Bonus Post: I Got to Ride in a Military Plane

My long-time readers will have seen other posts about my adventures in military-spouse life. It’s hard a lot of the time, but sometimes it’s really, really cool, and today was one of those days.

I completed a class/networking event on the base we’re at called HeartLink, and as a reward for attending, I got the opportunity to go for a ride in a C-130 military cargo plane. How could I possibly say no to that?

We met at the Airlift Squadron’s office (it’s probably called something else; if you’re here for exacting military jargon you are sadly mistaken; I do my best but that’s about it), and I settled into a conference room with a taxidermied giraffe in it.

“Holy crap, that’s a giraffe!” I said as I sat down.

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Oh, did you think I was joking?
“Oh yeah, that’s Limpopo,” remarked the man in the flight suit who was setting up the projector. “The last time I saw him was at a base in Texas.”

“So he’s…a traveling…giraffe?”

“Yep. It was cool to see him here.”

I was truly down the rabbit-hole now. Or, giraffe hole. Giraffes don’t dig holes. Moving on.

The rest of the spouses going on the flight filtered in, and we were treated to a briefing about all the cool stuff the squadron does, how all the other units (that our spouses are in) help this squadron and others out, and someone very important told us, “When they open the back hatch, do not unbuckle.”

We all exchanged a look. We’re opening hatches on this flight?

The Base Commander’s wife got up and told us, with a very loud, high-pitched laugh, that she wasn’t on the list to go with us on the flight, and that she ‘had an opportunity to fly back in spring, so ENJOY! HAHAHAHAHAHA.’

Oh lordt.

We bid farewell to Limpopo and headed out to the flightline, where there was a big fat plane waiting for us.

See? It’s just ponderous.

We got to walk all around it (although not under the propellers, as apparently those might turn on their own without notice…), and then we went around to the aforementioned back hatch for a safety briefing, I assumed to make sure none of us broke this very expensive aircraft or our necks.

The Load Master giving us the safety briefing pulled out a green pouch and said, “If we happen to need oxygen, it’s not like on a commercial flight. You’re going to open this green pouch, pull out this plastic bag, and put it over your head.

“Um, I’ve heard that’s the opposite of what I want to do if I’m trying to breathe.”

“It sounds counterintuitive, but oxygen will start flowing as soon as you open it up, so don’t worry.”

“…what if it doesn’t???” One nervous lady asked.

“Oh, we’ll notice, and we’ll be right on top of you getting it fixed. I PROMISE, we’re not gonna let anyone die on this flight.”

I looked around at the crowd and noticed that we had a pretty even mix of ‘reassured’ and ‘what have we gotten ourselves into’ going on. But the dudes in the flight suits just look so darned trustworthy! They’ve all got these big cheese-eating grins, and they shake your hand with their gigantic bear-paw-looking ones and say ‘Hi I’m Chad,’ and ‘I promise we won’t let you die on this flight,’ and you kinda have to feel better, because clearly the guys working the airplane are not nervous – so why should we feel that way?

So we got onto the plane and settled into some seats lined with red canvas, our backs resting against more red canvas in the form of cargo netting.

“How do I work this seat belt?” One lady asked.

“Oh, if it the buckle doesn’t work, just tie it in a knot,” said one of the crew members, laughing at his own joke. He went on to show her how it connected, saying, “We’ve transported Army guys before, and they couldn’t work the seat belt, so they just -” [makes whooshing noise while gesturing as if tying a knot] “- tied the thing together and said, ‘Yeah, I’m good!'”

They gave us presents for the flight (a pair of earplugs and a barf bag), and one of the guys passed out gum and mints to help our ears pop. Honestly, I’ve gotten worse service on Spirit Air; these guys are pretty good.

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I like how it tells us not to be embarrassed if we need to hurl.
Just like on a commercial flight, we waited a while before we took off. Unlike a commercial flight, we actually got to see the crew running around and doing stuff while we waited.

After a bit, the propellers started turning, and we all put in our earplugs. Trust me, they were necessary – a C-130 is a very, very loud plane, and there’s no sound insulation on the inside, so we heard the full effect of those gigantic engines.

We started to taxi out to the runway, and someone opened the back hatch. This type of plane has a gigantic opening on the tail, to put in cargo and people and whatever. So they opened it partway, and one of the load masters laid down on his stomach with his head hanging out of the plane.

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“Wait,” I asked my friend. “Is he…helping the plane back up???”

“I guess these things don’t come with backup cameras,” my friend chuckled.

Sure enough, the guy hanging off the back of the plane was talking on his headset and gesturing occasionally, helping guide the plane through backing up so it could get turned around properly. Later on, my husband would confirm that not only was that guy telling the pilot where he needed to go to back up, but there were probably people standing on the ground helping with this process too. Considering the sheer size of the plane, it must feel like you’re having to parallel park a double-wide trailer. A multi-million-dollar double-wide trailer. No pressure.

But they managed it with pinpoint precision, and in a few minutes the engines got even louder, and we took off over the base and into the Germany countryside.

You guys.

It was so beautiful.

We flew really low, so we could see all the gorgeous scenery. Bridges, foggy valleys, forests all turning orange for fall, little farmhouses tucked into their little fields – we saw all of it through the windows, and it was absolutely stunning. Once we got off the ground, the crew let us unbuckle and walk around the plane. Over the roar, we could ask them questions about the plane, their jobs, etc.

We got to see the cockpit:

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Man, that’s a lot of buttons.
And then they had us sit down and buckle up again. A couple of dudes put on helmets with big goggles, and one guy strapped himself into a jump seat that was bolted to the wall of the plane near the back.

And then they opened the hatch.

WHAT.

They literally opened up the back of the plane while we were flying! It was so cool! And also terrifying, because the two guys wearing helmets were just standing back there (with cables hooking them to the plane) like they were not 1,500 feet over Germany right then. One of them came around and took the phones of those of us who offered them, and zipped them into the pockets of his flight suit before returning to the open hatch to take pics for us. Despite the terrifying mental image of all our phones streaming out over Rheinland-Pfalz like so many Luftballoons, it was SO COOL that they were taking pictures for us, mainly because that meant I didn’t have to be near the car-sized opening on the back of a plane that was in the air at the time.

Both guys sat down on the back hatch like they were chilling out at a tailgate party, knees pulled up and facing the open sky. We all watched them in awe; they handled it like they do this every day…which they probably do. These guys are cool AF.

 

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Pictured: Cool AF.
None of our phones left the plane without us, and as they passed them back to their owners, one of the crew came around with a case of ginger ale for anyone who wanted it. A few people did, but I didn’t see any barf bags come out, so hooray for us.

As we were getting ready to land, the pilot did make several sharp turns to get us facing the right way, which is the one part of the flight that was actually a little scary. For a big giant hippo-plane, that thing could turn, and turn it did. The ground and sky dipped in and out of the windows, I grabbed onto the cargo netting, and we all wondered if the pilot just thought the flight had gone a little too smoothly for us.

The landing was excellent, and we all thanked the crew and wobbled our way off the plane. Oh yeah, apparently walking around on a plane like that makes you feel a little drunk when you get onto solid ground again, so that’s fun.

Am I glad I did that? Oh. Hells. Yes. That was a once-in-a-lifetime trip, and I am so glad that I took the opportunity. If you get the chance to do something awesome, you don’t sit around and risk it passing you by – you jump at that, and you get on that plane, and you hold onto the cargo netting and pray you don’t barf or have to stick your head in a plastic bag that allegedly helps you breathe.

Being a military spouse is really hard sometimes. But other times, it is a truly epic adventure that I’m continually grateful for.

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Product Review: Skin Food Wash-Off Rice Mask

Hallo from Germany, Fledglings! That’s right, my husband, dogs, and I have relocated to Deutschland for his work, and I fully intend to continue the blog from here – hopefully with some excellent French and German skin products to review for you, in addition to my K-beauty first love. If the posting time is a little different, sorry about that; I’ll do my best to adjust for the time difference and still get a blog to you every other week for your Saturday-morning reading enjoyment.

Okay, housekeeping done! Let’s talk about this mask, because it needs discussing. Most Asian beauty aficionados know about the Skin Food brand, but I’d never tried their products. I was worried this one would be too mild to have an impact on my skin – or worse, too rich and cause a breakout.

When you open the jar, the mask is kind of the consistency of rice porridge that’s been in the fridge. ‘Cool,’ I thought, ‘I’ve heard rice is good for the skin.’ It is a little bit funky in the texture department once you put it on your hands, not gonna lie. It’s not gritty like an exfoliating mask, but it’s definitely not smooth either. Again, think porridge, and you’ve got a good idea of how it feels.

The smell is really mild, which is fitting for something as simple and nourishing as a rice mask. I have to wonder why K-beauty products are either ‘mostly unscented’ or ‘holy crap my face is perfume.’ There doesn’t seem to be a middle ground here. This mask is definitely one of the ‘mostly unscented’ ones, which I love.

So, how’d it work? I know that’s why you’re here, but I’ve strung you along with consistency descriptions. Bad Bird.

Short answer: it’s like a hug for your face in a jar.

Longer, less-weird answer: this is the most soothing mask I’ve ever used, and y’all know I love to mask. Since it’s a wash-off, I use it in the shower, after my cleansers. Rinse my face, smear on a generous layer, then leave it to sit as I finish my shower. It has a little bit of an exfoliating property, but mostly it’s been great for calming and soothing my summer/travel-stressed skin. After I dry off and finish my skin routine, my face feels cooler and less inflamed. It even calms down some of the redness I have issues with on occasion.

Pro Tip: put the Skin Food mask on your neck as well. You should put all your normal skin products on your neck as well as your face, but this one feels especially nice.

I would absolutely buy this again, especially in the summer. If your skin, like mine, just needs to calm the heck down sometimes, this is a good way to achieve that. It would be great for almost any skin type, and it fits really nicely into a simple or complex skincare regimen. Definitely add the Skin Food Wash-Off Rice Mask to your beauty shopping list.

Product Review: Pyunkang Yul Mist Toner

There’s something about the heat of summer that calls for a really good toner. Maybe it’s because my skin is so oily that I have to use some really deep cleansers this time of year, so my skin’s pH is always in need of some balance. Or maybe it’s because I have to use such light moisturizers to keep from looking like a frosted sheet cake, so that pre-moisturizing spritz helps the lighter stuff stay effective but not heavy.Either way, PinkSeoul always delivers in the summer months with light and refreshing goodies, and this toner is no exception.Pyunkang Yul Mist Toner (which I got in my subscription box but the linked site, OhLolly, looks like I’m gonna be on there a lot more in the future) can do double duty as a toner and as an as-needed face mist. Hello summer travel essential. It’s botanical-based and is made for skin that gets hot, red, or inflamed easily, so basically it was made for me – thanks guys. This toner doesn’t really have a scent at all, so if you’re sensitive to fragrances, this might be a good product to try out. The best part about it for me is how quickly it absorbs – it soaks right in, but my skin feels a little softer and more hydrated, not dried out like some spray toners will do. Since it dries so readily, it’s also nice and cooling on summer skin. Remember that toner is supposed to balance your skin’s pH after cleansing, so you don’t need anything alcohol-based that’s going to strip your skin. If you’re cleansing properly, you don’t need to remove anything else after that step.I’m planning on taking this mist on the plane with me when we fly out in a couple weeks – assuming I can make it fit in my quart-sized bag. (#SkinCareProbs) Plane air is awful for skin. I just learned that it’s heavily filtered, so it’s not germy air, but it is really, really dry, so I’m going to try and bring a sheet mask and some face mist to keep from looking as haggard as I’ll feel when we finally get there. It might be too big of a bottle, but if so I’ll take one of my other mists because you gotta hydrate when you’re traveling. That’s the point I’m trying to make here.If your skin gets really ‘hot’ in the summer, with redness, oil, and inflammation, I hope you’ll give Pyunkang Yul Mist Toner a try. And if you’ve tried anything else from the Pyunkang Yul line, let me know what you think of it in comments! I might review some more of their products in the future.

Product Review: Tatcha Dual-Cleanse System


If you’re just joining the blog, you’ll need to know that I have oily skin and really visible pores, especially on my nose. Most of my blogging about skin care involves my quest for something to effectively clean my skin and keep my shine to a minimum. You should also know that I’m pretty obsessed with the Tatcha skin care line. Vicki Tsai is an Asian-American businesswoman who makes absolutely amazing skin care products, and is also generally a wonderful person whom you should follow on Snapchat at ‘tatchabeauty.’

And yet, through my year+ of obsession with her products, and my previous reviews of them, I haven’t reviewed the foundation of her skin care line: the dual-cleanse system.

The first thing I noticed about this system compared to a Korean-style double-cleanse, is that Tatcha’s doesn’t require a toner afterward. The products are carefully pH-balanced, so that you can skip right to your essence and other treatments. These are expensive products, so the fact that you can literally remove a step in your skin routine helps offset that a little.

The first time I used the rice enzyme powder, I was in Hawaii last year, and I was immediately surprised by how great my nose pores looked after using it. Normally I have quite a lot of debris in my skin, no matter how religiously I wash and exfoliate, and since I just can’t stop picking at my skin (I’m trying, I’m trying), I’d end up trying to smoosh all the debris out of my pores semi-regularly, irritating my skin and sometimes causing a breakout in the process. Counterproductive, much?

Not so with this cleanser! It’s a powder that you add water to and work it into a foam. When you wash with it, those super-fine particles get right up in those nasty pores and clear them out. It also removes a very small layer of dead skin, without irritating the new skin underneath. To say I was impressed would be an understatement. My skin feels soft and renewed, and my pores have never looked cleaner.

You can use any oil cleanser you want with the rice powder cleanser, but if you use two products that are designed to work with each other, you’re likely to get better results, and that goes for any skin care line. Enter the Camellia Cleansing Oil. I only use oil cleanser at night, because of my skin type, but some people may want to use it in the mornings as well. It’s totally up to you. This cleanser is absolutely fantastic at removing makeup. It just melts it all off – waterproof, setting spray, sunscreen, all of it just dissolves when it meets this oil cleanser. Then, by virtue of some kind of magic Tatcha uses, the oil completely emulsifies in water and rinses off your skin. No residue, no heavy feeling, nothing – it’s just gone! That almost never happens with me and oil cleansers, so I was duly impressed. Following up with the rice enzyme powder leaves my skin feeling completely clean and smooth, and completely balanced, without any lingering oil or dry tightness hanging about.

To recap, this system works the same way as your K-beauty dual cleanse, with slight modifications:

  • Dry hands/Dry face, massage the oil cleanser on
  • Rinse
  • Wet hands/Wet face, work rice enzyme powder into a foam, massage onto skin
  • Rinse again, pat dry
  • No toner needed, skip straight to your essence, treatment, and moisturizer steps

I’ve seen such good results with this line, you guys. It’s worth every penny.

Speaking of pennies, if you’ve clicked my links you’ll have already found out that Tatcha products are definitely more expensive than a lot of what I review on here. Much as I’d like to disagree with the price, I really can’t argue too strenuously, for a couple of reasons: 1) It works SO WELL, and 2) You get a LOT of product in one order. I got my current round of Tatcha double-cleanse about a month ago, and I’ve hardly made a dent in it. I’m still trying to finish up an in-use bottle of oil cleanser I got months ago – I thought I was running out, but it just keeps going. The thing about the high-quality products is that you use less of it, which means the same amount tends to last longer.

Now, don’t think I’m trying to say that all expensive products are better than all cheap ones – you KNOW my favorite eye cream costs $20. I’ve also tried samples of high-end products, only to get so-so results. It depends on the product and how it interacts with your skin. But as far as ‘expensive but worth it’ products go, this double-cleanse is absolutely worth the dollars. I’d say the full-sized versions could last me a good 4-ish months, not even lying, especially since I only use the oil cleanser at night.

If you’re still a little spooked by the cost, I get it – it is a lot of money up front. The way I got into it was by getting a travel-sized rice cleanser and taking it on a trial run (yep, Sephora carries it too). Hell, even that travel size lasted me two or three months. It’s legit.

I know it sounds like I’m getting paid by Vicki to hawk her wares, but I assure you that if I were getting paid to promote Tatcha, I’d just be moving to California to work with her directly, and my blog would probably look a lot less like a free WordPress account. This isn’t an ad, it’s literally just my favorite skin care line and the best cleanser I’ve ever used. I hope you try it out and are as amazed as I am.

BirdFashion Road Trip Essentials


I don’t know about your part of the world, but it certainly feels like summer here in Texas. What better time than now for a good old-fashioned road trip? It’s a summer staple in America; we have books and movies and songs about the event, and to my mind, it’s an excellent chance to experience something new without ever having to get in a TSA line.

I just got through with a wonderful road trip with my parents and sister. We drove from Texas to Massachusetts, and it was incredible. On this trip, I not only saw some gorgeous sights, ate amazing food, and talked to friendly people, but I was inspired to blog about what I wore and took with me that made my road trip even better. If you’re hitting the road this summer, here are some suggestions on what you can bring along to enjoy the journey just a little bit more.

  • Clothing that isn’t restrictive – It wouldn’t be a road trip without hours spent in the car, so your clothing choice is going to determine a lot of your comfort on this trip. Structured waistbands are probably not your friend here; opt for sundresses, maxi skirts, or leggings and tunic tops. Nobody looks good after ten hours in a packed car, so embrace it and get comfy! For undergarments, bust out your comfiest sports bra or t-shirt bra. You don’t need underwires trying to shank you while you’re napping against the car window. When you consider shoes, consider the weather, but have one pair of slides or flip-flops that you can wear while you’re actually in the car. Sitting for a long time makes your feet swell, so you need something you can kick off. You can pack your comfy or cute shoes in the trunk for sightseeing once you stop for the day.
  • Some way to be alone – This sounds counter-intuitive, since you’re going on a road trip to go somewhere *with people* right? But let’s be realistic here: after a couple days on the road, you’re gonna run out of things to talk about, or people’s normal habits are going to get annoying. You can create some privacy for yourself even when you’re crammed into a vehicle together, but it takes some preparation. If you like to read (and can do so without getting carsick), pack a novel or two to get lost in, or bring your Kindle. Does music soothe your soul? Bring an external charger for your phone and some comfortable earbuds so you can get your groove on without a dead phone ruining your day. Coloring books (like my personal favorite) or small craft projects are good options too, as long as you have plenty of sealable storage options for your supplies. Losing a 64-pack of colored pencils under the seats wouldn’t go over well with the driver.
  • A way to record the journey – You’re going to want to celebrate and remember this epic trip you’re taking, so bring along a way to memorialize it! Ditch the phone-camera and bring a legit video camera along if you have (or can borrow) one. Or if you want to travel light and aren’t going for an HD movie experience, keep your phone and post some good moments to Facebook Live or Snapchat so your friends can follow along. Of course, if you’re feeling lo-fi and a little artsy, you can always go for a journal or a sketchbook. Bonus with those last two: you never need to charge them.
  • Car-appropriate skin care – Long car rides to places with different elevations, weather, and allergens can do a number on your precious skin, and leave you looking like the road you came in on when you disembark. In addition to your regular morning and nighttime skin routines when you get to your AirBnB, consider an in-car skincare pack. You can use this for skin emergencies, or boredom emergencies (car spa party for the passengers?). Pack a small bag with moisturizing face mist, sheet masks, cleansing wipes, body lotion, and a travel-friendly refreshing eye cream. Depending on what your skin does in the car, you’ll have a chance to address it on the go without making a mess. Don’t forget to put that sunscreen on everyday!
  • A sense of adventure! – There is no such thing as a perfect road trip. You might get lost, have a flat, get into an argument with your car-mates, or find out when you get there that the art gallery you really wanted to see is closed for renovation. It’s disappointing, and it’s *completely* okay to feel bad when things go wrong. But road trips are about having an adventure, and those disappointments can either be just disappointing, or they can be part of the adventure. Getting lost may take you through countryside you wouldn’t have seen otherwise. That argument could end in one of those deep, soul-searching conversations you wouldn’t have had otherwise. Your favorite gallery might have been closed, but what else is in that town that might similarly blow your mind? I can’t guarantee you road-trip success, Fledglings, but I can say with some certainty that if you practice optimism and gratitude the whole way, it will be much easier to roll with any surprises that come your way, pleasant or not-so-much.

Safe travels! Comment with some photos or stories about your own road trips and what products you can’t leave home without.