This month’s 5 favorite things is a tad late this month, but sometimes life happens, right? With some family matters taking precedence this month it’s meant putting work on the back burner for a week or so, but I am happy to be back here sharing some fun stuff with you!
All the while, I’ve been stocking up with some good topics (one of my favorites in fact), travel -some tips and must haves as well as a little vacation style! With a big European trip coming up this summer for our family, it seems the perfect subject to share about! Plus, I thought I would dig in a little on how to get a good nights rest, since that’s something that’s become a bit of a struggle lately for both myself and Stefan. And then as always, I’ll share some good eats and good reads with you!
Wherever you are, I hope you have been enjoying the turn towards nicer weather. A few buds are making their way out of hiding here in Colorado, and I just returned from the East Coast where things are in full bloom. It’s a wonderful time of year to get outside and refresh your family photos, whether it’s just you and your partner, may the pup too, or getting the whole crew together, kids and all. (Even grown kids should be in photos!) My spring and summer calendar is open so reach out and get on the schedule for a session. Check out a few other fun things you can do here in the Denver area with your family this spring!
Let’s get on to the favorites!
April Favorite #1: Travel Tips & Must Haves
We are off to Europe in June and I cannot even wait! I find that to have a relaxing and fun trip, it helps to plan in advance for the right things to bring, what not to bring, and learn from those who have gone before you. I have been enjoying perusing this blog post about travel over on Cup of Joe. It is a pretty short post, but it’s the multitude of users comments (literally hundreds) where the gold lies. I digest a few each day and take notes.
One of the things I love to do before traveling is find a few special things to book in advance while I am in a new place, but then leave a fair amount of time to just wander and explore as well. In order to find meaningful experiences, I try to work off referrals of people who have been before, and/or travel bloggers who skip the influencer crap and gimicky stuff, and suggest more unique and off-the-beaten path experiences.
We are starting our trip this summer in Venice then heading to Rome, and I came across ‘The Intrepid Guide’ who offer videos on some things to do in Venice, as well as some unique options in Rome. No matter your destination, YouTube will give you a wealth of good (and bad) resources for these types of experiences. I’ve recently saved the site ‘Eat With‘; a site where you can type in your destination (anywhere!) and choose a special dining experience, cooking class, workshop, or other one-of-a-kind event; most often hosted in a locals home!
What to bring?
Last year we had a bit of a nightmare with all of our luggage being lost and landing with nothing to wear. Finally just as we were about to leave Venice and head towards Tuscany, we recovered our bags. We’ve learned some lessons about packing and baggage, and this year we are going to attempt to travel carryon only! In prep, I purchased an Away Carryon and I have to say, it’s a great bag! For my additional ‘personal item’ I always bring a Vera Bradley black travel backpack. My exact bag doesn’t appear to still be available as I’ve had it for several years, but they have some similar alternatives.
I also love all things Peak Design for travel, especially if you are bringing camera gear. One of my favorite travel tips is to stash a packable foldable tote in your purse. You’ll be grateful you have it when you come across amazing finds at the local outdoor market or have to go on a grocery run for your AirBnB. Otherwise for that under the seat bag, I am definitely tempted by this Pond Transform Tote which seems like the perfect thing for the plane, and even a day trip around a new city.
When you are ready to go sight seeing and take some photos, these gorgeous Gatta Bags are the perfect solution for walking around with your nice camera stylishly concealed, and bringing your everyday essentials along too!
All that exploring leaves you parched though, and after being exhausted in the heat on last years trip, I bought one of these collapsible carabiner water bottles for each of us! If you like to write down notes from your travels, check out this list of the best travel journals to bring along with you. And although it’s hard to bring along your whole beauty routine when you travel, check out this list of a few beauty must haves. For me, a good detangler in a travel spray bottle and some face wipes are a must! There are some great suggestions on this list of the best travel accessories. Headphones, a shawl, a power adapter and reusable toiletries bottles are a must for me!
Just for fun…
Not sure where to go yet? Sign up for a membership (free OR paid) to Going, formerly Scotts Cheap Flights, to get notified of great deals to amazing destinations, and check out this guide to the best summer destinations in Europe! And, just for fun, or maybe if it’s not in the cards to get away soon, indulge your artistic side with one of these gorgeous paint by number canvases by Hebe Studio that will transport you to another world! I personally just started the ‘Atrani Lemons‘ one from the Amalfi Coast of Italy. Next on my bucket list of destinations!
April Favorite #2: Travel Style
Packing for a vacation, especially if you are lucky enough to be escaping for more than a few days, can be challenging. You inevitably have to strike a balance of packing a combination of clothes that will see you though various weather conditions, night and day, casual to dressy, things that won’t wrinkle too much, and that will be comfortable yet stylish. Plus, it all has to fit in a suitcase, whew!
For a summer trip, I try to stick with no more than 3 pairs of shoes- a pair of comfortable walking shoes/sneakers, a pair of flat sandals, and some sort of wedge sandal for going out at night. I recently bought these New Balance 327’s in all white/cream – love the retro 70’s look. (I also love the mint green and pastel yellow on these.) Of course everyone is into Hokas and On Clouds these days so those are great choices too. In Europe the rule is typically that sneakers will out you as an American, except that the current sneaker trend has seemed to permeate across borders, so I am less worried about it now.
For Sandals I may bring my Rose Gold Arizona Birkenstocks which are super comfortable, or maybe a pair of flat strappy gold sandals I picked up in Venice last year when our luggage was floating around who knows where! For wedges, I have my eye on three different pairs- it’s so hard to choose! I want comfort and style so this pair and this pair of Toms both look nice, but a splash of color from Vince could be fun too right!?
I like being able to mix and match outfits, and so this set from Free People looks great together, but also can be worn apart with other items, like this cozy tee from Vici Collection, or the crop top with this adorable skort from Vici and if it gets chilly I adore this Mint green quilted layer at Free People. If you aren’t wanting to carry a full purse out while you stroll around town, I think these Bandolier crossbody phone wallets are awesome. This pink one is cute for spring and summer, but I myself have this black leather one with gold studs! I bought this super soft and lightweight striped romper for my trip and I love that it’s an easy one piece outfit. I also have my eye on this gorgeous maxi by Farm Rio but it’s a wishlist item!
The other item I think is a must have in your bag, is some sort of shawl or coverup that is easy to fold up and stash away, but something that can be pulled out when you are cold, or cover your shoulders for modesty if you are wearing a strapless dress or similar and wanting to visit more conservative areas like churches, basilicas, or mosques that have guidelines on female dress.
April Favorite # 3 : Sleep Hacks
What is it about middle age that make it so hard to sleep? These days getting a good nights rest feels like a Herculean effort, so I have been seeking out any and every trick in the book. Here are some things I have found along the way. (Though my journey is still very much a work in progress.) First, while easier said than done, I am trying to heed the advice in this post of trying not to think too much about my life after dinnertime. You may know I have renewed my interest in reading, and after dinner is my time to focus on my boys, maybe catch a TV show, and definitely get in some quality reading time. This helps in pushing out anxious thoughts about, well, life.
what to do…
When it comes time for bed, I love these super soft shorts and sweatshirt PJS from Target, so much that I have already bought 2 sets. I am tempted to go pick up the PJ pants for the colder months too!
Apparently eating foods high in tryptophan can help, which might be something to consider as you meal plan for the week. It’s never a bad idea to choose some sort of white noise to help you get in the sleep zone. I use the app BetterSleep where you can customize a mix of soothing sounds, and on another popular sleep app, Calm, they even offer relaxing sleep stories read by celebrities. Another interesting yet unconventional option is listening to the BBC Shipping Forecast, an oddly soothing broadcast.
This post has a roundup of lots of things to aid better sleep, and if like me, pain and inflammation is part of the problem, try reading this article for some things you can do to reduce inflammation while sleeping. Finally, because we humans are curious in nature, it’s always interesting to read what other people do to prepare for a good nights rest. So if you are inclined, read through the multitude of comments over here and who knows, maybe you’ll pick up a new nightly routine you wouldn’t have thought of otherwise! Sweet dreams!
April Favorite #4: What To Read
I’ve finished six more books and have started two more since my last post. A few have definitely stood out! I’ve mentioned before that I do lean towards the fantasy genre, but I am trying to broaden the horizons so to speak, so there’s a little variety here.
The God of Endings by Jaqueline Holland. Definitely the stand out novel of the past month for me. Vampiric in nature, though not as conventional as most vampire stories. It is the story of a girl born in the early 1800’s who is given eternal life by her grandfather, and has to reckon with the consequences over the next 170 or so years until the 1980’s where she meets a gifted boy from a troubled home, and her world starts to change. It is beautifully written despite all the trouble that befalls her.
Severance by Ling Ma Apparently this novel was hailed as the book that foretold Covid, and the moment you begin reading, you immediately realize why. Released in 2019, it covers a virus originating in China that spreads and leaves people ‘fevered’. The similarities are stark. Ling Ma’s version is an eerie yet highly entertaining read, given we’ve just lived through the Covid-19 Pandemic. **Potential Trigger warning for anyone having lost someone or still struggling with the Pandemics effects.
The Stardust Thief by Chelsea Abdullah First in a series about a night merchant and her jinn (magical) bodyguard who get entangled with a royal family and sent off on a perilous quest. Full of twists, turns and colorful descriptions of faraway lands, showcasing strong female characters.
a few more thoughts…
I finished This is Not my Memoir by André Gregory and it was an enjoyable look into the life of someone so massively influential to the world of theater. Interestingly through André’s writing, I came to realize also how influential his good friend; actor, playwright and director Wallace (Wally) Shawn has been too!
I haven’t yet come back to Essential Labor: Mothering as Social Change by Angela Garbes but am working my way through the Durrells of Corfu by Michael Haag after watching the Masterpiece series of the same name which I loved (and dreaming of visiting Corfu one day) and have just started Weyward by Emilia Hart. So many books and so little time!
As always – I would love to connect with you on Goodreads and see what you are reading too!
April Favorite # 5: What to eat – Sweet, tart & tangy treats
With the shift to spring my brain is already craving tart and tangy treats, so I have been enjoying the multitude of sweet and citrusy recipes popping up on the regular recipe channels I follow. This is going to be dessert heavy but hey, let’s indulge!
Starting with a few recipes I have made with rave reviews in the past, you can’t go wrong with this light and airy Lemon Mousse by the Barefoot Contessa (Ina Garten) or this Fresh Strawberry Bundt Cake from NYT Cooking. If you want to stick with strawberry, try these Double Strawberry Cupcakes from Half Baked Harvest but if lemon is appealing, this Baked Lemon Pudding might be more your style.
I am such a huge fan of citrus, and I was pretty excited to see this recipe for Limonada pop into my inbox this week. It’s a frothy and refreshing Brazilian drink, and I’ll be making it stat! It might be great with some Pink Grapefruit Bars, or you could stack the lime flavor with some Key Lime Meltaways. If you can’t decide on your citrus fruit of choice, how about trying this Triple Citrus Creamsicle Pie!?
You can never go wrong with orange though, and these Blood Orange and Poppy Polenta Shortbread Cookies not only sound delicious but look amazing too. For a twist on your average weekend cinnamon roll, swap them out for these Orange Rolls instead, or maybe an Anytime Orange Muffin will do the trick. And if citrus doesn’t hit the spot, I am sure this copycat Magnolia Bakery Banana Pudding will hit the spot! I am hungry just writing about all of these!
Until Next Month…
Dream big, plan that vacation, or prep for the one already on the books! Get some restful sleep, read a good book, and make something citrusy sweet! I’ll be back next month with more 5 favorite things in May. Until then, please share this post with your friends, and check out my post on how to leave no trace during your next photo session. While your at it, consider getting a photo session on the books this spring or summer!
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