the travel lover’s love list

I used to always say that I love traveling, but as it turns out, I hate traveling. I love being places. But, for convention’s sake, this post is about travel in the being places sense. And also in the isn’t-the-world-amazing? sense.

Recently, my dear friend Emily shared a picture of this awesome push pin world map they got for their house, which I promptly added to my PLEASE BUY SOMEDAY bookmarks folder. But it got me thinking about a few other items I’ve encountered that pluck at the heartstrings of any globetrotter with a dream. In my case (and maybe yours, too), this is also closely related to a love of geography and maps. (As a sidenote, I am totally dominating in the geography categories on QuizUp. Feel free to join and challenge me.)

Without further ado, here’s my love list for travel lovers after my own heart:

  1. World push pin map: What better way to document your world domination/travels than a gorgeous, wood-framed push pin map? I jealous Emily hardcore for having this!
  2. Scratch map: This is along the same lines as the push pin map; let’s call it a starter version. A bit of a reverse life lotto ticket, as you scratch off the adventures you’ve already “won” (done).
  3. Travel Manager by Zero per Zero (image via): This urban, mappy wallet holds tickets, passports, and other travel essentials, with a few different featured cities as options.
  4. Pass Tag by Zero per Zero (image via): The more simple pass tag holds transit cards or doubles as a cool luggage tag.
  5. Travel journal: For me, a journal is a major travel must-have, and while the stampy exterior of this one isn’t necessary for collecting your travel thoughts, it certainly has an adventurous feel to it.
  6. Damsel On the Go gift set (image via): What’s a list from me without a surprise box? This Sesame Gifts box curated by the lovely Damsel in Dior includes a delightful assortment of travel goods in one fun package and makes for a great gift to yourself or a fellow travel lover!

I don’t know about you, but this is making me antsy for another trip here soon…

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do this: celebrate love

Valentine’s Day has always been one of my favorite holidays, because I *love* the idea of a day dedicated to LOVE! My earliest memories of the day growing up involve two things: making and frosting sugar cookies with my mom, and answering the doorbell on Valentine’s night to find a little baggy filled with candy and clothing/accessories, supposedly from “The Great Valentine.” My freshman year of college, single as I was, I threw a Single Awareness Day party at the dorms, and the turnout even included a few couples, and we just basically hung out, ate food, and enjoyed the evening together. The point of this background is that Valentine’s Day for me began as simply a day to celebrate love in all its forms, but mostly just friends and family.

Nowadays, while I have a romantic love to celebrate, we still tend to stay at home on the 14th just to avoid the crowds. But even so, I don’t think of Valentine’s Day as a day for only coupledom. It’s as much about my love for Allie as it is my love for Ben! With that in mind, I have a few ideas of ways to celebrate the day that are not restricted to romantic relationships, but rather love in the general sense: anything and anyone that makes you happy! Since we won’t be going out to dinner or anything, we will probably try one or more of these!

CELEBRATELOVE

  1. Start the celebration off right by making your own confetti poppers! (And for this one you probably have almost all the materials in your house right now.)
  2. If you have a baby or pet, send Valentines from him/her to loved ones. I got the inspiration for this from Where My Heart Resides and totally love the idea of Allie (or Pirate/Starbuck) sending Valentines to people. If I have time once I finish my huge work project, I’m gonna do it!
  3. Drawing from my childhood traditions, bake some heart-shaped sugar cookies and frost them. We also like to top them with sprinkles and/or conversation hearts.
  4. Make a magazine collage (read: not on your computer). Remember, like the ones you (or maybe just I?) used to make to decorate your textbooks in high school? Go gather a few of your favorite magazines and make a collage of a bunch of things that make you happy to see. Or even print off some pictures of pretty items and pictures and stick them together. With rubber cement, if possible!
  5. I love shopping, and even more than that I love shopping for a good cause. What better way is there to celebrate love than to show it to someone in need? There are plenty of shops out there whose proceeds go to charity. One of my favorites is iSanctuary, where your purchases goes to help survivors of human trafficking get back on their feet. Pick your favorite shop and give. And get. (Or just give—I’ve been seeing a lot of ASPCA ads lately that pull so hard on my heartstrings!)

We’re just two days away, people! Get excited!

{Images pulled from the ideas/sites linked above}

geocaching: how to do it and why you totally should

When Ben and I had just started dating, he told me he wanted us to do this thing called geocaching. Now for whatever reason this kind of made me sigh and think, “Ugh. Some overly outdoorsy guy thing I have to pretend to like.” (I love being outdoors, don’t get me wrong, but I am far from being the adventurous type. Case in point: The idea alone of skydiving is enough to make me shake, while Ben has been solo skydiving 10 times.)

Anyway, back to the point. Geocaching. So Ben finally convinced me to go, and… I totally loved it! Geocaching, if you haven’t heard of it, it basically treasure hunting. People put these little caches all over the place that you have to find through clues and coordinates. You can use a GPS (the manly man’s preferred option) or the app, but it’s just a matter of following the directions to a hidden spot where the caches are. Once you get there, you’ll usually find some kind of container with something in it. The ones we’ve found either ask you to sign your name once you’ve found it or to take an item and leave an item. According to the official Geocaching website, there are over 2.3 million caches around the world! Seriously, there are everywhere.

This is us in 2009 after finding a cache in complete darkness with just our tiny flashlights. We still have that random little cube (our takeaway item from the cache).

It’s kind of turned into a craze, so you may already know all about it, but here’s how to do it (beginner’s version, since that’s what I am):

  1. Grab a GPS or geocaching app (there are several out there—free version here, only shows three caches; full version here).
  2. Go to geocaching.com, and enter your zip code to find caches near you. OR just search on the geocaching app.
  3. Select a cache near or far, then use your GPS to get to the coordinates. (Or follow the steps in the app.) Depending on the kind of cache, you may want to bring a little trinket to leave behind or not.
  4. Document the occasion with pictures, and repeat as desired!

I was definitely a skeptic about the whole thing, but it is so fun to follow the clues and actually find this hidden little container that you would never have known about just walking by. Yesterday we made it a little family activity. We found a cache about a half mile away (one of many nearby—just do a search of your zip code and see how many there are!). We were actually about to give up, because the instructions seemed a little vague and the ground was covered in snow, but after not too long we found what seemed like the spot, Ben pulled back a rock, and there it was!

Granted, the little paper inside for signing your name was totally soaked, but we just logged online that we found this cache. We hope to explore a few more in the area and wherever we move to next! At some point we’d like to create our own cache somewhere, but that will be a post for another, very-much-in-the-future day..

{Aerial image via Wikimedia Commons}

do this: unplug

A few posts ago I mentioned my desire to detach myself from my iPhone, and a few of you commented how you have felt the need to do it, too, but it is SO HARD. Like, much harder than one might think. Sometimes I tell myself, “Okay, Bethany, put your phone down and just live this moment.” And I do, for about a minute. Then, through some kind of dark magic, my phone is back in my hand. How??

It’s called addiction, my friends. I’d venture a guess that many or most of us are much more addicted to our electronic devices than we would like. Granted, I’m not on my phone all the time. It’s usually just in moments when I’m not doing anything else but, say, eating lunch on my own or watching Allie play and bounce in her jumperoo. Moments where a healthy human brain would cherish the mental break and take the opportunity to process thoughts, ideas, and dreams.

But of course there are also the moments when I’m with other people and we’re all on our phones. All for very valid reasons, of course! Like checking the price online for an item in the store, or looking up an answer to a question someone has (things like what a map of pangaea looks like or Which Hunger Games Character Are You?, both recent items in my iPhone browser history).

I once read an article (that I can’t find for the life of me) about the condition from which most people with internet access suffer: seeking. We get high off of consuming information—whether it be Facebook statuses, viral YouTube videos, random captioned pictures of cats… Let me just say I believe there is tons of really good content on the internet. Uplifting, inspiring stuff. But sometimes we interrupt actually living our lives to chase down the information high. It’s a fine line, and honestly I have no idea where that line is, but I usually know when I’ve crossed it.

Anyway, we have become dependent on our phones (or just the internet in general) for either information or entertainment or both, and I just feel this need to take a step back and give my brain a chance to think for itself. I typically just grab my phone without even thinking, scroll through my Instagram feed, check Facebook, read emails, etc. Half (or more) of the time I have absolutely no specific purpose for picking up my phone. THIS NEEDS TO STOP. Or at least get curbed dramatically. It was never like this before I had a smart phone! I miss my old Nokia with no functions other than calling and texting.

So, with this is mind, I am sitting here and thinking about specific things we can do to unplug. I am under no delusions that this will be a lasting thing, but in those moments when you realize you need to put the phone down but need, if you will, a sober companion, here are some ideas. And this list is totally for me, too. These are super basic, but I feel that in moments like these we just need something fun and interesting to latch onto.

When you are sitting there with nothing particular to do and are tempted to grab your phone

  1. Read one chapter of an actual book (BuzzFeed articles don’t count).
  2. If there is a person you know nearby, talk to them. (Novel idea, I know.) Ask random hypothetical questions just for fun. If the person nearby is, say, an infant, write him/her a note, stick it in an envelope, and label it: Open in 2025. Or something.
  3. Or in general, grab a piece of paper and write a letter to a sibling, a friend, an old high school teacher, anyone. You don’t even have to send it (though I’m sure the person would appreciate it if you did). Snail mail is totally fun.
  4. If you play an instrument, go play it. If not, just turn on your favorite song and listen. And think about stuff.
  5. Do the multiplication tables in your head.
  6. Start a daily scrapbook. If you want, just take one picture from your day and add a caption.
  7. Dig out your old yearbooks and read through the messages. I just discovered all my high school yearbooks the other day, and holy throwback.
  8. Try to do any of the following: a handstand, the splits, or a cartwheel.
  9. Go organize all your books, clothes, or beauty products according to color. If you are into that sort of thing.
  10. Play MASH.

And for those times where you are doing actual things with actual people, you may find yourself in this situation:

When confronted with a question the internet could answer

  1. Stop and ask yourself two questions: (A) Can I or anyone I can reach right now answer this question with a little bit of thinking? (B) Does it really matter that much?
  2. If the answer to both A and B is yes, either figure it out yourself or ask the person who knows the answer. In this case, using your phone to call someone is okay, because it involves actual human interaction!
  3. If the answer to either A or B is no, grab a piece of paper, write down your question, and save it for another time. Just the act of waiting to get the information gives your mind a break and a chance to process thoughts on its own.

OVERALL IDEA: In any situation, when tempted to grab your phone, think back to that time long, long ago, before cell phones. Think what you would have done in this moment. And do it.

So anyway, try to get past the inherent irony of these ideas coming to you via a post on the internet, and best of luck with your own unplugging efforts! And please oh please add to these lists if you have any specific ideas!

do this: awesome monday

It may be the vestiges of obsessions from my childhood (moons, tornados, and Hanson, to name a few), but I love to feel carried away by things. Caught in the moment. My inspiration as someone in the marketing field is the idea of creating experiences. Making people feel transported. So today, on this Monday, I’ve decided to attempt such a feat in blog form. Follow these steps to, I hope, make you feel awesome today.

  1. Go somewhere you can turn the volume up (or plug in headphones) and listen to this song (link will autoplay when you open it). Dance along as appropriate.
  2. Spend five minutes doing this workout.
  3. Follow the steps here to snag (for free) $25 worth of secondhand brand-name clothes.
  4. Save this image, print it, and pin it to your workspace or bedroom wall.
  5. Daydream, soak in some of the amazingness the world has to offer, and start planning for your next trip by following along with Kate Spade’s traveling colorfully adventures.

Also, if you’re a fan, remember that The Bachelor is on tonight! If that’s not your thing, you should at least check out Possessionista’s Best Books of 2013 and find some literary inspiration. Whatever you do, just have an awesome Monday!

why 2014 will be awesome

Happy New Year!! We had a wild and crazy night playing board games with my family. I know, super exciting, but very much a family tradition! I got to bed around midnight but was awakened by Allie soon after because, guess what, fireworks + sleeping baby = awake baby! In my sleep-deprived hangover I’ve been reading all the resolutions people have been posting, and it is so interesting to see (a) what people care most about improving, and (b) what people struggle most with doing! I was particularly inspired by the creative resolution formats of Damsel in Dior and Likes of Us, especially because these are visuals you can print out and keep as a pretty reminder.

So I’ve created one of my own! In the past I’ve focused on general areas of improvement or even a few specific things I need to be better at. This year I took more of an approach of what will make me happy. As in, real, fulfilling happiness. I asked myself what I love most and set goals to do more of it.

I’m hoping my 2014 will be awesome for a variety of reasons, but at least in part because…

Are you making resolutions for 2014? I love hearing people’s goals for the year!

five rules for an awesome christmas

I was once in a relationship with someone who hated Christmas. This was completely unfathomable to me, and, not for this reason alone though it did cross my mind, we broke up. Listen, I totally respect that different people love different things, but I knew that for my life and my future, a love of Christmas was essential.

So here we are, just five days away. I finally finished all my shopping last night, and now I can just relax (as much as a young momma can) and enjoy the spirit of the season. Because I have control issues and like things to be just so, there is a list in my mind of how to make sure every Christmas is awesome. A few of these are traditions I grew up with, others are ideas I want to implement in our little family going forward.

Rule #1: Be excessively celebratory at every opportunity.

This is the time to “sing loud for all to hear,” to quote Elf. All that pent up enthusiasm you’ve been so carefully restraining all year long—let it out, my friend. Smile and sing, laugh and love, dance and decorate to excess. My mom has like 30 nativity scenes that she sets up around the house. This is the kind of commitment I’m talking about, people! Find the thing you love most about the season and do it 30 times!

Rule #2: Decorate the tree as a family while listening to Christmas music.

Sure, you can decorate the tree by yourself, but it takes a lot of time, and the process is immensely enhanced by making it a family activity. Turn up the Carpenters Christmas album, or Nat King Cole, or even that Hanson Christmas album you pretended to throw away when you turned 12 but have been keeping in your iTunes for over a decade. Dance as you decorate, and have fun with each other. This is how memories are made.

Rule #3: Don’t forget to watch your favorite Christmas movies.

How sad is it to be scrolling through Netflix a week after Christmas and realize you forgot to watch Home Alone? Sure, you can watch it anytime, but for maximum Christmas magic, you need to pull out the DVDs (or add the movies to your Netflix queue), gather your family and friends, and watch. A few of my favorites:

  • Home Alone
  • Home Alone 2
  • The Holiday
  • Elf
  • It’s a Wonderful Life
  • The Nativity Story
  • Mr. Krueger’s Christmas
  • The Family Stone

Rule #4: Dress up for Christmas dinner.

Or Christmas Eve dinner. Whichever one is the biggest in your household. Dress up because, let’s be real here, this is probably one of maybe two or three days out of 365 each year you look forward to the most. It’s a big deal! So bust out your finest red, green, or gold, or just whatever makes you feel fancy and fabulous. This is one we didn’t do growing up but that I’m determined to establish in my own household.

Rule #5: Spread holiday cheer to your neighbor(s)

Christmas is about giving, but not just to close friends and family. Do something to serve your neighbor or others in need. A few ideas:

  • Bake a treat to take around to all your neighbors
  • Go Christmas caroling
  • Volunteer for an afternoon at an elderly home
  • Participate in Sub for Santa
  • Be a secret Santa for a neighbor or coworker—everyone loves surprise gifts!

For many of you, today is the last day before one of two weeks of vacation, so enjoy! Be merry and festive!

Sidenote: If you have severely procrastinated your Christmas shopping like I did, you may have discovered that it’s hard to find places online that will ship in time for Christmas, at least without a huge shipping charge. I discovered yesterday that Madewell is offering free shipping in time for Christmas if you order by tomorrow, plus 30% off all order with code TOYOU. They have some good stuff! Also, Nordstrom. Because they’re Nordstrom.

first-world apocalypse essentials

I don’t know about the men in your life, but my husband talks about the zombie apocalypse with complete certainty and seriousness. “If there’s one thing life has taught me,” he tells me, “it’s that zombies are coming.” Well, I am not sure I believe zombies will bring the end of the world, but I do believe disaster can and will strike at any time. So many unfortunate people around the world can attest to that. And last night, I got a *very minor* glimpse into such a future.

Our power went out. And honestly, while it felt like an eternity, it was only about an hour and a half. We were getting ready to give Allie a bath and put her to bed when everything went black. I’m talking no light whatsoever. Thankfully, my Eagle Scout-Marine husband was just in the other room and emerged within seconds wearing his Surefire headlamp (seriously). He made sure we had a flashlight and were okay on our own, then went to fetch our emergency generator. As I sat there feeding Allie in the dark, I realized how eerily quiet it was and wondered how long we’d be in the cold. And I felt so amazingly grateful that we normally have heat and power.

By the time Ben returned with our generator, the power was back on, but the whole (very brief) experience made me think about the importance of being prepared for all kinds of calamities—whether it be a simple power outage, flood, tornado, or even the dreaded zombie apocalypse. This list is far from comprehensive, but these are a few things you probably want to have on hand in the event of disasters, big or small:

first-world apocalypse essentials

  1. Emergency kit (something like this): This covers most of your bases. We obviously didn’t need anything like this last night, but for situations where you are out of power or even plumbing for more than a day, you’ll want a kit like this. Food, water, first aid, and other essentials to at the very least keep you alive. All in an easy, grab-and-go form.
  2. Two or three flashlights with extra batteries (we love Surefire brand): We keep these scattered around the house for quick access wherever we are. Ben suggests having both handheld and headlamp versions. And don’t forget the spare batteries!
  3. Battery-powered phone charger (like this Tego Power Grid): We can probably handle turning off our TVs and computers for a few hours, but phones are pretty critical for getting and keeping in touch with loved ones. Having a power source in case your phone runs out of juice is something we’d all appreciate!
  4. Small gas-powered generator (and gas): Generators that power an entire house are pricey. A small generator like this one can power a space heater, fan, or refrigerator—whatever is most vital—until conditions improve. Keep a small gas can like this on hand to fill up at a gas station when the need arises (keeping a full gas can around poses a hazard). You can also siphon gas from your car in dire circumstances.
  5. Playing cards: You forget until the power is out how much of what you do for fun requires power. Make sure to have some form of easy entertainment handy, like a simple deck of cards, especially if you have kids.

Bonus essential: A family emergency plan. Something simple like where to meet up in various disaster scenarios if you can’t get in touch with each other. Sounds basic but it’s good for every family member to have (even just a small card with the main info that people can keep in their wallets). You can find various printables for these plans on Pinterest, or just fill out this one from FEMA.

Maybe for your next date night, go out and get everything above and store it in a place everyone in your family can find. Not the most romantic subject today, but romance falls to the back of your mind when things like power and heat disappear!

my top six: newborn gear

I’m kinda liking this top six idea after last week, so let’s try a different list of faves: baby stuff. I am so completely far from being an expert or even generally knowledgeable when it comes to parenting, but there have been a few items that have been lifesavers for us since adding a third member to our little family. (This post is partially inspired by my friend Britni’s post a couple of months ago, but as every baby is different, every mom is going to have different favorite products!) It’s only been six-ish months, so this list pretty much just applies to newborns, but these are the items we have found to be essential in our day-to-day routine (apart from the real absolute essentials like Allie’s carseat and strollers):

babyessentials

  1. Halo Sleepsack: We have tried all sorts of swaddling blankets—the aden + anais swaddle blankets (came apart too easily, though still awesome to have as regular blankets), the Miracle Blanket (too restrictive), SwaddleMe (caused Allie to spin in her crib when she kicked, which was/is a lot)—and didn’t feel like we got it right until the Halo. We currently only have one that fits baby A, so I have to dash up to wash and dry it between naps.
  2. Sassy playmat: This was a gift from my sister, and while Allie didn’t really respond to it in her first weeks, she loves it now. This thing keeps her interested more than anything else (except maybe a walk outside), and she has so much fun grabbing everything (and, naturally, trying to eat it). It was also the place where she first rolled over, so we are very much fans!
  3. Changing table (similar here): We heard differing opinions about these from our friends—some use them, some don’t. We looked for an affordable changing table we liked, and Ben finally decided he would just rather build one. So he did, and it turned out beautifully! And we use it multiple times a day. We also of course use it to store diapers, blankets, and other equipment. Totally an essential for us!
  4. Fisher-Price bouncer: This one is pretty basic, I guess. We got ours used from a friend, and we use it daily. More than daily—several times a day. We have kept Allie’s bouncer in the kitchen so she can sit and hang with us while we eat meals. She loves kicking in it non-stop and bouncing herself, but I fear she is about to outgrow it! Kind of panicking about a replacement!
  5. Munchkin projector and sound machine: This particular sound machine is so awesome because it has so many options for sounds (white noise, waves, music) but also has the cool projector function! Truth be told we mostly use it for the white noise (as in, for all naps and nighttimes), but I like knowing it can do the other stuff just in case I need it.
  6. Ergo baby carrier: I did lots of research before registering for this carrier, and I am happy to say the Amazon reviews spoke truth! We use our Ergo almost daily. For a while I was borrowing my sister’s BabyBjorn, but the Ergo is definitely our favorite. You have to go with the style that works best for you, and we love the Ergo!

These have just been some of our favorite items, but I always love to hear what has worked for other people!

my top six: current daily essentials

Ever since we had Allie and I made the transition from purse to diaper bag, leisurely morning routine to leaving the house with wet hair (gasp, I know, the horror), my idea of essentials has changed. Actually, it is always changing based on my favorites of the moment, but there are also a few items that consistently top my need list. Just thought I’d share a few of the things I depend on these days—some long-time loves, others new flames:

  1. 32-oz. Rubbermaid water bottle: I don’t go anywhere without this thing. I got it for a few bucks at the grocery store, so nothing fancy or special, but I love that it has so much capacity, because I’m basically a water addict. If I find myself somewhere without my water bottle, I completely panic.
  2. Purlisse lip comfort: I got this as a mommy extra in the most recent Citrus Lane* box, and I’m officially obsessed. It’s super smooth and soothing alone or offers a nice base layer for lip color.
  3. Zara cardigan: I used to spend much more time assembling my outfits, but these days I just throw something together quickly, and it generally consists of leggings (of which I’ve already sung praises recently), a basic shirt, and my Zara knit cardigan. I wear this thing all the time. It keeps me surprisingly warm outside but isn’t too hot indoors, and of course it has pockets for stashing my cell phone or whatever random baby thing I need to carry around. It’s sold out now, but there’s a similar one available from ASOS.zarasweater
  4. Be Enchanted shower gel from B&BW: I discovered this through my teenage niece, so not entirely sure I’m the target audience, but I love this stuff! It’s my favorite scent at the moment and an essential part of my daily routine.
  5. Michael Stars folk art wrap: This was the hot item from the most recent POPSUGAR Must Have box*, and I find myself wearing it daily. I’m a total sucker for black & white prints, and I already own about 50 scarves/wraps, but this one just goes with everything!
  6. Adobe Creative Suite: I suppose this isn’t an item per se, but these programs (InDesign, Illustrator & Photoshop in particular) are absolutely critical to my daily life! Not just in a work context, though they are essential for work, too, but for all my projects and even just general photo editing and tinkering with creative ideas—I depend on Adobe.

So these are my daily faves at the moment (not including, of course, the so-important-it-needn’t-be-mentioned iPhone). I may revisit this list another time when my flavors of the month change!

* My referral link