I just spent a few days (six of them actually) in Canada visiting Rick. It was a lovely trip.  But now I am home.  And now I have to unpack.

I hate unpacking.  Packing is kind of fun, in a stress-inducing kind of way.  Stress-inducing because you have to decide what outfits to bring with you.  I don’t know why I find this stressful because I wear the same things all the time.  But I do.  That is just the way I am.  I am a nervous traveller.

But there is nothing fun about unpacking.  I am always very tempted not to do it.  To just leave the clothes in my suitcase and take them out as I wear them. That way eventually all the clothes end up in the laundry (which I also hate putting away) and I have a nice empty suitcase, ready to put away all in just a few days (okay, maybe a week).

Am I the only person who does this?

Big Orange rides again

This is Big Orange.


I love this suitcase.  We have taken this suitcase to Sydney, Rome, Michigan and Virginia.  Now it is being readied for the Next Big Thing, a month in Montreal.  This is the best suitcase ever.  First of all, it is huge.  I am pretty sure we could fit the C-Man in it comfortably and check him instead of buying him a ticket.  However, this would be illegal.  Second, nobody else in the world has one like it.  We have had people applaud when it came around the luggage carousel.  Nobody will ever take our suitcase by mistake, and if the airline loses it, it will be easy to find.

Here is just a part of the clothing we are taking with us.

Wow. And that's not even all of it.

Now even Big Orange has his limits, so in order to be sure we have plenty of room for all our stuff, I bought more space bags.

All hail the space bags

Space bags are a great invention.  I hope whoever invented them won some kind of award.  Perhaps the Nobel Prize for traveling.  Anyway, you put your clothes in the space bags and then roll them up to squeeze out all the extra air.  It’s amazing how flat your clothing can get.  I packed for The Princess, the C-man and myself for a week in a gym sized duffel bag once thanks to the miracle of space bags.  Of course your clothes come out wrinkled as heck but who cares?  You are on vacation.

We will saddle up Big Orange on Monday.  Ride ‘em cowboy.

Laying in supplies

We are leaving for Michigan today.  Yippee!  Another lovely vacation of sitting around playing lifeguard, reading, knitting, and trying to keep the children from eating the furniture.

There are five children involved in this little adventure. The Princess, The C-man and my nephews J, O and Little J.  They range in age from 11 to 5.  And every minute they are not asleep or swimming they are eating everything that isn’t nailed down.

Here is a partial list of the groceries amassed so far.

  • 1 box Cinnamon Crunch cereal
  • 1 lg box Rice Krispies (some of which I intend to eat this week)
  • 24 Rice Krispies Treats (Must have been the same sale Sarah ran into)
  • 2 bags Oreo cookies
  • 1 bag chocolate chip cookies
  • 1 large jar Welsch’s Grape Jelly
  • 6 boxes sparklers (to add to the 3 boxes I already have)
  • 48 Dixie paper plates – 10″ size
  • Paper towels (more than enough, I hope)
  • 1 bag of sugar
  • Stuff to make John’s beans
  • Stuff to make chocolate cup cakes for the 4th
  • 1 bag mini bagels – cinnamon raisin (may eat some of these, too)
  • cream cheese
  • 6 pack of Bud
  • 1 large package (4  cups) shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 package Kraft American cheese singles
  • 1 package of 10  flour tortillas
  • 5 packages of Nacho lunchables
  • 54 rice krispie treat bars
  • 1 bottle of ketchup
  • 1 bag ground Dunkin Donuts coffee
  • Loreal kids shampoos
  • Lrg zip lock of peanut M&M’s
  • Family size Ruffles
  • 1 bag each:  Cookie Crisp, Lucky Charms, Trix
  • One large box of assorted individual cereals
  • English muffins
  • XL bag hot dog buns
  • Giant container of pretzels
  • 2 lg jars of Nutella
  • Much bacon (kirkland brand, but the guy swears its really good)
  • 5 Aqua Zookas
  • I bottle red wine if we want Sangria
  • I bottle Moet & Chandon, since we have something to celebrate!!
  • 94 plastic coated bowls
  • 80 9oz plastic glasses
  • 50 16oz plastic glasses
  • napkins – 250
  • 1 can Wet Wipes (for the beach)  40 wipes in the can
  • 2 pkgs of 10 each Eggo waffles
  • 2pkgs of 10 each Eggo pancakes
  • 2 Tombstone cheese pizzas
  • 1 Tombstone pepperoni pizza
  • 2 boxes of 10 each Quaker chocolate chip granola bars
  • 2 16oz boxes Cheddar cheese nips
  • 1 box graham crackers
  • 2 pkgs marshmallows
  • 2 pkgs of 6 regular size Hersey bars
  • 6 pkgs of 15 sticks each  Extra classic bubble gum
  • 1 large bottle Margaritas
  • 1 box of 48 Fruit Roll-ups
  • 3 bags of Twizzlers
  • 6 boxes of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese
  • 2 boxes of Ritz Bitz
  • 12 single size Fun Dips
  • 1 package of 36 applesauce cups
  • 1 66 oz box of Goldfish crackers

That was a joint effort with my sister, my mother and I all contributing.  We think that should hold them for a day or two anyway.

Packing for Montreal

Tuesday we leave for Michigan and the Montreal.  We are going to the Formula One Canadian Grand Prix.  I am so excited.  I cannot wait.  I haven’t quite started vibrating yet, but it isn’t far off.

I am trying to decide what to pack.  Actually I have all my outfits for the track picked out.  On Friday I will wear my red “Espana t-shirt.  (My favorite driver, Fernando Alonso, is Spanish.)  Then on Saturday I will wear my orange t-shirt and dark blue capri pants (Renault colors) and then on Sunday, of course I will be in my full-on geek Renault ensemble, a Mild Seven (actually “Team Spirit”) t-shirt and matching ball cap.  The t-shirt even has Alonso’s name on it.  I am just such a nerd.

Unfortunately it looks like there is a slight chance of rain in Montreal both Saturday and Sunday.  That means I have to take the rain ponchos.  Drat.  It is very hard to look skinny and cute in a plastic rain poncho.

The real question is what to wear in the evenings after we leave the track.  I can’t wear the same clothes I had on all day because, frankly, they will stink.  Hanging out at the track is a hot and smelly past time.  Everything ends up smelling like sweat and exhaust fumes. 

It’s also really really loud.  I have purchased a fresh package of earplugs and a small bottle of Tylenol.  Both are absolutely indispensable.  I also need to pack the binoculars, the stopwatch and extra batteries for my camera. 

Of course all of this brings me no closer to what to wear when we go out to dinner.  It is important to look skinny and cute in case we see any racecar drivers, especially Spanish ones.  Not that I am stalking them or anything.  I wouldn’t do that, that would be illegal. 

But, last year we did run into a couple of drivers, Nick Heidfeld from BMW and Honda’s Rubens Barichello.  I like to think I look good in those situations.

I’m sure I will spend a great deal of time tomorrow trying on and discarding various outfits.  Poor Tom.  All this drives him crazy.  At least this year he won’t have to put up with me trying to get a spot in the Fernando Alonso autograph line.  I did that in 2006 and 2007 and I will just say that my husband is a very, very good sport.


We went over to Team G’s house for brunch this morning.  M called early with a grocery crisis.  She wanted to know if I knew whether or not they had maple syrup at Standa.  I told her I wasn’t sure but I would stop and check on our way up.  However, I had a moment of inspiration and we stopped at that funny little shop with the American groceries instead.   They did have pure maple syrup, in tiny little bottles, for 6 euro.  But you really can’t have pancakes without syrup.  Hard to believe the semester is over and we are all packing up.  Brunch was a lot of fun.  Friend One made everybody omelets and there were pancakes and fruit salad and fried potatoes.  We all sat around in the kitchen chatting.  We will most likely be home before we see them again.  That is kind of weird.

After brunch we walked over to the Castel St. Angelo and did a lap.  We walked across the Ponte St. Angelo, which has a lot of statues along it designed by Bernini.  They are very pretty.  We did a lap and split a bottle of water.  Then we decided to take the stairs down to the river level and walk down that sidewalk toward home.  It’s nice down there.  Our side of the river was in the shade, and you can’t hear the traffic noise down there.  At one point we passed a little island and saw a beaver sitting there minding his own business.  Not what you expect to see in the middle of a big city, but he didn’t seem to mind.  We suspect this must be the same beaver Tom and the kids saw back in January. 

The kids were getting hungry so we stopped at Pizzarius for a snack and then came home.  I made one of my last trips to Standa and did some packing.   I feel like I have purged a lot of stuff, but there still seems to be a ton to pack.  Fortunately I still have one whole duffel bag I haven’t even started filling yet.  I will have to work on it some more tomorrow.  Of course I still have to finish the laundry first.

While we were at Team G’s today I got on their scale.  It was way off, and sat at 20 kilos even without anything on it.  But I couldn’t resist and I got on it anyway.  It said I weigh 49 kilograms.  This seems unlikely because I think that is only about 100 pounds, and while I know I have lost some weight, I doubt very highly I have lost that much. Actually, it’s 108 pounds, I just did the math.


Packing and still more packing

Clearly, I was optimistic thinking I could get everything into two suitcases. 

 I have packed and unpacked and packed again.  I had originally packed all the clothes in one bag, and all the stuff (books etc) in another bag.  But, I was talking to M today and she was saying that it is very common for them to lose bags in Rome.  So I decided it might be better to split the clothes between the two bags so if we lose a suitcase, we don’t lose everything.  Also, Big Orange (the giant orange duffel bag) was over weight.

 Of course, in order to do that I had to repack all the space bags.  Originally I had all the pants in one bag and so on, but I repacked them all and mixed it up a bit more.  We will end up taking a third bag though.  I still haven’t packed any toys or any of my knitting stuff.  The good news is, I think the third bag will be really light.

Today I ran a few errands.  Returned one DVD and got another one, bought socks for both children, went to Borders, and went to Target a second time.  I also did some laundry, worked on packing, and finished putting away the Christmas decorations.  So, you know, a quiet day.

I still need to have the kids pack their backpacks, and decide what toys they want to take.  What very few toys they want to take.  I have already packed Princess O’s giant stuffed horse.  OK, it isn’t actually giant, but it is larger than your average stuffed animal and she carries it with her everywhere she goes.  So, obviously it had to come with us.  And I have absolutely no idea what the C-man is going to decide he needs to take.  His little mind works in mysterious ways.

So what do I have to do tomorrow?

  • Strip all the beds and wash the sheets
  • Wash the towels
  • Wash the clothes the children are wearing once they go to bed
  • Throw away all the open food in the fridge and the cabinets
  • Clean the fishbowl
  • Take the fish to the neighbor’s
  • Call my sister, several times (like I need to put that on the to-do list)
  • Pick out DVDs to take with us

Tomorrow will be a very interesting day.  I am really not looking forward to it.

Space Bags

I was watching Regis and Kelly at the gym yesterday.  I don’t normally watch that show, but Jeff Probst was guest hosting and I like him, so there you have it.  Anyway, they were talking about packing and I think I may have found a solution to some of my packing woes:  

Space bags. 

You know, those bags that you put the clothes into and then vacuum out the air.  Actually I saw some at Target that you just roll up to get the air out of them.  No vacuum required.  I will probably use those.  My sister uses them to pack when they go camping and she says they work really well.  Plus they seem more convenient since you don’t actually need a vacuum.  Anyway, I think this will help free up some room in the duffel bags.  I’m so pleased.  Helpful information can come from the strangest places.

I’ve also re-purposed a Sterilite box as a staging area in my walk in closet.  Of course with the box there you can’t actually walk into the closet anymore, but that’s ok.  There aren’t any clothes in there anyway, just purses, shoes and some stuff that doesn’t have a home anywhere else.  

So the packing saga continues, but I’m feeling a little better about things.  I can actually thing about it for longer than 10 minutes now without becoming completely overwhelmed.  I can easily make it to 15 minutes now.

 And look, I didn’t mention baseball or racing even once. 

More Thoughts on Packing

I need to do a better job of keeping this Blog on task.  It is supposed to be about our Big Roman Adventure, not the baseball season, or Formula 1 no matter how compelling I find those topics.  Oh well, both of those seasons will be over soon and I will stop digressing.  Or maybe not.

I really need to start pulling things together for this trip.  I have started to buy some stuff, and I have started making lists but that’s about it.  We leave right after Christmas, so I need to have my act together.   

We have a copy of the orientation guide the University gives the students going on this program.  They suggest some interesting things.  Like, for example, a currency converter and a calculator.  Why wouldn’t you just use the calculator to convert currency?  Oh, never mind.  And they suggest bringing laundry soap (I’m pretty sure you can get that in Rome).  Strange.  They did also suggest laundry bags, which I would not have thought of and will probably need.  

There was also a list of English language bookstores, which will come in handy.  Although, I learned there is an English language library at the church of Santa Susanna.  I’m sure we will be investigating that.  I hope they have children’s books. 

Speaking of books, we seem to have accumulated quite a few.  We have the Dorling Kindersley guide to Italy, the Blue Guide to Rome; the Lonely Planet guide to Rome, a book called Around Rome with Kids, City Walks Rome and I think there is one other one.  At this rate we will need a suitcase just for the guidebooks.   But, I suppose it’s good to be prepared.   

I need to find a place to start putting this stuff.  At the moment it is all sort of scattered about the house.  Not good.  I will forget something.  I think I need to get one of those Rubbermaid storage containers and start putting things in it.  It would probably be a good idea of said container was about the same size as one of the duffel bags. Then I would know when I was reaching my limit.  In an ideal world I would have one bag full of clothes, and one for stuff.  Ideally some of this stuff will be consumed while we are gone and won’t be coming home with us, making room in the suitcase for items purchased in Italy.  

Items like shoes, and purses, and leather jackets, and, and, and…I could go on but it would make my husband nervous.

What to wear in Rome

I’m still thinking about packing.  Obsessing is probably a better word.  And it will only get worse before it gets better.


It’s easy to pack for the kids.  They only have about 5 outfits each that they like so just pack everything.  And a lot of underwear.


It’s trickier for me.  Italian women always look so fabulous.  Me, not so much.  I’m not sure fabulous is within my reach, but I would at least like to not look too American.  To me that means no jeans, no trainers and no sweatshirts.  So what does that leave?  Shoes are an issue.  I just said no trainers, so I have to come up with a couple pairs of shoes that look good but will be comfortable.  Not an easy task.  I really want to take my boots because they are so awesome and cool looking, but they would take up way too much room in the luggage.  I guess I could wear them on the plane but they would be a huge pain to take off for security (they lace up).  I would also like to take my leather jacket because it makes me look really skinny, but it isn’t really warm enough to take as my only jacket, and again, it would take up a lot of room in the duffel bag.


So, what should I pack?  How do I look fabulous (or at least sort of fabulous) without freezing and without having to take a zillion suitcases?  So far the only thing I know for sure is going is my cashmere hoodie.  It looks pretty American but it’s warm, it’s cashmere for crying out loud and I like it.  It’s going.


Denim is a bad idea because it takes forever and a day to dry.  I hear most of the apartments have washers but not dryers.  Just like our flat in London.  And I remember from doing laundry in London that it took days for jeans to dry, especially in the winter when it’s damp.  I won’t have time to wait days for my pants to dry since I’m not planning on taking that many pairs with me.  And I need a skirt, plus shoes to wear with a skirt, and the skirt has to come below my knees so I can wear it in the churches.  Actually, I think all my skirts hit just at or below my knees so that’s not really a problem, I just have to decide which one(s) to take. 


There’s a fine line between over-packing and looking ridiculous because you are wearing the same thing every third day.  This is the line I’m trying to walk.


And I haven’t even thought about all the non-clothing items we need to bring.  Stuff like the laptop and the ipod and chargers and the power converters and the books and whatnot I need to home school the kids, and their toys and books and my knitting stuff and so on and so on. 


I think I need to stop now, I can feel myself becoming paralyzed by anxiety.