Have Kicks, Will Travel

Anna Harris Converse Tower Bridge 2005

Tower Bridge – London, 2005

Anna Harris Big Ben, 2005

Big Ben – London, 2005

Anna Harris Versailles 2005

Statue of Louis XIV – Versailles, 2005

Anna Harris Paris 2005

Eiffel Tower – Paris, 2005

Anna Harris Arc de Triomph 2005

Arc de Triomph – Paris, 2005

Anna Harris San Simeone Piccolo Venice 2005

San Simeone Piccolo – Venice, 2005

In November of 2004, after a particularly difficult year, I travelled to Europe for the 2nd time. In July of 2005, after a particularly wonderful six months (and by happenstance, directly before the start of the hardest period of my life thus far), I travelled once again to Europe. The routes went something like this:

November 2004 – flight from New Orleans to London, immediate train from London to Cologne, immediate train from Cologne to Vienna, day trip by bus from Vienna to Bratislava, bus back from Bratislava to Vienna, flight from Vienna to London, then back to New Orleans. The trip was about 14 days in all, including my birthday, and the majority of it was spent in Vienna visiting my friend KT. It was amazing, and just what I needed right then to get me through the sadness of the last year.

July 2005 – flight from New Orleans to London, train from London to Bruges, train from Bruges to Vienna, train from Vienna to Venice, train from Venice to Nice, train from Nice to Paris, train from Paris to Chartres, train from Chartres to Paris, train from Paris to Versailles, train from Versailles to Paris, train from Paris to London, then back to New Orleans. This trip was also about 14 days in all, including the 4th of July (spent along the Danube, drinking imported American beer and listening to Credence Clearwater Revival on a little radio). The premise of the trip was to visit my friend KT in Vienna again, but this time my other friend Trinity was also in Europe, and the trip was magical. After visiting Vienna, Trin and I left for Venice (not so great), then we parted ways. She went on to explore the rest of Italy, while I went to sun on the beach in Nice, then hang out in Paris for a couple of days before heading back to London.

My trusty black Converse low tops went with me on both trips.

They accompanied me to six different countries. They were there when KT and I missed our plane to see The Decemberists in Berlin for my 23rd birthday. They were there when I prayed in the catacombs of Stephansdom. They were there when I saw how rowdy a bunch of Irish kids can get when U2 comes on at the pub. They were there to see the great cathedral at Cologne, and to witness the soul-aching beauty of Notre-Dame de Chartres. They were there to see the Eiffel Tower sparkle, and to fall in love for just a second with a fellow tourist in Versailles. They (and two heroic Swedish backpackers) were there to help me run away from a knife-wielding lunatic in the dead of the night outside of Paris Nord, and to help me find some amazing Indian food just down the street from the London Eye.

I loved those shoes, and took photos of them all over Europe. In the end, I was wearing them to wait tables in 2006 (yes, they were also there to escape Hurricane Katrina with me) when I accidentally spilled bleach on them. I was so upset that the manager had to take over my tables while I went into hysterics in the back store room. Now, they live in a box. I wore them until the soles began to wear out, then didn’t have the heart to throw them away. One day I mean to frame the stinky old things in a shadow box, along with a map of their travels. I’ve been through two more pairs of black Converse low tops since then, one of which went back to Europe with me in 2007. They just aren’t the same, though.

Last summer, in 2012, I went back to Venice, and to Croatia, Perugia, and Ancona for the first time. I wore TOMS. They were much more comfortable than my Converse. Not as sturdy, though. Not as emotionally fulfilling.

My New TOMS

CarpeDiemToms

I bought a new pair of TOMS a couple of weeks ago when I was at the beach, and I love, love, love them! It’s actually a pair I’d seen online as a limited edition, and that were sold out before I could purchase. I never expected to see them anywhere else, but happened to stop into a beach shop in a tiny town on the Bolivar Peninsula, and found six or seven pairs on their sale rack. I’m so glad that was the case, because they’re my first pair where the sizing is really off (which appears to be a normal complaint if you read reviews of TOMS around the web). 

I normally wear a women’s size 10 (US), which translates to a men’s size 8. However, I tried on pair after pair, from men’s size 8, to 8.5, to 9 and 9.5, until finally I was trying on a men’s size 10, which thankfully ended up fitting. Crazy sizing, but the end result is great – they’re really fun shoes, and they’re just as comfy as my other two pairs of TOMS. 

Seize the Day!

Dream Diary 3/27/13

I’ve been having some weird dreams lately. A few of the things I’ve been dreaming about:

1) Friday Night. Trying to catch and hold 2 pretty large fish, with my hands, inside of an apartment. For some reason I was plucking the two fish out of some space (a pool? the sink?) and trying to hold them long enough to transfer them to a bucket. It didn’t work, and they flip flopped out of my grasp and into the top of a closet. The  items in the closet started to fall out through the door, and I realized there was a washer and dryer combo there. I was relieved. No clue where the fish went.

2) Sunday Night. Driving a big rig. I was delivering something (contents of a house, maybe) for my mother, to a small town on a peninsula. All roads led down to the peninsula town, but none led back. I was happy to get there, but nervous driving the truck. At one point I parked it for awhile under a covered driveway, and then needed to back out of the driveway. I realized that the opening to the space in which I was parked was much smaller than it had been, meaning that I was trapped in the space. No worries, though – in the next scene I was happily back on the road. I woke up before making it to my final destination.

3) Last Night. Walking to my friend’s wedding, with a coworker from my current job who just happened to look like an old friend from high school in my dream. One of my shoes was twisted and broken, and I was hobbling trying to keep up with all of the people heading to the wedding. Once I got to the wedding location, I realized that I’d forgotten my cell phone and also needed to get cash from the bank, so my friend and I turned around to walk back to the bank. Once we got to the bank, I realized that Sylvester Stallone was standing behind the teller, dressed in a really tight cop uniform for a movie he was filming. As we left the bank, my friend convinced me to run back and say hi to Sly, so I did. One of the film staff went to get him for me, and when he came out I told him that I was his biggest fan. He smiled and was so gracious, and it crossed my mind to ask if we could take a photo, but then I realized that it would be rude. I left to go back to my friend, instantly regretting not asking for the photo. My friend and I started to walk back to the wedding, but we got lost in town and couldn’t find our way.

Day #17: Inching Along

Oy vey. There’s another hurricane brewing, and people are freaking out. The stores were crazy today, with people rushing to buy up the last of the water, ice, and toilet paper. I’m just exhausted from my day, and not really into writing this blog post, so I’m going to keep it short.

The Man and I went shopping again today, looking for my shoes and also to buy my new cell phone. Since I started my new job, I’ve been in a not-so-great financial spot, and to save money I decided to join The Man’s family cell phone plan. His mom, dad, The Man, and his little brother are on the plan, leaving one open spot that they graciously let me occupy. It’s much cheaper per month than what I’m paying now, and I’ll finally be with a company that has the iPhone, which I’ve wanted for a long time (my phone is for both personal and business use, so it’s a good buy on my part). Unfortunately, part of joining the family plan was losing the phone number that I’ve had for almost 8 years now. The other bad part of the deal is that since The Man’s dad wanted to add me to the plan via a phone call with customer service, I couldn’t get the phone today. It’s being mailed. In any typical situation, that would be OK, but now with a hurricane coming, the mail could take between 3 days and 3 weeks. But, oh well, at least I’ll have it sometime.

As far as shoes go, I did score on a great pair of black patent leather Michael Kors kitten heels. At $39, they were more than I had planned to spend, but they’re the kind of shoes that go with most business outfits and will last years, so I’m pretty happy.

 

Before going shopping, I did make it to Bikram class this morning, and since I weighed in at 160 earlier and also ate very well today, I’m hoping to be at least 159 tomorrow. We’ll see. Hopefully I’ll be back on track at 156 by Wednesday, and that by then the storm will have also passed us by uneventfully. Cross your fingers!

Day #16: Waiting for Ella

Two nights ago I had a dream that I found a kitten. She was a tiny, scrawny stray, and I named her Ella. Ever since then, I’ve had this feeling that I was going to find a kitten somewhere around the neighborhood. I’ve been driving much more carefully than usual, scanning the streetscape in case my kitten is just out and about somewhere. It’s probably nothing, probably just a dream, but it seemed like I should be ready and make room for a new little one in the house. I guess there’s nothing more to say, except that I hope I’m right.

In other news, I’m still 161 lbs, but it’s my fault for not exercising yesterday and also eating a steak dinner with The Man. Today I’ve been very good, having a shake for breakfast, a fake turkey burger for lunch, and I’ve already whipped up some guacamole for dinner, which I’ll have once I get home from yoga. I’m heading out to class in about 45 minutes, and honestly I feel so worn out that I really don’t want to, but I know it’s best.

This morning we went shopping. I was looking for a pair of basic black flats to wear to work meetings, but I couldn’t find anything at Ross, Marshall’s, or even at Target! I was really bummed about Target, since my last go-to flats came from there. I think I might go online now and see if I can get a pair, since nothing I’ve seen so far compares in price or comfort level. I want some fancier flats, too, but just a simple pair of black ones that go with jeans or dresses is so important to have on hand.

Sorry for the most boring blog post ever, guys.

Picking Comfy Shoes for Vacation Walking

If you’ve been keeping up with my vacation planning, you’ll know that a few weeks back, I ordered comfy walking shoes online. Or tried to, anyway. I ordered a pair of Chaco Flip X Ecotread Flip Flops and a pair of Keen Coronado II sneakers in the same day. A few days later got word that the sneakers were sold out by mistake, and when the Chacos arrived a few days after that, I tried them on and hated them immediately. They looked fine, if a little bulky in the sole, but the deciding factor was that the straps cut into the tops of my feet. My feet have always been extra tender, and where most people seem to be able to break in a pair of shoes in a few weeks, it would have been a summer of bloody feet for me. So I said ‘no thanks’ and sent them back; once again, I was without comfy walking shoes.

Back to the drawing board, and this time with some more restrictions in mind. First off, whatever shoes I bought had to look good with everything I was bringing. They had to be cute with leggings, skirts and shorts, not require too much effort to put on, and most importantly, feel good on all sides of my feet. Even better if they’d help me manage the back pain I’m surely going to feel when I’m not doing my daily dose of Bikram yoga for two weeks straight. Oh, and they had to be affordable.

That last one was the toughest requirement. I was thinking about getting a pair of FitFlops, since they came out with a bunch of new designs this year and I already know that they make my back feel like a million bucks. However, the cuter ones (I require rhinestones if I’ve got to wear a shoe that clunky) are almost $100, which is just not good. In the end, after another couple of weeks of looking around on the internet and talking to people at my yoga studio, I decided on buying a pair of Sanuk flip flops. Best decision ever. I read that their yoga mat flip flops were cushy, like walking on clouds, and that the straps were soft on the top of your feet. All true. I opened up my new Yoga Glam flip flops, put them on, and fell into a fit of utter contentment. I’ve been wearing those babies every day since they arrived, and I’m planning on buying another pair of their shoes sometime very soon. I have high arches and some heel pain, and could see that maybe down the road I’d need a bit more support if I were wearing these 24/7, but overall they mold to the shape of your foot, and the straps have a soft fabric backing that is so light against the tops of your feet that it’s barely noticeable. Absolutely amazing value for flip flops – plus I love the color, a pretty bronze.

Sanuk Yoga Glam

When it came down to picking a pair of sneakers, I’ve been hearing a lot about TOMS lately, and it seems like everybody and their brother has a pair, so I figured I’d try them out, too. I was worried about these giving me blisters, as well, and read a ton of reviews. Most people seem to order a half or even whole size down, but I’ve got big feet and decided to go with my gut instinct to just buy my size and see what happened. I don’t know if you’ve been to the TOMS website or not, but they’ve got so many great patterns to choose from. The site is broken down into Women’s, Men’s and Kids’, but I did some digging online and saw that there’s no difference in the way that the men’s and women’s shoes are built – meaning that if you want more choices in patterns and colors, or if a woman’s size is sold out in a common shoe, try the men’s section. That’s what I did to decide on these bad boys:

J Marro Ash Men's Classics

I wear a size 10, so I bought a men’s size 8, and they fit like a glove. Love them. I wore them for the first time a couple of days ago, and biked 5 miles to a party, then walked around for a couple of hours, and biked home – no blisters, no discomfort, just an all-around pleasant shoe. The only thing that I’m not a fan of is that these are really set up to wear without socks, and since the sole is leather, I can see that they’re going to get stinky kind of fast. I went ahead and took some precautions for that, though, and will be writing another entry about what I’ve found out on that front.

The best thing ever is the design on the toe. As a kid, I loved Madeleine L’Engel’s books, especially the Time Quartet series. If you’ve read “A Wind in the Door,” you might remember Progo, the cherubim (who actually looks more like one of the Four Living Creatures from Revelation, rather than either a cherub or seraph, but that’s beside the point). He was described as being all wings and eyes, and if you look closely at the design on the shoes, the wings are full of more eyes than just the central one in the heart. I think that when I saw these shoes, my subconscious kicked in and made me adore them on behalf of my 10 year old self. Of course, 30 year old me loves them, too. Can’t wait to sport these in Europe!

A Wind in the Door

Outfit for My Friend’s Croatian Wedding

My vacation is looming closer, and I couldn’t be happier to be getting the hell out of dodge. So far, I’ve got all of my travel accounted for (though I still have to purchase train tickets for travelling in Italy). My hotels/hostel are lined up, I have a good idea of the times I’ll be travelling, and over the last few weeks, I’ve been spending time putting together a mental list of the outfits I’ll be bringing with me.

I’m travelling with only a backpack, so it’s imperative to travel light. That wouldn’t be too much of a problem, save for the wedding I’m attending. It’s a conundrum – I could pack light and tight, with the tiniest of flat sandals and a lightweight dress, or I could be a stunner and bring heels, a cute jacket, etc. The deciding factor is that it’s one of my best friends, and I simply cannot go to her wedding looking just so-so. Especially not if I’m travelling half way around the world for the event!

I bought a cute dress on ModCloth a few weeks ago, and was generally happy with it, but not exactly overjoyed. It’s cute, see?

ModCloth - Sweet Peacock Dress

I even went out and found a pretty little green sweater to wear with it, but something about the outfit just didn’t seem right to me still. I know, that’s very vague, but when I put everything on I felt cute, but not excited or pretty. Just meh. I think it might be because the bodice has all of the extra fabric criss-crossing it, and it makes me look poofy. Lord knows, I don’t need any extra padding on a sundress!

So today I went out shopping, with the intention of buying some cat food and maybe a pair of gold heels to go with the peacock dress. Instead, I ended up going by Francesca’s and finding this gorgeous little sundress that is absolutely perfect in every way (although it kind of looks like a QR code if you’re staring at it too intently). The best part about the dress is that while I can definitely dress it up for the wedding, I’ll be able to wear it elsewhere during my vacation, getting me multiple days’ worth of clothing in one fell swoop.

Francesca's - Downriver Dress

Downriver Dress by Francesca's

I shopped for an appropriate cardigan/jacket for a couple of hours before finding one that looks a lot like this, without the buttons, in a thin cotton that drapes really nicely. Imagine a few more folds at the longest front part – there’s more material, so it’s got some flair without competing with the pattern of the dress too much. In the dressing room it was a straight toss up on whether I looked like a cool art gallery manager or if I was edging into frumpy, so I actually dredged up the courage to ask the other women in the dressing room for their opinions. It was a fun fashion moment, and they all agreed that with the right pair of heels, I would be unstoppable (or something to that effect).

Drape Tencel Jacket from YouHeShe

An hour later, I was prancing home with the PERFECT heels, bought at a steal. While trying them on and deliberating in front of the mirror, a lady with a thick German accent stopped to tell me how lovely the shoes were, and that I should definitely buy them. I took that as a sign from the Universe that the look, once pulled together, would be a success. Check out these babies – they’re a little more industrial than my normal taste, but they really do lend an edgy, artistic air to a dress that would otherwise be a sunny little number for the beach.

Unlisted Web Maker

Unlisted Web Maker

I think I might end up wearing these cute earrings I just won on auction at my newest obsession site, Tophatter. They’re sterling silver, and made by an Etsy dealer named AnniePants. What do you think – funky enough?

Hammered Sterling Silver Swirly Hoops

 

Footloose and Fancy-Free

I finally bought my ticket – I’m heading to Croatia in six weeks’ time! It’s difficult to explain exactly how excited I am to finally be:

  1. Seeing my two best friends in one place,
  2. Going on vacation in one of the most beautiful countries in the world (with a potential side trip to Pompeii – woot!), and,
  3. Getting some time to explore and be on my own again.

The Man was supposed to go to Croatia with me, since the primary reason for travel is to attend the wedding of one of my besties. We’ve been talking about this trip for a year, and only in the last month or two, as time got tight, did he start waffling. Yesterday he told me that he had changed his mind, and wanted to save his money for our next move. Never mind that if we stick to his uber-rational schedule it will be at least a year and a half until we can go to a new town. At first I was royally pissed. Six years of dating with virtually no travel does not a happy Maus make.

Then I started thinking about it, and realized I was actually relieved. This means that I get two weeks on the road in Europe, all on my own again. Two weeks to think about life, to see ME in action again, to figure out if I’m on the right path, and if not, to think of what steps I need to be doing to get back on track.

Since I’m going to be doing a lot of walking, it seemed only right to get some new kicks. I typically travel with two pairs of shoes – a pair of good flip flops (I live in them) and a pair of Converse (my other go-to shoe). During my first trip to England in 1999, I wore Teva climbing sandals the entire time, adding socks for the cold, clammy weather. They were very comfortable, but not stylish. Though I see lots of girls wearing athletic sandals of that sort, and know deep down that they’re much better for managing back pain, I can’t bring myself to wear something that ugly again.

Instead, I spent all afternoon browsing websites in search of comfortable sandals that would last through long hikes without killing my back and hips. My current Reef flip flops are simple and cute, but not good for extended periods, so I hoped to find similar sandals in one of the active/comfort brands. It took a couple of hours (and I almost gave up and bought some strappy, buckly ugly shoes) but I finally found what I was looking for: Chaco Flip X Ecotread flip flops.

Image

They have great reviews for comfort level, and are supposedly great on the arches, so I’m hoping they’ll work for me. I couldn’t just stop there, though. Like I said, Converse low tops have been my go-to sneaker since high school, but they too are crap for my back. I know how I feel after one day of walking around in them, so two weeks is a no-go. Instead, I went looking for another cool sneaker that would look cute with jeans or skirts and offer a lot of support. My first choice was the Keen Coronado in Harvest Gold, but I can’t find it anywhere in my size (though Amazon has a couple of pairs left in other sizes, if you’re interested and wear size 5 or 5.5 in US sizing). I’m not going to stop searching, though, since they’re amazing – take a look…

Image

Instead, I ended up searching around and settling on the even funkier-looking Keen Coronado II. I love that one side of the shoe is in brindle canvas and the other is in black. Since I’m also obsessed with purple, especially in shoes, these are pretty perfect. While reading through the reviews for the regular Coronado, I also saw a couple of people remark that these don’t make your feet look huge the way Chuck Taylors can if you have big flippers. I wear a 10, and would love to find a shoe that works with skinny jeans, so I’m crossing my fingers. Check ’em out:

Image

Image

Hope these both fit and feel amazing. I can’t wait to hit the road in style with my girls!

43 Days: Evening

Long day, and I’m exhausted.  Actually considering hitting the hay considerably earlier than usual tonight.  That may have to do with my limited food intake today, or the fact that most of my sustenance today was juice so my body’s probably starting to detox.  Or it might just have to do with the super-awesome-intense Spin class I went to this evening.

This morning was juice (carrot, apple & ginger) for breakfast, but for lunch I had organic squash soup, some lovely baguette, and brie.  First dinner was more juice (this time beet, ginger, carrot, pineapple, and apple), then about an hour later I ate three eggs scrambled in a bit of olive oil.

I rode my new/old bike for the first time tonight.  My boyfriend bought it for me from his old landlord, and it’s a cute old bike, red, with fenders and a basket.  It’s not a cruiser – it’s got skinny tires that I would normally call racing tires, but it also has brakes like kids bikes do, the ones where you have to backpedal to get the bike to stop.  Consequently I ran headfirst into a (very prickly) bush this afternoon to avoid running out into traffic.  Passersby laughed hysterically.  Oh, who am I kidding – I laughed hysterically.  It turns out I’m complete shite at braking without hand brakes.  I might have to get this thing converted before I hurt myself, but we’ll give it a couple of more tries before giving up completely.

Like I said before, Spin was ridiculously cool.  The teacher played mostly hip hop, which I appreciated since normally Spin classes tend to go more club/techno and that can get annoying.  I prefer the slightly angrier song selection so I can work that energy into my routine.  My hips and back hurt a little bit, but overall I feel good.  I love that Spin is a lot like dancing on a bike, and I always work up a fantastic sweat.  I feel so accomplished just by living through a class! One of the songs that was played was brand new to me, and I ended up coming home and watching it a few times on Youtube – Beyonce’s “Run the World”.  I love the dance routines & costumes on this one.

Also, since this blog entry seems to be in no particular order, I finished putting together my company’s Flickr page today.  You can see it here if you’re at all interested in pretty interior design photos.

And did you know that Steve Madden has great customer service?  I recently won a contest through their Facebook site, in which I got a year’s subscription to Paper Magazine and a 35% off coupon for use on their website.  Part of the process of winning involved phone conversations and emails back and forth with the nicest guy, Dan, who works in their marketing department.  Then I ordered some shoes this weekend, and accidentally used the wrong credit card (oops!).  I got an email today saying that my order didn’t go through, and if I wanted help I could call their toll-free number for assistance, but in the end I decided not to since I really shouldn’t be spending more money on clothes right now.  I just deleted the email and went back to work, but an hour or two later, got a call from the company, asking if everything was OK and if I would rather use a different credit card to ensure my order went through.  Such a refreshing moment in this age of automated shopping carts.  So of course I ponied up and bought the damn shoes even though I said I wasn’t going to.  These are the two pairs I got – rather basic but I only own two pairs of flats, and one is leopard print, so these will work well for me.

"Krusshh" in Raspberry Suede, by Steve Madden. You can't see it here, but the back has a cute little gold zipper and a tassel in the same color as the shoe. I like that the low sides look a little like khussas.

"Kingdom" in Blush Patent, by Steve Madden. Prim and proper, and just what I need for the skinny jeans I will be fitting into by my birthday.

That’s all the energy I’ve got, folks.  On to bed.  Kisses!