Small But Mighty: Away Carry-On Luggage Review

You guys have been LOVING my reviews lately, so I am stoked to share with you my latest on Away Travel luggage. I had been obsessing over this luggage like every other travel nerd on Instagram for quite some time but it wasn’t until Old Faithful (my fuchsia piece of Target luggage I bought in college) broke on my trip to Miami in February. It was a sad day. I had used that piece for about a decade, so I figured it was time to treat myself a little.

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Away comes in several sizes but I went with the smallest roller bag known as The Carry-On. I went with the deep forest green because I thought Navy and Black were too generic and I wanted something that wouldn’t turn brown after a couple of uses. It’s a beautiful color.

The best part of this review is that I have been on a whirlwind tour of the country for work and so in the past month I’ve carried it with me on planes, trains, and too many Lyft rides to count. Here’s the breakdown.

SIZE: I went with the smallest one because I wanted to guarantee it could fit on any flight, anywhere. Thank god I did. The overhead storage on a recent flight to Hawaii was so teeny, tiny and my bag fit no problem. It looks super small but this can fit A LOT. I had to do San Francisco and Hawaii back-to-back so I needed to be able to pack for 60 degree and 80 degree weather. Mission accomplished.

PACKING: In this little bag I packed: 3 pairs of slacks, 3 tops, 2 dresses, 5 workout outfits, 2 pairs of flying leggings, 2 casual outfits, countless socks and undies and bras, Converse sneakers, ballet flats, my laptop charger, my poetry book manuscript (really), all of my skincare items, and my makeup bag. Even though it is small, it is thoughtfully organized so everything has a place to go. Brilliant.

WEIGHT: I honestly was worried it was cheap because it weighed so little. It is super light, even lighter without the charger in it. I was able to lift it overhead with ease, even when it was stuffed to the brim.

EXTERIOR: Ok so this is disappointing. I got green so it wouldn’t stain but I didn’t expect white paint! From bell closets at hotels (and my own closet) my poor baby got a lot of white paint marks. Luckily they’ll come off, but I only do this after a trip, so during I have to suffer the scrapes!

DURABILITY: I didn’t abuse it too much but it seems to be putting up with all the trips and airplanes good enough.

WHEELS: The wheels move like BUTTAH. Seriously. This rolls with such ease I wanted to die. That said, they are tiny little baby wheels. So at the Amtrak station and on Boston’s uneven streets they got caught a lot. They’re great in the flat surfaces in the airport. Even carpet.

CHARGING FEATURE: Omg this thing can hold a charge. Between myself and everyone I traveled with we charged our phones A LOT on it and I didn’t need to recharge it all. It’s still on the same charge from March! And I went to Boston, Miami, San Fran, and Hawaii. It’s that great. I had no issues flying with it. Delta made me pop it out and put it in my purse. Easy.

AESTHETIC: It’s totally good looking. A guy in the airport even stopped to ask me what I thought and asked to feel it up. I gave him my mini-review while we waited in line together. I got other compliments on it as well.

So was it worth the $225? I say, YES. With the exception of it’s tendency to pick up paint everywhere I go (seriously), it’s an excellent piece of luggage. I cannot believe the amount of stuff it fits and I love how easily it fits into any overhead bin. Consider me obsessed.

 

 

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How to Be Resilient

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Photo by Hyungyong Kim on Unsplash

2018 at my day job has been wild. We’ve lost a lot of great people to new jobs and it was painful for me to let go of friends and mentors all at the same time. I won’t say that I handled it particularly well because I had to call my mom to keep myself from crying one day. That’s pretty rare for me. I mean, I waited 24 hours to tell her I spent the night in the ER with a broken nose.

What she told me that day stuck with me and since then, each challenge that arises in my life, whether in direct relation to these big changes or not, I think about it to calm down.

She said to me, “All of this proves just how resilient you are.”

Wow, that’s a word. A word I was and am proud to have bestowed on me. Resilient! I sometimes walk around wondering if I am crazy for putting up with certain things or for not jumping from place to place, job to job, like many of my millennial counterparts. I often think of myself as a lame duck, just paddling along with one sad foot. But resilient? I feel flattered, Mom.

She’s right by the way.

I am not sure when change became so trendy– Quit your job! Travel the world with your savings! Keep moving until you’re happy. All of those concepts never resonated with me. Sure, on a surface level I was like “Hell yes let’s do it!” But deep down, I am the type of person that much prefers to work through the complications I have in front of me, to find happiness and joy in the everyday. I mean, duh, this blog is dedicated to that. But I needed her to remind me that this tendency also makes me resilient.

(PS – I mean if you’re unhappy please find your own happiness, I am not telling you to be miserable! That’s different and you know it. Don’t pin that on me. ;))

Resiliency can be a learned trait. I truly believe this and I will preach it to anyone who will listen. Learning how to be resilient comes from learning how to be uncomfortable. Finding comfort in your life is like finding comfort on a crowded subway– you may not have seat, but you can probably work your way into a safe corner. Since everyone responds well to lists, here’s a “How to Be Resilient” list to get you started on your own journey or to continue growing (everyone, no matter how resilient, always has room for improvement!)

HOW TO BE RESILIENT

  1. Learn to Be Uncomfortable – Life is never going to be 100% sunshine. Find joy in rain. If you’re avoiding a work project because it seems complicated, try to find a way to un-complicate it. Create space where you are.
  2. Find Your Edge, And then Push Past It – Like with exercise or eating kale or starting a particularly hard book… If you stick with it, just past your edge (your breaking point, the day you usually give up) you’ll find that it is possible for you to get past whatever is holding you back. And you don’t need to go far past it, just enough so that tomorrow, you’re a little bit stronger.
  3. Support Others – Believe it or not but helping others to get over their own fears and problems will make you stronger. Others give us purpose, which in turn gives us strength to carry on.
  4. Take Breaks – No human being is going to be capable of taking sh*t nonstop. Learning how to be resilient also means learning how to take a big old break from the work of getting stronger. If you’re tired, take a seat, just don’t turnaround, you are so close!

How often do you think about being resilient? Does thinking of this word make you more capable? Is this the first time you’ve applied the word to yourself? Do you feel resilient now? Let me know…

Love, light and red wine,
Amanda

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Moon Dust Review – Getting Adaptogenic With It

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Me to Frank: You know, my Passion Planner review is my my most read blog post.
Frank to Me: You should probably review stuff more then.
Me: Ugh yeah.

I don’t normally review stuff because I’ve always set out to make sure this blog was not very “commercial” but it turns out that all of you freaks love STUFF as much as I do. So I’m reviewing today. I try a lot of weird trendy stuff so I might as well help you on your weird trendy journey too.

What are Adaptogens to begin with?

So I must have been sleeping under a rock for the past year or so but I just learned what adaptogens are in the new year. 2018’s got me learning new words and stuff! Adaptogen is used to describe a specific set of herbs and mushrooms that help the body adapt to stress–hence the name. Like any trend, most of these herbs and mushrooms have been used for YEARS (this time in Chinese medicine) but have gained a lot of attention recently because good looking women in LA are getting into. (This is how any health trend starts… sorry New York. At least you have Rainbow bagels?)

Moon Dust by Moon Juice, yes I realize that’s hard to follow, is a powder version of these adaptogens. (There are different ways to ingest this stuff and I have more to review, so stay tuned). You can mix it into anything: water, coffee, tea, pancake batter… whatever.

IMG_5378Why did you do this to yourself?

I know it seems a little woo-woo, whack-a-doo for someone who grew up eating Little Debbie’s Cosmic Brownies (still dream of these) and went two pitchers at a time in college… but I’m 30 now and I want to feel as bougie as possible. Also, I think if something like this works then that’s super cool. …It is!

What is Moon Dust?

I bought myself the trial pack called  “The Full Moon“, which gives you a couple samples of their most popular Moon Dusts. (Have I lost y’all yet?) The Moon Dusts are:

  • Beauty – For inner glow (your skin)
  • Brain – To bust your brain function
  • Sex – Creative energy in and out of the bedroom
  • Power – Physical and entrepreneurial feats
  • Spirit – Bliss bliss bliss
  • Dream – Sleepytime Tea++

Ok first things first. If you like things that taste good I would avoid these. Certain ones taste better than others (Beauty Dust for example) but for the most part they do taste like you’re licking someone’s incense tray. I happen to like weird tastes, again I want to feel 30, so it’s bearable. I drink ACV every morning, so you know exactly what train I am on.

(I’ve been mixing mine in tea but I have read that OJ is a better mixer. I am too lazy to experiment but I am going to try and put it in some pancakes tomorrow and see if Frank dies… )

IMG_5377Have you noticed any changes with Moon Dust?

So far I haven’t seen any mega changes, but I know that these types of things take time. Here is what I have noticed…

BEAUTY DUST – I broke my nose last week and couldn’t do my usual skincare routine. For the first couple of days I was drinking beauty dust and I didn’t have a single breakout. My skin looked great and I didn’t have to do 15 steps to achieve it. As soon as I stopped however, break out central. I truly believe in the beauty now.
SEX DUST – Full disclosure I took this before going to work one day. This is not Viagra. I didn’t feel anymore creative than usual. But I liked chugging it before heading to office, I felt like a rebellious pixie hippie.

SPIRIT DUST – This has actually made me more zen after I drink it. It’s hard to tell if it’s the tea, the caffeine or this pretty baby, but I do feel like I’ve just meditated after I drink it.

Cards on the table — Do I recommend Moon Dust?

If you are new to any sort of all-natural hippie activity (you had to Google ACV two minutes ago for example) I would stay away and start with something easier (grind your own Peanut Butter at Whole Foods this week!) But if you believe in the healing power of crystals and meditate daily — Moon Dust is for you!

Guest Post: Tiny Superstitions

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This is kind of a ghost story.

It’s about memories and magic, and it’s about all the ways my mother taught us to believe in small bits of wonder. It’s about hoping for the best while facing the worst, and it’s about pattern-seeking behavior. I lost my mother to cancer on December 29, 2017, after eight years of battling colon cancer. I have been trying to write this personal essay since March 2016.

This is for you, Mom. I will always leave the rocking chair rocking if you’d like to come and sit.

I have always been drawn to ghost stories. I have always been drawn to any strange or unusual story, any bump in the night that would have me. While this isn’t altogether unusual — who doesn’t love a mystery, or a sense in a world beyond what we see? — I have started to suspect I am drawn to them in a different way. So often, we are taught to be frightened of the unknown. Cautionary tales flourish in this genre, small words to protect us from our own darkest natures. Don’t go into the woods alone at night without a lantern. Don’t eat things a stranger gives you. Don’t give in to the desperation of these times.

I find in these stories solace, rather than terror. Not that we tell them, but that they exist at all. I think being drawn to the unknown comes not solely from a destructive urge to gaze into the abyss, but from the thrilling notion that we can challenge everything. Not every secret is known, and not every outcome is written in the stars. If there are things beyond what we can see, then there are things we see right in front of us that might be part of something big and mysterious, too.

The unknowable thing in my life for nearly a decade has been the cancer in my mom’s body. I have spent my adult life holding lantern in its wilderness, the shadows cast around me scattering fear and hope tangled endlessly into the brambles. I am not an expert in anything, not grief nor medicine nor other people’s stories. But I have clumsy hands and a clumsy heart, and if I can add a story to the string of tales that have brought me comfort, I might as well try.

We are, as humans, inclined to seek patterns in the day-to-day. My mom was no exception. Her combination of Biblical knowledge, a Farmer’s Almanac approach to weather, and allegorical stories of a childhood in the deep, deep South have created a bevy of tiny myths and superstitions in my family. It’s the kind of miniature magic you don’t think about very hard while it’s happening. A handful of these include:

1) Bubbles in your coffee mean money’s coming.

2) Eating greens, pork, and black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day ensures a good year.

3) Leave your pumpkins lit all night on Halloween, and your Christmas lights lit all night on Christmas Eve.

4) Never rock an empty rocking chair, or you’ll invite a ghost to sit in it.

5) Seeing a cardinal is a sign of good fortune.

I told her all the time that she was superstitious. She laughed or rolled her eyes as I tempted fate a thousand times a day.

“It’s not superstition,” Mom said, “It’s wisdom. And at any rate, even if I’m wrong, it doesn’t hurt anybody.” This comment was often accompanied by coffee or prayer. Or both.

I often marveled at her quiet determination in all these tiny rituals. Even as I grew to be an adult, it seemed like she held the understanding of the universe in her long fingers, somehow. I realize, of course, that some of the things I consider rituals are just things she liked and did over and over, so now I revere them simply because my mother did them. Some of the things she did were precisely because she was a mother.

6) She served spaghetti and grapes on Halloween. “Brains” and “eyeballs” to spook us a little, but also a very sneaky way to carbo-load her children so they didn’t get sick on candy later in the evening.

7) She rang bells on Christmas morning to wake us up.

8) She did the laundry in a complicated array of batches based on color, water temperature, usage, size, and the weather.

9) She gathered us together before a big trip, no matter what time of day or night, to hold our hands and pray for our safety.

10) She pointed out fairy rings in the yard after hard rains.

I’ve developed my own superstitions here and there over the years, and I see signs and patterns in lots of things, too. I made my own kind of miniature magic, though it closely resembles hers. I have jewelry for good luck, and I have quiet mantras for certain days of the year. I try not to upset the order of the universe too gravely by trying to pretend I understand the future or second-guessing rainy days.

I guess this wasn’t a ghost story so much as it was a memory story. Though what’s a ghost but a memory so strong you can feel it moving through the world? It still stands as a cautionary tale, though. Don’t give in to the desperation of these times. Create your own tiny rituals, or borrow someone else’s until they feel real to you. Hold hope in your heart no matter what’s happening around you. If my mom hadn’t taught me that lesson, I am not sure how I’d carry on now without her.

I have one final bit of magic to share with you. It’s just a pattern, but that doesn’t mean it’s not big and mysterious in its own way. On the morning after I found out my mom had cancer, it snowed hard. It was early October in Iowa, and it hadn’t been in the forecast. I didn’t own a car in Iowa City since I lived downtown, so I trudged to work in knee-high boots and cried. I am convinced the snow was trying its damnedest to hide my sorrow as I crossed the last intersection to work.

Later that day, an old friend called me, and in the course of that conversation, we arranged for him to come visit from my hometown. He was an old boyfriend, another film school junkie who stayed up too late and worried too much, but he knew my mom and he knew me, so it was good to be able to share that time together.

The day before my mom passed away, it snowed. It was a light snow in late December, but the forecast had missed it by almost a week. That old friend was with me again — now my husband — as we held hands, because he knew my mom and he knew me, and it was good to be together.

 

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Sarah Caputo is an artist and teacher working in Oklahoma City. Her most recent creative focus has been on representations of memory, love, and folklore. Sarah posts her drawings, comics, and other misadventures frequently on Instagram (@tiny.revelations). You can also contact her at sarah.tinyrevelations@gmail.com.

Real Talk: I Love Valentine’s Day + (A Wood Watch Gift for Your Boo!)

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I partnered with Jord Watches to giveaway $100! Keep reading to learn how.

My History with Valentine’s Day…

When I was a kid I loved Valentine’s Day. I loved the tacky candy and the teddy bears and the cute cards we collected at school. But as I grew up, it got harder to celebrate the way I wanted to because everyone around me hated it. I buried this part of me until I met Frank and now I’m pulling out all the stops. This year I’m giving him a beautiful zebrawood and dark sandalwood wood watch.

I feel like a kid again. I am so thrilled I have found someone that’s going to embrace this sort of cheesy, oddly romantic side of me. I think Valentine’s day is so special to me because my parents always spent it with my brothers and I. We’d have a special dinner and then sit together to pick out chocolates from our big heart shaped boxes. With so much hate in the world it feels good to spend time to celebrate love.

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Celebrating like a grown up with a wood watch…

Now, just because I am into tacky candy doesn’t mean I don’t have great taste when it comes to gifts and celebrating. No teddy bears here!

A couple of months ago Frank’s beloved watch broke. He gave up on ever finding a decent replacement. Enter this unique wood watch from Jord. Frank is not a flashy guy (one of my favorite things about him), he essentially wears the same cut of shirt everyday, jeans, and a pair of boots, so a metal band was out of the question. A more minimalist wood watch was perfect for him because it is unique enough to be special, but low key enough to be worn everyday to work, bars, parties, and meetings. I also gave him the wood watch early (oops!) because I wanted him to pick out his style and wood grains. There are a ton of options. They can also be engraved, which is a nice touch.

In addition to the gift I’ll probably take him out for dinner (I cook all the time and while I am pretty decent, a night out is always nice) and go see a movie. Ok, and yes, I will eat a lot of tacky Valentine’s Day candy because I just can’t help myself!

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Wood Watch Giveaway!

Now it’s your turn to rock a unique piece. I’ve partnered with Jord Watches to giveaway $100 on their site to my readers and followers! All you have to do is CLICK HERE, enter your e-mail, and wait for your name to be drawn. All entrants will receive a 10% off code after the contest is over. (It’s a win-win.) Anyone can enter and don’t worry, it’s not just for men, Jord also has a great line of women’s watches. So you can gift a unique men’s or women’s watch for Valentine’s Day (or any day) too!

Let me know what you pick out for your loved one (or yourself) this season!


Wooden Wrist Watch