Central/Eastern European souvenirs

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This most recent trip to Europe allowed me to revisit some places I hadn’t been to in 9 years and also check out new places that have been on my wishlist. It was a lot of fun and I got some gifts along the way to remember each place by!

Our first official stop was Praha (Prague). There were so many artists, musicians, and crafters to be found everywhere. In one of of the shops, I got my first souvenir – a little metal cup. One of the few that wasn’t a glossy finish, which appealed to me.

teal metal cup with owl designs

I liked the matte look and the funky owls!

Then as we were walking across Charles Bridge, perusing the various vendors, I saw a guy selling these adorable paintings! I just had to have one since he had such a fun style and had cats in each piece. This one is perfect because it has the cat couple, plus two extra cats – just like me, Panda, and our cats.

original artwork of prague with cats and hot air balloons at night

I loved that this incorporated cats and had cute little hot air balloons.

Next up was Warszawa (Warsaw), where we explored a massive park and the Neon Muzeum, all the while eating peirogis. I managed to add to my growing collection of TOUS jewelry (this is the 4th piece) and find some local folk art. I’m very happy with the usefulness of the giant coaster, which will be good for putting pots on.

tous onyx bear necklace from warsaw

When we saw a TOUS store at one of the shopping centers, we couldn’t resist. I finally got something from the onyx collection I’d been eyeing!

brightly-colored coaster with roosters and flowers

I originally saw a tote bag with a similar design, but I have so many bags that I was determined to find this look and feel on a different product.

Then we were off to Wien (Vienna) to fulfill my long-awaited dream of seeing the Spanish Riding School. We also went to tour one of Mozart’s homes and the Haus der Musik. When we came across the stalls by St. Stephen’s Cathedral, I found the opportunity to get something with the word “Vienna” on it. I liked the handmade nature of these glass cups that are perfect for holding a tea light.

glass cup for candles with colorful stained-glass scene handpainted on

We had just a few Euros left, but I really liked this one because the name was easily visible (unlike the others where Vienna was along the bottom). We had to pay in a combo of Euros and dollars!

After that, it was down to Split in Croatia. We enjoyed exploring the city of Split, where I found the amazing backpack that is perfect for my needs. We spent a whole day going up to Krka National Park for the waterfalls (freezing cold water, but totally worth it!). And of course, we just had to go out to Hvar Island to check it out. My favorite was going over to Palmizana, a smaller island off of Hvar.

drawstring backpack with elephant design from split, croatia

All pockets open and close with a magnet, which I love. There are side pockets inside as well as zippered areas inside and on the back. All sorts of storage options!

box of lavender buds and essential oil drops, plus bonus pouch of lavender buds from hvar in croatia

Apparently there are lots of lavender fields in the area, so at Hvar I got this adorable box filled with lavender buds. There’s a bottle of essential oil inside as well, to help enhance the scent with a few drops every now and then. The lady kindly gave me a pouch as a bonus.

Finally, rounding out the trip was Budapest, with fantastic views from the Buda side. I loved getting goulash nearly every meal and we got to relax at the Szechenyi thermal baths. Up at Citadella, I saw a tower of mugs (think Christmas tree shape, except everything hanging is mugs) and knew I had to get one. I wasn’t crazy about any of the color combos, so I waited to find them again elsewhere until I decided on this funky one.

giant polka-dotted mug from budapest

My ladybug mug, as it will be known. It’s really a bowl with a handle and I can just about stick my entire face in it.

So these are all the items I have to remind me of this super fun trip to Central/Eastern Europe! I tried to get things I would use and not just stuff to put on a shelf. There’s so much more that I would have liked to have gotten, but that will have to wait for next time. :)

Petit Vour May 2016 review

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Alright, I think I’m finally ready to let this one go. I’ve enjoyed the vegan brands they’ve introduced me to and I’ll keep them in mind for the future.

Petit Vour is $15 per box (or as much as $30 for international subscribers) and comes with vegan beauty, skincare, and other personal care products. Boxes are sent monthly with no option to skip. They offer a referral program that earns you points towards free boxes (email contact@petitvour.com to say I referred you if you sign up!).

2016-05-25 12.57.352016-05-25 12.57.48

captain blankenship Mermaid Sea Salt Hair Spray – This has a nice light scent that is refreshing. It’s super cute and like the branding. My hair is still wet, so I’ll have to see how this takes shape and holds the waviness. Since it’s so light, it makes me feel like I probably need to use more, but we will see. With me moving back to LA, I’m sure I’ll be able to recreate the beach look without necessarily driving out there!

Juice Beauty Green Apple Peel Blemish Clearing – Over the years I’ve received this many times and I’m happy to have it. The cute little size makes it easy to travel with and it ample for many uses. There’s a tingling I feel when I use it and then it starts to dry and I rinse it off. My acne has gotten better so I haven’t used it recently, but I should since I have so many now!

Bedrock & Bloom Smart Ash teeth whitener + detoxifier – Brushing with charcoal is not a new concept to me, but it’s still something I’ve yet to try. There’s something funny about brushing with black powder to gain whiter teeth. And it sounds like a strange thing to do. I’ve never seen one that also helps strengthen teeth as this one claims, so that’s awesome. This one has other ingredients too, which actually give it a cooling minty feel. I look forward to the results!

Ecco Bella Flower Color in Power – What a delightful lip gloss! It’s a sweet scent that wafts up from my lips occasionally, which is quite nice. It feels a bit slippery on my lips, which makes me want to press them together all the time. I love the color of this, which is darker than the other glosses I have and there’s a handy mirror on the tube to help me make sure I applied it well. It’s sort of like a lipstick and gloss in one.

This was a great box with everything that I’d use. I’ve enjoyed receiving it but it’s time to stop and save money for grad school! One more time – what do you think of the products this month?

[This post mentions a referral program. Signing up and emailing contact@petitvour.com to say I referred you helps support my subscription and I’d be ever so grateful. :) All opinions are my own and I received no compensation for this review. I just purchased this box and wanted to share what I got!]

Whirlwind trip

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The past two weeks have been a blur of travel activity. We managed a whopping 10 legs of flights going through 6 countries and boy are we pooped!! We crammed so much into each day that sometimes we couldn’t believe all that we’ve seen. I’ll recap some off it in the coming weeks.

It feels strange to be home, no longer having to pack up and get to the next destination. My legs are achy from all the walking (we topped out at over 30,000 steps one day) and I’ve had a bad ankle much of the trip. We ate so much good food that we needed all that walking to not gain weight! It’s nice to rest now and take things slower.

I look forward to sharing more about what we did, in case you’re ever interested in going to the places we did. :)

Pace of travel

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When I travel, I tend to go at a fast pace. People often think I’m crazy for it, but a typical tour averages 1.5 days per city. I like to hit up a region and get a quick sense of each city so when I’m older and find it harder to keep up a pace, I know which places I prefer more and would want to stay at for a longer time.

The first time I did this was 9 years ago, when I had 5 weeks for spring break while studying abroad. Since I was already in the UK and near Europe, I decided to visit as much as possible. I made it through 15 countries and I believe 22 cities in that time. It was a lot of walking, packing, unpacking, and exploring.

That was the most ambitious trip I’ve ever done, though I’ve done shorter versions since, again in Europe and also in Southeast Asia. I’ll probably do a similar thing in Central and South America one day. Plus, cruises offer quick pit stops at multiple cities and I’ve done three of those (Alaska, Caribbean, and Mexico). Otherwise, I think I’ll be taking more time in each place and lengthening stays to a good 3 days per city (or more!).

One day I’ll go the complete opposite route and spend a week or weeks in an area, like I do when I’m home in China. Then I can actually unpack my suitcase completely and live there for awhile.

So what’s your travel style? Has it evolved with you?

Yogi Surprise May 2016 review

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I thought about canceling this box after this one, in advance of my departure to school, but then I saw the neti pot and got excited. I’ll keep it around one more month too see what other cool stuff comes!

Yogi Surprise is just under $36 per box (with code for 20% off your subscription – use my referral links from this post) and comes with yoga gear, skincare, food, and other lifestyle products. Boxes are sent monthly with no option to skip. They offer a referral program that earns you free boxes.

Himalayan Chandra neti pot – I’ve been curious about neti pots for years, so I’m super excited about this. I wonder how effective it would be and if it’s potentially dangerous as I’ve seen before. I’m certainly willing to try it and learn some more. And worst case I’ll just use it for watering plants.

Made in Nature Cuban Mojo ancient grain fusion – I guess I’m supposed to cook this as part of a meal? I can’t quite figure it out. I’ll just have to try it and see!

MitoSynergy MitoActivator Pro & GreenTeaSynergy – This is so curious that I don’t know what to make of it. I’m cool with green tea products, but it’s the other stuff that I’m skeptical about. They’re white pills that you’re supposed to take without other supplements, which might interfere with the effectiveness of the pills. Errr… Not sure I’m comfortable trying something I don’t understand.

MyChelle Refining Sugar Cleanser – I recently got this in a Yuzen box and it’s a lot of fun to use. First you scrub the sugar granules on your face, which then melt away to a foamy texture for cleansing your skin. I enjoy using it a lot and this little travel size is great for portability.

Acure Lip Lush lip gloss in No Strings – Haha! I also got this in a Yuzen box and it’s one of the lip glosses I’m currently using. It has a nice sweetness to it and isn’t too sticky.

bayberry naturals Rosehip & Hibiscus Moisturizer – This is a cute little moisturizer that I’ll add to my travel stash. It’s always handy having small bottles to bring on a flight. I don’t want to open it up to try until then.

Yogi Surprise Connecting with Opening Your Heart yoga sequence series card – This series is all about heart-opening poses. Probably something related to Mother’s Day and love. Check out the instruction page to download this sequence.

Energy Muse Chakra Healing healing stones – Back in 2010, I interviewed for this company! Crazy. They make jewelry based on the different energies that stones have. It’s a bit of mythological thinking mixed with ancient traditions. In this case, the chakra stones each correspond to a chakra and help channel that energy, I guess.

Sola Bar Jalapeno Wholesome Savory Meal – Whoa, I’ve never seen a bar like this one. Jalapeno flavored? Random. Since it’s very nutty, I don’t think I’d like it but I’ll give it a try and if I don’t, then Panda can have it.

The neti pot sealed the deal for me with this box. Sure, I could have gotten one myself, but it’s so much more exciting this way. What do you think about the products in this box?

[This post contains affiliate links. Signing up through them helps support my subscription and I’d be ever so grateful. :) All opinions are my own and I received no compensation for this review. I just purchased this box and wanted to share what I got!]

Things I’ve learned in Poland

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  • Stick your arm out for the bus or it won’t stop.
  • No need to stick your arm out for the light rail/tram. It will stop.
  • You never know where you’ll be able to purchase transit tickets. Not all buses, trams, and stops have a ticket machine.
  • Ticket validation means getting a timestamp on your ticket telling you when out expires.
  • Learn some Polish terms. Many locals don’t speak more than two words of English, one of which is usually “no.”
  • Pierogis are delicious. I’d only heard of them before, but never tried them.
  • The Warsaw symbol is a mermaid called Syrenka.
  • Milk bars (bar mleczny) are cafeterias from the communist era. Very cheap and tasty.
  • Kiss and ride is a drop-off area. It took a poster of a couple kissing and driving off for me to finally understand that term. Nobody ever explained it to me!
  • The days seem to start out nice and then a bout of rain comes along. After that, it gets really cold and dark for the rest of the night.
  • Many animals in the parks are used to people and will come up to you if you have food to share. Bring bread for the birds and raw walnuts for the squirrels!!

A layover in Munich

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Who says a 6-hour layover isn’t enough time to do a little exploring? We sometimes like to schedule moderately long layovers like that so we can go check out a city and get more bang for our travel buck.
Here’s what we were able to enjoy on our layover:

When landing, I hadn’t noticed the yellow patches in the picture, but once on the ground they’re hard to miss!

They’re these massive fields of bright yellow flowers! I wonder what plant they are?

We made our way to Isartor so we could find a nearby design book store my friend wanted to see.

The store, soda, turned out to be super deep and filled with interesting stuff! Calavera was happy. :)

We noticed fun bikes like these that we should try sometime.

Ooo, these round “meeting” bikes would be so hilarious!

Outside Schrannenhalle (looked like a grocer’s) were these amazing seats that wobbled. Delightful! And there were cool giant clothespin seats too.

The farmer’s market had gorgeous flowers.

I totally would have wanted these if I could take them home.

In the center of the market was this mysterious pole. I couldn’t figure out the significance.

For lunch, we stopped at Zwickl and ended up ordering identical meals: house meatballs with potato salad and ginger lemonade. Who knew the drinks would be so massive?!

Yum, these are pork and beef meatballs and a very pretty potato salad.

They have us plenty of condiments to go with the meal. We tried all the sauces and had different favs.

Walking back to the metro, we saw this dazzling light shop.

If we were staying longer we could get some fresh fruit. Looks great!

Back in the airport, we saw an amazing store of paper goods, called Fabriano. Even their lighting used paper, lol.

Woo hoo!! Free hot drinks at the airport before boarding!

And then it was off to the other leg of our flight. A day well-spent. :)

It felt very leisurely and somewhat touristy, but we got a lot done and saw some cool things. I call that a win.

Treatsie April 2016 review

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I ate these so quickly I nearly forgot that I haven’t reviewed the box yet!

Treatsie is $15 per box + $4.95 shipping and comes with artisan candy from 3-4 brands. That means about 6 or 7 different flavors of treats. Boxes are sent monthly with no option to skip. They offer a referral link program to earn store credit. Use my referral link and code FRBUCO01 to get double the treats (a purported $40 value) in your first box!

treatsie april 2016 box contents treatsie april 2016 info card

Salty Road Chocolate Chews in Deep Dark Chocolate: I was hoping they’d have a firmer texture like Riesen, but these are still good caramels. The salt granules could be a bit smaller so the shock of the saltiness doesn’t hit quite as hard. Still, popping one or two of these is the perfect pick-me-up in the afternoon.

Two Moon Shortbread in Vanilla Bean: These were soft and slightly crumbly. They made a good snack to bring along on the flight. I like the light flavor, which is different from the harder crunchier types I’ve had before.

Zlicious Confections Oatmeal Cookie Salted Caramel Corn: As advertised, these are truly addictive!! I mean, I’m not even into popcorn. These were fabulous though, nice and crunchy and sweet. The oatmeal flavor came a little after and was a nice aroma that lingered. I had to stop myself from eating the entire bag in one go. I’d absolutely get these again.

Jacobsen Salt Co. Salty Caramels: These are your standard caramels, soft and chewy. I powered right through them since there were only a few pieces. I wish the portion was larger!

All of these were tasty treats that I enjoyed. I also found a new fav! What do you think of the treats from this box? To get Treatsie, sign up with my link and code FRBUCO01 to get double the treats in your first box!

[This post contains affiliate links. Signing up through them helps support my subscription and I’d be ever so grateful. :) All opinions are my own and I received no compensation for this review. I just purchased this box and wanted to share what I got!]

NASM Volunteer Appreciation Night

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This Monday, the National Air and Space Museum held a Volunteer Appreciation Night for the folks who help out at the Udvar-Hazy Center and the NASM downtown. It was in the main hangar of the Udvar-Hazy Center, extending into the space shuttle area. Since Panda volunteers there, we decided to go and see what it was all about. Apparently they really stepped up their game this year and had a great event with delicious catering and a hired band with dancers and singers. There was even a 1950s theme with the performers.

nasm volunteer appreciation night in udvar-hazy center

When we first walked in and looked down in the hangar, we saw plenty of people mingling. There were food stations, stand-up bars, a live band, dancers, and singers.

nasm volunteer appreciation night food table with lobster ravioli

The first thing we did was help ourselves to all sorts of food! They had these lobster ravioli as well as chicken and beef dishes.

nasm volunteer appreciation night food table with mini sliders

Another table had an adorable spread of ingredients to make your own sliders. The patties were beef, mushroom, or salmon.

nasm volunteer appreciation night food table with poblano corn souffle

My favorite dish of the night, which is made of sweet corn and somewhat like a dessert.

nasm volunteer appreciation night drinks table with mugs stacked neatly in pyramid shape

They lined up the mugs so very neatly for us. Everything about the catering was wonderful. We were told that it didn’t use to be so fancy.

nasm volunteer appreciation night dessert table with plate of s'mores on a stick

How could you make s’mores an elegant snack? I’d say this is the way. These were delicious!! I need to try making my own.

nasm volunteer appreciation night bar with artfully stacked martini glasses

Small touches like this cool mini art sculpture made of martini glasses really elevated the feel of the event. The bartenders were very professional too.

We were very pleased with the event and went home happily full. I look forward to attending more of these and hopefully getting a chance to check out mine for the Natural History Museum another year.

Prospurly April 2016 review

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Oops, I almost forgot to write about this one! It’s been here since the weekend and I opened it up, but then got distracted with the busy work week.

Prospurly is just under $45 per box (with code for 10% off your subscription – use my referral links from this post) and comes with artisan foods, bath & body items, home products, and other sustainably crafted items. Boxes are sent monthly with no option to skip. They offer a referral program that earns you free boxes.

prospurly april 2016 box open with products showing prospurly april 2016 info card with product details

Holy Schmidt Coffee Co. Costa Rica Rio Jorco – Alas, I’m not a coffee drinker so this will have to go to someone else. I don’t know much about coffee, but I like that this is ecologically responsible.

Heather Lane Cosmetics Hand & Cuticle Salve in Garden Blend – This is a great item for spring. I like the unique ingredients, like plantain and mallow leaf. It’s wonderful for the rougher skin you might get from working outside or even washing dishes. My cuticles will be very happy with this!

The Moontree Jasmine Rose Cleansing Facial Serum – How cool! I love the actual flowers and petals floating in the serum and I’ve never had a cleansing serum before. I guess it’s sort of like the cleansing oil I use. I didn’t really smell the flowers though, so I wish they’d added some essential oils for an extra boost. I enjoy rubbing it in and feeling it sink in, softening my skin.

Rishi Tangerine Ginger tea – Totally saving this for school, when I think I will be drinking tea all the time (at least I’ll try). This one’s herbal so I’ll keep it for drinking before sleeping.

Lotus Natural LifeBlends Essential Oil in Allergy – This came at the perfect time. I was having an awful time with allergies I developed recently and I needed everything I could get that would help alleviate the discomfort. This roll-on helps with sinuses and it just feels soothing to apply to areas that I’m itchy too.

Free Mountain Seeds Wildflower Seed Bombs – Perfect for Earth Day and spring in general, these seed bombs will be fun to plant! It’s so exciting to see something sprout and grow, though I’m not good at keeping things alive beyond that initial stage. Still, these will be great to use when I want an assortment of flowers. I’ll probably save most until I’m done with school and have a place to garden. I wonder if my mom would like them…

The Moontree Blush & Blossom Rose Clay Mask – I like how this mask smells and having it in powder form makes it easy to bring along. I love that I can mix it with things other than water, like honey or yogurt. That sounds like fun! I look forward to trying that out.

I enjoyed this box and found many items to be very timely for the season. I’m not sure I’ll be able to give this subscription up! What do you think of this month’s box?

[This post contains affiliate links. Signing up through them helps support my subscription and I’d be ever so grateful. :) All opinions are my own and I received no compensation for this review. I just purchased this box and wanted to share what I got!]

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