Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Adventures in packing :: How to pack a backpack + small carry on.

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After planning out what I was going to wear for our hiking/exploring trip to Europe, D and I made the decision to take our backpacks (which we took on our first trip to Europe) as opposed to our rolling carry-on suitcases.  While I'm usually one to save money instead of checking bags, we made this decision for a couple reasons.  First, we're flying Delta and get free checked bags on those long-leg flights.  Second, we're going to be doing a ton of travel via train after our hike is over.  In my opinion, this is a really important aspect when attempting to decide what luggage to take.  Lugging a rolling suitcase (of any size) up tons of stairs or through narrow train (or plane) isles can be a pain.  Even though a big backpack can seem cumbersome, it's a lot easier to get around.

My Kelty has served me well.  It has a ton of pockets, and the top portion can be disconnected to serve as a fanny pack if that's your thing.  There's so much going on though, it's hard to know where to start when packing this huge thing.  


If your backpack has a bottom zippered pocket, reserve that for your shoes.  If you're not using a backpack, try to pack your shoes first.  It'll help your suitcase to not be top heavy and fall over all the time.  

Quick tip: Stuff your socks inside your shoes before packing them.  I'll mostly be wearing sandals or my Chucks and won't need many socks.  I am taking two pair of sweat wicking socks for the hike, so I stuffed those inside my boots.


As long as you won't be using these items first (for instance I won't be using my dresses or jeans on our hike which is the first part of our trip).  After we finish our hike, I'll move those pieces to the bottom.

Next load up the items you'll need first.  I topped off the jeans and dressed with my hiking and yoga pants.


I would strongly suggest using packing bags.  I find it helpful to have my clothes sorted, so I'm not constantly digging through my bag trying to find a specific shirt.  This would also cause me more stress because I would be constantly folding & re-folding clothes within my backpack.  I used Eagle Creek Pack-It Compression Cubes, and they work wonders!  They have a lifetime guarantee and honestly hold much more than you think they would.  Plastic ziplock bags, old Toms shoes bags, or these adorable bags Anna used to pack for a west coast trip would work too.  Anything to separate and easily navigate within your bag will do!

In the smaller of my compression cubes, I packed six tanks (I ended up moving the camisole to the bigger cube).

In my larger cube, I packed four shirts and two pair of shorts.  In both cubes I found it easier to keep the shirts folded instead of rolled.  It really depends on what works for you.

I'm not 100% sure if wrinkles will be a problem, but I'm planning to have access to a hair dryer most of the trip.  If you won't have a dryer, pick up something like this from Downy.  Target almost always has travel sizes of that or a similar product.

I threw the cubes on top of my pants in the backpack.  Following that I layered a button-down shirt.  Wrinkles are a concern with the chambray, so I put that on top with very little on top of it.


I have that handy "fanny pack" on the top of my bag, so I threw in lighter pieces including a sweatshirt, packable rain jacket (necessity for a hiking trip), and my hats.  It's possible I'll switch around the toiletry bag.  The issue I have with the toiletries being on top is that they could get banged around in the checked-bag process.  I don't want anything to bust or get broken, so that's a detail to bear in mind when packing a bag that isn't hard on the outside.

Finally the front zippered pocket is reserved for the lightest items (which will also protect toiletries or items on the inside) such as underwear, scarves, bras, and swimsuits.

The last and final element of packing was including my small daypack with a hydration bladder which I'll use for the hike.  If you're into it, you can just use your daypack as your carry-on.  For me, I didn't want to carry something on my back around Spanish cities since I feel like it's an invitation for pickpockets.  I also like a bag I can easily reach into when I need something.  My daypack is smaller than my purse, so I chose to pack it.

While it may not look like it, the day pack slipped in easily on top with all the straps tucked in underneath.  
Backpack complete.


Last, but not least, is the carry-on.  Finding the perfect purse was important and difficult.  I often use my Kate Spade Minka, but it's orange and just wasn't going to work for the summer months.  I also needed something that zipped across the top (no pickpocketing!) and fit my DSLR.  

I'm still debating two options for my carry on.  The above includes my ONA camera organizer.  It's important for me because it keeps my camera from getting scratched up or lost in the mix in the satchel. It is a tad bit big for the satchel especially when I include a few other larger items like my wallet & kindle.

Nonetheless, there are some important necessities you want to have in your carry-on.
  • Travel wallet (which holds my passport inside)
  • Kindle/tablet/iPad
  • Headphones
  • Earplugs
  • Kleenex
  • Sleep mask
  • Travel journal
  • Sleep aid (so I can sleep on the overnight flight)
  • Playing cards
  • Umbrella
  • Sunglasses
  • Camera
Am I leaving anything out?  Including my camera, the satchel is heavy.  I wouldn't want much more aside from maybe my glasses and a few toiletries (to brush teeth and on the chance that my checked bag gets lost).

Monday, May 19, 2014

Adventures in packing :: Hiking+exploring for 15 days in Europe.

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Over the past two months, I've been having a lot of anxiety over packing for our upcoming trip to Spain & Portugal.  I mean I've done this before, so it should be no problem, right?  Wrong.  Even though this trip is shorter, it will be very different.  We're beginning our trip by hiking the first leg of Camino de Santiago trail.  Hiking means completely different clothing than I would wear for trekking around cities.  I was racking my mind every night with what I should pack, what I might need to buy, what will I carry it all in, etc.  Finally I eased my anxiety by {poorly} sketching out a packing list.

Tips for making a packing list:
  • Establish a palette/theme :: I'm a neutral girl all the way, so I have lots white, gray, and black.  I would suggest picking one general color palette and ensure that your pieces mix-and-match.
  • Realistically determine what physical activity you'll accomplish :: Traveling is tough because it takes me away from my normal exercise routines.  I'm always tempted to take my running shoes, but unless I'm at a resort I know I won't be running.  There's something scary about running unknown streets, so I shouldn't kid myself.  Take the running shoes, yoga mat, sports bra, only if you know you'll use it.
  • Be aware of any "dress codes" :: Many countries won't allow you to enter churches or cathedrals if you aren't wearing sleeves.  Make notes of dress codes such as this or simply carry a long sleeve shirt with you.
  • Layers, layers, layers :: I'm pretty fickle when it comes to temperature.  D likes to say that there's about a 10 degree range that works for me; anything outside "the range" leaves me freezing or scorching.  Remedy? Layers. Button-downs atop short sleeves atop tanks as necessary.

When planning out my packing list, I tried to be frugal but give myself enough options.  I packed minimally for the hiking portion of our trip (it is only four days of the trip) knowing that I'll have to reuse at least one bottom and top.  I gambled that it would be ok because I likely would't wear those clothes again throughout our trip.  As for the city-wear, I could make so many outfits out of these pieces.  As a chronic outfit planner (down to each and every piece), it makes me a little anxious but also gives me freedom!  I know I'll need that freedom since I won't be able to predict the weather.  To break it down:

  • Shirts :: 
    • 4 tees (three neutral colored+one bright)
    • 3 tanks (again, two neutral+one bright
    • 2 blouses (chambray+white
    • 1 thicker long sleeve (can be used hiking and in the city
    • 1 camisole
    • Added last minute: 3 sweat-wicking, activewear shirts for the hike
  • Bottoms :: 
    • 3 shorts (two neutral+one bright
    • 1 skirt (I'm actually taking two skirts & two shorts
    • 2 pants (one hiking+one yoga)
    • 1 pair of jeans
  • Dresses ::
    • 2 dresses (can be dressed as skirts or used for nice dinner occasions)
  • Outerwear ::
    • 1 rain jacket
    • 1 light casual jacket (to be worn on the plane)
  • Shoes ::
    • 1 hiking boot
    • 1 active sandal
    • 1 casual walking shoe
    • 1 cute sandal

I truly packed everything, plus more, that I mentioned.  When I was packing I was a bit worried that I packed too much.  It's possible you could scale it back.  The weather is predicting low 70s, and I'm cold-natured.  I wanted to ensure that I had plenty of layers if it is chilly.

For accessories, go simple and light!  All of mine will fit in the front pocket of my backpack.  Aside from the basic underwear & bras (sports bras included if you're hiking), you want pieces that will change the the look of your outfit so you can mix and match items.  A few components to add:
  • A hat and/or headscarf (which doesn't take up much room at all!)
  • 1-2 necklaces
  • 1-2 swimsuits
  • 2-3 scarves
  • 1 thick belt, 1 thin belt

While I'm only taking one swimsuit, I'm planning to take 7 pairs of underwear & 2 sports bras (to alternate for the hike).  I'm actually taking 3 scarves, but I'm planning to wear the biggest, an infinity scarf for warmth, on the plane.  I'm throwing my necklaces in my toiletry bag, so they aren't pictured either.  The belts are necessities, but I just forgot to picture them.

The only items that won't be included in my backpack are my airport outfit.

Aside from this outfit, I'm fitting everything into a backpack.  There's a method to the madness, so check out how to fit all of this (which includes a smaller backpack with hydration bladder) into a backpack and a purse.  

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Life lately :: In betweens.

In between obsessing over planning and packing for our trip to Europe (which is officially only a week away!), I've been crazy busy.  I am working on a couple posts related to packing (in a backpack) for a two week hike+leisure jaunt through Europe, so let's just cross our fingers I find time for that.  In the meantime...

Drinking//Finally trying this coffee, ghee, and coconut oil latte the Eighty Twenty gals have been raving about!  And you know what?  It's pretty awesome!

Spending my time//with this little baby girl.  I'm already worried about how much I'm going to miss the kitties while we're gone.

Wearing//this Athleta Fast Track tank.  Aside from all the stuff I've wanted needed to buy for our Europe trip, I've been obsessing over this tank.  It's keeping me motivated to work out (and prepare for June's Esprit de She race)!

Reliving//our weekend trip to the beach.  It was the first beach trip of the season, and it may have been the best one.  D spoiled me.  I am still dreaming of that perfect seafood meal chock full of steamed crab legs, clams, and shrimp. And those raw oysters.  One of my favorite meals ever.

Stressing over//a book club/baby shower combo.  Between coming home from the beach and deep cleaning for a good few hours, shopping, spending, drawing, decorating, researching, gift planning & buying…my oh my.  My anxiety levels were off the charts (not to mention I was slacking in other areas of my life because my focus was elsewhere).  But I am pretty damn proud of this adorable mommy gift I put together.

Eating//Trophy Brewing.  D agreed to let me pick up a Trophy pizza and salad that I've been craving for weeks.  Week officially made!  Let's not talk about all those goodies I snacked on during teacher appreciation week.  Someone please send tips on how to get recommitted to fitness and food goals come summer!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

european adventure revisited :: Interlaken, Switzerland.

I haven't been around this little blog much lately.  Now that the half marathon is over, the only thing on my mind is our Europe trip.  While prepping for this trip, I've been reminiscing on our last big Europe trip.  In 2009 we spent a month backpacking (loose term: we traveled with backpacks but stayed in hotels, apartments, etc.) throughout Europe. We started in Prague, jumped over to Munich, and then got engaged in Cinque Terre.   After we left Italy, we headed over to Interlaken, Switzerland.

We had friends who had visited Interlaken, and they highly recommended it to us as a must-see for our trip.  We stayed at the Backpacker's Villa hostel.  It was a great spot!  We had a private room (where we just may have had to push two beds together!) that overlooked the city.  Breakfast (modest: toast, cereal, etc.) was included.  We even used the communal kitchen one night, cooking our own meal, and met some other travelers.  On our first day in the city, we checked into the hostel and then went to check out the St. Beatus-Höhlen Caves.

On the way to the caves (we took the bus), you got to see some parts of the city that you may not normally see.  The caves were amazing.  Of course you can't take pictures inside, but you get a tour throughout the caves.

After our grotto tour, we headed to the city center.  We spent time walking around, trying some Swiss beers, and grabbing some beer and food for later at the hostel.  One thing to note about Switzerland: it's expensive!  At this point in our trip, we were starting to crave some "Americanized" foods (we may or may not have eaten at Hooters one day in Interlaken) and opted to eat at a mexican-style restaurant.  The meal was insanely expensive (don't quote me but I want to say 70 American dollars…this was 2009) and not really that great.  Interlaken is a smaller, touristy-type town so that may contribute to higher prices, but it was definitely the most expensive spot on our European adventure.

In my opinion, the weather was perfect in late June in Interlaken.  We have the best memories of just sitting outside by the river, at restaurants, and on the porch at our hostel.  

On our second day in the city, we decided to rent a scooter.  It was so much fun and an amazing way to  see the city.  We drove up to the countryside and checked out waterfalls.  Trummelbach Falls is a must-see.  The Falls include ten glacier-waterfalls that are accessible via elevator.  You can hike into the caves a bit to get better views of the falls. 

Interlaken is known for offering extreme sports.  With the gorgeous mountains and lakes, there's a ton to do.  Rafting, bungee jumping, canyoning, skiing, sledding, etc.  D and I opted to forgo any activities and save money for the remainder of our trip.  Since we didn't participate in an extreme activities, we spent the day visiting some lesser explored venues.

Putt putt in Interlaken was such a great experience.  Don't expect the greens you find when you play in the States.  It's all concrete here.  Best part?  There's a public pool with a water slide beside the putt putt course!  After a rousing game, we changed into our suits and hung out by the pool.

To end out our time in Interlaken, we caught the discount train/tram up to the top of a mountain.  It is a necessity to see the town from the top of a mountain.  We ordered beers from the restaurant on the mountain and toasted to the end of our time in Switzerland.

Have you visited Interlaken?  What was your favorite part?

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Weekday morning rituals.

As a SweatPink Ambassador, I was sent Vegabars for the purpose of reviewing. I was not paid for this review, and all opinions are my own.

When I started my current job almost two years ago, I was thrilled to have hours that allowed for a morning workout routine.  While I flip flop between hardcore 4-5 day/week or easy 1-2 day/week a.m. workouts, there's something that keeps me coming back.  That's my morning routine.   

The gym is the best in the morning.  It's not crowded.  I can easily get a spot in a class even if I arrive only five minute prior to the class starting.  There is a method to the a.m. workout.  I always prep my gym bag the night before, which is an art in and of itself.  I have to make sure I have everything necessary for getting ready for work (god forbid I forget a regular bra and have to wear my sweaty one to work).  Aside from my bag, one of the hardest parts of morning workouts is breakfast.  Since I can't fry up eggs in the gym locker room, I make smoothies the night before.  I used to eat a couple boiled eggs on the side for extra protein to keep me full (especially after a hard workout).  

I'm lucky enough to have a Whole Foods a mile from my job, so I make sure I plan extra time to stop in and pick up a hot tea or coffee to pair with my eggs.  I've been attempting to cut back on my egg intake, so I thought I would try pairing Vegabars with my a.m. beverage instead.

My favorite Vegabars are the Vega Sport bars.  There's a Sport Protein bar and a Sport Energy bar.  The Sport Energy chocolate coconut flavor was delicious (it would be a great pair with coffee), but I think the apple cherry would have paired better with my hot tea.  I appreciate that the Sport Energy bars are plant-based and gluten free.  My bar of choice is Larabars which have no additives I've never heard of. All of the Vegabar ingredients were plant-based but some seemed unnecessary.  The rice crisps got a bit soggy in the apple cherry bar and did not add to the flavor of the bar.  I wish there was no added sugar (organic coconut palm sugar).  Paired with my hot tea and smoothie, I did stay full for three hours (which I'm guessing I can contribute to the 27g of plant-based carbs)!

On mornings when I don't head to the gym, I relish my "me" time.  I used to get up with barely 45 minutes to spare before running out the door to get to work.  No more.  I like to get up with plenty of time to enjoy my breakfast, drink coffee, and read a few of my favorite blogs.

I believe that eating natural fruits and vegetables should be our main priority in our diets, but sometimes it's time consuming to prep smoothies or other fresh ingredients.  Fridays are usually my "freebie" days were I can take it easy and not worry about prepping a smoothie the night before.  This week I opted for a leftover half of a smoothie with chia seeds (still need those fruits+veggies!) and a Vega One bar.  I wouldn't promote eating this "meal bar" solo since fresh foods are always best, but on a lazy or rushed morning it was perfect.  The chocolate peanut butter was delicious (I mean I can't turn down that combo), but the ingredient list is quite extensive.  The bar is packed with 12g of protein and other plant-based ingredients.  I think it would be a perfect bar for D who is constantly on the road with few healthy meal options.  The bar+half smoothie kept me full for 3-4 hours which is nice because sometimes even my full smoothies don't do that!

What are your favorite weekday morning rituals?

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


Everyone has something, or a few things, they're passionate about.  It may be career, taking care of others, creating, etc.  While my true, or at least first, passion lies in travel, it's not something I can throw myself into on a regular basis.  My next passion falls upon running.  To be overly dramatic, last year was devastating when I lost running.  Running is close to my heart, and it's an activity that just makes me feel so alive.  To lose something that I love so much was extremely hard.  I'm not sure that non-runners can quite understand this loss. Imagine a hobby you devote quite a bit of time to (ie. reading, photography, video games, etc.) and then imagine that hobby being taken away completely.  Again, I realize this sounds dramatic, but quite honestly these are my true feelings.  Finally running started to come back to me.   After many tears, a couple of un-run races, plenty of money, and ongoing physical therapy, my leg allowed me the ability to run another half marathon.

I chose a half because the 13.1 distance is my happy distance.  It's not too short, but just long enough for me to really push myself, surpassing boundaries I think can't be won.  I trained for twelve weeks for the Rock N Roll Raleigh half marathon.  I constantly worried my leg (which has still never felt completely back to normal since my stress fracture) would not allow me to run long distances again.  Even though I'm only soon-to-be 29, my body often feels as though it wants to rebel against me.  I feel every twitch, twinge, and soreness.  This made the process of training and racing more emotional for me.  Initially I hoped for a PR, but with injury pains lingering, I settled for my goal to be simply to finish the race.

This race felt like more than just a big fuck you to a past injury.  It was at home.  I feel in love with running in Raleigh.  I truly fell in love with this sport in my town.  My favorite weekend includes an early morning run on the greenway with a view of the Raleigh skyline.  Running has made me who I am today.  It has made more confident and proud woman.  This race felt so close to my heart being in Raleigh.  This is my city.  My running city.  It was a redemption race.  The was the day after my mom's birthday.  It was the race I worked so hard for.  Rock N' Roll Raleigh would make or break me.

In the days before the race, my leg was feeling a little "off" but it wasn't an injured typed of feeling.  I left home feeling so grateful for this chance.  The opportunity to run a half healthy, in my city, with D at the finish line was what I had been working towards.  It was a gorgeous day.  The temps were in the 50s for the start of the race, and the sun was shining.  Regardless of my nerves and anxiety, I felt ready.

The sun was beaming down on me.  The hills were plentiful and intense.  My mantra was to make the hills my bitch, and I did.  I ran up every damn one of them and did not walk.  I was hot.  I was exhausted.  My knee started hurting around mile 5.  At mile 10, I didn't even want to think about running another 5k, yet something kept me going.  My love for running?  My will to succeed and achieve?  The fact that I would never forgive myself for giving up?  All of it.  I never gave up.  I may have walked two times, but I ran with all my heart for the last 1.1 miles.  I achieved something that I worked so desperately hard for.  I accomplished something I've been waiting over a year to come to fruition.  I pushed myself.  When I wanted to give up, I pushed even harder.  This race reminded me why love running.  I am able to prove to myself that this is me: a strong woman who doesn't give up on what she sets her mind to.

I had D to meet me at the finish line, which makes a race a million times better.  I'm so grateful I had him there to give me a big hug and congratulate me.  It never would have been the same without him there.  We spent the morning enjoying brunch, bloodys, and beer.  What made this crazy, hard, perfect, race even better?

An unintentional PR (oh, and no post-race chafing!)!  My official time was 2:36:36, and I couldn't be more proud of myself.  My original PR was on an almost completely flat course in the Outer Banks.  This record was achieved post-injury, with a sore knee, and run in the heat and over a million hills.  Rock N Roll was the redemption race I needed.  I'm almost scared to even think about running another half because it will never be like this one…almost.

What's your next race?


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