06/14/12

The Adventurous Girls Guide to Summer Reading

Summer reading has always had such a horrible ring to it, reminds me of depressing books with kids stranded in the wild or post apocalyptic dramas I was way to young for. I also read a lot of my favourite books during the summer, I spent hours on the beach, long after the sun and my family had gone home, finishing the first Harry Potter with such utter captivation you would have thought it was TV. This was followed by a few classics such asGreat Expectations (I always love the homeless orphans) and Sense and Sensibility; which are two of my favourites but they didn’t change my life the way Harry Potter did. But this isn’t a list of books that changed my life or even the 7 books I think everyone should read, these are the 7 books everyone should read if they ever want to have an adventure.

1. In Cold Blood (Truman Capote) – nothing is scarier than the idea of sitting at home and evil knocking at your door, this book tempers your blood and gives you a head for caution, the number one tool in the Marianne Ravenwood knapsack.

2. Pink Boots and a Machete (Mireya Mayor) – Cheerleader turned anthropologist/adventurer Mayor discusses all of the gruesome things that happen to you when you trek through the jungle to tag a baby gibbon (yay holding a baby gibbon nay blood poisoning). It’s also a good read for any woman in a male dominated profession. A few years ago I went to a college reunion with my aunt (she went to an ivy league all women’s school on the East Coast) and they had a panel discussing what the school was like throughout the ages. One woman told the group about when she was in school and they were allowed to attend classes at the men’s school (provided they wore skirts and not their usual trousers). She took them up on it but after two lectures the professor asked her to stop coming as her presence was making the men uncomfortable since they couldn’t act like themselves around a lady. Wouldn’t it be fun to go back in time just for a day and go all Chelsea Handler on those sweethearts?)

3. Darwin Slept Here (Eric Simmons) – He played with FINCHES, saw parts of the world most people even today only dream of, and after his whirl wind adventure he just went home and never left England again, even adventurers eventually want to go home. He also almost didn’t get the job because the ship captain thought people with large noses were useless. Well Humph.

4. The Monster of Florence (Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi) – Don’t get arrested in a foreign country, I don’t care what country, just don’t do it, assume you’re always wrong, and assume you don’t know the law, terrifying… Also don’t make out in cars.

5. The City of Z (David Grann) – A lost city, a real life adventure… everything you could have ever dreamed of.

6. Down Under (Bill Bryson) - I loved every fact and anecdote in this book almost as much as I loved the fact that someone was able to write a book like this and be paid for it.

7. Unsuitable for Ladies (Jane Robinson) – This literary anthology taught me more than anything I ever had to read in school. Above all it teaches that if something is ‘unsuitable for ladies’ it’s incredible.

(Thinking about my childhood summer reading I think about the car rides out to the beach – two hours and an entire duffel bag full of books and CDs. It felt like a caravan ride, everything you would need right at your finger tips, snacks, a blanket, endless entertainment, maybe a Gameboy. The new kids won’t have that. An iPad holds all games, music and books. Kind of great but still makes me a bit sad.)

05/12/12

The Finals Effect

My head hurts, my hair is splitting, my polish is chipped and my bum has fallen to sleep from sitting in the same position for hours. My friends are in similar states of decay, we’ve turned into the tomb vampires from Vampire Diaries – without blood we’re just mummified versions of ourselves, T can’t move her head to one side and S ate an entire loaf of bread just to avoid studying.

Post exams it’s time to get our shine back so we’re off to the semi-annual Pizza and Polish party. A more grown up version of the slumber party it includes the culinary classics of pizza with a home-made twist, pajamas, OPI, and drug-store facials.

The Shopping List

Soap & Glory – Hocus Focus Lotion, revives dead and dull complexions, can be added to your foundation for some highlight or just rubbed over the dark spots

MAC’s Myth Polish and OPI’s glitter polish – love the new take on a classic nude, and a quick coat of glitter makes it a lot more fun

Organix Moroccan Argan Oil – the best thing for my hair after a long period of neglect, brushing it with a rounded soft brush after putting in the Oil keeps it from being too oily

Pizza – classic dough can be bought or made, everyone brings a topping, I’m bringing brie and rosemary!

05/6/12

Quat? The Trick to Straight Hair… or is it?

I recently purchased Lee Stafford’s new shampoo Poker Straight for a bit of a laugh. I have naturally straight hair and usually just use a blow dryer for a pin-straight look but this intrigued me because of its funny sounding ingredients and magical nature. Legend (or the bottle) says that hair follicles have a negative charge which attracts QUAT and this forces hair to straighten.

I began using it Monday and noticed no change off the bat, I didn’t blow-dry my hair and tied it up a few times so this led to a bit of waves as usual. I definitely felt some extra quat in my hair especially around my scalp, wasn’t a fan of that. By Thursday I got a lot of complements on my hair – my favorite was “wow your hair is so wavey I love it”. While the quats didn’t straighten my hair it did add volume and make the waves look good.

05/3/12

How Things Work: Your Digital Trail – GPS

We are a case study. The past 70,000 years of civilization were the control and now we’re the experiment, the uncontrolled, the chaotic. We are the first humans to live our lives spread out over two dimensions, it’s digital string theory, it’s Fringe – only Walternate is made up of pixels and controlled by keystrokes. The digital trail is inevitable, and, in fact, necessary to living successfully in the 21st century. How we can gain agency over this phenomenon is the real question. Most of these technologies you’ve heard of, but below is how they work and the hidden dangers that come free with purchase.

The GPS

This little guy first came about in mainstream gadgetry as the Satellite Navigation in cars. By bouncing a signal off some orbiting dishes we can triangulate our position and furthermore, use a computer to apply this position to a map. We’ve all grown a bit weary of this technology. Yes, I use Maps about once a week but it leads me wrong just as often as it get me to my destination. Who hasn’t been in the car when the robotic voice suggests you drive the wrong way on a one-way street or tells you to turn around with such panic you’re almost sure there’s a masked villain in the back seat, maybe a hook in the door. While SatNav has its ups and downs it’s the new developments that have really got us scared.

GPS Tracking

Every cell phone is equipped with a GPS tracker. In your settings you can turn this off in 1 or 2 capacities. One, disallowing other people to search for your phone (usually comes turned off as it is most used for children, and I would recommend keeping it off) and Two, the police tracker (which comes switched on and I would recommend keeping it this way). These are safety features so if you call 911 they can find you without wasting time triangulating your signal off cell towers (which takes time and I think they need permission) and the idea of strapping a cell to a kid and knowing exactly which shoe rack he’s hiding in is probably pretty appealing to parents. For everyone who balked at the idea of having their mother or friends be able to geo-locate them instantly, this is for you. When you log in on social networking (think Foursquare) sites you leave your self open for to having “friends” pop in on you and more worrisome, strangers use this information against you.

Geotagging

There is a new section in user manuals and this discusses geo-tagging features on your camera, phone, iPad – really anything with a GPS activated computer that takes a picture. This needs to be turned off internally within the device. If you load your pictures on Facebook and they do not get “mapped” this does not mean your geo-tagging is non-existent. Within the metadata of the photograph may be technical information (quite literally your longitude and latitude) on where you live. This is especially dangerous for bloggers who take a quick snap shot of their new shoes and do not realize they’ve just Tweeted their location. If you plan on broadcasting photographs I’d suggest taking it to your phone provider and having them de-activate everything. My phone and camera do not have GPS capabilities and I still worry about this. Moblogging, or blogging with the intention of sharing your geotag, turns this threat into a “cool” trick. As the internet expands and accessability is everywhere the idea of blogging from the great wall of China is pretty alluring.

Wearables

The new tablet watch is being lauded as the next big thing and we already have internet enabled MP3s and running watches. In fact, they even sell GPS enabled running shoes. As much as this appeals (and was actually a life saving device on a recent episode of Breakout Kings which my classmates and I thought was hysterical because we’re always saying they’re dangerous) it freaks me out. My mother always told me not to take the same route home from school, or make your schedule too predictable. Now we’re recording it and loading it online, furthermore we’re sharing it as a great running route!

These are the new urban legends that keep me up at night – half from wondering if there’s a blogger in my closet, half wondering how much the new tablet will cost. Stay safe and happy blogging!

05/3/12

How Things Work

In 1960 my grandfather, Martin Mann, published his first book How Things Work. The book, aimed at the younger generation, set out to explain the wonders of then modern technology. The first up on his list? The ballpoint pen. While I may not have his technical know how I’ve decided to keep this tradition going, with a bit of a twist, applying the how things work format to fashion, travel, and design. Stay tuned for future articles on smokey eyes, managing your digital technology, and much more!

Follow @mapsandrubies for more!

05/1/12

Suno’s Paneled Trench

Suyes! (Sorry, that was dumb). I absolutely love SUNO and am so happy that clothing like this has come back in style. While being the only girl at my college to have a brocade fur-trimmed trench coat did appeal to the rebel in me, it was hard to find matching pieces or to replace it once I’d worn it out. I may have finally found a replacement with SUNO’s paneled trench. I love the structured shoulders, paneled front, and double sleeves. The fun print would make next winter a lot more fun. And it’s currently on sale! Yay shopping F/W in the S/S.

Off to their new S/S 2012 collection for a looksie… hmmm… black and white… random florals…ummm… wholly skort Batman! There is a skort in their collection! The last skort I wore was kelly green and it had Girl Scout patches on it. This one is MUCH cuter and lacks the elastic waistband. There is a bit of extra fabric so from the front it looks like a wrap skirt, it also has a cute little tie up top which hides some trouble areas. The back, which let’s face it is why skorts went out of style, looks pretty accommodating to a healthy posterior. The belt accent keeps the top flush with the body and there are pockets – thank goodness; the flowiness continues around back as does the illusion of a skirt. A new way to wear a comfortable classic and not look too casual? I think so!

I’m also crushing on their two tiered skirt. It’s cotton so it’ll be airy but still has a little extra fabric so as to be flattering. I wish there was a Barney’s nearby. I really want to try this on, I think of those 5 min. as store-mediated ownership.

This is only the second year Suno debuted F-S collections and already they’re making serious waves. Their promise to use patterns created and originated in the cultures we aesthetically admire (most of their clothes are made in Kenya by the same people whose ancestors designed the vintage patterns the collection originated from) has set them apart in the tribal trend. Rachel Bilson is a fan. And that is one little fashion vixen I would happily follow into a wardrobe.

04/29/12

Covet: MAC’s Matchy-Match Cosmetics

Once upon a time women in cream dress suits, sensible heels, and matching gloves roamed the earth. These women were put together and stylish, they never pulled a blouse off the floor to give it the sniff test before putting it on and they all owned some thing called an iron. These weren’t your mother’s fashionistas – they were your grandmother’s. The trends of the 40s and 50s were set-up by the glitz of the 20s and the grime of the 30s. They’d already had depression, prohibition, Fitzgerald, and war.

If being unkept and free is the rebellious aesthetic of a generation kept in cages, what of the flappers? Those who spent their 20s in a stupor only to come to in an era where no matter how hard they worked they could not get ahead, what were they to do? Well, they would go shopping of course!

If the best way to boost our nation’s economy is to get thee to a shop than a new national wardrobe is just what the doctor ordered. Fast forward nearly 100 years and we’re here again, having slipped from the conservative 50s into the wild 70s, the acid 80s, the grungy 90s, the high-fashion naughts, and now the anything-goes-someone-give-me-a-job-I’m-so-bored-and-sick-of-living-with-my-parents tens. We have a recession, war, a lack of positive cultural icons, a complete change of life (Humans have grown as a civilization but not since the switch from nomadic to settled life have we changed worlds, enter the digital world where we live our lives  not in hours but pixels.) and as a people we’re just kind of all over the place. The 80s are back they say… so are the 90s, the 20s, the 50s, and the ‘future’ look. I’m waiting for hoop-skirts to start parading down fifth avenue. We look back because there is always some comfort in the past, we know how things turned out for the beatniks and the greasers and, in the end, we like to think it all worked out for the best.

The idea of wearing shoes that matched my purse never appealed to me. But why would it when my contemporary icons were Britney Spears and Destiny’s Child? Celebs whose “put-together” look was a neon mono-chrome jumpsuit with matching scrunchies.

MAC’s plan to match nails to lipstick is monochromatic in a classy way. Yes, I’ve watched their mono-faced tutorial suggesting you use hot pink blusher on your lips, eyebrows, cheeks and where ever else you can manage it. (Which I thought was very Hunger Games). This look is unrealistic for most of us – those who are unemployed and always looking to make a good impression, even if the artist/model did pull it off smashingly.

I like MAC’s fashion sets look mostly because it can go nicely with any look, I can put on a flapper dress, wake up the next morning and get into a cowgirl inspired outfit, then change into my LBD for night and my make-up doesn’t need to change. So, if anyone wants to offer me a job interview, I’m ready. (Even uploaded my CV to my iPad).

04/28/12

Where Next? Lisbon, Portugal

Portugal was never at the forefront of my travel list, in fact I had never considered it at all. Not that I was consciously trying to neglect the nation, I just didn’t know what to see there. Growing up I had dreamed of walking the Seine, partying in Camden, and sneaking around Venice in a gilded mask for Carnevale – what does one do in Portugal? The I heard they had jungles there and my interest kicked up a bit. Then I heard of grottos and caves and forests. I’m not exactly the outdoorsy type unless it begins to sound like something from a Harry Potter novel. I’m like a nerd-adventurer. My roommate and I had been pondering a trip to India – something we’d both wanted to do for a long time – but had backed off because it was slowly flowing over the rim of our “extended” budget, and the trouble of planning and getting U.S. vaccinations while living abroad was too much work during midterms. Besides, by the time spring break rolled around we were exhausted and not looking for such a wild ride.

So we decided on Portugal. A little sight-seeing, a little hiking, a little r&r. Lisbon is small and lacking in tourist attractions. It rivals San Francisco on its hills and as for street signs, ha! good luck. There is a castle and a monastery you could visit but after the equivalent of a year traveling Europe those things kind of blur. (Besides the best ones are always the one’s you stumble upon like the cloisters in Adare, Ireland). We bumped into other travelers who went and said things like “oh yeah that’s nice”. Just nice? Instead we spent the days walking the river, buying antiques from the sweetest lady in the city, and riding the tram. The paella was excellent everywhere we went and the warm fresh air was rewarding after months in England.

We had been advised by a friend that Sintra was the place to go, and we planned to take the short train up there on our own, spend a day hiking and have a picnic. It would have been about 30 euros cheaper than the tour but honestly, the tour was worth every penny and it was my favorite part of the trip. We stayed at the Lisbon Living Lounge hostel which was just as nice as most “hotels” and had awesome decor. The lounge/kitchen was beautiful and friendly and the bedrooms were decorated by artists. (Although I do have to say if the place hadn’t been as nice our room’s CSI theme with police tape and a backdrop of the woods would have been CREEPY). They offered a Sintra tour – with lunch – for 40 Euros and we got talked into it by the charming clerk. (Doesn’t hurt that everyone who works there is attractive ;) ).

The tour – we went to the palace first and hiked it’s grounds which are extensive and amazing. Everything you want in a princess’s backyard, hidden grotto’s, golden sunshine, knotted trees – we spent almost all of our allotted time there and blew through the palace interior which was impressive but the outside was amazing. Then we went to Pena (I may be getting these names wrong I’ll get my roommate to check this) which I had never really heard of but it had caves! There are “cave walks” which consist of you taking long strolls under-ground. Some of the group wasn’t too keen on this, arachnophobia and all, but this was a highlight for me. Couldn’t really get any good pictures down there but it was the perfect place to hide from an evil queen. The cave let out under a waterfall and you had to navigate some teeny rocks to get to the other side. I’d suggest hiking boots although one girl in our group did manage it all in espadrilles.

From there we headed to the park for lunch. Stephania, our tour guide, cooked up some chorizo, bread and cheese (I call it cheese but it was magic cheese made by fairies sooo good!), wine jam, WINE, spiritual cod (which is like a white fish casserole that the monks in Portugal used to make), more wine, and chocolate cake. I’m sure I’m forgetting something there was so much food. And the cutest puppy came and finished it all up for us.

The tour group was an awesome bunch of women which is part of what made it so much fun. (More on that later I’ll compare some tours for you, if your new to traveling alone that will give you an idea of what to expect – not the giggle fest movies give you).

Next was the Western most point of Europe. I have a serious bone to pick here because when I was planning this trip I saw pictures of this and was all “eh why go to see a sign?” Online, everyone’s photos show them smiling in front of a huge stone pillar when in reality, if they had turned the camera around, it looks like this -

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Way better than a sign right?! It’s actually prettier than that in person but photos lie.

The last stop was the beach where we watched hot surfer dudes, adorable surf puppies, oh yeah and there was an epic sunset too.

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This is a photo of cats following the fisherman out so they can steal his fishies… cutest little thieves ever.

04/24/12

Around the European Union: Study Abroad Advice

I’ve been reading a lot of Around the World Blogs and I’m a little jealous of the ATW lifestyle. Reading about new adventures every week always gets me on online, trying to see where I can afford to go, and while an ATW might be out of my financial grasp, an ATEU (around the European Union) is not.

I also realize that I’ve titled this as a travel blog and have been neglecting that bit. To explain: I’m living in London while finishing my schooling, but am originally from New York. While here it is UNBELIEVABLE how cheap it is to leave the country for a weekend. So to gear up for my travelogue I thought I’d jot down some things I’ve learned getting this far and then y’all can break out the passports and join me!

Doing an ATEU is pretty easy if you’re studying abroad in a European country, this is how everyone I know has gotten their passport stamps. You can get financial aid, family and friends are more willing to help out, and at the end of it you get class credit / a degree making the financial burden even more worth it. When studying abroad the first time (one semester) I was told to budget $5,000 and nearly threw up. Of course that immediately turned into $2,500 pounds upon landing and while I didn’t spend it all I was glad I had it. I was lucky and found one of those magical unicorns of New York City – a paid summer internship – so if you want to study abroad start saving immediately (even if your 12 and run a lemonade stand, actually most of my money came from well-saved cat city money).

Plan where you want to go early. Not only do rates go up but you will be making a slew of new friends upon your arrival – this is true if your backpacking or studying abroad – and those friends will have their own travel plans. It’s great to be flexible but if all of your new friends have already seen Paris and it’s your “destiny”, or whatever romantic notions you’ve been nursing, make sure it stays in your plan. You will have to wade through a bit of travel-snobbiness (You haven’t been there?! You want to do something touristy?!). Not letting someone bully you into a weekend in middle-of-nowhere Slovenia instead of seeing Paris for the first time is difficult.

Not wanting to travel alone isn’t horrible! Even though so many so-called “experienced” travelers make it out to be. I still don’t like it. I get bored, also who is going to take my picture? There are International Student Houses, Travel Clubs, and tours for younger folks in every city just for people like us who like travel buddies. (I’ve always been a wee bit skeptical of these too but just went on one I LOVED it so that showed me.) (This is also so much safer, especially for women, a friend of a friend spent 3 weeks in a South American hospital with dysentery (where she was robbed of her passport), this would always suck, but ALONE?! If things get all Oregon Trail it’s nice to have a friend.

Pack things you want to throw away. I brought a few junky old sweaters, jeans that were on their last legs, and cheap tanks. For a semester, this fit into one massive suitcase and my business carry-on, and for a year it was two massives and a carry-on. You always wind up buying a few things – either gifts, textbooks, or clothing; maybe even a blanket that you buy because you’re cold and you love it so you take it home even though it dominates half your suitcase, cough *Becca* cough. Yes, you want cute outfits for your travels but I’ve never met anyone who had trouble dressing themselves once they got here. Odds are you’ll get so into the style of your host city you won’t even want to wear the new clothes you got for the trip. Bring the old stuff and donate it before you leave. (I’m in an apartment here and am thinking if I sold all the kitchen and home stuff I had to buy I could finance another trip that way).

Think business traveler when you think luggage. My parents got me a new suitcase before my semester abroad that has fold out backpack straps, wheels, and fits in an overhead (FYI: use Easyjet’s dimensions when buying as they’re one of the smallest and most frequently used for European student travelers). I can’t even tell you how many trips have met with crisis because people don’t have a carry-on size bag. Lots of crying and screaming, “how can I go to Milan without these shoes?”

Carry-on is always best, it saves you time and about $80 on the cheap airlines. The only thing my bag doesn’t have, which I’d suggest -hence the business idea – is a laptop case. Odds are you’ll be using this for any academic trips and at the very least on your way home, be prepared to remove your laptop at security. P.s. Laptops are HEAVY. I never realized how heavy until I was lugging it all over Europe.

Take photos! I know everyone is a photog these days but so many people never step out in front of the lens. Recently, a friend visited me and didn’t get a picture of herself in front of Big Ben! You don’t even need to look at the picture ever again but maybe one day you’ll want to and wouldn’t it be nice to have?

Coming up:

Hostels vs hotels, transportation, tour groups, money and more! Feel free to ask questions or request topics!