Y’all. I don’t even know where to begin.
To be fair, that sentiment often applies this time of year – here are past versions from 2011, 2013, 2014, & 2015 (with some pretty good recipes attached!) – but this year…well, this year is a little, as the kids say, extra.
We are mid-major-life-transition, with a move to Phoenix happening this summer after 15+ years in Houston for me and 20+ for Jill. Shiv was born here and has grown up here. My mom, who arrived in Houston soon after Shiv did, is relocating with us. Not only coming with us, but moving in with us. And Jill’s dad, who has lived here nearly four years, will be moving back in Shreveport, where Jill grew up, into assisted living.
If you’re keeping track, that’s three Houston houses, two of which we’re planning to sell (the parents’) and one which we’ll lease (ours). Jill is in Phoenix right this minute, meeting with our realtor and looking for a house to buy there. Fingers crossed!
Somehow, in the midst of all of this, I also managed to visit the ER (in Phoenix the night before my job interview), have surgery (thankful to be healthy now!), approve copyedits for my book manuscript (pub date = February 2019!) and spend ten days in Israel with my students as part of their epic, end-of-high-school trip.
Like I said, this year is extra.
In all of this, I have missed writing. The irony of working on a book project is that it can take time and energy away from generating new work, and while I have vague, embryonic notions of what that new work might look like, the best way I’ve found to hone my writing voice and brain is to blog. A regular commitment, with an audience (regardless of size), a place to reflect on everything happening around me, and an opportunity to share thoughts or insights that might be interesting or helpful to others. So, my plan is to post here at least once a week, on topics that will likely be all-over-the-place, much as I’m sure my brain will be this summer.
To start, I thought I would share a few items that made my recent trip more comfortable, since summer tends to be a travel-heavy time. No sponsored endorsements or affiliate links, just stuff I was genuinely glad I had with me on my trip!
-My friend Courtney told me about Kavu bags a couple of years ago when I admired hers, and this trip was my excuse to buy myself one. I bought this size, though I found it on sale at a local store, and am glad I didn’t go a size up. This bag holds a surprising amount of stuff, but also kept me from carrying way too much around with me everywhere. The convenience of being able to either throw it over my shoulder or strap it across my chest made it perfect for airports and crowded markets; same principle makes it the perfect bag to take with me to the playground or on adventures with Shiv.
-While I’m sure I would have enjoyed a cushy set of noise-cancelling headphones for plane and bus, my budget dictated finding a cheaper alternative. I settled on these, made from real wood and less than $25. They are remarkably comfortable; they come with several different sizes of rubber caps, allowing you to customize the fit, and the sound quality is excellent. I kept them in for many hours at a time (11 hour flight from Tel Aviv to Newark, anyone?) with no discomfort.
–This portable charger (thanks, Schoen!) is worth every penny. Fully loaded, it charged my phone and two others, bringing the battery percentages from the 20s into the 90s, and was still at more than half capacity. Doesn’t take up much space and means you don’t have to always jockey for seats next to outlets everywhere you go. You might spring a few dollars extra for the jazzy red one; I didn’t and I sort of regret it.
-Silly as it may sound, I was really glad that I had a travel-sized container of hydrating face mist with me (I use Luminance Skincare’s rosewater toner, but I know some folks who swear by the Evian face mist), along with a pack of really soft and good-smelling cleansing wipes (the Burt’s Bees ones are affordable but good quality, and come in several scent options). I always feel kind of gross after being on a plane, and the misting toner actually helped me feel refreshed. We also did a lot of sweating on this trip, so the wipes came in handy when changing clothes mid-day without the opportunity to shower.
-Last but not least, there were a few clothes purchases that made a believer out of me, brand-wise. I’m not generally a big shopper (anymore – there was a time), so it’s worth it to me find places with consistently good quality and customer service, even if I have to stretch my budget a little and take advantage of sales/discount codes.
-In my search to find a bathing suit I could feel comfortable wearing in front of students, I struggled to find something that wouldn’t be overly revealing, but that would also be cute instead of frumpy. With little luck elsewhere, I discovered Albion Fit. The brand carries lots of one-piece options, some more revealing than others, but all in really great prints and colors. Disclaimers: their sizing options are quite limited – I wore a L, and they only go up to XL – and their bathing suits are not cheap. It gave me serious pause to spend $128 on one bathing suit, but once I received it and tried it on, I knew I wouldn’t be sending it back. Honestly, the quality of the material is over and above what I’ve encountered elsewhere, even at J. Crew, which used to be my fancy bathing suit store of choice. The fit was likewise excellent – I felt contained, but comfortable – and I will definitely be buying an additional suit from them in the future.
-Having heard good things about Athleta’s travel/athleisure pieces, I bought a long, breezy dress and a pair of exercise shorts; both packed like a dream. Though I rolled the dress and crammed it into a plastic bag, it still looked great when I put it on. The shorts were a lifesaver; I could rinse them out in my hostel sink after a sweaty day, hang them up in the shower, and they’d be dry and ready to go the next morning.
-My last find was the online store Title Nine, whose name belies a mission that’s easy to love. Among their clothing and gear specifically curated for active women, I found a great sports-bra (their selection is AMAZING), an extremely cute and comfortable pair of slip-on shoes, and a sporty dress made with dry-fit material, which packed super-well and was very comfortable. The best part? It has a zippered side pocket, which is how you know this company is run by women. DRESSES WITH POCKETS FOREVER.