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Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Why You Need a Vacation

Travel is important for a lot of people. It gives you a chance to reset, learn, get out of your comfort zone (sometimes), feel refreshed and relaxed, and can help you reconnect with yourself and others. I don't know who I am if I'm not always planning a trip. I don't understand people who don't like or want to travel, because I never stop adding to my destination list.

Travel is important for a lot of people. It gives you a chance to reset, learn, get out of your comfort zone (sometimes), feel refreshed and relaxed.

I hope you have a trip coming up to help you feel better, keep you healthy, and give you a break from the daily grind. 
What's next on your travel list?

Saturday, September 16, 2023

10 Ways to Stay in Shape While Traveling

When you’re out and about flitting from tourist attraction to subway station to lunch, it’s hard to keep up with your diet and exercise regimen. Even though you’re out walking all day, and it may seem like you’re getting a lot of exercise, you’re probably also eating a lot of high-calorie and fatty foods that pretty much negate all the good you're doing with the walking, hiking and stair-climbing. Those extra pieces of cake and pie for dessert aren’t helping either.

Calories do count on vacation, so if you want to stay on track and earn those meals, add some extra exercise to your itinerary.
Photo by Oksana Taran on Unsplash

Contrary to popular belief, calories do count on vacation, as much as you wish they didn’t. So, if you want to stay on track and earn those meals, you might want to add additional exercise to your vacation itinerary.

Get outside

I love to be outdoors when I travel. Walking a neighborhood, strolling a park, browsing the farmers' market. It’s the best way to see your destination, so why not get out a little more and burn extra calories?

Go running – You’re going to bring along a pair of walking shoes anyway, so why not make them running shoes that are also good for walking. If you run at home, then keep your routine set and get up early to run around the block or the hotel grounds.
Jump rope – This is an easily packable item and gets you great exercise anywhere you have some extra room. Not just little kids love to jump rope. It’s fun and helps you tone and keep in shape. Make sure you buy a nicely weighted one that will stand up to the rigors of the road

Make your lodging your gym

You walked all day yesterday, but you got up early in order to watch the news or eat breakfast in your room. As much as you know you should put on your workout clothes and hit the gym, the thought of looking presentable just doesn’t sound appealing. You aren’t alone. While you’re waiting for your bagel to toast or you’re listening to the weather report, you can take advantage of the floor space in your room to get in a quick workout.

Chair crunches – If you have a chair, you have a low-impact gym. Work your abs by sitting on the edge and pull your legs up or pump your legs as if you are riding a bicycle.
Do lunges – You’ll feel a lot less awkward doing them in the privacy of your room than out in public, too.
Calf raises – Do these anywhere, like while you are brushing your teeth, making oatmeal or waiting in line to get into the Louvre (for bonus exercise points).
Resist – Pack a resistance band (or set) in your carry-on and do more strenuous workouts in the time you have available. There are also fancy loop bands you can use to strengthen your legs/thighs.
Boxing – You don’t have to bring along full gear and a punching bag, but a pair of weighted gloves is a fabulous way to tone your arms and legs. Bring along a DVD to pop into your laptop or just search for a few good training videos on YouTube.
Do Pilates You can do yoga and Pilates just about anywhere. Some accommodations will rent or loan out mats for your use. If you've got room in your bag, bring your own mat or a Pilates bar, so you can get your stretches in and limber up for your next vacay day.

Use what’s available at your accommodation

Your hotel or rental property might have some useful ways to help you work out. If the weather cooperates enough to be outside, then you’re in luck.

Go for a swim – Almost all hotels have a pool. Pack your swimsuit and you can get in some laps. If a fancy indoor pool is available, then you can swim if the weather is uncooperative.
Use the stairs – Walk or run up the stairs to your room and you’ll start to feel the burn. Generally, the stairwell is pretty private, so you also won’t be disturbing others if you are up early or late doing this. Upgrade to uphill lunges by taking two at a time.

Keeping up with an exercise routine when you travel will keep you motivated to continue doing it at home, even if it takes you a few days to get back into your healthy eating habits. You’ll feel better about yourself and might even add to your regular workouts. Exercise is also great for your mental health and helping you sleep better.

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Experiencing Haunted New Orleans

New Orleans has always claimed to have a rich history in the occult and creepy myths, so taking a trip to indulge in the historical part of this city is definitely a must. The city has long been called one of the most haunted cities in America and for several reasons – catastrophes, violence and close quarters being among them. Everywhere you turn, you can find ghostly haunts:

New Orleans has long been called one of the most haunted cities in America and for several reasons. Here are some ghostly haunts you can visit.

The Omni Royal Hotel

Once the building for the city’s slave market and the site of great brutality, the hotel is now a grand place to stay and home to many spirits. If you stay here, you may see lights flicker and faucets turn on and off.

The Bourbon Orleans

This former orphanage run by nuns still has kids running along its corridors. Guests have reported hearing children’s voices, seeing nuns in the hallways and feeling electrical charges near the stairwells.

The Dauphine House Bed & Breakfast

Some guests just refuse to leave. This historic house, built right outside of the French Quarter in the 1800s, has doors that open and close on their own.

Brennan’s New Orleans

A staple of the city since 1946, Brennan’s is not only a highly rated fine dining establishment, but it also has its own ghosts. In the Red Room, a man living in the building hanged himself after murdering his family. One of the cooks loved his job so much he continues to try to do it after his death and pots and pans clank in the kitchen when no one is around.


The owner of this well-known eatery was so deeply devoted to his restaurant and its patrons, that he is said to come back night after night – sometimes with other dearly departed family members – to check on how things are going.


Not one to dismiss the presence of ghosts who roam the earth, Muriel’s greets wandering spirits with a waiting plate of food and has even turned what was once the old slave quarters into a séance room. A former owner, devastated by losing his home in a poker game, committed suicide in this same room, making it a hotbed of paranormal activity.

The Pharmacy Museum

Set on the site of the very first apothecary shop, the Pharmacy Museum holds a wide variety of cures and artifacts from old medical practices and voodoo rituals, including ghastly instruments used in the past for dentistry, many by the former owner, a dentist known to conduct grisly experiments on patients.

St. Louis Cemetery No. 1

Nearly everyone has heard of the Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau and you can visit her tomb in New Orleans’ most haunted cemetery. Hundreds of thousands are buried in this one square block, with the tombs being reused over and over. Visit during the day or take a haunted tour of the cemetery at night for a spookier feel and the chance to see some of the dead residents as well.

Lafayette Cemetery No. 1

Located in the Garden District, this beautiful cemetery is full of the tombs of those who died of yellow fever in the 1850s. It is surrounded by stately homes and mansions and has free tours each day. Shadows are seen frequently around the grounds.

Everywhere you go in The Big Easy seems to have an interesting story behind it. If you want learn more about the past of New Orleans and its ghostly inhabitants consider taking a guided tour. There are many to choose from, including ghost walks, vampire walks and historical city tours. They last around 90 minutes and are informative and affordable. They will surely make your trip much more interesting.

Have you been to a haunted location or on a haunted tour of New Orleans?

Saturday, September 9, 2023

Traveling with Halloween Costumes

It's that time again! Time to think about Fall travels. I like to travel during the holidays, and one of those holidays is Halloween. I'm an adult who will dress up for any reason. Costumes are fun. Even if you're just looking to pack a costume for the kids, they can end up taking up a big part of your carry-on, which is all priority space.  

We have visited Disney parks multiple times with costumes and still accomplished carry-on-only travel, so here are some fun costumes you can pack.

We have visited Disney parks multiple times with costumes and still packed light and accomplished carry-on-only travel, so I think we've done it right. Here are some fun costumes that you can easily pack:


Hi Barbie! She's all the rage and soon she's coming to streaming. Everyone can be a Barbie or Ken. You just need some bright colors to make it work. Maybe you dressed up as a Barbie or Ken when you went to see the movie. Go hard on the pink, add a couple accessories (like these heart glasses or this necklace), and nobody will be able to mistake what your costume is. 

Sports Fan

This was a back-up plan of mine, because one October we visited Disneyland and it was suuuuuuuuuuuper hot. I knew the outfit I'd brought wasn't going to do me any favors, so I pivoted and ran to a sports store and purchased an LA Angels t-shirt, hat, lanyard, and matching sweat bands. Because it was the local baseball team, people got really excited seeing me coming. I was able to rewear that t-shirt on the rest of my trip, too. You probably already have some sporty gear for your chosen team. Add multiple pieces to really push it over the top.

Ice Cream Man or Barista

Eric doesn't like to wear involved outfits, because the added layers make him too hot. Ice cream man or barista really only requires an apron, hat and name tag. You can wear your regular clothes underneath, since most everything works. Purchase pieces separately, or buy the complete costume:

Free Guy

I really loved this movie and you don't have to be Ryan Reynolds to pull it off. You can purchase the above costume from Amazon, or you probably already have a shirt and tie that will work, and you can just order a name tag to go with it. You can add a set of blue light glasses or carry around a cup of coffee to complete the look.

Postal Carrier

Three easy pieces - a vest, hat, and bag - make this great outfit, plus you can use the accessory as your day bag and it'll look stuffed with mail. You may need to add some better stitching and a good closure before you head out, but that's not too hard to do. You don't want all your snacks and whatever leaving a trail behind you. 

Another idea for you is to use a blue bag you already have and add a logo to it with double-sided tape or sticky-backed velcro. I really love this Travelon bag for travel. The blue is a lovely dark color and it has anti-theft features.

Basic Witch

Most of us travel with a little black dress. If this is true of you, then you don't have to do much more. Pack a fun witch hat (these are great, don't require much maintenance, and you can add a variety things to them) and maybe some chunky jewelry that really says "witch". You can wear whatever black shoes you've brought to go with your dress. I, generally, just bring black flats that go with everything. A wand really caps things off, if it's not going to be inconvenient to tote around with you. It will make for fun, magical photos though.

Squid Game

This was such a phenomenon that almost everyone is going to get this costume. It's also laid back and comfy, and great for cooler climates, because you can easily layer warmer pieces underneath it if you need. You can get the official costume or add your own numbers to a generic track suit that you can wear again not on Halloween.

Clark Kent

Want to be a (somewhat) secret superhero? You probably have a white button-down shirt and a tie. Get yourself a Superman t-shirt to wear underneath and arrange your shirt partway open and your tie askew to look like you're Clark ready to quick-change. If you don't have a pair of glasses already, head to your local dollar store and buy a pair of black glasses that you can pop the lenses out of. 

Artist, Beatnik, Mime or French Person

I really loved this outfit that I wore for work one year. It's easy to do and still allowed me to move around like normal. I have several striped shirts, but if you don't, you can buy the whole costume. This makes a fun couple's costume, too. Here's the whole outfit for women and for men.


Replace the beret above with a black knit cap and carry a money bag (if you're lazy and cheap like me) or get the whole look with gloves and a mask to be an old-school robber. All you need is a pair of black pants and shoes and you're good to go. Get this in short sleeve or long sleeve if it's cooler out. If you're in need of a real purse to hold your credit cards and keys and stuff, there's always this bag

Sorry for this terrible picture. Good thing I've learned to take more and better ones since this.

On Safari

I feel like everyone has one of these outdoor shirts in khaki, brown or white. Get yourself a matching hat and add some cheapo binoculars and now you look like you're on safari. Easy peasy.


You are one, so this should be easy. All you need is a Hawaiian shirt, a camera, and a map. Ask people for directions for more effect. I like these phone cases that look like cameras that you can wear around your neck, so you aren't carrying around something unnecessary.

You may see more costume suggestions before Halloween, because I love being creative with just a few things. I hope your Fall travels are looking good. Have you ever tried to travel with a costume?

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, and I may be monetarily compensated if you make a purchase through any of them. Thanks in advance for helping me keep this blog going with your purchases.

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

How Are People Traveling In 2023?

Now that we're 3/4 through 2023, it's time to look at what new travel trends have emerged. I know we've been traveling a little differently now than we did 3, 5, or even 10 years ago. Last year we threw caution to the wind and went all-in on a trip to Paris on a brand new airline and we genuinely have no regrets. We have been traveling more with family (specifically, my mom), visiting more places on those trips that are historically important to us, and we even took a trip to celebrate a wedding.

Travel feels even more of a privilege to me than it did before and I am grateful for every trip I get to go on. Let's see how 2023 travel proves this.
Photo credit

Travel feels even more of a privilege to me than it did before and I am grateful for every trip I get to go on. I'm planning a short trip to Vancouver, BC with the help from Internet friends who live there. I basically know what I want to do there, but I asked for recommendations on dining and coffee shops and I wasn't disappointed in the feedback I got and will probably enjoying some of those things with new in-person friends. It's always lovely to experience things with friends, especially when they are showing you some of their favorite things. I'm trying to connect more with people when I travel (I was able to see a friend on our short trip to San Francisco) and make sure I visit any open-air or farmers' markets on trips, where I can talk to locals and learn more about where I'm visiting. It might be through someone's favorite coffee spot or a rancher's story about how they raise their cattle to be happy in the field and ultimately top-tier beef at his stand or a chat with an Uber driver about their home country or bonding with a couple in a theme park line. I find myself craving more moments like this when I'm away from home and I can only think that's a great thing and is a big motivator for at least half this list. 

Have you been planning any of the above type of travel? 

Friday, September 1, 2023

Happy Return To Hogwarts Day!

The last few months have been pretty busy, getting ready for several Potter events and visiting Hogwarts while in Universal Hollywood. Now, I'm on to planning next year's party and working on Yule Ball for our Fandom Forward chapter. So, let's have a look back at my magical year that's prepped me for Back to School time:

Let's have a look back at my magical year that's prepped me for Back to School time.

In June, we took a road trip to Los Angeles, since we didn't get to go earlier in the year. We hit up Super Nintendo World (in Universal) for Eric's early birthday, and I took a little time to savor a Butterbeer and then stroll through Hogwarts to take in Forbidden Journey. 

I had to take a moment to visit one of my favorite characters, The Sorting Hat, then I went on a journey with Harry, browsed Filch's Emporium, said hello to Buckbeak and then we took a turn through all our favorite shops.

July was a whirlwind of working on crafts for my annual party and planning Wizarding Weekend. Every year the non-profit I work with, PDXpelliarmus, works with a local hotel that used to be a school, we celebrate Harry Potter's birthday with a 3-day event that includes costume contests, trivia, movies, a Horcrux hunt, themed food and drinks, and local magical vendors that make up Diagon Alley, Knockturn Alley, and Hogsmeade. All our profits go to charity and we collect school supplies. On Saturday I dressed as the Knight Bus conductor on vacay and Sunday I supported Ron's fave Quidditch team. We made friends, we made memories, and most importantly we made a lot of money for Boys & Girls Aid, which helps foster kids in Portland get all the school supplies they need (and other necessities). 

Generally, the next weekend is full of more Potter stuff, because that's when I have my annual party, but we put it off a few weeks this year. Next up, we had our traditional Harry Potter tea at a local tea shop (Clockwork Rose) with friends. I scrambled the night before to put something together, because we always wear new outfits, and we showed up as employees from Honeydukes and Wiseacre's. Tea was fabulous. The company was wonderful. The atmosphere was magical. You can read more about previous years here.

And now, let's get to my 9th annual Potter party. The theme this year was Lockhart Throws Harry a Valentine's Birthday, because I thought it was funny. I asked folx to bring a handmade Valentine for either Harry or Lockhart for House Points, and though we had a small turnout this year (fair, since I didn't hype it up or post the date until much closer to the party date than normal, so lots of people were out of town), almost everyone brought a valentine and they were so creative. 

Every year I come up with N.E.W.T.-level trivia questions from the books and we then do two other games. It was going to be warmer than usual, which is also why I plan it as an evening party, when it's shadier in the backyard, so I chose some low effort games. The first was called Transfiguration, and I stole it from a previous event I went to. You give each team playdough and a cauldron full of clues. I had easier ones that were worth 1 point and then harder ones, like the Knight Bus, that were worth 3, and they took turns transfiguring their dough and guessing. I gave them a 5-minute time limit to get as many as they could. (I also gave each table a Transfiguration mat, which was a piece of laminated cardstock, just to save my tablecloths and give them a blank surface.) This went over really well, but not as well as Pixie Catch.

This was one of those games I thought would be stupid and/or not work at all, but it turned out to be the most popular, so I would definitely say this is a great one for all ages. Each team had 3 minutes total to catch as many "pixies" as possible. I gave them a "practice" pixie - it was white instead of blue - to figure out how they worked for 5 minutes before we officially started playing. Those pixies are wily and unpredictable and hard to catch. I purchased three sets of "magic butterflies" and butterfly nets. Teams with 2 people got 90 seconds each to catch and throw, and teams with 3 people got 60 seconds each, so everyone got a chance to do both. I wanted this to last longer than a previous game from last year, so I made each team go separately.

Lastly, we brought back our raffle. Throughout the year, I buy/collect magical items and then raffle them off for charity. I feel like Harry would be proud to know a group of fun people who are kind and charitable. We can party, but it's ultimately in celebration of Harry, so giving back is always on my mind. In previous years, we've done a sock drive and book drive, but the raffle is always more popular, because it's exciting and people go home with (more) stuff. 

The key to this is to give guests a tiered ticket system - we do $1 each, 6 tickets for $5, or 25 tickets for $20 - and let them give cash or Venmo/Paypal. Once I pull a winning ticket, I toss all the non-winners in a big cauldron, have someone pull from that at the end of the regular raffles, and the person who wins the big pull goes home with a bigger prize. I've done House copies of books, until I stopped giving money to The Dark Lord, and a handmade broom by a local artisan. It doesn't have to be expensive, just something you know people will be excited to win.

Throughout the party, I barked out love poems, as only a grumpy cupid dwarf can, and doled out points. At the beginning of each party everyone gets their own handmade wand that has a tag attached with a wood type, core, and properties. I make these myself with hot glue and dowels and paint, but they are all different. I put them handle down in a cauldron and people feel around for the wand that chooses them. After that we do Sorting. The hat is for show and people choose a pin from another cauldron (it's a theme) and that's the house they sit with. Every year it's different, so you end up with new teammates. But we have plenty of mingle and food time before, during, and after, so everyone talks to each other.

At the end of the party, before we announce House Cup winners, everyone gets a goodie bag, which I try to theme to the party. This year everyone got a signed photo of Lockhart, some Cupid Crystals (peach heart gummies in heart-shaped containers), a chocolate frog with cards, and these DIY sticker sheets. After I announce the winners (woohoo Hufflepuff!), I give out the House Cup, which are different goodie bags with a trophy in it. This year, I forgot to take pics of them, but I used my Cricut to cut out ribbon silhouettes out of cardstock and then added little mirrors to them, because Lockhart is vain.

We cap the night off with everyone leaving a memory in the Pensieve. I hand out slips of paper and people write down their favorite party memory or favorite thing about Harry Potter and toss it into the Pensieve. It serves and a little fun reminder of things that happened each year, and it's anonymous, so I mostly get cute little notes with no names. This year, someone wrote down their "top 6", and I was very impressed they got it all on that little piece of paper. Everyone else's was about how fun catching pixies was. LOL! After the party, all the memories are put into a folder with the year, so we can do it all again next time. 

Okay, thanks for indulging in my Pottermania over the last couple months. I hope you all have a great trip back on the Hogwarts Express. Have you played any good party games that can be adapted to be magical?

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links and I may be monetarily compensated should you make a purchase through any of them. Your purchases allow me to keep running this blog and bringing you the non-Potter content you crave, so thanks in advance and happy partying.

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