Friday, August 22, 2014

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things

Opera has her favorite things .... and Julie Andrews sang about them. I may not be able to give mine away to you all like the former does, and my list doesn't include raindrops on kittens or warm woolen mittens ... but I figured I would share it none-the-less.

My favorite shows should work around my schedule. Often times even if I am at home during a show, I'll purposefully start watching 15 minutes late so I can skip commercials.

Samsung Smart TV
When I bought my new TV, I really didn't think the Smart feature was that important. I was wrong. I love having all the useful apps and systems right on the TV. Amazon streaming, Hulu, it's all there. One of my favorite features is that I can look up videos on the YouTube app on my iPad and then send them to the TV to watch. Super handy.
Amazon Prime
Everything about it. 2 day shipping. Streaming of some of my favorite shows and movies. Prime music. The Kindle library. Amazon has pretty much infiltrated every part of my life.

Kindle Paperwhite
I love reading. Love. I read at the gym. Before bed. At restaurants. On the plane. Everywhere and anytime. So having over 1,000 books in my purse at all times is amazing. I seriously love this thing. And, I love that I can download books from the local library system. And the new Amazon Prime library for $10 a month. It is just so darn convenient. For example, I like to read while I workout, but it is pretty much impossible to read a real book on the treadmill as the pages don't stay open. But with this - it is soooo easy.

Sigg Water Bottle
Always used them. I have one for work and two at home for workouts, different sizes. I just like the weight of them, the mouth, colors/patters, and that they are made in Switzerland.
You can find at Amazon here
Kleenex Hand Towels
With bad skin like mine, I've had to learn a lot of tricks for trying to help my acne. One of them is that no matter how often you change you towels, they are still "dirty" after the first use. So, for my face, I use a fresh Kleenez hand towel every time.
Find them at Amazon here.
Philosophy Facial Care
My morning routine includes two of their products that I love: Clear Days Ahead face wash and Clear Makeup primer. The second is this amazing, silky cream that I apply before my foundation. It makes everything go on smooth and wrinkle free. Feels great!
Both available at Sephora. The Present can be found here. Clear Days Ahead here
Stilla Eyeliner
It took me a long time to find an eyeliner I like. I don't like the line I get from a pencil. And I am terrible with the little brush. This is the perfect product for me. Nice and dark, clean line, and thin.
Available at Sephora here
Beauty Blender
Gives a perfect air brushed foundation look. Love that thing!
Available at Sephora here. Or Amazon here
Big Sexy Hair Root Pump
I don't like spending much on hair product, and this definitely runs close to $17 a bottle, but it really works!
Find it on Amazon here.
No idea what we did before these. My life is on these devices. Beyond social, email and just plain old web, i track my calories with Lose It, check movie times with Flixster, write blog posts, etc. And I am a huge "to do" list person. Huge.

Lose It! App
Simple calories in and out app, but my favorite. I like that you can create recipes, repeat entire meals, add your own things, and that it has such a good database of restaurant and store foods. Also, I really like that you can just scan barcodes to find items.

Jean Paul Gaultier Le Male
This has been my scene for 14 years. I always wear the same thing ... and I love it. And yes, I do realize this is men's cologne. But I prefer that to flowery women's scents.
Available at Amazon here.
Skinny Pop
Yummy! And how awesome is it that they have a new cheddar flavor.
Available at Costco. Or on Amazon here.
I love sparking water. Love it. Plain water bores me. And I buy it from Costco ... by the case. I stock up when it's on rebate.
Yes. I am a single 29 year old woman, and I shop at Costco pretty much exclusively. Great fresh fruits, veggies and proteins. Hummus. Tzatsiki. Pellegrino by the case. Its grocery heaven. Also, cheaper gas AND alcohol ... including my favorite moscato brand. Delicious.

Marriott Visa/Delta Amex
Because two of my favorite things in live are shopping ... and earning valuable travel points. Perfect combination.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

11 Things I Always Remember to Pack For My Travels

As a frequent traveler, I have my own tips and tricks for things I always remember to pack. Here is my list of the top 11 things to always bring along on a trip.

*This list is developed with international travel outside the US in mind. I know you could just go to a local store in the US to get many of these, but abroad that is more challenging and expensive.

1. Outlet splitter 
I have a lot of electronics to charge each night. A lot. We are taking iPhone, iPad, possibly a laptop, definitely at least three different camera batteries, kindle, iPod etc. Not to mention just normal things that need to be plugged in, like my curling iron. In some countries and hotels, outlets aren't an issue. But, if you go to Europe, they are no where to be found. Seriously. There is ONE outlet buried deep behind the headboard and one at the desk. And you better hope you don't want to watch TV at the same time as you are charging, cause that sure as heck ain't happening. So for those types of situations, I always pack an outlet splitter. Only thing that helps. It takes that one measly outlet and turns it into 4!
From Amazon. Buy here.

2. USB splitter 
This is similar to the above. Why should you carry/plug in the "base" for the Kindle, iPhone, iPad, etc and have them each take up an outlet? Totally unnecessary. Get a handy thingy that just plugs into one outlet and gives you place for 3 or 4 USBs to plug in for all your devices.
From Amazon. Buy here

3. Adapter
But not just ANY adapator. No no. Get one of these fancy ones that has ALL the inputs and outputs for the whole world. Because it's so much easier to have just one that works everywhere. Done.
From Amazon. Buy here.
4. Leave in conditioner
I personally hate carrying around shampoo and conditioner and you can generally be assured a hotel will have some. But the conditioner is often bad quality and small in quantity. And if the water is hard, that can make for some vicious tangles. That's why I always have leave in conditioner with me so I can smoothly and easily swipe through my hair with my brush.

5. Band aids
Seriously. Cuts, blisters, you name it. Something is bound to happen.

6. Individually packed sanitary wipes
Whether cleaning your hands or the table or the chair, its always good to be clean!

7. Extra ziploc bags
Just in case you need it because you misplace one of the ones you had things in, or it breaks, or you need to pack away some small things you purchased. Or you need to steal some sand off the beach. Many uses.

8. Extra plastic shopping bags
Same as above really, but for shoes and dirty laundry. I always seem to lose the ones I come with, so I try and throw 2 extra in my bag.

9. Scarves
They can change up any outfit and are great for lots of reasons! If you are in Europe, you might need to cover your shoulders to go into a church. Or something to throw over said shoulders when outside if you are starting to burn. Also, you can spread it out if you for some reason really need to sit on something other than the ground/chair/bench. They are also GREAT for wrapping up anything you might have purchased along the way that is breakable. Like that vase ... or that bottle of liquor.

10. Reusable shopping bag
Always handy to have in your purse, just a simple and small folded-up reusable shopping bag. Great for stopping at the grocery store to get water before heading back to your hotel room (and you also save money, in most places outside the US you have to pay for bags at checkout). Or putting your picnic in for the park. Or even for your souvenirs - often times those little cheap baggies are totally worthless!

11. Shower shoes (aka flip flops)
Because ewwww. Who wants to walk around barefoot in hotels. Gross.

Top 10 | Why I Want To Be Annie Walker

At some point, I'll do an entire post about why I enjoy USA channel's originals shows. But for now, I just want to focus on one: Covert Affairs. Aka: the Annie Walker adventure.

Awhile back I discovered Covert Affairs and quickly caught up on the first season on Amazon streaming and have been addicted ever since. Seriously, this show is made for me! It has absolutely everything I love. It's like SATC meets Spy Game meets James Bond meets perfection.

If you haven't seen or heard of Cover Affairs (huge loss), here is the basic premise: Annie Walker is a field operative for the CIA. The show is based on her life in the CIA and the operations she runs and her relationships. There are usually smaller arcs for a single or multiple episodes, and some longer full season arcs as well that thread everything together. Through it al, Annie has her faithful (and blind) handler at Langley - Auggie. She also has her boss and her boss's boss - Joan and Arthur Campbell - and some others. She also has personal relationships with intense men ... though often times the lines between personal and professional blur with these men. Oh, and she has amazing clothes, shoes, and handbags. Boom.

If that's not a recipe for an awesome hour of television each week, then I don't know what is.

And each week while I watch the show, I say to myself (or out loud ... you know ... to my TV), "I want to BE Annie Walker". And it's true! Give me some training and a CIA badge and set me loose, cause this sure looks like fun!

So, here are the top 10 things I love about Cover Affairs. Or, "why I want to be Annie Walker":

1. Amazing adventures 
To say that her life and career are merely exciting would be a gross understatement. Annie leads a life that defines adventure. Her job is to go out and basically find and get into trouble. To partake in car chases in exotic locations, evade local police, seek valuable information, follow her gut, jump out of airplanes, and even fake her own death. She gets to pick up and go whenever she is needed or wants and adventure is almost always guaranteed. She is independent and has the trust of her superiors to track down leads, run her own opps, and even go off the grid.

2. Exotic travel
Self explanatory. Much of her work takes places out of the country. One day she is clocking in at Langley, the next she is on a plane to Amsterdam/Hong Kong/Columbia/Paris/Dublin/you name it. And she gets to go off the beaten path. And have the amazing adventures noted in #1 above.

3. Intense relationships
There are two kinds of relationships - romantic and work/friends. Annie has amazing ones on both sides. Within her work relationships, she has people who trust, respect and admire her, which leads to amazing assignments and certain freedom with the agency. And on the romantic side, well, what can I saw. The woman has got it good. Every man she seems to go for falls for her. From the bad boys to the good. And they are all so full of adventure themselves, the fit her life perfectly. And although she has yet to find "the one" (I think she did, but the show cruelly took him away), she sure is having fun looking along the way. And with every relationships, she discovers more of herself. She finds these amazing men that respect her, challenge her, embrace her need for adventure, and compliment her in every way. Sigh.

4. Playing a role
Who wouldn't want to be a reporter on assignment in Paris one day, a call girl in DC the next, and a rep for the Smithsonian on a buying trip to London after that?

5. A sense of purpose
She is making a difference. Doing something. Protecting something.

6. The men 
In her line of work, you meet men that are a little on the bad boy side. Ok ... more like a lot. But you know what? That's a good thing. Nothing boring about her men. They are all just like Annie - seeking an adventure (and looking might fine while doing it).

7. Trust
Her superiors at the agency trust Annie and her skills. They give her independence, allow her flexibility and let her follow her instinct. Yes, there is protocol, but Annie has an amazing instinct that hae led her to make the right call more times than not. Also, she is amazing at getting others to trust her. Very important when part of your job and getting people to trust you, put themselves at risk for you and becomes assets for the CIA.

8. Language skills ... and other skills in general
Six languages. NBD. And they all come in handy on those exotic travels and awesome adventures. No to mention other great skills and training like evasive driving, marksmanship, lock-picking, forgery, picking pockets, interrogation, and whatever else they teach on "the farm".

9. Cover at the Smithsonian 
Although Annie takes on make covers, her main one is as an acquisitions expert at the Smithsonian. So, that's pretty awesome. Access to amazing art, the occasional buying trip to maintain her cover, and getting to work in the art/museum world (sort of). Considering my love of art and art history major, I love this!

10. The wardrobe ... the hair ... the glamour!
Whether it is a perfectly tailored suit and classic Louboutins at Langely. Or an amazing evening gown for an undercover opp at the embassy. Or perhaps boots and a jacket and scarf while tracking down a lead in the dessert. Or even a sundress and espadrilles in Cuba. Annie makes it look good. She does for the CIA what James Bond does for MI6 - makes it look glamorous. Seriously. I envy her wardrobe. And her hair.

And ...

If the soundtrack to Annie's life is anything like the soundtrack for the show, that's an awesome added perk. Here is one of my favorite songs from recent episodes that is now on repeat in my playlists.

Monday, August 18, 2014

5 Years. 4 Weddings. 9 Kids.

A lot can happen in 5 years.

A lot.

6 years ago I started working in the “real world” and made some good friends whose relationships I greatly value. And then one year later – 5 years ago – we went to Vegas to together.

Now – we all know – what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. So I won’t be commenting on that …

Livin' it up in Vegas and having my own little fab camear moment. Boom! Head thrown back, hand on hip, natural laugh-out-loud smile. Done! And ... wow! I didn't remember my hair being that dark. Wow!

But, I’ll comment on the 5 years since then.

Because a lot has happened in those 5 years.

When the six of us went to Vegas together, here were the stats:

  • 1 married
  • 1 engaged
  • 4 seriously dating someone
  • 1 single (me)

Fast forward 5 years. A lot has changed.

4 weddings.

9 kids (9!!!!).

And that’s all them … the 5 other girls on the trip.

Me …. I’m still single.

If you had asked us if there would be 9 kiddos amongst us while we were lounging poolside in Vegas 5 years ago, I doubt the answer would have been "heck yeah".

So yeah, a lot can change in 5 years. Just not necessarily for me and not in the same way. 

But my life is amazing. And I am still surrounded my these great gals ... and now their amazing families! And me? I get to do my thing! In 5 years I have:
  • Taken 25 trips 
  • Including 13 out of the country 
  • And to 5 new countries 
  • Gotten promoted ... 3 times ...
  • Changed apartments twice to my current amazing place
  • Bought a new car
  • Seen hundreds of amazing movies ... many in early screenings ...
  • And had countless other awesome experiences! 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

You Say Potato. I Say Tomato.

Going on a vacation is not the same thing as traveling.

Vacation/travel is not like potato/potatoh (or however you would spell that pronunciation). 

It's more like potato/tomato.  

Even the definitions are different. Travel is “a journey”. Vacation is “an extended period of recreation”. That about boils it down to the very basics. Traveling is about exploration, the path, the road you take and the adventures you have along the way. Vacationing is about recreation, relaxing, unwinding.

Don’t get me wrong, there is definitely a place for vacations in this world. It is the place where the word “all inclusive” lives, as well as umbrella drinks and white sand beaches and days on end spent going from your room to the pool to the beach and back to your room (and repeat).
White sand beach - check. Perfectly clear water - check. Nap on the beach - check. Wardrobe consisting exclusively of bikinis and cover-ups - check. 
Any good vacation necessitates an umbrella drink. 
But that’s not what traveling is. Traveling is about the get-up-and-go. It’s about fully experiencing and exploring a culture. It’s about adventure. It’s about grocery store picnics and pockets full of ticket stubs.

Iceland. Exploring a glacier. Driving off the main road and almost getting the car stuck a few times to find this hidden gem of a spot with not a single soul around. So quiet and peaceful and like nothing else. 
Travel is about meeting the people, exploring the culture. 
Umbrella drinks do not come standard.

Me? I’m a traveler. I don’t vacation. Rarely have in my life. I can count on one hand the vacations I have taken:  went to CanCun twice when I was kid, and went to the Cook Islands two years ago (and the later actually lives more in a grey area since it was a very different and unique culture that we embraced … but there were umbrella drinks ….). But my travels? Those would take hours and pages to go through. I've been to nearly every country in Europe and Asia (some 2 to 3 to 4 times). I've driven the passes in the Alps, I've ridden elephants in Thailand, I've eaten amazing food in India, I've gotten lost on the streets of London/Paris/Madrid/Prague, and I've been to nearly every major museum in the world.

Traveling is part of my identity … its part of who I am. I cannot explain me without talking about it. I cannot list my hobbies or interests without mentioning travel. It just cannot be done. It’s all connected. Travel for travel itself is of course important to me. But almost everything else I care about in life in some way comes from travel. My photography … passion for art … interest in writing … interest in food … time spent with my family … it all comes down to traveling. It has shaped me. Defined me. Made me who I am.

I don’t think you can say that about a vacation.

A week spent sitting on a beach in Can-Cun once a year is fun … but I don’t think it molds you the way traveling does.

And that’s fine, I totally get that it is not for everyone at every part of their lives. And I totally get that some people just don’t care for it. It’s not relaxing and they want a beach. That's a-ok. I also completly realize that some place have a good blend of both ... beach and hiking and rain forest and exploration (that's Hawaii, right?). I get that. But you still go into each trip thinking - am I traveling? or vacationing?  

For some, traveling is something you do in college or when you retire. And in between you vacation because you have family and work and stress. That’s totally fine and your choice.

For others, like me, you just can't stop the wanderlust. It’s always there. And you don’t let kids or jobs or anything else stop you. In fact … you embrace it and (in the words of Tim Gunn), you make it work!

Personally, I get bored vacationing. I want adventure. I want to SEE. I want to DO. I am more willing to wake up early when I am traveling then when I am home just to go to work. I want to take in everything I can and enjoy all aspects of a new city/country/neighborhood.

My study abroad in Bacelona is a good example of this. While most everyone else in my group was gone every weekend for 3 days trips to Paris or Oktoberfest or Greece, I stayed in Barcelona. I spent every weekend in a different little neighborhood exploring all the hidden parks and restaurants, or perhaps venturing on a day trip to wherever the bus or train would take me for the afternoon. I wanted to know everything there was to know about the area.

There’s probably a little bit (lot a bit) of FOMO built into me … that has something to do with this too.

But … it’s still all about THE JOURNEY.

Traveling and vacationing are two different things.

And I’ll take traveling any day of the week.

And … I’ll put my money where my mouth is … literally. I spend every last dollar I can on taking amazing trips. And I will continue to do so and prioritize travel in my life. From the way I spend my money to the way I use my vacation days to the credit cards I choose to open (hello MILES!). And no matter what life may throw at me – a boyfriend/fiance/husband, kids, career change, whatever – I will always make travel a priority. Because it is Who. I. Am.

A traveler.

I realize and know that I have been very lucky and have had many amazing opportunities in my life that many others do not. I know that traveling is something that many cannot do. I don't mean to sound snooty or spoiled and entitled as I related these feelings. I realize how lucky and blessed I am ... I really really do. And these are just my feelings on the matter. 

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