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Avec Amour : December 2014

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

This Week in Travel Vol.9

There are so many travel blogs & publications I read on a daily basis! Wanted to share some of my favorite links, articles, info graphics and tips from around the web this week.

Helloooo Internet! I hope everyone has been enjoying time with family, friends, eating bad-for-you food & indulging in a nice glass of wine or 5.. :) Although I've taken a little holiday break from the blog, I did NOT take a break from traveling. We were in Florida & South Dakota for 5 days each, back to back. Then, I took a little weekend trip to Chattanooga to see my whole family. Fun times!

We're taking it easy this New Year's, I don't plan on getting too crazy. I've enjoyed the holidays, but am definitely ready to get back to business as usual! I hope everyone has had a wonderful time off.


Thursday, December 18, 2014

How To Protect Your Home While You Travel

Let's face it - being broken into SUCKS.

While we were in Florida this year, our house was broken into. Luckily we aren't so fancy that there was tons to steal, but things like watches, family jewelry, cash, small electronics (cameras, iPod, laptops) were easy for a grab-and-go. 

The truth is, we feel safe in our little neighborhood & never thought it could happen to us. We even had a house sitter at that time, but those jerks had been watching our home and waiting for him to leave for church on Sunday morning. Rude (and creepy).

Unfortunately, since this "big" break in, we've had 2 other incidents - a broken car window (with some stolen tools) & an attempt to break into our home again. SO. ANNOYING. 

We're so thankful nobody was hurt, because "things" can be replaced - it's just such a pain to go through the whole process. This could have been a WHOLE lot worse for us, and we're thankful it wasn't too bad - but we've learned a ton through our experience & I thought I'd share so hopefully you can avoid this! Just incase you aren't as resourceful as Kevin McCallister.

This might sound stupid or paranoid, but it's completely worth your time. The thieves TRIED To drag our safe out, but it was 3oolbs & upstairs - just too heavy for them. We had cash from a recent car sale, ALL of our important docs (marriage license, SS card, birth certificate, etc), and a few other valuables. What I wish was in there was my few pieces of special jewelry. A safe can really be a game changer if you're broken into, have a fire, or natural disaster strikes! You'll want one that is heavy, as well as fire/water proof. If they can carry it out of your house, you're not doing yourself any favors. Now, before we go on a trip I put any extra cash, expensive jewelry, or small valuables in there.

This might sound like a no-brainer.... but how many of you are renters without renters insurance? Renters insurance is extremely cheap - mine was $120 for the YEAR (aka $10 a month) for $25k in goods. You might not think you have $25k in belongings, but add up every electronic, piece of clothing, furniture, jewelry... even if they were gifts! It adds up quickly. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE get renter's insurance. Skip eating out once or 2 lattes a month to prioritize the protection of the assets that you have! If you're robbed without renters insurance, you will get nothing. 

If you own a home, you already have insurance - but take a few minutes to meet or chat with your agent to see what is covered. For us, knowing that watches count as jewelry, and we only had a $1,000 jewelry limit, would have been helpful. Matt had about 10 watches he's collected over the last 15 years, and they blew our jewelry budget quickly. The 2 pieces I had stolen were valuable, but unfortunately were not covered because of this budget. KNOW YOUR LIMITS and have special jewelry (i.e., engagement rings, family heirlooms) insured separately, as they're likely not to be covered. Also, know what your deductibles are & how you'll be compensated. Our insurance covered the broken window, cleaning of our rug that was covered with dirt & gave us cash to replace our items. We are lucky we have a good insurance plan, but I'm glad to know now what we're covered for. Your agent will gladly take a half hour meeting to explain it all to you & make sure you have what you need. 

Your car itself is covered by your car insurance - but your belongings in your car are not covered by car insurance. If your purse, stereo, or anything else is stolen out of your car, it will only be covered by your home owners/renters insurance. Keep anything valuable OUT of your car, especially while you're away. It's so easy to break a window & take what you want. Likewise, keep cars visible by neighbors or in a garage if possible. 

We signed up for Nextdoor.com & didn't really think twice about it. Once we were broken into, we were able to post to our neighbors that it had happened, and learned that we weren't the only ones! It's basically a Facebook group for your neighborhood only. Check it out in your area. You could potentially help catch criminals or just protect yourself from being the next victim! 
Note: earlier I mistakenly called this service "neighborhood.com". I consistently call it that by accident - so sorry for the confusion! Also please note they have a really handy free app for Androis & iOS.

Once again, something I never thought we would need. However, when someone got our back door open this week, the alarm scared them off & nothing was taken! Hopefully the word gets out to the rest of the crime crew that we're "armed" & the police aren't far away. We ordered SimplySafe alarm after our "big" break in, and it's been great. You customize what you need (we have door sensors, glass break, & motion sensors) and it also has battery back up so you're protected even if the power goes out! I would highly recommend an alarm for anyone who travels often for the peace of mind it provides. Not to mention that avoiding 1 more break in SAVED us our deductible - which is way more expensive than the monthly monitoring fee! 

Side Note: If you have pets, I would skip the motion sensors & opt for door, window & glass break sensors. The motion sensors can be customized, but we've had 1 false alarm with the cat, so it's not really worth it. 

The more organized you are, the less likely they are to find a $20 sitting on your dresser. Now, when we're getting ready to go, I'm not only cleaning like a crazy person - I'm trying to make sure everything valuable has a place (like in the safe!). Also, leave limited personal information out & about. We had bank statements sitting on my husband's desk, and his whole office was TRASHED. For all we knew, they had our credit card & bank information, so we had to change every.single.thing as far as banking and billing was concerned - just incase! Let me tell you, it probably took an entire day to fix everything, between trips to the bank, calling the utility companies, and switching allllll of our auto-pay accounts..... what a pain. Keep your personal info where it should be - tucked away.

While house sitters, light timers, & having someone check in on your house can definitely help, you're still very vulnerable while you're not there doing a normal routine. Be safe, be smart, & I hope none of you have to deal with the annoying break-in process!

Have you even been broken into? What is your advice for protecting your home?

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Keeping Up With Current Events

If you HATE knowing what's going on in the world, you HATE laughing and/or you HATE saving time, then please stop reading this post.

If you wish you knew more about what was happening with oil prices, Congress' latest decisions, hostage situations, world health crisis, war, diplomatic discussions and so on, then I have a treat for you.

It's called the Skimm. Every morning (before I wake up), there's an email delivered with 1-2 paragraphs on 5-7 current events happening in the world. Today, they discusses the drop of the value of Russian money, a Taliban gunman attack in Pakistan, the latest on the Sony email leak & so on.

What you WON'T get is additional emails throughout the day or over the weekend (aka, SPAM) like other newsletter emails. It's the best.

an example of today's edition of the Skimm.
Knowing I can go to Italy for 10 days and either keep up by reading 1 email or catching up when I get back in 15 minutes or less, it's a great feeling!

Seriously - if you travel often, have a demanding job, demanding kids, demanding social life, demanding family, or you're just SICK of weeding through the crap to get the facts on recent stories - the Skimm is for you. It's free, zero BS, and extremely clever. Men, women, college kids, SAHM's, powerful executives, bloggers, musicians... this is for you.

I get nothing when you sign up for the Skimm, other than the satisfaction of knowing another friend is enjoying it as much as I am :) Sign up HERE if you're interested! 

Happy Skimm Day!

Do you read the Skimm? Are there other newsletters you subscribe to in order to keep up with current events? Comment below!


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Monday, December 15, 2014

This Week in Travel Vol.8

There are so many travel blogs & publications I read on a daily basis! Wanted to share some of my favorite links, articles, info graphics and tips from around the web this week.

We're in Florida visiting my family for Christmas! We're heading straight to South Dakota to see Matt's family tomorrow. We did a multi-leg ticket to maximize on time & cash - here's how.

Florida's been great, we even visited the Edison-Ford Winter Estate (pictured above). Something we did almost every year when I was a kid... they decorate the historic homes and have holiday cheer around every corner. I love it! Yes, we put Christmas lights on palm trees :) 

Hope you're having a great week before Christmas!


Friday, December 12, 2014

Day Trip Wine Tasting in Tuscany

I can't think of a better way to end the week than talking about wine... can you?

Wine & I are like two peas in a pod, so being in a region famous for it's vino production was a no brainer - we're going wine tasting. 

We did a Chianti Wine Tour with Fun in Tuscany... and it was a LOT of fun! If you've ever been to Napa or another wine region, the name of the game is getting to as many wineries as you can. You walk up to the counter, they tell you about a few wines that you taste, and you head  to the next one. This isn't the case in Tuscany (more specifically, Chianti) - everything is intentional. 

Each wine is savored with specific foods & enjoyed over conversation and slow sips. It was amazing! Not to mention we were basically at the "family table" in these wineries. We were taught about each wine by someone in their family, while the grandmother was preparing us delicious traditional food, like tuscan soup, cheese, lasagna, and biscotti! 

Three of the wines that this region is known for is the Chianti, Chianti Classico, the Super Tuscan, and the Vernaccia. And they're all incredible. A few notes on these blends!

  • Vernaccia is the white wine of the region. It can only be called Vernaccia if it's in the area of San Gimignano (in the same way Champagne is only called Champagne if it's made in that region of France). 
  • Chianti & Chianti Classico are only categorizes as such if it is made up of at least 80% Sangiovese grapes. 
  • Super Tuscan wines are the Tuscan winemakers way to get creative and not live under the strict Chianti rules. 
If you have the chance to try any of them, enjoy! They're all great wines! And you'll know it's the real deal if it has a black rooster on the label (the one pictured below was only a table wine).

We also got to tour the ancient city of San Gimignano! It's been around since before the first century. Our guide told us it was the Manhattan of its day with over 70 huge towers! Only 7 still stand today, but the city was really cool to visit. 

We really loved our wine tasting experience. We visited 2 different wineries and tasted 15 wines total! Luckily they were spread out so nobody was sloppy when we left ;)

We also got to try the olive oil made on site. I'm telling you, if the wine doesn't change you, the olive oil certainly will. I've never understood why people would shop at olive oil specialty stores.... and now I have a feeling I'll be one of those people. Dang it.

If you have the chance to go on a wine tour, DEFINITELY DO IT! We thought about renting a car and going on our own, but I have to say, having a tour & a scheduled wineries to visit really was great. Unlike Napa and other areas, there isn't a "wine trail" and many of these small wineries only work with tour groups and scheduled visits. Just something to keep in mind if you're in the area!

Happy Friday, y'all! Think of me if you end the day with a nice glass of "vino rosso".

Cin Cin!

Other posts about Italy:

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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Packing for Hot & Cold Weather in One Carry On

For the second year in a row, we're going to the tropics & the arctic tundra in one trip. Last year was Mexico & Montana, and this year it's Florida & South Dakota. Brrrrrrr.

Last year, I was able to fit everything for a beach anniversary trip & a snowboarding trip in ONE carry on. This was for almost 2 weeks away. Luckily, this year we aren't packing for snowboarding - just visiting family, which makes it MUCH easier! Here's a sample of what I packed last year.

dinner #2
dinner #3
shopping in town

lounging around the resort
by the pool 
by the pool more!


dinner in Big Sky - lots of layers!

my go-to travel day outfit!
suited up for boarding!
Chunky sweater, slouchy sweater, cardigan & chambray shirt.

Layers for snowboarding - wool socks, neoprene socks, neck gater, gloves, 
Scarf, wicking shirt & jacket.
 It was a long two weeks, we were on over 9 planes and endured a temperature change of over 100 degrees (plus wind chill... EWWWWW).

Here are the keys to packing for two climates in one bag.
  1. Bring ONE of anything that can only be used in one climate - i.e., bathing suit cover up or winter jacket. 
  2. Think of items that can work for both climates, such as a chambray shirt or a cardigan. It can be useful for cold restaurants in Florida, and can be used for actual warmth in South Dakota. Same with tank tops - they'll be regular tops in Florida, but will add layers in SD.
  3. Keep your shoes down to 3 - I'll probably bring boots, sandals, and running shoes. If the temperature drops at night in Florida, the boots will be fine with thin socks.
  4. Switch up your look with accessories, rather than a totally new outfit. Add a cardigan to a dress or switch scarves.
  5. Bring dresses that can work for the beach or can be worn with tights.
Here's my packing list for my upcoming trip. 4 nights in Florida and 5 in South Dakota.

hot & cold

2 dresses
1 cardigan
1 leggings
1 jeans
2 tank tops
3 long sleeve tops/sweaters (bonus if they can be layered!)
3 shoes (boots, sandals, running shoes)
1 set workout clothes (tank, jacket, capris, sports bra, socks)
4 underwear
2 bras

Cold Accessories:
2 wool socks
1 beanie
2 scarves
1 black tights
1 heavy jacket
1 pair gloves

Warm Accessories:
1 bathing suit
1 sunglasses

The thing to remember about traveling to two different places with one suitcase, is that you can bring half the outfits and always have something "new" to wear in your 2nd location. Aka, PACKING MATH! At least this is what I have to remind myself, the girl who obsessed in high school over never wearing the same thing more than two weeks in a row. 

I'm getting over it slowly but surely ;)

We're excited to go see our families! Although, I wish all of them lived in warmer climates :)

Do you have any multi-climate trips coming up?

PS - 
How to Pack Light & Always Carry on
Packing Math

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