Unclaimed Baggage and Coming Back Home: Part 2

This is what happens to your lost luggage!

Have you ever wondered what happens to your lost or unclaimed baggage?

For the first part of my trip around my old stomping grounds in North Alabama with Unclaimed Baggage click here! 

After a beautiful morning on the river we packed up and went over to Unclaimed Baggage’s huge retail facility. 

Growing up less than a half hour away from Unclaimed Baggage, I thought I knew more or less how it worked. But it’s so much more detailed than you’d think! Cayla and Brenda did an amazing job of walking us through how they process all the lost, mishandled, and unclaimed baggage they receive from airlines and bus lines across the country.

Photo by Matt Pittman

Approximately 99.5% of airline customers’ bags make it to their intended destination, but that other .5% goes through a months-long process. The airline first tries to get it back to its owner, and in most cases they are successful! But for that other small percentage, a claim is paid to the owner, and the baggage itself gets sold to Unclaimed Baggage. 

Once UB has its hands on it their expert processors  sort through it all, and all sellable clothes and accessories are laundered and/or dry cleaned. Some items are donated, and some (think used toiletries) are trashed. Only the best makes it out to the retail floor!

This is what happens to your lost and unclaimed baggage!
Photo by Matt Pittman

Unclaimed Baggage was merely a local treasure until 1995 when it was featured on Oprah, and since then it has become a travel destination.

One of the things I learned about Unclaimed Baggage that makes me love it even more is how big of a steward of the community they are. They donate lots and lots of bags, unused toiletries, and merchandise not designated for the retail floor. 

So you want to know about my haul, right? 

After LOTS and lots of deliberation and help from the awesome guys at the electronics counter I purchased my new carry everywhere camera! This Olympus OM-D E-M10II does replace my beloved Nikon D7000, but it is a LOT smaller and lighter, making it perfect for throwing in my purse. I got it used, but in great shape with a GREAT lens for less than I would have been able to buy it used on eBay, which is saying something.

My other awesome purchase was this pair of incredibly cute Dolce and Gabbana sunglasses. Millennial pink with gold??? Yes, please. 

 

Like I showed in the first post, there is so much in northeast Alabama to see and do during your trip, but I hope next time you’re up that way you’ll stop in at Unclaimed Baggage! They know how to do southern hospitality right! 

This is what happens to your lost luggage!
Photo by Matt Pittman

Thank you Unclaimed Baggage for the great shopping trip and tour around northeast Alabama!

All of the photos on this post are by Matt Pittman, Unclaimed Baggage’s awesome content marketing manager. Check out some of his great work at his website, http://www.matt-pittman.com/

Unclaimed Baggage and Coming Back Home: Part 1

Why you need to visit Northeast Alabama this summer

Last month after a fantastic three days of learning more about the travel writing community at TBEX, I was invited by Unclaimed Baggage to come spend a day and a half in northeast Alabama exploring the beautiful area and learning all about how Unclaimed Baggage works. 

(Click here if you want to read my story about our day at Unclaimed Baggage!)

One of the fun things about this particular trip is that it was really a trip through my own backyard; I grew up 20 minutes away from Scottsboro, where Unclaimed Baggage resides. 

The beauty of northeast Alabama is the of kind people should write about much more often. The foothills of Appalachia intertwine with the wide Tennessee River, dammed up in the 1930s to bring electricity to the area and creating the happy byproduct of a large lake swimming with bass and boaters.  

Tiny mountain towns like Mentone and Valley Head have become artisan enclaves, while state parks and national preserves have ensured the region’s rare, precious, and in some cases, endangered species of flora and fauna. 

Alabama has a range of beauty, from the sugar sand shores of the Gulf to river-laced shoals, but this little corner of it will always have my heart. 

We were treated to lunch at the Wildflower Cafe (tomato pie, y’all) before a quick stop in a Kamama art gallery, incidentally where my sister-in-law’s father-in-law’s (John Miller) beautiful abstract paintings are sold! 

Wildflower Cafe in Mentone Alabama

Tomato Pie from the Wildflower Cafe in Mentone Alabama
Tomato Pie

An unimpressive picture of three impressive paintings by John Miller

Next we drove up the mountain a little bit to stop in on Valinda Miracle at Miracle Pottery in Valley Head. She shared with us her incredible story while she did a quick pot-throwing demonstration. 

Photo by Matt Pittman

More than thirty years ago Valinda was in a devastating car wreck, not only nearly killing her, but causing severe damage to her short-term memory function. No longer able to continue her previous career of commercial real estate, she threw herself into art. In pottery she found not only calm and focus, but also a form of creative expression she could do without worrying about her memory loss—the wheel keeps going ’round and ’round. 

Today Valinda and her husband sell her beautiful stoneware all over the world, and her injuries have healed far beyond where her doctors ever said they would. 

A piece Valinda made depicting the artist coming out of her. (Photo by Matt Pittman)

Next it was time to go chasing waterfalls! We went to DeSoto Falls in DeSoto State Park and Little River Falls in the Little River Canyon National Preserve. 

 

After dinner at the Preserve’s lodge we took the drive back down from the mountains to Scottsboro for a night on the river at Goose Pond Colony. It was already dark by the time we got there, but that didn’t stop me from going down to the water and trying my hand at a few long exposure shots. I didn’t have my tripod, so my only option was setting it on the dock. 

I held the shutter open while I moved the camera in front of the moon in this heart shape <3
Moonflare?
A car moving across the causeway

The next morning I woke up early to catch the sun’s earliest rays, and while the direction of my cabin (facing west over the water) was not conducive to a stunning sunrise shot, I did get to catch the perfect pastels of this temperate Spring morning. 

A Grey Heron was out on the dock with me the entire time, one eye on my and one on the large fish swimming lazily in the shadow of the pier. 

The fresh air and calming ambiance of the wide, lazy river woke me up gradually, but more completely than a cup of coffee ever could, and by 7 it was time to load up in the van and head over to Unclaimed Baggage. 

Read the rest of my story in Part 2!

Thank you to Unclaimed Baggage for hosting our TBEX group!

This Moment

April Stanley Photography

This picture. This moment. 

This moment was when any doubt I’d ever had about marrying my husband James vanished. 
 
This is the moment he began his vows to me—the vows that hang framed beside our bed today. He didn’t know it yet, but he and I had written the same first line in those vows. He would share in my laughter a minute later when I began reading my own vows to him.
 
April Stanley Photography
 
This moment four years ago today, our souls became irrevocably intwined. 
 
God made us for that moment, and for every one we’ve experienced since then. 
 
Four years really isn’t very many, certainly not compared to the 36 years my parents were married, or the 41 his parents were. But dang, this last year has felt like a lifetime. Through the sorrow of losing our dads we’ve leaned on each other and learned even more about the ties that will bind us together forever on earth and in heaven. 
 
Making my marriage vows to James Michael Reuben BeShears is the smartest thing I’ve ever done, and working every day to fulfill them is the most joyful task I can imagine. 
 
Happy Anniversary, Buck. I think you’re the coolest.  

What I read in April – Back on the Bookshelf

What I read in April 2017

Last month was relatively good for reading for me… 7 books! There was quite a range of different genres, which is always fun and mind-broadening. 

Without further ado, here is what I read in April:

All the Light We Cannot See

Completed: 4/7/17
Format: Hardback from the Library

Just wow… There’s a reason this Pulitzer Prize winner has been on top of everyone’s to-read list for the last year. 

This beautiful story follows two young people during WWII, a blind French girl whose father leaves her with an incredible secret, and a brilliant German boy forced to work for the Nazis. They are destined to meet near the very end of the war. 

Very beautifully written, heart breaking, and just wonderful. Exceptional historical fiction that made me want to put Anthony Doerr’s other novel on my reading list.

Recommended for: everyone. 

The Princess Diarist 

The Princess Diarist - one of the 7 books I read in April!

Completed: 4/11/17
Format: Hardback from Library

Y’all, Carrie Fisher was an absolutely hilarious person. This book, tragically her last, is at times painful, raunchy, and awkward, but it’s always funny. 

The bits and pieces of Carrie’s diary from when she first began playing the role of Princess Leia for the very first Star Wars are interspersed between the stories of how she and Harrison Ford’s fling during filming of Episode IV. There is some gorgeous and haunting poetry, shocking stories, and of course, lots of laughs. 

Recommended for: Star Wars fans who aren’t afraid of some dark, witty humor.

A Place Called Freedom

A Place Called Freedom - one of the 7 books I read in April!

Completed: 4/17/17
Format: Hardback from the Library

Ken Follett is one my very favorite authors. His historical fiction is all just fantastic. Last year I read 4 of his books (all of them are pretty dang large), and this one is probably my fifth favorite of the ones I’ve read. While I really enjoyed it, you can tell it’s one of his earlier stories. The characters are good, but not quite as fully developed as in Pillars of the Earth or The Century Trilogy.

It was still worth my time, though. I just love Ken Follet.

Recommended for: Fans of Outlander 😉

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking - one of the seven books I read in April!

Completed: 4/18/17
Format: Audiobook through Overdrive

Malcolm Gladwell is just so good. Even though this book is almost 13 years old, it’s just chock full of incredible information and fun ways to hack your brain. Think-slicing is the fascinating way we take “thin slices” of information and quickly make decisions without knowing we’ve even had the first thought. 

Every human does it without realizing, and it’s a very important to keeping us alive while we move in the world, but it can also create implicit biases that hamper us and harm others. 

Recommended for fans of Freakonomics and other behavioral science type books.

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers 

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers - one of the 7 books I read in April

Completed: 4/24/17
Format: Audiobook through Overdrive

Who knew a book about what’s done with our bodies after we die could be so hilarious? I had heard as much about Stiff, but as someone who has lost two close family members this year, I was still a little nervous about so bluntly facing this aspect of death. 

I’m actually glad I read this book. There was something about Roach’s matter of fact, humorous approach that reminded me how our bodies are merely the shells for our souls. 

From crash test dummies to important sources of training for future doctors, bodies donated to science have incredible lives after their inhabitants are gone. 

Recommended for: Dark humor lovers and sciency-types. 

Paper: Paging Through History

Paper: Paging Through History - One of the 7 books I read in April

Completed: 4/26/17
Format: Hardback from the Library

This is when you get to learn just how much of a nerd I really am. This is a book about paper, but really it’s a book about civilization and technology. All throughout the book Kurlanksy makes the argument that technology doesn’t create change in a society, society creates the demand for new technologies.

A little dry at times, but ultimately very interesting for the budding sociologist in me. 

Recommended for: nerds like this girl.

Orphan Train 

Orphan Train - one of the 7 books I read in April 2017

Completed: 4/27/17
Format: Paperback from the Library

After the denseness that was Paper, I was glad I had something a little lighter like Orphan TrainIt’s the fictional story drawn from the real history of sending American orphans west on trains to serve as “adopted children” to families in the early 20th century. Many of these orphans were mistreated and even abused by their new “families.”

Orphan Train wasn’t always easy and uplifting, but it was a good, relatively quick read!

Recommended for: historical fictionites.

Well, that’s all of what I read in April! What should I queue up next?

 

Gingham Maxi Dress

Gingham maxi dress

This post about my favorite new Gingham Maxi Dress contains affiliate links 🙂 

Gingham maxi dress

After looking for an affordable maxi dress for just about two months I finally found this PERFECT one through eShakti

At first I was skeptical of eShakti… Could they really make a high quality dress to my measurements? 

The answer is (thankfully!) a RESOUNDING yes! 

Gingham maxi dress

After falling in love with J.Crew’s gingham maxi dress at the beginning of the season I began my search for one that was 1. within my budget, and 2. had thicker straps so I could wear it with a regular bra. 

I found this one on eShakti, and to my great relief, it is super simple to add on the thicker straps and have it cut to my exact measurements for only $9.95 above the regular price. 

Gingham maxi dress

Not only that, because I signed up for their email list I got an extra amount bumped off… In total I paid only about $40 for this custom dress—$120 LESS than the J.Crew version. This budget babe going to call that a big win. 

 

What I Read in March – Back on the Bookshelf

Here is what I couldn't put down in March!

Here's what I couldn't put down in March!

Due to all the travel we did at the end of February and beginning of March I didn’t get to read as much as I wanted to during my birthday month, but I’m still ahead of my 60-books-in-2017 goal… but just barely! I have a stack of good books to read in the month ahead, and will get back on schedule soon. 

Here’s what I read in March!

Next: The Future Just Happened

Completed 3/11/17 
Format: eBook through OverDrive

Written by Michael Lewis in 2001, right in the middle of the “dotcom bubble” bursting, this book went through some of the ways the internet was being utilized by younger generations (now who we would consider the oldest millennials). This was right in the middle of when people were losing faith in the internet as something that could revolutionize society as we know it. 

But Lewis didn’t lose faith, and you can see that in the book. His narrative nonfiction style is one of my favorite genres and I can’t wait to read more of his books, including Moneyball, The Big Short, and the New New Thing.

Recommended for Michael Lewis fans and people enjoy narrative nonfiction. 

Bringing Down the House

Completed 3/13/2017
Format: Paperback

Did you ever watch the movie 21 with Kevin Spacey about the MIT kids who counted cards at Blackjack and made a huge run on Vegas before (spoiler alert!) getting busted? This is the nonfiction book that tells that story in even more gripping detail!

Bringing Down the House was recommended to me by my good friend Blake, who said it was one of his favorite books, and I thoroughly enjoyed it!

Recommended for people who enjoy narrative nonfiction and those who have a slight interest in gambling 😉 

Elizabeth Renaissance Prince

Completed 3/30/17
Format: Paperback

This is the book I bought at Hatchard’s on Piccadilly! I’m not going to lie, it was dense, but a very interesting look at how Queen Elizabeth I saw herself.  In the middle of the Renaissance, and immediately after her Catholic sister’s “bloody” reign. As only the second queen regnant in British history, Elizabeth found herself in a highly precarious position. She knew that as a woman she’d be constantly questioned, and famously refused to marry so that her power could never be undermined by her husband. 

That didn’t mean she never flirted though… According to this biography she used the complicated language of courting and courtly love to get what she wanted from diplomats and the leaders of other countries. 

Recommended for those who want to know more about Queen Elizabeth I… A lot more!

The Book Thief

Completed 3/31/17
Format: Audiobook

Oh my goodness. So good. So sad. Set in Germany during WWII it follows the story of a young girl who moves in with foster parents in a new city and begins stealing books… before she can even read. 

Her new Papa teaches her how to read, and survive. 

It’s hard to call this book a happy one, but it was beautifully told and brought me to tears several times. 

Recommended for dang near everyone. Just have tissues ready.

So… What should I read next? I’m excited about the stack I have on my bedside table right now!

London Literary Tour in an Afternoon

Book Lovers: Follow along an afternoon literary tour of central London!

 

Book Lovers: Follow along an afternoon literary tour of central London!

In a city as old as and historically and culturally rich as London it should come as no surprise that it is also one of the densest literary destinations in the world. 

If you’re a reader you can almost certainly find something in London to suit your fancy. 

Some of it is free, and some locations will set you back several quid. During our trip we spent an afternoon chasing this book lover’s whimsy, and it was so much fun! This London literary tour only took a few hours and kept us around central London, so it’s easy for a quick trip.

The British Library

Just wow. This was one of the most undersold, but most exciting (for this book nerd and her equally nerdy husband) museums we experienced in London. 

From the Magna Carta to Jane Austen’s glasses to lyrics scrawled on a loose piece of paper by John Lennon to the world’s oldest known Bible, this small museum just inside the unimpressive brick British Library a five minute walk from Kings Cross/St. Pancras station. 

Sup, Beowulf manuscript. (Wikipedia Commons)

After you’re done gawking at the beautiful foundations of the English written word pop into the library’s cafe for locally roasted coffee and a pastry. My lemon tart was fantastic! We enjoyed our snack in the shadow of this huge bookcase, which kind of took my breath away. 

There were no pictures allowed in the museum, but believe me when I say it’s worth the trip if you’re a reader. Like all public British museums, it is free but has a great gift shop 🙂 

Visit Platform 9 3/4s at Kings Cross Station

Book Lovers: Follow along an afternoon literary tour of central London!

(Oh hey, I’m wearing my favorite travel shoes! Learn more about them here.)

Harry Potter is one of those magical stories (pun fully intended) that is simultaneously universal and extremely personal for the people who have read and loved it. 

It is truly difficult to find a person between the ages of 13 and 35 who hasn’t read the seven books in the series, and even rarer to find someone who has read it and didn’t love it. 

Platform 9 3/4s captures a little bit of that magic, and it’s evident that every person who works there is 100% bought into it. 

It was a little piece of the fictional Harry Potter World tucked into a very real London. 

We stood in line for about 20 minutes with lots of other fans waiting our turn for the perfect picture. 

I’m a sucker for a picture, so we bought the professional ones, as well as having the opportunity to take our own. Then we ambled around the gift shop (where they conveniently funnel you after you have your picture taken). James bought me this beautiful gold-plated silver time turner 😍

Book Lovers: Follow along an afternoon literary tour of central London!

Overall, this was definitely worth the time, but particularly if you’re already going through Kings Cross/St. Pancras station during your travels!

Sherlock Holmes and John Watson’s Apartment at 221B Baker Street 

Book Lovers: Follow along an afternoon literary tour of central London!

Next stop on our London literary tour was the most famous address in the world! From Kings Cross jump on the Underground and take either the Circle, Hammersmith & City, or Metropolitan lines over to the Baker Street Station. The whole area embraces the fictional consulting detective, from the murals in the tube station to the dry cleaner across the street from where the Sherlock Holmes museum resides. 

Book Lovers: Follow along an afternoon literary tour of central London!

We didn’t actually drop the £15 per person that the actual museum costs, but we did go into the good shop right next door. All the employees are wearing period garb, and there are some really cute souvenirs and interesting Sherlock pieces you likely can’t find anywhere else in London. 

Book Lovers: Follow along an afternoon literary tour of central London!

PS, you’ll actually have to purchase your ticket in the gift shop before you go next door to enter the museum. 

Hatchard’s Bookstore – Piccadilly Circus

Book Lovers: Follow along an afternoon literary tour of central London!

From the Baker Street Station get back on the tube and get on the Bakerloo Line down to Piccadilly Circus. 

Now, the evening we spent walking around Piccadilly Circus was probably the only time in London I felt a little wary because of the crush of tourists. There’s so much to see in the area and it’s a very popular place for some very intense shopping. 

(I got some great teas from Fortnum and Mason, whose big main store is also in Piccadilly Circus!) 

You won’t find any clowns or talented elephants here, though! It’s called a circus because of its circular shape. It’s kind of an equivalent to Times Square, with lots of souvenir shops, talented street performers, and bright electric signs. 

But we trekked down Piccadilly to Hatchard’s Bookstore, the oldest bookstore in the UK.

Book Lovers: Follow along an afternoon literary tour of central London!

It opened in 1797, meaning they’ve been selling books in this spot for nearly 220 years! I picked up one book, but only because I didn’t have room in my luggage for all the ones I wanted to buy…. There are FIVE stories of books! 

Book Lovers: Follow along on an afternoon central London literary tour!

 

For us this was the end of our afternoon London literary tour, but there are so many other spots to see! You can probably spend an entire London trip just visiting the haunts of British writers and settings they wrote into their books. 

Buzzfeed has some more ideas 🙂

OR if you’re really ambitious, check out this gorgeous typographical map of London I found!

Book Lovers: Follow along on an afternoon central London literary tour!

Loosen them Shoulders Up, Pour it Up, Let’s Work!

This off the shoulder look is great for Spring 2017!

This off the shoulder look is great for Spring 2017!

Shirt (similar)//Pants//Shoes//Sunglasses//Earrings//Necklace (similar)

Girl, you gotta relax!

I love how much I’ve been seeing these off the shoulder tops around as we’re quickly moving into Spring. 

Most of the tops I’ve have been either 100% cotton or silk, which means they’ll be nice and cool when the weather starts heating up 🙂 

This off the shoulder look is great for Spring 2017!

I styled these with another amazing shoe find. This is my first go at ankle straps, and I’m a little in love. This blush color is right on trend and the strappy ankle wraps plus the low block heel means they were comfortable all day long. 

But I’m going to need someone to teach me how to tie the bows in the back… I couldn’t figure out how to do it by myself! 

Can you believe March is almost gone already?! But that’s ok because there’s lots of fun content being lined up for this Spring and Summer! 

This off the shoulder look is great for Spring 2017!

Speaking of Summer, how fun are these sunglasses? They are SO mirrored I had a hard time getting a shot of them without it being 100% a reflection of my camera (and sweet photographer/husband). I picked them up at Nordstrom Rack last week and I know I’ll be wearing them quite a bit this summer in addition to my normal rotation of RayBans. 

Keep Calm and Bagpipe On

Keep Calm and Bagpipe On

Keep Calm and Bagpipe On

2017 in Photos Day 84

This Bagpiper was on Westminster bridge every day while we were in London, and I could help but think of him when the news began spreading about the terror attack at the Palace of Westminster last week. 

Was he safe? Did he witness the incident? Was he one of the Londoners who helped pull others to safety as the madman was plowing through the crowds of tourists and workgoers? 

I do know one thing, Britons are not easily budged. Keep Calm and Carry On is more than a slogan, it is a reality that was hammered into their fibre over centuries of defending the islands we now call the United Kingdom. 

Immediately after the attacks I began seeing people I know in the UK say the only way to respond was to keep going about their business. One person even commented the Underground was just as busy on the way home that day as it ever was. 

What a message to the people who would do harm! It’s hard to terrorize a group who refused to submit to terror. 

I learned this afternoon that the dear bagpiper is still out there on Westminster Bridge today. 

Keep Calm and Bagpipe on, my friend. 

My Favorite Sneakers for Adding Whimsy to Your Wardrobe

My favorite sneakers for adding some whimsey to your wardrobe!

My husband thinks my love of shoes… especially sneakers… has gone too far.

He couldn’t be more wrong! To me they make or break an outfit, and if I can get a quality pair of stylish shoes I’m not going to hold back, no siree. 

I don’t buy cheap shoes, as a rule, but finding nice shoes on sale for cheap prices doesn’t count, mk? 

I’m also SO glad sneakers are in style right now, and I hope they don’t go ANYWHERE. As a 6 foot tall woman I don’t always love wearing heels, and as someone with high arches that NEED support if I’m going to be walking even a moderate amount, I am loving it even more. 

Here are a few of my favorites

My favorite sneakers for adding some whimsey to your wardrobe!

  1. Cole Haan Wingtip Oxford in Cabernet Suede (Waterproof)
  2. Adidas Superstars in Gold
  3. Børn Bayne leather sneakers
  4. Sparkle Superga 
  5. Sperry Seacoast Floral Sneakers

I already own the top three pairs, and am working on the last two 😉 See how I styled them below:

^On my recent trip to SF!

^Out to brunch with girlfriends!