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5 STEPS TO GET THROUGH AIRPORT SECURITY WITHOUT LOOSING YOUR COOL

5 STEPS TO GET THROUGH AIRPORT SECURITY WITHOUT LOOSING YOUR COOL

As most months see me visiting at least one or two airports, I have discovered that there are a few ways that I can help make the process run smoothly. A little preparation will go a long way to making your life easier once you get to the airport. Follow my 5 steps to get through airport security without loosing your cool, and you too can begin your trip with a smile on your face.

 5 steps to get through airport security

 

Preparation should begin before you head to the airport

 

 

  • If you are a US citizen, a lawful permanent resident of the US, or a foreign national already enrolled in Global Entry then visit the TSA website and sign up for their Preapproved Program. If you are a frequent flyer then this should be at the top of your list, but even for the casual traveller it is well worth investing the time.

 

  • Think about the clothes you select to travel in. Wear comfortable shoes as you may be standing in long lines. Heels look good but do you really want to stand in them for 1-2 hours if the airport is busy? Wear shoes that can be removed easily when walking through the scanner and remember socks if you are squeamish about walking barefoot.

 

  • Don’t wear lots of jewelry that will need to be removed or have metallic items on your clothing, unless of course you like the idea of an airport pat down.

 

  • If you plan to be carryon then make sure you have organized your liquids in the correct containers, you have arranged your belongings so that a TSA agent can easily check them, and you do not have any contraband items in your possession. If in doubt about what you can and cannot be taken through security then check the TSA prohibited items list.

5 steps to get through airport security

 

Select your security line with care

 

 

  • Congratulations if you have been TSA preapproved. Please wave to your fellow travellers as you move smoothly past them standing in line.

 

  • If eligible, always select the fast track or business/first class line. Your airline should be able to tell you if this is available to you. This is when being a member of a frequent flyer program can come in handy.

 

  • When choosing a line don’t get behind a large family, especially if they have a baby in a stroller. Invariably families have lots of items that need to be taken out of bags to be scanned and then family members need to be corralled into going through the scanner.

 

  • Think about the George Clooney film, Up in the Air. I know it stereotypes, but he has a good point. Try to avoid – elderly people, people that appear confused or cannot speak the language, or people needing assistance with wheelchairs.

 

  • Ideally select the line with the single business travellers that have already begun their disrobing process while standing in the line. Why is it that when you have stood for so long so many people wait until they arrive at the scanner to take off their belt or locate their liquids?

5 steps to get through airport security

 

 

Understand what you need to show, when, and where

 

 

  • At the start of the security line you will need to show your passport or photo ID and your boarding card. Have these items ready in your hand and not packed in your bag. As soon as these have been checked, put them safely away in your hand luggage so that they do not get lost in the variety of items that will need to be scanned. Yes I speak from experience on this point, just ask David!

5 steps to get through airport security

 

Know what items need to be removed for separate screening

 

 

  • It helps to be aware of what others around you are doing. If there is a full body scanner that everyone is going through then you will not need to remove as many items such as your belt or watch. Don’t be caught out at the last minute and need to put an expensive piece of jewelry randomly through the scanner. Remove any such items and place them safely inside one of your bags. Just ask a TSA agent how many items are lost or left behind at the scanning station.

 

  • Large electronic items such as laptops always need to be removed from your bag and any other protective case you carry them in (unless you have one of the new ‘checkpoint friendly’ laptop bag ) I have found that it is worthwhile to also remove such items as electric toothbrushes and battery packs for cellphones to avoid the need to be called to the extra screening line. I pack such items in a see through bag that makes it easy for the scanners but keeps them all together so that I do not leave anything behind.

 

  • For liquids, remember the 3-1-1 rule. That is 3.4ml of liquid in 1 bag with 1 per passenger

5 steps to get through airport security

 

Be nice to the TSA Agents

 

 

  • Yes the TSA Agents can sometimes appear grumpy and officious but greeting them with a smile and keeping calm will benefit you in the long run.

 

  • Don’t turn into a comedian or chatty Cathy, just get through this process as quickly as possible.

 

  • Keep calm, it can be very frustrating when someone in front of you is being poorly organized but you will not make any friends with the authorities by being vocal or grumpy (I remind myself of this point on most journeys).

 

I hope this helps but I would love to hear what tips you have for getting through airport security without loosing your cool.

 

Happy travels

 

CANDLE CAFE WEST IN NYC: PROVING YOU DONT HAVE TO BE VEGAN TO ENJOY EATING HERE

CANDLE CAFE WEST IN NYC: PROVING YOU DONT HAVE TO BE VEGAN TO ENJOY EATING HERE

On my last visit to New York I was taken to a restaurant on the Upper West side called Candle Cafe West. I love the fact that each time I visit this city I discover new little gems. Credit should go to my daughter Amy and her partner Liz as they usually do the research ahead of my visit, and on this occasion decided we should try an organic vegan restaurant that they had recently discovered.

 

The History of Candle Cafe West

 

 

Candle Café West began when the current owner Bart Potenza took over a health food store and juice bar in 1984. In 1987 Joy Pierson joined him as a partner in the business and together they steadily moved the vegetarian movement forward. In 1993, on the auspicious date of Friday 13th, the pair won $53,000 on the lottery and ploughed the funds into growing their business.

 

Bart and Joy were pioneers of the farm to table concept of bringing fresh local food to its customers. By using the cleanest environmental practices Candle Café West became the first Certified Green Restaurant in NYC by the Green Restaurant Association. In 2003 they opened a second restaurant, Candle 79 and have also produced a cookbook featuring the cuisine of the restaurant.

 

The Restaurant

 

 

After flying from Chicago to NY, David and I met Amy and Liz at the restaurant around 8pm on a Monday evening. As the girls had secured a table in the window, it was easy to find them when our taxi dropped us off. Monday night doesn’t appear to be one of the busiest times to dine out, as there were only a few other patrons in the restaurant.

 

The restaurant has a large bar area with plenty of seating. The exposed brick walls, light wood floors, and dark wood tables and chairs give a welcoming and sophisticated feel upon entry. However, what I absolutely loved about this restaurant was the extremely friendly staff. Our server, who we discovered was new and still in training, was just delightful. Such a breath of fresh air to be served by someone who actually seems to love her job, and even more importantly wants us to love the food and our experience at the restaurant.

The bar at the Candle Cafe West
The bar at the Candle Cafe West

 

The Food

 

 

We began the evening by ordering a sparkling wine. In keeping with the ethos of the restaurant their wines are “certified organic, biodynamic and sustainable wines that have been chosen for their commitment to growing healthy grapes without the use of fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides, with the importance of giving back to the land and community while connecting soil to vine” Almost seems like a crime not to drink.

 

While Amy and Liz are pescetarian/vegan, David and I are not and yet we had no difficulty finding something delicious sounding to try. With a little bit of education from the girls, as there were items on this menu that David and I had never heard of before, we selected a variety of dishes. We skipped appetizers in the hope that we would still have room to sample the desserts that the girls had told us about although the portobello mushroom and spinach pate served with rosemary-garlic bread sounded incredibly tempting.

 

David opted for spaghetti and wheatballs, with truffled tomato sauce, roasted garlic, sautéed spinach and cashew parmesan (as no cheese in this establishment). Amy had tried this on her previous visit and highly recommended it, and it did not disappoint, although be warned it is a little spicy. Id like to say what it tasted like but David devoured it so Im guessing it was very good 🙂 I liked the sound of one of the specials of the day, pasta with an arrabbiata spicy sauce, peas and sweetcorn (and probably other items that I am now forgetting). Liz decided to try the spring vegetable risotto that has wild mushrooms, spring vegetables, cashew cream sauce and fried leeks as she had enjoyed this on a previous visit. Amy selected the Chipotle seitan burrito, a very colorful dish that delights the eyes even before the taste buds.

Spaghetti and Wheatballs at Candle Cafe West
Spaghetti and Wheatballs at Candle Cafe West
Special of the day at Candle Cafe West
Special of the day at Candle Cafe West

I should have taken a photo of the four empty plates to demonstrate how much we all enjoyed our selections. I think it is fun to step outside of your comfort zone a little when eating out and try dishes that offer a new combination of ingredients that are not normally in your diet. As portions are not huge at this restaurant, and it was Amy’s birthday week so cake was heavily on our minds, we were able to indulge in a selection of desserts for the table to share. We soon devoured the carrot cake that came with just the right amount of vanilla frosting and minus nuts for those with allergies, the strawberry shortcake with rhubarb ice cream and coconut whipped cream (doesn’t it make you drool just reading that description?) and the Mexican chocolate cake with chipotle candied walnuts and ginger cookie-caramel coconut ice cream.

Chocolate brownie dessert at Candle Cafe West
Chocolate brownie dessert at Candle Cafe West

CafeCandle Carrot

Our Verdict

 

 

I would thoroughly recommend a visit to Candle Café West and would now very much like to try their other restaurant, Candle 79. The interior of this restaurant is welcoming, comfortable, and stylish. The servers are friendly and knowledgeable with a desire to help educate customers that might not know that much about the vegetarian options on offer rather than simply to take an order. Portions are not huge, but certainly sufficient. Prices for appetizers are $8-$18, entrees are $20-$23 per dish with sides at $5 or $7, and desserts $11-$14, not at all outrageous for NY.
Candle Cafe West Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Happy dining.

BOOK REVIEW: STILL ALICE BY LISA GENOVA

BOOK REVIEW: STILL ALICE BY LISA GENOVA

The book Still Alice was first published in 2007, and has been on the New York Times Bestseller List for over 40 weeks. The book has been translated into 31 languages, has won a string of awards, and has been a popular choice on the book club circuit. Now as the hit movie is wowing audiences, and Julianne Moore has won the Oscar for her portrayal of the lead character Alice Howland, the book finally grabs my attention – takes a while sometimes I guess.

 

The subject matter is heavy, the impact of a diagnosis of early onset Alzheimer’s disease to a brilliant Harvard professor who has just celebrated her 50th birthday. Hard to imagine the irony of a world-renowned linguistics expert and professor of cognitive psychology being struck by a disease that impairs thought and speech. We watch a woman, who defines herself by her accomplishments; try to come to terms with the prospect of loosing her beloved teaching role and thus the respect and accolades of her peers. Alice is also a wife and mother.  The impact of her diagnosis, and subsequent mental and physical decline, brings out strong emotions from those closest to her.

 

This is Genova’s debut novel. As a neuroscientist, Genova uses her years of experience to portray a realistic path of early onset Alzheimer’s. When Alice starts to forget a word during a speech, misplaces her cellphone, and becomes disorientated while out for her regular run, she knows that something is wrong. Not just menopause, as is first suggested by her doctors. We follow Alice’s journey from disbelief, denial, and finally to one of acceptance.

 

I read the book and was moved by passages that resonated so with my own experiences. My father fell deeper into his own world as his dementia progressed until finally passing in 2013 while in a make believe world that we could only watch from afar. At one point Alice remarks that she wished she had cancer, as people know how to handle that diagnosis and are generally more compassionate and understanding. Sad, but true.

 

This book is an education for us all. Still Alice made my cry but also made my laugh at the humor that Alice tried to bring to her situation. I had violent tendencies towards the husband but my heart ached for Alice’s children. I recently watched the film on a flight back to the US and found myself sobbing in my seat (and again as I type this) as the story is so real. I recommend that you read the book first, then see the movie, as it is a story that we all need to understand. Julianne Moore was amazing in the lead role and so deserving of an Oscar, but the book shares so many of Alice’s thoughts that you really understand how she processes the diagnosis and chooses to live her life.

 

Please let me know what you think of this book and if you think the movie does the book justice?

WASHINGTON, DC: MATCHBOX CHINATOWN, MAKE THIS RETAURANT FIRST ON YOUR LIST TO VISIT

WASHINGTON, DC: MATCHBOX CHINATOWN, MAKE THIS RETAURANT FIRST ON YOUR LIST TO VISIT

When we first arrived in Washington, DC the hotel concierge told us that the best place to eat was Matchbox Chinatown, and after our lunch I am very happy that we took his advice. Located by the colorful Chinatown arch entryway on 14th Street, the restaurant appears to be a part of an old converted row house. Far bigger than you would imagine from the outside, once inside we weaved our way through various rooms to be shown to our seat on the upper level.

 

Matchbox chinatown
The bar at the entrance to Matchbox Chinatown

The main doorway opens to a large bar area with ample seating that appears to be a popular location, with a pizza oven visible to patrons at the end of this section. Turn the corner and you step up to a room with a glass ceiling that lets the sunshine flood in. This room also has an exposed pizza oven area. On the brick wall the restaurant proudly displays a large selection of magazine and newspaper clippings demonstrating just how popular this place has become. There is a small outside terrace to the front of the restaurant in its own courtyard, and also an upstairs dining area with its own bar; quite the tardis.

One of the pizza ovens openly on display Matchbox Chinatown
One of the pizza ovens openly on display at Matchbox Chinatown

Obviously this restaurant is primarily known as a pizza restaurant. but after talking with our super friendly server we were told about many other popular dishes and finally decided to try the sliders. The mini angus beef burgers on the appetizer menu come in a toasted brioche in portions of 3, 6 or 8 and a choice of 3 cheeses, gouda, mozzarella or gorgonzola. We picked 6 sliders with 2 of each cheese for $18. The sliders made quite the entrance, arriving topped with a huge mound of onion straws. The juicy burgers did not disappoint and I’m happy to report that we devoured the entire plate load of deliciousness as our main entrée.

Matchbox chinatown
The light filled room at Matchbox Chinatown

Our group obviously also wanted to try a pizza and finally decided to try half of the Fire & Smoke pizza – fire roasted red peppers, Spanish onions, chipotle pepper tomato sauce, garlic puree, smoked gouda, and fresh basil. The other half was the Oven-dried tomato and fresh mozzarella, which worked well for the vegetarians in our group. The pizzas come in 2 sizes, 10inch or 14 inch, ranging in price from $14 to $23. While spicy, the fire and smoke was not as hot as first thought (although we are used to Texas hot) but the thin crust and fresh ingredients made for a very tasty entrée.

Matchbox chinatown
Plenty of accolades for this restaurant

As we were celebrating a birthday our server brought out a special dessert for the birthday girl, a chocolate chip bread pudding. Be warned, our first bite of this treat sent our taste buds dancing with the rich rum caramel sauce topped with whipped cream. As we were now in the mood to try more sweet treats we also ordered the Mo’s Magic Brownies $8, which came with a good scoop of vanilla ice cream that made David very happy.

Matchbox chinatown
Half and half pizza at Matchbox Chinatown

Overall the menu offered a good variety of dishes with gluten free options available, portion sizes were huge, and prices what you would expect for this location of Washington. However, what made our experience so positive was the great service we received. Our server was so friendly, knowledgeable about the menu, and obviously enjoyed her job that she wanted to ensure we had a great time. I would strongly recommend you visit this gem if you get the opportunity.

Matchbox Chinatown
Delicious chocolate brownies at Matchbox Chinatown

 

Matchbox chinatown
The birthday girls treat

Matchbox Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

RESTAURANT REVIEW: EATALY, CHICAGO

RESTAURANT REVIEW: EATALY, CHICAGO

Monday Munchies: Visit Eataly in Chicago for a little taste of Italy

 

As you walk down East Ohio Street in Chicago’s affluent Gold Coast district you pass by many upscale shops, boutiques, and restaurants. A relative newcomer to this neighborhood is Eataly,  But how should I label this store? Perhaps a hint is in the first point of the company’s own 10 part Manifesto. We’re in love with food. We love high quality food and drink. We love the stories about it, the people who produce it, the places it comes from. Somehow a one word descriptive does not really do justice. Reading that the company wants to ‘offer the best food and drink as well as the best environment in which to discover and expand your tastes” only intrigues me more to try and understand what proposition is on offer.

 

Upon entering the store through the double doors, similar to a department store entryway, you are greeted by the bright open concept space. There is a guest relations desk to direct you and answer any questions you might have, if like me you are a little overwhelmed by the many options of where to begin or simply stuck in the throngs of people that always make this store a challenging place to navigate.

 

EATALY CHICAGO
The Panini counter on the ground floor

 

On the first floor there is a Panini station, a coffee bar, a gelato and nutella stand, and pastry section that feel like mini shops within a shop. There are areas with books, housewares, and beauty products alongside grocery offerings such as fruits and vegetables and sweets. Venture up the stairs, escalator or elevator to the second floor and, if possible, it feels even busier. On this floor you will find numerous themed restaurants, a working brewery, the largest selection of pasta I have ever seen, and a cheese lovers dream counter with possibly every conceivable cheese displayed. As you can imagine, the smells are intoxicating and it is hard not to let your taste buds get just a little bit excited.

 

EATALY CHICAGO
The brewery inside Eataly

 

However, if those offerings not sufficient to entice you to visit then the store also offers a cooking school, areas where you can watch fresh mozzarella being made or a fishmonger preparing a lobster for a guest’s dinner party, and also a private events space that can be booked in advance.

 

EATALY CHICAGO
Watching mozzarella being made

The stores design has an eclectic mix of seating arrangements. Scattered around the main sections you will find regular tables and chairs, high tables designed for leaning against, and some sections like the Salumi and Formaggi area with counter height bar stools nestled up to the counter that has a glass divide between you and the chef preparing the food. Some of the restaurants require a host to seat you (and usually have a wait time as no advance reservations are taken) while others you can simply grab any available free chair or find a spot to lean against. It seems that every inch of space has been maximized to accommodate the many visitors.

 

EATALY CHICAGO
The pasta area is huge in this store

 

The store is an ideal place for people watching, enjoyed alongside a chilled or hot beverage, depending on Chicago’s weather extremes, while escaping the hustle of the Chicago streets. The stores guests appear to be an eclectic mix of tourists wandering around, local residents enjoying a pizza or bowl of fresh pasta, or office workers appreciating a glass of wine or two after a long days works.

EATALY CHICAGO
Our cheese and salami platter



Similarly, the dress code is relaxed and informal although there is a separate section with a restaurant called Baffo that is described as fine dining, accepts reservations, and appears to be a little more upmarket than the other restaurants. Prices are certainly not cheap so one would expect the clientele that frequents this store to be reasonably affluent. The many staff working at the store ensures the continued high turnover of the tables, although I did not feel especially rushed when I have eaten here.

 

From doing a little research, I discovered that the company began business in Italy, where it has 11 stores. There are also stores in Dubai, Japan, and Istanbul and thus far one other US location, in New York. The company promotes itself as a ‘marketplace’ store where consumers can – be active participants in an innovative food and beverage experience where they shop, taste and savor high quality traditional Italian food products and beverages along with local produce and artisanal products. By diversifying their product offering like this they are reaching a wider audience of consumers. Longevity is their aim and their target audience, according to their own Manifesto, is everyone. I feel this store has the right mix of offerings to ensure that I will return on many future occasions.
Eataly Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Happy dining

EATALY CHICAGO

CHICAGO ARCHITECTURE RIVER TOUR: A GREAT WAY TO LEARN THE HISTORY OF THIS CITY

CHICAGO ARCHITECTURE RIVER TOUR: A GREAT WAY TO LEARN THE HISTORY OF THIS CITY

I must admit that the Chicago skyline is one of my all time favorites.  As we are lucky enough to visit this city on a regular basis, we are always on the lookout for something new to try. In April with the weather being cooperative, the bitter cold of winter had thankfully passed and the scorching summer heat had yet to begin, we decided to take the architecture river tour.

 

The Shoreline Sightseeing company offers various tours departing from two locations, Navy Pier and Michigan Avenue. The architecture river tour last approximately 75 minutes and cost $34 plus tax for an adult ticket. Tours begin at 10am and run throughout the day. TIP – some of the boats have a bar onboard so check when booking if that is something that would add to your experience.  The company also offers evening tours and special firework tours so there really is something to fit everyone.

 

On our tour, James our guide gave us a fascinating history lesson about Chicago and its skyline. Did you know that the name Chicago is derived from the Native American word for skunk cabbage?  As our tour wound around the river, James pointed out the various styles of architecture that have changed this skyline over the years since the first skyscrapers in the 1890’s to its more recent editions such as the Trump Hotel and Tower.

 

Hollywood has loved this area for many years. Buildings such as the iconic twin Marina City towers have been featured in the movies Knight Rider and the Steve McQueen movie The Hunter (where the car ends up exiting the building into the river). I remember Julia Roberts taking a boat ride along the river in My Best Friends Wedding. Can you think of any others?

 

Here are a few of the many photos taken on our Chicago architecture river tour.

Chicago Architecture River Tour
Riding under the bridges on the Chicago Architecture River Tour
Chicago Architecture River Tour
One of the interesting condo units as viewed from the river
Chicago Architecture River Tour
The famous dome on the Intercontinental Hotel
Chicago Architecture River Tour
The Trump Tower and Hotel in Chicago
Chicago Architecture River Tour
The ‘Sears” building in Chicago
Chicago Architecture River Tour
Getting arty with the reflections on the buildings in Chicago






 

BLOG RELAUNCH

BLOG RELAUNCH

If you are new to this site, then welcome. If you have moved with me from my Blogger platform to this WordPress ZenBlog theme (love that name) then I hope you like the changes.

 

How did I get to this point?

 

I have been dabbling with blogging since the summer of 2012 when I attended the London Olympics and wanted to share my experiences with family and friends. I really enjoyed journaling all the amazing events I attended, from the opening concerts in Hyde Park to the super Saturday in the athletics stadium when Team GB won 3 gold medals. The positive encouragement I received when I uploaded a new blog post really spurred me on to continue. As my life became ever more complicated, with increased travel and family commitments, it seemed like I had a wealth of new material to blog about, and I realized that I actually loved the whole process of researching, and then writing the articles.

 

But why change?

 

Fast forward to the end of 2014 and after going through the whole so what do you do conversation with various girlfriends I realized that I had the perfect opportunity to explore the world of blogging to a far greater depth. Having really only scratched the surface, I decided that 2015 was the year to say ‘I’m a blogger’ – although I don’t really have a good definition of what that means 🙂

 

But what should I change?

 

As soon as I began my research it became apparent that I would need to move my blog from Blogger to WordPress and thus learn a new operating system. Although a daunting prospect, the move also offered me the opportunity to think about the design of my site and how I could present my content in a user-friendlier format. I looked at literally hundreds of other blogs, deciding what I liked and did not like about the layout, colors, navigation, and design etc etc

 

I discovered numerous online support groups established by bloggers designed to help and encourage us newbies. From one of these groups, the The Blog Loft on Facebook, I was introduced to Margo and we began to plan my blogs rebranding and eventual transition to WordPress.

 

What’s new?

 

Working on the rebranding gave me time to think about what I am trying to achieve, what topics I would like to focus on, how I would like to present the information, and what I believe my audience is/will be. I found this soul searching quite an interesting exercise. The new blog has

 

  • a more functional way of finding articles on specific topics
  • the overall layout is clean and simple
  • the use of slider bars and sidebar widgets make the user experience more interactive

 

Whats still to come?

 

While I am launching this new site today, I do feel that I will continue to tweak the design and its content as I continue to learn more about the constantly evolving world of blogging. That is one of the things that I love about this medium, there really are no boundaries. For example, I feel that bloggers get to define their own meaning of success. For me this journey is about growth, in numerous areas (although the restaurant reviews are impacting my waistline, which is not the optimal growth option I was hoping for).

 

Please continue this journey with me by becoming my friend on FacebookInstagram, Pinterest, by subscribing to this site, or by commenting and sharing your thoughts with me as I think this journey could be a lot of fun.

 

As I sip my champagne in the airport lounge in Mumbai on my way to Chicago via London, I wish you all safe travels

 

Cheers

Sue

5 EASY STEPS TO PACK LIKE A PRO

5 EASY STEPS TO PACK LIKE A PRO

I believe there are two main types of packers; those that throw everything into a bag at the last minute, and those (of us) that like to plan and pack with care and in an organized fashion. As I am packing on a fairly regular basis (at least once a month), let me share the basic information that will help demystify the process and help you pack like a pro.

 

Airplane CCLBegin by checking you airlines policy

A few years back the airlines realized that they could generate a lot of extra revenue by charging to check bags. This policy change led to many people attempting to carry all their life belongings onto the airplane and then cram their bag into the tiny overhead bins.

However, not all airlines are this money grabbing. I applaud Southwest for their checked bag policy and also for their ease at changing bookings without ridiculous penalty fees. If you fly with the same handful of airlines, then keep up to date with their policies by checking on their website.

While I do always try to master the carryon game (due to the increased speed of exit from the airport and fear of the airline loosing my bag) there are occasions when this is not practical. For example, when I do back to back long haul flights I find it easier to check my bag so that I do not have to claim the bag during the connection.

 

Luggage CCLChoose your bag carefully

If you are going to check your bag then make sure it doesn’t look exactly like the many thousands of others that will be tumbling down the conveyor belt at your destination. Add a colorful strap, ribbons, or unusual ties to the handles of your bags. On a recent trip I noticed a family that had covered their suitcases with colorful stickers in matching colored dots, quite a talking point as their bags were quickly identified once on the luggage belt.

If you plan to be carryon then select a bag that is the appropriate size (22 in long, 14 in wide and 9 in deep). But equally as important, make sure the bag is lightweight when it’s empty. I made the fatal error a few years back of purchasing a carryon bag that was so stylish I ignored the fact that even empty it weighed a ton so as soon as I started filling it I could barely lift it off the floor!

There seems to be some law of nature that says that whatever bag size you choose you will fill it. How many times have you come home from a vacation and realised that you did not use half of the clothes you took? When I visited the Maldives last year I took a variety of shoes to go with my various ‘evening’ outfits and didn’t wear a single pair as everyone was barefoot all the time!

 

luggage stuffing

Have a packing game plan

Put some thought into what items you will need at your destination. How many days are you going for? Will you need work and/or casual outfits? What will the weather be like at your destination?

Lay out all the items you intend to pack on a table then look at them again and weed out the unnecessary duplicates. Do you really need 5 pairs of shoes for 5 days? Mix and match outfits or stay with a colour theme (love timeless black and white) I also like items that do double duty; a pashmina can keep you warm on the plane or be used as a wrap or a cover-up at a resort.

Now it’s time to get out that packing checklist, there are numerous lists available online, or visit the Container Store travel section as they have a useful Pack This! checklist that you can tear off a page for each trip. Use this list to avoid forgetting something obvious. You might laugh, but on a recent vacation my husband did his own packing and when we got to the destination he realized he had forgotten to pack any pants (that’s knickers to my British friends)

Sorry for sharing too much David. Additionally, my packing lists have come in really handy when you hear the dreaded words ‘we seem to have misplaced your bag, can you tell me what is in it’ I astounded the man in Mumbai when I produced my list and explained exactly what the contents of my bag looked like.

 

Pack-for-a-week-in-scarborough CCLUtilize every inch of space

There is an ongoing debate as to the virtues of rolling your clothes or laying them flat in your case. Personally I do a mixture of both, but I also use a variety of different sized packing cubes and compression bags. I group certain items; underwear, workout clothes, socks, swimwear etc and roll them to fill out the cubes.

Shoes can be filled with items such as socks to save space and to help them keep their shape. I also like to put shoes into their own bags so that they do not get dirt on any other items. Ziplocs, grocery store plastic bags, or free hotel shower caps work really well for this. Pack like a pro tip -if you suffer a little from smelly feet (you know who you are) then take a few dryer sheets and dot them around your bag.

Scale down your toiletries, do you really need that value sized pack of shampoo? Don’t waste your money by buying a travel size at a vastly inflated price, instead invest in a few small travel bottles and decant your lotions and potions for each trip. Remember that most resorts will supply you with the basics so unless you must have your own particular brand then leave them behind. I discovered my favorite soap (L’octaine) when we stayed at a hotel in Hawaii. Unless you are going to some remote resort far from civilization, chances are you will be able to buy what you have forgotten.

If you have a particularly bulky item that you just have to take such as boots or a big coat, then consider wearing it to travel in, then it doesn’t take up any space!

 

Passport with Currency in a Money Belt

Keep your valuables with you

Airlines specify that your carryon can consist of one bag and one personal item (ie purse, backpack) I always keep my valuables in my purse (personal item) so that if for whatever reason I am forced to check my other bag then I have the most important items with me.

I will address the issue of what you should keep in your hand luggage and why with more detail in a future post but the basics are: passport, money, jewelry, and technology (ie phones, kindle).

If you follow these few simple tips, your packing will become much more streamlined, quicker, and efficient and you to can pack like a pro.  Being prepared will lead to a better travel experience. What is your best travel-packing tip?

 

Happy packing 🙂

LET’S CELEBRATE EARTH DAY 2015 BY TAKING A POSITIVE STEP TO CHANGE

LET’S CELEBRATE EARTH DAY 2015 BY TAKING A POSITIVE STEP TO CHANGE

Today, April 22 is the 45th anniversary of Earth Day. What started in 1970 at the height of the hippie/flower child era in the US has grown to be a day celebrated around the world. Many communities now celebrate Earth Week or even Earth Month in April, organizing various environmental activities.

 

Today it is believed that Earth Day is celebrated by over 1 billion people in nearly 200 countries. While researching for this article I discovered the website A Billion Acts of Green. I wanted to learn what events were being planned around the world to celebrate this day and possible ways that I could add my own contribution.

 

I began by taking the Carbon Footprint Quiz on the website which rang a warning bell for me. According to the answers I gave about what I eat, where I live, how I travel etc it would take 6-7 planets to support me – I’m guessing that is not a good thing (a la Martha Stewart), I should probably make a few changes. One area that caught my eye was the recycling and disposal of waste. My in-laws were pretty horrified at the amount of waste our household produces and how our trash collectors in Houston seem happy to remove as much waste as we put out each week. In the UK, it seems the local authorities are quite strict on the amount and type of waste that they will collect from households.

 

With a little more thought I feel we could all make a few small changes that will add up to a big difference around the world.

Here are my five steps to a greener household:

 

I will take my Reusable Reinforced Handle Grocery Tote to the grocery store instead of leaving them in my garage and then using numerous plastic bags to pack my shopping.

 

If I do forget to take my reusable totes (and let’s be honest I probably will from time to time) then I will visit the Real Simple website to find 20 ways that I can reuse those plastic bags.

 

I will continue to change out my light bulbs to the Energy Smart Light Bulbs  This is a simple change that saves so much energy and although the upfront cost is far greater, the green savings  over the long term (money and environment) are well worth it.

 

Instead of buying numerous bottles of water each week that add to the landfills there are so many ways I can filter my own water. From the simplest water filtration option of a container to store in my fridge to the more advanced faucet fitting type.

 

I will use green cleaning products in my house. There are far more choices at the grocery store or online now so I will break the habit of buying my standard brands and experiment with a few greener varieties.

 

 

I recognise these are baby steps, but positive nonetheless. Let Earth Day mark the start of how you will you make a difference in how you treat this planet, what steps will you take?Happy Earth Day
BOOK REVIEW: THE REVIVAL BY STEPHEN KING

BOOK REVIEW: THE REVIVAL BY STEPHEN KING

This month’s book review is a bit of an unusual choice for me. I have not historically been a fan of Stephen Kings genre but I was persuaded last year to read one of his most famous books, The Stand, and was pleasantly surprised. I selected The Stand for two reason; firstly my husband has been a fan of King for many years so it was at his behest, and secondly this particular book appears on many top 100 books of all time lists, so I thought it would be a good starting point, despite being 1000+ pages long.

 

I have since read, Mr Mercedes and 11/22/63 and enjoyed both. I find King a great storyteller although to my mind he is a little long-winded in his descriptions. I feel his editor could cut down quite considerably on some of his rambling narratives and the story would be non the worse, but that’s just my opinion as it is my book review 🙂

 

Kings latest offering, The Revival, was published in November 2014 and has been billed as ‘the most terrifying conclusion Stephen King has ever written’. I cannot say I totally agree with that statement, even given my limited knowledge of Kings other books, and despite David’s warning not to read it before bedtime, but more of that later.

 

The Revival charts the life of Jamie Morton. Beginning with Jamie as a six year old growing up in 1960’s suburban Maine, USA we follow his life experiences through six more decades. Jamie is the first person to meet the newly appointed Methodist minister, Charles Jacobs, and you sense from the beginning that Jacobs has a creepiness about him that doesn’t quite fit with his career choice. A bond is forged between Jamie and Jacobs when the minister ‘heals’ Jamie’s brother’s speech problem. When Jacobs looses his faith (and the first hint of his mind) due to a family tragedy, he is forced to leave town and it is only Jamie that seems sad to see his departure.

 

As Jamie’s own life spirals downward following various family misfortunes, King describes a lifestyle of sex, drugs, and rock and roll that you sense will end in Jamie’s premature death. A chance meeting with Jacobs, now a ‘healer’ working as a fairground attraction, Jacobs uses his ‘secret electricity’ to cure Jamie of his heron addiction and thus the bond between the two men is further entwined.

 

At this point in the book it’s pretty obvious that Jacobs has a fascination with the afterlife, but it takes quite a few additional twists and turns to reach the climax billed as ”the most terrifying conclusion Stephen King has ever written’. I felt the ending was a little disappointing, kind of like Dan Browns Angels and Demons that has a fast paced story only to have an ending that makes you go, really?  I’m sure this book will be on the bestseller list for many months as King has such a huge following. While it is a page-turner (because you want to find out what the amazing ending will be), it will go behind his other books on my favourites list. It did make me wonder what Kings own attitude towards religion is and also what reaction this book will receive from my more spiritual friends.

 

Happy reading.