What products did I pack for my trip?

So here’s the situation. I just got back from a wonderful trip to Spain that was divided into three parts: a few days in Barcelona, a 60+ mile hike on the Camino de Santiago and then a few days along the Costa Brava. Those are three very different vacations. And I had to pack for all them in a bag I could carry on my back during the hike portion of the trip. (technically, I could’ve put the non-hike stuff in a locker at the airport, but that would really be too convenient, and probably too smart for me. And yea—clearly it was.)

As we have established, I’m a pro at packing light. So keeping the weigh down was not a problem for me. I was able to pack everything I needed in a bag that weighed less than 15 pounds.

got a new pack for the trip off a packing light story.  it was okay. really designed for boys though.

This was seriously a source of pride for me. But did I pack right? Especially when it came to my skin care/makeup game. Let’s review!

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My rookie mistakes and other advice when clothes shopping in Europe–or the mall

I just got back on Sunday from a week-long trip to Copenhagen to visit one of my besties.

I’ve been to Denmark a lot–I think this was my 8th trip!–I really love my friend, and CPH.

And after that first trip in 2003, I’ve found shopping in Copenhagen really changed my thinking about clothes, opened up my fashion palette and expanded my personal style to be more adventurous with shapes and silhouettes.

It really feels like shopping in the future. You tend to see a lot of trends before they break in the US.

My love of jumpsuits happened with my first purchase of a fantastic grey strapless number in 2010 that is still one of the favorite things I own.

my first night out with erin in my jumpsuit from the future, 2010

But as experienced as I feel I am at shopping when visiting Erin–I still make rookie mistakes–and have a thing or two to learn.

So if you have an upcoming European adventure or an Epic work trip, here are some ways you can learn from my mistakes and find the best pieces to maximize your European–or any–shopping experience!

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Places I love: New York City

I have been in love with New York City for as long as I can remember. Blame it on Fame.  As a kid in the 80s, who didn’t wish they could go to school at the New York City High School for the Performing Arts?!

Consequently, all my favorite things are New York-centric: Annie Hall is my favorite movie, The Great Gatsby is my favorite book and Paul Simon is one of my music holy trinity (along with Prince and Peter Gabriel.) There’s also a romance to the city that never gets old for me.

I made my first trip to NYC when I was 17 and a senior in high school.  I thought then—and I still think today—that I would want to live there. And it could still happen.

Time Square during my first NYC trip

But for now, I just visit. And lucky for me, my sister lives in Brooklyn, which makes it convenient and much cheaper when you have a place to stay for free. I try to visit at least twice a year—more frequently if I’m lucky—so I have a list of favorite things to do in the city.

Over Memorial Day weekend, I visited with my friend, Tracy who was making her first trip. Tracy is an architect, so I was able to look at the city from a different perspective. And I could be a tour guide, which I love, of course!

Turns out—Jess is visiting NYC in a few weeks—and she requested a list of recommendations for her upcoming trip. Jess has been to NYC but not in a few years.

So this is for Jess—and anyone else that is thinking of visiting NYC. So charge up your phone, bring an extra battery (Google Maps and Snapchat will burn through your charge like whoa) and let’s explore NYC!

In old school David Letterman-style: My Top 10 Things to Do in NYC:

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My camping essentials.

Camping season is upon us!  Now with more shelter!  My husband and I have always been tent campers, but as fate would have it, this spring we found and  purchased a camper (I don’t mean to brag, but it’s not just any camper… it’s a 1972 Airstream!!!) Tent camping – you’re dead to me.  Even still, many of my camping essentials remain the same.  Here are some of my requirements to survive a long weekend in the woods.

Coffee – More than likely I’ll sleep not quite as good as I do in my own bed at home.  You know….. that bed, that is in a house, not on the ground or a less than comfortable mattress of sorts.  While I love camping, getting a good night’s rest is a challenge for me.  I require lots and lots of coffee in the AM.  We always bring pre-ground beans and a french press, which is how we have it at home.  Just add hot water and you’re good to go.

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You rock and so does this CD!

I believe in love at first sight. Call me a romantic. I think connections can be instant and lasting. And I think it extends to friendship, too.

I’ll never forget the day I met Christopher Ryan. The mythology of Mr. Ryan was strong. Christopher had been the tenor soloist in the church choir I sing with (CPC singers, holla!)–part of the esteemed alumni of paid section leaders/ringers that make the rest of us sound like we know what we’re doing. Everyone who knew him loved him, unequivocally. By the time I joined the choir, he had moved to NYC, but his presence still rang through the stories in the choir loft years after he sang his last C5 there.

It is no exaggeration when I say the talent we get through the choir is top notch. We seriously work with the best of the best. Our soloists have gone on to illustrious careers on Broadway, operas around the globe, professors at nationally recognized music programs and composers, conductors and featured soloists. The opportunity to finally meet Christopher Ryan in person came in 2009 when our tenor soloist, James Kryshak was a National Semi-Finalist for the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions being held in New York City. My sister, Holly lives in NYC and I will take any excuse for a reason to visit. I asked Jim if I could go—he said yes—so I went! And I learned Christopher would be attending, too.

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What I’m Packing: Beach Edition

You know how Lyn is a light-packing magician?? Turns out I am the exact opposite of her: I always check a bag. I always bring one too many pairs of shoes and 47 t-shirts. I always come home with 50% of my clothes unworn. But hey! I’m ok with it, and I still dream of a weekend getaway, someday, where I manage to pack everything I need in my purse (which is literally a gym bag and also the greatest carry on bag of all time. Damn you Lululemon for not making it anymore!!!!).

Once a year, my husband and I take a break from life and hit the beach. Usually we head to Mexico, but this year we are mixing it up and checking out the beaches of Costa Rica! Our goals for our beach vacations always prioritize relaxation- we don’t really go out to fancy dinners or go clubbing or anything, and we mostly stick to the resort, but we will do some off-site adventures. Over the years, I’ve come up with a few edits and additions to my packing to make sure my beach vacay is on point:

Now, obviously, this doesn’t include all of my clothes, carry on essentials, books, or hats, but these are the things I felt should be singled out. Let’s start from the top!

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Makeup for when you’re sick but still need to leave the house

I’ve been sick (which is also why this post is going up so late.) Not lay in bed and don’t go out for a week sick, just annoying, lingering, winter is the worst sick. And it’s an insult to injury situation because I rarely get sick. I have a tried and true arsenal I employ when I feel the first hint of sickness coming on that works. But because—LIFE—I wasn’t on my game and bam. Sickness.

And as much as I want to be in my favorite pink pajamas cuddling with my pups, drinking tea and watching Netflix (I fantasize a life where getting sick is like a vacation) life—and work—goes on. Sometimes work means being seen in public and trying to not look on the outside like the hot mess I feel on the inside.

Last week, I had to present at the Minnesota Governor’s Conference on Tourism, a pretty nice professional accomplishment.  Not only was the event stressful on its own, but it was made worse due to my major fear I would just sit on the panel coughing the entire time. (I didn’t—thank goodness!)

But it made me up my makeup game to create a look that would somewhat mask the signs of sickness, be easy to wear, and not take too many products since I also had to travel. And I think it worked!

Hopefully, you can avoid this nastiness that is going around—but if it strikes and you still need to be presentable—here’s what I did to try and make myself look better than I feel.

Skin: When I’m sick, I feel like I have a weird shine to my skin. Like a special glow that alerts the world to stand back and save themselves. So I definitely wanted to go for more of a matte finish. Plus, my nose is red and dry, I’m wicked tired so my dark circles are even worse than normal—which I didn’t think was possible—and I have stupid pimple that I need to hide. Awesome.

Sadly—the full size is a jar—so I won’t be purchasing it. I don’t do jars or pots. #weird

So the first step was moisturizing. I used a sample of the Peter Thomas Roth Water Drench Hyaluronic Cloud Cream which was really nice. It wasn’t heavy or greasy and sunk into my skin quickly without leaving a shine.

Next was putting the first layer under my eyes. I stuck with my favorite morning eye cream, First Aid Beauty, Eye Duty Triple Remedy: Brighten, Depuff and Smooth.

I just got a 10% off code from Sephora so I ordered this in “Light”. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Risky move—but I tried a sample of the IT Cosmetics Your Skin But Better™ CC+™ Cream with SPF 50+–and I’m so glad I did. YouTubers have been singing its praises—and I agree—it was very moisturizing but had great coverage for a CC cream. It’s also very easy to spread and blend, so I applied it with my fingers. The sample I received was in “Medium” which I think was slightly too dark, but it definitely warmed up my dead looking skin. Using a lighter concealer color helped even out the overall skin tone.

I generally go with a very light coverage formula like Glossier Stretch Concealer or Maybelline Instant Age Rewind Eraser Dark Circles Treatment Concealer. But speaking of YouTube favorites—a while ago I bought the Tarte Double Duty Beauty Shape Tape Contour Concealer based on nearly every makeup gurus’ recommendation—but I’ve only worn it a few times. I find it’s a very heavy duty concealer, not what I normally go for, but exactly what I needed to get the job done. Using my trusty Beauty Blender, I applied it under my eyes, around my nose, on my pimple and in between my brows. I have the color “Light/Medium” and it had nice brightening to it in addition to coverage. It blended great and definitely covered up the redness. It’s also creamy enough that it didn’t hang onto the dryness around my nose and instead made it feel and look better. It’s still too full coverage for me to use daily, but I’m glad I have it on hand for times like these.

I’m always on the pale side, but with this cold, I feel splotchy but also ghost like. So I didn’t go with a highlighter because I really don’t want to be seen from outer space right now, but I did apply a little blush, The Estée Edit,The Barest Blush in First Lover. This one has been my favorite since I got it during the Sephora 20% off sale—and although I have a million blushes—it’s really all I use.

This line of brushes is so good– you can get them almost anywhere–and usually on sale.

I applied it using my Real Techniques, Blush Brush.

Finally, I set the concealer using  NYX Cosmetics HD Finishing Powder in Bananaanother old favorite.

(e.l.f brushes are great, BTW!)

I applied it using my $3 e.l.f. Studio Blush Brush.

No seriously–we all love these things!

Eyes: My goal was to keep my eyes looking polished but not a danger zone if they started watering. I also wanted to minimize any redness, so my Modern Renaissance palette had to take a seat.  Instead, I kept if very simple. I just used the Maybelline® Eye Studio® Color Tattoo® Leather 24HR Eyeshadow in Chocolate Suedeanother E&N favorite—and applied it with a Sigma Beauty, E58 – Cream Color Brush. You can easily apply these colors with your finger, but I went the brush route. And yes—these shadows are a life saver—I think I have them in almost every color.

A random visit to the Mall of America resulted in impulse Sigma brush purchases.

I didn’t apply eye liner, I just used the edge of the brush to apply product close to the lash line. I also used my finger a little to smudge the crease and do a cleanup.

After curling my lashes, I applied the CoverGirl LashBlast Volume Waterproof Mascara. It provides a nice curl, separates lashes and stays put. I think it’s hard to find a good waterproof mascara and I like this one lots.

Lips: I love a bold lip but adding additional redness to my face didn’t seem like a good idea. I also felt like I needed a lipstick that wouldn’t smear all over my face with my constant nose blowing. So I went very basic with a neutral color but one that wasn’t too nude so I didn’t look dead. I’ve really been into this NYX Lip Lingerie Lipstick in Exotic. It has a warm tone, lasts longer than a cream lipstick but isn’t as matte as a proper liquid lipstick and creates a bit of a stain. Plus I didn’t want to dry out my poor lips anymore than they already were and even the best liquid lipsticks are a bit drying. This formula stayed on and only required one update before I spoke.

I slept a ton this weekend and I feel like I’m on the other end of this thing. *fingers crossed* But I’ve basically been replicating this look daily since I’ve been sick. Hopefully, you’re all feeling great and can just use this as a basic makeup look. But if sickness sadly does strike, you can use this look for inspiration.

Here’s to your health! *cheers with OJ and tea*

I acquired these products with my money or through samples received spending my money. Photos were obtained through product websites.

Turn your headlamp on

I didn’t even realize I was going to be hiking in the Himalayas, which I acknowledge seems completely stupid. I knew I was going hiking for twenty plus days—and mountains would be involved—but I never put it all together. Between my poor planning for the trip, my lack of geography skills and my denial the trek was happening, I was shockingly ignorant about what I had agreed to do.

But there I was, in the Himalayan Mountains, doing the Annapurna Circuit. And once I was there, I couldn’t really go back. Not that I wanted to, but it meant I had to completely surrender to the circumstances. I was not in control. I was not prepared. I was not ready. But I was not turning around.

Early in the trek, I became aware that everyone was focused on one day, the day we would cross the Thorung La Pass. What that meant, I didn’t really know. But my fellow hikers knew. We had conversations about altitude sickness, mostly surrounding a particular headache, one that developed in the back of your head and could mean the signs of something dangerous developing. I never had a headache. Not one day. But I couldn’t breathe right. It started early in the trek, around Chame, 8,200 feet. I should’ve recognized it for what it was, altitude sickness, but I saw it as a sign that I was completely out of my depth and paying a price for it. I was being punished. Mostly for my ignorance, but also for a lifetime of bad choices. Continue reading

First Impressions: Samples I Tried in Japan

One of the things I love about traveling is having an excuse to use some of the many, many product samples I have accumulated. Between subscription boxes, sample sets, Sephora gifts and those alluring mini-sized items by the checkout at Ulta, I can get overwhelmed by products looking for their big break into my routine.


My vanity in Tokyo filled with samples to try.

I just got back from a week in Japan–the jet lag fog is finally starting to lift!–and I can start to formulate thoughts again, let alone opinions on some of the products I tried. Unpacking my clear toiletries bag–because you know I was gone for a week and only needed a carry-on–I’ve got some first impressions on some of the samples I tried while traveling in Japan.


For real–I pack light! One week of travel and I only needed a work bag and a carry-on–which I had to check on the way home due to some SK-II purchases

Things I liked and will spring for the full size:

Milk Makeup Highlighter: I received this sample in my Birchbox and I love it! It was the only highlighter I packed and the only one that I needed. It’s completely foolproof and takes zero time or effort to apply. I’m curious to try the Glossier one that Pam recommends because I think it’s similar, but this one was also great. Since Milk Makeup is a new launch, there are TONS of sample sets out there (like this one or this one) where you can try the highlighter along with other items in their line for a reasonable price. But at $23, I think the full size is worth it.

Skyn Iceland, The ANTIDOTE Cooling Daily Lotion and Icelandic Relief Eye Pen: I picked up the Skin Hangover Emergency Relief Kit after a couple of readers recommended some of their products to me. I’m already a fan of the under eye masks, so I was excited to give other items a go. Both products do what they say–provide a cooling sensation to your skin and take down redness and puffiness. These products won’t be every day items for me, but I can see a lot of opportunities where I will need their services!  At $25, this kit is a great value with big samples and fun way to try a bunch of their products. Plus–Ulta is currently offering a free gift with purchase on any items in the line.

Caudalie, Beauty Elixer: Oh–this stuff is divine! It made me feel super fancy and the mist is perfection. The glass bottle is heavy and feels important. The scent might not be for everyone as it’s very distinct, but I loved it. I could definitely see using this as my main setting spray, especially in the winter. At $18 for a full-size–it’s a splurge–but why not start the day a little classy!

Things I liked but probably won’t repurchase:

Clinque Take The Day Off Cleansing Balm and Chubby Lash Fattening Mascara – Jumbo Jet: Right before I left, I got the 500 point Sephora reward pack called Clinique Balm to Bombsell. I had been curious about all these products, so it was a great perk.


First the mascara–it’s got a really thick wand and definitely made my lashes look thicker and had a very black pigment. I didn’t find it to be too messy to apply and it did last all day without fall out. But at $17.50 for a full size, there are too many drugstore mascaras I prefer to warrant that price.

The Cleansing Balm was used exactly as its name suggests–to take the day off. My skin was so wonky when I was gone–I was wearing full coverage, full face makeup everyday–and it did a great job removing it. You also don’t need much product, even for waterproof mascara. The downside is you have to follow it up with a regular cleanser which at the end of a long day is an extra step too many. At home, I’m working through the Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser–thanks, Pam!–and Meaningful Beauty Skin Softening Cleanser and both remove my makeup in one-step. But if you’re in the market for a solid makeup remover, I would give this one a try. The 500 point perk is still available and Sephora also has this sample pack you could try for pretty cheap.

No thanks 

Soap & Glory, Clean on Me: I brought this as my shower gel and really didn’t like it. It boasts it’s “Original Pink Fragrance combines fresh bergamot, mandarin, rose, jasmine, peach, strawberry, and soft musk & amber base notes” but I honestly couldn’t smell anything–yet it didn’t smell unscented–it was just odd and off-putting. I also didn’t find it moisturizing and used it both with my hands as recommended and on a wash cloth and didn’t like how it applied either way.

Klorane, Conditioner with Quinine and B Vitamins: What is this? The consistency is really watery which is odd for a conditioner and after I rinsed my hair, it feels less conditioned than after I shampooed. I hated this so much, I switched to the hotel conditioner which I didn’t love either, but was definitely better than this nonsense.

There are several other products I’m still checking out and many more waiting for a turn. What samples have you been working through? Anything we should avoid or consider taking out for a spin? Let us know in the comments below!

(These products were either purchased impulsively at check out by me, received in subscription boxes or obtained because I spend too much money at Sephora. But I’m happy to try and review products I am sent…)