Travel Medicine Bag

While I’m still unpacking from Spring Break, I’ll share some more hints.

I promise I don’t pack the entire kitchen sink when I travel, but one of the things I do always pack is a small medicine bag when we travel.  This is especially important in foreign countries where not everything we are used to will be as accessible as I’d like.

The #1 most important thing to pack are your daily prescription medications {duh!}.  These, should always go in your carry on bag.  If your luggage is lost, you can make do in the same clothing for days, but necessary medication can’t always be easily replaced.  For trips of any length, The Husband and I each have one of these cases that can hold up to two weeks of pills.


In my suitcase, I use a small pouch into which I’ve managed to cram a lot.  I use this particular bag because it happens to be lined in plastic so it can be wiped in case of spills.


Here’s what I carry inside:

NyQuil {don’t forget a spoon!}


Tylenol & Advil {Advil works better for our family, but I can’t take it, so that’s why we double up on pain reliever}


Blister Cushions

Antibiotic Ointment



Cough Drops


There’s also a prescription bottle there; ever since I had Shingles, I carry a dose of antivirals with me just in case I wake up with a rash again and am traveling.  I know there are several other conditions that merit immediate attention, so if you happen to fall into this category, it’s a good idea to ask your doctor for a “just in case” prescription when traveling out of the country.

Murphy’s Law says that if you bother to pack a bag like this you’ll never have to touch it and if you don’t, someone will wake up with a hacking cough the first morning of a trip you decided to all pile into one room!

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Things To Do Pre-Vacation

Today I’m going to share my Pre-Trip To Do List with you.

You’re not remotely surprised I have a list for that, are you?

  1. Print a copy of your travel documents. I know we know live in a paperless world, but we’ve all encountered Wifi-free moments when pulling up our email reservations hasn’t been easy.  And if you’re traveling internationally, you may experience even more challenges with international cellular service.  This is one of those things you may not always need, but when you do, it’s really helpful to have.  I often consolidate things like flight details and confirmation numbers, hotel reservation information, etc. into one document, print it and stash it in a pocket of my carry on.

2. Scan in a copy of your passports {and visas, if applicable}. Then save them to a password-protected file that you can access.  If you ever lose your passports, having copies of them will help expedite the process to get new ones while abroad.

3. Charge all your electronics and remember to pack the chargers and adaptors.  I am notorious for forgetting to pack one important charger.  It’s a major bummer.  Don’t be like me.  I usually have these on my list a few times, and then a neon post-it note on the door to avoid this catastrophe.  Clearly, I’m scarred for life from that one trip to Vail where I forgot the camera charger more than eleven years ago!

4. Arrange for someone to manage your garbage. Leaving your trash barrels outside overnight are an easy way to let people know you aren’t at home, so you don’t want to put them out early or have them sitting there longer than usual.  Since it’s also on my To Do List to run around the house and empty the trash cans before we leave, you don’t want full barrels sitting extra long to smell or attract critters.  This is a great job to offer up to young, responsible neighbor kids.

5. Arrange for someone to manage your mail and packages. If you don’t have a mail slot on your door, ask a neighbor or friend to come gather your mail and any packages that may be dropped off while you are gone.  If you’re going to be gone a week or more, it may be worth putting a hold on your mail at the Post Office.  Again, don’t advertise that you are away from home!

6. Stop your newspaper(s). If you still get a delivered newspaper, this is easy to take care of online and simply suspend your home delivery while you are out-of-town.  Notice a theme to my not advertising your absence yet?

7. Set your alarm! Seems easy enough, but my alarm company guy once told me that more than half his clients never use their alarm service.  It won’t help protect your home if you don’t activate it.

8. Set a timer or leave a few lights on. I swear I’m not paranoid with all these safety tips, but your home is the most expensive thing you own, right {well you and the bank, most likely}, so a few precautions seems reasonable!

9. Clean out your refrigerator of any perishable items. If you keep fruit out on your counter or bread in a bread box, check those areas, too!  You don’t want to come home to rotten or moldy foods ~ or worse, fruit flies in your kitchen!

10. Set up water globes for your plants. Don’t I sound like I know what I’m talking about?  I, of course, have the blackest thumb in the universe and all plants wither in horror in my mere presence, but I acknowledge that most people have live plants in their homes.  Keeping that in mind, if you are leaving for a week or more, you want to set up some way of watering them while you are gone.

11. If you’re headed out on a road trip, be sure you’ve checked out your car.  Do some basic inspecting of your vehicle: oil, fluids, gas, tire pressure, etc.  Clean it out of all the empty water bottles, goldfish crumbs, and random things that might have accumulated while you’ve been busy living your life.  While I’m sure you’re on top of things to entertain the kids while on the road, remember to pack a “car bag” for the unexpected: cleaning supplies for a bout of carsickness, wipes for sticky hands, etc.

12. Make beds and leave a tidy house. I know this can seem daunting after packing a whole family up to leave on a big adventure, but it’s worth it when you return and are jet lagged and still have to unpack and face a pile of laundry.  We arrived home late tonight from Spring Break adventures.  It was almost 24 hours from the time we left our hotel to the time we walked back in the door.  It was so nice to walk in to a clean house and just have to take showers, and not worry about much more.  Mostly because I’m too groggy to do anything else!  I promise it’s worth the effort.

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Teen Airplane Bags

It’s almost Spring Break and that means we are off on an adventure!

The Cuties are truly self-sufficient and amazing international travelers; they schlep their own bags, they entertain themselves in flight, and they manage their own gear.

I do NOT miss the days of the airplane diaper bag bigger than my toddler or performing barf bag puppet theatre.

When I was at the drug store this week picking up a few items for my own travel bag I grabbed some things for them and decided to put together new bags for their carry ons. I found the perfect cases at Bullseye’s Playground at Target {what they used to call the Dollar Spot}.  They’re plastic and cheap, which are pretty much my requirements for things used on airplanes by tweens or teens since there’s a reasonable chance things may explode inside or even be left behind by accident.

I first added each of their names with my Silhouette machine and coordinating vinyl



Then I filled it with some essentials for a long flight:





chewing gum

breath mints

hand cream

Shout wipes


toothbrush & toothpaste

dental picks

spare disposable contact lenses

nail file


There’s still plenty of room in these bags to add in things like glasses and retainers in the morning before we head to the airport.

One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned in my years of traveling with children is to corral their crap stuff on airplanes, and to keep the number of things you all need to be responsible for to a minimum when jet lag is involved.  Trust me.  Everyone starts off all pleasant and cute and charming, but 16 hours after you left the house in the morning and people don’t remember their names, let alone what they brought on the airplane!

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Treat Packaging Station

As a Mom I get asked to make treats for things like bake sales, team parties, birthday celebrations and more on a regular basis.  So much so that I keep supplies on hand rather than have to run out and buy things every time one of The Cuties needs me to send treats into school.

Here’s my “Packaging” Station and what supplies I keep in my stash ~


The majority of what I keep are an assortment of cellophane bags.  I could find these on every street corner in convenience stores in Tokyo, but back in America you can easily buy these at places like Michael’s or Joann Fabrics {look for them where they sell cake and chocolate supplies}.


If you prefer to order bags online, Amazon has a lot of 100+ packs as Add-on items that are very inexpensive and come in a huge variety of sizes.

I keep picks to use either in cupcakes or to put out in a small cup as fancy toothpicks to pick up small bites.  I also have a variety of labels and stickers to use to write messages wishing teams good luck or Happy Birthday!


Finally, in a second bin, I have decorative wax paper for packaging up desserts when I bring meals to peoples’ homes.  This is a big thing in Japan, and hard to find in America, but you can easily find them on Etsy ~ look how cute the different options are!


I also keep ribbons in this bin for tying up the cellophane bags.


Again, I buy most of my ribbon for this kind of purpose at Michael’s or Joann Fabric because it’s inexpensive and comes in a huge variety of colors.  I especially like Offray and 360 brands as you can get them for $0.50 a spool!


Because I had everything on hand, making up treats for tomorrow’s bake sale at Big Cutie’s school was a piece of cake!


But tomorrow I have to bake an actual cake for Little Cutie’s basketball team party!

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A Lot of Living in This Room

So now you’ve seen our finished and improved Family Room, but we have a second space we spend a lot of time in as a family: our formal Living Room.

Seriously.  We really live in our Living Room!

This time of the year the fireplace is the big draw.  It’s a heat-producing gas insert that quickly warms this room a good ten degrees.  When you couple our fabulous eight foot long Napping Sofa where two adults can comfortably stretch out, with plenty of space throughout the room for all four of us to spread out with books, it’s a favorite place on a snowy Sunday afternoon.  Add in a chai tea latte and The New York Times crossword puzzle and I’m in heaven.


And in warmer weather, we love the sunshine and cross breezes we get when we open the doors and windows to our patio and the window to our covered porch on the right.  While window treatments are on order for most of the house, this room is so flooded with light that we are leaving these completely open to enjoy it all!


Those navy velvet chairs are possibly my favorite example of “high-low decorating.”  After searching everywhere for chairs just like these, I finally found the look I wanted.  At Target.  And I scooped them up.  And promptly accessorized them with the Schumacher Chiang Mai dragon print pillows I’d been obsessing about for years.


My Grandmother’s walnut buffet houses an assortment of blue and white Chinoiserie we’ve collected, including some takamakura, or Geisha pillows.


And in front of what must be the world’s largest and ugliest radiator, I’m attempting to draw the eye forward with my beloved giant glass floats.  Just pretend it’s working, OK?


When we lived in Tokyo, I studied sumi-e painting with Mother-Daughter senseis for three years.  It’s one of my favorite parts of my Japan experience and the last piece I completed was a byobu traditional screen modeled after Korin’s famous irises.  It took me nearly a year to complete and now hangs over our mantel.


And across the room hangs a gallery wall of paintings that includes the only other painting that took me a year to paint: a high school assignment to copy a great master and I chose Van Gogh’s Still Life: Vase with Irises.  I chose this particular painting after seeing the original at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam with my grandparents on a special trip to celebrate my Bat Mitzvah.  It was there that I learned of Van Gogh’s affection for Japanese art and it’s influence in his work.


Never could I imagine what influence Japan would someday have in my own life and what affection I would have for her!

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Our Hardworking Piece of Furniture

I last shared with you how I fixed my design mistake in our family room but didn’t share the hardest working piece of furniture in the room.

When we flipped the layout of this room we had an empty space between the armchair and the kitchen peninsula.  It was just enough room to stand out as awkwardly empty and was just small enough that we couldn’t put too much there.  After a lot of searching, we discovered the perfect solution:  a shallow console table with drawers.  This enabled us to store every day supplies for homework at the kitchen counter or check writing for paying bills, and there was enough room on top of the table to set up a charging station.  Underneath, we put two upholstered cubes that provide extra seating and/or footrests for guests and family movie nights.

consoleHow the table fits in the small space between the kitchen peninsula and the family room sofa and armchair:


We use this great lucite tray as a charging station for The Cuties.  Each night, they plug their devices in before they head upstairs to shower and get ready for bed {the cords are attached to the back of the console table with 3M hooks to help hide them}.


Above the table is my custom Lilly Pulitzer print the Husband gave me for my 40th birthday.  It’s one of my most favorite pieces of art and I love having it in a space where I spend so much time.


And for those of you familiar with Lilly prints, you know that one of the fun things is to find the ‘hidden Lilly’ in every print.  Except in my custom print there’s a ‘Happy Birthday Alisha’ hidden amongst the alligators!


Inside the console drawers


And here’s the table within the entire family room ~


And the very best part of my hard-working table?  It was easy on my wallet!  I found this for $270 at Home Depot as part of the Home Decorator’s Collection and then had a 30% off coupon!

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Fixing My Mistake

When we planned our renovations and made decisions in such a short period of time last year we generally hit the nail on the head and were happy with our choices and purchases.  However, I did confess to The Husband recently that I made an error in one area of our home and that we really needed to fix it.

Our kitchen is open to our family room, a room that is in what was once the garage to the house, and based on the age of the house, we can only presume was a porte-cochere before that.  I had thought it would be nice to view the television from the kitchen while cooking and so we put the back of the sofa to the kitchen and the television up against the wall now shared with the garage.


The problem with this set up was two-fold: the room is small and we had a very large television, so it felt like we were practically on top of it, and there were only about 18 inches of clearance behind the sofa for a walkway.

Basically it was just awkward and I did it wrong.

However, I realized it wasn’t the wrong countertop, or floor choice or cabinets.  It was actually the best {translation: cheapest} mistake I could have made.

So we flipped it and what a difference it made!

We put the sofa against the wall and purchased a smaller television that we mounted above a media console {you’ll see the larger one reappear sometime soon ~ you know I’m always repurposing around here!}.  Suddenly we can move around easily and we are using this space all the time!  All of us can fit on the sofa and chair, but The Cuties also love to spread out on the floor as well.




There’s so much more space to walk between the kitchen and family room that we were able to add an additional console table with extra seating I’ll be showing you as soon as I add one last finishing touch.


As much as I love a pretty room, I love a functional room even more!

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