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Mail Bag

You ask, I answer

Mail Bag: Favorite Photo Spot

· Under the Watt Avenue bridge ·

mail bag photo location daily outfit blog whatiwore2day ootd

This question came in via Flickr.

I like your stuff a lot. . . [I’m] wondering why you pose so many daily shoots under a bridge or a highway?

Most of my Flickr mail is really weird (requests to wear more turtlenecks or proposals involving my ankles), but Amanda isn’t the first person to ask why I am so often under bridges, so it’s time I explain.

First, I’m not always under the same bridge, but I certainly have a favorite: the Watt Avenue bridge. This is my favorite place to pose because of convenience, isolation, protection from the elements, and the sublime light.

This bridge is close to my home, on public property, and has parking. It’s about two miles from my house, so it usually only takes me 5-10 minutes to get there. While I’m certainly not averse to a little trespassing, it’s nice to know that this under-bridge is a public park. As long as the park is open, I am welcome to do all the weird photography stunts I like. I have a parking pass, so I can park under the bridge and walk just 50 yards to my favorite spot.

This is a public park, but I usually have the area under the bridge mostly to myself. I occasionally share it with a hobo or someone smoking a joint or even the odd picnicker, but there’s plenty of space for us all to do our thing. If I find I have a stalker, I just stare at him until he goes away. I’ve only once had to ask someone to stop watching me.

In the summer, I’m seeking relief from the sun and in the winter, I’m trying to stay dry. The bridge offers plenty of shade and cover. In fact, it’s one of my favorite places to hang out in the rain. Just me and the drunks.

I love love love the quality of the light under the bridge. The bottom of the bridge is a good 30 feet from the ground, so plenty of light enters from the sides. The pale rocks and supports reflect light. The result is an even illumination from the sides and below. The older I get, the less I like to be lit from above (emphasizes bags and wrinkles). This is the perfect light to eliminate harsh shadows and show true colors.

Finally, this isn’t a major consideration, but I find the Watt Avenue bridge, and my other bridge locations, to be sublimely peaceful. The sound of water flowing and traffic whooshing (or, at one location, a train rumbling), gets me in my zone.

My happy place is under this bridge.

Mail Bag: Growing Out Gray

· Embracing colorless hair ·

daily outfit blog gray hair whatiwore2day

I think we may need a hair update – curious to what your plans are, since I need to do something with mine and looking for ideas.

I started going gray at 17. I know this because I pulled a hair a few years later (in 1995) and, based on a growth rate of 1/2 inch/month, it had lost its color three years earlier. On my father’s side of the family, it was not uncommon to go gray in one’s 20s.

I started coloring my hair for fun, not to cover gray. I’d always thought of myself as a redheaded soul and began dyeing my hair auburn for self-expression in my 20s. Aside from a few forays into blonde and brunette, I was red until 39, when I bleached it and went pink. Pink, it turns out, is a great transition color to gray.

My first, good, look at the gray was as I was growing out a half-shaved head.

I decided to grow out my natural, silver color just as it was becoming trendy to bleach and then dye one’s hair gray. The thing is . . . that look is trendy when you see the contrast between youthful face and icy hair. It’s not so avant garde on a 40+ year-old-woman. Still, regardless of of trends and ageism, I’ve decided to grow out my gray. (Independently, my sister, two years younger than myself, decided to do the same, at about the same time.)

While I am embracing a mature color, I am, paradoxically, growing out my locks to a length traditionally reserved for the young. I love to braid and twist and pile long hair and haven’t had a chance to do so since I cut it short in 2012. I’m already loving the way my white temple streaks look when pulled back into a french braid.

I’m a little concerned that I won’t be able to achieve the length I’d like without breakage. During college, I grew my (nearly virgin) hair down to my waist. Later, though, it would break and thin not much past my shoulders. I don’t know how much of that was due to dye, diet, products or extreme physical training. I’ve made changes on all four fronts, so I am hopeful that it will grow at least long enough for some fun styling.

You can see how ragged my ends looked last time I grew my hair long.

It’s just long enough now to french braid. I haven’t had a cut since the end of June and don’t plan on even a trim until February. I intend to keep long, sideswept bangs, but to otherwise let it go.

Mail Bag: My Schedule

daily outfit blog ootd whatiwore2day mail bag reader question


I have lurked on your blog for ages, but never comment.

Anyway, I like your style and your adventurous life. I like that you always look stylish without following fashions or buying very expensive things – other style blogs put me off because the style isn’t fun, or it’s way out of my price range.

I have a question for you, I hope you don’t mind.

You seem like a very busy person: you have a husband, home, dogs, you’re working lots of different freelance jobs, you volunteer, you do lots of exercise, you do toastmasters and other hobbies, and you maintain the blog and take pictures most days, and you always look stylish, with lovely hair and makeup and carefully chosen outfits. How on earth do you do it?! I would like to do more with my time, and also to put a bit more effort into my style – but I never seem to have time. And I don’t do that much, I think I’m just disorganised and a terrible procrastinator!

So, do you have any tips for me? This might be a bit weird, but I’ve love to see your daily/weekly schedule, so I can see how you fit things in and how much time you spend on your different activities. Perhaps I just need to get more organised! I enjoyed hearing that when you’re busy travelling you just use dry shampoo and ‘fix’ your makeup instead of totally re-doing it. I mean, I think that’s a bit gross, but i can see that once in awhile it’s a useful strategy. So I’d love more time-management and organisation tips like these, please.

Thanks so much! Good luck with all your adventures.


I approach life like a duck. On the blog and in my professional life, I do my best to look as if I’m effortlessly gliding along. I’m groomed, calm, and friendly. In reality, I’m frantically paddling away beneath the surface. My nails are ragged. I’m worried about paying next month’s bills. I’d rather hide in the woods than talk to anyone. Seriously, there is quite a lot of frantic activity going on beneath the water. Quack quack quack.

My schedule is pretty different each day and each week. This last week looked like this:

4:30 am: wake and take dogs to play fetch
5:30 am: feed dogs and get ready
6:30 am: drive to seminar location
7:00 am: set up for seminar
9:00 am – 12:00 pm: conduct first half of seminar
12:00 – 1:00 pm: lunch, edit photos, blog, social media
1:00 – 4:00 pm: conduct second half of seminar
4:00 pm: pack up and drive to photo location
4:30 pm: outfit pictures
5:00 pm: pack, water plants, pick up dog poop
6:30 pm: drive to Modesto
8:00 pm: grab dinner, review seminar materials, and go to sleep

5:00 am: wake, get ready, pack
6:30 am: take one suitcase to the car (in the garage across the street) and take the other to the conference center next to the hotel
7:00 am: set up for seminar
9:00 am – 12:00 pm: conduct first half of seminar
12:00 – 1:00 pm: lunch, edit photos, blog, social media
1:00 – 4:00 pm: conduct second half of seminar
4:00 pm: pack up and skulk about the parking garage until I find a good photo location
4:30 pm: outfit pictures
5:00 pm: dinner with a friend in Modesto
8:00 pm: drive to Fresno and sleep

5:00 am: wake, get ready, pack
6:30 am: eat breakfast!
7:00 am: set up for seminar
9:00 am – 12:00 pm: conduct first half of seminar
12:00 – 1:00 pm: lunch, edit photos, blog, social media
1:00 – 4:00 pm: conduct second half of seminar
4:00 pm: pack up and drive to San Luis Obispo (eating a gas station sandwich along the way)
7:30 pm: outfit pictures, email, unwind, and sleep

5:00 am: wake and go running
6:00 am: get ready
6:45 am: breakfast
7:00 am: set up for seminar
9:00 am – 12:00 pm: conduct first half of seminar
12:00 – 1:00 pm: lunch, edit photos, blog, social media
1:00 – 4:00 pm: conduct second half of seminar
4:00 pm: drive to downtown SLO. Try to wait out the tourists at the mission for outfit photos. Finally give up and find a closed library to pose in front of.
6:00 pm: change in my car and attend Downtown SLO Farmers’ Market
8:00 pm: try to download HBO GO to watch Game of Thrones. Give up when internet is too slow and go to sleep.

7:30 am: wake and drink lots of coffee
8:00 am: go running
9:00 am: breakfast and blogging
10:00 am: get ready and pack
11:00 am: drive to Avila beach
11:15 am: walk beach and eat lunch
1:00 pm: drive back to Sacramento
6:00 pm: get home and watch Game of Thrones with Beefy
7:00 pm: unload car and unpack
8:00 pm: water plants, read, and go to bed

6:00 am: wake, drink coffee, catch up on blogs
7:00 am: take dogs to play fetch
8:00 am: drive to club with Beefy
9:00 am: swim practice
10:00 am: email, invoices, blogging, mail, laundry, dishes, dry-cleaning, groceries, outfit planning, cooking, outfit pictures, photo editing, prep for next week’s seminars
7:00 pm: dinner
8:00 pm: water plants, read, and go to bed

6:00 am: wake, drink coffee, catch up on blogs
7:00 am: take dogs to run at the river
8:00 am: clean kitchen, wash bedding, email, invoices, more seminar prep
12:00 pm: go to REI with Beefy to look at paddleboards
1:30 pm: writing, blogging, more cooking, more dishes, outfit pictures
6:00 pm: Game of Thrones!
7:00 pm: water plants and blog
8:00 pm: read and go to bed

It’s hard to present a “typical” week. If I’m flying from seminar to seminar, I usually take my outfit photos in the morning and do most of my blogging and photo editing at the airport or on the plane. I’m still working on getting more regular with my exercise when I’m traveling. I often wake with grand plans of cardio, downgrade them to yoga, and then just sit and drink coffee. The travel disrupts my desired schedule. If I’m in town, I go to Toastmasters, take Jasper to agility class, swim three days a week, go to ballet class, and run the dogs every day but Saturday.

No matter the week, I stick to a fairly strict sleep schedule (8 hrs/night), but I place little importance on meal timing. I eat when I’m hungry and tend to binge on roasted vegetables when I’m home.

My time management techniques:

1. Watch very little television/Netflix/movies. Beefy and I have a handful of shows we watch together. (Right now, it’s only one: Game of Thrones.) Otherwise, I only watch shows when I’m cooking or on a long flight.

2. Use audio programs for professional development. I educate myself and stay up to date on the latest in communication, self-improvement, health, and leadership with audiobooks and podcasts. I listen while driving and while I get ready in the morning.

3. Use audio programs to unwind. I listen to just-for-fun audiobooks or podcasts to relax or entertain myself while I’m doing something else.

4. Minimize my grooming. I go two to three days between hair washes. I often sleep in my makeup and just patch it in the morning. (I do remove it completely at least every other day.) If it’s a day off and you see me wearing sunglasses in all my outfit photos, chances are I’m not wearing makeup at all (or just lipstick). My nails are short and natural. I have low-maintenance hair color and cut.

5. Maximize pockets of time. Five minutes is enough to instagram, email, facebook. If I have 20 minutes or longer, I can edit photos and blog.

6. Take advantage of my location. When I was in Las Vegas the afternoon before a seminar, I rented a car for three hours to go see Red Rock Canyon. In Modesto, I connected with a friend before I drove to Fresno. After my seminar in San Luis Obispo, I stayed an extra night (on my own dime), so that I could visit the farmers’ market and the ocean.

7. Take advantage of my non-traditional schedule. When I have a weekday off, I maximize it by doing activities that are otherwise jammed on the weekends, like paddle boarding or going to Home Depot or hiking.

8. Amazon Prime. This saves me so much time! In the last few weeks, I’ve ordered shoes, stockings, socks, camisoles, a garment bag, a suitcase, headphones, clothing dye, hair dye (silver!), a necklace, replacement phone charging cords, an SD card reader, and more. I would have wasted so much time at Target and other assorted stores if I had to go out to find these things. I also buy my makeup and swim gear online (but not from Amazon).

9. Calendar fun. If I see an event I want to attend, I put it on my calendar. If a friend suggests hanging out, I get her to commit to a day and time and put it on my calendar. If Beefy is invited to a coworker’s party, I put it on my calendar. This allows me to plan to get all the work-type stuff done and not blow off an experience that will enrich my creative or social life.

Back to the duck . . . all that paddling would wear me out if I didn’t take the time to coast with the current every once in awhile. I practice moments of mindfulness. I appreciate the way the garden is coming along. I coo over something cute Jackson has done. I revel in the breeze on a cool morning. And I sometimes take an entire day to veg. I’ll binge on Netflix and eat snacks in bed. (Eating in bed is one of my greatest vices. It makes me feel like a queen.)

I think the most important thing to remember is that we rarely see beneath the surface of another’s life. My house is filthy. Our yard is being overtaken by “weed trees.” I haven’t had a pedicure since last October. I sometimes let mail sit, unopened, for weeks. But I don’t instagram any of that! We all make choices with our time and money and nobody “has it all.”

I have a few practices that help me stay afloat. I’d love to hear yours!

Mail Bag: Laundry Day

· Am I green or gross? ·

laundromat laundry washing machine whatiwore2day

Dear Kasmira,

My question is that how you wash the clothing you wear differently everyday. My mother wanted to have all the things clean everyday. So she washed almost all the clothes, I mean shirts, dress, and, for my brother’s case, dark denim jeans. I am feeling guilty when I do not wash shirts and pants after one time wearing. My mother even did not allow once worn clothes back to closet before they freshly washed.

I wash things for my six year old daughter everyday. It is understandable for younger kids [who] mess their clothes several times a day, and I know some of the stains go off just after they get in to the fabrics

When you change everyday, how do you wash them?

Me? I am a little bit of my mother-kind of person so it was not a big deal for me to wash the clothes washable in washing machine, and hand wash is OK with me. What about the dry clean only materials? My big concern is about the dry clean only summer clothing. How do you cope with that? Or am I too particular?

Grace from South Korea

I’ve actually been asked this question a few times, and I’ve answered it via comments. I have always been a bit hesitant to publish my answer as an actual blog entry because *gasp* I think I have some things I’ve never, ever washed.

I think you’ll agree that modern society is a bit obsessed with cleanliness. We’re terrified of germs, grease, and odor. I certainly don’t advocate a return to the days of monthly baths and pomanders, but we could probably chill out a little on the use of detergents.

When I was a child, I tossed my clothes into the dirty hamper every night and they probably needed the washing. Kids are messy. They spill food, play in the dirt, and have assorted accidents. But when was the last time you came home from the office with grass-stained knees and ketchup down your front?

Not only is daily laundering usually unnecessary, but it’s hard on your clothes. Detergents and heat stress fibers and fade dye. Dry-cleaning chemicals are notoriously harsh (and toxic). After multiple washings, even following care directions on the label, I’ve found that most items fade, pill, shrink or lose shape.

Finally, the process of cleaning clothes consumes a huge amount of resources. Traditional washing machines use gallons of water (the average is 55!) If you use warm or hot water, your water heater gets in on the action. I once (foolishly) watched the electric meter spin round and round while the dryer was running. One must also consider the contents, packaging, and transportation of laundry detergent and additives.

Call me green or call me gross, these are my guidelines on cleaning clothes:

Wash after every wearing: socks, tights, underwear, workout clothes, and anything stinky, sweaty, or soiled.

Wash after every few wearings: jeans, shorts, tees, tanks, and casual dresses. Many of these items are made from fibers that stretch from wearing, so I find that a wash and then finish in a hot dryer are necessary to restore them to their original shape.

Sniff test the rest: suit separates, dress pants, skirts, non-casual dresses, sweaters, blazers, blouses, and vests (i.e. most of the things one wears to an office). Since we’re all so hygiene obsessed, we’re usually clean when we put our clothes on and they don’t get soiled over the course of the day. Unless you had a stressful, pitted-out kind of day at work, the deodorant you applied in the morning prevented any body odor from stinking up your clothing. Give your duds a quick sniff when you change out of them. If they don’t smell bad, hang them in a location with good air circulation for a day or two before returning to the closet. I drape my things over a carved wooden screen.

And I never ever leave them in a big pile where my cats can sleep on them.

Items worn as second layers, away from the body, can usually go the longest without cleaning. Eventually, even the cleanest body soils garments worn next to the skin, but it doesn’t usually happen in one wearing. In my wardrobe, things that are truly dirty are washed at home or sent to the cleaners.

Limiting the cleaning of clothes to the soiled and the stinky is budget and earth friendly. Your items will look newer, longer. If you’re sure to give your items an airing between wearings, you will not smell bad. (I smell quite nice, actually.)

What’s your laundry philosophy?

This post is was originally published 9/3/2009 at

Mail Bag: Colorado Layers

Colorado’s weather is constantly changing! Throughout one day the temperature can fluctuate from 2 degrees to 50 degrees… do you have any tips on layering that will save me from this crazy Colorado weather? (I’m sick of having 4 different types of jackets in my car!)

Erin Lefever, Longmont, CO.

Erin, you are a genius! You keep a jacket wardrobe in your car? I think that might be better than any of my suggestions. I’ll do my best, but if you ever drive off the road and become trapped in a snowdrift, you’re going to want all those jackets. (Seriously, have you read Snow Bound by Harry Mazer? It will inspire you to keep a survival kit in the car.) For everyday, non-disaster life in Colorado, I recommend the following:

Layer outerwear
Choose and layer outerwear for the appropriate degree of warmth, combining a denim jacket, a wool blazer, a puffy vest, a fleece jacket, a wool poncho, a down jacket, a raincoat or a peacoat. Personally, I found that a puffy vest under a wool coat kept me warm on icy mornings in Cincinnati, while looking put together. I could still button the coat, but didn’t have to stuff puffy sleeves into my structured coat sleeves. A denim jacket’s warmth is enhanced by topping it with a puffy vest. Throw a wool poncho over a wool blazer for double the sheep-y goodness. When it warms up, you can shed one of the outerwear layers and dump it in your car closet.

Always accessorize
At least bring, even if you don’t wear, a warm hat, scarf, and gloves. Adding these to any outerwear combination will improve your comfort factor when the temperatures suddenly dip. These items are small and portable and, since you’re already toting four jackets around, don’t take up much space in the car.

I’m embarassed to say that I could find very few pictures of myself wearing all three: hat, scarf, and gloves. I guess I’ve never taken a truly cold picture.

Love your lower half
How often do you see girls, walking through the snow, with a knit hat, earmuffs, scarf, down puffer, gloves and just skinny jeans and sneakers on the bottom? Let’s be real: there aren’t many cute options to layer legs. Yes, you can choose fleece-lined tights or leggings under those skinny jeans, but that sounds like a stuffed sausage nightmare to me. Personally, I prefer to wear a boot-cut fleece pant over my jeans (and under my skirts and dresses) if I have to spend much time in the cold. It’s easy to add to your ensemble as needed and a smart addition to your backseat wardrobe. I bought mine at REI in black and brown and they aren’t terribly ugly. Leg warmers are another option to add warmth to skinny jeans, leggings, or tights. They can be worn in addition to thick socks and are easily removable when it warms up.

Please show your feet some love and buy a cute pair of waterproof, insulated boots. They look sassy with skinny jeans and are popular enough this year to have discount versions at Target and Marshalls. I wore thick socks inside galoshes for years as my ghetto snow boots, but the cold eventually cracks the rubber and then you have wet feet. One pair of shoes isn’t going to comfortably span 2 degrees to 60, but I’d rather have sweaty feet than frostbitten toes.

I don’t have a solution to your car closet (and I, in fact, encourage it), but I believe you can stay one step ahead of the weather by layering outerwear, bringing warm accessories, and being prepared to protect your legs and feet from the cold. And I’m not joking when I suggest you add a cold weather survival kit to the car. If you’re ever stranded, you’ll want a sleeping bag and snacks to go with the four jackets.

For more info on my layered looks for commuting via bus in Cincinnati winters, check out these posts:
Bus Bundling
Never Enough

Mail Bag: Comfy Out-and-About Outfit

plaid cutoffs red black buffalo plaid brown

I love being comfortable, but still want to look cute while I’m out and about… do you have any tips on mixing comfort with your everyday looks?

Bette Rise, Huntington, NY

For me, comfort means being able to crouch, sit cross-legged on the floor, roll around with my dogs, and maybe even climb a tree. I start with leggings and a tee and then layer over the base. On the bottom, I add a skirt, cutoffs, tunic or short dress. On top, I may layer a shirt, vest, sweater, sweatshirt, jacket, coat, kimono and/or poncho. On my feet, I choose sturdy boots. Here are a few of my favorite, comfy out-and-about outfits: