Best items to pack: All-star tools

One day before we boarded a plane for Rome, we found out that our apartment was not ready for us to move-in yet. We would be staying at a beautiful and conveniently located hotel for up to 6 weeks. A little bit of a surprise to which we couldn’t prepare since we were already staying in Washington, D.C. for the two weeks leading up to our departure. Meaning, we had already packed for a two-week trip, with about another two weeks in Rome, after which we expected to receive the first batch of our clothes and office equipment, with the second, larger batch coming in about a month after that — or so.

already packed

Anyway, that cut out the packing anxiety completely. We were already packed and committed. Fortunately, I have some on-the-road tools that have become my all-stars for road trips. NOTE: These all-stars must be in checked baggage. I realize that the trend is to take everything in a carry-on, but at my age, I rely on various comforts and for long-term trips, over two weeks, on an abundantly filled suitcase.

Here is my bullet list of All-Stars and how they have made our hotel living work:

  • Scissors: used to cut black electrical tape, stray threads, open pockets on hubby’s new blazers
  • Black electrical tape: used to cover all of the led lights in the room (TV, 10 light switches, thermostat)
  • Foldable sharp knife: open jammed suitcase, open packaging, slice lemon for sick hubby, slice olive focaccia bread, slice cheese
  • Cosmetics organizers: two hanging organizers, one train case, three clear plastic zippered bags (one shown)
  • Samples of Products: shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, lotion, serum, moisturizer, sunscreen (already don’t like the smell of the shower gel–I have an aversion to the smell of lavender, need special shampoo/conditioner, love expensive serums but hate having $100 of product leak out during flight, it’s nice when you can get your special products in travel size–but can’t always find travel size plus samples are usually free, etc.)
all stars
Traveling all-stars.
Light switches
Each switch has blue LED light shining throughout the night to ensure no sleep occurs.
TV
Light from TV shines in eyes all night long.
Thermostat
Dumb light on Thermostat shines directly in eyes when sleeping. Absolutely must cover with black tape.

Best Lemon Poppyseed Muffins

In the same vein as a second semester home-ec class in 1977, here is a genuine muffin. Not cake batter in the shape of a muffin, but a not-too-sweet muffin with the coarser crumb that defines old school homemade muffins.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees-this is always the first step.

List of ingredients-get them gathered with the proper cooking utensils second.

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup granulated sugar

2 1/2 TBS powdered buttermilk

2 TBS Poppy seeds

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup oil

1/2 cup milk

2 eggs

1 lemon

1/4 cup powdered sugar plus more for glaze

Ingredients for Lemon Poppyseed muffins
2 cups all-purpose flour
About 1 cup granulated sugar (adjust to how sweet you want the muffins to be)
2-1/2 Tablespoons powdered buttermilk.
2 teaspoons baking powder.
1/2 teaspoon baking soda (to activate the buttermilk).
2 Tablespoons poppy seeds.
Mix dry ingredients.
1/2 cup oil in a 2 cup measuring cup (this is canola oil).
1/2 cup milk (this is non-fat).
Add 2 eggs to wet ingredients.
Microplane the entire lemon zest into the dry or wet ingredients (this time into the dry, with a quick stir).
Cut lemon in half. Juice.
Remove seeds from the juice. Reserve the juices lemon halves. Add juice to wet ingredients.
Mix wet ingredients well.
Pour wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Gently fold and stir just until all dry ingredients are incorporated.
Spray muffin pan with oil. Make sure your oven is preheated to 400 degrees.
Fill muffin cups 3/4 full.
Set timer to 20 minutes.
Stir up the lemon glaze, start with 1/4 cup powdered sugar.
Squeeze juice out of the reserved lemon halves.
Add a little milk. The glazers is adjusted by adding a little powdered sugar and a little milk or fresh lemon juice and lemon pulp and lemon zest left on the microplane until it looks right.
Stir glaze.
Stir glaze.
Add the lemon zest!
Remove from the oven. They should be deep golden brown and spring back when touched. Don’t burn your fingers!
Put just a little glaze on top!
According to my home economics teacher, never use a knife on muffins. Just pull open gently and place a pat of butter inside.

Traveling While Sick: Tips & Observations

The morning of my flight from Johannesburg, South Africa to Frankfurt, Germany I started an earnest sinus infection/summer cold. Here’s what I did right and what I would change if I had to do it all over again…

This is what worked well:

  • Scheduled 24-hour layover in new hotel
  • Hall’s cough drops in a carry-on bag
  • Advil in a carry-on bag
  • Z-pack antibiotics (proactively prescribed from fantastic nurse practitioner)
  • Giant bottle of water to take on the plane
  • Best carry-on bag design
  • Cash
  • Shopping in airport
  • Very-close-to-airport hotel

What I would change:

  • Type of hotel
  • Should have been located near some restaurants

So, I stayed at a sister brand hotel– it was really new, and really cute. Hip. Trendy. Lower cost. Here’s why:

  • No in-room coffee
  • No executive lounge
  • No room service
  • No restaurant
  • No wi-fi in room

I learned on this trip just how spoiled I am with a full-service hotel, meaning the big, full service with a restaurant, a snack room, an executive lounge, room service, coffee-at-will in my room. In these big hotels, I can work in the room, in the lounge, in the lobby, but in these trendy scaled down hotels, it is designed for a different crowd. Folks who have kids, don’t work from their room, are not spending any time in their room except to shower and to sleep.

So, I dragged myself around the coffee bar/check-in a few times during the day, looking so pathetic, the guest manager/clerk helped me microwave my soup, find the spoons, and made me coffee. I ended up sleeping throughout the day and night, recovering from the crud that had ushered me out of Africa.

Moxy Hotel, Frankfurt, Germany
Welcome to the 2nd Floor!

Note: I have found incredible hospitality at the hotels that I have stayed at — caring people, ready to help. Because I have been a road warrior, I have had several instances of being quite ill during my stays throughout the United States and Europe. Here’s a shout out to every room service person who helped me with hot water and lemon, disinfecting the bathroom [don’t ask], the folks in the restaurant who prescribed lime juice with salt for my throat so I could deliver training to a crowd, and proceeded to procure it for me from the kitchen, and I could go on…Everyone at these places deserves to be treated kindly and with respect. I love you all in the hospitality industry!!!!

 

Shout out to the room decor designers! This is what I was waking up to when I was so sick in Frankfurt, Germany at the Moxy Hotel.

cute boy mural

Travel: Broken Foot Edition

Ace bandage helps!
Waiting on picnic bench while Hubby tours the mine.

One of the annoying little things that can happen on any given expedition out of your front door is an accident. There are all kinds of accidents that happen every day, you get stung by a wasp–swelling up, you eat something that makes you sick, or you step one wrong way, causing some weird injury that impacts your ability to do what you want to do.

This happens while traveling, although usually not to me.

You see I am a bit of a “being safe” nut — full of helpful anxiety about germs, street food, and neighborhoods that are off the beaten track. I walk tall, don’t drink much alcohol (if at all), and am inside of my hotel room at a reasonable hour. I avoid public demonstrations, threatening people (both them threatening me and me threatening them LOL!), and going out without a scarf, a sweater, and a cross-body bag. I pack bandaids, acetaminophen, diarrhea medicine, vitamin C, and sunscreen. All of this so that when I travel I can walk all over the city fearlessly and fun-loving!

But accidents do happen. And one happened to me on Monday of Week 3 of my 5-week vacation. I was at a wild animal park/sanctuary, and I stepped down from a tall step onto some cardboard that had been placed, I had imagined at the time, over a former mud puddle. The dirt was dry, there was no mud, I didn’t even stop to think about taking this large step. My weight landed on my right foot, which then slid over the hidden large rock, and proceeded to hyper-extend, popping as I landed with a thump. My phone flew out of my hand; I managed to land on my knee, then my well padded hind end; shaken up, to say the least. I am not in the habit of falling, tripping, nor stumbling. I think of myself as being quite spry, although not at all athletic.

As you can see below, this did not stop me from petting the baby cheetahs!

3 Cheetah kittens sunning at Rhino and Lion Safari Park, South Africa
Sweet kitty kitty cheetah cheetahs.

I am so grateful that I didn’t know at the time that I had broken a bone in my foot since I have extreme anxiety about visiting hospitals, especially hospitals in Africa. Now, I say this since the local hospital that was pointed out to me in Zimbabwe was built from cinder blocks back in the 1950s–I would guess. (Realize that I do believe in contributing to any and all aid organizations that help third-world countries get medical supplies and other assistance.) We have resistant strains of bacteria and viruses in the U.S. and I am certain that it is no different over here in Africa.

So, grateful. No trip to the doctor [until 6 weeks later when it became apparent that it was more than a bad bruise]. But….with swelling, bruising, and pain that continues every step that I make a full two weeks later, I now have a new understanding of making the most of a trip. [And now, 9 months later, I realize how important it is to avoid injury!]

—–

It is now a full month later and I still have pain in my foot and rely heavily on my hiking shoes — no other shoe feels comfortable. I have a bruise on the bottom of my foot, another one on the side, and the worst bruising on the top of my foot. You know what this means…Dr. Podiatrist here I come!

Broken bone in foot

Also another P.S. regarding healthcare and Africa: Thank you to my nurse practitioner J.S. for not only prescribing¬† medicine to prevent malaria, but also having the foresight to prescribe a Z-Pack — as it happened, the morning of my 10-hour flight from Johannesburg to Frankfurt, I woke up with a sore throat, coughing, –some sort of bronchial sinus cold that I am prone to–the meds are saving my butt. I am in Frankfurt, showered, napped, and on day 2 of the Z-pack and can function. Even if the flight was rough, thank you Halls Extra strength by the way. I will cover being sick in a foreign city in a hotel layover room in a future post!

 

 

South Africa: Capetown Table Mountain

Table Mountain Gondola
The view from the tip of Africa.

Table Mountain: You want to take the gondola (at least we wanted to take the gondola up the mountain) so keep your eyes on which line you are in — but no matter how long the line is,¬† it will move quickly and the view is worth the wait. You can pre-purchase tickets using a QR code, so check that out! As you snake your way around and up to the gondola, don’t miss out on the photo op! Plan a fun pose and strike it with your fellow adventurer! Inside the gondola car, the floor slowly turns so that you can get a 365-degree view. Be aware, they pack the car full!

Wrong way little buddy!
Dassie in line on Table Top Mountain, South Africa.

Dassies:¬†part rat, part marmot, all rodent — our driver says beware, they can carry rabies! We noticed a fair number of these critters on top of Table Mountain. Especially near the cafe. No dassies were foaming at the mouth when we were there.

View at the bottom of the earth!
On top of Tabletop Mountain, Capetown, South Africa.

Atlantic Ocean: Beautiful views of the Atlantic ocean, rivaling the views of Diamond Head in the Pacific Ocean on Oahu. Also, when you are looking at the ocean, a simple quarter turn reveals beautiful mountain ranges with fog and clouds. This view reminds me of Kokino in Macedonia. Either way, getting up to the top of Table Mountain is worth the line.

 

Socks: I love you

20180626_093427
Smart Wool socks

I really love good socks. I L-O-V-E socks. Everyone gets socks from me in their Christmas stockings, I look at socks online, in stores, and at booths, and I talk about socks all of the time. I really love quality socks. I know that a lot of people like funky designs on their socks and I like that too, but a well-engineered sock gets me excited!

A well-engineered sock has features–features that solve problems. After all, socks were invented to solve problems, right? Socks were invented to keep your foot from blistering in your shoes, as well as keeping your shoes from dying a pitiful, uncleanly death from foot perspiration.

A poorly-engineered sock is truly irritating, both literally and figuratively. Poorly-engineered socks have caused many toddler meltdowns from my oldest son who is now 34 years old, and I am still suffering PTSD over one of those episodes. They also twist on your feet while you are walking, or they slip down under your heel. They also make your foot uncomfortable because they are too small, or too large. The yarn that they are woven with might suddenly break, creating holes. The type of yarn might not provide breatheability, or warmth. The weight of the yarn as well as the pattern of the sock might be too thin, or too thick.

You can see that we don’t give sock designer-engineers enough thanks. A perfectly engineered sock should come in sizes — Germany does that particularly well. I can get a sock that is just right for my foot, for my husband’s foot, and my giant-of-a-middle son’s foot. I can’t easily do that in the U.S.

The U.S. does have an excellent wool sport sock that is washable and durable. I do absolutely love this brand of socks, and I in no way have been compensated to feature this brand. I love this brand because of how well it is engineered. After I sat on the plane next to a designer for this brand, I really started believing in this brand. It is a pricey sock for the average person, however, these socks are durable, comfortable, and convenient to use. All of those factors reduce the overall cost of this sock. The brand is local to Coloradoans, it is sold at Nordstrom as well as from their own boutiques and online. It is Smart Wool — the perfect name for this product.

I hurt my foot over a week ago here in South Africa, where it is winter, and chilly, and uncomfortable. Part of healing my foot is wearing my comforting Smart Wool socks. They provide support, warmth, and since I purchased them in happy colors and designs, they lift my spirits a little. Also, these socks aren’t the thick wool socks that won’t fit into your shoes. These socks fit, stretch, and launder. I have many other socks that I love, and maybe I will write about them — especially my cotton athletic socks from Germany. But right now, I am grateful for my comfy wool socks.

 

P.S. I will debrief my 5-week packing for this trip when I get home. Lessons learned and successes to celebrate!

 

Travel: One Suitcase-5 Weeks, pt. 1

White 'IT' Suitcase
This is the suitcase — not too big, but definitely a checked bag.

Goal: 1 suitcase for two cities, 5 weeks

Week 1 Frankfurt, Germany: Build around Brooks, Ltd. LoDo Shirt

This is the second blog planning my packing list for travel to Frankfurt, then on to Johannesburg, South Africa. I am using my inspiration shirt, named after Denver’s Lower Downtown, hence the ‘LoDo’ part of the shirt description. LoDo is where Brooks, Ltd. atelier is located and is also the part of town you see college students, out-of-towners, and business folks mingling together at restaurants and venues.

I might have mentioned that I have “packing anxiety” and that has driven me to plan this trip well in advance. So, I am testing out my one-suitcase bullet wardrobe plan, beginning with five ways to wear the LoDo shirt while working, drinking kaffee, and shopping in Frankfurt, Germany. Oh, and I should tell you, I am going to be eating like a German foodie.

Here’s the bullet list for 5 choices for the first week of five weeks on the road:

  • Lilac cotton zip-front LoDo shirt, that doubles as a lightweight jacket
  • Navy slim-legged pants (J. Crew)
  • Black leggings
  • Jeans
  • Silk floral shell — vintage from the 80s
  • White lightweight cotton turtleneck (think of the movie ‘Something’s Gotta Give’)
  • Black vintage Chanel Logo T-shirt (best all around T-shirt ever)
  • Black ballet neck tea-length dress
  • Black waterproof loafers (Hunter)
  • Black logo tennis shoes (Coach)
  • Silk print scarf
  • Black scarf
  • Rhinestone necklace (J. Crew)

These five choices easily fit into the suitcase with plenty of room for next week’s challenge– 4 weeks in Johannesburg!

LoDoShirt Week 1_04172018