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    How to Pack Like a Ninja

    Sponsored Post in collaboration with Ju-Ju-Be!

    I travel a lot. At least once a month I’m jet-setting from Los Angeles across states or oceans to appear at conventions, visit my family on the east coast, or explore a new city with my babe. New faces and sights are always nice, but the packing and unpacking used to take its toll… until I learned how to pack like a ninja.

    My husband likes to call my method of packing, “Bags in Bags in Bags.”

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    This is the roller duffel I packed for five days at a convention in Toronto.

    The contents:

    3 Ju-Ju-Be “Be Lights.” One for shoes, one for pants and skirts, one for nice shirts and dresses. Pro tip: Rolling your clothes instead of folding them will save you mucho room.

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    1 Ju-Ju-Be “Be Organized.” These three packing cubes are a game-changer. I used the long rectangular one for comfy t-shirts, the deep square one for bras and undies, and the smallest one for belts.

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    1 Ju-Ju-Be “Be Ready.” This makeup case is not only adorable, but the perfect size. I stuck a Small Set Piece in there for lipstick tubes, travel mascara, and a cover-up stick. Pro Tip: Decide on 1-2 makeup looks for your trip (a day and a night look, for example), then only bring the colors and palettes you need for them. No need to bring your entire beauty arsenal.

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    1 Ju-Ju-Be Large “Be Set” Piece. This holds all of my travel-size toiletries. I keep this packed with my essentials all the time and stored in my bathroom, so I don’t need to run around gathering everything before each trip. It’s a major time-saver.

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    2 Ju-Ju-Be Medium “Be Set” Pieces. One of these holds nail essentials, the other has jewelry. Travel-size nail polish and portable nail polish wipes are so convenient. If I don’t have time for a manicure before a trip, I know I can give myself a quick coat of polish in the hotel room. A clear, rapid-dry top coat is a must-have if you’re on the go. As for jewelry, I like to put my necklaces in pouches and then put the pouches inside the Set Piece so they don’t get tangled.

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    1 Ju-Ju-Be “Fuel Cell.” You could pack your favorite snacks in a Fuel Cell (they are technically little insulated lunch boxes), but in this case I used mine to hold my camera, an extra lens, and a card reader.

    In addition to the duffel, I also carried my new Ju-Ju-Be “Be Sporty” as my airplane carry-on.

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    Inside my Sporty was:

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    1 Ju-Ju-Be “MicroTech.” This cute case holds my iPad, which is an airplane travel essential. Pro-Tip: Download all your e-Books, TV shows, movies, music and podcasts a few days before you leave, so you’re not desperately downloading things at the airport, cursing its 1996-speed internet.

    1 Ju-Ju-Be “Fuel Cell.” This one, I packed with snacks. Airport food is notoriously overpriced and underwhelming, so your wallets and taste buds will thank you profusely for planning ahead. Pro-tip: If you’re going on an overnight flight, pick up an easy, portable meal from your favorite restaurant on the way to the airport. On my last overnight flight in June, I picked up spring rolls from a Thai restaurant down the street from me, and I was so happy I had them right before we landed around 6am. I tend to wake up starving.

    1 Water Bottle. Say no to $6 airport bottles of water. Instead, pack an empty water bottle that can be filled up after you go through security screenings. Lots of airports offer filtered water fountains now, which I really appreciate.

    If you’re going on a long or overnight flight, I’d also recommend bringing a Medium Be Set Piece with a toothbrush, toothpaste and mouthwash (because morning plane breath is no fun), ear plugs and an eye mask to block out light and sound, and travel-size hand lotion (because planes can be SO DRY.) Ladies, you can also throw in any feminine products you might need.

    When I got to my hotel, unpacking my roller duffel of Ju-Ju-Be bags was a breeze. It was like I had put everything in a drawer beforehand. Look how cute and organized it all looks!

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    I only had a precious few hours of sight-seeing time before heading off to the convention, and I was able to make the most of those hours because I was so organized with my packing.

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    Bags in Bags in Bags, ladies. Cute, efficient, and an excuse to keep a super large bag collection. Wink wink.

    If you want to start building your own Ju-Ju-Be collection, head on over to Shop Ju-Ju-Be!

    Until next time!

    C

    A Salty Greeting From East LA

    There’s nothing like showing up for an art walk and being greeted with signs that say, “‘The Art Movement is the REASON for Gentrification!'” “‘Elysian Valley is NOT for Sale!'” Ok, then. You’d rather us retreat. Message received.

    Salty greeting aside, the Frogtown Art Walk on Saturday evening was pretty cool. A bunch of studios had their doors open to the public, the taco selection was on point, bands were playing in the open air, and our sunset stroll along the river was peaceful. Steve was especially stoked about a vegan Mexican joint that came down from Oakland to set up a booth, while I delighted in sighting what was the human, grown-up version of Judy Funny (of 90s cartoon “Doug” fame) playing a set with her beatnick/folk band at the Spoke Bicycle Cafe.

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    I love art that you can interact with. This was my favorite studio stop. It basically turned you into a kaleidoscope. You stuck your head inside a triangle of mirrors and lights, then pushed different buttons to created different light patterns. Everything was projected onto a screen, live.

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    Oh, special shout out to the 3-year-old hawking “Nice Cold Lemonade!” out of her parents’ studio. It was the second-best thing we saw all evening (sorry kid, the human kaleidoscope took first place). We bought two cups, and it was definitely nice and cold.

    It finally feels like summer is waning and the evenings are a little cooler, so I’m back to my trusty ripped jeans (thank you, Nordstrom Rack). Of course, I had some Ju-Ju-Be bags in tow. I’ve been obsessed with their new Navigator print. The full collection drops on August 23rd!

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    Until next time, folks.

    The Girl-About-Town Summer Dress

     

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    I used to be a clothing hoarder.

    Maybe it’s an LA thing. When I lived in New York, I couldn’t walk three blocks without accidentally window shopping. Now my eyes are focused solely on the pavement ahead while I cruise the freeway every day. Maybe it’s an age thing. I am **so much more responsible** now.  Or maybe I finally, begrudgingly admitted that it doesn’t matter how many outfits I have in my closet, I still wear the same five things every day.

    Steve would give me an eyebrow raise on the “used to be” portion of my opening sentence. However, Scout’s Honor, I have significantly limited my wardrobe purchases and purged a lot of the excess. Which is why I currently only have one “going-out” type summer dress (pictured below). I snagged it on sale at Banana Republic, and I’ve only worn it a few times so far. It has pockets, a cute waist line and it’s super comfy. What more could a girl-about-town ask for?

    I also used this pretty little number in a shoot with Ju-Ju-Be. I am so glad that the photog suggested we pair this dress with their Black Magic print (black and white stripes). It’s something I never would’ve thought of on my own, but when I tried it, I loved the results. I really need to mix prints more.

    Ciao for now, my lovelies! I hope you’re enjoying the dog days of summer.

    LA’s Graceland is Obviously The Abby Lee Dance Company

    There are no secrets when it comes to my TV habits. I wear my never-missed-an-episode-of-Dance-Moms badge with more honor than a Thin Mint-hawking Girl Scout during cookie season. The tacky stage mothers, the ridiculously-themed dances, the megalomaniac dance teacher that reminds me of someone who got me started in ye olde business of show… Dance Moms has. it. all. There’s even a taxidermied dog, people. It had its own story line. This show is Reality TV gold.

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    Maybe I love it because I was once a kid at a suburban dance studio, furiously tapping, spinning and leaping in front of mirrors every week. Maybe it’s the glitter and pageant makeup. More likely, it’s Abby Lee’s delusions.

    Tara and I have known each other for a long time, but we didn’t really become blood sisters until we discovered our mutual love of Dance Moms. It pretty much dominates our conversations. We planned our road trip to the LA location of Abby Lee’s Dance Studio for months. I trekked 8.7 miles in traffic to get to the ALDC’s front doors. Just admit you’re jealous, Thelma and Louise.

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    We arrived on a Saturday morning. The doors were locked and the lights were dim. Was this a real dance studio, or just a reality TV set? It’s hard to tell in LA, where everything’s so shiny and pristine. X-ray glasses would be more useful than sunglasses in this town. Luckily, the “costume shop” or whatever was open next door. Glitter-encrusted ALDC souvenirs designed by the queen of loud-accessories were there for the buying. Obviously, we bolted inside.

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    The walls looked like an auditioning child barfed Pepto-Bismol all over them. A commissioned painting of the taxidermied dog hung behind the register. Sequin-covered hats, overpriced ripped tank tops, and what I think were Hammer pants hung on racks. A Russian woman greeted us before retreating to the back room. There was no music playing, and the silence was eerie.

    We pretended to shop, but really we were grabbing all the most hilarious merchandise so we could sneak photos with it. It was so quiet that we couldn’t even speak normally- it was all whispering and giggling. I felt like a kid misbehaving in church.

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    Finally, a bunch of teenagers with their moms came in and broke the awkward silence. Full-on fan girls, they came for some dance wear and hot pink sweatshirts. We dropped the whispering act and just started openly Snapchatting and taking photos.

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    Tara bought a t-shirt. I contemplated getting the ALDC program from this year’s recital, featuring Photoshopped glamour shots of their dancers kicking and leaping with a glow and stars around them. I thought it’d make a good coffee table book. Then I remembered that I didn’t actually have a coffee table, and passed.

    In case anyone was wondering, you can buy an autographed photo of Abby Lee at her costume shop. There was no price tag.

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    Back outside, we decided to kick our fandom up a notch and inspect the alleyway and parking lot. They regularly film scenes in both locations, so not only did we want to stand there… we were hoping to find a Starbucks cup that said “Melissa” on it. Alas, no.

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    I really wanted to see Abby’s car. She lives in the studio when she’s in LA. I thought maybe a  black SUV parked next to the back door could have been hers, but the keychain inside had boxing gloves on it. We reasoned that Abby’s keychain might have something glittery and froofy on it… but boxing gloves do still match her aggressive bulldog nature. Tara was adamant that this was not, in fact, her car. I want to go back and watch some old episodes to get a hard answer.

    Then Tara decided to peek in the dumpster.

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    We headed back to the front of the building and ran into some Australians. The mom told us that during their visit to LA, the only place her teenage daughter wanted to come was here, The Abby Lee Dance Company. Yep. In a town rich with Hollywood history, world-class beaches and some damn fine food, the ALDC was their first stop. This is why Tara nicknamed the ALDC “LA’s Graceland.”

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    We’re definitely going back when they’re filming to peek in the windows.

    I Deleted Facebook From My Phone and CALMED. DOWN.

    Ah, the mysterious Facebook algorithm. Comment on an article your friend shared about how a Trump presidency could result in nuclear disaster, and you’ll see five more posts about how Trump will systematically destroy our country (and a few about nuclear weapons in North Korea for good measure). Click on an article about how a woman’s body was found in a city dumpster, and you’ll see ten more murder articles. Suddenly, your feed is filled with alarming headlines and shocking photos. Pretty soon, it seems like the World. Is Ending. NOW. One morning, you actually think twice about leaving your house because you’re sure something horrible is going to happen, with you at the center of it all.

    At least, that’s what happened to my Facebook feed and me.

    On Facebook, I follow my favorite news outlets. I was using it to get my morning news. But somewhere along the way, I started clicking on more murder/terrorist/weapons posts instead of style/humanitarian/cat pics posts. It didn’t matter that The L.A. or New York Times posted Op-Eds or shared Style Section stories. The Facebook algorithm made sure those didn’t show up in my feed. The only ones that came up for me were about impending or actual disaster.

    It started to make me crazy.

    Every time I opened up ye olde Facebook App, I was getting small doses of doom: first thing in the morning after I woke up, riding in the elevator on the way to an audition, waiting in the lobby for a recording session, idly waiting for Steve to get home. It went something like this:

    Picture of friend’s kid looking cute, DOOM SCARY MURDER STORY, friend’s lunch, friend’s tropical vacation, DOOM SCARY POLITICS STORY, update from favorite brand, ad for something dumb, DOOM SCARY MISSING PERSON STORY, DON’T LEAVE YOUR HOUSE BECAUSE TERRORISTS, THE WORLD IS ENDING TOMORROW, VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN, oh look a cat pic, BE VERY, VERY SCARED BECAUSE EVERYTHING IS F*$#%^#!!!! AHHHHH!

    I’d browse Facebook looking for entertainment, but got anxiety instead. Being constantly bombarded with disaster stories started to change my perception of what was going on around me.

    My breaking point came while driving up Coldwater Canyon one morning. I was legitimately afraid that nuclear disaster was going to strike as soon as I reached the stoplight. An hour earlier, I had spent 30 minutes, scrolling through disaster stories on my FB feed. What happened to the uplifting “Humans of New York” posts? Humor columns? PET VIDEOS? They had vanished.

    It was time. I deleted Facebook from my phone.

    Look, it’s important to be informed about what’s going on locally, nationally and globally. But Facebook isn’t the place to get your news fix. There are many, many other options. Facebook will only give you more of what it thinks you want to see, based on what you interacted with last.

    Still, I missed being able to scroll through one app and see a bunch of articles, complete with photos and a few preview sentences, from different news outlets. I started going to the N.Y. Times, L.A. Times, Slate’s, etc. websites separately. Devoting a set time each day to get caught up on news was good for my psyche… but it didn’t feel the same.

    “Have you ever used your News app?” Steve said to me one night.

    I hadn’t. The little red icon still sat dutifully on my iPhone, waiting to be used, as it had been doing since I unboxed it. I tapped it.

    Haaaallelujah! The ability to see headlines and photos from all different media outlets that I FAVORITE?! And I can favorite a REGION to get local news? WHY had I never used this before?! (I’ll admit- I am so not up on apps. And I barely update the ones I do have).

    Woo hoooo.

    I still go to some mobile news sites regularly… but the News App has filled in a lot of what was missing in my morning scrolling. Also, it doesn’t only show one type of story based on the last story I clicked.

    And those tiny moments throughout the day when I’m jonesing for a little phone distraction to pass the time? Well, they’re no longer spent hoping for entertainment but getting doses of doom. I’ve been trying to be less phone-obsessed (and deleting FB has really helped with that), but when I do have the urge to look down during a long waiting-room session, I’ve been going directly to blogs. Or, obviously, Instagram and Snapchat.

    And yes, I still log on to Facebook on my laptop (I don’t think I’ll ever be able to quit it completely), but because I don’t sit in front of a computer all day, my access has been slashed. It’s much more tolerable in designated bursts. And without all the SURPRISE DOOM posts, I’ve been a lot calmer.

    So, what’s your Facebook feed like? Has something like this happened to you? Let’s talk. Leave me a comment and let me know if this was totally out of left field and I am cray, or if this is a thing that’s happening to other people, too.