (and men) refine their style, and develop and organize their wardrobes—even long distance—teaching them to create wardrobes that enhance their lives.

Through the process, she also teaches clients to be more savvy shoppers. “Learning when and if to buy saves people money,” she says. “This education process can be easily road-mapped and monitored over the phone.”

Get more wardrobe advice and learn about Abby’s wardrobe services at Embellishments.


Advertisement Disclosure This website contains affiliate links. That means that purchases that originate on Tools and Tactics for Writers will help offset the expenses associated with this site. Your support is deeply appreciated!

Abby Forstall, wardrobe and interior design consultant, offers her services through her business, Embellishments, based in Massachusetts.

I know Abby, and she knows her style stuff, so I invited her to share her wisdom with my clothes-conscious readers.
- Lynette

Abby Forstall, Wardrobe and Interior Design Consultant

Abby Forstall

Everyone, regardless of age, can look and be amazing. It just takes:
• time
• attention
• understanding who you are and what works for you
• being open to change

Confidence and Style Go Hand in Hand
When you feel good about how you look, you’re happier and you accomplish more. It’s all about confidence.

I have a client I’ve worked with and mentored for years. She started out with an ordinary job at an ordinary company some time ago. Now she is a top tax accountant at a very large, well-known company.

When we began working together, she wore a compression sleeve on her left arm, for medical reasons. She wore long sleeves to hide it, even through the hot summer months. Now, she has the confidence to wear sleeveless dresses. That compression sleeve is no longer a focal point for her.

Women often say, “I hate my big hips,” or “My shoulders are too broad.”

My job—and yours, too—is to divert attention away from these real or imagined problem areas. Broad hips? Highlight your waist. Short waisted? Wear vertical stripes to make your torso look longer. Know how to fool the eye.

Working With Clients on Their Wardrobes
When working with a new client, the first thing I do is get to know that person. Over a cup of tea or coffee I ask questions, including:

“What do you do during the week, on the weekends, in the evenings?”

“Do you have young children?”

“What types of clothes will help you operate more efficiently?”

I employ a wardrobe transformation process that begins with analyzing my client’s wardrobe to determine which items to keep, based on fit, style, ability to be coordinated with other pieces the client owns, and how the client feels about each item. Women won’t wear clothing they don’t love.

Then we prepare a list and go shopping to fill wardrobe gaps and perhaps add a few trendy, but budget-conscious, pieces.

I find that people who shop as a hobby tend to buy lots of things they don’t need. Those items hang, unworn, in their closet, the original tags still on them. I often hear, “Oh I hate that, but my husband gave it to me,” or “We bought that on our trip to ____________. I may wear it again.”

I doubt it.

Your wardrobe should only contain pieces that work perfectly for all the activities in your life—no matter what the season. All your clothes should fit you beautifully, flatter your figure, and complement your smile.

Don’t Confuse Your Wardrobe with Your Closet
Wardrobes are like tools on a carpenter’s belt. The carpenter’s job goes smoother if she or he has the right tools. A streamlined, efficient wardrobe is an important element of your life’s toolbox. You should have only items of clothing that do the job you need.

I don’t know about you, but my world is crazy. In the morning I want to go to my closet and have it organized so efficiently that I just grab and go.

Photo courtesy of Embellishments

Photo courtesy of Embellishments

You should know and love everything in your closet. You should know how to wear everything in your closet: what pairs with what, what accessories go with different pieces, what shoes and bags work with those main pieces and what coat/jacket helps finish the outfit.

“Closets should not be unruly storage bins . . .”

It doesn’t matter if you organize your closet by color or by season, as long as it helps you identify combinations. Closets should not be unruly storage bins, but rather functioning spaces that enhance the efficiency of your life.


What are your biggest style and wardrobe challenges?

See more helpful insights in Part 2 of Abby Forstall’s wardrobe consulting post.

For even more wardrobe tips, visit Abby’s website, Embellishments.

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When I converted my home office into a writer’s study, one of the first things I did was post on the bulletin board above my desk a card from the National Association of Memoir Writers. It reads:

Be Brave: Write Your Story

That’s what writing memoir and family history takes. Bravery. Cojones. Downright Daring. As Catherine Gildiner writes in “How to Write a Childhood Memoir,” “. . . [W]riting a memoir takes nerves of steel. . .” *

Few of us have steely nerves when it comes to writing honestly about our lives or our families. The stakes are too high. I don’t just mean the possiblity that what you write will fracture family relationships. What you discover as you write might also shatter some of your own fiercely held illusions about your family—and yourself. What you write also forces you to relive less than sanguine experiences, and dredge up old embarrassments, personal regrets, frustrations, and grief.

Of course, you might be one of the lucky few with a history in which every day was sunny and no one ever got sick, cranky, fired, or drunk. You might have no bygones to let be bygones. If you’re like most people, though, your own past and that of your family are peppered with no shortage of secrets, myths (or, let’s face it, lies), or unpleasantness. Or, you might make a fully considered decision to report only the good times, and that’s your right, of course. Some of my memoir and life-writing students state categorically that they do not wish to rake up the sad past.


I would never tell them, as many proponents of the memoir writing process believe, that just writing your story is healing. I know that it actually can leave you in tatters.

Exposing Secrets
A conviction that our story needs to be told can supply the sheer courage that’s required to exhume old memories and write them into art. For me it was a matter of first, knowing I was in possession of two interesting, suspenseful, instructive stories—one centering on my family, the other on my work in organizations. Second, I felt compelled to put an end to what felt like collusion. As long as I kept my stories inside me, it seemed as if I was abetting secrecy and suppression of the truth. It was suffocating me.

Our families might have been daredevils, drinkers, cultists, swindlers, and involved us as their unwilling offspring in their activities and deceptions. If their story is unflattering, if they’d rather it not be told, at least not from our point of view, should we suppress it even if it chokes us?

With each of my memoir and family history drafts, I find myself revealing more and more of the truth. That’s partly because with each re-writing, as in a palimpsest of versions placed atop one another, I develop deeper understanding. New insights bubble up. New connections appear. Ah-ha moments seize me during the day and tease me in my sleep, making me wonder how I could have missed them before.

And with each draft, it gets harder and harder for me to justify hiding the truth.

Stick With What You Can Tolerate
I don’t allow myself or encourage my students who are writing about their lives or their families to reveal more truth than they can stand. Instead, I say, tell only the truth, but not every truth. The fallout could be unbearable, in terms not only of how those mentioned in your manuscript might react, but also in terms of your own self-recriminations. What if you find out later that what you wrote is just plain wrong? What if you have regrets after your book is released to the public, or even just to family members or friends?

Charges of Libel?
Your friends and relatives objecting to what you write is one thing. Suing you is another. We’re all supposed to be protected under freedom of speech laws, but to be on the safe side, educate yourself about libel (“a false statement made in writing”) and privacy laws, which vary across states. You might want to give careful thought to whether or not to include photos of people in your memoir or family history, unless you’ve gotten written permission from them.

To stand the test of truth, I’ve kept documentation: letters, emails, legal documents. I have no illusions that those who witnessed certain events would testify to the veracity of my account. Why would they want to get involved in my battle, if it came to a court case?

Help Is On the Way
Upcoming posts on this topic will address the ethics of memoir and family history writing (issues such as fairness to both the living and the dead) and I’ll share info on resources and ways to overcome your apprehensions.

Your Thoughts?
What do you think about the possible perils of writing about your life and your family? Please leave a comment, which can help all of us writers of these types of manuscripts.

If you enjoyed this post, you might also find the following helpful:

Will My Family Get Angry About My Memoir? Be sure to read the (quite cautionary) comments.

Memoir, Writing the Truth, and Family: Interview with Author Joy Castro

How to Avoid Committing a Libel in Writing a Family Memoir See additional links at the end of the post.

* In Women Writing On Family

Subscribe to this blog so you won’t miss the next posts on this topic.

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Fashionista Joyce Frank

Fashionista Joyce Frank

In Part 1, I talked about how I jettisoned clothing and toiletries from my suitcase and mailed them home, along with a too-small shoulder bag, in order to continue on around the world with just a carry-on suitcase and a larger “shopper” style shoulder bag that I purchased in LA. Having lightened both my physical and mental burden, I still had plenty to wear.

What I Wore
My Most Valuable Players’ awards go to:
- My black cashmere hoodie, which layered with everything;

Joyce with husband Ed on Amalfi coast

Joyce with husband Ed on Amalfi coast

- My black jeans, which I wore in every location but Thailand;

- My two skirts, which I wore with black tights in most urban environments;

In La Rambla, Barcelona

In La Rambla, Barcelona

In Bankok, Thailand

In Bankok, Thailand

- My ultralight jacket (below, left and right), which I wore with layers in breezy Positano, eating gelato outside in Rome, and without layers on a gloriously warm day at the Great Wall of China, and

In Positano

In Positano

Eating gelato in Rome

Eating gelato in Rome

- A slightly dressy black jacket and scarves to dress up pants or skirts for a night out or over my long convertible dress/maxi skirt in Thailand to meet “modesty” requirements.

All of the above combined nicely with 3 short-sleeved shirts, 2 thin, long-sleeve shirts (below), and one button-down shirt.


I was happy to change from urban suede oxfords to converse-style sneakers to dressy flats to give my feet a break as I clocked miles on the The Great Wall, Mount Vesuvius, the ruins near Pompeii, and the Island of Capri, as well as Tiananmen Square and the urban jungles of Hong Kong, Rome, Naples and Barcelona. Each of these pairs of shoes had been comfort-tested for years before my trip.

Wearing sneakers in Ercolano

Wearing sneakers in Ercolano

How I Packed It All
eBags Slim Packing Cubes – 3pc Set (Titanium)Packing cubes were useful space-savers and convenient organizers in hotel drawers. Before you travel, check out this video tutorial on how to roll (almost) everything into these three skinny rectangles.

Any stragglers that didn’t fit in the packing cubes went into compression sacks. I sat on these to squeeze out the air and then rolled them into narrow strips to fit between the packing cubes.

I didn’t miss my mall-sized closet at home or grow tired of my clothes (I only brought my favorites). Each morning I checked the weather and installed myself in the appropriate layers or stashed the layers I needed for the next climate in my large shopper bag.

Of course, the less you take with you, the more souvenirs you can pick up. It all depends on whether you enjoy bringing things home from your travels or just savoring your own memories.

Don’t you agree that these outfits work for any woman, not just the over 50 fashion conscious woman? Got any tips about packing efficiently (and fashionably, of course) for several different climates? Leave a comment. And subscribe to Stylish Ole Woman if you don’t want to miss any upcoming posts. (Subscription’s free.)

If you enjoyed this post, you might also like:
The Stuff I Schlep
Planning the Perfect Trip: Senior Travel Tips for Women on the Go

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My back to the camera, since this is all about Joyce

My back to the camera, since this is all about Joyce

It’s getting to be vacation time, and many of us will be traveling near and far, in a single climate or several. Here’s how my friend Joyce Frank, a fashionista if ever there was one, planned her packing, and what she ultimately took, discarded, and wore.
- Lynette

Joyce Frank

Joyce Frank

In my guest post, Why Black is a Smart Foundation Color for your Wardrobe, I announced my plan to travel round the world to some of the most stylish cities on earth with one carry-on suitcase.

Basing my wardrobe on a limited “color story” of black and white (though not only black and white), I proposed to maintain my groove, and my composure, in the heat of Bangkok, the cold of late winter in Beijing, and the cool – in more ways than one – of spring in Rome, Naples, and Barcelona.

Colorful tops to mix with black and white wardrobe

Colorful tops to mix with black and white wardrobe

How Did I Do?
I went. I saw. I conquered (with some tweaks that I now pass on to you) and best of all, I had such a good time I forgot about my clothes.

Ready to go

Ready to go

The Tweaks
I took warm layers that included a set of long johns, a high-tech, long-sleeved running shirt for a super warm base layer, and three sweaters. These made my suitcase heavy and bulgy in a way that airline people (who seem to hate roller carry-on bags) notice and question. One official on my flight from Logan, in Boston, to LA gave me such a hard time that I worried I’d have trouble the whole trip and even jeopardize my husband’s closely-scheduled business meetings by being forced to check my bag. I thought about shifting things to my shoulder bag, but it was too small. I’d need to ditch some things and also get a bigger shoulder bag.

The bag on the left was too small

The bag on the left was too small

The Expendables
In LA I went to a mall and bought an enormous, inexpensive “vegan leather,” shopper-style shoulder bag with a zipper closure. Then I mailed my long johns, base shirt, a sweater, a shirt, workout pants, the too small shoulder bag, some toiletries, and a pair of espadrilles back home to Boston.

I crumpled my raincoat into the “shopper,” along with the airline regulation-sized bag for liquids and placed my small and very secure cross-shoulder Tumi travel purse that I used between flights into the larger shopper.

Roomy interior of "shopping" bag

Roomy interior of “shopping” bag

There was still room for a book, my i-Pad, and for peeling off and adding layers during flights from one climate to another. I then closed my carry-on and breathed a sigh of relief. I was now both lightened and enlightened!

Don’t miss Part 2, with photos of Joyce’s trip and fashions. And if you’ve got a packing tip or two to share, please leave a comment. Thanks!

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