Five on Friday: Travel tips

January 24th, 2014 2 comments

Having just been on a vacation in which I learned a few things the hard way, I thought this would be an excellent chance to share a few travel tips in hopes of saving someone else some money and/or time. Or at least take a little stress away. (Most of these are aimed directly at anyone flying to a destination…)

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1. Clean your house before you leave. I know, you’re swamped with packing and making sure everything else under the sun is taken care of before you leave. Did you stop the mail? Is there someone coming by to check on the house while you’re gone? Boarding passes printed? What about money? Do we have enough money?

But seriously. Take an hour to clean your house. Throw the bed sheets in the wash and remake the beds. Do all the dishes and put them away. Vacuum the rugs and sweep. Take out the trash. Run a toilet brush around the bowl.

Why is this an important tip? Its two-fold. If you have someone coming over to check on things… maybe you have pets that need to be fed or plants to be watered. Just think how much better you’ll feel having someone coming into a clean house… and on their end, how comfortable it’ll feel to that other person. But beyond that, think how nice it’ll be to walk into a clean house after your trip. You’re going to be tired. You’re not going to want to face a sink full of dishes. And how amazing is it to sleep on fresh sheets?? Your future self will thank you.

054: Cleaning

2. Research your airport parking options. Ideally, you find a friend to give you a ride to the airport. If so, skip ahead to #3. Otherwise, start looking ahead of time at GroupOn or Living Social, etc. for parking deals. On our last trip, I kicked myself for having not purchased a park-and-ride deal for $45 for a week’s worth of parking. Yes, it was an off-site parking lot, but they are secure and have regular shuttles to and from the airport. And, $45 is cheap.  In many cases you can’t even get a cab ride for that price one-way. Many cities have deals like this… even if you can’t get a “deal” on the parking option, many off-site parking options are cheaper than at the airport.

Camera Pic: Kroger Parking Lot

3. Book a rental car before you arrive. Don’t think you can “negotiate a cheaper price” upon arriving at a car rental location. Just the opposite. They know you’re stuck and they have the upper hand.  You’ll find waiting to rent a car will run you 3-4 times as much as if you book early. I repeat BOOK YOUR CAR AHEAD OF TIME.

Now, that being said, you can negotiate an upgrade AFTER you get there still. But you want to do so after you’ve already locked in the lowest rate you can.

Manzanita, Oregon

We upgraded into a Camaro on our last trip… and still got it cheaper than it would have cost to get a base mid-size at the counter.

4. Think about luggage logistics. I have a problem with this one and will be looking into a remedy before my next flight. Many luggage sets have straps that let you hook your luggage together and make a train for you to pull. USE THIS. Especially if you are on a long trip and you’re carrying two bags, plus a laptop case and a purse. (Or am I the only person who does this??) We had to hook one of my bags to my husbands (because I don’t have three arms, darn it) and lets just say we over-taxed one of his bags with the extra weight. I should have had that sussed out ahead of time…

297: Take me with you

5. Realize something will go wrong and go with it. It doesn’t matter how perfectly you’ve planned a trip, something will go wrong. Your flight will be delayed. It’s going to rain when it was supposed to be sunny. The restaurant you had your heart set on eating at is closed for a week for cleaning. That hotel room that was supposed to cost $70/night is actually $150/night. Whatever it is, don’t let it ruin the whole trip! Relax and have fun and realize that something going wrong happens, and generally there was nothing you could do to avoid it. Or if there was something you could have done, you can’t go back in time and change it. You can learn from it and deal with it. Maybe even have a little fun with it. Whatever you do, just don’t let it be the end of a great time!

201: Stuck in traffic

 

What are some of your favorite travel tips??

#DrinkUpLinkUp — A couple standards

January 23rd, 2014 No comments

 I want to admit something. While on vacation, I finally tried two standards at the bar that I make ALL THE TIME, but I had never tasted myself.

First off, the White Russian.

While at my in-laws house, I was faced with a selection of liquors, none of which really made me go, “Let’s be creative and make something.” So the first night, I sipped a Screwdriver (vodka/OJ for anyone who doesn’t know). The second night, it hit me. I had the stuff for a White Russian. Equal parts Kahlua and Vodka, topped with milk. Easy stuff. So I made that. And now I understand why I make so many a night.

SO YUM. It was like my favorite coffee drink with a kick. On top of that, its easy to adjust the amount of vodka to decide the amount of kick in your drink. (Less vodka for me… more Kahlua.)

My second standard I tried for the first time was a gin & tonic.

Oregon

Yes, yes I tried it for the first time last week. What’s funny if I’ve convinced countless people to try a gin & tonic based on, “It’s a really popular drink if you want to try something different…” and yet I hadn’t ever tried one myself.

Now I understand why people get hooked on them. It was so refreshing! Light and smooth. A squeeze of lime in it gave it that citrus kick that will make me want it as one of my summer drinks. I usually more of a coconut rum girl, but I could become a gin lover as well.

Sometimes drinks are old standards for a reason… its because they are really good! So next time you want to try something new… maybe its actually time to try something old.

 
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A week in Oregon

January 21st, 2014 1 comment

I have been MIA the last week due to taking a quick and quiet trip to Oregon.

Portland, OR

Hello PDX!

 It was a long over-due trip to see my husband’s family. We don’t get to Oregon near enough, and I’ll be the first to admit that. Flights, though, are expensive cross-country, but we happened to luck out with cheap flights on Southwest Airlines. In fact, they were cheap enough that I was able to purchase MY round trip using nothing but rewards points. (Score!) So that freed up money for the rental car, and a couple nights hotel stays (one on each end of our week at my father-in-law’s house).

Oregon

I looked out at this every morning with a cup of coffee…

When we go to Oregon, we are gloriously in the land of no-cell-service. Unless you sit close to a window. And even then its iffy. So basically, going to Oregon = getting off the grid.

But who really wants to even be on the grid with views like this:

Manzanita, Oregon

Sunset outside Nehalem, Oregon.

And a cousin that makes pizzas in his own fire pizza oven…

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You can’t beat homemade pizza our of a fire oven.

Oh and I can’t forget to mention we’re only five minutes from the beach…

Manzanita, Oregon

I love the beach! We were SO LUCKY with not only sunny days, but warm-ish days!

We got engaged on that beach, the first time I got to see the ocean. (The Gulf of Mexico soooo doesn’t count.) We reminisce about that every time we visit. And I find myself more and more an ocean lover. I think if I could, I’d spend hours on end on the beach just watching the waves crash, listening to their soothing rumble, breathing in the salty sea air.

Manzanita, Oregon

Beach Love

Yes, I’m kinda in love with the ocean and the beach.

Manzanita, Oregon

Watching the sun set over the ocean makes you feel so small… like all your “troubles” are pretty minuscule in the grand scheme of things.

And cheese. Tillamook Cheese to be exact. This lactose intolerant girl can’t get enough of it.

Tillamook Cheese Factory

Tillamook Cheese Factory

I mean look at that gooey, cheesy goodness!

Tillamook Cheese Factory

Seriously. Grilled Cheese made at a cheese factory with bacon and tomato?! Get out of town!! That’s heaven in a basket right there!

We drove by the Tillamook Air Museum long after they’d closed. Drove right up to it.

Tillamook Air Museum

The Air Museum is kinda HUGE.

I half expected armed guard to come up to us and ask us what we were doing. Somehow, our little black Camaro went unnoticed that night. Heck, it felt kind of like we could have driven INSIDE it that night…

Tillamook Air Museum

From Wikipedia: The museum is housed in a former military blimp hangar, called “Hangar B”, which is the largest clear-span wooden structure in the world. [...] Constructed by the US Navy in 1942 during World War II for Naval Air Station Tillamook, the hangar building housing the aircraft is 1,072 feet long and 296 feet wide, giving it over 6 acres of area. It stands at 192 feet tall.

Upon return to Portland for our early morning flight, I asked for a nice date night. My sister-in-law took us to McMenamin’s Kennedy School the year we got engaged, and we saw the movie Jarhead in the theater. This trip, we grabbed dinner… And now, I kinda want to stay in the hotel portion in an upcoming trip.

McMenamin's Kennedy School

I had their beer, “Ruby” and it was kinda amazing.

Our week-long trip just went too fast, and we were (as always) left with things we wished to do. But we both vowed it would not be as long before we visited again. This Texas girl, who lives in Tennessee, definitely loves Oregon.

♦♦♦

CLICK HERE to see ALL my photos from our Oregon Trip, which I think are some of my favorite shots in general to date.  More posts from our trip to come this week…

The day I changed my mind

January 15th, 2014 No comments

I don’t talk that much about my degree in Journalism. It’s not that I’m not super proud of having it, because I am! It’s just that it doesn’t come up much.

I did, however, spend a year and a half at a small-town, weekly newspaper after graduation. I was using my degree! Even more fun, it was a sister newspaper to the one my best friend from high school was working at as well. I quickly found being the local news reporter made me something of a local celebrity, and I found myself in the most fascinating places meeting interesting people. I even got to cover a movie being filmed in the town! (Hollywood types don’t like cameras near movie sets.) I enjoyed the job at heart, but there was only one major issue…

We were a staff of three women. That was it. Or bookkeeper/receptionist, the publisher/editor and me, the staff writer/pretty much anything else.

Can we say a fast trip to burnout? At first I loved it, because I got experience in everything. I was writing, reporting, photography, editing, etc. But later, it just dragged me down… I couldn’t really hone my skills in a specific direction. I felt mediocre in all things. I started to be less enthusiastic about work…

…of course the fact I was dating a guy I was pretty sure I’d marry and move to Nashville to be with didn’t help…

But the breaking point really came after Thanksgiving the year I hung up my journo hat. Around 4:00 one afternoon, report of a bad accident came across the police scanner. It happened to be on my way home, so my boss told me to go see what happened then just go home after. I could do the article the next day.

I drove out with a sick feeling. I pulled up to the scene to see a badly mangled car… Christmas gifts in the back window. I could hear a child crying and screaming from the car. I froze. I was sick about myself. I’m there to take pictures of this family’s tragedy! I’m there to be nosy. I felt like such a vulture! This wasn’t like the 18 wheeler that high-centered in the Wal-Mart parking lot. This wasn’t like covering the sentencing of a criminal in court. This was a family in pain at Christmas. These were KIDS. I wanted to help, not… Take PICTURES.

I called my then-boyfriend having a total meltdown. I was in tears, just sick over it.

“I can’t do this!” I cried. “I want to help, not be a vulture!”

Life flight was brought in and someone loaded up from the car… While I just stood there. I felt like the worst person ever. It was my job, yes. It was a job I loved and was excited to have and study. I hang my degree proudly still. I learned a lot working at that newspaper, and my degree plan offered so many electives I was able to really branch out what I studied but in that moment… in that moment I wanted to be compassionate and help.

I turned in my two week notice a week or two later. I still think about doing some freelance work. And I might in the future. I love to write and I am still a total newshound. But being a stoic reporter? That’s not me. And I long ago realized that is okay.

Days at home

January 11th, 2014 No comments

I happen to be someone who loves staying at home. Despite being far more extroverted than I used to be, I’m still deep down a homebody. That being said, I absolutely LOVED spending most of the last week and a half at home.

Earlier this week, we had a major cold snap thanks to that polar vortex thing they talked about on the news. I mean, when we took our 7th wedding anniversary photo, the windchill was -5°!

SONY DSC

(Yeah, we should have been bundled up… but we were taking a picture, so we ran out for about 1 minute tops to take that shot.)

During the cold snap, we literally didn’t leave our house for three days straight. We stepped outside for a little while, but we didn’t go anywhere. And I loved it.

I tried to be somewhat productive. But mostly I just enjoyed hiding away and resting up from the past year’s go-go-go-go-go. But as we draw to an end of this stay-at-home time, I feel my want to be productive coming back. Yesterday, I got so much done, it made me go, “Man, if I’d been this motivated all week, this house would be perfectly organized and I’d be ready to file my tax return!”

But maybe part of feeling so productive was taking time to rest my  mind and body for awhile. Yesterday, I participated in the Friday Five questions about sleep. The negative effects of sleep deprivation are well documented, but we still push ourselves to our limits. So, taking a few days to do a little less and give myself some TLC? I’m not going to feel guilty about it. Lord knows I’ll be crying out for it to be a possibility again soon.

Five on Friday: Sleep thoughts

January 10th, 2014 No comments

One of my New Years Goals was to journal daily, and I’ve successfully been doing that! I use the LiveJournal platform where I actually have a permanent account. Back in the early 2000s, I jumped on an offer for a permanent account, and I’ve NEVER regretted that purchase.

As part of going back to journaling, I’ve been reintroduced to some groups on there that I’ve missed. One of which is the Friday Five.  I thought for giggles, I’d play along this week right here on Musician’s Widow…

1. How many hours of sleep do you like to get in a night?

I always prefer to get 8 hours when possible. I’ve lately been getting between 6 or 7. In college I could function days on end with only 4 hours of sleep a night. Today? I can do that maybe one night and then that’s it. I need to catch up.

2. How many hours of sleep can you survive on indefinitely?

Five or six. I guess.

3. Do you enjoy napping?

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4. The average amount of time it takes a person to fall asleep is seven minutes–do you tend to need more or less time than that?

More time for sure. I have to be absolutely 100% exhausted to fall asleep fast.
5. If you were offered a pill that would enable you to sleep only two hours out of every twenty-four and remain fully functional, but you could never sleep more than that, would you take it?

I would heavily consider it, but I am sure I’d turn it down. Sleep is a time to rejuvenate and reset. Sleep is a time to calm yourself. I think only two hours of sleep would not be enough to do that properly.