Let’s Look: What’s in my Suitcase?

Good morning!

I’m once again joining Erika & Shay for their monthly “Let’s Look” link-up and today’s topic is “what’s in my suitcase?” (Previous posts were looks into: our coziest spots, favorite reads, people in our family, pantries, and #ootd). Today’s is a topic I probably never would have considered blogging about (kind of like the previous pantry post) but here we go!

Justin and I recently went on our babymoon and I took a few pictures as I was packing up. This was a beach vacation, so obviously what I pack would be different for different kinds of trips. Instead of focusing on exactly what items went in the suitcase, I just wanted to give a general feel for how/what I pack.

Packing Cubes

I have to give Shay credit for this one, as she wrote a blog post a while back about her love of packing cubes and it got me curious so I decided to try them out. Oh my gosh I LOVE them! They keep my suitcase so organized and I feel like I can pack so much more with them. It always amazes me how much can fit into a cube!

Check this out! Our swimsuits +my coverup packed up nice and condensed.

I delegate one packing cube to all my clothes . . .

. . . and one to all of Justin’s. This helps us keep our clothes separate and makes things much easier to find once we’re at our destination.

The only problem with packing cubes is that it allows me to pack SO much that it’s easy for me to go over the weight limit for checked bags – after one $50 lesson learned on our February trip to Florida, I became much more conscious of the weight and it’s been fine ever since. Just something to be aware of 🙂

Carry On (Divide & Conquer)

Whenever we have to check a suitcase, I always divide out a portion of our clothes to put in the carry-on. I make sure we have at least one change of clothes and a pair of underwear. This way, if our bag happens to not make it on our flight and we get to our destination without it, we at least have something to wear until our bag arrives. For this trip, I set aside a casual and nice outfit and a swimsuit for both Justin and I so that if we happened to not have our suitcase right away, we could still enjoy the first day at the resort. And it all fit in (you guessed it) one packing cube!

The carry-on also carries a small Ziploc bag with the travel-sized toiletries that we absolutely need, such as contact cases and solutions so we’re not stranded without them.

Bags in Bags

I’ve always used lots of smaller bags when packing so I don’t just throw a bunch of loose items in a suitcase. For this beach vacation, I took all our sunscreens and other beach items (travel size Wet Brush, phone protector) into a cute little canvas bag I got for $1 at Target. I double bagged the sunscreen in a gallon Ziploc in case of leaks. I like using this little canvas bag too because when we were at the resort, it made it easy to toss everything we needed at the pool into my tote bag and keep it all together.

I was gifted this monogrammed travel toiletry bag several years ago and I love using it for travel because it keeps its shape so my toiletries don’t get squashed. Plus, it’s thickly lined so if there was a leak, it keeps things contained. I try to keep my skin routine super simple when I travel so I only take the necessities and they all fit in this bag. I use the large bottom portion for toiletries and the top for jewelry.

I also keep my makeup routine super streamlined and simple on vacation and take everything along in my little makeup bag.

I also have a stash of various sizes of Ziploc bags that I use and reuse for things like hairspray, lotion, or anything else that did not fit in another bag shown.

Also, I forgot to take a picture, but when I pack my curling iron, I always bring along my heat-resistant cover (see a similar one here) so that I can pack the iron while still warm if I need to. It’s come in handy so many times!

I’ll fill in our shoes in between all the cubes and toiletry bags, and I also always make sure to take my phone charger, headphones, books/magazines, etc. and fill those in in the front pockets of my suitcase. And that’s about it!

Now all this talk of packing kind of makes me want to take another trip … 😉

What are your packing must haves?


A “Simplified” Move

Moving Day 2019 is finally behind us and I couldn’t be more thankful for that.

Let’s just get this out of the way: I strongly dislike moving. I think it’s stressful, a TON of work, and just an overall pain in the butt. Even though I purge closets regularly and consider myself to be a minimal-ish person, I’m always blown away by the sheer volume of things we possess that we have to pack up and move. It takes weeks of preparation and hours upon hours of work and even then there are always odd things towards the end that are just hard to pack up until the last minute so it’s inevitably still a little harried in the day or two before moving. Plus in the weeks leading up to moving, my house fills up with packed boxes, half-filled boxes, packing materials, piles of things to pack/sell/donate, and it stops feeling like a cozy little home and starts feeling like a messy warehouse. Have I painted a clear enough picture? Moving = not my cup of tea.

That being said, I do think there are ways to make the move as simplified and stress-free as possible. This is the third time Justin and I have packed up our entire lives and moved in our almost 6 years of marriage, so I’ve picked up a few tricks along the way that have helped ease the burden of moving and today I thought I’d share them with you. These tips don’t eliminate stress and in my experience, there will always be a certain level of complexity and chaos when packing up and transplanting your entire life. It’s just inevitable. But these are some things that worked for me to help reduce stress and keep things as simplified as possible. If you’re planning an upcoming move, I hope you can find a helpful tip or two here!

Start Packing/Collecting Boxes Early

A lot of things need to wait until closer to moving day to pack, but there are many things you can get out of the way early on. I started packing up infrequently-used items about 6 weeks before our moving day. I’m talking seasonal items, our china dishes, things that we can definitely go without missing for several weeks. I started storing these packed boxes in our garage so they were still out of the way from our daily life but it felt really good to have a head start! I also started soliciting boxes and packing materials from family and friends around this time – I personally don’t want to pay for moving boxes when I can find enough good used ones if I just start looking soon enough. My dad and my aunt both work in places that get a ton of shipments and they had access to a lot of boxes that had already been used that I could have for free. Score! I also love to find sustainable solutions when I can and re-using boxes and collecting newspapers to use as packing materials helps gets even more use out of these items before they get recycled. In this day and age of online ordering + shipping, it’s not hard to find a friend who loves Amazon Prime and has plenty of boxes and packing material to set aside for you to re-use if you just ask. 😉

Seal Boxes with Colored Duct Tape


This tip is one of my favorites. I scored a bunch of different colors of duct tape for super cheap years ago and I use different colors to seal boxes depending on which room they’re going to go in. I used yellow duct tape to seal any box that was destined for the kitchen, green duct tape for anything going into the living room, blue for the basement, purple for our master bed/bath, orange for LJ’s room, etc. Even though I do still use a permanent marker to label what is actually in the box, I love the duct tape method for these reasons:

  1. On moving day, our friends and family can easily identify where a box goes without having to ask me. This saves me from having to delegate/micro-manage and I can be working on cleaning or unboxing rather than feel like an air traffic controller directing people every two minutes. I have a “master key” by the door that identifies what color goes in what room and after the first few trips inside, everyone has the hang of the layout. It is easy for the friend helping to see “oh, green tape, this goes in the living room” and take it to that room than to say “hmm, this one is labeled ‘books’ . . . let me ask Justin or Sarah where the books should go”
  2. It’s way harder to lose a box. If I’ve labeled correctly, it’s super easy to see if a box accidentally got put in the wrong place. For example, I was looking for my spare power cords and I knew I had labeled that box blue for basement. I went to the basement, looked at the blue boxes, and quickly found the one with power cords. If that box had accidentally got taken to the living room instead, a quick scan would have easily shown me a blue-taped box and I could have gone straight for it rather than have to look through the labels on EVERY box in the house to find the misplaced one. Saves me SO much headache!

Duct Tape 2.0 – Mark Fragiles Separately

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A bonus tip with using colored duct tape: I add a funky duct tape in addition to the color if the box contains fragile items. For this move, zebra stripe meant fragile. I do still write “fragile” on the box, but it’s such a different pattern from the solid colors that it jumps out at anyone lifting to be extra careful with that box. It worked out SUPER well with this move because since we only moved about 15 minutes, we had some friends drive their cars in addition to our moving truck and any box with zebra tape got packed up in their cars instead of the big moving truck. Made it super easy to identify the fragile items to put in cars and everything got delivered safely!

Cushion breakables with Paper Products

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I bought a large package of paper plates and paper bowls prior to moving for two reasons. First, it allowed me to actually pack up our everyday dishes a few days before we moved and we still had something to eat off of. Second, when packing dishes I alternated a paper plate in between each regular plate to help cushion them so they wouldn’t break in the move. I do this with all our bowls too and it works really well! (In our last move, Justin didn’t put paper bowls between our everyday bowls and most of them cracked. 😦 ) Then when I unpack, I just keep the paper products to use for cookouts or whatever in the future (as long as they didn’t get dirty or super banged up in the move).

Store in drawers as much as possible

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Maybe this is obvious, but I don’t box up anything that is already stored in a furniture drawer. My nightstand drawer can get taken out of the nightstand to move downstairs, and then the drawer just gets put right back in the nightstand on the truck. Same with dressers: you can make the work lighter by taking the physical drawers out to move the dresser onto/off of the truck, but during transport, just put the drawer back in the dresser with all your stuff in it. I also packed a ton of extra things in our guest bedroom dresser (seen above, since it is normally empty for guest use) and this saved space and boxes.

Use clothing or towels to pad breakables

Breakables have to be moved. Clothing has to be moved. Why not move them together? We did have some newspapers and packaging material such as bubble wrap for some of our most fragile items, but between decor, dishes, picture frames, mirrors, etc, there was just WAY more stuff that needed extra cushioning than we had packing material for. We used towels and blankets to wrap some larger items like mirrors, canvases, and frames (top right picture) but for smaller items like dishes, glasses, ceramics, etc. I took clothing like t-shirts and scrubs (Justin works in a hospital setting and has tons) to wrap around items (top left picture) and this worked great! Obviously, things are wrapped much tighter than the picture shows, but I had to loosen things up so you could actually see what I had packed.

Use garbage bags to transport hanging clothes

It seemed really silly to me to take all our clothes off their hangers and pack them in boxes to move. Instead, I left all the clothing on the hangers and pulled a garbage bag around as many as could fit (usually about 20 items fit). Then I took the loops from the bag ties and hooked them around each end hanger so the bag would stay up and I could just carry the bag into my van. Once we got to the new house, I carried the bag to the closet, hung up the hangers, and removed the bag. Done! A few items fell off the hangers in transport, but the good news is they all stayed in the bag so it was very easy to retrieve them and put them back on the hanger in the new house. I did this with all my tops and dresses, Justin’s suits, our dress pants, belts, ties, literally everything that had been hanging on something in the closet and it worked like a charm!


Accept help

It can be so hard to ask for and accept help sometimes. But we knew that we couldn’t move alone, especially since my pregnancy prevented me from a lot of the lifting, so we reached out to friends and family. We also had some people offer to help without our asking, and even though my initial reaction was ‘oh, that’s okay I think we’ll be fine,’ we humbled ourselves enough to graciously accept all offers of help. And I’m SO thankful we did. We had friends not only help move our stuff but offer trucks/vehicles, an extra dolly to move heavy furniture, and one friend even volunteered to watch LJ at her house all day so we didn’t have to worry about him being in the way or trying to get him to nap with all the commotion going on. We were so thankful for the generosity of our village, whether they could help for an hour, for the morning, or all day. And it would have been far, far more stressful and difficult if we had tried to do it without their help.

Outsource food

If you’re having friends and family help you move, feed them! These people are taking time out of their day to help with a super unpleasant task. Honestly, no one wakes up on a beautiful Saturday and thinks “gosh it’d be fun to lug a ton of boxes around today’ so these people are rockstars for lending a hand. That doesn’t mean you should stress out about food. We bought some bagels and muffins from Costco and a coffee tote from Panera to have at the first house for people who helped in the early morning. Then we had waters, chips, cookies, and sloppy joes for people to grab for lunch as we unloaded at the new house (also, a neighbor/friend of ours couldn’t help with the physical move but offered to make sloppy joes and once again, we humbled ourselves enough to accept her generous offer and I’m SO THANKFUL I did because it was one less thing to worry about!) Our move miraculously finished up much earlier than we thought, but had it gone longer we were planning to order pizza for dinner as well. Don’t try to prepare food and add to the stress – this is the day to outsource and use all paper products!

Whew! Here’s hoping I don’t have to move again for a long, long time! What tips and tricks do you have for moving?


May 2019 Book Reviews

It’s book review day! Whoo hoo!

Because May was so chaotic with selling our house, packing, moving, and traveling, I only got through three books this month but I feel like that’s pretty good all things considered. Plus I had a good mix of genres so overall I was happy with this month’s choices. Let’s get to it, shall we?

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The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton

Kate Morton is my all-time favorite author so I saved this book for a vacation read and took it along with me to the Bahamas. The plot all centers around a unique house in the English countryside that captivates everyone who encounters it. We follow along with several different characters and their experiences in and around the house from summer 1862, where a mysterious murder takes place, to 2017 London, where an archivist stumbles across some items linked to the house and that very summer. There are several characters and major events happening in between the two time periods and we jump back and forth between perspectives and see how some stories even overlap.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Kate Morton is my favorite. She writes historical fiction in an absolutely mesmerizing way and each book always hooks me in and then blows me away with reveals I never saw coming. There is always a moment where I’m reading and have a “OH MY GOSH” moment that forces me to go back and reread. Justin even joked after I finished this book that I was doing the “classic Sarah re-read” because about 20 minutes after finishing the book and processing the ending, I had to go back and start at the beginning and flip through to piece together things I missed the first time around. Have I sold her enough? I love, love LOVE Kate Morton. That being said, this book left me feeling unsettled. I don’t want to spoil anything so I’ll just say that I was really hoping for a little more with the way everything got wrapped up and was loving the book until the last 40 or so pages (and the book clocks in at just under 500 pages, so that was a lot of enjoyable reading). It’s always disappointing to love a book and then be let down by the ending but I still remain loyal to Kate Morton and even still recommend this book because her writing is just so spellbinding. Just maybe use your imagination and change the ending a bit, or read one of her other books such as The Lake House or The Secret Keeper!

Saints for All Occasions by J. Courtney Sullivan

Saints for All Occasions

I’ve read a couple others books by this author in the past (my favorite was probably The Engagements) and when I saw this on another recommendation list I added it to my stack. This book follows two Irish Catholic sisters, Nora and Theresa, who immigrate to the United States from Ireland in the 1950s. While they initially have a very close bond, circumstances happen and choices are made that ultimately affect their relationship and lives. The plot is broken up into a few different time frames, beginning with their travels from Ireland to the US and ending in 2009, where Theresa now lives as a nun and Nora has four grown children. To be honest, after about 70 pages, I was pretty bored and wanted to quit. I pushed through a little bit longer and I’m glad I did, as the book picked up once it jumped to the present time frame and introduced Nora’s children. I enjoyed how the author wove together each story and unique perspective and while there were really no shocking plot twists, there were enough things happening to keep me engaged the rest of the way through.  I will say that while there was some closure at the end of the book, I wanted more. I finished it with a slightly dissatisfied feeling and wish there had been one more chapter at the end. Overall, this book fell in the “okay” range for me: not highly recommended but a solid read.

Becoming by Michelle Obama


I’ve tried to incorporate a little more nonfiction into my life and I really enjoyed this memoir (thankfully, because I was on the wait list for a long time). Every single life on this earth looks different and as a white girl raised on a farm in rural Ohio, it was fascinating to me to read about the experiences of someone whose childhood looked starkly different. I gained a lot of respect and admiration for Michelle and all she has accomplished in her lifetime so far. As for the political aspect, I do not engage in political discussions online but will say this: I enjoyed this book purely as a compelling look at the intricacies of one woman’s life. Politics is obviously a huge part of her life, but I felt like she spoke of all her experiences in an honest, relatable way.  The book is a pretty long and hefty read but I was interested and it kept my attention the whole way through! If you enjoy memoirs I definitely recommend adding this one to your list.

I feel like now that we’re really digging into summer, I need some great summer recommendations to add to my reading list. Let me know if you have any good ones!


Bahamian Babymoon

Remember when I posted about how chaotic my May was going to be? And when I said I planned to drop down to just one blog post a week? And then I basically disappeared off the blog for the last two weeks of May? Oops. Sorry about that.

After moving, we didn’t have internet set up in our house right away and we only had one week to move in and get settled before packing up again and leaving for our babymoon so…life happened. Now that May is behind us it should be back to regularly scheduled (Tuesday/Thursday) programming around here!

Babymoon at Secrets Emerald Bay

Justin and I honeymooned at an all-inclusive resort in Jamaica and absolutely loved it. Ever since coming back from that trip, we’ve dreamed of taking another one. We always had summer 2019 in the back of our minds as a potential time to do it as a combo celebration (Justin finishes up seven years of schooling and career training at the end of June!) and anniversary trip (we celebrate 6 years on June 22). It felt meant to be when we found out we were pregnant – now it could also be a babymoon!

My pregnancy actually made narrowing down dates + location very easy. We picked the Bahamas because it was the only tropical location that did not have a Zika warning at the time we booked and we chose late May because it worked for Justin’s work schedule, my parents’ schedules (since they’re watching LJ) and I was still in my second trimester, or as I like to call it, the pregnancy “sweet spot.” There were actually two all-inclusives we considered in the Bahamas and after looking at both options, we settled on Sandals Emerald Bay on Great Exuma.


We were so happy with our choice! We had great service, excellent food (they had 11 different restaurants with different kinds of cuisines – all were delicious but my favorite meals were at the Parisian and Indian restaurants), and amazing weather. Most of our days were spent lounging poolside but we did sign up for one excursion, a 30-minute snorkeling trip in a coral reef which was a lot of fun, although we did not take any pictures so you’ll just have to take my word for it. 😉

Instead of a day-by-day recap, I’m going to share a smattering of pictures from our trip. Enjoy!


Fresh off the plane. We couldn’t check into our room right away because we arrived before check-in but the resort allowed us to drop off our bags and get some food. I had the first of many virgin daiquiris – so yummy!

The beachside restaurant was a fun experience – eating delicious food while your toes are sunk in the sand just says paradise.

Most mornings we got breakfast at one of the restaurants but the first morning we were extra lazy and ordered room service to eat on our little patio balcony overlooking the ocean.

The views around the resort were just ❤ ❤ ❤

The cabanas were nearly impossible to snag but one morning we lucked out and got one! It was the perfect opportunity to get a little less sun (so we could stay longer). I also loved ordering the little wood fired pizzas for a yummy poolside lunch!

I kept up my Expecting and Empowered workouts through vacation (since the program comes as a download, I had it on my phone!) which made me feel 0% guilt about indulging in things like the resort’s Chocolate Night.

One of the best things about all-inclusive is you can sample lots of food! Justin loves sushi and I don’t, so he could binge on sushi while I snacked on edamame and vegetable spring rolls, then we headed to the pub for more food later. Best of both worlds!


Every night they had fires going by the pool, which was a relaxing way to unwind after dinner.


That feeling you get when you’re finished with an hour-long prenatal massage. 🙂

SO much lounging + reading. I brought several books and Justin ended up reading one of them as well on vacation (I’m hoping to rope him into contributing to my book review – we’ll see!)

While most of our days were spent by the pool, we did venture down to the beach a few times. It was heavenly – beautiful sand and clear, warm water!


This picture cracks me up. I thought it would be a sweet, romantic shot I think? Like “oh, let’s ask this passerby to snap a pic of us holding hands on the swings! It’ll be so sweet!” Guys, LOOK how far away the swings are from one another! We were both fully outstretched and the swings are different heights, so it just looks hilariously awkward. Oh well!

Lots and lots of bump pictures were taken this week. I loved having so much focused time with Justin while still getting to feel sweet little baby kicks as our littlest one joined us. ❤


On the way to dinner one night we stopped and asked a worker passing by if she would take a picture. She took the phone and proceeded to hold it at a crazy angle to take the picture. We could not stop laughing at this shot of us super far away and weirdly angled. I guess she wanted to take some creative liberties?

One of the best meals we had all week was at the French restaurant. From the appetizers to the dessert, everything was absolutely delicious and the food presentation was amazing! SO so yummy!

There was a golf course at the resort and one morning we decided to walk the back nine holes after breakfast. It was about a 2.5 mile walk – the course follows a peninsula and the views were just GORGEOUS! We were amazed by the houses on the course too; the one pictured above had stunning views of the ocean, a sand volleyball court, an infinity pool, and a lazy river! The course wasn’t very shaded and it got hot FAST so I was thankful we brought water although I did wish we had gone even earlier in the day.


One night after dinner, Justin decided he was still hungry so we went back to the sushi restaurant and he ordered a ton of sushi for “dessert” (I happily munched on a little edamame). His sushi-loving heart was so happy ha!


I think there was only ONE day that we didn’t get to the pool because we were doing other things, but for the most part we spent a ton of time there every day. It was so nice to just relax without a care in the world and lounge/read/swim/repeat.


The sunrise on our last morning was one for the books! I enjoyed watching it from our balcony as I read and worked on some upcoming blog posts.

One last stroll on the beach before checking out on the last day. We were so thankful for such a rejuvenating week!


Farewell, Bahamas!