New Shoes

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. . . and old shoes.  They are lost the exact same shoe, except I couldn’t find the old model number, which kinda irks me.  When I put those shoes on, they were as comfortable as if I had been wearing them for years – like old denim.  They were the first shoes I had bought in over a decade that were the right width (I have WIDE feet, and generally have to get a size or two larger than my actual foot just to get the width I need).  It made me think I could actually get my real shoe size.  I hated the style of the shoes (very orthopedic looking), but I quickly learned to ignore that in favor of shoes that actually FIT.

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But after 444 miles (according to my FitBit, so add some from before I got it), these shoes were ready to be replaced. The trip to Salt Lake City finally did them in.

The new shoes aren’t quite as perfect on the inside, and even more orthopedic looking on the outside – but they don’t cramp my toes, which can’t be said of 99% of shoes out there.  After 100 miles, they’ll be perfectly beat up and broken in. 🙂

(BTW – did you know that you should replace your shoes every 300-500 miles?  And if you are getting 10,000 steps in a day, on average, that means they should be replaced 4 times a year!)

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What didn’t work

The Shoes.

My new boots that I thought I had gotten decently broken in.  Did. Not. Work.  I wore them to my GSU sessions the first morning I was there, and by the end of the first 90 minute session where I was SITTING the whole 90 minutes, I was in agony.  I don’t know if they weren’t broken in enough, or if my feet had swollen from all the walking, or from the altitude.  I just know I was sooooooooo happy I also brought my well-broken in walking shoes.

In fact, they were so well broken in that now that I have put another 30 miles on them over the course of the trip, they are pretty much done for.

The Pants.

I brought two pairs of pants with me, and I am SO grateful I did.  The first pair of pants I bought in May or June.  And then I lost 50 pounds.  Needless to say, they were about 2 sizes too big on me, and hung there, looking like a sack from my waist.  I had originally thought that they would be super comfortable to wear on the way home, you know, big and slouchy.  But come Sunday morning, I could not stomach the idea of wearing them again.  They were lined, and the lining had ripped at some point, making them even worse looking on me.

So I chucked them.  Just threw them away in the garbage.

I wore my other pair of blue pants, which fit perfectly, and saved a little space in my bag.

Laundry.

I had planned on washing my pajamas/workout clothes every morning after my workout in deference to my roommate’s nose.  Yeah, didn’t happen.  I did wash them after the second day, though (because 4 days without washing would have grossed me out), washing and rinsing in the sink and hanging to dry in the bathtub.  They were mostly dry by the time I wanted to get ready for bed, but I did move them and wring them again halfway through the day.

I also brought several dryer sheets to keep everything smelling “fresh”.

Trivial Details – Nails

Confession time:  I’m a nail polish whore.  Makeup on my face just irritates me and makes me sweat, which is why I generally don’t wear any; and I’m planning on bringing minimal makeup with me to Utah.  But I don’t feel “dressed up” if my nails are naked.

This is a fairly recent development, since when I was in school, I was a nail biter.  It took an act of will to leave my nails alone long enough for them to be  paintable.  And of course, my nails are naturally thin with a tendency to snag and rip.  So for the most part, I only needed two bottles of nail polish when I was in school – clear for pantyhose and tights, and black.  If I told you I wore a lot of plaid flannel, I bet you could pinpoint my graduation year pretty closely. 🙂 And since my toes were always locked in combat boots, I didn’t care what my toenails looked like.  Which is a good thing, because . . . lets not talk about that, mmkay?

Cut to now: I have literally every color of the rainbow in nail polish.  Except orange.  Because I hate orange, and 99% of oranges look awful on me.  I have also started going to the salon to get mani/pedis.  This started because my toenails actually were all long enough to do something with, but I’m still too big to be able to pull my knee to my chest and hold it while I try to paint my toenails. Soooooon . . .

For some reason, toenail polish (on me, YMMV) lasts for weeks and weeks and weeks; while polish on my fingernails lasts 2 days, max before getting a chip or snag or something.  Not a problem for me, I just go to my extensive polish collection and repaint.

I am not going to have time to repaint my nails in Utah.

So, I decided to try out gel nail polish (or shellac). Because my nails are so thin, I have never been interested in acrylic nails (seriously, I don’t need thinner nails which are permanently damaged on top of that).  But after doing a lot of research online, I decided that this would be the way to go if I want nice looking painted nails the entire time I was in Utah.  But I wanted to test them.  And luckily, I came to this decision more than a month before my trip. 🙂

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So my nails have had this pretty taupe color on them for the last 12 days.  As you can see, my nails have grown quite a bit since I got them painted (notice the unpainted nail by my cuticles?), but NO CHIPS.  In fact, the gel seems to have protected my nails from the snags I get constantly on the sides of my nails – I’ve only had to file a couple of rough spots over the past week and a half.  I did get a bad snag on my other hand, but I normally am filing every other day so this was definitely an improvement.

The plan is:

  1. Get manicure with gel nail polish.
  2. Go back to salon to get it removed when it looks like crud, or after 2 weeks – whichever comes first. (if it only lasted 3-4 days, it’s not worth it)
  3. Leave nails unpolished (or use my Julep nail polish, which allows oxygen get to the nail bed – important for recovery) for the next couple of weeks.
  4. Get manicure with gel nail polish the Monday before I leave so that my nails are fabulous all weekend long! (I’m thinking navy . . .) (also, remember to bring the sunscreen this time)
  5. Probably never get another gel manicure again, unless I have another trip where I want my nails to look nice for a week or more.
  6. Profit??? *grins*

Have you had a gel manicure?  How was your experience?  Also, if you are a nail polish whore like me and haven’t checked out Julep yet, you MUST GO. 🙂  If you want to help me earn credits, you can use this link.  I really am happy with their monthly boxes, and even splurged on the October full collection, because it’s awesome.  Not all of them are, though (September was fine, it just didn’t make me go “must have ALL THE POLISHES!!” the way October’s collection did).

Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap

A while ago, I wondered if Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap was all that it was reported to be. From travel websites to camping websites, it is spoken of in the hushed tones reserved for holy relics.  I wanted to see how it stacked up as a travel product, and how it worked with my finicky hair and skin.

My hair is super fine and super straight.  We are talking so straight and flat that when I have tried to get perms in the past, they fell out by the end of the day.  It used to be that my usual hairstyle was waist length hair, twisted into a knot on the top of my head, easy and it doesn’t matter how thin it is.  (But people were always amazed when I took my hair down because it looks like it would be shoulder length when it is in a bun.)

My skin is red head fair (though my hair hasn’t been red since I was a baby), sensitive and freckled.  For some reason, my body has decided that my 30’s would be the perfect time to have major acne breakouts, instead of my teens.

20140614-082913-30553858.jpgI got a 2 oz. bottle of lavender to take on our trip to San Antonio in June, to see how I liked using just it in a hotel room.  I also wanted to see how much I used.  As you can see, using nothing but this soap for my hair, my body, and some light laundry duty for five days (showering everyday)  I used about half the bottle.  I enjoyed the very herby scent of the lavender, but it may not be for everyone – this is not sweet, but a true lavender smell.  San Antonio has hard water, similar to Houston; so the soap took some coaxing to lather up nicely, but it washed away very quickly and cleanly.  As suggested by several websites, I also used a conditioner to keep my hair my from getting completely dried out.

I also got an 8 oz. bottle of the peppermint scent, to use at home in a controlled environment.  I have to admit, I was curious about the peppermint zing I read about, too.  Well, yeah, it zings, allright!  Once you figure out how to lather up correctly, the longer you let the peppermint soap sit on your body, the more it feels cool and tingly. Especially anywhere you might have a cut or scratch.

I did not try it out as toothpaste.  I just couldn’t bring myself to put soap in my mouth.

My son also used the peppermint, and loves it – but he has a serious thing for peppermint in all forms.

So, my reactions?

  • Out of the bottle, in the shower, the scents are kind of intense, but they quickly fade as the soap gets washed down the drain.
  • I’m not sure I would recommend these as shampoo for people with already dry hair – they seriously strip all the oils off your hair!  And if you have normal hair, I definitely agree with using a conditioner every time.
  • But, that being said, it was amazing for my hair!  My hair dried very quickly without a blowdryer, and fluffed out as it dried – something which doesn’t normally happen, even with “volumizing” shampoos.  I got a pretty style without the need for gel, mousse, or hairspray – which all weigh my hair down and make me sweat when I go outside in the heat and humidity.
  • As a soap it worked as well as other soaps (I tend to use handmade goats milk soaps, or Ivory).  It didn’t make my skin crawl with dryness like Ivory, but it didn’t moisturize as well as the goats milk soap.
  • It didn’t make me break out any worse than I normally do, but I would not recommend using the peppermint for your face.  The fumes get very intense, and the peppermint oil in the soap is not fun to have that close to your eye area (I did not get any IN my eyes, but the delicate skin around them sure reacted!).  Look into “beezin” for info on why peppermint oil near the eyes is bad.

I am worried about taking it to the desert, though.  It worked well in a humid area, and I didn’t notice too much dryness with my skin or hair – but Utah will be a different story.  I remember that the way that first rush of desert air feels when you leave the airport – my gills hurt just thinking about it! 🙂

Does anyone have any experience with using Dr. Bronner’s while traveling to the desert?  Preferably from a highly humid region. *grins* Thanks!

 

Hotel Cooking, the Menu

Whether you are traveling by yourself, with your family, or with your troop – you have to eat!  And sometimes the best room for the trip is the one that doesn’t come with a kitchenette.  Or a microwave.   Or a refrigerator.  By Mercury’s winged sandals, there had better be a coffee maker!!

Ahem.  Moving on.

Cooking in your hotel is one of the best ways to save money on a trip.  Eating out 3 or more times a day, especially at a hotel restaurant, can get super expensive super fast.  And cooking can cut those costs dramatically (just like it does at home).  But you have to have some equipment.  In my experience, the hotel room without a fridge is becoming scarce, and the room without a coffeemaker almost non-existent.  But as far as actual cooking?  Well, sometimes you have a full kitchenette in your suite, sometimes you have a microwave in your room (or down in the lobby), sometimes all you have is a coffeemaker.

There are several good resources online already for showing you how to cook using what is commonly available in a hotel room (and I’ll link to some at the end of this series of posts).  This is my menu plan when faced with a lovely room that only had a fridge and a coffee maker.

Day 1

  • Breakfast – coffee in the coffee maker; strawberries, yoghurt and granola
  • Lunch – turkey paninis made with the iron, salad
  • Dinner at Sea World, no point in leaving before the fireworks! 🙂

Day 2

  • Breakfast – coffee in coffee maker; rest of the granola, milk, banana slices
  • Lunch – rotisserie chicken, couscous made with the coffee maker, salad or veggies (I used the FBC method, rather than the Gizmodo method for the couscous)
  • Dinner out

Day 3

  • Breakfast – coffee in the coffee maker; muffins, all the leftover fruit
  • Lunch – a DIY assortment of pita bread, hummus, leftover chicken and turkey, carrots, celery, and cucumber slices
  • Dinner with Shamu (one of the splurges we were saving for)

Day 4

  • Breakfast – coffee in the coffeemaker; applesauce sandwiches grilled with the iron (to use the last of the bread)
  • Lunch – on the road!

So, if you’ll notice, I don’t really trust the coffeemaker to do my cooking.  Also, it takes soooooooo loooooong to cook things using a coffeemaker, even using techniques that make me trust the idea a bit more (like double heating the water by running it through twice and insulating the carafe with foil to raise the temperature.  I would rather be enjoying time with my family than babysitting a coffeepot.  Also, I will now be thoroughly cleaning every hotel room coffee maker and running an empty cycle through as soon as I get there based on what I now know people are doing in there.  I think it might be worth it to go buy a small bottle of white vinegar, just to be sure.

But when we got to the hotel room, I was struck kind of dumbfounded when I saw this:

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Yeah, kinda like a Keurig machine, only not.  I didn’t feel the need to immediately scrub the thing to get hot dog germs out of it, but I also was glad I didn’t plan anything that NEEDED to use a carafe to cook in.  I still could have done the couscous, though.  I just would have had to make it in individual servings, freezer bag cooking style instead of in one big batch.

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. 🙂