Ireland + My Travel Checklist

August 4, 2017

Blue Flag Beach


The thermometer is reading well above 90 degrees these days, which means my upstairs office, where I am currently working, feels like a sauna. So looking through these photos from misty Ireland has me wishing I was still clinking cold beer mugs with my husband’s Irish kin.

I’m only sharing a couple photos on my site but if you want to see more lush landscape and charming towns click here. We started our trip in Dublin, navigated by map through countryside to Donegal in northern Ireland and then dropped into the Connemara region where Luke’s family roots are planted. It was so much fun visiting with familiar faces and meeting new ones. We definitely have to visit more often.


slieve league

After a couple years of travel now, I think I have my travel checklist finessed. However, don’t be shy if you have a suggestion. There’s no doubt in my mind that I missing something totally awesome and life changing! I must note that this checklist is really for the items you might not think of or forget time after time. It’s not necessarily for your daily outfits which is really specific to where and when you are traveling and what you plan to do on your trip.


…Coverup and swimsuit.
…Jeans. I recently bought a pair of C&H that are amazing!
…Black shirt dress.
…Black leggings. I often find myself living in these.
Jumpsuit that I can dress up or down.
…PJs (I forgot these on this trip)
…Extra underwear and socks. Cuba is responsible for this addition.
…A warmer sweater or coat that I usually wear on the plane.
…Shoes. I usually bring three pair. One for walking, a casual pair and a dressier pair for evenings.

Cosmetics/Medicine Kit

…Nail file, clippers and tweezers.
Dry shampoo. I hate packing lots of shampoo and usually hotel shampoo is too harsh on my hair so this helps cut down on washes.
…Essential oils. At least peppermint and on guard.
…Alieve. For when you party too hard. 🙂
…Eye drops and spare pair of contacts.
…Face towelettes for removing makeup.
…Travel sized perfume. Always want to smell good. I bring two Le Labo samples.
…Feminine products and anti diarrhea pills (if needed).
Hair bun. If you haven’t used one of these, you have to try it. You’ll love the size of bun it creates and you can get different sizes.
…Hand sanitizer. Always.


Irish Sheep


…Two scarves. Maybe one light and one heavier weight. Or one casual and one fancier. Just give yourself options.
…Sunglasses. I usually bring two pair. They can really spice up a boring outfit or hide tired eyes.
….Backpack and clutch. The clutch can double as a wallet and during the day thrown into your backpack.
…Separate travel wallet for passport, tickets and other important docs. I have a black one that zips so I don’t lose anything.
…Belt. I recently forgot this and won’t make that mistake again.
…Light towel/blanket. You never know when you might want to take a nap under a shady tree, have a picnic on the beach. practice yoga, or actually use to warm up or dry off.
Spare bag. Find one that rolls up so it doesn’t take any extra space. I find it comes in handy for a day at the beach, carrying home souvenirs, dirty laundry, etc.
…Sun hat or ball cap. Helps hide bad hair days while keeping the sun off your face!
…Jewelry. I usually pack 2 pair of earrings. One I can wear most days and the other a bit more fun. I usually bring a versatile necklace and my scapular that I wear on the plane and a watch.
…Bath slippers. Some hotels provide these but there a must for me so I usually throw a pair in just in case.
…Raincoat and umbrella. These may note be necessary depending on the destination and time of year.
…Corkscrew and bottle opener.

Westport Ireland


…Camera and both camera and phone chargers. Earbuds too.
…Converter. Some hotels have a spare one but if you have one it definitely doesn’t hurt to throw in when traveling internationally.
…Travel locks. They are small and it never hurts to be on the safe side.
…Journal. I loved to keep notes throughout the trip.
…Earplugs and eye mask. I usually only pack these when there’s an overnight flight.
…Salad and salty snacks for the plane. Maybe I need a follow up post of my travel meals!
…Dominoes or cards. They are easy to pack and Luke and I love to play them everywhere!
Small gift. I added this to the list just after our Ireland trip because two hotels were an incredible help to us. Would have been nice to give them a taste of MT.

Kylemore Abbey

To Dos

…Download podcasts for the plane. Some of my favorite right now are How I Built This (Samuel Adams, Mark Cuban, Dry Bar: Alli Webb), Kimberly Snyder and this one. What are you listening to right now?
…Call credit card companies and banks informing them of your travel dates and location (only when leaving the country).
…Print out car insurance for rental coverage.
…Take out cash and exchange money if necessary. Sometimes Luke and I just exchange some of our dollars at the destination airport.
…Decide on phone plan if traveling internationally. A lot of times you can get by just using Whats App.
…Water house plants.
…Take out the garbage.
…I like to vacuum so I come home to a clean house.
…Feed pets. We have a cat so she is pretty self sufficient!
…Lock house. When you live in the country you forget to do this!


Yellowstone National Park |10|10|10|

February 2, 2016

WY 9

A couple years ago my girlfriend had this great idea to winter vacation in Canada. Not quite the type of vacation I had in mind. But she’s a California girl and wanted a change of seasons. So she did some major arm twisting and my sister and I met her in Montreal and Quebec City. When I returned I swore the only winter vacations I would be taking again would require sun, sand and salt water. So when Luke’s mom asked if we would join her in Yellowstone National Park for a winter vacation, I was a little hesitant. Why does everyone want to vacation in the snow? People I live and work in the snow, I don’t want to play in it too. However I have to say I am thankful that Jayne planned this trip. Yellowstone is the place to visit in the winter. I’m serious it’s magical. Just don’t tell everyone! So I thought I what share my 10|10|10 and of course a handful of my favorite shots.


1. Numbers are low. Yes temperature, but also tourists. If you want to see Old Faithful front and center or drive through the park without road rage then this is probably the best reason to visit the park in the winter. A ranger told me that 4.1 million people visited the park last year with the majority vacationing from late spring to early autumn. So let me paint a picture for you; the people of Montana could visit the park 3 times and still wouldn’t exceed the total number of visitors from last year. There’s just something to be said about visiting the park when there’s probably more bison and elk then homo sapiens.

2. Photography.  Whether you are a professional or novice behind the lens, I swear you can’t take a bad picture during the winter months. The animals pop against the white backdrop and the landscape is so mysterious with steaming geysers.

3. Bombardiers. Have you seen these retro snow coaches before? They were originally used for military snow operations but now they chauffeur you around to different areas of the park. Rumor has it they are going to retire but I don’t believe it. They’re iconic. Bring a blanket and keep a lookout for wildlife!

4. Grizzlies. Or lack of. Don’t get me wrong, it would be pretty wild to see a grizzly but that’s more excitement than I care for on the trail. So I enjoy the peace of mind that comes with winter hibernation.

5. No traffic. Most the park is closed to vehicular traffic which means you can head out for a quiet ski on a road that would normally be bustling in the summer. The park is your playground.

6. Old Faithful. No need to rub elbows with tourists. I hate to say it but I actually enjoyed browsing through the very interactive interpretive center until a couple minutes before when I watched the eruption through the floor to ceiling windows. I was warm and had a clear path. What more could I ask for?

7. Ice skating. Who doesn’t like the idea of skating around a rink hand in hand with your husband. Luke took me ice skating once and I have a feeling that was a first and last. But that shouldn’t stop you from dragging your significant other on the ice. The Snow Lodge has a nice setup out back with lights and a burning fire plus you can borrow a pair of skates for free!

8. The Boiling River. Soak in a natural hot springs on the Gardiner River. Trust me your body will thank you after all that skiing. Suits required so don’t be that guy.

9. Wildlife. With a white backdrop the animals are easier to spot. Plus they are more concentrated in certain areas of the park in the winter. I have yet to see a wolf but I hear odds are higher in the winter since they are more active. And again, the white backdrop.

10. Frozen waterfalls. There are a couple trails in the park where you can ski or snowshoe to a frozen waterfall. I’ve seen my fair share of flowing waterfalls but not many frozen.

WY 2

WY 7

WY 8

WY 1


1. Have you ever been hangry? Haven’t heard this word before.

Hangry: adj. a state of angry caused by lack of food; hunger causing a negative change in emotional state.

Luke is very familiar with this word which is why he usually carries some sort of bar along with him in case I have an emergency. If you stay at the Snow Lodge there is only one way in and one way out and that’s either on a snow coach or snowmobile. The mercantile is closed and your only two options are the Snow Lodge Dining Room and the Grille. And trust me you will probably tire of the menu if you stay more than one night. You can request a packed lunch but personally I prefer my own snacks.

Snacks I packed. Oranges and Apples/Sesame Honey Cashews/Nut Bars/Oatmeal Cookies/Chocolate/Hard Candy/Plantain Chips

2. Dinner reservations. So I mentioned above that you are pretty isolated at the Snow Lodge and your only dining options are limited so that means make your dinner reservations when you book your room otherwise you will be eating the early bird special or be the last seated.

3. A good read. The days are short which means after a good day of skiing there is still plenty of time to kill around the fire place with a book and a cold brew.

4. Skis and snow shoes. There are miles and miles of groomed trails. I was actually surprised to see trails groomed for skate skis. Obviously more Nordic trails but the best way to see the park is on skis or snowshoes so save some money and pack your own. You do have the option to rent but if I can save a couple bucks I will!

5. Camera. The park is breathtaking, really, and like I said you can’t take a bad photo.

6. Binocs. This is one item I always remember after I’m on the road. Sometimes the wildlife is up close and personal but if you get the opportunity to watch a pack of wolves feast on a bison carcass from a distance you’re gonna want the option to pull our your binocs.

7. Sunscreen and sunglasses. Sometimes these two items can be easy to forget when temps are low.

8. Flask and Whiskey. Nothing warms you quicker from the inside out when the sun starts setting.

9. Tours. The snow coach from Mammoth to Snow Lodge is about four hours and some of the Bombardier tours are all day. Just think it’s good to know when you are planning.

10. Wine. If you have room in your luggage it doesn’t hurt to throw in a bottle or two. Like I said, you spend your fair share of time around the fire place reading and drinking before your dinner seating and if you are done skiing at 4 p.m. your tab can add up quickly. The lodge didn’t seem to mind if you shared a bottle around the fire place.

WY 3

WY 11

WY 4

WY 10


Los Cabos

January 12, 2016

Mexican Flowers

parasailing and surfing
Farm to Table 2

beach life


About a month ago the entire Cooper Clan (yes, all 13 of us) flew south to Los Cabos for our bi-yearly family vacation. In December I was compressed between holiday festivities and to-do lists and now busy on the ranch with calving in full swing. But I finally got around to sharing some highlights from the trip. If you read the first post on the new site, you know I would love to hear your (constructive) two cents regarding recent and upcoming posts. What did you like or find helpful? What did I miss? That sort of thing.

Let me just repeat that this was a family vacation, which means we were trying to accommodate 13 personalities. Ha!

To give you a timeline which the following took place, we stayed 7 nights and 8 days, which I think was plenty to explore the Los Cabos area and outside areas that are less touristy.

Day Trip to Cerritos Beach and Todos Santos (North – West)

Cerritos beach is the perfect spot to kill a morning surfing the Pacific. You have the option to take a hour lesson. The guys we had were great; very friendly and attentive and don’t care if you’re a beginner beginner, if you know what I mean! After an hour + lesson you can keep your board and play in the waves until you tire or get a salt/sand/board rash. And trust me you will probably get both. But if a workout and rash isn’t your idea of a vacation then relax on the beach under an umbrella while one of the local ladies massages you for $20. Yes $20. Head north a little further and grab lunch at a little farm to table restaurant outside of Pescadero. The al fresco restaurant is surrounded by gardens and native fruit frees. The hibiscus tea is incredibly refreshing coming from the beach. I ordered the carrot ravioli with pesto and local ricotta. It was delicious. The menu is limited so I am guessing between the 13 of us we sampled every dish. You can’t go wrong. Continue north even further to the little town of Todos Santos. Luke and I honeymooned in Todos four years ago and boy has it changed. First off, the highway from Los Cabos was dirt. What took us over three hours four years ago only took us an hour +/-. The overhead electrical wires are being relocated underground and all the dirt roads are being replaced with stamped concrete. More tourists and I am sure there will be more in years to come. So get to this cute quaint town before it loses its charm.

Check out the rooftop bar at the Gauycura and there are a number of delicious restaurants in town. Trust me, we ate at all of them over our honeymoon! (Michael’s at the Gallery and La Casita Tapas being my favorites)

Day Trip to Miraflores and Santiago (North – East)

Miraflores is a another quaint little Mexican town. Pretty quiet. The day we visited the townspeople were preparing for what looked like a holiday festival. People were busy sweeping the streets and brushing a fresh coat of paint on the sidewalks and buildings.

Santiago is also another quiet town. We checked out the Palomar, which use to be a popular hangout for the Hollywood crowd. Folks like John Wayne and Bing Crosby visited for the world class white-winged dove hunt (now illegal). I don’t think you will find the rich and famous there today but its a nice place to sip on a cerveza! We decided to take a dirt road outside this little mountain town to the waterfall. Its similar to a state park so there is a small entrance fee for the day. Its not a far hike and well worth the pesos. There are a couple big freshwater swimming pools fed by a waterfall. We did not know what to expect but next time I would pack a picnic and beers and spend a good part of the afternoon basking in the sun and dipping in the pools!

Chileno Beach.

A very low key beach between Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo. Not many people, decent snorkeling and great swimming. The beach is extremely clean, no dogs are allowed and you can rent an umbrella for a small price tag. Perfect for my fair skinned Irish husband! We spent a lot of time flopping around in the salt water on this vacation. The beach is cheap entertainment for both adults and kids. I suggest packing tortilla chips and local pico de  gallo, jicama with lime and the Mexican spice that seems to hold its hand everywhere and of coarse cervezas. Quick, easy and a must for all your beach days! Don’t forget a frisbee or football and books, mags and/or journal.

Cabo San Lucas. 

If you walk to the beach adjacent to the Marina I am sure there are a bazillion companies that would love to take you and yours parasailing. Parasailing was the one thing all the kids wanted to do on this vacation and it was a big hit. They absolutely loved it. I parasailed the last time the entire family vacationed in Cabo so I volunteered to be an extra on the boat and take photographs this go around. The two man crew that took the seven of us out was incredibly friendly and entertaining and made the experience that much more enjoyable! After you can get done parasailing walk to Claro Fish Jr. for crunchy fish tacos. Possibly the best fish tacos I have eaten to date and trust me, I have eaten my fair share. Don’t miss this place. The fixings bar with an assortment of salsas, slaws and cucumbers was a plus.

San Jose del Cabo. 

San Jose del Cabo is considered old town. If you head down to the central square there are lots of cute little shops. Great for picking up souvenirs. They have lots and lots of nativity sets that are absolutely beautiful. If my sister wouldn’t have gifted me one last year I would have bought one. There was a beautiful one painted in neutral and gold colors. It was stunning. Grab a homemade popsicle made from fresh ingredients at Paletas Michoacan across the street from the church. I chose walnut and licked everyone else’s and am confident I would make the same decision next time! However grape seemed to be the runner up. Who would of thought?

We only ventured into Old town once so didn’t have the time to experience the Thursday night art walk. Remember, trying to accommodate 13 personalities on this trip! But we did spend an evening at Flora Farms, the farm to table venue located outside of San Jose del Cabo. Beautiful grounds, wonderful ambiance and music and delicious food. But don’t be mistaken, this place feels more like California than Mexico. The menu was not authentic; which was a disappointment for me because cooking and eating authentic foods is the surest, truest way to a country’s soul. Plus it’s very expensive. This is just my opinion, perhaps you need to confirm yourself!

I only ate at one restaurant in San Jose del Cabo; Taqueria Rossy. Its good but the parking is definitely tricky! But my friend recently visited and she seemed to like the following. La Lupita & Mezcal / La Osteria / Lolita’s  & Mi Ensaladas.

La Paz (North – East)

We did not make the day trip to La Paz this time. But when Luke and I honeymooned in Todos we took a boat tour around the different islands in the Sea of Cortez. We snorkeled and swam at different locations and stopped on a beautiful beach for lunch. Our captain’s wife made ceviche which was delicious.We organized this trip through the Hotelito in Todos Santos. I would highly recommend it.

Cabo Pulmo and Los Frailes (North – East)

We didn’t make it to the National Marine Park of Cabo Pulmo and the town of Frailes but I wish we did. The area has the only living coral reef in Western North America. People from all over the world come here for the snorkeling and diving. I hear you don’t even have to get your hair wet to see all the beautiful aquatic life. Next time, or if you go tell me all about it!


Mexican Color


mexican plant life

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