Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Packing Light

I used to pack an obscene amount when I travelled. I always worried about contingencies. What if it rains every day of a two week trip? Alternatively, what if there's a heat wave every day of the trip? I would pack for both and then have a month's worth of clothes for a two week trip.

When I was fifteen I left the country for the first time on an eighteen day trip to Europe. If memory serves, I took five big bags. I had so much that in the tiny Parisian hotel room I was sharing with two other girls, there was not enough room for my luggage and I had to leave two of my bags in the hallway.

Many years later in life, while backpacking around China, I realized I hardly needed anything to travel. I was away for several months with only what I could carry one my back. It was incredibly liberating. I love the feeling that I can make do with very little.

For this ten day trip to Alaska, I have only brought what I can fit in a carry-on suitcase. The suitcase is full, but I do not need to expand the bag or sit on it to close it. Honestly, I could have brought less too, but I need options since the ship has what sounds like a pretty strict dress code.

Including what I'm wearing on the plane, I have packed:

2 pairs of jeans
5 tops
1 sweater
1 velvet blazer
1 dress
10 pairs of underwear
11 pairs of socks
3 bras
1 bathing suit
1 bathing suit cover up
1 pair of pyjamas
1 pashmina wrap
1 pair of flip flops
1 pair of shoes
12 AA batteries (for my camera)
toiletries and makeup
5 pairs of earrings and a bracelet

I plan to wear each top twice, mixing the look up with the blazer, sweater, wrap, and jewelry. I'm sure you realize that choosing pieces that match with everything else allows you to pack lightly, but I think it's important to recognize that choosing a color palate is important.

I know mixing brown and black is all the rage now, but I'm not feeling it. I choose either black or brown as my base neutral and work from there. You can see that everything I picked for this trip is black, grey or white. This is allows me to bring only one pair of shoes and and one set of accessories. In my everyday life, I normally wear a lot more color than this, but for a week and a half, I can deal with being drab. Besides, I have a bright blue wrap to add color and my jewelry adds color too.

In the same way that I base my clothes off a brown or black palette, I choose to either bring silver jewelry or gold jewelry so that I can mix and match pieces. On this trip, this isn't so much a factor because I'm not bringing necklaces that need to coordinate, but in general, I find the principle helpful.

What has really freed me from bringing everything but the kitchen sink when I travel is the awareness that if I really need something and didn't pack it, I can just buy it there. Even if I'm traveling to a remote developing nation, chances are, if it's something I REALLY need, they'll have it. And you know what, in all my travels, and I travel quite a bit, I have only ever not brought something I needed twice.

Once, I went on a long weekend trip to Pennsylvania Amish country and I was staying in a hostel because I was traveling alone. I forgot to bring a towel. (Hostels usually don't provide towels.) The first night, when I realized my mistake, I dried off with my dirty clothes when I got out of the shower. It wasn't my favorite thing in the world to do, but I lived. Then the next day I went to a store and bought a towel. It was ugly and brown and scratchy, but it got the job done for the next few days. No biggie.

Another time, I was in Africa and was bitten by something and was having a terrible allergic reaction to it. It was actually pretty frightening. My entire face was swollen and burning. (I was traveling alone then too.) I didn't have any benadryl, but I was able to stay calm and look on the internet for the name of the active ingredient in benadryl. (Benadryl is just a brand name and therefore can be called different in different parts of the world.) I wrote the name of the medicine down on a scrap of paper and took it to the pharmacy. Turns out, they didn't have benadryl, but they gave me some other type of antihistamine and again I lived to tell the tale.

Moral of the story, even if you do have to buy something, chances are it'll cost you less to buy it than it will to check a bag on an airplane. Even if you're not traveling by plane, schlepping around a bunch of luggage is a pain in the butt and makes you more likely to leave something behind. Though I'm not a minimalist in my everyday life, I like to travel like I'm one.

Do you pack a lot or a little?

Friday, May 20, 2011

Now Accepting Bets

While we were packing:

Me: Who do you think would win in a fight, Snooki or Lady Gaga?

Chuk: Snooki.

Me: I agree, even though I think Lady Gaga is bigger and older.

Chuk: Snooki is like a weasel, small and feisty. She would just get in there and not stop. Weasels can take down big game.

Me: Plus I bet Lady Gaga is a pacifist.

So who do you think would win in a fight?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Social Savings II

I didn't plan on making this a multi-part series, but after I wrote the last post, I thought of more ways friends and neighbors can save you money or you can save your friends and neighbors money.

1. Rides to the airport. In fact, while you're reading this, I'm on a plane now and I'm so thankful our friend offered to give us a ride to the airport. We had an early flight so we were not able to take public transportation. A ride from our friend saved us cab fare.

2. Sharing perks. A former co-worker at a temp assignment I had last fall had an Amazon Prime membership. He ordered things for me from his account and had them shipped to my address and I would just pay him for it in cash. Free two day shipping was a major score for me.

3. Streaming movies. I have never done this, but I know people who do. One person with a Netflix account will give their code to someone else to allow them to steam movies over the internet. I think it gets into murky ethical waters, but the idea of sharing services is one that can be applied to other areas.

4. Trading services. When I was growing up, my parents participated in a babysitting co-op, in which they swapped evening babysitting services with one another so they rarely had to pay for childcare. Since I've learned to cut Chuk's hair, I've offered to cut his friends' hair and my father-in-law's hair.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Protecting the Homefront

I try to be eco-friendly, but when it comes to six-legged home invaders, I make compromises. I've tried all the green bug killers, but none of them have worked for me. I have to go for the hard-core poison. I spent the afternoon spraying the apartment. Hopefully, this will keep the creepy crawlies away until next year.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Grad School on the Cheap

I don't know that I've mentioned it here, but we found out a couple of months ago that Chuk got into his #1 choice for grad schools, and incidentally, if you'll indulge me in a little bragging, it is also one of the best schools in the program for his field of study.

For the last couple of months, we've been discussing what would be the best way to pay for tuition. Should we use our savings? Should we get a loan? Turns out, the best way to get your spouse through grad school on the cheap is to marry a genius. We found out last night Chuk got both a merit scholarship and an assistantship. I honestly could not be more proud. I've shared the news with everyone I know in real life and since I still have that "shout it from the rooftops" feeling, I wanted to share our good news with all of you too. Yay! We're so happy.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Social Savings

Your friends can save you money. I'm not referring to Groupon or Living Social (you're already using those, right?) but rather creating a reciprocal relationship with your social circle that is financially beneficial to you both. Saving money can be a natural extension of friendship.

The classic example is borrowing a cup of sugar (or whatever) from your neighbor. It saves you from making a last minute trip to the store, which saves gas and possibly saves you from making impulse purchases.

Recently, when my internet went out, I borrowed my neighbors' WiFi. Going through that ordeal made me realize we could split the cost of internet with our neighbors and share WiFi. This would give us a 50% savings on cable internet. (We already have a wireless modem.) Chuk vetoed the idea for reasons I don't completely understand, but the next time our rate increases, I'm going to lobby for it again. For security reasons, you should only share with people you trust, but I totally trust our neighbors.

These same neighbors even have a key to our apartment. When we go on vacation, they watch our cat for us. In my area, having someone drop by once a day to take care of my pet would cost at least $20/day. (I live in an expensive area!) My neighbors have said we don't have to pay them, but we usually give them $5-$10 a day, which is still a big savings for us.

Our friendship has benefited our neighbors, too. When one of their cars died, we offered to let them borrow our car while theirs was being repaired. We only use a car about once as week for shopping, but they need two cars daily for work, so it was no trouble for us to lend them one.

When I was growing up, our next door neighbors' lawn mower died. Instead of buying a new one, they just borrowed ours' when they needed it. Sometimes, they would make their son mow our lawn too, so it was a win for everyone, except their son.

My final idea gets into murkier ethical waters, but you can also share warehouse club membership with friends and split the cost. Most of these clubs charge you about $50 a year for basic membership, which includes two membership cards. If you and your friend sign up for the membership at the same time, you can each get a card. My favorite local warehouse club is now frowning upon this, I think too many people were doing it, and it's not something I do, but I have brought my friends to the store when I'm shopping and we've just purchased our items in two transactions using only my card. As far as I understand, this is totally allowed. You could also just do one transaction and split the bulk items and the cost. This works especially well for people with limited storage space.

Do you have any more ideas for how you can save your friends money or how they can save you money?

photo credit

Sunday, May 15, 2011


Do you want to read super-personal things about me? I thought so.

Yesterday, I had to run out of the library so I could throw up on the lawn multiple times.

My boobs are so big I had to buy a new bra. Speaking of boobs, my nipples are so sensitive that it hurts when my shirt brushes against them.

Are you thinking what I'm thinking?

The problem with admitting I'm trying to have a baby is that I assume everything means I pregnant. The anxiety every month sucks. I can't even take a pregnancy test because it's too early.

On the plus side, Chuk saw his doctor last week and he took him off the medication that likely reduced his sperm count (it reduces it to zero for 90% of men who take it) and the doctor has ordered sperm count tests for now and a month from now. The doctor is hopeful the count could be back to normal levels within three months. At least we're on the right track.

So there's every personal thing you ever (didn't) want to know about me. Did it make you want to barf? Well, at least you didn't do it in front of the library. Talk about embarrassing!

I'm lusting after the rocker above. It is totally going in my imaginary baby's room.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Sickness Statistics

7: Days feeling crappy

3: Number of massages I forced my husband to give me because I was so ache-y

2: Number of boxes of kleenex I have gone through

13: Average number of hours a day I have been sleeping

0: Number of days this week I have done my chores (Zero is also the number of clean plates we have in the cabinet. Go figure.)

1: Number of jumbo bags of cough drops I have consumed

2: Number of days Chuk had to stay home from work

6: Number of days we have slept in separate rooms

Good news is, I think we're on the mend. Chuk is 100% better and I am spending fewer and fewer of my waking hours lying on the living room floor moaning. Thank goodness because we're off to Alaska next week. Yay!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Tickle, tickle, tickle

Is it weird that I think this is cute in a twisted way? I can't help it; I just love how she pronounces the word "squirrel".

Monday, May 9, 2011

Scenes from the Weekend

My father-in-law, sister-in-law, and niece came to stay with us this weekend and we had a wonderful time. I have not always had the closest relationship with my in-laws, but I really feel like we got a lot closer to each other this weekend. We had a lot of fun and several heart-to-heart talks. This weekend was the first Mothers' Day since my mother-in-law died and Wednesday is her birthday. We were all feeling pretty emotional, but it allowed us to get real with each other in a way we haven't before. I feel really good about it.

It wasn't all seriousness though. We spent time relaxing at home:

Playing Atari (yes, Atari) after the "monkey" went to bed.

We explored the National Building Museum:
This picture makes my heart tingle. I can hardly wait to see him as a dad.

We played at the park:

Not pictured is the celebration of my father-in-law's birthday, dinner at a local Thai restuarant, monkey's first tantrum, monkey's first ride on the metro, and my husband and all my in-laws falling asleep in the living room while trying to wait for Saturday Night Live to come on.

Also, the sore throats Chuk and I have now. We suspect the culprit might be too many baby kisses on the mouth because she is recovering from strep throat, but we hope we're wrong. Getting strep would suck. I feel like I just got over bronchitis; I've already paid my sickness dues. The kisses were worth it though. She is the sweetest.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Don't You Hate It When...

Don't you hate it when you're trying to make a birthday cheesecake at one o'clock in the morning for your father-in-law and you discover that your springform pan is broken? Or is it just me that this stuff happens to?

I'm making it work, but if you can recommend a good quality pan that doesn't cost a million dollars, I'm open to suggestions. This is the second pan that's broken on me in the last year.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

I am the best wife in the world.

Chuk is working on his bike tonight at the co-op so I have the evening alone. I made brownies from scratch. Won't he be surprised? Alas, I did not wash the dishes that need hand watching. Won't he be surprised? Sadly, no. (I did load and run the dishwasher though!)