5 Tips for Smart Packing

We’ve been back from our trip to Italy for three weeks now and I’m still not ready to let it go. So I’ll continue dragging out this blog series by sharing some tips I have on packing for long trips.

Not pictured: The evil black duffel bag
Not pictured: The evil black duffel bag

During our first trip to Italy, we used Blake’s large backpack and then brought a separate duffel bag to hold all of our stuff (and all the things we purchased along the way). By the end of that trip, I wanted to set that duffel bag on fire. It was difficult to carry, especially when crammed full, and it made it hard to maneuver through crowds. As soon as we returned from that trip, we headed straight to REI to buy a smaller backpack for me. If you are planning a multi-city trip, or will be using lots of public transportation and walking to get around, you have to get one of these backpacks. It is no fun to drag one of those more than a few blocks, plus no one wants to hear your wheeled suitcase bumping along cobblestone roads.

His and hers backpacks
His and hers backpacks

Now that we have our bags, deciding what to put in them for a 10 day trip can be the hard part. Here are my five tips for packing for a longer trip.

#1 – check the weather. Hopefully you won’t be going to several different climates during your trip, which makes it easier to narrow down the types of clothing you need. For this trip, we saw some lows in the upper 50s and highs in the upper 70s, just depending on where we were in the country.

#2 – learn about how the local dress. In many places outside the US, locals don’t wear shorts except to the beach or in very hot climates. Meals at restaurants might also be less casual than you are used to, so it can be helpful to do some research ahead of time. You should also consider the places you will be visiting. Many churches request women to cover shoulders and legs before going inside. While it is easy to pack a large scarf for these occasions, impromptu covering of legs can be a challenge.  Plan to wear long skirts or pants on days you will visit conservative locations.

Layering is key - add a scarf and jacket for chilly evenings.
Layering is key – add a scarf and jacket for chilly evenings.

#3 – book an apartment or hotel that has access to a washer/dryer. We typically always use AirBnB and try to strategically book somewhere with a washer halfway through the trip. This makes it easy to do a load or two of laundry and allow for air drying before our next destination. This means less to pack and more room in your bags for new purchases. 😉

#4 – stick with items that you can layer and mix to create several outfits. I try to pack 3-4 pairs of pants and several shirts that go with at least 2 of the pairs of pants. That way if you end up with gelato on something, you haven’t lost an entire outfit until you can do laundry. I also try to stick with one neutral pair of shoes that go with everything since shoes are often the heaviest item in the bag. I’ll pack a day pair of shoes for all the walking around, then a pair of sandals or maybe Tieks for the shorter walks to dinner in the evening.

I packed 3 pairs of pants for this trip - white jeans, blue jeans, and black casual slacks.
I packed 3 pairs of pants for this trip – white jeans, blue jeans, and black casual slacks.

#5 – invest in travel size toiletries for everything you would normally use. They make smaller versions of many products, or you can buy a few sets of travel size bottles and fill with your products. You can also find travel size makeup brush kits, hair straighteners and curling irons. I would avoid the smaller hair dryers. Most hotels and AirBnB hosts have these already and it is very easy to blow up a power converter trying to use your US hairdryer in another country. Plus lugging around a hair dryer in a backpack seems like a horrible plan.

I did pretty well and only packed one shirt that I never wore during the trip. Normally I have at least a few pieces, so maybe I’m finally getting the hang of things. I should probably book another trip so I can practice packing again!

Dresses can be a good option for the daytime, just add some casual shoes for walking.
Dresses can be a good option for the daytime, just add some casual shoes for walking.

These are just a few ideas to help you get organized for a long trip. My sister likes to pack older clothes that she can leave behind or throw away during the trip. This is genius – it makes more room for purchases and means less laundry when you get home! What are your tips for packing?

Kendra Sig

Trains, Planes and Boats, Oh My! Solving the Travel Puzzle

It started in 2013 on our first trip to Italy.  From the minute we made it out of Rome and into Tuscany, I was completely hooked on all things Italy. The gorgeous rolling hills, scenic tiny towns, delicious food and wine, and friendly people were so amazing on our first trip that I immediately wanted to return. But big trips like that take saving and planning, so it wasn’t until this year that we were able to start booking flights. One of my favorite things about travel is the process of putting together a trip itinerary and figuring out the puzzle pieces of transportation, which cities to visit, and where to stay. Here is the basic outline of how I like to plan an international trip:

  1. Pick the places you want to visit
  2. Using that list of places, figure out the best airport to use for arrival and departure
  3. Using the start and ending airport, fill in the number of days you would like to spend in each location
  4. Grab a Rick Steve’s guide or visit TripAdvisor.com and learn about the best ways to get to and from each city. Once you know the right form of transportation, you can look up schedules and determine the best days for travel between locations.
  5. Start booking on AirBnB!

It’s like a nerdy travel puzzle, and I love it!

The first decision we made was to stick to the southern portion of the country. Since our first trip took us to Rome, Tuscany and Milan, we wanted to head south and see what else we could discover. We did want to avoid Naples if possible, so that eliminated that as a possible airport choice. After going back and forth, we finally decided on the Amalfi Coast and Sicily, eliminating Lecce from our short list due to the amount of travel time it would take to get to Lecce and then back across the country to Sicily. I’m still a bit sad about that, but I guess it just means we will have to go again another time. 🙂

With a list of cities selected, I decided to book flights in and out of Rome. Since our flight landed pretty early in the morning, we decided to book a train from Rome to Salerno the same day, getting us closer to the Amalfi Coast without spending a night in Rome. As it turned out, we had enough time between our flight’s arrival and when our train departed that we were able to wander over to the Trevi Fountain. It has recently been cleaned and was absolutely stunning in the sunlight.

trevi

After arriving in Salerno, I wanted to catch to ferry directly to Amalfi, but my husband is smart and figured that after more than 24 hours of travel, we should probably stay the night in Salerno. As it turns out, we had one of our best meals that night, so I’m glad he talked some sense into me while we were scheduling apartments on AirBnB.

The next morning we headed to Amalfi on a ferry, which is a pretty typical way of transit around the Amalfi Coast. We made Amalfi our homebase and made day trips to Positano, Ravello, and Capri. Of all the places we visited, Amalfi and Ravello were our favorites by far. Our apartment in Amalfi was right next to the Duomo.

That is our laundry hanging outside our window. And duomo just above!
That is our laundry hanging outside our window. And duomo just above!

Our next stop on this tour of Italy was Catania, which is a major city on the island of Sicily. We debated about renting a car and driving, but a coworker from Italy advised against this, due to construction along that road. We booked a train instead, avoiding the hassle of the airport. The best part about this train is that it actually rolls onto a ferry to make the crossing to Sicily. I find this freaking AWESOME. Unfortunately, when I booked the train, I failed to check the ferry schedule as well. There was not a ferry early enough to get us to Salerno to catch our train. So we ended up on a very crowded one hour bus ride from Amalfi to Salerno. One lady even used my shoulder as an armrest for part of the trip. So take a lesson from me – check the ferry schedule. 🙂

This is our train. On a boat. On the ocean!
This is our train. On a boat. On the ocean!

After arriving in Catania, we had a lazy day where we slept in, had a late lunch, and wandered the city before heading back to our apartment for a nap. If you are on a longer trip, I highly recommend you take a day to really do nothing. No museums, no churches. Just eating, laying around, and maybe some people watching with your wine. I’m glad we took a day to relax, because our next three days were jam packed with sightseeing.

We started by picking up our rental car and heading to Valley of the Temples.  It is just over 2 hours from Sicily to Agrigento, but when you aren’t familiar with the signage, and possibly can’t figure out the map your husband downloaded, you make quite a few u-turns and it adds to the trip time. Oops! Fortunately we didn’t have a tight schedule.

 

 

Driving in Italy - a whole new world
Driving in Italy – a whole new world
Valley of the Temples
Valley of the Temples

After Valley of the Temples, we drove about fifteen minutes to the southern coast of Sicily to find the Scala dei Turchi, also known as the Turkish Steps. This amazing seaside rock formation literally looks like white steps on the side of the sea. Even with the haze, the views were beautiful and well worth the side trip.

turchi

The next morning we enjoyed an interesting experience with a parking garage attendant while trying to find a place for our rental car for the day. Fortunately the tiny bit of Italian we knew, plus a very nice stranger helped us limp through that transaction. Pro tip – parking in big cities in any country is a pain. Ask your host or hotel for advice on parking locations and costs.

After storing the car for the day, we met up with a local guide for a food and wine tour in the Mount Etna region. It was wonderful to escape the city and the heat, try some wonderful food and wine from the region, and learn about Italy from a local. Check TripAdvisor and Rick Steve’s guides for reviews and recommendations of local tour guides.

We found the wine!
We found the wine!

On our last full day in Sicily, we headed out in the rental car again for a trip to Ortigia. Fortunately, it was a much easier drive this time and we made it there easily. We spent the day wandering the city, revisiting places the husband remembered from a month he spent there for school, and having a lazy lunch of delicious seafood. In the late afternoon we went a bit further south and spent an hour on the beach, just relaxing and enjoying the sea. Having a car gave us great flexibility, but I think I still prefer using public transportation and walking.

ortigia

After our time in Sicily, we caught a flight back to Rome for one last night before our return trip. We wandered the city, visited the Spanish Steps, and had one last gelato. The last puzzle piece of the trip was complete when we boarded our flight back to the States.

Last gelato
Last gelato

Now, which travel puzzle should we solve next?

Kendra Sig

Anniversary Date Surprise!

The husband and I are celebrating our nine year anniversary this year with another epic trip to Italy. However, because of timing and my need to hoard vacation days for another vacation later this year, our flight schedule has us landing in Rome on our actual anniversary with massive jet lag and still a full day of travel before we get to our first destination. Since sleeping on planes and trains and dragging our luggage through cities doesn’t scream anniversary, I decided to plan a small surprise before we left town.

I struggled with ideas for the surprise. A fancy dinner didn’t seem appropriate, since we are about to eat our way through all of the delicious Italian food and wine. A movie date didn’t seem right either. Instead, I booked us a time slot at iFLY Dallas. If you haven’t been before, it is basically indoor skydiving. They opened in Frisco about two years ago and we hadn’t tried it out yet. It seemed like a fun way to celebrate nine years of marriage – by doing something completely different!

I booked our appointment online and decided to add on some additional minutes to the package so that we got a bit more flight time in. We had to trek all the way to the suburbs for this, so I wanted to make the trip worth it! On the way there, I played a custom playlist to give him hints to where we were headed.

Blake guessed on the first song. Perhaps I should be a bit more obscure with the lyrics next time.
Blake guessed on the first song. Perhaps I should be a bit more obscure with the lyrics next time.

After we checked in, we had about 15 minutes to watch one of the groups before our safety class. Although I had seen some video online, watching in person was way better. By the time our safety class started, we were both pretty excited.

ifly

Before getting geared up.
Before getting geared up.

After a safety video and some important information from our instructor, we geared up with suits, goggles, earplugs, and helmets. A few pro tips:

  • Don’t wear any jewelry. There are lockers to secure your valuables, so put them there or leave them at home. This includes wedding rings.
  • Wear shoes that lace up tight. Slip on shoes can fly off and no one wants to be in a wind tunnel with your shoe.
  • Go casual – jeans or shorts and a t-shirt is just fine.
  • Your hair will be a disaster after you are done. Just own it. Bring a wide-tooth comb or just plan to rock a crazy style until you get home.

Once we were geared up it was time to start our group’s turn. I have to say it was a pretty awesome experience. You can’t hear anything in there, so it is all hand signals and maybe some lip reading as your instructor sees you are ready to try a few tricks. Blake and I learned how to move forward and back in the tunnel, as well as up and down vertically. We also learned to spin a bit, although mine needs a bit of work. I made good friends with one side of the tunnel wall.  Oops!  For the last 30 seconds of the second round the instructor grabs your suit and takes you for a fun spin up and down vertically. I loved every second of it.

After you are done, the instructor will give you a certificate and go over with you how you did and give you some pointers for the next time. Blake and I happily signed up for another package, then went out for margaritas to celebrate.

 

After! Big smiles.
After! Big smiles.

It was definitely a good choice for our anniversary and I’m glad we did something other than the usual nice dinner and drinks. What are your anniversary traditions? Share with us in the comments – I’m going to need some new ideas for the 10th anniversary next year!

Kendra Sig

Delicious Things Lou Told Me About

Anyone that knows me well enough knows that I am not a fan of cooking. If a recipe has more than 5 ingredients, the chances are high that I won’t give it a second look. I have a cookbook specifically for 20 minutes or less recipes, and it is probably the only cookbook that has seen any love in our house.

cooking-in-real-life-21873

However, this doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy delicious food. I just prefer when other people prepare it.  🙂  On the occasion that I do want to try a new recipe and spice up our usual kitchen rotation, I turn to my good friend Lou. She always has great ideas for both dinners and lunches.  Below are a few examples of the delicious things Lou has convinced me to make.

Spicy Honey-Brushed Chicken Thighs

This chicken recipe sees quite a few rotations in our house. The husband likes it, and I like how fast it is to prepare and cook. Easy clean up too as long as you cover the oven pan in foil before you start. One of the best things about this recipe is that most of the ingredients are staples in your pantry, so just pick up some chicken and a vegetable for a side and you have one weekly meal ready to go.

http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/spicy-honey-brushed-chicken-thighs-0

Solutions for the Larabar Addict

I love Larabars. The ingredients are all things that you have heard of, such as dates, almonds, peanuts, etc. The downside is that I can only find them at Whole Foods. If I want to save any money on the rest of my groceries, that means two grocery stores each weekend, which is not high on my list of fun weekend activities. Enter Lou, who sends me a recipe for how to make my own. She’s a smart woman.

  • 1 cup Medjool dates, pitted
  • 1 cup raw almonds or cashews
  • ¼ cup peanut butter
  • 1-2 tablespoons water

Directions:

1. Combine the dates, almonds, peanut butter and water in a food processor and puree until mixture starts to stick together. Add a little more water if necessary to help mixture come together.

2. Pick up the mixture and use your hands to squeeze it together into a big clump. Mash the mixture into a container to form into one even rectangle.

3. Slice into 12 squares. Store in the fridge.

Brussel Sprouts and Kale – get those veggies in!

Lou is also more adventurous with her veggies. I love brussel sprouts, but do not feel the same about kale. Lou introduced me to this recipe and it has been a great make-ahead salad to have as a side or for lunches during the week. I’ll let her blog do the explaining on how to make it.

Easy Autumn Salad Recipe with Kale & Brussels Sprouts

Mason Jar Salads for the Weekday Win

IMG_20160415_123457

This picture doesn’t do the salad justice, but I made three of these for lunches last week and did not run into the usual salad burnout. While the recipe calls for putting everything in the mason jar, I prefer warm chicken in the salad, so I kept that and the cooked veggies in a separate container and reheated them before adding to the salad. I cooked and prepped everything on Sunday and when I ate the last one on Friday it was still delicious. Great choice for anyone trying to eat more veggies and save some money on eating out for lunch.

http://tastykitchen.com/recipes/salads/paleo-mason-jar-chicken-taco-salads/

Now, I did skip the roasted cumin seeds business and just used some cumin powder on the chicken. I’m quite sure I’m not missing anything with this substitute.

What are some of your go-to recipes for the family, or for your weekday lunches? Anyone else avoid the kitchen like I do?

Kendra Sig

My Favorite Things: Dallas Edition Part 1

I often get this question from family or friends who want to show visitors around town – What is there to do in Dallas? It is a pretty loaded question. With so much going on in a small area, it can be hard to narrow down. Here is Part 1 of my favorite things in Dallas.

Espresso at Cafe Strada

espresso

Cafe Strada is on a great little pedestrian side street in downtown Dallas. After ordering your coffee (or gelato!), grab a seat at one of their small tables and do some people watching. With the Joule hotel across the street and a 30-foot giant sculpture of an eyeball, there is plenty to see while you enjoy your coffee.

Catch a ride in an e-frog

Getting around the different neighborhoods of downtown can be difficult if you have a large group. While many areas are walkable, it can be overwhelming to get around if you are new to town. So when you need to go from downtown to Deep Ellum, Uptown, the Arts district, Fair Park, the Cedars, or anywhere in between, text an e-frog! These electric motor, open-air carts can hold 5 adults comfortably and are easily reached via text. Just let them know your name and how many in your group and they will send someone over. We recently coordinated 2 carts to take a group of friends from our house to Klyde Warren Park for a few hours of fun. No one had to find parking and we had a great time.  Note – these guys do not charge a fee for the ride, so tip your driver well!

See the sloths at Dallas World Aquarium

sloths
Sloths!!

While I would argue the DWA is more tropical forest and less aquarium, it is still a great place to see some animals and other creatures when it is too hot or too rainy for the zoo. Also, my attention span for museums and zoos is pretty short, so the smaller footprint of the aquarium suits me just fine. After you enter, you will wind through 2 levels of rain forest with all kinds of monkeys and birds. Because you start at the tops of the trees, you have lots of opportunities to spot different animals. Moving further down, the exhibits with lizards and snakes start, and at the very bottom of the building are all the tanks. There are also sloths, penguins, and a panther. While the small footprint of the building makes for 1-2 hours of fun, it also means it can be crowded. Aim to be there when it first opens to avoid the crowds, or go during the week.

kids
My adorable nephews had fun too!

Take a stroll on the Santa Fe Trestle Trail

nature

I’ve posted about the Santa Fe Trestle Trail before, but you truly can’t miss this bit of nature in the middle of the city. Whether you have 20 minutes or 2 hours, experiencing how quiet it can be inside the levees while you are right next to the city is something you shouldn’t miss.

Klyde Warren Park – See what happens when you build a park over a highway

happy
We returned soggy kids to their parents after this trip. Pro tip – bring a towel!

This 5 acre park is built over a highway and connect the Arts District with Uptown. On a nice day, every bit of this park will be packed with people lounging in the sun, playing in the fountains, enjoying some free yoga, or grabbing a snack at the many food trucks. My favorite thing to do is find a seat and do some people watching while enjoying a beer. While the park offers plenty of space for people, there is very little parking. Grab a trolley or an e-frog and leave the car at home.

Meet new friends at Full Circle Tavern

This patio is Tucker approved.
This patio is Tucker approved.

After all this exploring, you will be starving. Make your way to the Cedars and grab a drink and a meal at Full Circle Tavern. They have a great shaded patio and are dog friendly, so bring along your four-legged friends too. The owners at FCT are super friendly and take extra care to be sure you enjoy your food and your time in their tavern. The servers and bartenders complete the experience by making you feel right at home. The husband says order the grilled cheese with bacon and an egg – you won’t regret it.

End your day with a drink and some music at Lee Harvey’s

Lee Harvey’s was a neighborhood staple long before we moved here. Considered a dive bar, it has evolved over the years into a great place for a burger and a beer. Seating is mostly outdoors and long picnic tables give you space to hang out and chat with friends, or enjoy some live music. Bands are booked on most Friday and Saturday evenings. It is a great place to wind down your day before heading back home.

My list could go on forever, but I’ll stop Part 1 here. What are some of your favorite places in Dallas?

Kendra Sig

Urban Living, Dallas Style

big
Everything is bigger in…Dallas

In a few short months, my fellow NonBlonde Amanda will be moving to the suburbs permanently. I recently visited her part of town and I was surprised by how out of my element I’ve felt! I’ve lived in the city for almost nine years and I’m no longer used to the daily life of suburbia. Although I would say Amanda’s new part of town is still just a little bit country too. 🙂

I love living in the city. We can walk to our neighborhood bars and restaurants, there is a great local coffee shop, and we even have a movie theater now. A short bike ride puts us in Deep Ellum or the Arts District, and a 5 minute ride on the #2 DART bus puts us right in the heart of the Main Street District.

Surprisingly, even land-locked Dallas County has some great natural beauty. The Trinity River runs nearby and the Santa Fe Trestle Trail runs in between the levies and is a great place for biking or walking. The city noise fades away and you can enjoy some time in a natural space, with the downtown skyline just behind you.

2015-05-11 (1)

nature

I’ve spent the majority of my life living in suburbs or smaller towns. Moving into a more urban area was a whole new adventure. Our part of town is under a renovation of sorts, so many of the residents were new as well. Within two weeks, my husband and I had met more neighbors than the two years we lived in North Dallas. Everyone had an interest in knowing their neighbors, for various reasons. First of all, the neighborhood still had some rough parts, so knowing who should and shouldn’t be on the property is important information. Second, many of our friends and family didn’t live close enough for regular gatherings, so meeting neighbors led to new social circles. Once we learned a nearby restaurant had half-price food on Wednesday’s, a group of neighbors regularly met there for delicious food and good company. Our new home had a true community feel, something I didn’t even know we had been missing.

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View from the neighborhood

Will we live in the city forever? Who knows! Every now and then we drive through other neighborhoods farther away from the city center, but it always comes back to how much we love our community, and we aren’t quite ready to leave that.

Kendra Sig

It’s THAT Time of Year: A Guest Blogger Helps Ease Parents into the School Year

I’m excited to introduce our readers to our friend, Teddi Fulenwider. I met Teddi through a local running group (many years ago when I still ran more than 10 seconds at a time). After over 30 years of teaching, Teddi decided to step away from the school environment and make a full-time dedication to educating other teachers. She also launched an iPad app that parents can use and customize to help with teaching kids to read, and getting them excited about reading. As an avid reader, I share her excitement about creating an environment that cultivates life-long readers, so I invited her to guest blog today on preparing kids for school. You can learn more about the Read with TedDee app, as well as connect with Teddi through her website at http://www.readwithteddee.com/

I know some of you are thinking what time of year?   Tax time?  Elf on the Shelf time? Diet time?  No, that time of year when parents feel they have not done enough to prepare their child for school – preschool, Kindergarten, doesn’t matter.  I want to tell you – you have!  I can say that.  I have the credentials to say that.  I have been in the education profession for over 30 years.  I have taught Kindergarten.  I have and continue to train teachers.  So again, I can say you have prepared your child for school.

Let me be clear, I am not bashing teachers or teaching at all.  In fact, the opposite, I have the utmost respect for teachers.   After all, I was one, came from a family of teachers and have a daughter and daughter in law who are teachers.  However, the line between the teacher’s job and the parent’s job has become blurred.

I visit with many parents who are upset and overwhelmed because they have been told or have heard from the BFF that their child needs to know all the letters and sounds before they enter school.  They need to know all the numbers and count to 100.  They are led to believe that the child should be able to write his or her name before entering school.  My response is always the same…Sooooooooo what will the teacher be doing once school starts?  Likewise, I have had teachers proudly share with me that they send home packets of ‘stuff’ for children to do over the summer so they are ‘prepared’ when they enter school.   Again, my response is…..Soooooooooo what exactly is YOUR job?

 For children in Texas, many of the skills teachers would like children to have are exactly the skills that are taught that year.   Would it be nice if every child entered school already able to do everything?  Absolutely!  That would be a teacher’s dream child.  You see, it wouldn’t matter what I did as a teacher, that child would be successful.  That leaves time for me, the teacher, to do ‘fun’ stuff that has nothing really to do with learning – enrichment yes.  Per the State of Texas children are not required to leave Kindergarten being able to read a book.  Many do because of what they are exposed to.  But it is NOT a reason to hold a child back or make a parent feel guilty because their child can’t.  Reading is a developmental thing as is most things we learn. (So a little side note – when your BFF shares with you that her child is reading at 9 months, just smile politely and realize that your child is doing something ahead of hers. It’s all developmental.)

kids

So what is YOUR job as the parent?  Your job is to provide experiences for your child, read and talk to your child.   Your job is to increase your child’s oral vocabulary, which in turn increases his or her background knowledge (schema) and in turn enables that child to make connections.

Your job is to use purposeful talk.  Instead of general talk, use specific language. It really is easy!  Here are some examples.

At the grocery store

  • Color words in the produce department
  • Describing words with fruit- rough, smooth, prickly
  • Specific Words – apple, pineapple, lettuce
  • Concept words – sit in the cart, walk beside the basket
  • Math – weight, size

Parking lots – Math concepts

  • How many steps from the car to the door?
  • Which one is farther away?
  • Which one is nearer?
  • Color words – Do you see the red car?
  • Specific words – Jeep, SUV, car, motorcycle, tires, bumper

Playgrounds – besides having fun

  • science words, insects, (everything isn’t a bug!) grass, dirt, soil
  • high, fast, swing
  • position words- on the swing, under the slide, beside the slide
  • Writing with chalk

In addition to reading to your child everyday, purposeful talk is the most important thing we can do as parents to make sure our child is ‘ready’ for school.

And truth be told, your ONLY job to do before sending your child to school is to love your child and hopefully raise a compassionate person.  The actual learnin’ stuff is the job of the teacher.  SO the next time a teacher tells you what all you need to be sure and have your child know before coming to school you have two options.  First, you can smile politely and just say okay, thanks.  Or two, you can say, So, if I teach him or her all of that before I send him or her to you, what exactly will YOU be teaching?  Most of you are probably nicer than I am so my guess is hopefully you will at least do number one.   Promise me you won’t feel guilty and teach it all to your child!

 

Colorado for People Who Don’t Ski

Not a bad view to see each morning.
Not a bad view to see each morning.

My husband loves to snow ski. When the temperature starts to drop, you can bet he will start watching snow reports in Colorado and figuring out when he can get away for a few days on the mountain. Unfortunately, I do not share his love of skiing (or his athletic abilities), so this is typically not my favorite vacation. But the last two trips we’ve taken I’ve actually found a few things to do that I’m happy to share with my fellow non-skiers.

In 2015, we headed to Keystone for 6 days. Knowing there was no way I could stay in a condo by myself for that many days without losing my mind, I checked out TripAdvisor for some good ways to kill the time.  First up was an afternoon trip to Frisco Adventure Park for some tubing. We visited on a Wednesday and basically had the tubing hill to ourselves. After making friends with the staff, we rode the magic carpet to the top of the hill and proceeded to slide down the hill on tubes round after round. The guys at the top of the hill had a great time sending us spinning and showing us how to connect our tubes so we could all go down the hill together. I haven’t laughed that hard in awhile and I think we all enjoyed it – even the seasoned skiers who I dragged along. Prices are reasonable and reservations are recommended. If it is crowded, consider booking more than 1 hour to be sure you have enough time to get in plenty of runs while waiting your turn in line. Since we were the only ones there, 1 hour was enough for our group.

You can see he isn't quite sure what I've signed us up for.
You can see he isn’t quite sure what I’ve signed us up for.

For the next outing during my time in Keystone, I found Good Times Adventures. After being away from our dogs for a few days, I figured I’d go snuggle with some other pups to fill the time. Let the dog sledding adventures begin! I didn’t really know what to expect out of this excursion. Would it be a cheesy run around a track in a field of snow? I can tell you it certainly is not! Groups of ten dogs pull your sled through trails in the forest while you attempt to guide them and keep them on task. One person rides in the sled while another hangs on to the back. While the dogs are mostly following snowmobiles driven by the experienced dog sledding guide, they do have opinions of their own and occasionally pick new trails or go a bit faster than they probably should. We learned so much about the Siberian Huskies on our team, about how they are trained and all of their unique personalities. You can see the love that goes into the care of these dogs, and how much the guides enjoy sharing their knowledge and passion. As a bonus, Good Times Adventures also runs snowmobile outings, so if you make the trip you can certainly complete both in one day.

dogs

Just a few weeks ago we took a trip to Vail for a few days of vacation with our friends. Because this was a shorter trip, I didn’t want to pull the husband away from the mountain for any non-skier activities. Vail is a great town for wandering and shopping, but I really couldn’t see spending three full days shopping (unless it was with someone else’s money). So I took the plunge and registered for a full day snowboarding lesson. After a disaster ski lesson experience in 2009, I was pretty apprehensive about spending more time falling down the side of a hill. I reasoned with myself that at least time I would be strapped to the snowboard when I fell, so I wouldn’t have to spend half the day retrieving lost equipment from each fall I made. After grabbing my equipment from the rental location, I trekked over to Golden Peak and the Vail Ski School. I had booked in advance for a Friday, hoping to beat the Saturday crowds. As it turns out there were only two people registered for the beginner snowboard lesson, so we both ended up with great personal instruction throughout the day. My instructor, Colleen, was fantastic. She worked hard to explain each new skill, gave us plenty of opportunities to ask questions and practice the skills, and gave great feedback when something went wrong so we knew how to correct it on the next run. After I explained my fear of heights, she thanked me for letting her know and told me we could just see how the day went with no pressure of the ski lift hanging over my head. So I happily went down the same smaller hill over and over again for most of the day, learning new skills that would help me should I ever make it up to a higher point on the mountain. In the end, I didn’t progress far enough to feel comfortable moving on, but I did learn a whole bunch. I also enjoyed the experience so much, that if we return to Vail I would happily sign up for a 2 or 3 day class in order to lean more and feel more comfortable on the mountain on my own.

snowboard

While I won’t be qualifying for the Olympics anytime soon, I’ve learned that cold-weather vacations can be a lot of fun and a great change of pace. So next time you’re invited to Colorado in the winter, sign up for a few of these adventures and have fun discovering a different kind of relaxation!

WOTW: Wins of the Week

cartoon

Over the course of my career I’ve been fortunate to have a few amazing bosses (and a few terrible ones). Each of those fantastic leaders was more than a manager, they were also a mentor that worked to guide me through growing my skill set or navigating office politics. One particular manager encouraged me to keep a working list of all my accomplishments over the course of the year, so that if I ever wanted a promotion or raise, it would be very easy to justify. That list can also be very handy during review season when you can’t seem to remember what you’ve done the last twelve months.

Creating and maintaining the list had some great results. First, I noticed when my productivity was lacking. Noticing the list hadn’t grown often encouraged me to buckle down and knock items off my to-do list that I had been procrastinating on.  Second, the list reminded me of how far I had progressed. Noticing those positives can be hard when you are bogged down in the day to day tasks, but the list reminded me that the work would result in achievement of a goal. At the end of each year I had a great list of all the projects that had moved forward or completed due to my contributions.

About six months ago, Lou of Mommy Sanest reached out to me about joining a Wins of the Week (WOTW) email list. Basically at the end of each week, one of us in the group would start an email and list out a few wins that occurred that week. The bonus to this group is that the wins weren’t limited to the office, your win could be about any facet of your life. I realized that although I was in the habit of recording my career accomplishments, I had never thought to reflect on accomplishments outside of the office. I quickly accepted Lou’s invitation and within the week there were three of us reflecting on the positive aspects of our week.

The beauty of this WOTW group is that the wins can really vary depending on what kind of week you experienced, but we still celebrate all of them. It is a great way to end your week on a positive note. Here are just a few of the wins our group has reflected on:

  • My iphone is still working even though it took a quick dunk in the kitchen sink two days ago. After a 24 hour time out in the rice, I’m THRILLED it still works!
  • After three hours and a ridiculous amount of help from my instructor, I finally installed a zipper into the skirt I’m trying to sew.
  • I generally had a healthy week. We made dinner every night, and I tried a 30 minute class at the new fitness studio down the street.
  • Gave a presentation with about 24 hours of notice. I was super nervous, but it went really well and people now seem to think I’m a natural at that sort of thing.  If they only knew!
  • I let my husband take over. He had Tuesday-Friday off, and he has been Mr. Momming it up. Sometimes I have trouble letting these things go (control!!!)
  • I’ve flossed every night this week.
  • Spent an hour on the phone with my brother. Really excited to see him for the holiday. Good reminder that I want to spend more of my time in 2016 with the people I love!

Besides allowing us to reflect on our weeks and find the positives, we’ve also built a great little support network for those weeks when it is tough to find any wins. Even though I live far away from the others in the group, I still feel their support each week when we trade emails and I always look forward to learning about what wins they report.

How do you keep up with your accomplishments at work or at home? Anyone else have a manager that they loved? Let us know in the comments.

Kendra Sig

Outsourcing Style: Using Trunk Club to update my wardrobe

Two years ago my husband came home with bags full of awesome clothing, tailored to fit him perfectly. When he explained his visit to Trunk Club and how someone did all the shopping for him, I immediately asked if this service existed for women. At the time, only Stitch Fix was available for women’s clothing, and I hadn’t had much success with that service.

Fast forward to last summer when his stylist emailed to announce the launch of Trunk Club’s styling service for women. The husband forwarded that email to me and I signed up immediately. For years I’ve struggled with style. The other non-blondes have a running joke about my love for the black turtleneck, since it was pretty much my college uniform. I struggle with matching – and black turtlenecks match everything!

Trunk Club offers styling services in two forms – you can make an appointment at a clubhouse, or request a trunk be shipped to your home. I’ve tried both services, but this is a review of just the trunk shipment.

I emailed my stylist, Jordin, letting her know I needed some winter sweaters and scarves, since apparently I threw out anything warm the previous summer when I cleaned out the closet. I’ve worked with Jordin in person before, so she understands my comfort level for patterns and colors, but she also includes things in the trunk that would push me out of those comfort zones. She shipped out a trunk the next week.

box
Tucker also likes Trunk Club

This trunk arrived mid-December, and I was so busy that I actually took 3 days to open it. Trunk Club gives you 10 days to review the items in the trunk and then let them know what you will keep and what you will return. They also include return shipping labels and tape. You can schedule a UPS pick up from your home, or just drop it off at a UPS Store.

stack
Such pretty packages!

I love opening a new trunk! They package all the items up in cute stacks, tied together with string. There is also an itemized list included describing each piece, including the manufacturer and the price. This particular trunk included a pair of shoes, so you know that was the first thing I opened.

boot
Love at first sight.

I tried on all the items, even the ones I knew I didn’t want to keep. Everything in this trunk fit, but some weren’t the best cuts of clothing for my frame, or the color was similar to something I already owned. The trunk contained 11 pieces total, but that amount can vary according to the instructions you have sent to your stylist.

collage

I ended up keeping the gray denim (shown in all the pictures), the black scarf, the black and white poncho sweater (bottom left), and the black boots (duh). I also made a last minute decision to keep the navy coat and I’m so glad I did – I’ve worn it many times this winter.

Trunk Club’s service makes it very easy to find new pieces without wandering around a mall with a million other people. I love being able to try everything on at my house to see how things work with the rest of my clothing and to be sure I’m not duplicating things that are already in my closet. I also feel like the pieces Jordin picks are typically of good quality, with nice fabrics and good construction, which isn’t always the case when you stumble into some of the usual stores in the mall. Since we have a small closet, I try to aim for quality over quantity, and Jordin and Trunk Club have not disappointed.

If you are interested in trying out the service for men or women, use this referral link to sign up. I’ll get a credit toward my next trunk, and you will end up with awesome clothes from a fantastic stylist.

Kendra Sig