Tuesday, September 27, 2016

11 Days in a Carry On by a Reformed Overpacker

Last month, I spent 11 days traveling and packed only a carry-on suitcase and a big purse, without stopping to do laundry. I've been a notorious over-packer in the past, and I want to share what I've learned with you. If I can do it, so can you!

It zipped closed easily, not shoving, no hassle.

Write your Daily Itinerary: Before your trip, make an itinerary of what you will likely do each day. I was taking a cruise, so 7 of those days were planned in advance and the other 3 were spent exploring a new town. Consider the customs of the place you are visiting in terms of modesty, terrain, and expectation. On my first cruise, I changed clothes several times a day - never again - pack "cruise casual" for every day and only change for formal night.

Make a Packing List: Now that you know what each day calls for, what might you wear? Most packing guides say to plan 3 tops for every bottom. I prefer to have tops and bottoms that mix and match with each other, and a dress or two that stands alone so everything could be worn twice. Think "capsule wardrobe" by planning your colors in advance. I used: black, white, and grey as my bases. Also think layers for comfort and any weather. A mostly boring wardrobe in monotone, I'll admit, but so what? The lack of time it took me to make an outfit and get out the door was wonderful. Capsule wardrobes will save you every time!

Get honest about your routine: What do you really use on a daily and weekly basis? Do you need that particular soap or shampoo or product? In hotels, soaps and shampoo are generally included if you're not too particular about the brand; as they are on cruise ships. You can also purchase products at a local grocery or convenience store in your city of arrival, so you don't have to pack the item, and can simply leave the rest behind or bring them back with you. If you do not use a product at least every other day, don't bring it.

Cut out the non-essentials: Remember that you can usually pick up something you've forgotten or run out of, also, so never bring "extra." Skip anything you're not using every single day. Snag free samples from the hotel. Buy a toothbrush when you land. Keep your bags at light as possible to avoid having to pay for checking them and saving your back from lugging around cumbersome things.

Practice: Try on your clothing to be sure everything fits in the way you want it to and layers well. Maybe you haven't worn an item in awhile or ever, or with another article. Include the accessories (scarves, jewelry). Look to see that the patterns and colors mix and match the way you mean them to. Do a dry run of your packing to see that everything fits. I used the rolling method and found it saved me a lot of space in my suitcase. Practice pack your carry on bag also. You don't want it to be too heavy. Remember that you want to leave room for souvenirs. I'm not a shopper, so I was happy to pack to the gills. We brought home tiny souvenirs that we shoved into the recesses between our clothes.

Add 1 Extra: Now that you've gotten down to bare bones, what's the 1 thing that you're longing to pack? The thing you keep thinking of that you might not need, but you might, and it'd sure be nice to have it? Pack it. That's your one. But just that ONE. For my husband, it was a lightweight flannel shirt and he was glad to have it for seeing movies on the ship where it was a little cool, but not cold. For me, it was a roll of the toilet paper we use at home. I know, but isn't it nice to have? Just one thing.

Review: Go over your list and itinerary again. Do you need everything on your list? Will you use it all? Are you missing anything? Have you planned for changes in weather? Have you planned to re-wear? Have you planned to do laundry? In 10 days, I knew I never wanted to stop to do laundry, so I planned accordingly. You can pack even less if you do laundry while traveling. Remember that you're going to enjoy the sights and take in some culture and adventure; do that with a joyous heart and if you meet anyone along the way, they will first notice your smile!

  • Write your daily itinerary
  • Make a packing list
  • Get honest about your routine
  • Cut out the non-essentials
  • Practice
  • Add 1 extra
  • Review

My itinerary & outfit of the day:
*I'm coming from a hot climate to potentially rainy Seattle, & unpredictable summertime Alaska

  1. Travel day - layers for the airport (arriving late night) - jeans, tee1, scarf1, socks, sneakers, sweater
  2. Seattle - Pike's Market, Aquarium, Chihuly Gardens, Space Needle - print pants, tee2, sandals, backpack
  3. Seattle - Underground Tour, Pikes for lunch, Olympic Park - leggings1, tee3, socks, sneakers, purse
  4. Boarding Day - explore ship, at sea - casual dress, swimsuit, sandals, purse
  5. Sea Day - formal night - print pants, tee2, sandals, formal dress, dress flats
  6. Juneau - glacier tour (cold) - jeans, tee4, undershirt1, sweatshirt, scarf2, socks, sneakers, hat, backpack
  7. Skagway Alaska - photo tour, sled dogs (possibly stinky/dirty) - leggings1, tee3, undershirt1, sweatshirt, scarf2, socks, sneakers, hat, backpack
  8. Sea day - fjord glaciers (cold) - thermal leggings, undershirt2, tee4, socks, sneakers, sweatshirt, hat, purse
  9. Sea day - formal night - casual dress, sandals, swimsuit, purse, formal dress, dress flats
  10. Victoria BC - whale watch - leggings2, tee5, hat, socks, sneakers, backpack
  11. Travel day - layers for the airport (back to hot) - jeans, tee1, scarf1, socks, sneakers, sweater

My Suitcase packing list: 

  • binoculars (used twice)
  • lanyards (brought a dozen, needed only 2)
  • sea bands (preventative sea sickness, a must for me)
  • Kindle charger
  • DS charger
  • travel clock
  • roll of toilet paper from home (that's my one)
  • tiny speaker for listening to audio books in bed or by the pool
  • diary/journal book
  • small cross-body purse for walking around without pockets (used almost every day)
  • flat folding backpack for excursion days off the ship - indispensable!
  • 5 empty Ziploc baggies (quart and gallon sized) good for so many things
  • power strip for the cruise ship
  • 2 electric candles
  • minimal makeup (mascara, compact foundation, shadow, shadow brush)
  • eBags organizers: small (hair products & makeup & medicines), medium (under clothes), large (dirty laundry). 
  • clothes (minus the bulkiest items that I wore on the plane): Jeans x1, leggings x2, thermal leggings x1, print pants x1, tops x6, bra x3, socks x7, underwear x11, sandals x1, sneakers x1, dress flats x1, sweatshirt x1, sweater x1, undershirt x2, formal dress x1, casual dress x1, scarf x2, warm hat x1, swimsuit x1.

My Personal Item (big purse) packing list:
  • cell phone & charger
  • Kindle
  • pen
  • puzzle book (never opened it)
  • small pad of paper (for the puzzles and had my packing list/itinerary on it)
  • Nintendo DS
  • iPod and headphones
  • passport
  • excursion documents & boarding passes for flight & cruise
  • neck pillow
  • medicine in a Ziploc bag (gas pills, Advil, seasickness gum & pills, vitamins, prescriptions)
  • sunglasses & reading glasses
  • wallet
  • lip balm
  • jewelry & hair accessories in a Ziploc bag (2 pair of earrings, bun twists, 3 elastics, bobby pins, headband, hair de-frizz serum, face serum - we stopped at a CVS in Seattle for toothbrushes, a small toothpaste, and sunblock)
  • sweater

And I could have packed LESS! I had 1 shirt I never wore, which is okay because I can be messy, so it was good to have a backup, I never used the puzzle book. I could have re-worn some of the clothes again and still had room left over. If I can do it, you can!

That's my little blue Samsonite suitcase. You CAN downsize!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Disney Pin Trading How-To for Beginners

When you go to Disney parks, you can trade authentic Pin Trading pins for others with any cast member who is wearing pins in the park, at the hotel shops, at the park shops, and on pin boards in many of the park shops or hotel shops. It costs nothing besides your initial investment. Disclaimer: I'm not affiliated with Disney in any way and make nothing off this information. I don't sell pins or stand to profit in any way except to maybe make you smile and encourage more people to trade authentic original pins in the parks and say "Hey, are you trading?" when you see me!

The official method:
Official starter lanyard from 2012, 4 pins
Disney would have you buy a "starter lanyard" that comes with 2-8 pins on it. These cost about $20 and will give you everything you need to get started, the lanyard (to wear around your neck) and a few pins. They are conveniently located at any Disney store in the mall and in any store that sells pins in the parks or hotels. For a family of 3, you have spent $60 and have a handful of pins to begin with, minus any you want to keep from the lanyard you purchased. However, I think there's a cheaper way.

The budget method:
Make a stop at your local home supply store (Home Depot or Lowe's) and pick up a lanyard in the key cutting section. These will cost you about $1.25 each and you can choose from your favorite local sports team or colors. I recommend you get different looks for each person so you don't confuse your pin sets. There are usually lots to choose from. For a family of 3, this will cost you $4.

Assorted pins
Go onto Amazon and purchase a lot of 25 assorted scrapper-free trader pins. Make sure you read the comments as there are many unscrupulous sellers who sell knock offs and you don't want to trade some kid you knock off for their original, right? Be cool and don't poison the well with fakes. Here's a seller with lots of 25 that are just over $1 a pin, which is pretty reasonable given you will spend a minimum of $6 on EACH pin in the parks if you absolutely have to have a new one right now - and yeah, that'll start happening as you see more and more pins. You might want to set a rule like "no more than 2 purchased pins per park visit" - or that's the rule I have for myself, anyhow. For your family of 3, you now have 8 pins each, plus an extra that someone will claim as their "I have to keep this one". You're already ahead of the in-park purchase and have only spent about $35 after shipping.

The rules:
Pins on the hip
You can trade your pins with any cast member wearing a lanyard or a black square holding pins which attaches to their waist - be sure to look both places as you get in line for rides, visit shops, and wander around the parks and hotels. Also, ask to see the pin board if you are in a park shop or hotel shop. Only certain places have them and some are only on display at certain times, but it never hurts to ask. You can trade up to 2 pins per person per cast member or pin board.

To trade, take your pin off of your lanyard and put the back on. Give it to the cast member. They will give you the pin you requested with the back on it as well. Trades are 1-for-1.

Pins around the neck
Wait your turn. If a cast member looks busy, is helping customers, or there is a line, you will have to wait until that person is free to ask about trading.

Some cast members will have a few pins backward so you can do a mystery trade if you choose; this adds an extra level of excitement. I always prefer a mystery trade.

Some lanyards will be green. Green lanyards are for trading with little kids only. I don't think the pins are any different, but they might have special pins for little kids, like from the Disney Channel shows.

Extra tips:
Villains pin
Any pins you want to keep, leave at home. The backings sometimes fall off as they rub on your shirt and if you really love a certain pin, remove it from your lanyard so you don't accidentally trade it away or lose it.

If you lose a backing while you're walking around, you can ask at a store if they have an extra and sometimes they will have a baggie with extras and be willing to give you a freebie. Otherwise, you can buy a baggie of backings for $2.50 and it's a good idea to have a baggie of backings with you anyhow.

Lilo and Stitch eating ice cream pin
Any guest wearing a lanyard might be willing to trade with you. Just ask! I love trading with others and wish more people would ask to trade. I feel a little awkward sometimes asking "Hey, are you trading?" but I still do and have gotten some cool stuff that way. I'm a sucker for little kids and will always trade them what they ask for, even if I really like the pin - so leave your favorites at home or you might have to disappoint a 4 year old. You never know if you might get the pin you've been wanting that simply isn't someone else's favorite, so ask. Know that individuals don't have to obey any rules, though, and their pins might be fake, or they might ask for money, or 2 or more of your pins for one of theirs. You can always say "no thank you" and simply not trade with them.

How do you know if a pin is fake? You can look up your pin at Pin Pics by describing it in a few words like "Stitch Lilo ice cream" for the one pictured here.

You can also trade at the pin boards in the Disney Store at your mall. Just ask at the counter.

What makes a good pin or collection? 
That is a matter of personal preference. What characters or movies do you like? What rides are your favorites? Do you love princesses or horses? Do you have a favorite holiday or color? Are your favorites the pins that spin or are glittery? What you like, someone else will not like - so trade! That's the whole point. I love the "icon" pins, which are in the shape of Mickey's head, but are not of Mickey, like the ones shown here.

You can also buy Mystery Pins which are sold in 1-2 pin sets in a pouch or box at the various shops. They will be labelled with their edition (like the Fantasyland set shown below). You might want to pick up a packet of these and see if you can get the whole set. This will take you some time, however, and is good for people who trade often. If you want to complete a whole set, I recommend you check Pin Pics for the set's name so you can see what you might be missing.

Fantasyland  collection with box containing 1 mystery pin
How about finishing my set or getting that certain pin? Where do I buy?
You can buy pins at the Disney Store, any of the shops at Disney World that sell pins, and the hotel shops. You can also buy online, but again, be careful of the fakes and always look for a rating. You might want to join the Facebook group Pin Junkies. I have made a few successful trades there, but always be careful with your private information by shipping to your work and paying with PayPal. This is another Facebook page you might like to buy from as they say their lots are all scrapper-free, but be cautious as their individual pins make no such claim. I bought several pins from them and one turned out not to be official (Pin Pics labelled it as not a Disney pin). To their credit, I contacted them by email and they offered to refund me minus shipping or trade for another pin, which was good customer service, but I learned from that experience that they do not check their for-sale pins for authenticity.

If you have additional tips to add, please do so in the comments section. If you found this guide helpful, please share it with a friend and tell me your favorite pin type in the comment section.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Perfect Simple Chocolate Covered Pretzels

 The super secret tip to doing this easily is the foil boat. C'mon, I'll show you.

I like Rold Gold pretzel rods as I find they tend to have the least amount of broken rods in each bag. Use whole rods, not broken ones as they look nicer.

Buy any color Wilton chocolate discs you like. They even come in flavors now like peppermint, if you dig that. Follow the directions on the melts! Never ever put them in the fridge or you may as well throw them in the garbage as they will not melt right afterward.

Make space in your fridge for 2 cookie sheets laid flat (on top of other things is fine as long as you can lay them flat).

Prep your kitchen with 2 baking sheets covered in foil, an open bag of pretzel rods, a paper towel for your hands and for drips, a butter knife, and some sprinkles (if you choose) poured into a little container. Baking is not like cooking; you have to be right on top of things. You can't answer the phone or wander off.

Make a little foil boat not quite as long as the chocolate-dipped area of your pretzel. This is the key to success!

Set your microwave to half-power and put it on for like 3 minutes. Stay right there. Pop in a ramekin of melts, about half the bag. After 30 seconds, stir well. Redo this every 20 seconds until they melt nicely.

Pour/scrape melted chocolate into your foil boat, concentrating on the opening, not the back. You're going to lay the pretzel in, but also drag it through, so better on this end than the other.

Dip and twist, dragging toward the open end of your boat. Coat well, no pretzel showing through. Set immediately on the foil covered cookie sheets you laid out. I put the naked-pretzel pieces out and alternate left-right. (This is something I learned AFTER taking the photos above, but is shown in the last photo.) This helps when you're moving them to a storage container and maximizes space.

Coat with sprinkles, if you like. If you're fancy, use an icing bag to heat more in an opposing color and zig-zag that color across - don't worry, this isn't a neat craft, messy is fine.

Microwave the rest of your melts, popping one finished sheet into the fridge. Dip the remaining pretzels. Put those in the fridge and you should be out of chocolate. You should have a few pretzels left over.

After 15-20 minutes, take the trays out of the fridge and move your pretzels to a large Tupperware. I lay them flat and they seem to not break or flake apart that way. 

Pro tip: for Halloween, use brown chocolate and chocolate sprinkles (jimmies) and add a slivered almond to the end for Werewolf Fingers.
These are the ones I brought to a Holiday Party in 2012 - Christmas and Hanukkah colors.

 These are the ones we left at home that were made from the leftover colors swirled together.

These are the "icicles" I invented in 2013.

Did you try it? Show me! :)

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Snowman Cookies

Pinterest fail. 

I tried to make these for a party last year and documented my progress. I thought I had it nailed but...not so much.

This is what they were supposed to look like:

Here is the original pin and the directions. If you are brave, please share your photo! See also this website for Epic Pinterest Fails like mine.

And...here's how they turned out:

 So far, so good!

Ruined only 1 set of mashmallows by overnuking them. That smells terrible, BTW.

 Still looking good. It's the icing phase that kills it...

 Oh, gods, what holy hell is this?
I'll just make them all look terrified! They're melting after all.
 Kill me, just kill me.
 WTF is this supposed to be? Are those giant mustaches or arms?
I give up.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Moved In

We're all moved in but far from unpacked. The garage is full to the 4' mark with boxes of stuff I thought we "needed" but don't. It's been interesting to see what we thought we really liked and haven't even missed. We're going to be continuing to purge items for awhile, I think. It's also curbing our spending by realizing "eh, I don't need that and I don't even really want it." Good stuff, living small, simple.

So here's the house tour, even though it's a little bit messy and there's still tons to do:

From the front door: living room. Love this sofa table made of zebra wood and ...maple? I forget. The white accent wall, we're still undecided as to what we want to do with it.
Living room. Still need to put up a cord-cover under the tv, but we want to replace the entertainment stand, just not sure with what yet. Also, need some kind of shelving for DVDs and video games, but we disagree on what to get just yet. And yes, we need to hang all our art.
Living room. This couch is so cozy!
Future reading nook needs chairs. We found chairs we like but they're a bit out of budget right now. Still trying to find a way to have 2 catboxes without it looking like we have 2 catboxes. There's not a lot of extra space.
Future reading nook and kitchen. This is the cat dining area and there's all 3 cats. El has adjusted well to being an indoor cat. He has a lot less bad habits than we thought he would. He likes to go on the tables, but doesn't scratch the furniture and barely meows, which is different from when he was outside when he meowed so loudly! They don't play together yet, but have experimented a few times at it. Pullo gets afraid when giant El jumps on him and he gets flattened.
Kitchen. Yes, the dishes need to be done. Dave still has to put up shelves on the right side of the pass-through. We also have to cut the left side of the door frame because our fridge is apparently slightly over-sized and the fridge door rubs against the door frame. Ah, home ownership...
Dining room. We had a full table this weekend and I thought it was quite comfortable space-wise.
Dining room with pantry and bar. We're still in the "I don't know if this works here or if we should move it...somewhere" phase of trying things out in the house.
Office, my side.
Office, Dave's side. We haven't gotten around to straightening up the bookshelves yet. And there's still more books in the garage.
Office, left wall. We bought this TV with points we'd accrued from putting home remodeling stuff on the Best Buy card. We got this awesome thing called ChromeCast that plugs into the TV's USB port and we can take anything on our computers and show it on the TV. We use it all the time! "Check out this YouTube video. On screen." (Yes, like Star Trek) Dave had taken over the closet with his miniatures, his pew-stuff.
Bathroom. It doesn't lend itself to a landscape picture or you'd have lots of hallway in the shot. This is still my favorite room because everything is new in it and it's got my stamp all over it. The only drawback is there is tons of light in the late morning, which is bad if you are taking a shower because it's blindingly bright in there and there's nothing blocking the window. The little stones on the shower floor feel so nice after being on your feet all day!
Bedroom. Yes, it's a mess. We got a new blanket and it's super soft so the cats jump up and are instantly paralyzed and have to paw it and not walk to your call. We have to replace the blinds in here, and 1 set in the office, but it's expensive and a project and we simply haven't gotten to it yet.
Bedroom, left side. I hate that there's not room for symmetry in here like we had at the townhouse, but there's just walking room past the foot of the bed so the dresser had to go to one side and the closet it at the other side. Yes, those are boxes I still have to unpack. Dave's been good about unpacking all his stuff and I have been...less good. But I've done more unpacking of the house's stuff, so it all washes out.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

House Progress 5

Everything is in a state of "almost done."

El has been using the planter boxes as his personal litter box. In the small planter, I planted seeds of basil and pansy. The basil, toward the back, was completely dug up within a couple of days. I planted a couple of flowers that were pre-potted into the small planter box hoping to take up the space. He half dug one of those up as well. The other day, I put him out of the front door and he jumped right into the front large planter box and used it. Brat.

We've been talking more about painting the exterior. We'll have to dig up the front planter box first to expose the front wall behind them. That project sounds like it will suck and leave a giant ugly cat box at the front of the house.

My city has a drawing going on to give you $2000 toward home improvement if you bought a house between certain months, of which we did. If we get that, it'll go toward replacing the windows with impact-resistant.

The back patio is going to wait a long time to get redone. The driveway needs repaving, maybe in 6 months or more.

Bathroom, minus shower doors
The last thing to do is to have the shower doors made. Unfortunately, because it used to be a tub and I'm a fancy-pants who wants a frame-less enclosure to show off how cool it looks, it has to be custom made. The doors I originally bought, I've been trying for weeks to return, but they have to be picked up in a lift-truck and FedEx is giving me a problem all week about it after Overstock ignored my contact for weeks before they finally okayed it to FedEx. So now we wait. Of course, that's money we're out in the mean time, which blows. Having a working toilet in the house seems like such an obvious thing, but it hasn't been true for nearly a month, so it's kind of a big deal. The last thing to do is order the glass doors. I got estimates and now just have to put in the deposit and get it started. The contractor broke one of the tiles in the shower step by dropping a tool on it, oops! He's going to fix it this week, though, no big deal.

Kitchen, cabinets & counters in
The last thing to do is have the cabinet people come back out as they failed to put a piece of wood under the counter top over the dishwasher so the dishwasher can be attached. Otherwise, the sink works and all that good stuff.

Living Room
Living room, awful orange, hall, office
From kitchen to dining room
That horrible wooden entryway thing is gone and the floor is patched there. The ceiling is no longer popcorn, but smooth. The wall you see as you walk in, we're making an accent wall (in the next several months) and no longer looks like a barn. It's painted. We just have to hang the ceiling fan. We ran into a snag here as the color is all wrong! The chip was a dark brown-orange, but on the wall it's like a crayon, bright and hideous. We're deciding on a color for repainting, which sucks to redo it, but it's just awful. I'll do some test-paint this time.

Dining Room
The walls needed some repair and the one wall was rebuilt that used to be exterior. The pass-through is shorter. The door was rebuilt. It's painted. The electric was redone from being dangerous and homemade to something real. The cabinets were removed and the tile beneath repaired. We just need to hang the ceiling fan and buy the wardrobe to serve as our pantry.

Bedroom, former closet organizer at right
The ceiling was replaced and the closet emptied and painted. The one wall the used to be exterior was built from new. The room is painted and Dave doesn't hate it. He was afraid our brown picture frames wouldn't go with the green room, but I assured him that trees match (brown and green). I have to figure out if the closet organizer stuff is in good enough shape to put back in or toss.

It's painted. We still cannot figure out what to do with the furniture in there. Dave insists we don't need much storage and that keeping things in plastic bins is sufficient and I say that's no way to do things. I talked to a company that does modular custom-built furniture and the price was well above what we had in mind, so I think we're looking for other solutions. We've just finally come to an agreement on where the desks will go, which took longer than you might think and 4 different diagrams. There was a lot of sighing and head shaking. Dave likes the color, which surprised me. He thinks it's blue, so just go with it.

The AC needs to be replaced, probably soon. That work is much less invasive than everything else and I can handle that once we're in.

So everything's almost done. That means I have to really get started packing. Ugh. I need a few more hours each day and the desire to get that done.