Key Straps save my stuff: how Tom Bihn’s bags keep arthritic fumblefingers from ruining my day

In other posts, I’ve referred to the way Tom Bihn bags often make my life better. I want to expand upon that point lest I sound like a mere company shill.

Tom Bihn PCSB and Cafe Bag with Sunday Afternoons hat on hotel desk

Tom Bihn bags and Sunday Afternoons hat

Today I’ll talk about how one “key” feature of this particular brand helps me stay organized and deal with the ongoing issues of a chronic medical condition. I’m talking about removable Key Straps that can be attached to O-rings integral to Tom Bihn bags and many other anchors on luggage or in hotel rooms.Tom Bihn Clear 3D Organizer attached with Key Strap to handicapped rail in hotel bathroom

Key Straps are the “key” feature

I carry a Cafe Bag ($70, size: Medium, color: Original/black Halcyon with Wasabi lining) almost every day, sometimes swapping it out for a Travel Cubelet ($40) or my Packing Cube Shoulder Bag (PCSB, $34) when I travel light. My Cafe Bag is generally fitted out with six separate Key Straps at once, each serving a unique function.

Tom Bihn yellow Key Strap on Cafe BagKey Straps ($5) come in 8-inch and 16-inch lengths, and are currently offered in seven colors. Many of mine are the older style, sewn from folded Dyneema/Halcyon nylon fabric. Newer Key Straps are made of webbing instead. Key Straps come in two varieties: with a snap hook on both ends, or a snap hook on one end with an O-ring on the other.

Additional Tom Bihn accessories that go virtually everywhere with me include:

  • Clear Organizer Wallet ($17) for cash on Wasabi TB Key Strap
  • Coach purple leather card wallet on Steel/grey TB Key Strap
  • Solar/yellow TB Key Strap left empty for… my keys!
  • Pocket Pouch ($10) in Aubergine with Wasabi lining for lip balm attached with its own integrated clip
  • Eagle Creek pouch on Ultraviolet TB Key Strap
  • Aubergine Small Q-Kit ($18) on Iberian/red TB Key Strap for medication
  • Wasabi Mini Q-Kit ($15) on Wasabi TB Key Strap for electronic charging cables and earbuds
  • Clear pouch with red back for paper and longer objects I want to carry, often including a checkbook, a full length emery board (nail file), or a passport

I attach non-Bihn items by various methods. You can see the Key Strap snap hooks attached to a key ring on my card wallet and a fabric loop on my Eagle Creek purple pouch in my detail photos. The integrated O-rings and detachable Key Straps are tiny things that make a tremendous functional difference in my Tom Bihn satchel, but these accessories play very nicely with other brands.

By designing modular pockets, pouches, and parts for the end user to attach or not with separate Key Straps, every bag can be customized precisely for its specific purpose. This works really well for me.

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Wrap your wrists with Angelrox Sleeves: Aria (wrist-) or Opera (elbow-) length fingerless gloves

I’m always circling back around to stuff I like. I’m an information junkie, myself, and find it hard to ever get enough detail from reviews when I’m considering trying something new that’s sight unseen.

I like to wear clothes by local New England brand Angelrox. I’ve mentioned this fact once… or twice.thrice.

Angelrox Opera Aria Sleeves teal lagoon - 2 (1)

Aria (left) and Opera (right) Sleeves

Today I’ll offer a comparison between the two types of Angelrox Sleeves.

What are “sleeves” in this context? Finger-less gloves, or you might call them arm covers. Exactly what I would expect “sleeves” to be, just more detached than usual modern ones.

They are available in Aria ($22, wrist-) and Opera ($28, elbow-length) versions.

Angelrox Opera Aria Sleeves teal lagoon - 1 (1)

Aria Sleeves in Lagoon (top) shown with Opera Sleeves in Teal (bottom)

How do the two styles compare in size and shape? Basically, length is the only difference.

Width might increase somewhat to fit above the elbow, but not by much. I would say that these are designed for a skinnier arm, though they aren’t cut to a skimpy skeletal fashion model standard.

Angelrox Opera Aria Sleeves teal lagoon - 2Angelrox Opera Aria Sleeves teal lagoon - 1I’m a lady with curves, both the popular ones and the kind society thinks I should exercise away or excise via plastic surgery. I typically wear a US size Medium or Large, depending very much upon the cut of a garment. My waist is a relatively narrower; my hips push the generous end of the larger size.

Though I wouldn’t describe my arms as fat, as with my lower body, I have decidedly more padding in the upper arm as compared with the lower.

I also have chronic pain and would characterize myself as “sensitive” to chemicals, textures, and sensations, including, or particularly, in this case, the sensation of “squeezing.”

angelrox sleeves in espresso - 1

Opera Sleeves (Espresso)

I can wear my Opera Sleeves as above the elbow. seriously opera length. gloves, but I rarely leave them pulled up that high. They don’t push out my arm fat into an unattractive bulge, but they do feel too snug for my personal comfort level worn like that.

When wearing Opera Sleeves, I virtually always scrunch them down until the top hem hits on the bony area around the elbow. This is an attractive look, but it requires a bit of fussing to get the resulting crinkled folds optimally spaced and even.

Once Aria Sleeves were released by Angelrox, they became my first choice both to order in new colors and to wear every day.

Opera Sleeves do offer the option to cover the arm fully while wearing a short sleeved shirt.

If I were trying to pack very lightly but wanted to be able to achieve total arm modesty, I could use Opera Sleeves this way. One example would be wearing my teal Angelrox Goddess Dress (sleeveless) with Teal Opera Sleeves pulled up high beneath my floral silk poncho (all three pieces shown on the left in the capsule wardrobe below.)

Any upper body garment that covers about a third of the arm should work for this look.

Only I would know my Angelrox Sleeve wasn’t a normal shirt sleeve extending from the shoulder in this combination.

Bottoms w berry tops accessories

Clothing plus accessories laid out

This trick works well as a laundry hack with a combination of tank tops and Sleeves for summer travel. I wash clingy upper body garments most often because, um, sweaty armpits. If I remove my Sleeves when I eat, they can be worn for weeks at a time between washings.

Angelrox sleeves compared stockings - 1Ladies with an upper arm that consistently stretches the limits of a size Large top—or those who can’t tolerate constricting clothing at all (fibromyalgia?)—do have a third “sleeve” option from Angelrox: try a pair of their Stockings ($28) worn on the arm!

I only own one pair of Angelrox Stockings (i.e., footless thigh high tights.) Thigh high stockings typically hit my leg in an unattractive spot and they squeeze at the top if they fit my ankle. I found them slightly large to wear as Sleeves, myself.

The Stockings will work for me folded over the top of a mid height boot, but by now, we all know I wear sneakers most of the time these days, right?

Referencing my plump-Medium/narrow-waisted-Large shirt size, it may help you to know that Stockings-worn-as-Sleeves don’t feel like they’re going to stay up on my bare upper arm. They are too wide to do so.

If I put them on over a sleeved t-shirt, however, the extra grippy-ness of the underlying cotton does seem to keep them up and in place.

Consider the Stockings for Sleeves if you wear an XL and have a full upper arm, or if you are willing to pin your sleeves in place like a Medieval dame.

Angelrox sleeves compared stockings - 2For not totally obvious to me reasons, Stockings do have the thumb hole present just like both Aria and Opera Sleeves.

Except when I drop my full cup straight into the ubiquitous tote bag sitting near my chair, drenching everything therein. That’s happened a few times in the past year, and again yesterday. Fortunately, I don’t sweeten most of my beverages, but this time I’d spiked my fizzy water with elderflower juice. You’ll be washing your Sleeves a lot more often if you follow my ignominious example.

This is also why my handbag/purse is always a separate bag that I can tuck into my larger tote to simplify carrying. The bag goes on the floor or an adjacent chair while the valuable wallet and electronics stay on my lap or under my coat. Security from theft, sure, but also protection from my embarrassingly frequent spills.

This site selling historical re-enactment clothing or garb is not one from which I purchased. They just had nice looking sleeves!

 

Sleep on silk for healthier hair

I’ve started to wear a silk night cap when I sleep in pursuit of healthier hair. It’s comfortable and doesn’t disturb my rest, though it does look a little goofy. It seems to work to prevent tangling and perhaps also pulling and damage to my fragile locks.

Silk sleep bonnet - 3I have had more good hair days since I started sleeping in a coif.

Systemic illness affected my coiffure

One of the side effects of autoimmune disease is a little trivial, but a lot disheartening to sufferers. Autoimmune disorders can affect your hair. Breakage, hair loss, even premature graying can result from this type of systemic illness.

Hair loss can be a terrible blow to self esteem at the same time that physical pain is eating away at one’s psyche.

In my case, I felt compelled to cut off my long hair to an above-chin-length bob about 18 months into my tentative diagnosis with an autoimmune disease.

Aside from losing far more hair than usual (overall thinning of my already very fine hair), what remained became positively bedraggled and ragged at the ends. It was breaking off as well as falling out.

Comb with hair - 1While I was waiting with my son in a barbershop, the stylist asked me if something had “happened” to my hair, and would I like her to try to fix it? This was a traditional barber shop that only deals with short (men’s) hairstyles.

I cut it most of it off shortly *ahem* thereafter. It looked so bad that a professional tried to do me an act of kindness out of pity as I went about my daily life. Talk about your bad hair days!

My health overall has improved since that initial period. Perhaps the precipitating event just ended. Maybe my medications are working. The dietary changes I implemented could have eased some of it.

There’s very little medical certainty about my health status.

My hair, on the other hand, has grown back to shoulder length. I’m taking more care with it. If it looks sickly again, I will cut it again. Having a sick head of hair made me feel more like an invalid.

If it gets bad enough, I will shave my head bald and consider wearing a wig before I walk around crowned with scraggly frizzles. I sincerely hope it doesn’t get to that point!

Most of us are aware of the fact that there are myriad fancy shampoos and other products to apply to hair and scalp, but today I’ll introduce one of my less mainstream solutions to the Sick Hair Problem.

Silk is one solution to prevent damaged hair

This Highdeer Silk Sleep Cap for Women ($12-16, depending upon style and color selected) is a silk bonnet designed to be worn to bed. It is meant to protect delicate hair from friction and pulling that can cause damage.

Silk sleep bonnet - 1

I bought my bonnet on Amazon.com and paid $11 in April of 2018. Though sold as “Rubber Red” in color, my interpretation would be “warm-toned pink.” It is, in fact, somewhat similar to the pink color of a classic hot water bottle or a pencil eraser, so perhaps that is the natural color of rubber. Continue reading

Peek inside my lunchbox: a butter box could save your cookies

Sometimes, you buy a special purpose item, and find it works really well for something unexpected. Here’s an example from my kitchen.

I bought a plastic butter storage box. I wanted to take a single stick of butter camping with less chance of squishing or greasing every other item in the cooler.*

Butter box wafer container for lunch box - 2

Here’s a single stick butter storage container on Amazon ($7) that looks like mine. I don’t have a purchase record to confirm this is the same item, but it should serve a similar function.

This little box is the size of an East Coast stick of butter. It happens to be a wonderful size for sending three wafer cookies in a lunchbox if you’re willing to break the third in half.

Butter box wafer container for lunch box - 1These gluten free Schär wafers have a tendency to disintegrate into crumbs anyway, but breaking one to fit the box probably wastes less cookie. Total devastation is wrought by sending them to school in a baggie like I would with a more robust dessert.

Lunch quick pack busy morning - 5

The butter box also works great for a skinny wrap sandwich made with a flexible, flour tortilla instead of bread. Peanut butter or a light layer of thinly sliced deli meat only! You’re working with an interior space designed for a 1.25″ x 4.75″ stick of butter.

Perhaps this dish will suit your own favorite long, skinny, delicate cookie. When it comes to dessert, I like to save every crumb for eating. The lunchbox should get none.

It’s easier for me to test spatial relationships by getting my hands on something. I can draw diagrams and take measurements and make pretty good educated guesses about how things will work in the world, but I’m not particularly gifted at mentally fitting shapes together.

I wouldn’t have guessed how often I would use a butter box for school lunches until I had one at home to experiment with. In the quest for packed lunches without waste, this is a useful—and uniquely sized—container.

Read more packed lunch posts: containers I like and a Thermos jar time saver.

*My cooler tends to be a mess when I go camping, unlike my carefully curated chuck box!

Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, I had no idea there were alternate shapes for cubes of butter. Imagine my surprise upon moving east for college to discover that something I thought was standardized came in a different shape. The outer packaging also differs. On the West Coast, butter comes in fatter cubes packed into a row in a VHS VCR tape sized box. Back East, the sticks are slimmer and longer and they get packed together into a box more akin to a building brick.

When I pointed this out to my mother, she said, “That must be why some sets of dishes have such weird, elongated butter dishes! I always wondered why manufacturers did that.”

Ah, the things you take for granted before you travel!

That’s how I IKEA. I’m very good at IKEA. My success is entirely based upon sketched models, however.

Lose the leaky liquids: Lush vs. J.R. Liggett’s shampoo bars head-to-head

Cramming all of your toiletries into a small plastic bag is annoying. Being forced to pull said sack from your crowded carry on at an inspection point with your third hand while simultaneously keeping track of your passport, tickets, valuables, and maybe a few kids for good measure is infuriating.

I’m not a big fan of the current TSA checkpoint process, and add my voice to those who describe the entire scene as “security theatre.” I won’t elaborate further today, but thought I’d put any grumpiness that shows up in my review of innocuous shampoo bars into perspective.

Many have complained about this trial by toiletries. An oft offered solution is to replace liquid products with solids where possible. Carry a bar of soap instead of a bottle of body wash, tooth powder or baking soda in place of toothpaste, etc.

Travel toiletries shampoo bar Lush in square tin - 1On such lists, you’ll usually read, “Try a solid shampoo bar!” And that’s the end of the advice.

Solid shampoo bar: what is it?

But how many shampoo bars do you see in an average salon or in the hair care aisle of your supermarket or pharmacy?

I believe shampoo bars are most readily available at places like Whole Foods or other health food markets. Every solid shampoo bar I’ve seen anywhere uses less packaging than all liquid shampoos, so some of the rationale for that is fairly obvious.

A shampoo bar is essentially just a bar of soap. Ideally, it is a soap or detergent formulation designed to gently yet effectively cleanse hair as opposed to skin.

Keep in mind for this comparison that I don’t require hair conditioner under normal conditions. My very fine hair is easily weighed down and my scalp is slightly oily. I do use a little conditioner at home to keep my ends healthy now that I have some coarser grey hairs, but I don’t bother to bring it when I travel unless it is a long trip in a very dry climate.

I’m using the following bar shampoos without conditioner when I give my evaluation.

J.R. Liggett’s Old Fashioned Bar Shampoo: a natural and affordable option

  • 3.5 oz bar
  • dimensions: 2.5” x 1.25” x 2”
  • retail $7.49
  • 6 varieties, including unscented
  • Made in the USA
  • Packaging is 100% paper and fully recyclable

These stats are for the full size bar.

Trial/travel size bars are the size of a traditional hotel soap: 2″ x .375″ x 1.25″ and ² ⁄ 3 oz or mere 18g. Though its a little sliver of a thing, I find each small bar lasts for many weeks of use.

It’s gentle enough for use on the body, and the manufacturer even suggests it as a laundry/stain treatment when traveling.

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