Sunday, July 31, 2011

Feels Like Home


The soft breezes, the light lapping of the lake waves, the 73 degree air, sleeping in, sun shining. It just doesn't get much better than this. My family vacation spot in Grand Lake Stream, Maine hasn't changed much at all since we started coming here 26 years ago - except they do have a new bridge over the stream. The GLS Folk Art Festival is in full swing and we're getting ready to head down for day number two. Piles of friends and family are staying in four cabins by the lake with us and we're all having a great time. I forget sometimes about how lucky I am to be able to come here and just get away. Thanks for checking in!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Water, Water Everywhere


Going home to Maine always makes me think about water. Besides growing up close enough to smell the ocean and sail, I also spent my childhood walking in the woods with my Bumpa and drinking out of brooks and streams - just cupping the water with our hands. He used to tell us it was "special" water - tasting both sweet and having the minerals to make us strong. (As kids you always want to be strong for some reason.) The memories of these times have resonated with me as I have delved deeper into learning more about the current water issues of today.

To those of you living in places where water is not abundant, or maybe clean, you already know what a struggle it is to not have water when you want it. For the majority of us, who have access to a computer and a toilet, we have the luxury of not thinking about what 884 million people who lack access to clean water and sanitation in the world face everyday. It's startling to think about 1 in 8 people in the world not having this basic human need/right fulfilled everyday, let alone the financial, educational and economic impact this has on their lives. I won't go on and on, but if you are interested in learning more about the facts you can read more here.

Also, in an effort to start moving towards working in this sector I am trying to win a week's worth of Tweeting for an organization I love - water.org. If you have a Twitter account and two seconds I would appreciate your vote. Thanks for considering!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Possibilities

Have you ever read that book - The Five Love Languages? I think it's essential for anyone in a relationship - friendly or romantic. It breaks down the five basic ways people feel most loved by others. I won't get into it too much more but to say that my primary love language is giving and receiving gifts. Probably why I love to do the blog winner weekends so much! I am talking about this now because I got a great gift yesterday that I wanted to tell you about.
I have shared a couple of my other favorite gifts in the past, if you are new to the blog you can check out the posts here and here, and besides just liking to get gifts (who doesn't really), I love when they are perfect for me. When you feel like someone took time out to do something that they knew you would love, instead of my sometimes frazzled gift card solution on my way to the party - not hating on gift cards, I love them too - but you know what I mean.

Anyway, since I am leaving my job and my last day of work is today, my co-workers gave me a massage from my favorite masseuse, which is awesome, thanks so much for that! My boss also announced that they would be giving me 50,000 airline miles on any airline from our company credit card! (As you may recall, I recently counted up all of my frequent flier miles to see where I could go.) Now I have enough miles to go pretty much anywhere I want and the fun part is going to be figuring out just where that might be. Where would you go if you had a ticket to anywhere?

P.S. Not to be too cheesy, but I sort of feel like an unlimited plane ticket personally. In case you're curious, I will be keeping you updated on what is next for me as I look for a new career. I am excited to see what the future holds. Thanks for checking in!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Wonderful Simplicity

After yesterday's post, I was thinking about this TED talk I watched a little while ago. This is the ultimate light packer, although I am not sure I could ever a) pull off some of these outfits and b) would have time to find all necessary items before I resorted to using trash bags. I love her quirkiness and overall ability to pull this off though. It's short, enjoy!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Packing Challenge

I have a confession to make - I am an over-packer. I once went to Costa Rica for a week with 8 tank tops! I always like to have what I need and if it fits and doesn't go over the weight limit I feel like I am doing okay. In an effort to get things under control, avoid baggage fees and fit five people and their luggage in a car this coming weekend - I am going to employ the principles of the 100 Thing Challenge.

I saw Dave Bruno, the author, at SXSW this spring (you can listen to the talk here) and it got me thinking about all the stuff I have. I am not going to propose that I just start throwing things out at the moment, but I am am going to try to keep my suitcase a more reasonable tangle of items. I am after all, guilty of packing more shoes than I have days to wear them.

The good thing about my first attempt is that I am packing for a week in the woods - which of course means nothing fancy, only practical. Grand Lake Stream isn't known as the fashion mecca of anywhere so no one will wonder if I wear the same sweatshirt all week. As I started laying out my clothes I had barely the basics out when I had already counted to 27, I was even being generous with myself counting two piece bathing suits as one item each. I hadn't even made it to the toiletries, outdoor gear, books or electronics. Yikes!

I decided to just put everything on my bed, count and see what I could weed out - or borrow from Brian, I think that's within the rules of the book. Here is what I ended up with:

1. Everything from my Travel Toys post, minus the iPod charger and wishlist items (oh yeah, one of the dry bags made the cut). Total items = 6

2. Toiletries, all 20 of them, including one bottle of sunscreen. Hope that's enough.
3. Clothing, 27 items pictured and not pictured - 6 pairs of socks, 10 pair of underwear (don't judge, I like 'em clean) and two bras. Total items = 45
4. Three pairs of shoes, five magazines, one required grad school book, two idea journals, one pen, my Kindle, sunglasses, my wallet and two bags. Total items = 17

5. Finally, a few more items not pictured: my laptop (a splurge to lug, but my mom called today to say that the boonies has wi-fi now, yay blogging on vacation!), my laptop bag, my cell phone, my tiny purse, a pack of gum, a snack and my jacket, because my mom said it was in the 50's there, brr. Total items = 7

This leaves me with room for five items to spare in case I forgot something, don't get as much homework done as I need to or if I wear a necklace or something else not counted already. Looking forward to seeing how this goes and for paring things down even more in the future. Thanks for checking in!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Around Town

I haven't been home very much this summer and it seems like since I have been away, new and cool things keep cropping up that I need to find time to try. In case you are in Kansas City, or visiting soon, I thought I might pass some of them along to you so you could help me catch up on what is hip and happening in this fair city!
  1. Food Truck Gatherings - I am so excited that we are following the likes of San Francisco and New York City and are finally getting some food trucks! From cupcakes to coffee to crepes - you can have it all. I have missed all the summer First Fridays so I haven't been to the Food Truck Fests happening during those but you can check out the upcoming fests
  2. Greater Kansas City Bartending Competition - taking place on Sunday, August 21st at the Uptown Theater. Twelve of the best bartenders around will be competing for bragging rights in a "food network" style competition. There will also be snacks, drinks, live music and samples of new products on the market. Should be fun!
  3. The Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts - This beautiful new building will be opening mid-September with Placido Domingo, Itzhak Perlman and Diana Krall - all in one weekend! While my budget doesn't allow for me to partake in that, I do hope to make it to something there soon. Unfortunately at the moment, you have to visit all of the individual websites of the KC Ballet, the Lyric Opera, the KC Symphony and Theater League to see schedules and tickets.
  4. Schlitterbahn - I haven't been to a water-park in years and I realize that my window of opportunity is probably closing fast for the season, I want to get out there. (This park opened partially last summer, but I think it's all open now.)
  5. Food & Craft Cocktails - (I'm sure you knew I'd sneak in some more food on my list.) In a recent search for the best craft cocktails (can't get enough), I came up with several amazing places that I am dying to try. We actually tried one on Saturday night (see below) called R Bar. The other ones I want to check out are Justus Drugstore (way up in Smithville - perfect time to use our B&B gift certificate!), The Reiger Hotel (in the space where 1924 Main used to be) and Manifesto (a speakeasy that I want to take some dear friends to before they move away for a year).
  6. Shopping - I am doing a pretty good job with my no-buying year, except for a few times here and there. In order to curb the urge, I avoid walking around any of "the Plazas". Although, I have heard a few things and I am excited, at some point, to check out the new Anthropologie store in Town Center Plaza (opening 8/12) and the newly moved and remodeled Standard Style Boutique in the One Nineteen retail area (opening this week).
And finally, the one thing I can check off my list was dining at the R Bar on Saturday night, complete with fantastic live music from the Konza Swamp Band
The strawberry tiramisu was amazingly delicious, homemade lady fingers and everything.
The rest of the meal and the cocktails were great too, they even had absinthe and ginger beer based libations - yummy! I fear I've run on long enough, thanks for checking in!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

International Happiness

As I had mentioned a couple of days ago, I've been reading The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner. He is a cranky journalist (although he seems pretty content by the end of the book) who goes on an adventure to visit places all over the world to find out where people are the happiest and what happiness is actually all about. The book does a great job of painting daily life in the ten countries, including his native country - the U.S.A.. After reading Chapter 3, I added Bhutan to my ever growing wishlist of places to visit.

I won't give too much away here, as I think you should check out the book for yourself, but there were a couple of quotes from people he talked to that really stuck with me and made me think.

From Switzerland: "The Swiss know instinctively that envy is the great enemy of happiness."

From Bhutan: "For the Bhutanese, happiness is a collective endeavor...The phrase "personal happiness" makes no sense to them..."

From Iceland: "...failure doesn't carry a stigma...we admire failures...We like people who fail if they fail with the best intentions."

From Thailand: "You can't change things outside yourself, so you change your attitude."

From India: "We keep postponing happiness. We can only experience happiness now. The present moment is inevitable."

Throughout the book, Eric asked the people he spoke with how happy they were on a scale of 1-10, 10 being the greatest. Where are you at these days? I think I am sitting at an 8. Thanks for checking in!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Looking Back


Ten years ago today, Brian and I left for our 16-day honeymoon in Ireland. The best part of the trip was that Brian planned the whole thing and everyday was a surprise to me as to where we were going and what we were doing. Since I had graduated early from college, we spent the six months before our wedding living in two states, Maine and New York. This gave Brian time to work with Grandpa McGoldrick to plan an Irish adventure not to be forgotten. It was amazing. Highlights included:
  • The Waterford Crystal Factory - I love a good tour and this one was the best one I have ever been on. I remembering it being 4 or 6 hours long and I wasn't bored once! The history, craftsmanship and legend of Waterford were fascinating.
  • The Aran Islands - For my birthday weekend, Brian took me out to the Aran Islands to stay at the Ard Einne Guesthouse. I remember them having delicious meals. We also saw a local music and dance show and rode bikes around the Black Fort.
  • The Half Door - Going to Dingle was great, but the two nights we dined at this restaurant were the most memorable for me (surprise, I remember the food!). Both nights we had a bottle of wine, delicious meals and great conversations about our future. We also stayed at another great B&B called The Greenmount House that had amazing breakfast!
  • Crag Cave - This was probably more exciting to me than the common traveler, as this was my first cave experience, but I remember it being super cool and interesting.
  • Cork City Gaol - I'm glad I am referencing my travel journal or I would've totally forgotten what this place was called. This historical jail was off the beaten path and had Walkmans that gave a self-guided tour through the jail cells and told you creepy stories of past prisoners. It was awesome!
  • Irish Museum of Modern Art - Although we had some problems getting there and getting back, having dropped off our rental car when we got into Dublin, this museum was totally worth the hassle. I remember giant sculptures hanging from the ceiling dripping paint onto piles of feathers and little mechanical statues. Also, this was my first European art museum experience.
And, since I always like to keep things "fair and balanced", here are a couple of things we didn't like:
  • The Wedding Party at the Woodenbridge Hotel - The wild and drunken party taking place in the hotel continued throughout the night and contained repeated prank phone calls until Brian yanked the phone cord from the wall. In the morning Brian complained to the front desk and they said, "Well, did you call the front desk last night?" When Brian asked if someone would have been there, they said, "No."
  • Bath gone wrong - I learned the hard way not to put bubble bath gel into a jet tub at Hanora's Cottage, but the B&B was great, super plush bedding and an amazing breakfast!
  • The Street Fair in Killarney - While the fair was fun, the rides were verging on death machines. The safety requirements seemed rather loose and after our ride on the "Waltzer" when we got off with, literally, blurred vision - we gave the rest of our tickets to some kids.
In all, it was an amazing time, one I hope we get to do again. But for now, it's fun to look back, thanks for coming along!

    Thursday, July 21, 2011

    Border Bound

    As I had mentioned in two previous blog posts - here and here - I am involved with a group people who are partnering with a colonia outside of Jaurez, Mexico called Anapra. We are building relationships with them, while helping out in small ways with supplies, rice and beans and prayer support. I had mentioned in my last post that the violence is very bad in Jaurez (3,075 murders in 2010 alone). This is mostly due to the drug wars. It has been a very scary time there for the past few years.

    I was hoping to go and visit at some point in the future, but we are getting the chance to go in a little over two weeks. While we will be unable to cross the border we are planning on some meetings at the fence. I am not sure exactly how that will work but we are hoping to visit friends, talk and share some time together. We will be staying with some nuns at the Sisters of St. Joseph House in El Paso, TX. (I couldn't find any pictures online but I will take some to share, I'm sure.) The best part is that they have wi-fi so I can keep you updated on our adventures, and safety.

    I am excited and nervous about this trip but it is small in comparison to what it must be like to live near this city everyday. Fingers crossed and updates soon. Thanks for checking in!

    Wednesday, July 20, 2011

    2-for-1

    You know how the more you learn (or try to learn) about a subject, the less you feel you know about it in the end? Did that make any sense? For me, this means that more I explore the world of travel - reading books, magazines, blogs and websites - not to mention actually traveling - the more I realize how much there is to know in general. The past week I have been reading:


    This book was lent to me by my last blog winner weekend winner, thanks Michelle! I have been thoroughly enjoying the journey which follows one man searching for the happiest place on earth. He does this by visiting and interviewing locals in some of the happiest and most depressing countries on the planet. (According to some data anyway.) I have some favorite gems to share once I am finished with it. However, before that happens, I wanted to share something else with you.

    While reading the chapter on Iceland, I came across a concept that I had never looked into before and I was so excited, I wanted to share it with you! The idea is stopover flights. I realize that I may be a little late to the party with this one but it's new to me. It's simple, you buy one ticket to a place, like London, but through an airline that has you stop in another country you'd like to go to, like Iceland, and they let you stopover for a few extra days for no extra cost on your ticket. For this specific scenario, check out Iceland Air.

    I have been wanting to go to Iceland and London for a little while now and this may be a great option to do both. Thanks for checking in and welcome to my new blog followers!

    Tuesday, July 19, 2011

    Natural Beauty

    I realized after I saw this tree, that I have never seen a Joshua Tree in person before. This one was on the grounds of the solar power factory, so cool.
    On Sunday morning, my uncle drove us around a neighborhood in Acadia, CA where the peafowl run wild. This male peacock was the only one we saw with the long tail plumes. Can you imagine looking out your window every morning and seeing this?
    I think it's sad that the female peafowl can't be pretty too.

    Loved this fountain and the palm trees. So pretty! Have a great week!

    Monday, July 18, 2011

    Hidden Gems

    Near the solar power plant in Lancaster, CA, photos at the end of this post, there is a small stretch of road that was carved to play the William Tell Overture when driven over going 50 miles an hour. This was done for a Honda commercial. We drove over it and I captured it below - sorry for the shaky hand and the giggling, I didn't expect that it was really going to work and it was a pretty funny thing to witness.


    Yesterday, we also visited the prototype solar power plant that is part of the company my uncle works for. (Basically, the mirrors are pointed to the two towers via cameras tracking the sun to remotely control the mirror angles. The water in the tower is then heated to produce steam that is then converted into power - in case you wondered.) It was quite the sight.

    My Aunt Linda and I in front of the mirror field and the two towers in the background. (A full power plant would have 12 of these towers and a ton more mirrors.)
    Fire valves - hmm, maybe this is my dad's influence, but I really like this wheel of valves.
    Thousands of mirrors waiting on the sun. Sorry for the nerdy photos - but it's hard to not be geeked out by solar energy though, am I right?

    Sunday, July 17, 2011

    Culinary California

    I used to live in California and I didn't really like it - although I was living in Riverside, which explains half of it. I, however, love to visit. (I guess there are those places better to visit, than to live full-time, right?) This trip I am back in Pasadena visiting my aunt and uncle. The weather is perfect - sunny and high 70s. The food has been the best. Check it out:

    Dinner at O2 in Pasadena. Yellowtail sashimi and (not pictured) - ootoro. I have never had sashimi like that before, it required no chewing, just melted in your mouth.
    Lunch at Gladstones in Malibu. Beautiful ocean views and this fresh calamari and wedge salad, which wasn't very wedge-like at all. Very yummy!
    Dinner at Maison Akira - a French/Japanese fusion, just when you thought you'd seen everything. This creation was spring roasted veggies in filo with portobello ravioli in a beet coulis.
    Our dessert art at Maison Akira. Front - flourless chocolate cake and in back, a berry/ice cream/caramel cage creation.

    I promise I have done more than eat my way through California. More on all that tomorrow, including the trip to the solar plant and the singing road!

    I love catching birds in flight. Thanks for checking in!

    Friday, July 15, 2011

    Taking Stock

    Since I am leaving my current job, and my related work trips, I am in the position of trying to continue my travel while not spending too much of the family's money - since I am not going to be contributing financially as of now. In an effort to continue the streak (need to book something for September soon, month 37), I decided to research how much free stuff I have accumulated.

    Although I have been using AwardWallet.com for a while, it doesn't let me track everything and convert how many free tickets or hotel stays I actually have, so I needed to do it manually. Award programs make it particularly difficult to locate their award charts, or maybe I am just inventing a one-woman conspiracy. (I have linked to each award chart to make it easier if you want to try this inventory project.) I guess this is really more for me than for you, but here it is anyways:
    • Delta - I have one domestic airline ticket and I'm almost up to a Central America or Caribbean ticket. Oh yeah, and $800 in vouchers from a recent bump!
    • Frontier - I'm far from a free ticket, since I really only fly this airline when I am wanting to go non-stop to Ft. Lauderdale or D.C., but I do have lots of potential free magazine subscriptions. Just ordered Inc. and Fast Company today as a matter of fact.
    • U.S. Airways -  I am thisclose to a free domestic ticket. I may look into some online shopping through one of their partners to finish this off.
    • United - I have enough for a domestic ticket and I'm close to a ticket to Mexico.
    • Southwest - I just used my free ticket for my trip to Pasadena today.
    • Hilton - I think I have one night's stay at a level 1 or level 2 (the lowest tiers) hotel or partner hotel, the options are very confusing
    • Marriott - up to three nights at the lowest tier or one night at one of the middle tier properties
    • Hotels.com - I have a $66 credit towards my next night booked - you earn a free night for every 10 nights you book and get the average cost as a credit. As you can tell, I stay in very fancy hotels.
    Other things:  Brian and I also have one or two nights (depending on where we stay) in Missouri Bed & Breakfast gift certificates from his parents. I am also considering opening a Capitol One Venture card for all its travel perks - mostly helping me round out all my "almost" tickets. [Don't worry credit card haters. We pay our balance off every month and have no debt besides our mortgage.]

      Thursday, July 14, 2011

      Liberian Update

      I am very excited to be going to Pasadena this weekend to visit my Aunt and Uncle. I am, however, sad that I will be missing Emile's visit to Kansas City. Emile is the principal of the Lott Carey Mission school we visited in Liberia in February - hard to believe that was only five months ago! He comes to the states in the summer to visit some family and the churches who help support some of the work he is doing.


      On that note, I am finally getting myself together to start having meetings about the summer camp I want to help put on there next summer. I am looking for interested people to join in on our first info meeting. Here are the details:

      What:  Please join me to discuss details of the first summer camp at the Lott Carey Mission School in Brewerville, Liberia - July 2012. This will be informational and you do not have to commit to going at this time. You can also check out my initial post about the camp here. We will also discuss costs, logistics, etc. Oh yeah, and I'll have snacks and stuff.

      When:  Saturday, August 20th @ 2pm

      Where:  My house, I can give you directions or you could Skype in (I could probably only do that for one person though)

      Who:  Teachers/Educators (preferably creative ones with mad skills in science, math, drama and sports) - please comment on this post with your email address so I can add you to the Evite

      What Else: We will be constructing two teams to run educational enrichment programming for 3-18 year olds. The first two weeks will be pre-school through elementary and the second two weeks will be middle and high school. Subjects and areas of interest include math, science, sports and drama. If time allows, we will also be doing some teacher training for the teachers at the school.

      Once I get some additional information on the needs of the school from Emile, I will also launch our StartSomeGood campaign. So, if you are interested in helping to support our trip financially, that will be one option for you. Thanks for considering and for checking in!

      Wednesday, July 13, 2011

      End of An Era

      Yesterday I sent out an announcement to my work colleagues, letting them know that I am leaving my job in a little over two weeks. This has been hard to manage, given the fact that I turned in my notice on Memorial Day weekend, giving my boss and immediate co-workers two months to make the transition. After almost 9 years working for the same organization, it feels pretty weird to be moving on, but it's time. (If you care to read my blog post about leaving on my work's blog, check it out here.) I am ready to take on the next work opportunity, whatever it may be, in addition to starting grad school in about a month. When I told my boss he took it pretty well. He was supportive and I think on some level he knew I would be moving on at some point, but when that was going to be was up in the air.

      I felt like I could've made this move six months or a year ago but it never seemed like the right time. It still is fairly bad timing, given all the work we are all in the middle of, but that's just sort of life, isn't it? A good time for me, which this is, is a bad time for someone else. And obviously, with no crystal ball, we won't exactly know what's next, but we are positive that there will be change and a future.

      In the past couple of months, I have also discovered a great online store from my friend Jessica. The website, Work is Not a Job, is an inspiring collection of quotes, wood block prints, t-shirts, etc. that express some of my feelings about my life lately. I want all of them wallpapering my house, but I should probably secure another job before that happens. See if any of them resonate with you.




      I am also hoping to get this shirt for my birthday!
      Thanks for checking in!

      Tuesday, July 12, 2011

      DIY: Show Me the Money

      I have been accumulating little piles of foreign currency from my travels and I haven't figured out what to do with them. Most of the money isn't worth much, but I like that a lot of it is unique and reminds me of some wonderful trips. (I unfortunately can't find any of my Costa Rican money - I know has to be around here somewhere.) I did a search online to see if anyone had any clever tips or ideas on how to showcase their bills and coins but came up empty-handed. I am not the most creative person in the world but I try to rise to the occasion when one comes up.

      My initial idea, that you might like to try, was to find or make a shadow-box type tray for my coffee table where I could press things in between the glass and the tray. This idea, for me, didn't seem practical in the end because 1.) I didn't need a tray (I really dislike random clutter) and 2.) the coins in my collection were of varying thicknesses and would probably leave the tray wobbly or at least crooked.

      My second idea was to make art with them. I thought about finding a cool piece of wood and threading strings or ribbons in a diagonal, diamond pattern and fit in the bills and glue on the coins. I got stumped at where to find cool wood and figured between my cat, Rufus, and my ceiling fans, the bills would be all over the floor quickly.

      My final idea was a hybrid of my first two ideas. Not very fancy, but inexpensive and easily expanded over time. I also like that it will prevent me from losing any more little piles in the future. Here was my process below:

      Money from Europe, Madagascar, Liberia and Jamaica
      In order to determine what size picture frames to purchase, I made templates of some common frame sizes (4x6, 5x7 and 8x10) to layout each pile.
      Sample layout of the bills, trying to determine the sizes of frames to purchase.
      Assorted frames - from T.J. Maxx - $30 total.
      Tools used:  Glue Dots Pop Up Adhesive (for the coins), EK Success Pink Removeable Adhesive (for the money - in case I ever need to raid a frame, this adhesive rubs off easily with your finger) and Goof Off (to remove the price tag adhesive from the glass on all the frames - why put price tags on the frames?)
      I decided to cut out white mats with white card-stock, given that I selected colored frames and the currency is bright as well.
      Here is the first frame - the Euro coin is glued to the frame and could be removed later if needed.
      The finished frames. Now I just need to find a place on my walls to put these up and allow for some room to grow the collection.
      Hope you enjoyed my first do-it-yourself project. I still have two crisp bills from Madagascar that I plan to laminate into bookmarks. How do you display your souvenirs?

      Monday, July 11, 2011

      Crazy Travel News

      I haven't done a roundup of the latest travel-related news in awhile. I have come across a few articles lately that I had to share, if you hadn't come across them already.
      1. Spirit Airlines is now charging you $5 to print out a boarding pass. You can still print it at home for free.
      2. Pilot trash-talking flight attendants - namely that only 1 in 12 are suitable dating material for him.
      3. TSA has adjusted their procedures for patting down your children.
      4. Want to move faster through security lines? It may be coming soon for $100-$150 and a background check.
      5. Every worried about people stealing your luggage? How about while you were flying? Luckily this guy was caught while inside a suitcase, literally, before he could take anything.
      Have a great week and thanks for checking out the blog today. I have a lot of exciting things to share this week so hope to see you again soon!

        Saturday, July 9, 2011

        Eating Around the Globe


        I browsed through this book a long time ago but I didn't really take the time to read it in detail. Since I have been to a couple more places and have read about even more of them, I thought it might be neat to take another look. After a brief wait, my local library sent me a notice that this book was in for me again. (If you are a book buyer, this is on sale at Amazon.com. I might even finally buy it myself.)

        I wanted to share it with all of you who love books, learning about international habits and great photography. The book highlights a week's worth of groceries for 30 different families from 24 countries and gives you a glimpse into what their lives are like.

        I enjoy learning about family sizes and structures from around the world, especially how generations of families are living together.
        If you've read this book I would love to know what you think. Have a great weekend!

        Friday, July 8, 2011

        Pink Paradise

        Summer is a great time for trying out new drink recipes. After sharing the cucumber margarita recipe with you, I thought it would be fun to bring back more drinks to share from my travels. In Jamaica we discovered this delicious libation:

        Pink Paradise
        (since this would be good in a pitcher, I'll let you determine how much to make)
        1 part amaretto
        1 part coconut rum
        1 part pineapple juice
        1 part cranberry juice
        Shake or stir with ice and serve

        I also told the bartender, Richard, that I would let you all know that this was his creation. Thanks Richard!

        Thursday, July 7, 2011

        Travel Agent Virgin: The Conclusion

        As some of you may recall, part of this blog winner weekend included an experiment with using a travel agent, something I hadn't done before. In Part I and Part II we covered the initial meeting and the planning of our trip to Jamaica. I thought I might also share with you my thoughts about the whole process now, as we have completed our adventure.

        The things I liked about using a travel agent were:
        • She helped us find an alternative to a cruise for our crazy schedules
        • We didn't have to bother with transportation or exit tax hassles as they were both included in our package
        • It was nice to have someone answer questions without a foreign phone call charge to the resort
        • Discount codes!
        The things I didn't like:
        • I really had no idea what the resort would be like - I was pleasantly surprised that it was nice, clean and on the beach - but it was still weird to have someone pick something like this for me
        • I really enjoy checking on prices and figuring things out, but I didn't get to do any of that
        • It was a very impulsive transaction - I am not sure how long it is supposed to take from start to finish but booking this in about 4 hours total, planning everything to paying, seemed a little crazy
        Overall, I think it was a good experience but I am not sure I would do it again, except for maybe some international group plane tickets. There is definitely a certain type of traveler who would benefit from this way of booking a vacation. So, if you like some help, take it, it's free!

        Wednesday, July 6, 2011

        Airport Hangout

        On the grand scale of airports I would say Charles de Gaulle (Paris) is technically the coolest airport I have ever been in - both for architecture and fancy shops. After CDG, most airports are sort of the same to me. Every once in awhile I am surprised to be in one that has a cool store or eatery, but never one that makes me walk back through it to take photos because I liked it so much. That is until we were leaving Montego Bay, Jamaica. 

        After going five days, on vacation no less, without any sort of latte or fancy coffee was making me crave one more than normal. When we walked into the Coffee & Spice Shop I was excited to see they had all kinds of espresso drink options. While the prices throughout the airport were consistently as low or lower than the tourist trap shops we had visited, the iced hazelnut latte I decided on was $6.50 US - a bit steep even for home. I wavered only slightly over the price and made the plunge. Crafted with Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee, it did not disappoint.
        I'm not even sure I need to explain this one, but yes, it was a tiny Margaritaville inside the airport.
        This, and many other shops, all seemed to be independently run - I mean unless there is a chain of stores called Reggae Vibes and in that case it's still cool. The local books and music available in this airport that likely could not be found elsewhere in the world made me think you could really just fly in, buy all the good stuff and be on your way, although then you'd miss the beaches. This store also had the best birthday card ever that said "Happy Birthday, You Big Doughnut" - maybe I was tired but it made me laugh, but not as much as the next item...
        I must have been in that post-vacation delirium but I found the mannequin situation in the shops hilarious. No arms, no hands, no problem mon - only situations! (I also liked the suggestion box behind the girl mannequin. I found it both intriguing and awesome, it definitely contributed to this being my favorite airport.)
        Finally, when the going gets tough, the tough get...oh wait, maybe that's not what this says...
        Thanks for stopping by. Also, I wanted to say 'hi' to my newest readers, welcome! What's your favorite airport?

        Tuesday, July 5, 2011

        Yays and Nays: Part II

        In a continuation from yesterday, here are some more of Michelle's and my likes and yikes of our Jamaican adventure:

        7. The people watching at the Holiday Inn SunSpree was pretty amazing. From the bathing suit choices to unfortunate sunscreen application (or lack thereof) we saw it all, including this guy who thought he could rock cornrows. The view from the front was better, but then you wouldn't be able to appreciate this as much.
        8. Surviving the 600 foot climb up Dunns River Falls in just sneakers and a bathing suit. The tour we took also included shopping (which we could've skipped since we weren't in the market for any fine jewelry) and learning about Jamaica. This was all very interesting, except for the part where the tour guide forced everyone on the bus to individually introduce themselves in patois and repeated the last thing they had to say. Like this, patron: "My favorite thing about Jamaica is the beaches" - tour guide "The Jamaican beaches love you too, ya mon!" Oy! Needless to say, Michelle and I physically ducked out of sight so we didn't have to participate.
        9. Taking part in a little bit of mischief - we'd just like to say congrats again to the members of the White & Barton wedding, may you have many years of wedded bliss!
        10. The weather and the beach were great - 85 degrees and only rained at night.They even had a beach and pool for adults only.
        11. One thing we didn't like was the Jamaican money hassle - it wasn't necessary to bring any Jamaican money but we had both bothered to get some. Not only did everyone take U.S. dollars, but they gave you a better exchange rate if you paid with them. Oh well, now you know. Also, I managed to get a counterfeit bill somewhere - either from my bank or the market- instead of the watermark head of the guy on their 100 dollar bill it had a pineapple, hmm.

        12. Finally, saved the best for last, the nightly entertainment on the pool stage proved to be an all around good time - whether Michelle was taking part in balloon popping games or we were watching the Hah-R-Mony dance troop put on their "Michael Jackson Show" (see below). It was all quite unique. Thanks for checking in!