Saturday, April 11, 2015

[travels] Kyoto and Kobe, Japan in the Winter

I woke up smelling the scent of the tatami mats intermingled with the clean cotton of my futon.  My jet lag was gone and I had slept comfortably through the night.  I could already hear sounds of the shopkeepers opening up their stalls and setting up for the day's business in the shopping arcade below.  Today was going to be a busy day for Sarah and I.  We were planning on meeting up with my brother Jun, who was coming from Osaka.  Kyoto called out to us, just begging to be explored.

Day 3
The Kyoto Station puts every American airport to shame.  It a modern colossal station spaceship, complete with it's own ramen floor, multiple shopping malls, vast ranges of dining, and meticulously clean, of course.  We purchased a Kyoto day bus and subway pass for 1200 yen, which would allow us to travel throughout the city to see every attraction that piqued our interests.  Sarah and I wandered through the station and settled down for breakfast in a cozy cafe.  Literally cozy-- they had baskets with a throw blankets underneath every chair.  I had a Kujo green onion and chicken sandwich, which was a regional special.  The kujo negi is a traditional Kyoto vegetable, known for its soft texture, slightly sweet, and mild flavor.

We made a sad attempt at trying to meet Jun at the platform as nice Japanese friends might do, but failed epically.  In hindsight, the enormous Kyoto station wasn't the best place for us to try this.  Nevertheless, we had our passes in hand and plotted our path to the ever-famous Kinkaku-ji, or the "Golden Pavillion".  You must know there is also the Ginkaku-ji, the "Silver Pavillion" that is nowhere near as impressive as it's golden counterpart.  With limited time in Kyoto, I would recommend the kinkaku-ji for it's stunning photo opportunities and uniqueness.  Brace yourself for hoards of people taking pictures as soon as you enter the property.  We asked a delightful elderly gentleman to take a picture of our little group.  He had never used an iphone before, and after our request, I came away with ten photo bursts of our feet, torsos, and our smiling faces.

Our next destination was Arashiyama Park on the northwest border of Kyoto.  We were lured by the promise of lovely bamboo forests, and especially the Iwatayama Monkey Park.  I am something of an animal-encounter-fanatic, and I never turn down the opportunity to get close to a wild mammal.  The Arashiyama area seemed to have a different vibe of it's own.  Restaurants and souvenir shops were lined along the Hozu River, packed with tourists looking for a place to rest or re-group.  We breezed through the Tenryu-ji temple to get to the bamboo forest on the outer border.  It wasn't necessary to go through the temple to get to the forest, but it was a nice walk that I highly recommend.  The bamboo forest walk itself was a short windy path surrounded by vibrant stalks shooting up into the sky.  This was a popular destination, so beware that it's exceedingly difficult to snap pictures without getting another person in it.

By this time, it was late afternoon and sunset was imminent.  A small panic started to build inside my stomach... we hadn't gone to the Iwatayama Monkey Park yet.  Our leisurely pace quickened to a determined stride, because we still had a bit of ground to cover.  We went over the Togetsukyo bridge onto the other side, and located the unassuming monkey park entrance ticket booth.  By this time, we were practically running.  The hike to the summit of monkeys was no joke, it was a grueling 30 minutes of steep switchback trails.  We were peeling off our scarves, coats, sweaters, and I sincerely broke a sweat along that hike.  There were a few encouraging facts along the way, but no monkey sightings unless you got to the very top.  It all happened very quickly-- we went from seeing no monkeys to many shrieking monkeys swiping snacks from each other and demanding treats from the humans.  I found a comfortable spot on the ground next to a fire the groundskeeper had outside to keep the monkeys warm.  It was an ideal spot, as I found myself within 3 feet of monkeys the entire time.  Particularly one, that I affectionately called Momo.

We stayed for as long as we could, but the light of day had diminished and we needed to make our way back down the mountain.  Sight-seeing was temporarily over, so the pursuit of ramen naturally transcended the agenda.  Jun's mom recommended a ramen-ya known for it's exceptionally clear, yet flavorful broth.  Ino-Ichi ramen was located several streets off the bustle of Gion on the lower level of a commercial building.  It only had a handful of small tables inside with a small bar, and a line had already begun building outside.  The wait was well worth it, and we got a seat at the bar with a full view into the kitchen.  I couldn't take my eyes off of the cook as he labored over the assembly of toppings, even using tiny tongs to gently place the Wagyu beef on the surface.  God, it was good.

Jun jokes that Japanese girls have expanded stomachs because they are constantly eating.  I believe this is a true condition, as I too gain a Japanese girl sized stomach by my third day in Japan.  There is always room to eat more delicious food.  We walked back into Gion to introduce Sarah to Tsujiri Honten, famous for it's green tea concoctions of sips and sweets.  Last year, Jun and I had to wait in line for an hour to get a table.  For some reason on this evening, the gates of heaven opened up and there was no wait.  We enjoyed two parfaits and basked in the warmth of the restaurant, letting moments of weariness seep in.  Gion is a wonderful place to buy souvenirs, and I made sure to pick up several boxes of tea from the tsujiri honten store on my way out.  I still enjoy my genmaicha tea on the occasional Saturday morning when my heart yearns for Japan.  The night was rounded out with a visit to the Jam Hostel Sake Bar, where I had stayed the previous year.  They had an impressive collection of curated Sake from each region of Japan, and the owner dutifully explained the origin of each drink.  I mulled over my yuzu sake and gave in to the beckoning of sleep.

Day 4

It was another beautiful morning in Kyoto.  The sound coming from the shopping arcade was already familiar to my ears.  We set out to explore new territory and temper the grumble of my Japanese girl stomach in the Nishiki Ichiba market.  This was not just an ordinary shopping arcade, this was a mecca of ingredients, supplies, and street food.  This was a place that made you wish you had eyes in the back of your head, just so you could take in all of the sights around you.  Come hungry with an open mind and you will not be disappointed.  Follow the local eating etiquette-- pull off to the side to snack, do not eat while walking.  Only misinformed foreigners do that.  I may or may not have been guilty of this act.

We got sidetracked for a moment by a large crowd outside of a pub and got reigned into watching a New Year's mochi pounding ritual.  Lucky Jun got to take part in it while I snapped an obscene amount of pictures.  Our next stop was Fushimi Inari, known to many foreigners as the "red gate shrine".  Photo opportunities are fantastic here (if you can get an angle without people).  Note the many guardian foxes here that don red scarves.  Most excellent.

Kyoto's natural well water is the ideal component for making the perfect tofu.  Tofu making requires lots of water, and Kyoto's soft water makes for creamy and smooth tofu.  Even if you aren't a tofu aficionado, you ought to try some in there.  Sarah and I found a restaurant in the Kyoto station that served nothing but tofu, transformed in many ways.  There was a queue in front despite it being late in the afternoon, so I had a feeling this meal would be good.  The variety was remarkable-- silken tofu soups, yakitori-style skewers, and even green tea pudding.  I don't even think you can find this kind of restaurant any where in America... even if you did, the tofu quality would not match Kyoto's. Following this lovely meal, we ventured to our next destination, Kobe.

I have mixed feelings about Kobe.  It feels juxtaposed between times and cultures, not quite Japanese but you can't place a finger on it.  It's a hodge-podge kind of place-- strong Chinese influence, modern structures, and quite frankly, not a lot to do.  We explored around the Sannomiya area, which had "China Town" area, high rise buildings, and Harborland all within a reasonable walking distance.  I had visited a friend in Kobe last year and I felt that I had already seen almost everything the city had to offer.  Sarah and I got in late evening, so we went to China Town to see what delectable snacks awaited us.  Street food vendors called out to us, each one claiming their pork belly bun was better than the rest.  It felt like deja vu walking down this little street-- almost everyone was selling the same thing.  We had a few small items, but I was discontent with my meal.  Make a note: stick to Japanese food in Japan. 

As we wandered through the streets of Kobe, we made an important discovery.  Gudetama, a cranky runny cartoon egg, which became a beloved mascot for the duration of the trip. Our hostel was located near a giant arcade and pachinko building.  I've realized that we must have stayed in a seedy area if we were surrounded by pachinko parlors.  Sarah and I ducked in to see what we could play.  We discovered the bowling alley on the top floor, and bought ourselves a frame in broken Japanese and lot of pantomiming.  The shoe distribution system was impressive... there was an entire wall broken into sections of shoe sizes.  We found our shoe sizes (did some conversion on google) and pressed a massive round button that deposited our shoes down a chute.  I was blown away by this bowling shoe vending machine. 
The next hour and half spent at this arcade ranks at the top of my fondest trip memories.  4 words: Mermaid Coin Pushing Game.  1500 yen at this arcade bought us two hefty baskets of game coins...and our choice of a cutesy anime character folder as a bonus.  I'd never had so many coins in my possession... it was sheer madness.  The mass felt like 7 pounds.  We were drawn into like moths to a light bulb by an enormous, brilliantly blue, shiny, noisy mermaid machine belting exciting phrases and high-pitched melodies.  Like a toddler tasting pop rocks for the first time, the experience was truly invigorating.  We plopped down on the bench and didn't move for the next hour and half until the coins were depleted.  Magical treasure chests opened up, rubber gems swirled around and dished out bonus coins.  Elderly locals came and went all around us like a time-lapse montage in a movie.  

I could have stayed on that bench pushing coins until the cows came home.  

Next stop -- Osaka and Nara

Saturday, March 28, 2015

[travels] Tokyo and Hakone (Fuji San), Japan in the Winter

Mention the word Japan, and an indescribable giddiness comes over me.  Suddenly I am consumed by thoughts of wandering down curious alleyways, sniffing out my next bite to eat, and laughing wildly at the hilarious cartoon drawings displayed throughout the country.  Then, I dream of noodles.

There was a moment in time where I thought I wouldn't be going back to Japan after my December 2013 trip. But, the stars aligned and I made my way back to the country I adore.  My friend Sarah and I struck up a conversation on the plane ride with an energetic entrepreneuress, Avi.  She was going on a food pilgrimage in search of Japanese food unicorns to strengthen her taste repertoire and instill it back into her SF Food Tour business, Avital Tours.  It is evident, that Japan is a place of great food, from winding street markets, to traditional Kaiseki experiences at Ryokans (traditional hot bath and meal hospitality).  On this trip, I focused on trekking into uncharted territory on my food map.  Ah yes, and eating noodles every day.

Day 0 (Late Evening) 
I had made plans to meet with a local friend for dinner only a few hours after my flight touched down. We managed to check in and meet her near our hostel in Asakusa for our first meal.  Sarah and I were undoubtedly bleary eyed with the appetite of ravenous lions.  The past few months I had been propping Japanese food on a golden pedestal every time Sarah and I talked about the trip.  This was going to be the moment of truth. My friend Akira took us into a nondescript tower building to a popular izakaya with enclosed dining rooms.  Regretfully, I was too travel-dazed to snap a picture of this meal, but it consisted of an eclectic salad with slivers of fresh hamachi, and yakisoba.  I paired this meal with a strawberry flavored Suntory whisky highball.  It was odd, and I'll leave it at that.

 Day 1 
It was 5:30am and I had never felt more alive.  Sarah was sleeping peacefully in the bunk bed below and I was on Yelp searching for a spot to eat...immediately.  I ninja'd my way down the bunk bed ladder and began rummaging through my belongings in the darkness.  Luckily Sarah woke up and couldn't think of a better thing to do at that ungodly hour than to search for food with me.  That was true friendship.  We ducked into a 24 hour udon and soba restaurant and had healthy bowls of curry udon (me) and kitsune soba (her) in the back table near the kitchen opening. This is my favorite dining live cooking show.  Morning commuters and elderly locals efficiently ordered, slurped, and paid.  All was well in the world.

Sarah and I then headed over to the Tsukiji market to see if we could catch a glimpse inside of the real fish marketplace.  Being there again felt like I had never left Japan.  Every konbu stand and octopus tentacle looked friendly and familiar.  We wound our way into the market, weaving around the long lines of people waiting for bowls of ikura-uni dons, chirashi, and even ramen.  I fell into a dreamy state, stopping often to inhale deeply and smile knowingly at the patrons waiting in line.  As we continued to forage onward, I became entranced by tamagoyaki carefully being prepared, poured, and skillfully rolled with chopsticks, then popped on a stick.  It smelled sweet and savory, and I had to have one.

We stopped at the Namiyoke Inari Shrine.  This is easily my favorite shrine for its beautifully painted wooden dragon heads, location in Tsukiji, and its purpose of bringing bountiful catch upon the harbor.  Much to my delight, the gates to the marketplace were open and Sarah and I began gingerly walking in.  Energetic men wearing black galoshes zipped around us in their speedy vehicles, calling out to each other. They carried white Styrofoam boxes-- treasures of the fresh catch.  Unfortunately our time was cut short because we had to catch a train for Hakone.  We were able to squeeze in a visit to the enormous Sensoji temple and were granted promising omikujis (fortunes), which is always a good sign.

We rode with our JR Rail passes from Tokyo to the Odawara station.  From there, I highly recommend buying the Hakone Free Pass, which you can get for 4000 yen and will allow you to do a lot of fun activities in the area for 48 hours.  It is well worth it, even if you don't get to do everything the pass allows.  Most people need to hop on the bus from the Odawara station-- be warned, the road up the mountain is steep and windy (but at least the Hakone pass covers the fare).  Our ryokan was situated towards the mountain summit, and I started feeling nauseous 40 minutes into our 1+ hour ride.  But, as soon as I got off the bus and took a smell of the crisp mountain air, I felt invigorated.  Fuji-San stood prominently before us, silently plotting it's next volcanic eruption.  Simply magnificent.  Getting here was worth every penny, windy bus ride, and 5am wake-up.

Shortly after, we checked into Lodge Fujimien and continued to gape at Fuji-San, sincerely awestruck by it's massive presence.  This mini 24 hour trip was, is, and will always be about this beloved strata volcano.  We rode the ropeway to the Odakuwani stop and ate a perplexing snack of eggs and ice cream dyed black by the sulfur.  Curiously enough, nothing tasted like sulfur.  Steamy, stinky, sulfuric mist rose from the cracks of the mountain.  Black egg cartoons were prevalent everywhere, especially ones with muscular limbs.  That image made no sense, but that is also why I love Japan.

Sarah and I made our way back to the Lodge in time to don our robes and await the lovely kaiseki (traditional multi-course) meal before us.  I couldn't help but feel like a giant playing in a toddler's dollhouse as I lifted the tiny hand-painted vessels to reveal the mini courses inside.  Everything was meticulously crafted, arranged, and tasted unfamiliar but inviting.  It was like hugging someone else's grandma.  With full bellies, we struggled to stay awake through the dessert.  After a much needed nap, we visited the onsen, adjusted to the scorching water temperatures, and sighed with contentment.  There aren't many other moments that can top a day with mesmerizing sights, new experiences, and a warm place to rest.

Day 2

Another onsen visit and delightfully diverse breakfast buffet spread... these ryokans take no shortcuts around relaxation.  We used our Hakone Free Pass for a ferry ride across Lake Ashi and strolled through town plotting our next meal.  I stood outside on the ferry deck, listened to music, and took deep breaths of the fresh air.  This was an impossibly beautiful day.  The bus ride back down didn't seem so windy anymore, and we found ourselves transported back into the hustle and bustle of the Odawara station.  Two bowls of udon later, we were back on the train en route to Kyoto.

This particular Kyoto trip cannot be remembered without distinct feelings of fondness for our hostel, Oki's Inn.  It is run by the friendliest, most accommodating souls, and they even have cats.  We stayed in a tatami room on the second floor that overlooked a narrow shopping arcade.  It poured rain on this particular evening, so we borrowed umbrellas as we ventured out in search of dinner.  Which meant more noodles, and more specifically, ramen.  

And as all good meals go, this meal was followed by deep sleep.  Bonus points for cozy futons, the soft pitter-patter of rain, and cats chasing each other in the rafters.

Next stop -- Kyoto and Kobe

Sunday, March 15, 2015

[diy] Surprise Guest Room Makeover!

A few days ago, my brother-in law was talking about decorating the guest room, and I told him I was happy to help.  He told me I could have full reign over decorating, and I was beside myself.  This was going to be fun!! I swung by their house  to snap a few pictures of the themed Disney art prints that were already hanging up.  I wanted to work with the existing furniture and cool tone of the wall paint, but make the space feel welcoming, clean, and energetic.

The existing khaki and pink tone bedding did not go well with the blues and greens of the art prints.  It was important to find something that would tie all the colors together.
I was able to find all of the bedding components-- sheet set, comforter set, and pillow shams at Macy's for an incredible price.  The sales associate helping me was a superstar, and she even maximized my savings by breaking up the transaction and using coupons on every item.  She price matched each item with Macy' (which is considerably cheaper), in addition to using my coupons.  I've made a new shopping friend today...  
After Macy's, I zipped over to Crate and Barrel to see if I could find a nightstand lamp for around $100.  It was hard resisting the amazing selection, but I forced myself to stay on budget.  The lamp was definitely the "splurge" piece, but well worth it because it adds an air of sophistication to the youthful room.  The lamp also matches well with the cool tone theme throughout the house, so I know it can be used for many years to come.

I hopped back into the car and headed to Target, where I snatched up an adorable faux succulent arrangement in a white and acrylic vase.  The little succulent had plenty of subtle color that would tie in the art prints.  I threw in a set of decorative square mirrors and two unique wall shelves, and pushed onwards to see the fabric curtains.  I zeroed in on a high-quality Nate Berkus woven curtain at the stellar price, and scooped up the last two on the rack.
My sister and brother in-law came home just as I was cleaning up the last scrap of cardboard in the guest room.  They were thrilled with the bedset, and especially loved the lamp!  This was a wonderful way to spend a free Sunday, and it only got better as we hung out in the new guest room.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

[musings] Where I Spend 2700 Hours

On average, I sleep 7.5 hours per night.  Multiply this by the days in the year, and I'm spending over 2700 hours in my bedroom.  Conscious or unconscious, that is a lot of time to be in one place!  There are so many things to appreciate about this room in your home, and these are the things I adore most.

Bedside reading

Serene Spot -- On occasion I wish that I had a TV in my room so I could "zombie mode" comfortably in bed.  But the truth is, I'm way too connected to electronics during all other hours of the day.  Not having a TV in my room forces me to truly relax.  If I'm not quite ready to sleep, there is always a small stack of books handy on my nightstand.  I keep a lightly scented candle nearby with a whimsical lighter inside so I can get it lit without ever leaving the bed.  

Family Time -- I remember my siblings and I would clamber into my parent's king-sized bed at night and demand bed time stories.  We'd roll ourselves in the blankets and laugh at the tall tales my dad would tell.  Now that I'm a (sort of) adult, I still love to spend time hanging out in bed with my fiance, and our two silly cats, Gizmo and Loki.  

Rest and Rejuvenation -- A down comforter is my number one must have in my bedroom.  I was first introduced to them in elementary school by my best friend in the 5th grade, and I've been hooked ever since.  Laying in a bed with down is an extraordinary experience that is unparalleled by anything else in the world.  Down retains your body warmth within the blankets and you can buy light, medium, or heavy fill depending on how warm you need to be (heavier fill = warmer).  I can not stress how important a good mattress is.  Danny and I shelled out a pretty penny for our mattress last year, but in a matter of days all my aches and pains that I had been having went away.  We had a mattress that was too soft and poorly constructed, so we were literally rolling into the middle because the center wasn't supported.  It.was.a.nightmare.  

My Go-To Bedroom Retailers:

Saturday, February 21, 2015

[diy] Christmas Photobooth with Your Ipad

It might be February, but this post is definitely, "better late than never"!  Last Christmas, my sister had the honor of hosting our family party at her home.  I wanted to try making an  economical DIY photobooth for everyone to enjoy.  After a bit of strategic thinking and brother-assisted jerry-rigging, we were able to fashion our own photobooth area in the entry way.  The location was perfect!  Everyone could take pictures on the way in or on the way out, and it was certainly a conversation starter.


  • Festive background ($4 roll of decorative burlap runner from Michael's)
  • Assorted Holiday Props (hats, headbands, bows, santa beard, necklaces)
  • iPad
  • Tape (painter, masking, or duct) to hang background
  • String
  • Instruction Sign (created on

Gathering the supplies was a sinch-- most items I already had on hand from my Christmas stash, SF's Santa-Con event from the previous weekend, and even a few items from my company holiday party.  The only things I purchased was the burlap runner, a reindeer headband, and the giant golden bow, all for less than $10 at Michael's Craft Store. I could have spent even less by using an old roll of wrapping paper as the background!

Setting up the iPad:  I downloaded a free Christmas "Santa Claus" image application that let you put themed stickers on your photos.  But, we really ended up primarily using the good ol' default camera app.  Make sure you have the new iOS update, which includes the option to take a time lapse photo on the right hand toolbar.  We set the time lapse to 10 seconds to give everyone enough time to pose for the picture.  

From here, we needed to figure out how to hang the iPad at an optimal level.  My brother suggested hanging it from the upstairs landing area and suspending the iPad below to face our backdrop wall.  The screen was about 4 feet away from the background, but you'll really just have to do a bit of trial and error to figure out what works well in your space.  I hopped on to whip up a quick photobooth sign, and even an instruction sheet (not shown here) to instruct our guests on how to operate the iPad.

Can you tell we had a blast?!  All of the photos were stored on my iPad, so I synced my Facebook account for the night and created a "Family Holiday Party" photo album so we could upload and share right away.  I think this photobooth may have to become a permanent holiday party fixture for all future events...

Monday, January 12, 2015

[travels] Purse and Carry On Packing List

I thought it could be helpful to share the items I brought along in my purse and carry on bag (backpack).  Everything worked out quite well!  It felt that every item served it's purpose, and there was very little wasted room.  You'll notice from my previous posts, that many of these devices and items are part of my usual travel accessory roundup.

Purse with crossbody and handle straps
This Marc by Marc Jacobs 'Ligero' Leather Satchel lasted only 1.5 weeks before the side stitching fell apart.  I was so disappointed by the poor quality!  Luckily I bought it from Nordstrom and was able to return it when I got home with no hassle.


  • Anker Charge Stick
  • Mobile Hotspot Device (rented from Japan-wireless)
  • iPhone 5s
  • Chargers and cables (USB/2 Prong, Micro USB/USB, Lightning/USB)
  • Bose Headphones... they are worth every penny.  Meltyourfaceoff music quality.

Everything else

  • Chapstick (Eos smooth mint)
  • Tinted chapstick (Fresh sugar lip treatment)
  • Pen
  • Slim wallet with coin component
  • Pack of tissues

Carry-on Backpack

Main read:  Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

In my eyes, Japan is a place of consuming any and all food that comes across your vision. What better way to ante up for the trip than to read this book?  It's witty, humorous, slightly grotesque, and facinating.  Perfect.

Other downloaded books:  Where'd you go, Bernadette and When You Were Older

Everything else

  • Plastic folder of travel documents
  • Thin notebook for writing
  • Extra pen
  • Granola bars (Kind bars, of course!)
  • Deck of cards
  • Makeup Case (discussing this would be a blog post of it's own...)
  • Neck pillow
  • Sleeping eye mask
  • Sunglasses in case
  • Fuzzy socks for the plane

What didn't I use?  Two granola bars and the deck of cards.  But I'm still glad I brought them-- you never know when you are fighting off a bout of insomnia due to jet lag, and you want to play a game of war with your travel mate.  Or when you buy an economical plane ticket that has a layover conveniently placed so the airline isn't required to serve you a complimentary meal...  a grumbling stomach will make for an unpleasant flight.

For more Japan trip adventuring-- see my "Travels" page!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

[travels] Japan Female Packing List -- Winter 2014

Ahhh yes... it's that time again!  Somehow by a miraculous twist of fate and nudging from my friend, I find myself headed to Japan again this winter for 10 days.  I am now armed with a bit of experience, fond memories, and the desire to up (even if slightly) my style game this year.  We'll be staying mostly in the Tokyo and Kansai region this time, so no need to pack for snowy weather.

Here are a few of my must haves for female travelers!  These items are all truly in my suitcase-- none of that wishful outfit arranging image nonsense.  I'll do a recap when I get back to let you know how the pieces worked out. Updates in green.

Accesssories:  Scarves, gloves, and head peices are absolutely clutch.  It's likely you'll be spending a lot of time outside checking out shrines, so make sure you are warm enough to travel comfortably.
  • Grey slouchy beanie -- perhaps a little too slouchy, hardly worn
  • Teal knitted headband
  • Grey / black knitted headband
  • Black scarf
  • Grey / white / black scarf -- adored by my travel mate!
  • Grey checkered scarf
  • 2 pairs of iphone touch gloves

Bottoms & Shoes:  For a 10 day trip, I'd reccomend bringing 2-3 pairs of pants.  2 pairs of comfortable walking shoes should suffice, and long pants to sleep in.  Fleece-lined tights and leggings can also go underneath pants to add extra warmth.
  • Black heeled riding boots
  • Tan suede ankle boots
  • Grey, green, and blue skinny jeans -- perfect amount of pants with enough outfit variety
  • Collegiate sweat pants
  • Yoga Pants -- best all around sleeping pants

Tops:  You can't go wrong with a bunch of sweaters!  Pick a few in patterns and colors that will easily match.  Throw in an extra jacket or cardigan for layering, and camisoles to wear underneath everything.
  • Grey crewneck sweater -- my main "go to" sweater
  • Sea Foam v-neck sweater
  • White striped sweater
  • Brown chunky knit sweater
  • Red and white striped sweater
  • Black motorcycle knit jacket
  • Burgundy open cardigan
  • Sleeveless black lace top -- the only thing I didn't wear, because we didn't go to any nightclubs.
  • 3 longsleeves - black, white, grey
  • 4 camisoles - assorted colors

Outerwear:  You'll definitely want 2 or 3 outerwear peices.  Try to select different styles so you can mix and match to your daily agenda.

  • Khaki short trench coat
  • Grey Patagonia zip up fleece -- worked well by itself or layering underneath khaki trench coat and pea coat if needed.
  • Navy blue and black pea coat

Of course don't forget about the usual suspects (electronic devices, jewelry, make up, and a couple extra granola bars for the flight).  Need another packing list?  Check out this post from last year's trip.