I’d make a horrible birdwatcher.

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I have always been the type to keep my eyes on the path ahead of me, metaphorically and literally. My gaze naturally falls to the place where I am about to step, searching for unsure footings and obstacles. I try to force myself to look up every few steps so I don’t miss the big things that are oncoming, but I would easily be defeated by a tree climbing ninja.

Ninjas aside, I do tend to miss a lot of stuff the flies over my head if I don’t stop every now and then and look around. But at the same time, it means that I notice all of the tiny details along the path, like this sweet little snake I found yesterday while walking back from dropping off my kids at school. I’m not sure why he was curled up on the sidewalk away from his warm den, but I hope he found his way back.

Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap, pt. 2

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I have now been using Dr. Bronner’s for about 3 or 4 months.   I’m a convert.  This soap works REALLY well for my hair, and works fine for my skin.

The hair thing is kind of unbelievable.  As I said, I have baby fine hair that gets weighed down by EVERYTHING I put in it.  And I live in a climate so humid the air conditioners can’t handle it.  Oh, and I have also come to realize, over the past few months as I have been changing my lifestyle, that I sweat from my head.  As in, I can spend a hard 30 minutes on the treadmill pushing myself, and I will have sweat pouring off my head in front and back – but my underarms? Dry as a bone.  I know, weird, but apparently, genetic since my mother is the same way.

And all summer long (except when actually working out), my hair was fluffy.  I mean, nice looking slightly volumized, fluffy.  Not static-y, because I used conditioner, but that weightlessness promised by so many products that FAIL for me.

My daughter, on the other hand, who has hair so massively thick we have to have the stylist thin it out  extensively, doesn’t like it as much.  So it’s not for everyone.  But if you have very thin hair that just lays there, you might give it a try.

I have also now tried the bar form, as well as the liquid form.  It works just as well, even for my hair.  I will say, though, that I believe the liquid has a stronger odor.  I have used both the peppermint liquid and the peppermint bar.  The liquid made me go, “Well that’s PEPPERMINT” (but in a good way).  The bar was more like, “hmmmm, if I stick it up to my nose , I can detect the aroma of peppermint”.  For both products, the smell washes away with the soap, which is nice if you don’t want it competing with your perfume or body spray.

I have tried the following:

  • Peppermint (L) – very strong peppermint smell, like a peppermint candy; be careful of fumes on face
  • Peppermint (B) – much weaker smell, I didn’t worry about the fumes, but I would still be careful of getting this in your eyes
  • Tea Tree (L) – strong herbal smell, not my favorite, but it makes you think “clean” – like the smell of bleach does
  • Lavender (L) – strong herbal smell, not sweet at all
  • Almond (B) – ding, ding, ding, we have a winner!! I am in love with this smell, and can’t wait to try it in liquid form.  This is sweeter than the lavender but not really “sweet”.

I like the fact that the smells are more like the essential oils than like a candy version.  It makes me think the Rose scent would be really lovely if you like walking through a garden.  I wonder if showering with a combination of the Peppermint and Eucalyptus scents would give me the same effect as those Vick’s Shower Soothers from years ago – I loved those when I was stopped up.

Traveling in a Carryon

One of the rules I have made for myself when planning for this trip to Utah is not to check luggage. Even though I will probably be flying Southwest (since I will be flying out of its hub, Houston, and it is one of the cheapest airlines around) which allows you to check two bags free, I just don’t want to have to deal with the possibility of lost luggage if I can avoid it.

There are literally hundreds, if not thousands of resources for traveling light in a carry-on (some of the ones I like best are listed to the side). Here are some of the thoughts I had that weren’t covered by those sites:

  1. As with most conferences/conventions, you are going to get stuff. Some of it will be good stuff (pamphlets helping you plan your troop’s trip to Our Cabana, for instance). Some of it will be edible stuff (samples from Little Brownie and ABC and Ashdon Farms and the other nut company) which will be useful for snacking between sessions or the flight home. And some of it will be things you may decide you don’t need to bring home (another metal water bottle). When I went to the 52nd Convention, I got a free tote bag filled with free goodies, including a windup flashlight and a metal water bottle – not the easiest things to pack home on a flight – along with my visitor day pass (not the Hall of Experiences pass, the volunteers got the good tickets).  I will need to remember to pack in such a way as to be able to bring home the goodies I want, and have the strength to say no to the goodies I don’t really want.
  2. Can I really fit all those clothes in one bag? PLUS SIZE clothes? We’ll see.
  3. Really? No navy based business travel capsules???? (Yep, still stewing about it)
  4. Is Dr. Bronner’s really all that?
  5. What is the best way to pack a suit into a carry-on?
  6. By all that is holy, I am going to the desert.  How the heck do I look professional when I can’t breathe due to altitude and lack of humidity?!?!?

Ahem.

So, with #2 on the list in mind, now that I have my capsule sorted out for the trip, I did a test run to see if I could get all those plus sized clothes in my undersized carry-on.  I made a big old sloppy bundle, and popped it in my suitcase along with some navy flats I found in the back of my closet (which I am NOT wearing, because the soles are floppy-broke and they are scuffed to heck, but they work for simulating the pair of shoes I will need to bring.

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Packed in the bundle is my suit jacket, suit pants, a pair of leggings to simulate the khakis I haven’t gotten yet, my white dress shirt, my beautiful overtunic, both tanks, my first aid kit and my hygiene kit to hold the place of my core, and the flats.  There is still plenty of room for all the stuff I might get at the convention (as long as I don’t go overboard and get a giant stuffed animal or a sleeping bag or something crazy like that), my pajamas, and my underthings.  But I need to do something about a core.  I can’t use my hygiene bag, since I will need to get at it in security.  And now I know that an Eagle Creek Quarter Cube will be way too small (that is what my hygiene kit is packed in).  So I am thinking I will get full sized Packing Cube to hold my underthings and pajamas and be my core.  So, I guess that takes care of #5, too, huh?

I’m currently testing #4, review to come later.

I need to do more research for #6, but I think I can safely say that I don’t have to worry about my makeup melting off (unlike here at home).  But I am testing minimal makeup ideas, anyways, because I want to look good, but I don’t want to have to fuss for an hour each morning.  I would much prefer sitting outside with a cup of coffee looking at scenery I don’t have at home.

My Big Girl Backpack

I am SO excited!  I just got a “real” backpack.  A couple of years ago, when preparing for my family’s trip to Orlando/Disney World/ Universal Studios, I got a Kelty Cardinal Convertible lumbar pack (fancy hiker’s fanny pack, *grins*).  It was highly recommended on a lot of sites for plus sized people planning this trip.  It gave me the option of carrying it just as a lumbar pack for most of the day, but then expanding it to a backpack once the souvenir shopping begins.  And all the straps would fit me. YAY!  Honestly, this is a great pack I used all the time for Girl Scout camping, family hiking, theme parks (both the Orlando trip and trips to Sea World).

But.

As a backpack, it is lacking.  The straps are just webbing, which make them very packable, but they hurt when you are wearing them for long.  The neckline, for lack of a better description, is not cut well, so the fabric tends to rub the back of my neck and dig in.  And it is strange looking on my back, not attractive.  This wouldn’t be a problem, except I was noticing that I was using it as a backpack more and more.

And I had Camelbak envy.

So, I took advantage of my REI dividend check and the Memorial Day Sale and got my new backpack!  It’s not for going backpacking, hiking out to a campsite and spending the night.  My physical fitness is not there, yet, but it is something I want to do eventually.  My new backpack is more along the lines of what I need now – something to hold a binder full of medical information, a fairly large first aid kit, snacks for 2-12, tools, jacket, plus whatever the girls need me to carry.  Or my kids.  Or my husband.  My husband and I trade off being pack mule.

So, what did I get?  An Osprey 22L Talon and a 100ml Camelbak reservoir.  It’s black, which is the only thing that doesn’t thrill me, but it’s okay.  At the store, you would have suggested that I look for another because there was no way that hip belt was going to close around my girth.  And this is too expensive to buy it on the assumption that “I can use it when I lose weight”.  I know you have some clothes like that in your closet.  We all do.

But I got it anyway.  Why?  Because I can sew!

I picked up some webbing at the fabric store, cut the original hip belt straps up and sewed in some new ones that are not just sized to fit me, but give me a little play.  I don’t expect to get bigger, but I don’t like having to fumble for the little bit of an end in order to cinch in a strap.

After removing one of the original straps.

New strap attached to backpack.

It was actually a really easy fix, less than an hour total for both straps.  And now I have a great new backpack – just in time for our next trip to Sea World.  I’m not sure I would survive Sea World in June without a hydration bladder. No pic of me in it, yet.  When I have a good one, I will post it. 🙂

Sewing For Travel

I like to sew.  Honestly, most of the purses I own I have made.  When I couldn’t find a good hygiene bag for my son (they were all either too big or too girly), my next visit was to the fabric store .  No picture of that one, sorry.  It got was gleefully received and then disappeared upstairs.  But this is some of the sewing I realized I needed to do for my trip to Utah.  My Village Tote is a great bag, but it is one big cavernous hole that I will easily lose stuff in, so I am making little pouches as I find a need for them.  First up, a pouch for my chargers.

This is the interior view of the pouch above, with both my chargers in there.  There is still room for the backup battery for my phone and a mini charging station.  The pouch itself was made using this tutorial (quickly and sloppily *grins*).  The outside fabric is some pretty PUL that I found at Joanns – the only one my 7 year old wouldn’t consider too babyish or girly.  I got it to use as a waterproof lining for his hygiene kit (because we all know he’s just going to throw everything in there wet, right?).  Having my chargers in a waterproof bag is not a bad thing either. 🙂

Then, I decided I needed to get my cords wrangled.  So I used little bits of the fabric and this tutorial and made some power cable wraps.  Great project for using up scraps, btw.  I really like the chevrons on the fabric, since these are for power cords – it pleases the comic book nerd in me.

New Suitcase

Last time, I told you about how I took advantage of a sale at eBags to get my Village Tote.  I also took advantage of an Ibotta rebate of $20 back when you spend $100.  Well, gee.  My Village Tote WAS $94, but then it went on sale; so now I guess I’ll just have to do more shopping.  DARN.

But what to get?  Well, I wasn’t really as thrilled about carting my husband’s 10 year old boring black carry-on with the broken zipper around the airport as I made myself out to be, and heeeeeey . . .  Is that a 19″ carry-on with spinner wheels in BLUE????

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Yes, yes, it is.

She is a beaut, and brought my total to just over $100, getting me my rebate.  She’s probably not the sturdiest carry-on in the world, but since my flights are few and far between, I’m okay with that.  She stands out and she stands up on her own, which are two things important to me. She does have an expandable gusset, but I’m going to try to plan my packing so I won’t be needing it.  She has a nice arrangement of pockets, and her handle is just tall enough to go up through the sleeve in my Tote and still be grabbable.

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She’s got a pretty interior, too, doesn’t she?  She’s a Rockland Mariposa (and I think we’re seeing why I keep calling it a “she”, huh?).  When I ordered her, I couldn’t get a good read on whether she was going to be a good bag, because there were any reviews.  So I looked at similar Rockland bags.  The biggest complaint I saw was that the bags I was reading reviews of did not have any handles on the sides to help pick the bag up for loading into overheads and down into car trunks.  As you can see in this pic, they added some for the Mariposa model, which cinched it for me.  (There were other complaints, but this piece was not bought to travel the world nor run down cobblestone streets.  Airport to hotel to airport, and not that frequently.)

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She is NOT huge, and will definitely force me to not overpack, which is something I need.  I have too much of the “I need to be prepared for ANYTHING!” mentality right now, which is why I am keeping my upcoming trip simmering on the back burner in my head.  Tweaking in my mind what I really need versus what I just want.  Reading travel-light websites really helps with that.

But as much as I love the ideas presented on OneBag.com, I can’t go with a duffel bag, as he recommends.  I’ve done it.  And what I remember is waiting in line, scooting my bags along the floor as we inch closer and closer to whatever we’re waiting for (check in, security, coffee, whatever), or carrying them on my back and shoulders, and no, thanks.  I appreciate the fact that duffels will squish into tight spaces, and will probably use my well loved duffel again if we go back to Florida.  I love using my duffel for camping.  If I go traipsing around Europe with my Troop, I might even backpack it.  I don’t know what I would bring on my long dreamed of trip to Japan – besides at least one empty bag.  But for this trip, and future trips like it, where I want to travel light, but have to look good and professional at the end of the flight, I think this is what is going to work for me.

I guess I’ll be reporting back on that at the end of October, huh? 🙂 But I am going to do a test run, and pack for our roadtrip summer vacation like I was flying carry-on style.  Instead of business suits, it’ll be shorts and t-shirts, but I’ll get a good idea of how my luggage performs.

New Bag: Village Tote

So, my Village Tote has arrived! I think it is going to work out perfect for me. It’s not my perfect purse by any stretch of the imagination, but I think it is the perfect carry-on. It’s a lovely beige tote bag that doesn’t really read as a tote bag. It also has a gorgeous blue lining, I think Baggalini calls the combination mushroom/Caspian blue.

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Standard Tote Bag Construction. On the front, there are three pockets: a large one with a magnetic snap flap closure, a small zippered pocket that is hard to see behind it (I’m not sure what the intention is for it, maybe pens?), and a large zippered padded pocket that fits my iPad, even in the keyboard case I have for it (which doubles the thickness).

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There are also deep full width slip pockets on each side, big enough for a good sized water bottle or umbrella. And one of my carry-on requirements – a zip bottom slip pocket with a magnetic snap closure. The bottom can be unzipped to allow it to slide over the handle of a wheeled piece of luggage so I don’t have to constantly carry it on my shoulder in the airport.

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This picture shows all the STUFF that I put into the bag in the next pic. Top row: organizer, coin purse that came with the bag, wallet, sunglasses, pen, sharpie, post-its, flash drives, hygiene kit. Middle-ish row: iPad in keyboard case, mini purse, patches, and other swag from the 2011 Convention (to represent the 2014 swag), lip balm #1, hand lotion, iPad and iPhone charging cables. Bottom row: my GS thank you cards, first aid kit, more Convention swag, lip balms #2 & #3, screen cleaner, keys, post-it flags.

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And room for a pashmina, snacks, a notebook, a larger organizer, and some Convention souvenirs left! I wouldn’t want to carry it around fully loaded, but for the plane trip, this will work.

Oh, and since I couldn’t get a good list anywhere of the interior pockets, there are:

  • Front side: one elastic loop for pen, lipstick, or lip balm; fairly large zippered pocket – you know, the pocket EVERY purse has.
  • Back side: Another elastic loop, one accordion pleated slip pocket, two pen pockets (deep enough and wide enough for sharpies), and a flat slip pocket about iPhone sized.
  • Sides: One side has a removable leash for keys (I have my flash drives on it). The other has a leash for the removable coin purse. The leash can be removed, too, creating a handle for the coin purse.

So sorry for the awful fuzzy pictures. These are actually the SECOND set I took of the bag, because the first ones were too dark. I’m an adventurer, not a photographer, sorry. 🙂

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This is probably how I will normally carry it. Not nearly as full. Oh, and that coin purse? I have plans for it. BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Why am I getting a new bag?

As I was thinking through trying to get everything packed into a single carry-on and a single personal item, I realized I had a problem.  While my husband has a perfectly fine piece of carry-on luggage that fits in the overhead compartments of Southwest Airlines (the airline I will likely be flying), I did not have a suitable “personal” item.

To  me, for this trip, a suitable personal item would be a bag that would work as a large purse in a professional situation.  Nothing too cute, and large enough to hold all the items I would want to be able to access on the plane, but not so large it screams “tote bag”.  I could see putting a smaller purse inside of it (because I generally carry purses that are just big enough for my phone, keys, and wallet), but wanted something I could carry around a large notepad, pens, water bottle, etc. etc. to and around the convention.  It had to be comfortable to carry , and not be a total black hole of tote bag-ness.

I actually have a GS branded briefcase, which fits my laptop, and looks very professional (in a Girl Scout kind of way), and would have fulfilled most of my requirements – except it does not pass as a “purse” to me.  It is DEFINITELY a briefcase.  And since I am not bringing my laptop (too big, not needed, and too scary to lose), then I don’t have to have it that wide.  Also, it doesn’t have one of those zip pockets in the back which allows it to slide over the handle of a wheeled carry-on, which means I would have to have it on my back/shoulders at all times in the airport.  Not a good thing.

Of course, I could have made the perfect bag.  I actually love sewing my own purses and tote bags, and rarely carry a purse that I didn’t make.  But my time has been precious the last few months, and coming up with a design, and then making a mockup to make sure it works the way I think it will, and then making the final version – that takes a lot of time and money.  And frankly, I couldn’t come up with the perfect design.

After a bit of research, though, in what would be the perfect “personal item”, I stumbled upon the Town Tote, by Baggalini.  Hmmmm, big tote bag, but not TOO big; nice colors; organizational tweaks that make sense; lightweight; straps are big enough for plus sized arms – this looks like a great design!  Ah, to heck with making my own, I’ll just buy this one.  But it is no longer widely available.  Instead, Baggalini put out the Village Tote this year – an updated model with an iPad pocket in the front.  And I will be bringing my iPad, so this might very well come in handy – although I will miss the front organizer pocket of the Town Tote, I think.

And now, my new Village Tote is on it’s way to me.  I decided to take advantage of eBags 25% off Baggalini sale, and got it.  We’ll see how it works out next time!

If you haven’t checked out Sarah’s blog Trail Cooking and the Outdoors, you really should. Sarah is an avid hiker in her home territory of Washington state, and has made it a family affair, bringing her sons on her several-hours-long hikes since before they could walk.  If I lived that close to the Cascade Mountains, I would probably spend every free moment I had in them, too!

I love reading her hiking stories, as well as her recipes (her recipe for Cheesy Couscous is a favorite for our troop!).  Yesterday, she posted a fun look inside her hiking daypack.  I love seeing the differences between her trail bag, geared towards a mom with young children hiking around for hours in wooded mountains; and mine, geared towards hiking around with a troop in much more civilized woods.

Is your trail bag more like hers or mine?  Why?  What special issues do YOU have to be prepared for?