2021 Reflection

2021 came and went in a flash. It wasn’t the beautiful recovery from 2020 that the world collectively dreamed. It was hard, scary, unpredictable, had some losses, broken but it was also joyful, brave, loving, beautiful, full of magic and delights.

My favorite memories include: Em laughing hysterically on the boat on a particularly bumpy day, she loved it. Being in the room when my niece took her first breath. I get to witness this miracle moment for so many families but there was nothing like being there with my sister and brother-in-law. I get to be there for all the others right?!?

One of my favorite purchases from 2021 was a cordless vacuum. It was on sale for around $100. Is it as good as a Dyson, I don’t know but it works well for us. Granted we have no pets or children in our home on a daily basis.

These Vuori joggers are magically soft. They also have pockets so they are my go to airplane pants now.

I didn’t reach my goal of 52 books this year. I think the uncertainty of Ryan’s job applications made it hard for me to focus in the fall. Then I was packing like crazy the last month. Hopefully this year I’ll hit 52. I follow some people that read over 100. PS don’t let comparison still your joy and reading in general is the joy.

Books Read 2021

1. Jan: The Authenticity Project- Clare Pooley:a
2. Body Love- Kelly LeVeque
3. The Cafe by the Sea- Jenny Colgan*:a⭐️
4. White Fragility- Robin DiAngelo*
5. Feb: The Invisible Life of Addie Larue- VE Schwab:a⭐
6. Once We Were Here- Christopher Cosmos*:a 🧅
7. Be the Bridge- Latasha Morrison
8. Quench- Dana Cohen MD, Gina Bria
9. A Return to Love- Marianne Williamson
10. March: Feels like Falling- Kristy Woodson Harvey*⭐
11. The Girl from the Channel Islands- Jenny Lecoat*:a
12. Dear Carolina- Kristy Woodson Harvey*
13. My Oxford Year- Julia Whelan*⭐️
14. The Paris Library- Janet Skeslien Charles:a⭐️
15. Growing Boldly- Emily Ley:a
16. April: The Lost Apotecary- Sarah Penner:a⭐️
17. Get Out of Your Head- Jennie Allen
18. The Rose Code- Kate Quinn:a⭐️⭐️
19. May: The Gifts of Imperfection- Brene Brown:a
20. The Huntress- Kate Quinn:a ⭐️
21. June: The Book of Lost Names- Kristin Harmel*⭐️
22. Bookshop by the Sea- Denise Hunter*
23. The Last Train to Key West-Chanel Cleeton*
24. A Rather Lovely Inheritance- CA Belmond*
25. Essentialism- Greg McKeown
26. July: The Summer House- Lauren K Denton*
27. Hurricane Season: Lauren K Denton*
28. The Ten Thousand Doors of January- Alix E Harrow*a⭐️⭐️(reread)
29. Royal Holiday- Jasmine Guillory*
30. Act Your Age, Eve Brown- Talia Hibbert:a
31. August: Slightly South of Simple- Kristy Woodsen Harvey
32. People We Meet on Vacation- Emily Henry:a
33. The Last Bookshop in London- Madeline Martin*a⭐️
34. The One Your With- Lauren K Denton*a
35. September: The Bride Test- Helen Hoang*a
36. The Off Limits Rule- Sarah Adams*a
37. The Temporary Roomie-Sarah Adams*a
38. Rising Strong as a Spiritual Practice- Brene Brown*a ⭐️
39. October: On Ocean Boulevard- Mary Alice Monroe:a
40. The Summer of Lost and Found-Mary Alice Monroe:a
41. The Secret to Southern Charm-Kristy Woodson Harvey
42. The Southern Side of Paradise-Kristy Woodson Harvey
43. November: Christmas in Peachtree Bluff- Kristy Woodson Harvey⭐️
44. December: Written in My Own Heart’s Blood- Diana Gabaldon (reread)
45. The Endless Beach- Jenny Colgan*a⭐️

a is an Audio book
*means read for free via Libby, Hoopla, library etc
⭐️is a favorite or better than others
🧅 didn’t love/like, tolerable but not for me

My favorite books were The Rose Code, Christmas in Peachtree Bluff, and The Book of Lost Names.

Despite Covid we were able to travel to California and Hawai’i. Luckily both trips happened in the in between times of Covid waves. We visited Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Park. The trees were spectacular. We apparently were on an 8 hour whale watching tour with Obama in Monterey. We saw two blue whales and many humpbacks. We were able to watch some incredible feeding behaviors of the humpbacks- lunge feeding, breaching and tail slapping. We had some beautiful produce and I had some roasted garlic and goat cheese from Nepenthe which I had been dreaming about since we visited Cali with Alyssa and Ian in 2015 I think

In Hawai’i we visited Maui and the Big Island. Maui was pretty but the Big Island was definitely our favorite. We drove the Road to Hana one and a half times. This was our favorite thing on Maui. We watched sunrise on Haleakala which was a spiritual experience.

We saw molten lava in an active volcano for the first time ever on the Big Island. Hawaii reminded us of Iceland just obviously tropical instead of Arctic. Volcano National Park was incredible. We did too much hiking one day and exhausted ourselves. Covid and staffing shortages made eating a bit trying at times but it was ok. We saw tons of sea turtles and of course I was in heaven. One morning we grabbed breakfast and ate at a random park by the water. We saw a turtle within touching distance (but of course we didn’t touch!) just having breakfast. Also we saw Banyan trees which are beautiful. They drop roots to support their branches which made for some impressive displays as well as wonderful metaphor about giving yourself the support you need. They spread laterally. It’s really inspiring.

I fulfilled a lifelong dream of being a turtle prober. It was exhilarating. I know it may seem odd to some but I love my sea turtles and conservation.

I made many cheese boards and a few pounds of homemade pesto pasta salad. I also continued to try homemade bread.

We moved to Alabama for Ryan’s job. Thankful he is much happier at this job. I miss the ocean and my Beaufort friends something fierce but it’s also nice to be closer to friends here and family. I’m excited for 2022!

We were able to spend Thanksgiving with Ryan’s family and for the first time in years Christmas with my brother and sister. Emilee visited after Christmas. We had a fun day with Anna, visited the Tinsel Trail, had some deep conversations, Watched Christmas movies and snuggled. Her elves also came to visit.

Cape Cod

*Some how this little post escaped my draft box WITHOUT saving the revisions. Sorry about that! So here is the updated version.

The stars alined somewhat, we had planned a trip to Cape Cod and then found out my sister also had some time off at the same time. Yay! It turns out also we were escaping Dorian.

Taking a bit of a different approach to scribing this trip. Let me know what you think. We definitely rested and took a leisurely pace.

Dorian managed to provide a bit of a change of plans. Our flight out of CLT to PVD was cancelled but we managed to change to RDU to BOS as well as changing our rental car.


We left RDU at 730 which put us landing in Boston at 907! Luckily we were able to check into the hotel early and get a nap in.

Cafe Chew in Sandwich. Of course we had to get a sandwich in Sandwich.

Visited Three Sisters Lighthouses and Nauset Light. The Three Sisters got their name because they stood along the coast guiding ships and marking the mid point along the Cape, looking like ladies in white dresses and black hats. Before different light patterns had been established, multiple lights were used as navigational points. Erosion and new technology forced their retirement and the new Nauset Point Light was constructed.

Dinner we had a lobster roll and clam strips from Arnold’s Lobster and Clam Bar. I thought I did not like clam, turns out I have just never had fresh, delicious clam. Take cash more places only accept cash then anywhere else in the world we have traveled.


Bagels and Beyond for breakfast. Decent but not the best bagel I have ever had.

Town Neck Beach. We stopped here and walked on the board walk to look at the ocean. Cape Cod has more trees , hills and less water views from the road than I expected.

Picked up Tare from the airport in RI.

The Lobster Trap for lunch. I had the fish tacos. Ryan had shrimp and Tare has the lobster roll. I prefer the hot butter lobster roll to the cold lobster salad roll.

Cape Cod Chip Factory tour. It is a self guided tour that just takes a few minutes but we enjoyed it.

Skaket Beach. Walked and watched the sunset. Here you get what I call a West Coast sunset, where the sun dips down into the ocean instead of most East Coast sunsets where it goes down over land. Pro-tip: when facing the water walk left. There are signs saying the private homeowners allow walking but no sunbathing or picnicking or animals. You can get to the water around the grass but there are zero other people around unlike the area directly in front of parking.

Skipper Chowder House. Here we had chowder, fired chowder, lobster roll and lobster mac and cheese. The disappointment was the fried chowder, it just tasted like something fried. The winner was the lobster mac and cheese, full of cheese and lobster. Yes, we ate a lot on this trip but we split most meals like two entrees and a soup between us. Also, stop judging….we walked a bunch and all in the name of research.


Keltic Kitchen for breakfast. Tare’s cornbeef hash was great. Mine probably was decent but I thought the sweet potato pancakes were like latkes but instead it was an actual pancake, hence my disappointment.

Providencetown for whale watching with Dolphin Fleet. Such a delightful experience. The whales showed out! I probably always say it but one of my favorite whale watching experiences. I always wondered why the Pilgrims left Providence Town for Plymouth. Well now I know. You can see Plymouth from the Cape and it in fact looks bigger and taller.

Walked around Providencetown. Had a slice of pizza for a snack from Spiritus Pizza. We were unimpressed. It was late afternoon so maybe it just was not fresh.

Planned to climb Pilgram Monument but it was closed. Online still listed pre-Labor Day hours. So pay close attention if here in off season.

Lobster Pot for dinner. Had the chowder, bisque, lobster ravioli and lobster newburg. The bisque and ravioli were our favorites. Anthony Bourdain actually got his start as a dish washer here.

Cape Cod National Seashore for a spectacular sunset. Again here the sun on the horizon dips into the ocean at sunset.


Nantucket. Took the traditional ferry because when you travel as much as we do you pinch pennies.

Grabbed lunch at Stubbys. The chowder and cuban was good. The shrimp had too much breading. One thing I have learned in my old age, if it is not good do not eat it. It seems wasteful but thanks to the lovely Danika Brysha I know waste in the trashcan or waste in my body. The trashcan is better. Steamboat Pizza right next door was good. (Yes, we ate alot. Don’t judge.)

Historical walking tour. Very interesting to learn why Nantucket was settled, how they came into the whaling industry and the progressive thinking of the islanders.

Ice cream from The Juice Bar. The chocolate peanut butter cookie dough was amazing.

Beautycounter has a store in Nantucket, so of coursed we stopped in. Along with many other cute shops.

Brant Point Lighthouse. You can easily stroll from the harbor to the lighthouse. We of course admired the beautiful grey homes along the way.

Straight Wharf Fish Store. Split chowder and two swordfish sandwiches between the three of us.

Palio Pizza was delicious! We had a second supper snack late at night once we were back to Cape Cod.


Cranberry Bog. We toured a local organic cranberry bog. I know I am weird but this was riveting. Also there were twin baby goats about 15 hours old. I have NEVER understood goat obsession until I held this little one. Maybe its just the baby part that was cute.

Arnold’s. Yes, again. My favorite lobster of the trip.

Shopping. Grabbed a few gifts and walked around downtown Hyannis.

Dorian was heading for us again. We got worried about getting across the bridge with high winds and possibly downed trees so we left our hotel on the Cape a night early and headed for the mainland.

Plymouth. A beautiful town. Rock looks as if it is the jailhouse rock the way it is set up and guarded. Mama said don’t go to Plymouth Rock it is disappointing but I thought the town was worth seeing.

The Charred Oak Tavern. The bacon and butterscotch sauce. Oh my.


Returned the car. Through security. Only to learn flight was delayed then cancelled. I completely understand things happen. BUT by 12 we knew the flight was cancelled, we didn’t leave the airport until 4. We were waiting on Frontier to get the hotel and food vouchers ready. Many people left and found their own accommodations or different flights. That wasted precious time we would have spent money seeing things in Boston such as JFK library, Copley Square, etc. You get what you pay for literally and despite the cheap amazing prices, I am just not sure I can fly Frontier again. Such a headache. Luckily we had a buffer travel day so Ryan did not miss work.

Visit Downeast Cider House. I do not drink often but when I do I prefer hard cider and this one is delicious.

Used all our food vouchers at the hotel for to go food so we could watch football in our room.

Sunday, we finally made it home! Whoo! I was very excited to finally make it home.

Happy Travels!

Lofoten Islands 2019

This July we vacationed with my cousin and her husband in Iceland and Norway. After a few days in Iceland, we headed to Norway, specifically to the Lofoten Islands, located way up North inside the Arctic Circle. The weather is surprisingly mild thanks to the near by Gulfstream. A fun, adventurous place, Lofoten is beautiful. Think picturesque fishing cabins over the water, mountains rising from the sea and endless daylight.

It took all day Saturday to get us there. We grabbed some dinner nearby the EVE airport. Surprisingly good considering our limited options. We had about a three hour drive to our Air BNB but the ride was a beautiful taste of the impressive vistas that awaited us.

People can wild camp in Norway anywhere as long as it is a certain number of feet from a house. So always be aware of your surroundings and people crossing roads etc. It was high tourist season but I do not feel like it was unbearably crowded.

We stopped at a grocery to grab a few essentials and all the gummy candy we wanted. Almost every grocery store has a by weight candy section with the most interesting gummies. Alyssa loved the fizzy bottles and I loved the strawberry dream and sour fruit by the foot. Reliving our childhood we also got candy necklaces. Another overseas favorite is to try different flavor potato chips. I think my favorite basically translates to a hint of wild garlic.

We tucked onto our cabin for the night.

Sunday, we headed into Henningsvaer. We wandered around the shops and town. We walked to the lighthouse after grabbing lunch at a cafe. So good we ate here three times. Get the shrimp sandwich, the garlic aoli makes it. Ryan and I were worn out so we stayed tucked in the Air BNB while Alyssa and Ian went for a hike. Ian made fish tacos for dinner, one of my favorite meals.

The next day our on private chef, Ian made eggs and yummy breakfast potatoes. We celebrated my very merry unbirthday with snorkeling the Arctic Circle. We wore drysuits which proved difficult to actually swim while wearing. It was beautiful. Kelp, a lobster, fish, a starfish, some crabs and jellies. After we grabbed a shrimp sandwich and headed to meander the islands.

The longest Viking long house was found in the area. The Viking museum was interesting and I highly recommend it! The museum has artifacts from the area and informational videos about the culture. They have built a replica of the long house as well as marked the archeological site of the original. We were able to grab the last ride of the day on the Viking ship replica. Pizza was the dinner of choice. Because the sun never sets it makes eating tricky. We adventured well into the night and you feel like the shops should still be open but they close at normal clock time not sun time.

Alyssa and Ian went to chase the midnight sun, luckily they came back to get us. The Midnight sun was beautiful. There really are not words to describe it.

Tuesday, we meandered around the islands more. Stopping at a few beaches, glass art shop, and had fish burgers for dinner. Lofoten Gardsysteri was a farm selling cheeses and sausage. We snacked on the cheeses throughout the day. We are always on the look out for unique souvenirs. Glasshytta was just the place. Handmade glass art from Lofoten.

We explored villages throughout the islands. They are picturesque and charming. Rambergstranda is a beach we stopped at, as well as Sagsanden Beach. One thing I love about Norway is the abundance of roadside wash closets, very convenient.

We stopped at Nusfjord, a typically fishing village. You can rent the cabins here to stay in. Walked around the fishing village and then hiked up the hill above the parking lot for the view.

We had Anita’s for dinner. Delicious fish burgers with a view. They also have food items including Gardsysteri cheese if looking for some gifts

A is the end of the road, literally. We walked around the village wishing we had more days to explore the museums. Wondered out to the point where we could see Vaeroy Island across the water.

On the way back home, while driving on a cliff above the ocean, Alyssa spotted a black fin. Ian and I also spotted one after she saw it. We finally after traveling through two tunnels and discussing with our husbands about whether they would still be there, we found a turn around point. I spotted a baby fin on our way back by. We parked at a pull off and ran like crazy fools down the side of the road at 1130 pm. We watched a pod of Ocras feed for about 45 minutes. We followed them up the coast line past our car and kept thinking is this really happening. Ocras are not seen in Norway during the summer months but somehow we got lucky. What an incredible once in a lifetime experience. That one wont be easily topped.

We stopped to chase the sun on the way home. It was a spectacular one.

Our final full day we took a boat tour to Trollfjorden. Along the way we saw a few Sea Eagles, the export spot for the dried cod, a salmon farm, beautiful blue and turquoise waters. Afterwards we got ice cream. From Lofoten Links and we hiked, Gimsoy, near our sunset spot. It appeared easy but like most things in the area it required some scrambling upward. Ian made us fish tacos again for dinner.

On Thursday morning Alyssa and I took an early morning polar plunge in Rorvikstranda. It was chilly but I think what I was imagining before we did it was worse. Based on Google we guestimate the water was around 52 degrees and the air 54 degrees. Alyssa and Ian drove us to the ferry. We began our travels home, going through Iceland to spend the night before heading back to America the next day.

We love Iceland, if you missed my blog post on the first portion of our trip take a look. Lofoten was beautiful and I highly recommend it.

Have you been to Iceland or Norway? What is on your ultimate destination list? I can not wait to visit Germany around Christmas.

Happy Travels and Safe Adventures!

Memorial Weekend in Maine

We spent Memorial Day weekend in Maine celebrating my sister before she headed to Dallas for residency. So fun for most of us to be together with some more family from my mom’s side.

Our most laughable memory is breaking the dock while doing some self timer pictures. This one is perfectly timed. I have a magnet on our fridge and laugh hysterically at it on a regular basis. I am sure Uncle Steve did not find it as funny and honestly in the moment we all thought we were falling into the water. My thought was I am on the back row, all these other humans are going to fall on top of me!!

The weekend was filled with delicious food that Aunt Molly made, loon calls, boat rides and fun. We discussed our Love Languages, read, and had good conversations. So nice just to relax and spend time with the ones you love.

We visited the LLBean mothership. I also grabbed a micro-puff on major sale from the Patagonia outlet.

My favorite were the lighthouses. We visited Portland Head Light and Two Lights State Park. The lighthouses however are not in the state park but basically a neighborhood. We had lobster rolls for lunch at Lobster Shack.

We also “helped” with the restoration of the Rita.

If you have never heard Loon calls then google them. They sound very cool. Their hoot means where are you, are you ok, are you close by. We hooted at each other alot.  I am sure Uncle Steve and Aunt Molly soon regretted their choice to teach us. 

They spent their time, energy and money on a classic lobster dinner for us. As well as so much other delicious food. Homemade bread, anyone?

We sunset cruised, snoozed cruised, boozed cruised and Loon cruised. Paddle boarding, water skiing, and sailing. We also played games and participated in a polar plunge. That water was cold. I had a hard time moving my arms and legs, but pier pressure will get you.

Uncle Steve planned a surprise firework show for Claire. We all knew about it and kept a great secret because she was clueless that is was exactly for her!

We had a delightful time and enjoyed spending time with family. Thanks Uncle Steve and Aunt Molly for welcoming all of us loons into your home. I can tell yall have created a beautiful, warm, welcoming space. We all can not wait to come back. We are so glad we got to see Angie too!

Iceland 2019

Iceland will always hold a special place in my heart. We honeymooned there in 2013 and I credit it for starting our love of travel. It is dramatic, majestic and beautiful. 

We recently spent just a few days there with our adventure pals, my cousin and her husband.

I am going to do a run down of what we did and then in the next few weeks I will post all of our pictures in one big gallery post.

We flew in Wednesday morning to the KEF airport. Alyssa and Ian arrived before us. We showered at their hotel which was a blissful surprise after a full day of airplanes and airports.

We headed into town. We of course stopped by the Christmas shops. We picked up a yule lad ornament and a picture of all the yule lads. Ornaments are the thing we always get on trips.

Ryan stopped in the Red Cross store to look for homemade wool things. We had great success here six years ago. Not so much this time. Could have been the time of year or influx of tourist. Six years ago travel to Iceland was unheard of but now it is definitely the trendy place.

We grabbed a few hot dogs for a lunch/snack before our tours. We did the Puffin and a Whale watching tour. The puffin are adorable. They mate for life and return to the same place they were born for breeding season. Afterwards they float out to sea and live a solitary life until next breeding season. An introvert’s dream.

Our whale watching tour proved eventful with quite a few Minke Whales, Harbor Porpoises, and White Beaked dolphins. I love the way the dolphins show off for the boat.

We grabbed some lobster soup from Saegreifinn to warm our sea wind and rain bodies. Pretty tasty.

Our Air BnB had a beautiful view. Ian made us spaghetti for dinner. We filled the hot tub up. The water in Iceland is very hot or very cold. I managed to get too hot for everyone including my hot lava water loving self. After a quick dip, Ryan and I hit the bed. Alyssa and Ian visited our nay-bors.

Thursday after an omelet breakfast, we hit the Golden Circle. Visiting Geysir, Gullfoss, and Thingvellir. We walked around on the North American tectonic plate and to Oxararfoss enjoying the views.

We visited a church. Complete with an underground tunnel leading to and from the church to the near by old village, currently being excavated.

We had lunch at Fredhemir. Which is a greenhouse restaurant which grows tomatoes. The specialty is tomato soup and homemade bread. ALL dishes are have tomatoes, even the desserts and the water pitchers had tomatoes in them. We dined on the soup and and bread. The cucumber salad to top the bread was delicious. They use hot spring water to regulate the temperature of the greenhouse and it call can be controlled remotely via the Internet. A lovely well run, thought out and designed space. This had us thinking what other fruits or veggies could you use this concep with? Our top picks cucumbers and strawberries.

We continued onward to Kerid crater. We hiked around the top. Took some accidentally silly pictures before heading to Secret Lagoon. A delightful hot springs. We relaxed for a bit before heading home to get ready for tomorrow’s adventures.

Friday, Ian made us toad in the hole for breakfast. We ventured toward Jokulsarlon. Ryan and I missed this stop on our honeymoon because we ran out of daylight. I am so glad we made the four hour drive trip. Extraordinary does not even cover it. Gatorade Glacier  Freeze, right? We took a boat ride. Tasted 1000 year old ice. They have food trucks there so we had more lobster soup and rolls.

The lagoon empties into the Atlantic. When the tide goes out the icebergs float to sea. They quickly breakdown and are washed up on the black sand beach as polished ice aka Diamond beach. Another truly amazing sight.

We headed back towards our Air B& B with many planned stops along the way.

We grabbed dinner in Vik before venturing onto the black sand beach. I had the most disappointing spicy Asian noodles ever. Ha! Ryan and I recreated some pictures from our anniversary. We drive up behind the beautiful church for some good views of the town and ocean.

Afterwards it was on to waterfall land! Driving along Route 1 in Southern Iceland you can see many waterfalls while you are just driving.

Fjaðrárgljúfur is a beautiful canyon not too far off the main highway. You can walk to the top overlook to get a better view. The bridge crossing the stream also provides a great view. There are hikes to do inside tbe canyon but we did not.

We paused at a few and my favorite one you can walk behind.

Skogafoss is right off the highway. An easy flat walk. Impressive. You can walk up some stairs to the top. Ryan and I did on our 1st trip but honestly the impressive view is down looking up.

Seljalandsfoss is my favorite. It can also be seen from the main highway but the real treat is walking behind it. It does require a little scrambling on rocks and take care as the rocks are wet from waterfall spray. I wore my rain jacket and rain pants but also flip-flops so the scrambling is not terrible. Were the flip flops a poor choice on my part yes. Also, we entered to the right walked behind the falls and exited to the left as you are facing the falls. The right side is much easier should you want to double back and exit that way. There are public bathrooms here and a food truck. You can also continue down a trail to the left of the falls to see some other waterfalls a short distance away.

Svartifoss is surrounded by basalt columns and the inspiration for the church design in Reykjavik. The hike is a gradual incline. There are a few waterfalls along the way. Again bathrooms and places to eat near parking. Ryan and I noticed this growth due to the increased tourism. Most places had no wash closets and certainly no food six years ago.

Stjornarfoss is again right off the highway close to a camp ground. We saw some cute sheep frolicking in the area here.

Systrafoss is located in what looks like an enchanted fairy forest. It rivals for my favorite simply because of the surrounding rock and vegetation.

We finally headed to our AirBnB to pack and ready ourselves for a day of travel on Saturday as we headed into the Arctic Circle to visit the Lofoten Islands.

Throwback 2013

Personal Item Travel Packing Guide

Packing a personal item might be one of my favorite things. It is where I pack essentials for the flight and other things that make our trip more enjoyable.

My personal item is used in flight and also used as our day bag we carry around during sight seeing. I have used the Little Unicorn Ramble Diaper Bag or the Sole Society Susan Purse as my personal bag.

First let’s talk in flight, I stow all my in flight essentials in a smaller, easy grab bag. I pack it for the flight that way I can just keep it in the plane seat pocket.

My grab bag  (from Etsy)  includes Kindle, makeup remover wipes, lip balm, facial moisturizer, a pen, medications, ear phones, small notebook, toothbrush and paste, eye mask, and essential oil wipes. Close by I also have a light jacket/wrap/scarf, water bottle, snacks and travel pillow in my personal item bag stored on the floor.

I have a routine just like going to bed at night. Especially helpful for those overnight international flights. Entertainment like reading or movie, then eat when they serve dinner, remove make up, brush teeth, take meds. Possibly more entertainment time- reading, movie, podcast or music. Then grab some shut eye as best I can. 

Because I pack in a carry on and personal item I don’t keep my make up in my personal item or an extra outfit like you should in case your checked baggage gets lost it delayed. But if you check a bag make sure all your medications, make up and an extra outfit are in your carry on.

Secondly, during our adventures I used my personal item as our day bag. We typically carry a water bottle, jacket/scarf depending on weather, wipes, reusable grocery bags, phone/camera, and medicine like advil etc. Don’t forget those sunglasses.

My most USEFUL travel tip. Wear a money belt. NO EXCEPTIONS. I have one that buckles around my waist. Ryan has one that goes through his belt loop and under his pants. I take my identification, one credit card (this one is different than the one Ryan carries, just a back up) and my debt card separate from the debt card account Ryan carries (again just a back up).  Ryan also carries both our passports in his and I carry both our passport cards in mine. That way is one of us somehow gets compromised or lost we have a completely different backup set.  If we lost one credit card and called to cancel it then I had a copy of the same credit card/account, that would be useless.  We have never had a problem or felt threatened. But I have read too many horror stories from seasoned travelers to not do our best to protect our money and IDs.  Be mindful but not fearful. Assume something will happen. We do not leave our passports in the hotel safe unless there is a rare occasion that we are swimming. We also left my phone in the safe when swimming in case one is stolen on the beach or from the car we have a backup.

We are both wearing ours in the above picture and you can not tell. My bag is safely with our tour guide who snapped this photo. But there is nothing in my bag that matters all to much if it goes missing.

A few of my travel essentials and their uses:

Essential Oil Travel Wipes I keep a few of these around to wipe off airplane surroundings and as needed. They are not too strong or overpowering. 

Compressed Towels Luckily when traveling to Italy I read that there isn’t always toilet paper. I found these great compact paper towels. You just add a drop of water. Great for sticky hands, messes, toilet paper and many other things.

Water Baby Wipes I always have a travel size near by. I guess we are messy.

Sample Jars I use these to pack makeup and skin care to save space when I can. For example things you don’t need much of eye cream, Beautycounter cleansing balm, and exfoliating face wash. 

Reusable Water Bottle I use this in flight and in our day bag. Many places such as Italy have free water stations throughout the city. 

Beautycounter Cleansing Balm great to remove makeup, moisturize or use as cuticle cream. 

Pack-able Reusable Grocery Bags Most  stores over seas charge for grocery bags, plus its just better for the environment hands down. I love these Blu brand. So many cute patterns and they fold up nicely.  They work great for picnic bags, grocery runs, and dirty clothes. We actually do buy groceries, al fresco picnic dining is one of my very favorite things and I feel a grocery store really emerges you into the culture. Plus they have some amazing snacks and interesting finds.

Mole Skin Pre-cut blister prevention.

Glacier Blister Gel Dressing Great for when you fail to prevent blisters.

Zip Lock bags in various sizes. Good for all sorts of things.

Mini Cutting Board I KNOW yall are going to think I am crazy this light packer takes a cutting board. I told you picnics are our jam! All the time. Saves so much money and again soaking up those views and culture. It fits easy in the computer sleeve of my back pack. Sometimes if Ryan checks one bag (we do sometimes especially to bring home wine, oil, etc) then we will pack scissors and a knife or buy a cheap one when we arrive. I actually still have the one we bought in Italy. Cutting board in action in the photos above.

My other favorite travel tip. Do NOT over pack period. Always leave room in your luggage for good wine, olive oil and a real book. Shop local even during your travels. 

What are your favorite travel packing essentials or hacks?

Happy Travels! Adventure is out there explorers.

*Pictures are my own or from website selling the items pictured. 

Travel Packing Guide

In the few years we have been traveling I have really parred down my international travel packing. It has taken a few trips but I have it fine tuned. I now only pack in a carry on for international trips or any trips that we fly. This being said we do laundry in the place we are staying, a laundry mat, drop off service or sink. Admittedly, I am not a light packer for trips around the Southeast. For some reason I always tend to pack more.

This post includes exactly what I packed for our recent international vacation to Greece. But the rough guide is about always the same. Also preference varies. I took a rolling carry on size suitcase around Italy but after dragging my suitcase through the cobblestone streets, uneven side walks etc, I decided to go with a backpack for Greece. I loved it. It was the prefect choice for me.

Let’s talk packing gear first. I used the Tortuga Setout Divide Backpack. It is the smaller size but expandable. To me the more room you have the more you will over fill. I did order the Setout just to compare sizes on my body frame and preferred the smaller Setout Divide. I am 5’9″ so if you are smaller framed you definitely want the smaller size.

I prefer to use a crossbody bag that zips for my personal item, according to airlines, and day bag while sightseeing. Most museums make you check backpacks usually for a fee (and a line). I feel a crossbody bag can pass off as just a purse due to it’s size and if I use the shoulder strap while in the museum most let it pass. I took a diaper bag to Italy but I wish it had a shoulder strap as well as a crossbody strap. To Greece I packed a smaller purse since it had to pass stricter Ryanair rules while traveling within Greece. Check back next week for what I put in my personal item.

Packing cubes. A must!!! I roll my clothes then pack in a packing cube. Any will do. I have the Travelwise set and Amazon Basic set. I prefer to use 2-4 of the small/medium sizes rather than the large sizes.

I pack my toiletries in the Truffle small clarity pouch. I love that it is reusable, TSA approved and this new design holds more than the older one. I place my shampoo and conditioner in the GoToob+. I have different sizes depending on use and length of trip. I obviously use the smallest one possible. These I place in my personal item for easy access during the flight and security.


  • 4 Travel Undies: ExOfficio easy wash and dried.
  • 2 bras (one to wear, one to wash). I love this convertible sports bra. Great for lots of walking, sight seeing but also transitions under different types of clothing so your straps do not show.
  • 4 pairs of socks. I like the toe socks so I don’t get blisters between my toes with all the walking.
  • 1-2 maxi dresses. I love maxi dresses for travel. They are comfy, you can dress them up or down, they are long enough for religious sites. I usually wear these while flying or to a nice dinner out. Athleta is one of my favorite places to grab maxi dresses.
  • 1 pair of pjs. I grabbed a soft bamboo pair from Amazon. Easily washable.
  • 4-5 shirts. All in the same color scheme such as blue, black, grey etc. My favorites are v neck, long, curved hem to cover your assets. Old Navy, Gap , Madewell, and Academy are my usual go tos.
  • 4 bottoms. Usually I always go with capri or pant length so that religious sites and standing out wont be a problem. This time I did decide to take one skort and one short since we would be spending a majority of the time on islands.
  • 1 Swimsuit. You NEVER know when your hotel will have an indoor pool etc.
  • 1 light jacket/rain jacket or heavier jacket depending on weather. I recently bought a Patagonia packable one and really like it.
  • 2 pairs of shoes. My go tos. Birkenstocks, I have this extra strappy pair to dress up and I like my shoes feeling secure when doing so much walking. All Birds, Wool Runners. I have tried the Tree Runners but the Wool just fit me better. I do wear a Men’s because #largefeet. Also sometimes I do better without socks when wearing these.

Check back next Tuesday for what I pack in my personal item/daybag.

Don’t forget there are so many advantages to packing light. Easier to maneuver around. Less stress and literally less stuff weighing you down.

Happy Travels!

The Barefoot Mermaid’s Travels to California

In 2015, we took a trip to California with my cousin twin and her husband, before I blogged much. I’ve always meant to create a journal/recommendations for what we did. Mimi and Shark leave for vacation soon so they inspired me to document so they could know what we did. There are many stops along the way. I recommend researching many blogs etc to find what interest you the most. I’ll post some links at the bottom of this as well as throughout. Also, please excuse my 2015 photograph skills.

We flew into LAX. Alyssa and Ian had been there for a day or so camping at Joshua Tree. We met at the airport picked up our car and we were off on our adventure.

Our general plan was head down to San Diego. Then back up to San Francisco all on the Pacific Coast Highway. Alyssa and Ian flew out from San Fran and Ryan and I continued back to LA via roads other than Highway 1. We spent time in LA before flying out.

Our first stop was Santa Monica Pier. We ate lunch at the Mexican restaurant at the end. Rode the ferris wheel and walked around. It was interesting but nothing too compelling for me. We ventured around Venice Beach before heading towards San Diego. I was disappointed in how dirty Venice Beach seemed to be and how far away the water actually was.

We stopped at Encinitas Beach at twilight where I fully intend to touch the Pacific for the first time but alas there were hazardous water condition signs. This I believe is one place that sometimes you can see the bio-luminescence. Worth looking into for sure.

We continued on to our hotel. It was just a generic hotel in the downtown area. We grabbed pizza with a friend from college. I was pleasantly surprised with how much I loved San Diego. It was clean, not too crowded and greener than I expected which I love.

While in San Diego we visited the San Diego Zoo. We have all heard how fabulous it is but it’s hard to imagine! There’s bus tours inside the zoo and a sky tram. My most memorable animals where the pandas, koalas and flamingos for obvious reasons.

We also visited the world famous Coronado Island. We took the Coronado Ferry over and back. But we walked from the ferry dock over the island to the resort and beach area. This is actually where I was able to put my toes in the Pacific for the first time. We grabbed tacos for lunch at Clayton’s Mexican Takeout. Popped in a few stores and just leisurely explored the island. Seaside Papery was one if the cute stores we visited.  Charming and fun. Watched the sunset from the beach at the resort.

A few years ago when traveling here doughnuts where all the rage everywhere. We pre-ordered some of the famous Donut Bar. By preordering you can skip the line but there is a minimum order. They were so good and fun. I have followed their journey and they still seem to be doing an amazing business and growing. There is one in Las Vegas if you ever visit there.

We had dinner one night at Stone Brewing at Liberty Station. I am not a huge alcohol fan but the food was good. I highly recommend it based on the atmosphere. We sat outside in the garden/patio area which was lovely.

We headed up Highway 1 with some stops along the way. We drove from San Diego to San Luis Obispo. If I did it again I would stop somewhere in between for the night if there was time. Traffic in LA will slow you down more than you can imagine. But if you had to chose add a day in the Big Sur/Monterey area.