Packing for a winter work trip

I have probably already shared with you that I am an accountant for an international company, and if not then I am an accountant for an international company. My position at my company is within budgeting and forecasting. Since our company is headquartered in Germany and many of the departments I work with are based out of Germany, I get the opportunity to travel there quite a bit. This upcoming week, I am traveling to the controller’s meeting over in Germany. My husband told me I should blog about how I pack, since I am really good about fitting a weeks worth of professional clothes in one carryon. Truth be told, I only have one hack for this. But I have a talent for knowing how to stay warm in professional clothes!

Side rant really quickly…why is it that many women’s professional clothes are always thin fabrics or sheer chiffon? Most tops I find are also ALWAYS sleeveless. With how cold many offices are, I always wonder how I don’t catch hypothermia! Ok rant over…my main trick to stay warm in my professional clothing is long underwear. Specifically, Cuddl Duds brand. This brand makes really thin nice leggings that allows your skin to still breathe while staying warm. Many of my Cuddl Duds are silk so my suits just glide over them. They are one of the few brands that I have found that doesn’t feel bulky under dress pants. Plus they are reasonably priced! If you are in a pinch and don’t have or can’t find some nice long underwear that fits nicely under work clothes, I would suggest wearing tights underneath.

When shopping for professional clothes that will keep you warm, pay attention to the fabric. Polyester doesn’t breathe well and will trap heat. Plus polyester travels fairly well, and it is also a cheaper fabric. Another fabric I try to buy a lot of is silk. I love the versatility of silk and how nice it is underneath suit jackets. It is a magic fabric that keeps you warm in winter and cool in summer. Only draw back is that usually pure silk tops are pricey and dry clean only. Wool is yet another fabulous fabric to keep you warm. Unlike silk, wool is wrinkle resistant! Other similar fabrics to wool are angora, cashmere, and alpaca fleece.

Since I am traveling to Germany in February, my suitcase is going to contain all of those fabrics. My shirts that I chose above are all warm shirts and look nice under suits. I have three suits because I wear suits a lot. I am choosing to bring my navy and my grey suit on this trip as I can mix and match the tops and bottoms with both suits easily. Plus my more comfy heels are nude which works better with grey and navy than it does black in my opinion. Because I am wanting to pack in one carryon, I am only bringing one pair of heels and then a comfy pair of walking boots that I will wear on the flight. I am limiting my clothes to be packed. I will have 2 suits, 1 pair of shoes, 2 pairs of Cuddl Duds, 5 work shirts, undergarments for each day, 2 weekend/travel shirts, and 1 sleep shirt.

That list plus plug adapters and toiletries is going to fill up my carryon quickly. Enter Space Bags travel bags. These things are a lifesaver for me and I never travel without them. I was able to pack for a three week backpacking trip through Italy with these beauties. I literally put my clothes inside and roll the air out. Once I get to my destination, I immediately unpack my clothes and hang them up to get any wrinkles out. Sometimes I will even put the clothes in the bathroom while I shower to steam them. With these bags I am able to fit everything in my carryon! No complicated folding required.

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Gratitude Challenge Week 7

Ode to my work bestie (who is also the IT guy…)

A little over 6 months ago I started a new job. I always enjoyed the people I worked with at my old job, and was worried that I wouldn’t like the new employees as much. Little did I know I would meet some of the best people just a month in! The day I started, I met the IT guy. We instantly clicked. We bonded over our shared systems knowledge and our corporate backgrounds. I oftentimes think of all of the amazing friends and family I left behind when we moved, and I forget to focus on the amazing new relationships I am building. So I want to say thank you to the guy I run to with all of my questions. Thank you to the guy who is always up for dinner or a beer with me and my husband; and isn’t afraid to be our mediator or third wheel. Thank you to the guy who will help me hash out problems I am having at work. Thank you to the guy who helps make the work day fun and fly by.

I honestly never thought I would find friends as amazing as I had in my old job, but I am so grateful for taking that leap and finding my IT guy!

Nashville

My handsome hubby travels a lot for work. His amount of travel varies depending on the time of year. This new year though both of us have traveled more than normal. Luckily, he is usually home on the weekends, so we do get plenty of time together. This year we were both home for Valentine’s Day, and our favorite hockey team was playing in a city only a few hours away. Even though I knew he would love to have just stayed in cuddled on the couch watching movies, he knew I really wanted to go to the game and go explore Nashville. Neither of us have really been to Nashville, but we booked the hockey tickets and took off work! I just needed to figure out what all we will do there other than the game…. Pinterest has a bunch of to do lists in nearly every city around the world. I, of course, got to pinning and reading.

Nashville
Union Station hotel and Batman building

One noteworthy thing to mention about our lifestyle is that since we both travel a lot we use credit cards that give us travel perks. Travel credit cards or signing up for specific travel chains rewards programs (i.e. United Airlines, Hilton Rewards, Marriot) allows us to bank up points that we can cash in on trips. We have a credit card and point membership that gives us free nights and stays in a specific chain of hotels. This means our hotel stay in Nashville downtown is going to be relatively cheap, aka free. This also means that I will not be trying out any Pinterest things on what hotels to stay in. We stayed at the Union Station Hotel right on Broadway. This was great because it was a short walk to Bridgestone Arena, plus it was less than half a mile from most of the bars and great places to eat!

Any trip down south isn’t complete unless you eat some good old fried chicken. Tennessee is known for hot chicken, and Hattie B’s cannot be beat! I found a pin on Pinterest that detailed the top 8 hot chicken places in Nashville, and Hattie B’s was ranked in the top 3. We headed there for lunch as it was conveniently close to our hotel. I got the mild tenders and they had my sinuses cleared. My husband got the hot tenders and they had him sweating! The tenders had a great crunch, good flavor and were so moist. Darren got the pimento mac and cheese as his side, and I got the potato salad (recommended by the server). Later when we were trying to figure out where to go to dinner, many natives to Nashville recommended Hattie B’s to us. I consider this to be a Pinterest win!

Hattie B's Hot Chicken
Best Hot Chicken I have ever had

Dinner was a bit of a letdown for us. We ate at Rippy’s Bar on Broadway. This place was recommended by Pinterest as well as a few bar tenders we met. The bar tenders recommended it because of the pregame atmosphere, whereas Pinterest claimed it had good BBQ. After living in Memphis and at one-point Kansas, we are BBQ snobs, but we were willing to give it a try. I give Rippy’s a high score for atmosphere, but the food was just normal bar food. The burger I ordered was a disappointment for the price. Darren’s nachos were good, but it was more lettuce than BBQ meat. Some Tennessee natives that we were seated next to, told us that Memphis can’t be beat for BBQ. However, the live music at Rippy’s and all the friendly people made it a great choice.

Pinterest suggested walking downtown on Broadway street. That is where Rippy’s was, but it also was where we found lots of musicians playing. Any bar you pop into will have live music. We found it was nice to walk around Broadway and when you heard someone singing that you liked the sound of, pop on into the bar. If you go early enough in the evening the bars are not as crowded and there aren’t many covers. My favorite bar we visited was Whiskey Bent Saloon. I loved the voice of the musician singing, and the bartender was fun. I tried to order local beers, and she would tell me if the beer I ordered was good or not. I liked that she would compare it to Midwest beers that I did know. She also helped me pick out the better and more cost-effective whiskey to try (the salted caramel Ole Smoky was my favorite).

Even though we went to Nashville for a hockey game, we didn’t just drink and eat! We did also try to see as many recommended sights as possible. Pinterest recommended the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Johnny Cash Museum, and the Country Sidewalk of Fame all on Broadway street. We walked to all of these but actually didn’t go inside. Part of this was because we were short on time before the hockey game, but the biggest part was they cost a bit more money than we anticipated (the sidewalk is free to see). One site just off of Broadway that we did visit was the Gulch neighborhood. The street art in this area has become famous thanks to Instagram. This is where you will find the Nashville “Lift me up wings”, as well as some fantastic other murals. There are also great restaurants and breweries in the Gulch neighborhood.

Another area we visited that was not actually on Broadway was Centennial Park. If you stay downtown this is just a short Uber ride away, but it is home to the Nashville Parthenon. This is the only full-size replica of the Parthenon that exists. It was $6.00 for a ticket to enter the Parthenon. You can walk around it for free, but I and Pinterest recommend going inside. The inside is an exhibit on the bottom floor, and then it leads to a fully re-imagined restoration of what the Parthenon would look like. It was very interesting to walk around and read about. If you don’t want to pay the entry fee you can still walk around the building and around the park. We lucked out on beautiful weather, and we were visiting in the middle of the week, so we had no crowds to fight.

Unfortunately, the next day we didn’t have good weather. We were hoping to go to Jack Daniels but after being hungover from the game and it being rainy out we decided to switch our plans. Pinterest recommended visiting the indoor gardens at Gaylord Opryland. Pinterest even taught me how to get free parking! Basically, you should park at the mall behind Opryland Resort and walk over to the convention center. You will enter through the delta door and can go right on through to the main garden atrium. The gardens are definitely worth a visit. It was a lovely 70 degrees Fahrenheit in the building. You could even go on a boat ride throughout the gardens. The boat ride was $10.50 per person and doesn’t offer much more than walking around would. So, I recommend saving the money and just walking around. You can also try any of the restaurants there, but I thought the pizza was a bit reminiscence of mall pizza. I recommend getting the burger or saving your money.

We certainly had a lot of fun in Nashville. We already are planning a trip back with friends. I cannot wait to visit the city again!

Cleaning Makeup Brushes

When I was in my younger years, ok last year, I never cleaned my makeup brushes. I honestly had no idea what I was even doing with makeup until recently. I grew up in a home with two older brothers and a mom who never wore makeup (that didn’t stop her from stuffing me into super frilly dresses though). So, when I was in high school everything I learned about makeup was taught from my friends. Let me tell you now high school girls in the earlier 2000’s had some pretty amazing makeup tricks (hello roll on glitter). Anyway, rambling aside now, after buying some good quality brushes this summer I decided I would clean them at least once a week. I have stuck with this and I was using this brush cleaner product from Ulta. (brush cleaner ) It is $18 and I like it a lot, I used it religiously and would even deep clean my brushes with water on Saturdays. I ran out of it when we were in Germany and would just use water. Well, I recently ran out of it again thanks to a cat and dog duo, and decided to try some Pinterest methods before buying it again. What I have learned from my original brush cleaning was when you clean brushes with water it can take a full day and night for them to dry. This trial was not going to be a daily cleaning for me. I figured I would just clean my brushes at the end of a week of use.  I picked two methods and now am going to review them!

Method one: olive oil, dish soap, and water

This Pin called for mixing olive oil to keep the bristles on your brush soft and dish soap to clean the brush. Then simply rinse with water. Sounds easy enough and I don’t have to buy anything since I already have all this stuff laying around my kitchen. I will say this method WORKED. I thought my brushes wouldn’t have that much stuff on them since they were fairly clean from regular cleanings, but the amount of makeup that came out of my brushes was impressive. I got more makeup out of my brushes than I really ever have with the Ulta cleaner. There was a downside to this pin though. I feel like the olive oil made my brushes oily. I rinsed them really well on Saturday, then again on Sunday. By the time I used my brushes on Monday I still felt like they were oily. My makeup also didn’t apply as smoothly. I was concerned I had ruined my brushes, so I continued rinsing them as much as possible. By Wednesday my brush was back to a normal texture. I am torn on if this was a win for me. I loved how much makeup came off of the brushes, but I did not like how oily the brushes felt. Plus, then I was continually thinking that I was just putting that oil on my face. If you try this method, I would suggest using just a little bit of olive oil and using more dish soap. I also suggest rinsing your brushes a lot.

Method two: Baby shampoo and water

This Pin called for shampoo and water. Specifically, baby shampoo as it is a gentler shampoo. We always have baby shampoo on hand, because that is what we use to bathe our dog with. This method also worked really well. I feel like I didn’t get as much makeup off with this method as I did with method one, but that could also be because the week before I had been rinsing my brushes daily. I honestly preferred this method over method one. I liked the way my brushes felt after drying and I didn’t have to rinse the brushes multiple times with this method. My brushes felt soft but not oily and my makeup applied just fine. I really liked this method. Now I am torn on if I should buy more of the Ulta cleaner or just continue using this method. I may give it a few more weeks to decide….

Capsule Wardrobe Update

Well, I cleaned my closet this weekend. Originally, I wanted to try the pile method and thought I had my piles defined well. I started by dumping all my clothes onto the bed. I quickly learned that this was even more overwhelming than I thought it would be. My ultimate goal will be to create outfits from the items in my closet and get my wardrobe down to a capsule.

dumping the closet
My cat is judging the amount of clothes I own…

Basically, what I needed to do was get my closet trimmed down before I could even start thinking about a true capsule wardrobe. I mentioned in my first post on this (read that here) that I have a pile reserved for clothes that don’t fit yet but might after I lose weight. I only put items in this pile that are a size too small or just a bit tight. If the clothes were more than one size too small they immediately went into the donate pile. This helped trim my clothes down quickly.

After quickly trimming down my closet, I decided to focus on one area at a time instead of all the clothes at once. I figure once I get each area of my closet down a bit then I will start to focus on combining it all back together. I found that separating my closet into sections allowed me to focus better and compare items more quickly. The sections I used were: sweaters, t-shirts, work blouses, jeans, work pants, shorts, dresses, skirts, and workout clothes. I first started with sweaters. After putting all my sweaters on the bed, I realized I needed to trim this down further to two buckets: sweaters and cardigans.

Sweater pile
My pile of sweaters…I did keep all of my amazing “ugly” Christmas sweaters in a seasonal pile

I focused on cardigans first. I sorted my cardigans into two piles, neutrals and other. I then grabbed the other pile and sorted that into favorites and “meh”. I did the same with my neutral pile. I then combined my favorite pile from both other and neutral. I focused on the “meh” piles next. Within these piles I started thinking when do I wear the cardigan, and what do I wear it with the most. I found by asking myself these questions, that I really never wear my navy-blue cardigan that I bought because it was a neutral. I was able to whittle down my cardigans even more by noticing I have very similar colors in different hues. For example, I have 3 yellow cardigans but each one is a different shade of yellow. Do I need that many different shades of yellow? Do I even wear that much yellow? Do the shirts I wear with cardigans even look good with yellow? By thinking through this I was able to get my cardigans down from 20 to 10!

I continued asking myself these questions on each section of my closet. I really do have a big closet. By using my section method and my pile method within the sections I was able to almost cut my closet in half. I took 26 sweaters down to 14, 7 pairs of jeans to 3, 17 work pants to 6, and 68 t-shirts to 33!

T-shirts were one of the hardest items for me to whittle down. I really like t-shirts and quite honestly, I tend to have low confidence and feel like t-shirts help hide me more. When I started this project however, I did ask myself the question of what is my style and what will work for my life. Because I love a well put together outfit, I really am wanting to put forth more effort than just a t-shirt and jeans, even on the weekend. With this in mind, I really focused on cutting down my collection of comfort wear. I had to make rules for this part of my closet. I only allowed myself to keep a minimum of 2 t-shirts or sweatshirts for each sports team I cheer for. I also only allowed myself to have one basket for t-shirts (I have baskets on my shelves in my closet). Any t-shirt with a hole in it was immediately moved to a rag pile, no mercy. If the t-shirt was more than 3 years old, it had to leave the closet. These rules were tough, but I did stick to them.

I think what made this project a bit easier for me, was I told myself I would not donate the donate pile right away. I promised to hang on to my donate pile for 3 months. This way if I find I am missing something in that pile, I am not wasting money on purchasing the same navy-blue cardigan I didn’t think I originally needed. I also am doing something similar with my one size too small clothing. Since the husband and I are working out and watching what we eat, I am honestly anticipating fitting back into some of these clothes. I figured it might be fun to shop back through my own clothes, as these items are things I love.

Another hard challenge that I faced was guilt. As my donation pile grew I started feeling guilty for having wasted money on clothes.

donate pile
The donate pile!

I was lingering on donating items that I really do not like, because I spent good money on them. This was hard for me to face. I had to keep telling myself that this is a journey I am taking to truly try to discover what types of clothes I love. Once I figure out what I love, then I will be less willing to be sucked in by a good sale. I might eventually save money since I now know I already own a yellow sweater. I had to constantly tell myself this. I also promised myself to research how much I could make by reselling these clothes when I go to donate them or the potential tax credit I could get from donating. Thinking of turning my clothes into a benefit for my wallet also helped erase some of the guilt.

 

My closet now is about half the size it was when I started the challenge. I am planning on living with my closet this way for the next few weeks prior to continuing. I want to make sure I ease myself into this. I also want to make sure that this is a lifestyle change I can continue doing. My next try at getting a capsule wardrobe should hopefully be less work than what I started with.

My helper
My cat was excited to climb into the remaining empty baskets in my closet. She was a great support animal through this process, and would bite me if I went too slow!

Capsule Wardrobe

I am so excited for this Pinterest try, especially with the size of my closet. I love to shop. I love walking around stores and daydreaming of what I could buy with an unlimited budget. I also love finding a good sale. Unfortunately for me in my younger years that meant I would buy stuff if it was on a good sale. A few lessons later and I focused on buying quality pieces at sale prices. I do still have a weakness for shoes …seriously shoes always can make an outfit more fun and no matter if you gain weight your shoe size still stays the same. Plus being a size six means I find all the good shoe deals (sorry everyone else!) But even though I love shopping and have an embarrassingly large collection of clothes and shoes, I always seem to wear a lot of the same items and I always feel like I have nothing to wear.

Then life got involved and we moved to Germany for work over October-December 2017. We could only bring what we could fit in suitcases, which meant I had to get smart about my clothes. I didn’t turn to Pinterest for help on this. Every time I look at outfits on Pinterest my credit card ends up being charged (I just don’t understand it!) I picked a few outfits that worked for work and weekend and mixed in other items that were strictly work. All in all, I had about 2.5 weeks’ worth of clothes with me. I was shocked that I never felt bored by my outfits (they were all my favorite clothes), I felt good in what I wore, and I no longer stood in front of my closet trying to figure out what to wear!

I came to realize I had packed a winter capsule wardrobe. I loved how liberating this felt, and was wondering if I could do this when I got home. So now I turned to Pinterest. I started reading every blog post I could find on people who tried this. I read about separating your clothes into three piles, Keep, donate, and trash. I also read about separating your clothes into piles of seasons, doesn’t fit, donate, trash, and wait to decide. I read about people who did another method of piles, neutrals, seasonal, color, donate and trash. I read tips on holding on to the donate pile for three months before committing to donating. I read the lists of picking only neutrals. Most of the blogs I read about trying the capsule wardrobe were written by people that do not work in an office. So, I started to wonder, would this work for me? Then I thought back to Germany and even searched work capsule wardrobe in Pinterest. Turns out there are lists for creating a work capsule wardrobe too, but they told you how many suits you needed, how many skirts, how many dresses. Then I came across a blog where the writer highlighted the mistakes she made. Mostly that she built her capsule around Pinterest lists and not around her. She ended up wearing jeans and scarves in the middle of summer! The more I read the more I realized this is a very personal thing. Similar to buying a house you need to find what works for you. Do not copy someone else. We are all different and our clothes should reflect our personalities.

Armed with my Pinterest knowledge I built a method on how I would sort my clothes. I like the pile method of sorting through my clothes. After reflecting on my life, I have my piles defined on how I will tackle this challenge. Work neutrals, weekend neutrals, winter/fall outfits, spring/summer outfits, fancy event outfits (because I actually do go to a few), and t shirts. I have an extra pile for clothes that don’t fit well, that I holding on to in the hopes of fitting back into since I am working out again/dieting. From those piles I will then chose what pieces I love and what I will consider donating. I will keep you all updated on how this process goes for me as I will start sorting my closet this weekend!

If you are looking to start your own research, please check out the hashtag #project333. Some of the blogs I used are pinned on my capsule wardrobe board on Pinterest. Of course, I am going to recommend following my journey.My closet

Gratitude Challenge Week 6

I still haven’t given up this challenge yet! This week I am supposed to be grateful for the city I live in. Honestly, I haven’t quite formed an opinion on Memphis yet. I technically moved to Memphis in August of 2017, but immediately left for Germany at the end of September. We got to explore some of Memphis but not a lot of the city, so we don’t really know it. Memphis is definitely an interesting city, with lots of personalities. It has a giant glass pyramid downtown that is really a massive Bass Pro Shop, which gives a nod to country roots. It has BBQ and amazing soul food on nearly every street, yet it also has a ton of biking and walking trails. Memphis is known for its blues music, yet country music, alternative music and rock and roll are present everywhere as well.

After living in a unique city in Iowa, I am truly grateful we moved to another unique city. I guess for me to be grateful to Memphis, I have to look at everything it can offer me.

  • Good food and many non chain restaurant options
  • Shopping close by
  • Shelby farms park a massive park with a phenomenal dog park
  • Yuengling beer
  • A professional sports team
  • Mild winters

Those are some of the small things that I am grateful for already. I am mostly grateful for the opportunity Memphis has given me personally. I was commuting an hour and a half one way every day. After 3 hours in a car and 8 hours at work, I had no time for my friends, husband, or self. Moving has given me my hobbies back. Another great thing Memphis has given me is the chance to broaden my horizons. I grew up in small town Illinois. I honestly never was exposed to much until I went to college. I luckily met some wonderful friends who helped show me the trials they face and how I can help stand up for them. They taught me about my privilege, they taught me to see past stereotypes. I am so grateful for those friends. Living in an area with more diversity though ensures that I continue learning and teaching others.