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Arts & Culture At Home Food & Drink Staycation

Got Yeast? Then Take a Trip Around the World Through Bread

Based on the pictures of store shelves emptied of yeast and flour, it seems staying home means more people than ever are learning how to bake bread. Why not take that new found skill on a world tour with these recipes?

Bagels

Let’s start our journey in NYC. Every time I visit New York City, bagels are a must (at least once, but usually most mornings). My favorite bagel shop in Manhattan is Bagel & Schmear in Midtown. It’s just a short walk to Madison Square Park, where I like have a bagel picnic and gaze at my favorite building in the city, the Flatiron. Outside of New York, it’s pretty hard, if not impossible, to find a truly great bagel. Fortunately, it’s easy to make great bagels at home. I like this King Arthur Flour recipe. I took a bagel making class at the King Arthur Flour headquarters and learned one key trick: Let your shaped bagels rest in the fridge overnight, on a sheet pan and under plastic wrap. The extra fermentation in the fridge creates an extra-chewy crust and gives the bagels more flavor.

Pão de Queijo

I’ve never been to Brazil, but I sure do love Brazilian cheese bread, Pão de Queijo. This recipe requires no yeast and is gluten-free thanks to a surprising ingredient, tapioca flour, which takes the place of wheat flour. Cheese is the star of the show, however, and the end result is a crispy, gooey cross between a dinner roll and mozzarella stick. These don’t require yeast. The process to make Pão de Queijo is similar to pâte à choux (cream puff dough.) These are best eaten a little warm and in large quantities (you won’t be able to stop yourself!) Check out this YouTube video to better understand the methodology behind this recipe. Since I will always stan for King Arthur Flour, here’s their recipe.

Stollen

Stollen is technically a Christmastime recipe, but, at the moment, time seems more like an abstract idea than a practical matter so go ahead and treat yourself to a virtual trip to Germany through this sweet yeast bread. It’s studded with lots of dried fruit and a tunnel of marzipan. I’m a marzipan freak, and add more marzipan than recipes usually call for; but I hate raisins so I never use them (insert your favorite dried fruit instead). Your kids will love the heavy dusting of powdered sugar that coats this loaf like a blanket of fresh snow. Here’s a tried and true recipe from the folks at Serious Eats.

Focaccia

The moment I saw Samin Nosrat making this focaccia on her drool-inducing Netflix series SALT FAT ACID HEAT, I knew I needed to whip up a batch of this bread from the Ligurian region in Northern Italy. I was right; this is a must-make recipe. This focaccia recipe is pillowy, crispy in the right spots, made with good extra virgin olive oil, and, surprisingly, with a salty brine that balances salt and fat so perfectly. This recipe is easy, but will need a solid 12 to 14 hours of (hands-off) time for the first rise, which is perfect for staying home in quarantine. Pro-tip: This freezes up extremely well. Cut into rectangular portion sizes, stash it in your freezer, and you’ll have an awesome treat available (as long as it lasts, but, I say, keep baking and don’t let your stock run out).

Japanese Milk Bread

Japan was in my (now-canceled) travel plans for 2020, and as such I spent hours and hours watching YouTube videos about where and what to eat on my trip. Through my discovery process, I learned about Hokkaido Milk bread, a super-soft loaf of white bread and often used for making tonkatsu sandos (fried pork cutlet sandwiches). The bread gets its signature soft texture from incorporating a tangzhong into the dough. The flour-and-milk paste creates a supple, tender loaf that’s not at all similar to the old standbys on American grocery store shelves. I was supposed to leave for Japan on June 18; instead, I’ll bake up a loaf of milk bread and attempt my own rendition of a tonkatsu sando and at least I’ll save the 14-hour flight! King Arthur Flour has a wonderful recipe here.

Icelandic Rúgbrauð

Last summer, I spent 10 days road tripping through Iceland in a camper van. I can’t tell you how many times over the past month I’ve dreamt of running away to live out this pandemic in a van beside a waterfall. But that’s a fantasy best kept to my day dreams (Iceland doesn’t want me right now!). However, I am planning on finding time in my busy baking schedule to take on Rúgbrauð which is an Icelandic rye bread that’s traditionally baked in the ground through geothermal energy. Don’t have a lava field warming up your back yard? You can also get the same effect by a long bake in a relatively low oven. This is a great recipe to try if you can’t get your hands on yeast, as it’s a quick bread that uses baking soda as leavening (though you will need to get your hands on some rye flour). During my travels in Iceland, I couldn’t get enough of this dark, slightly sweet bread slathered with good Icelandic butter, so I’ll simply recreate a tiny bit of my fantasy at home and pretend I’m back in time in my cozy van fueling up for my next adventure. The Splendid Table has an authentic recipe here.

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At Home Experiential Travel Family Travel Fashion & Beauty Holiday Travel Travel Technology Travel Trends Women's Travel

The Best Gift Ideas for Mother's Day

Check out the best gifts for your favorite female traveler to give this Mother’s Day—bonus, most of these Mother’s Day gifts are under $100.

Travel-Related Mother’s Day Gifts

Bellroy Travel Folio

Help your mom stay organized while traveling with this chic passport holder and travel wallet. She can keep the whole fam organized since it fits two passports, four to eight cards, cash, and multiple boarding passes. This zip-up style also has RFID blocking technology, which protects documents, cards, and passports from RFID skimming, i.e. electronic pickpocketing. The environmentally-certified leather wallet also comes with a three-year warranty.

LifeProof Wake Phone Case

Give mom a protective and sustainable phone case, no matter what model phone she has. This case is both drop-proof (from two meters), easy to grip, and helps the environment through a donation on the company’s behalf to select charities.

iLive Wireless Bluetooth Earbuds

If mom isn’t the most tech-savvy, then these affordable wireless earbuds might just be the perfect gift. This pair supports true wireless and Bluetooth capabilities and comes with a charging case of its own.

Keebos Crossbody Phone Case

Go totally hands-free with this useful and inexpensive phone case; it’s a crossbody bag, wallet, phone holder, and protective case all in one. This Mother’s Day gift is perfect for walking the dog, circling the park, or grabbing a coffee.

Mother’s Day Gifts for the Home

YETI Lowlands Waterproof Outdoor Blanket

From beach picnics to lining the back seat of the car for your family pooch, YETI’s outdoor blanket is an ideal gift for the no-fuss mom. It even comes in a convenient carrying case and is machine-washable. Other standout features are that this comfy blanket has a waterproof layer and that it easily shakes off pet hair.

Artifact Uprising Wood Block Prints

gift ideas for mother's day

Gift mom a personalized photo album with this simple yet beautiful woodblock stand. Send 12 of your favorite travel photos to Artifact Uprising and the company will print them on thick card stock and voila—you’ve got a personalized gift within days.

Other places to shop customized prints include Etsy, Framebridge, and Shuttterfly.

COSORI 12-in-1 Air Fryer Toaster Oven

Whether she’s cooking for additional family members in quarantine or perfecting some of her favorite recipes, this multi-purpose toaster oven will be a delightful surprise. Not only is it reasonably priced, but it serves as an air fryer, toaster oven, broiler, rotisserie, and more. The 12 presets include: pizza, roast, airfry, toast, bagel, bake, broil, cookies, rotisserie, dehydrate, ferment, and keep warm. Plus, there’s an included recipe book (featuring over 100 ideas) for even more cooking inspiration.

EcoVessel Wine Tumbler

Take your favorite drink on-the-go with these triple-insulated, stainless steel tumblers. Priced under $20, it’s an ideal gift for the mom who loves a park picnic or day at the beach.

ChappyWrap’s Places Blanket

While the jury’s still out on our summer vacations, remind mom of one of her favorite places with an ultra-plush blanket from ChappyWrap. With maps of locales like Cape Cod and San Francisco, you can keep her cozy during stay-at-home orders.

Mother’s Day Gifts, Clothing & Accessories

Keds Women’s Clipper Jute

This pair of stylish slip-on shoes from Keds make for the perfect understated, yet practical gift for mom. Wear them now around the house and save them for the next family beach vacation. The versatile style means they match with almost anything and the slip-on style makes them ideal for errand running and city walking.

Rothy’s Bag Collection

We’ve already expressed our love for Rothy’s latest bag collection, and we think the line of bags and pouches also make for great Mother’s Day gifts. All of the accessories are stylish and practical for both future travel and use around town.

Hari Mari Sydney Slides

Keep mom comfy and fashionable with these spring and summertime sandal staples. Between the premium leather, memory foam footbed, and on-trend style these shoes have it all. Not only do they match almost everything, they’ll be her go-to pair of shoes all summer long.

Plaka Slipper Socks

I’ve already raved about these in my review, but these slipper socks are the perfect inexpensive gift for mom this Mother’s Day. The sock-like upper is flexible and soft while the cushy rubber bottom lets you grab your mail, take the dog out, etc. without having to put real shoes on.

Cotidie Evelyn Drape Waist Shirt

Gift mom this classic shirt, with a twist. The moisture-wicking and stretchy material mean this shirt is the queen of double-duty. Whether she’s a frequent flier or just likes to look chic (but make it comfy) at the grocery store, this athleisure brand has got you covered.

Ministry of Supply Swift Wide Leg Pants

These lightweight pants are the stylish ideal travel pant, but can also be worn easily around the house. The stretch crepe material is airy and breathable and will look good with either a sweatshirt or blazer.

Bleusalt

Fair warning, you may want to steal this gift, but know it will bring the utmost coziness to your mom. So, let her enjoy it. Bleusalt’s environmentally-friendly and sustainable beechwood fabric is literally a dream, so anything you pick will be a win. But, if you need help choosing, The Classic Shirt and The 2 Yard Wrap are my go-tos.

MZ Wallace Metro Pouch

It’s a clutch, it’s a pouch, it’s a diaper holder, it’s anything you need it to be. We adore this line of bags (also available at Nordstrom) for its waterproof nylon quilted material and packability.

State Cashmere

Spoil mom with high-quality cashmere, but not at the expected price tag. State Cashmere offers dozens of styles under $100 as well as a wallet-friendly and lightweight spring line, made with cotton cashmere. Or pick something out from the travel section, think socks, blankets, and wraps.  

Mother’s Day Gifts, Beauty

Dyson Airwrap Hair Styler

Gift mom the latest in hair styling innovation, with Dyson’s minimal heat hair styler. It’s a smoother, curler, styler, and dryer all in one.

Pro Tip: Also check this product’s Amazon listing for potential price reductions and Dyson will price match.

TULA Skincare Best Sellers Travel Kit

Cult-favorite skincare brand, TULA, offers some of their best-selling products in a convenient and reasonably priced, travel-sized kit. It’s a perfect way to test out the facial cleanser, day and night cream, sugar scrub, and moisturizing primer. And while you’re at it, throw in the brightening eye balm and sunscreen to your cart for yourself (we won’t tell).

DW Home Candle

Remind mom of her favorite scent with a budget-friendly candle from DW Home. We love the Calming Waves and Tranquil Lotus scents for uber relaxation during this crazy time.

Athena Club the Go-Tos Set

Help mom make her skincare routine healthier with Athena Club’s the Go-Tos set. At just $25 this gift set includes the brand’s Dewy Body Lotion, Soft Face Wipes, and All Day Deo. Each product is made with good-for-you ingredients and smells fantastic.

Subtl Beauty Stack

Mom will thank you for this life-changing makeup gift. Meet Subtl Beauty’s stack, the ultimate travel-friendly makeup on the market. Build her a custom stack by choosing a lip stain, concealer, highlighter, bronzer, and/or shine control powder and voila, all her makeup’s in one place.

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Some review products are sent to us free of charge and with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions, positive and negative, and will never accept compensation to review a product.

Categories
At Home Food & Drink

The Best Coffee Machines and Delivery Services

Bring the cafe to you with the best coffee makers and coffee delivery subscriptions. Your morning cup has never tasted better.

The Best Coffee Makers

The best coffee makers will make your drink just how you like it—in just a few minutes.

Dash Cold Brew Coffee Maker

Dash Cold Brew Coffee Maker

Cold brew is less acidic and smoother than regular coffee—not to mention a delicious treat on a hot day—but it usually takes more than 12 hours to steep and make. When you want cold brew instantaneously, Dash’s Cold Brew Coffee Maker has you covered. In just five minutes, this easy-to-use coffee maker will brew up to 42 ounces of cold brew or 16 servings of cold brew concentrate.

You can brew light, medium, or dark strength with the twist of a dial. The gadget is easy to clean as well—just run water through the system.

AeroPress

Aeropress

The AeroPress is a favorite among serious coffee drinkers, and it’s surprisingly easy and quick to use—plus this tiny gadget takes up zero counter space in your kitchen. The AeroPress can make regular coffee as well as espresso shots, and clean-up takes seconds. The included paper microfilters filter out all the grounds and grit, or you can use a more eco-friendly reusable stainless steel filter.

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Bodum Pour-Over Coffee Maker with Permanent Filter

Bodum Coffee Maker

Brew a great cup of coffee in less than five minutes with Bodum’s easy pour-over coffee maker. Available in a 17-ounce, 34-ounce, or 51-ounce carafe size, it makes exactly as much coffee as you need. You’ll never have to buy another coffee filter again—the kit includes a reusable stainless steel mesh filter that filters better than paper and helps extract the aromatic oils from the beans.

Capresso CoffeeTEAM TS

Capresso Coffee Maker

Freshly ground coffee just tastes better, which is why the coffee you get at a cafe feels like more of a treat than what you make at home. Capresso’s CoffeeTEAM TS makes it easy to have fresh-ground coffee without all the hassle of grinding your own beans—simply pour whole beans into the gadget’s air-tight hopper (so it doubles as a storage spot for your beans) and press a button to brew the coffee. The built-in conical burr grinder will perfectly measure and grind the beans for you before making you an amazing cup of coffee.

This coffee machine is programmable, so you can choose your grind settings, the number of cups, and the time that you want it to brew.

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Hamilton Beach 2-Way Brewer

Hamilton Beach Coffee Maker

Wake up to the smell of fresh-brewed coffee with Hamilton Beach’s 2-Way Brewer. Just add the beans the night before and program the coffee maker to start at whatever time you like, and it will automatically have a cup of coffee waiting for you when you wake up. Sleeping in? The warming plate will keep the coffee hot until you get to it.

To save on dishes and clean-up time, you can brew directly into your mug—or into the 12-cup carafe when you’re making it for multiple people.

Mr. Coffee Café Barista Espresso and Cappuccino Maker

Mr Coffee Coffee Maker

Make your own espressos, cappuccinos, and lattes with the touch of a button with this coffee maker from Mr. Coffee. The 15-bar pump system brews rich and strong espresso shots, and the automatic milk frother makes creating foam super simple. Just fill the easy-to-clean water and milk reservoirs and pick the drink you want from the touch panel, and the machine will do the rest.

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The Best Coffee Delivery Services

A good cup of coffee starts with having the right coffee beans. These coffee delivery services will bring freshly roasted beans directly to your door.

Blue Bottle Coffee

Blue Bottle Coffee

Skeptical about trying a coffee subscription? Blue Bottle is offering the chance to try its delivery service for free (just pay for shipping), scoring you a bag of premium coffee at no cost.

The service consists of small-batch, sustainable coffee that is roasted to order and shipped within 48 hours.

Take the quiz before you order to find the coffee that’s right for you.

Hawaii Coffee Company

Hawaii Coffee Co

Hawaiian coffee is famous for a reason—it’s smooth and delicious. Treat yourself to 100 percent Kona coffee from the Hawaii Coffee Company, or to the more affordable (but still easy to drink) 10 percent Kona Blend. The company is currently offering $5 shipping and a 10 percent off coupon on all orders.

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Trade

Trade Coffee Beans.

Take a virtual tour around the U.S. via your taste buds with Trade’s coffee subscription service. Take a short quiz about your tastes and preferences, and Trade will help you discover new flavors and roasters from across the country. You’ll get great coffee as often as you want it, plus help support small coffee roasters.

At the time of writing, Trade was offering 30 percent off your first bag, plus free shipping.

Driftaway Coffee

Driftaway Coffee

A Driftaway Coffee subscription starts with a four-profile tasting kit. You’ll rate each coffee in your kit, and Driftaway will use that data to match you to your perfect coffees for future deliveries.

The coffees are sourced from small coffee farms, and each delivery will include a story about the origin of the coffee.

Need to get your coffee situation sorted out at home ASAP? Get Driftaway Coffee’s Work From Home Coffee Kit, which includes the tasting kit, an Aeropress, and a Porlex Mini manual burr grinder.

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Volcanica Coffee

No matter what kind of coffee you like, Volcanica Coffee is sure to have it. Shop by categories like blend, region, decaf, organic, low acid, rainforest, shade grown, cold brew, and more.

Or try one of the many gourmet flavored coffees, which contain no sugar and come in flavors like amaretto, caramel chocolate, crème brulee, and white Russian.

Intelligentsia

Intelligentsia Coffee

Never run out of coffee (or tea) again with Intelligentsia’s subscription service. Choose the amount you want delivered and how often, and if you want whole beans or pre-ground. Browse the Intelligentsia coffee or tea offerings and pick the ones you like, or tell Intelligentsia which flavor notes you want, and it’ll pair you with the perfect beans.

Coffee is available from around the world, with a focus on ones that are currently in season. Prefer cold brew? Try Intelligentsia’s Cold Coffee Box, a naturally sweet blend of Ethiopian and Latin American coffee that can be drunk straight out of the box.

Don’t want to commit? You can buy bags of coffee without the subscription, and Intelligentsia will ship it to you for free.

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goodboybob

goodboybob coffee beans

goodboybob roasts its coffee every Tuesday and ships it out every Wednesday, so your beans are guaranteed to be fresh. The classic subscription starts from $15 per delivery and can be sent out every two or four weeks, and you can choose how many bags, which coffees, and which roast you want.

Or treat yourself to the rare subscription, which starts at $130 per month. This delivery features hard-to-find, award-winning coffees that are worth the price tag. These roasts are shipped in a custom, reusable wooden box and come in jars to keep the beans extra fresh.

Atlas Coffee

Atlas Coffee

Spice up your morning coffee routine with Atlas’ Coffee of the Month Club. The service curates micro-lot coffees from around the world and sends you a fresh 12-ounce bag each month. Your box will include freshly roasted coffee beans, a flavor notes guide, a fun postcard from the coffee’s country of origin, and brewing tips. You’ll expand your palate and discover new coffees that you won’t find in a store.

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At Home Entertainment Health & Wellness Outdoors

Forest Bathing Audio Experience

Welcome to Virtual Vacations, our series of meditative audio travel tours of both popular and off-the-beaten-path destinations around the world.

Don’t have Spotify? Find Virtual Vacations on your preferred listening platform here.

Let’s head into nature for a guided virtual forest bathing experience. Traditional forest bathing strengthens your relationship to nature by connecting you via your five senses.

We’ve created these audio tours to transport you to inspiring destinations around the world, even when you can’t be there in person. So settle in and let’s imagine a peaceful walk through a beautiful forest. Along the way, we’ll practice some traditional forest-bathing techniques to help you relax and connect with the outdoors.

Note that each virtual vacation begins with a short breathing exercise to help you come into the moment and make the most of your virtual vacation.

Discover more Virtual Vacations.

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At Home Fashion & Beauty

Plaka Slipper Socks Review: The Pair of 'Shoes' We're Living in Right Now

Give your feet some love with these super comfy slipper socks by the footwear brand Plaka. As most of the U.S. is in mild springtime weather, it’s just a little too hot for slippers but too cold to go barefoot all the time. Enter the slipper sock. With these slipper socks, you can check your mail, take the dog out, and work from home without having to change your shoes. And the best part is, they’re foldable and super packable, so we can take them with us once we’re traveling again.

Plaka Slipper Socks Review

Price and Where to Buy: Plaka Slipper Socks are available on Amazon and Plaka’s website for $29.95.

How the Plaka Slipper Socks Rate

  • Usefulness: 9/10. While in quarantine I find my feet getting too warm in my normal slippers, but I also keep having to put on socks and shoes when I go to take out the trash or check my mail. The slipper socks have solved both of these problems and are super comfortable while I’m sitting at my desk.
  • Durability: 9/10. I wouldn’t go for a long walk in these, but the rubber bottoms are very durable and even have some grip support.
  • Portability: 10/10. The slipper socks fold up super small so you can easily travel with them or throw them in your purse.
  • Style: 8/10. I bought the heather gray color, so the neutral color combined with the minimalist style means these slipper socks go with pretty much everything.

Final Verdict: If, like me, you’re struggling with which footwear to wear while working from home, these slipper socks are your answer. They are comfortable, have a minimalist style, and are the perfect fit: not too tight to the point that they’re heat-constricting, but also not so loose that they lack support.

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Our Favorite Items for the Home

For info on these editor-selected items, click to visit the seller’s site. Things you buy may earn us a commission.
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At Home Packing

5 Cheap or Free Ways to Upgrade Your Travel Arsenal Now

Itching to be able to travel again? The time will come, and there are many ways you can prepare—but perhaps the best way is to upgrade some of your travel must-haves and test them out while you’re stuck at home.

Here are some cheap or free strategies for readying your travel arsenal with items that can also help you stay comfortable and relaxed at home.

Inflatable Back Pillows for Working from Home (and Eventually the Plane)

Therm-a-Rest’s Lumbar Travel Pillow.

Working from home can be rough on your back—as so many new remote employees are finding out. You know what else can be rough on your back? Plane travel. Use this opportunity to try out some travel pillows as a solution that can eventually double as the perfect plane pillow. I personally prefer a lumbar option like Therm-a-Rest’s Lumbar Travel Pillow, which provides support that prevents you from slouching and deflates to pack away when you’re not using it.

A Portable White Noise Machine

Yogasleep Rohm.

Getting a good night’s sleep is important in stressful times, plus it’s scientifically proven to be crucial for a healthy immune system. White noise machines can help, and portable ones like the Yogasleep Rohm are both affordable and perfect for packing when you get back to travel. The relaxing lull of white noise is a must-have in your too-quiet future hotel rooms.

Repair (or Damage-Proof) Your Suitcase

broken wheel on suitcase.

Don’t come out of quarantine ready to travel but with a broken or about-to-break suitcase. Short of buying a new, pricey spinner in these tough times, it’s worth considering that you can fix or break-proof your trusty carry-on. You can read more here about how to fix a broken suitcase, but some handy improvements include:

Use Luggage-Organizing Straps at Home

luggage organizing strap samsonite.

Another luggage add-on, organizing straps for packing can also be a handy at-home organizer you can look forward to using on your carry-on. The adjustable, buckled straps are perfect for organizing and hiding at-home cables that have become an eyesore, and later they’ll easily compress clothes and gear to pack smaller into a size-restricted bag.

Spring Clean with Packing Cubes

vagreez packing cubes.

Putting away your winter clothes to make room for spring ones is a lot easier if you employ some packing cubes to organize items into groups. Use your old packing cubes for storage and upgrade to some shiny new ones you’ll be eager to road-test later.

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SmarterTravel’s Shannon McMahon writes about all things travel. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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At Home Travel Technology

8 Smart Home Products That Will Save You Time, Effort, and Money

Make your house work for you with these smart home devices that will save you time, effort, and money. From a robotic trash can to a WiFi extender, these gadgets will make staying in just a little easier.

Townew Self-Sealing Trash Can

Townew Self-Sealing Trash Can

We don’t yet have a robot that takes out the trash, but technology has advanced to the point of a self-sealing and self-changing trash can. All you have to do is press a button and the TOWNEW trash can will seal the full bag (which puts an immediate stop to any odors, unlike tying a bag). Pull it out, and the TOWNEW closes the lid and automatically pulls a new trash bag into place.

A built-in motion sensor automatically opens the lid as you approach to throw away trash, so you never need to touch the can.

Tineco Pure One S12 Smart Cordless Stick Vacuum

Tineco Pure One S12

Make vacuuming a chore that you look forward to (or at least don’t dread) with Tineco’s Pure One S12 Smart Cordless Stick Vacuum. This super lightweight vacuum comes with two rechargeable batteries (that can be charged simultaneously with the included wall-mounted dock), so you’ll never have to wait while one battery charges. Not having to deal with the hassle of a cord makes vacuuming take much less time, and the trademarked iLoop Smart Sensor Technology automatically adjusts suction power so you don’t have to switch settings when going from carpet to hardwood.

The vacuum comes with a variety of attachments (like a dusting brush and crevice tool) that makes it simple and satisfying to vacuum everything from your ceiling to your sofa.

Best of all, the Tineco has a self-cleaning filter tool that doesn’t require you to rinse it out in the sink like most other bagless vacuums.

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eero 3-Pack Wi-Fi System

eero 3-Pack Wi-Fi System

Does your Wi-Fi give up on you every time you move to a certain spot in your house, or someone else logs on? Never suffer through a buffered video chat or painfully slow movie again, with the 3-pack Wi-Fi System from eero. The system is made up of three tiny, discreet boxes that you place unobtrusively around your house to blanket up to 5,000 square feet in fast and reliable Wi-Fi.

eero works with your existing internet provider and is incredibly easy to set up (the plug-and-play setup takes less than 10 minutes). The system includes free encryption and other security measures that are updated automatically to keep your data safe.

Plott Cubit Smart Virtual Reality Measuring Tool

Plott Cubit Smart Virtual Reality Measuring Tool

Tackling some home improvement projects? Make measuring a million times easier with the Cuibt Smart Virtual Reality Measuring Tool. Instead of fumbling around trying to hold a measuring tape and write down your measurements, this smart home gadget automatically saves measurements straight to your phone. The Cubit uses dual lasers to take ultra-accurate measurements, and the wheel measurement feature makes it easy to size up irregular objects and corners.

The Cubit’s app works like a free interior designer—snap photos of your space, use Cubit to measure it, and then play around with your project until it looks exactly how you want it. Then Cubit will provide step-by-step directions to implement your project in real life, making it easy to do everything from creating a gallery wall to hanging a shelf.

Lockly Secure Pro

Lockly Secure Pro

Never lock yourself out again with the Lockly Secure Pro smart lock. This smart home gadget is easy to install on your existing door (and comes in a deadbolt or latch version) and can be opened via Bluetooth, keypad, or with your fingerprint.

Lockly’s patented keypad design switches the placement of the digital numbers with each use, so even if someone is watching, they’ll never be able to guess your pin.

You can set one-time codes for deliveries, workers, or guests, or even let in someone remotely via the app.

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Arlo Pro 3 Floodlight

Arlo Pro 3 Floodlight

Arlo’s Pro 3 Floodlight Camera keeps an eye on your property for you. The bright, motion-activated light will instantly illuminate a wide area when it senses movement. The built-in security camera with a 160-degree viewing angle captures full color, 2K HDR footage (even at night) so you can clearly zoom in on objects or faces. A hidden speaker allows for two-way audio, so you can hear and speak to visitors.

For extra security, you can program the built-in smart siren to be triggered remotely or in case of an emergency.

The floodlight camera is easy to set up and includes a rechargeable battery so you don’t need to worry about wires.

Amazon Echo Show 8

Amazon Echo Show 8

Manage your home with the Amazon Echo Show 8. With an 8-inch HD screen you can set up the Echo Show anywhere in your home and use it all day. The Echo Show 8 lets you make video calls, stream the news, listen to podcasts/audiobooks, control all your smart devices (including security cameras, lights, and thermostats), display photo slideshows, give you step-by-step cooking directions, display your to-do list, check the weather/traffic, and more.

Concerned about privacy? You can disconnect the device’s microphones and camera with one press of a button, or use the built-in shutter to cover the camera.

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Phillips Hue Smart Light

Phillips Hue Smart Light

If you always secretly wanted The Clapper but never got one, you can now achieve your turning-off-the-lights-without-getting-out-of-bed dream with the Phillips Hue Smart Light. These Bluetooth-enabled bulbs can be turned on and off or dimmed via voice command with Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, or the Google Assistant.

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At Home Luxury Travel

5 Hotel Comforts You Can Get for Your Bedroom

I can’t tell you how to get turndown service every night, but I can show you the best ways to make your bedroom feel like a hotel room. It’s easier than ever to find the same sheets, mattresses, and more that your favorite hotels use. Follow these tips to get five-star-worthy sleep every night.

Recreate Your Favorite Hotel Bed

Marriott hotel mattress.

Want to recreate the feel of your last Marriott stay at home? You can buy the same experience at Marriott’s online shop, which sells the same brand of mattresses, bedding sets, and pillows that are used in the hotels.

Want to find your favorite hotel’s beds at a more affordable price? It’s fairly easy to find what mattress the property uses with a quick online search. For example, Westin touts its world-famous Heavenly Bed, but it’s a widely known secret that the Heavenly Bed is just a Simmons Beautyrest mattress, which you can find for much cheaper at places like Wayfair.com. Added bonus: Wayfair allows you to return mattresses for free for up to 100 days after you buy it, so you can really sleep on your decision.

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Pillows

Marriott pillows

Discovered your new favorite pillow on a hotel’s pillow menu? Find out which pillow it was using DOWNLITE’s hotel bedding finder search engine. The brand makes pillows for a number of different hotel chains, so you can find the exact model you want and then purchase your pillow on Amazon. Or go directly to the hotel’s website—like Marriott, many other brands have their own bedding shops.

Sheets and Blankets

Garnet hill down alternative

Even if you don’t splurge on a new mattress, topping off your old bed with luxurious new sheets can transform your sleep. The majority of luxury hotels use all-white bedding for that crisp and clean look, so emulate that style for upscale impact. Look for high-thread-count sheets made from percale, which tends to feel lighter and airier than other materials. The Company Store’s 400-Thread Count Supmia Percale Sheet Set is made from American-grown cotton that feels amazing—the set has an option for an extra-deep fitted sheet so you don’t have to fight with a fitted sheet that slides off the corners of your mattress in the middle of the night.

Luxury Hotels use duvets rather than old-fashioned comforters—this helps rooms look cleaner and more pulled-together, and allows just the cover to be washed in between guests, rather than the whole comforter. Garnet Hill’s Signature Down-Alternative All-Season Comforter is the perfect choice, thanks to its cruelty- and allergy-free filling, which gives you weight without overheating. This duvet manages to be light in the summer months but still cozy during the winter.

Top off the bed with an extra blanket for warmth (or just for style). Garnet Hill’s Twisted-Rib Cashmere Throw is made from an indulgent 100 percent cashmere knit that’s sourced from purebred Kashmir goats in Mongolia to make the softest blanket I’ve ever felt. For something a little lighter, The Company Store’s Cotton/Bamboo Blanket is the perfect layer for summer months when most other blankets are too hot.

Blackout Curtains

Remote control blackout blinds

The best hotels have blackout curtains that leave your room pitch black, no matter the time of day. Splurge on remote-controlled blackout roller shades that can open and close without you needing to get out of bed. Or, for the more frugal and less lazy among us, a good pair of blackout curtains will not only block light but also insulate the room in winter and keep the heat of the sun out in summer.

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Decor

Dimmable light

Dimming the lights before bed lets your body know it’s time for sleep. A dimmable table lamp for your nightstand allows you to read or relax with minimal light.

Hang a calming photo across from your bed to help you unwind and clear your head before going to sleep. Photo-printing site Fracture will print your photos on glass for a luxury look with no frame required.

Add a plant that doesn’t require much light or maintenance to your bedside table—studies have shown that plants can help purify the air, helping you breathe better at night.

Some of Our Favorites Bedroom Essentials

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Caroline Morse Teel is a Principal Editor at SmarterTravel. Follow her on Instagram @travelwithcaroline.

Some review products are sent to us free of charge and with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions, positive and negative, and will never accept compensation to review a product.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2019. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

Categories
At Home Photography

8 Crafty Ways to Display Travel Keepsakes

We’ve all been there: After a trip, you find ticket stubs, room keys, and other souvenirs in your pockets and bags for weeks. It seems like a shame to toss all those memories away, but keeping them in a box just adds to the clutter. The enforced time at home during the COVID-19 pandemic is a good excuse to finally get all your travel mementos in order. Here are eight cool ways to display your travel keepsakes.

Three-Ring Binder

There are plenty of decorative binders out there that don’t look like you stole them from the office supply closet. Find one you love, or create a personalized cover for one using travel photos. Then, take all of your paper mementos—postcards, brochures, restaurant menus, etc.—and punch holes in them. Soon you’ll have a library full of binders from all your trips. Find instructions here.

Sand Jars

candle and glass jars of sand and shells.

Want to remember that beautiful white-sand or black-sand beach forever? Scoop up a little bit to take home with you (and maybe some shells, too) if that’s permitted at your beach. Use your souvenir sand to partially fill up a glass mason jar. Insert a photo in the jar and maybe some shells or other memorabilia. See how to do it (and how to protect the photo in the jar) here.

Make a Ticket Collage

Put your tickets on display by making a collage. You can use ones from events, flights, and more. Best of all, it’s easy and cheap to do. All you need is a frame and a map. Use the map as a solid background, and then overlay your tickets on top. See some examples here.

Shadow Box

Got bulkier objects that you want to show off, like coins or even an old passport? Get a shadow box, a type of frame that lets you fit way more than a photo inside. Find ideas and instructions here.

Photo Book

photo books.

If you’d rather get crafty on your phone or computer, turn your travel snaps into a photo book from Shutterfly. You can customize photo sizes, layouts, captions, backgrounds, and more, and then add a memorabilia pocket to store boarding passes, tickets, or other mementos.

Room-Key Magnets

If you ask nicely, most hotels will let you keep those cheap plastic room keys. Once you’ve stockpiled a few, all you need is some magnetic tape to turn your keys into refrigerator magnets. Now every time you look at your fridge, you’ll be reminded of all of the amazing places you’ve stayed. You can also create magnets out of other memorabilia, such as casino chips, as shown here.

Fillable Ornaments

Wound up with a handful of foreign currency that you can’t bear to throw away? Grab some of these fillable ornaments and add in your coins for a sentimental decoration.

Passport Art

passport stamps close up

This project requires some crafting skills, but the end result will be more than worth it. Basically, photocopy and enlarge your favorite stamps from your passport, and transfer them onto wooden panels. Here’s what it looks like when it’s all done (plus detailed instructions).

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Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2015. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

Categories
At Home Food & Drink Health & Wellness Sustainable Travel

The Best Reusable Alternatives for Disposable Items

Tired of throwing away money and generating waste on single-use items like Q-tips or plastic wrap? Save money and the planet with these reusable alternatives for disposable items.

Collapsible Reusable Straws

collapsible reusable straws.

No one wants to be caught asking for a plastic straw in public, but carrying around a reusable straw seems cumbersome—unless you get this set from Amazon. Made from stainless steel, these reusable straws collapse down into their own carrying case, so you have an easy and sanitary way to keep an eco-friendly straw on you at all times.

Hydro Flask Coffee Mug

Hydro Flask Coffee Mug.

A to-go paper cup in a cardboard sleeve from your local coffee shop might be slightly more convenient than bringing your own, but it has its downsides—like cooling off almost immediately, burning your hand, and sloshing out the top. Break your disposable drink habit by bringing this coffee mug from Hydro Flask with you. It has a spill-proof lid and will keep your drink at the perfect temperature all day.

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LastSwab

lastswab.

Even a Q-tip has a reusable alternative. LastSwab looks and works just like a disposable cotton swab, but is made to be used over and over again. Made from durable and eco-friendly materials, the LastSwab can be easily cleaned using soap and water. It’s available in two versions—one for cleaning and one for makeup. Both come in a protective case to keep your swab clean in between uses.

Ecomended Food Wax Wraps

ecommended food wax wraps.

Plastic wrap can be incredibly usefully for saving leftovers, but it’s also incredibly wasteful. Ecomended’s Food Wax Wrap is a sustainable alternative to plastic wrap. Made from a cotton fabric coated with beeswax and jojoba oil, these wraps can be cut to any size and formed around any dish/bowl/cup to create a seal by using the warmth of your hand. Unlike plastic wrap, these wax wraps can be washed and reused, and come in fun prints like avocado or bees.

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Reusable Paper Towels

reusable paper towels.

Made from bamboo, one roll of these reusable paper towels will last you about three to six months of regular use. The towels absorb more liquid than a regular paper towel and won’t tear. Simply toss them in the washing machine after each use.

Stasher Bags

stashers silicone bags.

Reusable, durable, microwave-safe, dishwasher-safe, and freezer-safe—Stasher’s silicone bags have some clear advantages over plastic zip-lock bags. The Stasher bags come in a variety of sizes, including sandwich, snack, pocket, and half-gallon. All of the bags are made from non-toxic platinum silicone and contain no BPA, PVC, or latex.

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Quip Metal Refillable Floss

quip metal refillable floss.


Single-use plastic floss picks are terrible for the environment, but they make flossing easier than standard dental floss. Get the benefits of a plastic floss pick without the environmental impact with quip’s Metal Refillable Floss. The metal dispenser holds floss that you’ll refill just once every three months, and makes it easy to get to those hard-to-reach spots in your mouth.

Whitmor Dryer Balls

whitmor dryer balls.

Eliminate waste and chemicals from your laundry with these Whitmor Dryer Balls, which replace fabric softener sheets. Made from non-toxic materials, these small balls have soft spikes to fluff and soften your laundry, preventing static cling and wrinkles.

Silicone Baking Mats

Amazonbasics silicone baking mats.

Need an alternative to disposable aluminum foil and parchment paper? Try AmazonBasics’ Silicone Baking Mats. These slim mats are oven-safe up to 480 degrees and replace cooking sprays, oils, aluminum foil by preventing food from sticking. The mats are easy to clean and reuse.

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Larq Water Bottle

larq water bottle.

Don’t want to use a plastic water bottle but hate cleaning your reusable water bottle? LARQ’s self-cleaning water bottle does the work for you—simply press the button on the lid to activate a UV light, which will clean and purify the water bottle and the water inside.

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Categories
At Home

Rothy's Just Launched a Sandals Line

Rothy’s, the shoe company making ultra-comfortable and stylish footwear (and bags) out of recycled water bottles, just added sandals to their lineup.

Rothys Knot Sandal

Available in two different styles, The Knot and The Triple Band, the new sandals are made out of Rothy’s signature sustainable yarn, making for a comfortable wear that won’t chafe or make your feet too hot. The footbed is a cushiony vegan leather sole that lends a slipper-like feel to these slides.

Rothy's Triple Band Sandal

The easy, slip-on design and airy top make these the perfect house slippers for when you want to brighten up your stay-at-home style. And they’re machine-washable, so you can wear them outside without worrying about stains or odors.

The sandals are priced at $115, and are available in vibrant colors and prints including a candy apple red and hot pink basket stitch.

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Caroline Morse Teel is a Principal Editor at SmarterTravel. Follow her on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline.

Categories
At Home Booking Strategy Credit Cards Passenger Rights

2 Simple Tips for Getting a Refund When the Airline Only Offers a Credit

This post originally appeared on JohnnyJet.com. Sign up for the Johnny Jet Daily Travel Tip newsletter here for more.

Most of the questions I’ve been getting from readers lately concern how to get refunded for a canceled flight. As you may know by now, some of the U.S. airlines had been until recently playing games with passengers (ahem, United and JetBlue). The Department of Transportation (DOT) received so many complaints that it had to come out with an enforcement notice. If your canceled flight was operated by a U.S. carrier, the DOT notice applies to you.

In fact, if your flight was supposed to fly to, from, or within the U.S., it doesn’t matter where the operating airline is based: If it canceled your flight, it needs to give you a full refund, according to the DOT.

But what about flights within Europe? Reader Simon L. asked this question on our “A Trick to Get Your Money Back From Airlines That Canceled Your Flight” post:

“What is the situation with dealing with European airlines? We had one-way tickets from Dubrovnik to London Gatwick with EasyJet for early April. The flight has been canceled. I have requested a full refund from EasyJet citing European regulation 261 but on their website, they are saying they are giving credits only. The tickets were purchased more than 60 days ago so disputing the charge with my CC probably won’t work and, at this point, a voucher is not going to do much good if we don’t get back to Europe this year. Any suggestions?”

Can you get refunded for a canceled European flight? I have to say that I wasn’t 100-percent sure of the answer, so I went searching. I found that the latest on this question—how to get refunded for a canceled European flight—is encouraging.

As written in a recent Reuters story: “Airlines must reimburse customers for flights cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the European Union transport chief said on Wednesday, rejecting calls by carriers to relax EU rules and allow an EU-wide waiver of refund obligations.”

It seems that the airlines are concerned that issuing so many refunds will drain them of money. For now, that isn’t enough to get them out of their obligation to refund (not issue credits to) passengers on flights that have been canceled due to the COVID-19 situation.

Have you tried to get refunded for a canceled European flight? Did the airline give you a hard time? Here’s JohnnyJet.com’s previous advice on pressing for a refund:

  1. If an airline cancels your flight, tries to give you a credit, and refuses to give you a refund, ask to speak to a supervisor. Read them this line on your rights from the DOT: “If your flight is canceled and you choose to cancel your trip as a result, you are entitled to a refund for the unused transportation–even for non-refundable tickets. You are also entitled to a refund for any bag fee that you paid, and any extras you may have purchased, such as a seat assignment.”
  2. If the representative still won’t budge, you can hang up and call your credit card company as long as you purchased your flight in the last 60 days. As Joe Brancatelli, a veteran business-travel expert, recently tweeted: “Credit cards WILL process refunds. Airline rules and DOT boilerplate are irrelevant now.”

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Johnny Jet travels to 20+ countries a year to share firsthand knowledge of reward travel, credit card deals, destination tips and more.

Categories
At Home Booking Strategy Miles & Points Security Travel Technology Travel Trends

Non-Emergency Passport Applications Have Halted

Were you planning to apply for, or renew, a passport this spring? With the rolling governmental measures in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to do so. The State Department is limiting in-person service at passport offices to emergencies in which travelers need a passport for an international trip within 72 hours because of a “qualified life-or-death emergency.” And mail-in renewals are being discouraged due to “significant delays.”

The State Department defines that emergency in-person service as only for “serious illnesses, injuries, or deaths in your immediate family (e.g., parent, child, spouse, sibling, aunt, uncle, etc.).” A more complete list is available on the State Department’s website.

However, if you have travel plans on the far horizon (or hope to) you can still apply for renewal by mail, with some caveats. Expedited service is not available, and the State Department notes that you can “expect significant delays.” It’s unclear how long that delay will be, and it’s worth noting that for a renewal you’ll need to mail in your current passport with the renewal application. The department urges travelers to “please consider waiting to apply until we resume normal operations.”

Even if you qualify for emergency in-person service, options are currently very limited: The State Department says that passport offices in Atlanta, Connecticut, New Orleans, New York, and San Juan (Puerto Rico) are among those completely closed until further notice. And many of the other acceptance facilities, such as court clerks and post offices, are either closed or no longer accepting in-person passport applications.

At any in-person facility you will need an appointment, which you can make through the National Passport Information Center here, or by calling your local court or post office. For that appointment, you’ll need a completed application, supporting documents, proof of the life-or-death emergency, and proof of international travel specific to the emergency.

If you have an application in process, the State Department will continue to process it, but you can expect those undefined delays. Check the State Department’s website for details and application tracking.

The State Department says these current limitations will remain in effect until “normal operations” resume, which is clearly a very uncertain deadline at this time. If you will need a new or renewed passport in the near future, bookmark the above links for up-to-date information.

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Consumer advocate Ed Perkins has been writing about travel for more than three decades. The founding editor of the Consumer Reports Travel Letter, he continues to inform travelers and fight consumer abuse every day at SmarterTravel.

Categories
At Home Food & Drink

8 Easy Cocktail Recipes to Bring the World Home

For the time being, our travel plans are on hold—except for those of the armchair kind. In the spirit(s) of better times to come, we suggest whipping up a cocktail that will remind you of places you’ve been, or places you dream of visiting. You don’t have to brave a trip to the liquor store: Drizly partners with local liquor stores to deliver wine, beer, liquor, mixers, bitters, and more to your doorstep. Make a video cocktail-party date with friends, or settle in to take a virtual tour of some of the world’s most popular destinations. Best of all, you won’t need a designated driver or an Uber.

Peru

pisco sour cocktail.

Since two countries claim the Pisco Sour, you’ll be able to dream double as you drink one. Pisco is a type of brandy—essentially wine that is then distilled—that began being produced in the 17th century with grapes imported from Spain. Both Peru and Chile claim this tart and sweet cocktail. The Pisco Sour is so inextricably linked to Peruvian culture, there’s even a national Pisco Sour Day: February 1. To get a peek of Peru, mix yourself a Pisco Sour and immerse yourself in a virtual tour of Machu Picchu, Cusco, or Lima. For a quick trip to Chile, grab a drink and sip your way through 360 degrees of Santiago or Easter Island.

Pisco Sour

Mix the pisco, lime juice, simple syrup, and egg white in a cocktail shaker. Add ice to fill, and shake vigorously to produce a good amount of foam. Strain into an old-fashioned glass, and sprinkle the Angostura bitters on top of the foam.

Paris

sidecar cocktail.

There’s something about sipping a Sidecar that evokes an elegant evening at a glamorous Parisian bar. The precise origins of the Sidecar have never been definitively settled on, though most agree it was in Paris in the early 1920s and may (or may not) have involved an American G.I. who liked to ride in his friend’s motorcycle sidecar (hence the name). Shake up a batch of this simple, classic cocktail, then enjoy a virtual tour of the Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay, or visit the City of Light’s iconic sites via 360-degree panoramic photos.

Sidecar

  • 2 ounce Cognac
  • 1 ounce Cointreau
  • 1 ounce fresh lemon juice (or 3/4 ounce if you prefer a slightly less tart cocktail)

Shake ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. A sugared rim is optional.

Venice

bellini cocktail.

Harry’s Bar, a favorite of Ernest Hemingway’s, has attracted a host of notables over the its nearly 90 years, including Alfred Hitchcock, Truman Capote, Orson Welles, and George Clooney. In 1950, owner Giuseppe Cipriani devised the Bellini, in honor of Italian Renaissance painter Giovanni Bellini, and the rest is history.  (Fun fact: Two years later, Cipriani is credited with first creating carpaccio, named after Venetian painter Vittore Carpaccio.) Summer is peak Bellini time, when fresh peaches are in season.  Stir one up, and take a 360-degree tour of San Marco Square, the canals, and the Rialto Bridge.

Bellini

If fresh peaches are in season, you can make your own purée—but don’t use canned peaches. Pour the peach purée into a Champagne flute, then slowly top with sparkling wine while gently stirring to incorporate. If you like, garnish with a slice of fresh peach.

New Orleans

sazerac cocktail.

Some credit Antoine Amédée Peychaud, who owned a drug store in New Orleans, with inventing the very first cocktail in 1838 (or at least giving it its name). Peychaud liked to treat friends to his own concoctions, often including his Peychaud’s Bitters, made from a secret family recipe. The drinks were made using a double-ended egg cup for measuring, called a “coquetier” (“ko-k-tay”), the word from which “cocktail” was derived. Savor a Sazerac while immersed in the sounds of New Orleans: Radio station WWOZ has a daily list and links of virtual gigs by NOLA artists, mostly on social media platforms.  A number of artists are offering digital “tip jars” through Venmo and other payment platforms, so you can support them until they can play to live audiences again.

Sazerac    

Pack an Old-Fashioned glass with ice. In a second Old-Fashioned glass, place the sugar cube and add the Peychaud’s Bitters to it, then crush the sugar cube.

Add the Sazerac Rye Whiskey to the second glass containing the Peychaud’s Bitters and sugar. Empty the ice from the first glass and coat the glass with the Herbsaint, then discard the remaining Herbsaint. Empty the whiskey/bitters/sugar mixture from the second glass into the first glass and garnish with lemon peel.

Florence

negroni cocktail.

The Negroni’s origin story goes something like this:  One day in 1919, Count Camillo Negroni asked the bartender at Caffe Casoni to fortify his favorite cocktail, the Americano, by replacing the soda water with gin. The bartender added an orange peel for an extra flourish, and the Negroni was born. Before long, the bar was swarmed with patrons asking for the new drink. Enjoy this easy-to-make libation while taking a virtual tour of Florence, including the famous Ponte Vecchio, an interactive view of the Duomo and city from the Campanile, and a virtual tour of Uffizi Gallery.

Negroni

Add all the ingredients into a mixing glass with ice, and stir until well-chilled. Strain into a rocks glass filled with large ice cubes, and garnish with an orange peel.

New York City

manhattan cocktail.

Cocktail historians pretty much agree that the eponymously named Manhattan made its debut in the 1880s at New York’s Manhattan Club. But other lore, like that it was invented for a party in honor of Winston Churchill’s mother, have been pretty much debunked. Nevertheless, this ageless cocktail is still considered one of the cornerstones of craft-cocktail culture. Mix one up, then take a 360-degree virtual grand tour of Manhattan. Music lovers can check out the Metropolitan Opera’s streaming daily concerts of past performances, available for 24 hours before they are replaced with the next one.

Manhattan

Add all the ingredients into a mixing glass with ice, and stir until well-chilled. Strain into a chilled coupe. Garnish with a brandied cherry.

London

pimm's cup cocktail.

Tennis fans were saddened when this year’s Wimbledon tennis championships were canceled. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy the event’s signature cocktail, the frosty and fruity Pimm’s Cup No. 1. This cocktail’s story goes back to 1832, when James Pimm offered guests of his oyster bar a gin-based drink with quinine and various spices as a digestive aid. It’s been hugely popular in Britain during the summer months ever since. Whip one up and then take a 360-degree tour of the Tate Modern, the National Gallery, and Buckingham Palace.

Pimm’s Cup

Barcelona

sangria cocktail.

Sangria (“blood” in Spanish) gets its name from the dark red wine that has been used in it for hundreds of years (except the eight centuries or so when the Moors ruled). Some say the modern popularity of sangria was launched at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York, when a generation of Americans tasted it for the first time when it was served at the Pavilion of Spain. It has been a favorite of tourists ever since (Spaniards barely touch it). That doesn’t mean it isn’t tasty, though. Make yourself a batch and take a virtual tour of the Sagrada Familia or a panoramic tour of city sites such as Gaudi’s Battlo House and Park Guell, Montjuic Castle, and the Plaça d’Espanya.

Sangria

  • 1 bottles chilled dry red wine, like Rioja
  • 1/2  cup brandy
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons superfine granulated sugar
  • 1 orange, cut into thin rounds; 1 lemon, cut into thin rounds; 3 Key limes, cut into thin rounds; 1 apple, cored and cut into small chunks
  • 1 cup chilled soda water

In a large pot or bowl, combine the wine, brandy, orange juice, and sugar and stir until the sugar dissolves. Add the orange, lemon, and lime slices, the apples and refrigerate until well chilled, about 1 hour. Remove from the refrigerator and add the soda. Serve in glasses over ice.

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Deb Hopewell is a longtime journalist and the former editor of Yahoo Travel. She writes for Outside, Fodor’s, Architectural Digest, Travel+Leisure, and others. Follow her on Instagram @debhopewell and Twitter @dhopewell.

Categories
Active Travel At Home Cities Staycation

When You Can't Travel, Bike

Church or a fill-up? This Queens corner leaves it up to you.

Biking in New York City is a magnificent thing and a terrifying thing and a thrilling thing and an infuriating thing. I’ve had my bike for four years now, and almost immediately upon buying it my relationship to the city changed. Instead of moving here and there underground — enduring the overcrowding, the train delays, and the angst — I could now get around in the open air. Underground, you have no sense of the place in between the places you love. They are points of interest connected by nothing more than a color-coded line. And yet: Up there (or down below, depending on which line you’re riding), there is certainly life.

In Bushwick and Ridgewood, you can see where the subway goes.

At the beginning of the outbreak in NYC — when the cases were rising by the thousand every day, when the virus seemed to suddenly be everywhere — I dialed my outdoor activity down to zero. I stocked my cupboards with a 30-day supply of food in case I had to officially quarantine myself. I ordered indoor workout equipment. I began a seemingly endless routine of streaming TV shows in quick succession. I swore I would make progress through the backlog of books that I’d bought for now cancelled trips. I promised to do yoga. But none of those things really came to fruition. Instead, a deeply seeded inertia began moving from inside out — my small joys evaporated, my rituals went dark. What was happening was mourning, really — mourning the loss of motion that had supplanted my less-healthy coping mechanisms from so many years ago.

Old-school Italian cookies are a definite reason to go back to Glendale, Queens.

For those first few weeks, I was terrified to get on my bike. The paths along the waterfronts and over the bridges — the safest to use because they are generally guarded and separate from street traffic — were packed with like-minded people. Everyone needed a break from the tedium and claustrophobia of their tiny New York apartments. But in a city of 9 million, when everyone wants to go outside for just an hour or so a day, it’s impossible to safely stay away from anyone else. Those waterside bike paths fill with other bikers and joggers and pedestrian overflow from the sidewalks. You are only ever inhaling the exhalations of others. Who knows who has coughed just a few feet ahead of you? What pathogen is riding that breeze?

The crowds weren’t surprising — I had avoided those officially scenic bike routes before COVID for the same reason. I also knew that crowded streets were far less likely — even in good times — if I biked away from the river and deeper into the boroughs, which I’d done a few times over the years.

Classic New York commerce along Myrtle Avenue in Ridgewood.

From my apartment, I went east, first across Bed-Stuy and then into Bushwick — that part I was certain about. After those neighborhoods, I knew was Queens, but I had no clear plan other than my sense of direction. Keeping track of my right turns and my left turns as necessary, I cut a crooked route that more or less became a long loop. I crossed streets I hadn’t heard of before — ones that bore the old names of the city. the Dutch ones like Onderdonk and Himrod. I passed small, beautiful parks with greens lined by cherry trees and magnolias. Panaderias with open doors revealing cases of pan dulce. Retail relics like the Liberty Department Store on Myrtle, its big red sign visible from blocks away. The scent of pastries coming from Grimaldi’s Bakery. In some places the huge old tenement buildings pressed almost right up to the street. In others, pretty brick row houses with bay windows sat back quietly from the road. Old Jewish synagogues. Massive churches. Pentecostal storefronts. Flower shops. Botánicas. VFWs.

Spots like this out in Ridgewood are quite literally gold.

When I got home I mapped my route to track the miles I’d logged. But really, I’ve always had a fascination with maps — drawing them and poring over road atlases as a kid, and staring at them for untold hours as an adult traveler in anticipation of a trip. From what I could tell, I’d cut across Bed-Stuy and Bushwick into Ridgewood. While I was familiar with certain parts of these neighborhoods — I live on the western border of Bed-Stuy and Clinton Hill, my favorite Ethiopian restaurant is in Bushwick, and I’d gone to queer parties at venues in Ridgewood — my experience of them had, of course, been segmented. New York, as it always does, rendered these places as little satellites connected by underground tunnels. Your own interests in the context of regular life determine your internal map of the city, and this map is, by nature, exclusionary. The thing travel has always stirred in me, it seems, is forcing an acknowledgement that the fabric of any place is a more wholistic thing.

Don’t believe this is New York City? It is. You just have to look to find it.

I expanded the map to see what was beyond Ridgewood. There was a belt of cemeteries to the southeast, with Highland Park and Cypress Hills beyond it. To the northeast, Glendale, Middle Village, and Forest Hills. Each afternoon or evening when I left my house on my bike, I went farther. I noted how the scenery changed. How the apartments shifted from massive apartment blocks in Bushwick and Ridgewood to single-story row-houses in Glendale to beautiful brick Tudor buildings in Forest Hills to the mansions of Highland Boulevard in Cypress Hills. You could see the character change in the businesses too: Italian bakeries and civic organizations along Myrtle Avenue in Glendale; Mexican speciality shops in Ridgewood; Dominican and Puerto Rican flags in Bushwick. The reggaeton, the trap, the bachata, the screeching wheels of the elevated trains, the nonstop sirens of our moment.You can see the neighborhoods that the city cares for and the ones it neglects — old-growth trees lining some streets and others without a shred of green.

Neighborhoods change from block to block when you ride without a destination in mind.

The pleasure in all of this is the sense of discovery, which, of course, isn’t discovery at all. It’s happening upon a place that has been there all along and which, now known to you, can bring something into your life. You find these places at street level, not online. You get the texture and the sound and the sight all at once, without filters — no mitigating reviews of those who’ve already been; no curation by what photographs nicely; no algorithms trying to feed you what the computers think you’ll enjoy most. Like when travel is at its most perfect, when the serendipity hits just right. You stumble upon a place or a person or a thing that you’ll come to love. You catch a vibe.

If I happen to be biking a street I’ve already seen, I’ll go faster. Once I’ve hit the unknown, I slow down. I make mental notes of the places I’ll come back to when they’re open again. When I feel I’ve gone far enough, I turn around and try to untangle the streets, making my way back home. In my body, I notice some of the same feelings I’ve had when aimlessly wandering cities on other continents: that little clench in the gut that’s thrilling, the moment when you aren’t exactly lost, but when you’ve come to understand that you’re surrounded by newness, or at least something that is new to you in the most foreign way. This is the feeling that took the place of all of my worst habits. I suppose it saved my life.

Getting lost in NYC means seeing way more than just red, white, and blue.

For the foreseeable future, none of us are going anywhere. And so, the light at the end of the tunnel is that maybe these small shops, these bakeries and restaurants and cafes, will be there on the other side of this. And that until I can fly away from New York City, I’ll make do on my bike and the thrills that are here that I’d never thought to find.

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