Category Archives: Travel

How To Be A Happier Couple

We’re off to Italy tomorrow — (see #1 below). Since I won’t be posting while we’re traveling I wanted to share the following thought-provoking article with all of you.

(Shared from WhoWhatWear):

According to the app Happify, the most blissed-out couples have been married for under five years and have no children. If you’re among that demographic, congrats! If you’re not, or if you foresee yourself crossing over into a long-term partnership or having a family at one point, fret not, as there’s still good news—happiness in relationships, just like individual happiness, is something you can work to achieve. Here, eight research-backed methods for becoming one of those happy couples of whom everyone is jealous (and not just on Instagram, but in actual life).

1. BE ADVENTUROUS

According to the New York Times, “New experiences activate the brain’s reward system, flooding it with dopamine and norepinephrine. These are the same brain circuits that are ignited in early romantic love, a time of exhilaration and obsessive thoughts about a new partner.” So while butterflies inevitably fade, studies show you can inject new energy into your relationship by regularly trying new things with your partner. Try date night activities that are outside of your comfort zone, rather than spending another night in watching Netflix or simply walking over to your favorite neighborhood restaurant. It’s fine to continue with these beloved activities (after all, fall TV!), but if you want to keep the flame alive, it’s advisable to mix things up every once in a while.

2. MAKE AFFIRMATIONS A DAILY OCCURRENCE

According to research conducted by Terri Orbuch, a psychologist and author of the book Finding Love Again: 6 Simple Steps to a New and Happy Relationship, one of the biggest learnings from her divorced clients was that they wished they had been more affectionate toward their spouse, or that their spouse had been more affectionate to them. Dr. Orbuch recommends performing one small act of kindness for your partner each day, be it a verbal affirmation (something focused on a positive attribute they possess or a positive feeling you have about them) or a physical action (like folding their clothes, giving them a hug). Taking specific note of the small things your significant other says and does to make you feel loved is important, too, as negative interactions are more naturally notable to our brains than are positive ones.

3. TALK ABOUT THINGS OTHER THAN MONEY, WORK ETC.

Dr. Orbuch’s research also revealed that the happiest couples made time to talk about things you might talk to your boyfriend about in the early stages of dating—dreams, values and goals. She recommends you commit to spending 10 minutes per day discussing with your significant other something that does not concern your job or other practical life demands. Ask your partner questions about their past (“What’s your favorite memory from childhood?”) and encourage them to share their bolder visions for the future (“What would you do tomorrow if money was no object?”).

4. FIGHT MORE BUT BETTER

Communication is key in relationships, and because you are two separate people, with separate world views, perspectives and goals, chances are that communication sometimes manifests as an argument. If you’re fighting small fights, often, this can be healthy, as it means neither partner is letting resentments build up. That said, the key to a “good” fight is to really listen to your partner’s point of view from a non-defensive place, and to try to look at the situation not just from their perspective, but from a non-partial, third party perspective. Also, it’s important to remember that you likely suffer from a closeness-communication bias, which means that you think you’re communicating your perspective to the people with whom you’re most intimate better than you actually are.

5. MAKE UP MORE

Apparently, being intimate one time per week is enough to increase happiness levels for couples, according to one study, and that going from one time per month to one time per week creates a happiness boost equivalent to that of a $50,000 raise. Though the same study also shows that intimacy more frequent than one time per week does not improve happiness levels, we don’t really believe that you can over-do it on this one.

6. LAUGH A LOT

Couples who laugh together, stay together, according to one study. Apparently, remembering times in which you shared a giggle in the past helps increase happiness within a relationship, as well.

7. MAKE OTHER PEOPLE A PRIORITY

This one has a few caveats. In news that’s sad for discarded single friends everywhere, it turns out that couples who hang out with other couples feel closer to one anotheras a result. More sad news, for divorced people, is that hanging out with friends who have split makes couples 75% more likely to divorce.

Generally speaking, though, it’s assumed to be healthy for any relationship for couples to spend time apart, with friends and family who are outside of the relationship bubble. This way, you’re not putting all of your expectations and needs onto one person—author Bella DePaulo articulates the dangers of doing exactly that here.

On another note, couples who prioritized others in the sense of parading their relationship for them online are not happier than couples who keep it a little more low-key. Read more about this fascinating phenomenon here.

8. DRINK TOGETHER… or don’t

Consuming a similar amount of alcohol as your partner increases the odds of success in a relationship; however, if you and your significant other do not have similar boozing habits, there could be trouble down the line.

Mama’s Got a Brand New Bag – And You Should, Too!

As many of you know, I love using my small platform to introduce you to people whose work I respect. This week, I’m delighted to share the gorgeous handcrafted designs of the very talented Bernice Angelique.

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I’ve can’t remember how/where I first saw her bags — I think I was researching “genuine ostrich bags” online — but eventually we started corresponding. One thing led to another and now I have two of her beautiful (and amazingly well-priced) bags and always get compliments on their simple yet sophisticated lines. Their appeal to me is much more than skin deep because unlike a lot of designers (including most stratospheric-priced name brands) hers are lined with suede instead of fabric. Luxury through and through.

A quick note about ostrich: the quills (bumps) are where feathers are removed during the tanning process. Ostrich leather is extremely durable and softens over time, retaining both its beauty and value. Just like us!

After graduating from the London College of Fashion, Bernice launched her brand in 2011 with a focus on exotic but affordable leather in clean, architectural shapes and an absence of gimmicks.

Hand made in Cape Town, South Africa, Bernice Angelique leather goods use the highest quality ostrich leather, hardware and techniques. She’s recently changed her business model to focus solely on custom-made bags. (Below, bags in progress.)

This means not only consistent quality control but lower prices as well. Win-win!

As she notes on her website, sustainability, empowerment and a desire to support local trade are the foundations of the brand. The leather is all locally sourced, providing employment to South African artisans. And the tannery, Klein Karoo, also sells the meat – primarily exporting to France and complying with strict international standards in every aspect of their business.

I asked Bernice to share some of her experiences with us.

 

What has been your biggest challenge? Oh my! Just one?!? Well, I would have to say keeping the belief alive and never losing sight of my dream. It’s challenging to hold on tightly to your dreams through all the ups & downs, but my mom always told me growing up, “Slow and steady wins the race!” I remind myself of this through the challenging times and just keep persevering.

Can you share any funny stories from the “early days”? One memory I have goes way back to before I even started the business. It was during my time at London College of Fashion, and I was just being introduced to handbag crafting. The first handbag I ever made was a complete disaster…but nevertheless, I knew that this was what I wanted to do!

What are your hopes for the brand in the future? I am so fulfilled now with how I’ve been able to structure the business. I would love to continue to craft custom handbags for women around the world. My time designing and crafting in my studio is my magical escape and I find it absolutely amazing that I get to share this magic with such wonderful women from around the world.

What are the biggest rewards? My biggest reward would have to be that I feel that I live an authentic life, as I am able to fully express who I am through my work. I feel that if one loves what one does, it just filters into the rest of your life and relationships.

The newly revamped Bernice Angelique website shows most of the new styles with chain straps and embellishment. If you prefer a leather strap or a single color, as I do (I love my Temptress, below: 340 GBP/about $450) just send her a message.

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Everything is bespoke, i.e. made to order and personal to you. For instance, you can have a longer strap made if you’re very tall or want the option to wear a shoulder style as a cross-body. In her own words, “I love getting to know each client and crafting a specific piece just for her. I treasure the unique.”

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And if an older style featured in the “News” section of the website catches your eye, ask about that as well; she may be able to revive something from the archives just for you.

Try getting that level of service from an ordinary store!

Bernice has generously created a special 10% discount for readers of this blog. Check out online with code BLOG10. You deserve it.

She’s now added Nile crocodile to the line, available in 60 colors with a matte or glazed (shiny) finish. Fabulous! A croc Provocatrix may be my next purchase.

xo, Alisa

(An unsponsored post, as always. Just a company I admire and believe in!)

Car Wars

I’ve written before about my theory/belief/fear that inanimate objects, such as the house you left behind while you swanned about on vacation, have a way of punishing you.

This week, it’s my car.

The palladium princess had been hooked up to a battery charger all summer and was running like a top (whatever that means) upon arrival, so off I went on Monday to get it/her inspected and renew my registration before it expired and some random cop desperate to make quota could pull me over.

With a passing grade under our belts, PP and I set off for a day of errands and adventures and looked forward to more of the same: Physical! Haircut! Dentist! Flu shot! – I’m telling you, life doesn’t get more exciting than cramming 4 months’ worth of overdue appointments into less than two weeks.

Tuesday I head to the garage and – oh joy – my newly inspected steel maiden will not start. Argh! Quickly borrowing my husband’s car so as not to miss Critical Appointment Of The Day (eyebrow shaping and lash lift), we leave her hooked up to the battery charger.

Which does nothing. Or, to be more precise, creates a charge just long enough to drive back to the car inspectors and get a diagnosis.

To no one’s surprise, PP needs a new battery… or, the universe needs $200+ to leave my wallet. Yippee.

Wednesday: The car is running smoothly so off we go to the dermatologist for a little “upkeep” in the form of microneedling. I have some extra time so I stop at CVS on the way, being careful to park away from other vehicles.

However… NOT careful to park far enough away from the Bane of Urban Existence, the parking barrier. Can I just say that I do not understand the need for these concrete logs to be approximately the same height as the low-slung carriage of any car smaller than an urban assault vehicle?

I back out and hear that sickening crunching sound that tells me I’ve scraped the undercarriage. Which would have been bad enough except that’s not what I did. The damn barrier must have gotten lodged under the front bumper because it’s been dragged and is now separated from the rest of the car. Crap and double crap, although at least PP is drivable. Small miracles.

Thursday. First order of business is to call the insurance company – always a super way to start the day. Then the body shop, where Very Nice Person Nick makes an appointment with me for Monday and suggests I stop by earlier so he can order any necessary parts.

Which, of course, turns out to be the entire goddamn bumper. Because the universe obviously requires another 500 bucks to exit my wallet.

Today: The day is young. If I stay home, what can happen? Don’t even ask.

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A Day in Victoria BC

Well, it’s been two months since we took this trip but my excuse is that you may find it more enjoyable to visit now that the summer high season has ended. (How’s that for turning procrastination into a benefit?) Fewer tourists and cruise ships make it a lot nicer to maneuver through downtown. On the minus side, though, it’s more likely to rain so the crossing could get a bit rough.

I won’t begin to attempt a comprehensive travelogue, especially at this late date. There’s a ton of info online, after all. The lovely thing about Victoria is that you leave the very American city of Seattle and three hours later it feels as though you’re in Europe. Heaven for an Anglophile like me.

We stayed in Seattle the day before and the day after, which made for a nice little getaway. There’s plenty to do in both cities if you have time.

But if you only have 24 hours, as we did, here’s a quick snapshot.

We board the Victoria Clipper ferry in downtown Seattle. Food and drink options, plus a basket of free chewable Dramamine. Because who wants to be sitting near someone who’s seasick for three hours? (Tip: half a tablet keeps your stomach calm without making you too sleepy.)

(Can we say “Bad hair day?!?”) Arrive at Victoria’s Inner Harbour around noon. Check in at our hotel, the Grand Pacific, which is modern and spacious.)

Lunch: Steamship Grill and Bar. Waterfront views and delicious seafood in a beautiful Beaux Arts building. A glass of wine and now I really feel that I’m on vacation. Check out this adorable water taxi!

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Walk off lunch: Victoria’s easy to get around on foot. Other attractions, such as the famous and gorgeous Butchart Gardens, are a short ride away.

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IMG_2573Up Government Street past Parliament and Royal BC Museum…

FullSizeRender (3)to Market Square, lower Johnson St. shopping area (LoJo to the locals) and Canada’s oldest Chinatown.

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After sampling a couple of chocolate shops, my recco is Pure Lovin’ Chocolate in twisty, cramped, Dickensian Fan Tan Alley, named after a popular gambling game from the 1940s.

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Rare photo of husband looking relaxed!

IMG_2561 (1).jpgThere are flowers everywhere!

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Amble back to hotel via Wharf Street to enjoy views of ferries and seaplanes.

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Cocktails and dinner: If you don’t opt for the Empress Hotel’s lavish and pricey afternoon tea — or aren’t staying there — grab a drink before dinner in the Q bar and scarf down their yummy charcoal-dusted popcorn.

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IMG-2563The restaurant is good too.IMG_2567.jpgIMG_2569.jpg

 

After dinner, stroll through the public spaces and lavish grounds of this venerable grande dame, and see the government buildings all lit up.

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The next morning, we grab some coffee and explore the neighborhood, which is quiet and peaceful. IMG-2578IMG-2577Winding up with a scenic walk along the Foster pathway, named for (and presumably funded by) David Foster, Canadian musician and ex-husband of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills’ Yolanda.

We catch the 11:30 ferry back to Seattle, which arrives at 2:15 pm — time to enjoy the city!

Random Hacks

The Internet was full of interesting tips this week!

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7 ways to prevent (and fix!) smelly shoes

1. Start with clean feet: Soak them in salt water, then dry off and dust with talcum powder (baby powder or Gold Bond).

2. Put antiperspirant on the soles of your feet.

3. Sprinkle the inside of your shoes with baking soda and leave overnight. Vacuum or shake out in the morning.

4. Place dry tea bags inside your shoes and leave them overnight.

5. Put crumpled newspaper inside your shoes and leave overnight. It absorbs odor-retaining moisture.

6. Place your shoes in individual plastic zip bags and leave them in your freezer overnight to kill bacteria. During the winter, leaving them overnight in a cold car will work too. Let your shoes slowly return to room temperature before wearing.

7. Spritz sneakers or fabric-lined shoes with mixture of water and white vinegar. Let dry thoroughly.

 

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5 steps to relaxation

1. Place the tip of your tongue just behind your front teeth and exhale sharply.

2. Close your mouth and inhale slowly through your nose for a count of four.

3. Hold your breath for a count of seven.

4. Exhale strongly to a count of eight.

5. Repeat 3 times. Ahhhhh.

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17 ways to save money

  1. Clear your browsing history. When shopping online – especially for airline tickets – make sure to empty your cache. Online companies follow your history and raise prices based on this information.
  2. Shop as a guest. When buying online, use the Guest option instead of creating an account. New customers usually get lower prices.
  3. Leave items in your online cart. Get everything filled in, with your name, e-mail address etc., but don’t purchase immediately. You’ll often get a follow-up e-mail a day or two later offering a discount code to incentivize you to complete the sale.
  4. Lower the brightness on your TV and computer screen. Reducing the brightness of your TV and/or computer monitors from their default settings can reduce power consumption by up to 40%. 
  5. Carry large bills. Research shows that you’re likely to pay less if you use cash instead of a credit card. That’s because purchases feel more “real” when you see the amount you’re spending. If you carry only $50 bills you’ll be less inclined to break them, which helps avoid impulse buys.
  6. Make lists. You’re also less likely to succumb to impulse buys at the mall or grocery store if you’ve decided ahead of time what you need and plan to buy.
  7. Build your credit. Your credit score determines your rate on loans; nowadays utility and insurance companies use these scores to calculate monthly premiums.
  8. Make large purchases at the end of the month. Buying a couch, car or electronics? All sales reps have to meet monthly quotas. If they’ve had a slow month they may be willing to give you a deep discount in order to make a sale—and reach their quota. 
  9. Paint your roof white. If you live in a warm climate, this quirky idea could save you a bundle on air conditioning bills. Traditional roofs are dark, and dark colors absorb more heat.  Go even further and install solar panels – the upfront cost will be worth it if you plan to live in your house for a long time.
  10. Brew your own coffee. Home brewing cuts your cost to about $0.25 per cup vs. $3 at a pricey coffee shop, saving you hundreds per year (and over $1000 if you have a 2/day habit!) 
  11. Eat less meat. Eating vegetable-centric meals 2-3 times per week will save you some major cash.
  12. Buy generic. Store brands often have the same ingredients as name brands and may even be made by the same companies. Same with prescriptions – ask your doctor if the generic version is an effective option. 
  13. Buy a water filter. Bottled water isn’t just expensive; it’s not necessarily healthier than tap water. The filtration process may result in water that’s actually better for you than spring water!
  14. Exercise daily. Research confirms that working out regularly limits the number of trips you’ll take to the doctor’s office.
  15. Eat out at culinary schools. If you love dining out, investigate culinary schools in your area. You can enjoy delicious meals from up-and-coming chefs at significant savings vs. restaurants.  
  16. Stay hydrated. Many people overeat because they mistake thirst for hunger. Drinking water before a meal will help you to only consume what you need. Result: lower grocery bills!
  17. Ask for discounts. Most companies offer money-saving promotions but may not advertise them. When contacting your cable, gas, phone, or credit card companies, ask if there’s a way to reduce your bills. Sometimes, mentioning that you’re ready to cancel a service or switch providers is all it takes for them to “magically” come up with a better deal.

The Eclipse is Coming, the Eclipse is Coming!

Panic in Otter Rock! 100,000 extra visitors are expected to swarm the Oregon coast next weekend where we’ll be Visibility Central. We have one main thoroughfare, which is sure to be bumper-to-bumper, so locals (we summer residents included) have been warned to stay indoors for the duration of the long weekend. Good times.

One worried resident recommends that we padlock the gate between our little development and the neighboring hotel. As if that would deter any would-be miscreants who want to sneak into a community full of retirees.

I’m not sure exactly why she thinks the unwashed hordes are about to descend. To do what? Crash a canasta game? Knock down geezers on their morning walkabout? Trample the brambles? The sky goes dark every day, ‘ya know. Get a grip, people.

To be on the safe side, though, we’re stocking up on necessities: gas, batteries, brie and chocolate. This will require fighting for provisions along with the toothless crackheads who frequent our local grocery store– unless they’re too stoned to know about the Big Event. Luckily we have enough pinot noir to sit out several months of siege.

But what if it’s cloudy/foggy that morning, as it so often is? People who are paying $100 for a parking space are going to be pissed off big time.

Then what?? Riots in the streets? Tacky tee shirts ripped from their hangers? Mugs with “I heart Oregon” smashed to the curbs? Local hazelnuts hurled at the windshields of unsuspecting motorists? Tourists pelted with saltwater taffy? Maybe I should be less blasé.

Still. We’ve got eclipse goggles. We’ve got candles. We’ve got vodka. We can do this.

Just pray for sun.

 

 

 

 

Paint It Black

The Q Bar at the Empress Hotel in Victoria BC serves the most addictively delicious charcoal-spiced popcorn with their drinks. Inspired to recreate it, I was curious to see how else I might use food-grade activated charcoal.

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First, though, I wanted to learn what it is and what it does. Activated charcoal – not to be confused with the chemical-laden stuff you use on the grill! – is made from a variety of sources such as hardwood and coconut shells and naturally traps toxins, chemicals, gases etc. in its porous surface.

Activated charcoal (AC) doesn’t absorb these toxins; instead, it works through the chemical process of adsorption. A quick refresher: In the body, absorption is the process that occurs when elements such as nutrients, chemicals and toxins are soaked up and assimilated into the bloodstream. Adsorption is a chemical reaction in which elements bind to a surface. The charcoal’s negative electric charge causes positively charged toxins and gas to attach to its tiny nooks and crannies, allowing them to be flushed out so the body doesn’t reabsorb them.

6 Common Uses for Activated Charcoal

Having purchased a bag of the stuff from Amazon, it was time to figure out what to do with it besides making popcorn (stay tuned for recipe).

FullSizeRender 5Teeth Whitening Being a fan of coffee, tea and red wine, my teeth often look a bit dingy. AC is supposed to whiten teeth while promoting good oral health and it’s certainly cheaper than Opalescence or whitening strips so I figured I’d try it. My Internet search revealed that AC attaches to plaque and microscopic stains while changing the pH balance in the mouth to help prevent cavities, bad breath, and gum disease.

I spoon a small amount into a ramekin and tote it to the bathroom. Be warned, the fine powder can (and will) stain grout and fabrics. Protect counters, floors and clothing before using and lean way over the sink. And always avoid breathing it in (there’s a warning label about potential hazards).

Directions are simple: Wet a toothbrush and dip into the powdered AC. Brush teeth for about 2 minutes, paying special attention to areas showing the most staining. Your mouth will immediately turn black, and I looked like an extra in a road company production of Les Misérables; truly hideous. Then sip a bit of water, swish through mouth thoroughly and spit out. Continue rinsing until the water runs clear.

For best results, brush your teeth with activated charcoal two-three times per week.

Note: If you have crowns, caps or porcelain veneers, it’s possible that activated charcoal will stain them, although most users say this isn’t a problem since these are smooth, hard surfaces. Play it safe and just brush it on natural teeth. Of course, if your teeth become sensitive, quit using it.

Gas & Bloating AC has been found to alleviate discomfort by binding with gas-causing by-products in certain foods. Several brands of charcoal supplement tablets are available at pharmacies and drugstores, which has to be a lot neater and more appetizing than dumping black powder into a glass. Make sure to read the directions and drink plenty of water to get the charcoal into your system.

Incidentally, drinking 8-10 glasses of pure water every day helps to calm the digestive tract, fight fatigue, keep organs functioning, and lubricate joints and tissues.

Alcohol Poisoning & Preventing Hangovers While AC does not adsorb alcohol, it does help to quickly remove other substances from the body (such as artificial sweeteners) that contribute to symptoms.

When taken at the same time as alcohol, some studies show that AC can significantly reduce blood alcohol concentrations. Seems easier to just stop after the second margarita, no?

Bee stings This is a cool home remedy! Make a paste with powdered charcoal and water and put it on the painful area. Be sure to cover it with a bandage so you don’t stain your clothes. Again, a bit messy but if it works, why not?

Mold I’m diligent about spraying Tilex in the shower but never thought about mold living in people’s bodies (Ick!) Turns out, inhaling mold spores has been linked to eye irritation, headaches, respiratory and immune system issues, kidney and liver failure, decreased brain function and heart disease.

If you experience symptoms such as rashes, headaches, watery eyes, coughing or wheezing that aren’t explained in other ways (e.g., allergies), check your home for mold spore levels, even if you don’t see visible mold. It can develop behind drywall, under floors and in ventilation ducts, especially in homes that have flooded or have small leaks under a sub-floor or in the walls.

Poor ventilation exacerbates the problem, and damp, humid areas such as bathrooms, basements and laundry rooms are particularly prone to mold growth.

AC tablets can help flush out spores in your body; check with your doctor for dosing recommendations. And if there is visible mold in your home, natural remedies such as baking soda, apple cider vinegar, tea tree oil and borax will clean hard surfaces and help keep mold from growing back. Make sure to wear gloves and a protective mask during cleanup so you don’t inhale more spores.

Water Filtration Activated charcoal traps impurities in water including solvents, pesticides, industrial waste and other chemicals. (Hello, Brita!) Note that AC doesn’t trap viruses, bacteria or hard-water minerals.

Food Poisoning AC is also recommended for food poisoning accompanied by nausea and diarrhea. Check the dosage on your bottle of AC tablets and of course call 911 in severe cases of any type of poisoning.

Now, about that popcorn: Mix garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste in a small bowl. Add a tiny amount of powdered food grade charcoal and stir, being careful not to inhale the charcoal.

Charcoal powder won’t stain sinks and other hard surfaces but it could stain grout and WILL stain clothes. So use carefully!

Sprinkle a small amount on buttered popcorn and enjoy!

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