Tuesday, May 28, 2013

iPad...my ultimate travel accessory

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We'll call this a follow-up post to my Traveling Light and Easy post.  When I travel, I like to keep myself entertained, but I don't have lots of space to bring things.  For several years, its seemed like every cool new gadget just added to the amount of things I brought along (laptop, Kindle, cell phone).  Hmmm.  Not saving much space.

Lets compare a road trip from 2001 to the one I'm planning for in a few weeks.

Cell phone+charger
Portable DVD player+charger
Extra battery for DVD player+charger
MP3 player 
Headphones (Bose)
Camera + charger
2 paperback books
4 magazines
CD case with DVDs removed from their boxes (that's nothing.  One woman brought the VHS mini series of Pride and Prejudice)
zipper bags of candy like Mike and Ikes, Swedish Fish
Games (travel size scrabble, dice, yahtzee score sheets, playing cards)
Address book

zipper bags of candy
Maybe the knitting...I've kinda let that hobby go. 

Pretty dramatic huh?  I've gone from a "suitcase" size carry on to basically my purse, but I still have access to all the stuff I used to have--thanks to my iPad.  Other tablets may work just as well, but I don't have one to test out.

Here's how I made the switch:

I own lots of DVDs. Lots.  Many came with a digital copy, which I put in iTunes and synched to my iPad.  Others I created a digital copy using Handbrake and my home computer.  This eliminated the DVD player and discs.

Reading material
Wow, the iPad is great for condensing stacks of paper!  When I got the first-generation Kindle, I loved it (still do) for the ability to have tons of books, but not take up tons of space.  My iPad will do that too.  Some I  get from the public library.  Others, like classics, are free from Amazon.  Others still I buy/download. You can load the Kindle App on the iPad for free, even if you don't have a Kindle.

Magazines.  I have print subscriptions that come to my house that include the digital edition for free.  I set that up on my iPad.  My public library has an agreement with OverDrive and Flipster, which is an app that has magazines.  The app is free on iTunes and the Salt Lake County library has about 100 titles that are FREE.  Good titles too, like Martha Stewart, Consumer Reports and more.

Scriptures-these take up a lot of space :)  Plenty of free apps/PDFs out there so you can just keep it on your iPad instead.

Some I've bought digitally, most of the time though I just find a good travel website or app and skip buying a book altogether.

Love that app store.  I have Scrabble, Words with Friends, Dice with Buddies (awesome free Yahtzee.  If there was a good real Yahtzee, I'd pay for it, but I couldn't find one). 

I keep copies of my address book, ID/passport as PDFs or images on the iPad.  My iPad and iPhone use the same cable.  Sweet. I have a nice camera, and if I'm traveling for pleasure, I'm going to haul it along.  But, if not, my iPhone is good enough.  I've gotten some pretty good shots with that iPhone. (I also bought an adapter on Amazon that I can move my photos from the SD card on my good camera to the iPad...good as a back up). I can get by with a little bit of word processing on the iPad, which is great...eliminating the need for the laptop.

Label your stuff.  If you get an honest person (sometimes you do) you have a chance of getting your stuff back.

So I now have plenty of space for other things I think I need or pick up along the way.  If I were die-hard, I'd skip the iPad and load all this stuff on my iPhone.  But my eyes are not as young as they once were, and I like the larger screen of my iPad. 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Monkey Bread...and the Dutch Oven

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I decided to merge two of my latest projects together...the one-hour bread recipe and dutch oven cooking.  This one turned out great--of course, its hard to go wrong when butter and brown sugar are involved.

You'll need
10-inch dutch oven
24-30 briquettes
1 recipe of bread dough, here
3/4 c. brown sugar
1 Tbs. cinnamon
3/4 c. butter, melted

Get the dough made (or cheat and buy a can of biscuits or frozen roll dough...but the dough took me 5 minutes to mix up-which I did in my kitchen before we headed up to the campground).  Divide the dough into 4 pieces and roll each piece into a rope about 1" in diameter.  Cut the rope into 1" pieces.  Toss the pieces into a zipper bag with the sugar and cinnamon.

I lined the dutch oven with foil and sprayed with Pam.  Toss in the 1/2 coated dough pieces--no rhyme or reason, just toss them in.  Pour 1/2 the melted butter over the dough, then put in the rest of the dough and butter.  Let rise for about 30 minutes.  While the dough is raising, get the briquettes lit so they will be hot and ready to go.

Put on the lid and place the dutch oven on top of 12-14 hot coals and put 12-14 coals on top of the lid.  Every 5 minutes, turn the pot about 1/4 turn.  I baked mine for about 30 minutes.  Immediately dump the baked bread onto a plate (or big piece of foil like I did, since we were at a campground and I didn't have all my kitchen with me).

Tasty stuff. Wish I had brought along a tub of frosting or some milk, but that didn't stop us from eating it.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Traveling Light and Easy

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Once upon a time, I was not good at packing...at all.  Of course, back in those days, there was no motivation to be an efficient packer since there were no weight limits, or charges for checked bags.  I learned, the hard way that packing light is really a better option (you try hauling 4 bags around LAX by yourself and you will become a believer of traveling light).

I rarely check luggage, it just adds time to my trip (getting there early enough to check it in and waiting for it to get off the plane)--not to mention the cost or worry of someone rifling through the bag, forget it.  I go carry-on almost always.  I've done two trips to Europe and one to China using only a carry-on bag and it was great.  So, I'm here to share some of my tips with you.

First, I choose a clothing color scheme, usually black, tan and a bright color.  For an upcoming 10-day trip, I'm thinking about gray, black and coral with a pop of green.  I'm traveling, so I don't take the whole closet or bathroom cabinet.  Pare it down-add a couple cute accessories and I'm fine with repeating clothes. Trust me, no one cares if you wear the same shirt twice.  I do wash out underwear while traveling...its easy to do in a sink and dries super fast, so why take up space?  I don't usually wash the rest of the stuff-I plan on wearing each shirt/skirt twice--something I do at home without laundering in between.

Couple things before you get started--get some packing cubes/packing organizers, and plan on rolling up the clothes rather than folding them.  Packing cubes are amazing. You can get them at stores like REI, but I got mine on Amazon (and my old black ones I found at Ross)--I find that the small and medium size bags work best for me, but men might like the "large" bag for slacks. I tried something new this time called a packing envelope (another Amazon purchase). UPDATE:  Ikea sells packing cubes too--last I looked they were upstairs near the entrance to the cafe, very reasonable price.

Here's what I've got laid out on the bed for a 10-day trip to the midwest in the summer.
4 skirts (if I were just vacationing, I'd add pants/shorts, but this trip isn't a personal trip)
1 knit dress
6 knit tops
1 black blouse
2 cardigans
2 pashminas (scarf)
3 pair undies
PJ pants/top
workout pants
2 workout shirts
2 sports bras
2 regular bras
knee highs
rain jacket
black sandals
brown sandals
black flats
running shoes
2 necklaces
make up bag/flat iron

In the smallest packing cube, I rolled up my PJ's and my undies and lined them up along the bottom of the cube, I placed the two regular bras on top before zipping it up.

In the medium bag (my favorite size) I've rolled up the 6 knit shirts, 2 scarves and 1 undershirt.
 I laid the two cardigans on top of the rolled up knit shirts before zipping up the medium cube.

 I tried out the packing envelope on my skirts and dress.  There is a plastic card that you fold the clothes around to make sure they are the right size.  I stacked the items up and folded up the Velcro flaps (medium  size envelope).
 This is my old packing cube, and its another medium size.  I rolled up the exercise clothes, socks, swimwear, accessories and rain jacket.  There was still room in the cube.
 Take a look at what the pile of clothes is reduced to once its all in the packing cubes.
 I stacked all the cubes into the bag along with my shoes and hair/make up stuff. I get asked about my hair all the time...and while traveling I don't carry my own hairdryer.  I also take travel size make up.  I put lotions/washes/foundation in small pots/bottles (pick them up at REI or the travel section at Target/Walmart).  At home I have a giant Caboodle (yes, I still have one) of choices of make-up, but when traveling I pick just a few items and go with it. I only wash my hair a couple times a week anyway, so I can get away with travel size shampoo too.  I realize that doesn't work for everyone, but for me, it works.  I'm willing to sacrifice some fashion/hair/makeup choices for the ease of moving around.
 Ta-da!  All zipped up.  Ready for moving between 5 cities in 10 days.  Because I choose fabrics that are easy to travel with, and I roll them, wrinkles are not an issue for me.  If they are, touch up with the iron that is in the hotel room (even older places have irons, you sometimes just have to get them from the front desk).
 I'll also have a little bag to keep with me on the bus during this 10-day trip.  I keep stuff like my ipad, chargers, snacks, blanket and neck pillow in this bag. (I prefer using a backpack because its easier on my back and I can go hands-free, but for this particular trip, we've been asked to not bring backpacks).
The great thing about the packing cubes is you can throw stuff out of the suitcase without getting everything in a big mess.

Honestly, I will probably sort through these outfits and eliminate at least one and I'll be wearing one on travel day-freeing up both clothes and shoe space.   Since the trip I'm packing for now isn't really about sight-seeing, I didn't leave much space for souvenirs, but I could unzip the suitcase extenders if I needed to. Also, I am not traveling with kids, which I understand is a completely different animal :)

I also have an Excel spreadsheet that I use as a planning guide for what to bring on trips.  It helps me feel ready to walk out the door and know that I have everything I need (key word is need...you can always buy stuff while traveling).  I'm posting both the Excel and a PDF.  Its a 2-page document, where page 1 is the women's list and page 2 is a men's packing list.

Packing List-PDF
Packing List-Excel (editable)

(I tried giving you a direct link to the file, but it didn't work, so just scroll down the list to find the Packing list files, alphabetical--be sure to use the "download" button, not just the "view").

Good luck with the packing and safe travels.

Part II:  The ipad....my ultimate travel accessory

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Chevron Tag Sheet

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I bought a Visit Salt Lake City pass from Living Social this week and thought it would be fun to make up a jar with cards with all the activities (its a great deal if you live in Salt Lake!)   I can draw out a card (or maybe I'll make it something less random, who knows?) and have a pre-paid fun activity to do each week for the summer. 

I did make up a list of the specific activities from the pass, but in the process I made a template that you could use for anything you would like.  I'm uploading both.

You can either use Photoshop to open the JPG and add your own text OR you can insert the JPG into a Word document and put text boxes on each tag and type whatever you want.

If the image looks too dark for your liking (or your printer prints dark)-you can adjust the whole picture in Word by choosing Format Picture, Transparency and just making it a bit more transparent.  Voila, lighter gray :)

PDF of the Salt Lake pass activities (plus some extra activities to round out the sheet)
JPG of the Blank Chevron Tag Template