Monday, July 30, 2012

A Little Link Love

I'm constantly reading a lot of interesting articles and blogs and then I fail.

Fail to share them.  

My mind (followed by my body) is constantly racing from one thing to the next - this past week it was Vacation Bible School.   I couldn't get there early enough to be a shopkeeper or a tribe leader in Marketplace 29 A.D.  But I could be on the drama team.   We had the most fun for an hour and a half each night considering our actual dramas were approximately 2.1 minutes long and we performed twice per night.     Let me tell you, that I play the dead daughter so well that the kids were worried there was something wrong.   I'm glad that Jesus was there to bring me back to life!

I don't know that I can keep track of things well enough to provide a link list on a regular basis, but this is what I've enjoyed in the past week or so.

Budgeting in the Fun Stuff - Life is too short to spend time ironing sheets
I feel that life is too short to iron in general.  I have a hand me down iron and a mini ironing board.   I might iron a pair of cotton capris or skirt before a vacation, but that's about it.    I surely won't iron my sheets.  I barely fold them.   The key thing is to identify the things that just aren't worth your time/money.   For each person it's different.   A couple things on my life is too short list? 
Life is too short to spend time learning to change my oil (that's what the mechanic two blocks from my house is for).   Life is too short to pay for cable and then to sit at home watching it.    Life is too short to say, "I'll go to _________ someday."

Everything Everywhere - Random Thoughts from a World Traveler about the Olympics 
I don't pay for cable (see above) and rarely watch TV.  The Olympics are the exception.  I love the stories more than the sport and the international camaraderie and competition appeals to the traveler inside. - Year of the Woman:  For the first time all Olympic teams include female athletes
Hooray!  Even if they are eligible under the Universality clause and not because they qualified - all countries have at least one woman on their team.  In 2008 Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Brunei did not have any women on their team.   Now they do.   It's a step in the right direction.   Sport is one of the things that unites people.

Cordelia Calls it Quits - The Quits List
This blog is hilarious.   The quits list includes the things that Cordelia, and her readers, are giving up.  It's not what you think.  It's not the standard "I will quit ordering mocha coconut Frappucinos" or "I will quit loafing on the couch and get my ass to the gym."

Try to quit "Feeling Embarrassed by my Guilty Pleasures" for a start.

Have a great week!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Going Back Again: Lake Tahoe

Back when I was a wee traveler, just out of college and ready to start my grown up career, I moved to the north shore of Lake Tahoe.   I was adamant that I wanted to live west of the Mississippi - someplace with more interesting geography than central Illinois.

{Pause:  Thinking about central Illinois, I start singing the Morrow Plots Song  "No sir we don't mess around, our library's underground, 'cause you can't throw shade on the corn."  This is what happens when the oldest experimental cornfield in the Western Hemisphere is on your college campus.    Just sayin'.}

I lived in Tahoe for two years - enjoying the sunsets over the lake from work and road tripping all over California.  I lived where other people vacationed.     

When I was tired of living in a small resort community, I transferred to Indianapolis.   People asked me if I got demoted.   Nope.   Just wanted to be able to afford an apartment on my own instead of sharing with three other roommates.  (I know, right?)

This summer I finally went back.  Lake Tahoe is one of the most beautiful places in the world.  Why it took me ten years to return, I don't know.   I didn't have an agenda, just enjoying the scenery and some of my favorite restaurants (Jake's on the Lake and Lone Eagle Grille) and activities (a drive around the lake and a sail on the Sierra Cloud).

I slept in.   I loafed by the pool, the lake and in the hammocks.   I caught the sunsets.  Roasted s'mores by the fire pit. 

Who says you can't go back again?


Sunday, July 22, 2012

When Your Day Starts with "All Safe?"

Photo Credit (Facebook: Mark Rantal)

On Friday morning, my alarm went off like normal.   And I hit snooze like normal.   The only thing that caught my sleepy attention was that every time the snooze went off the DJs or callers were talking - I didn't hear any music.  

When I finally committed to getting out of bed, I checked my phone.   A new text from a friend read, "All Safe?  Scary news from your part of the world."   

All safe?  Why wouldn't I be safe?  

It was time to find out what happened while I was sleeping.

I went online to read the news (and Facebook, the other source of news), to find out that one of the largest mass shootings in our country had occurred overnight. Less than 10 miles from my house.  Family and friends know I live in Aurora.  They emailed and messaged to make sure I was ok, that I wasn't at the theater that night.  

It's hard to process someone deliberately taking that kind of action.    And it's very scary when it's close to home.   I didn't have to look on a map to know where that movie theater is.   I've been there before.   Talking with a co-worker on Friday he said, "I drop my daughter off there every other weekend."  

Movie theaters are safe places.  As a kid it's usually one of the first places your parents will let you go without adult supervision.  One parent drops you off for a matinee and picks you up afterwards.  

Movie theaters will still be safe places.  People will just, hopefully, be a little more cautious and pay attention to what's going on around them. 

You can't predict an act of terrorism like this.

Please pray for our city.  For the victim's family and friends.   And that we, as people, respond in a way that helps and supports our community.  


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Good Friday in Athens

It's bigger than Christmas!

Greek Orthodox Easter, that is.   Our trip to Greece this spring was timed to fall over the Orthodox Easter, which usually falls a week after Protestant and Catholic Easter, since it's on a different calendar.     We returned to Athens on Good Friday after our classical tour.   In the market all sorts of vendors were selling candles, simple or heavily decorated, and by 6:30 everyone was hurrying towards their respective churches and shops were starting to close down.    There is a Good Friday service - the small church down the street from our hotel was filled to capacity with people and the overflow went all the way out the street. 

When the service is over there is a procession through the neighborhood.   Members of the church carry the cross and the epitaph.  The epitaph (Bier of Christ) is decorated with flowers by the congregation and is carried through the streets.   The congregation and community follows the cross, epitaph and the priests through the neighborhood.   I enjoyed participating in the procession along with the community.   We stopped twice when the priests would say a blessing maybe sing - once by the Temple of Zeus and again in front of our hotel (the hotel provides financial support to the church). 

What an amazing experience to celebrate!

What is the most memorable religious holiday, festival, or event that you've partaken in while traveling?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Eavesdropping: Haunted Hotels, Poltergeists and Why We Leave Our Camper at Home

I'm a big fan of public transportation here in Denver.   Especially the light rail.  My job subsidizes the cost of my pass and I save money on gas, wear and tear on my car and this summer AC (I need to get it recharged and I don't really want to pay for it....and even if I had it would eat up any remaining fuel efficiency my 99 SUV has).

Sometimes I tune out the masses with my ipod or Pandora (love my island country station), but today I just listened.   And the conversations go a little something like this...

Haunted Hotels
There are haunted rooms at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park.  Lady A says how her son was assigned on of those rooms.while traveling on a business incentive trip and couldn't sleep.  He asked to be relocated to another room.  Man B thinks a haunted room would be awesome and his daughter would love it.

Naturally haunted hotels lead to other ghost stories.  Lady C had a poltergeist in her family that would do crazy things like...turn a bag sitting on a chair upside-down.

Then the conversation took a supernatural shift in another direction.  Introducing: Lady D.   Her friends asked about her camper.  It's summer.  Is she using it every weekend?  Not exactly.  She was going to Nebraska and they found a cabin on the lake for only $50 a night.  So they left their camper in the driveway.  It weighs 4000lbs so it takes a lot of gas to haul it around.    They only use it for trips close to home. 

How can you see the stars, explore America and have priceless family moments if you leave your camper in the driveway? 

That, my friends, is what I learned on my way to work today. 

Side Note:  As a kid we'd go camping in Wisconsin at least once every summer.   We'd wrestle with our giant tent with heavy metal poles that didn't fit in the bag the way they were supposed to.  I had camper envy.   The little girl three sites over who had a bathroom inside with no spiders and could watch a movie -- I looked on with envy as I walked with my flashlight to the latrine at night. 

As an adult, I prefer lodges, cabins, safari camps, and hotels with infinity pools.  
I love being outside. 
I don't love sleeping on the ground. 
Even with one of those little mat thingies underneath. 
What I do love about camping?  S'mores.  

Sunday, July 15, 2012

A Night at the Fish Spa - Crete

We were supposed to spend the day on the island of Rhodes.   The Garden Isle. 
With a relaxing full day tour of Rhodes and Lindos.

Instead the seas were rocking and rolling.    We went to breakfast.   We heard the "voice of doom" over the loudspeaker indicating they were checking with the port authorities and looking at the options.   Within a half hour the voice returned.    There were no options.   Instead we were going to cruise straight to Crete and arrive at night instead of the next morning.

The seas were unforgiving.   Our cabin spent the morning sleeping.   During that time the crew placed travel sickness bags of every possible surface in the public areas.   We got up for some lunch and a little air.   Bonus entertainment from the Cristal Entertainment Team (not quite the quality as on other cruise lines - but we smiled every time we saw them perform).  

Finally we got the announcement.  She was no longer the voice of doom....she was the voice of opportunity.   We were docking in Heraklion, Crete.   Even better we could get off the ship.    The crew at the gangway laughed at our enthusiasm to get off...asking us to at least move a few feet from the entrance before kissing the ground so the people behind us could get off the ship as well.  

There's a well marked pedestrian path from the port into the plaza via the waterfront.    The main plaza is full of cafes, shops and of course, ice cream.    But before we ever got to the ice cream we were sucked into Dr. Nemo Fish Spa.  

I've never seen a fish spa before.  Maybe on the Amazing Race or on some other travel show, but not in person.    When we stopped to talk to the staff, there was no one inside.   It was 10 euros for 10-15  minutes, but she said we could have more time for free.  A benefit for us.  And for the shop.   It's free advertising.  The minute that other people see you getting your feet "pedicured" by the garra rufa fish, they stop to watch, laugh, ask questions and take pictures.   My feet are easily in someone else's vacation photos now. 

What does it feel like?  It a good way.   It's fun - just for the novelty it's worth doing.   And my feet were softer and smoother afterwards.    Going to the fish spa was not on my list of "must dos" but it's certainly on my list of "glad I dids." 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

A Frequent Flier Victory

The (frequent flier) life of a (when I’m smart) budget traveler is hard. You don’t have as much loyalty. You fly the cheapest to save a few bucks. You fly the red eye to spend those extra hours on vacation. When you travel with a group, you fly the airline they choose.

For example, I never choose Delta. Not that Delta has done anything to me. But they aren’t a big presence in Denver. There are other options that will get me where I’m going non-stop. Then last year I get a little care package from Delta. Somehow I achieved silver medallion status, complete with personalized luggage tags and a chance to check a bag for free. Why? Long distance group travel to Tanzania and Israel. I haven’t had a chance to fly Delta since to use these benefits. I’ve probably already dropped back to average Jenni loser who gets herded to the back of the plane.

Moving to Denver opened up two new airlines that fly non-stop almost everywhere I might go (in the US at least): Frontier and Southwest. Once Frontier started charging for bags my loyalty shifted a little more to Southwest. If the fares are about the same, why not go for the snacks (hello “plane crackers”), friendly service and free luggage?

*side note: at work we constantly talk about service setting our company apart if prices are the same…funny how it works for me as a consumer too*

Next month I’m traveling to amazing, exotic, colorful….


As my sister and I were pricing fares for the family wedding in Illinois, Wisconsin sister time and the State Fair Eating Extravaganza we actually looked at our frequent flier mileage on Frontier and Southwest. Without me knowing or planning or plotting, I had enough miles.

To fly one way, that is.

Good enough. It’s a short trip, so I’m not going to check a bag. Fly out to Milwaukee on Frontier. 12,500 miles plus $2.50 for tax. Return to Denver on Southwest. 6,000 or so points plus $2.50 for tax.

$5 for my trip. Wow! Gives me much more spending money for all the new foods at the fair.

Deep fried bacon wrapped tater tots on a stick anyone?

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Joplin Mission Series

My blogging for mission trip was different this year.   Rather than waiting until I got home and reading through my journal and picking select photos, I blogged by phone on the bus to the work site each morning (and at lights out each night I was way too exhausted after a day of fun in the sun).    It was a great way to let people at home know what was going on, at least at my work site of awesome, during mission week.

If you missed any of the Joplin posts - they are all here for your reading pleasure.   The video was made by the TeamEffort staff during our work week and they did a great job.   It's fun seeing the pictures of the projects we worked on continuing through the Joplin FB page! 

Learning to Love Service
Joplin:  Home Sweet Home
Joplin:  Blown Away by Jesus
Joplin:  Holes
Joplin:  Being a Blessing
Joplin:  Less Baggage, More Joy

(and a special tribute to our daily ice cream stop Braum's)

Friday, July 6, 2012

Traveler in the Kitchen Update - July 6

In spite of visits to Lake Tahoe, mission trips to Missouri, and a long two day bike ride - good things have still been coming out of my kitchen.    Click on the links to hop over to Traveler in the Kitchen to learn more about these "Taste of Awesome" recipes!

Not to mention my new found love of Braum's Ice Cream!  

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Bike the Bridge - San Francisco

It might be the ultimate in tourist activities, but I finally got to ride a bike across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco earlier this year.   And I treated Mom as a pre-Mother's Day present.   We had a beautiful sunny afternoon for our grand adventure.    We rented bikes from Blazing Saddles, one of the big bike rental companies in San Francisco.   They give you directions on how to ride to Sausalito, of if you're more industrious you can bike to Old Mill and see the big trees or go to Tiburon.   They even provide you with a ferry ticket if you want to take the ferry back from Sausalito - if you don't use it, you don't pay for it   (Fun Fact:  despite the fact that it's a Blue and Gold Ferry ticket, you can also use it on the Red and White Line). 

On the bridge you have to be careful of the pedestrians.   The path is divided in half.  That implies that one half is for bicycles, but there are a bazillion tourists walking 4 across.   There are also serious road bikers who are not interested in your lollygagging along the bike path when they are trying to go somewhere.   

After you cross the bridge you get on the road and cruise downhill into Sausalito.   You only need to walk your bike if you are on the sidewalk.   The signs might be confusing to you.  Don't get off your bike and miss rolling down into town unless you are afraid of riding down the hill.   In Sausalito there is designated bike parking by the ferry terminal, so lock up your bike with the provided lock and enjoy yourself.

We had cocktails and ceviche at Copita and were fortunate to secure a seat on the patio before the Friday night happy hour crew came in.   We followed that by ice cream at Lappert's before hopping on the ferry and enjoying a sunset trip back to the city.   (Quick note:  if you're returning your bikes after hours you have to call before they close and get the top secret codes to open two different garage doors to return your bikes.   Grab your pen and pay attention.)

What a great way to spend a day at the city on the bay!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Bike MS: Get Off Your Couch and on Your Bike

It's a new week.   Back to work.  You chit chat with your co-workers about the weekend.  People went camping.  People went to the pool.  Out for brunch.  A local festival.  But you?  You raised a minimum of $400 (probably more, because you're an over-achiever like that) and rode 150 miles. 

In 99 degree heat.

Are you sore?  Yes
Are you sorry? No

This past weekend was my 4th time riding the Colorado Bike MS.  A few years ago I decided that riding, rather than volunteering, would be my goal.  I had never done a major athletic event before.   I'm more of a "walk quickly for the cure" type.  5k and I'm done.  No real sweat.  No real training. 

This was different.  First, there is gear.  A road ride is different than hopping on your coffee-cruiser in your flip flops.  Helmet.  Gloves.  Jersey.  Shoes.  Padded shorts.  Clips.  Tubes. 

Clips?  What the hell are clips?
Tubes?   Why do I need them?

And that's before you even get on the bike.   You've ridden a local bike path.  You've toodled around your neighborhood.  How do you prepare to ride 75 miles?  Twice.

Practice.  Find group rides with friends or a local bike shop. 

Unlike real life, on a fully supported ride like Bike MS, there are rest stops with snacks, water, first aid and bike support.  You don't have to ride non-stop.  You don't have to carry gallons of water and 10 pounds of Clif Bars.  Just ride 10-15 miles.  Stop.  Rest.  Repeat.  You can do this.

Take it as your personal challenge.   If I can do it, you can do it.
It can be 30 miles or a Century (100 miles in bike speak). 
One day or multi-day. 

Find an organized bike event near you.
Even better if it's the Bike MS.

It's a ride, not a race.
And finishing is something to celebrate.


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