Friday, November 5, 2010

Text from my son

It was so weird, I saw prague and the river we stayed next to in a video in government class.

This is why I travel. It put life and living into context. And this is why I will take all my kids out of the country before I send them off to college.

And to put it in to context for you. Here is the River.


Saturday, October 9, 2010

Rome----Ciao Bambino makes me long for it

Craig has often says he wants to return to Italy but to get a house for a week. Travelling to Tuscany however as easy as I had imagined. You must choose to fly in to Rome or Milan and even then it's a 3 hour drive (granted a gorgeous drive I'm sure) I've been thinking about how if I fly into Rome I wouldn't be able to just pass though because HELLO It's ROME!

I love the article from the NY times 36 hours in Rome, which gives me ideas of what to do in our short layover should we crash in Rome the night before our plane leaves.

Friday, October 8, 2010

New site found- WITH CONTEST! via context travel

How many times can I say I love Context Travel? Through my facebook account I noticed a contest going on at CiaoBambino! Want a 2011 Tuscan Vacation? Ok who was the knucklehead who said no? HOW CAN YOU NOT? Oh Italia I miss you so!!!

Craig and I were watching Quantum of Solace just last night and I moaned about wanting to go back to Italy. I tell you this passport is burning a hole in my pocket! Well go...sign up!

or maybe don't that way I have more of a chance to win ;)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

I get knocked down (but I get up again)...

In July my husband's boss told him to change his flight so he would leave the office earlier and hit Vegas in time for dinner. We had originally been booked to arrive around 8pm and wouldn't have made the dinner with the company. I obliged by and contacted Southwest Vacations who changed our times and refunded us $30. Dancing and fun ensued.

EXCEPT that I didn't pay attention to the fact that the person had ALSO changed the return time so that we didn't get in at 4pm as original instead we get in at 12:20 AM the next day. Ugh. While the thought of more time to play and have fun in Vegas initially sounds awesome, the thought of storing or toting our luggage around for an extra 8 hours did not.

Enter the front desk at Monte Carlo. I called to find out what check out time officially was and how I would be able to check out late. Turns out for an extra $50 we can stay in the room until 6 pm. This gives us time to have fun, have lunch TAKE A NAP and then head to the airport. I'm diggin this. The lady made a note in our filed reservations that we would pay cash when we got there so here is hoping it all turns out ok, because right now Craig is a bit miffed. And I will be big time miffed if I have to cart around a cranky 37 year old!

Updates on if it all works out to be posted as soon as we return.

Friday, September 3, 2010

A Berlin Sunset

One Evening I looked out our hotel window in Berlin to this incredible technicolor view. These are all original colors no touch ups at all.




Thursday, September 2, 2010

Park Inn Hotel Prague

It's a chain. While many people love chains because it means stability, I am not a big fan of the sterility and sameness of them. However, I was unsure about the quality of hotels in Prague so I went with a chain called Park Inn. This was a few blocks off the beaten path of tourists which mean an extra stop or two on trams, but also meant seeing the university students each day going to class, and school children playing in the park with their moms and puppies. As the purpose of this trip was to show my son how America is the same and yet different from other cultures, I felt this type of location was necessary.

I had posted about the 1800 hotels disaster (of which I am now part of their Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings) and how I called the hotel to get reservations with no hitch.

Hmmm. Should have expected more problems. Because when we showed up on August 10, we were told the reservations were for OCTOBER 8! Didn't I say this would happen???? STUPID STUPID MONTH/DAY, DAY/MONTH problems.

Luckily the gracious people at Park Inn noted that I had already had the correct reservations, so not only did they accept the reservations, they also let us have the room at the pre-paid amount from the original 1800 hotel transaction. AND they didn't make us pre-pay. We were able to apply all our leftover Koruna to the balance.



To save energy most hotels in Europe require a key card (or really any card...Stuart left his student ID in there so we dind't have to have a key card in there all the time)


Typical half open European shower:


The view outside our hotel window...the roof top garden of the building next door. This was a beautiful escape to the urban sprawl.


Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Prague, Czech Republic : Charles Bridge

The Charles Bridge is one of the things all the tour books got correct. Not a single recommended restaurant that we wanted to go to existed anymore so we spent most of the time stumbling upon restaurants for food. All of which were fantastic and cheap. If you want to go to Prague, worry not about food or food costs. You should however worry about crowds.

Prague is a vacation center for the world. At any point in time you will hear dozens of languages as you walk down the streets. In fact it felt like travelling to New York City in the 1800s. It was a melting pot of people.

One of the biggest tourist attractions in the city is the Charles Bridge.

It is absolutely beautiful and not to be missed. Standing on the bridge is like living history. The bridge is protected by three towers. This one was in Old Town, where we entered the bridge.

The bridge was first constructed in the 1300s by Kind Charles IV and finished in the early 15th century and was the only crossing of the Vlatva river until 1841 making it incredibly important for trade. This is a very large bridge but is for pedestrians only. And pedestrians use it! The bridge is usually packed with people bbut if you get there before 9 in the morning it looks like this:

Awesome right? There were probably only 20 people on the whole bridge. Were it not for getting there so early we wouldn't be able to get pictures like this:



This is definitely a must see location of Prague. And seeing it in the morning like it was all ours made it so much better.



Monday, August 30, 2010

Would you believe me if I said...

that I travelled to Europe for 10 days with only a carry on? And that I made my teenage son do the same? Well we did! The last thing I wanted to worry about was missing luggage. Especially since we were flying in and out of different airports I didn't want any luggage confusion so I limited all packing. I strongly recommend TIDE packets (which you can get anywhere in the travel size section) for underwear and emergencies but otherwise I'm all big on the layering.

This means that I can wear a sweater 3-4 times without worrying about it being nasty smelling because it never really touches me. I have enough t-shirts for underneath for each day, and I pack one pair of pants for every 3 days. This is why I prefer jeans. Jeans look great the second and third day as long as no catastrophic spill occurs. Many people like the packing by bundling and I'm all for that. I have a couple of the little rectangles that make packing easy, but the BEST thing I learned is to use up EVERY bit of space available. So underwear and socks go INSIDE shoes. That is a wasted space that many people leave empty. Every little nook and cranny of my suitcase is filled so that everything I need fits in one travel sized bag.

Now this can cause problems. I didn't think about the fact that the candy dish I bought for my mother in law was Czech crystal and therefore LEAD so it caused a bit of a stir in Paris. (Not in Berlin mind you where we first got on the plane, but in Paris). What was only slightly humiliating was the fact that I had stuffed dirty socks and underwear around the glass for safety and space. So the little man in Paris was not terribly thrilled about unwrapping my sons dirty underwear to check the glass, but heh, there you have it.

I tell people pull out everything you think you have to take. And divide it in two. In fact I took a pair of shoes I wore once and should ahve left at home. But I wore a dress to the orchestra in Prague and really didn't have any other shoes that would work. So to me it was worth it :)


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Prometheus had it easy

You want to know serious torture? If the government really wanted to break prisoners to get information they would send them on a trip with a teenager. Seriously the first day we would get a call back from them with all the information if we would just Please. Take. Back. The. Kid.

I love my son I really do. The biggest problem is that HE I JUST LIKE ME. Who wants to go on a trip with their unique faults wrapped in a snappy mouth and surly attitude? I do! I do!

Overall my trip with my eldest was fantastic. We had a tremendous tour with Karen Pastofski on the day of his birthday (but more on that later....much more) but other than that we toured and visited places completely on our own.

Which went a lot like this:
Wake Up.
Get on tram (or train).
Get Lost.
Buy stuff.
Get on tram (or train).
Go to bed.

So many people have asked how I enjoyed travelling with my son. It was a lot like living with him so while others may have wanted me to shove him in a trash can to shut him up I really did enjoy our trip. We had a lot of laughs. There was a point we were walking in Berlin and saw a Johnny Cash sign and both broke in to Fulsom Prison Blues at the exact same moment in the exact same moment in the song. He asked such thoughtful questions and made very telling observations that made the trip worth it. He didn't even complain too much when I got us locked out of the hotel in Prague, or got us lost (also in Prague...I wasn't at my best in Prague).

But I did come up with some ideas for others if you want to travel with a teenager.
1. Let them sit away from you sometimes. Do you really need to sit right next to each other? They aren't going anywhere. If you get on a train or tram, let them wander away and show their independence. As long as they know where to get off they will be fine.

2. Plan for half the days to be late at night so they can sleep in. Science tells us time and again that teenagers have different sleep patterns than adults. Respect that. They really can't help it and you will find a much happier teenager later if you just let the sleeping bears lie.

3. (If you are travelling for longer than 4 days) Have a day for doing nothing. I don't mean a day that you are travelling to another city. I mean really a day that you have nowhere to be and nothing to do. Everyone needs to recharge. My son found all the places to be and see very stressful (more than I would have imagined). So having one day to just lie around and wander the local area was really fun and relaxing.

4. (If you are in a safe city) Let them go off on their own. Our rule was if we got separated meet at the the hotel. One night he got hungry late so I let him run to Micky D's for a late burger and fries. Most European cities are very safe from any violence and if he or she is only carrying enough to cover a burger pickpocketing isn't the end of the world.

4a. If you do get separated on accident (Eldest decided he didn't like our meeting place in KaDeWe and went up a floor. Without telling me. Needless to say, we met at the hotel). So he had to find his way back. He learned quickly that the best place to find English speakers to help you in any city is in HOTELS. So tell your teenager that if they feel lost. Find the nearest hotel and ask for help.

4b. Buy a travel card with unlimited travel. This way if you do get separated they just need to hop on the nearest public transportation to get you to the hotel.

5. Let them choose restaurants every other day. If they want to eat at Micky D's let them. Once. This way you both can enjoy the local cuisine but they still feel like they have some control over the trip.

6. Let them talk to their friends. We got Internet access every few days and I made sure that some of that time Eldest was able to chat with his friends. Keep up to date on the happenings back home are important to you so they would be important to him or her too right? It's not a statement of how much they wish they were home partying with their friends (OK maybe a tiny bit it is), but more a psychological need to know they aren't forgotten.

Friday, August 20, 2010

A Tale of Two Cities

I could go on for some time about how the cities differ, but I wanted to really think through what made these cities similar. And in many cases these similarities are common throughout continental Europe. Regardless, these similarities made it comfortable travelling from one city to the next. And why I tell people all the time that if you have travelled to one European country don't freak out about another. Many of the customs are similar!

First off a small European Union Primer. The EU consists of 27 "states": Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. HOWEVER, not all of these states have adopted the Euro and still retain their original currency. Czech Republic is one of these countries. They still have koruna (crowns). To make things more confusing some countries use the Euro but AREN'T part of the EU (Switzerland for example).

So enough history what did I find was similar? Well these may not stick out for some and I'm sure there are tons more but the following three were enough different from the United States that I took notice.

1. Restaurants are for visiting and enjoying the meal. Service is relaxed (read slow as molasses in January). You MUST ask for your check or you will sit there for as long as you want. Also in the Czech Republic they will keep plunking down glasses of beer until you tell them to stop or ask for the bill. So learn quickly how to ask for the bill in continental Europe or your meal times will last longer than you thought!

For a type A American this actually gave me anxiety. Even when I KNEW they were waiting for me to ask, I was antsy wondering what was wrong (Had I been rude? Were they sick of Americans?) So take heart, travellers! It's not you. It's them. And you and they are doing nothing wrong!

2. Put the money down on the counter. Don't hand it to them. And they will give you your change on the counter. Don't reach for it. One would think this wouldn't be so attention garnering, but one woman jumped when my son reached for the change. LOL. there is always a little tray by the register. Use it.

Public Transportation is reliable and frankly preferable to walking. Both cities have tremendously punctual tram lines. Both have subways, but Prague's is less prevalent. Use the trams instead. Multi-day tickets in both cities cover the use of trams and trains in the city and Berlin's includes buses as well.

So these three stick out the most, but I'm sure there are more. For the most part the cities are so different. Prague was saved by war. Berlin was decimated. Prague is all about the past, the history. Berlin is about the now, and the future. Prague is relaxed and calm. Berlin is moving and brisk. Everyone has asked which one I like better and that is like asking if I have a favorite child (which by the way is NOT the oldest after this trip....KIDDING!). They are all different. They all have their own unique talents and opinions. And their own annoying behaviors. But all of them have a place in my heart....just like these two cities.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Ich bin ein Berliner...and Chinese....and Greek

Coming to Germany after the Czech Republic is a refreshing change with respect to schedules and time. There is truly a clock on every street corner here (pictures to come). To get here from Prague we took a train and got a first class seat reservation...for a car that did not exist. Additionally this train was two hours late. We ended up sitting in second class with a delightful couple from The Netherlands for half the trip. Learned lots I will have to share.

The train from Prague terminated in Dresden. This was news. It was supposed to travel all the way to Berlin. So we got off train 1 onto train 2 which also was short 4 cars to find no seating. We ended up sitting with our luggage shoved between our legs in the restaurant car for the whole trip. Once we arrived in Berlin everything has gone smoothly except for the fact that these people either don't eat out at all or eat out early.

And by early I mean the restaurants are CLOSED at 8 pm. So we have been stuck eating Chinese food and Greek food for dinner the two nights we've been here. Don't get me wrong it all tastes great but I could eat this at home :) Mission today is a real German restaurant. Oh and shoppping at KaDeWe (which is also CLOSED on Sunday!)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Sedlice- The Bone Church

The Middle Ages proved troublesome in many ways. All these wars and plagues were piling up the bodies right and left and filling churchyards. So what is a church to do? DECORATE! This is only a portion of the original number of bones, but over 40,000 people's remains are here in the church...decorating the interior...

Thursday, August 12, 2010

i was going to ask what else could go wrong but i didn't want to jinx nmyself!

So 1800 hotels filed bankruptcy and cancelled our reservations one week before our trip. At the top of my to do list when I get home is to file paperwork to get that money back. So I called to hotel direct and booked the nights woohoo!

Except that the idiot reservations person booked them for OCTOBER. Nice. but the people here saw that we had originally tried to get the correct dates and their people booked the wrong dates so we got a hotel for the price I was quoted. Soon I will give you another crazy moment in our trip.

Soon I will post my own video of Sedlec the Bone Church...hope the lighting is flash and OMG creepy!!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Watch that fine print!

Here I had just posted about Freed's bakery and up pops up a Groupon THIS MORNING for half off bakery goods! Oh dear, God wants me to stay fat.

But alas, after reading the fine print I realized the coupon was only good for certain locations, none of which were near the strip. And if I asked Craig to get a taxi to take me to a bakery I would NEVER hear the end of it, so to prevent WWIII in our marriage I decided not to purchase that Groupon.

Now had the coupon been for the bakery in the Tropicana???? All bets are off ;)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Vegas food post...shocker I know

Was watching Rachel Ray's $40 a day when she hit Vegas and found 2 places I'd like to try.

First, Freed's bakery which does hundred of wedding cakes a week and you can buy sliced of wedding cake any day of the week. It's located in the Tropicana.

Second Sam's Town Fireside Buffet. This is located 6 miles off the strip so it might take Craig some convincing since we are staying ion the hotel with his favorite breakfast buffet this next time (the Monte Carlo), but I'll note it here in case he decides he wants to try something new!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Good Hostess, Good Traveler, Good Friend

When I grow up I want to be Janet. When I travel I am lucky to find myself a souvenir. I am fantastic at finding something I am ASKED for (like Kathryn's mosaic pin in Rome) but if someone tells me to just grab something that reminds me of them they would be lucky to get a plastic version of the Eiffel tower that I grabbed on a layover in France. People i'm on vacation, don't make me THINK.

But Janet? Janet can browse through shops throughout the world and somehow come up with the PERFECT gift in a foreign country without even trying. This year she and her family spent a couple weeks in Italy and France and not only did she send me a postcard from Italy, I receive this days after her return. I'm lucky to mail my BILLS when I return!

My 7 year old took this picture and couldn't for the life of him get it to focus. Regardless you can see the popping colors and size of this "flag" scarf.

Il Palio Di Siena
is an annual race through the gorgeous streets of Sienna. Jockeys race for neighborhoods in the city bareback on horses. The one she sent me is from Terziere di Città.

ONDA (Wave) a swimming dolphin wearing a crown. White and blue.

Of course I can't look at a scarf without picturing myself wrapped like Jackie O. Or as Janet says, the Grace Kelly look.

I only hope the gift I come up with for her in Germany will be have as perfect!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Happy Summer! Happy 4th of July

There is no other holiday with such an influx of people wearing Old Navy $5 shirts as the 4th of July. I dropped off my children at camp on Sunday and even my daughter (who is completely clueless to life while spending most of the time in the world that is in her head.) (A world full of sparklies and Pink.) noticed the plethora of flag shirts all over the place. I'm all for America! I'm all for national pride. I'm even all for $5 but I'm not so much about looking like EVERYONE ELSE!

One way not to look like everyone else would be to wear the shirt on vacation. In Europe.

In a word.


There is a tima and place for any piece of clothing and international vacation is just not the place to showcase your bargain t-shirt. It has nothing to do with showing off that you love your country and everything to do with showing off that YOU AREN'T FROM THERE.

I mean granted most of us are going to stick out anyway because Europeans are on average shorter and thinner than most Americans. And frankly when Craig and I (both of German-Czech heritage) travelled to Rome it was given we weren't gonna blend.

(Name the Movie:
Mona Lisa Vito: [Vinny looks at her funny] What?
Vinny Gambini: Nothing. You stick out like a sore thumb around here.
Mona Lisa Vito: Me? What about you?
Vinny Gambini: I fit in better than you. At least I'm wearing cowboy boots.
Mona Lisa Vito: Oh yeah, you blend.)

THE POINT IS while we may not be able to exactly like a native, it is in our best interest to not DRAW attention to ourselves as out of place. People who look out of place are targets.

So for safety sake alone, leave your Flag shirts at home.

Monday, June 28, 2010

London (or Prague, or Berlin) Calling to the far away towns...

Technology has grown in leaps and bounds. And it has gotten a little more affordable but I still refuse to pay $1.99 a minute for talk time! When I'm in a foreign country I turn off my phone. Except for my iphone which I just leave on the airplane mode. Instead I carry prepaid phone cards which I can use from the hotel room or anywhere while on travel. I have found payphones are more readily available in Europe so I usually just call while on the road. And calling from the hotel room will give you such clear service my mother-in-law told me I sounded better from Rome than I did from my home!

Here's a little Monday Morning Clash for us all

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Blog play and hotel stays

I'm having fun playing with the different backgrounds. I'm currently using a picture of Big Ben and the Thames. I love that I can recognize these icons but I would rather have something more generic. I'll keep playing until I find a layout and pic I really like.

I just booked our hotel for our SF race. It will be me, my mother and my aunt sharing two double beds. This should be interesting. For a variety of reasons. It was one of the only hotels in SF that would allow more than 2 people to a room. WHAT IS THAT???

Before booking any hotel I like to look at For two main reasons...

1. The site separates out ratings based on purpose of travel. I love this! If I'm there for business, what does a rating based on the helpfulness of the staff for a family of 6 really mean to me?

2. The site allows the hotel to respond. Any Tom, Dick and Asshole can leave a bad review. How do we know if it means anything??? Reviews should be taken with a grain of salt (GOOD AND BAD) but I've seen several hotels respond and attempt to make right bad reviews and that goes a looooong way with me.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Group work I can get behind

I hate group work. OMG it's the bane of my master's program. I work at home alone. I'm an only child. I prefer quiet reading time ALONE so having to depend on others for a grade is like licking emery boards. It leaves a bloody rough taste in my mouth (and I'm not speaking from experience mind you). I was told of when I got my hair and facial done a week or so ago and it took my some time to sign up for our local site. I thought about my travel for a second but didn't actually think through all the places I'll be visiting this year to store up on coupons until this morning.

$40 green fees + cart at a Vegas Golf Course???

$25 sky diving lessons in San Francisco???

19 euro sunglasses in Berlin???


It works like this...AWESOME savings everyday is different cities around the world. The coupons have short expiration days (so look at the site 30-45 days prior to your trip) and the most important caveat is that a minimum number of people have to also purchase the coupon (hence the GROUPon name) even if you sign up for a spectacular deal you might not get it!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Completely stolen from a friend's facebook post:

Dear Tide to go Pen,

Thank you for fitting in my carry on quart bag. You're the best thing for my clutzy self in travel.


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Signs you are ready for travel (or at least GETTING ready for travel)

** The Euro/Dollar Conversion rate is a top pick on your computers history.

** You spend more time worried about the politics of Greece (a country you aren't even travelling to) than politics of your home country

** You put together your reading stack for travel (ok maybe that's just me!)

** You hesitate to buy any clothes that won't look good after hours and hours of sitting (on a plane, train or bus) or hours and hours of walking

** Bed bugs websites suddenly seem much more important

** You start tearing apart your travel books to make your cheat journal (Craig told me this last weekend that he thought our Rome one was so fantastic. Made me grin for the day! It's work planning to be spontaneous!!)

** You start spending more time on foreign websites pretending you understand the words and hoping you aren't getting all the dates wrong. (WHY does America have to be the only place it is month/day/year and not day/month/year which would be SO MUCH MORE intuitive, no?)

** You watch America's Next Top Model and snicker at the girls (really girls I don't care how old they are they aren't women. In fact they are so skinny they probably aren't even menstruating yet) try to find their way in an Amsterdam metro. These girls can't read a map to save their lives. Note to self: Teach eldest to read map.

I could probably come up with more. I have less than 2 months until our Europe trip and I'm starting to notice how it niggles into my thoughts daily. Soon it will occur hourly until all I can talk about is my trip. This is about the time my friends all mysteriously become busy.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

People really do listen to me....if only my children would

My friend Janet (the best hostess Evah!) told me she and her family booked two Context Travel tours when they travel to Italy this summer. Her husband didn't buy the fact that she needed me for wardrobe changes so alas I did not bum a ride there. Ah well. I love to hear when people use my recommendation and hope she has as much fun on her tours as we did on ours!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Webcams - a peek at real life

At first this kind of freaked me out. Especially when I think of all the people who could be watching me in my home town. But because i REALLY want to see what people are wearing in other countries before I visit I think I might just have to suck up my freakedoutedness and watch the people.

But then I realized that most of these places are tourist traps and I'm more likely to see American tourists than real Czech or German natives. So my search is on to look for local spot web cams. They MUST be out there.

Like this Kaiser Supermarket.

Of course next time I search for webcams I need to do it early in the morning. There isn't much to see anywhere at 3 am

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Travel "shoe" addiction

This weekend Cindy's husband made a comment about her purse collection which made me think about how other women tend to enjoy and stock up on shoes and purses and not. Part of the reason is because it is really hard to find cute shoes in Bozo size 11 and as I am super hard on my leather goods I tend to buy expensive products that last me years. And years. I buy a purse maybe every 2 or so years. But they aren't cheap. Which is not to say that I don't have my buying addictions. Pioneer Woman has posted about a favorite shop of hers called Francesca's. Sunday I needed to take my oldest to buy more jeans and I wandered into the Francesca's nearby and found TRAVEL GOODS.

THIS IS WHAT CALLS ME. I enter a shop and somehow I inevitably end up perusing the travel stuff from contact cases (ingenious!) to travel diaries to travel games. Me wanteth them all!



When Craig and I went to Rome we wasted some time on the plane asking each other questions in books called Do You Know Your Husband (Wife)? These were actually pretty fun and we learned a bit abut each other even after (then) fifteen years of marriage.

So these travel cards will be a fun way to waste time with eldest on the plane and trains and buses we have to take and be able to get to know each other better as well.

The Journal looking thing has a note pad and heavy cardboard compartments to store tickets etc. When eldest saw it he informed me he wanted a journal of sorts to keep on the trip. An exchange student at his HS has one and he thought it was a great idea. i'm so glad I don't have to force him to do this. I enjoy going back through my scrap books to read over the things I wrote while on my trips.

Especially write down funny quotes. I'll never forget (but am still glad I wrote it down) Carrie leaving the restroom in our Paris hotel saying "I don't know what that was, but it wasn't a toilet."

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Bring me two Pina for each hand

Berlin apparently now has it all. This summer they are bringing in a BEACH. To Berlin. In 2010 Berlin is the host city off the International Sand Sculpture festivaland it will still be there the week we travel there. So I totally plan to shove off my shoes and run my toes thru the sand of Berlin.

I received an email from the hotel where we are staying Grand Hotel Esplanade in Berlin. Be sure to get on the email lists of the hotels you travel to so they can keep you updated to events that will happen during your stay. The hotel in Prague has yet to send me an email and because of this while I understand it's all marketing stuff I enjoy being in the know and it definitely makes me more interested to visit this hotel.

Plus it looks gorgeous and we have a River View room...less than 90 days until this trip! EEK.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Next time.... please bring clothes

Overall, I'm GREAT at figuring out how to get 40 pounds of stuff in to 20 pounds of space. I can cram stuff into minute places and when it comes to packing a trunk Craig simply leaves the stuff at the edge of the car and lets me do my magic. It's my thing.

Figuring out WHAT to pack and HOW MUCH...not so much. I did learn after my ill fated lost luggage fiasco in Rome to divide the clothes and not have a Craig bag and an Andrea bag. (Hello people yes I am wearing the same thing AGAIN. And Yes the Deoderant was packed in the lost luggage hence why we smell like Roman citizen sans deoderant that actually covers body odor... see also: reason italians stink)

Then was the fun trip to the Bahamas with Craig this year where I ended up wearing a bathing suit because I ran out of underwear and then ended up wearing sleep clothes home because I ran out of day clothes too. It was pretty bad. Craig wore the outfit home that we he arrived in. Not happily mind you. Who knew you needed so many freaking clothes when you aren't actually LEAVING A BOAT. I mean COME ON PEOPLE. It was 3 days! I packed less on a three week trip thru Europe.

I was thrilled therefore when my friend Cindy sent me the link to One Bag (tagline: And remember that there are two kinds of luggage: carry-on and lost(aka “mishandled”).)

I will disagree however with one point. I love Jeans. I love that you can wear them 3 days in a row and they still look spiffy when travelling. I love that you don't stand out like a tourist in them and I love that they aren't terribly cold in the winter or hot in the summer. So while One Bag says avoid Jeans, frankly that is all I would take. Trousers = Ironing and umm...yeah not happening.

Side story about ironing: once I tried to ask a hotel clerk for an Iron in Italy (Venice) and he kept giving me these long detailed answers. I finally realized he was telling me how to get to Ferro Via (the train station) because I didn't know the word for Iron and kept using the Latin term Ferro (Iron) because I am at heart a geek.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

On location: Prague

Thinking about the Bourne movies, I realized that there is no better way to get a feel for a future location and put you in the mood for travel than movies set in the city you are visiting. I already knew this in the back of my head because the night before my first trip to Europe as an adult Carrie and I stayed up all night watching movies set in London and Paris so that we would fall asleep on the plane. It worked for me. Her not so much. Of course I was still sleep deprived and punchy when we fist arrived and she still teases me today about how I found EVERYTHING hilarious. Accents! Haha! Buses! Haha! Almost getting run over because we kept looking the WRONG WAY when we crossed the street Haha!

You can type in a location on IMDB and get a list of movies filmed there. IMDB lists 1169 movies set in Prague. I think I will tweak that down a bit.

So sixteen movies:
From Hell (Johnny Depp and Heather Graham)
Affair of the Necklace (Hillary Swank)
A Knights Tale (Czech countryside actually... Heath Ledger)
XXX (Vin Diesel)
Timeline (which is actually a Crichton book I've been wanting to read)
G.I. Joe Rise of the Cobra (which I've seen and didn't realize was partially set in Prague!)
Casino Royale (is on my Tivo list right now Serendipity!)
Bourne Identity

Jumper (also seen! LOVE that movie for locations!)
Euro Trip
Spy Game
Chasing Liberty
Running Scared
League of Extraordinary Gentleman
AVP (who would have guessed this one??)
Mission Impossible

Today I clean my house (FUN!) and then have dinner and a movie with my oldest and will pick up 5 movies to watch tomorrow in a Prague marathon.

Movies from the list I've never seen and would be interested in:
From Hell
Running Scared

Maybe another weekend I'll work to complete this list. I don't usually rewatch movies but am willing to see a couple of these again for the location alone. Of course I have to create a Berlin list too (of which there are 3902 movies!!!)

Some of these movies cover both Berlin and Prague (like Spy Game) so those will be a must watch as well. Off to clean...

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Denver 16th street

How shocked I was to fall in love with Denver.


Our hotel was ok but it was walking distance from the Convention Center and the 16th Street Mall. This place is beautiful, the weather was comfortable and the people are gracious. The street is shut down for about 1 mile and a half and the north end is just a hop skip and jump away from the state Capitol which in itself is extraordinarily beautiful. We walked to it one nigth and only were able to press our noses against the huge glass doors (it was dark with limited lighting so no pictures came out from my phone).

You can see the Capitol in the distance in this picture:

While most of the stores and restaurants are chains few have made it to Texas so I enjoyed trying all the new places! There is also a tram that travels up and down the Mall that is free and you can hop on and off most of the day to get to each shop.


I have decided I want to have a girls' weekend there next year. Brown's hotel has a spa and hosts a women's package I think we would really enjoy!

Monday, May 10, 2010

A Man on the Move---following Jason Bourne's tracks

My mother's day gift was the Bourne Supremacy. While watching it I foudn this really neat extra called On the Move with Jason Bourne. Apparently this is on the Ultimatum DVD as well. Much of Supremacy is filmed in Berlin and it was sooo fantastic watching this knowing I will be in Berlin in three short months.

Jason Bourne's Itinerary in the Bourne Supremacy
Berlin coming soon!
Moscow I'm debating this.
Goa India I'm thinking this is not so interesting to me right now.

Jason Bourne's Itinerary in the Bourne Ultimatum

Berlin coming soon!
Paris Check
London Check
New York Check
Madrid most likely 2011
Tangiers most likely 2011 (definitely Morocco but not totally sure where!)

I am so looking forward to this. I just hope we spend a tad less time in train stations than Bourne.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Shoes of the Clueless

How do you know someone has never flown in the last decade? They wear shoes like this to the airport:


seriously who dresses for flight and thinks "buckles! That's what I need to look stylish while balancing on one foot holding up a line of people trying to get thru security."

I think that if you wear buckles to an airport you might as well wear a big hat that screams out "I'm a dumb ass avoid me at all costs as well."

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Dodging a Bullet- Airplane style

I love my cell phone. Craig would disagree because I NEVER answer it and rarely seem to actually have it near me but I do love it. I love the convenience and I love that I can keep him updated when I'm travelling so he knows EXACTLY when to pick me up (those stupid online travel updates aren't always correct)

While I love cell phones sometimes I really wish no one else had them. I totally get that the premise that "the plane will fall from the sky if someone has their cell phone on when the doors are shut and the plane is pulling out" is in fact bogus, I just think it is common decency to TURN THE FUCKER OFF while you are trapped inside a tin can with other passengers who REALLY don't want to hear you fight with your boyfriend as we are about to take off.

Flight out of Denver to Memphis (home of the uber-redneck apparently)
Cast: Yours truly, Beefy tattooed university professor (so wouldn't have called that one), Nerdy university professor, white trash ho.
Setting: Seats 16 A and B and Seat 17 A and B.

Beefy is already seated in 17B. Ho walks down the aisle in front of Yours Truly and sits next to Beefy. She is talking on the phone. Loudly.

I shove my carry on in the bin above 16B and take my seat. Nerdy walks down the aisle and looks at his ticket and says quietly. "My seat is 17 but I guess I can just take 16A" So I get up to allow Nerdy to sit next to me. He weighs about 75 pounds and I'll all about not being shoved against total strangers so I was cool. The plane is filling up and the flight attendant is reminding everyone to shut off their phones. Ho is still on the phone. Her conversation is something like this:

"I love you.....I love you....I said I love you...Is that all you are going to say? I said I love you and that is what you say?....That is hateful...why are you sending me these hateful texts?.....I'm about to fly in the air and could die in minutes and you can't say you love me?....Well then go fuck yourself you miserable bastard.....I love you....I love you..."

At which points I am praying like this: "Dear Jesus, my kids love me. Please don't kill me because I have a ho sitting behind me and she wants to teach her miserable whatever a lesson...Amen"

Cell phone clicked shut. Sob. Sob. Sob. Ho calls her daughter(?) to tell her to go get the car from the parking lot and not to let miserable whatever anywhere near the car. Please note that at this point the plane is taxiing to the runway. She is still on her phone. I am praying like this:

"Dear Jesus, thank you for having the ho sit next to Beefy and not me. Amen."

Sob. Sob. Sob.

So I'm trying to read my book (shocker i know) and hear Ho proceed to tell Beefy her life story. And about how nice it is to be married for over 21 years. I am not kidding. And that there is a comfort in knowing someone is there for you. I am not kidding. But it isn't that great because she has had a boyfriend for like 3 years now, but she just broke up with him just then because of the hateful emails he was sending (which she proceeds to read to the whole plane because her voice FREAKING CARRIES). I am not kidding. I wish I were.

So I lean over to Nerdy and quietly say; "Thank you so much for sitting here"

At which he says, "Yeah, you really dodged a bullet there."


Monday, April 26, 2010

Dreams I'd rather not intepret

April has been wacky weird for me. So busy we haven't even had a wine club book reading and really when is it too busy to sit around drinking wine pretending one has read a book???

I've been driving around a lot and listening to German on tape so much that the other night I dreamt in German but all I could say was (in German) Where is the train station? and How much for a first class ticket? The Germans were getting frustrated with me until I yelled at them that I hadn't gotten past the second CD yet DAMMIT.

Five days left in April and every one of them is packed.

Wo is der Bahnhof?

Monday, April 5, 2010

Budgets...are made to be broken

How often does your work send you on a trip to NYC and cover all hotel/food/and travel expenses? For me it's every other year. My personal expenses are minimal so that I DO spend money on things I can enjoy only in NYC. Like a Broadway show. Sure they tour but the sheer size and scope of a production never compares to a show on Broadway. Which makes me a little peeved at this point that we are not going to see Mamma Mia because the price point of one person is out of range.

She has the potential of ruining my day and she isn't even here yet! But I shall rise above this. I mean I saw Wicked yesterday and will see Lend Me a Tenor tomorrow. I'm not musical deprived by any means.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

One-Quarter of the year is over and here's my first picture (I think)

So one of my resolutions was to post pictures of myself. So here I am on a cruise ship hanging over the balcony of the lowest furthest back balcony room you can get on the Sensation (portside I think)


And here I am right before getting my passport stamped.


This may seem like a minimal thing but last year when I went to the Bahamas with Kathryn I left my passport on the boat (as I was instructed to by my husband's aunt the uber-cruiser). Kathryn however took her passport with her and was able to get it stamped by the customs guy at 11pm 30 minutes before the ship left the port. Getting a passport stamp in Nassau is actually an interesting event as it is not required for entry and is basically hidden in the LAST room on the right after a loooooong empty hallway in a building over my right shoulder in this picture that you can't even see. Craig thought I was nuts dragging him to this place but he got his stamped too.

This weekend when I see Kathryn in NYC she promised to take pictures of me to share here. So of course I'm shopping tomorrow to get clothes that look fantasmic. Can't go to NYC with old clothes ya know.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

My advice is free----so feel free to ignore it...

Because *I* obviously do! So I posted last year a couple posts about suitcases and lost luggage. The reason was because (as I have said) if anything bad can happen it WILL happen to me!

So one would think that I would take my own advice, right? One would be wrong, because did I take pictures of the suitcase before we travelled? Noooooooo. Now to be fair the suitcase they lost was the one that we had to gate check because the flight was full we were like the 2nd to last people to get on the plane with nowhere to put it.

I had been about to list all the things we had packed in the case (which again if you are planning to carry on then this is where you keep all your valuables no?) to get ready to claim when they told me it had been lost somewhere on a flight to Guam when we got the call that the suitcase would be delivered.

All is well. Nothing was stolen but I wanted to add an addendum to the packing rules. If you have valuables or medication or anything you do not want stolen, then make sure those are packed in a case that will NEVER be pried from your fingers by an overly solicitous flight attendant. All of our important documents and belongings were in a bag that stayed at my feet or on my shoulder at all times. And frankly I look menacing enough that no one would try to "help" me by gate checking it anyway.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Bad Boys, Bad Boys, Whatcha gonna do?

Senor Frog's t-shirt from Nassau $20
Cruise to the Bahamas $1000
Getting held on a boat for 5 hours while escorted by the Coast Guard because some dumb ass decided to tell people he had a bomb on our ship PRICELESS

Oh yes, I was on THAT CRUISE. (It even made the Drudge Report!)

The Coast Guard detail was pretty cool (although how they aren't puking over the sides in that little bitty boat is beyond me)


And of course the FEDs and Police meeting us at port.


I didn't take a picture of the idiot as he was walked in cuffs in front of me and Craig as we went to the Airport shuttle. It seemed a bit much to do that :)
More pics of Nassau coming soon!

Friday, March 19, 2010


I have to say I'm a bit skeptical of a restaurant that gets so many raves in national magazines that is in a strip mall. DougH is just over 2 years old. It has been featured in Food & Wine and Rachel Ray's magazine among other. I know this because there are framed articles in the hallway to the restroom.


and really that was the highlight of my visit. The restroom. The food was ok, but if I spend $8 on some olives and cheese and $15 on a cheese pizza I have some pretty high expectations. I wasn't too thrilled that we were asked initially to sit at the bar when there was a booth available. And tables here are smack close. Like I knew the life story of fellow diners when we were done you couldn't help but overhear conversations.

The bathroom was very clean and had some mood lighting to die for. I want all pictures of me in this lighting please director.



The unattended candles freaked me out for a second until I realized they were the flameless kind (because I stuck my finger in them, yes I did)


But my absolute favorite thing here was the handtowels. By this I mean TOWEL. I could dry my whole body with this sucker.


If Cindy wasn't waiting for me outside the door, I might have been tempted to stuff a few in my purse. :)

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Book Club with Wine or Wine Club with Books?

I'm not really sure if we are morphing into a Wine Club with Books but initially we had intended to have a book club that would allow us to read books we wouldn't ordinarily read on our own. So far we've read Wicked (and hated it) and The Magician's Assistant (and didn't hate it) and next month we read A Long Way Gone (and hope to at least like it)

The place:

Bin 555 in San Antonio, Texas a Jason Dady restaurant with tapas and wine selections. Everything we tried was fantastic. Not a place for a budget but an excellent beautiful place for a book club!

The people:
The ladies

The ladies and the book
Not everyone because my cousin was recovering from wisdom teeth removal, and others had alternate engagements.

The wines:
Spanish Wine Flight

Red Wine Flight
A fantastic mix to try a variety of wines. I'm loving the flights.

The food:
Picked over cheese plate

We were so busy eating,I forgot to take pictures. Cindy reminded me before I licked the cheese plate clean, to get a pic of the food.

The socks:

my drinking socks

Lessons learned at today's book club....avoid men nicknamed Horse, we all enjoy plot over character development, we have no shame in sharing personal information with waiters.

Oh and Stacy likes to look up freakish body parts on her phone.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

It's a planetastic week!

I'm heading to NY in April and Denver in May and I needed plane tickets. This is actually cutting it pretty close for me since I like to plan out 6 back up plans a year in advance. But both are work related so I didn't have the luxury of actual schedules or knowledge until just this week.

Tuesday I looked at Denver flights to Delta and found one for $206.30 including tax! I couldn't pass it up! Now I just need to find something to do in Denver besides visit the Tattered Cover. Janet can't make it because her real life kicked in so I'll be going at it alone. I'll need to come up with some3 other ideas of things to see/do. I've been eying this Mystery Dinner Theatre but I'm not sure I want to go by myself. But what the heck why not?

I'll definitely have my choice of shopping at 16th Street Mall. Probably should start saving now LOL!

Tara Janzen had a series of books set in LODO so I'm also looking forward to wandering that area near Coors Field to get a better picture in my head about that setting. Maybe I need to reread a couple....checking now to see if she has a new one out soon...

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

If I could pay someone to shop for me....

I'd do it in heartbeat. I HATE SHOPPING. Any kind. From grocery, to shoe, to clothes, even jewelry. When I discovered and internet shopping my wallet screamed because OMG I can click and click and have things delivered TO MY HOME without stepping foot in a store. Yeah Yeah welcome to 2010.

But even this method is tricky for me, because how do you know that it will match and the reds or blacks are just a bit "off" And then you have to send everything back and THAT gets expensive (although with gas prices today and me living 20 miles from a store it can be a trade off). Then in my mail box magic happened. I received a Spiegel catalog that was a miracle.


No worries about matching, no stress about colors. It was all categorized for me as well...Natural, Chic, Elegant, etc. So of course I looked at the prices. Nothing this organized comes cheap right???? The one peices above were $39. THIRTY NINE DOLLARS???? I haven't spent that little on a swimsuit since I was 12 years old! So of course I bought two :)

And the clothes are nice as well. I bought the off the shoulder blouse below but realized I probably don't have a bra to wear with it...we'll see how it fits when it gets here...can't wair!!!


Monday, February 22, 2010

Cruise countdown....

Craig and I are taking a cruise in about 30 days to the Bahamas. This will be his first cruise and I have to say I'm a bit concerned. I wanted to list my concerns here so that when I get back I can address them and see if they were unfounded at all. His cousin wants us to take a 7 or 8 day cruise next year and I really wanted to dip Craig's feet in the cruising water before that big of a leap.

1. Breakfast food. This is our favorite meal and can easily make or break a trip.

2. Dinner Companions. Actually dinner in total. Sitting with strangers, the kind of food, the quality, I could go on....why are my top two concerns food???? Becuase that is the hell that is travelling with Craig. Food concerns.

3. Activities on Nassau.
It's pretty commercialized and we want to getaway. So I have the Frommer's guide to find the more secluded beaches. Here's hoping.

4. The size of the cabin. I chose a balcony this trip but for the longer cruise am hoping Craig will say it was a waste of money so we can get an interior. This way we can save money to spend on alcohol...which travelling with family is alwas required.

5. Tipping. this is amajor sore point for Craig and the basis of all money made by the people in the service portion of the ship. I need to prep him now so he isn't freaked out that the tips are so big.

I am fully aware of how large my list is, but we are really bad at first time travelling. We like to go where we know things. My first cruise was ok but not the best thing ever and frankly it was the company that made it fantastic. SO this time I am going in knowing what to expect and hopefully will come away happier for it.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Rome in a day, leave with a purse

My friend Janet asked me a seemingly innocuous question that morphed into a 20 minute lecture on how I don't love any of my children more than another.

Seriously, having to choose what activities to do with ONE DAY in Rome was like asking me which arm or leg I would prefer to part with. I even tried to get Craig to help make my decision and it was a lively discussion for true.

No one should travel to Rome and not take a tour with Context Travel. In fact, if I had only a day there I would pack in two tours: Vatican City in the morning and The Forum and Colisseum in the afternoon. And while I was walking from tour to tour I would stop by the Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain along the way.

Then I would sneak over to Campo di Fiori to Ibiz leather, a family owned leather shop I totally stole this from Lonely Planet:

near Campo De' Fiori, Via dei Chiavari 39,
Centro StoricoS
06 683 07 297
Transportbus: Corso Vittorio Emanuele II

It's hidden really and the only way I foudn it was the open door to the men and women working inside hadcrafting the bags. I saw that and my wallet just screamed to purchase something. I went back twice. In fact I would even go back to Rome just for these bags.

If you are in Rome for a few days, you can stop in and special order a bag to be made for you. How cool is that?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Craps table: 2, Craig and Andrea: 0

Wowzer. Luck has left us entirely. I mean we must have really pissed her off because she kicked us out somewhere in east Texas leaving us with our suitcases, empty pockets and no cell coverage.

We had a great time with the MIL and GMIL who are quite a pair.

MIL: So Mom when you travel on the bus to Louisiana do you always stay together?
GMIL: No not usually.
MIL: Then why am I following you everywhere?
GMIL: (Pausing and looking at MIL) I have no idea.

We had to hogtie and blind fold GMIL to get her to a $10 breakfast buffet and then stop her from packing her full purse with snacks for later (see also: Winnings, GMIL). I was glad the slut Luck had spent some time with GMIL but really she couldn't spread out her favors???

Notes on Shreveport/Bossier City:

All casinos are on boats.
Smoking is very heavy and your clothes and hair WILL smell like smoke if you step foot on the boats.
Boomtown was a great hotel and the 1800 restaurant was tasty, but the buffet and cantina were bnot so good. (Note to self, South Texans should NEVER eat Mexican food in LA)
Horseshoe is most like Vegas in style and offerings. If you want to feel like you are in Vegas stay and gamble there.
When it is dead they close all the tables and getting in a game is difficult (esp. if there are 2 of you). So be prepared to gamble none. Or mayhap that was just a sign from God that it was time to get our broke selves off that boat.

Also, comps are much better there than in Vegas. Overall it was entertaining. The drive was Loooooooong so I would want to do it with people I like for certain. We'll do it again and hope that slut luck (cuz she's no lady) will rub elboes with us again.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Long car time = long talk time

And while that is not exactly the most fun thing in the world with little children it can be one of the best experiences of your life when it is a grandparent or parent.

Several years ago I bought Houston Astros tickets for my family and asked my grandfather to go with us. He loved the idea. It's a 4 hour drive from San Antonio to Houston with traffic and my grandfather opened up to my husband and me in ways he never had before. It was obvious that with the death of his wife a couple years earlier he was in need of someone to just talk to. We learned so much about him in that time. Things my husband and I still talk about today.

We missed Christmas at my husband's grandmother's housr this year and instead I asked if she would like to travel to Shreveport to go to her favorite casino. She jumped at the idea. In fact she is so excited about this my mother-in-law and her sisters are wondering why they didn't think of this before either. I am looking forward to this for a couple reasons. First and obvious is that we are going to a casino (whoop there it is!). Secondly I am hoping this trip will afford a chance for my mother-in-law to talk to her mother like she normally cannot.

Plus I get to see my Urban Dare buddy :)

So if you plan to travel with a gtrandparent or elderly parent (Meme is in her 80s) let me give you a few tips:

1. Plan bathroom breaks. Don't make them ask. Most are proud and don't want to trouble you so be sure to stop because "you" need a drink or break.

2. Plan your questions ahead of time. Take something to record their responses. It will probably freak them out a bit at first, but once they open up and start sharing stories they will get into it as well. My grandfather talked for 3 straight hours on the way home. My husband barely got any words in LOL!

3. Take them a place THEY want to go. It let's you know more about them by seeing them in situations they are more comfortable with. Plus they are more likely to go if they get to choose!

4. Don't go too far, but make sure it's far enough to get talk time in. This is a tricky balance. Try to get at least an hour and a half one way in the car. But make sure if you are in heavy traffic it isn't so heavy it requires all your attention...this would defeat the purpose!

This is such a fulfilling experience for everyone. I hope you take the time to do it as well!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

for those visual learners (like me!)

Just found a super cool site called See Your Hotel. I really to know ahead of time exactly what my hotel will look like on the outside so I'm not trotting my luggage up and down the street for hours trying to ask for directions in a foreign language arguing with locals on how to pronounce "Vert." It happens.

The site was not completely intuitive so let me give you some pointers. At the top of the site near the title type in your city. I typed in Prague, Czech Republic. You can navigate the map or zoom in if you know the exact location, but if you are like me and don't know where you are staying then type in the name of your hotel in the GOOGLE box at the bottom left of the map. I typed in Park Inn Hotel. This will book mark it for you. Once it is bookmarked, zoom in until the SEE YOUR HOTEL pin shows up in orange.


The pop up shows you tabs for hotel detail, price, photos, reviews and for some cities a Street View so you know EXACTLY what you are looking for!



How cool is that? Now strangely the street view was not available in Berlin, but the photos and reviews are all located in one great site. Check it out!

Friday, January 15, 2010

I have no words,,,

to convey the depth of my sympathy for the Haitians. I have no medical expertise but still have been very interested in combining travel with service. I bookmarked this site when I found it on the Lonely Planet Blog.

From lonely planet blog:

Hands On Disaster Response ( is at work on a volunteer hurricane relief project in Gonaives, Haiti. We are currently accepting volunteers and will end our project on 28 February 2009. We recommend arriving by the 20th of February so that you're able to work before we close out the project.

This small island nation was pummeled by the 2008 hurricane season; tropical storm Fay and hurricanes Gustav, Hanna, and Ike hit the country in rapid succession over a two week period in Aug/Sept 2008, causing massive flooding and damage. Currently, we're clearing mud from homes, supporting distributions, and partnering with other NGOs on water projects.

No special skills are needed and there is no minimum commitment - give us one day, one week, one month! HODR provides food, shelter, and a rewarding work experience, at no cost to our volunteers. Come join the 111 volunteers from 14 countries who have pitched in so far here in Gonaives!

HODR's previous projects include work in Thailand, USA, Indonesia, the Philippines, Peru, and Bangladesh. Please visit our website at for Haiti volunteer information, photos, and video, or contact for more information.

I'm NOT endorsing this organization as I have never used it but I wanted to show options for those of us who aren't search and rescue or medical teams. People who want to help with the food distribution and care of (what has to be dozens) orphans the country will have.

My prayers are sent to all those who are looking for family, mourning for family and travelling to help those in need. God Bless you all.

Monday, January 11, 2010

When you have a schtick why not use it to beat a dead horse?

Can I seriously have ANOTHER Vegas post? Why yes. Si, yo puedo.

What with the multiple trips to Vegas last year I actually created a Playlist on my iPhone of my Vegas songs to listen to on the way. Some are obvious others have inside meaning for me but I thought I'd list it here:

Wild as a Turkey (Hayes Carll)
All I Wanna Do is Play Cards (Corb Lund)
Viva Las Vegas (Elvis Presley)
Leaving Las Vegas (Sheryl Crow)
Poker Face (Lady Gaga) which I know isn't about Poker but whatev.
Las Vegas Nights (Hootie & the Blowfish)
Waking up in Vegas (Katy Perry)
Party in the USA (Miley Cyrus)
Drink to Me Only (Dean Martin)
Vegas (Nico)

Also, our Vegas goto movie has always been Ocean's Eleven (the new one) but with the Hangover we are torn. Mostly we watch both is a movie marathon right before we leave and I squee on the couch during CSI as well.

ah the nostalgia...I need to plan a trip!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Casinos- caveat emptor

I'm booking our rooms for our trip to Shreveport today and I thought of a couple things to make sure to list here. If you are planning a trip where you will stay in a casino, plan to have smoke blown in your face. Repeatedly. This is the last bastion of play for smokers and they work it for all it's worth. Because of this when you book a room be SURE to specify that you want nonsmoking. Stale cigarette smoke takes over and the next thing you know you are febreezing your shoes. Forty times. Six months later.

Also people drink in casinos. A lot. It's free when you are gambling so people tend to jump on that like a duck on a june bug. Early morning isn't necessarily safe because it means you have all the drunks on the casino floor who haven't yet passed out, taking at you thisclose, with whiskey and cigarette breath. And they don't make sense but get pissy when you don't respond.

But despite all that i'm looking forward to my trip :) The first time I went to Vegas (and the second time I went to a casino) this all bothered me greatly. But then I learned that 10 am is the best time for me to play. The drunks are passed out in their rooms, the day shift is nicer, the tables are cheaper and nobody cares that you are drinking heavily. Also a reason I haven't taken my mother!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Miami the base and the sunset glow

Hot Property (Book 1) and Hot Schemes (Book 4) in the Molly Dewitt series by Sherryl Woods.

I have to start by saying if I had known that the books would stop right in the middle and never end I would NEVER have picked them up (even if they were $1 each at a UBS) It's like I have to sneeze and just can't get it out. I can ONLY imagine what it was like for the poor followers in 1994 (which can I say YOWZER was 16 years ago!!!!)

Southern Florida is a character in her own right in these books. From Miami to Key Biscayne it is apparent that Woods lives in the area (and I'm not talking Tiger). Several of the locations she lists are real (like the cafe mentioned in the article linked). It's funny how after reading the books my knowledge of Miami suddenly clicked. The sun, the hot people, the beach. Television shows and songs came rolling to me as I read the books. From Golden Girls to Miami Vice to CSI:Miami there is a reason this location is picked for a setting. It's vibrant and mulitcultural and alive.

Living in south Texas is an multi-cultural experience of its own, but reading these books made me want to visit to compare and contrast the differences. The interaction of cultures and blending of society to form their own unique brand of life in the 305. The books definitely made me want to visit Miami but less for the beach and more for the culture. I wish I had a friend who had family in the area to show me all the REAL places. I'd definitely add this to my places to see in America column (minus Craig who had a bad experience there). Cruises do leave from Miami's port so maybe some day I'l combine a trip.

I glossed over a lot of the story line because
a) it never ends and I didn't want to get emotionally attached to the characters
b) reading about Miami was more fun than the sexual angst anyway.

Overall, I'd recommend Miami but not the books!

Miami, Will Smith

Calle Ocho, Pitbull

Friday, January 1, 2010

2010 Travel Plans

January: Shreveport with Craig's grandmother and mother. There is also a threat that I will have to travel for business to New York City or Cincinnati. What a choice. Dear madam, would you like the filet de bouef or the dog sandwich?

February: Said work trip may also occur here (it if occurs at all)

March: Cruise to the Bahamas with Craig


May: Denver for professional presentation (paid by my university...does it get any better? Ok maybe in Rome? Or Tahiti? Why can't AERA be in Tahiti?)

June: Seattle with youngest then Victoria/Vancouver with Tracy


August: Berlin/Prague with son

September: Las Vegas with Craig's work

October: San Francisco for Nike Women's marathon. Maybe should decide soon if I want to do the half or full marathon.


December: Las Vegas for NFR?

Bucket List items I would like to complete this year:

Sky dive... My son's girlfriend is an avid skydiver. Maybe in 2010 I can lose enough to comfortable do this!

Learn another language...which ties in with:

Visit Prague

Give my mother a dozen red roses and tell her I love her. It is very possible that I will be in Washington on her birthday. I'd love to give them to her in person.

Spend 3 months getting my body in optimum shape

Make yourself spend a half-day at a concentration camp and swear never to forget I've planned to visit one with my son outside Berlin.
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