Yearly Archives: 2014

Travel Debrief – What To Do AGAIN Next Time

After my Christmas vacation to visit family across the country, I made note of some things to do differently when planning and packing for my next trip. Overall, though, I think I did a pretty good job of packing lightly and planning thoughtfully.

Here’s a few things I would do again for my next big trip:

Bring a tablet. I have a Kindle Fire and I really enjoyed having it with me over Christmas. I used it for all the expected activities–reading books, browsing the Internet, paying bills. It was nice to not have to borrow my host’s home computer, and it was great to be able to read the backlit screen on dim planes without using the glaring overhead light.

Bring a backup power source. I have an older cell phone with a weak battery, so I brought along two extra battery packs. These were great to have on hand for long flights, day trips, etc.

Pack a small “capsule” wardrobe centered on one color scheme. I don’t have a big wardrobe to begin with, and I buy way too many black tops, so this was pretty easy for me. I was also staying with family members at their home, so I knew I could do laundry at least once during the week. I considered the weather when packing and I tried to be realistic about my needs (i.e., would I really need dressy clothes? Nope!). Even though I packed pretty light (light for me, at least), I still brought a few things I didn’t wear–or didn’t wear enough–to justify bringing them. These items included knee-high boots, two scarves, a denim jacket, a third tank top, and a third pair of sleep/lounge pants.

Pare down products. My penchant for Birchbox and mailbox freebies really comes in handy when it’s time to travel–I have lots of sample-sized goodies on hand. I eliminated duplicates (no need for one lip balm in my purse and one in my makeup bag, for example) and streamlined everything to fit into two bags–a small makeup bag of dry items and a quart-sized bag of mini liquids.

Schedule in a day off at home before heading back to school or work. I got home late on Saturday night and didn’t have to be at work until Monday morning, so Sunday was a day to “recover” from my vacation and prepare to re-enter the “real world.” I slept late, snuggled my cats, unpacked a few essentials, straightened up the house a little, and read. Ahh.

Vacation was great, but it’s nice to be home. 🙂

Travel Debrief – What To Do Differently Next Time

I hope everyone had a great Christmas! I traveled across the country to celebrate with family and had a great time. Per the inspiring advice of Light by Coco, I tried to be a smart, light packer, and I think I did a pretty good job. There’s always room for improvement, though, and next time I would do a few things differently.

On my next big plane trip, I plan to:

Pack more undies. Underwear were the limiting factor in my travel wardrobe. Next time, I would swap out some extra sleepwear for more undies, which would give me more flexibility in my laundry schedule.

Take a small, rolling suitcase. I brought a big cloth duffel bag on my trip and regretted it. It was heavy and bulky and the thin straps cut into my shoulder. I love exploring airports but my big ol’ bag was a major drag. Next time, I’m buying a small suitcase with wheels that turn a full 360 degrees, or I’m paying to check my bag. I want to be light and free in the airport so I can comfortably eat, shop, etc.

Rent a car. Yes, it would have been expensive, especially after paying for plane tickets, but it would have been worth it. After a few days of staying in someone’s house and sitting in the backseat of their car, I started to feel dependent and child-like and constricted, which drives me nuts. I would have loved having my own car so I could explore the city on my own schedule, take a day trip to a major nearby attraction that I really wanted to see, and escape the family and house for a while. Renting a car would be a relatively small extra cost that would maximize both my enjoyment and the larger investment of the plane tickets!

Carry a crossbody bag or backpack. I brought along my regular tote bag that I carry daily as a purse, which was okay, but I think I would have enjoyed a different bag more–something with more structure and built-in organization pockets.

Wear a watch. I kept needing to check the time and hated digging for my phone each time.

Label all bags. This is a no-brainer, but I forgot to do it. Next time, I would use plastic zip ties and luggage tags with privacy covers, and I would prepare two sets of inserts–one to use on the way to my vacation destination and one to use on the way home. I would include my name, address, phone number, and email address.

Can’t wait for my next trip!

Birchbox Review – December 2014

I got my December Birchbox last week! Woot!

I actually stayed pretty spoiler free for this one, which was nice–especially at Christmas! I usually choose my sample and then stalk MakeUpTalk or Instagram to see what other people got. You can ruin your surprise by doing this, though, because Birchbox only sends out so many box combinations and they won’t send you the same item twice, so the process of elimination is pretty quick for a long-time subscriber!

Birchbox sent bright blue boxes this month instead of their usual kraft boxes. The blue boxes were stamped in gold foil designs and were very festive! Each box also came with instructions to get a gift code for $10 to spend in-store at the GAP, making this box free! I don’t normally shop at the GAP, but I will definitely stop in and see what they have—I might be able to pick up some socks or stocking stuffers for free.

Here’s what else I got in my December Birchbox:

Manna Kadar Lip Locked in Lucky – This lip gloss/stain/primer combo was my sample choice and I like it a lot. The color is great for me because it’s a nude-pink that’s basically the same color as my lips—I don’t like bright or dark lip colors and usually stick to clear balms. This gloss is essentially the same color as the full-size Model Co. lipstick I got a few months ago, though, so I don’t plan to buy this in the full-size. The sample packaging looks a little meh to me—it’s a plastic tube with a sticker and a stick-on jewel—but that’s no biggie. It just seems odd for a higher-end product (the full size retails for $24).

RUFFIAN Nail Lacquer in RUFFIAN Red – Yay!  I’ve been wanting some Ruffian polish for months! (For some reason I had originally opted against nail polish in my profile quiz–I’m glad I caught and fixed that a few months ago.) I would probably wear a nude or lighter color more often than this bright red, but this color is perfect for festive Christmas toes. I might add some gold glitter on top. Anyway, the internet raves about this nail polish and I can see why—it has good coverage and bright shiny finish.

Vasanti Kajal Extreme Intense Eye Pencil in Rose Gold – Hmm. I like the formula of this eyeliner—smooth, easy to apply—but this color probably isn’t great for my light, pinkish skin. I drew a line on the inside of my wrist and it looked exactly like a scar. I will try this on my eyes and see what the staying power is like.

SeaRX Anti-Wrinkle Facial Life Treatment Serum – Meh. Haven’t tried this yet but I will. It’s supposed to be a good brand…

Davines Replumping Shampoo, Conditioner, and Superactive Spray-In Treatment – Cool! I really enjoyed my last Davines samples (I’m still using the shampoo sometimes, actually) so I’m excited to try this.

Seven great samples—I totally lucked out this month! I also like the way my box contents were very cohesive in theme and color. Everything was in the pink/red/rose color family (perfect for this time of year and so pretty to open!) and everything is great to use during the holidays—red nail polish, shimmery eye liner, shiny lip gloss, etc.

* Winter *

Image from

Image from

I love the holidays, but this year seems especially busy and stressful. I haven’t done the one thing I was most looking forward to doing–turning on only the Christmas tree lights, turning off the TV, and sitting alone in the dim, quiet living room.

I’m reading a collection of the Christmas chapters from the Little House on the Prairie books, and the simplicity and coziness of Laura’s holidays is so charming. I cannot imagine the hard work that pioneer families like Laura’s endured, but something about the long winter months sounds so nice…provided, of course, that it’s a year when the Ingalls family had a warm, sturdy home and plenty of stored food. I love the descriptions of the work the family does when hunkered down for the winter. Ma would cook, bake, sew, and knit. Pa would repair leather harnesses, do small wood projects, and practice his fiddle. The girls would study and sew, and the entire family would sing, read, and write letters. Night fell quickly, so everyone went to bed early and slept and snuggled away the long hours until sunrise. It all sounds lovely, especially if you ignore confounding details like cold baths and terrifying diseases.

Simply put, I like the way the Ingalls family fitted their lives and activities to the natural realities and rhythms of the winter season. I love all the comforts and conveniences of modern life, but our electric lights and programmable heaters and “horseless carriages” mean that most of us just keep cranking on and on during the winter, grinding at the same endless pace and always doing the same work we always do. There isn’t any change in my responsibilities or my rhythms based on the colder weather, even though all the other living beings around me–animals and plants–show clear signs of rest and slowness. My house cats get fluffier and sleepier. My tiny frog lays mellow and motionless in his tank. The trees in the front yard let themselves go for a while, not bothering to keep their leaves or sprout new branches. And there I am in the middle of it all, scraping ice off my car and wondering why time seems to pass so quickly.

I didn’t create a holiday bucket list, but I’m making one right now: I want to spend a day snuggled down in the living room with the Christmas tree glowing and my fat cats snoring. I want a good book, a hot drink, a soft blanket, and enveloping silence.  And I hope that my book is made of paper (i.e., not on a screen) and that it’s raining hard outside.  🙂

Mary and Laura Ingalls making candy from snow and syrup.  Illustration by Garth Williams.

Mary and Laura Ingalls making candy from snow and syrup. Illustration by Garth Williams.

Gift for You – Customizable Packing List!

She's making a list...and checking it twice...

She’s making a list…and checking it twice…

Yay!  The holidays are finally here, and that means many of us will travel near and far to celebrate with family and friends.

Are you planning a trip?  If so, download my customizable Packing List.  Use it as is or easily edit it in Microsoft Word to fit your own needs.  I like to print a copy and keep it near my bags as I pack so I don’t forget anything.


P.S. – My Happy Street penguin neighborhood reached Level 3 yesterday!

My Happy Street penguin neighborhood!

My penguin neighborhood!


Welcome to Happy Street, Penguins!

My first Penguin!

My first Penguin!

Yay!  The annual Christmas update for Happy Street came out last Friday night!  And it includes ice-skating, hot-chocolate-sipping PENGUINS!  I guess the news about my awesome street traveled all the way to the South Pole. 🙂

It’s all so adorable.  The Penguins live in an igloo and they brought three new businesses–a Winter Sports Shop, a Hot-Hot Chocolate Shop, and an Ice Rink.  There’s also a little Snowballs HQ decoration that generates a snowy mountain backdrop complete with a seal sculpture and a swath of glowy Northern Lights.  There’s a cute Heading North signpost and cool blue Ice Sheet flooring, too, that looks like a frozen lake or ocean.

The update also brought two new outfits in the Tailor Shop (a snowman costume and a reindeer costume!) and all the regular markings of Christmastime in Happy Street–it snows every few minutes and Santa Claus drives through town in his sleigh.  We can also visit our Christmas trees again to earn gifts for Christmas Day and the Advent Calendar should open again on December 1st!  The app version description said there are some all-new tree and calendar gifts this year, so I’m especially excited about that.  I can’t wait to see what we get!

My growing Penguin village!

My growing Penguin village!

P.S. – The skaters do something especially cute when the Ice Rink reaches level two…  🙂

P.P.S. – I wonder why the Happy Street Santa Claus is a pig.  Maybe because pigs are fat and jolly?  Maybe because pigs traditionally represent good luck and abundance?  Here’s another idea why…


Move Over, Michelangelo…



There’s a new David in town…and he’s a triplet.

I went to a wine and paint party this past Saturday with my sister and a friend.  The company presents a different painting and tutorial every night, so we reveiwed the schedule and chose the night with the naked male torso painting.  Hah!  We plan to hang our three masterpieces on the wall above the couch at Thanksgiving.  😉

P.S. – Mine is the middle one.

Birchbox Review – November 2014

My November Birchbox!

My November Birchbox!

Yay! My Birchbox arrived on Friday the 7th and it’s a good one!

Birchbox now allows subscribers to choose one of their monthly samples from a selection of choices or opt for a special curated box. I chose the curated box this month, which Birchbox developed in a partnership with BuzzFeedLife. The box had a “Holiday Hacks” theme and included goodies that will help you survive and make the most out of the holiday season (i.e., double-duty products, post-party complexion restoration products, etc.). I miss the element of surprise whenever I choose the curated box, because Birchbox reveals the contents in their entirety, but I like knowing I’ll get things that I will enjoy.

Here’s what I got:

Dr. Lipp Original Nipple Balm for Lips. This is the cutest little tube of…salve? I think that’s the best word for it. LOL My boyfriend read the name and was shocked. This is pure lanolin and I’ve been using it at night before I go to sleep. It’s very thick and moisturizing, and creates a moisture-proof seal. You can also use it on cuticles, elbows, etc.

Greenleaf Votive Candle in Silver Spruce. My whole box smelled like a Christmas tree as soon as I took off the exterior mailing wrapper—ahh! So fresh and clean and brisk. I’ll save this votive to burn after Thanksgiving, but I’ve kept it on my bedside table in the meantime so I can take an occasional whiff of it until then. 🙂 This candle seems like good quality—it’s strongly scented and has a good “cold throw,” so I curious to see how it smells when it’s lit. I would love to see more home-related goodies in my Birchboxes…

Dr. Jart Pore Minimalist Mask. This is a cool black charcoal mask from the South Korea company that invented BB cream! I’m looking forward to trying this. I’ve never used a sheet mask.

Amika Perk Up Dry Shampoo. This is the item I was least excited about in this box but now that I have it in my hands it might be my favorite. The little can is so cute. I usually don’t use dry shampoo (my hair just feels extra dirty after using most dry shampoos—like more product piled on top of existing product) but this stuff smells really good, gives extra volume and “oomph” to my hair, and doesn’t feel sticky or powdery. I plan to use it as “hair perfume” before going to sleep or when freshening up on the (RARE) times I have to go somewhere after work.

Mirenesse iCurl Secret Weapon 24 Hour Mascara. I almost didn’t opt for this box because of the dry shampoo and the mascara, but after I looked up the full size price of a tube of this mascara ($29) I was curious and wanted to see how it performs. I like it but it doesn’t wow me. It gives a natural look and stays put. This sample had a small, thin wand that’s really nice for applying mascara to lower lashes.

Overall, my Birchbox is great and I’m very satisfied this month. I wanted to note two bummers, though—the curated box didn’t come with a couple of extras that the regular Birchboxes had this month. My box came in the regular hot pink exterior wrapper, not the special red wrapper that Birchbox sent out this month to raise AIDS awareness and funds for the RED foundation. I was looking forward to posting my wrapper on Instagram to help raise money, too. Boo. Also, my box didn’t include a mini snack like the regular boxes, which each got a fancy little chocolate or other treat. No biggie, though.

Now I’m soooooper excited to see what Birchbox has planned for December boxes. I hope we get something special for the holidays!

My Simple Face Care Routine

This is not me, obviously.  Royalty-free image from

This is not me, obviously. This is a royalty-free approximation of me from  I just noticed she is wearing one glove–why is she wearing a single glove?  What exactly is that pink stuff?  And why is it safe for her face but not for her hand?

Skincare is different for everyone, but I believe that a simple routine is better than a complicated one. For one thing, I’m more likely to stick with a simple routine than an elaborate routine when I’m tired or pinched for time. Also, I think skin generally knows how to care for itself and I don’t want to interfere too much. 🙂 So here’s my simple routine for facial skincare:

In the Evening

Remove eye makeup. If I’m wearing any kind of heavy-duty eye makeup (like budge-proof liner or mascara), I use Clinique Rinse-Off Eye Makeup Solvent, rinse my face well, and *pat* my face completely dry with a *clean* hand towel.

Cleanse face.   Ever heard of the oil-cleansing method–or using oil to wash your face? It sounds crazy but it totally works for me. I use TATCHA’s One Step Camellia Cleansing Oil and I could write a whole post about how I much I like it. You apply the oil with dry hands onto your dry face and massage into your skin. It dissolves most makeup and leaves my skin feeling clean, fresh, and soft.   It also easily and completely rinses away with water–totally not what you would think about an oil!

I used Dove bar soap for my entire life before I switched to the TATCHA oil. Dove soap isn’t nearly as drying as other soaps and cleansers, but even Dove is more drying than the oil-cleaning method.

Slather on lip balm and go to bed. Yep, this is where I stop my routine for the evening. The oil-cleaning method doesn’t dry out my skin, so I don’t need to apply moisturizer. I also dislike the idea of my skin being covered all day by makeup *and* all night by lotions or creams. I want to give my face a chance to “breathe” overnight and do its own thing–and I want the pores to be open and unblocked so my skin can easily push out anything icky.  (And the lip balm keeps my lips from getting chapped and flaky during a night of heat/air conditioning/fanned air and breathing (okay, snoring) through my mouth.)

In the Morning:

Rinse face with only water. I don’t need to rewash my face in the morning if I washed it before I went to bed, but it’s good to splash some water on it to remove, say, drool. 🙂 My skin is not oily, but if it was, I would try using blotting papers in the morning instead of cleansing again, too.

Apply BB cream with sunscreen. I will be forever grateful to Birchbox for introducing me to my “holy grail” of face care: Coola Tinted Matte SPF 30 for Face. This natural BB cream provides very light coverage, has no smell, and has a silky texture that dries to a truly matte, powdery finish (I know I sound like a commercial but it’s totally true). It also has non-nano mineral sunscreen ingredients with a high SPF (I avoid chemical sunscreen when I can). I hate the sticky feeling of lotions on my face, but I don’t even feel this Coola stuff. In fact, I look forward to using it because my skin feels so soft and moisturized afterward. I’m hoping that regular sunscreen use will help me avoid or postpone the need for eye creams, wrinkle creams, etc.  #fingerscrossed

Apply makeup and go!

Once a Week:

I like to use a single facial treatment once a week or so (and definitely no more than twice a week)–things like masks, scrubs, and peels. I’m not really loyal to any treatment, and I like to try new things that I get as samples from Birchbox or other places. I do avoid harsh scrubs (i.e., walnut scrubs), however, and opt for “sensitive skin” formulas whenever they’re an option. I’m liking these treatments a lot lately:

  • Real Chemistry Luminous 3 Minute Peel (this is a crazy protein peel that bonds only with dead surface skin cells on your face–you apply it and then can feel the dead skin cells gather under your fingers!)
  • TATCHA’s Rice Enzyme Powder in Sensitive (an enzyme exfoliator)
  • Dr. Brandt Microdermabrasion Scrub (I only use this occasionally–I like the gentler enzyme formulas better)

And that’s it!

That’s my whole face care routine right now. Some of these products are pricey, so I subscribe to the companies’ marketing emails and keep an eye out for promo codes. I also buy travel-sized products when I can’t splurge on the full-sized versions. 🙂 Using nice products is a total pleasure and it makes me more likely to stick to my routine!

What’s in Kate Middleton’s Clutch?

Kate with a little red clutch.  Image from

Kate with a little red clutch. Image from

I love Kate Middleton’s style and basically envy her life…or, at least, her closet and figure. 🙂 I stumbled upon a great slideshow of her outfits here and noticed that she’s carrying a cute, boxy clutch in almost every photo…which got me wondering. What exactly does Kate Middleton carry in her little purse?

Think about it. She doesn’t need ID of any kind–everyone knows who she is. She doesn’t need money, because she’s always a guest or hostess at these events. She doesn’t need a car key or driver’s license, either, because she is chauffeured. And she doesn’t need house keys–guards at the gates and doors let her in.

It’s kind of hilarious to me–the idea of really needing nothing, of being able to go out into the world every day without any of the little bits of paper and metal that the rest of us need to navigate the world. I can’t imagine being so completely cared for. I wonder if she enjoys it or if the dependence/structure drives her crazy.

So what IS in those little clutches? What supplies would she need to survive all those looong social events?

My guesses:



Cough drops.





Lady supplies.

Cell phone.

 Am I forgetting anything?