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The Perfect Handbag Follow-Up

Not long ago, I wrote a post about my search for the perfect handbag.

I can’t say I’ve found the “perfect” bag, but I did find something close.

I’ve been looking for a distressed (beat-up looking), caramel colored, leather bag.

I wanted a bag the size of a large tote, but with at least one outside pocket.

(And, if possible, a crossbody strap due to my bum arm.)

Here’s a look at the bag I purchased.


It’s made by a company called Campomaggi based out of Italy.

I found the bag here in the United States.

Supposedly, it was “the very last one” but I imagine there are probably a lot more out there somewhere.


This is what I like about the bag:

•  It’s the right color.

•  It’s distressed and vintage-y (and/or bohemian) looking.  It will look better the more it’s used.

•  It’s got handles and the ever-so-important (detachable) shoulder/crossbody strap.  (A must for my arm!)

•  It has a very large outside (snap closure) pocket.  The outside pocket easily holds my phone, business cards, and keys for quick access.

•  On the inside there’s an additional slip pocket which I use for pens, AND a large zipped pocket.

•  It’s a big bag.  I can easily fit a lens or two inside when I want to.

•  The top zips close which comes in handy if I want that security – in airports, etc.

•  It’s well made – the stitching, etc., is high quality.  (It is NOT lined.)

•  It smells yummy.  (I love the smell of leather!)

What don’t I like about the bag?

•  I wanted a big bag … and it’s a BIG bag.  Sometimes a big bag is just a pain to carry around.

•  The bag holds a lot, but if I start filling it up it gets heavy very quickly.

I realize everyone wants different things out of their handbags.

Personally, I change my mind fairly frequently about what I want.

(Small, big, light, sturdy, etc., etc.)

But …?

For now, I think I came very close to getting exactly what I was in search of.

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Fred The Newf – Six Months

Fred is now six months old.

Fred The Newf – Six Months Old

Fred did well with his dog sitter while I was in Kentucky.

He grew a lot in the short amount of time I was gone.

I’m pretty sure Fred is glad to have me home.

Fred gets very excited when he sees me packing up camera gear.

He knows it means it’s time “to go to work.”

Of course, Fred isn’t really working yet.

I won’t have him carry any gear until he’s done growing.

I don’t want to hurt him.

But, Fred “helps” me shoot anyway.

He accompanies me.

He sits and waits when I ask him to.

He knows he needs to stay and not chase after Interesting Things that pass by.

Fred did have a run-in with a skunk the other night.

(He wasn’t “working” at the time.)

Fred chased a skunk out of my backyard.

The skunk tried to spray Fred.

Fred somehow managed to escape un-sprayed.

My entire backyard, however, smelled terrible.

Fred thought the entire encounter was very exciting and fun.

I didn’t agree with Fred.

In fact, I told Fred he couldn’t go back outside to play with the skunk.

There is never a dull moment with Fred in my life.

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Kentucky Derby – 2015

On the Saturday of The Kentucky Derby, I woke up early to begin getting ready.

The Derby race itself is at the end of the day, but there are other races going on all day.

My hosts provided a great buffet breakfast as we hurried about adjusting dresses, hats, and bow-ties for the men.

Next, we took some hurried photos of our group.

The same driver who drove us to The Bourbon Trail, on the previous day, drove us to Churchill Downs.

We arrived around 11:30 a.m.

Derby 1 © 2015 Suzanne Haggerty W

Programs, Forms and Tip Sheets

Derby 2 © 2015 Suzanne Haggerty W

Derby Clothes

Derby 3 © 2015 Suzanne Haggerty W

Derby Dresses and Hats

Derby 4 © 2015 Suzanne Haggerty W

The Derby Crowd

I didn’t have a press pass so I knew I wouldn’t be allowed to bring my camera in.

Instead, I used a point and shoot (capable of taking RAW photos).

Me – And My Derby Hat (iPhone)

We had fantastic seats (with shade – thank goodness!) which had been secured by my hosts many months prior.

We spent the day drinking mint juleps and making two dollar bets on the races.

Apparently, over 120,000 mint juleps are sold each year at the Derby.

I’m pretty sure the group I was with drank at least that many.

(I still don’t like bourbon, but when in Rome ….!)

The drinks cost eleven dollars each and you get to keep the glass as a souvenir.

Mint Julep © 2015 Suzanne Haggerty

There are vendors everywhere yelling “Juleps!  Juleps!” as they walk around with tray, after tray, of icy mint juleps.

I kept having the sensation of having time-traveled to the 1920’s.

All the women with hats, and the men with bow-ties, hats, suspenders, etc., added to the feeling of time warp.

Derby 5 © 2015 Suzanne Haggerty W

A Look at the Derby Crowd

The races themselves were very exciting, although I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the horses.

Derby 6 © 2015 Suzanne Haggerty W

Horse Racing at the Kentucky Derby

I had a great time cheering for “my” horses even though I didn’t win much.

People-watching couldn’t have been better.

So many people!

So many hats!

Derby 7 © 2015 Suzanne Haggerty W

People of all ages, and backgrounds, bet at the Derby.

It really was a fun day.

By the end of the day, we were all exhausted.

Derby 8 © 2015 Suzanne Haggerty W

More Derby Hats!

I was happy our driver was ready and waiting to take us back to my hosts’ house.

(Having a driver is definitely a luxury, but it was so great not to have to worry about a designated driver, Derby traffic, and/or just pure exhaustion from a long, exciting, day.)

We arrived “home” around 8:30 p.m.

My hosts had arranged one more surprise for the weekend.

I walked into their house as a (truly amazing) chef began pulling trays and trays of appetizers out of the oven.

They hired a chef who had arrived hours earlier while we were at the Derby!

I felt like royalty … and, simultaneously, spoiled rotten.

The food was absolutely amazing.

After appetizers, the chef began pulling out main courses and side dishes.

We gathered plates for the buffet and indulged.

By 11 p.m. we were all exhausted and ready for bed.

It was truly an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime, day.

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Kentucky Derby Weekend

I had SO MUCH FUN over Kentucky Derby weekend.

I expected it to be fun, but it was SO MUCH MORE FUN than I had even expected.

Let me begin at the beginning …

I left California last Thursday morning.

With connecting flights, layovers, missing luggage issues, etc., I wasn’t settled in Kentucky until very late Thursday night.

We had a pretty big group hanging out together for the weekend.

My hosts (friends) organized and planned the entire visit and it was incredible.

They rolled out the red carpet in a big way.

Fortunately, Kentucky provided picture-perfect weather for my trip also.

It was beautiful.

After a nice breakfast on Friday, a driver showed up to take us on a tour of The Bourbon Trail.

The drive through the rolling hills of the Kentucky countryside was beautiful.

Kentucky Countryside

It was exactly as I pictured.

The distilleries are charming.

(I haven’t had a chance to go through all my photos yet, so forgive me.)

I learned a lot about the history of bourbon, prohibition, etc.

I did “try” tastes of the different bourbons even though I don’t like bourbon.

We stopped for an elegant (!!!!) several course lunch at an old home/plantation which is now a very nice restaurant.

I felt like I’d stepped back in time to the 1920’s … Great Gatsby time.

It was so Southern, so charming, and the food was fantastic.

(And yes, I drank a mint julep with lunch!)

Next, we were off for a private tour of a Derby horse farm.

What a great thing for my hosts to have set up.

The farm was beautiful – 900 acres of beautiful greenery!

We visited several mares.

Mare With Her Foal

We were allowed to pet the mares and their “brand new” foals.

They were so sweet.

Then we met the stallions.

Beautiful stallion.

Unexpectedly, our visit happened to occur when a breeding was scheduled.

So, yes, I witnessed horse sex.

(I’m still not over it.)

The stallions at this particular horse farm “breed” three times a day.

Their stud fee is $7,500 to $25,000 depending on the stallion.

Who knew?

After the horse farm, we were off to one more distillery.

When we eventually got “home” to my friends’ house,

I was treated to a delicious dinner of beef tenderloin with zillions of amazing side dishes.

We ate, drank wine, and chatted late into the evening.

It was a perfect day.

In tomorrow’s post, I’ll tell you about Derby day and share some photos.

(Hats, hats, and more hats!!)

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Derby Packing

This might (?) be my last post until next Tuesday.

I’m in that pre-trip whirlwind of errands and packing.

•  Derby Hat  –  check

•  Derby Dress  –  check

•  High Heels  –  check

•  Tons of Blister Band-Aids (for my feet afer I wear heels)  –  check

•  Twenty Four Hour a Day Dog Sitter  –  check

•  Coloring Book (and a book to read) for the plane/s  –  check

•  Camera and 50 pounds of gear  –  check

•  Follow-up appointment with Paul Newman for my return  –  check

And so it goes!

(I haven’t decided if I’m bringing my laptop.  I don’t think I’ll have a spare minute to use it so probably not!)

I’ve sent ahead my hat and some “California wine” as a housewarming gift for my gracious hosts.

If you watch the Kentucky Derby look for me!

My seat is near the finish line and I will be the crazy blond woman in an enormous purple hat.

I’ll bet one dollar on a Horse-To-Be-Determined and I’ll be screaming like a wild banshee during the race.

Truth be told, I don’t know what a “wild banshee” is but you can bet I will google it while I’m hanging out in airports during this trip.

I will try to update Twitter, Instagram, and/or Facebook while traveling.

I’m sure I’ll have a lot of fun adventures on this trip.

(And, hopefully, I’ll come back with some good stories to share too!)

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Prepping For The Kentucky Derby

Yesterday, I received a text which read,

“I just finished polishing the mint julep cups.”


Just like *that* I was SO excited about the Kentucky Derby.

I texted back and asked, “There is such a thing as mint julep cups?”

(Yes there are!  Apparently, they’re silver and need polishing!)

Mind you, I don’t LIKE mint juleps because they’re made with bourbon.

But, I was instantly very excited anyway.

I’m pretty sure everything in Kentucky is made with bourbon.

Bourbon candy, bourbon pie, bourbon glazes on main courses ….

Maybe I’ll learn to like bourbon while I’m there?

Did you know the Derby race is only two minutes long?

I’ve been discussing a Derby trip with my Kentucky friends for a couple years.

We got serious about our discussions over a year ago.

(They have gone above and beyond making all the arrangements for this trip.)

A year of discussions, and planning, and arrangements … for a two minute race!

Of course, there will be a lot more to my visit than *just* the two minute race.

My big, purple, hat is already in Kentucky waiting for me.

I cannot wait to see all the ladies with their hats.

(I’m going to pretend to be a lady myself!)

I don’t have a press pass since this is not a working trip.

No press pass means I’m not allowed to bring my camera into the race.

But, you can bet I’ll be snapping iPhone photos whenever I can.

I will have my camera with me for my other Kentucky adventures, however.


I’m getting so excited for a new adventure!

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Oh, Fred!

Fred The Newf will be six months old on Thursday.

Here is a recent photo of Fred nuzzling one of his favorite balls:

Fred The Newf LOVES his toys!

Yesterday, I took Fred to a park where he got to meet a lot of other dogs.

Our main objective, however, was to meet the woman who will be babysitting Fred while I’m at the Kentucky Derby.

I’m very protective of Fred.

Usually, I won’t let anyone take care of my “baby” except family members.

I wanted to know Fred felt comfortable with his future babysitter.

(He did!)

I also wanted to go over a few Fred-Things with her.

(She owns a Newf and has fostered SEVENTEEN Newfoundland dogs in the past!)

Even when I know someone is very experienced with dogs, and Newfoundlands in particular,

I still feel communication is extremely important.

For instance, I told her I don’t want Fred near ANY tennis balls … even those belonging to other dogs at a park.


A Newfie we know of died with a tennis ball lodged in its throat.

Newfies are BIG … a ball or toy that is safe for most dogs can be life threatening to them.

(Two other friends of mine have Newfies who have undergone surgery because they swallowed parts of tennis balls.)

This is the type of thing it’s easy to assume a dog sitter “knows,”

But, in fact, assumptions are how things end up going wrong.

Fred with a Newfie sized ball.

At the same time, Fred’s sitter shared a lot of great information with me.

Once she understood the reality of my arm, she realized it would become increasingly difficult for me to groom Fred myself as he grows.

(So far, I do Fred’s baths and nail clippings myself.  I haven’t attempted to trim his ears or feet yet.)

She gave me the name of a woman who grooms “tons” of Newfies.

I know I’ll find that information very helpful in the near future.

Giant Breed dogs aren’t like “normal” dogs.

They need different care.

Newfies are very big, but they have very fragile bodies.

It’s important for me to build a support network of people who understand Newfies, and Fred specifically.

As a service dog in training, he is with me MOST of the time.

But when he isn’t …?

I want to feel he’s safe and being well taken care of.

Have I mentioned how much I love this dog?

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Secret Garden – Coloring Book

It rained here, by my mountain, for three days last week.

I realize most of Orange County did not experience the same amount of rain I did.

I live in a small mountain micro-climate.

Along with my many other creative endeavors, I had the sudden urge to color.

Yes, color …. like little kids do with coloring books.

Coloring is a rainy day activity.

(At least it was for me, growing up as a Southern California kid.)

Long story short, I began coloring in the Secret Garden coloring book – which has recently become quite famous.

IMG_1468 2

iPhone photo of the Secret Garden book cover

I purchased the book, originally, to give me something to do on my upcoming flights to, and from, the Derby.

I hate cross country flights.

I can never sleep on planes.

I like to read, but I wanted something to do besides *just* reading for six hours (each way).

Johanna Basford is a professional illustrator.

She has done corporate work for Nike, Starbucks, and a lot of other famous companies.

She was approached to make a coloring book for kids.

She insisted making one for adults would be a better idea.

She was right.

Her coloring book has been a top seller on Amazon, it has been translated into 14 languages, and it’s sold out around the world.

(Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc., are waiting to receive their next shipment of books.)

In the meantime, Johanna’s second book (Enchanted Forest) has been published.

(It is ALSO already out of stock … I’ve pre-ordered a copy on Amazon.)

Here are a few samples of the pages inside the Secret Garden:


The drawings by Johanna Basford are absolutely beautiful.

She is so talented.

(And, since I can’t even doodle, I really admire her gift.)


The art work is stunning.

The book also has little hidden surprises for you to find as you work your way through it.

For example, somewhere hidden in the drawings there are two frogs, five wasps, and one padlock – among other things.

FullSizeRender 22

As you’re coloring, you find yourself getting really excited when you find one of Johanna’s hidden surprises.

She also leaves some areas for you to complete on your own.

You can add in flowers, butterflies, are whatever your imagination suggests.

I didn’t get too far, but I did make a start on one small section.


I expect to make a lot more progress while flying cross country.


Some people have complained of ink bleeding through the pages.

This is what I suggest … follow Johanna’s suggestions and you won’t have any problems.

She recommends Staedtler pens if you choose to color with ink.

I’ve used a combination of pens and artist quality colored pencils on mine.

(I wanted quite a variation of greens so I decided to experiment with mixed media.)

Sure – you can use crayons, too, if you want.

I find the drawings are small and detailed.

For me, pens and/or well sharpened colored pencils work best.

You can, of course, do whatever makes you happy.

(But, if you choose to use sharpies … KNOW the ink will bleed through the pages.)

I also searched #SecretGarden on Instagram for inspiration.

I was awestruck by the beautiful “coloring” people are doing.

There are no limits to people’s creativity and imaginations.

Coloring as an adult is fun and SO RELAXING.

You can do it while watching TV or listening to music … or flying cross country.

One of these coloring books, and a set of pens or pencils, would make a great gift idea.

But, for now, you will probably need to be okay with ordering and waiting ….

I hear the books will be in stock again soon.

I just don’t know how soon soon is.

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Promise me you won’t laugh at my doodles?

After yesterday’s post, I decided to see if I could draw ANYTHING.



And yes, I probably should have made my first attempt with a pencil instead of a pen.

Stop laughing!

I have a lot of artsy, visual, people in my family …

Painters, and people who can draw realistic pictures without hesitating.

I have never been one of them.

My first attempt might be horrible, but I’m going to try to improve.

We all should strive to learn new things, right?

I know I won’t ever be able to REALLY draw,

But, maybe I can improve my doodles if I try?

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I Wish I Was Good At …

I think of myself as a “generalist.”

I’m okay at doing a lot of different things.

I’m not great at doing many things.

There are so many talented people in this world.

Are you one of them?

There are so many things I wish I was good at.

I wish …

•  I was a good singer.  I would love to have a beautiful singing voice.  (I do sing joyfully – but off key!)

•  I wish I could draw something other than stick people.

•  I wish I could paint … especially with watercolors.

•  I wish I had more time for reading all the great books I’d like to read.

•  I wish I liked to sew and/or knit.  I stink at both and don’t really have any desire to get better.

•  I wish I was handier when things break around the house.  (I always have to call a repair person!)

•  I wish I had a knack for interior decorating … my house is never “together” and/or “done.”

•  I wish I had more courage to take risks.
Are you a generalist like me?
Or a specialist?
Or one of those people who is good at everything they try?