5 Favorite/Necessary Travel Aids

Are you traveling home for Thanksgiving? Or possibly taking off for Thanksgiving! Having just returned from two weeks away, I thought I’d share a list of my most necessary travel and packing items. I’m getting it down to something maybe slightly less than absolute packing mayhem, but not quite to pro-level. I can’t go quite as nano as my guy does, I just have more stuff I want to take. At least I can have it organized and not resemble something that looks like it was hit with a bomb.

  1. Packing Cubes!!
    Where have you been all my life? They’re the giant zip-lock bags that OCD packers dream of. There are quite a few out there on the market. Tending to over-stuff these little fabric boxes, I opted a nicer version with bomber zippers. I have multiple sizes, for everything I want to keep separate and use the larger version to store dirty clothes for the trip home.

    Eagle Creek makes a solid version. Sold here.

2. Backpack/Handbag
I actually use this all the time, and have a smaller version of this in a different color, but for travel I always use my large black leather one. Yes, I have a handbag thing. SO what. You can throw this on the floor, wipe it down, stuff it with extra shoes, and all your travel items that you need handy. And it looks damn good.

Rebecca Minkoff, Julian Backpack. Sold here.

3. Snacks
This is sort of a duh, but you’d be amazed how often we forget to pack some and then buy overpriced ones at an airport. My current snacking favorite are KIND bars. They’ve been a favorite for a while in all honesty, but they’re light, healthy and NOT messy when you open it squished between two people that maybe take up more room than you do. I’m partial to the Almond & Coconut and you can buy case packs on Amazon.

KIND bars. Sold here.

4. Sleep Aids
If you’re blessed with amazing sleep- good for you. When I’m not in my own bed, sleep can elude me. I’ve tried a number of mild options, and most leave you feeling slightly hung over. I love this CBD micro-mist from Nuhumun. It’s easy to use, not a bottle of pills to lug around and works perfectly for me, and I like the science behind what they’re doing.

Nuhumun Vanilla Micromist SLEEP. Sold here.

5. Moisturizers of ALL kinds
I don’t care where I’m going, or what the climate is, I need moisturizer. Lip balms, lotions, face creams etc. I could dedicate many pages to my research of this, but I’ll give you my all round favorite source for all of the above.

I’ve been on the Osmosis Skin Care train for some time now. I live with the Quench face lotion, and Replenish serum. They also make an amazing lio balm!

Osmosis Skin Care : Quench. Sold here.
Osmosis Skin Care: Replenish Sold here.

Gratitude is a Full Time Job

Gratitude is not for wimps. Given that we are fast approaching the holiday of gratitude, it’s going to ramp. We hear a lot about showing gratitude lately, or maybe it’s like when you get a new car, and suddenly you see that same car everywhere. I personally have had gratitude on my mind quite a bit in the past year. I have much to be thankful for, but I’ve noticed that the practice of gratitude doesn’t always come quite so smoothly. I am crystal clear on the idea of manifest reality and creating more of the good stuff in your world through setting intentions, and gratitude to the universe. The reality is, when you’re having a stressful time, or things aren’t quite grooving along, it’s easy to let your grati-guard down. Dig in deep. This is when it gets real. I believe many of us have techniques for managing this, but I’m going to share a few of my own. I hope something in here helps you when you need it.

  1. Before I roll out of bed, first thing when I wake, maybe even slightly before I’m fully wide eyed and bushy tailed, I take a long slow deep breath and draw awareness of the warm bodies next to me- the love of my life, and my furry little nugget of a pup. These bring me a great sense of calm and comfort. I’m quite thankful for their warmth particularly on chilly winter mornings!
  2. As I get up and start my morning routine, I take a moment here and there along the way to appreciate the little things. This is similar to adding “brushing your teeth” to your task list for the day. You need the no-brainers to check off and help that sense of accomplishment. I love hot water. Wow my coffee is delicious. I adore my insanely wonderful perfume. My back feels great this morning. Listen to those birds going berzerk!…easy stuff to have gratitude for, and just as important.
  3. Find something every day that makes you smile. I have preached this to my girls their entire life. Each and every day, find one little thing that you find beautiful, or adorable, or stunning, or funny- anything that makes you stop and smile. Being a color-centric person, this one is easy for me because I often stop and take in nature’s palette.
  4. When I’m faced with a particular challenge, and fear starts to grip me I look deep inside for that elusive thing called faith- complete trust and confidence that things will work out. This one is important to me. I now view these challenges as little or big tests to see what meddle I am made of. Faith is leaping into the day and knowing a net will appear. It forces me to be bold.
  5. Just like the start of my day, the end gives me a pause to take quick inventory and a quick mental list of how great the day was. Yes I was crazy busy and maybe dealt with some challenging clients, or spilled coffee on myself – whatever. That’s life. The day was still filled with beauty, I spoke with both of my girls, I laughed with my mom, I accomplished quite a bit and wow look who’s eating dinner with me! Winner!
  6. Show a lot of gratitude to yourself. Loving yourself, and being kind to yourself might be the top of the order. Without self-love, you really don’t get past Go. So, collect that $200 and get on your way down the Boardwalk. You are amazing! 

Does Color Make the Designer

It snowed for the first time this season today. I awoke to it. Standing in the front doorway I stared out in wonder, maybe even had my mouth open. The palette of my world changed overnight, and it brought me something new and beautiful to look at. It happens every year, the first snow. And every year I’m just as giddy about it. For me, it’s about color, and how light plays off of the crystals, the greys in the sky, the browns and golds under it all. It’s an ermine cloak laying on the branches, with little specks of black peeking through. It’s the patterning of white and brown across the meadow not unlike a herringbone. The softening of everything. The brightening of everything. The world is on a blur filter.

I’m standing there, and in rapid fire, my brain is making graphic shapes in repeating patterns, designing a snowflake, a wintery palette for a silk print or wallpaper, a texture to be used in something. Nature has done it again, I think. She’s got it going on. Is this how it all began for me? Did my reverence for color and shape in nature turn me into a designer or did I notice it after I was labeled such? I remember always loving color, maybe even nibbling on a crayon or two, but did that drive me into the creative I am today? I think perhaps it’s a bit of both. 

I knew pretty early on that graphic design is what I wanted to do. I recognized that design is in every aspect of our lives, whether made by nature or man. It’s there undeniably and I wanted to be a part of that world. As a young child in New Orleans my mother would take me with her to this glorious fabric shop. To call it something as mundane as a fabric shop doesn’t do it justice. This was my personal Mecca. This was heavy silks in floral prints, jeweled toned velvets and the equally fascinating selvage, crisp poplins in crisp colors, striped and textured seersuckers, and then there was the wall of silk cords. Silk cords in every color you could ever want in a wall so high I had to crane my head up to see it all. She would let me pick out a few colors and buy me a small piece of each, that I would braid, pet and play with until they unraveled. Then I realized that fabric was something you could design! Then it was book illustrations, then posters and album covers. As a teen I wanted to make all of these. I became enchanted with building complete systems! This evolved into learning more about marketing and the psychology behind what I did and how it affects the audience. And so it went. Yet, it remains that under all of this, color and pattern was still the core of what I love. 

As a designer taking a cue from what nature is doing is a powerful start to your concepts. Certainly, it’s a form of inspiration at a minimum. It brings humility to your work, something profound, organic and decidedly not perfect. We live in a precise digital world; nature brings us back to something somehow friendly. As children we drew trees with simple leaves and red apples. We drew orange stripy cats with huge ears. I drew my mother with wild curly black hair bigger than her head. We took our world in a very simple pure form, on pure emotional response. Then we get older and we are trained to be creatives and how to use the plethora of tools at our fingertips. We get better at what we do, more skilled, and refined, but we’re still observers. Us designers. Or at least, we should be. 

I recognize not everyone swoons over color the way I do, and I now understand that’s one of my superpowers. I’m proud to be a graphic designer. I think I’m really good at it too, and as a designer I believe in sharing what’s so incredible about the way I see our world. Next time it snows, or flowers pop up, or anything natural that catches your eye, stop a moment and really see what’s going on. Look at the combination of colors, or pattern and texture. See how it moves and the shapes it holds. Whether you’re a designer or not, I think you’ll see something for the first time, every time, and my hope is that makes you smile. Our world is cool.

I am not a Water Girl

Last spring my girlfriend emailed about a week long paddle boarding camp in Mexico. My kneejerk response bordered on nausea as paddle boarding in Mexico had to mean OUT IN THE OCEAN. To clarify, I’m not a water girl. I always wanted to be, but it just hadn’t worked out so well. She was clear that where we were going is quite calm, and so in the spirit of facing my fears to move forward in life and blah- blah blah, I mustered up an enthusiastic– hell yasss. (Side note: I was reading Jen Sincero’s You Are A Badass at the time and vowed to walk the walk…) Fast forward to November and four of us have landed in Puerto Vallarta for our week long SUP boot camp with Performance Standup Paddle Board with Mia Stockdale and Shane Sluder.

After being jostled here and there, stand in line for this, go there to get your bags, stand in line again for that, we were spit out to the warm embrace of that familiar wet dog called humidity. Breathe. More jostling, wide eyed gringos, taxi?, cerveza?, cardboard signs with names printed in sharpie. When do we get a margarita because only an ice cold, in a glass chilled heavy with condensation and a healthy pour of blanco, and limon can ease you into the arms of Mexico. 

We found our mark, or more correctly Mia found us. Our fearless boot camp leader for the week. Our destination is Punta de Mita the small town next to the Four Seasons, St. Regis and other notable resorts located “inside the gates” or Punta Mita, which effectively claims the entire peninsula at the Northwestern tip of the Bay of Banderas. It’s a short 30 minute drive from the PV airport. Our town, Punta de Mita, is maybe 10 blocks by 8 blocks and like many towns in Mexico is that wonderful mélange of free range chickens, roosters, cobblestone roads, some roads you aren’t sure are roads, dogs lazing in the shade, children selling candy out of a little box, music and smells– good and bad. We catch our first glimpse of the bath water we will spend the week in learning fast turn over strokes, pivot turns and how to get back in to shore without a thorough may-tagging. I’m breathless. After a quick provision shopping and peso gathering we have reached our destiny… The program includes accommodations right on the beach where you will have every opportunity to watch this fickle female called the ocean, attempt to learn her ways and find some semblance of companionship. I take my first of many margaritas out to the veranda, sit with my girls and have a silent commune with the sea-goddess, asking her to be kind for the week to come.

Picking your meal at The Blue Shrimp
The bar view at La Pescadora, sister restaurant to The Blue Shrimp.

Our first morning, after a short beach jog we are standing in the quickly rising heat, sweat dripping off our bodies practicing our stroke and how to properly hold a paddle. This is dry land training, stretching and probably a quick sussing up of our enthusiasm or fear level. We’re all game and while we all have some experience with SUPing on lakes, we are different skill levels and certainly of widely different opinions about the ocean. I sit squarely at the bottom of the comfort meter. I let Mia know that I’m really not a water girl, but I am athletic and feel strongly I can get closer to something along those lines. We leash up and head out.

The morning proved to be the most difficult of the week. The wind started blowing and the water quickly grew choppy. A perfect first day to effectively get it all out of your system, whatever it may be. Face your fears. We paddled, we talked, we practiced,  we fell, and we drug ourselves back up and repeated it all again, and by all things considered good and happy we were doing it and reaching a distant destination stroke by stroke. Day 1 down. We spent the afternoon lazing by the pool with smuggled margaritas and snacks, in total confidence we had made a really good decision.

We explored other areas. We spent one morning at an outdoor market in the close town of La Cruz buying saltwater pearl necklaces and drinking fresh juices akin to what the gods must drink. We hiked through the jungle, facing the heat and humidity, vines, lizards and mutant leaves to the top of Monkey Mountain for views of the peninsula, the bay and distant Puerto Vallarta. At night we filled our souls with fresh caught mahi mahi, fish tacos, shrimp aguachile and tequila to a gorgeous sunset in sweet exhaustion. 

Looking out from the top of Monkey Mountain.
The cemetery decorated for the Dia de los Muertos celebrations in Sayulita

Each day we got stronger. Each day we became more confident. Each day we came together closer as a group and found a piece of ourselves that had been tucked away. I never learned how to get back on the board gracefully and certainly swallowed over a gallon of saltwater, but I am proud to say that I am confident to call myself an ocean paddle boarder and would do this again, as soon as possible.

Mexico is a treasure chest of many beautiful places and people. Punta de Mita now claims a piece of my heart. If you think you might want to try this, go. Go fast and with an open mind. Mia and Shane will be your guides into this brave new world and become good friends in the process. 

PRO TIP Coming from the high desert of SW Colorado, going to heat, humidity, intense sun and salt water would present some beauty challenges. Here are a few of my most cherished and used products:

Fish, Love & Grit

This is a love story. Like many love stories it begins with that first moment. The first time you lay eyes on; the first time you bear witness to the inherent contradictions, the full scope, the full range, and the challenge… Moab, was love at first sight. My first time was in college on a climbing trip with my brother, my old green 1987 Fisher Hoo Koo E Koo and a maiden voyage into the world of slick rock riding. I was literally breathless by the shades of red in that swirling sandstone candy-scape. I was breathless with fear of riding on that same rock and generally in awe at the feeling I had deep in myself in this place of extreme beauty. Years later, my brother is fortunate in owning a home there and me the beneficiary of a bed in Moab. We have watched this little town grow bold under the guiding hands of many pioneers turning it into a bike mecca, and with it comes really tasty places to eat, water up and drink coffee. 

Winding through Little Wild Horse Canyon in Goblin Valley State Park, UT
Is it rock or is it wood- a stunning display of nature in action.

Most recently on a long weekend to Moab Outerbike, an annual trip to see our good peeps in the bike biz we discovered a few more places to eat! We often start our morning at the Love Muffin – a double cappuccino and the Verde, a pile of brisket, green chili and eggs sets the day. Grab a muffin for your pocket. If you don’t get around to eating it, it might provide extra protection against any future crashes. Sabaku Sushi has long been a favorite for us, and many others. If it’s a busy weekend in Moab, it will certainly be busy there. Go early and sit at the bar. They are quite used to serving us common bike trash and have a delightful cocktail menu to heal your aching muscles after a long day in the sun and gritty sand. This time around, we found ourselves at La Sal House and Doughbird. La Sal House brings a next level dining experience to the scene. My beloved and I are critical cocktail enthusiasts and sometimes a large crystal clear rock is all you need to know you’re in good hands. The food is fabulous too! Doughbird is, well, doughnuts and chicken. Enuf said. Which really all this means is you best be riding a good deal daily, because last I checked you’re not allowed to return from an epic biking trip with an extra few pounds…

In the Belly of a Dragon

Slow indulgent evenings abound in Taipei, a city of 7 million +. Taipei is an urban experience of controlled chaos, manicured canines, smoky incense filled alleys and surprises around every corner, but amongst all the bustle of the evenings and endless food markets, little pockets of calm can be yours. On such an evening, my partner in crime and I wandered up a dark, slightly bending street. Our destination, Indulge Experimental Bistro, a winner in the William Reed, Worlds50BestBars.com. This is a tall order, and it was our personal goal to determine for ourselves the veracity of such a bold statement. I am here to tell you- it is well deserved.

A fascinating element of Taipei is the very new mixed with the very old. You smell the incense first in the warm humid air, then round the corner to a temple.

Located in the Da-an District, in what feels to be a quiet residential neighborhood you’ll find yourself standing in front of a large frosted glass wall and blonde wood door of similar height. You are not lost. Keep going. Inside is a welcoming buzzy room of modern hued light and creamy tones. We grabbed the last two seats at the end of the bar, our preferred post to better observe the orchestration of the mysterious goings on behind the scene. As we watched as our bartender perfectly shape a sphere of crystal clear ice with no more than a pitchfork ice pick we sent our telepathic happy dance. 

and the gardens…

The bistro does offer a beautiful dinner specializing in the 4 distinct culinary regions of Taiwan, and we did eat, however this article is about Stanley, the barkeep, mixologist and voodoo maestro manning the helm of the Indulge bar. He is indeed master of his domain. If you’re wondering why his name is Stanley and not a Chinese name, we’ll save this curious topic for another story. Suffice it to say for those tongue tied westerners, this courtesy is a saving grace. Back to Stanley.

Stanley effuses calm, cool precision. From his crisp attire to his perfectly poised hair, he is decidedly put together. He commands his team with calm detailed instruction and delivers one masterful tipple after another. However, as often as not we chose to order off menu. It had been a full day and I needed to set my calm with something familiar and warming. I wanted brown liquor, possibly a Manhattan or Boulevardier- classic and fulfilling. My feet hurt. And he delivered, a perfect Man. Not particularly extraordinary as in unique, but you don’t want extraordinary with a Man—you want perfection. It’s not complicated yet many don’t deliver. The Manhattan delivered, the Boulevardier delivered and the world was rosy and round once again.

Thus lubed and somewhat fed, I was emboldened and wanted to know what they would do with a Sazerac. I hear you now, unfair unfair you holler, you’re in Taiwan not New Orleans, but oh ye of little faith, this lady of the south desired a Sazerac, and what an exquisite one it was. 

…these felt like wishes blowing in the breeze, but I honestly don’t know.

Did I mention they won a spot in the WorldsBest50Bars.com? Here is where Stanley stole the show. He spoke to us for a while about our tastes and would we consider something with a decidedly Asian twist on a classic. Why yes please. He set down in front of me pure art; a paper-thin crystal orb, with that same perfectly clear sphere of ice and a subtly sublime Sazerac. Hints of anise, a face of Rye, a touch of citrus all sweet-hot a coiling dragon and love all in one. He then presented a small smoking cedar box in front of my beloved. Inside was a cocktail of a different type of beauty, and mystery. A personal spa steeped in cedar smoke performing reflexology on your feet all while you sipped Oolong tea in a garden of lush greens. It was whiskey and an infused tea bitters with a hint of the orient. Mic drop. We are forever loyal Stanley, and will Indulge every time we visit Taipei.

Should you find yourself fortunate enough to be wandering the streets of Taipei, do yourself a solid and go see Stanley at Indulge Experimental Bistro. He will make your world a better place. Indulge Bistro. Da’an District, Lane 219, Section 1, Fuxing South Road

Written from the comfy bed of our room at the Eclat Hotel, Taipei.