Packing for a Long Trip: Luggage Tips

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As I mentioned in my post earlier this month, I wasn’t always the best packer. But, thankfully, I’ve had a lot of practice.

This trip home has been the longest I’ve ever had to pack for so I had to be smart about it. We recently purchased new hard shell luggage to better protect our things and so far, it’s been well worth the investment — all my gifts for my sister and her family made it to Phoenix unscathed and I know I’ll be able to transport my precious cargo (my favorite scented candles and some Reese’s, of course) back to Tokyo intact. Luggage doesn’t have to come with a heavy price tag to be quality, just do your research and you’ll get years and years and thousands of miles out of it.

Now, when it comes to packing your luggage, I have some suggestions to help you get the most storage space out of your bags. These tips made this trip much more organized and I hope they help you on your next adventure, too.

Feel free to share yours in the comments!

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Weekly Web Tacks

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Wow, I don’t know how you parents do it. Yesterday was my first official day babysitting my precious, almost-two-years-old nephew and man was I exhausted. We played, we ate, we colored and we ran around the house — boy, did we run around — but it’s a divine exhaustion. I wouldn’t trade his sweet thank you’s and kisses after a fun day for anything else in the world.

My web tacks for the week include some things I’m trying to work on, inside and out. Happy Tuesday!

  1. I’ve always known writing could be therapeutic. More reasons to try it. [The New York Times]
  2. I couldn’t agree more with these ways living in another country changes you. [The Huffington Post]
  3. What does the pic you choose for your social media accounts say about you? [Man Repeller]
  4. What happens to old NYC subway cars? Not what you may think. [Gizmodo]
  5. I’m looking forward to checking out photographer Kazuhei Kimura’s exhibition this February back in Tokyo. Take a look at his beautiful work. [TimeOut Tokyo]
  6. How to have less anxiety this year. [MindBodyGreen]
  7. Can’t wait to try this pasta dish from Chef Jamie Oliver.
  8. Beauty tricks I can’t wait to try, including an Asian skincare regimen. [The Cut]
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A Quick Girls’ Trip to Sedona

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My father’s family has lived in Arizona since I was very little, easily making it the U.S. state I’ve visited the most by far. However, since we were typically coming out west to visit my elderly grandparents, we didn’t do much sightseeing. When my sister, Jackie, decided to make the move to Arizona shortly after completing college, I was sad to see her go, but also excited for all the adventures I knew we would have when I visited.

Being so far apart now, I treasure my limited time out here more than ever.

I arrived in Phoenix last Thursday and was welcomed by plenty of sunshine and cacti. We decided to do something special — just the two of us — on this visit, so Jackie and I made the short drive (about an hour and a half) to Sedona for a quick girls’ trip. We booked a room at the Sedona Rouge Hotel & Spa, a resort my sister has stayed at before that boasts a wonderful spa and restaurant.

The whole drive there I was reminded how beautiful Arizona is and as we approached the famous red rocks of Sedona, I couldn’t help but feel more at peace after a few hectic — albeit wonderful — weeks.

Before checking in, we enjoyed a vegan lunch (I know, I KNOW, but I’m doing my best to ditch the animal products after some pretty decadent weeks of eating back in Michigan) at ChocolaTree and did some shopping, then made our way to the hotel for an early evening massage. I’ve not had a ton of massages before but this one, oh man, my masseuse was doing God’s work. There’s nothing better than a massage after a day of traveling.Now if I was only following her advice right now and not slouching as I write this, maybe my back wouldn’t be such a mess? After a steam bath, we got cleaned up and dined at REDS, the resort’s popular restaurant, where they serve a killer Moscow mule and the best butternut squash ravioli I’ve ever had.

The following morning we took a yoga class back in the spa and then hit the road again for the Grand Canyon (stay tuned). It was short trip but just what the both of us needed. I cherish every moment with my sister, knowing these opportunities to connect are nothing short of priceless.

Our first glimpses of red rock.

Our first glimpses of red rock.

Just spectacular.

Just spectacular.

Home for the night, Sedona Rouge Hotel & Spa.

Home for the night, Sedona Rouge Hotel & Spa, located right on the main drag in Sedona.

REDS has an extensive wine list and a food menu that includes small plates as well as fresh pizzas. We loved the butternut squash ravioli, endive and pear salad and the chocolate torte (<< OMG).

REDS has an extensive wine list and a food menu that includes small plates as well as fresh pizzas. We loved the butternut squash ravioli, endive and pear salad and the chocolate torte (<< OMG).

Lots of gorgeous tile work around the property,

Lots of gorgeous tile work around the property,

Sorry for the odd shadows -- the fountain in the main entrance/courtyard, which has plenty of outdoor seating.

Sorry for the odd shadows — the fountain in the main entrance/courtyard, which has plenty of outdoor seating.

The only shower I've been in in the U.S. that gives my Japanese shower room a run for its money.

The only shower I’ve been in in the U.S. that gives my Japanese shower room a run for its money.

More gorgeous sights from our hotel room balcony. This made it easy to disregard the expansion under construction out back.

More gorgeous sights from our hotel room balcony. This made it easy to disregard the expansion under construction out back.

All in a all, an ideal spot for a girls' weekend or romantic getaway. I know I can't wait to go back.

All in a all, an ideal spot for a girls’ weekend or romantic getaway. I know I can’t wait to go back.

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Favorite Detroit Sights + Tastes

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I grew up roughly 30 minutes from downtown Detroit. It was a place I didn’t go to every week, but I grew to appreciate it more as I got older. My mother was raised downtown and many of its landmarks and institutions still resonate deeply with her.

Detroit has had more than its share of hard times, and unfortunately has become the subject of doubt and butt of jokes. But every time I come back, I’m delighted to visit all the new restaurants and venues –including The Fowling Warehouse, shown above — opening downtown. Hopefully, these places will be around for my generation to show their children one day.

I know I can’t truly call myself a Detroiter — growing up in one of its suburbs, I only saw its hardships from a comfortable distance — but it meant a lot to mean to spend time down there this past week. My hope is if you get the chance to visit, you won’t pass it up.

A signature Detroit dessert: the Sanders hot fudge cream puff. I devoured this one at Small Plates.

A signature Detroit dessert: the Sanders hot fudge cream puff. I devoured this one at Small Plates. Get one, or forever wish you had.

Hello, Canada. Enjoying my view of the icy Detroit River over lunch at the Renaissance Center.

Hello, Canada. Enjoying my view of the icy Detroit River over lunch at the Renaissance Center.

I shared the bowl of coney island chili I practically swallowed whole on Instagram recently, but my other favorite thing to get at these establishments is a yummy Greek salad. I consider myself a big kid now because I actually eat -- and enjoy -- everything on it now.

I shared the bowl of coney island chili I practically swallowed whole on Instagram recently, but my other favorite thing to get at these establishments is a yummy Greek salad. I consider myself a big kid now because I actually eat — and enjoy — everything on it now.

On our way to the North American International Auto Show Charity Preview. Or, as I like to call it, Auto Prom.

On our way to the North American International Auto Show Charity Preview. Or, as I like to call it, Auto Prom.

After the black tie benefit, guests packed in to watch Steve Miller Band. I think they enjoyed it.

After the black tie benefit, guests packed in to watch Steve Miller Band. Looked like he was a hit.

The best barbecue in the land from Slow's. The brisket, cornbread and cole slaw are top picks.

The best barbecue in the land, from Slows. The brisket, cornbread and cole slaw are top picks.

My old apartment in the suburb of Birmingham. Sorry for the less-than-great photo -- Craig snapped it on his way home from work. We lived on the ground floor and I miss our first home every single day.

Our old apartment in the suburb of Birmingham. Sorry for the poorly-lit photo — Craig snapped it one night on his way home from work. We lived on the ground floor, and I miss our first home every single day.

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Weekly Web Tacks

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It’s my final week in Michigan (half week, really) and I’m doing everything I can to make the most of it. I know I haven’t posted as frequently, so thank you for understanding. This trip has allowed us to see so many of the people who are important to us and those are the times you just need to step back from everything else and enjoy it. I have my Detroit outings roundup coming up tomorrow, so you can see what we were up to all last week.

My web tacks for the week are on a lot of topics that remind me of life in Asia — maybe that means I’m ready to go back? Happy Monday to you!

  1. Loving that matcha tea is starting to make waves back in the States. We can’t get enough. [SELF]
  2. Fake designer handbags are making a comeback. How to spot one to avoid getting ripped off. [InStyle]
  3. Learn how the people of Okinawa, Japan live long, long, healthy lives. [The Huffington Post]
  4. Free wardrobe upgrades? Yes, please. [The Zoe Report]
  5. I’ve gotten the two best manicures of my entire life here in Japan. Try this tips to up your own nail game. [Into The Gloss]
  6. Confession Time: I nearly moved to London after college. Maybe someday. [BuzzFeed]
  7. Some seriously awesome infographics to help you eat better. [PULPTASTIC]
  8. If you thought Japan only had one type of ramen, you’d be wrong. [Lucky Peach]
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6 Happy Sights

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I’ve really been enjoying my time in Metro Detroit this past week, visiting some familiar spots and seeing friends. We’ve also had some exciting new experiences. I can’t believe we’re half way through this trip home — we’re making the best of our time, but I knew it would fly by.

I have a lot to look forward to this weekend (including a haircut at my favorite Metro Detroit salon), so no tearing up yet! My happy sights for the week starts with this gorgeous sunset over the icy river from our room at the Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center. My god Michigan is cold.

Freezing temperatures aside, I hope your week was fantastic.

I was happy to catch not one, but TWO basketball games with my dad back at MSU. Go Green!

I was happy to catch not one, but TWO basketball games with my dad back at MSU. Go Green!

Had to have some American sushi to see how it compared. Boy does this seem weird to me now, but it was yummy.

Had to have some American sushi to see how it compared. Boy does this seem weird to me now, but it was yummy.

Can you tell which one of us lives in Japan now and has become anal retentive with chopsticks?

Can you tell which one of us lives in Japan now and has become anal retentive with chopsticks?

Ghost chili cocktail at Mex, one of my favorite Mexican restaurants back in Metro Detroit. It had a delicious bite but the sugar-rimmed glass helped cut it.

Ghost chili cocktail at Mex, one of my favorite Mexican restaurants back in Metro Detroit. It had a delicious bite but the sugar-rimmed glass helped cut it.

More beautiful architecture in Detroit.

More beautiful architecture in Detroit.

 

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Packing for a Long Trip: The Carry-On

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I can’t say I’m a light packer, but after many moves, trips and a long-distance relationship with my husband, I have become a better packer. You know I love my lists, so my best tip is pre-planning and creating a master list of items you always take with you. It will save you time and stress in the long run.

When it comes to a carry-on, the hardest thing for me to learn was to be realistic about what I would actually use once I was on board. For a long flight, it’s easy to say I need four magazines, three books, an array of snacks and my entire makeup bag, but bringing all that gear ends up being more burdensome than relaxing.

These are the 10 items I’ve come to consider essentials when packing for a longer journey — they were all certainly in my bag on this trip:

  1. Hairspray — For quick styling into a topknot or ponytail after a long flight, a travel-sized can of hairspray is a must.
  2. Dry Shampoo — If my hair feels gross upon landing, I’ll use a dry shampoo like this one before putting it up.
  3. iPad — For my books, music and work, I always have my iPad. My husband convinced to hop on the Serial bandwagon, so I know what I’ll be listening to on the way home.
  4. Oversized Cardigan — They never give you big enough or warm enough blankets on planes (well, back in coach where I am anyway) so I love curling up in a large sweater.
  5. Refillable Water Bottle — That tiny cup of water they give you on the plane is never enough and if by chance you don’t finish it quickly, you’re stuck with the tray down. I just picked up one of these glass bottles I plan to bring along.
  6. Probiotic* — Your digestive and immune systems can really be thrown for a loop when crossing many time zones. I always make sure to take a stronger probiotic when I travel to feel my best.
  7. CC Cream — I used to wear makeup when I traveled and always arrived with a pretty scary complexion. Now, I opt for tinted moisturizer instead.
  8. Immunity Booster — I have the immune system of an infant, so airports and train stations are my nightmare. I just pop in one of these and breathe a little easier.
  9. Facial Cleansing Cloths — Cleansing cloths make washing your face during turbulence that much easier and you avoid messy leaking bottles. I’ll usually freshen up a couple of hours before landing.
  10. Big Tote — I couldn’t possibly get all these essentials on the plane with me without a big, roomy tote bag like this one.

Now that most airlines will offer headphones in every class, that’s one less thing to bring, too!

You don’t have to fly first class to feel your best during and after your flight (Don’t we all wish we could, though?!). Try bringing these essentials along to make your long trip that much better.

*Full Disclosure: eVitamins is one company I work for, but they didn’t influence or compensate me for this post in any way.

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Weekly Web Tacks

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Whew. This trip has been wonderful so far but pretty exhausting. I’ve been hopping from different homes to hotels for the past week and a half, so I’m enjoying vegging out in our hotel in Detroit right now and getting some work done. I snapped the pic you see above on one of the station platforms for the People Mover, Detroit’s elevated train. I just loved the design of the tiles.

We’re staying in the Renaissance Center for a couple of days, so I’m planning to get my fill of Detroit food landmarks and check out some local sights I haven’t been to in a while during my stay. If you’ve never been to Detroit before, stay tuned.

I’m going to take a work break soon for some Ballet Beautiful in my hotel room and then venture out for some lunch. If you’re in need of a break, enjoy my web tacks for the week. Happy Monday!

  1. The first pair of mittens on this list is perfect for anyone from Michigan. [Detroit Free Press]
  2. I can certainly relate to all these points about cohabitation. [Cupcakes and Cashmere]
  3. So much nodding “yes” while reading this article about freelancing. [New York Magazine]
  4. Planning to try this sleep trick once I get back to Japan to overcome jet lag. [Byrdie]
  5. If you were a recent college graduate, would you move to one of these cities? [The New York Times]
  6. Five places in Japan I need to visit this year. [Gaijin Pot]
  7. Would you take gelatin capsules to look better? [The Skinny Confidential]
  8. Turning 20 is a big deal in Japan, celebrated on January 12 as Coming-of-Age Day. [Japan Today]
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Small Kitchen Mission: Pistachio Bundt Cake

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Coming to you from a significantly larger Midwestern kitchen, I’m excited to share one of my favorite childhood treats with you. This pistachio bundt cake is another one of my mother’s signature recipes that just brings back so many memories. I had to make it when I came home — my lack of oven has given me a bizarrely intense urge to bake and with a recent Cotton Bowl victory, I needed to honor my Spartans (Go Green!).

This cake couldn’t be easier. It’s a pretty old-school recipe with a batter that comes together in minutes. We’re heading out for a day of shopping to get some items I can’t find in Japan (post on this coming soon), so we put this bad boy in the oven first thing this morning.

It’s very straightforward — as long as you thoroughly grease the pan, you’re golden. The pudding will make the texture thicker than a normal batter, but don’t worry about getting it perfectly smooth in the pan.

I love the taste of this pistachio bundt cake so much, I don’t even frost it. Make it, you’ll love it. End of story.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 box yellow cake mix
  • 1 box instant pistachio pudding (3.5 oz)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup cooking oil
  • 1 cup sour cream (or water)
  • Green food coloring
  • Powdered sugar

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In a large bowl, combine cake mix, pudding mix, oil, sour cream or water and eggs. Beat for 3 minutes on medium.
  3. Stir in food coloring until you find your perfect shade of green. Beat again to combine — since it’s so thick, you may have to do this by hand at the end.
  4. Grease a standard bundt pan. Add the batter as evenly as possible. Gently tap the pan on the counter a few times to release air bubbles.
  5. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean.
  6. Cool for 20 minutes before flipping out of the pan onto a wire wrack. Dust with powdered sugar and serve.
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2015 New Year’s Resolutions

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I’ve never been a fan of New Year’s resolutions. As a very type A person, I like to make to-do lists I can work toward — actual, tangible tasks — not decide on more lofty, overarching themes for the upcoming year. I also don’t like the idea of goals that make you feel bad about yourself (i.e. Lose 15 pounds by March.).

But, in this new phase of my life and with a schedule unlike any I’ve ever had, I felt the need this New Year’s to really examine what I could improve upon and think of ways to put change into motion. So, I settled on three goals for myself. Here it goes:

  1. Be more flexible with my time, my patience and my expectations.
    Plans shouldn’t be written in permanent ink. I’m someone who likes to organize and schedule, but I’ve learned the best experiences come from leaving that set path, of course, so I need to make an effort to go with the flow in all aspects of my life. If this sounds like you, make some plans to travel and let the people you meet be your teachers or try any food three times before deciding you don’t like it. Except for sea urchin — that’s pretty cut and dry.

  2. Put more effort into all my relationships.
    It’s been wonderful seeing more of our friends and family back in the states over the past week and it also served as a reminder I want to do more to stay in touch than “Like” a photo on social media. This is especially true when it comes to family. Check in more often with your parents and cherish the relationships with your siblings — they were, quite literally, born to be your best friend. And if an issue — with anyone — feels unresolved, apologize when you know you should and don’t be afraid to ask for an apology.

  3. Value myself more.
    I’m sure I could blame Catholic guilt for this one, but I am the biggest worrywart you’ll ever meet. One of the best pieces of advice I read before my 27th birthday was to forgive yourself for your past and that’s something I’m always trying to do. Also, to take care of your body — it’s the only one you have. And lastly, a reminder not to let things swing in the opposite direction, don’t shrug off compliments, because you deserve them, but never fish for them.

I hope 2015 is off to a wonderful start for you and you’re both living in the moment and looking forward to where your journey will take you. Walk with your head up and your shoulders back because no matter where you are in life, you deserve to be proud of yourself.

Feel free to share your life lessons and words of wisdom in the comments below. Have a great day!

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