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This is pretty much how I’d still be socializing without the internet.

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I can pay you in blocks…

There were plenty of gifs of Armisen dropping trou, but none of this gem. Perfect for joking about dire financial situations and sending whiny emails to your parents — You’re welcome, internet.

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Tim Doyle X Adventure Time

I am so looking forward to Tim Doyle's third UnReal Estate show at Spoke Art this Thursday. Especially after seeing this mathematical rendition of Finn and Jake’s mega treehouse!

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Spring Style Runway Roundup

It’s been awhile since the Spring RTW shows, and, to be perfectly honest, I don’t follow them nearly as religiously as I used to. That being said, with the Parisian Spring Couture shows recently passed, I’m seeing some trends I’m pretty jazzed about. This despite the fact that I pretty thoroughly despise every one of Pantone’s Spring fashion color selections.

Enough shit talking, though. Here’s what I’m loving:

Long Draped Silhouettes

(L-R: Derek Lam, Giles and Ann Demeulemeester via style.com)

Reminiscent of 90’s grunge runway fashion, this trend is more refined than its last iteration. Long dark silhouettes can be very flattering and they’re the perfect way to play with layers and texture, but mostly, they’re comfy as hell. I’ll be wearing draped dresses forever, but at least this season they’ll be on-trend.

White on White

(L-R: Gareth Pugh, Badgley Mischka and Balenciaga via style.com)

I love the way this looks. White layers have been feeling super fresh to me ever since I discovered Love Aesthetics last year. Less bridal, more artful. We certainly can’t all embrace hyper-modernity to the extent that Ivania has — I’m just too clumsy for that much white clothing, but It’s definitely a great choice for statement  occasions. 

Sheer Appliqués

(L-R: Atelier Versace, Armani Privé and Ann Demeulemeester via style.com)

From beading to lace, embroidery and patches, appliqués were all over the runway for spring, mainly on sheer backgrounds. What I love about this trend is how directly it translates into the body as canvas. Rather than shaping the body through silhouette, use it to express your artistic inklings. It’s a bit much when worn all over, but a sheer embellished top is a great way to reinvigorate a favorite pair of jeans, slacks or a long draped skirt.

Sheer Layers

(L-R: Costume National, Burberry Prorsum and Chalayan via style.com)

Unlike dark draped silhouettes, sheer layers are actually Spring appropriate for folks in warmer climates (we dress like vampires here in San Francisco year round) Far from old fashioned, I think there’s something delightfully subversive about showing some skin under sheer layers. On the handful of days it breaks 75 degrees here I’ll definitely be rocking something scandalously sheer in the name of fashion.

Want more anti-chromatic spring runway style? See more on Pinterest.

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2013 In Review

It’s been a long and wonderful year, 2013. Technically, that’s not entirely true since every year is exactly the same length, but the end of the year is exactly the time to take poetic license with shit like that.

The Dude has finally finished my new website using a very clean new markdown platform called Ghost, and I’m getting ready to edit, re-shoot and re-vamp all of my old tumblr posts in preparation for the migration. I’m not breaking up with tumblr, though. As I continue to refine my own creative process, I see tumblr as a great place to brainstorm, communicate and post casual updates.

(Like these amazing last minute ornaments I came up with for our tree last week!)

Here I hope to post more in progress project photos, inspirations and favorite happenings.

For instance, my current favorites jams are:

— Reading Wild by the wonderful Rumpus alum, Cheryl Strayed
— Finally finishing up an epic guide on sheeting for The Sweethome
— Teaching myself to draft patterns in Illustrator (fig. 2)
— And continuing to take a nauseating number of photos of my one-eyed cat, Alan (figs. 3 - ∞)

 

I wanted to take more time to post something last night, but I made it to my first ballet class in a few weeks, the results of which I have distilled in the terrifying doge image to the right. The new year holds plenty of stretching, dancing and performances. I also hope it will hold new endeavors like aerial training, hooping and more acro yoga. Most of all, though, I hope it holds more salty ass blog posts, beautiful art, and sharing my experiences with diys and sustainable living with as many people as possible. What do you want to see in the new year, both here and beyond?

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Beauty: DIY Organic Lotion Bars

Inspired by this How Did You Make This? post, the fact that I had plenty of shea butter and the need to start testing handmade holiday gifts, I whipped up these solid lotion bars. It was seriously one of the easiest beauty recipes I’ve ever tried (discounting that “put a drop of baby shampoo in water to make makeup remover” BS). This is a proper beauty recipe where delicious natural ingredients become a new product that’s better for you and cheaper than store bought.

The peeps over at HDYMT chose to use a hot plate, which I recommend if you have one, but I did alright with my microwave. They also use a paper coffee cup and popsicle stick, which I don’t think is really necessary. You can easily limit your waste by just wiping down your measuring cup and spoon with a paper towel while the mixture is still melted. A decent soaping up or run through the dishwasher will take care of the rest.

First, gather your ingredients. These quantities will make two cups melted, or eight 2 oz. bars.

100g beeswax
100g solid oil or butter

100g liquid oil
Essential oil
(optional)

And gather your hardware:

Scale (a digital scale is useful for all sorts of things around the house)
Microwaveable container with a spout (think Pyrex measuring cup)
Knife
Spatula
Silicone molds
(I used these cute Ikea baking cups)

If you don’t have resources for oils and waxes nearby and don’t mind living without Amazon’s ubiquitous two-day shipping, I highly recommend Mountain Rose Herbs. MRH is definitely the earthy-crunchy organic jam for oils, butters, essential oils, teas, spices and soap making tools. And what’s in that jar? That’s just a deliciously motivational Riesling. 

If you have oils and butters around the house and don’t want to buy new ingredients, then rock on. But if you’re shopping for oils and you’re not sure which you want to use, consider the following:

Shea and cocoa butter are both excellent emollients that remain solid at room temperature. Cocoa butter smells mildly of chocolate, and is often used to treat stretch marks, while shea butter is often lauded for its healing effects against skin conditions like psoriasis, eczema and acne, and has a nuttier smell. Coconut oil is lighter than both butters and doesn’t smell as heavy or earthy either.

As far as oils are concerned, jojoba is non-greasy, has a great shelf life and boasts anti-inflammatory properties; apricot kernel oil is high in vitamins A, C and E; olive oil is super moisturizing and readily available at pretty much any grocery store; avocado oil is full of free-radical fighting vitamin E and helps prevent aging; almond oil is high in vitamin B and helps even out skin tone.

Once you’ve decided on your oils and any scents, it’s time to start melting shit!

Step One: The first think you’ll need to do is break down your beeswax. Unless you have wax pellets or perfectly weighted out bars, in which case you can do a victory dance for the next ten minutes. The easiest way to break down the wax is just by slicing at it with a knife until you have the amount you need.

Step Two: Scoop equal parts of solid oil or butter into your microwavable dish, along with the cut wax and liquid oil. To make eight 2 oz. bars, use 100 grams of each.

Step Three: Microwave on high one minute at a time until the solid oils are melted. Check on it every thirty seconds or so once the beeswax starts to melt in. You don’t want to heat the oils so hot that they begin smoking. It’s like heating up those little containers of Sally Hansen body wax, which you’ll be familiar with if you’re a cheap ass who does her own bikini waxing like yours truly.

Step Four: Once your oils are melted, give them a good mix and add a few drops of any essential oil you wish to add.

Step Five: Immediately after your mixture is melted and scented, pour it evenly into your molds (which should be waiting for you on a clean, stable surface, but I don’t have to tell you that). They’ll cool in mere minutes, and you’ll be able to safely pop them out of their molds after ten minutes.

Keep them somewhere cool and dry (and not in your steamy bathroom, despite the seeming convenience). To package them as gifts, whip up some little pouches or cinch them in a bit of loose fabric with a ribbon, depending on your level of craftiness (or sobriety).

If you have an overlock machine, making fabric bags out of scraps is really very simple.

If you’re feeling extra cheesy (read: lazy in my case) snag a printable tag, like this bumble bee design from Gina’s Designs (Thanks, Gina! Sorry I called your tags cheesy, but… well, you know…).

If you’re feeling more high fashion and less Vera Bradley, try using a square silicone ice tray as a mold and packaging the bars in clear cellophane bags with simple tags printed on vellum.

Whether you give these as gifts or keep them for yourself (but srsly, do you really need eight of them? How dry is your skin, my dude!?) these bars are a cheaper, healthier alternative to commercial body butters and they’ll keep you moisturized all day long, even in the winter.

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Eat: Fresh Yogurt

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Instead of just mixing stuff into yogurt, why not try spreading it onto something? Homemade yogurt has the fresh, tangy taste of self sufficiency that Yoplait just never got right, and it’s surprisingly easy to make.

Many years ago, my mother got me a yogurt maker for Christmas. I was just getting into the idea of making my own versions of stuff we usually buy at the store, and I thought it was the most magical present EVAR. Not that my moms isn’t magical, because she most definitely is, but what that yogurt maker taught me is that culturing your own is all about hitting the right temperatures, not about having a unitasking machine. However, If you prefer to go the machine route, I do recommend the one my mother got me.

Yogurt, like all cultures, works by integrating itself into a fresh new medium (milk) and turning it into more yogurt. Furthermore, it’s quite alive and so by preserving a bit of each batch, you can continue to make more of it endlessly. It’s like the Borg of food stuffs — Resistance is futile! Unless, of course, the temperature strays too far out of the culture’s livable conditions. The same is true of yeast in bread and the SCOBY in kombucha.

Homemade yogurt is not only delicious, it’s also much cheaper than store bought yogurt. I use St. Benoît Farms delicious organic whole jersey milk, which is produced in Sonoma County just an hour north of San Francisco. Even though I buy the fancy milk at my local co-op, I can still make a quart of yogurt for under $4. By comparison, a quart of organic yogurt at the same grocery co-op costs over $7.

So what do you need to make your own if you don’t want to buy a fancy yogurt maker?

A pot
A stove
Jars
Milk
Plain yogurt

What? You already have those things? Boom. Let’s do this.

First of all, take out your jars and lids and make sure they’re clean. No, you don’t need new new lids, and yes, you’re still going to sterilize them, but I like to check my rings and lids for rust every so often and toss the bad apples.

Step One: Boil enough water to fill your jars and cover your lids and then do that. Leave the boiling water for at least five minutes to make sure your shit is sterilized, friends. Only good bacteria get to live in these jars. 

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Step Two: While your jars are soaking, heat up a quart of milk over medium heat until it hits 180º Fahrenheit. I just leave my digital thermometer stick in there the whole damn time, but if you don’t have a thermometer, 180º is the temperature at which milk scalds, that’s all. Then cool it down to 115º Fahrenheit before adding your plain yogurt culture. Again, if you don’t have a thermometer, 115º is slightly hotter than a hot tub, and never hot enough to burn you. If it burns you, it’ll burn your yogurt culture.

Step Three: Stir in your culture (about a cup of yogurt for a quart of milk) and pour the yogurt into your sterilized jars. They need to stay warm enough for the culture to grow, which is what automated yogurt makers do — they keep a water bath warm enough to encourage the culture. Low-tech insulation works just as well, though.

Step Four: Store your hot yogurt juice in a covered container. wrapping the jars in towels inside of a big pot is my tried and true method. Unless your kitchen temperature dips below the 60’s at night, your yogurt should stay warm long enough to culture overnight.

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Step Five: This is less of a step and more about just experiencing the unstoppable slow progression of time throughout life eternal, y’know? For about 12-24 hours, depending upon how thick and tangy you like your yogurt.

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I like to keep all of my fermenting food babies together on one side of the counter. The yogurt and the kombucha keep each other company before joining the probiotic symphony that is my insides. Once your yogurt has cultured to your liking, move it to the fridge.

Refrigerated, your yogurt should last for at least three weeks! If you want to save a starter with a longer shelf life, try freezing the culture — it’ll work just as well when you warm in up in a new batch of milk because bacteria is amazing like that.

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Eat: Broke Ass Black Beans

Black beans are the perfect dish to have on hand. They’re cheap, healthy, vegetarian friendly, and easy to store in the pantry. A meal at a local Cuban spot after last weekend’s Dia De Los Muertos parade inspired me to cook up a big batch of black beans last Sunday.

Broke asses, rejoice! Dried black beans cost, like $1.50 a pound, and they never go bad, so you should definitely have a big jar of them somewhere in your pantry. For about $4 (plus the cost of beer) you can make enough healthy, vegetarian black beans for a whole week’s worth of lunches or dinners. All you need is at least four hours of time around the house while you binge watch a Netflix series or something.

You will need:
— 1 pound of dried black beans (about 2 cups)
— 1 large white onion
— At least 3 cloves of garlic
— Olive oil
— Chili powder
— A six pack. PBR is acceptable if you must.
— Vegetable bouillon (I like Better Than Bouillon)
— Sugar
— Vinegar
— Siracha

Step Zero: Soak your beans! Soak them overnight, or at the very least soak them after breakfast so you can start simmering in the afternoon.

Step One: Dice the onion and as much garlic as you can handle. Sweat that shit over a low flame in olive oil until it’s translucent and your kitchen smells totally sexy.

Step Two: Rinse your soaked beans and cover them with the onion mixture, a tablespoon of bouillon, some chili powder and five cups of water. Cover the pot, fire your burner up to really fucking low, fill your hoodie pockets with beer, shuffle back to the living room and get lazy!

Step Three: Check on your beans about as often as you take a bathroom break. Reap the delicious rewards of your frugal laziness at least four hours later. Add a tablespoon of sugar and a tablespoon of vinegar to the mix. Trust me. If you enjoy your beans extra delicious, add a generous squirt of Siracha to taste. If they’re too soupy for your liking, you can let them simmer with the lid off. They will thicken as they cool, though.

Now serve them with eggs for breakfast, get southern by pairing them with biscuits and boiled greens, or make yourself a burrito. When in doubt, just eat them over microwave rice with fresh avocados! Freeze whatever you don’t use within the week and pair them with endless lunches and dinners.

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Thai Sunsets and Jammy Jams

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I just watched this fucking amazing sunset happen on the coast of Thailand (Kata Noi, to be exact) and had to tell the internet about to make it feel real, ya know?

Which led me to thinking about some of the things that are so definitely my jam right now. Not related to anything in particular, but generally awesome. I have, like, ten minutes before our dinner reservation, after which we are going directly to the airport to sit in uncomfortable seats for the next 20-some hours, and fuck you inspiration for showing up at the eleventh hour after I read all that BuzzFeed and dicked around on Pinterest, but whatever. These things are great. They’re little slices of that sunset for everyday life.

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1. Samantha Irby is the jammiest of jams. If you know me or sit near me at my day job, you already know this because I’ve made you read her/you have to listen to me snort while trying not to laugh at my desk. Her blog, Bitches Gotta Eat, is so wonderfully funny and honest and empowering in kind of strange ways, and I wish I’d had something like it to read as a teenager. She’s also contributed to the first publication I fell in love with working for, The Rumpus, and her writing on her own childhood is heart wrenching and therapeutic in a way that most humans don’t even to aspire to be. She has a book called Meaty, and I’m kind of holding off on buying it because as soon as I do I will read it all at once and be devastated that there isn’t any more.

2. My camera is The BestThe Dude got me a Sony NEX-F3 for my birthday this year and it makes photos of every little DIY I do and misshapen tomato I grow look magnificent. The NEX-F3 has garnered its fair share of recommendations from schmancy tech outlets, including my favorite, The Wirecutter (not that I’m biased because I write for their sister site, The Sweethome, or anything). Even though the guys at Wirecutter have archived it in favor of a newer Sony model, I love my camera. It takes video, panoramas, 3D panoramas (I definitely don’t know what those are!) and auto-sets the shit out of my ISO and F-stops and other fancy sounding photography things.

imageWhat I dig most is that it’s super intuitive. It gives me enough control to choose whether to focus on the foreground or background, shoot people portraits or landscapes and focus on blur reduction or capturing low light, but the smart settings handle everything else automatically and seamlessly. Let’s face it — there are way too many cute babies that I suddenly need to take pictures of, and not enough hours in the day for me to learn about photography. Now that I’m basically guaranteed a percentage of good photos, I’m way better about recording the things I’ll probably be glad I took pictures of when I’m old.

3. Upworthy! Upworthy just gives me the warmest of fuzzies. It’s so nice to be reminded every day of the good that social media can share and the people doing the radness. Whether it’s Stephen Fry eviscerating homophobia or the trailer for Life According to Sam, Upworthy is a refreshing change to the negativity we’re used to having chucked at us from all sides of media. Plus, their great success integrating themselves into everyone’s Facebook feeds means that you don’t even need to look anywhere — Just check your feed and let the warm fuzzies roll in.

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Hotels In Beijing for Every Budget

Although I’m tapping this out from the deliciously warm patio of our Phuket hotel with a wonderful cold beer on my right and The Dude on my left, we also stayed at some pretty fantastic spots in Beijing. One of the most important things when traveling is to have a safe, comfortable home base to recharge after every long day. This, however, does not have to mean spending a ton of money.

That being said, The Dude is 12 years my senior, and my six-to-a-room hosteling days are over, so here is a middle way guide to sleeping like a Buddha in Beijing.

Bunking on a Budget: Peking Yard Hostel

The rooftop flower garden and courtyard are definitely the highlight of this hostel. For under $20 a night you can get cozy in a six bed dorm room, but for $80 a night (regardless of if you’re one or two people), you can have your own room with a queen bed and private bathroom. It’s not much, but it’s a comfortable place to leave your bags during the day and rest your head at night. It’s pricey compared to hostels and guest rooms in other Asian countries, but Beijing ain’t cheap.

This hostel is conveniently located in the Dongcheng district, which is near Tienanmen Square and the center of the city. Plus, they serve food and you can buy a cold beer for 10 Yuan (under $2) and sip it on the roof at sunset. Everyone speaks pretty good english, which is not as common as you’d think in Beijing, and it’s an all around solid place.

My one misgiving about this spot is that it lacks the hostel culture that I adore so much. Alone in Paris at 18 the wayward friends I made at my hostel made the trip. Likewise when I traveled alone through Montreal last summer. China’s hostel culture is much more reserved. There were no communal meals or rogue nightlife when we were there, but I think that has more to do with the city’s culture than the hostel itself.

Traditional Charm: Double Happiness Courtyard Hotel

This was by far my favorite hotel in Beijing. The TripAdvisor reviews are right: the service is amazing. What I especially loved was that they rocked the hell out of covering every possible guest need. Our room even had a razor and two tiny packets of laundry detergent, which is indispensable to packing light. Our Honeymoon Suite wasn’t large, but it was spacious enough and had a sweet traditional marriage bed hung with red jacquard. Also, snacks. I’m a sucker for free snacks.

We were pretty jet lagged at the beginning of our trip, so we spent a lot of early mornings out in the courtyard drinking Nescafe, which was in the room along with tea and fresh fruit, of course. Then, at 7am we’d hit the breakfast buffet! Their buffet was also the best with traditional Chinese food (rice porridge, dumplings and buns), pastries, fruit, cereal and all sorts of Western breakfast jazz like bacon and toast. God, I miss those breakfasts already.

Yoga Cat approves this message.

For dinner and drinks we’d hit up the Happy Bar. The menu is full of weird spaghetti and pizza crap for ridiculous scaredy tourists, but there are a handful of good Chinese dishes, too. The bartendress/waitress was the same woman every night we were there, and she was awesome. She humored my mediocre Mandarin and even let me order off of the menu (because there were no stir fried greens on the menu, which is bananas). The drinks aren’t cheap, but they’re strong and you can take them out to the courtyard for a relaxing sit about. Or you can stay inside and stare at the amazing Buddha fish in the bar’s aquarium.

Plus, this hotel is literally down the street from the hostel. Right in the center of town and walking distance from Tienanmen. Expect to pay $150-200 for a room during tourist season, but it’s well worth it given the service and location.

Mountain Getaway: Brickyard Eco Retreat at Mutianyu

Photos of Brickyard Eco Retreat at Mutianyu Great Wall, Beijing

If you’re going to Mutainyu to walk the Great Wall, which you should, then this is a great place to stay. Founded by an American, the Brickyard unites various parts of the neighborhood into an “Eco Retreat”. It’s a pretty common hotel format near this part of the wall, but lovely nonetheless. Local villages were originally founded to work on the wall, and many have dwindled ever since. The Brickyard was actually an old brick factory rebuilt in traditional style to create a hotel with beautiful grounds. It’s sister building, The Schoolhouse, houses a restaurant and some little shops nearer to the wall, and the hotel provides cars to shuttle guests to and fro.

So, it’s gorgeous. That’s really the thing here. The hospitality is nice, and the rooms are an interesting mix of ultra modern and traditional, but the grounds are the jam. The food is overpriced, but what are you going to do? The whole area is touristy like that. We didn’t get massages here, but we did walk the grounds, which include a beautiful seasonal vegetable garden, which is used for the hotel’s kitchen. There’s also a rad outdoor stone hot tub near an outdoor yoga platform surrounded by water lilies. I even got The Dude to do some yoga with me.

It’s also terribly convenient for visiting the Great Wall. They’ll shuttle you to the base of the wall where you can buy water and snacks (pro tip: stop at a local bodega and skip the tourist shops). From there you can take a gondola to the top, which is a trip in itself, and meander for a kilometer or so before walking back down from the wall to the hotel via local roads through the village. It’s a two or three hour journey in total if you linger, and the walk home is all downhill. The landscapes here, even once you’re off of the wall, are amazing. Walnut and chestnut trees grow in haphazard orchards while all manner of corn, fruit and squash grow up over just about anything they can climb.

Our spacious room with a small courtyard facing the Great Wall clocked in at $220 a night, but it’s well worth spending a weekend relaxing in the mountains in sight of such a mind blowing landmark.

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Five Travel Beauty Essentials

After every day of adventure in Asia, there’s nothing I love more than relaxing for an hour or two before heading out to dinner. Pardon my New Age-y preaching, but self-care is as important to happy traveling as it is to all around mental health. By packing five essential toiletries I can MacGyver a handful of “hippie spa treatments” to keep my brain and my body happy on the road.

The Fantastic Five: Dr. Bronner’s soap, coconut oil, essential oil, pill towels and a nail file.

  • My 2 ounce travel bottle of Bronner’s has been enough for month long trips and is easily refillable
  • Coconut oil is something you should have in bulk anyway — I buy organic, cold pressed food-grade oil and use it for beauty treatments on the regular as well as in the kitchen
  • My best dude brought me back a roller of neroli oil from Morocco last year that I take everywhere, but good essential oils are readily available at most health food stores. Floral oils are calming, while herbal and citrus oils are invigorating
  • Pill towels are available at hiking/sports stores and at ye old Amazon general store
  • Glass nail files, friends. Never “use up” a ratty old file again, and sterilize that fucker whenever you like with rubbing alcohol

One: Facial

  • Fill a small bowl or cup with hot water and add a few drops of Dr. Bronner’s
  • Soak a pill towel in the water
  • Lay back and massage your face with the steamy hot towel
  • Meditate. Take a mini nap. Watch foreign soap operas
  • Rinse your face and moisturize with a dab of coconut oil rubbed into wet skin

Two: Massage

  • After a nice hot shower, blend a few drops of essential oil into a tablespoon or so of coconut oil and go bananas
  • Use your knuckles on sore muscles like calves and hamstrings to work out the knots before tomorrow’s adventure

Three: Manicure

  • Soak your hands in a mixture of Bronner’s and water
  • Give your nails a file and a good scrub (sugar packets from the hotel coffee maker make a great scrub if you’ve got ‘em)
  • Mousturize with coconut oil, focusing on your poor cuticles (they get dried out along with the rest of you on the airplane, you know)

Four: Makeup Remover

  • Coconut oil + pill towel = moisturizing makeup remover!

Five: Bubble Bath

  • Add a few drops of Bronner’s to your bathtub if you’re lucky enough to have one. This soap is so foamy that they have a traveling foam machine that even made an appearance at Burning Man this year, which is like hippie Mecca

With all the money you’ll save by not buying drugstore crap on the road, you can spring for other travel essentials like a good bag or proper hiking shoes!

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Traveling stylishly light in China (or anywhere, for that matter) really isn’t that difficult. All it takes is a good bag and some smart packing to prevent yourself from lugging around a bunch of uncomfortable crap you don’t need while scrambling around a strange city for that toothpaste you forgot.

The Bag — This is The Bag. Osprey is backpacker legit, and this bag comes in plenty of colors and sizes. It’ll fit everything you could possibly need for months of travel.

The Clothes — Clothes are kind of a personal thing, but there are good basics to stick to. Myself, I love long, drapey knits. They’re stylish, wrinkle-free, comfy, and easy to pack up small (you’re rolling, right? It’s the only way to pack, you know). On top of that, pack basics and versatile layering pieces. With this packing list I can travel for a couple of weeks or a couple of months easily.

  • Underoos: Ex Officio Lacey Lus are my jam because they’re sexy and sensible. They’re a bit pricey, but they’ll last forever. Get a few pairs and become a master of sink laundry. Also, one or two comfortable bras if you’re into that, and a few pairs of socks.
  • Pants and Leggings: I bring one pair of black footless tights and two pairs of hike-worthy leggings, but only one pair of jeans. This maximizes my options while minimizing space and weight in my bag.
  • Tops: At least a couple of each t-shirts, tanks and long sleeves. They take up almost zero space. Also a light sweater. It may sound absurd, but I bring my trusty cashmere v-neck — It’s warm, light, and easy to handwash. Never be too attached to any one item of clothing, yo.
  • Dresses: That’s right, bring some dresses! Adventure gear is well and good, but you’ll want to feel pretty, too. I live in my black jersey infinity dress, which I also wear as a skirt. I also pack a couple of jersey shirt dresses and sheer tunics for layering. They take up very little space and make me feel a lot less like an REI catalog reject.
  • Jacket: One jacket. Preferably something lightweight, wind resistant and warm. Mine is the detachable lining of my snowboarding jacket, which packs up smaller than an airplane pillow (also: it’s a good airplane pillow). Sportswear bitches is brilliant these days.

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  • Shoes: I bring three pairs of shoes. What? Yeah. Hear me out, though — One of them is flip flops, which hardly counts, but is essential for hot days, hotel pools, and hostel showers. Number two: Columbia slip on hiking mary janes, which are so comfortable that I hiked The Great Wall in them without socks; and three: My Favorite Boots. I’ve had two pairs of these Naughty Monkey boots and had each of the heels replaced twice. They’re comfortable enough for an entire day of walking, casual enough for every day and easy to dress up. Plus, they’re real suede and retail for $100, which is fucking rad. By wearing the boots while traveling, the flip flops and hiking shoes take up about as much space as a pair of jeans in my bag.

The Toiletries — It can be hard to find your favorite toothbrush in a foreign bodega, my friends. On the other hand You really don’t need to bring your own conditioner. These are the essentials: a toothbrush, travel sized toothpaste (two if you’re taking a long trip), floss, Advil or Aleve, a nail file, hand sanitizer and a mini bottle of Doctor Bronner’s. You can fit this into any dopp kit or regulation TSA Ziploc bag. If you’re luxuriating in spare inches of bag space, Throw in some coconut oil, band aids, Q-tips, a roller of your favorite essential oil and some pill towels and you’ll be living like a queen.

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The Dude and I scored tremendously cheap tickets to Beijing back in June, and now, after months of anticipation, we’re here!

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From the moment we stepped out of the airport, the city wrapped us up in its warm, sweaty smog and bustle. In broken Chinese, I tried to relay our destination to our cab driver with zero success. We had to call our hotel and have them give him more intelligible directions.

That was six days ago. Now, halfway through our stay in Beijing, my childhood Chinese has forcibly dragged itself out from the furthest reaches of my grey matter and is surprisingly passable. It’s a pushy city with intimidating traffic, but the people are terribly sweet and the food is  amazing.

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We’ve stayed in a couple of hotels in Dongcheng, near Tiananman Square and spent a weekend in Mutianyu at The Great Wall. All of them have been wonderful in their own ways. Mostly, though, travel is what you make of it. I’m so glad we packed light and chose to allocate more of our budget to hiring a driver than staying in luxury hotels. Little things like hailing a cab and trying to pronounce unfamiliar addresses written in pinyin can really put the brakes on your adventure flow.

Beijing has something for every kind of tourist — whether you’re in the mood for the cultural immersion of open markets and rural farm-to-table dinners or you prefer to throw money at exotic international trips only to huddle inside of luxury hotels and shopping centers eating nothing but white toast like so many of the (truly bewitching) folks we’ve seen.

If you’ve got any sort of travel bug, Beijing should really be on your list. Even just for the sheer wonder of watching such a large, thrumming city churn on day after day, from the smallest hutongs to the largest skyscrapers.

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Mmm, bacon. Every time I open a package I have to cook the whole thing, otherwise half a package of bacon goes bad in my fridge, which practically a culinary crime. So, in addition to having ready-made bacon bits in my fridge for my mason jar salads, I always end up with plenty of rendered fat.

This year at Burning Man, I read a lovely article by my friend Kyra Love in Burn After Reading Magazine. The particular article isn’t on their website, but it was a list of 99 tips for the burn. One of them described ways to stay low-waste by finding creative uses for bacon grease (which is oh-so-common on the playa, second only to Jameson, I would guess). One of the ideas was to use rendered bacon fat instead of oil in salad dressing, so you know I had to try that shit when I got home.

It is delicious, my friends. And you probably already have everything you need to make it in your pantry.

First of all, cook your bacon. I cut my strips in half so they cook more evenly. The ergonomics of evenly cooking full bacon strips in a round pan suck and we all know it.

Once your bacon is done and you’ve had your meaty snack break, pour off the fat into a food processor (I used my trusty Magic Bullet) and deglaze the pan. I used brandy. This also makes the pan a bajillion times easier to clean.

Combine the deglazed liquid with the fat and add 1 part vinegar (basically, add the equivalent of the fat/brandy mixture to double the total volume). Add a liberal squeeze of mustard (the delicious kind, not that French’s shit), and (listen up now) a handful of fresh strawberries. Or raspberries if that’s what’s clever. Don’t skip the berries, man. It’ll still be good, but it won’t be great. Blend until smooth and make your salads more delicious.

It’ll keep for at least a week in the fridge, but if you do chill your leftovers you’ll need to warm the dressing up before using it again. Bacon fat is serious shit, and it’ll harden the whole batch of dressing into a geloid brick of deliciousness.

 

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For the last couple of months, some of my plants have been getting regularly uprooted. At first I thought it was my cat, but the timing didn’t add up. Then I thought maybe it was the neighbor’s cat, but she doesn’t hang out on our patio. Finally, our niece, Zoe noticed some uprooted baby potatoes last weekend, so we emptied the sack of dirt out and, lo and behold, there was a walnut. Damn squirrels.

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There must be a walnut tree somewhere in the neighborhood. The squirrels tear away the fruit, clean the nuts and hide them in my potted plants. Good for winter, bad for my bok choy and potatoes.

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Most of the potatoes were still pretty small, so we re-potted them in a milk crate lined with a cardboard box. Hopefully we’ll have dozens of fresh, delicious potatoes by Thanksgiving.

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We also picked out first little batch of burgundy bush beans and cooked them up with lunch!

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It was my first time growing these beans, but they’ve proven to be hearty, pretty easy to take care of, and terrifically colorful. The beans grow a beautiful purple or burgundy, but the insides stay bright green until you cook them. You can actually watch their color change as you blanch them.

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