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Tag: my favourite stuff

My transformer sunglasses

Ray-Ban folding Wayfarers

One of my constant companions.

I am forever in sunglasses. (Despite popular stereotype, the sun does shine in Scotland. Quite often actually.) It’s not that I’m perpetually battling a headache or hangover or something – I just hate squinting and eye strain. I’ll even wear them when there’s just glare and no actual sun. It’s a comfort thing. But I may as well look awesome while I’m at it.

I actually get really attached to accessories, and I like when I find something good that lasts forever. I want to replace things as little as possible, so I’m picky and I seek perfection. I want my sunglasses to be MY sunglasses. I had the same pair of Armani sunglasses my parents bought me for my 18th birthday for 11 years. (In fact, I still have them, I just don’t wear them anymore.) They’re nothing fancy – I think about $100 at the time, and I don’t go for flash – they’re just simple and nice and I managed to not break them for that long. (All down to a hard case, methinks. Important!)

So about 2 years ago when my 29th was coming up and my parents asked me what I wanted, I’d been eying a pair of Ray-Ban folding Wayfarers for a while, and I said well, why not just update my 18th birthday present? Even if they last only half as long, I’d count that as a success.

I was drawn to Wayfarers because they are a solid design classic. And my previous sunglasses were nice, but I don’t think they suited my face as well as the larger frames of the Wayfarer. I feel like a friggin’ rock star every time I wear them. An under-the-rader, rock star, not a look-at-me rock star. Just as I want it.

But outside of that, there’s the most important and super awesome thing about them: they fold.

Not like normal sunglasses folding, like 5-point-transformer-fold-down-tiny folding. Into a lovely, compact square case that takes up barely any space in my bag. PERFECT for travel. And this is why I really love them.

Folded Ray-Ban Wayfarers with case.

Folded up.

I hesitated to buy the folding version at first. More moving parts always means more potential to break, and I wanted these things to be in it for the decade-long-haul of my previous trusty shades. I expect a company like Ray-Ban should be making a high quality product, but still, you never know.

So in the sunglasses bit of Jenner’s in Edinburgh, I asked the woman working there if she had much experience with the folding glasses (they also do Aviators that fold). In addition to a few anecdotes about friends who’ve had pairs with no problems for a year or two, she started to tell me a vague history of folding sunglasses. Apparently Ray-Bans were not the first to do folding, and some Italian company did them long ago. She sort of stopped herself, conscious that not everyone might want to geek out over sunglasses history (lady, I TOTALLY want to geek out about ANYTHING like that). I’ve since done some Googling on the subject, but with little to show, so I’m just gonna have to find myself another rogue sunglasses historian.

In any case, I was suitably convinced to go for the transformers, by her enthusiasm if nothing else. And after having them 2 years, I see I needn’t have worried about quality. These things are great. And the foldy bits not only elicit awe (and occasionally even jealousy) from people who see me take them out or put them away, they don’t seem to make the glasses weaker in any way. When they’re on, you really can’t tell there are 3 extra joints, even though one of them is dead-centre of my face. And when they’re off, they are one of the most travel-friendly, packable things I have.

So, if you want to feel and look like a classic badass (and be ‘practicably fabulous’, as claimed on the Ray-Ban website), I highly recommend folding sunglasses. They get so small you’ll have plenty of extra space for all the other crap you need that does not conveniently fold down to nothing.

In the hammock

Practicably fabulous.

Ducks on the wall

Wonderful Copenhagen poster

You best make way for ducklings.

So, ten whole years ago when I was on my first backpacking adventure, I saw this poster in the hostel in Copenhagen and absolutely loved it. Of course I did. Because: DUCKS!

For years it was one of the things I always wanted to find for my own wall. And 2 or 3 Christmases ago, I went a-Googling and found it online from an actual Danish poster shop. Apparently it’s a pretty famous poster in Denmark. Not too surprising because it’s awesome. But I love that it got even more famous because it accidentally won an international competition.

In any case, it’s kind of big, and it doesn’t fit a standard frame size. I’ve held onto it for ages without actually putting it up because I couldn’t afford to get it professionally framed (it would have cost about £100) and I am past the point of putting up posters with tacks unless they’re in my closet.

So there’s this giant Ribba frame at IKEA that’s alllmost right, which I know because I’ve got another poster in one. It’s just a bit too wide. But I was recently looking at my pictures from that first trip (yes, I totally took a picture of this poster on the wall) and noticed that the frame the hostel used to hang the poster as I originally saw it was ALSO a bit wide. And, IKEA being as wonderfully ubiquitous as it is, I can only assume they just decided to go with the cheap, easy option so they could get the thing up.

This motivated me to do the same, style and class be damned. Now the imperfection of the frame reminds me of that trip just as much as the poster does. And it is FINALLY on my wall after a whole decade.

Whatup, America?

Visiting the US is always a different kind of holiday. It’s about seeing as many people as possible and eating as many of the things I miss as I can. So I have spent most of this week stuffing myself and drinking a lot with various friends and family members.

The quality of my posts (and my photography) is probably suffering, but I think that’s ok. I don’t get to see family and friend-family often enough.

I’ll get a little deeper later, but for now, here’s a wee photo rundown.

Memory foam headphone tips

Headphones with red tips.

My current trusty earbuds with red Comply Foam tips.

I am incredibly particular about my headphones. This is in no small part because of how heavily used they are when I travel. I am a fidgety person by nature and if I’m even the least bit uncomfortable, I will fidget EVEN MORE. To the point where a small, solvable discomfort turns into a massive pain in the ass that I feel trapped by. Maybe that’s dramatic.

I will put it another way: If my headphones are bothering me, I can easily have a claustrophobic fit. That can turn a travel day downhill real fast. On the other hand, if I want to keep my sanity on a long travel day, I NEED to be able to plug myself in for certain stretches of time. Particularly in airports and on long-range public transportation.

So, I learned early that headphones were one of the things I really had to nail when it came to the perfect gear. If my ears are happy, I am happy.

One of the first things I ever did to deal with this issue was get an airline adapter so that I could use whatever I damn well pleased in those double-jack seatback plugs. Luckily those are now, largely, gone. (I stopped carrying the adapter ‘just in case’ about 3 years ago.) But the headphones airlines give you are still rubbish.

I can’t wear over-ear style headphones, no matter the size. Big or small, they drive me nuts. I’m sure the sound quality is better and yada yada yada, but if I have them on for more than about 5 minutes, I freak right the eff out. They are uncomfortable in at least 3 different ways, and I have a threshold for ZERO different ways. So it’s in-ear headphones for me, always.

The main benefit of this is that they don’t take up any space. They also keep me from spending loads on them. You can easily spend over £100 on a pair of fancy earbuds, but it seems moronic to spend more than £20-£30 on something that is so easily lost or crushed or tugged out of commission.

So, my perfect pair is something with decent sound and replaceable tips and NO bloody remote or mic on the wire (getting increasingly hard to find). Currently that’s a pair of Sennheiser CX 160. I think they were £20. But what makes them amazing, what makes ANY pair of earbuds wearable for me, and what this post is really about, is memory foam earpieces.

Pretty much all earbuds you get now come with a few sizes of rubber earpieces. They are  a waste of time. Toss them. About 8 years ago, I bought a cheap pair of JVC earbuds in the airport and they had the option of memory foam earpieces along with the rubber ones. I tried them and I have since never used anything else.

For a while, that was hard. I would save the earpieces for longer than was probably hygienically wise. I’d switch them from an old pair of headphones to a new one. When that particular JVC headphone disappeared from the market after my third pair, I used my leftover earpieces for 2 YEARS until I found another brand doing memory foam. Yes. That is disgusting.

I searched a few years ago online for a place to order just the earpieces, but didn’t have a lot of luck, so I muddled through for another wee while. But recently I checked the interweb again and found what I’d been looking for all these years: Comply Foam headphone tips.

Comply makes various different types of memory foam earpiece, and they make them to fit all different brands of headphone. So you go to their site, tell them what make and model your headphones are, and they point you at the right size. You can then choose the type of earpiece you want and the in-ear size (and in some cases, colour). I went with the T-500 isolation tips in medium.

One of my favourite things about memory foam, aside from how comfortable it is to wear all day, is how well it blocks outside sound. It’s so effective at this that you don’t have to turn your volume up nearly as loud as you normally would in order to hear properly, both out in the world and on an airplane. I remember the first time I used memory foam earpieces on a plane and anything louder than the first notch on the volume control was suddenly too much. The background noise on a plane is so hard to cut through, so I was super impressed with my cheap-o little JVC earbuds. I felt like I’d uncovered some massive secret answer to life. And it had cost me less than $15! Plus, keeping your volume down can only be better for your eardrums.

Comply tips are about $15 for three pairs, and I think that’s a great deal. Now I can buy any headphones I want, regardless of what earpieces they come with, and I can make them perfect with the tips I choose. That to me is well worth the extra cost, even if shipping to the UK is a bit high. Also, I can now toss my earpieces when they get manky instead of hanging onto them for as long as possible. That has to be better for my ears.

The tips fit my headphones pretty tightly, so it was a little difficult to get them on, but that’s probably good because they also seem to stay put once they’re in place. And the foam itself is pretty high quality. It’s a lot nicer than the tips that came with my old cheap headphones. And they fit my ear so perfectly I can barely feel my actual headphones. I can wear them for a long, long time with no fidget fits or feeling claustrophobic. That is a gear WIN.


The best carry-on-friendly bottles

Muji travel bottles

I have wavered between being staunchly carry-on only and always-check-the-bag (even when the bag is easily carry-on size). I’ve never had a big problem with packing light, but I don’t enjoy lugging things around when I don’t have to on long layovers, and I like to have things like my multi-tool with me for at least 50% of the trips I take. I can also be particular about my sunscreen, and it’s easier to just bring the whole bottle.

Aside from sunscreen though, I can make it an awfully long time on 100ml max of any one liquid toiletry. (Take that, terrorism!) And after finding what I believe to be the HOLY GRAIL of reusable travel bottles something like 6 years ago, I feel like a winner every time I chuck my travel kit into a bag.

I tried a bunch of bottles, from cheap stuff you get in Boots to expensive things from Aveda. They always broke or were hard to clean or got stained or were too fiddly or SOMETHING. Something that made me fed up enough to keep looking. And then one day when I was in London, I wandered into a Muji, (likely drawn by the dizzying array of stationery) and my TSA-compliant prayers were answered.

I think of Muji as the IKEA of Japan. They have everything and it’s all very functional and cleverly designed and minimalist in the nicest way. They do clothes too, but I am a tall western lady not fit for the proportions of Japanese clothing lines (I have a hard time in Uniqlo with anything other than the sleeveless), so I don’t normally bother with that section, but it’s nice stuff as well.

Anyway, Muji has a pretty comprehensive travel range, and they sell a few different types of travel bottle, but the ones I have and love are the frosted, squishable ones. They are PET plastic so not for solvent-based stuff, but I use them for shampoo, conditioner, and sometimes hand lotion if I don’t have a tiny enough bottle of it. I have a few of the 100ml ones and a few of the 50ml tubes and I have been using the same ones since I bought them ages ago. They are super easy to fill, empty, and clean (even my bright red Aveda colour conserve conditioner, which stains EVERYTHING, did not stain my travel bottle), and if there is a way to break them, I haven’t found it.

The other thing that’s great about these is that they sell them separately, so you don’t have to buy some kit of random bottles you don’t end up using all of. You just buy what you’re gonna use and they last forever and ever and ever. For non-squishable liquids like sprays, they have clear, non-squishy bottles. I do have one of the foaming pumps for the cleanser I used to use, which was really great because the travel-sized branded one was WAY pricey.

Muji have lots of other little travel bits and bobs that may or may not be just as awesome, so it’s probably a good place to look if you’re in the market for that kind of thing. The other really handy thing I have from there is one of these clear, zippable, TPU plastic pouches to hold my beloved bottles. I was so fed up wasting ziploc bags at airport security I just decided to try one of these one day and see if it flew (har har). And I’ve never had a problem. It’s the same size as the disposable bags they offer you at the airport, but it’s super durable, (again) easy to clean, and plenty spacious, and security is always happy with it. It’s not completely waterproof, so if you’re super worried about spills, then maybe it’s not for you, but then these bottles have never leaked on me in 6 years, so it’s not something I think about too much.

So, if you’ve been searching high and low for the be-all, end-all of travel toiletry containment, I highly recommend you have a look at Muji. I get nothing from them for saying any of this, I just really, really love those bottles.