“Don’t you love New York in the fall? It makes me want to buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address.”
― Nora Ephron


Shiner Bock Holiday Cheer Turkey Chili

It’s a chilly October day.

Leaves are changing from green to yellowish-orange; soon they’ll be red and falling.

Farmers are in the fields harvesting; fields have turned from verdant populous green to wispy brown stray sticks and stalks.

The interior decor and scents change from Summer at the lake to Fall in the country.

Weekends are football, football and more football: Friday high school, Saturday college, Sunday NFL.

Wines are trending red, in place of the light Summer whites; cider and hearty beers replace light.

I love this time of year!

Today, simmering on the stove… Homemade turkey chili, but not just any turkey chili. Hearty, flavorful, low-maintenance – much like myself.


Homemade chili with skillet cornbread.

What makes this chili so great? It’s easy. It’s got a kick. It’s quick. It’s adaptable. Isn’t that enough?

Skillet Cornbread

Buy a cornbread mix; mix it up. Heat the oven to 400° with a cast iron skillet inside. While it heats, brown the meat, begin cutting the peppers and onions. When the oven is ready, remove the very hot skillet, pour the batter in the skillet, put it back in the oven, bake for around 18 minutes (until golden brown).


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Kill prejudice and bigotry. See the world!

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
― Mark Twain, Mark Twain: The Innocents Abroad/Roughing It

Laugh, Crazy People, Laugh.

“Laugh. Laugh as much as you can. Laugh until you cry. Cry until you laugh. Keep doing it even if people are passing you on the street saying, ‘I can’t tell if that person is laughing or crying, but either way they seem crazy, let’s walk faster.’ Emote. It’s okay. It shows you are thinking and feeling.”
― Ellen DeGeneres, Seriously… I’m Kidding

Secret Weapon: Dawn Dish Soap

Cleaning the bathroom? Don’t forget the Dawn¹! Seriously.   

I live in a 1970ish ranch-style house and have for 14 years. And for 14 years I have battled the 70s in my house, especially in the bathrooms. Half-tiled walls, both of them. One was yellowish-greenish in a noncommittal way, and the other was avocado green. I managed to replace the avocado wall tile with white bead board, and paint the walls in both baths. But, even the bath tub surround was an off-goldish-yellowish tile, and the shower stall was avocado green tile (until I used tile paint to paint it white – which is now peeling). Where there is tile, there is grout. Where there is grout, there is mildew. Even if you kill the mildew, there are still mildew stains.

And that, my friends, is the battle.

Mildew vs. Me

To date, Mildew has had a slight lead.

Until now.

I have tried every brand name chemical that promised to remove mildew. No luck. I used a steamer. No luck.

As I stood in the cleaning products aisle at my local Amish grocery store, The Country Salvage, (aka, Trader Josiah’s) staring at a plethora of products I had already tried, looking for my new ammunition in the fight against my arch nemesis (mildew), a lady told me that she had heard Dawn¹ and white vinegar worked. She’d seen it on Pinterest¹ or somewhere like that. All she knew was that the two liquids needed to be microwaved. I left thinking, I’ll check that out. I never did.

But today I thought, What the heck? I’ll try it anyway.

Heavens to Betsy² it worked! 

The mildew and stains came clean with light scrubbing!

Here’s the not-so-precise recipe I used: 

  • In a giant (8 cup) Pyrex¹ bowl, mix 1 part original blue Dawn and 2 parts white vinegar.
  • Microwave until hot, approximately 3 minutes.
  • Use a Dobie¹ scrubbing sponge, a scrubbing brush, or a 3M¹ scouring pad (if it won’t scratch).
  • You might need to open a window, it can be quite strong.

Thinking that vinegar and Dawn¹ can’t possibly be harmful, I spilled a little on the floor where the taupe grout between ceramic tiles was hard to get clean and was darker in the high traffic areas. Spill + Scrub = Clean!

Then I ran hot water in my bath tub, added Dawn¹ and white vinegar (about a 3 second squirt and 2 giant splashes, maybe about a cup, of vinegar³), and soaked my hanging shower caddy. The bamboo had a little mildew and slight stains, and the metal showed surface rust. Boom! Add a Dobie¹ and it was a gone!

¹ Please don’t sue me over using brand names. The copyright symbol was annoyingly large. WordPress, can you do something about that?
² No, I do not know who Betsy is.
³ I’m sorry, I’m inept.

One Step Closer to Organization Nirvana.

I am organized. Not in my daily life, just when traveling.

I love packing cubes, bags, and now… cells?

Yes, packing cells. Sea to Summit produces a very versatile  Ultrasil (lightweight) packing organizer called a packing cell.

Sea to Summit TravellingLight Packing Cell, Medium Berry, $24.95 at Amazon.com.

The Sea to Summit TravellingLight Packing Cell is solid Ultrasil (nylon) everywhere except the top, which is mesh. There are handles on both sides, a heavy duty zipper, and 2 tabs for tie/hook connections. The cell takes a cube shape, but can also pack down a little when it’s not full.

I am using a medium cell in my carry-on to hold my in-flight go-to’s: Able Planet noise-reducing headphones, sleeping mask, Kindle, Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 tablet, MP3 player with ear buds, 12,000 mah portable battery charger, micro USB cord, Samsung Galaxy s5, USB 3.0 cord, journal and pen,  inflatable travel pillow… and still there’s room for a few more things.  It’s so much easier to pull this cell from my underseat bag than to dig through the bag for what I need. The cells are also the perfect shape to hold bras.

I have several types of packing organizers that I also like – Eagle Creek Specter Compression Cubes and Folders, Rick Steves Packing Cubes, and various Waterfield and Tom Bihn previously reviewed.  But, different bags and trips require different approaches.

If you don’t want the mesh top, look for the Sea to Summit Toiletry Cell.

So how much are they? Prices vary (I’ve found them at my local outdoor gear store and Amazon), but seem to stay in the $20-40 range depending on size, model and color.

The two TravellingLight Packing Cells I have are my first organizers from Sea to Summit. I hope to add more of their UltraSil organizers to my inventory someday, but for now I need to save my money for the actual traveling. Hmmm… hint-hint, Sea to Summit… I’d be happy to test and review a few (grin).

Credit Card Rainbow


I’ve noticed a trend in cards lately – the colored edge to make them easy and quick to identify in your wallet. (I’m a minimalist, so I carry a pocket-sized wallet, even in my purse.)

If your cards aren’t colored, consider using a Sharpie or paint pen to edge them yourself. A silver Sharpie worked great for me.

Packing Light Without Sacrifice

My parents’ 50th Anniversary trip is quickly approaching. Just when I have my mom ready to pack less than what she might normally, we hit a bump in the road: There aren’t many laundromats in Europe.

We’re not backpackers. We’re not the type of travelers who can strap a few items on our backs and explore an underdeveloped country for 2 months, wearing the same unlaundered shorts two weeks later.
We’re also not the 5-star hotel every night (unless Priceline comes through), bell hops taking care of the luggage, private car at the airport, there are people to do our laundry types.
We’re the types who want to travel in relaxed comfort, but still look for good values (no hostels), and need to pack light since we will be schlepping our own luggage. 

We’ll be gone 2+ weeks. She was all ready to pack 1 week of clothes, then wash them before they boarded their week-long river cruise. After all, that works when traveling in the U.S. But, a basic Google search of laundromats (wachsalon) in Basel, Switzerland, their departure point, shows possibly 1-2 actual laundromats (far away from the tourist highlights), not just laundry/dry cleaning services. And, one load (wash + dry) will cost around $20. Still, that’s less than paying for extra bags and definitely worth it if it means one less bag to lug around. (Yes, they can also have laundry done on the ship or in a hotel – $6 per shirt, $8 per trousers, etc.).

So, how do we balance traveling as light as we can while still having everything we need – including unwrinkled, clean clothes?

First of all, get over the idea that you have to wash your clothes after each wear. You don’t. (Exception: underwear. Please do.) With the help of a stain stick or wipe, you can wear those pants for 2-3 days before they need washed. And ladies, if you layer camisoles (which take up little to no space in your luggage), it will keep your shirts and sweaters fresher. Add a little Downy Wrinkle Releaser and a fabric refresher like Febreeze, and no one will know this is the 3rd time you wore that outfit on this trip. (Warning: don’t go heavy on the perfume or cologne as the scent lingers and goes stale.)

Now, I’m not advocating wearing the same outfit 3 days in a row. But, you can rotate your outfits, leaving the last one to air out while you are sightseeing. And definitely mix and match.

And, don’t ignore the best weapon in your arsenal to fight wardrobe overload – the bathroom sink.

Packing a small laundry kit can help you cut down on the number of clothes you pack. So, what’s in my kit? Continue reading

No, the TSA still doesn’t allow cattle prods.

At least not in carry-on. You can, however, check your cattle prod. (Not kidding; check out the link at the bottom.)

I totally get why the TSA has banned most items. There are times, however, that a multi-tool would be very handy when traveling.

  1. Knife to cut tags from purchase or plastic packaging
  2. Corkscrew for a wine bottle
  3. Screwdriver to fix sunglasses or open battery compartments
  4. Poking device to clear mud from shoe treads

But, they still aren’t allowed in your carry-on.  Trust me. I have had a key chain Swiss knife and  a corkscrew (that little blade to cut the foil got me on the return trip, but not the outbound) confiscated. In both instances, I was not trying to get away with sneaking something banned on board. I either didn’t realize it was in my bag, or in the case of the corkscrew, naively thought it would be fine.

There is one simple multi-tool that I have always, unwittingly (I swear), managed to get through security. Probably because it would only be good for #1 & #3 above. (I’m still working on the pocket corkscrew without the foil cutter.)
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Twist ties out, Gear Ties in.

Nite Ize GT3-4PK-A1 Gear Tie Reusable 3-Inch Rubber Twist Tie, Assorted ColorsEar buds, charging/USB cables,  power cords… our lives are ruled by them.  There are many ways to cinch up cords to be more compact… reused twist ties, cable ties,old hair ties, velcro straps.

If you haven’t yet tried them, I recommend Gear Ties by Nite Ize (Amazon.com). Gear Ties are reusable, sturdy, and will not cut into your cords.

Available in various sizes (some ready for heavy duty outdoor use) and colors, Gear Ties are relatively inexpensive. Example: a 4 pack of 3-inch ties is around $3.

What do you see?

“What we do see depends mainly on what we look for. … In the same field the farmer will notice the crop, the geologists the fossils, botanists the flowers, artists the colouring, sportmen the cover for the game. Though we may all look at the same things, it does not all follow that we should see them.”
― John Lubbock, The Beauties of Nature and the Wonders of the World We Live in

Maya Angelou on lost luggage

“I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way (s)he handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.”
― Maya Angelou

Don’t forget the dog tags!

Product DetailsWhenever you travel, you should tag your bags (all of them, not just the suitcases) just in case you accidentally leave them somewhere.

Most people use luggage tags. You know the ones – bright colors, meant to stand out on the airport luggage carousel. But, if you put them on camera bags or purses they scream “Tourist!”.

So, I propose an alternative: dog tags. I have a dog tag in every bag I carry – purse, messenger bag, camera bag, backpack, luggage, etc. And I use them year-round, not just when traveling.  Continue reading

Life begins again…

“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.”
― F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby