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. :)

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.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

{a simple life}

I had a lovely Labor Day; I spent it at an organic farm just south of Portland, in the heart of wine and farm country. My cousin and his girlfriend work as interns there, and for the weekend I was able to see how they have been spending their summer.

The farm has been around since the 1880s, passed down through generations, and life there is simple and wonderful. We fed the pigs, chased the sheep, picked pears from the orchard, searched for eggs in the chicken coop, wrangled baby turkeys, milked the goats, picked berries, harvested vegetables from the gardens, groomed the horses, listened to bluegrass music, sat by a massive bonfire, and watched the sun set from a gorgeous, wrap-around porch that has seen its share of the ages.

I could have spent a month there just taking pictures. Everywhere I turned, there was something beautiful and ancient waiting to be photographed in the changing light. The weather was beautiful, and time seemed to slow down all around us as we watched the hours pass in the simplest of ways.

Everything about the farm is centered around harmony, teamwork and a communal sense of family. It reminded me of my days working tall ships: many people working for the greater cause, surrounded by the beauty of nature, with no need in the world other than food, shelter and a warm bed. Everything else suddenly becomes less important. Beautiful, beautiful.

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