Month: October 2014

TYW Packing List

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                                        Everything fit – it was a MIRACLE.

In hindsight, I really wish I had gotten around to writing this post as I was actually packing for my trip so I could express, in detail, how frustrating it is to pack in a relatively small backpack for an extended period of time. I can’t even recall how many times I revised my packing list over the summer – I was constantly adding things to bring. To be honest, I don’t think I really appreciated how limited my storage space was until I tried to physically fit everything into my backpack.

I ended up getting Gregory Cairn 48 ($250.00 CAD) that’s pictured below. It got the job done and I really can’t complain about the quality – it held up to being dragged across the floor at most airports, there were plenty of pockets for extra storage, and the top portion expanded quite a bit.

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My one serious piece of advice is to do your research when you’re looking to buy a backpack! I can’t stress this enough, if I could do it over again I would have compared a few models before making my purchase. There are so many backpacks on the market with additional features and add-ons that would have made my life MUCH easier. When I was shopping I just walked into MEC and bought the first one that:
a) I thought was pretty – at this point I had no idea how low on the totem pole aesthetics should be
b) Was appropriately sized for my height – being petite limited my selection to smaller backpacks as I knew I wouldn’t be able to carry XL monstrosities across airports and train stations. Truthfully, I even struggled lugging mine around.

If I were to look for a backpack now I’d want one that:

1) included a zip out cover – I purchased a separate bag to cover my backpack when I was travelling by air (I didn’t want the buckles and straps getting caught on conveyor belts and ripping). The bag was annoying to store and too big for my actual backpack which made carrying my bag an absolute NIGHTMARE. Think little girl dragging an XL hockey bag around Europe – ya, not enjoyable. Many of my friends had covers that could zip out from a bottom pocket… needless to say, I was envious

2) was front loading – my backpack was top loading and had a side zip which didn’t extend all the way to the top or bottom, so you could technically pull clothes out of the side, but it really just messed up everything in the middle when you tried to take stuff out. Basically repacked my bag every time I changed my clothing – NOT FUN. Part of this was probably my fault though – separate packing cubes would have definitely helped the process.

3) had an attached/zip-off backpack – so I had no idea these even existed until I was away, but it is utter genius!! The friend that I travelled Greece with had one and we used it all the time. My carry-on for half the trip was my red nylon Longchamp bag, which despite having a large storage capacity and being able to fold into next to nothing, is still a purse, and was just a hassle when I was riding the back of an ATV. Plus I’m pretty sure that one of my biceps is bigger than the other from awkwardly toting it around on one arm.

4) had wheels – ok so this isn’t crucial because I probably would have only used it in the airport or paved roads (I did not envy the people with rolling luggage when we were boarding/disembarking the ferrries), but hiking up the hill to the Metro station in Athens in 35 degree heat made me really appreciate the invention of the wheel – especially when a pair of them are attached to a 15kg backpack.

Of course I’m sure there are many more features you may want to consider when you look for your backpack – rain protection, compartments with extra security, etc. If you have heard of or own any backpacks with other cool features I’d love to hear about them! I’m seriously considering buying a new bag for next year if my budget allows it :)

My inherent indecisiveness really added to my packing frustrations. I had a serious case of the what-ifs every time I tried to eliminate an item of clothing from my list. What if my jean shorts rip and I don’t have another pair? What if I fall down and get 9 different cuts, but only brought 8 band-aids? What if one of my 7 bathing suits gets ruined and I’m forced to re-wear one? Oh the agonnyyyy. I was ridiuclous. And yes I ended up bringing not one, not two, but SEVEN bathing suits for yacht week. Dumb, dumb, dumb – I really only wore 3 of them throughout the course of my trip. So. much. wasted. space. No matter what you do DO NOT bring seven bathing suits – some people say you need one for each day, but realistically you won’t wear them all. Once the tan lines set in from one bikini top I was reluctant to switch. Next time I’d definitely purchase the same cut of top and bottoms in various patterns.

Now onto my list. Below is what I actually brought with me, and yes I REALLY overpacked. My saving grace was that it was summer and I’m relatively small, meaning that I was able to fit much more than I would have if I had travelled with heavy items such as jackets and sweaters.

Clothing:

– 6 pairs of shorts (3 fancy, 3 casual)
– 1 long sleeve shirt
– 1 zip up sweater
– 1 pair of jeans – medium wash and my go to for travel days
– 4 dresses (2 dressy, 1 casual, 1 maxi) – I REALLY regret not bringing more casual dresses because they could easily be glammed them up for going out at night
– 2 t-shirts
– 5 going out tops – cotton is your new BFF, I brought 2 silk blouses that haven’t recovered from being stuffed in a backpack for a month
– 3 casual tank tops
– 7 bikinis – DO NOT DO THIS. I even ended up buying another one, I can’t control my love for Calzedonia bikinis. ugh
– 1 Canada one piece swimsuit (for the Regatta)
– 2 bathing suit cover ups
– 8 crop tops – this was so excessive, I think I wore 4 of them
– 1 maxi skirt
– 3 miniskirts – I wore one of these. ONE!
– 2 pairs of pyjamas shorts
– 2 sleeping shirts
– 1 regular black bra
– 2 strapless bras ( 1 black, 1 nude)
– 10 pairs of underwear – once again excessive. It’s like I was preparing for the extinction of laundry machines
– 2 pairs of ankle socks

Accessories:

– Gold Marc Jacobs watch – why I thought it was a good idea to bring this I have no idea, I would have been absolutely beside myself if I had lost it
– Black leather bracelet – leather + salt water … enough said
– (Faux) gold locket – I was actually happy I brought this, it matched all my outfits and would have been no concern if it had been lost of broken
– Diamond Earrings – ya this was a big mistake, I actually forgot they were on and wore them on the airplane.
– Baseball cap – useful when trying to disguise how horribly hungover you are every morning
– Black side bag – something with a zipper preferably
– Carry-on bag – large red nylon Longchamp
– Canada flag umbrella hats – for the Regatta

Footwear:

– 2 pairs of sandals (1 dressy, 1 casual)
– 1 pair of sneakers – I bought white Supergas, which I am still in LOVE with, I didn’t even need to break them in before hand (a small miracle in my eyes)

I didn’t bring any heels with me and thank god. Flimsy ankles in 6 inch heels on cobblestone streets is just asking for an injury. Truthfully I had issues in my flip flops some nights haha

Electronics:

– iPhone
– iPod
– Headphones
– AUX cable
– Power converter – I brought two and found Croatian outlets used two-prong plugs that were a bit larger than those in Italy and Greece
– Portable power charger – this was so crucial throughout my travels, especially for yacht week. There were only a few power outlets on the boat and we weren’t guaranteed a spot on the riva every night so there were a few days we went without power. When you’re sailing between ports there is electricity if the motor is running, but keep in mind this uses up gas unnecessarily! I ended up buying the RavPower RP-PB07 for $39.99 CAD on Amazon and it lasted me the entire week, granted my phone usage was minimal.
– Camera – I barely used my camera because I brought my phone out with me at night
– Camera Battery Charger
– iPod/iPhone charger

Toiletries:

– Travel toothbrush
– Tooth paste
– 2 hair ties
– Body moisturizer
– Face moisturizer
– Sunscreen – I LOVE Arbonne’s, it’s spf 30 and isn’t greasy like other formulas
– Maui Babe tanning oil – Yes I’m a sun worshipper, but I love this formula because I don’t need to stay in the sun as long and they actual advise you wear sunscreen underneath it!
– Disposable razor – I think I bought 8 of these on the trip because I kept leaving them behind
– 2 Hair brushes – 1 round and 1 flat
– 1 Hair clip
– Shampoo/Conditioner – I have been hoarding those sample shampoo/conditioner combos that come in the mail for YEARS and finally found an occasion to use them
– Nail file
– Nail clippers
– Homemade beach hair spray (I’ll probably post on how to make this later)
– Tide-to-Go stick
– Q-tips
– Cotton pads

*Go out and purchase travel containers from the dollar store, I believe I got a set of 5 bottles for around $2 from Dollarama. It really doesn’t make sense to be carrying around a full sized moisturizer or suntan lotion when you only need a quarter of it!

Makeup:

– Waterproof mascara
– Liquid Eyeliner
– Naked 3 Palette
– MAC eyeshadow in Bronze – it’s been my summer shadow obsession since high school
– Make Up For Ever travel sized makeup remover
– Make Up For Ever green HD primer – so essential in masking redness when you’ve been in the sun a bit too long!
– Anastasia brow palette in Dark Brown
– Brow brush – I’m a Torontonian, we are OBSESSED with eyebrows. No joke. Having a bad brow day is equal, if not worse than a bad hair day
– Bronzer – My favourite is Hula by Benefit because of its matte finish
– Laura Mercier tinted moisturizer in Bisque
– Travel set of makeup brushes
– Nars blush in Orgasm

I am absolutely obsessed with cosmetics and I even impressed myself with how little makeup I brought. Salt water is basically natures magic, it clears up my skin and makes me hair actually behave when air dried. In my opinion, nothing can top the au naturel look of tousled beach hair and a nice healthy glow. Ok so I know tans aren’t really healthy, but can you blame me for wanting to look a little more like Jessica Alba and a little less like Nicole Kidman?

Medicine/First-Aid:

– Tylenol
– Seabands – these are elastics wristbands with a little plastic bead that goes over a pressure point to combat nausea. I wore them the first 4 days, but soon realized I was getting the dreaded “seaband tan” and took them off … I didn’t feel nauseous at all throughout the trip, even after removing the bands, so it’s difficult to say if they worked or not.
– Gravol
– Benadryl
– Imodium
– Tums
– Amoxicillin – I get strep throat a few times a year and actually felt a bit sick before leaving so I got the antibiotics as a precaution
– Polysporin
– Band-Aids – you will need these, be the hero and don’t forget
– Gauze
– Medical Tape

Other:

– Float – I bought 2 donut floats from the Dollarama. If you don’t have room in your pack don’t bother… the Getro just outside of Kastela Marina has a bunch of floats for sale, but they are around $10-15 CAD vs. the $2 I paid.
– Pack Towel – they’re lightweight, dry super quickly, and fold up into nothing
– Nylon bag – from the Dollar store for the beach/groceries
– Neck Pillow – $2 at the dollar store means I didn’t care when the beads exploded everywhere on the train to Florence haha (though my friend wasn’t pleased when we kept finding them in his hair)

Whew! Are you still reading? If you are, you’re a fantastic human being. I know that was a ridiculous amount of information, but I swear I’m just trying to be thorough. I had the hardest time finding a blog with a specific list of items to bring so if there are any other (mildly?) neurotic people out there planning for TYW I hope I was of some assistance.

My last tip is from my superwoman of a Mom …

Being the genius that she is, she suggested that I before I packed my bag I lay out all the clothes I was bringing and take a picture on my phone. This way I’d have something to refer back to when trying to make outfits instead of having to rip apart my suitcase yet again. It also helped me keep inventory of my clothes and make sure nothing was missing when I was moving from place to place. I literally have no idea what I would do without her.

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Chicken Fried Quinoa

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I’m forever trying to find ways to make classic comfort foods more healthy. Tonight I had such a strong craving for chicken fried rice, but the MSG in most takeout versions gives me the WORST headaches. Not to mention the fact that I’m trying to save money for my next trip, so picking up Chinese is pretty much out of the question.

In typical food-fiending fashion I began searching Foodgawker for inspiration and found the perfect compromise – Chicken Fried Quinoa! I’m not exaggerating when I say I have an obsession with this seed. I usually cook a cup of it at the beginning of every week and use it as a healthy filler in my lunches. Whether it be on its own or in some hodge podge salad quinoa is definitely a superfood.

This recipe is super simple and once again can include basically any veggies that you have lying around. If you haven’t noticed a theme yet most of my recipes include a mix of whatever is about to go bad in my fridge!

Chicken Fried Quinoa

2 tbsp canola oil
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, diced
3 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
2 tbsp hoison sauce
1.5 cups quinoa
1 medium stalk broccoli
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1.5 cup chicken stock
1.5 cup vegetable stock
1 green onion, sliced
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp minced garlic
1/2 onion, diced
salt and pepper to taste

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Generously season the diced chicken breast with salt and pepper – no one likes bland chicken! Make sure all the vegetables are prepped and cut beforehand and set them aside.

I had some leftover quinoa from earlier in the week, but if you don’t have a fridge brimming with half eaten (aka forgotten at the back of the fridge) meals like me, you’re going to need to make some! In sauce pan combine both veggie and chicken stock and the quinoa. You could just use either chicken or vegetable stock alone, I just ran out chicken stock … so the perpetual laziness continues! Follow the quinoa’s package directions to cook – typically you need to bring the mix to a boil then reduce the heat so it simmers, cover the pot and cook for 15 mins, or until all the liquid is absorbed and the quinoa is fluffy. DO NOT BURN THE QUINOA – unless you a) want to say goodbye to your pot … burnt quinoa is near impossible to get off or b) want to have the most sore arms in existence from scrubbing said pot.

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In a large frying pan heat the canola oil on medium-high and add the diced chicken breast. I ended up frying it in two batches so that the pieces weren’t crowded. Crowding the pan will make the chicken boil not brown – you want to see that light brownish crispy exterior :) After the chicken is cooked remove it from the pan, reserving the cooking oil, and place it on a plate
covered in paper towel to blot off the excess grease.

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Add garlic, onions, carrots, and broccoli into the same frying pan, season with half the 1 tbsp of both hoison and soy sauce and cook until the onions are translucent and the carrots have softened. Slowly mix in the quinoa until everything is combined. Add the remaining hoison, soy sauce and the eggs, quickly stirring so that the egg breaks up coats everything evenly. Grab your cooked chicken and toss that back in the same pan. Once the chicken is heated through pour it into a serving dish and garnish with green onion.

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If you wanted to make this recipe even healthier you could even swap out the whole eggs for egg whites! What are some recipes you’ve made with healthy ingredient substitutions?

Jamaican Seasoned Rice

My family, like many others, is utterly obsessed with food. When we get together we mainly discuss new recipes we’ve attempted and restaurants that everyone ‘MUST TRY’. Holidays around here are like going to a 5-star restaurant that serves family style. Being food centric meant that I spent a large part of my childhood in the kitchen helping my parents . I will forever be thankful to my parents for teaching me how to cook, in my opinion there are wayyy too many twentysomethings that have the culinary expertise of Carrie Bradshaw (ovens are NOT for storing magazines) !!

My Dad is definitely the head chef in our family, I’ve always been amazed by his ability to throw together a meal with random ingredients he finds in the fridge. Growing up I was very privileged to have him show me the ropes in the kitchen, and it was great bonding time for us. Even now that I’m older he still surprises me with delicious new recipes. Just last week I came home to the most amazing smell wafting out of the kitchen. When I asked him what he made all he said it was Jamaican Seasoned Rice. To be honest I had to ask him twice – I couldn’t hear him over my salivary glands going into overdrive. If you enjoy ackee and saltfish (a classic Jamaican dish that’s usually served with green bananas) you’ll love this dish! It was everything a one pot meal should be savoury, salty, and satisfying.

It was so delicious that I decided to recreate it for dinner last night with a few additions (AKA vegetables that were about to go bad in my fridge).

Jamaican Seasoned Rice

2 cups basmati rice

2 cups cubed butternut squash

1/2 onion, chopped

1/2 red pepper, chopped

1 cup green beans, chopped

1 tbsp finely chopped Scotch Bonnett Pepper (this can be omitted, but I LOVE spicy food)

1/2 cup broccoli, chopped

2 tbsp dried thyme

1 1/2 cups salted cod, coarsely chopped

1/3 cup coconut milk powder

1/3 cup water

1 1/2 cups chicken stock

2 tbsp canola oil

2 tbsp olive oil Becel

Fresh ground pepper

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Heat the canola oil in a large pot on medium-high heat and add the butternut squash. Season with pepper and cook until it’s softened, but not browned. Add the onions, red pepper, thyme, Scotch Bonnett pepper, green beans, broccoli, and salted cod and cook for another 5 mins (basically just look for the onions to be translucent).

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Combine 1/3 cup of coconut milk powder with 1/3 cup of water and set aside.

Wash the rice under cold running water until the runoff water runs clear. You don’t want all that gross starchy-ness making your delicious rice sticky! Then combine the rice with your veggie pot. Make sure you’re stirring this mixture continuously so the rice doesn’t burn. Trust me, burnt rice is not fun to remove from the bottom of a pan.

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Once the rice is combined with the vegetables add the coconut milk mixture and Becel.  Bring the pot to a boil and ladle in a small amount of chicken stock, reduce the heat and cover it so the mixture is just simmering. At this point you’re probably thinking I did not sign up for risotto-esque cooking, but trust me – it’s worth it. Check the pot often and add chicken stock as needed, making sure it’s fully absorbed into the rice before adding more. I used around a cup and a half of chicken stock to cook the rice, but you may need more or less depending on the type of rice you’re using.

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The final product is fluffy, salty, spicy heaven. As I mentioned before, I’m a huge fan of ackee and saltfish, but there’s been a green banana shortage in Toronto so this is a perfect replacement! My Dad’s original recipe included tomatoes as well, but I was far too lazy to head out to the store so I’ll definitely be using those next time!