Friday, September 30, 2011

{the art of packing smart}

When I told my coworkers that I was going to pack all my stuff for a ten day international adventure trip into one carry-on sized piece of luggage, I was greeted with a lot of dubious and skeptical stares.

Clearly they have no faith in my packing skills, but I can forgive them for that. What they don't realize is that organizing is my superhero power. (Not quite as cool as flying or telepathic powers, but hey, you take what you can get, right?)

I can tell I'm getting a lot of skepticism for you, too. Now, I don't normally like to flaunt my superhero powers (except maybe when somebody is whining about having no space for something new and I can rearrange it to make it all fit... that usually ends in a victory dance) but I figured you might be able to learn a tip or two for your next trip.

Now, pay attention: the trick to packing is really in your strategy. What works for me is organizing, and my favorite organizing tool happens to be Eagle Creek's pack-it systems. They are amazing, and I probably now own about 200 pieces of them. (Not really, but close.) If you don't know what pack-it cubes are, check out Eagle Creek's site, or keep reading...

So here's my 22" piece of luggage, all packed and ready to go (the boots are there for size comparison, and also because I'll be wearing them, not packing them):

I also have a carry-on purse for smaller items such as international papers, passport, money, kindle, writing supplies, travel pillow (yes, it fits in there!), etc.

If we open it up...

You can see the Eagle Creek pack-it pieces. The larger one on the left (which is actually blue) is the two-sided cube, and the smaller red one is the two-sided half cube. There's also a black one along the top side that is called the mudbox, and it has a pair of casual shoes in it. (It's true!)

If we pull off the top two Eagle Creek pack-its, you can see my orange travel towel, pairs of socks, and one more pack-it below, which is the 15" folder. With the pack-it cubes you have to roll up your clothes inside them, but the folder keeps nicer clothes flat and carefully arranged to keep them from wrinkling. It comes with a plastic board to act as a guide to fold your clothes around. Genius!

Now you can see my stack of pack-its, my pair of shoes in the black pack-it mudbox, and a peek into the top flap of my luggage, where I stored my toiletry kit and my first aid/ medicine bag.

So here's everything, now looking like a giant mess, when actually it's quite nicely arranged. Since my large pack-it cube is two-sided, I pulled out the clothes and laid them next to it so you can see the amount of stuff it holds. Here's the tally:

One side of my pack-it has my hiking clothes: one hiking skirt (my favorite outdoor piece), one pair of hiking capris, and four quick-dry tops. The other side of my pack-it cube has travel clothes: two cotton t-shirts (one for sleeping), one pair of pajama pants, and three travel shirts. (Plus, I'll be wearing a pair of travel pants.)

The folder has my nicer outfits, for travel and evenings: two travel tops, two dresses, one skirt, one long sleeved blouse, and one wool pullover.

The smaller pack-it cube has underwear, socks on one side and bras, swim wear on the other.

The purple thing at the bottom is an insulated coat in its stuff sack. I also have a rain coat that I'm carrying on the plane.

So there you have it. Essentially two weeks of clothes (actually, if you mix and match there's waaay more than that in here... I'm a chronic over-packer, believe it or not) plus a few layers in case it gets cold in the evenings. I also brought a packet of travel detergent and a clothes line so I can wash some of these pieces to wear again, if I need to.

And, I didn't mention this before, but I have to bring a backpack for my trip, as well. Currently it's empty except for my camera, so it didn't seem worthy of being in the shot. It'll be nice to have when I'm headed home with a lot of dirty laundry and need some "overflow" luggage space. :)

So this marks my last post before vacation. I will see you all around the 14th of October, or so! Be prepared for lots of pictures when I get back. Like, lots. :)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

{sketchbook project: westfalia}

For this turn of the sketchbook page, our Time Traveler has stepped back in time... 1993.
I was nine years old and living in Oklahoma, where the skies and roads stretched to the horizon in every direction, and it seemed if you traveled them long enough, you would hit the very edge of the world.

At that time my aunt and uncle owned a well loved Westfalia (though it wasn't quite as old, back then) and often drove it down from Chicago to visit us. We would take far off adventures to the mountains of Colorado or the red rocks of New Mexico, and I was enamored by its magical sleeping quarters and small dresser which, at age nine, seemed to hold the world.

I remember well these trips, but even simpler -- when it was parked in front of my childhood home, and we lay in the grass to watch meteor showers and wrapped ourselves in blankets to stay warm. Be it far away or right at home -- every moment was an adventure.

1993: westfalia

bathed in adventure
clinging like highway dust
papered with road maps
and untouchable promises.

it carried the stench
of a thousand miles
(or more).

she lay
in its rumpled bedclothes
to watch the stars fall
and dreamt of tomorrows.

See more Sketchbook entries {here}.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

{peach blueberry cobbler}

My CSA drop this week came with an assortment of delightful veggies (broccoli, rainbow chard, green beans, red peppers, yellow tomatoes, beets, celery, corn) as well as an array of yummy fruits such as pears, nectarines, blueberries, and peaches.

After making the delicious cajun sauce pasta again with the broccoli, peppers, and green beans (and boiled corn on the side.... mmmm!) I decided to make dessert from my fruit assortment.

This recipe comes from my dad, who makes it every year for Thanksgiving. It's super easy, incredibly delicious, and open to interpretation. He usually makes it with granny smith apples and cranberries, which is too tart for my taste, but one year swapped it for gala apples and blueberries, and I nearly licked the pan clean.

This time I made the dessert with nectarines, peaches and blueberries. Experiment for yourself... but don't say I didn't warn you... there won't be leftovers!

{peach blueberry cobbler}


4 cups peeled, cored, sliced peaches and nectarines (or apples, or whatever fruit you'd like. I actually forgot the peeling step and just chopped the peaches up skin and all... still came out awesome)
2 cups blueberries (or cranberries, if you prefer)
1/2 cup sugar

In 2-3 quart greased casserole dish place peaches and nectarines. Place blueberries on top of peaches, and spread sugar evenly over everything.

Also, while chopping peaches, take care not to leave your entire stash of blueberries next to you, or you may have considerably fewer of them to put in the cobbler. Frozen blueberries taste like candy! Yum!

To make crumble topping:

1 cup oatmeal
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 stick butter, melted.

Prepare topping by mixing oatmeal, flour, and sugar together. Add melted butter and mix until crumbly. Spread topping on top of fruit.

Bake in preheated oven 350 degrees for 60-70 min. No need to cover while cooking, but you may want to place the dish on a cookie sheet in case it spills over. The fruit juices will be bubbling and the crumble will be a delicious golden color!

Let stand for 15 minutes. The dessert will shrink in size as it cools. Enjoy, and try not to eat it all in one sitting! As I discovered, this particular iteration of the recipe was so delicious that I served myself two heaping bowlfuls of it and then proceeded to fall into a fruit and butter coma for the rest of the evening. Totally worth it. :)

{Entire recipe here for copying}

4 cups peeled, cored, sliced peaches and nectarines
2 cups blueberries
1/2 cup sugar


1 c oatmeal
1/4 c flour
1/2 c brown sugar
1 stick butter

In 2-3 quart greased casserole dish place peaches and nectarines. Place blueberries over peaches. Spread sugar evenly over blueberries.
Prepare topping by mixing oatmeal, flour, and sugar together. Add melted butter and mix until crumbly. Spread topping on fruit.
Bake in preheated oven 350 degrees for 60-70 min. Let stand for about 15 min. No need to cover while cooking but may place on cookie sheet in case it spills over.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

{mount st. helens}

Having snagged another day off together, Tanner and I drove to Mt. St. Helens for the afternoon. We wandered the visitor's center (which I recommend, by the way. I learned quite a lot, and the photos/ video from the 1980 event are astounding) and then drove to the mountain itself, entered the "blast zone", and got a good taste of what a massive volcano can do to a countryside.

Now, more than 30 years later, the blast zone around Mt. St. Helens still looks like a different planet. We could have been walking on the moon; everything was barren and covered in deep ash and magma-created trenches. The trees all around us were still blown down; it was amazing to see an entire mountainside covered in flattened and broken trees, all of them pointed in the same direction, as if still trying to escape the mountain. It was a time capsule that nature hadn't regrown yet; creation was still struggling out of the chaos, and the devastation of Mt. St. Helens was still evident in every corner.

The mountain itself must have been so grand, once; the photos from the visitor's center showed it looking remarkably like Mt. Hood, with a proud, pointed cap covered in snow. Now, the entire north side of the mountain has disappeared, turned into a giant avalanche which destroyed Spirit Lake below, created new lakes in its wake, and erupted with a force that sent its smoky plume more than 15 miles into the air.

Now, lying dormant, it tempts us with its docile face, drawing tourists close to slowly tread its ashy footprint. But to treat it as nothing more than a beckoning mountain top would be a deadly mistake, as the world learned on May 18, 1980, and will surely learn again.

Monday, September 26, 2011

{google doodle}

So... was anyone else completely in love with the Google doodle on Saturday? I don't know about you, but the minute it popped up I shrieked, "Jim Hensen!!" and spent approximately 2.4 hours clicking digital puppets.

With a wave of your magical puppeteering skills (or mouse movements, whichever) they respond by looking back and forth, up and down, and open their mouths to talk when you click. As there is no sound for this particular doodle, you will have to make up the voices yourself. I doubt you can best my muppet impersonations, though. They're pretty top notch.

 And, as I learned, if you play with them long enough, they do fun little tricks for your amusement.

See the adorable Google video {here}. I mean, really. Who doesn't love Jim Hensen?

Also, while doing a little research on Mr. Hensen (since Google informs me he would have only been 75 this week), I discovered he passed away at the tender age of 53 from pneumonia. The description of his service (via Wikipedia) is very moving:

In the final minutes of the two-and-a-half hour service, six of the core Muppet performers sang, in their characters' voices, a medley of Jim Henson's favorite songs, culminating in a performance of "Just One Person" that began with Richard Hunt singing alone, as Scooter.

"As each verse progressed," Henson employee Chris Barry recalled, "each Muppeteer joined in with their own Muppets until the stage was filled with all the Muppet performers and their beloved characters."
The funeral was later described by Life magazine as "an epic and almost unbearably moving event."

Friday, September 23, 2011

{sketchbook project: the time traveler}

Turn the page... another entry in the sketchbook project....

the time traveler --
does she sit among her memories
like dew, reflecting --

or paint watercolor futures --
stepping gently into each frame?

         she sails the edge of each
         and gets lost between the lines.

See more Sketchbook entries {here}.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

{trolley depot renovation}

I love makeover stories. If I had cable, I'd still be addicted to What Not to Wear and Trading Spaces. The transformation from before to after is just so satisfying!

My favorite blog posts from {design*sponge} (and young house love, for that matter!) revolve around home renovations (the "before and after" posts -- like this one with a new shelving system!). Pair that with my love of old architecture and you have a recipe for vintage beautifulness.

Therefore, when I ran across this home re-do, in which a couple turns an old trolley depot into a home... well, that's just something to drool over, isn't it?

Read the whole post {here!}

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


My next trip, now a short two weeks away (eep!) involves 44 hours of plane flight (ugh.) In prep, I have been purchasing some new toys to help me battle boredom when I'm not sleeping.
Then again, I've never been great at sleeping on planes, so after some desperate online searching for the perfect plane pillow, I discovered the TravelRest. It might look ridiculous, but having tested it out on my couch, I can attest that it does a pretty decent job of supporting my head while trying to nap. I'm a constant victim of the head-bob on plane flights, which always wakes me up mid-drool, so I'm going to give this pillow the ultimate trans-Atlantic test and see how it does.

My other new fun toy is something I swear I would never buy myself: an e-book. An avid reader and lover of all things made of paper and binding, I'm much too attached to simple pleasures like turning pages and the smell of old leather. Then again, now that I'm 3,000 miles away from everyone I know, every time I travel it takes me at least eight hours to get there. On my last full-day flight home, I read three books on the way there and had nothing for the ride home. There's only so many books I can fit in my luggage before security makes me pay the over-fifty-pound fee. (I read a lot of historical fiction, which tends to be lengthy....)

Grudgingly, I realized an e-book might be the right solution for travel. It can store thousands of books but only takes up the space of one. But which to pick? After spending time at Best Buy and even more time online, I decided on the Amazon Kindle. It has the nicest e-ink screen, the largest library, and I liked holding it the best. Plus, it has awesome photos of old dead authors as the screen savers, and how can you not love that?

Once purchased, I had entirely too much fun downloading 200 free books onto the unit in an hour -- classics such as "Alice in Wonderland", "Sherlock Holmes" and "Peter Pan." Then I got hooked downloading free card games (who knew you could play games on the Kindle?!), and then I sold my soul to Amazon and began buying books. (So far nothing over the $3.99 promotional books, though). I'm sure it won't be long before I'm buying $10 and $15 books with a simple click of a button... (they make it way too easy to spend money, don't they?)

Other cool features? You can make categories for your books to live in, to find them faster. There are two built in dictionaries so that you can look up a word if you don't know what it means. You can take notes as you read and "highlight" favorite passages to read again later. It tells you how far along in the book you are, and where the chapter breaks are. The battery lasts a month if you turn the wireless off.

*Edit* And now local libraries have e-books you can check out on the Kindle! Woo-hoo!

But my favorite feature of the Kindle? The case that goes with it. Made of heavy leather, the Kindle clips securely in with copper clasps, and these copper clasps create a current that generates electricity and powers a built-in LED reading light. Brilliant.

At any rate, for someone who swore they'd never buy an e-book, I totally adore my Kindle. It's so much fun to read, and it feels so remarkably like a real book that I keep accidentally trying to turn pages.

By the way, I named my Kindle "Miranda." In case you were curious why, I name all my electronics after Shakespeare characters, something I've done since I bought my first laptop in 2006. (No judging, please.) My computer is named Tamora (Titus Andronicus), my two flash drives are Hero and Cleopatra (Much Ado About Nothing and Antony and Cleopatra), my black Nano iPod is Othello (Othello) and my purple one is Desdemona (Othello), my external hard drive is Oberon (A Midsummer Night's Dream), my GPS is Caesar (Julius Caesar), my iTouch is Caliban (The Tempest) and my Kindle - Miranda - is also from The Tempest. I have reasons behind why I picked each name, but I'll give you the fun of figuring it out for yourself. :)

Anyway, I would stay and chat more about how awesome the Kindle is, but I have more books to download. Any recommendations?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

{etsy find: papercut art}

These are amazing! I can't imagine the patience and time it must take to create these papercut art pieces. That, and how sharp your exacto knife has to be to get it just right... imagine making a mistake and having to start all over! And these are all made from one piece of paper!

Enjoy these jaw-drop worthy bits of artwork.

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