Tuesday, October 13, 2015

International Travel: Must Haves

As we are getting ready for our annual anniversary trip this year, I started remembering all of the packing mistakes I've made along the way during our journeys. Some of them were silly little mistakes that were easily remedied others ended up being.. er more frightening. So in the hopes of helping you along on your journeys I've put together my list of international must haves-- but really it can be applied to any trip. I don't pretend to know everything there is to know about travel, but this is my must haves list and it's come a long way. Some of these maybe common sense items, but they are often easily forgotten. 

When traveling abroad, it's nice if you are able to pack light. A few tops and a pair of comfy pants can go a long way if your not afraid to hand wash something. I tend to come back with more items than I left with, so typically I will check a larger suitcase than we need with most of our items, and carry on a change of our clothes just in-case we get separated when we reach our final destination. When we went to Ireland a few years ago, I ended up having to buy a large suitcase while we were over there just to get everything I had bought home. Lesson learned. 

#10. Always bring a spare

It's a good rule of thumb, and one my husband learned on our last anniversary trip when we were travelling down the west coast. On pretty much every trip we stop frequently to snap photos and stretch our legs. During one of our beach explorations in Oregon's amazing coastline, we managed to find a shallow cave. I'm thinking we had been in the car too long because my husband went inside to see how deep it went and I watched from the beach as a wave came in soaking him from mid thigh down. It was a funny moment for us both, more for me than for him, and one I caught on camera for everyone's enjoyment. Because he didn't think to bring an extra pair of sneakers, I had to find a department store and use my best judgement on a new pair. Always bring a spare. 

#9. Dress Weather Conscious 

I have always been conscious enough to remember to dress accordingly to the climate we will be travelling to. I check the seasonal weather and check the actual forecast before I pack anything. But man-made weather conditions are always easy to forget. I'm talking about those frigid airplanes! I always bring a sweater, for the plane as well as a scarf. Not only can I use the scarf for its intended purpose, but it can double as a blanket if need be. If you've ever spent an entire night shivering rather than sleeping you never forget to bring one. 

We once took a train from Tampa, Florida to Raleigh which was about a 14 hour train ride. I'm not sure why we thought trains would be a fun alternative to driving, but there we were. Because the train stops frequently they turn the lights on and off during stops so my saving grace was the fact my hoodie cinched closed over my eyes. It allowed me to get some much needed sleep on an otherwise unbearable trip. Umbrellas, gloves and weather proof jackets are other items you shouldn't overlook or forget. 

#8. Adapters & Chargers

If you are planning on bringing a tablet, phone or flat iron with you on your trip you definitely want to invest in a international adapter for charging your items. We got ours for around $15 bucks and it's lasted a good long time. If you have a particularly long trip ahead of you, you might consider purchasing a battery bank to recharge your items when they are out of juice. Because sometimes a movie is just the thing to get you through an unbearable flight. 

#7. First Aid 

There were times where I got a minor cut and wished I had band-aids. Target sells mini first aid kits for just a couple bucks and it's been used more times then I care to admit. Life happens. Don't forget about the less common items that also come in mini form. During a trip to Belize we were eaten alive by these tiny little knats, they left red welts on me for weeks following our honeymoon and itched like the sin. Ever since I've kept a mini can of bug spray in my car and in my suitcase as well as an Itch Stick, because sometimes there are super bugs that just don't care about bug spray. 

Other first aid items to remember are wet wipes, antibacterial soap, tissues, nail file, Tylenol and stomach soother. All of these items come in mini packaging for easy packing. 

#6. Pep in your Step

On our trip to Ireland I didn't really think Jet lag would hit us quite so soon after landing, but we were both not looking forward to the 2 hour drive to our hotel after a long flight. Once we were out of the city, my husband who was driving made the executive decision to stop at a local petrol station and pick up what he assumed was the Irish version of 5 hour Energy, in his defense it looked exactly the same. About 20 minutes down the road, and very well into the Irish country side, he calmly says to me, I don't want to freak you out but I think I'm having an allergic reaction

I did freak out. I think I told him if he died and left me in the Irish countryside alone, I would bring him back and then kill him myself. Needless to say, after another 15 minutes it slowly dissipated and went away and was, as we later discovered a normal reaction to too much Niacin in your system. It was really scary at the time, because his skin was positively purple. 

I've made it a point since then to carry Emergen-C with me which not only helps to boost your immune system but it has a mini energy boost to boot. It's best to rest up before driving, but in cases where it's just not possible this stuff comes in handy. Two birds one stone so to speak. 

#5. Skin Care

Don't forget to take care of your skin, especially when travelling to colder climates. Because I am a born and raised Floridian I never realized how much the cold could destroy your hands. The two above pictures were taken on the same day (different locations within a 100 miles), it just goes to show you sometimes you can't predict how the weather will be 100% of the time. 

One of my favorite products on the market for fixing chapped/cracked hands is called Aquaphor and yes, you guessed it-- it comes in a tiny little container. I've tried a lot of different products and this one works the best and has the most lasting effects. 

#4. Snacks

When your on a tight schedule or just in the middle of no where, it's nice to have a snack handy in case you need it. There's nothing quite like being in an airport after a long day of travel and non of the shops are open to feed your starving belly. Pack a power bar or two, you'll thank yourself later.

#3. Bag It. 

I've gotten in the habit of packing a plastic bag or two with my suitcase, because the idea of putting my nice clean clothes next to dirty socks and underwear totally skeeves me out! Having a plastic bag to put your dirty items will help to keep your suitcase from smelling like a gym locker. 

#2. Wisp it up

Ten and Twelve hour flights are bad enough, but having to schlep into a airport bathroom to brush your teeth in front of strangers is pretty unappealing. I keep wisp's on hand for just these situations, with toothpaste already on a disposable mini toothbrush it makes that awkward situation a little more quick and painless. 

#1. Laugh it Off

For most of you this one is a no brainer, but if your type A like me you take a little while longer to unwind. Being in a foreign country can be a little stressful and daunting, but if you open yourself up to the possibilities and enjoy the moment it always ends up being worth it in the end. Some of my favorite travel memories were mistakes we made along the way, keeping perspective and always being able to roll with the punches can make or break a trip. 

So how did I do? What are your must have items for traveling? 

Monday, September 14, 2015

1st Art Gallery Review

Several weeks ago the awesome people over at 1st Art Gallery contacted me about having a painting commissioned. After checking out their website and watching a few of the videos on how they create these paintings step by step I was utterly amazed. Having taken a few painting courses in high school I knew that re-creating an original piece was 10 times more labor intensive than dreaming something up yourself. I was equally impressed at the prospect of composite paintings, yet another service they offer where you can send in two separate images and have them blend the two images together in a seamlessly perfect painting. 

So naturally I jumped on the chance to see this entire process up close and personal. How could I possibly say no to such an awesome offer?

I think I spent two or three days looking through the galleries trying to decide between having a reproduction made from one of my favorite artist or sending in one of my own original photographs for them to paint. Eventually, my husband convinced me to send in one of my own photos; after I'm sure I had been driving him nuts for days on end. 

This was the photo I sent in for my painting...

I choose this painting because for several reasons that were dear to me, which is the main reason I had a personal photo made as opposed to a reproduction. I wanted something to remind me of happier times every time I looked at it. I think if you plan to put any painting in your home, it should mean something to you and bring some sort of joy or happiness whenever you see it. And this photo always does it for me. 

Second to selecting your photo/painting the hardest part is waiting! The entire process takes several weeks from start to finish, as they are understandably creating a master piece. Jenn, one of the lovely ladies who works there was wonderful at keeping me in the loop through the different processes as well as letting me know how things were going. Needless to say I was so excited to hear it was on it's way! When the massive box arrived I tore into it with a child like enthusiasm and was seriously blown away all over again. It took me a few days to find the perfect home for it but here it is in it's natural habitat. 

Isn't it swoon-worthy?!?

 How could I not be seriously in love with this company!? My husband laughs at me because every time I come into our bedroom I smile at that painting. I honestly couldn't help it! There is something magical about seeing your work made to be larger than life. Naturally you can order much smaller sizes for pretty much an space in your home, I'm not sure what made me order this size, though I did feel entirely guilty when the humongous box arrived with my name on it. But as soon as I cracked it open and saw that amazing painting smiling up at me I was seriously giddy. 

It's been in the house for nearly two weeks and I sat down the other day and really tried to scrutinize every inch of this canvas for any flaws or discrepancies between my photo and  the painting itself. And quit honestly I was hard pressed to find one. As an artist (if I may call myself that) it's so gratifying to see your work not only in large scale but to have justice done to it in such a beautiful way. I think it's always a little scary to see peoples interpretations of your work, but in this case it was more then perfect. 

From start to finish this entire process was such a blast that I am eagerly looking forward to commissioning my next painting for the new house in a few months. I think some day I might meet the person who painted this and after giving them a hug tell them I'm the crazy woman who had them do a 4 foot painting of flowers. Someday. :) 

Until then, I think I will keep singing 1st Art Gallery praises for the awesome work they do.

They are currently celebrating their 12 year anniversary To enjoy the 12% discount simply type 12YEARS in the"Received a Gift Certificate?" field during checkout. A 12% discount will be applied to you total.

** This blog receives no payment or other compensation for reviews of products or services. The reviews and opinions are entirely of my own experiences and dealings with said products / services.**

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Faux Zinc Night-Stand Re-Do

We finally found our contractor for building the house, now we are just waiting to get all of our ducks in a row for the bank which means a lot of time spent sitting on our hands. It's making me a little crazy to be honest. I planned to have a mini break from my photography business since it's been non stop since spring but now that its here all I want to do is house stuff. 
I've managed to purge something like, 20 boxes of items I don't want or need for the new house, so we are planning on doing a huge garage sale this weekend in proper good send off fashion. Honestly the more I look around my house the more I want to re-do everything. I'm seriously itching to re-do the master bedroom but I think I will be looking for just the right pieces for quite sometime. I went to the Raleigh Flea Market this weekend and came across a ice-cream cabinet / cooler-- it was probably one of the coolest things I've seen in a long time, but with no new house to put it in it just seemed like something to move later on that would be a huge pain. That and I wasn't entirely sure where it would go in the new house. 

Oh well. 

In leu of buying new night stands I decided to cheer myself up by re-painting the old ones. I found some tutorials on how to do a faux zinc stain on wood so I gave it a try. 



It doesn't look anything like it to me but I like the finish I ended up with. It will do until I find the perfect pieces to replace them. 

If you want to give this finish a try yourself Freckled Laundry did a great tutorial on how to do it. Happy Painting and Good Luck!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Dieting Faith Restored

Let me just start off by saying, I am not being paid to give this testimonial in any way shape or form. With that being said I think I will start at the beginning and bring you up to speed. 

The majority of my life I have struggled with my weight, from probably second or third grade on. In high school I wanted to turn over a new leaf so I became a vegetarian and started running 4-5 miles a day. Even with that much cardio the smallest I ever got down to was a size 6. After high school I got a desk job so running, and then eventually being a vegetarian took a back seat. Gradually the weight came back on. 



Through the years I've tried tons of different ways to lose weight-- Nutrisystem, shakes, counting calories, being a vegetarian (again), Adkins, B-12 shots. I even went to a weight loss clinic all to no avail. I remember consuming 1200 calories a day and running for 45 a day and after two months I was down 2 pounds. 

Let me just say I'm not the most exercise obsessed person either. If were being honest I seriously hate working out, running is the most tolerable exercise I can manage because you can burn a lot of calories in the shortest amount of time and even then I still have to coax myself into it. As a photographer, on wedding days I walk upwards of 6-8 miles, so when I come home going for a run is the last thing I want to do.

I think I just reached a point where I gave up and focused on my career and decided this was my situation and it wasn't going to change. I think you just get tired of dealing with sorting through the nonsense. 

About a month and half ago I stumbled across an ad on Pinterest and everything changed. I seriously have no idea why I clicked on the ad it was probably her slogan of 'Peace and Happiness through Clean Eating', but I did click and the more I watched Isabel's video the more my issues made sense. The video itself is a little cheesy, but the facts she provides are very true and made a lot of sense to me.

I think the thing that was most appealing to me was that I didn't have to spend a ton of money buying specialty snack packs or ordering a pre-made food system. Honestly with her approach all I could think was, what have I got to lose? 

The meal plan itself costs around $40 and I ordered the three recipe books for an additional $70. I even managed to get my husband on board. Once we got started following the meal plans we were seriously in heaven. There's no counting calories on this diet, and apart from processed food being cut out we still eat gourmet meals every night. I don't think there's been one time I've been hungry on this meal plan, or felt deprived of something. Once a week you are allowed a cheat day, which helps to get those cravings out if you do have them, it really is the diet that allows you to have your cake and eat it too. 

Today we will have been on the diet for exactly one month and I am down 16lbs. 

Two of those weeks I managed to exercise for at least 30 minutes a day, the last two weeks between travel and work I haven't exercised once and I still average 1-2 lbs a week gone. I can't remember the last diet I tried where I lost weight doing no exercise. My husband is losing weight much slower than I am on this plan, but he feels so much better that he doesn't mind as much. 

My skin which I used to have to take extra care with various products is clear now and doesn't really require them any more. I feel better and have more energy and for the first time in a long time I'm feeling positive I'm on the right track. And for me that's a big deal. 

Thursday, June 04, 2015

To Barnwood or Not to Barnwood?

As my architect nears the completion of the exterior design I'm starting to seriously consider my siding options on the new house. I was so excited when I cam across a reclaim store in Durham (30 miles south of the new property) that sells barnwood... well everything. This place seriously has it all, from hand hewn beams, barnwood planks to raw edge tree cuts. Seriously everything.

For a long while now I've been in love with homes that have barnwood exteriors like these... 

great swimming hole idea for back acre

Antique Barn Wood Siding - Reclaimed Barn Wood: Elmwood Reclaimed Timber 

Barn Houses - 11 Converted Barns - Bob Vila

I'm not too worried about this barnwood fad going out, mainly because I grew up with barnwood stuff. My mother really loved the look of it and included it in most things in our home. I do wonder how it will hold up against bugs and elements over time, as well as how often or even how to clean the exterior of the house. It's not really a commonly used material so there aren't too many specialists I can call upon, at least not in our area. 

Not to mention barnwood averages between 4-7 dollars per foot, with mid grade vinyl coming in at about $1.60 and cedar clapboard at about $4 a foot. 

So I guess with all of these factors coming into play is it worth all the fuss or should I turn to something more conventional and save my pennies for something more exciting?

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Moving Along.

Life is still crazy here in the Major house. I've actually enrolled in three classes on top of my already busy photography business. Apart from having no time for much else other than class and work, I've been loving it. I've been especially excited for our blue prints since it's looking like we should have the final draft in hand sometime in late June, early July. We've managed to swing an amazing architect, who really listens to every crazy idea we have and manages to work it in to the design. 

I think the hardest part about this whole project so far has been putting a hold on basically every DIY project I dream up or want in that moment. Mainly because I ask myself if it's something I want to keep in the next house, how will it fit in and so forth. I pacify myself with dreaming up designs for each room and find myself weekly planning on all of the items I am going to get rid of. I think we will need a much smaller moving truck than when we arrived in NC. 

I will admit that we did break down and bump up the square footage to 1500 square feet. I still love the compact house idea, but since both my husband and I work from home, and we are planning on having children a 4 bedroom 800 square foot home just wasn't what I envisioned. 1500 square feet is still a modest sized home, but allows for the upgrades I really love-- like a walk-in pantry! 

Rustic farmhouse pantry door...always wanted a door in our house with some character! How to organize your pantry in 6 easy steps: 1. Wipe down shelves with soap and water to capture any dust or crumbs. 2. Take inventory and throw away expired products. 3. Label the front of the shelf to remind you where items are. 4. Invest in a large set of clear glass or plastic jars for storage. 5. Shop for extra storage items like bins and baskets for small items. 6. Reload the pantry. Remember to group like items together: flour and sugar with baking supplies; pasta and grains with oats.

Now that we have approved the floor plan we've been hashing out the finer details like exterior siding, stair design, fireplace design and my personal favorite kitchen design!

Alastair Hendy's Kitchen from the Remodelista book, Photographed by Matthew Williams | Remodelista Eco House in Herzelya / Sharon Neuman Architects

I still really love the industrial look, after 6 years of it I'm still not sick of it and I don't think it will change anytime soon. Planning for children we don't have yet has been tricky, but I have put some thought into those alternatives that make a difference. We've managed to catch some flack from our family for having a master suite upstairs and the children rooms downstairs, but ultimately I still loved the idea of having a personal oasis to climb up to at the end of the day. Would you rather have your children upstairs or down? 

Sliding Barn Doors for the Home - outer doors close to secure windowed doors off the bedroom, which is a brilliant idea! These doors are gorgeous! Via Canadian Log Homes

Living in a state where there's an old barn on every farm, makes it easy to get our hands on barn wood siding which is something I have always dreamed of having the exterior of my home done in. I've been talking with several dealers who disassemble barns and preserve the wood for just this purpose. This type of stuff comes at a pretty penny but its something I'm working hard to fit into the budget. Somethings are just worth the extra dollar. 

lovely . a sunny dutch door . Rustic barn door

I've got big plans for extra features like sliding doors, lighting and custom sink vanity's. 

DIY DECOR:: 12 Absolutely Beautiful Bathrooms ! Full of Inspiration, Tips, & Do it yourself Ideas ! Like this Farmhouse Bathroom Makeover ! Amazing ! If I put stairs in my dream house (thinking about my Granny & my Mom's knees when they get older).

I was at a loss for the type of kitchen I wanted, I mean there are so many types to choose from! It wasn't until I was flipping through a Martha Stewart magazine that it clicked for me. She apparently has paired up with Home Depot to offer a custom Martha Stewart kitchen design, cabinets, back splash the works and I seriously love every piece (well maybe not the stools!). It was my dream kitchen on paper and even having Home Depot install it will allow extra room in the budget for that coveted siding. Score!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Just a little Nervous.

The preliminary blueprints came in, and I'm already nervous. I always watched those HG TV shows and wondered how people could be so indecisive when it came to choosing stuff for their home. Now that I'm on the receiving end of it I totally get it. These plans are just the rough draft and I went from loving them to 5 minutes later, well, this... 

I've added 10 more notes since I took that photo and I will probably add another 10 before bed. My poor architect, he really is a saint for taking me on as a client. Here's to getting this sorted out tomorrow. 


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