Angelrox clothing offers chronic pain- defying comfort with a touch of glamour, perfect for travel

I started Really Wonderful Things at the urging of one particular friend, hereafter referred to as The Priestess. In spite of this motivation, I have mostly failed to write the practical reviews she wants from me.

I think she thinks I’m hoarding the results of all my overthought, overwrought purchases. I’ve got passionate and informed opinions about, among other things, travel gear, brands for women and children, housewares, books, and the physical stuff of child-rearing.

What The Priestess says is mostly true. I’ve agonized over a ridiculous number of nearly trivial comparisons, making fascinating to me distinctions between a variety of mundane items. She claims I’m not the only one who should profit from these efforts.

Made in Maine ~ angelrox

Though I think I already sold The Priestess on this particular company with an in person demonstration, I’ll take her word for it that I owe it to the world to share my opinion of Maine manufacturer angelrox‘s travel friendly knit clothing, with particular emphasis on the “Goddess” and “Glow” dresses and gowns.

Here’s the bottom line: in a Goddess dress, you can echo the glamour of an old time movie star while you feel like you’re wearing your comfiest pajamas. These clothes are that good!

Goddess dress & gown

Goddess dresses are very fitted, but made of an exceptionally soft rayon-blend knit that doesn’t pinch or uncomfortably squeeze the waist in this design. View angelrox’s product page for artistic professional photos, but I’ll share my own snapshots to give you a glimpse of what this dress looks like on a size ten/twelve, middle-aged mother of two. And, no, I’m not wearing shape wear/Spanx because they squeeze and HURT. Another reason I’m not writing a “fashion” blog.

Keep in mind that a person with chronic pain is calling these clothes comfortable. This is not the “comfortable” designation of someone who will suffer for beauty. These are garments that I choose to put on when every inch of my body hurts in some way or another, but I have to cover myself or become resigned to staying in bed.

To feel pretty under these conditions is almost unthinkable luxury.

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Travel must have: an LED light

I always travel with a light, at least a small flashlight,* but more often a mini lamp capable of rendering a strange hotel room safe for use late at night.

Pictured are similar keychain flashlights and rechargeable, motion sensing LED light bars like those I packed on my last trip.

My reasoning is fairly straightforward. It’s only happened once, but I was on a flight where the overhead light in an airplane lavatory went out in mid-flight. You can imagine how gross an unlit restroom in motion could become, so I’ll say no more about that except that now I always carry my own source of light.

I’ve had similarly unexpected needs for my own method of illumination in a retail store back room when an unreachable overhead bulb burned out, and when caught outdoors in nature after dark. Stuff happens. Life with reliable electric light is decidedly more convenient!

Travel lights, like electronics in general, have undergone more evolution during my adult life than almost any other item routinely packed.

We are all also carrying more chargers for electronics, but they aren’t much different from those that powered the much bulkier Gameboys and Walkmen of my youth. The wall wart might be a bit smaller, but plugs and cables remain fundamentally the same.

When I was a child, there was no reasonable way to fully illuminate a campsite–or a hotel room–without burning fuel or carrying an battery-powered flashlight the size of a large hardbound dictionary. Our old fluorescent lantern—the cutting edge technology of its day—didn’t even use standard batteries (AA, C, or D) most of us keep at home. It used these 6V behemoths which are the size of a cup of coffee but much heavier.

Booklights were common by the time I was a teenager. The popular Itty Bitty Book Light original used incandescent bulbs (breakable, and likely to burn out within the product’s useful life) and AA batteries. It looks like this model is still in production by Zelda!

I always packed extra AA batteries and a spare bulb when I traveled for more than a day because devices devoured them in short order. You could go through dozens of AA batteries per day if you listened to hours of music on a portable CD player.

I got the wondrous gift of a fluorescent book light** in college. The lower power requirements meant I could safely leave home without additional AA’s. The light itself was bulkier, however, than the incandescent competition. It was about the size of a two decks of cards side by side when folded flat. Its clever Z-folding design did mean that it could stand resolutely on a night table, not being easily upset, and work as a mini bedside lamp.***

I note the self-supporting feature because, even before I developed arthritis in my hands, I didn’t enjoy the excess weight of a lamp clipped to a book. I dislike the off-balance feeling.

Though I use a 15+ year old, battery powered, dual LED Mighty Bright booklight even at home for late night reading (insomnia, sigh!), I constantly fiddle with the aim of the beam, and I’m often left feeling peevish about the experience. This particular is about equal in value to my greater comfort with the lighter weight of my Kindle Voyage in making e-books my bedtime favorite format.

If you don’t travel with any sort of light, I’d recommend carrying a tiny button-cell battery powered flashlight, at least. They cost about $5 and are smaller than your little finger. You can spare the weight and space.

For those frequenting hotels or traveling with kids or partners who fumble for the toilet late at night, the motion activated feature on a mini light sporting three to 10 LEDs provides a lot more service in just a little more space. Mine’s roughly the size of a candy bar, but weighs less. It has a long lasting rechargeable battery.

Often, these rechargeable units use the same standard mini USB cable as a Kindle or phone, requiring no further accessories to pack. My light rarely needs recharging during a typical one week trip. I’ve repurchased similar bar lights on Amazon, with none of the specific models still available as of this writing. They work well in the home, as well, for spots where no convenient outlet allows for a traditional plug-in nightlight.

How do you illuminate your travels? Or am I just more afraid of the dark than the average voyager?

*Actually, I keep a tiny flashlight in my handbag at all times and I add an LED bar light for travel. I really don’t want to be stuck in the dark.

**No longer available to purchase, but you can still view the venerable Phorm Light Voyager on Amazon.

***Carrying a standard flashlight would also be an option, but I don’t enjoy the act of reading while I’m actively training a focused beam on the page. Perhaps if I’d read under the blankets with a torch, like all the bibliophile kids in stories I enjoyed growing up, but my parents were very lax about bedtimes so long as I was in bed and reading. I just used my standard bedside lamp late at night!

Luggage brands & bag styles I’m traveling with regularly in 2017

Here’s my recent luggage use pattern:

Rolo, when carried, ends up crammed inside Tom Bihn or Red Oxx, however. It has been used as a carry-on in conjunction with a Tom Bihn Aeronaut 45, a Red Oxx Small Aviator Bag, and even a Tom Bihn Shop Bag.

I haven’t posted about the brand before, but my one set of wheeled luggage is Sherpani. We need to talk about them, too.

Yes, I’m on the record railing against wheeled rollaboard bags here and in real life, but my Sherpani wheels are on a larger, checked-luggage sized suitcase. I never lift them over my head, and I don’t try to carry them on. Large wheeled bags are the best for trips involving a lot of stuff.

It is possible that I bought my Sherpani wheeled suitcase primarily because it came in a really fetching brown and purple color scheme. Highly unusual for luggage carousel spotting! Coordinated with clothes I wore frequently for travel! The presence of cute little daisies in charming spots could also have been a factor.

The more similar your trips, and the more similar your needs during travel, the less likely it is that you need a variety of pieces of luggage. If, on the other hand, you sometimes fly carry on only in basic economy, but other times enjoy extended voyages with extensive wardrobe requirements, you might appreciate having a range of bags that can exactly suit the given style of travel.

If I didn’t have the budget or the storage space for all four types of luggage, I would rank their order of importance to me exactly as I introduced them above:

  1. Ultra-lightweight carry on,
  2. sturdy (check-able) duffle in a size that could be carried on,
  3. specialized bag (for organization),
  4. specialized bag (for extra long trips with more specific requirements.)

For someone who flies rarely or has the strength to find all carry on luggage of trivial weight, I would prioritize item #2 above all else in most cases. A sturdy rectangular bag is by far the most versatile option available.

Some people can make do with everyday items (shopping bags or school day packs) in lieu of travel gear; some people are willing to spend more on luggage than they do on the trip itself. Most of us fall somewhere in between.

A good brand will only produce bags of high quality, but that won’t matter if you buy the wrong bag for your needs.

The rain in the plane falls mainly… in my Tom Bihn Cafe Bag

Some people carry expensive designer bags onto a flight. Me? Not so much.

If I haven’t heaped enough praise on Tom Bihn bags before, let me reiterate a powerful selling point: their water resistance.

Flying in the cramped confines of cattle coach class, if you set down your improperly-capped refillable water bottle on the top flap of your Cafe Bag, your iPad, Kindle, cell phone, and important papers might survive in spite of the aftermath of your arthritic fingers’ failure to twist.

Must you ask me how I know?

Sigh.

Some water dribbled down into the open back slit pocket, but, as luck would have it, I only keep a shopping bag and my baggies full of wipes* there during travel.

The front zip pocket and merely flap-covered main compartment stayed dry through about four ounces of slow leaking. My chocolate chip cookie and spare napkins fared less well, but I could weather their loss. I also packed a brownie!

I had chosen one of our smallest water bottles to lighten my load, and I’m so glad I did. Mine was a child’s 0.3 L aluminum Sigg bottle. There was less volume of liquid available to inundate my Cafe Bag.

This is also another opportunity to tout the advantages of heeding Douglas Adams’ advice**: always travel with a towel.Mine is a small, personal sized Pack Towl. I like to blame the kids for it being constantly in use, but any person with a water bottle and electronics in the same bag should consider such an absorbent accessory cheap insurance.

Buy Tom Bihn bags because they are designed–nay, engineered!–for real-world travel. They’re also made in Seattle, Washington USA and ultra light yet super strong. Also, you’re going to be at least as prone to wayward dribbles in flight as you are in mid-adventure. Pack like it!

Tom Bihn gear is tough enough for everyday people who scoop up the cheap fares in crappy seats to travel more often; Tom Bihn luggage is for folks who carry their own bags.***

By the way, the bags hold up equally well to containing pickle juice when traveling by automobile. Ahem.

* Might amuse the audience to know that DH requests that, if I must travel so often, I at least commit to wiping down my seating area with disinfecting wipes every time. I carry the kind for hands, such as Wet Ones, when I travel, too. And also alcohol swabs and lens cleaning wipes. If there’s a wipe for it, I’ve probably got one in my bag, or at least in my car. We’ve established that I’m a messy person and a mom, right?

** Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a very funny novel

***Full disclosure: I’d actually prefer to have someone else carry my bag, but I endeavor to pack such that this is a delightful luxury, not a physical requirement.

Including a Kindle for ultralight carry on travel: when is the weight justified?

To travel with the Kindle, or without the Kindle? That is my question before each trip.

Much of my travel kit is so definitive, it’s hard for me to remember a time when I carried anything different.

For over a decade, I’ve had a silk sleeping bag liner or “sleep sack” (dubbed by our family as “the sleestak” because that’s funnier) with me on every flight. It doubles as a blanket, protects me from chemical-laden hotel bedding, and acts as a neck pillow or cushioned armrest while rolled up.

I could go on and on about other items in my carefully curated collection of travel gear. Most pieces serve multiple purposes. Many of them delight me because they remind me of adventures past. I know what I need, why I need it, and (usually) where to pack it with very little contemplation.

When it comes to my Kindle, however, I’m weighing its inclusion before every trip.

Kindle - 1The truth is, I never need to bring the Kindle. I have a smartphone and a tablet, both of which include the Kindle app. Unlike the dark ages of my youth, I never need to carry a stack of paperbacks (it took four for a cross country flight) these days to ensure having entertainment for hours of airline isolation.

I often do bring one codex in spite of the weight of paper and ink. I like to read a physical book. Books, however, don’t often work best for my physical limitations.

The reason I read on a Kindle is mundane. I have arthritis in my hands and wrists. There is no less taxing way to hold a library in my hands than my Kindle Voyage.* Continue reading

Such a simple solution: easing hip pain during air travel with inflatable seat cushions

Here’s a simple solution to try if you are prone to joint pain during the forced immobility of air travel. Add at least one inflatable pillow to your carry on kit. Even better, carry a pair of different shaped inflatables.

While I’m frustrated by the amount of “stuff” that is now a mandatory part of my travel experience, I carry it all because it helps with different manifestations of my autoimmune condition. I’m not going to stop exploring the world, and I’d prefer not to suffer too much as I go about it.

Inflatable pillows of different shapes and thicknesses can be arranged to buffer hard armrests, prop up feet to change the angle of the legs, support the lower back, or (the most tradition option) cushion a lolling head for a much-needed nap.

This time, my Klymit “Cush” pillow deployed under my knees took the pressure off of an aching hip and spared me from another hour of excruciating pain or resorting to opiates during a trip where I’d prefer to stay in full command of my faculties.

The Klymit pillow differs from most I’ve seen due to its shape. It’s long (~30 inches, inflated) and narrow (9 inches) unlike typical, chair-seat-sized rectangular seat cushions. It’s easily wrapped around, or folded and layered, for varied types of support, and it was exactly what I needed in the moment.

This same feature is oft cited by other reviewers as a negative, but my own experience proves the value in making and marketing a new kind of pillow.

A few hours into a recent flight, my right hip started to ache in a miserable way. It was a stabbing pain, almost severe enough to make me cry out. Exactly how I’d like to behave on a full flight!

The hip is not even one of my main “problem areas” for joint pain, but I’ve been experiencing a prolonged period of more frequent flares in my small joints, and that usually means spikes of pain in the larger joints for me, too. In spite of the flare, I had a trip that couldn’t wait, requiring a flight across the country.

I opted for a layover instead of my usual direct flight to allow myself a mid-journey movement break. I even splurged on a first class seat for one segment of the trip, but sitting for seven hours is sitting for seven hours. Joint pain and stiffness was inevitable.

While the short walk to the restroom and a set of stretches in the galley paused the worst of it, this was a stop-gap solution that couldn’t be prolonged or easily repeated. There just isn’t room on a plane for a body in crisis.

After experimenting with my Therm-a-rest “Trail Seat” cushion, the standard airplane pillow provided by the airline, a blanket, and the Klymit, the winner was clear. Extended to its full length across the front edge of my seat cushion, the Klymit changed my seating angle enough to stop the spasms wracking my hip for the remaining hour of the flight.

The 91-year-old gentleman seated next to me was quite gracious in his silence about my odd maneuvers as I attempted to get comfortable. I’m sure he was curious about all the pillows and props I kept pulling out of my bag!

A pair of airline pillows might have duplicated the effect, but I only had one. With the airlines providing ever stingier accommodations, I wouldn’t want to count on even having that single courtesy pillow.

I could try folding the Therm-a-rest to double its thickness, but it wouldn’t raise the angle of both knees, nor am I sure that it would hold up well to a sharp fold.*

Rolling the blanket would be the next best option, but I was already using it to keep warm. Yes, when my arthritis flares up, I also suffer from both warm and cold spells wherein I can’t seem to regulate my own body temperature properly. That’s why a small down throw blanket is another vital element in my travel kit.

My tote full of inflatable cushions earns me a few stares, but also quite a few envious comments from people wishing they’d thought to pack something similar along. That’s why I offer this post today.

I have personally bought and used the following inflatable travel pillows.

*Later, I experimented with folding the Therm-a-rest “Trail Seat,” and it held up fine to this abuse. It didn’t result in a thick pillow that would stay in position, however, like the Klymit Cush, so wasn’t the best tool for this particular job. I have found nothing to complain about with Therm-a-rest products or build quality.

Sleep beneath the stars while frustrating the mosquitos

On a warm summer night, it’s tempting to sleep outside and beat the heat, but how can you avoid being eaten alive by mosquitoes?

Cam-O-Bunk accessory Mosquito Net open - 1

Rock-a-bye baby, on Cam-O-Bunk, Mozzies won’t bite you, under this… junk?   (I really like the Mosquito Net, I’m just compelled to spout execrable poetry.)

Add a Mosquito Net and Frame to your Disc-O-Bed Cam-O-Bunk—it fits the L or XL model—and you can enjoy a comfortable, flat bed while sleeping out of doors in the almost open air. You’ll even be able to see the stars through the mesh, light pollution permitting.

My little guy tells me that the full moon sprouts beautiful rays of green and gold light when viewed through the Mosquito Net’s mesh at night.

I was going to skip this accessory since we typically camp as a family in our perfectly mid-sized tent. I appreciate nature—even crave the acres of evergreen forests of my native region—but I’m far from a rugged outdoorswoman.

I prefer a bit of tarpaulin between me and the savage beasts raccoons who fight over the wrapper my kid left on the picnic table.


Fast forward to a muggy night and our currently out-of-commission air conditioning unit for the third floor bedroom. Remember, heat rises.

I’d love to sleep out on the deck,” said DH, “but would you believe the mosquitoes make it up this high?

“Me, too!” chimed in the little guy. “Let’s do it, Pop!”

But the plan was scrapped for want of a mosquito net.

I remembered having seen such an accessory when I was researching my Cam-O-Bunk prior to purchase. I went back to have a look. Sold as a set, there it was:

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Red Oxx Big Bull Roll-Up carry on bag keeps family travel organized

I’ve mentioned my Rolo hanging carry-on bag in a few contexts (Amtrak travel, summer camp.) I discovered it—and the Red Oxx Big Bull Roll-Up luggage that I’m reviewing now—during the same internet search for a new piece of kit that would help keep my family organized on a long trip.

Red Oxx Big Bull Roll-up Rolo hanging bag

Red Oxx Big Bull Roll-Up ($285) next to Rolo bag ($50), both empty

My summer road trip proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that this style of bag works really well for my family. DS1 stated that the Rolo made managing his things at summer camp easier. I appreciated the design at every brief overnight hotel stop.

Thus convinced, I bit the bullet and ordered the Red Oxx bag upon returning home. We’re going camping this summer, and I can definitely use a roll-it-out-and-see-it-all bag for each boy.

I got the Rolo bag first because it lists for $50 compared to the Big Bull Roll-Up’s $285 price. I could buy one Rolo bag for each family member (plus 1.7 extra) for the price of one Red Oxx Big Bull. But would I want to? Continue reading

Tally’s Hookers tow service to the rescue: a review I wish I had no cause to write

Sometimes, you need a service that you don’t particularly want. Tow trucks are a great example.

Today I’d like to thank Tally’s Auto of Gloucester, MA for timely, courteous service. A young man named Bart* took good care of my disabled vehicle and delivered her safely to my mechanic.

Tow truck Tally's - 1Our typically stalwart minivan let loose a cry of distress last week: the oil pressure warning light illuminated. My Owner’s Manual told me to stop driving immediately and call for help.

If I’m understanding the engine’s workings correctly, without properly pressurized oil circulating, an engine can be destroyed within minutes. Obviously, we don’t want that.

The good news is, it was a sensor failure, not an engine problem. Electronics are expensive to fix, but I needn’t fear hidden engine damage from the ½ mile I drove looking for a safe place to pull over along the highway.

Whilst looking up the URL for Tally’s, I realized that towing service reviews are often pretty harsh. Many people seem to equate the towing of their illegally parked vehicles with dishonest service providers.

I’m grateful that the service I needed was available when and where I called for it. My bulky van was in a tricky spot on a winding road, and Bart* handled the situation with aplomb.

Hurrah for the unsung heroes of the highway.

 

*His name might’ve been Brad. I was frazzled.

Camping in comfort when you live with chronic pain: begin with the bed

Growing up, my family took more camping vacations than any other kind. We went annually with the same people—friends with kids my age. Even when we moved to a neighboring state, we traveled for hours to camp with them.

These are golden memories for me, and it’s the kind of tradition I’d like to re-create for my own kids.

Camp Coleman Instant Tent 6

Coleman Instant Tent – 6 person model (Retail $180)

Lately, the trick has been figuring out how to travel the way I want to, experiencing the world at large, when my body has developed an autoimmune condition that sporadically surprises me with painful symptoms.

Camping for people of all abilities

Should a person with occasionally debilitating joint pain risk going camping?

Pardon my French, but: Continue reading