Vegan Mofo: Osprey Travel Backpack

 

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Wacky Wednesday is when I write about something that might not be food related, but still travel-related. Probably. It is wacky, afterall. Anything can happen.

 

For the first one, I’m going to to share with you the best travel backpack I’ve ever used: the Farpoint Osprey 55.

If I have to have all my worldly possessions to my back, this is the backpack I want to use.

If I have to have all my worldly possessions to my back, this is the backpack I want to have.

 

The backpack is 50 liters, with a detachable 5 liter day backpack. Along with packing cubes (potentially a future Wacky Wednesday post), this was my best purchase for my extended mini RTW trip.

It’s super comfy, has fit into carry-on on every plane I’ve tried (saving me money, especially in the US with much stricter checked baggage rules than the countries I traveled in Europe and SE Asia) and is much roomier than it looks.

 

 

Fits everywhere!*    *almost

Fits everywhere!*
*almost

 

If you’re planning to travel for any trip longer than a week and less than 6 months (though I am fairly certain this backpack would last for even 12 months + trips), I 100% recommend this backpack. It has held up remarkably well, especially considering how hard I am on physical objects. There’s no fraying, the zippers are all still attached, and it still looks almost new. If I was really on top of things, I’d be an Amazon affiliate and have a link here, but I’m not, so if you’re interested, head to Amazon or REI or Osprey’s webpage and look around. The two blog posts I read that really sold me are TravelFashion Girl (a GREAT resource for travelin’ gals) and Answering Oliver.

 

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Healthy Surprise Review

 

Well, this is a long time in the making. Oh, happy New Year, by the way!!

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Healthy Surprise contacted me a few months ago and asked if I’d like to review their box of goodies. This is a company that sends a box of vegan, natural, gluten-free and soy-free snacks to your doorstep monthly.

From their website:

Each Healthy Surprise box is filled to the brim with delicious, healthy snacks. Every month our snackologists work hard to put together a variety of healthy snacks to form the perfect snack box! We’ve partnered with the best snack companies in the country and work with them to deliver you a great variety each and every month. Every month you’ll receive totally new snacks – we never repeat any snack two months in a row, although we may include different flavors of something we think is really special. And every now and then we bring back our favorite snacks when there’s popular demand!

Of course I said “Heck Yes!”

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I was blown away when the box arrived. So many treats. And just knowing they were all natural was great, too. A large portion were even raw, which I love. 

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I took some photos right away, then just grabbed a new snack every few days as I was running out the door. I stay pretty busy, and I grew accustomed (and thankful) for a couple of weeks of always having a fun new and healthy snack in my purse.

 

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I really enjoyed the Thunderbird (almond cookie) bar in the upper left corner and I always love Larabars. I’ve tried a few other kinds of Hail Merry snacks and liked them, but wasn’t a big fan of this particular one. Hemp seeds always make me happy—I add them to salads, and this was a fun size to bring to work with me.

 

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These Home Free mini chocolate chip cookies were so good. They were the first thing I opened and I ate them all and loved every last crumb. So good, would totally buy these again. In fact, I would eat them for breakfast right now if I had some. Mmmmm cookies.

 

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That’s it Fruit Bars are awesome. Just fruit. Perfect for snacking on the bar. Will buy these again if I see ‘em around.

 

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Vegan Caramel Corn?!?!??!? YES PLEASE FOREVER.  This Cocomocorn was phenomenal. Loved every single piece.

 

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I’ll be honest, I still haven’t tried the dried pitaya in the upper left corner. I don’t even know what it is and I got scared. The crunchy cinnamon apple chips are great—crunchy dehydrated apples. Which, I could make in my dehydrator, sure, but I really only do that once a year or so. The Coco-Roons are one of my favorites! This flavor was almond and strawberry—or ‘pb and j’. These were moist and filling and sweet and just so so good. The lemon super cookies I gave to my friend Lyssa; she was doing a cleanse and I thought these cookies, while fitting nicely within the soy-free and gluten-free parameters, would be a nice treat. I snuck one first though, and I liked it. Sweet tangy crunchy little cookies.

 

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I’ll be honest with these last two—didn’t care for either of them. I think that’s my particular palate, though, because my friends I was with at each time liked both the Gone Nuts and the Cheesy Almonds.

 

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I loved loved getting the opportunity to try this box. Healthy Surprise seems like a rad company. I love that the treats they send you are treats that taste good that you can feel good about. If this sort of service fits in your budget (cost ranges from $33/month for the size I received up to $99/month for 2-6 people), I definitely recommend it. I got introduced to new products and had healthy and tasty fuel to keep me going throughout the day.

 

 

In other news, I’m starting a podcast! Inspired by Barb Troyer’s presentation at Vida Vegan’s Tech Seminar in Seattle last November, I’ve been quietly working away on this new project. The name of it is “The Janessa and Amado Show” (<—clever title, huh?) I have an awesome co-host, and every two weeks, we’ll talk about Portland culture and events—vegan food, cocktails, twitter news, upcoming events and interviews. And since we both travel, we’ll definitely be including other cities and countries occasionally. Each episode will last about 30 minutes. If you want to stay up to date on when we release a new one, head over to our Facebook page and click ‘like’. We’ll be airing the first one this Friday!

A Few of My Favorite Things

 

I love new things. Routine and Sameness and Consistency make me weep inside. I need change and newness consistently in order to really thrive. I have been known to say that the only thing in my life I’m consistent about is my inconsistency. This means that I frequently have new favorite things that I absolutely love SO MUCH FOREVER more than anything in the world until oh-look, something new! I’m always on the lookout for new music, causes, bathroom and kitchen products, boyfriends (kidding) (mostly), projects, fashion, experiences and places.

While this can occasionally cause a bit of irritation for friends and family in my life who are more tried and true and steady-eddy, it means that I’m always discovering new things. I thought I’d share a few of my current favorites.

1. Songza

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This website and smartphone app is so cute. I mean, you can tell it’s gonna be cute just by the little guy with the big S on his shirt and the goofy grin. But it’s also cute because you get to decide the mood you’re in and Songza picks a playlist for you based on it. It’s your own personal “Music Concierge”.

For example, if you log in on a Saturday evening, you’ll get options for music based on A Relaxing Weekend, Eating Dinner, Hosting a Cocktail Party, Cooking, or Pre-Gaming with Friends. Once you click on one, you’ll be given further options.

For the sake of this explanation, say we click on Hosting a Cocktail Party. We’ll have our choice of further options. Are we in the mood for International, Vocal Standards, Oldies, Electronica or Jazz? Mmmmmm, let’s click on Oldies.

What pops up now are three playlists carefully cultivated. We can pick one of three: Swinging London, Smooth Rockabilly or Chess Records. There’s a little description under each category for us to choose the best option.

BAM.

Instant playlist. Totally free, totally customizable, and totally cute.

If you’re not into the whole picking a genre by mood/time of day/activity, there are other options for straight up playlists and genres too.

It’s more fun and interactive than Spotify or Pandora. I won’t stop using either one of those music services, but I really like this option added to the mix. Plus the app is free on your smartphone, unlike Spotify.

 

2. Maple Extract

Maple Extract

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Maple Extract. I mean, really. Want maple coffee? Done. I recently made a Maple Spice Rice Milk Latte AT HOME with this extract. I’m like a barista and stuff.

I heated rice milk and maple sugar on the stove over medium heat, added a small amount of fresh-brewed really really strong coffee, and a few teaspoons of maple extract.

So. Good. I love maple-flavored anything and everything, so this stuff is like heaven-juice to me. Other uses include frosting, homemade maple vegan baileys and oatmeal.

 

3. Lime Crime Magic Dust in Circus Girl Yellow

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I’m not even sure if you can still buy this particular product anymore, but I love it so so much. A few months ago I got my hairs did, and I had yellows and oranges and blondes and sort of autumn leaves colors. I naturally wanted to match my eye shadow to my hair, and I’ve recently had a crush on all things yellow, so I’ve been looking for a yellow eye shadow. Finally, I just googled that shit and Lime Crime came up. I had never heard of this company, but they’re mostly vegan (and currently reformatting all the products that weren’t vegan to be vegan) and fairly affordable (this one was on sale for $6) and have fun colors. Like bright yellow!

I’m forbidding myself from online shopping for myself any more this year, but when I get around to forgetting that I can’t really afford to buy random make-up purchases and realize all of a sudden that I NEED a rainbow’s array of eye shadow colors, I’m heading back to Lime Crime.

 

4. Travel Blogs and Price Alerts

I’ve been reading travel blog recently. A lot. I wasn’t just bit by one travel bug; it’s like there was an infestation when I was born and I am covered. I’m always dreaming of somewhere else. There’s so much of the world to see, and I want to see it. I’m sort of cultivating travel plans for next year, and have come to depend on a few sights for inspiration, advice and deals.

BootsnAll—a website (based out of Portland!) that showcases personal essays, round the world trip planning advice and flights, and forums.

Matador Network—This is an interactive online travel magazine with inspiring stories and awesome photos.

Kayak Price Alerts—I use Kayak for price alerts. They offer an interactive map that’s fun to explore, but I find most flight deals are gone by the time I click on them. Still, the price alerts that I get are enough to keep me from getting too disheartened by the rising cost of airline tickets—I’ve seen round-trip tickets from Portland to Dublin for under $500 and to Italy for under $600.

Vayama Interactive Travel Map—Vayama is strictly an international fares sight, and they recently rolled out a map similar to Kayak’s. It’s a little more user-friendly and fun, though. I like to come here to see where the current best international deals from Portland are.

I went through some old photos from my trip to Turkey in 2009 the other day. Oh my, that place was amazing. Here’s one of my favorites:

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This is me and my friend Shelley after we were flooded out of our tree house and had to evacuate in the middle of the night in Olympos. Hot tea never tasted so good. Ask me for the whole story sometime, it’s a good one.

 

5. Hansen’s Mini Club Soda

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First of all, I just love mini-versions of normal-sized things. It’s so adorable I can’t even stand it. I also love soda water. I love anything with bubbles, but a girl can’t drink champagne all the time (or so my boss tells me. KIDDING!). So I love club soda. Trader Joe’s recently started selling six-packs of 8 oz. mini club sodas. They’re a dollar or two cheaper than at my Whole Foods, so I’m way stoked. Occasionally I’ll use them in a cocktail at home when I’m entertaining (perfect size!) though usually I’ll have one when I’m not in the mood for an alcoholic bev but want something cold and bubbly and refreshing. A squeeze of lime or a dash of peach bitters and things get real fancy.

 

6. Philosophy Eggnog Body wash

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Guys. Oh, guys. Remember how earlier I said I’m grounded from online shopping for the rest of the year? This is one of the reasons why. I friggin’ love Philosophy. This eggnog shampoo/body wash/bubble bath smells JUST LIKE EGGNOG. Oh lord. I also, if you must know, have this flavor of lip gloss. I don’t even know what to say. My lips taste so good. I may or may not have bought several other flavors of lip gloss while I was on their site. Bad Janessa. It’s just so good. If you live near a Sephora, head down and smell Philosophy’s stuff. Then buy it. Or, you know, if you don’t want to be self-banned from shopping, maybe it’s better if you stay away.

 

** Please note, I paid for all my favorite things in this post out of my own pocket. These companies don’t even know I exist. I just like them and want to share them with you.