Sunday, May 13, 2012

Pack it in a travel size and wrap it with a bow

Years ago I realized that I would pretty much buy anything in a travel size. Or sample size. It doesn't matter what you want to call it, but if you shrink the package it's in my basket. Every year Bath & Body Works sells a bag full of samples for like $20 and I'm standing in line to buy it. Every year. I have bags to hold my bags.

So when I read about Birchbox. I squealed. I get a box of samples EVERY MONTH? Free shipping? NO TAX???? How fast can I sign up. Turns out not so fast. There is a wait list and it took me several weeks before I was able to sign up. I immediately got the full year (with one free month). I was thrilled to get a box today (even if the theme is a TV show I never watch...Gossip Girl).
Birchbox MAY 2012
These sizes look small but the goods are quality. The moisturizer is $90 full size retail and I got 1/4 full size. Which means this little jar more than made up for the $10 I paid for the box! Not bad, right? Except I'm not the biggest fan of anti-aging products for my face. But I'll use it on my neck which needs all the anti-aging I can probably find!

The things I love best about travel size is they are small (duh, right!) but that means they take up little space in luggage and you can try different products for different locations when you go to various countries. My last trip to Paris and Morocco needed vastly different products for the two locations and full sized for both would have been too cumbersome.

I'm thinking I'm going to love this company!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Travel With a Purpose: Perspective

Matt Long's post today is about Poverty Tourism. It struck a chord with me because I have a tendency to find myself in poverty sections of places I am visiting, because I want to get away from tourists. I don't have a lot of pictures of those events though. This post made me really think about why. I think asking people to be in pictures can have a dehumanizing effect. Like they are part of the architecture or the setting. It's why my aunt got yelled at when we were in Marrakech because she took a picture of a donkey and the man on the phone thought she was taking a picture of him. It's why Said told us to ALWAYS ask permission before taking pictures of the people in Morocco. A simple wave to the camera and a gesture to the person will do. And if they say "no" you still smile and thank them. Because they are people too.

I'm posting this today on Travel With a Purpose because it makes me really think about why one spends time with people during travel. If and when you do volunteer, do it with the right heart and mind. It isn't a show. It isn't entertainment. But don't do it with pity. Do it because we are all stuck on this Earth going through this thing called life, doing it the best we can. Let it be something that bridges you to others. Something that makes you realize that your problems aren't more than others. But they aren't less either. Take a second each day to thank the Lord for the problems you have. And the problems you don't have and then figure out a way to solve them.

And when you figure out how to deal with one problem, send up a prayer that the people you meet in your travels have found a way to deal with theirs.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Travel With a Purpose: Global Volunteers

I love that Global Volunteers doesn't charge double for two weeks. The cost of one week in some cases is the same as two weeks. But you know what I think is the best part of this company. They have opportunities here in the United States! This way you don't spend all your money getting to a destination and for people who aren't as interested in international travel can still experience different cultures within their own country. And help out, because that is what is so addictive!

For $995, you can help for a week on the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana, and in this project children are welcome to join their parents. How educational and eye-opening would that family vacation be???

Wage Peace Through Service. Leave Your Mark on the World.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Affordable vacation housing

Every once in a while I learn about something and all I can think about is why I'm finding out about this NOW! As I've decided to take a travel break I find out about It's a way to submerse yourself in a city, and as these have kitchens a way to save on food. I can just picture myself shopping in Budapest and staying for a week in my own little slice of Europe. For $134. FOR A WEEK PEOPLE! Granted Budapest is pretty affordable anyway but I'm thinking it would be possible for me to travel to Budapest for under $500 total with these rates (and a free plane ticket of course...which seems to be the only way I travel!)

The site has properties in several cities so if you are planning on travelling to Paris, Amsterdam, Barcelona, or Istanbul...check it out!!!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Travel With a Purpose: Pick and Choose Voluntourism

Volunteer Guide offers a variety of time options from 15 minutes to a full vacations. And then from there you can choose what you are interested in helping with:

New Ideas
Animal Welfare
Helping Children
Community Development
Environmental Protection
Health & Safety
Poverty & Homelessness

And if you pick Helping Children you can choose from:

  • Volunteer At Summer Camp for Children with Special Needs
  • Alleviate Suffering of Babies with AIDS and HIV
  • Share Art Appreciation with Children Abroad
  • Build a School in a Developing Nation
  • Help Orphans and Abandoned Children
  • Volunteer For A Medical Mission
  • Teach English Abroad
  • Improve Children's Dental Health
  • Cultivate Music Appreciation Among Children
  • Help Deaf Children Experience Their World
  • Inspire Autistic Children
  • Make Your Gap Year Meaningful

  • Basically Volunteer Guide is the place to find your next voluntourism vacation! Some of the ideas are found in more than one category (helping children and community development has a lot of crossover) so ideas won't get lost if you one look at one section. Look around. See if something calls your name!!

    Wednesday, April 18, 2012

    Sounds of Morocco: Part 2

    I think people are surprised that Morocco is an Islamic country, but the women are so bright and colorful. Many women do wear their head covered but not all, and the colors of their clothes are often indicative of the region they live in. Berbers are the indigenous people of Morocoo and are nomads who live in cave (not to be confused with desert nomads like Bedouin). Our night in Midelt included a dinner at the hotel which had live music and dancers. Somehow I didn't get a video of the high pitched singing of the women (almost like a wail) but the movements are shown. Almost like fully clothed belly dancing. These women shake their hips like Shakira!

    There were some motions to get us to join but we declined. It was a long day, and I probably would have done it WITH someone, but Nancy and Cynde were not inclined LOL!

    Monday, April 16, 2012

    Oh how we love lists!!

    So many places where to start? I have friends who don't travel as much as I do and when they ask me where they might go on vacation, I don't know where to start!! Do you want nature or culture? People or peace? Calm or Chaos? I have seen (and enjoyed all of those!) So instead of a place I will tell people a website to check out. It condenses the world into 100 places.  And while you don't have to see them all to be happy, at least you have a place to start!

    I've only been to 17, and frankly a couple on the list I'm not really interested in seeing, but it gives you an idea of what you can choose from!

    1. Los Angeles | California | North America

    23. Seattle | Washington State | USA | North America

    24. Puerto Rico | Caribbean

    30. Key West Florida | USA | North America

    31. New Orleans | Louisiana | USA | North America

    35. Prague | Czech Republic | Europe

    42. Walt Disney World | Florida | North America

    49. New York | USA | North America

    51. Washington DC | District of Columbia | USA | North America

    53. Rome | Italy | Europe

    57. Paris | France | Europe

    73. Las Vegas | Nevada | USA | North America

    74. St Tropez | French Riviera | France | Europe

    75. Venice | Italy | Europe

    79. San Francisco | California | USA | North America

    88. Marrakesh | Morocco | Africa

    97. London | England | UK | Europe

    See how many you have visited!!


    Thursday, April 12, 2012

    Travel with a Purpose: Bucket List Travel Adventures

    Bucket List Travel Adventures is based in Toronto and helps travellers who are interested in travel to Peru and Africa. These adventures last several days to include both volunteer opportunites and airfare from Toronto. They do offer pricing from other cities though.

    Description of the volunteer activities:
    Saccaca Community Volunteer Work (B, L, D) We will be volunteering in the Saccaca community 4 1/2 hours outside of Cuzco. Most of our porters for the Inca Trail live in this community and it was a logical choice for our next project. We will be building a local community centre and tasks will include building mud bricks for the project, building, painting, crafts, games as well as many other activities that the whole family can participate in. A chance to get your hands dirty and help out and become members of this community. Overnight Home stay.

    There seems to be quite a bit of hiking as well so make sure you are prepared to work! Rebekah kas shown interest in Peru for her trip...I'm not holding my breath (yet) because she has changed already (twice!)

    Wednesday, April 11, 2012

    Sounds of Morocco part 1

    Our hotel in Marrakech was right behind a Mosque so we woke up at 5:30 AM to this. But I loved it! It's part of the Islamic experience for a traveller!

    Tuesday, April 10, 2012

    The Birthday Project and the March update

    March was obvioulsy a productive month for my bucket list! I went to Morocco and rode a camel! But that deserves a post of its own (complete with video!) So I'll list the other things I ended up doing (and not doing in March)

    I didn't read a single book or watch a single movie! Which means in April I need to hit the books and press play. I did finish Midnight Cowboy yesterday (it took me a couple days), and wonder WHY DO ALL THE SAD MOVIES WIN THE OSCAR! I think people sit around and change endings JUST TO WIN A STATUE!! If you haven't seen the movie, I hope I'm not giving it away by saying it's sad, but then I figure, it won Best Picture, you should know it's sad already!

    My garden is moving along, so I am going to cross the "plant a garden" portion off my list but still need to learn how to use my pressure cooker when I receive all my bounty! Look at my black eyed peas! LOOK AT THEM!!!



    These fantastic peas were grown straight from a bag from the grocery store. Did you realize you could grow those beans you buy to cook? You don't have to buy special little packts. Grab a few from a bag you intend to cook and grow some more!

    I had meant to Drink Absinthe in Paris when I was there but OK SO OOPS! Totally forgot to do this, so I guess I will have to go back to Paris one day. What a tragedy! Since I need to complete 12 items in '12 to keep my Bucket List moving, I switched something out. I decided to perform a Random Act of Kindness for a stanger. I got the idea from Stephanie at Filling My Life Bucket. I also liked her criteria so I wanted it to be a baby with a soon due date, a single mom, and a list that had a couple things bought (so I know it was real!) I forgot to add a a link to my site so she would know I wasn't a creepy stalker, but I did let her know that she was getting a gift on my birthday :) So Happy Birthday to me! and congrats to Amanda B from Hampton, Georgia who is getting this adorable thing (Rebekah loved hers!!)

    Eventually I want to take part in a complete Birthday Project. If you've never heard of them it's an organization who helps you give on your birthday instead of worrying about receiving! You do a random act of kindness for every year you were born. But I want to keep it to the monetary limit of the age I am too. So I think next year I want to do 39 random acts of kindness and spend $39 doing it! If you need an idea for your birthday or for you bucket list, check it out!!

    Saturday, April 7, 2012

    Bucket List: Fashion and Wellness

    This is a pretty weak section for my Bucket List. I'm sure as I read more lists I'll come up with more ideas but this is it for now~

    Spend 3 months getting my body in optimum shape

    Learn Krav Maga

    Master the Pincha Maurasana pose
    Take a makeup lesson

    Run a half-marathon
    Walk a full marathon

    Be able to do the splits
    Do 100 consecutive pushups

    Complete the Tough Mudder

    Thursday, April 5, 2012

    Travel with a Purpose: All Hands Volunteers

    There are a lot of volunteer projects that charge money. All Hands does not. Once you get yourself to the project they take care of your food and shelter and general needs. HOWEVER, this is NOT a spa day. You WILL work. You will learn and you will make a difference. This is one organization I am very interested in because they work on timely disasters. So if a major earthquake or tsunami hits and you want to know how you can help out a foreign area beyond donating money. This is a fantastic idea.

    Wednesday, April 4, 2012

    Fears of travelling debunked

    I think that most people who love to travel get a lot of flak from people who don't have the wanderlust. Why go outside the country to see things when our own country has so much to offer? I get this question ALL THE TIME. I try to be polite. Personally, I want to travel to great distances as young as possible because I see my parents and aunts and uncles and frankly aging sucks. I probably won't want to fly 6000 miles when I'm 70. But then again knowing me I probably will. Regardless, why wait? It's not that I don't want to see America. I do! It's just that most of it is a car ride away (and I live in Texas people!) My parents own an RV I will likely inherit someday so I can RV my way across the country in my 70s and 80s. But for the next 30 years I want to see the rest of the world. And here are some great travel fears debunked.

    My personal favorites (and the ones I hear the most are):

    One of the biggest fears about traveling is crime. And I admit that crime is a concern for me while traveling. It certainly can happen so you have to keep yourself safe. But some people take this fear way too far.

    My family was all up in arms over the fact that I booked a private excursion for us on Jamaica. Images and stories of past horrid crime were flowing freely. I calmly called the company and discussed their fears and then looked up facts. Turns out that San Antonio is probably more dangerous that Falmouth, Jamaica any day of the week. Though I'm not planning a trip to Kingston any time soon.

    I’ve heard some people cite terrorism as a big concern when they decide where and when to travel. However, I think it depends on the events going on in the world and the country in question. The less prominent terrorism is in the news, the less likely you’ll hear it being used as a reason not to travel.

    You wanna hear about this? Travel to an Islamic country. I can't tell you how many ignorant comments I got about Morocco before I went. And the worry about it being "near" Libya. Buy a map people.

    It’s always a good thing to check out the diseases you might face while traveling. You don’t want to catch malaria, dysentery or typhoid while enjoying your travels. However, you can preempt a lot of these diseases by getting immunization shots. If you keep clean and avoid dirty water, you’ll immensely decrease your likelihood of catching anything.

    Ok I do consider this a real worry. But it's not stopping me. We have a great health system here and I have good insurance. I got my shots and watched the water I drank and foods I ate and I was fine.

    Jet Lag however is a mofo!

    So what are your fears? What is stopping you from seeing what you want to see? As you get in your car to drive to the store (which is far more dangerous than a terrorist threat) know that traffic abroad can be just as deadly. But it doesn't even put a dint in our activities at home? Why would it stop me abroad????

    Monday, April 2, 2012

    Eiffel Tower pictures

    I went to Paris with a plan. I wanted to show my aunt as much of Paris as I could. I had already been to Paris twice. I like it, but I don't love it. It's beautiful and legendary and all, but when I think of the whole world out there, this is one of the places I don't think of as required. But everyone wants to see this:




    My aunt had made the comment during the day that she didn't understand what was so romantic about Paris. I had taken her to eat and the Louvre and to eat and to see the Arc de Triomphe and to eat. I realized that I took her to see MY Paris. MY Paris isn't romantic because *I* am not romantic. I don't like chocolate much, flowers wilt and die and frankly I can open my own door. But my aunt wanted to take her husband (who is romantic) to Paris next year and I realized I was doing her a grave injustice by showing her the foodie side only. So I took her back and showed her this:


    And my personal favorite:


    She fell in love as most people do. This is by far one of the most beautiful sights in the world. I think I read somewhere that this is the most recognizable landmark in the world. If you find yourself in Paris be sure to take the Metro to the Trocadero. Once there it's easy to find the view. However, the metro itself is like casting dice, switching eight times, jumping through fire and then spinning three times. Don't do this your first day. Get to know the Metro first before you plan your excursion here. But as you can see it's completely worth the ticket!

    Thursday, March 29, 2012

    Travel with a Purpose: A company to put on your radar: Earthwatch

    I had lunch with Erin again last week and she asked if I had heard of Earthwatch, which I hadn't. She told me I needed to go home and look it up immediately and so I did. Not because I listen so well really but more because she really intrigued me. Earthwatch is about travel and volunteering but it's also about working with scientists and their endeavors around the world. So like basically, it's my dream trifecta! There are lots of options but recently I had a dream about working on Easter Island so this one jumped out at me.

    "On this expedition, you'll help researchers examine the role of prehistoric rock mulching and rock placement in Rapa Nui gardens and agricultural systems as ways of creating a sustainable agricultural system. You'll also help conduct experiments assessing whether and how this prehistorical technology could be re-introduced on the island today."

    Let me make clear though. These ARE NOT CHEAP. There are other options at varying lengths and activity levels but I haven't looked closely enough to see if this included airfare. I am doubting it. However this is a true scientific endeavor so you could probably get donations to help with your trip as well. Would LOVE to hear from anyone who has completed an Earthwatch Expedition.

    Monday, March 26, 2012

    French food, restaurants & Bistro Richelieu

    French restaurants are expensive. Food in France is subsidized so that farmers are guaranteed a living wage no matter what kind of crop they make. This means cheese and fruit and vegetables and everything else used for making meals is expensive. Likewise, waiters are not heavily dependent on tips for income. So included in most meal prices is your service cost. I personally still add more, especially in Paris where service can be...well an American perspective. See the French love a good meal and they love to savor it. They do not want to be bothered by a waiter asking if they need anything else and shoving a check at them. So for an American who has to ask for drink refills and the check, service can seem horrid. In fact, for the French it is perfect and respectful. Cultures clash.

    This is not to say you can't find an inexpensive meal at all. I mean sandwich shop fronts are open all over the city and the standby of Jambon et Fromage is ALWAYS available. And you don't look crazy walking down the street and munching on a sandwich. Everyone does it.


    A sandwich and drink is usually about $5 and it's an easy way to budget lunch (of course don't forget about dessert but I'll cover that later!) And if you do sit down to eat at lunch you can usually find Prix Fixe meals that contain three courses (sometimes a drink) and aren't going to break your bank.

    Dinner can be costly. The good news is that like New York restaurants are required to post menus and prices outside so you know what is available and for how much BEFORE you enter. It helps if you know French food names (or have a trusty dictionary), because they tend to START descriptions in English then add a French word every now and then. For example, I hate eating fungus. It's my one never ever food. So I am sure to know the French word for mushrooms (champignons) to avoid anything with this at all. And the French love their fungus!

    Like every other country out there but America (it seems) the French also like to eat really, really late. Like 9-10 is just getting it started. Somehow these people munch on bread all day to keep themselves from gnawing their own arms at 7pm like we were about to and still stay thin. My Germanic genes however won't allow that to happen and just smelling the bread meant I had trouble zipping my pants. So I avoided the bread outside meals and we ate at 7. With all the other Americans! It's actually kind of funny when travelling to Europe. If you feel homesick eat at 7pm. Or earlier. You are SURE to find other Americans at restaurants this way!


    So we happened upon Bistro Richelieu on a wet cold evening and we sat off to the side. I ordered wine and French Onion soup and something else that escapes me for my meal (I was tired at this point) and some of the best creme brulee I've ever eaten. But what made my meal the best was this:


    Two of the best waiters I have ever had. The woman spoke NO ENGLISH but smiled and giggled at my atrocious French. The man spoke far better English than my French and we had a wonderful time sitting and resting and visiting with them as much as we could. Unfortunately as we were winding down the restaurant started filling up and they weren't able to talk to us much. But they were sweet and kind and these are the kind of people I think of when I hear people talk about how they were mistreated in Paris. French people don't hate Americans. They are intolerant of tourons (tourist morons) but I am guilty of that as well here in San Antonio (a tourist mecca). So please have no worries about the mean French waiter. Try out your French, show them you tried and give them a giggle over your atrocious accent. It makes the experience that much more fun!

    Saturday, March 24, 2012

    Bucket List Revisited...Again...Henna Undone

    I'm sure that many people start to accomplish bucket list items and then right when they are ready to git 'er done realize it's not what they imagined. Or even want. My trip to Morocco was surreal at times (having tea in a Berber cave kitchen while the son's cell phone rings was very Dr. No), but overall it was very real. Thanks to our fantastic guide Said from Desert Majesty, we got to see parts of Morocco most don't even imagine exist.

    And so my exotic ideas of getting my hands hennaed in Morocco flew out the window. The women who sit in Djemma El Fna in Marrakech do a beautiful job of taking tourist's money and creating superb drawings on the backs of their hands. My resident friend warned me that the black henna can cause scarring so I went off into the back roads of Meraouga and Dades and Draa Valley ready for my henna moment at the end of the trip.

    Until I met Fatima. She graciously showed us how to create bread, adding ingredients like my husband's grandmother (by sight) kneading and kneading until MY arms were sore. It was as she was shaping the bread that I noticed her hands. My aunt Cynde had commented on how much time and care Fatima had spent on washing her hands before and after dough preparation. But her hands looked dirty. So I sneakily asked Said about her hands and he explained that this was the true tradition of Henna. Berber women coat the PALMS of their hands with it, cover them with material or bags then sleep so that the staining appears in the morning. THIS is the Berber tradition of beauty. NOT the designs on the backs of the hands.

    Also they use it to color their fingernails and I found it precious on the shy little girl they handed me to kiss (on the cheek four times each side) that I didn't want to put down. You can see it if you look hard at her fingernails. This is Sophie (the mom, who invited me into the inner sanctum so we could all see the rest of their house!), Fatima in my arms, and Eunice in Sophie's arms.


    I have so much to say about my trip, but I still am processing it all. And getting all these pictures uploaded is a CHORE! Can't wait to share my hammam experience though!

    Thursday, March 22, 2012

    Travel with a Purpose: Costa Rica Chica

    I will make it to Costa Rica some day. Flights to San Jose are crazy cheap and short from Texas and I'm not really sure why I haven't gone there yet. Craig is on the fence after seeing a web page with the variety of snakes available to play with (read: run away from) in the glorious junglish atmosphere. I have mental images of him in a tree canopy refusing to come down because there is a flashy reptile on the ground. Probably I'm holding it. He once almost jumped out of a two story building, because I was trying to get him to touch a ball python. I even knew of his fear at the time. I can be mean that way.

    Opportunities to volunteer in Costa Rica are plentiful. I did a google search and found pages of ideas (and even some news stories!). The one that popped up and seemed interesting is Sea Turtle Conservation. The costs seems the most affordable of places that I've seen so far. Two weeks is $1050. This is cheaper than cruising!

    Actually I really like this company from what I read. Would love to do more research on it! I think I'd like to do a Spanish immersion in Chile :)

    CAVEAT EMPTOR: I personally have not worked with this orgainzation. Be sure to do all due diligence in researching a group before giving them any money and travelling to a foreign country to work with them!!!

    Thursday, March 15, 2012

    Travel with a Purpose: Moroccan women

    I am slightly hesitant to volunteer to teach English in certain countries. I waffle between finding it self-centered in the belief that other people need to learn my language and the knowledge that English is a common language around the world that will help people get jobs in tourism. Many Moroccans are already bi-lingual (at the least!). However the thought of opening worlds and helping women learn to read? That speaks to me! I've volunteered here at home with children and literacy and I personally think there is no greater gift to give a person than the ability to read.  But as an avid reader I recognize my bias :)

    If you have interest in visiting Morocco and making a difference in a woman's life, please look into ProWorld's opportunities in Meknes. This is an interesting company because they have built in excursion opportunities to Fes and Volubilis that are fantastic!

    CAVEAT EMPTOR: I personally have not worked with this orgainzation. Be sure to do all due diligence in researching a group before giving them any money and travelling to a foreign country to work with them!!!

    Friday, March 9, 2012

    Camels are called "ships of the desert" for a reason

    So one week before leaving for my trip I did research on how to ride a camel. Not my best preplanning move ever. I immediately went to my fitness instructor and said I needed to work out my inner thighs. A lot. In a new exercise segment she called the "Andrea workout" (which I didn't really appreciate because my name has been damned numerous times the past week) she worked inner thigh muscles I didn't know I had. I certainly hope this helps somewhat when I hold on with all my might using only my inner thighs.

    Research will show you that riding a camel is not like riding a horse. I kind of already knew this what with being 9 feet in the air during the ride. This is not much lower than the roof of a house. So jumping off a camel is not really a likely method of dismounting. Their little spindly legs worry me because I am not little and I don't care that they are used to hauling hundreds of pounds of cargo across long stretches of desert.

    Here is a short video to give you an idea:

    I hope when I get back I can post a video of one of us showing off as well! I certainly hope we get our own camel because those sharing don't look comfortable!

    Additionally, some friends of mine who lived in Saudi Arabia warned me about the rocking motion. So I have stocked up on DRAMAMINE. I will be sure to take it before we get on the camel because the last thing I want is to be sea sick in the middle of the desert 9 feet off the ground! (See also: NO TOUCH MONKEY! On Dress)

    Thursday, March 8, 2012

    Travel with a Purpose: Voluntourism in France

    I am always surprised to see France (especially the Eiffel Tower) on so many people's bucket lists. While I love Europe, because I think it's the perfect place to dip your toes into travel, France has always been the place others wanted to go and I happily tagged along. Don't get me wrong. Paris is a fantastic place to be the typical traveler. Matt Long covers this fabulously in the fact that so much of the Parisian experience is being part of the cliche! Baguettes, the Metro, and picnics near the Louvre. The participation in Parisian life and being a tourist is really no different that what true Parisians do! There are a variety of volunteering positions in France but the ones I think are most fascinating are outside the city. And really the South of France is nothing to sneeze at either!

    Concordia is a UK based company that offers farm and volunteering opportunities from construction to true archaeological work. France is an expensive travel destination so I think this would be a fantastic idea! So get your Indiana Jones on and check it out!

    CAVEAT EMPTOR: I personally have not worked with this orgainzation. Be sure to do all due diligence in researching a group before giving them any money and travelling to a foreign country to work with them!!!

    Tuesday, March 6, 2012

    Off the beaten path: Berlin Treptower Park

    Looking over past posts, I realized that I have left out quite a bit of my trip to Berlin with Stuart. After doing Prague and day trips basically on our own, I wanted to make sure that we had a tour guide with us in Berlin. While Prague was saved during the Nazi occupation, Berlin was so destroyed the collection of rubble from the city created a hill of debris now grown over that held a US NSA listening station.

    As I've mentioned before, Berlin is fascinating in it's sense of NOW. It is difficult to walk through the city and get a feel of the past because so much of it is brand new (but rebuilt to look like the past). So without a guide, you happen upon a building you think is hundreds of years old is in reality on 10 years old (or less!). It's a trick of the eye that not all Berliners are happy with. How much is recreating history being authentic? How much of recreated history is worth the recreation? What does it imply?

    Berlin is also very rule-bound with respect to construction. The red granite of the Third Reich is so disgusted that new red construction has been destroyed because of rumors that the granite came from the Nazi regime. This makes the memorial in Treptower Park that much more special.

    Our guide was getting annoyed with us I could tell. Stuart (being 17 years old) was unable to show any interest in anything and I was so excited about being in Berlin that I was pretty much willing to be shown anything, anywhere. So when she took us into the former East Berlin to see the park, she seemed a little concerned we wouldn't have an interest. Finally she mentioned that this was a Soviet memorial park. Would we mind that? My response was simple. The men who died in the war were no less human, no less someone's son or husband or brother because of their nationality. I was happy to go and ponder the "other side" simply to place perspective on a war that ended five years before my son was born.

    This was one of our last stops so imagine my surprise when huge stylized flags of red marble (taken from the Third Reich Chancellory!!!) were used in the memorial.


    The sheer size of this memorial is amazing. My son barely comes to the base of the kneeling soldier. But that is nothing compared to the standing Soviet solder at the end of the long garden. It is hard to put this size of this in perspective and I don't believe pictures really do it justice. The soldier is holding a child and stomping on a swastika. This marks another unique facet of this memorial. Swastikas and Nazi symbols are illegal in Germany (even as Anti-Nazi sentiment!)


    Let's see if a bigger picture gives better sense of size. Look at the tiny people to the right of the picture.

    Treptower Park, Berlin

    The park was built after the war by widows and women as so many of the German men were killed in the war. If you travel to Berlin, I strongly recommend going off the beaten tourist path and check out this memorial. It's very peaceful and quiet and a wonderful place for contemplation.

    Monday, March 5, 2012

    Beer, Brisket, and Guns: God bless Texas

    There are moments in my life where I take a step back and think, "Only in Texas!" Most of the time this is a good thing. This last weekend I found myself in a tent, staring at a stack of white plastic boxes.


    Somehow my friend Kelly and I ended up as judges for the final Brisket competition at a local cook off.


    Brisket is a big thing in Texas. It's rubbed and slathered with special herbs and sauces then cooked for hours and hours. The end result is a tender, juicy meat that you should be able to cut with a fork. If you use a knife it's not good brisket. It should also have a "smoke" ring around it showing the long hours it spent on the pit. This means all the tastings will be heavy on flavor so between every taste we needed to cleanse our palates:


    Our team made the finals for brisket but no award. They did win 7th for Chicken and 2nd place (YAY!!) in Ribs. Perhaps now I should mention this is NOT a place for a Vegan. I didn't see a single vegetable the whole weekend.


    SO??? You say. We have cookoffs where I live, too! What makes Texas special? Maybe all the other states celebrate their birthday EVERY YEAR. Maybe other states run their flag more often than the American (factoid: The Texas flag is the ONLY state flag allowed to fly at the same height as the American flag.) But do they also run flags for battles? The one on the bottom right is the Alamo, the one on the bottom left is from Gonzales and says "Come and Take It"


    But even more they hold auctions selling SHOTGUNS to a bunch of beer swigging, meat eating country boys?


    It's no wonder people think they are in a foreign country when they visit Texas!

    Friday, March 2, 2012

    February: a month in review

    This will be quick. I accomplished nothing beyond eating Kimchi with Erin and working out a lot. Not that I am complaining about that! I've found exercise to be the best stress reliever I could find! Plus I get to have an excuse for not completing the projects I need to complete. (I'm getting healthy you know, somehow that excuse trumps all.) Also just in under the wire, I watched Hurt Locker on February 29th. Am now feeling politically knowledgeable and Pop Culturally aware (three years later).

    I did have a moment of finding about myself while shopping, when I realized that if you give me $88 of stuff free when I spend $17.50, I will in fact spend more than that. In fact I spent it before walking three feet deep into the store. But I'm justifying this by thinking that if I leave all this makeup behind in Africa because it gets confiscated for being TOO LOUD! I will be out $25. ($10 actually because I used a $15 gift card a friend gave me for Christmas!) Check it out! Not bad for $10!!!


    And no. I have absolutely no idea where I would wear yellow eye shadow. Or that green either. Which is strangely reminiscent of my 10th grade History teacher Mrs. Freeman with her green polyester pants.

    Thursday, March 1, 2012

    Travel with a Purpose: Ideas for Voluntourism

    I've decided to start a new series called Travel with a Purpose Thursdays. I'm lazy and I don't want to have to go back through all my posts to find ideas for travel in the future and I want guests to my blog to easily find ideas if they too decide to Travel with a Purpose. So today I'm honoring a woman who has broken many barriers on her home continent.

    Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is the first and currently only female elected head of state in Africa. She was awarded the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize with two other women for their dedication to women's causes in the world. These are women who make us proud to have two X chromosomes! Liberia is a country with a fascinating history some of it tied to the US. English is the official language of the country making travel a teensy bit easier. Though the state department makes it clear that travel here is no cake walk, I think this would be an interesting first step into volunteering in Africa.

    Children Better Way (CBW) offers a variety of opportunities (from education to agriculture) to anyone who can stay for a month. Many of the positions don't necessarily deal with children. I have to admit I'm torn on this. I deal with my children at home so when I vacation usually I like to be child free, but I think I could make an exception here. I'd love to hear more about this group if you have more information.

    CAVEAT EMPTOR: I personally have not worked with this orgainzation. Be sure to do all due diligence in researching a group before giving them any money and travelling to a foreign country to work with them!!!

    Wednesday, February 29, 2012

    Duende: Find your Passion in your Pants

    Michele posted the basics about Duende on her blog and I realized she was talking about the Ricky Martin Glee episode. I totally get my Duende on when I work out at Pulse. This is the song I nearly knock people over in. People have started moving away when the beat starts. Since some people are following the 2001 Things to Do Before You Die checklist, here is a little help! Watch this song and get your Duende on!

    Monday, February 27, 2012

    No Touch Monkey! A giveaway!!

    This weekend I finished No Touch Monkey! And Other Travel Lessons Learned Too Late! by Ayun(pronounced Ann) Halliday. There were a couple of laugh out loud moments but most of my time was spent shaking my head at the messes this woman found. Her method of travel is not my preferred method. While I also love taking part in authentic cultural experiences, I've never really had a penchant for sleeping in doorways and train stations to save money. Also, I've never slept in a hostel. Eponymous horror movie notwithstanding, I've felt the money spent on a hotel room was worth it for a sense of security and privacy.

    Also, apparently I have a thing with hygeine. I'm sure there are women out there that culturally choose to not shave body parts (see, French and Eastern European women), but for Ayun this seemed to be some badge of honor. I had fleeting glimpses of her touring Europe and Southeast Asia meeting people and showing her pits. I am not this kind of person. In fact I've spent the last few months getting little laser shocks in my pits in a effort to NEVER shave again but still be slick and bare. If anyone is interested in doing this, wait for a groupon because it can be expensive but it is less painful than a waxing AND you don't have to let it grow out to get treatment. I highly recommend it!

    Anyway as it is 2012, and everyone has lists, here are the things I learned after reading No Touch Monkey!

    1. You should not take pictures of women working in the Red Light District in Amsterdam. This story made me think of CeCe and her travels there, though I personally don't have this on my travel list. I do have friends who I can see dragging me there though.

    2. Malaria is nasty. Ask for tough drugs if you go to subsaharan Africa!

    3. Massages offered by strange men are not a good idea. Though to be honest I already knew this!

    4. Volunteering in countries where the UN has shipped everyone out for their safety is really not recommended.

    5. Taking drugs in foreign countries leads to flying beds and talking ceiling fans. Actually now that I think about it taking drugs anywhere probably leads to this. It's why I avoid drugs. I'm not a licensed bed pilot.

    If reading about these stories sounds interesting to you, email me on my profile or leave a message here and I'll ship it out FOR FREE to the first person who asks :) I love seeing all the new people come to my blog! Welcome!!!

    Saturday, February 25, 2012

    Cranes for Cancer

    An acquaintance of mine got married a few years ago and created 1000 origami cranes for her wedding. A thousand origami cranes is good luck in Japanese culture. I thought this was ambitious and interesting so of course I added it to my bucket list. I've been afraid to start because I can be the queen of the almost finished (and I have the scrapbooks, cross stitch and quilts to prove it) and I was having little mental vignettes of tiny cranes all over the house and Craig wondering what the hell was going on because he found some in his boots. So I've put it off. It wasn't on my list for this year.

    But then I found this site and felt like this was my motivation. I have been so incredibly blessed by God. I want to make these cranes and ship them off to someone in need of a little luck however they may get it. I want to finish these cranes and send them off with love and prayers and hope to someone out there who needs a little (or a lot!) of all three. I am researching now origami paper (because apparently you should use a special kind) and in April I will start making them. I would like to finish by next April which will be my 39th birthday. I've learned to give myself a time frame or it won't get done!

    Anyone else want to make cranes? I picture little wine and crane parties. Sitting around making cranes and talking about life. I'm game!!

    Wednesday, February 22, 2012

    Reasons why Craig is not my go-to travel companion

    There are married people who spend most of their lives together, never apart for more than a day. These people have identical tastes, both loving comic books, or drag racing, or rodeo. We are not these people. Craig and I have been married almost 19 years (in 3 weeks!) and I am realizing that I have been married and with Craig longer than I was without him. Personally I love that. For some people this would give them itches and the need to "find themselves."

    Well my itching usually is attributed to "finding the world." I NEED to experience the world. I NEED to taste, touch, and smell the world. Craig does not. Craig likes the stay home (thought not necessarily being a single dad...that has been negotiable). I was reading a blog post today and I realized there are a couple reasons why Craig isn't my go-to travel companion.

    1. Craig is a picky eater. Matt Long has a great post about his pick eating and KUDOS for him for not letting it hinder his travel. For Craig, what he can eat in a foreign country is terrorizing. It requires intense research on mmy part. Likewise when he finds something he knows he likes, he is a creature of habit. He ALWAYS orders the same thing at restaurants. This meant in Rome, the city of fantastic cuisine we went to the same restaurant for dinner multiple times. While I was eating Zucchini flowers and deep fried rice balls, he had steak and potatoes. Again.

    2. Craig loves America. This is his go to reason when you ask him because he doesn't like to admit #1. But it really is true. And I would let him get away with this if he didn't want to go to Vegas three times a year. I'm saving this travel with Craig for when I get older and we can RV our way across the country. Plus here he can a) Understand the language and b) read the menu (and other stuff but I know the menu is most important!)

    3. I like to plan, Craig likes to fight all my plans. It makes for a fun and interesting vacation. Also high blood pressure, heart burn, and epic fights on the Roman transit system. Luckily those Romans are expressive and loud with their hands too.

    4. I love my marriage and husband. I want to keep it that way :)

    This is not to say I don't force him to go places. I got him to Rome! I got him on a cruise! I will someday get him to Oceania. But for now we are happy with him at home and me travelling abroad. Plus I let him go play at the farm any time he wants, all alone.

    Tuesday, February 21, 2012

    When your bucket list happens and you don't even realize it

    Last summer I worked with middle school students teaching water science and environmental engineering at a university's summer camp series. This sounds a lot more impressive than it really was. But whatever I did, somehow it made an impression because I was contacted by the powers that be letting me know they wanted to honor me with an award for my time spent with the students. Wow. That was completely unexpected.

    I mean I basically felt like a glorified baby sitter, but if I get a free meal out of it I'm game. Plus I figured if this was a way to get the word out for the ITEC camps then I was all for that. I'm giving that way.

    But then I get an email from the powers that be telling me that this was actually a mentoring luncheon and did I have any OTHER people that I mentor they could mention. HMMMMM. I wasn't sure what others there are as I didn't realize I was mentoring to start with? I had to go look mentor up in the dictionary because I don't remember the life guidance in the teaching of the water cycle and sewage treatment plants. But then I might have blanked out a bit of those weeks because the kids? They were wild.

    So I email them back and explain the volunteer work I was doing with a local middle school helping with science fair, thinking they would tell me i didn't fit the criteria. Nope. This morphed into me volunteering and TRAINING mentors. So what happens when things spiral out of control? You find yourself at a table eating chicken parmesan, listening to the MAYOR tell you what a great job you are doing.

    (blurry picture from 3 year old iPhone)

    although the real shame didn't appear until I had to stand in front of everyone (luckily in a huge group) to receive this certificate and ribbon (i'm not just a fake mentor, I'm a super star one at that!)

    So anyway, the powers that be didn't seem too upset when I arrived and told them I wasn't really sure about what this was about and they said not to worry. This was the only way they could get the university to thank me so roll with it. So I did. But I'm still waiting to cross it off my bucket list. Certificate or not!

    Monday, February 20, 2012

    Andrea's Bucket List Part 3: Connect and Contribution

    More from my Bucket List. Hope it inspires you!


    Make yourself spend a half-day at a concentration camp and swear never to forget August 2010

    Visit a VFW hall or nursing home and listen to stories for a whole day.  December 2011

    Be someone's mentor. There is actually a funny story about this I'll have to add later.

    Write the novel you know you have inside you.

    Join Toastmasters

    Volunteer abroad for one month. Teach English in a foreign country.

    Give your mother a dozen red roses and tell her you love her. May2010

    Join a flash mob

    Be complaint free for 30 days (

    Practice Gratitude for 21 days (keep a gratitude journal)

    Party at South by Southwest

    Take a picture every day for a year.


    Donate platelets once a month for a year.

    Pay for the order of the person behind me in the drive thru lane

    Tip a server 100% of the bill

    Make a microloan at Kiva 01/18/12

    Give a panhandler all the money I am carrying.

    Volunteer to take care of the USS Missouri

    Become a Child Advocate

    Do Random Acts of Kindness for every year I am alive in one day

    Pick someone up from a bus stop and take them where they need to go.

    Wednesday, February 15, 2012

    Eating Kimchi with Erin

    It wasn't on my list of things to accomplish for the year, but Erin is my adventurous foodie friend, so I proposed Chong's on the West Side. This restaurant is near an Air Force base and was filled with uniforms! I took this as a good sign since a lot of the Air Force stationed here come from a Korean base.

    I had no idea what to expect with Kimchi. I knew it was cabbage based, but I pictured something more like sauerkraut. It was spicier, not nearly as sour as I expected. The waitress brought out a sample of cabbage and turnip based kimchi and I have to admit that I liked the turnip better. It was gingery and crunchy and I loved it!

    I warned Erin that there would be pictures and blogging but my eating was messy and there was concern on my part about the multiple spots all over my breasts so I completely forgot.

    I really should have gotten a picture of the location though. It's hilarious to eat in a restaurant next to an insurance company across from a bar. It's hidden in the dead end of a strip mall. It was surreal. It was like every Korean restaurant joke I have ever heard (and I have to admit it...I was thinking dog meat!)

    So the four perfect scores by the health department was a good sign. The fact that they felt the need to post them ON THE FRONT DOOR however was a bit disconcerting. I think I even saw a blue plate from KSAT from the Kitchen Kops. Regardless, Erin and I had a great time. We stayed until everyone left. Not because we chased them off. I don't think. Time flew and they never seemed to want to shoo us away. I'd go back...but next time I want the ribs. It isn't every day you get scissors with your meal!!

    Tuesday, February 14, 2012

    On Parenting: In which i'm sure to offend someone

    I hate to brag but I have to admit I have well-behaved kids. It's not just me saying that. I get told this all the time. Nothing makes me more proud as a parent than to pick up my child from a party and hear the mom tell my son or daughter that he or she is welcome back ANY TIME.

    My children did not hatch from eggs, or get picked from a cabbage patch. They are the culmination of hard work and constant, consistent parenting from both Craig and myself. There are things we have chosen to do in order to make them well-adjusted, eager, patient, considerate future global citizens.

    Did I mention patient?

    I stress this one attribute because I find it so lacking in all of American society. From immediate song changes to the constant need to be entertained, I don't think Americans are able to be silent long enough to hear their own thoughts. I am beginning to just believe that Americans don't like themselves so they try to fill every waking moment with things, communications, and entertainment so they don't have to listen to themselves think.

    The side effect is that Americans expect to have every waking second filled. They wake up, turn on the TV or radio, check their phone. Spend the day on the computer, talking on their phone, checking text messages and facebook. They talk in the car or listen to the radio. Does anyone drive in silence any more? Watch people in the grocery store. How many people are talking as they shop. The rudest of people talk when they checkout to avoid any interaction with the person standing in front of them. And in the evening they watch TV. Lots of TV.

    I admit that I spend most waking moments reading something. Computer or book. But I long ago decided that I really like my thoughts and the crazy places they take me so I often drive in the silence. My house is usually silent. I hate ambient TV noises. Probably because my mother's house always has noise and this is my juvenile rebellion. Who knows?

    This is the mother my poor children got. Go. Call you mother and thank her for not being me. I don't mind, really.

    When we took the long road to  Key West. We drove. My husband, his parents, our two younger children and me. In a car together for 3 hours. One way. It should have been a nightmare. It was a blast. Don't get me wrong. The kids fought. They argued. They slept. They were kids. They were not mind-numbed machines plugged into a game that kept their whole attention. I hate to tell people, but that isn't parenting. And what really are you teaching your kids anyway? Seriously think about what you are trying to tell your children when you do this. You don't value their thoughts and ideas. You just want them to shut up and frankly not be a part of your life.

    Does this mean my children never get to play video games? No. My son has a iPod Touch. We have computers. I have games on my iPhone I let my kids play. But they aren't used to just keep my kids quiet whenever I want them to be little statues.

    My husband and I are both horribly impatient people. I didn't want our children to grow up to be like us. So I make them wait for things. They often hear me tell them that "it's good to want things." Meaning if you have everything, what is there to look forward to? I want them to enjoy the anticipation. Enjoy the WAIT as much as the THING.

    Which means when I booked us with a FIVE HOUR LAYOVER in Fort Lauderdale after our cruise while we waited for the FIRST LEG of our plane journey to begin, the children were great. My husband however paced like a caged animal snarling things like "Never again" and veiled threats of actually booking a plane ticket himself some day. Empty threats I tell you.

    This is what parenting is all about. Preparing your children for their mother's stupidity. It works every time!

    Saturday, February 11, 2012

    Solar Eclipse

    Actually I do have a trip planned. But since it's all about the solar eclipse and not about the travel per se I guess some small part of me had already begun the TWP (Travel With Purpose) mindset. If you have any interest in viewing a solar eclipse then you should check out NASA's webpage for information.

    This is going to be a dry run of sorts as well. The drive to Craig's uncle is the half way mark of the travel we would take if we go skiing for Christmas this year. I'm trying reallllly hard to sell travel for Christmas for the rest of our lives. Heh. For the sake of the children of course.

    Thursday, February 9, 2012

    Travel with purpose

    I cannot believe that in less than four weeks I will be travelling to Paris and Morocco. But even more amazing for me is that I do not have a SINGLE trip planned after that. Not. A. Single. Trip. This is unreal for me. I don't even have a weekend trip to the coast planned.

    It's made me really think about when and where I want to travel next. It seems like my level of enthusiasm for my next place is hesitant to make itself known. It's like walking into a really quiet room and automatically whispering. And as I sit and think about what I want to do and accomplish in the next year. Travel really isn't one of them.

    Don't get me wrong. I still read travel blogs. I still have subscriptions to travel magazines. I still check Delta for flight costs. I went to tripadvisor and left all my reviews for the cruise trip. But then I hit a brick wall.

    Years ago when I took a group of high school students to Paris and London, a co-worker joined me. She was in her 60s, fit and well-travelled. In her 50s, she had sailed from the South Pacific to California, hitting dozens of islands, filling a passport book (oh how wonderful that sounds!). After spending the time in London and Paris we were sitting at a cafe watching people stroll down the Parisian streets and she said something that sticks to me today.

    "I can only take so much concrete and culture. I need my next trip to be green and nature."

    I realized then that for the most part, for my travel it was always about concrete and culture. Since then I've gotten away from the madness on trips. I took a weekend to Big Bend and Terlingua with a friend and no cell phones. Not much green there but lots of nature! I've laid on beaches in the Caribbean drinking Corona Light; I've played golf at top courses in the world.

    And I've enjoyed it all. I don't begrudge any of my past travels, but I have spent some navel-gazing thinking about my future travels and I realized I want to travel now with a purpose. Or rather I want to travel to for meaning. I don't just want to arrive and take in, as if my travels are this one way street where I arrive to be entertained. I want to arrive in a location knowing I will be adding something back. That the reason I am there is to make things better (or attempt to I don't have a god complex!), to learn something that I can teach to others, or achieve something that will let me know myself more.

    It's for this reason that cruises don't totally appeal to me as a method of travel. Don't get me wrong. My mother and daughter both want to go on cruises in the future and I will suffer for both of them (DD wants to go to Curacao and my mother wants to go to Canada or the Eastern Mediterranean. I suffer so for them!) But for my personal travel and my goals in the next few years I want there to be a reason that I am travelling beyond just seeing stuff. And buying stuff. I want to know when I get back on the plane that I have grown somehow. And that I will be offering this growth to everyone else who meets me.

    Our church has a variety of short-term missions in Burkina Faso, Guatemala and Brazil, and I've already told Craig that in 2013 I intend to join one. My friend Nancy has contacts all over the world willing and able to show us places we can help out and learn. Perhaps I will use my travel to acheive a Master's in Zoology so I can teach in colleges and universities.

    The point is there are lots of opportunites out there to do more than visit a city to watch and observe. I can do that in a travel video on my couch. I have 10 months left in the year and I intend to complete several financial goals, and then I will give my travel plans some thought.

    Of course with this said, when Craig comes home one day and tells me to book a trip to Vegas, I can't say no, can I????

    Wednesday, February 8, 2012

    Tentatively titled: Leave us alone so we can play on the beach

    If you look closely I think there is even some eye rolling from the girl. The film cuts off because my battery died. I'm lucky I got this. Super planning mom I am not.

    The beaches of Haiti are naturally rocky. Royal Caribbean carted in tons of sand to make a typical beach so the kids could build castles and bury their feet. The kids had a live sand dollar come up during play and they kept it in a bowl of water to watch it breath and move. I think they learned more playing on the beach in Haiti than they would have learned a week in the school they missed!

    Sunday, February 5, 2012

    Craig and the Cock: a Key West story in pictures

    Once upon a time, a man travels to an island. Little did he know there was another male on the island waiting for him. Apparently, the Florida Keys have lots of roosters roaming free. Like Lots.


    They are friendly buggers. Having no problem walking right up to you. I am slightly afraid of chickens when they are too aggressive because of a horrid goose incident when I was a child, so I took this picture then ran back to the car.


    These little buggers would pop up in the strangest places: parking lot, beaches, streets. And I have to admit I was a little apprenhensive that the restaurant my in-laws chose, used local animals for their food :) Most everyone ordered seafood, because in the Florida Keys who would order chicken???? Well, that would be me. And my kids. I did have a Mojito, too.


    Wednesday, February 1, 2012

    A month in review

    If anyone knows where January went could you have her give me a call? She left and I totally didn't notice! Despite the fact that January took off before I could say goodbye, this year is looking good! I'm on track to complete everything on my resolutions list!!

     First off I need to Organize my bucket list! (which is actually on my bucket list but I won't count it for my 12 :) ) DONE! I even posted two sections this month as well.

    1. Books to Read (from 1001 Books to Read Before You Die):
    Cat’s Cradle – Kurt Vonnegut 01/03/12
    The Spy Who Came in from the Cold – John Le CarrĂ© 01-13-12
    Choke – Chuck Palahniuk 01/08/12
    Like Water for Chocolate – Laura Esquivel 01/05/12
    Less than Zero - Bret Easton Ellis 01/27/12
    Rabbit, Run – John Updike 01/31/12

    2. Movies to Watch (from the list of movies that won Best Picture):
    1971 - "The French Connection" 01/12/12

    8. Plant a vegetable garden, Can't be crossed off yet as nothing got planted. BUT we did create the garden, hauling wheelbarrow loads of dirt from the farm so that Craig can smell "home" when we wants.


    9. Donate platelets once a month for a year. Contribute to a microloan at This change is chronicled here.

    10. Spend 3 months getting my body in optimum shape STARTING TODAY! Cannot be crossed off, but one month down. I have worked out at least 5 hours each week. I plan to work out more when I get back from the cruise, and some day I will actually start watching what I'm eating too!

    February is a short and sweet month and I plan to do a lot of reading and some movie watching. I have Slumdog Millionaire on Tivo too now. Who wants to watch this and Hurt Locker with me this month???

    Monday, January 30, 2012

    Toilet Paper, Immodium, and Ear Plugs

    I mean if there is anything that will make you decide to just stay home it's the suggested packing items for Morocco! I was aware of the toilet paper issue. Having personally stood over a gap in the earth called a rest room in Italy, I was not worried so much about the toilet differences. I was already a little leery about the sanitary eating issues though when I was getting poked and prodded for my Hepatitis shots.

    I was also not aware that prayers were called at night. So I plan to pack ear plugs, but still doubt I'll be able to hear much over the noise of my aunt's IPAP and snoring (kidding!) (kind of!).

    So basically extra packing things for Morocco needs to include :

    Wet Ones (I have these oil of olay wipes I'll probably take instead)
    Anti-diarrhea medicine (though I usually have the opposite problem when travelling so I'll take that too)
    Ear plugs
    Toilet Paper
    Sunscreen (I don't really like the way I look in hats, so taking one will be a chore for me) and
    A hard sided suitcase for all the undetermined fragile things I'm taking back home.

    Still trying to determine if the awesome Moroccan shoes are made in giant human sizes.

    Wednesday, January 25, 2012

    Andrea Bucket List - Part 2

    As much as I love food I would think this section of my list would be longer. It seems I need to stretch my imagination a bit more on this one! I probably should look over the list of foods to eat before you die. I know there is one out there! (Update seems imminent)


    Eat poutine in Montreal

    Become a Wine Connoisseur

    Eat 5 deep fried foods at the Texas State Fair

    Collect 30 wines that can age.

    Take the Kentucky Whiskey tour

    Drink Absinthe in Paris

    Drink a pint of beer in Ireland

    Do vodka shots in Russia

    Have a formal dinner party with wine pairings

    Eat tapas in Spain

    Eat kimshi

    Visit the Heart of Charleston and eat Low Country Cuisine

    Stuff myself at Maine’s Lobster festival

    Eat at Charlie Trotters in Chicago

    Eat at SuperDawg in Chicago
    Eat peanut pancakes in Singapore

    Tuesday, January 24, 2012

    How to pack your life (or two months of it) in 22"

    Pay attention, Nancy, it goes fast (or so Matt says!)

    I think I've seen this method before in ancient rugs and baskets. And also? I don't like to do laundry on a trip but then the chances of me needing to pack for 60 days is very, very low. I think the little handy, dandy scale is really cool.

    Monday, January 23, 2012

    Oh you want to know the REAL price?

    I noticed this weird trend on Delta lately (where I look for most of my flights). It says the ticket price to a place, which actually doesn't look to bad. But in TEENY TINY letters you see the taxes which in effect DOUBLE the cost! Like for example I was looking at a fight to Nairobi in October (just for the heck of it, this is what I do when I have a project due in four days) and the big numbers say $1063, but then little digits below show there are over $600 in taxes. That's a big difference! So glad then to see this:

    Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

    Now if only I can get them to notify me when the prices get within my budget (other sites do this!). And convince Craig that I need to go :)

    Friday, January 20, 2012

    Because everyone needs ANOTHER list to complete

    I admit it. I wasn't really aware of UNESCO sites. When I happened on the blog PostCards and PLaces, I decided to look it up.

    Here are the places I have already been (like 1% of the sites)
    Czech Republic
     Historic Centre of Prague
     Kutná Hora: Historical Town Centre with the Church of St Barbara and the Cathedral of Our Lady at Sedlec

    Palace and Park of Versailles
    Paris, Banks of the Seine
    Bordeaux, Port of the Moon

    Palaces and Parks of Potsdam and Berlin (Berlin only)

    Historic Centre of Rome, the Properties of the Holy See in that City Enjoying Extraterritorial Rights and San Paolo Fuori le Mura (HILARIOUS what the call the Vatican!)
    Venice and its Lagoon
    City of Vicenza and the Palladian Villas of the Veneto
    City of Verona

    United States of America (small shame that I have only been to ONE!)
     Monticello and the University of Virginia in Charlottesville

    Place I will be going in just a few weeks(WHOOT!):

    Medina of Fez
    Medina of Marrakesh

    However in reality I don't intend to complete all 900+ sites. Many of them are very naturey and while I am not opposed to nature in theory, it is not my preferred travel destination. I am more for culture and people than beautiful scenery. I do however find the many pre-historic items on the list fascinating and might add some of them to my bucket list.

    Wednesday, January 18, 2012

    The Bucket List Shoving Match

    I had all the best intentions of starting my New Year's Resolution to donate platelets once a month. I drove to the Blood bank. I answered all the questions about medication and travel. Oh I need to check something, they say. And then they came back.

    Oh. Umm. Sorry? But Labadee, Haiti? Not good.

    What do you mean? I didn't have sex with anyone. There were no blood transfusions done. What is the deal?

    And then I flash to the gorgeous scenery. That much green. That much rain. It means mosquitos. Malaria carrying mosquitos. So here I've been stressing over Morocco in March and it turns out I'm high risk NOW.

    So yeah, and since I'm going back to Labadee in say two weeks, this means I won't be donating  anything blood-like for at least another year. So I need to add something to my 12 for 12 to replace my failed blood attempt. I thought about buying flowers once a month for a year, but really trading a bucket list contribution item for a bucket list beautifying item? It seems a bit off.

    So I went to my bucket list of contributing items and one jumped out at me. Contribute a microloan at

    I thought I'd start small. You can loan as little as $25. This is the cost of a lunch out with the kids for me and when they ask if we can go out, I'm going to tell them no. We cannot because we spent the money helping Stephen. And they will be all WHO IS STEPHEN? And I'll show them Stephen. See that FULLY FUNDED notation? I DID THAT! He only needed $25 left to complete his loan and I gave the last $25. So somewhere in Africa a farmer is being told that his loan is ready. It took 32 strangers to help him out and frankly it brings tears to my eyes thinking that this man needs enough to support his family of six on LESS THAN WE PAY FOR OUR MORTGAGE IN ONE MONTH.

    Perspective people!

    Am I guaranteed to get this money back? No. Is this more than I can afford to lose? No. Do I feel an enormouse sense of accomplishment for doing it? HELL YEAH!

    If you have never heard of Kiva and/or are interested in helping people in other places from the safety of your home, please check it out!

    I love me a good packing post

    I always find it interesting what people find as important to pack and also what they don't. It was nice seeing CeCe at Life's Little Victories list the medications she (as a nurse) finds important:

     Tylenol, Tums, Imodium, Dramamine and Motion Sickness patches, Benadryl (as a sleep aid), Sudafed (the real stuff). Don't forget bandaids and some topical antibiotic (like Neosporin).

    I would like to add that I also love Gas-X strips. If you haven't heard of these, check them out because they are LIFE SAVERS! Also on cruises or when there are chances of a sunburn, I can't travel without aloe gel.

    Mic has broken it into a science and I learned about the Eagle Creek Pack-It system. Cuz that's all I need. ANOTHER packing system!

    How do you pack? Anything you never want to forget?

    Monday, January 16, 2012

    The three times rule

    I have a lot of thoughts jumbling in my head this Monday morning. This weekend was not even very packed but I fell asleep last night at 8:30 and woke up at 6:30. I made cream of wheat for Craig and juiced like 25 oranges (the farm has a small orchard and I am up to my ears in citrus) which creates a lot of thinking time. Like there has to be a more modern way for me to juice oranges. I like this one because it looks like a science experiment :)

     Also I was thinking about what my friend Dana told me this weekend about a three times rule. She was actually commenting on the Malawi phenomenon I had had in the last couple weeks. See, one of the friends I am meeting in Morocco (Nancy) has a friend/coworker who is moving to Malawi for a few years and told her that she was welcome to stay with them if she wanted to visit. Since Nancy knows I'm more than up for most travel ideas, she mentioned this to me. All I know of Malawi came from the collection we did in fifth grade for Bangladesh and Malawi. This made me believe that Malawi was located someplace in Southeast Asia. I was wrong.

    Malawi is in fact located in Southern Africa, southwest of Tanzania to be specific. And Kenya/Tanzania have been my dream vacation locations since I was a little girl. So I'm thinking wow, this would be fantastic but Africa again REALLY? The likelihood of Craig letting me go back any time soon is low. Like below Absolute Zero.

    So I kind of forgot about it. Until Rebekah comes home from girl scouts to tell me the country they will be studying and displaying for World Day is MALAWI. OOOOOkay. Mark one. Then when visiting Dana her husband hands me a book written by a man who worked in the Peace Corps as a teacher in MALAWI. Mark two. I said maybe it means something. One more Mark and I'm meant to go. Dana said like a three times rule? And I thought YES! Maybe that's what it is. It could be a five times rule or even ten times, but how many times does something come up before it's a sign.

    I mean is it all a sign? Or am I just now more aware of this country and it registers on my mind now. I think there is a term for this but it escapes me. If you know it PLEASE LET ME KNOW! Whether you believe in God's signs (which I do) or fate or coincidence, you have to know about those times where ideas or items keep showing up in your awareness and you get that feeling that someone is trying to tell you something.

    This has also happened to me with the event Burning Man. I noticed this event occurs on several Bucket Lists out there. It wasn't something that spoke to me, but I was not surprised to find it on my friend Cindy's list. And then today when I read the Bloggess (whom I read every day if I can), and her weekly wrap up included this video which requires a warning.

    DO NOT CLICK ON THIS LINK UNLESS YOU DO NOT MIND MINOR NUDITY. If that doesn't make you click on it, I don't know what will!

    Burning Man and Dr. Seuss

    So now I have two marks for Burning Man and two marks for Malawi. Things that make you go Hmmmm.
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