Monthly Archives: December 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!