packing for twenty days on the move: the cubes.

I love camping and backpacking and as a result I’ve spent too much time and too much money aquiring travel cubes, kits, and packs over the years.  I think this, though, is going to be the coup de grâce of every other trip prep I’ve done.

I traded in my large Osprey multi-day pack at REI because it’s just too big for me and landed on this Osprey rolling, convertible backpack.


I have a bunch of Sea to Summit dry bags like these that I use for organizing underwear, socks and dirty laundry:

sea to summit dry bags

Annnnd, I just added these Patagonia cubes to the mix and I can’t even deal with how I excited I am about them.

I ordered the medium for all of my toiletries and the small for makeup and plane essentials that I’ll need for falling asleep and waking up on an overnight flight.

Toiletries in the medium cube:

  • shampoo/conditioner
  • hair products – I do not fuck around with this curly mess
  • toothbrush/paste/wash/floss
  • face wash
  • mud mask – this Umbrian Mud Mask happens at least once a week, traveling or not
  • body lotion
  • nightime skin regime – my fight with father time is an all-out war and Kiehl’s is my closest ally
  • advil
  • menstrual cup – if you don’t know about them, find out.  it changed my life and now all of my girlfriend’s use them, too.
  • hair bands and bobby pins
  • solution/contacts and a spare set
  • spare glasses

Small Cube



off to europe.

About a month ago  I was sitting in my classroom after school thinking about my upcoming trip to visit two of my oldest girlfriends back home in NYC.  On a whim, I looked up the cost of tickets from NYC to Ireland.  I mean.. I was already going to be in New York… why not just hop over the pond to Dublin?

Tickets weren’t terribly expensive, so I texted my cousin who is temporarily living in Stockholm to see if she wanted to meet me for Christmas in Ireland – just for a couple of days.  yada, yada, yada.  An hour later I had a roundtrip ticket to Stockholm.

I got home from work, plied my wonderful roommate with wine and then she, too, had a roundtrip ticket to Stockholm in hand.  In quick succession, we purchased train tickets to Copenhagen and flights from Copenhagen to Dublin.

Our beautiful tinerary includes:

  • NYC for two days
  • Stockholm from 18 Dec – 23 Dec – Stockholm Airbnb
  • Copenhagen from 23 Dec – 28 Dec
  • Dublin from 28 Dec – 1 Jan – Dublin Airbnb
  • Back to Stockhom until 3 Jan and then straight on til home.

We wanted to book lodgings at places that were authentic to the region we were visiting, could comfortably hold the three of us, and were also cute and cozy.  Airbnb is just the most wonderful invention since sliced bread and helped us find perfect spots in each city.

We had trouble booking our train tickets from Stockholm to Copenhagen because we waited too long to start looking, but RailNinja helped us to locate and secure passage on the day we needed.  We looked at renting a car, but the drop of surcharge and the additional $50 toll between Sweden and Denmark would have cost us even more than the seeingly expensive rail tickets.

Stockholm Airbnb $266
Copenhagen Airbnb $266
Ireland Airbnb $263
Southwest BNA – EWR $298
Norwegian Air JFK – Stockholm $632
SJ train from Stockholm to Copenhagen $166
RyanAir Copenhagen – Dublin/Dublin – Stockholm $180
Total $2,071


staging the dining room.

The living room and dining room are really just one long open room in this space.  The living room was just about ready to go when I moved in, as was the dining by proxy.  The light fixture was pretty dated and that took a little head scratching and a few trips to Home Depot to change out (more about that here) with a vintage glass shade I’ve had for years.

dining room before.png

The only purchase I made for this room was a rug to keep my old chairs and table from scratching the floor. I’ll be honest, I NEVER use the dining room for eating because the couch is so much more comfortable and way closer to the TV so scratching the floor wasn’t really that big of a worry.  I found a cheap, 4×6, Jute rug on Overstock that was just the ticket.
Screen Shot 2017-05-08 at 11.16.49 AM

Once that was done, the rest was just fun.  I know I sound like a broken record, but nothing makes me happier than dressing up a blank space…

dining room bright


Jute Rug $64
Light Replacement $28
Wire Plant Stand $25
Total $117



filling in the holes.

Once I have a clean palette, whether it’s a wall, a room, or a garden bed, I like to pour myself a glass of wine and spend a whole lot of time scratching my head.  So I showered off the mud from shoveling and digging out all of the old, gross plants, bushes, and trees, poured a big glass of my favorite pinot and stood in the yard until the sun was going down and there was nothing left to drink.


Because there are three smaller windows on the right and one big one on the left, I decided to go with smaller laurels and bigger hydrangeas.  It took a couple of trips to my favorite nursery, Creekside, to get all of the plants to fit the space.  I go back to Creekside over any other nursery or big home improvement store because the same employees are always there, they remember me and what projects I’ve worked on, they are incredibly helpful and kind, AND they have been giving me a contractors discount for years.


I ended up going with three large hydrangeas, two small hydrangeas for next to the steps, nine small laurels, and two crawling roses. Once everything was planted, the landscaping timbers and mulch tied everything together nicely.  Huge bonus: it has POURED nearly every single day and everything is settling in wonderfully.


I really enjoyed pouring a glass of wine and standing in the yard for a while to stare at this finished project.  Now I just have to paint, remove the storm windows/door, reglaze the windows, replace the shutters, and hang the window boxes… Ugh.



the bathroom.

This one was a breeze.  It took two coats of Behr’s Dark Denim to get a solid cover and it was worth it.  I don’t think the pictures on this one clearly show how stale the former blue bathroom was.  It reminded me of a hospital room and didn’t really go with any of my existing bathroom accoutrement.  Dark Denim was the closest navy blue to the background of the Rifle Paper Co wrapping paper that I had from lining the kitchen drawers and cabinets (more on that here).  I used the leftovers to line the closet shelves in the bathroom, again covering up an old, gray paint and it matches very nicely with the walls.

The unit above the toilet was from a dumpster dive so it needed new glass inserts.  I brought the entire unit over to Allnite Glass on Lafayette and they had new beveled glass shelves for me in a few hours!


1 Gallon of Dark Denim $27
Brush, roller, etc $10
Glass replacement shelves $16
Total $53






#tbt amelia’s kitchen.

It still breaks my heart to go through old pictures of my first house.  The pictures of the kitchen, in particular, are the most overwhelming because it’s the last place that I took a picture with my father and it was also the home to the last gift I ever received from my parents as a unit.  It was pretty grimy and gross, but two weeks before my father passed away my mother dragged him out of the house carried him into the kitchen, popped a bottle of champagne, and there we toasted my first home purchase.

My parents very generously offered a set amount of money to be put towards the purchase an appliance as a housewarming/Christmas/birthday present because everything was pretty old and beaten up when I moved in.  Fact: during the entire two years that I lived there I never had a shower that lasted longer than 10 minutes because the water heater was always on the crapper, but never fully gave out.  I never once had freshly shaved legs AND clean hair – there was only time for one or the other.

The stove, though. Right after closing my mom and I were pouring through the aisles of Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore on Division where there are building supplies and large appliances, when we stumbled on a mint condition, vintage stove for $250.  If you’ve never been, the Habitat stores are incredible – the staff is friendly and helpful, the stock is ever changing and really great, and the prices are BUENO!  People would walk into my house and make a beeline for this stove.  It was huge and wonderful and then I forgot to put it on the list of things I was taking with me when I sold and I had to leave it behind.

I try not to get too attached to materials, but that loss crushed me…

The checklist wasn’t too bad for the entire room.  The existing stove went on Craigslist, the fridge got moved to another wall, upper cabinets were pulled down, open shelving got installed, and the lower cabinets got some fresh paint and hardware.  Once my knicks and knacks were in place the entire space felt much homier and was so much more functional.

A lot of cooking and entertaining went on in there.  I perfected two of my favorite recipes in that kitchen (mulberry jam and butternut squash soup) and learned how to can both so that I could give them as presents or have the cabinets stocked for any random group of hungry friends who might show up.


The kitchen had some built in wooden shelves beneath the cabinets that I assumed were for spices.  There are some shelving situations around the room that I’m going to have to drink a few glasses of wine and scratch my head over, but this one was easy: there was no way that I would stack a bunch of different packaged and branded jars all over the place.  The type-A parts of my personality just wouldn’t be able to sleep at night.

I had a few of these 4 oz. jelly jars left over from making mulberry jam a couple of years ago, but I ordered two more 12-packs to get started.  There were about a million Amazon reviews explaining which white markers would stay best on glass and these Sharpie Fine Point Paint Markers worked perfectly.

The entire shelf looks so cute with matching jars and (bonus!) it is so much easier to get measured tsp/tbs out of jam jars vs. those spice jars.


Paint Marker $8
Bell Jars $24





#tbt to amelia’s plywood floors.

It’s gross and rainy in Nashville today, the kind of day that would send spider crickets crawling up through the floors in my first house.  Taking up the filthy carpeting was one of the first things I did after I bought this little guy.  There had apparently been some termite damage in the original flooring, so the owners had just torn up all of the floors, thrown some sheets of plywood down and then carpeted over it.  And once the carpet was pulled up, there was literally nothing between me and the crawl space, but 3/4″ of flimsy subflooring.

Back Bedroom

I woke up most mornings to bugs, insects, and living things crawling EVERYWHERE.  I invited a nice gentleman over for dinner once and he screamed when he went into the kitchen to get the wine bottle off the counter and came face to face with a very healthy spider cricket.  I had gotten pretty good at catching them and tossing them out the back door, but he wasn’t as impressed with my lithe finesse as I was.  It was the last time he accepted an invitation over.

It took me months to save up enough money to do the first room and I decided because I didn’t really know what I was doing that I would start with the smallest room.  I bought three sheets of the nicest looking 3/4″ plywood, some wood glue, tar paper, and a box of nails, I borrowed my mom’s circular saw, jig saw, and extension cord, and begged my brother Ben to come help me rip the plywood into 6″ boards.

I stapled the tar paper evenly over the entire floor, making sure to overlap rather than take even the tiniest chance that any of those basement dwelling fuckers would crawl into my bed ever again.  I did some head scratching with laying out the boards because I wanted to waste as little as possible while making sure that the none of the joints were parallel to each other.  Once there was a solid plan in place, I loaded the caulk gun with wood glue and went to town with a hammer and nail.  It was immediately apparent that I would need a compressor and nail gun, because nailing every board was worse than going to a blind dentist.  There were some stained pieces that got even darker once they were poly’d but they ended up under the bed.  Can’t see it, no problem!


The living room was the easiest to do because (pro tip) if you go to Home Depot when they aren’t too busy and find someone really awesome and maybe have a few Dunkin Donuts gift cards in your pocket, they will rip the plywood sheets for you in much straighter lines that a high brother with a circ saw will.

Tar paper, find the pattern, wood glue, COMPRESSOR/NAIL GUN, and it only took one day to get the floors laid.  If you’re ever on the fence about getting a compressor, jump off the fence as fast as you can.  There shouldn’t even be a fence – they’re one of the most helpful inventions ever and I use it constantly.

It took another two days to poly and then one more to get the quarter round and caulking finished.  It was wild how much warmer, cleaner, and better smelling the entire house was once all of the floors were finished and furniture was back in.

Screen Shot 2017-04-20 at 12.35.11 PM

Oh, I miss this living room on rainy, gray Nashville days…

lighten up.

I’ve never played with electricity unsupervised, but the existing light in the dining room was pretty awful and needed to go.  I had been dragging an vintage, leadened glass shade from apartment to apartment to house to storage to another house for years, but had never found the right spot for it.  And, honestly, I’ve never had the courage to just figure out how to rewire it and take a chance of setting the house on fire or maybe blowing my eyebrows off.


I took a sick day from school, stopped at my favorite coffee shop, and then headed to Home Depot for what would be the first of a few trips for this project.  I had taken the vintage shade apart and took all of the pieces in a box with me so that I could try to match up what I would need.  I ended up with a wire stripper, electric tape, a new porcelain socket, and hooks for hanging this badboy.


I ultimately didn’t need the connectors or the bulb so they went back to Home Depot and I got some brown electrical tape instead.  I had to go to a specialty bulb store to find one that matched the original.. For Nashville folks, Light Bulb Depot on Lafayette is fantastic!  They have a HUGE selection and are so quick and helpful.  I was in and out in about two minutes with exactly the right bulb.

I watched a couple of youtube videos, turned the breaker off, and got started.  It took a long time to take the old one apart, clip wires, rewire the new one, and attach the old wiring to the new wiring, but it’s one more tick on the old checklist.



Electric Tape $4
Wire stripper $11
Westinghouse Porcelain Ceiling Fan Fixture Socket $3
Swag Light Hook Kit $4
Light Bulb $6




pallet coffee table.

The tiles for the kitchen floor were delivered on a wooden pallet and after I unloaded the tiles into my office, I left that pallet in the front yard for weeks.  Everyday I would walk past it on my way to work and promise [sic: lie to] myself that I would take care of it as soon as I got home.  On Saturday and Sunday mornings I would wake up, get the coffee brewing, swing open my curtains only to be greeted again by the growing pile of scraps and garbage on my front lawn.  So, while I was desperately searching for ways to avoid tiling the kitchen floor, I decided to make a coffee table from the rotting pallet in my front yard.

I had searched for weeks on websites and in secondhand stores for something big enough to fill the very empty space in the middle of my livingroom, but everything was at least $300.  I was already over budget after ordering beautiful, but very expensive curtains from Pottery Barn.

The pallet needed a good scrubbing and a couple buckets of hot, bleachy water and a scrub brush cleaned up the dirt and grossness very quickly and easily.

I ordered 12″ pin legs from Barn XO for $59 and picked up a few pieces of cheap pine and a small jar of Minwax from Home Depot for about $70.  There have been a couple of big ticket purchases that have been game changers and one of them is my Porter-Cable Finish Nailer Compressor Combo Kit.   I cut the pine to hang 3″ on either end of the table, laid it out exactly the way I wanted it and then dink, dink, dinked the nail gun up and down where the pallet’s cross pieces were.


I used some wood putty to fill in behind the nails, let it dry overnight, sanded every surface nice and smooth with a handheld power sander, and then cleaned all the dust and debris off really well.  The weather was nice enough out to get one coat of poly on, let it dry overnight, steel wool it, and get another coat on over the course of two days.


Once everything was good and dry, I flipped her over, attached the legs and then filled the built in shelves with some coffee books and coasters and nicknacks.



Pallet $0
Pine $50
12” Pin Legs $60
Poly, Brush, and Steel Wool $10
Total $120