My very favorite thing to buy when I travel is EARRINGS! It is completely possible to have too many coffee mugs and magnets, but I don't think it is possible to have too many earrings, especially when each one has a story. However, packing earrings when traveling can be a nightmare. I usually put them in a small pouch and they end up in a tangled mess. Knowing we will be on the road for roughly 7 months of 2017, I knew I needed a better solution. I scoured the house for something I could repurpose, and I ended up with this great solution without buying anything new!
STEP ONE :
Find a pouch that is the perfect size for your earring collection. If you travel a lot, you will probably have something like this lying around. Otherwise you could sew something with scrap fabric, or pick up an inexpensive one at the store.
STEP TWO :
Cut a piece of extra-thick card stock to fit easily inside your pouch. I cut out the side of a cereal box and it was the perfect thickness.
STEP THREE :
Lay out all of the earrings you want to bring on your trip. You'll want to organize them by length on your diy earring rack, so its good to be able to see everything you are working with.
STEP FOUR :
When organizing your earrings, you will inevitably find that one who's match has completely disappeared. I used this to punch my holes. It will work best if it is a straight, thick stud. It will probably end up bent in the end, so don't use a good earring. You could also poke your holes with a thick sewing needle. After punching each pair of holes, go ahead and put the earrings in the holes, so that you can get accurate spacing for the next pair.
STEP FIVE :
Continue until your card is completely full.
STEP SIX :
Slide the card easily into your pouch and you are ready to go!
Add a mini-binder clip and hang up your earrings at home or on-the-go for easy access anywhere.
During our recent road trip, which ended at the Sula Vineyards in Nashik, we diverted from the main highway and took some back roads through the rural farmlands of Maharastra. Not much needs to be said apart from these gorgeous pictures. Enjoy the pictures and Happy Weekend!
As a veteran packer and traveller, I have nailed packing for my family down to a science. For me, its all in the list. I start my list a week in advance and then begin packing only hours from departure time. Its my fail-safe way from forgetting essential items.
As I started my packing list last week for our trip to Bangalore, India, I began toying with the idea of going digital. Luke tried for a good three years to get me to go digital with our grocery list, but I thought it overcomplicated things to the point of inconvenience. I liked my pen, my paper, and the joy of physically crossing off each item on the list. But the definite advantage to a digital list is that it does help you think through the items that you need to put on the list. I decided to at least give it a try for this trip.
Since it was an experiment, I didn't want to spend any money up front. I downloaded three free apps before settling on one that suited our needs.
Pack by Dejal Systems - This was the first app I downloaded, which I quickly deleted. I didn't like how it organized the items by alphabetical order rather than category and the overall look of the app didn't give me enough motivation to try to re-sort it.
SimplPak by Simpl Studios - This one appealed to me, because as the name says, it is simple. It gives three categories, which is how I also categorize my packing (clothing, accessories, essentials). But it ended up being too simple. I could not figure out how to change the category names or even how to mark off packed items.
TripList by Enabled Apps LLC - This one was a winner! While there are quite a few functions available only with the in-App purchases, it was versatile enough to suit my needs and simple enough to navigate.
Pre-built Item Catalog - There are 8 categories, which can only be changed with the paid version, but they were pretty accurate to my list anyways. Inside the categories, there was no option of adding different items, but you can add new items to the packing list and have them directly saved to the catalog.
The Packing List - Once you've added items to your packing list (either manually or by selecting them from the catalogue), you can adjust the quantity and even make sub-items with the item. This was my favorite!
To-Do List - I liked that the To-Do list was incorporated into the packing list. You inevitably have a to-do list before any trip, so its great to keep track of them in one place. You can set deadlines and reminders for these to make sure you don't miss anything. What a great feeling to see all of the items crossed out!
The Paid Version - If you upgrade, you can access features like weather forecasts, color and theme customization and adding your own categories. For the time being, I don't need it, but if I stick with the digital list I will probably upgrade.
The summer travel season is coming to a close. We took three trips this summer - one out of the country, one out of the state, and one just outside of our city. Travel has become part of every day life for us. We have spent the last five years in planes, trains and automobiles across the world.
There is one time I remember other passengers complaining about someone in my family. Honesty time... it was ME. I was 13 and traveling on a plane for the first time. That was also the one and only time I have ever been upgraded to first class due to overbooking. My ears hurt so bad that I didn’t realize I was stomping loudly on the floor. A stewardess politely came over and asked me to stop because I was disturbing people. Oops. I was humiliated and stopped immediately. But when my 2 month old has been screaming during the ear-popping descent, I don’t ever remember feeling judged by anyone. Or maybe I was too tired to care.
A couple of months ago, I wrote about water. We were in the heat of the Indian summer and water was scarce all over the city. Now we have rain!! It is hard to describe the beauty and comfort of a good rainfall after not seeing rain for the past 8-9 months. You see, here there are 3 seasons : Winter (Nov-Feb), Summer (March-May), Monsoon (June-September). Some people call October second summer, but you also may get some scattered showers. These dates are all very approximate depending on the year and what part of the country that you live in. But generally, the only time that it rains is during monsoon. Since this is a season that we in the west are unfamiliar with, I thought I'd share some of the great things about it!
Everything is in High-Definition
After going so long without rain, its not just the grass that withers away and becomes a dull brown. There is dust and pollution in the air and on everything! When the rain comes, it is like your car being washed after a drive down a dirt road. Everything looks more vibrant - the sky, the buildings, even billboards. Only then do you realize what was lacking all that time. There is a mountain range a couple hours from our home, and during monsoon, we can see them so clearly! Its beautiful.
Its a Great Time to Travel
While we typically don't think of rain and vacation going very well together, during monsoon they do! There are definitely places where the quality of the roads becomes terrible, if not un-driveable, so you must do your homework. But this is the perfect time for a weekend getaway. In our state, we have a lot of small mountain ranges. During monsoon, small waterfalls cascade of these cliffs. Chai, pakoda and roasted corn stalls line the scenic lookouts along the roads. Every year during this time, we try to getaway for a day or two with a big group of friends. Its wonderful.
The Showers of Spring but the Feel of Fall
Though it rains all year long in the US, spring is certainly when it rains more. Luke and I are both from tornado alley, so we are well familiar with the crazy storms that are concentrated in April and May. Monsoon may sound like spring, but it also brings the comfort of fall because the weather is cooling down rather than heating up. While sitting on our balcony during a good rain we can almost get the "smell of fall" that we miss like crazy.
Cravings for Comfort Food
The cooler weather and the steady rainfall definitely make me want to curl up on the couch with a good book, or take a long afternoon nap. It also makes me feel like cooking. And like eating. American food. Our diet is about 75% local cuisine. The times when we eat American food is usually when we want to cook it for guests, when we are at the mall or for breakfast (because we still can't handle vegetables right when we wake up). Rarely, rarely do I cook an American meal for just us. But during monsoon I crave it. Last week I splurged on six blocks of cheese and I plan to use up every bite before it goes bad! So perhaps during monsoon, you will find me in the kitchen and find my cook outside with the kids playing in the rain.
Let me take you waaaay back to 2012 for a moment... We were traveling every other weekend for the first half of the year, then in May 2012 we had a baby, went on a family vacation to Colorado, came home, packed up all of our stuff and moved out of our apartment, drove across the US for a couple months, until we finally "settled" in our new home overseas when baby was 4 months old. Since then we have been traveling at the very least every six months, not to mention little mini-trips to the beach or weddings mixed in between.
All this to say, I should be an expert packer. Should be. But during last year's trip to Singapore, I still managed to forget the sunscreen I had bought on sale and had to spend loads of extra money buying some there. And then there was that recent wedding trip where I forgot Luke's shirt and he had to buy a new one he definitely didn't need. And overpacking? At the end of a trip I hate packing up and realizing we didn't use half of the things and could have had a lighter load for the trek home or more space for good souvies.
We all get excited about vacation and usually want to start prepping early. This is the time to start your packing LIST. You can start it as far in advance as you want. A year? A month? Go for it. But start it at least one week in advance.
I am a pen and paper kind of girl. I hate making lists on my phone. I like to use a notebook, not a single sheet of paper or I will definitely lose it in an hour. I get sharpies, glitter pens, whatever is close by that I can doodle with and make the list pretty. Its not required, but you might just have more fun if your list is pretty. Make categories of items - Clothes, Toiletries, Accessories and Essentials. Essentials are vital things that you CANNOT leave home without, like passports and child's blankie. Start listing everything you can think of. Then leave it out in the open so you can easily add items as you think of them.
To prevent overpacking, you should find out from your accommodations what they provide for kids. Many hotels have pack-n-plays, high chairs, pool floaties and laundry services. If you are staying with friends/family, they may also have these on hand or be able to borrow them for your stay. The less gear you have to lug around an airport or stuff in your car, the happier everyone will be! While I was packing for our last trip, my friend recommended having diapers shipped directly to the hotel - BRILLIANT! Diapers can take up a huge amount of luggage space!
DON'T PACK AHEAD
Approximately one week before your trip, people might start asking "Have you started packing?" Certainly within days of your trip, they will be shocked if the answer is "No!" But let not this societal pressure deceive you. Packing ahead can actually be a huge inconvenience.
1. Its a Mess - You can only do a partial job here. You will still need your toothbrushes, and may still want to wear some of your clothes before the trip. You will end up with half-packed, open suitcases that have been dug through intentionally by you or playfully by a curious toddler.
2. You will forget stuff - That curious toddler will probably take some stuff and run, and you won't realize what went missing until its too late. Its also harder to remember what you have put in or left out if the packing is done over the course of several days.
3. It will take a whole lot longer - You will pack and re-pack and the total time you spend, in my experience, will be about double that of packing at the last minute.
HOW TO PACK
Now that your packing list has been thoroughly thought through for at least a week, all of your laundry is clean, and you are within 24 hours of your departure time - you can let loose the luggage.
1. Clothes - This trip, I made neat piles of clothing for each family member to ensure I had the correct number of everything on my list. My list looked like this.. "4 shirts, 3 shorts, 5 undies, etc." I simply told the kids "Go pick out 4 shirts. Done. Go pick out 3 shorts. Etc. They will probably want to help and this is a great way to let them. Once I was sure I had all of the necessary clothing items, I put them in the suitcase, person by person. This also makes unpacking super easy.
2. Be Patient - Don't cross anything off the list until it is in the suitcase. And putting something next to the suitcase doesn't count. Wait until it is INSIDE the bag. If it is something like a stroller, that won't go in a suitcase, cross it off only once it is next to the front door.
3. Leave it - Once the bag is full, you can zip it up and put it by the front door, confident that you will not need to open it again until you are in paradise (or your friend's basement, wherever you might be headed).
4. Essentials - Do a last minute double check of your Essentials category right before you walk out the door. This will be easy because they will all be in one organized place on your pretty little list.
If you plan ahead and do the packing all at once, the packing should only take a couple hours, max. Have your own packaging tips or strategies? Let me know in the comments section.
Now, as daunting as it might feel, packing up a big family for vacation is probably the easiest part. Check out my post on 9 Tips for Vacationing with Kids.
Up Close and Personal
By far, my favorite part of the whole thing was getting to touch the elephants. After the show, the trainers and elephants play with the crowds, giving out elephant hugs and kisses and tons of photo ops. You are expected to tip them for this, by giving the money to the elephant, who passes it to the trainer with his trunk. I was happy to pay a little extra for this once in a lifetime opportunity.
Is it Ethical?
As much as I enjoyed seeing the elephants, I did wonder what goes on behind the scenes and worried that the elephants might not be treated fairly. I mean, is it really right to train them for all of these gimmicks and make them walk around all day with tourists on their backs? But then, is it any different than using other animals for labour? It is certainly preferable to some zoos where I have seen elephants chained by the ankles. I truly hope that the elephants are treated well when the customers aren't there. I came away from here with a greater appreciation for these amazing animals and I think that is worth something. However, if I wasn't traveling with my kid crew, I would probably prefer one of the less touristy elephant sanctuaries.
After the trip I was motivated to redesign my elephant baby shower invitation, especially after seeing the cute little six month old elephant at Maesa. You can check out these designs and more in my Etsy shop!
March 22 was World Water Day, so maybe this is a bit late in coming. But here in India, water conservation is an every day reality, especially in the last two months of summer before the monsoon rains hit in June.
Our city in particular is at 21% of the water capacity that it should be. And we still have at least six weeks before we will see rain. But its the rural communities that get hit the hardest. Some small villages have ZERO water, and rely on water tanker trucks to bring in water from other parts of the country. Since we live in a fairly affluent apartment complex, the water makes it to our home. And my biggest inconvenience has been last week's city-wide mandate to drain all the swimming pools. But it helped me to realize even more that every drop really does count. I'm trying to do my part by thoroughly examining every piece of laundry that goes into the hamper, stopping the cloth diapers for a while, helping the kids take speed showers and making sure we don't dirty unnecessary dishes.
The irony is that Luke landed in Houston on Sunday night to witness what 16 inches of rain in 24 hours looks like. Of course, I made the joke that Luke ought to bring some of it back with him. But water is a resource that really can't be just redistributed. So what can the West do?
Funny you should ask, because I just finished reading "The Blue Sweater" by Jacqueline Novogratz. She records her journey of redefining philanthropy, striving to see more sustainable change through a combination of non-profit and profit-producing ventures. It is really sad to hear about how many good intentioned philanthropic projects can actually be harmful to those in need. Novogratz taught me that it is not as simple as bringing a new technology (a well, for instance) and training a few people. Often a shift of thinking in the entire community needs to take place, which can be a hard-fought battle, especially if attempted by an outsider. My biggest take-away is to research, research, research any organization that is promising big things with your dollar. Find out how their projects sustain over time and be especially inquisitive when solutions sound too simple.
The great news is that there are good organizations out there! You can find out more about Novogratz's organization and some of the great things already happening here.
In the meantime, as you are showering, cleaning, or running through the sprinkler this summer, don't forget those millions of people who suffer from a real, life-threatening lack of water. We live in a messed-up world, where creation itself is groaning for redemption. The change starts in our own thoughts and attitudes toward the things we have.
Feel free to download a free 8x10 printable of my "Water is Life" graphic to hang up for a visual reminder!
Today, millions of people will celebrate the Hindu festival Holi. In the West, we know this holiday as the festival of colors. We know it because of Hollywood scenes like the one from Outsourced, where the unsuspecting American gets doused with color on a stroll through the city. During our travels in India, we have often celebrated this color party with friends and neighbors, usually in the controlled environment of our parking garages and gardens. Of course, as with almost every facet of Hinduism, there is as much variety to the celebrations and traditions as there are people groups and languages in this diverse country. And unfortunately, the celebration you are able to witness below is pretty boring compared to the movies, or what you may find in more northern parts of the country.
This year, I am watching the color throwing from my seventh floor apartment. From one balcony I can see the upper middle class children in my society, planning and strategizing their assaults on one another. From the other balcony, I see the less financially fortunate, but equally joyful adults and children chasing each other through the streets. I worry for the passerbys who might find themselves in the midst of the war! I can't help but wonder what it might be like if the meaning behind the festival, good conquering evil, could conquer both the visible and invisible walls between these two groups.
We are not joining the festivities this year because our city is struggling from a huge water crisis. The color throwing uses not only color, but a lot of water. The water and color are mixed and shot from cheap water guns, sold only this time of year. And then there is the water it takes to clean everyone up. The knowledge of those suffering from lack of water presses our conscience and robs the celebration of its joy. It is inspiring to see some initiatives to celebrate without wasting so much water. For instance, one of our friends is hosting a 'paint the canvas' party. Additionally, the celebration of Holi is not just about the color party. In fact, the more I researched I discovered that it is not even the main part of the holiday. Although, it is likely the most enjoyable and the most financially profitable part of the holiday.
Surrounding the traditions of Holi are many different legends, and they all add small pieces to the Holi traditions, which again vary greatly in different regions of the country. The major legend is of the evil Hiranyakashyap who contrived an evil plot to kill his own son. The plan backfired and resulted in the death of his accomplis, Holika. A traditional Holi celebration commemorates this story with a bonfire, in which pictures of Holika are burned and where profanities are shouted against the hated woman.
The tradition of colors comes from a legend of Krishna, who was jealous of Radha because of her fair skin. Krishna's mother pacified him by telling him to go paint her any color he liked. The always mischievous Krishna did just that. Now the painting of one another has come to symbolize the love and affection between family and friends.
In addition, Holi always occurs toward the end of winter and beginning of spring/summer, which also carries the significance of good triumphing over evil, as the light and beauty of spring triumphs over the cold and darkness of winter.
You can check out more about the origins of Holi and the various celebrations taking place across India at www.holifestival.org.
As Luke and I are getting older, one thing is for sure. We are getting way more addicted to coffee. We come from the breed of parents who will easily finish a large pot in the morning and then make another. This means that on vacation, Starbucks has become a major line item in our budget. Even worse, with four kids it can be difficult to even get to the coffee shop until a couple of hours after everyone has woken up and gotten ready. That, my friends, is a bit too late for us these days.
So on a recent trip to a tiny beach town in Goa, India, I thought I was prepared. I made sure to bring along my tiny, single-serve moka pot and fresh grounds since I knew there was a stove at the resort. However, when we arrived and I saw it was an induction stove, I knew immediately it wasn’t going to work. Gas is preferable, electric is manageable, but induction won’t work at all.
The next morning, Luke and I woke up early before the kids, determined to get some quiet moments, enjoying the balcony view and each other before the craziness began. I scrounged through the small resort kitchenette to see if I could effectively make some coffee without a machine. Turns out, we enjoyed some delicious coffee that morning and all subsequent mornings. And it was really, really easy!
Here’s what you need to bring
> Fresh grounds (a thicker, espresso grind is better than a thin, powdery one)
> A fine mesh tea strainer.
Here’s what you’ll need to find onsite
> Some way of acquiring almost boiling water. Any hotel accommodation should be able to provide you this. Our resort had an electric kettle, which made it super simple. Other options are zapping it in the microwave or checking with guest services, who may provide it to you for free.
> Two cups
Now here are the steps
1. Make sure the water is almost, but not quite boiling. You can bring it to a rolling boil, and then let it sit for a minute.
2. Add 1 tablespoon of coffee grounds per cup of water.
3. Cover the cup and let it brew for 2 minutes.
4. Use the fine mesh strainer to strain out the grounds. You can do this back and forth a couple of times, or line the strainer with a napkin to catch the really fine grounds.
5. Enjoy your coffee and get ready for a great day!
Luke and I are married and have four little munchkins that travel the world with us. I blog about living overseas, travel, kids, education and graphic design.
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