We headed up to Johnson’s Beach in Guerneville yesterday, and had a great day.
The Russian River beach has been in operation for nearly a century, and it feels exactly that quaint. They have everything you need for a day by the river, so you can just show up in with your suit and a towel for a day of swimming. We’ve been going for years.
There’s no charge for admission, but we rent a beach umbrella, chairs, and a couple of tubes for $5 each. You can also get paddle boats, canoes, and kayaks by the hour. The beach is rocky, so one of the guys comes out with a mallet and pounds the umbrella in for you. They also dredge out a shallow area where the tiny kids can wade.
You can bring a cooler, or visit the snack bar for lunch. It’s so chill, and easy, and Hank always finds kids to play with when we bring a little collection of squirt guns. If you’re a river person, it doesn’t get any more perfect.
I had about two minutes left to fly before potentially giving birth next to the drink cart, so Brad and I headed to Palm Springs. I took a carry on and a backpack, and this is what I packed for five days. Lots of this stuff I’ve had forever, so links are mostly to similar items.
• Tank Dress H&M | I’ve been living in non-maternity jersey stretch dresses so as to take full advantage of this nine-month period where a gut is adorable. Here’s a fancier one than mine.
• Saltwater Sandals | These are a million years old, impossible to destroy, and my go-to travel sandal.
• Romper PJs | I try to pack PJs I can wear out if I need to, and these are good by the pool. For romping.
The belly! See you soon, baby.
This is me just after we landed, I’d changed shoes, but otherwise this is a pretty typical travel outfit for me — stretchy and PJ-esque.
• H&M knit dress | Another stretchy non-maternity piece, the skirt was originally ankle length, but I stained the bottom, so I cut it off. Then I cut the sleeves off. Then I realized you can totally customize knit dresses just like you can T-shirts and why aren’t we all doing this constantly?
• Open Cardigan | I got this in Australia, and I’ve worn it a lot less than I anticipated because ironing. Pbbbbt.
• Maternity Swimsuit | I figured I’d wear this like twice, so I went with basic and cheap. I’d go bikini, but my belly button is a monstrosity. It’s like eight inches across, and I feel actual shame about it.
• Straw Hat, vintage | I got it in a consignment shop in San Louis Obispo, and it makes me feel all gaucho. That’s a bit of rosemary tucked in the band after a walk.
Normally, you could get away with packing two sundresses and a bikini to Palm Springs, but we’ve already discussed my belly button and it was February. It gets cold in the desert at night always, but in February? It actually rained all day the day I wore this.
• Black Maternity Pants | I’ll never live without black pants again. So much more versatile than jeans for me.
• Gap Body Long-sleeve T-shirt | Also not technically maternity, but I always pack it as an under layer when I travel.
• Metallic Pewter Tieks | This was the other pair of shoes I packed, and always pack, and may they never stop making them amen.
• Vintage Silk Scarf | Can you tell I’m falling asleep in this photo? This trip was 80 percent nap.
• Vintage embroidered Mexican shirt | You find these a lot in antique stores in California, but they’re all over eBay.
• Stretch jersey tube skirt | Not maternity, but if you don’t own one of these, get one. So crazy comfortable. The only problem is that they tend to turn inside out when you go to the bathroom and then you’re walking around with your tag out. Be ye forewarned.
I don’t normally wear purple, in part because that poem made me uncomfortable about it, but the embroidery on this was too beautiful to pass up, and it covers the yoke in back as well.
• Silk Scarf Top | I’d owned this lovely hand-painted silk scarf for years and never worn it. So I made it into a top by folding it into a triangle, cutting a slit for my head along the fold, and then hand-stitching a rolled hem. Took about half an hour, and it packs down to nothing. Makes a great suit coverup as well. Do this immediately.
• Black Tank Top
This is how I traveled home with pool hair.
• Vintage Silk Scarf
• Urban Outfitter Sunglasses
• American Apparel deep-V tee | My go-to for nursing.
• H&M Long Sweatshirt | Not a maternity piece, I think it was actually from the men’s department, but I wore this when I was pregnant with Hank, and kept right on wearing it until now. H&M men’s section has the best stuff. (Speaking of which, another option.)
• Muji Foldable Shoulder Bag | I bought this in France when I realized that I’d never make it all day on foot with a heavy leather purse. It’s nylon so it zips down to a little pouch I can throw in my luggage, and weighs nothing.
• My backpack with camera and electronics.
• My Dopp kit
• An extra, zip-down tote to carry home thrift store treasures.
And that’s it. You can do it! Thou shalt not check.
The best travel tips are always from friends, so I thought I’d share some of my favorite hotels. I sometimes plan trips around where I’d like to stay, and though I’m devoted to airbnb lately, these are a few hotels where you should stay if you ever get the chance.
The hotels on this list meet all my criteria for a perfect visit — the bedrooms are prettier and more comfortable than the one I have at home, the common areas are nice enough that I like to hang out there, there’s somewhere to soak (a deep bathtub, a hot tub, a heated pool), good coffee is available first thing in the morning, and the people who work there go out of their way to be kind.
Most of them are in California, because I love road trips, but there are a couple bonus places here too:
boon hotel + spa
If you’re heading to the Russian River Wine country, this is the most relaxing, fun place to stay. Modern accommodations hidden in a redwood forest, a central heated pool and hot tub with an honor bar, and most of the fourteen rooms have private patios. The owner Krista is a chef, she owns two restaurants in town as well, so the coffee and breakfast delivered to your door in the morning is always seasonal and delicious.
San Louis Obispo, California
I can’t do this place justice, you must go and bring as many friends as you can convince. The Madonna Inn has been around since the 1950s; it’s the halfway point for a drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles, and was built by a couple with a vision. This hotel is one of my favorite places anywhere, so kitschy it transcends and circles back to art. Each room has its own very distinct theme, so choose carefully from the list of photos on the site (Irish Hills is one of my favorites). The dining room, and everything in it, is pink, and there are hand-to-heaven dinosaur bones in the boulders that form the fireplace. The food is terrific, as are the cocktails, which you can enjoy in the bar, or floating in the epic heated pool overlooking the valley. There’s a live swing band every Saturday night, and I adore it. Go here. You must go.
Los Angeles, California
I stayed here by happenstance because I wanted to be close to a friend. The lush colors and quirky interior felt like Buenos Aires to me, and it turns out the owner is an Argentine. There’s a great, small restaurant on site, and when I was there the Eggslut food truck pulled up in the mornings for coffee and breakfast. (Is that still a thing? Not sure.) The hotel room was cozy and quiet, and my room felt personal, like I was staying with a good friend.
Ace Hotel, Portland
The Ace Hotels are now officially a chain with seven hotels all over the world, but their second property in Portland is still my favorite. The rooms are spacious and bright, with big windows that still open, and many have deep claw footed tubs. Downstairs, you can work in the library overlooking the lobby, there’s strong wifi throughout. The lobby is attached to a Stumptown coffee shop, so grab a cup and settle in with their solid selection of reading material. The hotel restaurant has a bar with bartenders who know what they’re doing, and I do not say that lightly. There’s a vintage photobooth, and twee bikes you can borrow, but the overall feeling is laid back. If you love the Ace aesthetic as much as I do, their sister property in Palm Springs is also dreamy.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
I should note that I’ve never stayed at Home Hotel, but spent a lot of time with traveling companions who did, and visited often when I lived in Argentina for a month. It feels just like home should, a relief from the city outside. There are cross stitch samplers in the elevators, greenery all around, and everything is set up to be simple and comfortable. Great food and drinks on site, but they also have a visitor’s guide that outlines all the management’s favorite places in town. By the time I discovered it, I’d spent weeks finding most of the places that were already on their list. Even if you aren’t staying at Home (it’s pricey), it’s worth swinging by for a drink or a snack and asking for a guide.
If you’ve ever stayed somewhere that felt just right, please tell so I can add it to my list of places to try, which is right here: travel | unique hotels.
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Thanks so much for the Minneapolis tips, everyone! I’m exploring like crazy and the food and cocktails here are so good. I made a reservation at Piccolo to celebrate our first night in town, and it was a huge treat.
I bit into this before I thought to take a photo, but that snowy dust is olive oil, which they powdered presumably using magics.
They have a 5-course tasting menu for only $55, and our waiter Xan made great suggestions for wine to pair with the courses.
The room was so sunny and happy. One of the nicest meals I’ve had.
Also, and maybe this sounds odd, but the bathroom was charming. Navy blue walls with a gold peacock feather wallpaper on one wall and lots of attention to detail. I liked it so much that I asked the waiter who designed it, and apparently it was the proprietor of a local boutique called Honeyshine. So if you go, make sure to stop into the loo.
4300 Bryant Ave. S.
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I’ve never been to Minnesota before, but I’m in Minneapolis for a few days, so I’d love some tips. I’m particularly looking for delicious items of food to put in my mouth — like the best doughnut, or best bloody mary, that kind of thing. Also, I’m curious about fun places to shop, especially vintage and second hand.
Last night our waiter at the Mexican food restaurant said, “The green salsa is gonna be our Salsa Verde.” Also, there were key terms on the back of the menu explaining the types of peppers and what “queso” was and such. For me, it was exotic, like the menu at Denny’s needing a glossary. The food, in case you’re wondering, was delicious.
So far, Midwesterners are living up to their reputation of being crazy nice, and the streets downtown are clean enough that I’d feel comfortable picnicking on the sidewalk.
Hat in the air,
(Update: I wanted to edit the menu paragraph after a couple of people pointed out that my comments came across as rude, but decided to apologize and explain my intent in comments instead. Search for *** to find my notes.)
Last week, I showed you what I keep in my purse kit, and a bunch of you asked me about how I managed to seal SPF and makeup inside straws for tiny transport.
Most of the secret lies in owning a heat sealer. I own one by accident for a project I did a couple years ago, but the sucker is so damn handy that I do encourage you to get one. (Here’s a mini heat sealer for $25 on Amazon, or you can get a more versatile one for $10 more.) That’s said, if you don’t feel like buying one, you can apparently do the same thing with a lighter. I would obviously burn myself, so I’ll leave that to the pros.
Here’s how I make my own travel-sized toiletries.
- a few plastic straws
- a heat sealer
- bottles of whatever you’d like to repackage (works much better if the bottle has a small hole and is squeezable)
- a small plastic bag or extra straws
I use the plastic bag or extra straws to “clean” the sealer if product leaks onto it. I just clamp down on the plastic and most of the sunscreen or whatever lifts off with it.
OK, let’s do this! Turn your heat sealer on, then squeeze the desired amount of product into the end of the straw.
Use a Q-Tip to push the product into the straw a bit. If the head of your swab isn’t big enough, you can puff the cotton up until it is.
Place the open end of the straw in the heat sealer and press down lightly until you hear it click. Voila, sealed. Then repeat on the other side of your product, remove from sealer, and use your scissors to clip your newly sealed packet off of the straw.
I like to label mine with tape because I find that Sharpie rubs off if I try to label the actual straw. To use the packets, you just pinch one of the ends to open, like a honey stick or plastic Pixy Stick, or if it’s stubborn you can stab it with a safety pin. I keep them in a dark place, because sunlight can get through the straw and damage things like sunscreen and makeup.
It’s so easy to do, and so useful. Also, I use my heat sealer for lots of other things, mostly repackaging food into smaller portions for Hank’s lunches on the cheap. Cool, right? Low fives.
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This is my purse kit, and I use it several times a day, especially when I’m traveling. Everything pictured fits in that tiny pencil case on the left, and I move it from bag to bag so I always have a little packet of musts. Here’s what’s in it:
• Tampon, whether I need it or not, because I’m a sister.
• Fugly earphones that have a microphone for calls in the car or Spotify while I’m on a walk.
• Bobby pin
• Safety pin
• Single-serve eye drops, did you even know these existed? Best.
• Tide to Go pen, which is some sort of stain-removing witchcraft, highly recommend.
• Eye liner
• Dental floss, both the circular white container and the wand.
• Pilot G-TEC-C4 pen, which is smaller and has a much finer pen than my beloved Pilot Precise
• Burt’s Bees Lip Balm, so pepperminty and tingly.
• My two favorite shades of Maybelline Super Stay (Keep Up the Flame and Spice), which never ever comes off in a way that will startle you.
• Homemade teeny packets of SPF and concealer, which I have heat sealed in a straw because I am MacGyver. These make me crazy happy.
• Two bandaids and some fashion tape, which I use for fixing blown hems or holes in clothing, secured with a binder clip.
• Hair band
• Packet of asprin
• Tube of Weleda Skin Food, which I’m always pushing on people because it smells so good and makes your hands velvety.
• The pencil case is by Danica Studio.
All of the things, at your fingertips my friend. So good. Am I the only one who does this?