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My Favorite Packing Essentials That Make Traveling Easier

Let it be known: I traveled A LOT in 2017. From our EuroTrip in February and March, to regular flights to and from Boston for wedding planning, and then our honeymoon in Greece, I’ve spent a lot of time on planes, in hotels, packing and repacking. I’ve always been an over-packer. I’m that person who packs the new-with-tags top that’s been sitting in my closet for three months, thinking that maybe I’ll just happen to wear it on my upcoming trip (guess what? I never do!). By the end of a trip I’ll usually stare at my suitcase and kick myself for bringing way too much stuff. However, because we traveled so much over the course of the last year I’ve gotten MUCH better at packing. I can attribute a lot of that improvement to the packing essentials I’ve found that really make traveling easier. Because these items have helped me so much, I decided to do a roundup of my favorites to share with you. Hopefully you find something new that helps you for an upcoming trip!

 

Samsonite Softside Spinner Suitcase

Packing Essentials That Make Traveling Easier ll www.littlechefbigappetite.com

Travis and I each got one of these suitcases to use as our checked baggage before our Eurotrip earlier this year. These Samsonite bags are extremely lightweight and the four wheels at the bottom allow you to cruise through the airport easily. They’re very roomy without looking massive, and they fit our packing cubes (mentioned below) perfectly. Pro tip: you can usually find similar Samsonite luggage at TJ Maxx, Marshalls, or Ross for even less than you’d find on Amazon!

 

Longchamp Expandable Bag

Packing Essentials That Make Traveling Easier ll www.littlechefbigappetite.com

I’ve always loved Longchamp tote bags. I used one in college to carry my books and have another that I use as a beach bag. About five years ago my mom gifted me with a black expandable Longchamp bag that I’ve used basically every day since. It’s a great multipurpose tote because it expands into an even larger size that’s great for traveling when you’re carrying bulkier items such as a laptop and neck pillow. I always use this expandable tote as my “hand baggage” that goes under the seat on the plane. These bags are so durable — I’ve given mine a pretty good beating over the last five years, and it’s still going strong!

 

Bag Bungee

Packing Essentials That Make Traveling Easier ll www.littlechefbigappetite.com

I use the Bag Bungee to attach my Longchamp (or other carry-on bag) to the top of my rolling suitcase when I’m walking long distances through a city or airport. It’s very secure and it allows you to keep extra weight off your back or shoulders while you’re traveling.

 

Bagail Packing Cubes

Packing Essentials That Make Traveling Easier ll www.littlechefbigappetite.com

Packing Cubes, where have you been all my life!? I first read about packing cubes when we were preparing for our trip to Europe earlier in the year. I’ll admit, at first I didn’t get the hype. I thought: So what, you put your clothes in cubes? What’s the big deal?

Well packing cubes have completely changed the way I pack. I use each cube for a different “category” of clothing. One cube is for pants, one is for tops, another for sweaters, and another for miscellaneous items. The cubes basically act as dresser drawers, so if you’re looking for one pair of pants, all you have to do is take out that specific cube and the rest of your items stay folded and organized in your suitcase. Packing cubes really help if you’re traveling from city to city because you won’t waste time unpacking and repacking your suitcase.

 

Wet Ones Antibacterial Wipes

Packing Essentials That Make Traveling Easier ll www.littlechefbigappetite.com

There are so many germs on planes, and being stuck close together with other passengers for long hours is one of the easiest ways to get sick. I recently started bringing antibacterial wipes in my carry-on bag, and I wipe down everything around me as soon as I sit down. Knowing that my armrest, TV screen, tray table, and headrest are clean makes me rest a lot easier, and ever since I started this I haven’t gotten sick after a flight.

 

Protein-Packed Snacks

Packing Essentials That Make Traveling Easier ll www.littlechefbigappetite.com

The food on long haul international flights can often leave much to be desired, so I try to pack healthy protein-packed snacks whenever we travel. Some of my favorite travel snacks include Chef’s Cut Chicken Jerky and RX Peanut Butter Bars because both have lots of protein to keep you going for a couple of hours. If I’m able to, I like to pack us turkey and avocado sandwiches on whole wheat bread for cross-country flights since most airlines do not serve any complimentary food anymore. Having healthy snacks as a backup saves me from getting hangry, and then I’m less likely to reach for an unhealthy food option.

 

Bobble Water Bottle

Packing Essentials That Make Traveling Easier ll www.littlechefbigappetite.com

I’ve talked about my love for Bobble water bottles a bunch before, but if you’re new around here, the reason I love this water bottle is because it filters the water as you drink it. Think of it as a Brita filter in your water bottle. I drink water like a fish, so I love having my Bobble with me to fill up in any sink or water fountain.

 

Cabeau Neck Pillow

Packing Essentials That Make Traveling Easier ll www.littlechefbigappetite.com

I’ve tried a lot of neck pillows and this one is by far my favorite. It’s made from thick memory foam and the pillow has an extra raised layer that offers just the right amount of support for your head and neck. It’s the first neck pillow that’s allowed me to sleep for more than one hour at a time on a plane. Travis and I both have these pillows and we’ve even purchased them as gifts for others because we love them so much.

 

Microfiber Travel Towels

Packing Essentials That Make Traveling Easier ll www.littlechefbigappetite.com

I bought these towels when we went to Israel in the spring of 2016 because the trip required that we bring our own towels for swimming and other activities. I knew we’d constantly be on the go throughout our ten days there, and I hated the idea of packing a large, wet towel in my suitcase and having to reuse it (hello mildew!).

Welcome the travel towel! This particular brand comes with a set of two towels: one large bath/beach towel and another small hand towel. Here’s why I love these towels: They’re very thin, yet incredibly absorbent. They take up as much room in your suitcase as a t-shirt, making them easy to pack even in a small carry-on. The best part about these towels is how fast they dry. They’re basically completely dry within an hour or so from using them, which would be next to impossible for a regular cotton towel.

 

Tide Travel Sink Packets

Packing Essentials That Make Traveling Easier ll www.littlechefbigappetite.com

These Tide Travel Sink Packets are a fairly new discovery, and I used them often throughout our honeymoon in Greece when we didn’t have access to a washing machine. These packets are great for hand washing delicate garments in the sink or when you just need to clean a couple of items during your trip.

 

Medicine

Packing Essentials That Make Traveling Easier ll www.littlechefbigappetite.com

There is no question that traveling long distances, especially through different climates and time zones, is an easy way to get sick. I always like to be as prepared as possible and pack a variety of medications and first-aid items in my suitcase. Most often this includes: Vitamin C capsules, NyQuil, Advil (or other Ibuprofen), anti-diarrhea and laxatives (just keepin’ it real, you never know!), Tums, Benadryl, cough drops, blister bandaids, and Neosporin.  Some people might think that this is a waste of space in your suitcase; however, if you’re traveling in a different country and not feeling great, the last thing you’ll want to do is have to look for a pharmacy and decipher medication labels in a different language. Trust me, it isn’t fun!

 

Disclosure: I hope you enjoyed reading about my favorite packing essentials. While none of these items are sponsored, this post does include some affiliate links, which means if you buy one of these products I may earn a tiny commission. As always, thank you for your support!

USA Travel

My Bachelorette Party in Nashville!

This past weekend I celebrated my bachelorette party in Nashville, TN!

This post would be amiss without saying how appreciative I am of my best friends who were able to travel all the way to Nashville to celebrate with me. They made the weekend incredibly special. It took me nearly all week to finish this blog post because I have SO much I want to say and share about our time in Nashville, but I know you guys don’t want to read a 100-page book!

When researching potential cities for my bachelorette, I was drawn to Nashville because it seemed like a convenient meeting point for my friends who were flying in from all over the country. And after just a quick google search of Nashville bachelorette ideas, I realized that there was so much to do and see in the city, including fantastic restaurants, bars with live music, and wine tasting. Most of my friends had never been to Nashville before, which just made the destination all the more exciting.

 

Thursday

Most of our group flew into Nashville by early evening on Thursday, and arrived at the Airbnb we rented by 6PM. By the time I got to the house, my sister-in-law, Morgan, and college friend Emily had already set everything up and picked up lots of delicious snacks for the weekend.

Morgan also put together these adorable goody bags for all of the girls.

Inside the bags were: matching grey tank tops that said “Rachelorette in Nashville”, pink sunglasses with each girl’s name on the stem, a bottle of gatorade (a bachelorette necessity), and an itinerary for the weekend.

Once everyone arrived, we popped a couple bottles of prosecco to enjoy while the girls got to know each other. My best friends are from all different points of my life: high school sports, college, my sorority, summer camp, etc., so for many of the girls this was their first time meeting. It felt very special to have so many of my favorite people in one room together!

We decided to keep it low key that night, and for dinner we picked up take-out from Hattie B’s Hot Chicken and Coco’s Italian Market. It was also my friend Kelly’s birthday (THANK YOU Kel for flying to Nashville on YOUR birthday!), so we celebrated with a variety of cupcakes from Gigi’s Cupcakes. If you’re an icing person, you’d LOVE Gigi’s Cupcakes because there was a TON of icing!

Pretty soon after dinner we decided to call it a night (it was already midnight) and headed to bed so we would feel rested for the next day.

 

Friday

On Friday morning my friends Liz and Rebecca led us through a quick 15 minute workout in the backyard of our Airbnb. Just by looking at us, you would have thought we worked out for 90+ minutes because we were DRENCHED thanks to the humidity and 90 degree heat that morning! I am not used to that kind of humidity, but it felt really good to get the day started with a quick and sweaty workout.

Afterwards, we quickly showered and got ready for brunch at Puckett’s Grocery & Restaurant. Puckett’s was recommended to us by a couple of people and it lived up to the hype! We ordered pretty classic southern dishes, and I dove right a plate of chicken and waffles.

My Bachelorette Party in Nashville, Tennessee! -- www.littlechefbigappetite.com

After brunch we drove to Belle Meade Winery for wine tasting. The tasting was held in an old barn on the property and was led by sommelier, Debbie Van Pelt.

We sampled five different wines and paired them each with a piece of cheese, meat, or chocolate. Since Debbie didn’t have another group after us, she graciously went over our allotted time to talk to us about the wines and answer our (many!) questions. If you’re ever in Nashville and have the opportunity to go to a wine tasting led by Debbie, do it! She was very knowledgable and made the whole experience lots of fun.

After the wine tasting at Belle Meade we went back to the house and played a few games. Without me knowing, my friend Kelly coordinated a really cute game involving Travis. She sent Travis a list of questions and had him answer them over video. At the party, Kelly asked me the same questions and I had to guess what Travis’s answer was. Some of my answers were spot on, but others I guessed completely wrong, which resulted in a LOT of laughter. I guess even after 6+ years of dating you don’t always know what the other person is thinking!

After the games we got ready for dinner and hopped into Ubers for dinner at FLYTE restaurant.

Our dinner at FLYTE was incredible! We sat at a large table overlooking the kitchen, so we could see the chefs at work.

Because we were celebrating, the restaurant generously sent us a round of champagne and some delicious snacks for the table to kick off our meal.

We all ordered different entrées and each of us raved over the presentation and flavor of each dish. Kelly, who is extremely knowledgable about wine, put together some wine pairings for the table, which was awesome! FLYTE has an expansive wine list and two in-house wine directors, so they were also able to offer some fantastic recommendations.

Our meal at FLYTE was a true highlight of the weekend, and I want to give a BIG shoutout to our fantastic server Todd, manager Will, Chef Christopher, the rest of the FLYTE team for providing us with royal treatment that evening. If you’re in Nashville, RUN, don’t walk to FLYTE!

After a 3+ hour dinner (and basically shutting down the restaurant), we jumped in Ubers towards Music Row for some bar hopping. We popped into a few different places with live music and danced the night away. My phone stayed in my bag for the rest of the night, so I unfortunately don’t have any pictures to share, but we had a blast!

 

Saturday

Our late night on Friday resulted in a very slow Saturday morning. We had plans to drive around Nashville on a “party barge” at 11AM, but we woke up to a thunderstorm, so our tour was cancelled. It wasn’t the worst result in the world because most of us were exhausted from the night before and benefited from a couple additional hours of sleep.

Once everyone was up, we ate a late brunch at the house, and played some more games. We were supposed to wear our matching tank tops and sunglasses on the barge, so instead just wore them in the Airbnb that afternoon.

That night, we had an early dinner reservation at Urban Grub. I opted to share a couple of dishes with my friend Emily, which was definitely a good choice because the portions were big! We were seated at a large outdoor booth with a GIANT Lazy Susan in the middle. It made sharing appetizers among a large group and passing drinks around the table much easier. I want one in my future home!

After dinner most of us ended up at The Stage on Broadway and listened to The Matte Gray Band, who was FANTASTIC!! They performed a mix of current country hits and older classics, and the entire audience was singing along and dancing to every song. It was such a perfect way to end our weekend in Nashville!

Sunday

Most people had early morning flights on Sunday, so I set my alarm for 7AM to make sure I was able to say goodbye to all of my friends. I can’t wait to see them again in September at our wedding!

My flight wasn’t until 3PM, so my friend Liz and I swung by EIO and The Hive for a quick brunch before heading to the airport. It was recommended to us by my friend and Nashville native, Laura Lea from LL Balanced. A healthy meal was just what we needed after an indulgent weekend.

Luckily, my trip home went smoothly and I was back in my apartment in Los Angeles by 6:30PM. It felt so nice to be back home with Trav and Bessie!

If you’re planning a bachelor/bachelorette party (or just a weekend) in Nashville and have any questions, feel free to reach out! I am definitely not an expert, but I’m happy to share more information about our itinerary and what we loved.

Thank you again to my friends who traveled to Nashville to celebrate with me! I love you all so much!

USA Travel

Kelly’s Bachelorette in Austin, TX!

This past weekend I celebrated my friend Kelly’s bachelorette in Austin and IT WAS SO MUCH FUN!!

Seriously, I had the best time. I wish I could do it all over again. Okay, actually give me like 2 more days to recover, but then I’d be ready. It was my first time in Austin, but since I was only there for 36 hours, I really want to go back soon to see more of the city!

Our big group stayed in a house we rented through AirBnB, which I highly recommend doing because it makes it so fun to have everyone in one place. Once most of us had arrived by Friday evening, we headed out to Hops and Grain for some beers to get the weekend started.

Bachelorette Weekend in Austin, TX! l www.littlechefbigappetite.com

Later that night, we all got ready for dinner at Fixe. We had a private room, which was perfect for our not-so-quiet group. 😉 The food was “Progressive Southern” — I had the fried chicken and I devoured it!

We drank a lot of champagne, toasting to our girl, Kelly. This is the only photo I have from the night and it’s ridiculous – ha! Yes, there were framed photos of dogs all throughout the room we were in. Still deciding if this was awesome or the creepiest thing ever.

Bachelorette Weekend in Austin, TX! l www.littlechefbigappetite.com

After dinner we all headed to Rainey Street to check out some bars. It felt like everyone there was there for a bachelor or bachelorette party, which was fun because everyone was ready to celebrate!

Saturday was my favorite part of the weekend. After whipping up a quick breakfast at home on Saturday morning, our group headed to Lake Travis where we had a boat waiting for us. We packed up lots of snacks for the afternoon as well as plenty of drinks to celebrate our bride-to-be!

Bachelorette Weekend in Austin, TX! l www.littlechefbigappetite.com

Bachelorette Weekend in Austin, TX! l www.littlechefbigappetite.com

Kelly’s sister and Maid of Honor, got us all the cutest drink koozies with our names on them! I was obsessed.

Bachelorette Weekend in Austin, TX! l www.littlechefbigappetite.com

There were a bunch of other bachelor and bachelorette parties on the lake that afternoon, so our captains had us all dock next to each other for a couple of hours. We ended up hanging out on the boat next to us for a majority of the afternoon because it was much bigger than ours. Plus, they had great speakers and a water slide!

Bachelorette Weekend in Austin, TX! l www.littlechefbigappetite.com

Bachelorette Weekend in Austin, TX! l www.littlechefbigappetite.com

Bachelorette Weekend in Austin, TX! l www.littlechefbigappetite.com

Bachelorette Weekend in Austin, TX! l www.littlechefbigappetite.com

When we got back to the house that evening, we had Rudy’s BBQ for dinner. There’s no photo because I took a plate and just inhaled my food. Hungry people problems.

Bachelorette Weekend in Austin, TX! l www.littlechefbigappetite.com

Later that night we played some games and got ready to go back out. We lost a few stragglers along the way because it was pretty tough to rally after such a long day! I am actually surprised that I made it back out.

The group dressed up in black, so Kelly could stand out in white, and we all piled into Ubers for 6th Street in Austin. Let me just say, HOT DAMN, 6th Street was NUTS!! I’ve never been to New Orleans or any other city with a large open street like this, but it was crazy! There were so many people and bars. It’s a party area, for sure!

I ended up going back to the house early with a few others because I had a VERY early flight back to Los Angeles the next morning.

Here are two Bachelor / Bachelorette Party tips I learned from this weekend:

  • Use Splitwise. Our friend, Jamie, introduced us to this. Splitwise allows you to add expenses and split them between an entire group OR just certain people within a group. We found this incredibly helpful throughout the weekend with countless Ubers, dinners, and other various expenses. Everyone added anything they paid for to Splitwise, selected who to divide the expense between, and at the end Splitwise tells you how much you owe (or get back from) each person. After that, you can either Venmo everyone through Splitwise, or pay people in another method of your choice (cash, check, etc.)
  • Create an iCloud shared photo album. This makes sharing photos so simple. Anyone in the group can post photos as well as download photos from the shared group. If you’ve never made one before, here’s how — it’s so, so easy!

 

I had the best, best time in Austin and I can’t wait for Kelly’s wedding in May so I can see all of these awesome ladies again.

USA Travel

Imperial Valley and Coachella Valley Farm Tour

Hi guys! I never post on Saturdays, but after a crazy week I just couldn’t get this post up on Friday. So here I am! It’s the weekend, YAY! After two weekends of travel and tons going on at work, I am so happy to be home right now and catch up on the one million things on my to-do list.

On Monday, I mentioned I would share all of the details of my farm tour trip last weekend, so let’s get to it!

I was invited to attend a tour of the Imperial and Coachella Valleys by the awesome people at the California Farm Water Coalition. We did and learned SO much on this trip, so rather than bore you guys with all of the nitty gritty (and tons of facts), I figured I would share some of some highlights with you.

 

Lakeside Organic Gardens

Our first stop of the tour was in Holtville, CA at Lakeside Organic Gardens. We met Kay Day Pricola, Executive Director of the Imperial Valley Vegetable Growers Association and Scott Howington of Lakeside Organic Gardens.

Imperial Valley and Coachella Valley Farm Tour -- www.littlechefbigappetite.com

While both Kay and Scott were incredibly knowledgeable and informative, more than anything they were both hilarious. They had our group cracking up nearly the entire time, which made learning about farming (something I’ll admit I knew next to nothing about before this trip!) and produce really fun and interesting.

Imperial Valley and Coachella Valley Farm Tour -- www.littlechefbigappetite.com

Kay and Scott took us around to see kale, cabbage, celery, fennel, and more, stopping along the way to explain how each are grown.

 

Holtville Rib Cook-off

Next, Kay and Scott took us to the Holtville Rib Cook-off in the middle of town. Holtville is a very small town, and it didn’t take long to see that 1.) Basically everyone in Holtville was at this festival and 2.) They all knew each other.

Having never lived in a small town like this, I found this whole experience to be so much fun! Kay was saying “hi” to nearly everyone we passed, which I just couldn’t get over. She knew everyone.

Imperial Valley and Coachella Valley Farm Tour -- www.littlechefbigappetite.com

We didn’t stop to eat any food at the cook-off because we had lunch plans later that afternoon, but it was great to walk around and check out all of the booths and entertainment.

 

Veg Cool

On Saturday afternoon we headed to Veg Cool, where all of the produce from Lakeside (and a few other farms) is washed, boxed, cooled, and picked up by trucks to be distributed to grocery stores across the country.

Did you know that those rubber bands and twist ties you see around vegetables in the grocery store are all put on directly in the field? The farmers have to be REALLY careful about which band or tie they use because if it’s wrong (red cabbage vs. green cabbage), a grocer will turn it away even if the produce is perfectly fine. Then that food has to be found a new home (donated to food pantries, etc.) so it isn’t wasted.

Imperial Valley and Coachella Valley Farm Tour -- www.littlechefbigappetite.com

We all got to take turns going inside the cooler at Veg Cool, but it wasn’t safe for us to stay in for too long because the floors are wet and slippery.

Imperial Valley and Coachella Valley Farm Tour -- www.littlechefbigappetite.com

Also, the guys that maneuver the forklifts are SOOOOO FAST.  These men carry dozens and dozens of boxes of produce at once and drive in reverse at full speed like it’s nothing! I wish I had a video to show you.

Imperial Valley and Coachella Valley Farm Tour -- www.littlechefbigappetite.com

To sum it up, the entire process from field to grocery store can take just 24 hours, which very impressive when you see how many fruits and veggies these guys are processing at one time.

Imperial Valley and Coachella Valley Farm Tour -- www.littlechefbigappetite.com

 

Ellen Way + Coachella Valley

On Sunday morning we met with Ellen Way of the California Women for Agriculture, who toured us around various fields in the Coachella Valley.

A big highlight for me was visiting the date palms that you see below. I looooove dates. I add them to everything like my Vitamin-Packed Green Smoothie and No Bake Oat and Nut Granola Bars, so it was fun to see and learn about how they grow.

Did you know that dates can only be grown in warm climates like California and the Middle East? Also, harvesting them is VERY labor intensive — someone has to climb all the way up those trees multiple times throughout harvesting and man, those things are tall!

Imperial Valley and Coachella Valley Farm Tour -- www.littlechefbigappetite.com

We also checked out fields of bell peppers, which they keep covered from the sun with the tarps (as you can see below), as well as seedless grapes and artichokes.

Imperial Valley and Coachella Valley Farm Tour -- www.littlechefbigappetite.com

Imperial Valley and Coachella Valley Farm Tour -- www.littlechefbigappetite.com

Imperial Valley and Coachella Valley Farm Tour -- www.littlechefbigappetite.com

 

SeaView

Our final farm stop was at SeaView. We were a little rushed to get back to San Diego, so we were only able to spend about a half hour here.

All of our eyes lit up when we were told we could pick some citrus to bring home. Personally, I had only ever been apple and strawberry picking, so picking my own fresh oranges and grapefruit was such a treat! Luckily, I was traveling back to Los Angeles by train, so I could load up on lots of oranges, which Travis and I both love.

Imperial Valley and Coachella Valley Farm Tour -- www.littlechefbigappetite.com

I also want to note that the grapefruit we tasted at SeaView was some of the sweetest I’ve ever had. I usually find grapefruit to be too sour, but this stuff was delicious and I regret not bringing home more! The longer the grapefruit stays on the tree, the sweeter it gets.

Imperial Valley and Coachella Valley Farm Tour -- www.littlechefbigappetite.com

Imperial Valley and Coachella Valley Farm Tour -- www.littlechefbigappetite.com

 

Inferno Restaurant: Brawley, CA

Our very final stop on the tour was to the Inferno Restaurant in Brawley, CA. Now, remember when I mentioned earlier that Kay Day Pricola was the most well connected person ever? Well, on Saturday she overheard our group mentioning how we wanted to try Inferno, but they are closed on Sundays (the day we were trying to go).

So, of course, Kay picks up her phone and calls the owner (who just happened to call her the hour before!) and asks him to open the restaurant for our group the following day. Whaaaaat!?

And he said YES. We couldn’t believe it.

Imperial Valley and Coachella Valley Farm Tour -- www.littlechefbigappetite.com

So on Sunday afternoon we met the owner, Ray Babb and his head chef, who cooked us a delicious meal of homemade pizzas, steak tacos and deep-fried ice cream!

The entire meal was ridiculously good. Because they source all of their ingredients from the surrounding farms in the area, everything tasted incredibly fresh.

If you ever find yourself in Brawley, CA — go here!!

Imperial Valley and Coachella Valley Farm Tour -- www.littlechefbigappetite.com

 

I had a great weekend touring the Imperial and Coachella Valleys and I learned so much. Before I leave you guys, I want to share just a couple quick facts that might be interesting to you:

 

— California is home to 78,000 farms growing 400 different crops! Farming creates 450,000 jobs in this state.

— California farmers grow 50% of America’s fruits, nuts and vegetables — 50%!

— Agriculture uses 40% of the state’s water supply, but EVERYONE benefits from the food grown on farms.

Imperial Valley and Coachella Valley Farm Tour -- www.littlechefbigappetite.com

— The Imperial Valley and Coachella Valley can grow year-round. You can thank this area of the country for allowing you to have cantaloupe in the middle of November even though it’s a summer fruit.

— Most farms are passed down generation to generation. Many of the farmers we met were in their current job because their parents, grandparents, etc. were all farmers.

— What’s crazy is that only 2% of our population is farmers, but 100 years ago 90% of our population farmed

— A lot of advanced farming technology comes from Israel, not the United States. One example is drip irrigation which is a method of releasing water slowly through long passageways (in this case, plastic tubing you see below).

Imperial Valley and Coachella Valley Farm Tour -- www.littlechefbigappetite.com

 

Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post, however I was invited to attend this farm tour by the California Farm Water Coalition and my hotel and travel were paid for. I hope you enjoyed this post and I appreciate your support!

USA Travel

A Washington DC Trip + Anniversary Recap

When I last left you guys, I mentioned how I thought my flight to DC was going to be canceled because of the big snow storm, Jonas, that hit the East coast last week.

Well, I ended up being able to get on an earlier flight, so I got into Washington DC on Friday morning right before all of the snow madness hit the city. The timing worked out perfectly because my friend Emily, who is a nurse, was called off of her shift so she and her fiance, Nate, were both able to pick me up from the airport.

When I arrived, we made a pit stop at the grocery store to pick up last minute food items in case we got snowed in. Well…it turns out that the entire city beat us to it.

Exhibit A:

Washington DC Trip - littlechefbigappetite.com

ALL OF THE FOOD was gone. I am not kidding. There was no fresh produce (I saw maybe one red onion), no milk, eggs, anything!

Here’s Emily on her tippy-toes trying to see if there is maybe just one carton of eggs left at the top there. Nope!

Washington DC Trip - littlechefbigappetite.com

Now, I just want to point out that coming from LA, I was drastically unprepared for the amount of snow that fell. All of my snow and warm winter gear are at my parents’ house in Boston, so I flew to DC with a warm-ish coat and Hunter rain boots to protect my feet from the wet snow.

Washington DC Trip - littlechefbigappetite.com

All in all, it didn’t really matter because we spent a lot of time inside over the weekend. We were disappointed because all of the wedding dress appointments that Emily had booked months in advanced were canceled. Now I guess I won’t see her dress until the big day!

We were able to make do food-wise with various items Emily and Nate had in their house. On Saturday afternoon I threw together a pasta dish with roasted vegetables, shrimp and a white wine sauce.

I’d say for not having many things left, it turned out pretty darn well! And obviously because we were snowed in we had wine with lunch (and pretty much every other meal! Haha).

Washington DC Trip - littlechefbigappetite.com

Since I was completely unprepared for the snow clothing-wise, I was basically useless to Emily and Nate when it came to shoveling.

Washington DC Trip - littlechefbigappetite.com

Nate was a champion and spent 7+ hours over the weekend shoveling out their cars as well as the walkways and cars of their elderly neighbors. I kept saying the poor guy deserves a massage and a tropical vacation after all he did!

Washington DC Trip - littlechefbigappetite.com

So. Much. Snow!

Washington DC Trip - littlechefbigappetite.com

My flight back to LA ended up being canceled on Sunday evening because all of the airports in the city were closed. (Although, I was secretly excited because it meant more time with my BFF who I hardly ever get to see!)

On Sunday, I spent a couple of hours on the phone with various airlines trying to get a flight back to LA. It was an absolute nightmare and some airlines said it would take a few more days before I could get back!  Eventually, I was able to book a flight for Monday morning, which was a big relief because I had to get back to work. Unfortunately, my flight wasn’t direct and I spent a lot of time waiting around in airports.

I will say that the Charlotte airport has some DELICIOUS food options. One of the places in my terminal was like a big fresh food market and I was able to get this INSANELY yummy breakfast frittata with roasted vegetables. It was only $8 and it was so big, I ate it for two meals. Big win for the Charlotte airport!

Washington DC Trip - littlechefbigappetite.com

When I landed back in LA late on Monday, Travis and Bessie picked me up from the airport. There is something so nice about being picked up by a loved one rather than taking a cab or public transportation, don’t you think?

The following day (Tuesday) was my 5th anniversary with Travis. I put together this little photo collage to post to Instagram, but then he beat me to it and posted his own, so I felt weird posting almost the exact same thing, ha!

Anniversary - littlechefbigappetite.com

We barely saw each other on Tuesday morning because I had to rush out of the house to get to work. But when I arrived home that evening, he surprised me with a bottle of champagne, two doughnuts from our favorite new doughnut shop up the street, a beautiful bouquet of flowers and a very thoughtful card.

Anniversary - littlechefbigappetite.com

We told each other no gifts this year because we are trying to save our money, but the items that Travis picked up meant so much to me.

Our night ended with a delicious dinner at Tar & Roses, one of our favorite restaurants in Santa Monica. Earlier in 2015 it had a bad fire in the kitchen, and the restaurant only finally reopened a few weeks ago. We were so excited to go back and the food was just as incredible as we remembered it.

 

Alright guys, that’s it from me. I hope you have a great weekend! I am off on a bloggers trip this weekend to tour some California farms! I will be sure to check in early next week with a recap. See ya!

USA Travel

Photos from Paso Robles + This Week’s Meal Plan

Hi guys! I hope you had a great holiday week! I took a good old detox from blogging and much of social media, and it felt SO GOOD to just be in the moment.

We took a short trip to Paso Robles, CA to do a bit of wine tasting from Tuesday to Thursday last week. Neither of us had ever been, but we’d heard such great things about the area! Here are a few photos from our trip.

We saw a beautiful rainbow on our drive up. Such a rare sighting around here…because it never rains!

Paso Robles Trip

Wine tasting at Halter Ranch.

Paso Robles Trip - Halter Ranch Winery

Gorgeous sunset to end our first day.

Paso Robles Trip - Sunset

Starting Day 2 bright and early with…more wine!

Paso Robles Trip

Barrel rooms at Sextant Wines.

Paso Robles Trip

We stopped into Summerwood Winery, which happened to be dog friendly. We met two adorable Boxer pups, who belonged to a family also wine tasting there. We ended up staying and chatting with the family for over an hour because we had so much in common!

Paso Robles Trip - Sommerwood Winery

It was chilly the whole time we were in Paso Robles, so I lived in this blanket scarf my mom bought for me over Thanksgiving. I took this picture to send to her, but didn’t have cell reception at the time – so there you go, Mom! 😉

Paso Robles Trip

Perfect wine tasting eats to fill up our bellies. Delicious burger from Firestone.

Paso Robles Trip - Firestone Brewery

Before heading back to LA, we made one final stop at Barrelhouse Brewing. It was only fair that Travis get to taste some beers after all that wine!

Paso Robles Trip - Barrelstone Brewery

After a week filled with indulgences (ahem, wine on wine on wine), Travis and I are both looking forward to some healthy meals. We did a HUGE grocery shopping run at the Whole Foods in Venice on Saturday morning. The entire time we were taking bets on how high the bill was going to be…but it’s all good because we seriously had no food in the house and we were way overdo for a restock!

 

Here’s this week’s dinner plan:

Sunday (last night): Apricot-Glazed Chicken with Whole Wheat Couscous and Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Monday: Dinner out with Travis’s sister, Justine

Tuesday: Barramundi with Balsamic Cherry Tomatoes + Roasted Broccoli

Wednesday: Turkey Chili

Thursday (New Year’s Eve!): Party at our friend’s house

Friday (New Year’s Day): TBD

 

Hope you guys have a great week!

International Travel USA Travel

How I Stay Healthy on Vacation

Hi people! I am leaving for vacation in England TODAY! Woohoo, I can’t wait! We booked this trip months ago and I am thrilled that it is finally here.

Before I leave, I wanted to share how I stay healthy on vacation. Personally, I hate reading vacation health tips that encourage you to run at least 3 miles a day or order customized meals of steamed veggies and grilled chicken at every restaurant you go to. I believe you should let loose a little bit on vacation! Heck, if we aim to be our healthiest selves the rest of the year, we deserve a little break once in awhile, am I right?

When I am on vacation, I aim to find a balance. I exercise when I can, eat healthy when I can, but definitely indulge and lounge around when I want to. My point it, you shouldn’t be spending your entire vacation thinking, “Is this healthy?” because that’s no fun!

Alright, without further ado, here are my tips!

 

1. Exercise before your trip.

Tips to Stay Healthy While on Vacation

Whether you’re flying or driving to your destination, I highly recommend squeezing in a quick workout before you leave. When on a plane or in a car, you end up sitting in the same position for hours on end. No fun! If you can swing it, get in an early morning workout before your trip. Your body will thank you before you cram it into a teeny-tiny airplane seat.

 

2. Pack healthy snacks.

Tips to Stay Healthy While on Vacation

Whenever I go on trips, I always pack my own snacks. I wrote this post last summer about some of my favorite healthy travel snacks. I never rely on airport or rest stop food because it’s typically unhealthy and way overpriced. A few months ago I saw a small Chobani yogurt priced at $4 at LAX, and needless to say, I was horrified.

Before we get to England, we have multiple stops and some long stretches of time on the plane. So to make sure neither Travis or I gets too hangry, I packed a boat load of snacks. Coming with us: Homemade turkey sandwiches for lunch on the first leg of the trip, Krave Jerky, Blue Diamond AlmondsKind Bars, Trail Mix, and organic apples.

Bet you wish you were sitting next to me on the plane, dontchya?

 

3. Bring a water bottle.

Tips to Stay Healthy While on Vacation

I don’t go anywhere without a water bottle. In particular, I love my Bobble, because it filters the water as you drink. I never have to worry about filling up my bottle from a random water fountain or airport faucet.

I recommend bringing an empty water bottle with you through security at the airport and filling it up at a fountain near your gate. That way you’ll have water for your flight and a bottle to carry around with you during your trip.

 

4. Pack those sneakers! Exercise when you can.

Tips to Stay Healthy While on Vacation

I always pack a pair of sneakers and at least one set of workout clothes with me while I am on vacation. Check to see if your hotel has a gym. If not, there are loads of equipment-free workouts you can find online. I love the Nike Training Club App.  If that’s not your thing, go for a run or a long walk. You’re in a new city for darn sakes – go explore it! You’d be amazed how many calories you can burn by just walking all day. Get your body moving for even just a small amount of time – it’s better than nothing!

One more tip – make sure to workout in the MORNING before sightseeing or laying on the beach. That way, you’ll get it out of the way and won’t think about it all day long.

 

5. Plan your special meals.

Tips to Stay Healthy While on Vacation

One of my favorite parts of going to a new city is researching restaurants I want to try. While I love a good indulgence, you guys know that I really do ENJOY eating healthy meals. So before my trip, I create a list of restaurants that includes both healthy fare as well as “treat” meals. Remember, balance is key. Enjoy your burger and fries guilt-free, but don’t let the rest of your day consist of pastries, pizza, ice cream, etc. All of that food will just make you feel like crap.

I want to really emphasize that it’s okay to eat “off-plan” or steer away from a super clean diet when you’re on vacation. If you stress yourself out about it, you’re not going to enjoy yourself.

 

I’d love to know how you guys stay healthy while on vacation. Do you do anything I didn’t include in this post? Let me know in the comments below!

 

Note: This post includes some affiliate links. I greatly appreciate your support!

USA Travel

Weekend in Chicago

I took lots of iPhone photos in Chicago. I was debating whether or not to bring my DSLR camera, and in the end I am glad I left it at home. With all of the rain we experienced, I would have hated lugging it around in addition to my raincoat and umbrella.

So instead of recipe photos, today I bring you a hodgepodge of iPhone pictures from last weekend in Chicago. As you can see, because of the rain, we mainly spent our entire trip eating…

Our first meal of the trip was Thursday night at Nico Osteria. The General Manager was the first person to stop by our table, and after telling him that we had no idea what to order (everything looked SO good!), he suggested letting him order for our table of four. It was the best decision and we felt like we got the royal treatment that night.

Nico Osteria

All of the seafood and pasta dishes were UNREAL, but what really stole the show for me was the complimentary dessert, brought to us by our (amazing!) server at the end of the meal. This cake was one of the best I’ve ever had. It was rich and indulgent, and I savored every single bite. I was glad we got to try it, because the server said they were removing it from the menu that week (they change their menus almost daily).

Nico OSteria

On Friday it rained and rained and rained, which was a bummer because we were hoping to spend the day outside.

Instead, we decided to find a great place to eat! Nearly everyone we asked for restaurant advice told us to go to Au Cheval for a burger. We arrived around 11:30AM on Friday, not having eaten breakfast yet and there was already a one hour wait. So while we waited for our table, Travis and I walked to Whole Foods down the street for a quick snack. By the time we were finished, our table was ready!

Au Cheval

We decided to split a burger, and man am I glad we did! Look at the size of this thing! Pro tip: get the fried egg on top – it’s heavenly.

Au Cheval

We were thrilled when the sky finally cleared up a bit on late Friday afternoon. It was the perfect opportunity snap a few photos of Chicago’s amazing skyline.

Chicago

Friday night we went to Siena Tavern and our group of 5 decided to split eight or so dishes amongst the table. That’s my favorite way to order because I get to try lots of different menu items that way.

I honestly loved everything we tried. One of my favorite dishes was this halibut. (Yay for more dark restaurant photos!)

Siena Tavern

Siena Tavern

Saturday afternoon our group took a long walk throughout the city and along the lake. It was a very foggy day, but we were just happy that it wasn’t raining!

Chicago

Friends

We also made an obligatory stop at Lou Malnati’s for a slice of their famous deep dish pizza. This was my second time having Lou’s and man, is it dense! Deep-dish lovers are going to hate me for saying this, but I honestly prefer crispy thin-crust pizza. Maybe it’s because I can eat more slices? #givemeallthefood

Lou Malnatis

Sunday, Travis and I had a few hours to spare before we had to head to the airport. Eataly Chicago was right down the street from where we were staying, so we had to stop in. We’d been to the Eataly in NYC and it was food heaven for both of us. I just can’t wait for Eataly in LA!

Eataly

At the airport Travis and I stopped at Potbelly’s to grab some food for our flight. It always seems like EVERYONE flying out of Chicago Midway also stops here. The line is always out the restaurant. It’s fair because it really doesn’t compare to typical airport food. We decided to split a big sandwich and salad and nearly inhaled them at our gate before our flight.

Potbelly's

We had the perfect food-filled weekend in Chicago, but we were excited to get home to Bessie and sleep in our own bed that night.

 

Have you been to any of the restaurants I visited? Do you prefer deep-dish or thin-crust pizza?

Life Lately USA Travel

Natural Products Expo West Recap

Last weekend I had the opportunity to attend the Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, CA. This expo has been around for 35 years, and it is the world’s largest natural, healthy and organic products event.

I was hoping to share this post with you guys last week, but I think my blog got a little overwhelmed by the number of pictures I tried to include in the post, so I had to cut it down a bit. 😉

If you follow me on Instagram, you saw that I brought home SO MANY HEALTHY SNACKS from the expo. The entire time I was there, I kept telling my co-workers that I was in Candyland. It was pure heaven for this healthy-snack-obsessed-girl.

Every one of my favorite healthy brands was at the expo, passing out samples of some of their classic snacks as well as promoting new lines and flavors.

 

Below are just some of my favorite brands that were there:

Hope Hummus: Travis and I are hooked on their Spicy Avocado Hummus. I won’t tell you how quickly we finish a container because it’s pretty embarrassing. We get our Hope Hummus at Whole Foods and there were some new flavors at the Expo that I’ve never seen before.

Natural Products Expo West Recap

Krave Jerky! GAH, I LOVE YOU KRAVE. I was never a jerky person until I tried Krave. I got hooked on it about two years ago when they were passing out samples at a local grocery store. (Clearly I love samples.) I used to think jerky was a “dude’s food,” but Krave has some pretty unique flavors, such as Chardonnay-Thyme Turkey Jerky, which don’t leave your breath stinky and your hands sticky and gross. Plus, this jerky is all-natural (duh) and not loaded with chemicals and ingredients you can’t pronounce.

If you’ve never tried Krave, I HIGHLY recommend it as a delicious protein-packed snack. You can find it at most grocery stores!

Natural Products Expo West Recap

JUSTIN’S. Oh man, you guys know how much I love Justin’s Almond Butter. When I saw their booth, I practically ran over to them and blurted out, “OH MY GOD I LOVE YOU GUYS. I EAT YOUR MAPLE ALMOND BUTTER EVERY MORNING.” They laughed and made sure I went home with plenty of their new mini-sized peanut butter cups. The people who work for Justin’s are all SO nice. I kind of wanted to just hang out with them the rest of the day.

Hey, there is Justin, himself! How cool!

Natural Products Expo West Recap

Some of the displays at the Expo incredible! The amount of money that these vendors spend just to set up their booths BLOWS MY MIND. Just look at this display from Bob’s Red Mill! They had their entire product line (flours, grains, seeds, etc.) on the wall. I wanted to just take the whole thing home with me.

Natural Products Expo West Recap

Chobani also had a very cool setup. Their booth must have been the size of my apartment! In one section, they were passing out samples of their Chobani + Oat cups. On the other side,  they had an entire chef’s station where you could customize your own bowl of Chobani. I’ve never been to their Soho location, but I am sure this was very similar to what it is like there.

Natural Products Expo West Recap

Even some of my favorite dog food brands were there! So, of course, I went home with some free samples for my little Bessie, as well.

Wellness Dog Food

 

At the expo, I also sampled many new-to-me products and learned a lot.

I couldn’t get over how many different kinds of matcha powders this company had on display! I thought matcha was just…matcha. Who knew!

Natural Products Expo West Recap

Another company was pushing their “kale popcorn” – I mean can you think of a trendier snack? I’ll be honest, I didn’t like it that much – it tasted a bit “too healthy” for me, if you know what I mean.

Natural Products Expo West Recap

Bone Broth was a big trend at the expo this year. I am sure some of you know how much bone broth has exploded in the last year. It’s a delicious warm drink that is great for your immune system and it is very low in calories. Pacific had a very cool bone broth sipping station. You could sample 3-4 different bone broth flavors (chicken, turkey, etc.) and then add in some extra garnishes. I also brought home a cardboard carton of their chicken flavored bone broth.

Natural Products Expo West Recap

I could go on and on about all of the amazing displays and foods I tried.

Natural Products Expo West Recap

My coworkers were cracking up because my eyes would light up every time I saw a brand I loved. I also got very sample-happy. The shopping bag of samples I brought home was practically as big as me! Towards the end of the afternoon, I was getting pretty tired of carrying it around, but even then, I still didn’t want to leave!

Natural Products Expo West Recap

When I got home that night I laid out everything I collected on our kitchen table. Travis’ eyes grew larger and larger every time I pulled the next thing out of my bag. I felt like Mary Poppins! I think he’s just as happy as I am that I got to attend the expo because he’s been reaping the benefits for the last week!

Natural Products Expo West Recap

 

Before I leave you guys, I wanted to share a few tips for anyone planning on attending the Natural Products Expo West in the future. I was lucky that my boss has been attending for at least 10 years, so he was able to give me great advice before I went.

1. Wear comfortable shoes. This is A MUST – and that’s coming from me, who wears heels practically every day. I wore sneakers to this event, and my feet were STILL sore at the end of the day. There is SO MUCH WALKING and you end up carrying around heavy bags all day. Ladies, leave the high heels at home.

2. Don’t sample everything you see. If you sample everything in sight starting at 9AM, you’ll want to take a nap by noon. Trust me. Even when I took a sample from a booth, I would usually eat one bite and share or trash the rest. I know it sounds like a waste, but there is so much food at this event, that you have to prioritize. This is why having a bag is great – you can bring home anything you didn’t get to sample.

3. Make a plan. You won’t be able to go to every booth, so find out who will be there and decide which vendors are your priority. Save some time for booths you didn’t expect to stop at, as well.

4. Bring business cards. If you’re a retailer this is essential. Since I was attending for work, I passed out my business cards to every vendor I was interested in keeping in touch with. It’s a great way to put yourself in their system so you can stay on top of new products and promotions. On a side note, I haven’t been spammed by anyone since the Expo.

 

So that’s it! If you have any questions feel free to ask away in the comments section below. I have samples to last me until 2016 and I am already excited for next year!

Life Lately USA Travel

Weekend in San Diego

My parents were in San Diego for a few days last week, so on Friday afternoon I took the train from LA to visit them.

Train

I used Amtrak fairly regularly when I lived on the east coast, but this was my first time taking it out in California. The whole experience was a breeze and reminded me why I love traveling by train so much – no long security lines, LOTS of legroom, bigger seats, no turbulence, and on and on!

Ship

My parents met me at the train station in San Diego and together, we walked back to their hotel. We passed the USS Midway Aircraft Carrier on the way, which was seriously cool to see up close. It was HUUUUUUGE!

Petco Stadium

That evening we enjoyed dinner out in the gaslamp district and some warm cocktails on our hotel’s rooftop bar (which overlooked Petco stadium!).

Breakfast

The next morning we had breakfast at Richard Walker’s Pancake house. My mom ordered their famous German Pancake and we all GASPED when we saw the waiter carrying it over to the table. We couldn’t believe the size of it! I ordered a Mediterranean omelet with a side of buckwheat pancakes – YUM! Just like my mom’s meal, the portions they served me were massive. I wasn’t complaining because it was great fuel for our busy day ahead.

Balboa Park

We spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon walking around Balboa Park. It was supposed to rain, but luckily for us it held off the entire time we were outside!

Like LA, San Diego seems to be incredibly dog-friendly and you guys know I am all about that! I got so excited when I saw a large group of Greyhounds walking together through the park. Travis had his rescue greyhound, Tad, with him in college and I quickly learned to love this special breed. The owners walking the Greyhounds said that they meet up weekly because Greyhounds, in particular, love to be with their own kind.

Balboa Park

We also came across a tiny yorkie mix named Ridley, who reminded us SO MUCH of my parents’ yorkie-poo Diesel.  We stayed and pet him for a few minutes – I couldn’t get over how sweet he was.

Ridley

How beautiful is Balboa Park? We saw one couple getting their wedding photos taken by this pond. It was such a peaceful setting. If I lived in San Diego, I know I would spend a lot of time here.

Balboa Park

After Balboa park, we stopped to check out the famous “Unconditional Surrender” statue at the port.

StatueUnconditional Surrender Statue

Just so you get a sense of how large this statue is, I am as tall as the nurse’s shoe!

Hotel Del Coronado

Our Saturday afternoon ended at the famous Hotel del Coronado. When the hotel opened in 1888, it was the largest resort in the world! I couldn’t believe how beautifully restored this old hotel was – the grounds were immaculate and the decor was modern, but you could still feel the old charm.

Hotel Del Coronado

We enjoyed a late lunch together overlooking the hotel grounds and ocean. I ordered a roasted turkey sandwich with homemade white BBQ sauce on delicious brown bread. After all of the days activities, I didn’t even realize how hungry I was. I devoured everything on my plate in no time.

San Diego Beach

When the sun began to set, it was time for me to head back to LA on the train. My parents were catching a red-eye back to Boston that night as well. I was sad to leave them but thrilled that we got to spend a good 24 hours together while we were on the same coast! Unfortunately for them, my parents were heading home to even more snow in Boston! Eek.

 

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