Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Top Travel Essentials!


On my last train ride from Brussels to Amsterdam, after a long day spent outside in the rain, I was sipping my wine and thinking about the number of things that make traveling easier for me. Whether you are on a day trip or a multi-week trip here are my must have travel essentials!

This post may contain affiliate links, if you love one of the products I suggest and decide to make a purchase by clicking the link I provide I will get a small commission at no additional cost to you.

My Enrico Benetti rucksack. This is the perfect size for a day trip. It has a chest strap and a waist strap. It can expand in the centre a bit, has a great spot for a small laptop or iPad. It is padded in the shoulders, upper back, and lower back, and has two mesh cup holders. It is small enough so it fits in all the lockers at museums. 
This waterbottle. It is a Bobble Water Bottle and is wonderful because I can fill up from any water fountain or sink and know that my water is being filtered! Plus, most places in Europe now charge for water and since that is all I drink besides wine it is good to carry my own. Let me address the water thing real quick: most places here when you order water will bring you a bottle, I hate paying for water, especially when it is the same cost as wine or coke, you can ask for tap water and they aren't supposed to turn you down but they do-often. They will say it isn't "hygenic" or "they don't do that here" and if you make a stink they will bring you tap water, but with this bottle (that I carry everywhere with me) it makes it easy to just not have to deal with the water situation. 
This scarf. I got it during our trip to Paris last year, it is light but when tied just right and combined with a jacket (heavy or light) it really keeps your neck quite warm, but it is also convenient in the event you come across a place in the summer while wearing a tank top and need your shoulders covered you can use it to cover them. Or if you are wearing shorter shorts and need something that goes to your knees you could easily create a skirt out of it. Seems strange, but it really is a versatile piece for any season so make for a good investment piece.

This charger. I got this at a bookstore chain here for a measley €19. The charge you get from it is crap and it loses charge fairly quickly, but, when you charge it it has enough power to charge your phone to full power. Without a power cord. Without sunglight. You just have to remember to charge it beforehand. Convenient if you just used your GPS for an entire day in a foreign city and want to keep in touch with your husband so he knows you made your 3 train connections ;)














What are your top travel essentials? Anything I should add to my list?

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Suitcase Organization

Yesterday, I gave tips for planning a road trip, today I want to talk to you about organizing your suitcase. With the right tools and proper planning you could easily travel for two weeks with just one small carry-on, like my daughter and I did in March of 2014 when we went to Hawaii. That's right..one carry on for two adults. Here is how I did it.

This post may contain affiliate links, if you love one of the products I suggest and decide to make a purchase by clicking the link I provide I will get a small commission at no additional cost to you.

Have a medium size carry on . I have found this is the perfect size, it fits in all over head compartments, fits under the seat, and is easy to roll around a city if you make a side trip.

Use these awesome pack-it envelopes . If you fold the items correctly you can fit up to 7-12 items in this envelope. Hubby I can only fit 7, but for the teeanger and I can fit up to 12!

Use these awesome pack it cubes. These are great for keeping socks and undies together, or shirts/shorts that you can roll. I was able to fit a week's worth of undies and socks into one cube for the teenager and I. 

Don't over pack. For a week long trip you don't need a ton of stuff, we went for two weeks and I packed enough for one week and just washed items since I was staying with a friend. Things like jeans, shorts, or skirts can be worn multiple times before needing to be washed, so bringing just a couple items to fit different situations will work. 

Utilize your personal item. I typically put individual toiletries in our personal item. For example, my purse will carry any feminine hygene products and/or make-up I need. 

Fold your dirty laundry. This may sound bizarre but when you are at the end of your trip and won't be needing to keep dirty and clean laundry separate just fold up the laundry as it will help you fit it all back in. 

Do you have an great suitcase organization tips we should know about?

Road Trip Planning Tips

Road trip planning tips are the topic of today's Blogging A to Z post.

Check out the other posts I've done here.

Since moving to Europe almost a year ago I have made quite a few new friends and acquaintences, through our chats one thing has become clear: planning a road trip is hard! Whether you are taking a car or train, getting organized to plan a big trip and see all you want to see along the way can be extremely overwhelming. I'm getting it down pretty well so I wanted to share with y'all some of my tips!



Use google maps. If you are going via car, use google maps, it is fantastic. You can add waypoints along the way, search areas in which you are thinking of stopping for landmarks and whatnot, it is a great resource. If you are going via train, like us, it is easy to map as well since google maps has the transportation feature! In Europe I imagine this is an easier feature to use, but it allows you to see a basic route and what is along the way. Using this feature I know on our way home from Berlin we will be stopping off in Cologne for a few hours since we switch trains there and our tickets are flexible. 

Know your route and stops along the way. If you want to make stops along the way while using a mass transit system make sure you know exactly where you are supposed to change trains. This will often allow you to see some really unique places that will only take an hour or two of your time. If you are in a car, this is important as the teenager remembers once being stuck on a bridge in Louisianna having to pee and once we finally got off the bridge, we were in the middle of nowhere with no peeing stations in sight, so knowing your route is good to prevent emergencies.

Know the terms of your tickets. If you are going by train make sure you know the terms of your tickets. I always get the mid-grade flexi tickets so if we want to hop off and on we can, just be aware of certain time restrictions and whatnot.

Know your train if you are travling by train. Most trains when traveling through Europe I have found do not having a dining car, so know ing your route will help you to know if you need to bring along food and drink. I always recommend having snacks, but we are traveling 6 hours to and from Berlin (12 total hours) this month with no dining car so I know we each need a water bottle, plus one extra bottle each, along with a full lunch and a snack. Usually they have someone walk through on trips 3+ hours with a box like you'd see at a ball game in the US but it is ladened with sugary crappy food that I have no desire to eat. (Plus, if you plan right and you don't have to drive you can bring beer and wine along ;))

Check the weather the day before you pack. I thought this one was something everyone did, but I have talked to 6 different people who have had a horrible vacation because they were so excited to get going, had an assumption about the weather of a place, and it was not at all what they expected! I usually pack just 24 hours in advance. I have a basic outline of what I want to take but the real packing isn't done until 24 hours before, you never know what sort of weather system could come in over night, some places are just that unpredicatable.

Bring as small a bag as you possibly can. This will eliminate over packing and will keep you from dreading making stops along the way. Many train stations have lockers you can rent so if you want to stop off you can toss your small suitcase in and enjoy a few hours sightseeing before catching your next train! For car rides this will allow for more leg room, than if you over packed.

Have a written itinerary. The biggest complaint I hear is they didn't get to see everything they thought they would. This doesn't necessarily have to be a huge written itinerary with walking directions like I made for London, but at least having a written account of landmarks you want to see and what is inside if it is a museum can be really helpful.....as poor time management, not realizing how long some things would take vs. the number of things they want to see is the reason most people are left a little let down. For example, when we went to Paris, we only had a long weekend so when we tackled the Louvre we knew we wanted to see Napoleon's Apartment and then we each picked three works of art we wanted to see, made it to those and then got out of there. We were in there an hour longer than we anticipated, but we still made it to all ther other stuff that day thankfully because we had a plan.

Keep your wallet in your front pocket for men, and women have a cross body bag with zipper in the front. For backpacks, have a lock for the zipper. This is to protect you from pick-pockets. These aren't foolproof but they do help. People can be the suck, especially in large, crowded areas such as the Eiffel Tower, near the Mona Lisa, or in a crowded square in Brussels.

That is all I have for now, later this week I will have some suitcase organizing tips, as well as my travel essentils.

Do you have any tips to add?

Monday, April 20, 2015

Book Review: Tapped by Stacey Grice (+giveaway!)

So, y'all remember a while back I reviewed Totaled, then just a few weeks ago I did a cover reveal of a most anticipated book, Tapped...well, the day has arrived, yesterday Tapped was released!



This post may contain affiliate links, if you choose to purchase from one of those links I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. :)

If you didn't read Totaled, you can purchase it here . The beginning of Tapped has a short synopsis of Totaled, but it doesn't give you the complete picture, so I highly recommend purchasing it first, and at .99 cents it is a total (haha) bargain! 

Synopsis of Tapped
Unexpectedly thrust into a whirlwind romance, Bree thought her relationship with Drew could withstand any obstacle thrown their way. Excited for the future, everything she thought she knew came crashing down in one horrible night. Forced to re-evaluate her feelings, Bree is left alone with a heavy heart and the realization that Drew's nightmare changed everything.
The effects of his trauma once again surfacing, Drew had no idea how volatile his actions were until it was too late. He must work to rebuild trust with everyone around him, all while participating in vigorous therapy and being separated from Bree. When a once-in-a-lifetime career opportunity presents itself with impeccably poor timing, Drew has some tough decisions ahead.
Can he heal the wounds his past has created and quiet the demons that haunt him? Can he repair the damage done with his love or will he give up?
Discover if it’s all too much and Drew ends up...
Tapped.
Author’s Note: Tapped is a continuation of Totaled, the first book in the Totaled series. It is highly recommended to read these books in sequential order. Due to mature content, profane language, and sexual situations, this book is recommended for ages 18 and up.


Excerpt of Tapped
Something told me to walk around to the back and my legs took me. I followed the skinny path within the dunes and sea oats on the side of his house until he came into view. Standing with his back to me, he watched the water as the sun rose higher and higher above the horizon, the colors beautifully framing his silhouette. He turned his head ever so slightly, I guess sensing that I was there, and then turned around completely.
I froze.
I was unable to take another step for a few seconds as we stared at each other. His posture relaxed, relieved to see me before him, and he advanced toward me. I walked forward, my stomach in knots of nervousness, and he matched me step for step until we were mere feet apart. The salty sea breeze blew violently around us both, coming off of the crashing waves and onto our skin. The second we entered each other’s space, my world went silent. I didn’t hear the water or smell the ocean. I didn’t feel the wind on my face or the sand under my feet. I was only in tune to him.
He swallowed hard, his eyes sharp and assessing, darting around my face as he took me in. They roamed and finally settled on my cheek just underneath my left eye; his shoulders fell as he exhaled. His right arm reached for me, stopping midway and then slowly continuing up, his eyes asking for permission. I lowered my chin and leaned into him as his fingertips grazed over my skin, tracing the scar he had given me. My eyes closed at the intensity of the moment.
He moved a few inches closer and cradled my jaw in his hand, urging me to open up and look at him—to really see him. I did and his eyes brimmed with tenderness and compassion. I looked into them, trying to memorize every shade of green, every fleck of gold, not knowing what the future held. I just knew that if I was never able to lay eyes on him again, this was the image that I wanted to remember. My gentle and loving Drew, normally stuck inside a giant, rough exterior, was now exploding out, his shrapnel penetrating my soul.

I recieved an ARC copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

For me, Tapped was a long anticipated release...I hate cliffhangers with a thriving passion. I think I hate them so because one time when I was 13 I found this great book at Wal-Mart and the end was a cliffhanger and I was never able to find the next book, so I am always afraid it I will never get the end of the story! But, I knew Stacey would pull through and boy did she! I really enjoy her writing style of Totaled and Tapped because each book had a beginning, climax, and end, all the while the unconventional 2 book series over all has a beginning, climax, and end, which is a dream come true! 

Throughout the books we follow Bree and Drew; Bree, who after the death of her mother falls into the role of taking care of the men in her life, being somewhat dominated by their personalities, and not really doing what makes her happy and being honest abou it. Drew, who had a rough beginning in life and is still dealing with the aftermath of such a horrific upbringing. Stacey gives great personality to these two characters and really shows the inner turmoil these two face. From wanting to be happy themselves while still making those important in their lives happy. I think everyone knows this struggle, but what I really love is how slowly Bree and Drew learn to communicate with one another and that shows how important communication is in a relationship. 

I am not sure how much I can write without giving the plot away, but I really enjoyed this book. It is a romance, but has a really interested dedicated storyline. So many of these novels I read you can write off and only read for the sex scenes..which honestly get boring after a while because they are the same, but Stacey manages to pull you in with a real story line and a few good sex scenes thrown in to give the spice we are all looking for in our reading. ;)

Did you read Totaled? Will you be picking up Tapped?

Read below for the Raffelcopter giveaway, click this link to enter as it isn't done right here on the blog. There will be 2 winners: (1) gets a signed paper back (USA only) the other winner (1) gets a $10 Amazon Gift Card! So...enter to win!



I am a mother, wife, Registered Nurse, avid reader, and most recently have pursued taking my own writing to the next level. Born and raised in Jacksonville, Florida, the beach is my happy place.

Being an astute people watcher gives me constant inspiration for my stories. But my characters, like many authors, are conceived from actual people in my life. A hodgepodge of personality traits, real world instances, and conversations that I have directly taken part in are the foundation for my fictional world.

Find Stacey:
To add Tapped to your Goodreads TBR... https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/24865564-tapped

Packing Tips

When traveling a lot, packing can become a bit of second nature. So, I decided to share a few tips I've come across when talking to friends and acquaintences. 



Wear the thickest/heaviest items. If you have to bring a heavy coat, wear it. If you have to bring big bulky shoes, like boots, wear them. If you are bringing a pair of jeans but shorts for other days, wear the jeans. This saves valuable space and will allow you to fit more into a small space.

Multi-week trips choose lodging with laundry facilities. Many Air BnB rentals have laundry facilities, almost all hostels I've looked at have laundry facilities, and you can always utilize the sink and some soap if need be. But, this will help you to pack light for longer trips.

Know your destination and check the weather 24 hours before you leave. It is very important to be prepared with this information so you know if you should have a poncho with you, bring rain boots and an umbrella, or ensure you have shorts if you need it.

Be aware of local customs. This is important, when we went to Rome it was hot (85+F degree days) but to go into the churches there your knees must be covered as well as your shoulders...had we not looked in to this before hand we would have been very upset. In the middle east there are actual laws for how men and women (yes, even visitors) are supposed to dress, so just make yourself familiar with local customs and are prepared for the weather.


For some ideas on what to pack, here is what we packed for our weekend in Rome. I will try to do more of these posts as I find them really helpful when I am getting ready to go somewhere.

Do you have any more packing tips I should add? 

Have you ever visited a place with a "dress code"?

Keepsake Trophy Display

A few weeks ago my mom and I were talking via FaceTime, when we chat we usually take the time to show each other the projects we are working on. During our last call she was explaining that her and my Dad were cleaning out the attic (to which I replied again?! I swear they are always cleaning out the attic haha). Anyway, they had come across some old toys and keepsakes of mine and my brother's.

Of my brother's things they found an old block set and all of his trophies from high school. My mom knew these items in their current state were just taking up too much room, but she also didn't want to just toss them. So, being ever creative as she is, she put together this amazing piece combining the vintage blocks and his trophy plaques.




Supplies

  • Building blocks
  • Plaques from the front of a trophy
  • E6000 Glue (can be found at Home Depot for sure, even in Canada, Europe I have nothing for ya yet lol)
  • Paint colour of your choice (I would go neutral though so it is a timeless piece) my mom used a cream colour
  • Hanging kit
  1. Lay out blocks in the pattern of your choice. 
  2. Once set glue them together using the E6000.
  3. Let dry.
  4. Paint the blocks with the paint colour of your choice.
  5. Using the E6000 Glue again or a hot glue gun glue the trophy plaques on to the block background you created. 
  6. Once dry, turn the blocks over and install the hanging kit.
  7. Hang and enjoy!
I really love finding unique ways to preserve old memories. What is your favorite memory?

Menu Plan Monday #14

So, lately I have really enjoyed the Sunday to Sunday planning. I find I am actually prepping a lot more and when Monday Morning rolls around I actually have food to pack lunches so we are starting off on the right foot, it is great!

























This weekend was a lazy one, the calm before the storm if you will. 

Saturday it was gorgeous and the kiddo needed to get a birthday present so we took a nice long bike ride to enjoy the weather and keep our travel costs low! 


















Then our friend came over to do some professional portraits for the husband. We wound up taking a bike ride through the forest and having a meal together. It was a wonderful day!

Sunday the hubster and I mostly relaxed. Aside from a trip to the grocery store we mostly cuddled on the couch and watched Episodes I and II of Star Wars. 

I really love these calmer weekends, especially when your husband has worked basically three weeks in a row. Next weekend will be the kicker....can't wait to fill y'all in on that! If you follow on Instagram you can follow along to all our shenanigans :) As a preview I will just say there will be tulips, a fantasy fayre, and the huge King's Day celebration! This.Will.Be.Epic!

Goals
Last week, I was fairly unproductive so besides keeping off the added sugar and processed foods I didn't accomplish anything really (haha) so nothing to report there...this week:
  • Seriously, finish our freaking itineraries. Vacation is NEXT WEEK! and I have no solid plans, I'm not making a walking path this time but I do want to have names of places we should see and the history of each marked on my phone or iPad so we can read up on them on the train ride.
  • Keep at the tougher workouts, been feeling really good so want to keep working hard.
  • Keep eating well..again, I am feeling amazing. I've been keeping a higher good fats and higher protein diet and am feeling really great!
  • Finish my Hawaiian scrapbooking. It really, really, really needs to get done so I can move on to our move! 
Workout Schedule
I stuck to my schedule pretty good last week, let one extra rest day creep in on Thursday and Friday I only did half my workout. This week will be stronger though...
  • Sunday: Rest, I was tired, we did a mild errand bike ride and took a walk
  • Monday: 3 mile run and PIYO
  • Tuesday: Long bike ride to try and find some Tulip Fields, yoga
  • Wednesday: 4 mile run with Bootcamp
  • Thursday: Ride to North Amsterdam...rumour has it there could be Tulip fields there too, MMX, Stretching
  • Friday: Double PIYO, walk if it is nice or bike ride to find the baby goats
  • Saturday: 100 Burpee Burnout, sightseeing
Trying to get some really solid workouts in this week as next week will be off and on because of our traveling.


Menu

Breakfast
Sunday: Egg and cheese crescents with strawberries and kiwi 
Monday: A├žai bowls with egg whites or oatmeal with egg whites
Tuesday: Same as Sunday
Wednesday: late start so will make a big breakfast: omelettes stuffed with veggies and cheese with cinnamon raisin toast and blood orange slices
Thursday: same as Monday 
Friday: banana, blood orange, and coconut fruit bowl with toasted cinnamon almonds
Saturday: sightseeing big breakfast before we leave: same as Wednesday

Lunch
Sunday: snack: bread and butter, smoked meat, fruit
Each day hubby takes two hard boiled eggs, nuts, cold cuts, cheese, and every once in a while a slice of bread. He gets fresh fruit provided by work. Once per week he does eat out.
Kiddo: 
M-W: tomato and cheese panini with Apple slices, and nuts
Tuesday-Th: leftovers 
Me: 
M-W: No pasta salad with half panini
T-Th: Leftovers
Friday: fried egg tostadas with a side salad
Saturday: sightseeing we will have a late lunch/ early dinner out

Dinner 
Sunday: Tacos/taco salad
Monday: Triple lentil stew with salad
Tuesday: BBQ Chicken Sandwiches with carrots and rice
Wednesday: Triple lentil quesadillas (chicken and cheese for hubby if he is here) with peppers and leeks
Thursday: Breakfast for dinner
Friday: Burgers/veggie burgers (will be made with leftover triple lentil filling, peppers, and leeks) with broccoli, corn, and leftover rice
Saturday: late lunch/early dinner out, will snack In the evening if hungry

This week I am on a pilgrimage for Tulip fields near Amsterdam. I know there has to be some so our meals are going to be super simple and utilize as many leftovers as possible so there isn't any food to get stinky while we are gone. I will be making some meals to freeze for hubby so he isn't eating out. Here is some of what I will be making and freezing:
Rotisserie chicken and rice
Burgers with twice baked potato
Taco filling (made Sunday night, already in the freezer) with cheese and corn
I'm sure he will eat out one night, but this at least provides him options

Snacks
Homemade cinnamon raisin bread
Apple slices with peanut butter
Soaked and toasted almonds
Hard boiled eggs
Homemade bounty bars

So, I think that covers us for the week. What are you up to? Are your kids almost out of school?

P.S. I'm linking up with Mommy Run Fast, Jill Conyers, and I'm an Organizing Junkie.