Porto, Portugal

Kay has wanted to go to Porto for ages, so every time I searched for weekend trips, I always kept an eye on flights heading there. Usually prices to Portugal from Zurich are too expensive, nearing 500CHF a ticket, but finally I found affordable tickets for late September, booking a short Friday evening to Sunday evening trip.

In order to keep the flights cheap, we did need to transfer in Frankfurt on the way there, which ended up being horrible because our flight from Zurich was delayed and we ended up having to sprint through almost the whole airport in Frankfurt to get to our connecting gate. I nearly died and after the time difference (1 hour) we didn’t arrive to our bed and breakfast until almost one in the morning Swiss time.The weather was covered on Saturday and we had hopes that it would open up, but it remained foggy and grey. Still, we made our way around markets and walked around the city until it was time for our port cellar tour at Ferreira.

With the weather still cloudy, we made a stop at Lello & Irmão Bookstore,  a famous bookstore considered to be one of the most beautiful in the world.…and it was pretty darn magnificent.It is rumored that JK Rowling was inspired to start writing Harry Potter in connection to this bookstore. Who knows if that’s true?The unique staircase is also thought to be an inspiration to ones described in the Harry Potter books.Next it was on to a couple churches.We were a little sad that the weather was so gloomy, but you can’t always be lucky with the weather on these short trips. Well, or our long ones either. We actually seem to do better weather wise on weekend trips compared to proper two week holidays…The port winery tour at Ferreira was OK, but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it. The tour guide was alright and the information was good, but it was a large group and the tour was a bit rushed before we were all dropped at the end to try our port selections.After a very quick introduction to our five selections, the guide took the bottles away and left and we were left trying to remember which port was which within our little group doing the larger degustation. We still had a nice time, but next time we will try a different winery just because! 🙂

After the port, we were rather tipsy and tired and the weather was not doing much to energize us. The day ended with weather like below…We ended up walking around for quite a bit looking for a place to eat that inspired us.At least the city looked nicer at night when it was lit up.The next morning though, the sun was out and we were enthused!After breakfast we stopped for a better coffee and Kay was really excited when the sky opened up completely with sunshine and warmth.Who is excited about the day and wants to do everything we skipped on Saturday?? This guy!We decided to head back to the Clérigos Tower and actually climb it this time. It hadn’t seemed worth it the day before, but below was exactly how we imagined Porto!It was a bit funny though. I’d made Kay wear his dress shirt on Sunday because I made lunch reservations at The Yeatman Hotel, a five star hotel with a Michelin-starred restaurant. The dress code was “smart casual” and we were both worried that we would be turned away in our jeans.

Well, climbing up the tower without an undershirt under his dress shirt completely soaked Kay. It looked really horrible and I couldn’t help laughing. Before we left the church, he changed back to his T-shirt and we tied his dress shirt to his backpack to try and dry it out before arriving at the restaurant.

Wearing just a sweaty tank top myself, I put on a light long sleeved top in front of the hotel while Kay put his dried dress shirt back on over the T-shirt. It ended up being fine for lunch and we managed to fit in all right.Above was our view from the table at lunch. The entire experience was pure heaven! Me and my handsome man. 🙂After a very long lunch, we made our way back down to the river.We didn’t have that much time before we needed to get to the airport for our flight, but we soaked in a couple more sights.We were also pretty full of food and port by this time!At the airport it was important to buy some port based on what we’d sampled in the winery and restaurants. We had some good advice and decided to pick up four different kinds which I’ll mention in the food post soon.Oh Porto. You tired me out. Our flight back was also delayed, although we didn’t have to transfer on the way home, we also only arrived home after midnight. It’s making for a tired week, but worth it to enjoy these last weekends with Kay before school.

Only five weekends for Kay at home before he’s off to study!

Lo & Sons OMG Bag Review

Lo & Sons bags are a little on the pricey side, but boy are they nice. Luxury at its finest! Their two bags the OMG and OG are very similar in size, the OG being 17” x 6.5” x 15” (43.2cm x 16.5cm x 38.1cm) while the OMG is 16” x 6” x 13.5” (40.6cm x 15.2cm x 34.3cm).

Considering that more and more airlines are enforcing regulations for the personal item you carry in addition to your carry-on, which limit travelers to approximately 17″ x 9″ x 10″ (43cm x 22cm x 25cm), I chose the OMG so that I could squeeze this bag by as a personal item since it is a bit smaller in depth and height than the OG.

Last weekend I decided to bring the OMG on its own to Porto as my weekend bag. So what can it fit?Clothes: jeans, two long sleeved shirts, two pairs of socks, two pairs of undies

Electronics: iPad, Kindle, Bose headphones, iPad/iPhone charger, dSLR and 24-105 lens and filter

Toiletries: Makeup, skincare, toothbrush, hair products, etc.

Gluten free snacks and water bottle

Accessories: Glasses and case, sunglasses and case, wallet, gum, tissues, earplugs, Swiss army knife, lipgloss

It was a fair amount of stuff with all the electronics and snacks, but I still had room during the trip to stowaway my scarf, pullover and jacket at times when it was hot.On the way there we had emergency exit seats, so I was not allowed to keep the bag under the seat, but here it is on our way back. I have fit this bag into a very small Canadair CL-65 aircraft on the way from Columbus to Philadelphia as well. You do have to turn the bag on its side to fit it under, but in the Swiss aircraft below, I still had room to put my feet stretched under the seat as well if I wanted.

On the smaller American aircraft, it was tighter, but it fit as well on an aircraft where most people are forced to check their carry-on and almost only jackets or very thin bags fit in the overhead bin. I was happy to see the bag fit on both kinds of planes and not be questioned for size at all.Moreover, I am also really happy with all the pockets in this bag. It makes organization a breeze (there is even a shoe storage pocket!) and I feel more secure storing my wallet in the inner pockets on city trips with the additional inner zipper pockets.

A bit of a splurge, but I highly recommend the Lo & Sons bags. If you are looking for the perfect personal item to complement your carry-on for longer trips, this is it!

A Weekday in the Life of Katie

A typical Tuesday. My life involves a lot of cleanup as I go and pre-planning to make things more efficient at home during the week.

5:10am For whatever reason, I always wake up about an hour before my alarm clock goes off. I check the time and fall back asleep. If I don’t check, I stress about the time and it prevents me from sleeping. I usually wake up 3-10 times a night, so I am used to falling back asleep.

6:15am Alarm rings. I turn it off, roll over, and tell Kay I love him before getting up and heading to the bathroom.6:18am-6:30am I change into my gym clothes, pull my hair back, and put my earrings on before heading to the kitchen to mix a prepared smoothie cup. I also sneak a piece of fresh banana bread, which isn’t usually around the house. After my quick breakfast I brush my teeth, put on my glasses and running shoes and head out.

6:30am Kay is already outside waiting for me while his Garmin watch attempts to locate him with GPS. It’s always a bit hard to get a signal in the city. We start our morning run.

6:30am-7:25am Why is running so hard?? My pulse is always somewhere between 150-175, while Kay’s stays around 120-130 the whole time.

7:25am Cool off walk and stretching.

7:30am-7:51am I shower and do my makeup and hair before dressing in clothes I picked out the night before. My alarm to leave the house rings at 7:51am. I have just enough time to grab my lunch from the fridge before kissing Kay goodbye. He takes the train after me because he works closer to home. Sometimes I ride with him if I am running late.

7:53am Out the door to the train with headphones on and music playing. After a short transfer, I have about 25 minutes in my next train to get my kindle out and read. I’m reading Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier right now.

8:30am I arrive at work, put my food in the fridge, and grab my morning ritual drinks: tea and water.

9:30am Depending on how much I have been working out, I start getting hungry for my morning snack between 9:30am and 11:30am. I only eat it if I am hungry, but I will even snack right before lunch if my blood sugar is dipping too low. Today I had a handful of almonds at 11:30.

10am-12pm Drink about 3 more teas and do work.12:45pm Lunchtime! Finally! I am starving again. The weather is bearable, so I go out with my colleagues to the lake. We heat up our food and take it with us picnic style. Summer swimming has ended and I think it’s time to take my bikini and towel home tonight.

1:45pm Back at work I wash  my tupperware out and make an afternoon tea.

2pm-5pm Drink more tea and water. I try to get all my water in at work so that I don’t have to worry about it at home.5:30pm I head home on the train and read some more.


6:05pm I pick out clothes for tomorrow and get gym clothes ready. I always do this right when I come home.

6:15pm Research health insurance because I am thinking of switching again and the annual deadline to switch is coming up. Being an adult is no fun sometimes.

7:00pm After that, I pack for our trip to Porto this weekend. Carry-on only. We’re pretty good at these weekend trips by now.7:10pm Get dinner ready with Kay. While the leftovers from the weekend are heating in the microwave, I wash dishes while Kay dries. Before my plate is done heating, I go outside on the balcony and grab some fresh lettuce, tomatoes, and parsley to add to my salad. 7:20pm Kay and I sit down to eat. I’m having fish and green beans tonight. He’s having pork meatballs and rice.7:45pm We put the dishes away and I take the now-dried recycling bottles out of the kitchen and put them in our containers in the pantry.  I also take the apple slices out of my brown sugar and stir it up before I forget about the apples. My brown sugar always goes hard because I don’t use it fast enough, but it’s important to keep it soft because it’s almost impossible to buy here!

7:50pm I start writing this post.

8:20pm I change into my PJs and wash my face before making myself some hot chocolate, which I’m really into lately with the weather changing.

8:45pm Computer time. I don’t always go on my computer at night, but I need to organize movies on my iPad for the weekend trip and research gluten free food in Porto. It’s important to do the research about food before we go so that I am prepared how to go about finding restaurants and eating. I also end up doing some research for hotels in Lima for our upcoming trip to Peru. We have a lot of travel planning to fit in during the evenings!

9:40pm Time to learn some Portuguese with Rosetta Stone and go over my lesson notes for tomorrow night’s class. While completing my listening portion of Rosetta Stone, I brush and floss my teeth.

10:25pm I pack my course materials in my bag for tomorrow and make sure my smoothie cup is ready to go for tomorrow morning. I also pull out some makeup so that it’s ready to go during my quick 20 minute routine tomorrow.

10:30pm I’m pretty tired and I have sore legs and arms from yesterday in the gym. Time to get in bed and read a little more before sleeping. Tomorrow is another strength training day.

More blackout curtains

When we visited Ohio in September 2013 to buy fabric for our bedroom curtains, I originally planned for four curtains. Unfortunately, the store only had enough of the fabric Kay and I agreed on to make two curtains, so for almost two years, two curtains was what we had.

While the single curtains were just enough to cover the windows, the gap between the window and the curtain rail above was enough to let some light in through the sides, so we started leaving our shutters closed all the time to block out more of the blazing streetlights. It was too much of a pain to pull the curtains aside, open up the window, close or open the shutters, close the window, and rearrange the curtains every morning and evening.

I decided in April to pull the trigger and order more fabric, international shipping even! And then I let that fabric sit in my house all spring and summer while I nervously worried how on earth I would make two matching curtains to my current 2.77m ones. I was always hoping for a weekend when Kay would be away, but those kept getting cancelled too, so finally this weekend I decided to be brave and figure out how to do the whole thing again.

I’m very happy to say that I succeeded with some almost perfect curtains!Thank God for detailed measuring notes in my planning book! I didn’t have 100% all the details down, like the important part of trimming 10cm off the sides of the blackout fabric on the back so that the patterned fabric would wrap nicely around to the back, but after 8 hours of intense labor, these babies are done!Not to be underestimated, the bobbin did run out in the home stretch, and I had temporarily “forgotten” how to rewind it quickly because it had been months since I’d used my machine which I am still getting used to. And the needle broke after that. Why do all these problems occur after midnight?Still, I was able to wrap them up and put them up before we went to bed and I have to say… the effect is awesome. It’s sooo dark in here now.

I think we will continue to leave the shutters closed on weekends to sleep in, but the curtains now work so well that I can leave the shutters open all week and then just open the curtains quickly in the morning when we get up. I’m so jazzed I finally got this big bedroom project done!

What was one of your most satisfying home projects to finish?

Monte Tamaro Hike

Kay and I had been planning a couples hike for 3 months with some friends, but each time we planned something in June and August, the weather was so awful on the weekend of the hike that we canceled the hike or the whole get together. Finally in September, we decided to just do it, even if the weather forecast was looking pretty negative.

With myself having just been in the US the weekend before and Kay having spent the last three weeks in the army, we were both pretty tired and not necessarily excited about the prospect of spending the weekend exercising outdoors in inclement weather. Still, as always, I’m glad we went and tried.We ended up hiking in the Monte Tamaro region of Tessin, where we visited the St. Maria degli Angeli Church designed by Mario Botta at Alpe Foppa during our little bit of sunshine on Saturday afternoon.Overall, the weather was a little chilly and pretty foggy. The hike was misty and soggy all day, but made for cool walking, which is not the worst compared to a scorching mountain side.The hike was not too strenuous, but I could still feel my legs struggling after a new training routine at my gym the previous Thursday. The weather was also getting more and more misty and wet the later in the evening it got.When we finally arrived to the “hut” that our friends had booked, which was more of a chalet I believe, we ran into these friendly, fuzzy cows. How cute!I loved their furry faces.Kay tried to pet them, but we didn’t have any food, so they were not that interested actually.

In the lodge, we all took showers. Wow. This is glamping to me. I didn’t even bring any soap or change of clothes with me, so I used the hand soap and put my sweaty clothes back on. No one noticed, I swear.

At dinner I enjoyed a minestrone soup and some polenta and cheese for dinner, because apparently the meat only came floured and I could not convince them to prepare the meat another way. Also, the wine came in funny small 1dl cups.The next morning we woke up to the scene below. We’d already decided to get up early because the next bus home after the 7:45 one was at 12:45, and we didn’t want to hang around or hike through the rain, especially because my friend’s husband had rolled his ankle and it was hurting him pretty badly.Not lying when I say I was also looking forward to go home and relax after traveling the previous weekend. I was sooo tired.We didn’t actually make it to the top of the hike, ironically. We were saving it for the second day, but we all still enjoyed the hike we did, especially because we chose a more back country path that was more rugged and interesting.

It’s pretty clear that autumn is moving in quickly and I don’t feel ready yet. Are you ready for colder temperatures?