Quick Check-In (with a POLL)

Happy Monday, everyone! (Is there such a thing?)

I wanted to do a quick check-in today before I start brainstorming blog posts for the fall. When I started blogging in 2009 I was writing quick updates on my Study Abroad experience in Morocco. When I got back from Morocco I posted little snippets about life at home, doing craft projects and cooking, then I moved to Kansas and used it as a way to show people back in California what my life was like as I put together my first “grown up” apartment with my roommate Lisa.

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Then, what I like to think of as the blogging boom started, with people like Sherry and John leading the wave of the thousands of other home and personal blogs that followed. I tried to keep up pace, posting more projects and inspiration boards. At my peak in 2012  I was posting almost every weekday.

Now blogging “the old way” is almost gone. People want quick top ten list, or “25 outrageous things” à la Buzzfeed. Or, big time bloggers with magazine-level budgets churning out a huge volume of excellent content… I’m no stranger to online window shopping and making product roundups, but I don’t have the budget to overhaul my whole condo in the name of blogging.  I’m feeling more “talky” these days as evidenced by my recent lengthy travel posts.

Dining Room Curtains

All this to say — people don’t comment on blogs the way they used to, so I don’t know how many people are reading and what is connecting with those who do. Won’t you please use the poll below to let me know what you like to read?

Have a wonderful week! 

Lorelai’s Living Room (Gilmore Girls)

I’m re-watching Gilmore Girls in anticipation of the new special coming out this fall. In a way, coming back to Stars Hollow feels like coming back to a home-away-from-home. Lorelai’s place has always had a special homey feeling, especially among TV houses—I think the reason for that is that it really has the accessible, lived-in feeling that comes from a bit of clutter (like most of our homes!).

The other thing I like about this room in particular is that this effect can be achieved cheaply through thrift stores and craigslist. The story of the character is one who ran from her wealthy family and brought herself up by her bootstraps, and the thrifted, antique, collected-over-time look reflects that.

Gilmore Girls

(Photo by Patrick Ecclesine/Warner Bros./Getty Images)

So, I decided to make an inspiration board of a room that has had such a deep connection for me! To pull this inspiration board together, I went shopping on chairish.com, a site that’s like a fancy craigslist with items that have been vetted (you won’t find junky stuff on there). If you want, you can narrow the search to your geographical area. Or, you can search anywhere in the nation, if you must have that item (and want to pay freight).

Lorelai

First and foremost, Lorelai’s sofa. In the show, it’s famously old and uncomfortable. You can transform your own old and uncomfortable sofa by using a slipcover, or you can check out this option from Pottery Barn. Slipcovers are great because even though they’re white, you can wash them and keep the whole couch looking fresh.

Lorelai’s coffee table is not special, and I like that about it. It looks like it was all-wood, and painted green or teal on the bottom half of it. If you’re inspired by this room I encourage you to look for something at a local thrift shop and make it your own. But, since this is the internet, I chose this one from Overstock and “painted” it in photoshop. (winning!) The couch and coffee table are anchored by one of those woven rag rugs that I am super into lately, in a 90s kind of way.

The Gilmore girls watch a lot of TV and movies. An eagle eye can spot a couple different TV solutions (media units) in a few shots. In some seasons it’s kind of a tall 90s style TV armoire, and in others it’s an antique sewing table (sturdy, to hold an old deep TV). For this, I brought the 90s armoire into the 2010’s. This one from Home Decorators Collection has the same look, but is shorter and wider to house movies, the cable box, and a DVD/Blu-Ray player. Now that most of our TV’s are widescreen instead of the old, more square configuration, a flatscreen will look better on top of this low, wide unit, or hung on the wall above it. (I like to think that 2016 Lorelai is more open to the idea of a wall-mounted TV than 2006 Lorelai was).

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Unlike most TV shows, we often see all angles of this room depending on the scene. Must have been challenging for the crew to keep consistent! In the back corner she’s got an old wooden rocking chair like this one. There are a few home accessories that get mentioned by name, like a creepy clown pillow and a monkey lamp: I did my best to find similar ones! Also, if you go back up to the top photo you might notice that this room has a ton of lamps. I added a Tiffany style lamp but you could probably find something antique chic at a thrift or vintage shop.

From the most common angle, looking into the front doorway and hallway to kitchen, there is an iconic secretary desk, a colorful quilt hung on the wall (I bet you have one in your linen cabinet), and a couple cool art pieces like an antique painting. The key with vintage art is to find something you really like and that complements the colors in your home. Something ugly to one person could be just the thing you need, so be patient and check out every piece when you’re at an antique store. Also, don’t forget, you have the liberty to change out or paint the frame!

You guys, this was so much fun. Not only was it a great excuse to keep watching Gilmore Girls, but I haven’t put together an inspiration board in a while and I forgot how much I enjoy it. The one I did a few years ago for Barney Stinson’s apartment still gets some hits every day so I got inspired to make one for another living room. The polar opposite of Barney’s, apparently!

Would you live here? Let me know what you think in the comments! 

Tips for Traveling: Money and Packing

I hope you were able to learn something from my last post of travel tips! I had a fun time writing them and thinking of things that I wished I knew in the past. Sorry for the delay in posting this part II, but it’s finally ready: This post will go over a couple more things I think are crucial to getting the most out of any trip you plan: Money and packing, which are tied closer together than you may think.

There’s a famous phase that my friend Val reminded me about on facebook: “Bring half of what you think you’ll need, and twice as much money.” This is so true! I used to be a chronic over-packer. I’d pack “outfits” so that each day I’d have a unique look. Now I try to pack [fewer] clothes that all mix and match well with each other. My other epiphany is that most of the time, if you forget something, the place you’re headed to will sell what you need. This takes a lot of pressure off!

Ace Hotel Portland

Money and Savings

As far as paying for the trip itself, like I’ve shared in the past I am a chronic planner. For me planning the trip is a huge part of the experience. So much so that I’m constantly looking up fares on Kayak and Airbnb just to see what the going rates for things are.

So to budget for a trip I do it just like any other big purchase: I get the total and work backwards. For a longer international trip let’s use a ballpark figure of $2,000 (for our purposes: something like a $900 flight, $100 per night hotel, plus money for attractions and food). I think of when I’d like to visit that place, count how many months away it is, then divide. If there’s no possible way I could put that much away per month, then the trip gets pushed back so the monthly savings amount is lower. Even if I don’t have something coming up I still try to prioritize putting a certain amount away each month. My “present self” has thanked my “past self” on many occasions.

If this sounds like poor planning because I’m saving for my trip as it approaches: well, you probably have a point, but I also have a strategy. I book things in installments if I’m pretty sure the price of that aspect is going to stay stable. Remember, for an international trip I start booking things a pretty generous six months out. So after a few months of saving, I have enough to book the flight, so I do. Then a couple months later I have enough to lock down my hotel or Airbnb, so I do. Doing this in waves (instead of all at once) gives me more time to daydream about what I want from the trip, research neighborhoods, and learn what good lodging prices are. Then for the remaining months before the trip I put aside money for food, sightseeing and shopping.

Cash

As far as spending money for each day, it really depends on your lifestyle. Something we did on our last trip that worked out well was just dealing in cash. With cash (overseas), you only have to pay the bank ATM fee once (sometimes it’s a percentage of money withdrawn plus a foreign transaction fee) and you end up with what basically works as your budget to go on. Of course if something unexpected happens you’re able to get more out of the ATM, but dealing with cash in hand and avoiding being hit with bank fees twice has a way of being pretty persuasive on where you want your money to go.

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As an example, here is how we dealt in cash on pour last trip. When we arrived in Heathrow, the ATM would only let us take out 300 pounds. So, that was our budget for the three days in London: 100 per day. London is so expensive!! We put a couple pricier items on our credit card (the pricey Arsenal stadium tour, an expensive keepsake from Liberty, for example—and do use credit not debit when swiping; fewer fees) but other than those things, the £300 carried us through with 60 pence to spare. We did the same in Paris and Madrid. 6 days, 600 Euros. Paris was more expensive than Madrid so it was probably more like €125/day in Paris and €75/day in Madrid. (Remember, this was for two people).

I try to avoid cash exchange windows and just deal with the ATM. If the ATM claims to be “fee free,” even better. They often have these in airports just before you get out of Customs. I don’t know if they really are “fee free,” but it is better to at least try avoiding fees of up to $8. Regardless, make sure you are using a reputable ATM at a major bank (not a convenience store). Before you travel, you can look up the terms of your credit or bank card and see if they have any particular foreign partner bank. If not, at least you’ll know what your foreign transaction fees will be and can plan your number of withdrawals accordingly. Also, take a moment to add a travel note on your account so it doesn’t get frozen (when the bank sees international spending they try to protect your money by shutting it down). This is super important!

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Make your money go farther by scoping out if any of your must-see sites have free days or free evenings and plan around that. Alternate between sit-down restaurants and street food (which is usually delicious, more “typical,” and cheap!) Buy or bring snacks to keep on hand and you can probably get by on two meals a day, if you really want to scrimp.

Packing

Packing, especially when planning a trip with a significant other or a relative, can get heated. One person always wants to bring something the other person thinks is totally unnecessary. You’ll want to check with your airline(s) in regards to what kind of bags incur charges and which are free, and plan accordingly. I’m making great strides in being more minimal. When laying out clothes to bring, make sure everything mixes and matches together. It all depends on where you’re headed, but consider wearing things twice, or doing light layers. You can pack with dryer sheets in your suitcase if you are worried about – ahem – scents, but my bet is that nobody will notice if you re-wear an outfit. If you still want to cram more in, roll your clothes to create more room. I don’t know how this voodoo works, but it does.

Madonna Inn

Here’s something important, though: If you are checking a bag, make sure that your carry on bag contains what you’d like to have if you are stranded without your luggage, say, overnight. Put some comfy clothes and a toothbrush, at the bare minimum, alongside your device chargers and light airplane reading. My friend Laura recommended, “as someone who has been stuck in an airport more than once overnight without access to luggage… I would suggest always having on you when flying: 1 change of clothes (with undies), an extra pair of socks and sweater (airports and planes are cold), a toothbrush and toothpaste, a few snacks, and cash (one time I was stuck in an airport because there was a power outage and the only way to buy things was with cash).” Remember! If your flight is grounded you could be spending unexpected hours in the airport.

As for that other random thing you are on the fence about bringing along? You probably don’t need it or won’t have time to use it. If it doesn’t jump to your mind as essential, it probably isn’t.

Thanks for reading! If you have tips or something you swear by, please put it in the comments below! I’m always looking for helpful ideas.