Ditching My L.L. Bean Backpack

Ditching My L.L. Bean Backpack | ThoseGraces.com

This summer I did something for the very first time: I left my L.L. Bean backpack at home and hit the road. My decision didn’t come lightly. After all, this backpack has traveled literally everywhere with me from high school to Europe to my cross country road trip. Where I went my L.L. Bean backpack followed. Until now.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with choosing a backpack over any other bag. At the end of the day, it really is just a place to throw stuff. And throw stuff I did. Over the course of 12 years, this bag helped me carry around my entire life at times. I  bragged about its age, as if it were a vintage Chanel pocketbook and not what it really was, which was a ratty old backpack. Sure, it wasn’t totally falling apart, but the backpack had definitely seen better days.

There was something interesting about sharing all the cities and places I had taken it over the years. It became a stand in for my own stories. Instead of me flying to Paris, it became my backpack that did the traveling. Though it was interesting that the backpack had been everywhere, but it was even more fascinating that I had been there. I’m not one to share about my travels because it has always felt like bragging to me. Instead it became easier to assign experiences to an inanimate object and not to me.

It’s easy to say the bag is ugly–that wouldn’t be a lie–but ditching my backpack ultimately had very little to do with style. The choice was ultimately about taking ownership over my own experiences and leave my backpack behind. I’ll probably never give away my beloved backpack, because it’s made it this far with me. For now it just has to sit on the shelf and take a break.

We Deserve Summer {Sponsored}

Before I moved to New England, I don’t think I had a distinct summer style because I lived in the South where it was always warm and I didn’t have to switch my wardrobe. However, the more time I spend in New England, the more I appreciate summer clothes. After a long winter, I couldn’t be more relived to slip right back into summer. For me that means slipping back into a classic and simple summer wardrobe filled with stripes and vintage inspired clothing. After four summers in Boston, these two modes are pretty much default for me.

When British-based Joules reached out to me to collaborate*, I knew it would be the perfect opportunity to share my summer style. The clothing at Joules is classic and timeless, making it easy to wear every summer. I’m not really one for trends, so when I buy something, I want it to last for years and not just one season.

My Favorite Summer Looks

Navy Blue and White Stripes by Joules| ThoseGraces.com
Indigo Stripe Dress, Navy Stripe Pencil Skirt, Creme Stripe Knitted Sweater

If it’s one thing I’m absolutely addicted to, it’s stripes in summer. I have striped sweaters, skirts and dresses. For me stripes are so easy to wear because they can be dressed up or dressed down. The only thing I haven’t tried yet is stripes on stripes.

1950s Summer Fashion with Joules| ThoseGraces.com
French Navy Bouquet Bikini, Freya Floral Cornfield Dress, Newmeln Cropped Pants

I’ll be honest, I’ve marathoned Mad Men about three times in the past year. I can’t help it, no matter what I do, I always end up looking like Betty Draper or Joan Harris. If you know how to do it right, the 1950s is such a great look for summer.

Joules carries some amazing pieces including shorts, bathing suits and summer dresses. Let me know which one of my summer pieces you liked the best!

*I’ve decided to go back to doing Sponsored Posts. I’ll write about this decision soon. This post is sponsored by Joules, which means I received compensation to write this post. The post was entirely crafted by me and is 100% my opinion. For more information, please visit my site policies.

5 Road Trip Myths Debunked

Road Trip Myths Debunked
In the months following my cross country road trip,  it was hard to process my  experience. However as I’ve spent more time thinking, I realized I debunked five myths about road trips. Before I set out, many warned me about a lot of things that turned out to be utterly false. I’m sure they were well meaning, but their advice was totally wrong. (Sorry, mom!)

Myth 1: If you travel alone as a female, you will be abducted, raped and disappear forever.

About 30% of people espoused this myth. They seemed almost certain that I’d be raped and murdered. The terror people had was overwhelming. However, I decided I wasn’t going to listen to this myth. I didn’t buy a gun. I didn’t even purchase mace. I had my wits and street smarts. After all, my hometown experienced a terrorist attack just three months before I left for my trip. The potential risk of a road trip seemed safe compared to that experience.

Don’t let fear control you.

Myth 2: You’re going to kill your car.

I heard this one from people apparently unfamiliar with Toyotas and basic car maintenance. If you have a reliable vehicle that’s well maintained, chances are you’ll be fine. The worst that happened to me was I got a flat tire in Biloxi, Mississippi.

But come on, flat tires can happen anywhere.

Myth 3: People will know you’re not from around there and judge you.

I admit that this was my own myth. I thought my Massachusetts plates and accent would make me stand out like a sore thumb.  I deliberately packed my most boring, nondescript clothing for middle America where I thought it’d be more likely to be judged.

The truth is, I don’t think anyone cared but me.

Myth 4: Your trip will cost a fortune and you’ll come back totally broke.

If you do it right, traveling doesn’t have to cost a fortune.  I read a lot of books on how to save money and the best one I came across was Matt Kepnes’ How to Travel the World on $50 a Day: Travel Cheaper, Longer, Smarter. I created a $50 per day budget for fun, food and accommodations. (Gas was a separate budget!) I bought groceries instead of eating out, stayedwith friends along the way and in hostels. Ultimately, my best advice is to get a credit card that rewards you for using it. Through the card I signed up with, I earned about $400 from my trip alone.

Including gas, I spent about $2,900 ($72 per day) over about 40 days. Pretty cheap if you ask me!

Myth 5: You won’t want to drive the whole way.

If you don’t like driving long distances, by all means, do not go on a cross country road trip by yourself. However, if you love driving or have help, chances are you won’t tire of it. There wasn’t a day where I said to myself, “I can’t drive anymore.” That was until the last day when, yes, I was a bit over it.

I’m really proud that I drove all 10,000 miles by myself.

What Turned Out to Be True

Though I debunked these five myths, I found some road trips were real. It was lonely. It was incredibly hard, both emotionally and physically. I was scared at times, but not of people. Mostly of torrential downpours, hydroplaning and driving up and down the Rockies. But these are all posts for another day.

That being said, the lessons I learned were immeasurable.

9 Steps for Unearthing Products with Harmful Plastic Microbeads (Updated)

How to Find Out if Your Exfoliator has Plastic Microbeads {Those Graces}
My heart sunk last week after reading the article Don’t Lather, Don’t Rinse, Don’t Repeat, which describes a study of the Great Lakes that revealed something quite disturbing. The microbeads, or microplastics, found in beauty products are ending up in the world’s lakes, rivers and oceans. What damage are they doing exactly? On Earth reports,

While microbeads may be less visible than plastic bags, they are no less environmentally problematic. For one thing, they “look just like fish eggs, and thus like food” to a variety of aquatic organisms . . .  All marine micro-plastics are troublesome, given their tendency to absorb and concentrate persistent organic pollutants that can potentially accumulate in the fatty tissues of anything that eats them. Moreover, when plankton, lugworms, mussels, or fish fill up on toxic junk food, they may well lose their appetite for healthier fare. Dutch scientists who fed mussels tiny nano-particles of polystyrene found that the shellfish subsequently ate less and grew less.

Since they are small enough to pass through pipes without issue,  they are also small enough to get through wastewater treatment systems. And Americans buy cosmetics containing more than 573,000 pounds of microbeads each year. This has become such an important issue that New York is now seeking to ban products containing microbeads.

Chances are you probably own products containing the plastic microbeads. If you’re concerned about the environment, you’ll want to invest some time figuring out if the products you use hurt our valuable water sources. In this post, I’ll teach you how to do that as well as provide natural alternatives to these harmful products. 

9 Steps for Unearthing Beauty Products with Plastic Microbeads

To figure out if your products contain plastic microbeads, you’ll have to perform an amateur science experiment. OK, I’m not sure it’s actually scientific, but it worked for me.

Step 1: Gather suspected products. This means cleansers, masks and exfoliators. If you’re unsure if something contains microbeads, squeeze a small amount of product between your fingers and rub them together. If it feels gritty or sandy, it most likely has microbeads.

Step 2: Grab the number cups or containers that corresponds to how many products you’re testing. Make sure you choose a container  you can easily fit your hand into. Line each product in front of its corresponding cup.

Step 3: Fill the container with lukewarm water similar to the temperature you use to wash your face.

Step 4: Squeeze about half a teaspoon of product into the water. I recommend using more than you would on your face so you can get a larger sample.

Step 5: Swirl the product in the water to break the product up.

Step 6: Let the container sit overnight. Make sure to leave the corresponding product in front of the container so you remember what’s in there.

Step 7: The next morning, slowly empty your container halfway.

Step 8: Put your hand inside of the container and feel for any product that settled at the bottom.

Step 9: If you feel that same gritty texture you felt in Step 1, you have plastic microbeads on your hands. Literally. It didn’t dissolve over 8 hours and probably never will.

I did this test for all my products with microbeads. Sadly, there was plastic in every single one. I’m still questioning what to do next. I’m definitely not going to use them, but I feel just as bad by sending them to the  landfill. What an eco-friendly dilemma! My plan is to throw them under my sink, pretend they don’t exist and then toss them out next time I move. I figure in the end, they’re probably less harmful in the landfill than they are in our lakes and streams.

Natural Alternatives

Do not fret! There are tons of natural exfoliators out there that you can make yourself. From baking soda to lemons to salt, I promise you there are options. I pinned about 17 natural exfoliators and recipes to my Beauty Board on Pinterest to help you get started!

What to Do With Them

Microbeads have been in the news lately, and like me, a lot of people are wondering what to do with their microbead-filled products. You can read more about what to do with yours here.

More Information

Thank you to readers who contributed more information in the comments section.

I know some brands are aware of the problem and are planning on phasing them out. I found this link: http://www.beatthemicrobead.org/en/industry.
–Caryn

I have been telling my clients for years to stay away from microbeads. Very harmful to the skin.People tend to rub so had without realizing it that they cause micro tears in the skin. Unseen to their eyes. These micro tears thin the skin making it age faster. It can also cause hyperpigmentation since the body is trying to repair those tears quickly.
Susie of Esthetic Goddess

That One Time I Was Blonde

That One Time I Was Blonde {thosegraces.com}

One January night in Philadelphia six years ago, I was busy bleaching the life out of my hair with the help of one of my best friends. We worked until late in the night, bleaching it once and then again. My scalp burnt in anger, but I got the desired effect. I was blonde at long last!

You’d be surprised at the downsides that accompany blonde hair. For example, people asked me, “Do blondes have more fun?” To which I would always reply, “If you consider being hit on by more creepy drunk guys fun, then yes, blondes have more fun.” Nearly every time I went out to the bar, I got some weird comment like, “Hey, Goldilocks!” Not to mention bouncers would stare at my ID where I was still a brunette, and look at me, apparently in disbelief that hair dye existed. It was the only time I was ever asked my astrological sign as if I had a fake ID.

Another downside of blonde hair is that your hair falls out. Well, not a lot of it and it mostly grew back. But I remember playing with my hair when all of a sudden, I realized that I had about twenty strands of hair in my hand. Yes, it’s true, if you bleach your hair at home with no prior bleaching experience, your beautiful blonde hair will mostly likely fall out. But don’t worry, you most likely have more hair where that came from. And if you don’t, then hopefully the clump came from the underneath part that doesn’t matter anyway.

By May, I was fed up with being blonde. The maintenance didn’t suit me. No one told me blonde hair meant sitting in the salon for four hours every two months. I don’t regret that time, however, because I saw my kindergarten teacher smoking cigarettes outside while her hair dye set in. So at least there’s that.

All this should probably mean that I would never want to go blonde again. But that would be a lie. I definitely would go blonde again. In fact, I would go white blonde like Lady Amalthea from The Last Unicorn. And you know something is a great idea when you want the same hair color as an animated woman who turns into a unicorn.