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I think every woman should own a solid pair of black pumps. They should have a sturdy heel and be relatively comfortable. The heel should be high, as high as you’re comfortable with, and they should click and clack on the hard floor. They should make you stand up a little straighter, stride a little more confidently, and look like you have legs for miles.

Mine are by Naturalizer. Yours can be from Payless, or from Christian Louboutin. You should pull them out to wear to that wedding with the kick-ass dress. They should be your go-to for the interview and the nerve-wracking meeting at work. Your jeans look amazing with them when your husband takes you out on a date.

Black Pumps

Maybe they’re shiny. Maybe they’re suede. Maybe they’re stillettos, or maybe they’re not.

Whatever they are, they should be yours. Your power pumps.

I hate the word “pumps.” It sounds so dowdy and old-fashioned. And yet dowdy and old-fashioned are anything but how I feel in my shoes.

I hear ya if you hate wearing heels. Maybe your power pumps look more like ballet flats, or construction boots. It doesn’t really matter what they look like. What matters is how you feel when you slip them on your feet.

I was tearing apart my closet last night trying to decide what to wear for an appointment today. I wanted to strike the balance of casual but put together. I didn’t want to go business-y, but I didn’t want to wear flip flops, either. I had the shirt and dark jeans. I even had the necklace and the earrings. But I couldn’t get it quite right on the shoes.

Until I pulled out my trusty pumps. I forgot about them because I wasn’t going for business wear. They were literally dusty from sitting on my shoe rack since whenever the last time I wore them was. I stepped into them and my head snapped up a little higher. I stood in front of the mirror and whispered to myself, “Nailed it.”

I felt like a million bucks. And that—that’s what the power pumps are for. They’re not for making me taller, or for proving my femininity, or for fitting into a certain mold. I couldn’t really care less what mold you put me in, as long as I’m comfortable in my skin. Call me whatever you want. I’ll just be over here beaming with pride in my power pumps.

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I’ve got summer on the brain this week. Maybe it’s because Andy and I are preparing for our first backpacking trip in almost a year now that it’s finally warm. (The last trip we tried to take was Halloween weekend when there was an unseasonal snow storm in North Carolina. Needless to say the weather reports kept us off the trail.) Maybe it’s because I’m thinking ahead to my friend’s wedding in June. Maybe it’s because my HOA just sent an email that the pool is now open or because I took a long run this morning and the sun felt so nice. Whatever the reason, I’m ready for it, and I’m formulating a doable summer bucket list to make sure I maximize my fun.

Beach Boardwalk

  1. I’ve always wanted to go tubing, or Shoot the Hooch as it’s termed here in Atlanta, and I’m hoping this year will be the year. A group of friends, the hot sun, a lazy river, and a cooler of drinks sounds like an A+ way to spend the day. (Well, with lots of sunscreen.)

  2. Relax at dusk watching an outdoor movie. Atlantic Station has them, as does the park near my house. We have camp chairs—what more could we need?!

  3. Check out the light installation at the botanical garden. I never made it to the animal topiary exhibit that I wanted to see a few summers ago, so I don’t want to miss this one! Tickets to the garden always feel like quite the splurge, but it’s a fun place to visit.

  4. Hang out at the lake and hike at Don Carter State Park. I watched excitedly a few years back as this new state park prepared to open, but then I never actually made it there! It’s an easy drive from Atlanta for a day trip.

  5. Drink more of my favorite seasonal beers. I discovered Red Brick’s Dog Days (a hefeweizen) and Heavy Seas Red Sky at Night (a saison/farmhouse ale), and they may just be my favorite beers I’ve ever had. And yet last summer I don’t think I drank a single one of either! That has to change.

Did you notice a motif in my list of “I wanted to do this, but for some reason I never did”? It’s easy to think the seasons don’t mean as much when you’re not tethered to a school schedule, and when your job doesn’t change because it’s summer, it’s harder to do those summery things. And I mean, sure, in a month I’ll probably be complaining about how hot it is. But that doesn’t mean I can’t prioritize a change of pace and make sure I spend some time outside! I already have a beach trip planned for June, and if I check items off my bucket list too I know I’ll have a good few months.

What are your summer must-do activities? Are you already planning for your summer fun?

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I’ve started seeing all the graduation pictures and getting all the wedding invitations that mean summer is nearly upon us. And that means I hope you’re planning at least one fun trip for yourself to enjoy the warmer weather! When I worked in an office, I noticed that, even for adults with no kids’ school schedules to dictate their calendar, summer was still when the majority of people took the time to travel. Andy and I beat the rush by traveling to Portland in April to celebrate our anniversary.

Planning vacations as an adult makes me really, really appreciate those school trips where everything is all mapped out for you: transportation and accomodations are included, your itinerary is already in place, and food options just seem to appear. I’m no travel agent, and I’ve learned that vacations where you walk a lot and do some going with the flow are really fun, but I did want to have some of the big pieces nailed down before we flew across the country to make sure we got the most out of our trip.

I had a bookmarks folder in my browser with over 30 sites of Portland attractions and restaurants, but it was hard to know what to make of those. How would we get to each of the locations from our Airbnb? Was anything convenient to anything else? Did we need to buy tickets in advance or make reservations?

I wanted to add them all to a map, but I couldn’t figure out how to add as many “destinations” to a Google Map as I wanted. I eventually found Google’s My Maps and started toying around with it. I settled on a workable solution for planning our trip that I think might help you, too!

Portland Trip

First I opened all of my bookmarks in tabs in my browser. Yes, Chrome, I really do want to open 37 tabs.

My Maps looks a lot like the Google Maps interface you’re probably used to using to get directions, so I found it pretty intuitive to use. For each tab I had open, I would search for the place in My Maps and, once Google found it, save it as a location. I created a color-coding system for the pins to indicate what type of destination it was. My categories were:

  • Home Base (where we were staying)
  • Useful (a laundromat, the co-op near our airbnb, etc.)
  • Transportation (nearby bus stops, Zip Car pickups)
  • Restaurants
  • Sweet Treats/Alcohol
  • Recreation/Outdoor Spots
  • Shopping
  • Educational/Enrichment

But of course you could organize your pins however you’d like!

I added a description to each pin that included a link to the website I’d bookmarked and information about a reservation or tickets if we had them.

My Maps has a function where you can divide pins into layers, which I didn’t do at first but ended up implementing while we were on our trip. Pins that are on one layer can be swiftly hidden from view with the click of a button. The map felt cluttered by all of the transportation pins I had included, so I separated them out into a layer. Then, I created a layer called “Visited” and moved pins to it once we had checked them off the list. That way, I could hide that layer and get a quick glimpse at the things we had left to do!

It was extremely useful to be able to see at a glance which of my desired destinations were in clusters near each other. We didn’t come up with a firm itinerary for our trip necessarily, but we did say, “Well, on Saturday we want to go to the Portland Saturday Market, and that is near this restaurant someone recommended, so we can combine those into a trip,” or “Hey, the Japanese Garden and the Pittock Mansion are both in Washington Park, so maybe we can walk between the two of those!” (Which we did, and which was lovely.) Especially since we were using public transportation, combining outings made us very efficient, and we visited a lot of the places people and the Internet had recommended.

An amazing view, indeed.

I thought that by having made a Google Map I’d be able to open it on my phone and use it to navigate, but evidently I thought WRONG. My Maps does save the map to your Google Drive, meaning you can share it like you can any other Google Doc, but as it’s a .kmz file, the Google Maps app has no idea what to do with it. BUMMER!

Luckily my husband is a savvy engineer and had the brilliant idea that Google Earth might be able to handle it. So, I downloaded the Google Earth app and voila! The .kmz file that I had exported from My Maps and texted to myself had a happy place to be opened.

The downside is that Google Earth doesn’t have a navigational function, but at least I could access my pins away from my computer. I could look and see where we had intended to go and then search for it in my preferred maps app to get directions. Not an ideal solution, perhaps, but a doable workaround. (Beware, too, that Google Earth is a giant app, so you may want to download it when you’re on wifi.)

Evidently there is a My Maps app for Android, so if that’s the kind of phone you have you’re in luck!

If you’re heading to an unfamiliar city and have lots of sights you want to see, give Google’s My Maps a try for planning! And if you happen to be visiting Portland, feel free to check out the map I used. We walked a lot, ate a lot, and drank a lot (of both coffee and alcohol), so if that’s your kind of trip then I’ve done the legwork for you.

P.S. If you are going to Portland, I’d also highly recommend the Airbnb where we stayed. It was in a beautiful neighborhood, easily accessible by public transportation, and was a great spot for a home base.