5 Packing Essentials for Germany in the Fall & Winter

packing essentials

As a professional and constant domestic traveler who lives in Arizona, I found myself feeling a little lost when faced with packing for a late-October vacation to Northern Germany. I scoured pinterest, travel podcasts and blog posts and got a lot of good advice. While I did okay with my choices, I’ll share what worked, what didn’t and what I’d do differently along with some tried and true key essentials I’m super thankful I had with me. It was important to me to not only be mindful of function but also to style, as I didn’t want to stick out more than I inevitably already would.

  1. Stick with neutrals

One resounding theme I noticed was most people stuck with basic palettes of gray, black and a lot of olive/army green. Keeping with a basic color scheme allows for you to mix and match your pieces easily and pack fewer items. Locals worked in colors using scarves and hats (more on that in a moment!) I brought one medium weight jacket in army green, and I felt like I fit in with the crowd rather well. It was good to choose a jacket that wasn’t too heavy or too light so it transitioned well from indoors to outdoors.

army green jacket

  1. Accessorize with scarves, hats and gloves.I brought one large black pashmina/scarf that would double as a blanket for the train and I was SO glad I did.
    Me using my black scarf to hide from the shame of all the Gummy candy we bought at the Haribo store in Bonn

    Me using my black scarf to hide from the shame of all the Gummy candy we bought at the Haribo store in Bonn

    My black pashmina being used in a more traditional sense as a scarf to keep me warm and look fashionable

    My black pashmina being used in a more traditional sense as a scarf to keep me warm and look fashionable in Amsterdam

    I brought one additional designer patterned scarf for extra flair (this wool blend Missoni wave scarf). I found myself wishing I had 1-2 more, as regardless of my outfit each day, in my photos you could only see my jacket, scarf and hat. Also, it felt like EVERYONE in Germany smoked cigarettes, so my scarves were kind of funky smelling by midway through the trip and I wished I had a clean one.

    Trend alert: Chunky knit infinity scarves were by far and away the most common on men AND women, and looked super chic! I wished I had one, and almost purchased one while I was there (I live in Phoenix, so I really couldn’t justify bringing an extra one home)

    For hats, I brought one snug fitting beanie and one looser, slouchy beanie and could have used one more for the aforementioned reasons.

    Loose fitting, slouchy knit beanie

    Loose fitting, slouchy knit beanie on the train to Bonn, Germany


    Snug fitting knit beanie in Bremen, Germany

    Gloves came in handy often as waiting for trains happens outdoors and often after sundown. The temperature drops rapidly at night and the sun sets early in fall and winter. I was thankful to have convertible glove/mittens that opened up for using my phone with bare fingers. I’ve heard mixed reviews on the gloves with finger pads that are supposedly good for typing on smartphones so I opted for the latter.

  2. I only brought one full length pair of leggings. What was I thinking? I wished desperately for a fresh pair, and could have easily worn them every day. I brought one pair of stretchy dark skinny jeans that I was glad to have, but an extra pair of basic black leggings would have been a welcome use of space. Trend alert: I saw a lot of patterned black tights and combat boots! I can’t speak to how warm that would be, but it was definitely popular.I really can’t say enough about these leggings below! They’re under twenty bucks, thick material, not see through and hold up to wear. I bought one pair for the trip based on a recommendation and I’ll be getting several more ASAP. They’re the perfect pair of basic black leggings and I’m glad I don’t have to spend $39+ at Express anymore.

    BEST leggings I have ever bought, and they're under $20

    BEST leggings I have ever bought, and they’re under $20

  3. I brought one pair of calf height black boots and one pair of cute sneakers (althletic yes, but not blatant looking running shoes). I was surprised that I wore the boots every day but one. They offered extra warmth and waterproofing, and since they were larger it was easier to wear them than pack them. As long as they fit your color palette and are comfortable to put many (MANY) miles on, one pair is fine. While I often read that non cotton socks were a better choice, I only had one pair so I brought those and short cotton athletic socks. I found myself appreciating the comfort and warmth of the more padded cotton socks more than the thinner synthetic ones. If you’re planning on bringing fewer pairs and handwashing them, then of course synthetic is the better choice.
  4. Packing cubes. To say I am obsessed is an understatement. I got turned on to packing cubes once I started traveling weekly for work. I am not exaggerating when I say I couldn’t imagine traveling without these- even on short trips! You can easily double the amount of clothes you pack in your bag with the use of these lightweight nylon zip up cubes. They keep everything organized and reduce wrinkles significantly. Several brands exist, but I am loyal to the Eagle Creek cubes. I use black as it coordinates with my carry-on bag.
    Eagle creek packing cubes

Other key points:

I picked one 16” Kendra Scott necklace and rhinestone stud earrings that I never took off, and I’m glad I didn’t have to bother with jewelry since they matched everything.

Germany in the fall and winter (or anytime really) rains a LOT, so it’s best to bring an umbrella. We bought a tiny, easy to carry one with great reviews. It’s a little more expensive but we were thankful for the compact size. Through some miracle, we didn’t see a drop of rain the whole trip.

While I packed an internationally compatible travel sized hair dryer (which I love on my domestic trips) I ended up not using it ONCE. Every hotel we stayed at had a decent hair dryer and it was easier to use theirs than mess with mine and a converter plug. That said, I did use my favorite travel curling iron with the help of a plug in adaptor, and was glad to have it.

We used one international plug in adaptor for everything which was big enough to charge our tablets, phones, etc. I was glad to have the larger one even though it was a big heavier than the single plug adaptors. It also has a surge protector, so I felt safe plugging in our travel laptop.


Beginners Guide to the German Train System

The German Rail System for Beginners

I’m about 48 hours home from a week long vacation covering Northern and Western Germany, and I’m still drunk in love with the Deutche Bahn system. This warm affection didn’t come without a mild initial nervous breakdown and fair lack of planning on my part. That said, it’s all still very do-able. I had done some initial research- mostly for budget purposes, but found myself stuck without enough time to pre-purchase my ticket online (lesson ONE: They send most tickets by physical MAIL. Buy your ticket at least two weeks in advance if you’re planning on buying online). Lets, for the sake of example, say that you’ve done like me and are not buying tickets online. We’ll start from there.

Have an idea of what kind of ticket you want.

If you’re going to be in Germany for any span of several days or more and plan on traversing more than one city, the unlimited pass is really the only option. In the end, the simplicity of not having to buy multiple tickets and not having to worry which train I could or could not board and when, was worth every penny. Speaking of pennies, these tickets are not cheap. I had assumed at first that the tickets were like the EuroRail pass that I had heard of since college, that you buy one ticket for like fifty bucks and can traverse the entire continent. While I can’t say whether or not that legend is accurate, it sure as hell is NOT accurate for Germany. One city to city ticket could run you 70-100 euros or more so buying single tickets is not cost effective. So what are your choices? Shop ahead for what makes sense for you on bahn.de (link in english). If you’re traveling with a buddy (spouse, friend, etc) always opt for the TWIN ticket. The savings are significant if you’ll always be riding together. You can buy those tickets in 3, 5, 7 or 10 day increments and you can choose whether those days are consecutive or sporadic through a 30 day period (flex tickets). These unlimited passes are for visitors, so you must have a non-German passport for verification. These tickets also give you various other discounts on things like bus passes and ferry rides. We didn’t end up using them, but it’s good to know. We purchased the 5 day twin flex ticket because we knew there would be 2 days in our 7 day trip that we wouldn’t be on the train. These tickets only include travel within Germany, so we also bought a round trip ticket to Amsterdam for day trip which ran an extra 50 euros for each of us. Point being: you can upgrade/supplement your ticket with extras if you have day trips planned.

Now buy your ticket.

This is where MY meltdown occurred. Learn from my mistake. Bahn.de said tickets could be purchased at an expansive list of city train stations, one of which was Dusseldorf where we were flying in and out of. “Excellent!” I thought to myself, and didn’t think about it another bit. We landed there, and looked for a sign that directed us to the nearest train station. Off we went. Much to my dismay, I found only touch screen ticket machine, in only German. The train we (thought) we needed was in the station and boarding and there I was fumbling with my poor translation skills with an overly complicated ticket machine. I cried. I quickly admitted defeat. We retreated back into the airport and looked for an information counter. The gentleman was kind and helpful, and directed us to the main Airport station. We had found a small sub station. The airport train station was much more what I had envisioned, and had a ticket counter manned with humans. We explained what we wanted, and got the ticket in a few minutes. Victory!

Next, plan your route. 

There are several types of trains in the Deutsche Bahn system. What I found we used most often was the RE (Regional Express), IC (Intercity) and ICE (Intercity Express). I highly recommend using the ICE trains whenever possible. They’re fast, quiet and super comfortable, with wifi, food and nice bathrooms.

bahn 7

Next, memorize the word HAUPTBAHNHOF. Say it with me… HAUPT… BAHN… HOF. It means “Central Train Station”. It’s basically the biggest and most centralized station in any given city. Once I figured this out, everything became 100 times easier. If you’re planning multiple cities, I can’t recommend enough picking hotels/hostels near the HBF. All of ours were walking distance from the HBF and it was infinitely helpful. You’ll be lugging your baggage around, and it’s nice to have a short walk to your sleeping quarters and have an easy access point to move around the city either by train or bus, as they ALL stop there. Important note: The AIRPORT bahnhof is NOT the same as the Hauptbanhof! I made this mistake in Dusseldorf. They were different stations in every city we visited. Second important note: These stations have large lockers! Large enough to fit most luggage. If you’re sight seeing in a city you reached by train and aren’t sleeping there or can’t check in until later, the lockers are extremely useful. The large one big enough for our suitcase ran 5 euros for 24 hours or storage. Money well spent compared to lugging your crap around all day.

While DB has an app, I found it a little cumbersome for most inquiries and route planning, and picked our trains using my GoogleMaps app and choosing transit directions. It gave perfect DB schedules, and told us our train numbers. The only thing it didn’t do is inform us of delays (and that is simple enough to look up on the DB app) and which platform the train arrives at. Train numbers will have the type of train and the route number- for example, ICE 129. Then you simply have to either look for the bright yellow schedule posters or the digital signs for which number platform your train will be located at. Important note: The schedules are arranged by TIME, not by destination which is disorienting for those of us used to airport displays in American airports. I’m used to looking up a city and seeing the times and gates, and this goes by TIME (in 24 hour format- not AM/PM!) So if you’re looking for your 4:25PM train to Berlin HBF, you’d find the 16:00 heading, and find your train number (which, again, you can easily get from GoogleMaps) and it will show your platform number.

bahn 3

A Screenshot from using the iPhone Google Maps app to plan a route from Bonn Germany to Amsterdam Centraal station. Note you are given the exact train number (ICE 122) and departure time!

Important note: SOME trains, especially regionals may link on with other trains and then decouple (detach) later in the route, so keep an ear out for those announcements! You might find yourself headed in the wrong direction if you’re not careful. Announcements are all done in German and then in English, but are sometimes not the easiest to understand. Watch the digital signs as well.

Boarding the train without feeling out of place

The first time we got on a train, I was convinced I was in the first class cabin, on the wrong train, and had no seat. Another meltdown nearly ensued, but the employee at the bar car was kindly enough to talk me off the ledge and let me know I was, in fact, in the second class car and I was on the right train. I was shocked, as the train was so nice! My American brain expected cheap subway style seats and uncomfortable surroundings and I couldn’t have been more wrong. The ICE trains are luxurious by any standards, even in the 2nd class accommodations. They have food, drinks, spacious bathrooms and WIFI!

What we learned about seating is that it is mostly first come first serve, and the trains don’t really effectively “sell out”, they become standing room only. You’ll notice above each seat there is a small digital screen, and if there is are city names, the seat has been reserved for between those cities. If you’re getting off and on before the cities on there, you’re in the clear. If you risk it anyhow, be prepared to potentially be ousted from your seat by someone with a reservation. We risked it with a couple with no issue, and got kicked out a couple times too. Not a big deal either way. Reservations weren’t required on any of the trains we were on, but I’ve heard the overnight trains do require a reservation. I also had heard most reservations don’t cost anything, but when I tried to reserve on our trip from Amsterdam back to Dusseldorf, it wanted to charge us 8 euros each online, so we took our chances with open seats and did just fine. If you know you’ll be on a long haul, it may be worth it so you have a guaranteed spot.

If you’re with a bigger group or want a little more room, there are tables with four seats facing each other, and there are also five and six seat booths. Those get reserved quick, so don’t count on keeping them on busy routes without a reservation. The table seats are pretty great for long hauls, and we were able to get a booth on the way to Amsterdam and watch a movie on our tablet.

Relax, and enjoy.

Once you get the hang of them, you’ll be a pro in no time and fall in love with how easily you can traverse the country!


MiraDry Review: I Microwaved my Armpits

Sweating is an unfortunate fact of life, and for some of us it’s a bit more of a hassle than others. While there is an actual diagnosis called “hyperhydrosis”, there is also a middle ground that is called “Sweat Bothered” individuals for those of us who sweat more than most, but not enough to have the medical diagnosis. Maybe it slightly impedes your life enough to be annoying, but not enough to spend $1000 every 3-6 months for Botox injections in the underarms. Maybe you get nervous about wearing a colored silk top that will get obvious sweat rings? Maybe you’re spending a lot on specialty antiperspirants or are tired of yellow stains in your white tops?

miradry brochure

Enter: MiraDry. This procedure is FDA approved for reducing underarm sweating, and even has a side benefit in reducing hair growth. The results after two treatments are permanent and most people report over a 70% reduction in underarm sweating. My main question was whether or not the procedure was dangerous. With a mom who constantly swatted me away from looking directly into the microwave while it was running, I was a little nervous. The doctor assured me that the procedure is safe, FDA approved and has an extremely high approval rating on RealSelf.com. I also wondered if I was doing any damage to my body by not sweating in my underarms anymore- which thankfully was also a no. Only 2% of our sweat glands are located under our arms, and our body will likely compensate for the missing ones by sweating slightly more elsewhere (though it is worth noticing I did not feel more sweaty anywhere else after I had it done!) With all my concerns at rest, I set a date that I could take it easy the next day as they let me know some tenderness and swelling is normal.


The day of the procedure, the Physician’s Assistant started by marking the areas they would be treating. Next, she used an injectable anisthetic technique called Tumescent Anesthesia which allows her to numb up a larger area with fewer injections. It might be worth asking your doctor if this is a possibility for your treatment as it cuts down the number of underarm injections you need! Did the armpit injections hurt? Way less than I expected! It was the part I was building up and stressing about the most, and in the end it was absolutely no big deal.
miradry 1 (2)

Next, they begin the actual treatment. There are different settings strengths, so the comfort level can vary. Each “zap” feels a little hot, but cools down immediately. It stings once in awhile, but the combination of the numbing and the hand piece rapidly cooling the area, you feel very little discomfort. Nothing I couldn’t handle.


After everything was finished, the area looked pretty gross! It definitely looked worse than it felt. It was tender and warm, so I held some ice packs on the area and let it all calm down a little before I cleaned up and headed home.miradry 1 (4)

The next day, I had pretty much the exact feeling they described in the consultation-it felt like I was trying to carry golf balls under my arms. It was a bit sore and bruised, but that only lasted a few days.

miradry 1 (5)

The swelling went down a lot by the end of the week, but it took about two weeks after that for it to be completely gone along with all the bruising. I did notice a difference right away- my sweating was significantly less, which was great to experience during an Arizona summer! I would highly recommend this treatment to anyone who has issues with sweating, or is looking to have less underarm odor and hair! If you’re in the Arizona area, go see Van Dyke Laser & Skin where I had my procedure done. It was a great treatment with a caring and experienced staff.

So cool that our instagram post was featured on Buzzfeed’s article on the MiraDry treatment!

buzzfeed style screengrab miradry

Funniest tweets from the great Grubhub/Seamless outage of 2015

Our favorite food delivery service Grubhub/Seamless has been down for about 3 hours, and internet has reacted hilariously. This illustrated just how dependent we have become on internet based food ordering and how much we have grown to loathe speaking with restaurants by phone. Hangry millenials cried out in frustration in the site outage heard ’round the country. Here are some of our favorites.


Easy Protein Cappuccino Receipe

easy protein cappuccino

During a business trip to Italy, I was exposed to a coffee culture I didn’t know existed. Coffee so delicious, it needed nearly no accouterments. I quickly became addicted to cappucinnos along with my morning breakfast, and was afraid to leave that behind when I returned stateside. Naturally I brought back a coffee maker and some espresso, and quickly figured out a recipe for a capp that was a reasonable stand in. Cappuccinos are traditionally equal parts espresso and steamed milk, topped with milk foam. Of course, I was excited to figure out a way to make these a little bit more fitness friendly! While this is no protein shake, it’s over double the protein and less than half the fat and carbs. It makes this treat a little less of an indulgence, while still tasting fantastic. All of this said, these techniques are also perfect for making an easy, at home cappuccino without an expensive machine- just use 2% or whole milk and a teaspoon of sugar.

There are a few pieces of equipment that will make this much easier- and I promise, you’ll use them like crazy! If you don’t have them, fret not. I’ll give you alternatives.

Bialetti stove top espresso machine


This has been one of my favorite purchases from Italy, and I’ve used it every day since. This is a much more affordable and easy to use alternative to traditional espresso machine. If you’re sans espresso machine and Bialetti, just use double strength coffee- preferably espresso.

Aerolatte milk frother


I don’t have the counter space for a full sized espresso machine with a steam/frother attatchment- nor the funds or patience. This is a great, fun little gadget. Pro tip: You can also use it to quickly aerate wine.



Of course, any espresso drink will do better with actual espresso rather than just coffee. Espresso is roasted differently and ground finer, to give a more robust, potent coffee made for either enjoying straight or blending into espresso drinks like this. If you’re using regular coffee, grind it extra fine or if it’s already ground, use extra. This one by Lavazza is my current favorite.

Rockin Refuel Muscle Builder in Vanilla


Coming in at 30 grams of protein per 12 ounces, these are a staple for me. While more expensive than mixing up my own protein shake (about $1.50 a bottle vs about .55 cents if I make my own), they’re super convenient and taste really good. They are still milk-like enough to froth, which is really the key to a more authentic capp. I also use the vanilla as milk for cereal.

Protein Cappuccino Recipe 

2oz espresso (two shots)
2oz Rockin Refuel Muscle Builder in Vanilla

Pour 2 ounces of Muscle Builder in a small, microwave safe cup, and froth for about 1-2 minutes using the Aerolatte. It should double in size. Microwave for 30-45 seconds. It will continue to increase in volume in the microwave- watch out it doesn’t bubble over!

If you don’t have an aerolatte, you can always use a mason jar and shake vigorously for about 2 minutes. The Muscle Builder won’t froth well this way, but regular milk does okay!

Pour the espresso into your mug along with the Muscle Builder. Spoon out some foam onto the top. Enjoy!

protein cappuccino

Grilled Nectarines with Goat Cheese and Balsamic

Now that summer is in full swing, buying stone fruit by the case is cheaper than ever… but what to do with all that delicious tree-ripened treasure before it starts to spoil?? Try this EASY (and I mean EASY) clean-eating dessert that will impress everyone.

Grilled Nectarines with Goat Cheese and Balsamic Vinegar

Healthy, #cleaneating dessert! Grilled Nectarines with Goat Cheese and Balsamic

2-3 ripe nectarines, halved (this recipe also works well with peaches! Just wash well to remove the “fuzz” prior to grilling)
1-2 oz Goat Cheese/Chevre
Balsamic Glaze (this one is delicious, but here is a recipe if you want to make from scratch! I was not that ambitious)
Olive oil spray

Healthy, #cleaneating dessert! Grilled Nectarines with Goat Cheese and Balsamic

First, preheat grill to high. Wash nectarines and cut them in half. To halve them, cut along the “seam” and then twist. The pit will be exposed, just pull it out. This is easy to do when the nectarine is ripe!

Next, spray lightly with olive oil. Also, it’s not a bad idea to brush the grill lightly with oil as well.

Apply the nectarines to the hot grill, cut side down. Grill for about 4 minutes. Flip with tongs, and grill another 2-3 minutes.

Add about 1/4-1/2 oz of goat cheese to the pit indent, and drizzle with balsamic glaze. Bon Appetit!

Healthy, #cleaneating dessert! Grilled Nectarines with Goat Cheese and Balsamic

Which DNA test is best?

Many of us hear from our parents and grandparents we’re maybe part German or 1/8 Native American with a little Irish or North African, but how can we be sure? Now you can, and it costs under $100! With the recent dramatic price decreases of autosomal DNA testing, these can be a fantastic out-of-the box gift idea for friends and loved ones (AWESOME baby shower gift, am I right?) With several major tests on the market which autosomal DNA test should you choose? Luckily, there isn’t a wrong answer, and all three tests provide a great and informative service and the same overall info- your likely genetic ancestry and connections with genetic relatives who have tested within approximately 5 generations. That said, if there is a specific reason that you or the recipient is looking to test, certain tests can be more suited to different goals. Here is a summary of each company as well as some pros and cons to each which might help you make your decision.

Please keep in mind this is solely based on my own experiences having had all three tests done, as well as utilizing the data through a few 3rd party sites.

$99 (Saliva tube)
This company, backed by Google and founded in part by Anne Wojcicki (wife of Google Founder), has had a lot of marketing and visibility. Their radio and internet ads have brought a lot of attention to autosomal testing, as well being one of the first to aggressively drop prices making the tests more widely accessible. They also provided health data up until the FDA banned these reports in November of 2013 (although a 3rd party site will give the same info for $5)

Pros: Slick, user friendly interface. Interesting information such as percentage of Neandrethal DNA and DNA Haplogroup (not particularly useful, but it is considered a separate test through FamilyTreeDNA at an additional cost). Their ancestral breakdown is good and provides further information on the data you find. They also do health related surveys to try to progress genetic research for different ailments. While the health data through 23andMe is not currently available, they are working with the FDA to try and reach a solution to make the information available in the future.

Cons: If you are hoping to make connections with genetic relatives, 23andMe may not be your best choice. Users have to opt-in to the results, and will by default appear anonymously. You have to send a request to connect, and the response rate isn’t great. It seems like a lot of people purchase the tests for the ancestral information, then may not ever check the messages or connection requests. Also, this test is incompatible with data transfer to FamilyTreeDNA (more on this shortly). Matching is disclosed in arbitrary percentages rather than showing the actual amount of shared DNA. Internal messaging system is a bit slow and buggy. Also, although many people see this as medically beneficial to society as a whole, some users may take issue with the fact that 23andMe anonymously shares DNA data to pharmaceutical companies researching genetic medical issues.

$99 (Cheek Swab)
Founded with genealogy in mind, this offers not only autosomal DNA testing, but also a bevvy of other more specific and thorough tests such as mtDNA, paternal Y-DNA testing, etc. They boast that they have the largest ancestry database with over 700,000 records, although not all of hose are autosomal.

Pros: Easy to use interface, and full access to information from matches such as name (although some people utilized aliases, it’s less common) and actual email address rather than relying on an internal messaging system. Full disclosure as to how much DNA you share with matches, and some really great comparison tools such as a visual chromosome browser and an easy ability to sort by common matches with anyone on your list. This company is also the only to allow you to import your data from another service (AncestryDNA specifically, as 23andMe’s new test as of 2014 is no longer compatible for import). This is a great way to get in two databases for a much lower cost, as a data transfer is only $39.

Cons: Their MyOrigins ancestral information seems slightly less robust and specific, although the results were largely consistent between competing tests.

$99 (Saliva tube)
Born through Ancestry.com, the world’s largest for-profit genealogy company. They have the largest database of records that can tie into the DNA testing experience, making it a great choice for genealogy and family history enthusiasts. You do not need a membership to Ancestry.com to do the test, however it is beneficial if you or your gift recipient plans to do any deeper family history research.

Pros: The ability to connect your DNA data to family trees makes for an interesting geneaological experience. The test can help confirm accuracy of your research and connect you with family members you probably didn’t know. Their ancestral data is good provides some interesting feedback. Having a membership to Ancestry, while not required, definitely gives an advantage when researching and growing your family trees. They have one of the best and easiest to use family tree creation interfaces, and the tree files can be saved in GEDCOM format and exported and used elsewhere if needed.

Cons: Many users use their ancestry username for contact info, and you rely on their internal messaging system for contact which can be unreliable at times. They do not provide the amount of DNA you actually match with a connection- just a very conservative range such as “3rd-5th cousin” or “4th to distant cousin” for example. They also give no comparison tools or chromosome browsers. You’ll have to contact matches and convince them to upload at GEDMatch for those types of tools, which people don’t always respond to or see the value.

In summary

Here is what I suggest for getting the most bang for your buck- sign up for ebates which offers a $10 rebate on the Ancestry test. Purchase the Ancestry test, and be sure to use the Ancestry Coupon Code FREESHIPDNA for free shipping. Once this test has been taken and you get your results, transfer your raw data from Ancestry to FamilyTreeDNA and use the coupon “FTDNA5” for $5 off. This method will take your total cost from about $218 down to $123 for two tests. It’s almost like buying one and getting the second for $14 :) While there aren’t often any discounts for one single 23andMe kits, you get 20% each additional kit when more than one are purchased together.

Ebates Coupons and Cash Back

If you or your gift recipient is adopted and trying to seek family members or parents, it is ESSENTIAL that they test at all three companies, and upload their data at the 3rd party site GEDMatch. Matches only come from the sites that they’ve tested (23andMe matches will not appear on your AncestryDNA list, etc). Having your data in all three databases is extremely important for those seeking unknown relatives.

Click here for more information on 3rd party sites and interesting things you can do once you get your data! (coming soon)

Top 3 Fashion Apps

Maintaining Style in the Mobile Age
Some of the best fashion apps on the market

Fashion is a multibillion-dollar global enterprise. Because more than 72.5 million people own smartphones, lifestyle brands and retailers are diligently mastering the art of mobile marketing to catch customers’ attention and retain their loyalty.

The mobile market industry is a productive business and the mobile app industry is capitalizing on this fact. App revenues last year were estimated to be at $27 billion, and are expected to increase to at least $45 billion by 2015. A blog post hosted by AlchemyBet, the developers for the Pocket Fruity mobile casino, has revealed that we now use our phones everywhere from at church or a place of worship, at school and at work, while waiting for the bus, or even while on the bus. With billions of people using their smartphones regularly on a daily basis, it’s no surprise that app makers are finding ways to reach new customers wherever they are.

Here are some noteworthy apps for fashion enthusiasts:


(iPhone, iPad, Nook, free)

This is the ultimate app for fashion mavens. It offers the most essential information from show reviews to the latest fashion trends. Style.com is great for checking out the best outfits in the world including street-style pieces.


(iPhone, iPad, Android, free)

Famous celebrity stylist Rachel Zoe is a great fan of Pose. It is a weather app integrated with the true reason fashionistas check the weather – to know what to wear. Pose verifies your location to determine the local weather forecast. It offers collections and pictures to inspire your outfit for the day. Selections can also be narrowed down by letting the app know whether you’re going to the gym or headed to the office.


(iPhone, iPad, Android, free)

Covet is the perfect app for trendy people who want to kill time by playing a fashion game. The mechanics are simple: rate fashion items that are hot or not. Earn tickets and cash by entering contests, and buy dresses, shoes, and accessories that are patterned after real brands for your very own online avatar.

There are more fashion apps in the market than you can imagine. Do you use fashion-related apps that are not mentioned above? Feel free to share them in the reply section below!

DIY Compost Bin for under $10

DIY Compost Bin

After purchasing a house this past spring with a modest little yard, I’ve been looking forward to setting up my very own, very first veggie garden. We’re a little soil-challenged here in Arizona, as our natural soil has a really high clay content. I’ve started with some raised beds and seed starters, but remembered back to my childhood always having a “compost pile” at my grandmother’s house. Food scraps went in one bin, garbage in another. I remember how their garden was beautiful and bountiful, with both flowers and vegetables.  Beyond the gardening benefit, I liked the logical appeal of composting- less waste, less taking the trash out, less STINKY trash (!!!) and much better for the environment.

My first step was a little online shopping which led me to a number of composters at hardware stores and nurseries, but they all rang in at over $50, for even the most basic models. Some were even over $200. Not quite an investment I’m ready for as a VERY entry level gardener. Of course, more digging around online led me to some awesome posts on making DIY composters. Some seriously on the cheap! Here’s how I put mine together, for under ten dollars.

I picked a Sterilite 120 quart plastic container from Target, which ran $9.50. They had ones a little smaller for $4, but I wanted to have enough room for a good supply of scraps and compost as I have one raised bed and several more planned. It’s by no means large, but I figure I can upgrade later if I find it’s not enough. I picked one that was not see through, as I wasn’t sure how the light penetration would effect the composting. Many people probably have one of these lying around anyway!


Next, I took a 5/16″ drill bit and put some holes along all sides as well as the top and bottom. Oxygen is a key component to the process- the bacteria that breaks everything down into rich soil thrives in the presence of oxygen. Here’s a pic of the drill bit that worked well after trying a few others:

composter 1

I brought my bin outside and added some dead leaves I collected in my neighborhood for my “browns”. You can also use things like shredded newspaper, cardboard, wood chips, etc. Here is a great outline on what should and shouldn’t go in your compost bin. Also, please excuse my slippers :)

composter 2

Next, I added my “greens” which were my food scraps. Mine included some fruit rinds, egg shells, coffee grounds, loose leaf tea, and some old veggies and salad mix I didn’t get to in time before they started to spoil. Quite the colorful array! To finish, I topped with a little bit more leaves to keep the smell down.

composter 3

I drug the box over to a shady area over gravel so it easily drains. It just needs to be stirred every week or two, and in a few months you’ll have nutrient rich soil to help your garden grow! I’ll be sure to update as my compost progresses. Any awesome composting tips? Share in the comments and we’ll  feature them on the update post!

composter 4b

Pop Art Makeup Hack

Just a quick post of some awesome pop art makeup I did for my little sister for Halloween.

mylissa pop art makeup

After looking at a lot of others on pinterest and youtube, I concluded that the dots really make a big difference. They should be pretty even and consistent. My boyfriend found a great stencil that worked wonders, so if you’re trying to duplicate this look, it’s worth the few dollars and is washable and reusable. This truly made all the difference in the finished product!

mod podge dot stencil